Regarding Travel Writing (And Self Sincerely Enjoyed Teaching It Last Weekend)

This past weekend, self taught her second travel writing workshop at the Mendocino Art Center, where she also taught last year.

It was an exciting weekend, with participants writing about Grenada, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Nepal, the Dominican Republic, New York City (just to name a few).

Self does really love teaching this workshop.

How else would she learn that Vegemite tastes like “dirty socks” or that New Zealand’s national candy is something called a chocolate fish? How else would she learn about Pascal’s pineapple lumps (in New Zealand) or about “contracepting elephants” or about “wild game sausage” or that there are hop-on/hop-off buses in Uganda? Or about the delayed reaction time to sand fly bites? Or about Burmese sunblocks made from ground tree bark?

Anyhoo, she used the Best American Travel Writing anthologies for prompts. The 2013 edition was edited by Elizabeth Gilbert and here’s what she says about travel writing in her introduction:

  1. There is no story in the world so marvelous that it cannot be told boringly.
  2. There is no story in the world so boring that it cannot be told marvelously.

Isn’t that such a neat quote?

Self’s next class at the Mendocino Art Center is:

ONE STORY SIX WAYS

Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 6 -7, 2016
9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Mendocino Art Center
Tuition: $200

To enroll online, go here.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Stanford East Asian Studies

Self has never been to a Stanford Alumni Homecoming. Not one. Even though her house is only six miles from Stanford.

Today, to honor how her parents supported her through a masters in East Asian Studies, concentration in Chinese, she picks up one of her East Asian Studies textbooks: China’s Imperial Past: An Introduction to Chinese History and Culture, by Charles O. Hucker.

p. 208:

The Buddha won converts in part because it is clear that his was an electric personality. But he also had a superb intellect, and his conception of the human condition was at once breathtakingly brilliant and utterly simple. Its essence is: There is no Brahma; there is no Atman. What keeps you in this world of illusion, propelling you from one life to the next, is no more than your own craving for existence and for self-ness. If you really want to get off the merry-go-round of endless suffering and rebirth, then realize you are on it only because you want to be. To get off, all you have to do is let go!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“Woman, Do Not Weep!”

Florence, Palazzo Vecchio, early November 2015: Self visiting the city for the first time with her niece, Irene, stumbles on a conference to honor the 10th anniversary of the death of Msgr. Luigi Giussani (1922 – 2005):

Woman, do not weep! Do not weep, because I did not make you for death, but for life. I put you in the world and placed you in the company of people.

There is nothing that can block the certainty of a destiny that is mysterious and good!

Advice For Writers: Story # 6 of BAD BEHAVIOR

If you really want to be a writer, then don’t move to New York. You’ll just wind up in some dank little dump in the East Village with bars on the windows, and oh, I don’t know.

And:

She had to admit that a large part of the reason she was even trying to get a job was for the approval of people she’d known in Illinois, many of whom were living in New York and thought of her as a hopeless neurotic . . .

— “Trying to Be,” Story # 6 in Bad Behavior

It’s after Story # 6 that self decides she will leave the collection. Because Story # 7 is “Secretary,” which was made into an excellent movie about self-mutilation (The main character was played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, a casting choice that was sheer genius) and how much Maggie’s character wants to be whipped by her boss, played by James Spader.

And self doesn’t believe for one moment that there exists in the universe a woman who secretly wants to be whipped by her boss. Of course, this is fiction, and Gaitskill does have a point she wants to make.

Nevertheless.

Why has this trope proven to be so enduring? Fifty Shades of Grey, hello!

This evening, self went to Barnes & Noble on 86th and had just mentioned to the woman at the Info desk that she was looking for The Strain when the woman said: “Science fiction. Shelved by title. Look under del Toro.” Impressive!

It’s exactly the same type of reaction self got when she was in Hodges & Figgis in Dublin. She barely even had time to say The Bane Chronicles when the saleswoman said, “YA. Look under Cassandra Clare.”

Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day That Is Neither From Self’s Nephew or Mary Gaitskill

When things get hard, that’s when change happens. That’s the only way they can start to get better.

Edvige Giunta, a member of self’s East Coast writing group

Love the name Edvige, though Edvige goes by Edi. She’s Italian American and teaches in New Jersey City University.

There is an Italian American Writers Association reading tomorrow in the East Village. Self will go, and have dinner with Edvige after.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Dearest Mum, Who Played in Carnegie Hall

When she was 14 or 15. She won The New York Times piano competition.

This Manila newspaper article focuses on her fashion style. She picked out the clothes herself. The article describes her clothing choices as very “atonal.”

nena del rosario 001

Nena del Rosario Villanueva

Dearest Mum had the tiniest waist: 23 inches all around. Alas, self did not inherit Dearest Mum’s fabulous figure. That honor went to self’s older sister.

