The Absurdly Visceral Mad Max: Fury Road


Bad guys actually make use of a minstrel.

Only George Miller

At times the road melée put self in mind of Cirque du Soleil. Especially the pole riders.

Again, only George Miller

Five ethereal damsels who seem to have walked straight out of the pages of Vogue sit in an oil rig.

Once again, only George Miller.

People spray their mouths with . . . something. Shiny. Seems to make them bat-shit crazy. Self means, crazier than they already are.

GM, genius.


GM, again genius.

There IS, in this movie, mention of the following: Valhalla, breeders, bags of sun, dying “historic” and half-life.

Charlize Theron at the end seems to have lost an eye. Thankfully, the eyelid is closed.

Woman gets shot in the leg. Charlize: “How does it feel?” Shot woman: “It hurts.” Charlize: “Out here, everything hurts.”

Casting Sweet Nicholas Hoult as nihilistic “War Boy” Nux. All hail, casting director.

There is a race of white people. Self doesn’t mean Caucasian white. She means Sankai Juko/ buto white. The albino look somehow giving viewers the FEELZ for this awful future dystopia.

The smearing of black across the cheekbones somehow translates to: I’m coming for you, a**holes. And I will CRUSH you. Exhibit A: Charlize

Because out there in the wasteland, symbolic gestures are everything.

Tom Hardy finally gets to give his growl maximum (and welcome) exposure.

Self can’t even.

Stay tuned.

Shut Up, Throat!

Self is soooo soooo tired of the cough.

She’s had it almost a week since Sunday. It’s that wheezing kind, the kind that has your chest heaving in the middle of a very important reading. While everyone is concentrating so hard on every word that falls from the reader’s lips, you’re there in the back trying to quell your . . . explosion . . . of icky phlegm . . . from landing on someone’s shoulders or back.

Today, she apologized again to Dan, her neighbor across the way. Because he must be thinking to himself, GOOD LORD HOW LONG IS THAT WOMAN’S INFERNAL COUGH GOING TO LAST? He swears he doesn’t hear a thing. Not true. Because she can hear when someone’s coughing in the hallway just oustide.

Plus, Dan’s Canadian. Think a Canadian’s ever going to be rude enough to tell self: Will you muffle your coughs with a wet towel or something? Man oh man! How long is this going to go on?

No, Dan being Canadian, he very sweetly assures self that Jesse, down the hall, has been apologizing for the same thing (Self has never actually seen Jesse about. Not since last Wednesday, during a reading at the Wild Flour Artisan Bakery downtown, when we shared zinc lozenges)

She doesn’t know if it’s the dry weather here in Banff, or just general run-of-the-mill tiredness, but man. She swears she’s going to kill herself if she wakes up tomorrow still coughing. And this is only half of 2015. How lovely. The rest of the year awaits.

Having a cough for one whole week during a residency is the equivalent of using a sick bag during an airplane ride: Your airplane seatmate never wants to speak to you again, no matter how many times you gargle in the plane lavatory. Hope you weren’t heading home from an AWP Conference, because you can just kiss that connection good-bye.

She’s trying to write her 18th century WIP, so as a way to distract herself (Can you believe it’s PAST MIDNIGHT? How did that happen?), she makes a list of things she intends to include in the chapter she’s currently grappling with, things sufficiently 18th-century-sounding, like:

  • hourglass
  • wind
  • seawater
  • gust of wind
  • night
  • darkness
  • the shore
  • the sky
  • the sun

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

CLOCKWORK PRINCE Quote of the Day, p. 110 (Trigger Warning: Mr. Starkweather’s Grisly Trophy Collection)

Ah, this world: witchlight and warlocks, silver bullets and werewolves, vampire fangs and faerie wings.

These are fairy tales for grown-ups. Small wonder self loves Cassandra Clare.

Anyhoo, it works out really well since self has been sick in bed with a terrible cold, these past few days. Last night she actually broke down and ordered room service. Room service! What an absolutely great idea! Maybe she’ll do that again today. She might even order the exact same things she ordered last night: salad w/ trout, and lentil and bacon soup. Mama mia, that was the best salad she’s ever had. Probably the best salad in the history of salads.

She wrote, too, a wee little bit. Quite happy with her progress on the novel.

Now, where was self?

