“Transporter 3” Rocks!

Apologies, dear blog readers: self knows this is not a serious post. For instance, why does she love “Transporter 3”? When all that esteemed New Yorker could say about this movie was that Jason Statham exhibited some “balletic” moves?  When, this afternoon, during the 12:55 p.m. show in downtown RWC movie theatre, there was absolutely no one else in the theatre —  other than son and self, that is?

The reasons self loved “Transporter 3” are:

  • This movie is just tailor-made for people who are not serious (like self)
  • Self just realized who Jason Statham’s moves remind her of: Bruce Lee. The “Enter the Dragon” and “Fists of Fury” Bruce Lee.  And, he is probably the only person on the planet who can race an Audi on the top of a speeding train, and make it look believable.
  • This installment marks a return to the inspired silliness of the first. For one, it is set in Europe, where the original one was set.
  • Self can now reply with confidence when someone asks her which is a better car, an Audi or a Mercedes.  Answer:  an Audi (especially when driven by Jason Statham) as his car left all the various Mercedeses driven by the bad guys in the dust.  One (Mercedes) even went end over end and exploded in a ravine!
  • The girl is a ding-bat, as she should be. (Please, no more of the suffering, martyr wives like the one Amber Valleta had to play in installment no. 2!) This girl drinks vodka straight from the bottle, pees in the aisle of a convenience store (she has a good excuse: she’s fitted with a metal bracelet that explodes if she moves farther from the car than 75 feet), and begs Jason Statham to strip —  which, much to self’s elation, he does, in an open field. Ha ha ha ha!
  • The bad guys are nondescript: standard bad guys, none of your Max von Sydow or James Cromwell A-list bad guys. Which is what makes the movie even more enjoyable.

When the credits rolled, self could barely contain herself.  She turned to son and said, “Wow! That was a really good movie!”

And son replied, “It was all right.” Self has the sneaking suspicion he preferred “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” And, coincidentally, a preview for that very movie was showing just before “Transporter 3.” So self got to see the divine Keanu in his polygraph scene all over again.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Christmas Eve, Manila

Tonight is Christmas eve in Manila, or perhaps it’s Christmas already, as they are 16 hours ahead. Dearest Mum informed self that the family was delivering Ying’s ashes —

“To Bangkok?” self interrupted.

“No,” said Dearest Mum, sounding extremely exasperated. “We did that already in September, remember.”

“To the niche in Santuario?” self continues.

“No! We are taking her ashes and scattering them off Tali Beach. All of us are going to be together on your brother’s boat.”

“Oh,” self says. She tries to imagine it: this fabled boat, which she has been hearing about for over a year. The dark water. The wind. The family all gathered together. The ashes.

“We’re going to be with Tito Tony. And, since I didn’t want Ying to be lonely, I decided to bring along some of your Dad’s ashes, and your sister’s, too.”

So, a real family gathering there. Not only of live bodies, but also dead ones.

“And we are going to scatter them, all together, out in the ocean.”

Self feeling mighty relieved that she chose to go to Manila after the holidays. For she doesn’t think she can bear one more reminder that Ying is gone. And the ceremonial scattering of the ashes — how many scatterings can there be? Already, Ying’s ashes are in two places: a temple in Bangkok, and the niche in Santuario de Manila. So, here’s a third place. Maybe there’s even a fourth, for Dearest Mum probably kept some.

Now, Dearest Mum tells self how she found a nice ceramic pot in which to store everyone’s commingled ashes. Ying’s sister had sent one over from Bangkok, but Dearest Mum misplaced it. And anyway, this pot that Dearest Mum found is nicer than the one Ying’s sister sent, everyone agrees it is nicer . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Kanlaon’s First Book Salon: Featuring Tania Hershman, author of THE WHITE ROAD AND OTHER STORIES

For the past few months, Tania Hershman, founder and editor of the great literary website, The Short Review, has been doing a “virtual book tour,” visiting blogs around the world in conjunction with the launch of her first book, The White Road and Other Stories.  Self was deeply honored that she chose Kanlaon as one of her stops.  For the past day, self has been conducting  an illuminating conversation with Tania (who lives in Jerusalem, so there’s a bit of a time difference there!)  Below are my questions and her answers.  Enjoy!

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What attracts you to the short story form, and would you ever consider writing a novel?

