Tin House, By Way of UTNE READER

.At one time, self had a subscription to the Utne Reader.

And even though that subscription has long expired, she hangs on to her back copies.

Today she re-reads a story that was in the Spring 2015 issue. It’s a re-print of a short story originally published in Tin House. The writer’s name is Alia Volz.

The story’s young narrator has a hippie Daddy, a Daddy who still insists on wearing “lavender bell-bottoms” and who goes by the name Firehawk:

  • Arriving at the marijuana garden, we find our plants quivering under an invasion of blue-and-orange-striped caterpillars. Their gruesome, beautiful bodies spiral around stalks, hang from leaves, and writhe over one another.

— from the short story “In Any Light, By Any Name,” by Alia Volz

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Shine From Other Places

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is SHINE.

Self is having great fun looking at posts on this theme by other bloggers. Here are a few that she particularly liked:

  • Here’s SHINE in a Colorado Park, courtesy of Full-Time.
  • Here’s SHINE by a lake called Sans Souci, in the south of France, courtesy of Margaretha Montagu.
  • Here’s SHINE by The West Trainz troupe, setting up for a performance at the annual Montreal International Jazz Festival, courtesy of Mainline_Matter.
  • Here’s the SHINE of a fungus cap in Calderbridge, West Umbria, courtesy of Pixelesque.
  • Here’s SHINE from a Portuguese Man o’ War washed up on the Witsand beach in southern South Africa, courtesy of Notes From Africa.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


SHINE 2: Night in the City

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is SHINE.

Which is why self took her camera along when she caught a FACINE (Filipino Arts & Cinema International) 23 film screening at the Little Roxie on 16th St.


Halloween Already! San Francisco goes all out!


Heading to the Little Roxie on 16th St.

The film, Ari: My Life With a King, was sweet and gentle and lovely. Rooted in place.

Great script, great editing. By a first-time filmmaker, too. Remember his name:  Carlo Enciso Catu.

Self would like to give a shout-out to Mauro Feria Tumbocon, Jr. for nurturing this festival, now in its 23rd year.

The Festival’s last day is tomorrow. Tickets for individual films are $10.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Lysley Tenorio

“It was always a bogus-looking act, but at some point I just assumed that Filipinos were somehow predisposed to believing anyone who claimed to understand their pain.”

— from the story “Felix Starro” in the Lysley Tenorio collection, Monstress

GHOST SOLDIERS: Carabao (Water Buffalo) and Benzedrine

Escape route from POW camps was facilitated by the local villagers contributing their carabaos. The Rangers started with 12, a precious gift in itself. More and more carabaos arrived, so that there were 30 in all. This was a Godsend, since most of the POWs could scarcely walk, and many had contracted diseases like tuberculosis and beriberi. This supply of carabaos was no small sacrifice on the part of the villagers. A carabao was almost the most precious possession a farmer could have.

And then, the lack of sleep: the Rangers had averaged 5 hours sleep in the last 72 hours. To keep them going, their commander handed out Benzedrine pills.

Self remembers reading about the Allied retreat to Dunkirk (She remembers the author: Hugh Sebag-Montefiore, but she can’t for the life of her remember the title of the book he wrote). The commanders were so punch-drunk from the lack of sleep that during briefings, they would doze off in the middle of a sentence. An enlisted soldier behind the officer would nudge him awake, and the briefing would continue.

And as for the pills: during the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, some of the SEALS were dozing off in the Blackhawk. It came out later they’d taken Ambien.

Here’s a passage from Ghost Soldiers (which is a really good book; self highly recommends)

During World War II, amphetamines became all the rage as a stimulant, with some 72 million handed out to both Allied and Axis soldiers by the end of the war. It was said that Adolf Hitler underwent a daily regimen of amphetamine injections. Certainly, this was the first time any of the Rangers had taken speed. — Ghost Soldiers, p. 307

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Her next book after Ghost Soldiers is a biography of Jesse James by T. J. Stiles. Then, she’ll move back into fiction with Kate Walbert’s A Short History of Women. With any luck, she’ll get to Walbert’s book just in time for the elections.

