Labor Day Weekend 2008 Status Report

A somewhat uneventful day, dear blog readers. About the only things of any excitement that occurred were:

    Self paid $60 for a “Prince Valiant” haircut. Ordinarily, self would shy away from paying such an exorbitant amount, but she had no idea, none, that the haircut would come out such. Hairdresser was a very hip-looking Russian woman: she wore stiletto boots and a leopard-skin top (Perhaps self was lulled into complacency by the attire, so reminiscent of Dearest Mum).
    Self went to Costco. See, this is so exciting because, for about the fifth weekend in a row, there was only one other person ahead of self in line. What does this mean? Is it yet another sign that our economy is tanking? And they were already selling Christmas giftwrap, how sick is that?
    Self continued reading The Economist. In fact, an alternative headline for this post would have been: Quote of the Day: John Edwards mistress referred to as “hippie” by The Economist. The Economist has never been too fond of John Edwards. This self has sensed from long acquaintance with The Economist. Now, in his moment of utter humiliation, they poke fun at his “molasses accent” and somehow find a way to diss Elizabeth Edwards. They also cite the National Enquirer, calling it “one of the less disreputable supermarket tabloids.” And The Economist is also the first to break the news that, when John Edwards was confronted with a National Enquirer reporter in a Beverly Hills hotel, where he had gone to have a hear-to-heart discussion with hippie ex-lover, “Mr. Edwards hid in a lavatory.” Can there be anything more humiliating? Lavatories are simply not the place for honest working folk to be hanging out in, unless they’re congressmen or such.

First Day of Labor Day Weekend 2008: A Lament

Something about the Labor Day weekend has turned self’s neck and shoulder muscles into rocks.

Well, not the Labor Day Weekend exactly, but what comes after Read the rest of this entry »

“Tropic Thunder”: Not Bad-Ass, Just Baaad

Self likes Ben Stiller. He hasn’t had a hit in a couple of years, so self was glad to hear that “Tropic Thunder” was the # 1 movie in America. Good for you, Ben!

Self managed to wheedle hubby into watching it with her last weekend.

The first 30 minutes were pretty funny. Then Steve Coogan gets blown up. Then, nothing is funny.

Hubby declared, after taking two hours to mull it over: “That was not a good movie.” We had returned home, had dinner, and were in the middle of watching the Olympics’ closing ceremonies when hubby dredged up, seemingly out of thin air and apropos of nothing, this pronouncement.

During the movie, self found herself sporadically nodding off, usually in the scenes with Ben Stiller, so she did not have the wherewithal to contradict this statement.

And Robert Downey? Wow, he’s such a good actor, he can even make a white dude in blackface believable.

Self liked that the leader of the poppy-growing bad guys was a kid, but she sincerely hopes that kid was not really twelve (as he looked), for he was frequently shown puffing on a cigar and, well, self hopes it wasn’t a real cigar, because everyone knows smoking is really really bad for you, and someone would have had to teach the kid how to do it.

Self thinks the movie dear blog readers must run out and see is “Man on Wire.” It was incredible. It’s still showing in Aquarius in downtown Palo Alto (but probably not for long). There was such humor in it. Afterwards, as the Frenchmen are flying home, jubilant at having successfully pulled off the stunt to end all stunts, one of them says something so moving that it surprises even himself, years later, and in front of the interviewer he breaks down, pauses, and cannot continue. He tries, but he simply can’t go on.

There is something so incredible about watching a person well up in front of a camera. There’s always a moment when the person teeters on the brink, and it can go either way. You (the viewer) are holding your breath. It’s like the moment before a diver steps off the 10 meter platform. Secretly, you hope (and self is sure dear blog readers feel the same) that the person will have a total breakdown. Why? Well, because there can never be too much drama in our lives, dear blog readers!

The man had said, first, “The friendship was broken.” He meant, the friendship between himself and Philippe Petit. And it was here that the tears started. But he managed to get out the words “It can never happen again because — ” before having the total meltdown. And we all know what the “because” is.