Oh right. Our three redoubtables took the train from King’s Cross (Self has been there! Last year! That’s when she heard about the death of poet Maya Angelou, because it was projected on a giant screen over the main hall). Will was sent because he’s so pretty and the Shadowhunter they’re dealing with has a weakness for a pretty face (Checked the fan fiction charts: yup, just as self  suspected, there are many dozens of fan fiction involving Will and — some other guy. He just has that much cross-over appeal). Jem went along because he’s Will’s parabatai (And many of those fan fiction homo-erotic pairings are Jem and Will. Of course). And Tessa Gray went along because she wants to make herself useful to the Enclave. Useful! My eye! She just wants to hang out some more with Will and make him wildly jealous by showing how nice Jem is being to her!

Starkweather shows his three visitors around his museum of “spoils”, which include such grisly souvenirs as:

the remains of warlocks: mummified talon hands; a stripped skull, utterly de-fleshed, human-looking save that it had tusks instead of teeth; vials of sludgy-looking blood.

Had enough? Just so you know, Tessa faints, Jem catches her, she has a terrible nightmare, in which her dastardly brother has imprisoned her in a cage and . . . she’s awoken by Will Herondale! And Will is saying: “Tess . . . that must have been quite a nightmare, to have taken the spirit out of you so. Usually you are not afraid of much.”

And self just wants to scream at Tessa: Enough of these cow eyes — go ahead and kiss him already, damn you!

Back to the book.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

From Robert Falcon Scott’s Diary of His Journey to the South Pole, 1912

Self loves nonfiction.

She loves memoir, and of all the different types of memoir she loves reading, travel books are her favorite.

A short list of travel writers self has read and admired (by no means definitive):

Sybille Bedford (A Visit to Don Otavio: A Traveler’s Tale From Mexico); Mary Morris (Nothing to Declare); Wilfred Thesiger (Arabian Sands); Redmond O’Hanlon (Into the Heart of Borneo); Eric Newby (A Short Walk In the Hindu Kush); Piers Paul Read (Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors); Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness); Rebecca West (Black Lamb and Grey Falcon)

The diary of Robert Falcon Scott is extremely excruciating because it is simply a mundane list of daily chores (including, of course, a record of the freezing temperatures) but one has to remember that the man and everyone mentioned in his diary dies, in a matter of weeks.

So here we are, reading things like:

“Bowers photographing and Wilson sketching.”

“Evans looked a little better after a good sleep . . . ”

“. . . with plenty of horsemeat we have had a fine supper . . . ” (at a place with the dreadful name Shambles Camp)

“. . . lucky to have a fine day for this and our camp work . . . ”

But one can’t help reading the diary for possible clues as to how this expedition could have been saved: if they had not wasted valuable time going back for a teammate who was clearly on the point of death. If they had not been in general so slow. But they were all exhausted and so of course they were slow.

On February 4, they had food for 10 more days and 70 miles to go. It had taken all that they had to go 8 1/2 miles one day, so 70 more miles seems just on the border of possibility.


Closing out this post with another picture of Lake Louise from last Saturday.

May 16, 2015

May 16, 2015

Stay tuned.

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Banff Centre, Last Night

Last night, during the Writing Studio readings in Bentley Hall, poet and novelist John Burnside quoted Shakespeare:

The world must be peopled.

The quote is from Much Ado About Nothing.

Self did a little internet exploration and found an article by John D. Cox in Shakespeare Quarterly (Volume 55.1, 2004) that lists Much Ado About Nothing as one of four “Comedies of Forgiveness,” the other three being Two Gentlemen of Verona, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure.

It was another stellar night. Bentley Hall was packed. Self wanted to link the “peopled” quote to this week’s WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge, FORCE OF NATURE. Stretching things a little bit, because self has just not been on that many hikes. Mostly, she’s been holed up in her room, writing.

Monday was switchover time: our mentors for the first two weeks of the Writing Studio went home, and new mentors came in. Burnside flew in from Berlin, late Sunday night.

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Just Before Last Night's Writing Studio reading

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Just Before Last Night’s Writing Studio Reading. Self reads on May 27.

Jeff Millar, Writing Studio Program Coordinator, at the Book Table at the Back of Bentley Chamber Music Studio,

Jeff Millar, Writing Studio Program Coordinator, at the Book Table at the Back of Bentley Chamber Music Studio.

