Sunday at Home in Redwood City, and a Couple of Forthcoming Publications

Self has a piece coming out in Knee Jerk Magazine, Issue # 15, September 2010.  Should be up sometime around the 4th?

Exciting!  The piece is called “Invisible Islands.”  It was very fun to write, very voice-driven.

Check out Knee Jerk magazine, here.

Also, her novel, Leaving, is coming out with Anvil sometime November/December.  It’s her first!  What can self say?  She closed her eyes and bit the bullet.

Where are The Emmys?  Oh no, oh no, has self missed the boat?

Hubby took self to see “Dinner for Shmucks.”  Must say, the movie was funny!  And Steve Carell was great.  Check out what movie critic Andrew O’Hehir has to say about the movie, here (The couple sitting next to self —  in particular, the man —  was laughing so hard, self worried that he was having a seizure).  Self does not agree that it seems like minor Apatow.  It is better than Apatow (Self hates the way Apatow always has to descend to toilet humor.  This movie was sweeter, more light-hearted than that)

The plot was kinda ridiculous.  In fact, self mentioned to hubby as we were walking out of the theater that it reminded her of a French farce.  The kind where the man has to be humiliated, naturally regarding his manhood.  But perhaps she watched the movie in the right mood:  after yesterday’s run-in with monster SUV, she was certainly empathizing with Steve Carell’s character!  Also loved his little hobby of putting dead mice in iconic poses:  like da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

And Now For Something Completely Different …

Toad lilies in self’s garden, profusely blooming now:

These little beauties are only about a third of an inch large.  Self had to crouch down all the way close, and for whatever reason, her normally shaky hands did not flinch.

Stay tuned!

A Curse on All SUVs!!!

Self was creamed, creamed, in her little Altima, by a huge grey Mercedes SUV, as she was merging from Redwood Avenue onto El Camino.

This monster was on its way to deliver a young woman to the airport, for her semester abroad, and was being driven by the girl’s mother. It was just exiting the Bed, Bath & Beyond parking lot. Self was almost to El Camino when she felt the hit, like a very strong blow, to the side.  It literally almost made self sick, to know some missile had launched and connected.

The woman driver accused self of hitting her, which was impossible. Self would never go head to head against a Mercedes SUV. She’s just too wimpy. Besides, the huge dent in self’s car was on the rear passenger door, and the dent in the SUV (Self was surprised that her Altima could manage to even dent something as huge as that SUV) was in the front.  So unless self had made up her mind to hit the SUV by going sideways, like a crab, she couldn’t have been the one to hit her.

That thing, by the way, had monster tires that looked about as massive as tree trunks:  self had never seen tires that big from that proximity.  Now, self thinks it was extremely lucky that her car is still running, that it hadn’t flipped, that in fact all that happened was that the rear passenger door crumpled in.  Five stars to Nissan!  But why didn’t the airbags deploy?  (On the other hand, thank God the airbags didn’t deploy:  self has seen people who’ve had airbags open after an accident, and they look like they’ve been beaten up, with black eyes and everything)

Most probably, the woman couldn’t believe how slowly self was driving and decided to nudge her along a little bit.

Self had to wait for the police, the woman’s irate husband (who drove up in another Mercedes, black, not an SUV) and listen to the woman tell her husband, at least four times:  “It was her fault!”

Which is, like, helloooo!

The policewoman came (twice as tall as self, a real giantess), looked at the damage, sent the other woman away, handed self a police report and now self is looking at that absolutely beat up old Altima, which has almost 200,000 miles, and which was still able to get her home, after all that.

Self called son: poor guy, he was in Target with Amanda, buying things for his new apartment. And he had to listen to his mother squawking about being creamed by a SUV. And the first thing son said was: Was dad with you? Are you hurt? Are you in the hospital?

And his classes start on Monday!

Focus, self, focus! At least it was not son’s Honda that was hit by a SUV.  It seems incredible that, just a little earlier, self had been beset by woe because she discovered that a nifty little web-zine named Identity Theory was no more.  And had absolutely nothing on her plate for the rest of the weekend, other than watching the Emmys and finding out who won the Best Lead Actress in a Drama.

Self is just so sad. For, as she told hubby, “When your car gets a huge ding like that, other drivers lose all respect for you, and when they park next to you they open their car doors with even greater force, even if it means dinging your car a little more, and so dings just keep piling on, like a snowball down a mountainside, and let’s face it, that car is ready for the junk heap! Time to send its soul on to the Great Paradise for Old, Beaten-Up Cars!” Self was just about to wash it, too. Because it was stained with cherry juice from the trees growing over her driveway. Now, she has a car that is not only all caved in on one side, but is absolutely covered with cherry stains.

