Her New Clematis

Here’s my newest clematis:  an anemone clematis called “Freda.”  There were about 10 left over in the parking lot of Wegmans, last week.

My newest indulgence:  a Clematis montana "Freda"

Self’s newest indulgence: a Clematis montana “Freda”

Self has decided she’ll take a chance and grow it in a pot, so that she can fill up her front porch:

These little suckers are going to burst into bloom ANY DAY NOW!

These little suckers are going to burst into bloom ANY DAY NOW!

A very fulfilling end to self’s Easter.  Happiness, happiness.

Stay tuned.

Thoughts on the Hitchcock Festival Ending Next Week at the Stanford Theater (Downtown Palo Alto)

Ever wondered what driving while loopy might be like?  Watch “North by Northwest.”  (BTW, ever wondered what the fine for “driving under the influence” was, way back when?  Two dollars!  Seriously!)

Ever wondered how Cary Grant might do comedy?  Watch “North by Northwest.”

Want to find the anti-ScarJo ScarJo?  Watch Eva-Marie Saint in “North by Northwest.”

Want to know where the Coen brothers might have gotten that idea for the first “Fargo” chase scene, along that lonely stretch of highway?  Watch “North by Northwest.”

Want to know why Grace Kelly became Princess of Monaco?  Watch the audition:  “To Catch a Thief.”

Want to know what a sweater girl is?  Watch “Young and Innocent” and “To Catch a Thief.”

Want to know why blondes and noir go together like white on rice?  Watch “To Catch a Thief,” “Vertigo,” and “North by Northwest.”

Want to know who did the orange dress first?  Watch “North by Northwest.”

Want to know how to wear a backless dress with ultimate panaché?  First, lose 20 lbs.  Then watch “North by Northwest.”  Shailene Woodley could probably do it, nach, if she’s still the same weight she was in during filming “The Descendants.”

Ever wondered what Martin Landau looked like when young?  What he looked like playing a thug?  Watch “North by Northwest.”  (He was so magnetic!  He and James Mason, both!  They almost oudid Cary Grant!  CARY GRANT!)


Cary Grant is stoop-shouldered and very very very thin.

The double entendré/ sex foreplay pillow talk between Cary Grant and Eva-Marie Saint in “North by Northwest” would have been shocking back then.  It is extremely exhilarating to listen to.  Not once is explicit reference made to a body part.

Self loved, loved, loved Eva-Marie Saint’s vulnerability.  She is the né plus ultra of vulnerable sex kittens.  An early Kim Basinger.

Over the course of two months, self has seen many, many Hitchcock movies (What a name for a famous director, come to think of it).  Her favorites are “Vertigo” and “North by Northwest.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

More Flowers! As Well as Another Passage from DON QUIJOTE

More Irises Blooming Today!

More Irises Blooming Today!

Happy Easter, All.

Self is about a third of the way through Don Quijote (the translation by Burton Raffels).  It is epic.  Going from Anna Karenina to this (bypassing War and Peace) was the right decision, after all.

Here’s a passage self read this morning, from Volume 1, Chapter 38.  It happens to be about war and about Don Quijote’s reflections on gunpowder —  an infernal invention that forever killed nobility and knighthood.  Self finds it very moving:

Those were indeed blessed times which knew nothing of demoniacal cannonading ‘s ghastly fury, the inventor of which must be in Hell, receiving his due reward for so fiendish an invention, which allows a vile, cowardly arm to pluck the life out of a brave knight, who without knowing how it happens, or from whence it comes, and in the full sway of that courage and energy which burn in brave hearts, is struck by a wandering bullet, fired, perhaps, by someone who fled in panic at the roar and glare when he touched off his cursed machine, thus cutting short and forever ending every thought, and indeed the very life, of one who deserved to live all through the long ages.  And when I think of this I must say that my heart is heavy, having taken on this profession of knight errantry, in an age as loathsome as that in which we now live, because although I am myself afraid of nothing, nevertheless it makes me regretful to think that gunpowder and tin may deprive me of the chance to acquire fame and great reputation, across the known world, for the courage of my arm and the keenness of my sword.

