Sunday Night, Reading Cary Tennis in Salon.com

One of self’s favorite sections of Salon.com is Cary Tennis’ advice column, “Since You Asked.”

Tonight, self decides to read only Mr. Tennis’ answers, not the letters he is responding to.  Below is one that self thinks is pretty interesting.  Tennis’ response is addressed to “Superwoman Some Days.”

Here’s a simple suggestion:  Just dial it back 10 percent.  Dial everything back 10 percent.

Everything.

Give it a try.  Just take 10 percent of what you’re expending and save it.  Rest up 10 percent more.  Do 10 percent less work.  Give your all  —  minus 10 percent.  Hold back 10 percent in reserve.  Use that 10 percent to stay well.

If you’re working 40 hours a week, take it down to 36.  If you’re sleeping seven hours a night, increase it to seven hours and 42 minutes.  If you’re studying six hours a day, decrease it to five hours and 24 minutes.

You’re never going to stop the cycles.  So the thing to do is allow cushions around the corners, around the extremes.  Those points where you are completely exhausted and yet you keep pushing on are probably the points where you are breaking down.  So if you can avoid those breaking points, you can perhaps live more comfortably.

After reading Cary Tennis’ most excellent advice, self dreams up a letter that she thinks sounds like something “Superwoman Some Days” might have written:

I’m so stressed!  I’m on the edge of flipping out!  I’ve always been able to multi-task!  But lately, when I try putting all my fruit into a vanilla parfait, I find myself having a total meltdown!  Crying at the kitchen counter!  I feel fragile and weepy, and depressed about everything!  I have a great job, a great car, a cute house, two cats, and no dependents!  Why am I so sad?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Favorite Reads (Thus Far, 2011)

  • Sepharad, by Antonio Muñoz Molina (a novel in stories)
  • Body of Work:  Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab, by Christine Montrose (memoir/nonfiction)
  • The Indian Bride, by Karin Fossum (mystery)
  • Agent Zigzag, by Ben McIntyre (nonfiction)
  • Marco Polo:  From Venice to Xanadu, by Laurence Bergreen (biograph/ travel book)
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson (memoir/ nonfiction)
  • The White Nile, by Alan Moorehead (history)
  • Roughing It, by Mark Twain (travel book)
  • A Time of Gifts, by Patrick Leigh Fermor (memoir, travel book)
  • Fire in the Blood, by Irene Nemirovsky (novel)
  • On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan (novel)
  • The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton (novel)
  • The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink (novel)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Zeitgeist: Fourth Saturday of July 2011

The final “Harry Potter” movie was good, probably the best Harry Potter movie since “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”  The downside:  Hubby was so exhausted from the past week’s office travails that he fell asleep.  In fact, self is 90% sure that hubby slept through most of the movie.

Self loved Maggie Smith, and Alan Rickman made Severus Snape so moving.  The python was exceedingly creepy and she hated the one death scene.  She loved all the ancillary characters:  the teachers, the parents, the Hogwarts students.  She loved the opening scene, with the wraith-like figures hovering malevolently over Hogwarts.  Oh, she will miss this series, definitely.

Sometime during the day, self learned that Amy Winehouse had died.  Hearing the news (on her car radio),  self actually gasped.  She felt terrible.  Other famous people have died this year, self can’t explain why this particular one made self really sad.

Then self realized she was not being much help to Drew, who is in VCCA trying to put together music for our opera.  “I thought of beginning with church bells,” he told self yesterday.  Self hunted all over YouTube for some chants or spoken prayers, but though she found many many videos of Philippine religious processions, she did not encounter a single religious chant (though there were tons of shmaltzy songs addressed to the Santo Niño, including one by Sharon Cuneta)

In The New Yorker of 4 July, self reads an essay called “Endgame,” in The Talk of the Town section.  It’s by Dexter Filkins, and begins:  “In the ten years since American soldiers first landed in Afghanistan, their official purpose has oscillated between building and destroying.  The Americans initially went in to defeat Al Qaeda, whose soldiers had attacked the United States, and to disperse the Taliban clerics who had given the terrorist group a home.  Over time, the Pentagon’s focus shifted toward Afghanistan itself —  toward helping its people rebuild their society, which has been battered by war and upheaval since the late nineteen-seventies.  In strategic terms, the U.S. has swung between counter-insurgency and counterterrorism.”  When self thinks of the war in Afghanistan, she can’t support it, and especially not with this limping U.S. economy.  And she feels the U.S. allowed itself to be sucked into or distracted by the clear need to “do something” in that part of the world.  But the responsibility for that country should never have been ours.

And then, in the next essay in The Talk of the Town, she reads about “a folk opera about the adolescence of Bill Clinton” — !!  The opera, written by Bonnie Montgomery, is called “Billy Blythe,” and is making its debut in the Medicine Show Theatre on 52nd Street.

