Katie Roiphe: Travels in Bangkok and Cambodia

Self finished The Anthologist two nights ago and began In Praise of Messy Lives, by essayist Katie Roiphe.

Self had not expected to enjoy her writing as much as she does.

Roiphe comes at everything with a feminist perspective, and sees the transaction that is underneath every smile, every service offered up to the white tourists who the locals, according to Katie, feel utmost contempt for.  Of course, they all chatter away in their own language, so the contempt isn’t quite as blatant.  But Roiphe, being a writer whose sensitivities are super-honed by years of making sharp, acerbic observations about no less a city than New York, picks up on it anyway.

Roiphe has many, many things to say about the male tourists, who enact a rite of courtship, overlaying their interactions with the local females with exaggerated, even mocking courtesy.

Roiphe also has plenty of things to say about the weather, but let’s not bother with that at the moment (Let’s bother with trying to go to sleep!  Let’s force ourselves not to stay up late, reading!)  She goes to Bangkok and then to Siem Reap and finally to Phnom Penh.  She writes of her Cambodian guide :

Our driver’s silver Timex looks bulky on his fragile wrist as he steers around the larger rocks and holes.  It impossible to tell how old he is  —  he could be twenty or forty-five.  People here tend to look very, very young until all of a sudden they look very, very old.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Justified 4.4

Apologies, dear blog readers, but self needed time to “process.”  She loves this season of Justified, it is absolutely great.

Raylan is quite significantly thinner than in previous seasons.  Timothy, is it overwork?  Never mind.  You are still gorgeous.  Gorgeous with a capital “G.”

When self watched “Parker” last weekend, there was a scene where Jason Statham impersonates a rich Texan and shows up in Palm Springs wearing —  gadzooks! —  an enormous white Stetson.  But, in keeping with the over-the-top nature of the whole cheesy enterprise (which is not to say that self did not find the movie hugely enjoyable —  she did, and particularly for the chemistry between J Lo, Parker, J Lo’s real estate colleagues, and her Mum’s yippy pet dog), the Stetson was about 10 sizes too large.  Self kids you not, dear blog readers, it looked about three feet wide.

Anyhoo, back to last night’s episode of “Justified.”  The preacher’s sister shows up in the local sheriff’s office, looking truly woebegone.  Until then, self was kinda hoping that her preacher brother survived the rattlesnake bite on his arm from the last episode, but alas!  He was apparently dead, dead, deader than a doornail, and that was the reason for the sister’s wan appearance.

In this episode, Ava —  who is, as we all know, hot, but whose figure has been hidden, for many episodes now, under dull-colored clothes that look like they were rescued from the dumpster behind the Salvation Army store — finally returns to sultry glory.  That is, she exhibits cleavage.  Her top was a lacy thing, like something from Victoria’s Secret.  Slutty and very fine.  Way to go, Ava!  The actress who plays her seems to be hardening her jaw, which is entirely in keeping with Ava’s long but relentless descent into Lady Macbeth territory.

Meanwhile, the waif/whore Ella May returns to the fold —  er, to the bar.  There are aspersions cast on her trustworthiness.  Ava hands her $2000 and tells her to make a fresh start somewhere far, far away.  And, just to prove how sincere Ava is, she sends Ella May off with the most malevolent member of the bar crew, a dirty blonde with a sort of Grade B Gerard Depardieu look, who rises to the occasion by having a moment of crisis in a gas station restroom, where it is revealed that he is having qualms about shooting Ella May, who is pumping gas —  a whore pumping gas!  Quelle fabulous use of subtext!  Anyhoo, the reason we know henchman is having qualms is that he pauses to sniff a line of coke before preparing his pistol for the death blow.  He then walks out of the restroom, and —  well, self cannot tell dear blog readers what happened next for she had her eyes shut.  All she knows is that lunk kept calling, almost beseechingly, “Ella May!  Ella May!”  As if he were playing a game of hide-and-seek with her.  Self listened anxiously for the report of a gun, but there was none.  Perhaps Ella May had the smarts to secret herself beneath the car?  Hanging on to the undercarriage, or something James Bond-y like that?  Way to go, Ella May!