She watched all three debates. This last one was potent: there was one certifiable meltdown. When a man says live, on camera, to an audience of millions, that his opponent is “a nasty woman,” you can forget everything he said earlier about respecting women. He could have said “a nasty person.” But he said: nasty woman. As if her gender made it even more nasty (And you, sir, are a nasty man!)

Someone tweeted that he thought it would be a good idea to re-name all public restrooms to read: BAD HOMBRES and NASTY WOMEN.

All those in favor, say “Aye!”

Anyhoo, Back to Ghost Soldiers. The raid to free the American POWs in Cabanatuan has a very surreal quality. First of all, the POWs do not seem impressed by the American Rangers who’ve just arrived to rescue them, and are reluctant to leave the camp. Quite a few of them have to be actually kicked in the rear end because the Rangers are on a very tight program.

After the camp is completely emptied, the leader of the raid does a last check of each and every barrack. He’s all alone. Satisfied that the Americans haven’t missed a single POW, he fires a flare into the sky, visible for miles, to signal the end of the mission.

But they do leave one man behind. A British POW who’d gone deaf, who was using a latrine, who didn’t come out until everyone — Rangers AND POWs had left. The operation had to have taken at least an hour, so — the man was constipated?

There is also an American Ranger who is shot by one of his own men (by accident), from point-blank range. And this Ranger can’t stop saying, to his last breath, “By my own men. By my own men.” The men around him try to comfort him by assuring him that he was shot by a Japanese, but he refuses to believe it and just keeps repeating, in absolute horror, “By my own men.” Until he dies.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Hampton Sides

One of the pleasures of reading Ghost Soldiers, by Hampton Sides, is reading his descriptions of Nueva Ecija, in the Philippines.

The Rangers have arrived at the POW camp in Cabanatuan. They’re spread out in the fields, waiting for cover of darkness.

  • The highway still held the day’s heat, a narrow strip of cooked asphalt half ruined by neglect and by war, the surface rubbed with potholes and forced open by thistles.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

That Point In the Story When —

No one is coming to help us, all right?”

That line was uttered by a passenger on UA 93. You know, the flight that went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The passengers already knew that the plane had been hijacked and everyone had rushed screaming to the back of the plane and were all huddled there, gripping their cell phones and passing on hope.

And then one man said, very simply and quietly, and self can’t remember what his name was or where she read about him (it was probably The New Yorker, because she’s been subscribing to that magazine for almost her whole life): “No one is coming to help us, all right? We’re going to have to help ourselves.” And that’s when the passengers drew up a plan to fight back.

Self thinks this is so beautiful because, to tell the truth, she is very prone to what is referred to nowadays as ‘Magical Thinking’

  • My Masters from _______ will save me.
  • My 300-point Egyptian cotton sheets will save me.
  • My sarcasm and unflappable good nature will save me.

And then nobody saves you.

She’s still reading Ghost Soldiers, about the American POW camp in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. For the first time in three years, American fighter jets are spotted in the sky. They seem to be making a point to fly directly over the POW camp, as if taunting the Japanese guards. Or maybe warning them: you’re going to lose, so you’d better start treating the POWs well.

And that’s when the Japanese decide to siphon off 1,600 of the strongest and healthiest POWs and pack them into ships bound for Japan. And of course, no one wants to be among the number going to Japan, because they might very well die en route. And it seems so tragically pointless to die just when the Philippines is on the point of being liberated.

Author Hampton Sides shows all the fakery that individual POWs resort to keep from being on the list of prisoners being transported to Japan. Then he follows what happens on board this one ship (which makes self feel a little hopeful, since obviously there had to be survivors of this ordeal; otherwise, how could the author know how it all went down?)

