First Times: Philz Coffee

Niece G swears this is the best coffee in the world, absolutely the best. The store’s on the corner of 24th and Folsom Street. She says they have another one in Palo Alto, on Middlefield Road.

Self ordered two pounds of whole bean, and niece G was so quick, she slipped the salesperson her card when self wasn’t looking !!!

Niece G sez Philz is the best coffee in the world!

Self chose a pound of Zimbabwe (in honor of Peter Godwin, whose new book The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe, received high praise in a recent issue of The Economist) and a blend called Code 33 (Niece G: “I can’t believe you got the coffee named after the police code!” Self just googled it: “Code 33” means “Clear Radio Channels for Emergency Traffic”)

Thanks a million, niece G!

Earlier, we saw Read the rest of this entry »

Giants Withdrawal: Watching “Clash of the Titans”

Self is suffering from major Giants withdrawal, Boo Hoo Hoo.

Now she has nothing to write about except her current Netflix rental “Clash of the Titans” (which she’s been watching on “Mute” for the last 15 minutes, just so she can invent what she thinks Sam Worthington and Liam Neeson may or may not be saying to one another)

First, self would like to address the matter of hairstyles:

Why does Sam Worthington have a buzz cut?  Why is he the only male of this era to have a buzz cut?

Next, the make-up:

Why is Gemma Arterton’s lovely face powdered extremely white (lending her a somewhat “geisha” look) ?

Self knows Liam Neeson plays Zeus, but why is this Zeus so hirsute, why is his beard so unattractively long (which —  just the mention of the word beard is enough to drag self back to fond memories of the World Series), and what is the point of having him be constantly blurry, clad in silvery armor, as if the viewer cannot be trusted to believe that he in fact plays Zeus unless one can see solar or lunar rays springing forth in all directions, every time he appears?

Why do we never ever feel sorry for Sam Worthington’s character?  Though he is so beset by woe?  (After all:  He has been put out to sea with his mother in a wooden chest, probably leaky.  Babies have no business being put on the high seas in a wooden chest.  Neither do women.  Once again, self digresses)

Alexa Davalos is the only one who looks good playing what she is supposed to be (Andromeda).  Let’s hope for better roles for this under-rated actress.

At one point, self thought she saw Alexander Siddig, the handsome actor who played opposite Patricia Clarkson in “Cairo Time.” Quick scan of IMDB, however, proves her wrong.

There are many fine actors who ruin themselves on the shoals of this movie, however.  Aside from Neeson, there are actors such as:  Ralph FiennesMads Mikkelsen (playing someone named “Draco.”  Please don’t tell self he plays another bad guy.  Playing someone with a name like that, however, self has little hope)

Ralph Fiennes has a weird scene in which he and a creature have an oral exchange of vapors.  What means this?

Now we are in a verdant Greek forest.  Hairy, tunic-clad men are sitting around while an elder plays a flute.  The hairstyle sported by these men is long hair in cornrows.  Then Sam Worthington appears in their midst, and —  OK, it is just ridiculous seeing him in a buzz cut, for no discernible reason.  Also, Sam Worthington looks ridiculous in Greek garb.  Just ridiculous.  And self so loved him in “Terminator:  Salvation.”

Sigh.  That was then, and this is now.

Now, now, now!

It is late 2010, the economy still sucks, and wondrous Jerry Brown is the new Governor of the state of California (If you had told this to self two years ago, she would have said you were dreaming!)

Self belatedly realizes there is an art to looking good in a Greek (or Roman) tunic.  She shouldn’t have made so much fun of Brad Pitt in “Troy.”  For one thing, Brad had very nice legs.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Coetzee, Shteyngart Bite Metaphorical Dust ?

Self feels like putting this book down. Oh God, she can’t stand it: 2 a.m. and she just can’t seem to pry her fingers from the pages of J.M. Coetzee’s Slow Man. Why couldn’t she just float into Dreamland after watching “Justified” Episode 5 (Quite a title this episode had: “The Lord of War and Thunder”), the one where Raylan has a teaser of a sex scene with Ava in a motel room; the same episode where we see Raylan casually pushing a slime-ball into a room occupied by two other slime-balls, simply by prodding his back ever-so-gently with his Dad’s baseball bat, all the while engaging in (what’s quickly becoming his established) off-the-cuff repartee; also the one where he pretends to be an out-of-work day laborer who offers to fix up a woman’s yard for free, just so he can learn the whereabouts of the woman’s fugitive-from-the-law husband (You can come fix self’s yard anytime, Raylan!); the one where he . . .

Self, stop it! You are just too much! Not everyone in the blogosphere shares your love of “Justified” and Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens!

Okey-dokey, self will mosey back to more serious topics: which is books.

