Sun Tzu Now, Part III: Robert Greene on “Crushing the Enemy”

. . . we do claim that direct annihilation of the enemy’s forces must always be the dominant consideration . . .  Once a major victory has been achieved there must be no talk of rest, of breathing space . . .  but only of the pursuit, going for the enemy again, seizing his capital, attacking his reserves and anything else that might give his country aid and comfort.”  The reason for this is that after war come negotiation and the division of territory.  If you have only won a partial victory, you will inevitably lose in negotiation what you have gained by war . . .  Negotiation is the insidious viper that will eat away at your victory . . .

—  Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power, p. 112

While traveling in India, earlier this year, self learned that the Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb issued an order of execution to be carried out against his own brother, Prince Dara Shukoh, an enlightened man who was also the translator of the Upanishads.  He also ordered the incarceration of his own father, Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal), who died a broken man after 8 years of imprisonment.

Which then calls to mind a quote from Magsi Peña, colorful mayor of Pulupandan, near Bacolod:

“I never start a fight, but I always finish it.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Cleaning

There are all kinds of things self dredges up from the nooks and crannies of son’s room.

While other empty-nesters of self’s acquaintance quickly converted their college children’s rooms into guest rooms, not self.  She has preserved every scrap of paper, every poster, every letter.  Son’s room is like a Museum, the Museum of Childhood.  Nothing has changed, except that now self uses son’s bookshelves to array her own books, which would take over the entire house if she let it.

There was the time, several years ago, when she stumbled across a card that said:

A, Read the rest of this entry »

The Short List: Most Helpful Reviews, NYTBR 4 March 2012

Self is determined to make serious inroads into her pile of unopened mail and unread journals, this week.  Ah, so much to read, so little time!  (Apologies for skipping around, dear blog readers:  She realizes that it is confusing to read a post about the Mar. 25 NYTBR before the one today on the  Mar. 4 NYTBR)

  • Sarah Lyall’s review of Craig Taylor’s Londoners:  The Days and Nights of London Now —  As Told By Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It (HarperCollins):  “What is London?  How do you define a city so sprawling, so changeable, so varied?  The answer, of course, is that there is no one answer.”
  • Garrett Keizer’s review of Katherine S. Newman’s The Accordion Family:  Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition (Beacon Press), and Eric Klinenberg’s Going Solo:  The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (The Penguin Press):  Newman “acknowledges that different cultures define adulthood in different ways, with Americans tending to see it as a ‘process of self-discovery’ and Europeans as ‘a station defined by the way one relates to others.’  She also appreciates that 76 percent of American parents of 21-year-olds say they feel close to their child, as opposed to a mere quarter of their own parents saying the same.”
  • Brenda Wineapple’s review of Natalie Dykstra’s Clover Adams:  A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt):  Not only does Wineapple make self want to dash out and start reading The Education of Henry Adams (Clover was the wife of Henry), she also helps us understand the factors that contributed to Clover’s emotional instability:  “Crazy as coots, was the way Henry Adams’s brother described” Clover’s family.  “Clover’s sister would later walk into the path of an oncoming train, and her brother would fall or throw himself out of a third-story window.”

BTW, what’s with the very very veeeery long subtitles?  This must be a new trend!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Spring Garden: Happiness

Today was hot, but this evening is cooler than yesterday.

The warm weather set all of self’s flowers to blooming.

Early this morning, self noticed one gorgeous bloom on her Sunflare.  Finally, in the late afternoon, she went for her camera and took this picture:

Sunflare, Backyard

Self loves orange flowers, but has never successfully grown an orange rose (Her one orange rose, a Fragrant Cloud, died last year). Self has to make do with this abutilon, blooming in her side yard. (She knows the picture is blurred. Apologies!)

Changing gears here:  self is currently reading Jennifer 8. Lee’s The Fortune Cookie Chronicles.  So far, Lee  has written about:  a) a dynamo who revolutionized the restaurant industry when she introduced Chinese food delivery in New York City; and b) the history of the fortune cookie.  Self is finding the subject difficult to get into.  Lee is witty and all that, but perhaps self wants to read a really dark, wrenching memoir, and not a light, frothy essay on the misconceptions that surround the origin of the Chinese fortune cookie.  The next book on her list is Nicholson Baker’s first foray into nonfiction, Human Smoke:  The Origins of World War II, the End of Civilization and it has created quite a rift among Amazon readers,  some calling it “muddled” and “a hodgepodge.”

