At Some Point, Self Just Knows

There will be no Literature NEA Fellowships for self, unless they dream up a post-humous award.  But for what?

This is self’s 6th or 7th NEA rejection.  She thinks she began applying in 1991, after her first book, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila, was published by Calyx Press.  There was a period of about a decade when self’s confidence was so low that she didn’t even try.  Then, when Niece G enrolled at Stanford, she urged self to keep applying.  Since Niece G’s forceful intervention, self has applied three times.  At some point, it starts feeling really, really . . .  draining and exhausting and humiliating and all of that.  It’s a bear to master the application program, and of all things, during this last round, she was contacted by an NEA staffer to say that her application was incomplete and she had 24 hours to send in her supporting materials.  What?  She checked and double-checked and made sure she submitted everything well before the deadline.  She began sweating bullets and spent an entire day in a state of high nervous anxiety.

This year’s awardees include eight from California (which self thinks is the most number of fellowships awarded to any state).  The next state with the most number of awardees is New York, with five.

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No One Story acceptance, after XX tries — this is embarrassing.  Shhhh!

She still loves One Story, and keeps up her subscription.

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The phone rings:  it’s a 202 area code!  Has self won something?  She picks up.  A computer says:  Do you need dental care?  Did you know that . . . 

Of course self needs dental care!  Her teeth are so bad, she’s still paying her dentist $300/month for some crowns, even though she hasn’t been in to see her dentist in a year.  At this rate, she’ll finally get her “balance owed” down to “0” sometime in the spring of 2014.

Ah well, ah well.

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Did dear blog readers know that they can obtain one of Stella Kalaw’s fantastic prints through Fraction Magazine, on sale through Dec. 31?

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What about the Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines?  Self decided to look at The Huffington Post.  The most recent post is dated a month ago.  It’s about climate change.  It’s well worth spending a couple of hours reading through each post.  There is a mosaic of perspectives including from the Global Fund for Women in Menlo Park (They donated $500, which is a drop in the bucket, but hey, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth)

Gerry Ruiz, a photographer who lived in Tacloban, has a Facebook page.  Follow the photographs.  There is a definite arc of hope (not to downplay the extent of the devastation, of course).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Pajiba Reviews AMERICAN HUSTLE

Self loves Daniel Carlson’s review of American Hustle on Pajiba.  Clearly, here is a man who knows his David O. Russell.  Not only that, he seems to know the 70s (“This song is really from 2001!”)

Self surmises he is not twenty-something.  He could be thirty-something.  Maybe even forty-something.  Self hates when a review shows the writer’s utter lack of familiarity with anything earlier than 1990.

Back to the review:  First, Carlson tells us about Abscam.  He explains why this film is not really a fact-built case.  Why it posits a kind of parallel universe — a theory, if you will.

But who cares about a theoretical posit of Abscam?

Until she saw American Hustle, self had completely forgotten about Abscam.  You see, so many things have happened to self in the 30 years since:  she went to grad school, she lived in New York, she got married, raised a child, wrote four books, edited an anthology, bought two houses, three cars, read an infinite number of books (She averaged about 60 books a year, at one point).  Yet, she was completely absorbed by Russell’s film.  Clearly, if Abscam unfolded, then the process of how must be probed.  And probing can be very, very fun.  Especially if one focuses on the emotions of the parties involved, to show how these emotions lead to behaviors that lead to further behaviors, and how everything begins to topple like a line of Dominos.

“Because a lie always looks better when it’s a little bit true.  We’ll dismiss out of hand those statements that feel totally improbable, but the ones that use things we know to be true —  facts, people, our own experience —  are harder to untangle.  From a storytelling standpoint, you get an extra oomph when you claim to be based on a true story, even if the final product is so far removed from historical fact that it makes no sense to claim kinship with it.  Watching American Hustle to learn about Abscam would be like reading Wikipedia to learn how to perform brain surgery, but the film still gets some juice for looking just enough like real life to fool us for a moment.  And in those moments, we forget the levels of fakery and connect with what’s happening on screen.  So the lies, inspired by the truth, wind up coming full circle to inspire a truth of their own.”

