Middle-Class Disappointment

The letter from the despondent man to Salon.com’s “Since You Asked” columnist Cary Tennis went like this:

I am very aware that I’m supposed to feel gratitude.  I live in a nice house, not on the street; I’m healthy, not struggling with chronic or terminal illness; my kids are all right, not bums or sociopaths.  But I don’t feel gratitude —  I feel massive, near-universal disappointment.  We had to move out of the “good” neighborhood where we’d been for decades because we could no longer afford it, and nothing of the life I thought I’d have —  a stimulating, rewarding partnership with someone equally involved with out children; opportunities for travel; a secure, comfortable income —  has or will ever be realized.  Everything about my life, from my miserable, insecure, occasionally abusive childhood to my and my spouse’s failed careers; my mean, petty, rejecting in-laws; to the fact that I’ve never been anywhere and there’s never any money to go, is a complete disappointment.  I know that no middle-class American should Read the rest of this entry »

Most Engrossing Reads (So Far) of 2011

Biography/ History/ Travel:

Essay/ Memoir:

  • Body of Work:  Meditations on Mortality From the Human Anatomy Lab by Christine Montross

Mystery:

Novel:

  • Sepharad by Antonio Muñoz Molina

*          *          *

Most Disappointing Read (So Far) of 2011:

  • After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Of Note Today, 3rd Wednesday of May (2011): Watching Mel

Self mailed out a piece. It’s one of her short short ones (She’d call it prose poetry, but Zack says her work will stand a better chance if she stops describing it as such — people shy away from anything with the word “poetry” in it, he says. Next time she does a send-out, she might try describing her work as “TransGenre.” She thinks that might have a nicer ring)

Self is in the San Francisco Bay Area, and she actually sees some sun (A miracle!)

Bella, the old beagle, seems uncommonly hungry this evening.

Self saw a movie with Mel Gibson, the one with the strange title, “The Beaver.” It was in one of her favorite theaters, Palo Alto Square off Oregon Expressway. (The other movie showing there was “The Conspirator”, with James McAvoy. But she’s heard terrible things about this movie, just terrible. So, even though James is ever-so-cute, she settled for Mel)

Time was when Mel was absolutely the most gorgeous living man on the planet. Now, he sounds like Michael Caine (She won’t go so far as to say he looks like Michael Caine, for he doesn’t. Not yet, anyway). In fact, self thought Michael Caine might have made a good stand-in for Mel, in this role.

In “The Beaver,” Mel plays the CEO of a toy company (called “Jericho” — Ha ha ha!) and can only communicate with anyone by talking through a hand-held puppet (the “Beaver” of the title). In a very smart ploy, he hands out pre-printed cards that tell people that the puppet has a therapeutic purpose (She thinks the movie called it a “prescription puppet”). When he is not talking through the puppet, he is absolutely miserable, as witness what happens when he and his wife, played by Jodie Foster, celebrate their anniversary at a swank restaurant and she makes him cut out all the beaver foolishness (at least while having dinner). Then he has nothing to do except listen to her earnest pronouncements, and we have nothing to do except gaze at the sad wreck of a face of Mel Gibson.

Then there are some very dark moments towards the end. But all is saved by the presence of the absolutely hot young Jennifer Lawrence, who plays a cheerleader and valedictorian who develops an inexplicable fondness for nerd son of Mel Gibson, played by an unexpectedly tall Anton Yelchin, who self last saw at the console of the starship enterprise, beaming up Spock, Kirk, and all secondary characters in J. J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” re-boot of many moons ago (Self is so tired of waiting for news of a sequel!)

The movie was directed by Jodie Foster and is quite good — at the very least, it gives us another opportunity to ogle Jodie’s tremendous physique — she just looks so strong, so physically strong, like she could blow will-o-the-wisps like Angelina or Maggie Q right out of the water. One of the best things about Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” was watching Jodie march around in tall stilettos, with calves as oiled and sleek as one of Schwarzenegger’s biceps. Ugh, self just realized that’s a terrible comparison. But, dear blog readers get self’s drift.

Alas, self did not arrive early enough to go to the cafeteria in one of the next-door buildings, the one that sells absolutely scrumptious lemon and apricot bars. Instead, self decided to follow the lead of a woman ahead of her at the concession stand, who purchased a box of mini-Nestlé crunches for $3.95. It took self about 15 minutes to gobble the box’s entire contents.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

This is America! Hilarious

Self holed up in the apartment, reading.  She canceled the pedicure at Roget Resca.  What for?  It is cold.  No one wants to go around in sandals in such weather.