The other day, she prodded herself through one-fourth of erstwhile favorite author J. M. Coetzee’s Slow Man. Even recommended it to her students at UCLA Extension, for heaven’s sake! Then she found out from reader reviews at that there will be a very interesting development: a woman will appear, a woman who goes by the name of Elizabeth Costello, who is actually J. M. Coetzee’s alter ego. Apparently, on a lecture circuit, Coetzee found he was unable to talk about himself except through the voice of a character, so he created Elizabeth Costello. Frankly, this makes self think Coetzee is freaking nuts. But she reads on, for she did so love his earlier novels, especially Life and Times of Michael K

Self actually does make it to the passage where Elizabeth Costello appears (at 3 a.m.), and Ms. Costello seems like a very ordinary woman. Finally, self decides she can’t swallow all this deconstruction or meta-fiction or whatever and decides to return the book to the library.

Next on her reading list is Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan. Oh, self had high hopes for this book. Top Ten on the New York Times Books of the Year, etc etc. Apparently, it is hilarious. Even Amazon readers find it hilarious. The hero is 325 lbs., farts, and is the sole progeny of the 1,238th richest man in Russia. He has his own bodyguard who is such an enabler he places plate after plate of Beluga caviar in front of our hero, and — well, why does this remind self so much of the fresh hell of Manila? Self does not need Gary Shteyngart to tell her that such creatures as 325-lb. spoiled only sons of rich crooks exist! She doesn’t need anyone to tell her that rich people are the same everywhere, whether they are from Moscow or Manila: they all still want their kids to get American educations! Preferably from Stanford or Harvard! (Self’s own Dear Departed Dad went to Georgetown Law School; hubby’s Dear Departed Dad got his PhD in Chemistry from MIT) Why is self not laughing in the bris removal scene (That’s circumcision, to those of you not in the know)? Or whenever she reads the name of corpulent hero’s American college: Accidental College, har har har — reminds her of Occidental College, where indeed some of son’s Sacred Heart Prep classmates did end up (Except, Occidental’s not in the midwest, like the one of Shteyngart’s hero. No, Occidental is in the flower-filled paradise of Pasadena. And also happens to be a very good school)

But wait, what’s this? Amazon reader says the book is about “the obssessive fascination with male sexual pleasure.”


The Chees-iness of Scorsese

Yes, as dear blog readers can gather from the title of this post, self has just seen “Shutter Island.” Who knew that Scorsese channeling Hitchcock = cheese? And we’re talking maaajor cheese here. The kind of cheese that makes “Titanic” look brilliant!

You remember that scene in Indiana Jones III (“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”) where we find out that Indy hates rats? (Or is it snakes?) And he’s stuck in the catacombs with his dad played by Sean Connery and that blonde German-who-turns-out-to-be-a-traitoress, and millions of rats come pouring through the tunnels? Well, “Shutter Island,” has something similar. Though in the latter film, this is only the latest in a long series of ludicrous touches (Ludicrous + Scorsese does not equal Luc Besson brilliance. Oh, no. If self had to describe it, she would have to say that this is something more akin to the low of the Paul Verhoeven “Showgirls” — so now Martin Scorsese has his own very personal “Showgirls” moment)

Anyhoo, you know that any movie with Leonardo di Caprio that causes self’s eyelids to flutter has got to be abysmal. Because self loves Leo! She thinks he’s one of our best (American) actors! In fact, his presence in the film, and that of Mark Ruffalo, are the only things that save this movie from being an F! A total F! Poor Michelle Williams, who plays Leo’s dead wife, is forced to look portentously secretive (which means narrowing her eyes — get it? Get it? When she narrows her eyes, you know she is meant to, to — well, never mind! It’s significant, that’s all self can tell ya!)

This movie was so bad that the Redwood City audience was hooting and breaking out in giggles at scenes that were supposed to be scary. Aaargh! Self could have been writing! She could have been reading yet another Edward P. Jones story! She could have been planting her new chrysanthemum (a “Silver Princess” — Color: white)! It’s all hubby’s fault! He’s the one who wanted to see “Shutter Island”! Self would have been content skipping a movie this weekend, since she already had her Luc Besson/Jonathan Rhys-Meyers fix yesterday! (Though, on the positive side, self did get to watch yet another preview of “Clash of the Titans.” She still thinks Sam Worthington doesn’t seem to fit the part — at least, not with that Marine buzz cut he sports in the movie — but she can never get enough of the line “Release the Kraken!”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Random: Movies of 2009

Character self loved most in “Avatar”: Zoe Saldana’s, Neytiri.  Second runner-up: Sigourney Weaver’s character, Grace (Except for one thing: why was she the only blue-skinned avatar condemned to wearing safari shorts in the scenes where everyone else was wearing thongs or loincloths? Can’t an older lady be allowed to go buck nekkid if the part requires it?). Third runner-up: Michelle Rodriguez’s helicopter pilot character. Which means that the characters that made the movie worth watching (for self) were all women.

