From Self’s Story “Picture” (in Her 2005 Collection, MAYOR OF THE ROSES)

This is a story about self’s parents.  It was in Mayor of the Roses, her second collection, published by Miami University Press:

The woman leaning forward is self’s mother.

She’s leaning forward, as if to kiss him.  There’s a mark on his cheek; perhaps she’s done it already.  They are both smiling.

These were my parents in Manila, circa 1956.  They were happy:  they had always been happy.  The happiness of their marriage was like a reproach.

I didn’t think he looked that ugly, but I hear a voice saying, over and over, La unica problema es que no es guapo. It’s a woman speaking, her voice is thick with fury.  It was probably my grandmother.  This, at least, was what my mother led me to believe.

*     *     *     *     *

I am collecting old pictures now.  I don’t know what this tells me about this stage of my life.

Here’s a picture self drew when she was about five.  Who is that woman and why did self draw her wearing a green kimono?  Who knows.  Dearest Mum had the picture framed.

The 5-Year-Old Artist

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

More About Bob Costas and Penn State

The cover article of this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated is on Penn State.  As well it should be.  The words on the cover say it all:  THE FAILURE AND SHAME OF PENN STATE.

Today, self happened to be watching TV when a man who was introduced as the lawyer for some of the victims at Penn State came on the air.  Self immediately stopped what she was doing (Probably, dusting.  Or something) to listen.  The lawyer said that some of the victims were coming forward.  And he described their feelings in three words:  despair, xxxx (Sorry, self’s hearing is very imperfect), and rage.

And self was most struck by the first word:  despair.

Self found it interesting that the lawyer picked that word.  It’s not something that readily pops to mind:  despair.  It’s such a tragic emotion.  A person who despairs has almost no hope.

But the lawyer said something else, another word which self is kicking herself for not remembering (Self looked it up:  the word was “confusion”), and then the last thing he said was rage.

Or was it fury?

Fury or rage.  Either way, that’s a whole cauldron of emotions, right there.  Can you imagine the internal struggle to keep a lid on,  what each of the victims goes through just so they can go on to live a semblance of normal lives?

Self is trying to recall the last line of Janet Lewis’ magisterial The Wife of Martin Guerre:  After the trial at which it was proven that the man she had thought was her husband was really an impostor, the wife of Martin Guerre walks out of history and disappears into a personal and terrible tragedy.  The last line of the Lewis novel went something like:  “When the heart is exhausted by such extremes of love and hate, the body does not long endure.”

And now, back to the Bob Costas interview.  When the news of the scandal first broke, Paterno had already decided to retire at the conclusion of the season, and he asked the Penn State Board of Trustees to allow him to coach the last four games.  News reports were sort of on the fence, but the next morning, self bought a paper and read:  Penn State Fires Paterno.  That was a moment.  For good measure, the Board also fired the long-time Penn State president, Graham Spanier.  You know they had to.

The next moment was the Bob Costas phone interview of Sandusky.  Remarkably, the interview was apparently done “on the fly.”  Turns out that Costas was only supposed to interview Sandusky’s lawyer (aka the Stupidest Lawyer in the World), and it was the lawyer who suggested that Costas get Sandusky on the phone.  And Costas had to think fast.  But by golly, was that a nimble interview, or what?  It was also pure theater.  All we could hear was Sandusky’s voice on the telephone, and the camera zoomed in for a tight close-up of the only face we could look at:  Costas’.  And he never flinched, not once.  Though required by professionalism to be almost expressionless, self is sure he felt something as Sandusky stumbled out with lie after lie.  Didn’t Sandusky at one point take almost 17 seconds to deny one of Costas’ accusations?  Costas was the conduit for the disgust every single viewer was feeling.  His questions were extremely direct, and encapsulated what all of us feel towards Sandusky.

The charges were made public by a blonde woman in a fancy suit: Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly.  The grand jury report was, according to Sports Illustrated, “23 pages of stomach-twisting detail.”

And what about those Penn State students who expressed outrage at Joe Paterno’s firing, and held a noisy demonstration blocks from the campus, holding up signs that said, WE LOVE JOEPA?  (Reminds self of the townspeople who threw stones at the policemen who came to arrest the Mayor of Calauan for the rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta)  One day, self thinks, you students will have sons of your own, and let’s just hope you will become more empathetic to the plight of Sandusky’s victims.

