Chancelucky, See What You’ve Started

Disjointed Scribblings :

    Because I live in my head so much (in the summer, that is, when I don’t teach), I am always glad to talk about food.
    This year, I promise myself: I will not buy anything, not one single thing, from a vending machine.
    Two days ago: Yumi Yogurt, Peanut Butter flavor, small. Today, though the intense heat makes me long for a Dairy Queen (chocolate-dipped swirl of vanilla), I tell myself no.

I happen to be reading Linh Dinh’s poetry collection, All Around What Empties Out, and all I can see, page after page, are food references, such as:

From the poem “Earth Cafeteria” :

To eat stinky food
is a sign of savagery, humility,
identification with the earth.

Or, from “Nativity”:

I was born astride a suckling pig.
Inside this pig was a fancy mirror
With instructions scratched onto it
On how to slaughter a suckling pig.

Or, from “Circa” :

Who can stand the warmth of congee? Who can stand
the smell of yeast on his hands after eating bread?
Everywhere: this tinny music. My stomach is fading.

Linh, I bet you didn’t know that your poetry could be read as a guide to food, more and still more food.

Last Day of August (2007): Questions of the Day

While self is on hold with Wegman’s, phone receiver balanced precariously between left ear and shoulder, she decides that now would be the perfect time for a blog post (Self is sooo good at multi-tasking!)

Oops! Before she can even begin, a Wegman’s consultant comes to the phone, and self asks the question that has been burning in the back of her mind since returning from VCCA: Does Orthenex work against caterpillars?

Answer: No. Man mentions two products but says them so fast self doesn’t have time to ask him to slow down. She does remember to mention that she has two beagles (who ingest everything in sight, except for caterpillars) and wonders if anti-caterpillar products are poisonous. Man says no. And, almost at the same time, self remembers that tomorrow is big annual sale at Wegman’s, when everything in the nursery goes for 30- 50% off. Naturally, man doesn’t think to mention it, which self finds pretty canny of him, but to be honest self did not inquire about the sale, or she is sure he would have mentioned it.

Next question: Will a rose thorn embedded deep in self’s right palm find its way to a vein, travel to her heart, and therefore end up killing her?

This question she decides she will not ask of Wegman’s person, but her palm looks extremely red (around the splinter), and yesterday she went through agonies, pressing her lips together and attempting to pick out splinter with a needle (!!@@) Ever since self decided to pursue serious gardening, her forearms and hands have acquired a number of scars, all from rose thorns. But she stubbornly refuses to wear gloves when pruning (what the rose experts call “dead-heading”, though this does not have anything to do with the Grateful Dead– ha ha ha! Is self sinking into corniness because she is so ecstatic over the start of classes? Must be), as she feels she can better reach around shoots and branches when she can actually feel what she is touching.

Self showed hand to hubby last night and inquired if it was hubby’s expert opinion that splinter wound was infected. Hubby took one look and said, “Yes” before resuming his TV watching (Basketball: U.S. over Argentina). Then self ran to the bathroom and scrubbed her hand with plenty of soap and the hottest water she could stand, then swaddled it in the biggest band-aid she could find.

Self can’t die because of rose splinter! Is there no justice in the world?

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Announcing: A New Stanford Center


in cooperation with the ELFENWORKS FOUNDATION

Will celebrate its inauguration with a special concert featuring:

    La Povertá, Composed by Giancarlo Aquilanti
    I Shall Not Be Moved and In Harmony With Hope, Arranged and Composed by Tammy L. Hall

To be followed with remarks by:

Richard Saller, SCHOOL of HUMANITIES and SCIENCES Dean and David Grusky, CENTER for the STUDY of POVERTY and INEQUALITY Director

Memorial Church
Main Quad, Stanford University
Thursday, September 6, 2007
7 p.m.
Reception to follow

For more information go to

Tickets are FREE and available at the Stanford Ticket Office
659-725-ARTS(2787) or at the door.