I love the short story, for me a great story story is like a punch in the gut, it leaves you winded, reeling. It imprints itself on you not in spite of being short but because of its brevity. A novel can’t do what a short story does, and nor should it. I don’t believe in comparing short stories and novels any more than I would compare a poem and a film script. Yes, they are all made up of written words, but they are so different in form, in aspiration. I may write a novel, I may write a poem, or a screenplay. I can’t say now. It depends on the story and what the story demands.

Self-publishing is a huge industry now; Robert Frost’s first collection was self-published, as were a number of other poets and writers now in the ‘literary canon.’ Do you think this is the way a young, emerging writer should go?

To be honest, I don’t know much about self-publishing, who is doing it and where. We began a few months ago accepting self-published collections for review on The Short Review, understanding that in the current climate it is incredibly hard for a short story writer to find a publisher, but we also have several criteria, one of which is that some of the stories have been previously published. In other words, someone other than the writer has read them. I was very fortunate in finding a wonderful and dynamic independent  publisher, Salt,  who offered me a book deal, and there will always be the prestige associated with being paid (even a very small amount!) to publish a book rather than paying out the money yourself. I would advise a young emerging writer to send out his or her stories individually, to build up a “writing resume”, to spread their words, before they consider a collection. Whoever publishes it, a book is a lot of work!

How do you think writers will be affected by the current world-wide recession (in terms of getting emerging writers published, will there be more difficulty?)

Well, it’s never been easy. I don’t know much about economics but there are some who say that the current economic climate might make publishers more adventurous and less reliant on the whims of their sales teams, who knows?!

Has managing The Short Review helped your creativity?

Oh yes, most definitely! I read and read and read short stories, and not only that, I read them very closely when I review a book, and so I see what I love, what I don’t, and, more importantly, why. I have been introduced to so many amazing writers, and seeing what they do and how they do it gives me permission, in a sense, to try new things with my writing, to experiment outside the traditional frameworks. Read the rest of this entry »

Revelations (Why, Oh Why)

Self wants exceedingly to see “Valkyrie,” but husband says, “I wish they hadn’t cast Tom Cruise.  That just ruins it for me.”

Self inquires who hubby would have preferred in the role.  He replies, without hesitation:  “Ralph Fiennes.”

*   *   *

Yesterday, self was watching a show that seemed to be a British version of the Dog Whisperer:  “It’s Me or the Dog.” (##@@)  The case was this:  Little yappy Pomeranian kept nipping at her owner’s husband, who had not been able to approach his wife, not even for a quick hug, in over a year. British dog whisperer instructed the man’s wife to put the Pomeranian in her place.  How?  Start with the feeding.  She instructed the woman to fill the dog’s bowl per usual at feeding time, but not to allow the dog to eat.  Instead, the owner had to pick up the dog bowl and make like she was actually eating it.  She had to make sure the dog was watching her.  Only after a minute or so could she lower the bowl so the dog could eat.  This was apparently a method of establishing the owner’s primacy.  And a way to ensure that the animal would be much more amenable to training from then on (@@!!)

Self knew it, she knew it all along, dear blog readers!  Dearest Mum’s predilection for reaching over the table and helping herself to forkfuls of self’s food (even before self has had a chance to taste it) is simply a way for DM to exercise alpha-dog status.  But self is a person, not a dog.  Self resolves that from now on, she will refuse to part with her plate, in fact will guard it with her life from Dearest Mum’s wandering fork.

*   *  *  *

Goldilock‘s was empty last night at 6 p.m. (And, can anyone enlighten self as to why a Filipino bakery should have the name Goldilocks?  Isn’t it about time for the owners to find a new name?  Perhaps something like Tamis or Sarap or something?  And now that self has started on this thread, she wonders why a Japanese cream puff chain should have a name like Beard Papa.  Once again, I digress)

*  *  *  *

Everyone buys books during a recession:  lines were 10 deep at Barnes & Noble.

*  *  *  *

Self spent an entertaining 2 1/2 hours at uncle’s house in Daly City (delivered small fake tree, Christmas globe, basket of Christmas ornaments).  There she dared to muse out loud why Dearest Mum feels compelled to throw suitcases full of clothes from Loehman’s and Nordstrom’s Rack at self, every time she visits.  These clothes are meant for someone with the proportions of Paris Hilton; self has resolved to bring them all back with her to Manila and leave them there.  Aunt inquires why Dearest Mum does not just give self a thousand dollars and let her do her own shopping.  Self knows this will never happen.  Uncle agrees:  it is ridiculous. He advises self to haul the clothes over to the nearest Salvation Army.

