Yellow 4: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Visiting friends in Benicia (good friends of The Man from his college days in the Ateneo).

And their garden is beautiful! So fecund!

And the sun was out today! The sky is so blue!

Here are the spots of yellow self saw today:

Zoe, 9, got this sewing kit for Christmas! And it has yellow fabric that Zoe is preparing to make into a dress!

Zoe, 9, got this sewing kit for Christmas! And it has yellow fabric that Zoe is preparing to make into a dress!

Afternoon was fading, the light against the side of the house was sort of yellow:

Mona and Randy's house, as seen from the backyard, in late afternoon, Christmas Day 2014

Mona and Randy’s house, as seen from the backyard, in late afternoon, Christmas Day 2014

The lemon tree in the backyard has the biggest, fattest lemons, almost the size of grapefruit!

The lemon tree in the backyard has the biggest, fattest lemons, almost the size of grapefruit!

It’s a very, very beautiful, yellow afternoon, today in Benicia.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.


Donna Leon’s ABOUT FACE, p.237

Here the main character, Inspector Brunetti, meets a mysterious woman with a face carved-up from the effects of a bad plastic surgery. They meet in Campo Sant Magherita, one of these little neighborhoods in Venice with its own plaza, it’s own coffee shops, its own wine bars, its own sunken artesian wells, its own pigeons, its own newspaper stands, its own gelato places, its own churches.

Self was always getting lost in campos, and wandering around in circles. She may have been in this particular campo.

Inspector Brunetti asks his companion, “Do you come here often?”

She replies: “In the summer I do. We live quite close. I love ice-cream, she said. She glanced out of the large plate glass window. “And I love this campo. It’s so — I don’t know the right word — so full of life; there are always so many people here.” She glanced at him and said, I suppose this is the way it was years ago, a place where ordinary people lived.”

Yes, this is definitely light years away from Death & Judgment. By this, her 18th book, Donna Leon feels more at home in her adopted city, and her characters speak more about their surroundings.

Highly recommended.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.   Stay tuned.

Christmas Eve 2014: Remembering That Time Self Went to Tonle Sap Lake

Self is looking at all the books she acquired in 2014 (Quite a lot, even though she’s got hardly any bookshelf space left). One of them is Colin Poole’s Tonle Sap.

“Tonle Sap” means The Heart of the World. That’s a very fitting name for this large lake, bordered by four countries: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.

The reason self brings this up now is: She was there, 10 years ago, with Ying.

Ying, who died in 2008, in Tel Aviv.

She remembers Ying telling one of her dear bros that the trip was “girls only.”

So it ended up just being the two of us: Bangkok first, then Siem Reap. In Siem Reap, we hired a car and driver and he took us to Tonle Sap.

Self remembers Ying telling her: “You are far more adventurous than any of your brothers.”

Self thought that trip to Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap would only be the first of many, many trips. But Ying got leukemia. She didn’t even last a year from the date of her diagnosis.

Life just isn’t fair.

How the Truth Resembles a Donna Leon Novel

Excerpt from an article published in The New York Review of Books, March 20, 2014. The subject is the city of Pompeii and the adjoining city of Herculaneum, but it doesn’t take much to realize that the same conditions also apply to Venice:

Today there are other cataclysms affecting the region and the buried cities, less spectacular, perhaps, than Vesuvius in full pyroclastic glory, but no less destructive: pollution, climate change, greed, ignorance, poverty, political corruption, organized crime. The industrial area of ancient Pompeii lies outside the old city walls, and therefore outside the archaeological site, which has been under government protection since the eighteenth century.

*     *     *     *

. . .  Pompeii, like every other museum and historical site in Italy, has struggled on alone, suffering both from the drastic budget cuts imposed on the Ministry of Culture during the two decades (1993 – 2013) when former prime minister (and convicted felon) Silvio Berlusconi and his party were in power, and from the gross corruption of some of Berlusconi’s local appointees. Notoriously, Marcello Fiori, the special commissioner for Pompeii who arrived in 2010, now faces trial for embezzlement and a “restoration” of the ancient theater that local papers have characterized as “an avalanche of modern cement.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


NYTBR Holiday Books Issue (2013)

Did self ever mention how humongous her PILE OF STUFF is? LOL. Self has no clue how it got that big.

Nevertheless, she is making inroads.

Today, she finally gets to the huge December 2013 issue of The New York Times Book Review.

