New Year’s Eve Quote of the Day: Alyssa Milano

She’s the Project Runway All Stars season 3 host.

I only knew her as the actress on Charmed.

Gee, I should really get caught up on Project Runway. (That’ll be my New Year’s Resolution # xxx)

The quote is courtesy of the December 2013 issue of Marie Claire (Since self dis-continued The New York Times Book Review, and has all this money left in her checking account, she decided to sign up for a 2-year subscription to Marie Claire, which she’s been reading forever. So, for readers of this blog, expect more fluff in 2014!):

Marie Claire:  Now that you’ve done both reality and regular television, which one do you prefer?

Milano:  Project Runway All Stars was about being present in the moment.  Reality TV is not about acting, it’s about reacting.  I found that very liberating.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Self, What Is Going On?

Seriously, self, you must have been over-medicating with over-the-counter Robitussin because this evening, after spending the whole day in your pajamas and convincing yourself not to buy Mockingjay because the movie Part I hasn’t even come out yet, you have just spent the past two hours rocking the web in search of quotes from Mockingjay and in the meantime, the Henry M. Stanley book on how he found Livingstone in central Africa (which is — let’s just call a spade a spade — a classic, not a YA science fiction thriller, wouldn’t your Stanford mentors be disappointed to learn how, after all that research, all that learning, all that academic training, this is how you ended up, in your jammies on a Monday night, slurping Robitussin and scouring the web for mentions of hijacked Peeta . . . )

Where was she?

Oh yes, the hijacked Peeta thing.

Well, she’s given up.  After extreme and tenacious digging, she has discovered the most ridiculous passage of all time.  Here it is, word for word, from Chapter 20 of Mockingjay.  Self must remind dear blog readers that the following involves of course HUGE HUGE SPOILERS FOR REALS (See, this is what happens when you spend too much time with Team Peeta shippers on Tumbler — you begin to sound like a Team Peeta shipper on Tumbler):

Castor and Pollux

(Wait, has self inadvertently landed in the middle of Greek mythology?  Because as far as she can remember, there was no Castor or Pollux in the future times.  Those were characters from the ancient times.  Self knows that in the future times — which is the time of The Hunger Games — boys only have ridiculous names like Peeta.  But, onward!)

Castor and Pollux carry in a writhing Peeta between them

(WHY is Peeta writhing?  Oh!  Mebbe he was caught stalking Katniss — ?)

Castor and Pollux carry in a writhing Peeta between them.  Somehow Jackson gets cuffs on him

(WHO is this Jackson?  Why is he mixed up with Castor and Pollux?  Oh help!)

Castor and Pollux carry in a writhing Peeta between them.  Somehow Jackson gets cuffs on him, but it only makes him wilder

(At this point, self thinks “wilder” Peeta may not be an entirely bad thing . . . )

Somehow Jackson gets cuffs on him, but it only makes him wilder and they’re forced to lock him in a closet.

Peeta . . . wild . . . handcuffed . . .  locked in a closet . . .

Oh, self’s poor brain!

Peeta . . . wild . . . handcuffed . . . locked in a closet . . .

For REALS?  Noooooo — !

But self’s protests are for naught.  Indeed, self, you have just wasted two hours of your life that you will NEVER get back.  And all because you needed to see for yourself where it all ends . . . in a closet, in a deep dark night, with the handcuffs, and . . .

Seriously, from where did this magical closet come from?  Did it walk right out to where Katniss and the members of her crack team were launching their assault?

Self is confused as to whether this was a real assault, or whether it was just a “pretend assault,” (for propo purposes).  If the latter, then it would make sense that props have been arranged.  Props such as, for example, the very convenient closet.

But something in self’s brain rebels at the image.  Why couldn’t Peeta have been roped to a tree?  Or a fire hydrant?  Or even to a whipping post, like hunka-hunka Gale was in Catching Fire?  Why DID PEETA HAVE TO BE FLUNG INTO — of all things — A CLOSET?  It is a very, very diminishing image.  So — unflattering, frankly.  After this, can Peeta ever be taken seriously as a legitimate love interest for Katniss?  Self thinks not.  Was Collins laying the groundwork for Katniss’s pledging herself unequivocally to Gale?  Probs.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

TV of 2013

Self is not a critic, but not knowing anything has never stopped her from airing an opinion!