How much self’s knowledge has expanded, in the last few days, dear blog readers!  Stay tuned.

In Which Self Tries to Postpone Spending More Money by Distracting Herself with December 2008 VANITY FAIR

This morning, self went shopping.  Yes, indeed, she actually left son at home (who was probably thanking his lucky stars at self’s exit) and went to Roger Reynold’s (Menlo Park) to buy a plant and to Sequoia Station (Jefferson and El Camino, RWC), to the Barnes & Noble and See’s there.  Along the way, she filled up with gas: the “Gas Tank Empty” light had been blinking for a while, but self was sure she had an “emergency reserve” (though she couldn’t remember exactly what size this reserve was —  perhaps 20 miles???). Great indeed was her consternation when she ended up having to put in 15 gallons of gas, approximately the entire capacity of her tank.  Eeek!

At Roger Reynolds, self bought uncle in Daly City a globe with a reindeer inside, and a fake Christmas tree, and a golden wire basket that she filled with Christmas ornaments and she knew she would have spent a lot less if she’d just ordered him a gift basket from Harry & David, but anyhoo.

At Barnes & Noble she searched for a Naomi Shihab Nye collection for her friend Carla P, and a thriller called Red to Black by Alex Dryden for one of her Dear Bros, and for a novel by Anthony Trollope called The Eustace Diamonds (for herself).  Came up empty.  The Trollope wasn’t available “anywhere,” according to B & N salesperson.

Then, walked to See’s, bought gift certificate for son.  Other possible stocking fillers for son:  salami (ha ha ha!), a gasoline card.

Then, feeling in need of some major re-fueling, self headed home, settled herself on the couch and began watching “Jericho” re-runs.  In the meantime, she also began leafing through the December Vanity Fair, the one with Tina Fey on the cover.  And here she is now at the section called “Night-Table Reading,” in which VF asks a passel of celebrities what they are currently reading.  In line with the current economic situation, preponderance of celebrities consulted by VF are people like Donny Deutsch (co-author of The Big Idea:  How to Make Your Entrepreneurial Dreams Come True, from the Aha Moment to Your First Million).  Here are the people whose choices self found particularly interesting:

  • Ray Bradbury, whose most recent book is We’ll Always Have Paris, is reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night:  “Tender is the Night is the most outstanding novel I’ve ever read.  Fitzgerald had a way of writing prose poetry amidst his stories.”  (Sold, Ray, sold!)
  • Steven Gaines, author of Fool’s Paradise:  Players, Poseurs, and the Culture of Excess in South Beach, is reading Daniel Mendelsohn’s How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken:  Essays:  “I keep dipping into this wonderful collection of essays about books and movies and plays, most of them written for the New York Review of Books.  Mendelsohn, who won a National Book Critics Circle Award for book reviewing, is a gifted and entertaining writer.”  (Sold, Steven, sold!)
  • Ryan D’Agostino, author of Rich Like Them:  My Door-to-Door Search for the Secrets of Wealth in America’s Richest Neighborhoods is reading Joe Nocera’s Good Guys & Bad Guys:  “There’s wisdom in his stories, something the business world could use right now.”  (Sold, Ryan, sold!)

Stay tuned.

Self Has Seen “The One”!

At some point, early in the movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” a bunch of the nation’s most elite scientists (Jennifer Connolly is marshalled for her expertise in astro-biology or some such; in the movie she plays the role of a professor from Princeton) are calculating the speed of an approaching foreign object which is projected to land directly in the middle of Manhattan (in fact, in the middle of Central Park), and the smart Indian one says, “It’s moving at vector blah blah triple the rate of blah blah point blah blah.”  And hubby turns to self with eyebrows quizzically raised (or, at least, self imagined his eyebrows were quizzically raised, for after all the movie theatre was dark) and says, “That’s faster than the speed of light!”

@@##!!

In the movie, Keanu has to engage in an extended conversation (self means, about five minutes long) in Chinese!  And self nearly fell over, because he was speaking very very slowly, and if he’d been in self’s Chinese classes at Stanford, her professors would have given him a C or a D!  (Self’s Chinese name was Wei Yung Fei, and her teachers all told her she had a “good Mandarin accent”!  But self didn’t believe them, of course, she knew they were just being nice.)

