“Hell Or High Water”: Brilliance

For weeks, self had been wanting to see this movie. Why? First of all, Ben Foster doesn’t make that many movies. But every time she stumbles across a Ben Foster performance, no matter how small the supporting role, she’s noticed him. Admired what he brings to every part. Especially his eyes!

So, come on, you’ve probably seen the trailer and read the rave reviews. And self had been trying to see it for weeks. Weeks. So, finally, today, she succeeded in her quest. And, dear blog readers, her verdict:

FAN-TA-MA-TAS-TIC

She could see the legacy of Fargo and the Coen Brothers all over it. At least, in the first third or so. As the movie continued, she realized the director (who she’d never heard of before) was of a more melancholy bent.

She can’t say enough about the chemistry between the two leads, and even about the chemistry between the two supporting leads. Actually, this movie isn’t just about money and bad fortune and how when bad luck hits, it hits you from all directions.

It’s also about a kind of manliness that is perfectly embodied in Chris Pine. There are several shots of him with his back to the camera, and self swears: even his back is acting. His back, his shoulders, his legs. Chris Pine, who knew?

MILD SPOILER. JUST MAKING SURE. THERE ARE NO REGRETS.

Her favorite scene in the movie is not, however, one with Pine. It’s a scene with Jeff Bridges and a walk-on. A walk-on whose presence is so, so grounding that self will never forget his lines:

“You look pretty winded, you ought to let me take the shot. That’s my gun.”

“Not on your life.”

There’s also another scene — involving a waitress — that recalls Jack Nicholson’s “Hold the Chicken” ordering-in-a-restaurant scene in Five Easy Pieces for scratch-your-head befuddlement. Self was in absolute stitches. Watch for it.

Brilliance. Just brilliance.

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.

 

 

Me Katniss, You Peeta

A cross-over fic in which Katniss is Jane, a forlorn human stuck in the jungle with apes. Nevertheless, her thought process is in English, and grammatical English at that.

Peeta enters the picture (Katniss refers to him as “the Peeta creature”) with a tiresome mate named “the Delly.” Apparently, Delly recently had a bout of the fever, so she and Peeta went to the jungle to recuperate, which is where the Peeta encounters Katniss.

Faster than you can say tiddlywinks, Katniss is taken to London by the Peeta, and ensconced in a palatial home. The following conversation ensues (Katniss can already speak English!)

Katniss:  If you are civilly joined, why haven’t you tried procreation? Isn’t that the humans’ goal in life? To create more?

Peeta (hesitantly): Sure. But Delly and I want to take it slow. At a sloth’s pace, if you will.

Katniss: How long have you been joined?

Peeta: Four years.

Katniss: Wow. Some sloths are moving faster than you, I hate to say.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Doppelganger

A few years ago, self received a puzzling phone call from United.

“Ma’am,” the caller said when self answered the phone. “Are you xxxxxxx?”

“Yes,” self said.

“We have your Bible. It got wedged into a crevice at the baggage carousel. Can we have your address so we can mail it to you?”

Self said, “I don’t own a Bible.”

The United guy said, “But it has your name on it.”

Self was having a moment.

“But that can’t be mine.”

Even if self owned a Bible (She does recall having one), she wouldn’t bring it with her on a trip.

But the guy kept insisting it was self’s, because it had her name on it. She actually came very close to believing that she did own a Bible, that she wrote her name on the front of it, that she lost it at SFO because it got wedged in a baggage carousel . . . was she losing her mind?

She doesn’t recall receiving any sort of Bible via snail mail. If it arrived, then where is it? Because after a conversation like that, you can bet she was looking out for it.

Just a few minutes ago, she remembered this call. And an explanation finally finally occurs to her: There must have been another woman with her exact same name on a United flight that day.

Yes, that’s it. That’s the most likely explanation. The Doppelganger explanation.

Dear blog readers: What. Are. The. Odds???

So now she can say she had her very own Haruki Murakami/magical realism moment.

The other she (the doppelganger) carried the Bible around with her. Got off at SFO several years ago. Lost this Bible at the baggage carousel. So it had to have been out of her bag.

Can you imagine someone holding a Bible in her hand at a baggage carousel? First of all, don’t you need two hands to pull off your suitcase? But maybe this woman was traveling with others, so she didn’t have to worry? If that were the case, and she didn’t have to pull her luggage off the carousel, why was she just standing around with the — (Self, can you quit with the de-construction? Because this post is getting very loooong!)

It’s crisis time for the Democrats, Hillary was just diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia, which is actually much more serious than viral pneumonia, and here you are worrying about strangers losing their Bibles?

And isn’t Trump such a lucky son-of-a-gun? His whole election campaign was a high-stakes gamble. He just went for it. And now the only thing standing between him and the presidency is Hillary. And this is such a crazy scenario that self can’t even.

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.

 

Rumble Over “Passengers” (Due Out Christmas)

“They photo-shopped her eyes,” someone wailed on tumblr, and showed the un-photoshopped and photoshopped versions of J-Law for the new movie, Passengers (in which her name not only appears over Chris Pratt’s, but BIGGER. Oh no oh no oh no what are they doing to the girl, she doesn’t seem like the type to go for that kind of star treatment).

Years ago, self was reading a review in The New Yorker about a J-Law movie, it might have been one of the X-Men movies, or maybe something even earlier, but in a passing comment the reviewer gave a nod to “Jennifer Lawrence and her formidable powers of concentration . . . ” And she wasn’t even famous then.