One of the readers last night was Benjamin C. Dugdale, whose bio describes him as “oral storyteller, poet, and experimental filmmaker . . . He is interested in freckles, tea, silent film, and growing his hair out long.” Canadians have such dry humor. Honestly, it takes self at least five seconds before she realizes the person she is speaking to has actually made a joke. What? She’s thick, what else can she say?

She really liked Ben’s T-shirt:

Benjamin C. Dugdale After his Reading Last Night at the Bentley Chamber Music Studio

Benjamin C. Dugdale After his Reading Last Night at the Bentley Chamber Music Studio

Ben’s work is recently published or forthcoming in Free Fall, The Steel Chisel, Sulphur, and Numero Cinq.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Things Self Is Learning About In Canada 2: BEARS

There are two kinds of bears: grizzly bears and black bears.

Self has been told there are grizzlies in the area around Banff, so she decides to do some research on the animals.

There is tons of useful information in the National Wildlife Federation website.

  • Grizzly bears can stay in their dens for up to seven months.
  • Grizzly bears begin to look for mates in the spring and early summer.
  • When a female grizzly becomes pregnant, the development of the embryo temporarily stops for several months, a process called “delayed implantation.” If a female bear is unable to gain enough weight during the summer and fall, her body will tell her not to proceed with the pregnancy and the embryo will re-absorb.
  • Grizzlies are known to congregate at rivers with many fish and at improperly fenced garbage dumps.

The garbage bins in The Banff Centre all have lids and are somewhat tricky to open — that’s for the precise purpose of discouraging bears.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentences From TREE OF SMOKE

Denis Johnson’s novel is divided into sections by year. In general, the action takes place in the Philippines and Vietnam.

The section self is currently on is 1967.

She’s decided to list the best sentences per page, leading up to p. 222. (Why? For what purpose? Self has no idea. Because it seems like a good way to kill time until the dining room opens for lunch?)

The speakers are Americans. Their names are James, Fisher, Evans, Walsh, Flatt, and a cowboy.

p. 198:  His feet steamed in his boots.

p. 199:  They continued pondering the question.

p. 200:  For a while they moved so slowly a cart behind them was able to keep pace, and James stared for a long time into the stupid, deeply sympathetic face of a water buffalo.

p. 201:  “Oh no you don’t. The truck stays here.”

p. 202:  “I didn’t sign up,” Fisher said.

p. 203:  There were lava lamps.

p. 204:  Evans said, “What was the name of this town again?”

p. 205:  James felt like joining in, but he was too shy.

p. 206:  “Deal.”

p. 207:  “He’s just being friendly,” James put in.

p. 208:  “Don’t fight the little fella. Never fight the little fella.”

p. 209:  Walsh paid for the beers.

p. 210:  “Your leaders have lied to you. They have led you to believe you can win.”

p. 211:  “Well into the second quarter, Michigan State was tromping us ten to nothing.”

p. 212:  “And to give up the stretch of ground in pursuit of some theory about the future is not the way we do things here.”

p. 213:  “These guys can explain.”

p. 214:  “He was fine till you turned up just now.”

p. 215:  “If you’re easy on me, I’m easy on you, that’s the system here.”

p. 216:  Evans brushed dried mud from one and sat down and said, “Only three-hundred and sixty-four more days of this shit.”

p. 217:  “You wait out here,” Flatt said when they’d reached the Purple Bar.

p. 218:  The cowboy said, “Hey, now, listen: I am not your asshole.”

p. 219:  “I feel like I’ll hurt somebody.”

p. 220:  “Does Psy Ops work for the CIA?”

p. 221:  “Because — I mean — let’s face it.”

p. 222:  Uncle Hao had warned Minh that Mr. Skip spoke Vietnamese.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Witness: The Trans/lation Issue (Spring 2015)

Where is self? She is here, right here:

Witness: The Trans/lation Issue, Launched at the AWP Book Fair in Minneapolis, April 2015

Witness: The Trans/lation Issue, Launched at the AWP Book Fair in Minneapolis, April 2015

This issue of Witness features writing from around the world. And self is more than proud to be in the same issue as:

  • Dario Belleza (translated from the Italian by Peter Covino)
  • Arthur Rimbaud (translated from the French by Donald Revell)
  • Hossein M. Abkenar (translated from the Persian by Sara Khalili)
  • Christos Chartomatsidis (translated from the Bulgarian by Velina Minkoff, Rayna Rossenova, and Borislava Velkova)
  • Moniru Ravanipour (translated from the Persian by Shirindokht Nourmanesh and Moniru Ravanipour)
  • Karl Ove Knausgaard (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)
YAY! Self made it! She is here!