Luckily, Hunter S. Thompson is extremely entertaining.  Just the ticket to while away self’s last few hours in New York.  At the outskirts of Vegas, Thompson stops at “a neighborhood pharmacy” and purchases “two quarts of Gold tequila, two fifths of Chivas Regal and a pint of ether.”  Thompson tells the sales clerk that the ether is to remove “tape” on his legs, but before he even finishes with the explanation, the clerk has “already rung the stuff up and bagged it.  He didn’t give a fuck . . .  ”

Then,

“I wondered what he would say if I asked him for $22 worth of Romilar and a tank of nitrous oxide.  Probably he would have sold it to me.  Why not?  Free enterprise . . .  “

Thompson hurries to the parking lot with his loot.  He is supposed to be on assignment, covering a four-day National District Attorneys’ Conference on Drug Enforcement.

“The idea of going completely crazy on laughing gas in the middle of a DAs’ drug conference had a definite warped appeal.  But not on the first day, I thought.  Save that for later.  No point getting busted and committed before the conference even starts.

I stole a Review-Journal from a rack in the parking lot, but I threw it away after reading a story on page one:

SURGERY UNCERTAIN

AFTER EYES REMOVED

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Latest Book Deals (Courtesy of PUBLISHERS WEEKLY 9 May 2011)

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

Sci-Fi/ Fantasy:

  • Leigh Evans’s Hedi’s Book of Rules,  “the first in a new series about a half-blooded Fae who must steal an amulet to rescue her last surviving family member, and soon finds herself on the run with the very werewolf who once betrayed her,” to St. Martin’s

General/ Other

  • NEA fiction fellow Ed Falco’s The Family Corleone, “an all-new prequel to The Godfather based on an unproduced screenplay by Mario Puzo set in 1933 in the depths of depression-era New York before the Corleones rise to power and telling the unknown history of how Vito Corleone fought to survive in the brutal criminal underworld,” to Grand Central for publication in June 2012

History/ Politics/ Current Affairs

  • Terrorism expert and CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen’s “account of the manhunt for Osama bin Laden, drawing on access to senior U.S. government and military officials as well as key political and intelligence figures in Pakistan and Afghanistan, covering the hunt for bin Laden over the past decade . . . ” to Crown

Memoir

  • Chris Kyle’s American Sniper, a memoir of “the most successful, and deadly, sniper in American military history, former Navy SEAL chief Chris Kyle, who in Iraq recorded more sniper kills than any U.S. soldier ever before . . . ” to William Morrow

There were other deal announcements, such as Academy Award-winning actress Melissa Leo’s untitled memoir covering her “decades of working in television and film, her childhood, and her tumultuous relationship with John Heard,” but, alas, it is very very late at night in New York, and self has to go to bed to prepare for further adventures on the morrow.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Beauties at the Smyth Hotel, This Evening

This evening, self attended Penny’s birthday party at Plein Sud, in the Smyth Hotel at Broadway and Chambers.  Penny’s husband Read the rest of this entry »

A Cold!

Bacolod languor seems to have infected self’s bones:  this trip, she is just not in the mood to rush around seeing plays or visiting museums.  If she does nothing else than finish reading the two books she brought with her (Laurence Bergreen’s Marco Polo:  From Venice to Xanadu, which she actually managed to finish late last night; and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, (whose first 20 or so pages are killing her, just killing her!  Thompson is hilarious!), she will consider the time well-spent.

Yesterday was warm (like summer) on the streets of Manhattan.  Today, it seemed as though  time had speeded up, skipped through summer, and gone into fall.  Because self was under the mistaken impression that today’s weather would be similar to yesterday’s, she left the apartment in nothing but a thin T-shirt, slacks, and sandals.  And at the first blast of that chill wind —  achoo!  Achoo and achoo and achoo!  Neither does it help that almost every other person in the subway seems to be sniffling.  Today she sat in a subway car that aimed a positively Arctic blast of cold air directly at the top of her head.  She wanted to move but that would mean giving up her seat and standing the rest of the way, and since her destination was at least 50 blocks away, self decided to endure the chill air and the inevitable cold (Anything for a subway seat!  Anything!)

Every trip to the Splendid City is, of course, different, depending on who self meets or what serendipitous occasions come self’s way.  Here are a few things self has noticed since arriving, late Monday night:

Discovery # 1:  New York is always warm, at least on the 9th floor.

There are two weather zones:  the apartment, and the street.  In the apartment, no matter what the the weather is outside, it is always warm.  Which is why self tends to think of New York (even in November) as warm, like a cocoon.  So different from California where, to conserve money, hubby never wants to turn on the heater, even in the winter.  So, naturally, when she is back home, she spends most of the time bundled up in multiple sweaters, as long as she is inside the house.  Which then makes her think:  California is cold!  And New York is warm!

Discovery # 2:   New York (or is it the apartment; or is it the Upper East Side) is positively, amazingly soporific.