Here’s a wondrous sentence: “Like Russian nesting dolls, there are levels of isolation within Penn State, the innermost of which is the football team, which has separate facilities from the rest of the athletic programs and a lavish training facility all its own.”

Mike McQueary, in 2002, witnessed Sandusky assaulting a child.  He passed on the information to Paterno, who passed it on to the athletic director, who passed it to another Penn State official, who ultimately informed university president Graham Spanier.  “Except that as the account moved along the chain of command, the allegation apparently shed severity with each retelling.  By the time it reached Spanier, it was merely behavior that, as Spanier testified, “made a member of Curley’s staff uncomfortable.”  What self can’t get over is that Mike McQueary, according to the SI article, made eye contact, not only with Sandusky, but with the victim.  What, self shudders, was in that boy’s look?  Undoubtedly, despair.  And McQueary kept quiet, for nine long years.  He probably would have gone on for another nine — heck, maybe even 20 years —  without ever telling, until he finally had to.

The Sports Illustrated article was co-written by L. Jon Werthem and David Epstein.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Margaret, Are You Grieving?

The only poem self remembers from high school days in Manila is this one by Gerard Manley Hopkins. She doesn’t know why, but the voice has stayed with her for ages and ages. She can recite the first four lines from memory.

Today, self decided to get out her camera and photograph the maple leaves in her front yard (They’ve been brilliant red all week — beautiful!).  She found herself saying —

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving
Leaves, like the things of man you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

When she was done with taking pictures, she came back inside and found the rest of the poem on Bartleby.com:

Ah, as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Maple leaves and variegated hydrangea by front steps

Same maple tree, but from a different angle

This one’s of a tree in self’s backyard.

Two rejections this week, but self was up for it: She had five straight acceptances — five new pieces, all to be published 2012, including a novella.  The latest acceptance was from Wigleaf.  You try for years and years, and sometimes years go by and you don’t get anything.  And then, a miracle like the Fall happens.  It just happens.

One of the rejections was from a journal in New York, signed by both editors. And saying, in handwritten blue ink: Promise you WILL try us again.

She knew something was up because it had been months and months.  Self started thinking: they either mis-placed it, or it made it past at least one round. And she thought: No, they’ve misplaced it. Because the story was “Crackers,” and it was 20 pages of wild. One of those stories she stayed up all night writing, because it came in such a rush.

Eyebags have been tremendous for weeks.  She wrote another story last night:  “The Not Particularly Likable Woman” — BWAH HA HA HA

That one’s done.  It was just hilarious.  Self wrote about standing in post office lines and what not.  What great fun.  To write about Pie in the Sky and the post office, in the same piece.  Imagine laughing and writing, simultaneously.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Bob Costas Interview with Sandusky

Self happened to catch it last night.  And it was searing, painful, gut-wrenching.

Costas asked Sandusky:  Are you a pedophile?  Do you enjoy having sex with under-age boys?

Sandusky replied, “I may have been guilty of horsing around in the shower … ” and “I enjoy young people, I love to be around them, but no, I am not sexually attracted to young boys.”

Horsing around?  Horsing around?

Costas revealed what Mike McQueary witnessed in 2002.  At first, self had the idea that McQueary was some kind of hero?  Because he took what he saw to a “higher authority,” which was the head coach, Joe Paterno.  But after Costas described exactly what McQueary saw, self wonders:  How could anyone, after witnessing something like that, stay quiet for nine years?  Self would have gone directly to the police!

Though it is extremely harrowing, self will try and link to the interview (conducted by phone).  WARNING:  Interview has some extremely graphic content. 

And then tell me if you don’t agree:  The $100,000 bail for Sandusky was criminally low.

Stay tuned.