Self has read two short books by Mr. Baker, both novels.  She liked them both, especially A Box of Matches.  It’s interesting to her that when Mr. Baker tackled nonfiction, he wrote a book that was about five times as long as his novels.  (She does commend him for his very intriguing title.  Self wishes she had written a book called Human Smoke.  Lately, all her story titles have been bad:  “Sleuth,” “The Cooking Lesson,” “Emergency” — yucch, yucch, yucch)

Switching gears yet again:  today, self went to the Menlo Park Farmers Market, could not pass up the baklava.  Then she went to Pampelmousse in downtown Redwood City and purchased four caramel salt macaroons.  Finally, because she feels so sorry for the husband because he is an engineer and not something cool like a writer, she went with him to the Dairy Queen on Woodside Road and even though she was not at all desirous of having a sundae, she went ahead and had a caramel sundae.  L’Fisher Chalet laundrywoman, the next time self is in your presence, she already knows what you are going to say:  You are sooo fat!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“All the Missing” : PHOEBE, Spring 2012

Self confesses a particular fondness for this piece, which begins:

They’re alive, all of them.

One day they’ll present, alive and well.

They’ll be older, a few might even have their first gray hairs.

They’ll come out of tents, or basements, or caves, or wherever it is they’ve been kept, all these years.

Their names are Ilene, Michaela, Polly, Sandra.

Self should have written about this publication sooner.  But since January she’s been to India, Bacolod, and DC.  Soon, she’ll be in Scotland.

Too many things:  time telescopes, The Ancient One pants, and still the roses manage to survive, even bloom.

In this issue of Phoebe are stories by Toni Mirosevich (“Crackhead”) and Sean Carswell (“Another Beauty”), artwork by Warren Craghead III (His drawings are cryptic, mysterious, playful, wonderful), poetry by E. Marie Bertram, Kyle McCord, Michael Homolka, Nate Pritts and Zach Savich, and nonfiction by George Such.

There are others, many others.  But self hasn’t finished reading their pieces yet.  She will blog about them as soon as she does.

Self will close with a few lines from E. Marie Bertram’s poem:

“from The Vanishing of Camille Claudel

In the famous sepia portrait of me, I’m nineteen — hair disheveled, lace draping
my throat.

It was 1884.

As he developed the image, the photographer — what does it mean to have a name? — made use, in a dark room, of the black fluid secreted by cuttlefish in defense as he translated me from body into ghost.

About the writer:  E. Marie Bertram completed her MFA in poetry, along with a Graduate Certificate in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies from Washington University in St Louis.  She is the author of eight chapbooks, including The Vanishing of Camille Claudel (forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“The Raid: Redemption” — Definitely Five Stars!

Through sheer happenstance, today self was reading Eric D. Snider’s review of “The Lucky One” when she developed the impulse to look up all his “D” reviews.  She then decided to look up all his “B+” movies, which she then posted.  So, when the husband was in his next bad mood, self was ready with a plan of action, which involved looking at screening times for all the movies showing in her locality, which ultimately led to her to discover that one of Eric D. Snider’s “B+” movies, “The Raid:  Redemption,” was actually showing in the Century 20 of Redwood City, which practically knocked her for a loop, she didn’t believe at first the evidence of her own eyes, because:  a) The movie was from Indonesia, who ever heard of a movie from Indonesia showing in a Century 20??!! and b) Self had never heard of it until she read Eric D. Snider’s blog this afternoon.

But, faster than the husband could say “tiddleywinks,” self took off, and caught the movie just as the opening credits began to roll.   And about halfway through the movie —  which is about 90 minutes long —  self made the amazing discovery that:

The lead reminded her a lot of Barry Pepper!

Remember the guy in “Saving Private Ryan,” the one who plays the sharpshooter?  That’s Barry Pepper!

The actors even had the same kind of jug ears!

Of course, the guy in this Indonesian movie had black hair, and a swarthier complexion, but they had the same high cheekbones, the same sort of upside-down-triangle sort of face, and even the same kind of intensity.

