• As for women, and everything to do with them, never a word, never; it was as if there were no women in the world. This absolute silence, even between close friends, about everything to do with women was one of the most profound and lasting lessons of my early years in the priesthood. — from p. 185 of Robert Harris’s thriller (about the election of a new Pope), Conclave

The MP (or main protagonist) is reading. Since he is a Cardinal, he reads religious stuff. Like Pope John XXIII’s writings.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Admiration 2: Writers and Writers Organizations and the New Wonder Woman

“Depict something or someone you admire.”

— Krista, The Daily Post

In the last week of March and the opening days of April this year, self was in Los Angeles. First, to attend a reading of her good friend Zack Linmark at USC. His first novel, Rolling the R’s, a great, groundbreaking, kick-ass novel, turned 20, and USC celebrated that milestone by having him read with Jessica Hagedorn and Lois-Ann Yamanaka, two other groundbreakers.

Immediately following that reading was the annual AWP Conference, which is of course also accompanied by the most fabulous book fair in America. And at that book fair, self stopped briefly to chat with staffers at VIDA, a completely volunteer-run organization, which publishes statistics on how many women are published by which literary organs. And it’s eye-opening.

Finally, Wonder Woman. Just because. Watch for her movie. Emily! So proud of your daughter/director. The picture is a grainy still from the Batman vs. Superman movie, which self watched just so she could tell Emily in London: I saw Wonder Woman in costume on the big screen for the first time!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Transtromer: Train Poem for The Hunger Games

Regular readers of this blog know that self is a fan of:

  • Hunger Games/Everlark/fan fiction
  • Shadowhunters/Victorian Steampunk/ anything related to Will Herondale
  • Dystopia
  • Poetry, all kinds (Miguel Hernandez, Tomas Transtromer, Luisa Igloria, R. Z. Linmark being self’s enduring favorites)
  • Fiction (Current faves: Mary Gaitskill and Kurt Vonnegut)

In honor of a deleted scenes from The Hunger Games movies finally crawling its way into the universe (Katniss & Peeta discussing the meaning of throwing bread), here is a train poem from Transtromer. Because self is all about intersecting universes:


2 a.m. moonlight. The train has stopped
out in the middle of the plain. Far away, points of light in a town,
flickering coldly at the horizon.

As when someone has fallen into a dream so deep
he’ll never remember having been there
when he comes back to his room.

As when someone has fallen into an illness so deep
everything his days were becomes a few flickering points, a swarm,
cold and tiny on the horizon.

The train is standing quite still.
2 a.m.: bright moonlight, few stars.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Saltiness of Language

Today self finally got to see the Book of Kells.

It’s cool that you pay 5 euros (about $7) for an audio tour but you get to keep it.  The device is about the size of a cigarette lighter.

Self’s advice for anyone who wants to see it is:  go in the morning, first thing.  Self got to the exhibit at around 1 p.m., and it was packed.  Everyone wants to gaze reverently at the book itself, under glass, so you feel guilty about lingering.  Plus if you’re as diminutive as self is, you’ll be trampled.  Honestly.

Afterwards, she went to Bewley’s, where she re-lived memories of having tea and scones with the writer Catherine Dunne (through the kind intro of Zack Linmark, who connected Catherine and self on FB) on only her second day in Ireland.

Today, she got a seat on the second floor of Bewley’s and had some tea.

She’s been reading Catherine Dunne’s newest novel (which she autographed, such a thrill), The Things We Know, which begins on a boat:

We had just heeled over, at a good forty-five degree angle.  The spray soaked the two of us and small pools of water blistered across the deck.  They glinted up at us, filled with late afternoon sunshine.  We were in our element.

The husband and wife on the boat are in some kind of emotional crisis.  The husband describes his wife:  “She seemed brittle, her eyes had darkened like seawater.”

There is a kind of pungency to the Irish voice.  It doesn’t matter who is speaking, conversations just naturally seem to veer towards the darkly comic.

For instance, this morning she overheard the following conversation:

Man:  Lovely day.

Woman:  Isn’t it.  A lady was murdered.  She was having an affair apparently and her husband found out.

Man:  Well she won’t be doing that again.

Stay tuned.


3rd Thursday of April 2014: Tired (But Not Overly So)

Hey, hey, people, it’s been a long day, and self is sitting in front of her computer, tired.

One thing she is so happy about, this year, is that her garden is so — fecund.  That’s the only way she can think to describe it.  Plants that haven’t thrown off a bloom in years — like her Sheila’s Perfume — suddenly have big, fat flowers.  Her oldest clematis, a montana rubens, suddenly has growth lower down on its gnarled, woody stem.  And the wisteria she thought she’d killed is luscious, winding over the falling-down trellis, almost choking off the old wood.