So, let’s see. Which TV shows had her absolutely riveted? Hanging by her fingernails till the next episode?

Game of Thrones.  Self and The Man were down south for her son’s graduation ceremony at Claremont, and self cleared the decks and made everyone leave her alone so that she could watch Episode 6 (The one that followed “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”). Also, for the finale, son invited a friend over to watch. So there were all of us, in the living room, watching. Speechless. Horrified. And afterwards son revealed that he had read all the books and knew what was going to happen. But remained totally poker-faced until the very last cut. Aaaargh!  Michelle Fairley!  Aaaargh!

Another show that self absolutely loved was The Killing, with Mireille Enos and, as a guest this season, Peter Sarsgaard.  She also loved the theme this season: the mysterious murders of street kids. She couldn’t believe they actually off-ed Sarsgaard. He was probably the hottest Death Row inmate EVER. EVER.

She also loved the mini-series adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s World War I novel, Parade’s End. Rebecca Hall was such a hoot, and adding to the fun was that she was playing opposite Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays straight arrow like nobody’s business.

Self also loved watching Stephen Colbert, and Saturday Night Live.  She spent one weekend watching back-to-back episodes of Walking Dead, and loved every episode.

Of course now, she is crazy about Sleepy Hollow because of Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison.

She just now caught a hilarious video of Jessica Lange in a powder-blue dress dancing to “Banana Fana” — from American Horror Story.  Too, too funny.  Apparently, some TV critic thinks it is “the most memorable TV episode of the year.”

She tried watching a couple of episodes of Boardwalk Empire, but interest flagged whenever Jeremy Wright or the man with the 1/2 artificial face was not on-screen (She recognized him immediately in American Hustle, as Jennifer Lawrence’s gangster seducer.  That actor should be better known, he is good)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Last Monday of December 2013, Still Reading HOW I FOUND LIVINGSTONE IN CENTRAL AFRICA

This morning, on account of that no-good cough, which has persisted in self’s lungs since a week ago (but which also gives self a very, very good excuse not to cook, there’s always a silver lining etc etc), self was able to read a few more pages of How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa, the epic account by Henry M. Stanley of his long quest searching Africa for the vanished explorer.  It is indeed a very, very riveting book.  Obivously, since Stanley’s bills were being paid for by the New York Herald, he took copious and careful notes, which he sent back to the newspaper for serialization.  For which we readers must be exceedingly grateful.

In addition to Stanley’s book, however, self is also re-reading (for maybe the 10th time) the second book of The Hunger Games Trilogy, Catching Fire.  Also, she has located on tumbler approximately 4,200 sites that ship “Delly Cartwright.”  Who is Delly Cartwright, one may well ask?  She is a minor character in Mockingjay, the third book of The Hunger Games Trilogy.  She appears in about five pages.  Anyhoo, it is both thrilling and daunting to see how many permutations of Delly Cartwright there are on Tumbler:  everywhere from animé versions to photos of the following young (blonde) actresses:  Anna Sophie Robb, Elle Fanning, Chloe Moretz, and so forth.

But, back to the Stanley book.  Here’s a quote, from pp. 148 – 149:

Listen, children of Unyamwezi!  The journey is for tomorrow!  The road is crooked and bad, bad!  The jungle is there, and many Wagogo lie hidden within it!  Wagogo spear the pagazis, and cut the throats of those who carry mutumba (bales) and ushanga (beads)!  The Wagogo have been to our camp, they have seen your bales; to-night they seek the jungle:  tomorrow watch well, O Wanyamwezi!  Keep close together, lag not behind!  Kirangozis walk slow, that the weak, the sick, and the young may keep up with the strong!  Take two rests on the journey!  These are the words of the Bana (master).

There is, you know, such a Biblical rhythm to this speech.  It goes on for quite a bit longer, but self must stop here so that she can focus on getting well.