Raylan was given a very nice gun by his increasingly comely deputy, Rachel (now divorced, though self can’t say she misses the ex, whose face she can’t ever remember seeing, in three previous seasons).  It was silver and long.  He uses it to get back at his ex-lover’s husband, the boxer.  He shoots and shoots and gets shot himself, and the lady escapes with her life, her loot, and her vixen reputation, and Raylan discovers that the $10,000 she stole from him went into buying chickens.  Or were those fighting cocks?

No Deputy Gutterson in this episode.  Self has noticed that the producers never have Rachel and Tim in the same episode.  She figures they function as alter-egos for Raylan.  When Raylan is feeling hip and manly, they have Tim to exchange sardonic verbiage with.  When he is feeling woebegone, they have Rachel to bring out his sensitive side.  Gadzooks if that doesn’t work —  in spades!

In this episode, there were more of those Holy-Cow-Mother-of-All-Lines, the ones that display the fantastic American capacity for breath control, rivaling that of even Royal Shakesperean actors like Ian Holm and Derek Jacobi.  Only, the fun quotient is to the nth power, because these characters are doing the Shakesperean thang in rural Kentucky.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Lists, January 2013 Edition

The most number of years between visits to Manila:  5

The longest self has ever stayed in Manila since she left for grad school:  4 months

How long it took her to see Ground Zero after 9/11:  7 months

The number of years it took her to produce her one 9/11 story:  8 years

The number of pages in her 9/11 story:  4 pages

The number of pages in Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila:  100

The number of pages in Mayor of the Roses, her second collection:  181

The number of pages in The Lost Language, her third collection:  153

The number of pages in her novella, Jenalyn, out this month from Vagabondage Press:  80

The number of years it took for her to complete her fourth collection, Magellan’s Mirror:  4

The number of years it took her to find the right ending for “Silence,” the story that was shortlisted for the O. Henry Literature Prize:  3

Total number of years she spent in Stanford as a grad student, first in East Asian Studies and then in English with a concentration in Creative Writing:  4

Number of books she read in 2012:  39

Number of books she read in 2011:  44

The longest period of time between checks of Facebook:  a few hours

The number of times she has been to Corregidor:  2

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

4th Monday of 2013: Chilly

It’s quite chilly out there.  The day is bright, but one needs a coat.

While perusing the backyard, self spies the first blooms of the year!

Cyclamen in side yard

Cyclamen in side yard

Calla Lilly, side yard

Calla Lilly, side yard


First daffodil to bloom, backyard

First daffodils, backyard

Self, having no foresight at all, planted the daffodils behind the alstroemeria, so of course they are completely hidden unless one walks right next to the flower bed.  Oh well!  Self will know better next time.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

JENALYN, Self’s First Novella, Downloadable Now: Only $2.99 per Download!

And here’s the link, dear blog readers!

It’s very experimental storytelling.

And it’s available FREE for a very limited time  (NOT!  You waited too long!  Now you have to pay $2.99!)

If anyone is interested in reviewing Jenalyn or The Lost Language (more about this collection, below), please contact self so that she can send you review copies!

*     *     *     *

And here’s something else:  Because The Lost Language, self’s third collection of short stories, was published by a Philippine press, Anvil, it hasn’t been readily available here in the States.  Self has told many people that, if they should chance to be in the Philippines, they should drop by their local National Bookstore or Powerbooks and pick up a copy there.  That, or have a visiting relative bring over a copy.

But self has just discovered that Linda Nietes of Philippine Expressions (L.A.-based long-time purveyor of Filipiniana) gets a monthly shipment of books from the Philippines, so if you want a copy, all you need to do is e-mail her at:


She has a Paypal account.

When self’s first book, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila, was published, it was Linda Nietes who organized the launch in L.A.  And she has done the same for untold numbers of Filipino and Filipino American writers.  Really, self cannot thank her enough!

Stay tuned.

Observations on Taylor Hackford and “Parker”

Taylor Hackford was the guy who, 30 years, ago, brought us “An Officer and a Gentleman,” that movie with Richard Gere as a Navy runt (Early scenes even have him wandering around Subic) and Debra Winger as a townie factory girl, and Louis Gossett, Jr. as a marine drill sergeant.

30 years later, Hackford is directing Jason Statham in an action movie.  Wow!  That shows real flexibility and directorial chops.  Self is not being ironic.  Self really does think Hackford is a very good director.