So, go and see it, dear blog readers. You won’t regret it. You might even be moved.


Available for pre-ordering

2009 Winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry


By Luisa Igloria

From the publisher’s website:

The poems in Juan Luna’ s Revolver both address history and attempt to transcend it through their exploration of the complexity of diaspora. Attending to the legacy of colonial and postcolonial encounters, Luisa A. Igloria has crafted poems that create links of sympathetic human understanding, even as they revisit difficult histories and pose necessary questions about place, power, displacement, nostalgia, beauty, and human resilience in conditions of alienation and duress.

Igloria traces journeys made by Filipinos in the global diaspora that began since the encounter with European and American colonial power. Her poems allude to historical figures such as the Filipino painter Juan Luna and the novelist and national hero José Rizal, as well as the eleven hundred indigenous Filipinos brought to serve as live exhibits in the 1904 Missouri World’s Fair. The image of the revolver fired by Juan Luna reverberates throughout the collection, raising to high relief how separation and exile have shaped concepts of identity, nationality, and possibility.

Suffused with gorgeous imagery and nuanced emotion, Igloria’s poetry achieves an intimacy fostered by gem-like phrases set within a politically-charged context speaking both to the personal and the collective.

Luisa A. Igloria is an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at Old Dominion University. The winner of numerous national and international creative writing awards, she is the author of nine books.

Reading D. A. Powell Again

Because this man is the kindest famous poet self knows. Because he talked to self at a party where self was feeling lonely. And read her short piece “Ghosts” and did not laugh.

And because poetry’s been on self’s mind the last two days, all the news from friends new and old: Luisa Igloria’s Juan Luna’s Revolver, due out any day now from Notre Dame University Press; Kristin Naca’s fabulous prize for her first book, Bird Eating Bird; Zack coming to the San Francisco Bay Area to launch his Evolution of a Sigh (Song! Laughter! Celebration!)

And because kindness should always be repaid with kindness and still more kindness.

* * * *

Self was tired today (first day of class; plus, it is sweltering here, with temperature hovering around 105 degrees) and was browsing through her books when her finger rested on the rim of Doug’s 2004 collection, Cocktails (Graywolf Press). Self pulled it off the shelf and let the book fall open on a random page. Here is what she reads:

hope you like this new doctor: rachel says in hopeful tones

hope you like this new doctor: rachel says in hopeful tones
and I: too early to tell. though hope does hover in my chest

certainly I’ve abandoned miss america-sized wishes:
world peace? an end to hunger? not while we consume, consume

I make hope the size of a bar of soap: hope-on-a-rope
like “hope there’s not a spider in the shower this morning”

“hope some broadway producer brings back starlight express
“maybe figs will be available fresh for a longer season

(without the global warming, I should add, in case god listens)”
and “maybe sheila e. will release a disc as good as the glamorous life

my pulse drums too: a scant crew of leukocytes raise their tiny oars
these few who have not mutinied. I want to lift their spirits

as we’re crossing the equator: showered with a fine warm mist
I sing them a dusty springfield song. soon the cabin’s steamy

and we’re wishin’ and hopin’ like there’s no tomorrow. but there is
already dawn: the passage safe: the mermaids beckon from the cape

    for Rachel Zucker

And, now, the poem’s made self think of Ying, who wrote in her last e-mail, in response to something self wrote about trying to grow out her hair (for many years, until this year, self wore her hair short, sometimes shorter than son’s) that she, too, hopes her hair will grow back, who will celebrate her 37th birthday (thank God) on Sept. 11.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Errands, Day 2 of Back-to-School Week

Self just had enough time to dash home for a quick bite, in between meeting a fellow teacher at ND and swinging by Fed-Ex Office (formerly Fed-Ex Kinko’s) on El Camino and Whipple and xeroxing 288-page manuscript for mailing to FC2 contest — egad, both manuscripts weighed a ton, no wonder now self is walking funny.