Self checked out a site called Grey Magazine, and loves it.  It seems to be a magazine about Italy, which is probably why she bookmarked it.  But as she scrolls to the bottom of the page, she sees other things, like an article about the Reykjavik Fashion Festival (There’s one country — Iceland — she’d love to visit one day) and a review of a production of Bohéme.  And there’s a fabulous, absolutely fabulous picture of the actress Charlotte Rampling (still a knockout).

Well, all this musing started because she sat down at her desk, read a new piece on fanfiction.net, thought of something, wrote it down, finished it — bam, bam, bam.  It’s just one page, but self thinks it is fabulous.

Self thinks all her pieces are fabulous.  That is, she thinks they are fabulous right after she finishes, or thinks she has finished.  The feeling doesn’t last long, so she might as well enjoy the right now.

This new one-page flash fiction takes place in a future universe.  It’s called “Memories of Trees” and is so angst-y and self loves it.

She remembered that when she spoke to Zack’s class last Monday, one of the students remarked that her story “Mayor of the Roses” and her story “Thing” — one set in a small town in Laguna and the other set in a dystopian future universe (Self swore she would never use the word dystopian again, especially after gazillions of reviewers used it when reviewing Hunger Games:  Catching Fire, but she is forced to admit that it certainly is a very effective word, and anyway her fiction really is DYSTOPIAN, she’s not trying to be clever or anything, just really really honest) — seemed to have similar themes.  Self’s first reaction was to go:  Oh no!  Because she hates thinking of herself as being so transparent and predictable.  Which was not a useful line of thought:  no one who’s predictable can be fabulous.

After much perusing of the newly re-designed Daily Post,self finally realized that it still has the links to other people’s blogs, a feature she thought had been lost.  With the old layout, she would click on “Post a Comment,” and all the people who had posted on the week’s photo challenge would then appear on a list of links.  Self would methodically move down this list, looking at each blog.

With the re-design, self couldn’t find a button for “Post a Comment.”  Only today did she realize that the links still exist, although in a very different form.  All self had to do was scroll down to the very bottom of the page, where there is a gallery of squares.  Clicking on one of these squares immediately brings one to a blog post on the week’s photo challenge.  In other words, the links are so much more visual now.

OK, so here’s what self has lined up for next week:  She will board a plane for London.  She will arrive in London.  She signed up for a tour of Stonehenge, which takes place the day after her arrival.  Jennie Lewis’s new poetry collection, Taking Mesopotamia, is having a reading at the British Museum on April 27, and self has tickets for that.  Then, she’s the guest of Joan McGavin for a few days.  Then she flies to Dublin.  Then she sees FATHER HASLAM, who she hasn’t seen in 20 years.  Father Haslam has asked a fellow priest, Father McCabe, to drive her to the Tyrone Guthrie Center.  She will then be in a self-catering cottage in the Tyrone Guthrie Center.  There is wi-fi, so she will really have to wean herself off Facebook.  Then Penny arrives in Dublin.  Then self clears out of her self-catering cottage and takes a long train trip to Cork, where she’s booked into a magnificent Irish country home that serves four-course dinners every night. Then she loses her passport so she can’t go home and will have to stay another couple of weeks until she gets a new passport.  She’ll live off Irish ale and get fat.  She won’t be able to squeeze into an Economy airplane seat, so she’ll just have to be bumped up to First Class.  She will live happily ever after.


The 10 Books Self Keeps Near

Self loves surveys of reading habits.

This one’s from Kepler’s Books Facebook page:

Name at least five books you’d keep near.

Self can’t possibly keep it to five.

Here are the 10 books self keeps near (on a shelf right above her MacMini):

  1. 50 Stories From Israel:  An Anthology, edited by Zisi Stavi
  2. The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene
  3. Myths and Symbols:  Philippines, by F. R. Demetrio, S.J.
  4. Drive-By Vigils, by R. Zamora Linmark
  5. National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Trees of North America
  6. Going Home to a Landscape:  Writings by Filipinas, edited by Marianne Villanueva and Virginia Cerenio
  7. Pinoy Capital:  The Filipino Nation in Daly City, by Benito M. Vergara
  8. Another Kind of Paradise:  Short Stories From the New Asia-Pacific, edited by Trevor Carolan
  9. Flannelgraphs, by Joan McGavin (Met Joan at Hawthornden, which was part of the reason self enjoyed Scotland so much)
  10. If I Write You This Poem, Will You Make It Fly, by Simeon Dumdum, Jr.

Lists are fluid; the books rotate per self’s mood.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Your Own Reality Show

Zack said to self:  “You should have your own reality show!”

You think?