Self’s most pressing question for “Avatar” Director James Cameron: How come, when you spend $230 million on a movie, and you bother to create a planet called Pandora, the only difference between the plants and animals on that planet and the ones on Earth are that the creatures have slightly different shapes and different colors? But all the animals still have four legs and two eyes?

Movie whose last half was as disappointing as the first half was promising: Read the rest of this entry »

“Red Cliff” : Not the Same John Woo

This is John Woo’s first Chinese movie in — heck, who knows how long?

This was supposed to be a return to his roots, a return to the era before he went Hollywood with “Broken Arrow” and “Face/Off.”

After watching “Red Cliff” (which is three hours long, dear blog readers), self will now have to put him in the same category as Oliver Stone, as an example of a director who is going on the downhill slide. (If you don’t believe self, just rent “Platoon.” Then watch “World Trade Center.” Watch John Woo’s Hong Kong movies, the ones with Chow Yun-Fat. Then watch Read the rest of this entry »

The “I-Can’t-Believe-She’s-Already-Making-Her-Ten-Best-List” Post

While Game 4 of the World Series is happening, yet!  (She so hopes the Yankees don’t win, but they are leading and it’s the bottom of the sixth)

Anyhoo, before self gets confused by all those November/December movies, here is her preliminary list of “Ten Best Movies of 2009”, which she’s doing now as a way to celebrate how relaaaaxed she is, since she’s decided to be her usual anti-social, non-partying, non-presenting-in-Manila self this December.

  1. The Baader Meinhof Complex
  2. District 9
  3. Inglourious Basterds
  4. Moon
  5. Star Trek
  6. The Hurt Locker
  7. The Read the rest of this entry »

“Perfect Getaway” — Not!

It was a choice between “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” and “A Perfect Getaway.” On the basis of some raves on Rotten Tomatoes for the latter (and because hubby has a thing for Milla Jovovich, who admittedly has made some interesting career choices — Exhibit A: “The Fifth Element;” Exhibit B: the “Resident Evil” movies), we went for “A Perfect Getaway.”

Self’s disappointment was great. The other people in the audience (theater was full, by the way: not baaad for a film that had perhaps 1/10 the promotional budget of “G. I. Joe” — !) seemed very “into” the movie, chuckling or gasping at certain high points (self kept her eyes more or less closed during the last 20 minutes or so). Afterwards, hubby declared that he liked it.

There are two other actresses in this movie: Read the rest of this entry »

Rating “The Mist”

That’s the Netflix movie she’s watching right now. Hubby, with almost uncanny sense of self-preservation, adamantly refused to stop watching “CSI: New York” last night, even though self swore, swore that “The Mist” was exactly the kind of movie he would like, as it contained lots of “chills and thrills.”

Anyhoo, after a morning’s hard work spent writing and watering the garden, self settled down on the sofa, whipped out the remote, and started the movie.

Her mood was at first extremely sanguine, especially after hearing the lines, “There’s something in the mist! It’s taken Johnny Lee!”

But, alas, shortly thereafter, two things began to happen:

  • Marcia Gay Harden, playing local loony, began to take over the movie.
  • David (Thomas Jane), hero of our story, seemed to be forgetting that his wife was out there in said mist. How very convenient that a lady even prettier than his wife (playing the local fifth grade schoolteacher) happened to be trapped in the food store with him.

Then, the girl who played Jack in “Chronicles of Riddick” got an insect bite and her throat swelled up to massive proportions, and she died.

Then, the short guy who played the consul in “The Painted Veil” got eaten by humongous insect (Too bad, as he claimed to be the “state target shooting champion of 1994”; how very convenient that, when he got eaten, he dropped his pistol, and it happened to land just within reach of David/ hero — well, right on top of his car hood, to be exact)

Then David managed to get four people out of the supermarket (where they’d been trapped for the last two days, valiantly staving off giant insects by stacking super-jumbo-size bags of dog food against the plate-glass windows) into his jeep, and they were able to drive an inordinately long time before running out of gas, and just after David did mercy killings of his passengers, he discovered (Ta-RA!) the U.S. Army.

And there is Enya music playing in the background while he screams, screams, SCREEAAAAMS!!!

Who, WHO is responsible for this calumny? Self waits for the closing credits and sees: Written for the screen by Frank Darabont. And then, a few beats later: Based on a Stephen King story.

And now it is self’s turn to scream: No, no, NOOOO!!!

As she has always harbored a fondness for Stephen King, having read Cujo and Misery and Pet Sematary and Christine and maybe a couple of others whose titles escape her at the moment.

Remember “The Mist”, dear blog readers. And stay away. Stay far, far AWAAAAYYYY !!!

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