It’s her eyes.

And this is what Hollywood does to her: photoshop her until she’s no longer recognizable as herself but looks like some blonde Barbie doll.

No. Hollywood: stop attempting to glamorize this girl. It doesn’t — won’t — work. What are they so afraid of, anyway?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Technology Product For the Traveling Woman

There’s a fascinating discussion going on in Facebook. Lisa Chekerylla asked for recommended laptops/tablets for travel, and self had no hesitation whatsoever in responding:

  • MacBook Air. The One. Self bought hers in 2011. When her suitcase disappeared in Venice, she didn’t care. Because she still had her MacBook Air. The cover is dented at the corners. The keyboard is sticky (because self eats as she types). It’s scratched up. But it works like a charm. Self’s MacBook Air is her life. She never leaves home without it (She probably needs to get another one because she will absolutely have a meltdown if anything happens to this one)
DSCN9822

Self’s MacBook Air. She bought it in 2011, from the Apple Store in downtown Palo Alto.

Products recommended by other writers:

  • iPad with Logitech keyboard
  • iPhone
  • MacBook Pro 13″ with retina
  • ASUS ZenBook
  • Lenovo laptop with new battery
  • Toshiba Portege Ultrabook (link is to a 2014 review in PC Mag)
  • Surface (Self was not familiar with this laptop, so she looked it up on-line: it sells at $1,349.99 from Best Buy)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“The Forest” in Potomac Review 59

DSCN9842

Such a beautiful cover! POTOMAC REVIEW 59

There are seven fiction writers whose work appears in Potomac Review 59:

Ron Darian * Shane Jones * Meghan Kenny * Beth Konkoski * Cassandra Powers * Yours truly * Nouri Zarrugh

Self is reading Cassandra Powers’s story, Into the Bright Sun:

I look at my husband, watch him lift his shirt over his head. A kind man, gentle-handed. Five years ago I convinced him to marry me. I still don’t know how I’m so lucky.

Self’s story is The Forest. Here’s a sliver:

“I’m relocating,” George said. “To western Washington.”

“Why?” Thumper said.

“Because the forests are being threatened by Dick Cheney,” George said.

“Who’s Dick Cheney?” Spike said.

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.

 

The Height of Self-Indulgence: Reading

Self has been reading Austen all day. You know, there must be worse things in life than for a woman to say, “I spent all day at home, reading a novel.”

A week or so ago, self bought an enormous book (It weighed about 15 lbs.) about Anne of Cleves because she wanted to know more about the medieval age (Also, it was on sale: originally $149.99, it had been reduced to $29.99). And she trotted that book with her all over and gave herself a crick in her neck.

Also, the year she went to Berlin to participate in a conference sponsored by the House of World Cultures, she lugged another enormous book (Her copy was hardcover): Claire Tomalin’s Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self.

This morning, she is still reading Northanger Abbey. She’s grown quite fond of it, during the past week. The heroine, Catherine Morland, is so forthright, so inclined to say exactly what she is thinking, and so good. Her only failing is the fact that she has quite an imagination.

SPOILER ALERT

The events near the end of Northanger Abbey have self scratching her head. First, there was this really strange intrusion of the Gothic element, 3/4 of the way through. Catherine was invited to Northanger Abbey by her new best friend, Eleanor Tilney, and she spent a few blissful days there. In her room was an enormous wall tapestry, and Catherine’s imagination ran wild: she started imagining there was a secret tunnel behind the tapestry, which then reminded self that she had just finished reading Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass, and in that YA novel, the heroine does find a secret tunnel, and wouldn’t you know it’s behind a tapestry in her room. Coincidence? Self thinks not.

Anyhoo, self decided to re-read the Tor.com article by Jo Walton, Not Born To Be a Heroine.

She has a different take on Northanger Abbey from Walton, but Walton says something really interesting about Jane Austen:

It’s also easy for us to read her books as romance novels, forgetting that Austen was pretty much inventing the genre of romance novels as she went along, and by Emma she had pretty much got tired of doing them. If she’d lived longer she’d probably have invented more genres. I was going to joke that she’d have got to SF before retirement age, but seriously genre as such wasn’t what she was interested in. She was interested in ways of telling stories, ways that hadn’t been tried before.

Self really feels for Catherine Morland, especially when her former best friend Isabella Thorpe turns out to be a conniving monster (garbed in sweet perfume) and she is informed by her hosts at Northanger Abbey that she must leave the abbey the very next day, unaccompanied, at 7 a.m. She is so stunned that all she can do is cry.

This poor girl has no idea what hit her, and about her plight self can only say: Never ever accept an offer of hospitality ever. Not even if it’s extended by a rich family with an enormous house. Because the power imbalance is simply too great.

People are capricious. Rich people more so than others. The same people who welcomed Catherine Morland with open arms, just 10 days prior, have suddenly turned cold.

Our heroine does find her way safely home, however, and this is what her mother tells her:

It is always good for young people to be put upon exerting themselves; and you know, my dear Catherine, you always were a sad, little shatter-brained creature; but now you must have been forced to have your wits about you, with so much changing of chaises and so forth; and I hope it will appear that you have not left anything behind you in any of the pockets.

Oh, the charm of such an utterance! The scandal of being turned out of a house by the very same hosts who had invited her there, only a short time ago, is thereby reduced to the level of a learning experience.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

« Older entries