And, as self simply cannot do without the multi-tasking, she just had to eat lunch while parked on couch and watching a rock show filmed in London’s Hyde Park just last month. And there’s Sting looking gorgeous, just gorgeous, with graying beard and tight-fitting satiny-looking loden-green T-shirt. And there’s John Mayer who self knows recently dumped Jennifer Aniston, Read the rest of this entry »

What is a Lapu-Lapu (and Sundry Other Digressions)

Self is turning over a new leaf, dear blog readers! She has decided that she is really, really tired of serving dinner haphazardly at 8:45 p.m. (when hubby gets home). Lately, because of too much work (it’s the start of the school year, after all– as if anyone needed reminding!), self forgets that hubby will (eventually) have to come home. Then, when he steps in the door (or sometimes 30 minutes before, if she’s lucky), she rushes to the kitchen and throws together all sorts of odds and ends. What we end up eating most nights is a melange of fried rice and hot dogs.

Is this any way to live? From now on, self resolves that the only way to have a smooth dinner is to start planning in the morning. Which is why, at 7 a.m., self traipses to a website called “Recipes of the Philippines” ( and looks up a recipe for “Baked Fish” (Pescado al Horno)

This is a dish that self remembers from the time she was growing up in Manila. Sometimes the fish used was a “Pompano,” which is a flat fish with wonderful firm, meaty flesh. This particular recipe, the one self is looking at this morning, calls for a “Lapu-Lapu.” And self suddenly realizes that never, not once in all her years of living in Manila, has she ever been clear about what a “Lapu-Lapu” looks like.

She’s sure she’s eaten one (of course), but now she has terrible itch to know what it looks like (since she also wonders how it got that name? Self means: the name of the most famous chieftain in Philippine history?)

And just as she is congratulating herself for having: a) Found that Lapu-Lapu is a type of fish known as a “grouper” (which is a name self has encountered many many times since moving to the States); b) Learned that “grouper” is also “Sea Bass” (which was also son’s “handle” when he still lived at home — that is, she once passed behind son while he was at his computer and saw on his screen the salutation: “All hail, Sea Bass!”), she remembers that yesterday, one of the freshmen in her class at ND told her about a new search engine called “Blackle” that was supposed to be “more energy-efficient” (though self is not sure exactly how that works– does the computer use up less energy when she types in “Blackle” than when she types “Google”?). Self tries it now and the screen really is all black. Hmm, nifty!

Back to the grouper/Sea Bass/ Lapu-Lapu issue. So, on Wikipedia, she learns that a grouper is “a fish of any of a number of genera in the subfamily Epinephelinae of the family Serranidae, in the order Perciformes.” It has “a stout body and a large mouth.” According to Wikipedia, the fish are “not built for long distance fast swimming.” And they’re pretty ugly fish, too, judging from the picture. The picture on Wikipedia shows one with its mouth wide open and — Good Lord! — it has an enormous mouth (which according to Wikipedia acts like a suction) and also many many rows of sharp teeth. In fact, the fish appears to be nearly all mouth. And its color is an ugly, indeterminate brown.

The fish can apparently grow very large. According to Wikipedia, “there have been reports of them growing big enough to swallow a human bather” and “swallowing an ordinary open-circuit scuba-diver would need a throat that can expand to about 2 feet (0.61 m) square.” (Don’t bother to ask self what an “open circuit” scuba diver is, dear blog readers). Towards the end of the article, there is this: “A newspaper reported a 396.8 pound grouper being caught off the waters near Pulau Sembilan in the Straits of Malacca on Tuesday 15 January 2008.”

