Books Self Might Want to Read After Reading First Lines From the List of First Lines in the Page One Section of the Latest Poets & Writers

Whew, would not dear blog readers say that self has certainly outdone herself —  in terms of titles of posts, that is  —  with the above?  Without further ado, the list:

Gregg BottomsFight Scenes (Counterpoint).  Here’s the first line:

“The dog had nearly hanged herself, in her maniacal aggression, from a stout oak tree.”

Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).  Here’s the first line:

“The first time that Jean-Claude Pelletier read Benno von Archimboldi was Christmas 1980, in Paris, when he was nineteen years old and studying German literature.”

Per Petterson’s To Siberia (Graywolf Press).  Here’s the first line:

“When I was a little girl of six or seven I was always scared when we passed the lions on our way out of town.”

Wally Lamb’s novel, The Hour I First Believed (Harper).  Here’s the first line:

“They were both working their final shift as Blackjack Pizza that night, although nobody but the two of them realized it was that.”

Quote of the Day: Alessandra Stanley on “My Own Worst Enemy”

The gorgeously-named New York Times reviewer offers her take on NBC’s new series, “My Own Worst Enemy.” Self hugely enjoyed the episode she saw this week — perhaps because of Alfre Woodard’s line to a clearly thirty-ish Henry/Christian Slater:  “You were born 19 years ago in this building.”  Talk about plot twists!  Move aside, “Lost”!!!

“Worst Enemy” is a well-constructed puzzle with many layers.  It also has a dark sensibility that suits today’s mood.  Viewers are seeking culprits at the highest levels of business and government.  This thriller offers up a government-backed but under-regulated agency that takes advantage of hard-working, ordinary folk on Main Street to pursue a greedy, ruthless agenda:  Fannie Mae with nukes.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Poem for the Disappeared/ James Balao

Missing the Disappeared
By L. Maranan

If by chance you were there when it happened
I wish you did not shut your eyes as you would when lightning strikes
I would want you to remember how he looked
How he reached out in silent horror for you to
Memorize details of the moment
Because he knew it would come to this
Searching is a giant question mark
That hooks the nerves and curses the dark and unknown
It cannot be that he remains just a name
With a fact sheet attached
He  has to be somewhere breathing reaching
For the chance to be with us again.


Backstory:

James Balao, one of the founders of a prominent Philippines Indigenous peoples’ movement, has not been seen since September 17. It’s feared that he may have been the target of a political abduction by government forces.

“Balao set out by car from his home in Baguio City, in the northern part of Luzon island, in the early morning to visit his family 30 minutes away. He sent them an SMS message to say he was on his way, but never arrived.

“He had told his family that he had been under regular surveillance since June and that this surveillance had become more intense in the week before he disappeared. He described being followed by a blue and white van wherever he went.

“Balao works for the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) as a researcher on issues such as Indigenous land rights. He helped found the internationally renowned organization in 1984. In 1986, as a member of the Philippines Constitutional Commission, he drafted important Constitutional provisions on Indigenous peoples’ rights.

“A government security operation called Oplan Bantay Laya (Freedom Watch Operation) has categorized staff and volunteers of some non-governmental organizations in the Philippines as working for communist or anti-government forces. According to a reliable source, the army has James Balao on a secret list of senior members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.”

(Text taken from the Amnesty International Canada website)

The Palin Effect

Dearest Mum’s plane is within sight of the San Francisco Bay, dear blog readers.  Perhaps, even now, Dearest Mum is awakening from her trans-Pacific slumber, carefully putting aside her red cashmere wrap and matching velour slippers, heart going pitty-pat at the thought of once more setting foot on American soil.  In the meantime, self is listening to “Larry King Live” and remembering a conversation she overheard this morning in the classroom.

Self is not supposed to talk politics in the classroom.  Because you know, in a class of 25, there are bound to be people who feel strongly about one side or the other, and self wouldn’t want to offend anyone with her remarks.  So, when it comes to the elections, self has kept completely mum about her voting preference.

During a break in her Tuesday morning class, however, self overheard a student mention Palin.  “Oh, I love her!” this young woman said.  Self wasn’t sure she heard right.  She looked up, located the young woman and asked, casually, “You saw her on Saturday Night Live?”

