Regimes of Neurosis

Brian Komei Dempster’s anthology, Making Home From War:  Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement, just out from Heyday Books, reminds self that war creates the most awful neurosis.  And this neurosis seeps into daily lives as insidiously as an infection.

America was not the only country that succumbed to the spy hysteria, as self discovers this afternoon, while reading Ben Macintyre’s fascinating Agent Zigzag.  Here’s a look at Britain in the aftermath of the Nazi blitzkrieg:

Robert Baden-Powell, the original scoutmaster, insisted you could spot a German spy from the way he walked.  Anyone and everyone might be a spy.  Evelyn Waugh lampooned the frenzy:  “Suspect everyone —  the vicar, the village grocer, the farmer whose family have lived here for a hundred years, all the most unlikely people.”  The spies were said to be spreading newspaper on the ground to give secret signals to airborne Germans, poisoning chocolate, infiltrating the police, recruiting lunatics from asylums to act in a suicide squad, and sending out murderous agents into the British countryside disguised as female hitchhikers.

Vast energy and resources was devoted to following up the reports, with a complete lack of success.  The most grievous outcome of the panic was the internment of twenty-seven thousand German Italians, and other “enemy aliens,” most of whom were not only innocent, but strongly opposed to Nazism.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Signage: The Writing Center

What self saw scrawled in blue on the blackboard when she arrived at The Writing Center:

“I hadn’t completed my draft; therefore, I saw no point in going to class.”

Self would consider that an excellent sentence. What say you, dear blog readers?  So terse, yet so communicative.  And so completely honest.

Stay tuned.

Hey World, Zack Is Launching LECHE!

Zack in Pensive Mode

Self likes that picture, Zack.  Wow.

Here’s a review of Leche (Coffee House Press, May 2011) from Booklist:

Linmark delivers a harrowing tale of love, family, and cultural bewilderment, a sardonically funny and vibrant novel about one man’s journey to his past.  After winning a contest that grants him a VIP pass to the Philippine version of a Hollywood party, 23-year-old Filipino American Vince returns to his native country after living in Hawaii for 13 years.  But from the moment he first encounters the dreadful traffic, oppressive heat, and sheer chaos that make up life in Manila, Vince isn’t sure he’s ready to be back.  He quickly falls for Dante, a cab driver with a wife and three kids, and encounters an activist-actress nun, a celebrated filmmaker, and the country’s First Daughter.  Comprised of memories, irreverent tourist tips (“Three out of five Filipinos fall in —  and out of —  love every day”), scripts, picture postcards, bits of Philippine history, and dreams, Linmark’s novel reads like a bittersweet love letter to a vast and perplexing nation.  This is a story of heritage, sexuality, and self-discovery that is as riveting as its locale is complex.

Rave, rave, rave.

Self understands that the San Francisco book launch (details forthcoming, but it’s in late April) will feature Joel Tan reading excerpts from Leche with his inimitable Joel-Tan-Flair (Joel should take out a patent, self can’t get over his rollicking and impish X-rated off-the-cuff remarks that still can make her BLUSH.  Yes, you read that right, dear blog readers:  B-L-U-S-H) , and Wilma Consul impersonating Kris Aquino.

Here are the book launch particulars:

    Thursday, April 28
    7 p.m.
    Manilatown Heritage Center
    868 Kearney Street, San Francisco

Self promised hubby there would be lots of free drinks, so of course he consented to go.

Stay tuned.

Cities, Islands, Longings

Cities.  Self used to love cities.

The name “New York” alone conjured all sorts of emotions, years and years before she actually visited.  And then, what fascinated her most —  and still does — was the ride from JFK to Manhattan, the tall tall buildings, especially when viewed at night:  their stacked lives, each glowing window a story.

She still loves to stand in her brother-in-law’s kitchen, where a window above the sink has a view of the building next door.  Over how many years has she stood, perusing living rooms illuminated by glowing lamps, and seeing ghostly arms and hands gesturing or reaching for objects —  books, cushions, another person? Curiously, she can’t recall ever seeing faces —  only extremities.  The windows both reveal and conceal, a mystery so powerful self can never ever stop herself from looking.

She didn’t realize she loved cities until she’d spent many years in California.  Then, each return to Manila was emotional.  San Francisco seemed small by comparison.  Self missed the crush of bodies, sometimes the cacophony.

Now, self doesn’t love cities:  she loves islands.  She loves the idea of islands.

Or perhaps it’s the idea of escape she loves.  Escape in the form of an island.

Every writer needs to have this.  Some little space.  Some little world.

Water separates the island from the usual.  An island is simultaneously surrounded, enclosed, adrift.

But because a writer is a perennially divided self, both of a place and “other,” self suspects that when she finally achieves her dream and moves to an island —  then she will begin to miss the dry air and freeways of California.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Eavesdropping on Publishers Lunch Again

Random Thought:  School must be out, blog views dropped by 2/3.  No more papers to write, self is guessing.

In the mail, rejection from Tampa Review.  Self loves this publication.  She keeps submitting, every year.  There was a time, a few years ago, when she actually got a note.  Lately, all she’s been getting are forms.  Whether this means self’s writing abilities are on a downhill slope —  well, who knows?