YAY! Self made it! She is here!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2666, and The Small Magazines That Deserve Your Attention


At this point, self has to be realistic.  She has to own up to the fact that she will probably never get to p. 800 of Robert Bolaño’s masterwork. She’s been reading it for almost three months and has only gotten to p. 248. It is hardback, it is heavy. She borrowed it from the Redwood City Public Library ages and ages ago. It’s only the fourth book she’s read this year. For a while she was doing really well. January, in fact, was great.

Don’t get her wrong. Self loves Bolaño. She tore through The Savage Detectives in Bacolod, a few years ago. It made her go all elegiac over the Daku Balay (the Big House, you can see those posts if you enter the search item “Bacolod”). She did some of her best writing ever after reading that book.

Now, alas, the only discernible writing she’s produced since the start of the year is: one short story. (Nothing doing, she’s also written 40 chapters of fan fiction). Why why why?

This was supposed to be “her” year. The year she gets to:  Mendocino, Minneapolis, The Banff Writers Studio, and etc etc etc etc

Today, the writer Jill Widner gave her a shout-out after reading self’s story in the spring issue of Witness. Self did not know that Jill subscribed. Jill said that self’s story reminded her of something she had read in Ploughshares. Which was a compliment so vast it produced in self all kinds of feelz.

And further, today, self heard from Lillian Howan, a member of self’s San Francisco writers group. Lillian is editing a new magazine called Nimbus Cat. Nimbus Cat accepted a piece of hers for their inaugural issue, and it just so happened to come out today.

It is a tough and generous undertaking to start your own literary magazine. Lillian is a woman of many hats: mother, novelist, awesome friend. That she chooses to launch this venture is sheer crazy! But self means crazy in a “I-can’t-believe-how-awesome-and-generous-you-are” way.

Here are two other magazines that are small yet bountiful. Local Nomad is helmed by Jean Gier, who launched the Spring 2015 issue while negotiating a hectic move to Santa Cruz. Don’t ask self how.

And Elsewhere Lit is helmed by fabulous Nandini Dhar out of Miami, Florida. She teaches full-time, she just put out her chapbook, Lullabies are Barbed Wire Nations (exquisite), and yet she co-edits this magazine.

Let’s give these courageous women a big, big hand.

Finally, a magazine that has a big piece of her heart: Your Impossible Voice. Which just came out with Issue # 7. And has been doing more copies in print, which have been selling briskly.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2666: Moving BACKWARDS

Today, self awoke in near-dark (pretty much par for the course, the past week).

She reached for Roberto Bolaño.

Decided to quote from the page she’s on.

Checked the last post she wrote on Roberto Bolaño.

Amazing, she’s apparently moved backwards.


Without further ado:

She sat at the windowsill and looked out at the city. A sea of flickering lights stretched toward the south. If she leaned half her body out the window, the humming stopped. The air was cold and felt good.

— Roberto Bolaño, 2666, p. 108

Yesterday, self stood at the bottom of Ukiah Street, staring at the headlands. And it was cold. And there was a chill wind. And she felt it whipping her thin hair practically off her scalp.

The cold that self has felt building up for days finally arrived in earnest. And she can even point to the exact time it hit: Thursday, 8:09 a.m.

She ended up running to Corners of the Mouth Organic Market and telling Vicki: I am going to be extremely busy in the coming week. And I feel something coming on. Can you give me something that will at least keep me ambulatory.

Here’s what she ended up giving self: zinc lozenges; Elderberry Syrup; Lung & Throat Herbal Drops; Macro-Biotic Nasal Spray; two fresh lemons to squeeze into her tea.

But the best, the absolutely best cold remedy? Peeta Mellark. Thank God for fan fiction. Would that she could spend all day in bed, just reading.

You know, she only brought a few books with her to Mendocino. In two months, she’s read exactly 2 1/4 books. (In the long-ago time of her fulsome-ness, she would have whipped through about eight)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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