Moreover, the Indonesian actor proves to be absolutely wicked with his fists.  Move over, Jet Li!  There’s a new action star on the horizon, and he’s Indonesian!  His name is Iko Uwais, which is thankfully not as long a name as it could be:  self has taught some students from Indonesia with names that were at least three times as long!

SPOILER ALERT!

Not only does this guy (he plays a member of a SWAT police team) take out approximately 100 bad guys in a 15-floor tenement building, he does it all for the sake of his pregnant wife, who is due to deliver A BOY (!!) within two months.  Self cannot describe the excitement with which she watched him drag a wounded comrade down a hallway absolutely crammed with bad guys (All the bad guys were wearing the standard Asian bad-guy attire:  nondescript T-shirts, baggy pants, a whole arsenal of guns and/or machetes —  or what we Filipinos refer to as bolos).  Self almost fainted, until she watched this young guy let loose with the whirling fists.  Afterwards, the hallway was littered with bodies —  well, actually, corpses.  The young man manages to get his wounded comrade to safety, by knocking on the door of perhaps the only apartment in the entire building whose inhabitant, a nerd-y type wearing glasses (most likely an engineer), is the only one brave enough to open his door to the police!

This movie was heck-of-exciting.  Self was under the impression she was the only female in the (sparse) audience, but when she stood up to go, there was a young woman (in a flowery print dress) following right behind her —  and, like self, unaccompanied.

The world is just full of surprises!

CAVEAT:  The movie earns every bit of its “R” rating.  It is gruesome, gruesome, gruesome.  Self was so glad she was watching it by herself, so she wouldn’t have to listen to the husband groan.  (She left him at home watching “Aliens.”  For some reason, the husband doesn’t find “Alien” or “Predator” levels of gruesome at all hard to take.  She is 100% sure, though, that he would be moaning all through “The Raid:  Redemption”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Eric D. Snider List of “D” Movies

Self loves it when Eric D. Snider awards a “D” to a movie.  The “D” movies are a lot more fun to read about than the “B” or even “C” movies.

Self writes this because Snider just awarded a new movie a “D” (Well, actually a “D+.”  Self thinks he might actually have awarded a few “F”s.  She promises to research the matter for dear blog readers, for a future post!)

Here are the recent movies graced with Mr. Snider’s most hilarious put-downs:

Act of Valor (D+)

With all due respect to the directors, and even more respect to the SEALS themselves . . .  all the SEAL-ish things that the SEALS do in Act of Valor could have been performed by actors or stuntmen —  and in fact have been performed by actors and stuntmen in countless other military movies.  Remember, we’re not watching real missions here.  We’re watching re-enactments of missions in which the soldiers happen to be played by real soldiers.  In between those action scenes, when the SEALS recite their scripted dialogue, it becomes painfully obvious that . . .  well, that they’re not actors . . .  Making the SEALS do acting themselves . . .  especially when it comes to the maudlin, emotional stuff . . .  is about as disastrous as it would be if you sent a troupe of actors to rescue a kidnapped CIA operative.

Gone (D-):  At last (self thinks), Amanda Seyfried in a true, actual DUD!

Jill (Amanda Seyfried) barges into the (police) precinct, all bug-eyed and panicky, declaring her sister missing.  Even if Jill’s story . . .  is true, there’s no reason to think (Self:  Seyfried’s character was kidnapped before, you see:  it’s all very complicated) that Molly (Seyfried’s sister) is even “missing.”  She’s an adult, after all, and adults do sometimes leave without telling their sisters where they’re going.  I can assure you, if Jill were my sister, she would NEVER know where I am.

The Lucky One (D+)

It’s based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, though you may have surmised that from my use of the phrase “sappy hogwash.”  (If anyone can prevent Efron from climbing out of the teeny-bopper ghetto, it’s this guy.)  Efron plays Logan, a shellshocked Marine in Iraq who sees a discarded photograph lying in some rubble, walks over to pick it up, and is thus saved when a bomb goes off right where he’d been standing . . .  Fortunately for our story, the stranger in the picture happens to be an attractive single woman in Logan’s approximate age group.  This would have been a very different movie indeed if Logan’s life had been saved by a snapshot of a grizzled homeless man, or by a picture of a burrito from a magazine ad.  Logan uses contextual clues to figure out where the photo was taken (the movie spends 11 to 12 seconds on this sleuthing), determines it was a small town in Louisiana, then walks there.  From Colorado.  Why not drive or take a bus?