Stay tuned.

Blog vs. Facebook, That Is the Question

It’s no contest.

Definitely, the blog.

Today self was blithely churning her way through Facebook, making many witty, exceedingly witty remarks, even to an old friend of her sister’s who accused her of being in denial about her age (Everyone‘s in denial about their age, are you kidding?  This is America!  No, this is California!  Self sees 80-year-old women skateboarding!), and when self checked her blog stats, they were miserable, and that was when self realized that — she really can’t juggle Twitter/Tumblr (yes, she has an account there, too)/ Facebook and blog, not to mention everything else that’s going on in her life, not to mention sending stuff out etc etc, so she decided she’ll experimentally ditch Facebook.  Facebook is such a construct anyway, it’s exhausting.

So, to the current post.

Self was browsing through the Dec. 22 – 28 San Francisco Chronicle Datebook, and had cause to be reminded that the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is closed FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS.

Who does that?  Who closes a museum for three years?  What are modern art aficionados expected to do in the meantime?

Because self was really getting fond of the trifecta of activities that were happening in and around the SFMOMA.  For one, there was the Metreon, with its IMAX movie theaters and its fabulous Fastfood Court; and the galleries and auditoriums of the Yerba Buena Art Center with its surrounding park, its fountain and rooftop restaurants.  There’s even, for heaven’s sake, Beard Papa.

Images from some past excursions to the area:

There was a tree in front of one of the Yerba Buena Art Center buildings; she doesn't know what kind.

A tree in front of one of the Yerba Buena Art Center buildings; she doesn’t know what kind

Yerba Buena Gardens This Afternoon

Yerba Buena Gardens One Afternoon

Food Booth at Pistahan, August 2011, Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco

Food Booth at Pistahan, August 2011, Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco

Anyhoo, self learned from reading the Datebook (of last week) that the SFMOMA is keeping its presence felt via so-called “loan exhibitions”, one of which is Flesh and Metal: Body and Machine in Early 20th Century Art, which is currently at Stanford’s Cantor Art Center (through March 16), and Matisse at SFMOMA, currently at the Legion of Honor (through Sept. 7, 2014).

Self is quite close to Stanford, so she could conceivably — in spite of a bad cough — see the Flesh and Metal exhibit as early as tomorrow.


Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Movies Self Most Enjoyed Watching in 2013

Totally self-indulgent post.  Self is not even going to bother to explain.

These are the movies self could stand to see multiple times.

They’re not the best movies of the year, just the ones whose world(s) she found herself wanting to return to, more than once (The list is in alphabetical order, not in order of preference):

  • American Hustle
  • Anchorman 2
  • Boy A (Cheating a bit, because self saw this one on Netflix.  But.  Andrew Garfield.  WOW.  People who know him only as the Hollywood-ized version of himself have no idea.  None.  And it is Too BAD.)
  • Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing
  • Kung Fu Divas (featuring Ai Ai de las Alas, Marian Rivera, and Roderick Paulate) — Saw this one in Bacolod!
  • Nebraska
  • Riddick
  • The Hobbit:  Desolation of Smaug
  • The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire
  • Warm Bodies

*     *     *

Hope for 2014:  Self really, really hopes someone is making or has made a documentary of Typhoon Haiyan and the ongoing debacle in the Philippines.

Most Improved Show:  SNL

Most Surprisingly Sexy Show:  Sleepy Hollow (Just please never give Ichabod Crane a change of clothes.  Self would hate to see his affect dissolve once he gets around to dressing in jeans and T’s like a regular American dude)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The NYTBR, 16 June 2013

Congratulations to the following writers/contributors, who made this issue of the NYTBR worth reading (Although self is still canceling her subscription):

Elaine Blair * Jeannette Walls *  Donovan Hohn * Justin Cronin *

Elaine Blair’s review of What Do Women Want?  Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, by Daniel Bergner was the title page review.  Blair’s review made self want to read Bergner’s previous book, The Other Side of Desire.  See, it is so interesting that a man is responsible for doing all this research into female desire.  Self fully expected that a woman scientist would produce the first comprehensive look at this fascinating topic.  But then, why can’t it be a man?  Men, after all, are just as affected by feminine desire as women are!  Onward.

