Reflections 5: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This is a set of photographs as well as a short reflection on a three-week trip to Venice self embarked on in April-May last year.

After over 30 years at the helm of Calyx Books, Margarita had retired. It had always been her dream to re-visit her childhood home in Venezuela, but the political situation made that difficult.

Venice was the stand-in.  Margarita found an apartment in Ca’ San Toma.

Even though self ended up losing a suitcase (long story, never mind), she took hundreds of pictures and re-visited a city that had haunted her dreams since she first laid eyes on it as a child of 11.

April was a good time to go.  There still weren’t that many tourists.  By May, however, the city was getting noticeably more crowded and stressful.  When she next visits Venice, she’ll try for earlier in the year: start of April, perhaps.

Dear blog readers, don’t even think of visiting Venice in the warm months of summer.  In the summer, the canals’ turgid water would no doubt have an undeniable odor, and the large cruise ships nosing into one end of San Marco Square would disgorge even greater hordes of tourists.  As it was, self never got to see the inside of the San Marco Cathedral.  The lines were too long — stretching all the way down one side of the square. May was the cusp.  She was glad she got to flee to Trieste for a few days.

On a vaporetto, late April 2013

Early Evening n the vaporetto to Murano, late April 2013

On the way to the Grand Canal

Just off the Grand Canal

Somewhere Near the Apartment in Ca' San Toma

Somewhere Near the Apartment in Ca’ San Toma

 

Wanda Coleman Interview (The Writer’s Chronicle, March/April 2014)

Self read this interview with Wanda Coleman in the latest issue of The Writer’s Chronicle (March/April 2014).  The interviewer was Natasha Sajé, whose latest collection is Vivarium (Tupelo, 2014)

Sajé:  What can’t you do as a writer?

Coleman:  I can do anything.

Sajé:  That’s my sense.  But do you have something you’ve never tried because of some reason?

Coleman:  I’ve never had the time to do everything that I want.  My yearning.

Sajé:  Life gets in the way.

Coleman:  That’s the bullet.

Sajé:  So if someone gave you a MacArthur, more than $500,000 and time.

Coleman:  I’d head straight to Vegas!  I would get a room of my own and live in it and work.  I had a residency at Djerassi Institute in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains — oh, I would highly recommend it.  It was a culture shock because I was coming from an urban environment.  There were all these redwoods.  I’m driving a huge Crown Vic up narrow roads, creeping along terrified.  I burned my brakes out trying to get in there, and I ended up on Neil Young’s ranch by mistake.  I made a wrong turn and had to go around.  I commend writers’ colonies.  And so I would probably structure my life very similarly.  Where I have someone else who’s doing the cooking for a change, doing the dusting and the rearranging.  I would need an assistant to do all this.  I’m terrible as my own secretary.  Secretarial work is competitive with the writing.

Sajé:  But you’re not a flake.

Coleman:  No.  So then I would fulfill a few dreams I have kicking around.  Such as spending more time in Paris — I’d like to go back there.  I’d like to go back to Sydney, Australia — I have some unfinished business there.  Australia’s the last frontier in the western world.  It’s really something.  If you ever get a chance to at least visit, go there.  I like Berlin.  I’d like to go back and actually live there.  My husband speaks German, and I speak some German.  I would like to be there for a while.

Wanda Coleman published more than twenty books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction.  This interview was recorded on Oct. 23, 2008 at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.  Coleman passed away after a long illness on Nov. 22, 2013.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reflections 4: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Self loved the way the window light fell on the wood table in her hotel room in Trieste.

She loved Trieste so much that she bought a painting there.

Hotel, Trieste

Hotel, Trieste:  1st week of May 2013

She also loved the quietude of the island of Torcello, which she re-visited in 2013 (Her first visit to Torcello was when she was 11)

Torcello:  late April 2013

Torcello: late April 2013

The last shot was taken on the island of Burano (both Burano and Torcello are accessible by vaporetto from San Marco Square).  She loved the lace museum and found the restaurants there much better than the ones on Murano or even any of the ones in the vicinity of San Marco Square:

April 2013:  Burano

Burano:  Late April 2013

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Denby on Katniss

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

Apologies, dear blog readers.  Self knows there’s a new science fiction movie out, one that’s starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.  She’s excited to see it, just hasn’t had a chance yet.