There is only one “A” Snider awards to a recent movie, and that honor goes to a teen/slasher movie, obviously many cuts above its genre, A Cabin in the Woods (At least, here, Chris Hemsworth plays a person of normal size.  Self finds his exceptionally bulked-up physique when playing Thor almost — repulsive?)

And here are a couple of movies that Mr. Snider graced with a “B+”:

  • Casa de Mi Padre (Spanish)
  • Friends With Kids
  • Jeff, Who Lives at Home
  • The Raid:  Redemption (Indonesian)
  • Silent House
  • Wanderlust

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

NYTBR 25 March 2012: Most Helpful Reviews

  • Harold Bloom’s review of Marina Warner’s Stranger Magic:  Charmed States and the Arabian Nights (Harvard University Press).  Self picked this review because of its subject:  15 stories from the Arabian Nights, deconstructed by Warner.  The review itself is dull.  Much time is spent telling the reader what the Arabian Nights are about, and there is some gobbledygook about an “occult Solomon,” but self will read anything that analyzes the Arabian Nights.
  • Marilyn Stasio’s column.  And especially her reviews of Lyndsay Payne’s The Gods of Gotham (Amy Einhorn/ Putnam), about Timothy Wilde, a “damaged hero” who “reluctantly joins the force after losing his employment, his savings and half his face in the great fire that engulfed part of the city” of New York in the summer of 1845; and her review of Simon Lelic’s The Child Who (Penguin), “a baleful look at the matter of murderous children.” (Self does think the second title is very odd)
  • Daniel Asa Rose’s review of Alex Gilvarry’s From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant (Viking):  “A Filipino-born fashion designer” named Boyet “innocently lands himself at Guantanamo as the first detainee captured on United States soil and decides to bring the place a little flair by removing the sleeves from his orange jumpsuit.”  Brilliant!  Self thinks that naming the hero BOYET is an especially nice touch (as she knows many Boyets, including the man who is currently her lawyer)
  • Cameron Martin’s short reviews in the Fiction Chronicle.  Martin shows a particular flair for the snappy first sentence:  “Iyer’s uproarious novel, the sequel to Spurious, follows the combative relationship between two British philosophers, W. and Lars, as they embark on an alcohol-soaked speaking tour of America, unable to persuade people to repent before an apocalypse they insist is imminent.” (about Lars Iyer’s Dogma, Publisher:  Melville House)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Forget the Pulitzer! Here’s the Orange Prize Shortlist

The mighty Pulitzer declined to award a prize to any of the novels on the 2012 shortlist, which then made — according to a headline in the Arts section of the Wednesday 18 April 2012 issue of  The New York Times — the publishers of the shortlisted books “cranky.”

Who cares?  The Pulitzer is so yesterday.  Let’s turn our attention to more important things, such as who is going to win The Orange Prize, “an annual prize in Britain that is awarded to a novel written by a women in English” (which is how the “Arts, Briefly” section of the Wednesday 18 April 2012 Times described it)

Here are the novels that made the Orange Prize for Fiction shortlist.  Self browsed the web and found that “Four Northern Americans, including Booker-Prize winner Anne Enright, made the list” and that Georgina Harding is “the only one” of “six nominated authors” who is British (quoting from THE WEEK)

  • Canadian Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues
  • Dublin writer Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz:  (Self doesn’t know why the Times article abbreviated the title of Enright’s novel to The Forgotten)
  • Georgina Harding’s Painter of Silence:  Self thinks this title is pretty fab.
  • American Madeline Miller’s debut novel, Song of Achilles
  • American Cynthia Ozick’s Foreign Bodies (Ozick’s seventh:  According to the British paper The Guardian, Ozick is “the favourite” to win the Orange Prize)
  • Previous Orange Prize winner (10 years ago, for Bel Canto) Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder

The winner, says the Times, will receive “a bronze statue and about $48,000.”