Oh my goodness– a monster fish! And, as usual, self has strayed far from the original purpose of this post, which was to examine her various alternatives for dinner tonight.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Conference Announcement

Academic Autobiography, Intellectual History, and Cultural Memory in the 20th Century: *
*An Interdisciplinary Conference*

March 26-28, 2009, University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)

Plenary Speakers:

Ihab Hassan, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Shirley Geok-lin Lim, University of California-Santa Barbara
Nancy K. Miller, City University of New York
Alun Munslow, University of Chichester
Robert A. Rosenstone, California Institute of Technology

Proposals are sought for an Interdisciplinary Conference entitled “Academic Autobiography, Intellectual History, and Cultural Memory in the 20^th Century” to be held at the University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain) on the 26-28 of March, 2009. This conference aims to engage the current paradigms of the debate on autobiographical writing by academics (historians, literary critics, anthropologists, and sociologists, among others) and analyze these in the interdisciplinary context of the consciousness of the ways intellectual history and cultural memory may be developed, articulated, and promoted in the twentieth century. Autobiographies by academics who have played important public roles and whose scholarship have shaped the ways we think about disciplines, society, culture, or politics—such as Nancy K. Miller, Eric Hobsbawm, Clifford Geertz, Leila Ahmed, Edward Said, Jill Ker Conway, Ihab Hassan, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Yi-Fu Tuan, among others—may be explored as new approaches to the discourses of intellectual history and culture in our age. We invite proposals that offer new ways to read these autobiographies and analyze their discursive possibilities in the historical, cultural, and academic contexts in which they were written.

Specific topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • the academic as author/historian;
  • academic life writing as history or cultural discourse;
  • academic autobiography as intellectual history;
  • life writing and the definitions of academic disciplines;
  • the intersection between private and public lives in academic autobiographies;
  • academic autobiography as a literary or historical genre;
  • the ways in which the notion of literary or historical discourse may be rethought in the context of this form of writing;
  • the ways academic autobiographies challenge our notions of historiography or literary analysis.

500-word abstracts and a 1-page CV must be submitted (email submissions preferred) before October 15, 2008 to the Conference Organizers at this address:

Prof. Rocío G. Davis
Modern Languages Department
University of Navarra
Pamplona 31080

Fax: 34-948-425636


Excerpts From Self’s Interview with Linh Dinh, Pacific Rim Review of Books, Summer 2008

Self: You write experimentally in both fiction and poetry, and your work seems to consistently break accepted norms in an overt attempt to play with forms. What attracts you to this?

LD: I started out as a painter. Working with oil, I strived to improvise, to think, as I was painting. Play was a central concept in my work. I was also a critic. In 1994, I curated a show at Moore College of Art called “Toys and Incense,” a reference to Rimbaud‘s “pourquoi pas déja les joujoux et l’encens?” Why not toys and incense already? To play is to experiment, to make things up as you go along. Oil is an endlessly malleable substance, though hardly cooperative, much less so than words, which have the quickness of thoughts. To paint well, one needs tremendous dexterity, to play a musical instrument requires training and skill, but to write well, one merely has to think beautifully and viciously, something countless people are capable of, at least on occasions, I would think.

* * * *

Self: Which authors influenced you most when you were just starting to write, and which authors influence you NOW?

LD: When I first started writing, I was very influenced by Kafka, Borges, Céline, Carver, Thomas Bernhard and Nguyen Huy Thiep. Now: Borges, Houellebecq and many of the essayists on the web, writers who comment on the political, social and economic predicaments of America, people like James Howard Kunstler, Joe Bageant and John Zerzan. I also translate constantly, mostly from the Vietnamese, but also from Italian and Spanish, so I’m probably influenced by the writers I translate. Actually, I’m not influenced by anybody. I’m completely original! For poetry, I’ve been influenced by Rimbaud, Vallejo, Michaux, Stevens, Ashbery and maybe Michael Palmer. I’m also a devourer of trash writing, a scuba diver in the ocean of bad English.

Self’s “Restraining Order”: On-line Now at the Santa Fe Writers Project

Read it here.

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