On the cover of the current People Magazine (Sept. 23, 2013) is Bethenny Frankel, whose appearance in The Real Housewives of New York City launched a series of other reality shows (“Bethenny Getting Married” etc)

Self remembers watching the show and then reading something about Bethenny written by Heather Havrilesky, at that time still the Salon.com television critic, and self’s FAVORITE Salon.com writer (She’s moved on, not sure where).  Havrilesky seemed to have enjoyed Bethenny the most of all her co-stars on the Housewives of New York City show.

Inspired by Havrilesky’s article, self left one of her (very rare) comments on Salon.com, saying she agreed with Heather 100%, Bethenny was indeed a scream!

Then follow-up commenters decried self for being shallow, stupid, etc

Anyhoo, Bethenny has left The Real Housewives of New York City far, far behind.  She had not one but two reality show spin-offs and then launched her own brand of clothing, Skinnygirl.

She subsequently rocked whatever bikini she happened to be wearing, even when eight months pregnant.

She subsequently broke up with her husband of two years, Jason Hoppy.

Now she has her own daytime TV talk show.  Self caught an episode a few days ago:  A man was given a Brazilian wax (The pertinent areas discreetly hidden by a towel) right there on the stage, while Bethenny and three other women looked on with great interest.

Har! Har! Har!

In the People Magazine issue, Bethenny rocks a neon fuschia mini.  Wow, that woman just seems to get more and more ripped!

Cover Article, People Magazine, Sept. 23, 2013

Cover Article, People Magazine, Sept. 23, 2013

In the course of trying to locate that Havrilesky quote about Bethenny, self stumbled on another great Havrilesky article, this one on the Real Housewives of D. C.  The whole article is a scream, but self particularly loves this passage:

A Real Housewives spinoff without a few instigators is like Jersey Shore without spray tans:  unthinkable.  But Cat already seems so over-the-top arrogant that she’s sort of roasting the golden goose before it’s time to feast.  The best villains are the ones who smile politely, then slink out of the shadows and slit your throat.

And now, back to the People Magazine article.  Bethenny is quoted as saying:  “No moment — no matter how stressful or difficult it is —  is ever going to be life or death.”  You said it, girl!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Awesome! Fierce!

People, La Hagedorn sent around the latest review of Manila Noir, by Bookgasm.  Oh, how very nice to be noticed by a website with such an awesome name!  Everything’s positive, everything’s coming up roses.

Self is in a very celebratory mood, also because:

Sunday is self’s birthday!

Yes, dear ones!  Blog Mistress Kanlaon has reached ripe old age, and son has convinced self that the only way to properly celebrate is by returning to Cal Shakes to watch the current production of “Romeo and Juliet!”  So today self called over to the Cal Shakes Box Office and snagged the last four numbered seats, way in the last row.

Oh how self loves Shakespeare!  Especially when performed in the summer!  Especially when performed in the open air!  With bottles of wine!  (Which reminds self:  she must remember to bring the bubbly.  What’s nice about watching the performances at Cal Shakes is:  the grounds open two hours before showtime, and you can get properly soused, and by the time you enter the theater and the play begins, everyone is smashed, ergo it’s easy to get into the spirit of things.  Usually there is some form of singing/dancing with audience participation!  Like the last Cal Shakes performance self attended, A Midsummer Night’s Dream!)

Her first Cal Shakes play featured Adam Scott as Romeo.  Adam Scott, dear ones!

His head even then seemed a tad large in proportion to his body.

But he is still awesome.

After watching that performance, self was convinced that “Romeo and Juliet” needs to be acted by young people.  Only young people.  Because, after all, that play is tragic.  And tragedy’s always best when inflicted on the young.

Like that scene in 300 when Astinos or whoever the guy is who’s played by Tom Wisdom gets his head nipped?  Astinos wasn’t even old enough to have enjoyed the warmth of a woman, or so Gerard Butler’s character remarked, before they set out on the journey to defend the Motherland.  And that was why, when Astinos died, all the women in the movie theater fell to epic moaning.

Now, back to the ostensible reason for this post.

Budjette Tan sends over a blurry picture of La Hagedorn at the launch.  Describes La Hagedorn as “sassy and cool.”  Self is participating in the Manila festivities, vicariously.  The Man reminds self that the days when she would be able to give readings at will are over.  So what, she loves looking at pictures of the launch.  First of all, there’s Zack front and center, and she knows he knows how to wow an audience.  Zack is awesome!  Jessica is awesome!  Manila Noir is awesome!  Self is awesome!