And, finally, the last Talk of the Town essay that self has time for, because she needs to finalize her lectures for her upcoming UCLA Extension class (beginning this Wednesday), is about Jeff Nunokawa, who teaches English literature at Princeton.  His first book “was about the uses of property in the novels of Charles Dickens and George Eliot,” and when he was writing it, “he sequestered himself in a windowless basement room . . .  listened to Madonna sing Like a Prayer over and over again,” looked at a “picture of Tom Cruise from when he was still hot . . . ” and “wrote for sixteen hours a day.  Nowadays, the essay continues, “Nunokawa channels his literary production within a context no less formally circumscribed:  that of the Facebook note.”  HA.  HA.  HAAAA !!

As for movies currently showing, a movie that self thinks she would like to see is “Captain America.”  Not only did the trailer make hay out of this portentous line —  “A weak man knows the value of power!” — but she wonders how: (1) the director managed to make Chris Evans look so shrimp-y in the early scenes; and (2) Chris Evans got to create that chest.  Eric Snider gave the movie a “B.”  Here’s part of the reason why:

“I like films that have characters who can be described as having ‘moxie,’ and whose villains are played by Hugo Weaving, with help from Hugo Weaving’s eyebrows.  I like films with colorful characters like an eccentric German scientist played by Stanley Tucci and a Tommy Lee Jones-ish colonel played by Tommy Lee Jones.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Longing and C. P. Cavafy’s “The City” (Published April 1910)

“You said:  “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried like something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them
totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things else-
where;

there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

— excerpt from C. P. Cavafy’s “The City”

And here is Cavafy in a note dated April 28, 1907 (three years before the poem above was published).  In April 1907, the poet was forty-four years old:

By now I’ve gotten used to Alexandria, and it’s very likely that even if I were rich I’d stay here. But in spite of this, how the place disturbs me. What trouble, what a burden small cities are — what lack of freedom.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Friday Night, Redwood City: Formosa Bento House

Hubby was driving home.  Self called and asked what his plans were.  She ticked off the leftovers in the fridge:  callos, spaghetti . . .

Usually, hubby says he feels like eating out.  But he only tells self after she’s already cooked dinner, what a drag.

Today, she hadn’t cooked yet.  She was so busy chatting with Drew, who’s in VCCA and who is working hard on our little opera project.  Self could picture the scene:  Drew in his studio in the barn, the three horses in the field, the big and friendly barn kitchen . . .

She hasn’t been on another residency since she was at VCCA, 2007.

Anyhoo, hubby walked in the door and had an immediate hankering for Formosa Bento House.  This is one of those hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop restaurants that hubby and self love.  It is on Broadway, right in downtown Redwood City, and just a few doors down is the né plus ultra of all peninsula bars:  City Pub.  As usual, the sidewalk tables were full, and the waitresses were veeery busy.

At Formosa Bento House, the tables were almost full:  there was just enough space left for the two of us.  Self had done some preliminary research on Yelp and informed hubby that this time, we should try the Taiwanese (Formosa) dishes, they were better than the Japanese dishes.

So hubby went for the fried pork chops, and self went for the stewed pork rice.

Hubby’s dish came out looking like ton katsu (without the brown sauce), and self’s dish was a huge bowl:  minced pork and pickled vegetables and shredded cabbage and rice.  The small bowl of soup that accompanied it was laden with fresh cilantro and was oh, so good.

Afterwards, we walked down Broadway, skirting the seated crowds.  Erawan (a Thai restaurant) and Paradise (a “Persian kabob” restaurant) were busy.  We walked past self’s other favorite hang-out in Redwood City, Natalie Nail Salon.  Peet’s was uncharacteristically empty.

It was a balmy summer evening, one of those that really make you love being in California.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Book Reviews Enjoyed Today, After the San Carlos Farmers Market

From the “Briefly Noted” section of the May 9, 2011 Issue of The New Yorker:

Philip Connors, “a former Wall Street Journal copy editor is, for most of the year, a happily married bartender in Silver City, New Mexico.  But every April he treks five and a half miles into the Gila Wilderness to spend five months alone (save for his dog) in one of America’s last lookout towers, alerting the Forest Service to any nascent fires.”  —  The book is Fire Season, by Philip Connors

The author “opens her debut novel with a babysitting predicament:  “We can’t believe the house is on fire.  It’s so embarrassing first of all, and so dangerous second of all.”  —  The book is Ann Beard’s In Zanesville

*     *     *     *     *     *

From The New York Times Book Review of 26 June, 2011:

Michael Gorra’s review of Anuradha Roy’s first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing, in which a Calcutta-born man “moves his family to a small town called Songarh, where he builds a house not far from the forest and starts a business manufacturing herbal medicines and perfumes.  He loves the isolation and the chance for a flower-filled garden, but his wife doesn’t, and eventually she begins to spout a series of sweet-tempered obscenities, words nobody can quite believe she knows.”