Let’s look at the bright side of things:

  • If self had cleaned her car, as she’d planned to do today, and it got hit by that SUV, she might now be thinking: Gee, why did I have to waste all that time cleaning my car when it was just going to end up a wreck anyhow ???
  • Just before the accident, self managed to visit Costco and cart home a crate of canned chicken broth, a box of Lysol toilet bowl cleaner, and a box of Tempura shrimp. Naturally, after the accident, all she managed to do was return home and douse her sorrows in beer (hubby’s stash of Hefeweizen, because she finished all her Negro Modelo last week).   So, self did think:  Thank God I made it to Costco before the accident!
  • If she had not been hit by the SUV, self would have made it to her appointment with her hairdresser in Menlo Park, and she would have been out $60 (Self knows she cannot afford $60 haircuts, but her hairdresser is her friend and has been cutting self’s hair for over 10 years and self just feels so guilty about going elsewhere.  That time she had her hair cut at Juut, a month or so ago?  Total uncharacteristic moment of impulse).  At least now, those $60 are still nestled in self’s wallet.  Strange as it may seem, this thought occurred to self just as she was retrieving her insurance information from the glove compartment.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Best of Self’s 2010 Reading List (So Far)

The best novel self has read (thus far) this year is by mystery writer Morag Joss: Half Broken Things. It has stayed and stayed and stayed in self’s thoughts and in her imagination, ever since she finished reading it, several months ago.

The next best novel self has read (thus far) is Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children.

2010 is the year when self was absorbed in reading non-fiction.  More specifically, book after book on war. The entire month of June was taken up by just two books: the Robert Fagles translation of Virgil’s The Aeneid and Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory (Self’s reading of the latter was greatly enhanced by the fact that the book’s margins are filled with self’s scribbled grad school annotations). In July, self read Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, and Sarah Waters’ novel of England during the blitz, The Night Watch. The first half of this month was spent reading Hugh Sebag-Montefiore’s Dunkirk: Fight to the Last Man.

(Last year was not like this. Last year, self read only two books about war: Vera Helm’s A Life in Secret: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of World War II, and Irene Nemirovsky’s absolutely hypnotic Suite Francaise)

This morning, self gave up on Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres and returned it to the library. She got to page 115, which is to say: she missed all the book’s tragic events — the revelations of child abuse, the infidelity, the suicide, the sister attempting to murder another sister etc etc etc. Self knew these were coming because she assiduously reads the reader reviews on

Wow, all that happens after page 115? Self never got past the “set-up” chapters, the ones that depict cheery scenes of domesticity, such as a scene where the family plays Monopoly, and much property and Monopoly money changes hands — apropos of what, exactly? The imminent dissolution of the family farm? That scene is perhaps the lamest example of foreshadowing in a novel that self has ever read.

Next up: Ayaan Hirsa Ali’s Infidel.

Stay tuned.

Saw “The Switch” Yesterday

Yesterday, self was feeling mighty fine (before full import of the current heat wave had set in), so she went to the downtown Redwood City Century 20 to see Jen in “The Switch.”

Self must admit, the last movie of Jen’s she saw —  she forgets the title but it was with Aaron Eckhart —  was pretty much pablum.

But, “The Switch” got an OK review from, which singled out Read the rest of this entry »

Difficulties Today: Hottest Day (So Far) of 2010

With no warning, the Bay Area experiences the two hottest days of the year.  Last night, self listened to newscast after newscast, all announcing with utmost awe:  “This was the hottest day of the year!”  Funny, just the weekend previous, self went shopping for plants, and all the nursery people she encountered complained how “short” and “cool” the summer was.  Nowhere did self encounter a person who said, “We are going to have the two most sweltering days of the year —  starting tomorrow!”

Result:  all the plants self put in the ground yesterday got fried.  Fried.  Leaves as crisp as Calbee shrimp chips.  She wouldn’t even pay 25 cents for those plants, let alone $4.50 each!  Self ended up doing strategic re-positioning.  She looked at her front yard, and noticed that the late afternoon sun was akin to the Sahara.  And the front yard was baking.  Even the trees offered no relief, for the late afternoon sun comes in at a slant (of course).  So then self ended up digging new planting holes, in spots more protected from the sun.  And she was so obssessed that she only noticed after she had set to work that she was wearing white jeans.

Self has six pairs of white jeans in her closet, none of which she has bought herself.  All of them are from Loehman’s, courtesy of Dearest Mum.  Hence, the cavalier treatment.  One of them may even be Dolce & Gabbana.

Nevertheless.  Self succeeded in moving her plants.

Now, she only has one thing to do by tomorrow.  And that is write her book review of Ilustrado.

She of course has to prepare dinner (Oh, please let hubby come home late!  As late as possible!).  She sat down for a brief respite, and heard on the news that the economy was going to get worse.  Much worse.  In fact, the housing market is going down, down, dooown.  So she called her Stanford Retirement Plan advisor, and he said:  “Don’t you know that if you want rock-solid investments, you can pretty much expect 0 interest?  Didn’t you know that?”