Back home in California, she never naps.  Here, the minute she sets foot in the apartment, her eyelids start to droop, and next thing you know, she is dozing.  She even has dreams.  This happened to her yesterday, while she waited for brother-in-law to return home from the office.  She actually fell asleep, had a dream, and when she awoke, brother-in-law was already in the kitchen, putting dinner on the table.

Discovery 3:  Japanese restaurants near St. Mark’s Place have the best desserts.

She has discovered the most fabulous desserts, all from hanging out yesterday with Luis Francia and adorable Midori.  In a bakery just around the corner from St. Mark’s Bookshop (Panya, on Stuyvesant b/w 8th and 9th)  she tried green tea tiramisu.   She had it with a steaming glass of Yuzu tea, and the tea was surprisingly sweet but very, very good.  Seated at the table next to hers was a man who was suffering from terrible allergies.  At least, that was what he was telling a friend.  And he went to Panya because, while searching the web for a solution to his allergy problem —  that’s what the web does to us; it turns us all into persistent self-medicators —  he read somewhere that horseradish would help, and he thought:  horseradish = wasabi = Japanese food = Panya on Stuyvesant.  Is that not a really neat process of deduction?

Another place that has really good desserts is Cha’an on 9th.  Here, Midori had yogurt sorbet with melon and grapefruit (Yum Yum!).  A film-maker friend of hers had chocolate soufflé with raspberry sauce, another yummy concoction.

Discovery # 4:  Nephew has agreed to accompany self to Penny’s birthday party tonight, somewhere in Tribeca.  Wait, that’s not a discovery, that’s a fact.  Well, the discovery is that she invited him and didn’t think he would agree, but he did!

Penny’s birthday party is the whole reason self is here.  It’s being held in Plein Sud, in The Smyth Hotel on Broadway and Chambers.  Self thinks it is the most fantastic stroke of luck that nephew William is around, for she finds taking the subway a little iff-y, when it’s late at night.  But tonight she will not have that problem, for she will be with nephew (He is going off to Washington University, to begin Medical School, in August).  Thank God for niece G in San Francisco and nephews in New York!

Discovery # 5:  Manicures on the upper east side cost as much as they do in Redwood City, CA.

In anticipation of Penny’s fab party, self decided to get a manicure, her first in many weeks.  So she walked down Lexington and found a place that was open.  And self discovered that manicures here cost exactly the same as they do in Redwood City, CA, and the pedicures are about $10 less.  Not only that, the woman applied all kinds of bases and primers to self’s nails before applying the polish.  Then she sprayed self’s nails with something.  The result:  self’s nails look as hard and polished as a Japanese lacquer box.  Color she chose this time:  neon pink (The last manicure color self chose was blue, which was an absolute hit with her students, the check-out girl at Safeway, Lillian H, you name it.  Zack even sent self a text that said:  “I’m with Lillian.  She says hello to you and your blue nails.” —  !!!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Very Good Post in POOR Magazine Re: Pacquiao

Here it is, dear blog readers, your reading for the day:  a post on POOR Magazine on Pacquiao vs. Mosley.

Self doesn’t know who the author is (since he is identified only as “RWS” which might refer to “Revolutionary Work Scholar” since that was the only conceivable possibility self could come up with, after browsing through the side bar and looking at the “About” section.  Oh well, no help there!).

Anyhoo, it’s a pretty funny essay.  Self likes the way it incorporates text messages and gives us background information on the narrator, as well as thoughts on Mosley (39!  Doesn’t that make him a tad old to be a boxer?) and the writer’s response to the fight itself.  She wished it had gone on a little longer.

When self was traveling all over Negros Island, in December 2010, she saw posters of Pacquiao everywhere, in nipa huts by the side of the road, in stores, in town plazas (In contrast, when self tried asking people if they knew who Tim Lincecum was, they would respond with either a shrug or a puzzled stare.  Which led her to conclude:  No one in the Philippines knows about Tim Lincecum!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Some Thoughts on Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor”

Kenneth Branagh has a sense of humor.  Yes, indeed he does.

Self thought the actor who played Loki had just the right “fey” kind of look, plus his British accent made him sound prissy and malevolent (which is probably the reason why so many Brits collect paychecks from Hollywood movies, by playing bad guys.)  She doesn’t think a full-on Aussie accent (even coming from a guy as massive and physically imposing as Chris Hemsworth) would be able to project quite the same level of malice.  If you don’t believe self, try saying “You’re toast” in an Aussie accent, and then try saying it with your best emulation of a British accent.  See what self means?

