Books of Self’s Recent Life (to April 30, 2012)


Books About 9/11:

  • Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children (This is a novel)
  • Lawrence Wright’s Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
  • Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower:  Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

Books About Iraq:

  • Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Books About World War II:

  • Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke:  The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization
  • Ben Macintyre’s Agent Zigzag:  A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal
  • Hugh Sebag-Montefiore’s Dunkirk:  Fight to the Last Man

Collected Essays:
Read the rest of this entry »

Letter to the Editor, Feb. 4, 2012 Issue of The Economist

The reader wrote in from San Francisco.

    SIR — Reading about how near-starvation diets and vigorous exercise can boost longevity (“Worth all the sweat,” January 21st) brought to mind a remark by Clement Freud: “If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving you don’t actually live longer — it just seems longer.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“The Heart of the Matter” : This Is a Poem

Self was reminded of The Eagles when the husband asked son’s friend Finnisey, who fortuitously arrived at self’s humble abode bearing a fabulous guitar, if he could play an Eagles song.  Finnisey said it had “been a while,” but nevertheless was game and sang “Love Will Keep Us Alive.”  Amazing, he knew most of the words.

And then self remembered “The Heart of the Matter,” which always makes her want to weep or collapse into an insensate pile of self-pity, especially when Don Henley sings it:

I got the call today I didn’t wanna hear,
But I knew that it would come,
An old true friend of ours was talkin’ on the phone,
She said you Read the rest of this entry »

Mussolini, May 1930/ Hitler, May 1931

Addressing a crowd in Florence, Mussolini said, “Words are beautiful things, but rifles, machine guns, ships, and airplanes are more beautiful still.”

—  From Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke:  The Beginnings of World War II, which self began reading today (She skimmed the last 50 pages or so of Jennifer 8. Lee’s The Fortune Cookie Chronicles:  Adventures in the World of Chinese Food: it grew tiresome.  The best essay in the book was the one that explored the origins of the ubiquitous Chinese restaurant offering, General Tso’s Chicken)

*          *          *

During the showing of a film based on Erich Marie Remarque’s  All Quiet on the Western Front, Joseph Goebbels led two-hundred brownshirts into a movie theater.

As the film played, with Goebbels watching from the balcony, the brownshirts leaped up from their seats and began shouting “Jews out!  Jews out!”

*          *         *

“We can achieve something only by fanaticism,”  Hitler said during an interview with two editors from “a conservative newspaper,” at the National Socialist German Workers Party headquarters in Munich.  Later, one of the editors described Hitler as “a neurasthenic, a man of enormous egotism, with a tendency towards megalomania.  Sometimes, it was said, he burst into tears.  He left a strong impression, in any case; his chin, under the centerpiece of the mustache, showed great energy.  As he speaks he frequently grimaces, as if he would like to crush his opponent with his teeth.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Times You Wish Would Never End

Today, bright and early, self was at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market.  The weather was bee-yoo-ti-ful!  There were musicians, there was a man who did interesting things with a small red ball balanced on the top of his head, there was a kid whose bones seemed to be made of jell-o, who did jive moves and the Michael Jackson Moonwalk and amazed a crowd of spectators.  Self wound up buying a small jar of lavender salt, a pack of (non-dairy) cinnamon rolls, and some fresh apple Read the rest of this entry »

Prisoner’s Hood, Petersen House, Washington DC

Self is haunted by this canvas hood, which she saw in the Petersen House (where Lincoln was taken after he was shot) when she was in Washington DC for the panel at the National Poetry Gallery. A hood like this was worn by the conspirators during their imprisonment.  The eyes and ears are covered, the only opening is for the mouth.

One of the things self learned during the tour of the Ford Theater and the Peterson House in Washington DC was that Mary Surratt was not the innocent victim portrayed in Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator.”  In the movie, Surratt is portrayed by Robyn Wright, and this particular actress is very good at portraying characters you want to root for.  When she is executed, the viewer is supposed to think that she was a scapegoat.

But the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination met regularly at her boarding house, and the exhibit makes clear that she was sympathetic to their views.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

San Francisco: Gallivanting

Wednesday, with Jennie and Son, waiting for Niece G at 23rd and Folsom

Niece G told self a few months ago that this will be her last year in San Francisco —  WAAAAH!  San Francisco just won’t be the same without her.

Self took this picture by a pond in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, Wednesday afternoon.  (It was chilly!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Femininity: Brought to You by Jean Paul Gaultier

Jennie, son and self saw the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the de Young Museum today.  This and other exhibits had been the brainchild of John Edward Buchanan, Director of the San Francisco Fine Art Museums, who died December 2011.  (John, you were genius!   Self thanks you from the bottom of her heart for having made the de Young and the Legion of Honor must-sees, always among self’s first stops when showing around visitors from out-of-town)

The designer himself appears in the exhibit: He's the mannequin on the right.

Self thinks this was the most FABULOUS hat.

"Goth" mannequin: Lookin' good

Farewell Look

Self was very moved to learn that one of the designer’s strongest influences was his grandmother.

Once, towards the end of the exhibit, self’s flash inadvertently went off.  She waited for a reprimand from the guard.  Thank goodness he seemed to realize self was as stricken as he.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Such Delight

The weather’s been changeable since self arrived from Bacolod.  Her lips are so chapped that they sometimes bleed.  In the mornings, she piles on sweaters.  In the afternoon, she can go around in a T-shirt, but only if she stands directly in the sun.

But she loves gardening in the spring!

Buds on the Apple Tree in the Side Yard

Abutilon in the Side Yard: The blooms remind her of the illustrations of muscle tissue she used to come across when browsing through medical books.

More of the Abutilon: There was a slight breeze.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Siquijor: Wearing the Earrings Jennie Made

Self asked Zack to take her picture. She wanted to show Jennie that she was wearing the earrings Jennie made.

In February, just before leaving for Bacolod, self paid son a visit.  She had a fabulous time! On the day she left, Jennie presented her with the earrings, which she’d made herself.

Self was so touched, she told Jennie:  “I’ll wear them every day in Bacolod.”

Then she figured she needed a picture, to show Jennie.  And since she was usually by herself in Bacolod, except for the week that Zack joined her, she never did get to have a picture of herself wearing the earrings.

So there were Zack and self, in Siquijor.  We’d just gotten off the ferry, and walked up the hill a little way, to get to the market and catch a jeep that would take us to the town of Lasi.

Before catching the jeep, we stopped to investigate a pizza place.  This restaurant actually had “Pizza” on the sign, but we were told the pizza had yet to be made, and since we were in a hurry, we ended up ordering from the turo-turo.  Very delicious food, though!  Self had banana palm hearts in coconut milk and sauteed kangkong and plain rice.

And that’s when she said to Zack, “Quick, take my picture.  I have to show Jennie I’m wearing her earrings.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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