“Immortals” : Cathartic Gore-Fest

Self kept expecting to see Tom Wisdom in barely-there Spartan attire, but no. Instead we have a new face named Henry Cavill, and a familiar (passably hot) face in Stephen Dorff.  At least, self is fairly sure that was Stephen Dorff — he looked positively tiny next to Theseus! Plus his modern American twang kept interfering.  Self wished she could see Dorff in a real role, like the one he had in “Blood and Wine,” (1997) the movie where he co-starred with Michael Caine and Jack Nicholson.  J. Lo was in it, too, playing the hottest maid of all time. Self watched that movie at least three times and she could never figure out why — SPOILER ALERT! — J. Lo didn’t end up with Stephen Dorff. Instead, she ended up with, self thinks, Jack Nicholson, who played Stephen Dorff’s father.  But, enough of these digressions!  Back to posting about “Immortals.”

Freida Pinto was in the movie, strictly for titillation. Her ostensible role was that of a visionary named Phaedra. She is very pretty. Self somehow wished for the erotic abandon of the teen-age seeress in “300.”  Plus, self is of the opinion that Pinto’s gorgeousness simply cannot allow for the expression of stress.  She always looks so serene, even when forced to flee for her life.

But anyhoo, here are the things self loved about “Immortals”:

  • Mickey Rourke. He is so earthy, he totally grounds the movie in pain.
  • Mickey Rourke’s way over-the-top spine-like helmet.
  • Mickey Rourke’s enormous, hammy thighs, which peep out occasionally from beneath a voluminous (of course black) robe.
  • Many scenes of realistic torture, including a monk who cuts off his own — oh well, never mind what he cuts off
  • A very gory scene in which Mickey Rourke aka Hyperion ensures that a traitor will never again spawn from his blood-line. Mercifully, after a massive yell, the scene ended in a black-out, at which point all the young guys in the audience hooted in nervous relief.
  • The signature line is :  RELEASE THE TITANS!  These Titans are really marvelously scary.  They looked like Mud People.  Or like the natives in Peter Jackson’s “King Kong.”  They didn’t, come to think of it, look very “Titan-like.” They looked more tribal than “Titan.” Perhaps self was fooled by the word “Titan” into expecting “Giants.” (Self, there you go again, with your splitting of hairs and your annoying, long-winded digressions!)

What reason would Kanlaon have for spending a perfectly lovely Saturday evening watching such violence?

Every reason in the world! Have dear blog readers forgotten how ga-ga self went over “300”? Granted, there is no Tom Wisdom-like beauty in “Immortals” (except maybe for Zeus, and the hunk who played Poseidon, who resembled Taylor Lautner but thank God it wasn’t he — !) Meanwhile, hubby was off watching some even sillier movie called “J. Edgar,” which turned out to have Naomi Watts in the cast. But self cannot quite bring herself to watch a movie where the gorgeous Armie Hammer looks like he is wearing Pancake make-up, and — okay, where was self?

Did she already mention that Freida Pinto is very pretty? And looks great in red, as Woody Allen himself acknowledged when he put her in many red outfits in “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger” ? (In contrast, poor Naomi Watts was always in gray, or variations thereof)

There is no way you can get self to take a movie like “Immortals” seriously, but after all, self is not there for serious cinematic analysis, she is there to thrill to the rousing fight scenes, the blood spatter, the gorgeous red and gold color scheme. She will say, though, that she finds the scenes of battle in a concrete bunker that looks like it might have popped out of the set for “Stalag 19” rather un-convincing. Why would Rourke aka Hyperion’s minions go charging in through such a narrow defile? Don’t they know that the first rule of battle, BATTLE STRATEGY 101, is: WHEN CHARGING, ONE MUST NEVER GO INTO A NARROW DEFILE ?!!@  Were they stupid, or what? Oh, right, self forgets: they ARE stupid! That’s why they’re with Hyperion and not with Theseus!

Who is that Zeus fellow? Undoubtedly, he was British. Only a guy with a British accent can get away with wearing gold and still look convincing as Zeus  (It was light years ahead of Liam Neeson’s Zeus in “Clash of the Titans.”  But then, Neeson was stuck with wearing a toga and there is nothing more disgusting than watching a sword-and-sandals epic where the men are in togas)

(Now self remembers where she’s seen that Zeus guy before:  He’s currently 0n-screen in “Three Musketeers 3D”! Oh, the horror!)