Before watching “Parker” today with The Man, self was not all that enthused about seeing it —  largely because of a review in Pajiba that basically made it sound like the same old Jason Statham shtick.  Like a recycled Transporter.

The Man chose “Parker” over “Les Miserables,” however, and self does tend to go along with his movie choices, as he has much less free time to see movies than self.

So, having seen the movie, here are some points self wishes to make:

  • You will not see this movie if you are turned off by screen violence.
  • You will not see this movie if you do not like Jason Statham.
  • You might see this movie if you like J Lo.

Further observations:

Self did not find Jason Statham as priest (Parker’s first iteration) in the least ridiculous.  In fact, he looked like a believable priest, in self’s humble opinion.  Except for the fact that when he throws darts, he never misses (He’s at the Ohio State Fair; he helps a little girl so that she can win a stuffed toy)

In addition, Taylor Hackford deserves audience’s utmost gratitude for showing that J Lo can play a ditzy Palm Springs real estate agent with money problems (Her car is about to be repossessed and as a brand-new real estate agent she hasn’t yet landed a commission) better than a real Palm Springs real estate agent with money problems.  From her disappointed pout when Parker’s girlfriend materializes, and her outfits (J Lo minces around in tacky, super-tight neon-colored suits and white pumps (Watch her stakeout a bad guy’s house —  Bad Guy’s Name is Rodriguez, how very “Bad-Guy-Sounding,” BWAH HA HA! — in high-heeled white pumps and the tightest pencil skirt this side of “Justified”!  Oh, self almost forgot :  the skirt is silk, with a pattern of big flowers), she is funny and, best of all, convincing playing a regular person!  One who doesn’t get the guy!  But who manages to swallow her disappointment with good grace!

It’s so violent, it’s almost like a B movie.  While watching, self found herself comparing the level of violence to, say, something like “Silence of the Lambs.”  It is not on that same level of gross.  At least, the villains here do not express desire to cook their victims with Fava beans.

The screenplay was surprisingly deft.  Even the minor characters —  Michael Chiklis and his gang; Nick Nolte as Parker’s father figure; Parker’s girlfriend (a very pale blonde, with a kind of Mia Wasikowska thing going); a document forger; J Lo’s mom; J Lo’s fellow realtors, even J Lo’s mom’s pet dog —  have definition.  There’s even a minor riff involving the aforementioned wee dog that reminded self of —  gasp! —  “There’s Something About Mary!”

Self loved this dialogue:

Three bad guys tied up on the floor in the document forger’s office.  Parker hands the forger a gun and tells him to shoot them.  When the forger balks, Parker says:  “If I have to shoot them I will.  But I’ll shoot you next.”  So the forger grabs the gun and obliges.  Then Parker tells him, “Shoot them again.”  And the forger protests, “But they’re dead!”  Parker’s response:  “Then they won’t feel anything!  Shoot them again!”

From the above,  dear blog readers will conclude that self has quite a high tolerance for movie violence.  Are you kidding?  Self saw the Indonesian movie “The Raid:  Redemption” last year, and gave it five stars!  She loved “Django Unchained!”  About the only cinema violence can’t stand is when it’s directed at women — those “Kill Bill” movies made her squirm.  Also, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.”  Also, “The Last House on the Left.”

So, “Parker”:  self loved it.  It made her sad to learn, however, from the closing credits, that Donald E. Westlake, who wrote the Parker books, was no more.  She loved Donald E. Westlake!  His Money for Nothing had her in stitches!  It’s the story of a man who, for seven years, receives monthly checks of $1,000.  The man is so happy about the situation that he decides not to pry into the reason for the checks. (And you and self would probably do the same, right, dear blog readers?)  Lo and behold, at the end of the seven years, a stranger appears and demands that our hero do something in exchange.  Naturally, it’s something wicked.  The man is aghast!  But he is already tainted.  Perhaps he can return the money — but no!  It’s already been spent.  And —  OK, you’d have to read the book to find out what happens.

Self is giving “Parker” —  believe it or not —  five stars!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Today, Fourth Thursday of January (2013)

Just to show you how self’s life has been going of late, she had trouble remembering what her last post was and needed to be reminded:  It was Jerry Brown’s State of the State Address, and that was just a few hours ago.

