The Chees-iness of Scorsese

Yes, as dear blog readers can gather from the title of this post, self has just seen “Shutter Island.” Who knew that Scorsese channeling Hitchcock = cheese? And we’re talking maaajor cheese here. The kind of cheese that makes “Titanic” look brilliant!

You remember that scene in Indiana Jones III (“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”) where we find out that Indy hates rats? (Or is it snakes?) And he’s stuck in the catacombs with his dad played by Sean Connery and that blonde German-who-turns-out-to-be-a-traitoress, and millions of rats come pouring through the tunnels? Well, “Shutter Island,” has something similar. Though in the latter film, this is only the latest in a long series of ludicrous touches (Ludicrous + Scorsese does not equal Luc Besson brilliance. Oh, no. If self had to describe it, she would have to say that this is something more akin to the low of the Paul Verhoeven “Showgirls” — so now Martin Scorsese has his own very personal “Showgirls” moment)

Anyhoo, you know that any movie with Leonardo di Caprio that causes self’s eyelids to flutter has got to be abysmal. Because self loves Leo! She thinks he’s one of our best (American) actors! In fact, his presence in the film, and that of Mark Ruffalo, are the only things that save this movie from being an F! A total F! Poor Michelle Williams, who plays Leo’s dead wife, is forced to look portentously secretive (which means narrowing her eyes — get it? Get it? When she narrows her eyes, you know she is meant to, to — well, never mind! It’s significant, that’s all self can tell ya!)

This movie was so bad that the Redwood City audience was hooting and breaking out in giggles at scenes that were supposed to be scary. Aaargh! Self could have been writing! She could have been reading yet another Edward P. Jones story! She could have been planting her new chrysanthemum (a “Silver Princess” — Color: white)! It’s all hubby’s fault! He’s the one who wanted to see “Shutter Island”! Self would have been content skipping a movie this weekend, since she already had her Luc Besson/Jonathan Rhys-Meyers fix yesterday! (Though, on the positive side, self did get to watch yet another preview of “Clash of the Titans.” She still thinks Sam Worthington doesn’t seem to fit the part — at least, not with that Marine buzz cut he sports in the movie — but she can never get enough of the line “Release the Kraken!”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: From Edward P. Jones’ ALL AUNT HAGAR’S CHILDREN

Began reading Edward P. Jones’ All Aunt Hagar’s Children on the plane home from Washington (Wow, the reading was almost a week ago!  How is that possible ???).  The thing with an Edward P. Jones’ story is, you have to read it twice.  Which is the only way.  Because the narrative style is so intricate, you read and read and by the time you get to the end of the story, your head is upside down and you think, What was this story about anyway?

But when you go back and re-read, the stories bloom, they really do.  They are so beautiful.  Like prose poems.  Looong prose poems.

So, this is the reason it’s taken self a week to read 257 pages (And, as dear blog readers well know, self’s usual rate is two books a week!)

Here she is on a story, “Adam Robinson Acquires Grandparents and a Little Sister” (which self thinks is an extremely disappointing title:  because that is exactly what the story is about, how “Adam Robinson acquires . . .  ” etc etc.  But, once again, self digresses).  It’s a great story. The one before it, “Common Law,” was pretty great as well (It’s probably the most horrific story self has ever read about domestic violence).  In the Adam Robinson story, a six-year-old boy, the title character, has just been re-united with his grandparents.  The boy’s parents have disappeared.  The boy has been missing for two years, and by the time the grandfather finds him again, the boy has suffered something unspeakable.  There are scars on his back.  When the boy tells his grandmother he knows a song, it turns out the song is nothing but “a bunch of nonsense words” (How heartbreaking is that?)

Understandably, the grandfather, Noah, has a pretty bad case of insomnia, worse even than self’s:

For many nights after Adam’s arrival, Noah had managed to get some three hours of sleep.  But Tuesday night he slept for no more than two hours.  After lying with his eyes open for an hour and trying to will himself back to sleep, he got up at about two and went quietly out of the room.