The “By the Book” interview is a good one.  It’s with memoirist Jeannette Walls (There was one time the “By the Book” interviewee was Amanda Knox, she who was jailed in Italy for several years after being convicted of the murder of her roommate.  What on earth the NYTBR thought they were doing when they interviewed Amanda Knox about her favorite books is still a profound mystery to self)

Jeannette Walls’ favorite book “of all time” is The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene.

Recently, she was impressed by A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout, a memoir about Lindhout’s time spent “kidnapped in Somalia.”  In addition, Walls recommends the following memoirs:  In the Sanctuary of Outcasts, by Neil White; The Memory Palace, by Mira Bartok; Denial, by Jessica Stern; A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah; An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Redfield Jamison; Chanel Bonfire, by Wendy Lawless; The Center Cannot Hold, by Elyn Saks; After Visiting Friends, by Michael Haimey; The Kiss, by Kathryn Harrison (Self has read this one; it’s about Harrison’s affair with her father); My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor; Couldn’t Keep It to Myself:  Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution, edited by Wally Lamb.

The book that “had the greatest impact on” Walls when she was growing up was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Donovan Hohn reviewed The Riddle of the Labyrinth:  The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, by Margalit Fox.  It is wonderful to read that the “gentleman archaeologist who led the excavation at Knossos” on the island of Crete brought along for sustenance “two dozen tins of ox tongue, 12 plum puddings and a Union Jack.”  Hohn also brings up the term “hash marks” which then leads self to wonder how far we have come, from markings on an ancient tomb in Crete to Twitter.

Finally, there is Justin Cronin, who reviews “the world’s first 9/11 werewolf book,” Red Moon, by Benjamin Percy.  Here we are in a world where “lycans” (werewolves, for you non-initiates or total ignoramuses) are confined to a reservation on a “discouraging patch of permafrost in northern Scandinavia, currently under American military occupation to safeguard its valuable training resources.”  A majority of Americans goes about their business peaceably under “mandated medication — a mind-dulling silver-infused concoction wittily named Volpexx.” Sold!  How soon can self get her hands on this book?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reading Variety’s IN MEMORIAM, 2013

Ray Dolby, founder of Dolby Laboratories, died in San Francisco in September.  He was 80.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, screenwriter and novelist, who collaborated with filmmakers James Ivory and Ismail Merchant on A Room With a View and Howard’s End, died in April.  She was 85.

Van Cliburn, Imelda Marcos’s frequent guest in Manila, died in February.  He was 78.

Actress Karen Black died in August.  She was in Five Easy Pieces and Nashville.  She was 74.

Actress Eileen Brennan died in July.  She was 80.

David Frost (most famous for interviewing Nixon), died in August. Age not stated.

Ray Harryhausen, who pioneered special effects for such movies as Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, died in May.  He was 92.

Esther Williams, a statue of whom is still in Santa Fe Resort in Bacolod, and who starred in MGM “aquatic spectaculars” like Bathing Beauty and Million-Dollar Mermaid, died in June.  She was 91.

Elmore Leonard, bestselling author of Get Shorty, Jackie Brown and Out of Sight, whose most recent collaboration was on the F/X series Justified, died in August.  He was 87.

Dennis Farina, former Chicago cop who became famous for playing cops, most recently in Law & Order, died in July.  He was 69.

Jean Stapleton, whose iconic role was as Edith Bunker in All in the Family, died in May.  She was 90.

Annette Funicello, former Mouseketeer, died in April.  Self knows not why her name sticks in self’s mind.  She was 70.

Roger Ebert, film critic, died in April.  He was 70.

Peter O’Toole, one of self’s favorite actors, a true genius, died earlier this month.  He was 81.

Corey Monteith, of Glee, died in July.  He was 31.

James Gandolfini died in June.  He was 51.

Lou Reed, singer-songwriter, died in October.  He was 71.

Paul Walker died in November.  He was 40.