Polka is about to bloom!

Polka is about to bloom!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Happy Easter/ Call for Submissions

Watched “North by Northwest” yesterday afternoon, thought Cary Grant was absolutely fabulous.  As was Eva-Marie Saint.  Of note:  Ms. Saint reminded self a little of Scarlett Johansson.  She is, so far, self’s favorite Hitchcock actress.  So much more alive and vibrant than the rather static Grace Kelly.

A friend invited self to the San Mateo Gem Show (No idea what that is, really) and self kept saying she would go, she would go, and in the end she did not go, she watched the Hitchcock movie.  Self wonders if she did the right thing — it’s the morning after, self feeling the usual insecurities, blah blah blah

She’s waiting for a decent hour to call son and wish him a Happy Easter.

In the meantime, there’s a Call for Submissions from Memoir Journal for a special issue on the theme of GUNS.  (Guns and Easter seem to go perfectly together, don’t ask self why).  Essays must be previously unpublished and may not exceed 6,000 words.  To be considered for a contest prize of $1,000, there is a $20 entry fee.  However, submitters who desire publication in the issue but do not want to be considered for the money prize do not have to pay a submission fee.  Deadline for submissions:  June 5, 2013.

Camila, Anselmo, Lothario and the Bold Servant-Girl Leonela (A Fable from DON QUIJOTE, by Miguel Cervantes)

Self is currently on Volume 1, Chapter 34 of Don Quijote (the translation by Burton Raffel):

It so happened that a very stupid man named Anselmo wanted to test his wife Camila’s modesty and virtue by asking his friend (Lothario) to woo her and see if she would submit to temptation.

So Lothario did woo Camila, and she did fall in love with him, and then she had second thoughts, wondering if perhaps she hadn’t submitted too quickly, but her maid Leonela hastens to assure Her Ladyship:

” . . .  don’t let all these misgivings and finicky notions trouble your mind, but be confident that Lothario values you as you value him, and be happy and well satisfied that, having been caught in love’s noose, it’s one distinctly worthy of having snared you.  Not only do you have the four S’s that all good lovers are supposed to have (solo, solicito, sabio, secreto:  “unattached, attentive, sensible, secret”), but you have a whole alphabet:  just listen, and you’ll see how I can recite it by heart.  Your lover —  as far as I can tell — is

Grateful (Agadecido)
Good (Bueno)
A Gentleman (Caballero)
Generous (Dadivoso)
In Love (Enamorado)
Steadfast (Firme)
Gallant (Gallardo)
Honest (Honrado)
Distinguished (Ilustre)
Loyal (Leal)
Young (Mozo)
Noble (Noble)
Modest (Onesto)
Renowned (Principal)
Solid (Quantioso)
Rich (Rico)
— and all the S’s I’ve said already — and then
Close-mouthed (Tacito)
True (Verdadero)
— and X isn’t right for him, because it’s a harsh letter —
— and we’ve already said Y (that is, I)
and Z, Zealous for your honor (Zelador)

What a very astute servant girl Leonela is! Knows just the right words to calm her Mistress’s fears. And so learned: look how quickly she came up with that Abecedario (ABC)!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More Irises!

Self ordered about 15 iris bulbs from Dutch Gardens last year.  A dozen were Powder-Blue Crested Irises, and three were “Purple Rain” irises.

She started to think the bulbs were a dud, but suddenly about half a dozen blue irises popped up in the side yard, where self forgot she planted them!

Powder Blue Crested Iris, suddenly presenting in backyard!

Powder Blue Crested Iris, suddenly presenting in backyard!