BTW, three of the shortlisted share the same publisher:  Bloomsbury.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Armie Hammer, the Cutest Prince Charming Since Dougray Scott

Oh, Armie Hammer, you are simply the best. The best (and the funniest) Prince Charming since Dougray Scott in “Ever After.” But you go one better than Dougray Scott because, in “Mirror, Mirror,” you appear shirtless, in fact several times. And quite a fine chest you have there, sir. It doesn’t even look like a chest that’s been worked over, not like the balloon chest muscles of Taylor Kitsch in “John Carter.” No, that’s a fine, fine chest. Self is quite in agreement with Julia Robert’s Evil Queen that only a “bashful” boy would care to cover that up.

(Eternal thanks to director David Fincher, who dredged you up from that pool where handsome actors languish while waiting to be discovered. When self watched you play the Winklevii in “The Social Network,” you were arrogant and helpless.  Which is exactly why the audience found you so funny.  Which is also why you were the perfect choice to play the Prince in “Mirror, Mirror.”)

Also of note is that your leading lady, Lily Collins, has the fiercest eyebrows since — since Brooke Shields in “Blue Lagoon”? To go along with the brows, Ms. Collins also has the thickest, longest, blackest eyelashes self has ever seen on a living person. Hers are simply tailor-made for sidelong (love) glances. It is also perfectly understandable why she is directing all these glances at Mr. Hammer.

Another thing that is so nice about this movie (which self saw today, in her local Century 20, along with two blonde women, and an elderly man, and some shadowy person sitting in the last row, way behind self) is that it gives her a chance to see that guy from “Master and Commander,” the one who played that tragically inept officer who does away with himself by grabbing a cannonball and jumping off the deck. Since the crew believed he was cursed, he did the noble thing and removed himself from the scene, with the end result that the ship was able to set sail once again, and escape those fearful doldrums.

Anyhoo, since that movie, which was quite some time ago, self has not had the opportunity to see this particular actor in other roles. So it was very nice to see him today, and to see that he did not share the same fate as the character he played in “Master and Commander.”

There is also a scene where Julia Roberts erupts in The Laugh. So rich and unreserved is this actress’ laugh that every time it makes an appearance, it literally lights up the screen! (And this movie actually does make glints of light reflect off Mr. Hammer’s and Ms. Collins’ teeth! Just like those Close-Up toothpaste commercials self grew up watching in Manila!) So, even though Roberts is playing a Bad and Evil Queen, she is also able to rise above the caricature and make the audience feel her character’s humanity.

Self was tempted to see “21 Jump Street” because that movie features another interesting hunk, Channing Tatum, but she’s glad she went for “Mirror, Mirror.” Not only is Armie Hammer appearing at his manly best (not like he was in “J. Edgar,” where — horrors! — he seemed to be wearing pancake make-up!), but the costumes are divine. Self never thought mustard would look agreeable worn as court attire, but here not only is Julia Roberts swathed in it when she makes her first court appearance, but Lily Collin’s cape (which is so ruched and voluminous and wonderful) is also of that same shade (Self did wonder why Snow White was wearing such a cape when she is supposed to be trying to “blend” in with the commoners, who were all in drab and muddy brown or grey clothes.  But fie, self, this is supposed to be a fairy tale!  If Director Tarsem says a princess can blend, even when wearing the only mustard-colored cape in the entire kingdom, she blends!  It’s called suspension of disbelief)

Self must admit, clothesonfilm’s spotlight on the costume designer (Eiko Ishioka) played a not-small part in her decision of which movie to see today. Thanks much, clothesonfilm! It’s sad that the designer has passed away, but if this movie was her last project, it certainly is nothing to sneeze at.

Finally (as if this movie needed any more finalies, but what the hoo), the great Sean Bean puts in an appearance. Self was quite upset with his execution in Season 1 of “Game of Thrones.” The only thing is: why does Mr. Bean have to present wearing something like a white lace doily around his neck? In the first of his two scenes, the ruffle around his neck looks almost exactly like the white lace doilies that self remembers were ever-present in parties back home. In the second scene, he still wears a white ruffle around his neck. Self found this ruffle dis-agreeable and distracting. This is the one and only time she thinks the costume choice was a little off.

When self watched the closing credits (in which Lily Collins demonstrates how well she can belt it out —  even while wearing a sky-blue chiffon gown), she learned that the Director was Tarsem Singh (Now, why did that name sound so familiar?)  A few minutes ago, on Rotten Tomatoes, self learned that Singh is the same guy who directed “Immortals.”  No wonder the costumes and sets were so elaborate!  Singh is a visual stylist like no other.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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