Anyhoo, the POWs are crammed into the hold of this one ship, and they start to panic when the doors to the hold are shut. There’s pandemonium and yelling and suffering. Then one man (Sides gives us his name: Frank Bridget) climbs up on a stairway and shouts: GENTLEMEN! (Because this is the 1940s? And nowadays it would be something more like: LISTEN UP, DUDES!): “If we panic, we’re only going to use up more oxygen.”

Who was this guy? Where’d he come from? Like the man on UA 93, though, he was the right man at the right time. Who knows why?

This man rapped on the hatch and told the Japanese officers: “I am coming up to speak to you. And you are going to keep this hatch open.”

And they listened to him! Holy cow! If you insist on behaving like a human being, perhaps others will start remembering that they, too, are human beings? And then all the madness will stop?

The name of the ship the POWs were on was the Oryoku Maru.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Curious About the Kevin Hart Movie?

And you are! You know you are!

If you can’t get there, because you’re one of the 99% of Americans who have to work in an office (as opposed to tele-commuting, where no one can see you clock in or clock out, and no one will know if you decide to break up your workday by sneaking into a local cineplex), all you have to do is go to this great movie review website, http://www.rogerebert.com, and read the (3-star) review there, by Odie Henderson.

Self must confess: this is the very first review by Henderson she’s ever read. So she cannot believe it when he writes, “. . .  I don’t have very much to tell you . . . I can’t tell you the jokes because I wouldn’t do them justice . . . My work here is done. Thank you, America! Good night and God bless!”

Mr. Henderson, if you should ever feel the need to branch out from your current line of work (movie reviewer: but why would you ever want to do that? Self would kill, KILL, for a job such as yours), she thinks you might be able to get a gig somewhere as a stand-up comedian.

Stay tuned.

The Raid on the Cabanatuan POW Camp: p. 164 of GHOST SOLDIERS

Much to the chagrin of the commander of the operations, it seemed like the American Rangers’ presence, so close to the POW camp in Cabanatuan, was an open secret to anyone within a day’s walk of the camp — no, to anyone in the entire province of Nueva Ecija.

First, more and more Filipino guerrillas kept appearing, offering their services. Next, the welcoming committee in Platero, the nearest town to the camp, arranged a veritable extravaganza:

The Americans had barely begun the approach to Platero when they were halted by the strains of singing, carried on the evening breeze:

The tune was hard to make out, at first, but then Prince caught it — “God Bless America,” the familiar stanzas rendered in thickly accented English, the melody charmingly curdled stale note. At the entrance to the town, a few dozen teenage girls dressed in white gowns were singing in sad, sweet voices. It was like a hastily arranged beauty pageant. The local school principal had gone door to door recruiting the prettiest young women from Platero and the surrounding countryside. Some of the girls shipped garlands of fresh sampaguita flowers over the Rangers heads and offered welcoming kisses.

Behind the cordon of singers, the village bustled with the sounds of cooking and preparation. The town were planning a feast. People were slaughtering their chickens and cows, building fires, stirring vats of stew. The villagers had prepared a classic Filipino fiesta, with all the gaiety and spare-no-cost lavishness, everyone brimming with a warmth that would almost seem cloying if it wasn’t so obviously sincere.

Self is convinced that everything, everything that happens in the Philippines, gets turned into melodrama at some point. Our history is full of tragi-comic events, and the one self has just finished reading is one of them. It’s the end of three years of occupation, one can say that the Filipinos were not doing too badly if they had enough food to impress the Americans.

The Filipino taste for drama shows them to be skilled comedians (and self remarks on this with a complete absence of irony, you’d better just take self’s word for it), with a comedian’s impeccable sense of timing. If the Japanese had spies in the village, they would have known for sure something was up, especially when the Filipinos de-camped and left the village a virtual ghost town. Self hoots because you know, you’re never sure what the ruse was: the welcoming committee or the fact that everyone took cover, as far from the field of action as possible.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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