Self loves the way Noah seems to think that sleeping three hours a night is a good night’s sleep!  A few paragraphs on, there is a passage that could only have been written by someone who knows intimately the sufferings of the unable-to-sleep:

About three he put his feet up on the couch.  At four he went to the refrigerator and got a slice of cheese, the throw around his shoulders.  At four-thirty he went in and saw that Adam was asleep.  At five he went back for two more slices of cheese and folded them and dipped them into the mayonnaise jar.  At a quarter to six the deliveryman dropped the newspaper at his door and Noah opened the door and stood at the threshold with the newspaper in his hand and looked at the metal stairs that led up to the roof.

Noah’s wife, on the other hand, “had always been able to fall asleep within five minutes of putting her head on the pillow.”  Which is exactly like hubby:  He will say, I’m going to sleep.  And then he does sleep.  And he is fully capable of sleeping for ten, eleven hours at a stretch.  Self has always been extremely envious of this ability.  She was even more envious when she read somewhere that people who have insomnia do not live as long as people who get healthy amounts of sleep (!!@@##)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

“From Paris With Love” : See it for Rhys-Meyers

First of all, he does a great American accent.

Second, he’s sort of channeling Matt Damon in the first Bourne movie (that “I-have-not-a-clue-how-to-shoot-a-gun-but-I-have-perfect-aim” shtick), a more twitch-y Matt Damon.

Third, a Luc Besson movie is always fun.  Even when it is ludicrous.  In this movie, Rhys-Meyers has to spend much time hanging on to a Chinese vase filled with cocaine.  Even when he and his new partner, played by Travolta, have to meet with every stereotyped bad guy in the book —  “Asian dudes,” Pakistani terrorists, and so forth and so on —  he has to hold on to this vase for dear life.  Why?  So that he can break it later —  did you even have to ask, dear blog reader ???  Remember, this is the same Luc Besson who gave us the gran boffo fabulousness of “La Femme Nikita”!!!  The movie about the girl assassin who was forced to do a hit during her honeymoon !!!  While her all-unknowing husband was waiting in the next room!!! And she pulled it off by pretending she was taking a long, hot bath !!!

Travolta is as expected.  That is, he is charming, even when pronouncing “Motherfucker.”  Though he is a tad overweight.  And should not be allowed to let that go any further (unless he has plans to give up the action roles and do straight comedy, ala Alec Baldwin)

But Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is surprisingly effective playing a geek.  And looks great with glasses.  And in the movie’s very last scene, he shows up wearing fashionably ripped jeans.  And goes shirtless under a grey suit jacket (except for a shoulder sling).  Wow!   Meaning his transition from geek to secret agent is now complete.  Will there be a sequel?  Let’s hope so.

To add to the utter fabulousness of the afternoon, self’s favorite ice cream person was on duty in the lobby of the Redwood City Century 20.  And they had Peanut Buttercup and Strawberry Cheesecake available (The flavors on display are constantly changing, so this is hit or miss).  And the man put extra dollops in her cup (No dinner for you, self!)  And he always makes chit-chat with self and asks her what she is watching.  And when self said she was watching “From Paris With Love,” he admitted he knew nothing about it.  And self said, “I heard it’s not very good, but —  ”  “But you happen to be a John Travolta fan.  No explanation required,” the man said. (Which isn’t true:  self did not want to see this movie because of John Travolta.  In fact, after watching the previews, which featured entirely too much of John Travolta, she almost didn’t feel like seeing it.  But she is a fan of Luc Besson.  One day, she might explain it all to the ice cream guy)

Then self saw the first previews ever of “Secret of the Witch” and “Kick-Ass” (both movies with Nic Cage!)  And a preview for “Brooklyn’s Finest” (Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Richard Gere and even Wesley Snipes, looking none the worse for wear)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Latest Book Deals (Courtesy of Publisher’s Weekly, 23 Feb 2010)

Latest e-letter from Publishers Weekly has announcement of the following deals:

Fiction by First-Time Novelists:

  • Amos Towle’s Rules of Civility, “the story of a tenacious and beautiful young wit of ignominious beginnings who, in the twilight of the Great Depression, embarks on a journey through the upper echelons of New York City in search of a future far brighter than she’s been told she has the right to expect,” to Viking, at auction, for publication in 2011
  • Michael David Lukas’s The Oracle of Stamboul, “about an eight-year-old girl, who becomes an adviser to the Sultan in 1885 as the Ottoman Empire is crumbling,” to Harper, for publication in February 2011
  • Samantha Sotto-Yambao’s Ever After Happily, “a delightful debut in which a young widow discovers that her dead husband may in fact be very much alive . . .  her search for answers takes readers on an adventure from revolutionary Paris to medieval Prussia to ancient Venice, to a place where she discovers whether love is truly everlasting,” to Shaye Arheart Books

Sci-Fi/ Fantasy

  • Jesse Petersen’s Married with Zombies, “the story of how the zombie apocalypse saved one woman’s marriage,” and Flip This Zombie, to Orbit, in a three-book deal

General/ Other

  • British comedian Mark Watson’s Eleven, “the story of a successful late-night radio call-in show host and a related cast of characters throughout London, pitched in the spirit of Nick Hornby and Joshua Ferris,” to Scribner for publication in Spring 2011

Religion/ Spirituality

  • James Redfield’s The Twelfth Insight, the “fourth book in the Celestine series and an adventure tale, both suspenseful and contemplative,” to Grand Central for publication in February 2011

There were several other deal announcements, such as the latest installment in Kenneth Davis’ New York Times‘ bestselling Don’t Know Much About series,  and a humorous memoir about a woman’s battle with a mysterious illness, and a memoir by actress Marlo Thomas.  But, alas, self has to get dinner started.  Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Not Done/ Done

First, the Not Done:

  1. The biggest disappointment of the day was that self did not get to watch John Travolta in “From Paris With Love.”  Self is a sucker for anything Luc Besson.  But she didn’t feel like breaking a $20 just so she could pay $6 for the movie —  BWAH HA HA!  (Neither did she get around to watching Netflix rental “Julie & Julia,” which has been sitting on her coffee table for weeks, weeks!  Sorry, Meryl:  self loves you, but she wishes you would make an action movie!  Bet you would really kick butt!)
  2. Next, self did not walk the li’l crits.  After living with Dear Cuz for four days, and seeing how she walks her very own dog Flora four times a day, even in the most bitter cold (though of course she dresses up Flora in a red coat first!), self’s behavior toward li’l crits might be tantamount to animal abuse.
  3. She has not yet begun to cook dinner (Let’s hope she gets an idea about what to cook before hubby gets home!)

Now, the Done:

  1. Swept up doggie hair, after spending almost an entire day watching them waft from one end of the house to the other.
  2. Boiled linguini.  Ate.  This is just about the easiest task imaginable, at least in self’s list of tasks.
  3. Called Dearest Mum.  She has gotten in touch with everyone self has ever written about in a story.  Primarily the help.  This is pretty amazing.
  4. Went to Wegman’s.  Bought anemone “Jerusalem Red”; Salvia “Forest Fire”; blue forget-me-nots.
  5. Read an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous story by Roberto Bolaño (“William Burns”) in a back issue of The New Yorker.  Again wondered why it is not possible to honor writers while they are still alive.  (Well, self liked everything about the story except for the very last paragraph, which she thought was pretty banal.  But banal Roberto Bolaño is still way better than top-notch everyone else)
  6. Dragged in from the porch two huge boxes (from mail-order catalogues) addressed to hubby.  House is gradually filling up with the most surprising gew-gaws (battery-powered helicopters, lime green silicon egg poachers, motorized potato slicers:  you name it, hubby has ordered it)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Uncanny Presence

The Famous Street

Self is alone in this old colonial house, just off Massachusetts. Close by is American University. The sidewalks on the street out front are still piled high with huge drifts of the most amazing white snow. The house is quiet except for an occasional creak, and self can feel the presence of the almost man-like creature named Street, a black poodle, the most enormous dog she has ever seen.

Last night, Street very companionably sat between her and her kind hosts, and licked her hands. It was a very mellow evening.