All self wanted to know was why she has less in her plan now than she did in 2003.  Is that such an unreasonable question, dear blog readers?  She was about to tell her advisor to move everything to a bond fund, and then her phone went “Beep!  Beep!”  And the battery went dead.  The last thing she heard him saying was, “If you’ll just hold on a minute —  ”

Bzzz!  Fried.

It is so hot that Bella, self’s older beagle, hasn’t eaten for two days.  She is, however, still alive, bushy-tailed, and alert.  Which is more self can say of herself.

On lighter note, reports today that Catherine Keener kept Keanu Reeves waiting for half an hour in some New York locale.  Result:  he was cornered by a fan who asked him to pose for a picture and then spent the next moments frantically e-mailing the pic to the internet universe.  Self only knows that if that had happened to her —

Self, the sun has fried your brain!  You are not, self repeats N*O*T Keanu Reeves!  So no need to worry about the “What if” of such a situation ever happening to you!  You may stand around, for as much as an hour, and the most you will ever get is a suspicious glance from a security guard!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Most Irritating Issue in the World

You are allowed to criticize those big, glossy magazines that anoint the hot young thing/writer of the moment.

Which means self is allowed to criticize The New Yorker.

Here’s the August 9, 2010 issue, the one with a graphic of the bathing beauty dropping an iPhone —  or is that an iPad (pretty clever, that!) into a swimming pool.  Aside from the fact that it is one of the “20 Under 40” issues, in which The New Yorker proclaims “the next generation” of writers, it also has a review of a new book on Charlie Chan, a character in 1930s Hollywood movies.  The review states:

In the 1930s, the Chan movies kept Fox afloat.

It goes on to describe “the invention of the Chinaman” as a character.  Earl Biggers, the author who wrote the books on which the movies were based, became rich:

In 1926, Biggers published another Chan mystery, The Chinese Parrot, sold eight hundred thousand copies, and, with the royalties, bought a house in Pasadena, where he hired a Chinese servant named Gung Wong.

In a review which manages to bring in Frank Chin, Gish Jen, and Elaine Kim (“the literary scholar”) and “the anthology Charlie Chan is Dead, which is not to be confused with the beautiful and fantastically clever 1982 Wayne Wang film Chan Is Missing,” it also quotes Biggers as saying, after watching a Swedish man named Warner Oland play Chan on-screen, “After all these weary years, they have got Charlie right on the screen.”

So maybe Charlie Chan really is a cultural icon who deserves to be written about.  Self thinks they should at least have asked an Asian American to write the review.

Anyhoo, the “Briefly Noted” section has two books self is interested in reading.  To wit:

Adam Langer’s The Thieves of Manhattan

When an editor suggests passing off an old novel as a memoir to expose the smugs who spin the literary machine, Minot (the hero) is sucked into a postmodern confidence game with more layers than a puff pastry.

Paul Bloom’s How Pleasure Works

His account is strewn with startling academic studies, tales of cannibalism and sexual fetishes, and even a passage from Borges.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Something from The White Whale Review, and a Note About a Few Forthcoming Publications

Here’s the beginning of self’s story, “Dumaguete,” published in issue 1.2 of The White Whale Review. This piece is part of self’s collection, The Lost Language, published in Manila in 2009 by Anvil Press of the Philippines:


When Carlos’ mother decided to take him to Dumaguete, on the other side of the island, he didn’t question her.  One day she said, we have to go, and they did, walking with their overnight bags to the bus station, whose uneven ground was pooled with muddy, brown water in which he could detect shapes darting, tiny black Read the rest of this entry »

How to Make of News a Story

Today, when self opened up her e-mail, she saw a news flash: there had been an incident in the Philippines.

But first she had to read about Tiger and Elin’s divorce being finalized.

And then she looked at the clock and realized that, even if by chance she were to summon up one last ounce of energy, it was 4:22 p.m. (Gracie is barking), and self would never make it to the post office in time.

This is what happened in Manila, a day (or so) ago:

A policeman who had been fired for trying to shake down a chef, decided he would hi-jack a tour bus. The tour bus was filled with Chinese from Hong Kong. It was a little after 10 in the morning; the tour was just getting under way.

So the guy sits down among the tourists, dressed in military fatigues and armed with an automatic rifle, and no one says a word (Perhaps they thought he was a bodyguard, hired by the tour operators? Perhaps) And the man takes the 24 tourists hostage. And videos on the web right now show the Philippine police breaking the bus’s windows with sledgehammers. And the ex-policeman opened fire, and the result was calamity. Utter calamity.

And our brand new president said that our police lacked training and moreover lacked the necessary equipment.

And — all right, this is one story that won’t get written. Not, at least, by self.

Stay tuned.

4th Sunday of August 2010: Buying Eggs, Among Other Things

Today was not a very exciting day, dear blog readers. Unless you count: 1) planting a euphorbia amygdaloides; 2) finding out that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s legs — have legs! 3) a trip to three local Trader Joe’s this morning and 4) dropping by Carlmont Nursery in Belmont.

With regards to that Trader Joe’s run, self bought three Read the rest of this entry »

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