Anyhoo, she decided to treat herself to lunch at Little Madfish in Sequoia Station.  This tiny little nook is always busy, especially during lunch hour.  Self first took a look through the plate glass window and was encouraged to see two genteel-looking, elderly ladies having lunch within.  Thus encouraged, she entered and was seated right next to these two genteel ladies.  Which was excellent, because she was able to eavesdrop and heard them discussing a friend whose “breasts were all gone,” and then one of them was planning a trip to Hawaii, and the other was wondering whether she should throw a Superbowl party.  Both had British accents, self kids you not.

Self was quite embarrassed to learn, after she had ordered her two-item lunch (Two items is $7.95, with miso soup, green salad, and plain rice; three items is $9.95), that the two ladies were splitting same.  It looked tiny, however, and self is sure she could not have split anything with anyone else.

She ordered chicken katsu and avocado roll, and was very surprised to be touched on the shoulder several times by the waitress (She doesn’t think waitresses usually engage in touching of customers’ shoulders.  But the restaurant IS tiny, and it WAS very crowded).  When the chicken katsu came, self was so confused because it looked and tasted exactly like pork katsu.  But she did not complain because she was hungry.

She had with her a Wall Street Journal, just purchased from Barnes & Noble (which started carrying the Wall Street Journal again, after several years of not carrying it).  She looked up a novel by Joanna Hershon, and they had no books by this author.  She also looked up a biography of John Mortimer (author of the Rumpole books) by Susan Grove and published by Viking, but the bookseller couldn’t find any Barnes and Nobles that carried it, boo.  She adored the Rumpole books.

It was slightly cold, but not really chilly.

The man she wanted to help her spray her fruit trees was supposed to come yesterday, but on Tuesday he left a message that he wanted to know first “exactly” what self wanted to have done.  So self called him back, and he was having his hair cut at a barber shop and could barely (he said) hear her.

Hmmm, what else?  Last night self watched a show called Suburgatory and was laughing so hard because of an impromptu rock act by Ana Gasteyer, performed while wearing what looked like powder-blue PJs.

Then, she got a letter from Anvil Collections saying she owed them $109 for 10 copies of her book, The Lost Language, which had been delivered to Daku Balay in Bacolod and languished there for two months.  But of all things, they sent an invoice to Dearest Mum in her house in Ecology.  And self really doesn’t blame Dearest Mum for not wanting to pay, since self hasn’t seen her in two years.  The letter said she had to pay them TODAY, so self called Anvil in Manila and was very surprised because the man who answered the phone was so slurry of speech.

“Is this Anvil?” self demanded of the man.  “Is this Anvil Publishing?”

“Yaaaaah,” the man said, in something like three-quarters time.

“May I speak to your Collections Department?” self asked.

“Yes, ma’am, but —  but — ”

“But WHAT?  Speak up!” self demanded.

“It is 3 in the morning, ma’am,” the man said.  And at that point he really sounded —  ill or something.

“Oh!” self said.  “So sorry!  I must have woken you up!”  (Which, come to think of it, makes no sense.  Because why would someone be SLEEPING in a publisher’s office, at 3 a.m.  Unless he was the janitor and was just catching a few zzzzs)

“Ma’am, can I please have your name and number for Collections to call you back?” he asked.

Surprisingly, this sounded like a very sensible idea.  But self found herself hesitating and then said, “Go back to sleep!  I’ll call back in a couple of hours!”

Then she put down the phone before the man could come up with any other bright ideas.

Finally —  self cannot tell a lie —  she had to give up on reading The Collected Stories of J. G. Ballard, which was the next book on her reading list, since she finished Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs late last night (It just sort of petered out; self doesn’t remember what happened in the last 30 pages.  Nothing bad happened to anyone!  After all that angst!  All that anomie and existential alienation and minute parsing of the weather!).  The Collected Stories of J. G. Ballard is a behemoth.  The first story is called “Prima Belladonna” (Or was it “Bella Primadonna?”  Aaargh, self is losing it!)  It was written in 1956, and it’s about a woman with “insects for eyes.”  It was interesting, but not enough to make self want to push on.  Especially since she has a gimpy neck, and it would have been a real grind to keep lugging that 5-lb. hardback around for the next two or three weeks.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Justified 4.3: Most Excellent