“Oh, no, we missed it!” several female voices chimed in, filled with chagrin.

“I heard she was good there,” self said (inwardly grinding her teeth, ha ha ha ha)

“Oh, yeah!” a guy said.  “I saw parts of it.”

“And I know a lot of guys who say she’s hot,” self said, still trying to “go with the flow.”

“Oh yeah, yeah, she’s hot,” said the guys.

Aaargh, aaaargh, aaarrrgh, aaaaargh, aaaaaargh  !!!!!

Is self dreaming?  If she is, she must be having a nightmare!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Jerks at Work

DO WE HAVE TO TOLERATE THEM?

Learn the answer to this question (!!!@@) and many others at Stanford professor Robert Sutton’s upcoming talk,

Thursday, October 30, 2008
6:30pm – 9:00pm
Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center
Stanford Campus

Professor Sutton is the best-selling author of The No Asshole Rule.  He will share his insights on “how companies can take steps to build workplaces where demeaning behavior isn’t accepted and nasty people are shown the door.” *

Self doesn’t know about you, dear blog readers, but she thinks Prof. Sutton sounds like a fascinating person, just fascinating 🙂

*  Excerpt from Stanford Alumni Association press release.

CAVEAT:  There is a $50 fee for this event.  And you have to be the invited “guest” of a Stanford Alumni member.  Profuse apologies, dear blog readers.  But, if it makes you feel any better, self can’t afford it either.

Because Self is Reading Chris Abani’s GRACELAND

. . .  and the novel (for which Abani makes graceful acknowledgement to his agent, Sandra Dijkstra, who self believes is also Amy Tan’s agent) has section dividers that are actually recipes, for such quintessentially Nigerian (one presumes) dishes such as “Oil Bean Seed Salad” and “Roast Yams and Palm Oil,” self will write a novel which will feature such quintessentially Filipino dishes as:

Sapin-sapin, or “steamed layered rice dessert”*

Sinigang, or “Philippine soup with vegetables (gabi, okra, kangkong, and sigarilyas)” *

Sotanghon, noodles made from mongo beans, “transparent when cooked”*

Suman, “native delicacy made from glutinous rice, with or without coconut milk”*

Tapa, “thinly sliced, dried, salted meat”*

* Note to dear blog readers:  descriptions of each dish are quotes from Herminia Villacorta-Alvarez’s Philippine Cookery and Household Hints (revised and enlarged edition)

Let’s see, seeing as self was able to list five different foods above, the novel should have five different sections.  The first section, which follows the “Sapin-sapin” part, should be a narrative as layered as said sapin-sapin.  The second should have a little bitterness, seeing as how sinigang is a little sour.  The third should be slippery, slippery as sotanghon.  And so forth and so on.

Eureka!  Self, hurry up and start writing!

“W” the Movie

It was a gorgeous day, dear blog readers.  Hubby’s starting to water.  Earlier, we walked the dogs.  Funny, we noticed that if Bella lags too far behind, as lately she does more and more, her arthritic legs becoming less and less able to carry her, Gracie waits until Bella and hubby come within sight before she will proceed.  So the walks become longer and longer.  But that’s all right, because self loves October, and it is so much fun to see the neighbors’ Halloween decorations:  the headstones on the lawn, the scarecrows, the pumpkins, the cobwebs draped across fences and porches.

Self planted a thunbergia gregorii.  She said a prayer:  Grow.

Hubby’s younger brother returned to New York.  Dearest Mum comes on Tuesday.  Aunt e-mailed Dear Bro:  “I’m sorry for your loss.  But you are a survivor.  Could you send me Ying’s death certificate so I can get a free airline ticket for your mom?”

That is the kind of e-mail that is only possible in Filipino families.  Ying would not have minded, self is sure of it.  She would be happy to know that she could still do something to help Dearest Mum, or any member of the family.

Dearest Ying!  Sometimes self will remember the time, four years ago, when we visited Angkor Wat.  She remembers their faithful driver, who they hired for four days.  If self were to return now, by herself, and looked him up, how shocked he would be to learn that the beautiful girl who he drove around four years ago has died.  And so would the people who own the little guest house where self and Ying stayed, sharing rooms and meals with a couple from Paris.