The Greatness of RIDDLEY WALKER

In the future post-apocalyptic world, England becomes Inland, and the USA becomes Eusa.  A person reaches the apex of his/her life at twelve years of age.  People apparently die in droves in their 30s.  Probably as a result of radiation.

Riddley Walker, the main character of Riddley Walker (duh) is a storyteller.  A 12-year-old storyteller.  He walks from place to place, his sole purpose is to keep the stories alive (Who pays him?  Don’t they have any way to compensate Riddley Walker for his time?).

The name “Riddley” is perfect:  the past is a riddle.  But it is not the task of the walker, the storyteller, to explain the riddles.  Only to make sure that the questions get passed on, in the hope that someone in a future generation will finally be able to put all the pieces together.  He is the closest to a forensic anthropologist that the post-apocalyptic society, deprived of analytical instruments, can come up with.  The fragility of human history is so very, very palpable in this book.

And everything is mis-spelled.  How horrible!  Here’s an example of what happens when grammar teachers all get killed off:

He said, “Dint he tell you how the Eusa folk stoaned Eusa out at Cambry for what he done? How they crowdit him roun the circel of Inland 1 town to a nother?  Every town they come to they tol them on the gate, “This is Eusa what done the clevver work for Bad Time.”  Then what wer lef in the towns them what wer the soar vivers of the barming they torchert Eusa then.  Torchert him and past him on to the next.  Thats when the playgs come follering hot on Eusas road and wiping out each town he lef behynt him.  9 towns in the rime and 9 towns dead but Cambry shud be in it 2ce it ben the 1st it ben the las.  Cambry where they stoaned him out of starting him on to his circel and Cambry where they brung him back to blyn and bloody not a man no more he ben cut off.

Self thought Riddley Walker was such a brave book.  Of course, it can be challenging — to say the least! — to read an entire book full of mis-spellings (Ha ha haaa!)  But the language plunged self directly into that brutal, brutish, Dark Age.  She believed in that world totally, in no small part because of the language.

Riddley Walker was originally published in 1980.  Self must have read it while she was a grad student.  She found it in the Stanford Bookstore, plowed right in.  Found it a good break from all her classes in Chinese history and literature.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Life. Is. Good!

Self has been testing the waters with her Hunger Games posts.  Apparently, it’s not too obnoxious for self to keep posting.  Let’s just say, the idea of getting a Peeta pillow is becoming less and less far-fetched!

(For what it’s worth, she’s also considering getting tickets to the Britney Spears comeback tour.  Because Miley made self appreciate Britney a lot more than she used to.)

First, an explanation for the title of this post:  WordPress now has a two-step log-in system, for greater security.  That is, every time self signs in to her blog, she has to look up a code that WordPress texts to her.  And her message alert is a voice chirping:  LIFE IS GOOD.  And now she hears it about 10x a day.

OK, now to the Hunger Games.  From the very first book of the trilogy, self’s favorite character was PEETA.  Honestly.  She didn’t want to finish reading the first book because she didn’t want to read the Peeta death scene.  She knew Katniss wouldn’t die (It’s a trilogy — duh!  Moreover, it’s a trilogy told entirely in first person, so unless Collins planned to have someone take over the narration from Katniss, self was pretty sure Katniss would survive all the way to the end).  She felt little anxiety about her fate.  On the other hand, Collins tricked self into believing that Peeta was totally expendable.  Self kept thinking he would be off-ed at any moment.  And she found she just couldn’t stand the thought!

The other thing self noticed, now that she’s re-reading the books, is how much the future shares with the past.  There’s a study in Katniss’s house in Victors’ Village, for one thing.  People still eat cookies.  They still know what a cake is.  Bread.  They need bakers.  They ride trains.  So the future (She will stay away from using dystopian, which is a word she’s heard about 50 times since Catching Fire hit theaters) is just like the past.  Or the immediate past.  Except that there are no cars.  And people ride chariots like in Roman times.  At least they do during Capitol processions.

Why do the houses of the future look just like the houses now?  Why does District 12 have only one baker?  What do people eat, aside from lamb stew, bread, cake, squirrel, goat, and cookies?  Who has money to buy cookies when everyone is starving?  What is the diet of the denizens of District 12?

