The Pleasures of Sourness

Does our taste for asim come from our sour green landscape? From the proliferation of sour-towards-sweet tastes in our fruits and vegetables? Certainly we Filipinos have a tongue, a taste, a temper for sour notes, which is one of our chief flavor principles. We not only sour our soups (sinigang) and cook sundry dishes in vinegar (paksiw, adobo); we also use vinegars (nipa, coconut) and citrus (calamansi, dayap) as dips and marinades.

—  Palayok: Philippine Food Through Time, On Site, In the Pot, by Doreen Fernandez

P.S. Señor Sigig, a Filipino food truck, was just featured on Bay Area food program Check, Please! Owner says everything is marinated for at least 48 hours. But the lines!

It’s Filipino/Mexican — there are burritos and nachos. Open every day for lunch and dinner. Average price of a meal: $12.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Isolation Leads to Extinction

Reading Ben Ehrenreich’s The Way to the Spring: Life and Death In Palestine, which is mainly about land. Land, stony land. Homeland.

She remembers reading, a couple of pages back, something about settlements. That it is natural for settlements to expand.

She also learns the meaning of the word Intifada: it means shaking off.

Which brings us to “isolation leads to extinction.” Which is something she read in a book, long long time ago. A book about extinction. She thinks it was The Beak of the Finch. Or maybe something by Stephen Jay Gould.

What self is trying to say is, from that book read so long ago, self learned this vaulable lesson: that when earth’s land bridges disappeared, and islands and their attendant species became cut off from other species, a species inevitably lost its vigor, inbreeding passed on genetic weakness, and eventually that species was no more.

Which brings us back to Palestine!

Apologies for the digression.

On p. 55, Ehrenreich introduces us to a man named Hani Amer whose land exists as “a crease” between concrete fences and barbed wire. The Israelis built the walls and gave Amer a choice: either he move and let them demolish his house, or he remained and they would build the wall around him. Amer stayed.

On the day he meets Ehrenreich, Amer says, “I’m tired of telling this story.” But Ehrenreich prods it out of him anyway.

p. 57:

  • Amer’s house was soon surrounded: the wall on one side, the fence on the other. They built a gate and told him to choose a time and they would come and open it for fifteen minutes every twenty-four hours. He demanded a gate of his own with a key of his own, so that he could let himself in and out when he wished, so that his home would not become for him a prison. They refused.

And now, self has spent far too long on this post and will resume reading.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Currently Reading

Sweet like Sunday morning.

Beginning Ben Ehrenreich’s The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine. The book next to it is self’s newest sketchbook, cover illustration by Irina Troitskaya, whose work you can find in The Exquisite Book: 100 Artists Play a Collaborative Game (Chronicle Books, 2010)

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Sunday, 18 September 2016: Sketchbook and Ehrenreich

Every new book is an adventure.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day: Mahmoud Darwish

  • No spectators at chasm’s door, and no one is neutral here.

— Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish

 

Quote of the Day: BRAZILLIONAIRES, Chapter 8

Never in self’s wildest dreams did she imagine she could go as far as p. 207 of a book about Brazillionaires, but here she is. She did, briefly, consider giving up, but Cuadros is a very dogged and thorough writer and well, she’s pretty sure she’ll never read a book like this again, so what the hey.

Quote from Jorge Paulo Lemann, worth an estimated $20 billion, according to Alex Cuadros:

Brazil is full of people who think equality is great. I think equality is great, too, just that it doesn’t work. Equality of opportunity, yes. But equality for equality’s sake . . . People are not equal.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day: BRAZILLIONAIRES

At first, self was skeptical. A book about billionaires? Who needs that? All she needs to do is watch the nightly news . . .

But, she digresses.

She’s currently on Chapter 5: “Prosperity Gospel.”

An offering is an investment . . .  He who gives everything receives everything from God. It’s inevitable. It’s toma la, da ca — a give-and-take with the Lord. If your life didn’t improve, pastors would say your faith wasn’t strong enough, your sacrifices not painful enough.

The chapter spotlights Brazil’s Universal Church, whose pastors are exceptionally aggressive in asking for donations from their decidedly not-wealthy followers. Their leader tells his pastors: “You have to be a superhero for them. You can never be ashamed, never be shy. Demand, demand, demand.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Three More Takes on MIRROR

  • This week, show us a mirror. You can take this photo challenge literally, and find reflections in mirrors, or in the stillness of a natural body of water.

— Jen H., The Daily Post

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St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin: Spring 2015

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Dog-Eared Books, Valencia Street, San Francisco: LitCrawl, October 2015

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The Stanford Halo, near Green Library: September 2016

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day: BRAZILLIONAIRES

Anyone with a little bit of money can buy a Louis Vuitton handbag, of which thousands are manufactured each year. Very few people can buy the new Jeff Koons, even if they do have the tens of millions of dollars required.