This morning, self went around Bethesda (Nail Salon, Lord & Taylor), and then her Dear Cuz picked her up and we had lunch at Le Pain Quotidien (ricotta and figs drizzled with honey, over slender triangles of whole wheat bread — yum, yum!). And then self returned to the silent house and went up to her wonderful attic room to rest, and — and noticed that something seemed odd about the carpet by her bed. She bent down and sniffed. Hmm… Was the carpet always spotted like this? Funny, last night she didn’t notice it.

Self put down a hand. Yiiikes! Wet! Wet poodle piss! All over nice beige carpet! Help, help, help!

A creak behind her, and — yes, there was Street gazing at her, his poodle presence as calm as granite. Or like an inky black shadow. Or like —

Help, help, help!

This is the house of the former American ambassador to at least three different Asian countries! And now their guest bedroom smells like poodle piss!

Last night he gave her a signed copy of his memoirs!

And now his guest bedroom smells like poodle piss!

Help, help, help!!!

Self ran to kitchen, grabbed paper towels, grabbed Lysol spray, checked under sink, grabbed Resolve carpet cleaner, grabbed more paper towels, Street growled (Bad dog, bad!) and ran upstairs and started spraying and wiping, spraying and wiping.

Oh God!

Earlier, self already had one mishap when she rose from a kneeling position and forgot that her room was an attic and banged her head on the low ceiling. Owwww! Poor head! Dear Cuz (who was with self) asked if self wanted any ice. Self declined Dear Cuz’s kind offer (But would she end up like Natasha Richardson, who’d banged her head during a lesson on a bunny slope in Montreal, and ended up dying? Perish the thought!)

When are self’s hosts arriving home? Hopefully never!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

What Self Did Yesterday, the 16th of February 2010

Woke up.  Remembered to pack her electric toothbrush.

Took herself to San Francisco International Airport at 6 am.

Forgot to say “bye” to li’l crits (still asleep)

Nearly left behind her laptop at the security check.  (She had to be paged, while walking to United Gate B45.  Such a thrill, really, to Read the rest of this entry »

Oh, Blog (Farewell for a Day or So, While Self is Airborne)

Self has been very remiss, staying away from you all day, not even checking the Olympics coverage (though it seems Bode Miller got a bronze!)

The weather was gorgeous, self took full advantage by pruning, weeding, fertilizing, arranging the new plants she bought from Wegman’s this morning.

She stopped to say hello to the neighbors, whose kids were selling lemonade for 50 cents a glass on the corner.

But, perhaps most important, she and hubby went to the Guild in Menlo Park and saw “The Last Station.”  And self would just like to say this:

Contemporary Scotland’s greatest gift to the English-speaking world is:

Ta-ra!  Lights, Applause!

James McAvoy!

The way that man can cry on-screen is just unbelievable!  But he does it in a way that is not wimpy!

When self was expecting with Dear Son, she happened to be reading War and Peace.  And was so ardently in love with Prince Andrei Bolkonski that she named son after —  Prince Andrei Bolkonski!   (Naturally, without the Bolkonski)

Self wishes the film-makers had chosen a different title for the movie, because by the time famous writer Leo Tolstoy (who they kept referring to as “Lev” in the movie, very confusing) got to “the last station” (duh), she knew he was about to expire.

Helen Mirren is still a dish.  Self well remembers this actress in horrible “Caligula” of 30 years ago, and then in “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.”  Talk about a career arc!  Self loved every moment of Mirren’s performance.

And now self must finish packing.  She almost considered leaving her laptop behind  —  after all, she’s only going to be in the DC area for four days (Dear Cuz said today:  bring sneakers.  It is snowing, heavily), and Dear Cuz has even scheduled a reunion with self’s old Manila classmates, for Wednesday night.  What’s four days in the life of Kanlaon?  But then self decided she might be bereft during those three-hour layovers in Denver airport!  So she relented and is bringing her laptop.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Books Self Is Interested in Reading After Perusing The New Yorker of 18 January 2010

After reading Claudia Roth Pierpont’s essay on “Found in Translation:  The contemporary Arabic novel”, which focuses on a handful of contemporary Arabic novels (two of which have become bestsellers here), self is interested in reading:

  • Alaa Al Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building (which, it just so happens, self is reading now) —  Translated by Humphrey Davies, it has become an American bestseller
  • Elias Khoury’s Gate of the Sun (about “what it felt like to live through the massacre in the Shatila refugee camp, in 1982”)
  • Rajaa Alsanea’s Girls of Riyadh (about the “optimal tactics that a good Saudi girl should use to avoid being married off”)  —  written by “a twenty-something,” also an American bestseller
  • Mahmoud Saeed’s Saddam City (published in Arabic as I Am the One Who Saw, about the author’s experiences in an Iraqi prison in “the run-up to the Iran-Iraq War, in the late nineteen-seventies”)

Self also discovers, to her horror, that “six years after winning the Nobel Prize, Mahfouz, aged eighty-two, was knifed in the neck by a religious zealot carrying out a fatwa issued by an Islamic cleric outraged by one of the books the Nobel committee had cited.”  (Mahfouz, miraculously, survived and lived two more years, “although he temporarily lost the use of his right hand”)

And here are the books self is interested in reading after reading the “Briefly Noted” section:

Then Came the Evening, by Brian Hart

“When Bandy Dorner returns to Lake Fork, Idaho, after eighteen years behind bars, he finds the former mill town transformed into a vacation retreat for affluent outsiders.”

Americans in Paris, by Charles Glass

“Drawing heavily on primary source material, Glass narrates the Nazi Occupation year by year, unfolding stories of resilience and despair.”

Thoughts on Watching the Olympics Biathlon Competition

It is Valentine’s Day, and self is already ruing the humongous breakfast of huevos rancheros and menudo she and hubby shared in La Azteca, because now, nothing she was thinking of wearing to her reading in The Writer’s Center seems to fit.  But, really amusing to listen to the restaurant chit-chat:  everyone was discussing the Olympics!  Yes, over the burritos and enchiladas!  And it was early in the morning!

Last night, hubby lured self into watching Peter Jackson’s muy under-rated “King Kong,” with Naomi Watts, and on the flat-screen HDTV Naomi’s eyes are just so blue, so heartbreakingly enormous, and the scene on the rooftop, where Adrian Brody finally reaches her, is still one of self’s favorites, even though Kong is lying on the street below, having endured being shot through with machine gun bullets (not to mention mighty fall from —  at the time? —   World’s Tallest Building!).  From up on the roof, it seems to be twilight  —  at least, the clouds have a rosy tint.  But down there, on the street, where Jack Black pushes his way through a crowd to gaze on the giant’s body, it seems to be noon, for the light is clear and hard-bright.

Now, at almost 3 pm, self is finally able to persuade hubby to tune into the Olympics.  She did it by telling him she saw on the internet that an American had pulled an upset in one of the skiing events.  So we turn to NBC, and  —  holy Cow! —  the weather is atrocious, big flakes of snow coming down on the race participants, and right now the Norwegians or the French are aiming at a target (Skiing and shooting?  Self knows not the reasoning behind such an event  —  perhaps this dates from the days when sniper armies had to wend through Norwegian forests?) and the announcer goes, “Miss!  Miss!  And another miss!”  And, really, how can anyone expect to hit a target when the snow is falling so thickly?  Self thinks it’s a miracle that any of the shots don’t go wildly off the mark!

But self persists in watching, for she knows that an American won a medal in this event (the combined), thereby upsetting the Norwegians, who according to the commentator have long dominated this sport.  And J. R. Celski —  not to take anything away from Apolo “Dreamboat” Ohno, but Celski had to overcome a rather bad injury in order to skate today in the 1500 short track, and he got a bronze!  And self found out from one of the blogs listed on the PAWA website (PAWA=Philippine American Writers and Artists) that his mum is pinay.  So self went searching all over the internet to find a picture where Celski isn’t wearing his face mask, and —  Wow!  He does look Filipino!  So, here’s his website, for edification of dear blog readers.

His back-story is pretty exciting (not to mention, the picture at the top of his home page is pretty FAB!), and also the account of the race itself, which had Ohno fourth, going into the final seconds, boxed in by two South Koreans.  Read all about it elsewhere, dear blog readers, but take self’s word for it:  it was an amazing race.  Maybe they will show highlights on tonight’s news?  Self sincerely hopes so!

Stay tuned.

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