Donations to the Center will be gratefully accepted.

For questions contact Andrea Lazazzera at (650)736-9700

Three-Fer: Cooking Tips from Maitoni, NYTBR Aug. 12 & NYTBR Aug. 19

Classes begin tomorrow morning, and as dear blog reader can probably guess, self has been quietly going bananas all day.

This evening, self called cousin Maitoni to inquire what she was cooking for dinner. Cousin inquired, voice dripping with sarcasm: Why, are you going to put this in your blog again?

Let me tell you that cousin was none too pleased when self decided to list all the food she and M ingested during three-day visit to Vienna, VA. “People must have thought my waist was 50 inches WIDE!” M said.

Self assured M that this was not true: In fact, self informed M, those fellows who caught a quick glimpse of M driving up to the studios in her cute little Prius when she picked up self from VCCA were quite taken. This, self swears, is the honest truth.

Sorry, Maitoni! Self cannot tell a lie! Yes, in spite of assuring you she would not blog further about our kitchen adventures or mis-adventures, here is self, blogging about you again!

Anyhoo, self had purchased four lovely salmon steaks from Safeway yesterday, and had a question about whether it would be better to saute or bake them. As it turned out, cousin was cooking the exact same thing for dinner tonight. What are the odds, dear blog reader???

M advised self NEVER to put salt on a salmon (Okey dokey), to put salmon pieces in a pyrex just large enough so that the pieces are snug (Okey dokey), to coat the pyrex first with canola oil (Okey dokey), then apply a little soy sauce (Okay), and smear half a cup of mayonnaise over all(Okey dokey), then stick salmon pieces in fridge for half an hour, and turn up oven to 425 degrees (Where is key for the little degree symbol on self’s keyboard? Aaargh!), then remove salmon from fridge and bake for 20 minutes.

Oh, super! Thanks so much, Maitoni! As Virginia is three hours ahead, cousin tells self she is just pulling perfectly browned salmon steaks out of oven, and as she describes how they look, with little bubbles simmering on the top, self becomes quite hungry. She wishes she were still in Virginia, ready to partake in fruit of cousin’s cooking prowess. But, alas, self is in California, and dinnertime is still hours away.

This afternoon, since self anticipates being very busy tomorrow, she decided to zip through two issues of the New York Times Book Review. Without further ado, here are the books self is interested in reading after perusing the NYTBRs of Aug. 12 and Aug. 19:

NYTBR : Aug. 12

(1) After reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s review of Felipe Fernandez-Armesto’s Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America :

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto’s Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America

(2) After reading Kathryn Harrison’s review of Rachel Seiffert’s novel, Afterwards :

Rachel Seiffert’s first novel, The Dark Room

(3) After reading Lydia Millet’s review of Maxine Swann’s novel in stories, Flower Children :

Maxine Swann’s Flower Children

(4) After reading Marilyn Stasio’s Crime column, the following crime novels:

James Lee Burke’s The Tin Roof Blowdown
the first book in Olen Steinhauer’s Emil Brod police procedurals, The Bridge of Sighs
first-time novelist Stef Penney’s The Tenderness of Wolves

(5) After reading Richard Brookhiser’s review of Richard Kluger’s Seizing Destiny: How America Grew From Sea to Shining Sea :

Richard Kluger’s Seizing Destiny: How America Grew From Sea to Shining Sea

NYTBR : Aug. 19

(1) After reading Alison McCulloch’s short reviews in the Fiction Chronicle:

Jean Echenoz’s Ravel
Susan Bernofsky’s translation of Robert Walser’s 1908 novel, The Assistant

(2) After reading Julia Scheeres’ review of Joseph Finder’s corporate thriller, Power Play:

Joseph Finder’s Power Play

(3) After reading Tom Barbash’s review of Ron Carlson’s novel, Five Skies :

Ron Carlson’s Five Skies

* * * *

In addition, since self is so fearful that she will not have time to go to the library in the next few weeks, she took the added precaution of borrowing three books: a non-fiction account of The Mutiny on the Bounty; and two novels, one by J. M. Coetzee, the other by Heidi Julavits.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Trying To Make Sense Of It All

Dear blog reader, know that self isn’t sure whether all the words in above title need to be capitalized, but when in doubt self always goes for the over-kill. Last night self had a strange dream in which she imagined she was invited to a house, and at that house the hosts paid no attention whatsoever to self, but managed to spirit away her trusty laptop when she wasn’t looking.