Among self’s messages today, something from Publisher’s Lunch, which self actually reads.  Here are some interesting things self picked up:

  • Jean Auel (She-who-writes-all-those-cave-bear-movies which once upon a time featured Daryl Hannah in fur and skimpy leather thong) has a new book coming out, The Land of Painted Caves, and the publisher (Crown) has reduced the first run to 465,000 from the million-plus they used to print of her previous (bestselling) books.  What gives, self thinks, until she reads further:  “in anticipation that many people would instead buy e-books.”  (You know, self could never read a book from a Kindle.  She just couldn’t.  Holding a book in her hand, even if a much-used copy from the Redwood City Library, is such a great sensory pleasure.  And, to further prolong this digression, self is reminded that she needs to go to the main library to pick up Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which she requested from another library and which has finally arrived)
  • Seven Stories (esteemed publisher of Linh Dinh) has switched distribution companies:  It will now be working with Random House Publisher Services (Actually, this bit of news isn’t that exciting.  Oh well!  You get the good with the dross.  You just never know what self will include in a list!)
  • Michael Connelly (who wrote the book on which “The Lincoln Lawyer” was based) is in negotiation with Scott Rudin and Yellow Bird Films to have his Harry Bosch series made into a movie (Splendid, self thinks!  And if there’s a lawyer in any of these books, she thinks they should cast Matthew McConaughey)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Most Gorgeous Weekend (So Far) in 2011

The weather continued unseasonably cool for March.  It rained, but not copiously.

Self braved the Millbrae BART station to pick up niece G and Steven, then treated them to lunch at The Counter in Palo Alto.  Hubby stayed home to watch the NCAA games.

It took us over half an hour to get a table at The Counter.  Self tried the “Signature Burger.”  It was OK.  She wished they hadn’t put so much of the red, spicy sauce on top.  What she really loved was sharing a peanut butter milkshake with niece!  And of course, the sweet potato fries.  Yum-yum!

“The Lincoln Lawyer” was a fun movie.  Matthew McConaughey is still the same Matthew McConaughey, still fine-looking.  Even his hairstyle hasn’t changed a bit from “A  Time to Kill,”  where he also played a lawyer.  Five stars.

Self is sad that Geraldine Ferraro, vice-presidential running mate of Walter Mondale, passed away.

Saturday was Amanda’s birthday:  self called and was able to greet her in person.

The book she is reading, Joseph Finder’s Power Play, has picked up its pace.  She loves the scene when the hero waits impatiently for an old iMac to boot up, and describes the powering-up as sounding like a “Beethoven sympathy.”  Naturally, there are armed thugs just outside the office door, threatening to kill anyone at the slightest provocation.

Self cooked chicken and pork adobo for the first time in ages.

She ate two whole bags of chicharon on the same day.

She mis-placed her car keys and the spare key she had would not allow her to unlock her car doors, so she had to call a Triple-A locksmith to meet her at Woodside Plaza.  She waited an hour and a half.

Self observed that Gracie, instead of rushing to the backyard immediately after her evening meal, instead waits patiently by self’s feet, waiting for her daily Humulin injection.  It is not that the li’l crit enjoys these injections so very much.  Sometimes, if self happens to hit the wrong spot, she even flinches.  But, there she waits.  Here is a prime illustration of the Pavlovian theory of “conditioning.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Surprise/s of the Evening: Last Sunday in March 2011

Dinner (chicken and pork adobo) has been served.  Now self is watching the first Bourne movie (Still the best!  Matt Damon looks so young.  Whoever was responsible for casting this movie displayed sheer genius).  Suddenly, in a panning shot of the control room in Langley, Virginia, self sees him:  Boyd Crowder.

He’s just in a corner of the screen.  Self waits, and he re-appears.  Yes, she’s sure of it now.  Especially since, a few moments later, he has to stand up and utter a few lines of dialogue.  That certainly is Walton Goggins, who plays Boyd Crowder in “Justified.”  And, what’s simply amazing, he seems hardly to have aged at all, though this movie was filmed in 2002, and “Justified” is of course right now:  2011.

A while later, self hears once again the immortal lines:

Bourne:   You take care of this car?

Marie:   What do you mean?

Bourne:   Tires felt a little splashy on the way over.

Marie:   It pulls a little to the right.

This movie has one of the best car chase scenes of all time.


Random Thought # 1:  Don’t you just love how posting anything on Facebook, no matter how inane, makes you *sound* so busy, so connected, so alive?