Self in "Awesome Mode"

Self in “Awesome Mode”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

MANILA NOIR, Edited by Jessica Hagedorn: Opening Sentences

Introducing, in the order in which the stories appear in the anthology:

  • “When we learn about the sign, we must see it for ourselves.”  —  Aviary, by Lysley Tenorio
  • “Casa Manila,” the docent announces, pushing the massive double doors twice before they give way.” —  A Human Right, by Rosario Cruz-Lucero
  • “Do you know what shabu means?” —  Satan Has Already Bought U, by Lourd De Veyra
  • “Sunday talk and it was all gossip.” —  Broken Glass, by Sabina Murray
  • “When we finally roll out, our seats are pitched up like we’re on a plane lifting from the tarmac.” —  After Midnight, by Angelo R. Lacuesta
  • “Nearly 13 million Filipinos ride the Metrostar Express every day.” —  Trese:  Thirteen Stations, a graphic short story, by Budjette Tan & Kajo Baldisimo
  • “The neck is broken.” —  Comforter of the Afflicted, by F. H. Batacan
  • “Somebody died in this car I’m driving.” —  The Professor’s Wife, by Jose Dalisay
  • “Lala makes the sign of the cross when she comes upon the naked, mutilated body of Vanessa Blanca hanging from the ancient balete tree on Moriones Street, a block away from the Tutuban train station.” — Cariño Brutal, by R. Zamora Linmark
  • “The story Magsalin wishes to tell is about disappearance.” —  The Unintended, by Gina Apostol
  • “Paco texted me, asking for a ride.” — Old Money, by Jessica Hagedorn
  • “Which parts of a bird are edible?” —  Desire, by Marianne Villanueva
  • “First of all, she wouldn’t change the locks on him.” —  Darling, You Can Count on Me, by Eric Gamalinda
  • “She doesn’t have to travel very far to see her fortune-teller.” —  Norma From Norman, by Jonas Vitman

1st Wednesday of April (2013)

Self had just pulled herself together enough to revise two very short stories (1,500 words each) and send them out, and seat herself in front of the TV in the living room to watch “Bones” while having her lunch (It is 3:21 pm, that is how busy she was today), when she decided to check her e-mail (which she does almost every hour), and there was already a rejection for one of the short stories she’d sent out today.  Honestly:  this was the fastest rejection ever.  Faster even than anderbo.com!  She hopes they’re still considering the other story (They allow two stories per submission.  Don’t ask self to name the magazine:  self has decided that discretion is the better part of valor.)

Then she decided to —  Holy Cow!  This rice that she is having with her stir-fried boneless chicken thigh fillets is absolutely yummy!  It’s the first time she’s tried this Elephant Brand Thai rice (from Marina Foods in Hillsdale:  she would have preferred to drive across the bridge to Island Pacific in Union City, but has been feeling quite pressed for time) and does it ever go well with stir-fried chicken!  Especially with stir-fried chicken in Hoisin sauce!

Her eye wanders over to the TV and —  Wow!  Cute shirt the African American supervisor is wearing!  Lime green, with beaded keyhole neckline!

Back to self’s lunch.  She is washing all down with a bottle of beer.  And —  Holy Cow!  This is absolutely a fantastic beer!  Self peruses the label:  California Lager, Anchor beer, founded 1896.  She wonders if this is from Trader Joe’s, or from Draegers.  It’s definitely not Safeway or Whole Foods.

It has turned into a very hot day.  Self knows she needs to water.

Sweet-smelling Bella is wiped out from the exertion of climbing the kitchen stairs in the heat.  She’s on the kitchen floor, because the linoleum feels cool. (Self is tempted to carry The Ancient One here, there and everywhere, but is realizing that The Man’s insistence on making the poor li’l crit walk as much as possible is why Bella, at 17 1/2, is still ambulatory.)

And —  Self!  What are you doing!  You have just downed your third serving of Thai rice with chicken fillets stir-fried with green onions and Hoisin!  Aaach, aaach, she can’t help it, the rice and the stir-fried chicken and the hoisin sauce and the beer are such a perfect combination.  Not only that, self must be allowed to drown her sorrows regarding last night’s Justified season finale.  When might Season 5 be occurring, self wonders?

She finally got to the last page of the San Francisco Chronicle of precisely one week ago.  The bottom of the last page is the Dear Abby section.  Here is one of the letters:

Dear Abby,

I am a plus-size woman.  I am loud and boisterous, and I like to surround myself with similar women.  However, there is a problem I am now facing.

Many of my friends have made amazing transformations and gotten fit.  I am fully supportive and impressed, but I see the price they are paying.  They are no longer confident and vivacious.  They have become timid, approval-seeking shells of their previous selves.

Why do newly thin women forget how awesome their personalities used to be?

—  Big Beauty in Illinois

*     *     *     *

Dear Big Beauty:

Not knowing your friends, I can’t answer for them.  But it is possible that having become “transformed and fit,” they no longer feel they need their loud and boisterous personas to compete for attention.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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