Manila Dates

Self is leaving for the Philippines Read the rest of this entry »

Thought for the New Year

From Sage Master Shih Cheng-Yen (who has been too little consulted in the Year 2008):

Still Thought # 98

With great kindness, one has no regrets; with great compassion, one has no resentments; with great joy, one has no sorrows; with great generosity, one demands nothing in return.

On that uplifting note, self would now like to vent.  Following, self’s picks of the WORST movies of 2008:

(Caveat:  If you, dear blog reader, are one of those people who were rendered ecstatic by the Golden Globe nominations of Happy Go Lucky, as Best Picture for a Comedy or Musical, or for Tom Cruise as Best Supporting Actor in Tropic Thunder, then read no further.)

Happy-Go-Lucky:  Congratulations to Mike Leigh, his movie succeeded in getting self to walk out, after only 20 minutes.  Perhaps it was the relentless cheer, the lingering shots of people doing nothing, the grade-school-teacher-dressed-as-a-chicken stunt.  Perhaps it was that Sally Hawkins reminded self of a certain person, too soon after that person’s departure.  Perhaps it was because self firmly believes that people ought to be allowed their moods: not everyone wants to go around with a smiley-happy face all the time, particularly not in a bookstore, when one is engaged in reading.

Max Payne:  That makes two stinkers this year for Mark Wahlberg, the other one being The Happening.  After the high point of The Departed, this year was particularly disappointing for this Mark Wahlberg fan.

Tropic Thunder:  Only the first half hour was funny.  After that, self felt as if she was expected to find everything funny.  Which was tedious.  Profanity/Jack Black/smoking 12-year-olds, even cute Asian ones, are not funny.

December, 1898

December 21:   Pres. McKinley issued his Proclamation of “Benevolent Assimilation” with regards to the acquisiton of the Philippine Islands from Spain which reads, in part:

The destruction of the Spanish fleet in the harbor of Manila by the United States naval squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Dewey, followed by the reduction of the city and the surrender of the Spanish forces, practically effected the conquest of the Philippine Islands and the suspension of the Spanish sovereignity therein. With the signature of the treaty of peace between the United States and Spain by their respective plenipotentiaries at Paris on the 10th instant, and as a result of the victories of American arms, the future control, disposition, and government of the Philippine Islands are ceded to the United States.

December 30:  First national celebration of Jose Rizal’s martyrdom (Rizal was executed by the Spanish on December 1896), on orders of the 29-year-old president of the First Philippine Republic, General Emilio Aguinaldo

Conversations: Luisa Igloria on Juan Luna

Self missed Luisa Igloria’s reading with Karen Llagas, Joi Barrios and Barbara Jane Reyes, Dec. 6 at the San Francisco Main Library. Luisa’s book, Juan Luna’s Revolver, has just been published by the the University of Notre Dame Press, and self was absolutely ecstatic to get her copy signed, by the author herself, the day before Luisa left the Bay Area.

So there we were, sitting together in self’s humble living room, and self was telling Luisa how much she adored her poetry, and how she loved the collection’s title poem, and Luisa told self that there was another Juan Luna, apparently a mass murderer in Texas who’d had his killing spree at a McDonald’s, and when you google “Juan Luna,” more than likely the hits you get are all about the murderer. Which information self found extremely fascinating. (And, just to show why self can never, ever be a reporter, Luisa Igloria sends self a gentle correction this evening: “The other Juan Luna was a guy in Palatine, IL, who went on a shooting rampage with his high school buddy in a Brown’s Chicken fast food place there – I think this was sometime in 1993 — !!!)

Juan Luna, bless his heart, was apparently so dismayed by reports of his wife’s purported infidelity because he never considered her attractive. So, to make up for this really unforgivable oversight, he killed both his wife and his mother-in-law, but apparently did not serve time in jail (how fortunate for him), but didn’t live long, either, afterwards.

And, self perusing the latest issue of Filipinas Magazine this morning, sees that — whoa! — a newly discovered painting by aforementioned painter/cad/murderer was unearthed and auctioned off by Christie’s Hong Kong (painting is entitled “Las Damas Romanas” and features two European ladies languidly posed on some marble/stone steps, while one of the ladies restrains two very thin, whippet-like dogs on a leash). And this work, which was signed and dated “Luna Roman 1883” fetched over a million US dollars.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Strybing Arboretum in the Rain

Self had been wanting to see the “Ancient Plant Garden” that had been touted in an article in the Chronicle from two months ago.  The article talked about tree ferns and gingkos, “ancient conifers,” and “hadrosaur footprints.”  Which was how she, hubby, and son ended up in Golden Gate Park yesterday afternoon, meandering along the (somewhat muddy) trails in Strybing Arboretum and looking at camellias and manzanitas and ferns and Japanese anemones.  Self couldn’t tell where the “Ancient Plant Garden” was, perhaps it was the area with the pond filled with plant scum?  It rained in the middle of their perambulations, but it was still a good afternoon.  Here are a few observations from the family’s first foray into the park since (gulp) son was in grade school !!@@##

Tree in Strybing Arboretum

Tree in Strybing Arboretum

Help Wikipedia!

Link here to read an appeal from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Self has no personal relationship with this site (she isn’t even listed there, ha ha ha!), but she’s grown addicted to it.