Oh, what could be the significance of this dream, dear blog reader? If self were still at VCCA, all she would have to do would be to descend to the library, to the shelf where reside the collected works of Sigmund Freud. Of course, even at that it would probably take her many hours of research before she could untangle the true meaning of her dream.

Self remembers quite clearly that the dream consisted of one frustrating incident after another, and involved a fruitless search for said laptop. Now, if self were to make a (wholly amateurish) attempt at dream interpretation, she might take this dream to mean that self feels she is approaching the end of her creative period. (Say no more, self! You always were one to shoot yourself in the foot! Let’s just change the topic, shall we?)

Today, self attempted to organize her life. All those stray pieces of paper she scribbled notes on during her VCCA residency? This afternoon, she tried putting them together into one little notebook. There are random e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and cryptic entries like:

Charles Haskins, medievalist

Who self has to look up on Wikipedia (“Charles Homer Haskins, 1870-1937, was an American historian of the Middle Ages, and advisor to US President Woodrow Wilson. He is considered to be America’s first medieval historian.”).

There is an address for the Greyhound bus station in Lynchburg (825 Kemper Street), and an address for the station in Roanoke (26 Salem Ave.)

There are (very helpful) lists of artists colonies like the Blue Mountain Center and Hedgebrook.

There is the title of a book: The Laws of Evening, by Mary Yukari Waters, although self has no idea who this book suggestion came from. There is another book title, The Sound of Paper, whose author self has to google before discovering that it is Julia Cameron.

There is a name: Clarissa D. And, beside it, a school: College of William & Mary.

There are quotes from The History of Farting, which self did indeed manage to use in post on her visit to cousin in Vienna, VA.

There is an address in Salzburg (Probably this is the address of Marianne L, visual artist who was at VCCA during first week of self’s residency)

Self still hasn’t finished unpacking because her suitcase is a veritable treasure trove of odds and ends. Good thing hubby hasn’t said anything yet. Self feels it will take her at least a month to sort everything out. Wonder if hubby will mind if suitcase is left out that long? Self’s house is so tiny that her suitcase takes up approximately half of the available floor space in the bedroom.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself

Among the piles of mail that arrived while self was at VCCA was a contributor copy for an anthology called In Our Words: Stories, Lyrics, Essays & Verse From A Generation Defining Itself, vol. 7, edited by Marlow Peerse Weaver.

Self has been perusing this volume with great interest, for aside from self’s contribution, “Oaks,” there are pieces by Barbara Jane Reyes (“Eve’s Visitation”), Zadie Smith (an excerpt from White Teeth), Denise Duhamel (“Variations on the Partridge Family”), and a whole host of writers self is reading for the first time: Singaporean Megan Ng (“1952”), Danish novelist and poet Naja Marie Aidt (an excerpt from her book Balladen om Bianca, translated by Anne Mette Lundtofte), and Moroccan poet/ English professor Jamal Eddine Benhayoun (“Curlse From Behind”). So the book really feels “international”, and self marvels at the editor’s wide reach.

Below, an excerpt from the editor’s Foreword:

In the eight years this book series has existed, great changes have taken place. The bubbling optimism of economic and technical globalization, in the 1990s, has given way to bloody turf wars throughout the world. It is almost as if the nihilism that resurfaced with this generation was prophetic in its message “there is no future.” As a counterweight, though, this generation of the 1960s and 1970s has matured into highly-skilled professionals, parents, leaders in public forums. It’s becoming their world to take, for the better, or for the worse.