Hubby and self watched “W” in the downtown Redwood City cinema.  It was long:  We caught the 1:30 showing and were out a little past 4.  The day was starting to fade.  The movie kept self riveted for almost its entire length.  There was only one portion where self started to nod off, and that was when the key planners of the Iraq War were holding a strategy session.

Thandie Newton/Condoleeza did not have much to do in this movie except nod and deliver demurely downcast and yet strange grimaces.  She was such a hoot!  Self could not take her eyes off her, whenever she was on-screen.  How did this normally beautiful woman achieve such a transformation?

Rob Corddry played Ari Fleischer.  It was a very small role, mostly involving flitting in and out of rooms or trailing worriedly after W as he left a press conference.  The actor who played Paul Wolfowitz did in fact look like Paul Wolfowitz, but self doesn’t know the actor’s name.  And, hey, what an accolade for Tony Blair:  he got to be played by Welsh hottie Ioan Gruffudd.

Jeffrey Wright played Colin Powell and was very good.  Toby Jones played Karl Rove!

The whole movie, in fact, was such a hoot.  And afterwards, you did see W as a human being, albeit a tragically flawed one.  If self closed her eyes and just listened to Josh Brolin’s voice, she could have sworn she was listening to the genuine article, so well did Brolin capture Bush II’s every inflection, his Texas home-boy twang.  And, too, it was so nice to see Ellen Burstyn again, playing a very pretty version of Barbara Bush.  And that actor who played the farmer in “Babe”, James Cromwell, who’s parlayed that movie into a very long career playing (usually) bad guys, here plays Bush I as the epitome of the disappointed father.

Self thinks it is Oliver Stone’s best movie in over a decade.  The theatre was almost full, which self hadn’t seen since watching “Blood Diamond”, almost two years ago, and that had Leo.  The audience rarely laughed, but when self looked around, everyone was riveted, absolutely riveted.  A young woman to self’s left sat on the edge of her seat the whole time.  Presumably she, and the rest of the audience, were Democrats.

A very old couple created quite a stir because they could barely walk, and were hard of hearing besides, and kept stumbling on their way up the steps.  People helped them find seats and get seated.  Afterwards, they held up everyone because they could barely walk.  Self thought about how badly they must have wanted to see this movie.

Self also saw previews for “Milk” (Sean Penn absolutely riveting, in every frame of the preview, and there’s Josh Brolin again in his latest transformation, this time playing Dan White, and convincingly too), and Ron Howard’s latest, “Frost/Nixon”, which she definitely wants to see.  There was also a preview for a thriller starring Clive Owen and, in what looked to be a very bit role, Naomi Watts.  Why cannot this woman ever get the kind of role she deserves?  She can really act, can’t Hollywood see that?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

The Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival

Today has been a day of surprises, dear blog readers.  The first surprise is that we left for the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival at 10 a.m., which was a rather late start for us.  So of course we got stuck in a humongous traffic jam, and it took us an hour to get there.

As we got closer to downtown Half Moon Bay, self began to worry where hubby would park.  In earlier visits to the Pumpkin Festival, hubby has insisted on parking in a high school on top of a hill, and it’s at least a good mile from there to Main Street.  And today self was not thinking straight and wore four-inch-high espadrilles.

Anyhoo, it was with great relief that self heard hubby instruct her to get down with brother-in-law at the corner of Highway 1 and Main Street; hubby said he’d join us after he parked.

At first self thought brother-in-law might want to have coffee while waiting for hubby, but he insisted on going straight to the festival.  On the way, we passed the Flying Fish Market, and self inquired of brother-in-law whether he had an inclination to peruse the produce therein.  To which brother-in-law replied in the negative.  And so we arrived at Main Street, and at this point, self began to see many many things that delighted her in all sorts of visual and olfactory ways:  such as a glass-blowing demonstration; and a table manned by Greyhound Rescue; and vendors selling all manner of pumpkin delicacies like pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie.  But brother-in-law was walking in a straight line, and self had to scramble to keep up with him.