Remember self’s post about “Pygmalion, the Remake: Starring, In Order of Appearance, John McCain and Sarah Palin”? Made possible by Wikipedia’s listing the pair under an entry for “Pygmalion” (Self nearly died laughing)

When self first discovered Wikipedia (in the Works Cited pages of her students’ papers — !), she was distressed. She tried to ban her students from using the site as a reference. But now she thinks Wikipedia is great. Jimmy Wales is great. Jimmy Wales is a genius like Steve Jobs (if not just quite like the late Harold Pinter).

Please help.

What Self Did Yesterday, the Day After Christmas 2008

Self went shopping with hubby. At McWhorter’s, the Christmas stuff was 50% off, and of course self headed straight for the Christmas cards, where she was so happy to find a box of Crane’s (Dearest Mum always told self that Crane’s cards were the best kind) that was going for $9.95. Then self bought a couple of gel window stick-ons in the shape of holly and Nutcracker figures (Self does tend to go overboard over Christmas doo-dads. You would think by now her house would look like some explosion of Christmas cornucopia, but strangely enough, these decorations have the annoying habit of walking off and disappearing, in the intervening year, so that when Christmas rolls around again self always ends up having to buy a new cache).

Next, Draeger’s, where hubby professed extreme craving for prosciutto — alas, no one was behind the deli counter, and after waiting for 15 minutes hubby began to get extremely annoyed. As this would be a very very bad development (as annoyance leads to black mood leads to who-knows-what), self directed him upstairs, where there were tables and tables of Christmas ornaments on display, and self was able to buy four “dog” Christmas tree ornaments (last year, she bought four “dog” ones as well), each one different. Joy! Hubby bought a small table-top Christmas tree for $10.

Then, to Wells Fargo, where self made the amazing discovery that she had left her ATM card back at McWhorter’s. Hubby was in conniptions but a quick call to McWhorter’s confirmed that they had it. (Anyhoo, self thought to herself: this is a sign from God that she must not spend any more!)

And, right after that, when hubby and self were at Border’s in Palo Alto, it’s true that self bought only two books: one for dear cuz called 1001 Books For Every Mood (for instance, if you were in the mood “to misbehave,” you would be advised to read Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying or Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders or Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors — how very, very fab!), and for niece in Manila, who is 14, what self considers Stephenie Meyers’ best-written book (which isn’t part of the “Twilight” series, self only discovered at check-out), The Host.

And then it was off to Orchard Supply Hardware, where hubby bought a gasoline storage container (spent half an hour waiting while hubby stood in the middle of the aisle, just trying to figure out how it worked: self, extremely exasperated, kept saying, “Don’t you just give the nozzle a little twist, here?” But hubby insisted on reading all the directions, even down to the microscopic print that said, “Made in China”).

And then, finally, home, where self got to watch her Netflix movie (because son was in Santa Cruz with friends), “The Battle for Algiers.” Which was shocking. Moving. Amazing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

A Depiction of a Teacher’s Inner Life

From “Yurt,” a story by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, in the July 21, 2008 issue of The New Yorker (the one with Obama in Muslim attire on the cover):

    . . . didn’t misery imply a wallowing sort of wretchedness? And a teacher had no time for that. The curriculum was always marching on, relentlessly: the ancient Egyptians melting into the ancient Greeks, the blur of check marks and smiley faces, the hot rattling breath of the photocopier, book reports corrected shakily on the bus, the eternal night of parent-teacher conferences, dizzy countdowns to every holiday, and the dumb animal pleasure of rest. One could

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Perusing THE ECONOMIST’S Best Books of the Year 2008

Books self is interested in reading after perusing The Economist’s list of “Best Books of 2008”:


Politics and Current Affairs


Science and Technology

Culture and Digressions

Fiction and Memoirs

  • Sea of Poppies:  A Novel, by Amitav Ghosh, “tells the intricate stories of a cast of hundreds in lustrous and mesmerizing prose”
  • Lush Life, by Richard Price, “a whodunnit with literary heft”
  • The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry, “a moving and memorable novel about conflicting versions of Ireland’s past”
  • The Ayatollah Begs to Differ:  The Paradox of Modern Iran, by Hooman Majd, an “illuminating, critical and affectionate memoir”
  • Palestinian Walks:  Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape, by Raja Shehadeh, “tells the story of a lawyer’s fight against Israel’s seizure of Palestinian land and how he seeks solace by walking in the wild countryside of the West Bank”
  • The Three of Us:  A Family Story, by Julia Blackburn, “a raw and moving story about a chaotic family and a lost childhood”

Woe: The Passing of a Genius

The renowned British playwright, Harold Pinter, has died.  The announcement was made by his wife, the biographer Lady Antonia Fraser.

Pinter on language —  no one was better at exploring its obfuscation and its capacity for deflection, at mining the reefs and shoals of ordinary conversation.

He once said:  “The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don’t hear.  It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, and anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its true place.  When true silence falls we are left with echo but are nearer nakedness.  One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness.”

His influence on the theatre world was enormous.  Without Pinter, there would be no David Mamet, no Sam Shepard.  Read “The Birthday Party” (brilliant, brilliant —  and, a young man’s play:  Pinter wrote it when he was only 28) or “The Homecoming.” Then, watch a Sam Shepard play, either “Buried Child” (which self first saw before son was born, at The Magic Theatre in Fort Mason —  Shepard’s spiritual home) or “Curse of the Starving Class”, staged just this fall by ACT (with, by the way, a smashing set design by the Obie and Tony-winning Filipino set designer and director Loy Arcenas).

Or watch David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross.”  Heck, watch a Coen brothers movie!

Language and its violence were his true subjects.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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