Brazillionaires, p. 29

Self’s question is: Why would anyone want to buy a Jeff Koons? A Koons was in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence when self was there with her niece, Irene, last November. It was placed right next to a Michelangelo and it was ugly. Hope it was only a temporary installation.

(Side note: In Florence, on the road to the Santa Maria del Fiori, you will pass a McDonald’s. Which was always packed. Self just could not understand it. When all around were great, really great local restaurants. It must be the convenience.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

BRAZILLIONAIRES: Rich People

Last year, in New York, self made it a point to visit Carnegie Hall, where Dearest Mum gave a piano concert when she was only 14. She had won a New York Times piano competition.

Because self wanted to be as close to Carnegie Hall as possible, she stayed in a hotel only a block away. She arrived with two suitcases filled with books and kept apologizing to the bell hop. She vividly remembers how, when she was in London, a bus driver who was attempting to help her with her bags said, after hefting one:  “I tell ya, it must be nice leaving home knowing you’ve brought all your books with you!”

The New York bellhop said: “Madame, this is nothing. A few days ago, I helped a Brazilian couple, and they had 17 suitcases.”

17 suitcases! Unbelievable!

But now that self is reading Brazillionaires, she believes it.

Because Brazillionaires is all about how Brazil’s richest people (what we in America might refer to as “the 1%) live.

And self now belatedly recalls that one time, when she was visiting a class in Skyline College, she just blurted out, completely unprompted: “I hate rich people.”

And unfortunately, she’ll be reading this book all week.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Gil Sorrentino/ Stanford Creative Writing

Dear blog readers, creative writing workshop made self very tense because she honestly had never met any American writers until she got into the Creative Writing Program, and they intimidated the heck out of her. One of her (male) classmates got up and danced on the table before the start of the workshop. Self can only say: she had never seen anything like it and was so amazed. Because if any of her college classmates in Manila had done that, they would have been arrested. Banned from campus. Reprimanded. But here, she got to enjoy the man’s dancing. LOL

In addition, her classmates wrote about things like going hunting. Or going on road trips. She made herself read Jack Kerouac just so she could understand Americans better. The other writers came from different states: Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana. Self was from the Philippines, and she for the life of her could not even open her mouth. Once there was sharp disagreement about one of her stories and self couldn’t even get up the gumption to explain what she was trying to do. Much to her everlasting shame, a fellow writer had to stick up for her and defend her, and then was so overwhelmed by the task that she left the workshop and had to hide in the Women’s Room for a while. And self followed her there but had nothing to say. Self was such a blithering idiot. This woman was kind enough to pick up the cudgels for her and all she could do afterwards was stare helplessly at her? She absolutely had no courage.

Seriously, every time she opened her mouth, she ended up putting her foot in it.

Gil Sorrentino was one of three professors who took turns leading workshop. He was this amazing, experimental writer and before self met him, she didn’t even know what “experimental fiction” was. His most famous book was Mulligan Stew. He led workshop on the day self’s story, Ginseng, was up.

Told from a “we” point of view, and self was so nervous.

After all the discussion, Gil looked at her and said, “What the narrator doesn’t understand is, after everything is said and done, the man still has his pride.”

Self realized that Gil had more sympathy for the old man than for the detached and critical narrator.

She didn’t realize it at the time, but the fact that Gil felt he had to defend the old man was an amazing thing.

Ginseng is narrated by a man whose father is gradually sinking into dementia. The narrator keeps describing all his symptoms while getting more and more amazed: why does the old man insist on putting on a Panama hat before he takes a walk?  Why does he carry around that fancy walking stick? The narrator felt only exasperation.

Self always imagined the narrator as a man because to write about an old person from a woman’s point of view and to be that detached was something self felt she couldn’t pull off.

The story begins:

  • My father is 83. Once he was very handsome, but now he has plump hips and breasts, with dark, pointed nipples on top of two triangles of brown, leathery skin. It is impossible for me to think of him as still a man in the usual sense, in the sense he has wanted me to think of him for so many years.

At VCCA, a long time ago, one of the other writers found this story, she doesn’t know how. He found a copy of the journal that had published it on one of the shelves of the VCCA library and showed it to her. AMAZING!

By now, self has read many, many American writers. She loves Jim Harrison. Part of the reason might be that she loves Yellow Dog and another reason may be that Harrison writes novellas. His stories are set in Michigan’s UP and they are so specific to that place but also so universal. She never got into Kerouac. She adored Cynthia Ozick and Grace Paley.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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