The Pile of Stuff is truly — enormous.

This morning, she reaches in, pulls out a New Yorker, and settles down to read the movie reviews.  Just to show you how old this issue is, the movie being reviewed is The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.

It’s very interesting:  Denby writes that teenagers tend to view the gladiatorial fights-to-the-death literally, while their “elders” think about them metaphorically (“as a metaphor for capitalism, with its terrifying job market . . . ” or “as a satiric exaggeration of talent-show ruthlessness”)

“Distraction,” Denby writes, “is supposed to work miracles.”

(Well, it does, David.  It does.  What can self say?  Distraction is, in fact, a most excellent and potent tool.  Just ask parents of recalcitrant toddlers, beleaguered office managers, conniving politicians, crafty taxi drivers and military strategists, thieves and other people up to no good, magicians, low-lifes, jerks both run-of-the-mill and spectacular etc etc etc)

While the first Hunger Games movie was “an embarrassment,” Denby calls “the first forty-five minutes or so” of Catching Fire “impressive.”

An excerpt from the review:

For Katniss, the pleasure of victory never arrives.  At the very beginning of the movie, we see her in silhouette, crouching at the edge of a pond, a huntress poised to uncoil.  She hates being a celebrity, and she certainly has no desire to lead a revolution.  Jennifer Lawrence’s gray-green eyes and her formidable concentration dominate the camera.  She resembles a storybook Indian princess and she projects the kind of strength that Katharine Hepburn had . . .

As for the rest of the characters, Denby assigns one adjective (more or less) for each:  Peeta is “doleful” and Gale is “faithful.”  Caesar Flickerman is “unctuous and hostile.”

Woody Harrelson gets a little something extra:  As Haymitch, he is a “hard-drinking realist” who nevertheless “guides Katniss through every terror” and “is the core of intelligence in the movie . . .  his glare and his acid voice cut through the meaningless fashion show.”

And that is about all self can squeeze out for now.  Oh Pile of Stuff.

P.S. Can self share a secret with dear blog readers? She longs, longs for the filmed version of Mockingjay, knows it’s not arriving until Nov. 21 this year, and has already decided to clear her November calendar. Yup, that’s right: no travels, no workshops, no classes, even NO WRITING (if that’s even possible). Most of all:  No angst, no domestic crisis, no recriminations, no regrets over things said or unsaid, no self-doubt, no dithering, no envy of others getting NEAs or Guggenheims or MacDowell acceptances, no wringing of the hands, no mundane distractions, no remodeling projects, no Tweets, no literary contests, no reading of book reviews, no compiling of “Best of 2014” lists, no planting, no housecleaning, no shopping whether for essentials or non-essentials (even food), no entertaining of mysterious knocks on the front door or of phone calls from solicitors, no bewailing of personal imperfections, no exaggerations, no facials, no massages, no Vinyasa Flow classes, no research in Green or Hoover libraries etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Reflections 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

L'Fisher Chalet, Dear Departed Dad's Hometown of Bacolod

L’Fisher Chalet, Dear Departed Dad’s Hometown of Bacolod

Museum, Abe's Farm, Magalang, Pampanga

The E. Aguilar Cruz Museum, Abe’s Farm, Magalang, Pampanga

Self's birthday last year: she celebrated with Niece G in San Francisco restaurant SPQR.

Self’s birthday last year: she celebrated with Niece G in San Francisco restaurant SPQR.

 

Reflections 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Reflection: to lose oneself in thought.