Growing up, self resisted all attempts to get dressed up. Even after she started giving readings. “It’s about what’s inside,” she remembers saying to Dearest Mum. “No one has the time to figure out the inner you, so why don’t you just make it easy for them,” Dearest Mum would retort.

Self is so perverse that she continued to dress badly. On purpose.

Now, self is finally beginning to come around to Dearest Mum’s way of thinking.

Years and years later, self is in VCCA when she peeks into an artists studio and spies Drew, playing on a piano. She strikes up a conversation. Eight years later, Drew composes a full-length opera based on one of self’s novellas.

Would you believe, self missed a Nov. 19 concert in Carnegie Hall; the violinist played an original composition by Drew. Sometimes self is very, very stupid.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Directions for the Journey to the Meaning of Reality

While self was wandering around Florence, early this month, she stumbled into the Palazzo Vecchio. Milling about in the lobby were participants in a conference to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani. It was the first she’d ever heard of this man who, one of the conference staff told self, was a much admired teacher and writer.

Self walked away with a brochure of his writings, and wasted no time opening the brochure. She was very struck by this statement:

LIVE REALITY INTENSELY

Then, she read a discourse on the meaning of the word “Thing”:

I would be amazed by the stupefying repercussion of a presence which is expressed in current language by the word “thing.” Things! “Thing,” which is a concrete and, if you please, banal presence which I do not myself make, which I find. A presence which imposes itself upon me. At this moment, if I am attentive, that is, if I am mature, then I cannot deny that the greatest and most profound evidence is that I do not make myself, I am not making myself. I do not give myself being, or the reality which I am. I am “given.” This is the moment of maturity when I discover myself to be dependent on something else.

Self has a story in the New Orleans Review called — THING.

The consonance of her Thing with Monsignor Giussani’s discourse on the word Thing is super-mindblowing! It’s as if self’s frail tendrils of story, and this always-churning imagination of hers, has transported her across the ocean to Italy, simply so that she can receive a brochure at the Palazzo Vecchio where a teacher and philosopher tries to explain the meaning of Thing. Of Thing-ness.

Self’s story is about humanoids in the post-apocalyptic Earth. Where no one looks human anymore. Hence the use of the generic to describe that which-is-neither-here-nor-there. That which is thing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Still Thoughts

WordPress changed their editing Dashboard (and self didn’t know about it until she tried to stick a post to the front of a page)

Moreover, she still has to figure out how to attach thumbnails.

But, as Humphrey Bogart’s character says in the immortal Casablanca, “the problems of . . . little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”

Paris happened.

Here is self, back to reading Master Shih Cheng-Yen’s Still Thoughts.

Still Thought # 36: Even though reason is on one’s side, one must be forgiving; even though justice is on one’s side, one must be well-spoken and humble.

BTW, self loved Spectre very much. Daniel Craig’s age is showing, but he still looks mighty fine.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self Is Learning New Things Every Day! Today, at the Palazzo Vecchio

Self has seen a lot of museums in just three short days in Florence.

This morning, she found her way to the Palazzo Vecchio. Well, it’s not as if she had any actual destination in mind this morning. She simply pointed her steps toward the Dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore and, armed with her Firenze Card (Irene’s idea, of course. Thank God for Irene!), she stopped at:

  • the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (the oldest church in Florence, consecrated by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, in 393)
  • the Palazzo Vecchio

She paid 5 euros for an audio tour at the Palazzo, and boy, was it ever worth it.

Before entering the Museum proper, she wandered around in the lobby, noticed posters for a conference celebrating the 10th anniversary of the death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani and, out of sheer nosiness, asked a woman wearing a name tag who Monsignor Giussani was. The woman told self that the Monsignor was a highly respected teacher and member of the Church, whose writings were very influential.

She also gave self a brochure about the man.

Self began to read the brochure, and she found the man’s teachings exceedingly interesting. Here’s an excerpt from a section called LIVE REALITY INTENSELY.

“There is an experience, hidden yet implied, of that arcane, mysterious presence to be found within the opening of the eye, within the attraction reawakened by things, within the beauty of things, within an amazement, full of gratitude, comfort, and hope — how can this complex, yet simple, this enormously rich experience of the human heart — which is the heart of the human person — how can it become vivid? How can it become powerful?”

Self loves that he used the word “vivid” to describe the intense experience of reality.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren is such a Fabulous Goddess of Cinema. She’s the new face of Dolce & Gabbana’s beauty line (Self wants that lipstick!) Here’s a snippet from her answers to “20 Odd Questions” in this week’s “Style & Fashion” section of The Wall Street Journal.

One of my secrets to success is: you should never do too much of one thing. You have to leave people saying, “If she had done even more, it would have been better.” Let them suffer!

LOL.

Stay tuned.

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