Joel Whitney’s review of Joel Brinkley’s Cambodia’s Curse:  The Modern History of a Troubled Land, “an unabashed plea to refocus international aid and diplomacy on a suffering people.  It is also an attempt to hold some of those responsible for that suffering accountable . . .  “

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Coming Home

Coming home is this:

Pasalubong from Virgie's

Amazing that none of these biscuits got smashed in self's suitcase! They were so yummy, disappeared in one day

Not all of this was for hubby and self, we are not that pigg-y.  Self gave most of it away pretty quick —  before she could fall to munching.

Self has already cooked her first home-cooked meal:  spaghetti with Italian sausage:

Self's Mmmm Home-made Spaghetti Sauce

It is so much fun to cook when you are only cooking for two people!

Self also found this highly useful product, when she was walking along Oak Grove Avenue today (It was from Lite for Life, the health food store almost directly across from the fire station.  A sign on the window says:  As featured on NBC’s Today Show!):

Imported From Israel, Discovered in Menlo Park Today

They’re tiny cubes of freeze-dried herbs (basil, garlic, ginger, cilantro, parsley).  You store them in your freezer until you’re ready to cook, then you toss in a cube (1 cube is about the equivalent of 1 teaspoon).  Self used three cubes of basil when she was cooking the spaghetti sauce, and —  mmm, mmmm! —  the sauce was just delicious.  In addition, self threw in minced onions, minced garlic, slivers of carrots, and mushrooms.  Hubby had third helpings, which he’s never done before, at least not for self’s spaghetti (Or mebbe he was just hungry.  We ate at 8:30 pm, after he’d done watering)

Self’s next UCLA on-line class begins next week.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Miscellanea: Bacolod

  • The driver who took self to the Bacolod – Silay Airport had the call sign “Ranger.”
  • He worked for a car agency called “Faith” (one of the biggest in Bacolod)
  • Every other day, self would run out of “load” for both her cell phones.
  • Her family’s hacienda is Oliva Dos.  It is also the home of 150 laborers.
  • Self’s Dear Departed Dad is remembered as being “very soft-spoken.”
  • Her dad once owned an hacienda named after her mother:  it was near Mambucal.  He sold it in 1975.
  • The Japanese officer who billeted his men at the Balay Daku during the Occupation was known as “Colonel Ota.”
  • The town of Valladolid is famous for its diwal.
  • Last year, the price of sugar was 2,500 pesos per lkg.  (This was an excellent price.  It’s nowhere near that, this year)

Quake

There was an intensity 6.0 earthquake (centered near Dumaguete) when self was on Negros.

4 a.m. or thereabouts, self couldn’t sleep, she was sitting at her laptop.  The whole island seemed to shift.  She ran to her window and looked out at the sea:  gray still, at that time.

Today, self is putting away her suitcases.  It’s a hot afternoon in Redwood City.  She brought home several copies of The Visayan Daily Star.  The one of 16 July 2011 has a small item about smaller subsequent quakes on Negros:

Quake Shakes South

An earthquake hit Sipalay City at intensity three and Hinoba-an town at intensity two at 2:49 a.m. yesterday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported yesterday.

It was a 4.6-magnitude at its epicenter 62 kilometers south and 57 degrees east of Sipalay City, PHIVOLCS said.

The quake was tectonic in origin and caused by the shifting of plates in the Negros Trench that also caused tremors in southern Negros for the last five days.

Ah, self never knew of the existence of the Negros Trench, until now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Books of The Economist and Condé Nast Traveler

Oh, places far and near.  Oh, Pakistan, Japan, and Marrakech.  Oh, how reading these book reviews do instil in self a great and restless longing for foreign climes!

Without further ado, here are the books self is interested in reading after perusing:

The Economist of 21 May 2011

Bloodmoney:  A Novel of Espionage, by David Ignatius (Norton)

Bloodmoney is, among other stories, a study of Pakistan and its secret service, the ISI . . .  Mr. Ignatius is a master of the small details that give spy-novels a ring of truth (his description of the corner of London where The Economist has its office is certainly accurate).  The CIA is as much as petty bureaucracy as a killing machine.  The ISI is still enthralled by the rituals of the British Raj.  But Mr. Ignatius is more of a John Le Carré than a Tom Clancy.  Far from offering a tub-thumping celebration of America’s “war on terror” —  or a tut-tutting condemnation of Pakistan’s duplicity —  he serves up a supper of nuance and self-doubt.

The Economist of 12 June 2011

Lovesick Japan:  Sex, Marriage, Romance, Law by Mark West (Cornell University Press)

According to surveys, there seems to be less sex going on in Japan than in any other big country.  A Health Ministry study in 2006 reported that as many as one-third of all married couples under the age of 50 had sex, or even kissed or held hands, less than once a month.  Indeed, kissing itself was long considered unhygienic.  It was encouraged during the American occupation in the belief that such Western ways might promote democracy and erode the patriarchal household system.

Condé Nast Traveler, October 2010

A Year in Marrakesh, by Peter Mayne:  Documents his pioneering year in the medina in the 1950s.

Lulu in Marrakech, by Diane Johnson:  “part spy novel, part romantic romp . . .  offers a contemporary tour of East-meets-West Marrakech”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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