And Keanu and John Cleese were in a scene where they went mano a mano writing math equations on a blackboard!  That scene almost blew self’s mind!

And Jennifer Connolly was the only female scientist elite enough to be included in a top-secret government operation to dialogue with aliens!  And of course, when alien sphere lands in Central Park, she walks far far far ahead of her male colleagues (finally, chivalry kicks in and they allow the female to take precedence!)

And there were approximately three cute guys in this movie, so self was in heaven:  the cute guy from “Friday Night Lights” (whose name self keeps forgetting); the cute guy from “Mad Men” (Jon Hamm); and of course Keanu, who in self’s humble opinion is aging much much better than Brad.

And son, who likes Jennifer Connolly exceedingly, pronounced “The Day the Earth Stood Still” as “an 8 out of 10,” which is about the same ranking he gave “Quantum of Solace”!

And self got to watch a preview for the “Terminator:  Salvation” movie, with hunka hunka Christian Bale playing John Connor!

And there was another preview featuring Hugh Jackman that purports to revolve around the origin of his Wolverine character (and features Liev Schreiber as a bad guy — ha ha ha ha!)

And there was a preview for “State of Play,” featuring a Wow! cast:  Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams (who seems to have trimmed down considerably) and Helen Mirren!

And self had popcorn, lots and lots of popcorn!  So much popcorn that, about halfway through the movie, when son asked if there was any more, self had to ‘fess up that the large bag was completely empty!  Nothing inside except a couple of kernels!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

The 2nd or 3rd Most Gorgeous Sentence

. . .  encountered so far this year:

In 1999, after returning from Venezuela, I dreamed that I was being taken to Enrique Lihn’s apartment, in a country that could well have been Chile, in a city that could well have been Santiago, bearing in mind that Chile and Santiago once resembled Hell, a resemblance that, in some subterranean layer of the real city and the imaginary city, will forever remain.

    —  Roberto Bolaño, possibly an excerpt from 2666 (?), in The New Yorker double issue of Dec. 22 & 29, 2008

Chris Matthews Hearts Blagojevich!

How heartwarming to listen to Chris Matthews this morning and learn that:

  • His favorite poem is Rudyard Kipling’s “If.” (Exhibit A: He is practically salivating over the fact that embattled Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich quoted from same at his press conference half an hour ago. Respect for Matthews sinks to basement, not for his lack of objectivity but for his appallingly corny taste in poetry.  Matthews raves:  “This is a poem you teach your children! To show them how to stand up and face the lions!”)
  • He relishes over-the-top political theatre. (Exhibit A: His giddy response to Blagojevich press conference, in which he lauds the governor’s toughness, praising him for being so “clearly inner-directed”)

One of the pundits Matthews has assembled for this panel claims to “know the governor well,” having “jogged with him” several months ago. Just as well that he doesn’t get to say much, as Matthews is so agog with excitement that he talks over everyone and says, “This is about freedom! He’s going to fight to the death! He’s a politician who’s not afraid to take on his enemies! It’s not just justice at stake here!”

The Bookseller Tells His Story

Loyal blog readers know how 2008 brought self such waves of sorrow and joy, how self flew to Tel Aviv in the spring to be with Beloved Sister-in-Law Ying, how fraught the visit was.  Now, Ying is gone, but self will never forget Tel Aviv:  even now she feels a kinship to the city, to its booksellers and cab drivers and ordinary people, to the bus drivers who let her ride free (Self is astonished that such things still do happen in the world), to the young girls who took self by the hand when she was lost and directed her hither and thither.  That, at least, was one good thing to come out of 2008.

On self’s last day in the city, wandering down Allenby, self encountered a bookstore owner named Joe H.  Here’s a droll story he sent her just a few days ago:

A TEL AVIV STORY

What does a respectable purveyor of antiquarian tomes  do with pornographic dvds that find their way into his store? Well, if you are a nice guy who likes helping others, as well as taking stupid risks, you offer them to a devout Muslim acquaintance and watch what happens!

I would have kept the porn for myself, but as it happens they weren’t to my exacting standards in erotica. I also don’t like catering to perverts in my bespoke establishment.

It happened like this, Upon pondering what to do with the dvds, in walks Aziz, a devout Muslim who works downstairs at a textile importing firm. I offered him the dvds as a gift, phrasing it like this, “Would you or perhaps Jamal,  want these discs as a gift?”.