The texts I have read for this volume have been in subtle shadings different than those I read eight years ago when the initial volume was still a mere idea. Back then there was an intense self-focus. That has gradually given way to confrontations with bigger issues. Perhaps all generations evolve this way? And if that is the case, it would attest to this generation possessing its own form of normalcy, on its own terms.

Copies ($18.95 @) can be ordered directly from the editor:

P.M.S. : Special Issue on African-American Women Writers

Call for Submissions

P.M.S Number 8 ( will be a special issue featuring all African-American women writers. Award-winning poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers will guest edit the issue.

About Jeffers:

Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, Associate Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma, is the author of two books of poetry, The Gospel of Barbecue (Kent State University, 2000), which won the 1999 Stan and Tom Wick Prize for Poetry and was the finalist for the 2001 Paterson Poetry, and Outlandish Blues, forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press in 2003. She has won the 2002 Julia Peterkin Award for Poetry, and awards from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Rona Jaffe Foundation. Prof. Jeffers’ work recently has appeared in Black Issues Book Review, Black Warrior Review, Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz and Literature, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Crown, 2001), Callaloo, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (Warner/Aspect, 2000), Indiana Review, The Kenyon Review, The Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Roll Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art (Third World, 2002), and These Hands I Know: Writing About the African American Family (Sarabande 2002). She is at work on a third book of poetry and her first book of collected fiction.

(Open submission period for PMS magazine will resume in September 2008)

Big News Day

First of all, dear blog readers, know that:

    Self has heard that the re-make of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, movie which so haunted self when she first saw it sometime in the late 70s, was truly awful.
    Jackie Chan hurt himself while filming his latest movie, something with “Kingdom” in the title.
    And this one you know already, but self might as well repeat it here, since she can’t believe it actually has happened, after all the man’s protestations that he was going to “hang tough” : Alberto Gonzales has resigned.

Self is still catching up on her reading (Has also started two short stories, but unlike when she was in VCCA, she is stuck right after the opening paragraphs. She absolutely hates this appalling lack of energy, but what can you do? Distractions are many: garden, syllabi, the Food Network, Oprah, View From the Bay) and this afternoon has chosen to peruse Aug. 13 issue of The New Yorker, the one with charming cover illustration of all kinds of dog species looking out the windows of a New York brownstone.

First long article is about an obscure sickness called Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. Name of author is unfamiliar to self: Richard Preston. It begins with a mother showing up at emergency room of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, bearing four-and-a-half year old son who is presenting with very strange-colored urine. Under microscope, urine is discovered to have very many clear crystals, like “bundles of needles, or like fireworks going off.” These crystals were also sharp, and were “tearing up the boy’s urinary tract.”


Next long article is about the adulteration of Italian olive oil by unscrupulous merchants, and contains quote: “Fraud is so widespread that few growers can make an honest living.” Does this mean that olive oil self has been purchasing all these years is actually hazelnut oil or sunflower-seed oil? Article has a helpful description of what an olive is, for those who may be new to this particular delicacy: “The olive is a drupe, or stone fruit, like a plum or a cherry.” Then, reading further, self encounters this quote from a member of an olive oil tasting panel:

Even the most creative criminals have difficulty outwitting a properly trained tasting panel. “It’s like a machine . . . When I see that the oil is peppery, bitter, and smells of olives, rest assured that everything else is automatic.” And yet . . . Italian authorities rarely perform panel tests, and almost never on oil before it is sold.


And, finally, the very last article that self peruses before putting the magazine aside, article by Jane Meyer on the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program, contains yet another example of bizarr-o behavior from the aforementioned (ex) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: He recently called Mariane Pearl, widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and told her that the U.S. had in custody the man who claimed to have murdered her husband, information which was not new to Mariane, as she had heard it almost four years earlier from Condoleeza Rice.