Self has lost herself in thought in a couple of different places. Here are three:

Holocaust Memorial, South Beach, Miami

Holocaust Memorial, South Beach, Miami

Self's Garden in Fall

Self’s Garden in Fall

The Café at the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park

The Café at the de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park

EKPHRASIS: Jean Vengua’s The Little Book of Haptic Drawings

The word epkphrasis is one of those words, like deconstruction or meta-fiction, that self has heard floating about, here and there, usually in the most erudite settings — like literary magazines.  Like university websites (She used to have “dystopian” on that short list, but ever since The Hunger Games, and its overwhelming popularity, self hears “dystopian” at least 10x a day and it may be moving from the realm of the esoteric to the realm of cliché)

Ekphrasis refers to poems inspired by another art form — visual arts, say, or music.

The Little Book of Haptic Drawings is about ekphrasis.  But you don’t even need to know that.

It’s available now online in pdf format.  You can read it for free online or download it.  Jean would welcome a small donation — anything you can afford.  (There’s a small donation button on the sidebar).   Just click on the link.  Explore.  Enjoy.

And if you fell in love with it, be sure and let Jean know.

Stay tuned.

 

Reflections: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Finally!  A new WordPress Photo Challenge!  YAY!

This week’s Photo Challenge is REFLECTIONS.

To reflect:  To consider where we’ve been in life, where we are now, and where we’re going.

Self decides that she will interpret this theme very literally, at least today:

The Student Lounge, Claremont

The Student Lounge, Claremont

Main Entrance, Menlo Park Library

Main Entrance, Menlo Park Library

Son's Room, Where Self Does ALL Her Writing

Son’s Room, Where Self Does ALL Her Writing

Above:  three places of extraordinary significance in self’s life– at least, in its current iteration:  Claremont, where sole fruit of her loins is completing his Ph.D. program in psychology; the Menlo Park Library, where self goes when the book she wants isn’t available from the downtown Redwood City branch; and son’s room, where she works, writes, reads.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Stay tuned.

The Meaning of “Scarcity”

Last month, when self was visiting son and Jennie in Claremont, she got to sit in on a panel sponsored by Women in Business.  The speakers, all of them, were great.  At the end of the afternoon, every participant was given the choice of one of three free books.

The one self chose was Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brené Brown.

Chapter 1 is on “Scarcity” (Honestly, you’d think self would have gotten farther than that by now.  Note to Self:  quit reading fanfiction!

There are three components to scarcity and how our culture perceives it:

  1. Shame:  Is fear of ridicule and Read the rest of this entry »

NYTBR 12 January 2014: Self Will Not Read Any Review That Describes a Main Character as “Beleaguered”

Even though self suspended her subscription to the NYTBR, she still has a pile of back issues to get through.

Perusing the 15 January 2014 issue, self sees that NYTBR editors have not lost any of their interest in Russia or its writers:  There are reviews of a new novel by Lara Vapnyar (partly about a Soviet youth camp), as well as a translation of Michael Shishkin (famous in Russia).

In the By the Book interview, Sue Monk Kidd named the following as “books with spiritual themes”:  Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson; The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver; The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy; and Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton. Asked which books “we all should read before dying,” she responds with:  Night, by Elie Wiesel, What is God? by Jacob Needham, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Self finds herself skipping over several reviews, for several reasons, one of them being that when a reviewer describes a novel’s main character as “beleaguered,” self quickly loses interest.  Also, right now, self has no interest in reading books about “ornery old men” who drink and smoke themselves “to death” because she doesn’t consider either of these activities even remotely tempting.

She is interested in the books Sue Monk Kidd is “reading these days”:  Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, Dear Life, by Alice Munro, Sister Mother Husband Dog, by Delia Ephron, and Edith Wharton’s Three Novels of New York:  The House of Mirth, The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence.

Self loves discovering new women writers, and this issue of the NYTBR introduces her to Elizabeth Spencer (“Spencer’s great gift is her ability to take ordinariness and turn it inside out, to find focus in a muddle.”)

She also loves Diane Johnson, who happens to have written a memoir (Flyover Lives: A Memoir).

Having come — finally! — to the end of this post, self realizes that blogging about The New York Times Book Review is an exceedingly intricate and time-consuming activity, because it involves making a list, and a list involves — naturally — exclusion, which then causes her Catholic guilt to rear its annoying head.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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