Random Thought # 2:  Self has just read a scene in Joseph Finder’s Power Play.  Our hero has to turn on an Apple computer while, outside the room, a vicious gang of armed men are wandering around, threatening to kill a score of hostages.  The computer starts up with a noise like the start of a “Beethoven symphony.”  Our hero waits, watching tensely while the screen lights up with the Apple logo.  The computer “crunched and crunched.”  At this point, self was faint.  Hurry up and boot, you stupid Apple computer!  Otherwise the hero can’t get on with it!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Rosario Ferré

The quote of the day is by Rosario Ferré, an important feminist writer, and one of self’s long-time favorites.  It’s from her essay, “The Writer’s Kitchen,” in Feminist Studies, Volume 12, no. 2 (Summer 1986):

How To Let Yourself Fall From the Frying Pan Into the Fire

Throughout time, women narrators have written for many reasons:  Emily Bronté wrote to confirm the revolutionary nature of passion; Virginia Woolf wrote to exorcise her terror of madness and death; Joan Didion writes to discover what and how she thinks; Clarisse Lispector discovered in her writing a reason to love and be loved.  In my case, writing is simultaneously a constructive and a destructive urge, a possibility for growth and change.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

POWER PLAY: “Die Hard” in a Canadian Resort, with Aerospace Executives

When the bad guys made an appearance, finally, about a hundred pages ago, Power Play began to pick up the pace.

Our hero is called Jake (the manliest of manly American names.  Jack was Keanu Reeves’ name in Speed, and it’s pretty close to Jake.  Other Jack/Jakes:  well, there’s Jack Sparrow, but he is a pirate.  Though the fact that Sparrow is played by Johnny Depp makes him also an American Hero.  Once again, self digresses!)

His love interest is called Ali, but she is blonde (like Ali Larter of the late series “Heroes”)

Jake is much younger than the other executives of the Hammond Aerospace Corporation (The others, aside from being old, sport Rolex watches, a few of which are even fake)

There is a character called Slattery who self can’t help but associate with John Slattery of television series and media darling “Mad Men.” (“Slattery” is not a common American last name).  Slattery has three daughters and in exchange for their lives he is willing to give up all the company secrets (Someone, please, bump him off, pronto!)

Sentences like the following —  “There was a noise at the far side of the room” —  are balanced by dialogue like the following:

“You know what the definition of a coward is?”  he said.  “A coward is a hero with a wife, kids, and a mortgage.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Five Stars for “The Lincoln Lawyer”

First of all, Matthew McConaughey should always play a lawyer.  Yes.  There is just something so oily yet charming about his mane.  Didn’t he play one in “A Time to Kill”? He was great in that one.

This time he never bared his chest —  self sees enough of him bare-chested in People Magazine, thank you very much — though there were a few scenes in which he did appear in a white undershirt (Self is fully cognizant of the fact that she is an absolute sucker for gorgeous men in white undershirts.  Exhibit A:  Timothy Olyphant in “Justified”).  Still, Matthew McConaughey looks mighty fine wearing the typical lawyer get-up:  a dark suit.

But that’s not the only reason self is giving this movie five stars!

Josh Lucas played a lawyer on the opposing team; whenever the camera zoomed in on his baby blues, self forgot everything, everything.  (Where oh where is this fabulous courthouse, where members of the jury get to ogle Matthew McConaughey and Josh Lucas every day, for the duration of the trial?  Oh, it’s in Los Angeles.  If self were a member of this jury, she would hope that the trial dragged on for at least six months)

Self, you are so shallow!

Another good reason to see “The Lincoln Lawyer” is Michael Peña.  This guy was in the execrable Oliver Stone movie “World Trade Center,” where he was one of the only two good things about it (the other being Maggie Gyllenhaal, who played Peña’s wife).  The scene in “The Lincoln Lawyer” when Peña, playing a San Quentin inmate, and McConaughey, as the lawyer who was instrumental in convicting him, square off across a prison table —  apparently the first time these two had met since Peña’s conviction —   simply crackles with tension.  Because of Peña.  Anyone who can appear in prison garb and still hold his own against the McConaughey mane is definitely an A+ actor.

Other reasons to see “The Lincoln Lawyer” are:

  • Ryan Philippe (Perfect bit of casting here:  so angel-faced and believable.  Reese, was he really “Mr. Mood Swing” when he was married to you?)
  • John Leguizamo (He gets off probably one of the best lines of the movie, when he says something to Matthew McConaughey about McConaughey having more balls than a Chinese ping-pong player)
  • the curvaceous older woman who plays Ryan Philippe’s mom (Thank God she was not required to play a cougar, that would have been just too “cliché”)
  • William H. Macy playing an amusing, long-haired detective
  • the cool dude who plays Matthew McConaughey’s driver
  • Marisa Tomei, still hot

There were enough people in the audience (mostly middle-aged) on this Friday afternoon to ensure that this movie keeps on making money.  Self is sooo glad.  The movie is an adaptation of a book by Michael Connelly, who self is adding to her “To Read” list.

This is self’s second five-star movie of 2011 (The first was “The Fighter.”)  It’s a good thing she deferred to hubby instead of insisting on “Battle:  Los Angeles.”

Speaking of which, Niece G just text-ed!  She’ll be in Palo Alto sometime tomorrow.  “Want to see a movie, Tita?” she asks.

Self texts back that “Battle: Los Angeles” is still showing.  Niece G then responds, what else is showing —  BWAH HA HA HA!

Anyhoo, it’s a good thing we watched a movie today because today’s NCAA games were real blow-outs (Self means:  Marquette vs Kansas and Richmond vs North Carolina).  Both games were completely lacking in dramatic tension, BOO.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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