John Hurt was there, lending his eyebags and his wrinkles to the silliest, campiest gore-fest of 2011. Good choice, John Hurt! Now you will be known to a whole new generation of teen-age boys, most of whom probably don’t know that you are front and center of the most iconic science fiction scene of all time, the alfalfa-sprouts-spilling-out-of-the-corners-of-your-mouth scene in Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” just before toothy alien progeny comes spurting out from your rib-cage!

(Alas, oh lack-a-day, self has just read Eric D. Snider’s review of the aforementioned.  He did not enjoy it quite as much as self.  His grade:  C)

*          *          *          *          *

Oh, did self mention that last night was another insomniac night?  She thinks she finally dozed off at 3 a.m.  But this time, there was a good reason:  She started and finished a story called “Computational Outcomes.”  Of course, science fiction.

Why, oh why are all these crazy ideas buzzing around in self’s head? Especially at 2 a.m.? Could the reason possibly have anything to do with the excitement of battling rain and traffic to make it to Zack’s Yerba Buena reading, on Friday night? Anyhoo, to paraphrase from extremely famous hokey poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” hers not to reason why, hers but to do or die!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Random Thoughts on a Sunday (2nd Sunday of November 2011)

Hubby and self just could not agree on whether to take Bella to the groomers or to see “Margin Call.”

Brother-in-law, R, Dad of Niece G, has one speaking line in “Margin Call.” Self knows he is definitely in it because the movie was filmed in his office, and they had him sign a release form, stating that it was OK to use his “image” and “dialogue” in the movie.

Self also wants to see it because Zach Quinto, who despite not being on self’s team, is sooo magnetic — is in it. And it was rated 89% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, the last time self checked.

On the other hand, Bella stinks —  much.  This is what happens when you achieve great old age.  Of course, it is a triumph to have achieved 16 dog years, which would be the equivalent of 100+ human years.  But you also have this deterioration of bodily functions, and if there is not a nurse or a loved one to constantly be cleaning after you —  if, for instance, your human minders are less than patient —  you will live out your last years in a mess of filth.

But self will never permit that to happen to The Ancient One.  Never, never, never!  (If Gracie had just given self a chance, self could have been equally vigilant with her.  But instead Gracie got a huge episode in the middle of the night, and when self found her the next day, she was just barely alive.  Which then led to her having to be put down, in April.  Which then led to a very depressing spring. Possibly the most depressing spring of self’s entire life)

Anyhoo, to return to the topic at hand, and the ostensible reason for this post, hubby finally took himself off to see “J. Edgar,” and self decided to make herself a lunch of mashed avocado, sugar, and evaporated milk.  Then she continued reading the New York Times Sunday magazine of 30 October.  And lo and behold!  There is a very interesting article about the graphic artist Lynda Barry, who as self knows is half-Filipino.

It seems Lynda loves to teach, and her students travel long hours to sit in her writing workshop, and on this particular day, the day when the New York Times reporter was sitting in, Lynda started off by singing, to the tune of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” :

I was born a meat cutter’s daughter
My mom was from the Philippines; she was a janitor
I ate TV dinners at night
I grew up by the TV light
While Dad drank vodka in the basement and Mom hollered.

BWAH HA HAAAA!

Barry’s next trick is to tell her students: “I’m gonna work you like the mules on the Erie Canal.”

Self can see now why they love her.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Gates and Jobs: Walter Isaacson Reflects

Below is the first half of an opinion piece written by Walter Isaacson, author of the bestelling biography of Steve Jobs.  The piece was in the 30 October 2011 Sunday Review section of The New York Times:

One of the questions I wrestled with when writing about Steve Jobs was how smart he was.  On the surface, this should not have been much of an issue.  You’d assume the obvious answer was:  he was really, really smart.  Maybe even worth three or four reallys.  After all, he was the most innovative and successful business leader of our era and embodied the Silicon Valley dream write large:  he created a start-up in his parents’ garage and built it into the world’s most valuable company.