(Behind, on the fence, is a wooden angel)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Hilarious: Pham Thi Hoa’s “Nine Down Makes Ten,” in a Translation by Peter Zimoman

Self is reading — in between her regular reading, that is —  Another Kind of Paradise:  Short Stories from the New Asia-Pacific, edited by Trevor Carolan (Cheng & Tsui, 2010).  At the present time, self is reading about five different books simultaneously.

The first two short stories in Another Kind of Paradise were by Japanese writers.  The third story, “Nine Down Makes Ten,” is by the Vietnamese writer Pham Thi Hoai.  It is simply hilarious.

The paragraphs are very, very long — if not quite as long as a Jose Saramago paragraph.  The unnamed narrator proceeds to dissect the personalities of all her various lovers.  The woman is absolutely merciless.  What keeps the narrative from being out-and-out funny is the fact that the reader becomes acutely aware of how much time the narrator has sacrificed to be with each man, and how futile all her effort turns out to be.  Another thing that occurs to self is:  what kind of parents did these men have, and how did they manage to get away with cultivating this array of eccentric — even bizarre —  behavior?

Here’s the passage about Lover # 2:

The second man was frivolous and merry, an urban child who had yet to go through the period of spiritual crisis characteristic of civilized society.  He was crazy about music, from Beethoven to the Beatles, and possessed a good singing voice, but couldn’t bear to practice.  He also loved soccer and had a decent kicking foot but no concentration for workouts.  Generally speaking, he had no concentration for anything, not even love.  It’s difficult to trust such a man, since it’s never clear where the vectors of his personality are going.  He seemed on first impression someone tremendously frivolous, one who possessed rare and peculiar notions of life, often puzzling to those who met him.  His face was so natural it provoked suspicion, and I believed that under that wonderful skin lay hidden an extraordinary nature.  How else to explain the perfect harmony existing between him and his environment, a final symbol of his capacity to live so deeply and so freely?  But after only three sentences had been uttered from his lovely, smiling mouth, this first impression quickly evaporated.  He was one of a countless number of fortunate young men who live an unexamined life, not because of some conscious principle, but simply owing to circumstance — frivolity as a habit, as a way of life.  He was frivolous in all details, and only details concerned him.  His frivolity manifested itself in the care he took in striking a relaxed pose, and in the attention he devoted to celebrations, to feasting and to appearing knowledgeable; this all in the context of a larger existence that was not at all frivolous, but serious and substantial.  At a certain age, those as extroverted and unaffected as he sink into the cloudy chaos of life’s problems . . .

Do you see what self means, dear blog readers?  She’s only halfway into the story:  there is much more hilarity to come!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Last Friday of March (2013): The Garry Winogrand Exhibit at SFMOMA

Ever since Stella K told self about the Garry Winogrand exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, self has ached to go.

She was about to go yesterday, but then she got hung up with gardening.

She went today, though.  What a gorgeous day it was in the City!

On 101, about to take 4th Street exit

On 101, approaching the Seventh Street exit (The exit for SFMOMA is the one following, on Fourth Street)

It will be clear from the above snapshot that self was doing the dangerous thing again:  snapping photos while driving.  But she just couldn’t give up the chance to document the day, the excellent weather, the freeway signs, the San Francisco skyline, and of course the traffic!

The Garry Winogrand exhibit was fascinating.  Thank you for telling self about it, Stella K!  She was fascinated by Winogrand, his “anti-journalistic” stance, his perceptivity about crowds, his alive-ness to facial expressions of people he passed on the street.  On the audio tour, his son is quoted as saying that when Winogrand would take his children on outings, he was constantly taking pictures of people they passed, and so it took a very very long time to get from Point A to Point B.  But Winogrand’s son said that he was so accustomed to his father’s behavior that he regarded it as entirely normal.