He gave me an incredulous look and asked why I was giving them away. I said that I don’t like selling such things in my store….but I began to sense  that he was struggling over whether to accept them, so I  said flippantly, “give them to Jamal,” (the guy he works with)

Now let me mention here that Jamal and Aziz are related somehow and they live in a village some distance from the city. I assume that the village is quite traditional, with women in headgear and such; but that didn’t deter me from my generous offer. I was on automatic pilot. I was determined that he take them….Anyway,  I recalled that they  always leer and jeer at the women walking by, (especially Jamal), so I figured what the heck? They’ll enjoy them!

Jamal is less traditional than Aziz. He  is also a very big and strong dude, but more outgoing and friendly. (He once put me in a bear hug and lifted my 93 kilos like nothing.)

Anyway, Aziz took the movies and said “I will give them to Jamal.”

An hour went by, and I practically forgot about the whole thing, when Aziz stormed into the shop with fire in his eyes. “uh-oh” I said to myself.

“Tell me the truth Joe, and don’t lie….did you tell me to give those dirty movies to Jamal, yes or no?”

I stammered something about telling him to “take the dvds, and if not, give them to Jamal…I think”.

-Don’t lie to me Joe, you told me, “Give these to Jamal, yes or no?”

-Ok, Aziz, that is possible, it could be that I said, “give these to Jamal, that is entirely possible, but I’m not sure, my intention was to just get rid of them, and I told myself, the first FRIEND who walks in here, I will offer them to him…walla,  then you walked in! But then I remembered that you are a devout Muslim, so it entirely possible that I said on second thought, “give these to Jamal”, not really intending to give them to either YOU OR Jamal, in that simply…. you were the first person to walk in here….if you know what I mean…no insult intended, of course”

-Ok, but remember what you said Joe, you said, “Give these to Jamal”.

-That is possible Aziz, but my memory is a little foggy , entirely possible though…. no insult intended Aziz, really, and please tell Jamal that”.

He stormed out, and I thought to myself, Sh#*t, I’m f#*ked!

Jamal soon strode in, mad.

-Did I ever ask you to give me pornography? Did I ever “place an order for pornography from you”??

-No Jamal, of course not, like I told Aziz, or better, what I THINK I told Aziz was, “take these dvds and/or give them to Jamal….No insults intended, just friendship…I wasn’t thinking of course”

I went through the whole thing again with Jamal, exasperated at this complete cultural misunderstanding….

when suddenly Jamal smiled and kissed me on both cheeks with a bone-crushing hug, (The kiss of death??? By this time I was sweating bullets and sh#*tting bricks. Jamal had once decked a policeman over a petty misunderstanding… and did time for it…the guy fears no one), and he said,

“I believe you Joe”.

_Jeez, thank you jamal, you had me there for a second!

Two days later I bumped into Jamal. He seemed to be in a good mood, so I ventured to ask what the whole fuss was about over the dvds. He told me that he just got married to Aziz’s sister, and that Aziz was gravely insulted that he was ordering porno movies from me….

Jamal continued to say that they had a fierce argument, and that  it wasn’t any of Aziz’s goddamn business even if he DID order the porn from me, because his sister was now his wife, and that a man is the king of his own castle and he would watch a thousand porno flics if he wanted.

He then winked at me and said he thoroughly enjoyed the films, and that if I ever got any more, to call him straight away…but not to tell Aziz.

The End

Self thinks the bookseller ought to start writing books . . .

Self Proudly Announces

Here, dear blog readers, is the reason self is going to Manila in a few weeks:

Family Spaces
Stella Kalaw
January 8 – February 7, 2009
Opening reception on January 8, Thursday, 6pm

Silverlens Gallery welcomes 2009 with a photography show by United States based artist Stella Kalaw. Over the last fifty years, the Filipino diaspora has altered the landscape of families and the relationships that bind. Kalaw, having left the Philippines over ten years ago, returns to show “Family Spaces”, a series of photographs of her immediate family members’ homes all over the world. Continents apart, each home is a glimpse of interconnectedness through objects of the everyday Filipino. Worn tsinelas on a stair landing, a tabo floating in a balde, the Sacred Heart of Jesus–all markers of Pinoy identity, they are umbilical cords to the familiar. Read the rest of this entry »

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