But I remember having dinner with him a few months ago around his kitchen table, as he did almost every evening with his wife and kids.  Someone brought up one of those brainteasers involving a monkey’s having to carry a load of bananas across a desert, with a set of restrictions about how far and how many he could carry at one time, and you were supposed to figure out how long it would take.  Mr. Jobs tossed out a few intuitive guesses but showed no interest in grappling with the problem rigorously.  I thought about how Bill Gates would have gone click-click-click and logically nailed the answer in 15 seconds, and also how Mr. Gates devoured science books as a vacation pleasure.  But then something else occurred to me:  Mr. Gates never made the iPod.  Instead, he made the Zune.

So was Mr. Jobs smart?  Not conventionally.  Instead, he was a genius.  That may seem like a silly word game, but in fact his success dramatizes an interesting distinction between intelligence and genius.  His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical.  They were sparked by intuition, not analytic rigor.  Trained in Zen Buddhism, Mr. Jobs came to value experiential wisdom over empirical analysis.

And that is just about all self can manage to type of the article, dear blog readers, as she has loads of errands to run today.  Stay tuned.

Manila, Its Surreal Glory (Courtesy of Linmark)

Self is so spoiled.  She got to listen to Zack read, two nights in a row:  last night at Skyline College, tonight at Yerba Buena.  It rained buckets while self was driving to the City this evening.  In spite of the nasty weather, there was a good-sized crowd.

Yerba Buena is such a great space. Sort of like the Negros Museum, only modern. Self means: a great place to hang out in, to let ideas formulate. But she knows she only feels that way because Joel is there! Joel, you do such a great job as Director of Community Engagement (Did self get your title right?)

During Q & A, self discovered that Zack and Joel T call Manila “Paris.”

Self got to see a short by a young Read the rest of this entry »

Philip Galanes Answers It All For You

Self just discovered the New York Times‘ Social Q column, in which Philip Galanes dispenses advice on dealing with awkward situations.

So here’s a letter from Ben from New Haven (New Haven = Yale, self is almost 97% sure)

I am a junior in college and have an amazing relationship with my roommate.  We hang out together all the time, and I love him like a brother.  Trouble is, he is really good looking, and as soon as girls see him, they ditch me.  I can be talking to a woman all night (and getting along really well), but as soon as he appears, she loses interest in me.  I don’t think he’s doing it intentionally, but it’s starting to get me down.  What should I do?

Galanes’ Answer:    Transfer!  Or at least start socializing on your own, Ben. Because when folks have “Moves Like Jagger,” as Maroon 5 has been bragging from the top of the charts (for months now), there is little mere mortals can do to interfere with their Mick-like mojo.

To which Kanlaon can only respond:  BWAH HA HA HAAAAA!

Stay tuned.

The Writing Disorder Bookstore

Today self goes tra-la tra-la tra-la and wanders all over the web, culling the gold from the dross, all for the benefit of dear blog readers.

She checks out The Writing Disorder Bookstore, which she hasn’t done in some months, and — Hoooly Moly! They have quite interesting books for sale!  To wit:

  • Matt Thomas’ Resetting the Armageddon Clock (Boxfire Press)
  • Tina May Hall’s The Physics of Imaginary Objects (University of Pittsburgh Press/ Drue Heinz Literature Award Winner)
  • Wodke Hawkinson’s Catch Her in the Rye (CreateSpace)
  • Self’s Mayor of the Roses (Miami University Press)
  • The Writing Disorder Anthology, edited by C. E. Lukather (168 pages of fabulous, may be ordered from Lulu.com)
  • Michael Burns’ Where You Are (All Things That Matter Press)
  • John Oliver Hodges’ War of the Crazies (Main Street Rag)
  • John Kilgore’s The Blunder (Bridgeway Books)
  • Vanessa Libertad Garcia’s The Voting Booth After Dark (Fiat Libertad Co.)
  • Self’s Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila (Calyx Press)
  • Gretchn Mattox’s Buddha Box (Fiat Libertad)
  • Amy Newlove Schroeder’s The Sleep Hotel (Oberlin College Press)
  • Yu-Han Chao’s We Grow Old:  53 Chinese Love Poems (The Backwaters Press)
  • Sudha Balagopal’s There Are Seven Notes (ROMAN Books)

And they also sell the cutest “How to Draw a Novel” T-shirts!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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