Self will admit that she has never devoted much time (at least in the past two seasons) to discussing Boyd Crowder and his fraught relationship with Our Man Raylan.  But she will correct that oversight in discussing the latest episode (Too tired to look up the episode title.  Let’s just stick to “Justified 4.3”)

She’s watching the 11 p.m. 4.3 all over again.  It’s one of the best in the series, and self has hardly ever missed an episode, only a handful of times over four seasons.  And that’s even though, last night, self had to watch it in the teensy, 15-year-old TV in son’s room.  The Man wanted to stay on this History Channel program about the “original 007,” a Croatian double agent.  So self missed the opening scene of “Justified,” which was between Boyd and the sister of that rival preacher from 4.2 (the one played by that actor who played Eugene Sledge in “The Pacific.”  She barely recognized him at first, but confirmed that it is the same guy after looking him up on Imdb)

Well, that opening scene is just excellent.  Here we have two pit cobras (Self means:  Boyd and the preacher’s sister.  She’s all honey sweet, but, but —  ) insinuating the most malevolent designs in honey-coated tongues.

That is followed by a nice scene of further frisky hi-jinks between Raylan and the blonde bartender (She gets to show off her super super-toned bod.  Wow, self is so impressed!)

There are also scenes with the New and Improved Tim Gutterson (Is it just self or is this guy getting hotter with each passing season?)  More extremely sardonic looks.  More extremely sardonic dialogue.

Of the new characters, self loves the psychic suburban matron (whose house looks like it would fit right in in Woodside, CA) and was really creeped out by the scenes with her abductor.

There is a lot of funny business with rattlesnakes.

She hopes the preacher does not expire.

She loves that Nick Searcy is at his sardonic best, and that Erica Taziel is back, for the first time this season, nursing her lonely heart in a bar and having a non-chat about her broken marriage with Raylan.

Raylan is —  still Raylan.  Which is to say, simply fabulous.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Personal Library # 26: Son’s Room, Part 7

When will self ever finish this book tabulation project, she wonders?

She is still counting books in the tall bookcase in son’s room.

There are 20 books on the third shelf.

877 + 21 = 898 Total Books Counted Thus Far

Of course, on this shelf, as on the previous ones, there are, in addition to books:  an MGM Grand room key;  rocks, both shiny and not; corn husk people (obviously, some grade school art project), and many, many video games like Command and Conquer.

So, here are some of the books on this shelf:  The Night Angel Trilogy (Books 1, 2, and 3), by Brent Weeks;  Black Hawk Down:  A Story of Modern War, by Mark Bowden (Incidentally, his piece on the killing of OBL, in the December Vanity Fair, was more gripping than the Kathryn Bigelow movie, in self’s humble opinion); Before & After:  Stories From New York, edited by Thomas Beller (This is a very interesting book:  it has two covers, one showing the New York skyline with the WTC towers, and the other showing the day of, with the towers already surrounded by great billowing clouds of smoke.  The “Before” contains a piece by Manny Howard called “The Jumper” that begins:  “I recently spent an afternoon watching a guy entertaining three of New York’s finest on the eastern parapet of the Brooklyn Bridge.”);  Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi; The Men Who Play God, a short story collection by the late, great Arturo B. Rotor; and Scunnered:  Slices of Scottish Life in Seventeen Gallus Syllables, by Des Dillon (Sample:  “Attitude:  Treating every time/ like it’s the very last time/ feels like the first time.”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Personal Library # 25: Son’s Room, Part 6

The second shelf of the tall bookcase in son’s room is so crammed with, among other things:  lacquered Japanese rice bowls, Philippine shells, Lego aircraft, slinkies, old Playstation games, and so forth that there is room for only 13 books on this shelf.

844 + 13 = 857 Total Books Counted Thus Far

Among the books here:  The Solemn Lantern Maker, by Merlinda Bobis;  The Two Towers, by His Eminence Tolkien;  The Rush of the River, by Lilia Hernandez Chung;  Tai-Pan, by James Clavell (This is a discovery:  that son liked James Clavell); and Banana Heart Summer, by Merlinda Bobis.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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