As self was leaving the 4th floor, where the Winogrand exhibit was, she decided to snap a picture of the stairs:

Stairs, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Woman Ascending the Stairs in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Afterwards, as self was walking back to the 5th and Mission Garage, she decided to walk through the Metreon.  She would have made it out without damage if she hadn’t been attracted by a colorful sign saying Cako.  When she went up close to investigate, she saw tubs of ice cream!  And she decided to try the vanilla salt with caramel swirls.  She brought her ice cream outside, to the Yerba Buena gardens, and luxuriated in the sunshine and the pigeons. It was such a gorgeous day!  Self reflected that she is so lucky to be alive, and living where she does, with pretty easy access to the gorgeousness of San Francisco.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Story “Thing” (New Orleans Review, Vol. 38.1, 2012) and the Photography of Stella Kalaw

Stella K has a pair of photographs on her site that seem to embody the ineffable.  They’re landscape photographs, but —  it’s hard to tell what’s below the horizon in the first photograph.  Could that be a city?  The ruins of a city?

The second photograph has branches —  sticks, really — rising out of what could be a marsh, a swamp, mist.

Stella’s photographs always lead self to imagine a story.  That must be because, even though self’s medium is language, stories come to her in images, flashes, fragments.

There is something really powerful that happens —  emotionally —  to self when she ponders Stella’s work.

So here’s a story, “Thing,” which is set After the Apocalypse, in Outlier Rehabiliation Center Sector V:

Caesar tells stories late at night if we can’t sleep.  He is old.  Old enough to remember a time when there were factories and pigs were processed night and day, when the smell of pig blood lingered over everything.  He remembers a time when people ate every part of the pigs:  ears, eyes, even entrails.  Pork fat was used in cakes, and in bread.  I try to imagine a cake.

The factories still cry out.  When we hear the keening sound, we know it is the herd of ghost pigs, running into walls and crying because they can never find their way out.  They are inside people’s heads, like the memories of old ways.  And when people’s heads get too full of the memories, the first ones to tumble out are the pigs, running every which way and squealing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“The Jeselnik Offensive” on Comedy Central

My dears, pretty soon self will be wearing her traveling hat again —  it’s been so long, she can scarcely remember where she placed her passport.

In the meantime, she is watching as much American TV as possible, as she always discovers things by watching American TV.  Yesterday afternoon, for instance, The Man came home and immediately began watching something called “The Transit of Venus” on the National Geographic Channel.  The scientific consultants were three luscious babes, which self began to suspect was a set-up, because it is statistically impossible to find, anywhere in the world, three women who look like pin-ups, all of whom are interested in devoting their lives to the study of the planets.

And then, for some reason, self began watching something called “The Jeselnik Offensive” on Comedy Central.  At first she thought:  Yawn.  Just another Daniel Tosh.

But then came a segment in which Jeselnik asked guests to identify “Which kind of Asian is this?”

Super.  Self sat up and began to focus.

The first guest was a young-ish American white guy.  A picture of an Asian was flashed on a screen.  The guy hazarded a guess. (She thinks he said, “Chinese.”)  Wrong!  It was xxxxx.

Next guest was a young-ish African-American woman wearing hip-nerd glasses and a purple top.  A picture of a young Asian woman was flashed on a screen.  Self almost said, “Filipino.”  The woman said something (Self thinks she said, “Chinese.”)  Wrong!  The young woman on the screen was Laotian!  (After hearing the correct answer, self thought:  “Of course!  She does look very Laotian!”)

The final guest was a young-ish Asian American man.  “What do you do?” Jeselnik asked (He asked this of the two previous guests, but self forgot their answers).  The man replied, “I’m a movie critic.”  Without skipping a beat, Jeselnik then said, “What’s the name of your blog?” (BWAH. HA. HA. HA!)  The man said, “I’m on radio.  And I also review movies for the Huffington Post.”

A face of a buck-toothed, widely grinning Asian man, with a bandana tied around his head, was flashed on the screen.  “That’s Mickey Rooney,” the movie critic said.  “Yes!  But what kind of Asian is he playing?” Jeselnik asked.  “Japanese!” the man said.  Wrong!  The right answer flashed on the screen:  ORIENTAL.

Self laughed.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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