So we were walking.  And brother-in-law was walking.  Fast.  And he uttered not one word to self, who was always lagging just a few steps behind.  And he walked and walked and walked.  And after an hour we were still walking.  And it occurred to self that hubby must have parked by now.  But he had not called.  So self, who could not even call out to brother-in-law to stop (for he is very deaf, and only hears what you are saying if you are standing directly in front of him and he can read your lips), decided to chance losing him, and called hubby on her cell.  And lo and behold, hubby was waiting in a coffee shop, which was, oh, about 30 blocks behind us.

And self told hubby:  “Your brother is going like a rocket.  I think he wants to walk the entire festival and then head back.”

And hubby said OK, he would not move from the coffee shop, because if he tried to give chase, he would never catch up.  Which, to self, sounded like an exceedingly good plan.

And wonder of wonders, self did locate brother-in-law, still walking in that dogged and purposeful manner, never stopping at any booths, and self felt she was ready to scream.  And then self hit on a simply brilliant idea, which was that she would pretend she was alone, completely alone, and she would just forget about brother-in-law and hubby.  And she would take her time, stopping at any booths that caught her fancy.  And, isn’t it amazing, dear blog readers?  The minute she stopped thinking in terms of “catching up”, brother-in-law stuck close to her elbow (self means:  closer than he’d stuck before), and she never had to worry about losing sight of him.

Oh, she did once briefly lose sight of him, for about 10 minutes, but by then she was with hubby and, like a beagle to the scent, hubby seemed to know exactly where to find his brother, for he headed straight for a sausage booth, and there was brother-in-law, standing first in line.  And, after that, both men kept asking self where she would like to stop and have brunch.  But she was afraid to say anything, for she thought both men were crazy/unpredictable today.  And, in fact, hubby surprised her exceedingly by deciding we would have breakfast in Pasta Moon.  And, OK, that was quite a nice place for a repast (though self sincerely wishes that she knew in advance when hubby will be overtaken by the rare fit of generosity, so she can have time to refer to her list-of-restaurants-reserved-for-such-moments), but after that both men declared that they’d had their fill of the festival and wanted to drive straight home.  To avoid the Highway 92 homeward bound traffic, we had to detour through Pacifica, which was a very long detour, and along the way self saw many many fruit and pumpkin stands, but in keeping with the theme of the day —  which seemed to be:  moving on Auto-pilot —  hubby seemed to speed up whenever we approached any of these.

So self can’t really say much about the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival.  She didn’t get to taste a single pumpkin anything, she didn’t buy any wonderful Halloween doo-dads (such as the orange wool berets, shaped like pumpkins), she was always tense, and she thinks that will probably be the last time she and hubby go to the great Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival.

National Save for Retirement Week

In the mail, self’s latest IRA statement from Morgan Stanley.  Percent change from last statement is negative, naturally.  A huge negative.  Inserted with the statement is a most helpful brochure entitled “Achieving the Retirement You Imagine.”  And, in a sidebar, this helpful bit of information:

Congress has designated the week of October 19-25 as “National Save for Retirement Week” to encourage all Americans to create or reassess their retirement savings strategies.

You may make of that what you will, dear blog reader.

Economist Pronounces McCain’s Tie “Ghastly”: A Commentary on Presidential Debates

An excerpt from the Lexington column of the Oct. 11, 2008 Economist:

At the first debate in 1960, Nixon was not feeling well.  After hearing Kennedy turn down the offer of make-up, he turned it down too, though it might have covered his five o’clock shadow.  Kennedy got his aides to apply make-up when Nixon wasn’t looking, and presented a tanned and handsome face to the nation.  Nixon looked like a sweaty corpse.  Radio listeners thought he did well.  But on television, Kennedy won by a mile.

Further on:

Kennedy thought he debated his way into the White House . . .

And still further:

In 1980, when voters were weary of Jimmy Carter but worried that his challenger might be an extremist, Ronald Reagan’s amiable performance reassured them.  And in 2000, when George Bush’s winning margin was so microscopic that anything might have tipped the result, Al Gore’s sighs during the first debate surely cost him.

Finally:

Barack Obama, like Kennedy, is easy on the eye.  John McCain, though he was hot stuff in his youth, now looks craggy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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