Self would love to read further but three depressing articles in a row are just too much. Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

I’m Back, I’m Back, I’m Really Back: Reading the NYTBR 5 August 2007

Books I Am Interested in Reading (After Perusing the 5 August 2007 Issue of The New York Times Book Review) :

(1) After reading Claire Messud‘s review of Dalia Sofer’s first novel, The Septembers of Shiraz:

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
Dalia Sofer’s The Septembers of Shiraz

(2) After reading Phillip Lopate’s review of Patrick McGilligan’s Oscar Micheaux, The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker :

Patrick McGilligan’s Oscar Micheaux, The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker

(3) After reading Jeff Turrentine’s short reviews in the Fiction Chronicle :

Ottavio Cappellani’s first novel, Who is Lou Sciortino?
Manuel Muñoz’s short story collection, The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue
Ann Harleman’s second story collection, Thoreau’s Laundry: Stories
An anthology of essays, Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects With Unexpected Significance, edited by Joshua Glenn and Carol Hayes

(4) After reading Stephen Metcalf’s end-paper essay, The Road to Rightville:

Why I Turned Right: Leading Baby Boom Conservatives Chronicle Their Political Journeys, edited by Mary Eberstadt


All the movies are different. These are what’s showing now in self’s neighborhood movie theatres:

Death at a Funeral * 2 Days in Paris * El Cantante * Mr. Bean’s Holiday * Superbad * Rush Hour 3

In vain does self search for Invasion of the Body Snatchers re-make, starring Nicole Kidman. Surely, self surmises, it can’t have been that bad?

Further observations after self arrived home last night:

    Dogs apparently had not missed self, for there was no effusive barking, no scampering around with joy that self has seen them exhibit on other occasions.
    Roses seem to have survived, but just barely. Hydrangeas doing slightly better. Clematis, especially henryii, seem to do better when self is not around for they are fat and in gorgeous bloom. Amaryllis are out. And there are 26 oranges piled neatly on a table in the backyard.
    The peaches and grapes that self purchased from Mountain View Farmer’s Market just before she left are still in the fridge, looking extremely wrinkled.
    Hubby has completely re-arranged everything in the pantry and everything is stacked in very neat rows. With the result that self has to do inordinate amount of searching before she can locate the evaporated milk.

On the last leg of her journey, from Chicago to San Francisco, self sat next to a woman who told self that she had just come from a conference on the Swedish island of Visby. Self inquired what the conference was about, and the woman replied, “Rapa Nui.” Seeing self’s blank look, the woman asked, “Have you heard of Easter Island?” It turned out woman was a linguist, studying ancient Polynesian languages. As the woman talked, self learned that all the giant stone heads face one direction, West. When self inquired why, the woman explained that invaders and visitors always came to Rapa Nui/ Easter Island from that direction, never from the East. Which topic self found absolutely fascinating; too bad she waited until the very last minutes of the flight to start chatting! Woman and self exchanged cards, whereupon self discovered that the woman who had sat next to her, quietly reading, for almost five hours, teaches in the Dept. of Celtic Studies at UC Berkeley.

In addition, almost immediately upon arriving, in fact not five minutes after self walked in the front door, son informed self that he urgently needed her and hubby to fill out a questionnaire he had to turn in to his Family Psychology professor on Monday. So, right away self sat down on living room couch and began to answer such obnoxiously nosy questions as:

    Does the family enjoy doing things together, or does everyone go their own way?
    When there is a problem, do family members turn first to each other, or to people outside the family?
    Are family members willing to compromise?

Self decided to be very very truthful. After she and hubby handed forms to son, he jumped up with a devilish grin on his face (??**) and immediately secreted forms away in a very secret place in his room, so that self did not have the gumption to ask to have a look at hubby’s answers.

Now, self must continue investigation of her familiar/unfamiliar house. Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

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