It is, naturally, full of reviews of interesting books self wants to add to her reading list. And it has the annual “100 Notable Books List.” A couple of selections from that list:


  1. Bleeding Edge, by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin, $28.95)
  2. The Color Master: Stories, by Aimee Bender (Doubleday, $25.95)
  3. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, $26)
  4. Dirty Love, by Andre Dubus III (Norton, $25.95)
  5. Duplex, by Kathryn Davis (Graywolf, $24)
  6. The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride (Riverhead, $27.95)
  7. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, by Andrew Sean Greer (Ecco/HarperCollins, $26.99)
  8. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton (Little, Brown, $27)
  9. A Marker to Measure Drift, by Alexander Maksik (Knopf, $24.95)
  10. Submergence, by J. M. Ledgard (Coffee House, $15.95)
  11. Want Not, by Jonathan Miles (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26)
  12. Woke Up Lonely, by Fiona Maazel (Graywolf, $26)


  1. The Barbarous Years, The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600 – 1675, by Bernard Bailyn (Knopf, $35)
  2. The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood, by Roger Rosenblatt (Ecco/HarperCollins, $19.99)
  3. The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit (Viking, $25.95)
  4. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink (Crown, $27)
  5. A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout (Scribner, $27)
  6. Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, by Katy Butler (Scribner, $25)
  7. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, by Robert Kolker (Harper, $25.99)
  8. Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures, by Mary Ruefle (Wave Books, $25)
  9. Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance, by Carla Kaplan (Harper, $28.99)
  10. Thank You for Your Service, by David Finkel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26)
  11. This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital, by Mark Leibovich (Blue Rider, $27.95)
  12. Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala (Knopf, $24)

There’s also:

  • The Most of Nora Ephron, a collection of her essays (Knopf, $35)
  • A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York, by Anjelica Huston (Scribner, $25)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Yellow 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Self is really enjoying this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge:  YELLOW.

At first she thought it was rather a strange prompt. But after looking through her archives, self realizes that she must like yellow (the color) a lot, as she’s taken so many pictures with the color in them. Here are just three, beginning with the cover of a collection by the Irish poet Marcus Cumberlege. She discovered a book of his in the shelves of the main house at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and called every bookstore she could think of. Stairwell Books in Galway finally came up with one copy and mailed it to her:

Self discovered this poet when she was in Ireland, this spring.

Self discovered this poet when she was in Ireland, this spring.

Every summer, self’s backyard blooms with color. This bush grows with hardly any care:

Euryops (Bush Daisy), one of self's most reliable plants

Euryops (Bush Daisy), one of self’s most reliable plants

And here’s a wider view of the same bush:

Beach Daisies, my star performers every summer

Beach Daisies, the star performers every summer in self’s backyard

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Scenes From Self’s Hunger Games Fan Fiction (AU, Canon-Divergent Finnick and Peeta)

Gaaah, self wrote this (so far) 12-chapter thing (10,000+ words) in the last four days!

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 11: Finnick and Peeta are having a drink in a seedy Capitol bar. Self imagined the universe as being a cross between John Wick and The Hunger Games.

He throws some coins on the table, gets up and starts to walk away.

“Peeta!” Finnick says. “There are two units. Here, in the Capitol. I’m sorry. I should have trusted you.”

Peeta returns to the table. “When?”

“Soon,” Finnick says. “Very soon.”

Peeta nods. “So the next time we talk,” he says, “I want to know what’s going on. What’s really going on.”

“What I can,” Finnick says. “I don’t like that it’s this way. Believe me.”

Peeta spares him a withering look, turns, and walks away.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

From Des Dillon’s SCUNNERED

Des Dillon is a Scottish writer and a stand-up comic. Self picked up a copy of his book, Scunnered: Slices of Scottish Life in Seventeen Gallus Syllables, when she was doing a residency at Hawthornden in 2012.

Here’s a piece called ATTITUDE:

Treating every time
Like it’s the very last time
feels like the first time.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Donna Leon’s ABOUT FACE, pp. 81 – 82

Self very cognizant of the fact that she seems to be moving backwards (her last quote from About Face was pp. 115 – 116) rather than forwards. But anyhoo:

What was Guarino doing in Venice, and how did he know about the bar at the bridge? Brunetti did not want to return to the bar, he did not want another coffee, he did not want a sandwich, nor another glass of cold water, nor even a glass of wine. But then the idea of a glass of hot punch came to him, and he got his overcoat from the armadio and left.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WSJ Weekend Confidential’s Alexandra Wolfe Interviews Christoph Waltz

Self has sort of had a crush on this guy ever since she saw him in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. He was so evil, and yet also so charming (That’s what makes charming evil people so dangerous; they insinuate themselves into your brain without you even being aware of it).

She also loved him in Django Unchained.

Anyhoo, there’s a really fabulous picture of him to go along with the interview. A few highlights:

  • Talent is a “little pet that needs to run” — something with a life of its own. “I always had the feeling that my little pet that needs to run couldn’t run properly because of this or that,” he says. “But now all of a sudden, everybody wants to take it for a walk.”
  • “My conviction is we don’t have any ideas about our talents,” he says. “People always overestimate their talents, always, and maybe as a consequence underestimate unexpected or unrealized talents.”
  • “The biggest advantage of my new life is that I can actually pursue the parts I want.”

Unfortunately, self is creeped out by the new movie he’s in, Big Eyes. First of all, the eyes of the figures are just too blank and static, like doll’s eyes. And she’d hate, positively hate, to have one of those things hanging in her house. It would lead to all sorts of nightmares.

In Big Eyes, which happens to be directed by Tim Burton, he plays another variant on the charming rogue. The casting of Amy Adams as his exploited artist/wife makes him seem even twice the rogue.

Stay tuned.

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