Natalie Portman’s voice was not irritating.  And her size was perfect, because then Chris Hemsworth simply towered over her, which only added to his character’s aura of invincibility.  In the future, Natalie Portman should be cast opposite all Marvel super-heroes.  If not Portman, then some actress of similar petite (Portman, self heard, is 5’2″) proportions.  Pretty is not absolutely essential, but pretty would help.

Chris Hemsworth is ripped!  Ripped!  Ripped!

Stelan Skarsgard father of “True Blood” hottie Alexander Skarsgard, is in this movie!  The last time he played a pivotal role in a movie like this —  i.e., purely popcorn fare —  was in “Deep Blue Sea,” the movie that had probably the funniest Samuel L. Jackson speech, this side of “Pulp Fiction.”

The movie had quite a few scenes that were funny.  There were no scenes in which the audience stared and said, “Huh?”

The preview for “Conan the Barbarian” looked fantastic.  The guy cast as Conan looked completely nondescript —  someone on the level of Favio, only with a snarl.

Chris Evans in the preview for “Captain America” looked hilarious —  Self means, of course, in the Tiny Man Mode.

The theater in the downtown Redwood City Century 20 was packed, this movie is apparently a hit.

Why was Jeremy Renner in it for two minutes?  Couldn’t Branagh have brought the archer back for some entertainingly tense repartee with the God of Thunder?  Or with Portman’s Jane?

The girl who played Darcy, Portman’s sidekick, exhibited a real flair for comic, deadpan delivery.  Most of the laughs in the movie were hers.  This actress (Kat Dennings) does “American Nerd” very well indeed.  Next time, she should be cast as the female lead in some super-hero movie.  She is too good an actress to be stuck in a role where the closest she gets to a leading man’s lips is an offer to perform CPR.

All in all, this was a very entertaining movie.  There was wit and intelligence behind it (and this was even before self found out who directed it).  The only thing that disappointed her was the mechanical thing-a-ma-jig that creates the bridge to earth, or whatever you call it.  She didn’t think Valhalla should be subjected to such mechanical contraptions.  Everything in Valhalla should move smoothly and instantaneously, like magic.  Self doesn’t watch to watch any slow shifting of the gears in a movie about Norse gods.

Which brings us back to Loki, smooth anti-He man to Chris Hemsworth’s all-muscle Thor.  Self doesn’t know if it was the angles from which his face was shot, but this man’s face is so —  magnetic?  His eyes looked huge, simply huge!  If there is another “Thor” movie, self will watch it just to see what new heights of malevolence Loki can get up to.

Since self is such an indefatigable and nosy blogger, she of course has to look him up.  Well, well, his name is Tom Hiddleston (This is amazing.  Another of her fave British actors is Tom Wisdom!  Har, har, har!).  And he is super super —  and self means SUPER —  skinny.  But apparently his British accent is authentic because he was born in London.  And he also plays Magnus in a TV series called “Wallander” (Oh, hey, that must be based on the Henning Mankell books!  Self loves this series already!  When is it coming to America?)

They seem to have re-worked “The Green Lantern” preview to emphasize more of the mythical elements, which self thinks is a good idea.

So, looks like there are a number of summer movies that self thinks will be truly enjoyable.

Tomorrow, when self flies to New York, she has a three-hour lay-over in Los Angeles (which is why her ticket was so cheap).  She left a message for son, telling him about this lengthy layover, and son called to say perhaps they could manage to meet.  If not tomorrow, then on self’s way back.  Happy happy joy joy!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Elizabeth Taylor: A Life

The obituary page of The Economist is one of self’s favorite features of the magazine.

They sometimes write up very obscure people.

But the obituary of 2 April 2011 was on Elizabeth Taylor.

Here are the opening paragraphs:

Besotted with her radiant beauty, men lined up to lay huge jewels at Elizabeth Taylor’s feet.  Their size didn’t matter so much to her, she said.  Though the Krupp diamond was 33.19 carat, flaming with life when the line shone through it, and the Taylor-Burton 69.42 carat, so big that it made Princess Margaret’s eyes start out of her head, what mattered more was the emotion that lay behind them.

So the $10,000 diamond and platinum ring that Nicky Hilton, the first of her seven husbands, presented to her in 1950 was the biggest thing that had so far happened to her, as marriage was.  In the end, it meant nothing, because he beat her.

Dear blog readers, perhaps reading that last sentence gave you as big a jolt as it gave self.  The other part of the review that self found tremendously moving was the following:

. . .   as she often told the press, acting wasn’t real to her.  Pain was:  colitis, crushed discs, exhaustion, or the pneumonia that almost killed her during the making of “Cleopatra.”

So that’s how she developed so much empathy for others (AIDS sufferers and the like).  That’s why she became such good friends with tortured souls (Michael Jackson and the like):  she identified with their suffering.

What a fearless and indomitable woman Elizabeth Taylor was.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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