How doe we know the film is trying to depict “real life”?  Because the very first scene is of a man trying to arrange his thinning hair into an elaborate comb-over.  Never, ever before in the history of cinema has there been an opening scene like this.

Which then leads to the question:  Why would anyone want to watch a movie “to learn about Abscam?”  For that matter, who watches movies to learn about anything? Movies are specifically about experiencing, learning is a completely unintended (if welcome) side effect.

Self posits that maybe 75% of the people who went to see American Hustle went to see Jennifer Lawrence.  Or Christian Bale.  Or Amy Adams.

Lawrence’s star burns so bright now.  So do Bales’ and Adams’s.  And Cooper’s.  And Renner’s.

Carlson even dares to bring up the film’s “total lack of moral reckoning.”  Which makes the proceedings twice as fun!  For, in the words of the immortal Plutarch Heavensbee, “It’s appalling.  Still, if you abandon your moral judgment, it can be fun.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

CATCHING FIRE (The Novel): When the Old Katniss Returns!

It is p. 329, very near the end of the book, and Katniss is doing what she does best:  weigh her chances.

It took almost the entire book to get here, first there was all this sob story about Gale being whipped and Prim and her mother and a lot of self-pitying inner monologue about having to go on a Victory Tour with Peeta, the boy who makes Katniss feel guilty every time she looks at him.

(Dear blog readers, self began re-reading The Hunger Games books after watching Catching Fire the movie, and only recently was she reminded that there is an awful lot of Gale in the second book.  Which would be OK, except that after seeing the movie, she just wants everything to hurry up so that Katniss and Peeta can get to the beach scene.  Which, unfortunately, occurs near the very end.)

But here we have a passage where Katniss sounds a little like the Old Katniss, the one in the first book.  Killer Katniss.  Or Brash Katniss.  Or Defiant Katniss.  Or however you want to call it:

Beetee and Wiress will probably find some way to die on their own.  If we have to run from something, how far would they get?  Johanna, frankly, I could easily kill if it came down to protecting Peeta.  Or maybe even just to shut her up.  What I really need is for someone to take out Finnick, since I don’t think I can do it personally.  Not after all he’s done for Peeta.  I think about maneuvering him into some kind of encounter with the Careers.  It’s cold, I know.  But what are my options?  Now that we know about the clock, he probably won’t die in the jungle, so someone’s going to have to kill him in battle.

Because this is so repellent to think about, my mind frantically tries to change topics.  But the only thing that distracts me from my current situation is fantasizing about killing President Snow.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

ONE # 4: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This is an excerpt from the photo challenge prompt on The Daily Post:

Maybe you’ve got a stark photo of a single tree silhouetted against the setting sun, or a lone sandpiper wandering the beach as waves crash.  Perhaps you’ve caught your mother sitting by herself in a moment of quiet contemplation.  Maybe you saw a basket of wriggling puppies, and got a photo with a single fuzzy face in focus.  (Please, someone, take that photo!)

Here are self’s interpretations of the Photo Challenge theme, ONE.

The Christmas Tree in Filoli was smothered by Christmas ornaments, but for some reason self zoomed in on this owl.

The Christmas Tree in Filoli was smothered by Christmas ornaments, but for some reason self zoomed in on this owl.

The Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach is full of powerful sculpture.  But this one statue affected self more than any of the others.

The Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach is full of powerful sculpture. But this one statue affected self more than any of the others.

The final image is of Bella’s bed.  Bella, aka The Ancient One, was 18 years old.  She passed away on October 14.  The Man found her when he got home from work.  Self flew home from the Philippines that night.  The Man told her about Bella at the airport.

Pets are family.  Of all the pictures of Bella that self could post, this one is the one that best captures how she feels:

Bella's bed

Bella’s bed

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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