So self noticed yesterday that there is a scene where Katniss, Finnick, Mags and Peeta have to run from something (self forgets what), and Katniss spurts ahead of everybody, leaving Peeta way behind.  Stranded!  Looking after her!  This is so out of character, self must say.

But, to be fair, there is another scene later on where it is Peeta who spurts ahead of Katniss.  And never looks back!

When push comes to shove, self had to conclude, it’s really every man for himself!  Heck, if self were in the arena, and The Man was slowing down (He IS four years older), who knows whether self, too, like Katniss in that one scene, would spurt ahead saying, Ta-ta, Dear One!  Of course, thank God self has never been tested in this way.  Human nature can be very ugly.

Each of these scenes lasts only a few seconds.  But they are really total contradictions to their supposed characters, right?

Anyhoo, enough with the nit-picking.  Self suddenly noticed the music.  And she thinks the music was absolutely key to the entire movie:  in the beginning it is grand and melancholy, almost dirge-like.  The orchestral part is very beautiful.

Later, on the beach scene?  The music changes and becomes romantic!  Which is how self knew what Lawrence was kinda aiming at, with Katniss and Peeta.

Finally, self noticed this little detail even from the first viewing:  after the Quarter Quell is announced, and Katniss learns that she’s headed back to the arena, she has this melt-down and runs to the woods.  Then, she suddenly thinks, Peeta!  And runs to Haymitch’s house.  And when she comes in the door, she knocks something over.  A brazier or a pot or something.  Anyhoo, whatever it is, it makes her appear clumsy.  Clumsy and distracted.  Which is perfect!  So glad that was left in the movie.

Then, Jena Malone’s voice.  Self was initially so distracted by Jena’s cheeky affect that she didn’t notice that Jena’s voice is high and even little girl-y.  Listen to the voice without looking at the screen, and it sounds almost impossibly arch.  But this is part of what makes her performance as Johanna so interesting.  The voice is girl-y, but the eyes smolder with rage.  The balance between these two polar opposites is killer.  Self absolutely loved every moment that Jena Malone was on-screen.  Every single moment.

By the time the allies prepare to instigate Beetee’s electrocution strategy, there are only two, at the most three, non-alliance members left:  Chaff, xxx and Enobaria.  What. A. Lot. Of. Trouble to go through for three people, wouldn’t you say?  Amazing that none of this hoo-ha from Beetee aroused Katniss’s or Peeta’s suspicions.  I mean, OK, so everyone else (Finnick, Johanna, Beetee) were trying to position Katniss for the escape craft.  Did they have to separate Peeta and Katniss?  Why couldn’t they both have been picked up at the same time?  Then there would have been no hijacked Peeta!  Then Katniss for sure would have ended up with Gale, instead of having her feelings manipulated by hijacked Peeta!

Some reviewers have said that the close-up of Katniss’s face at the end was chees-y.  Are they kidding?  It was so over-the-top theatrical, it was perfect!  People, we are not in the land of Christian Bale movies!  We are in Panem!  Where the whole point is to kill!  Kill!  Kill!  We are rooting for Katniss to exact malevolent revenge!  She’s like the Seven Samurai of Kurosawa, all in one person!

Finally, and this MUST be said:  What happened to all the Asian Americans?  Were they wiped out in an Apocalypse?  Leaving only African Americans and white Americans?  Because Panem IS America, right?  Currently, there are many Asian Americans, especially in California.  So rafts of them must have disappeared in the Apocalypse.  Sort of like how the Asian American, in every horror movie to date, is there to be eliminated within the first couple of minutes of a monster attack.

Perhaps self has been spoiled by reading Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker.  Hoban created a whole new language:  A man named Adum was split apart and the parts of him became Eusa.  People in that future time were stuck with this fable-like explanation for the Apocalypse because when the Apocalypse happened, science disappeared.  Labs disappeared.  All people had left were stories.  Which of course, got passed along by mouth, which was the reason for so much distortion.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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