What She’s Reading, New Year’s Eve (2013)

Henry M. Stanley:

“The ascent of the ridge was rugged and steep, thorns of the prickliest nature punished us severely, the acacia horrida was here more horrid than usual, the gums stretched out their branches, and entangled the loads, the mimosa with its umbrella-like top served to shade us from the sun, but impeded a rapid advance.  Steep outcrops of syenite and granite, worn smooth by many feet, had to be climbed over, rugged terraces of earth and rock had to be ascended, and distant shots resounding through the forest added to the alarm and general discontent, and had I not been immediately behind my caravan, watchful of every maneuver, my Wanyamwezi had deserted to a man.”

—  How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa, Chapter VII (“Through Marenga Mkali, Ugogo, and Uyanzi, to Unyanyembe”)

Why does self keep thinking of THE ARENA?  Is it Stanley or Peeta/Katniss traversing those rocks and . . .

Self, get a grip!

Ding Dong!  When is that Times Square ball really going to start coming down?  And is Miley part of the show?  And why did Britney Spears almost fall out of her dress during a concert in Vegas?  And what is this new animated show that uses the voices of Armie Hammer and Teri Hatcher?  And why is Jessica Lange so funny when she sings Banana Fana in that American Horror Story episode?  And how come self only seems to watch The Good Wife when she is in Bacolod? And why can The Man never manage to help self find a single episode of Sherlock Holmes, the one with Benedict Cumberbatch?  And will Peter Jackson ever find a new project that doesn’t involve dwarves, hobbits, elves, or orcs (not that self minds, really)?  And will Charlie Hunnam have cause to regret that he backed out of Fifty Shades of Grey because it interfered with the schedule, he said, of Sons of Anarchy?  And what will J-Law look like in 20 years?  And will self still be alive then?  And won’t it be depressing to see J-Law middle-aged? (It most definitely will).

Self never made it to the post office today, but she did make it to Costco (for that most important sleep aid, Benadryl).  There were many unruly carts going this way and that.  People, self felt like saying, what good does it do to rush about like that, when in the end you will still have to wait in line at the checkout?  But, the holidays seem to bring out the most aggressive Costco shoppers, self knows not why.  Well, at least self managed to replenish her supply of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Weekend Status Report (Monday, 7 May 2012)

In a little while, self plans to:

  1. Drop off a bag of used clothing at Goodwill on Santa Cruz Avenue
  2. Mail something to The Antioch Review (Hope springs eternal), and
  3. Pick up clothes from the dry-cleaners.

Why she feels the urge to get all of these things done right now, when she has to return to Menlo Park later anyway, to see her dentist, is really mysterious, but self never questions the decisions she makes when she is just hoppin’ full of energy!  Like, right now!

Let’s see, what did self do last weekend (aside from purchasing a really fab pair of shell earrings from the Mountain View Art & Wine Festival)?

  • Developed a fancy for the Reading Room at The Threepenny Review website.  Even though self has had nothing accepted by The Threepenny Review in the last decade, she still thinks this literary magazine is one of the best.
  • She saw the new Jason Statham movie, “Safe” (Grrreat.  No review necessary:  we all know what a successful Jason Statham movie is like.  There will be plenty of bang-bang and also the obligatory emotional low, to be followed by the kick-butt high!  Result:  Total Viewer Contentment and Satisfaction)
  • She got a form rejection (in her e-mail) from Ninth Letter (It feels like she’s been trying to get into this one forever).
  • She got an SASE (another form rejection) from American Literary Review.
  • She wrote out a check to send to Calyx.
  • She walked The Ancient One, who seemed quite spry and happy.
  • She spoke to a neighbor on the corner about his flowers.
  • She saw another ladybug in her garden (and four long, slimy things — with legs —  that she determined to be some kind of reptile:  lizards, probably)
  • Finished off a whole bottle of Vlasic Sweet Gherkins —  in two days.  Even the husband felt compelled to make a remark.

All in all, it was quite a successful weekend.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Still the First Wednesday Post-Washington DC Trip: No Longer Cleaning the House

The house is reasonably clean.  That is, the living room doesn’t have any dog hair balls.  But now self notices that the hardwood floor is badly in need of refurbishing.  And the house plants by the window facing the street look a little peaked.

Instead of cleaning further, self will water (Later, when it cools down a bit).  And then she will do laundry.

Self did a couple of errands, which took her to Menlo Park (Guy Plumbing & Fixtures, El Camino Real; the dry-cleaner’s), then to Sequoia Station in Redwood City, where she:

  • Looked up Yasmina Reza’s novels in Barnes & Noble:  nope, they don’t carry any of them (Self knows of two)
  • Went to Safeway and bought a bag of mesquite charcoal briquets in preparation for next week’s visit of sole fruit of her loins (She also bought four huge avocados:  $5 for 4.  Self loves these, mashed with evaporated milk and drizzled with sugar.  BTW, there goes self’s diet!)

Self discovered that Safeway no longer stocks The New York Times.  This presents a small problem because now she will have to get her Times from either:  a)  Starbucks, and they only carry about five copies a day:  If self doesn’t go early enough in the morning, they are usually sold out; or  b) Whole Foods, which she has avoided like the plague since getting back from Bacolod, because the cake display is right by the entrance (!!!@@##)

Well, self does make it to Whole Foods.  She believes she deserves a pat on the back for restricting herself to buying only one small dessert (fruit tart), which she is saving for the husband.

And then she opens the Times, and in short order discovers the following:

  • The name of Michelle Obama’s initiative to counter childhood obesity is “Let’s Move.”  The whole country is very admiring of how slender the Obama girls are, and we are constantly reminded of this by Mrs. Obama’s emphasis on how unhealthy fat kids are.  Not to mention:  un-attractive.  Self speaks from personal experience because she was once a Fat Kid herself.  And she had no dates in high school.  Though that may have more to do with the “nerd” factor than with her weight.
  • The Kurds, according to an article by J. Michael Kennedy (p. A6), “are the largest ethnic group in the world without a state.”

Here are the countries featured in the rest of the “International News”:  China (missing persons; a British national dying in Chongqing under suspicious circumstances), Palestine, and Egypt.

Self is mighty interested in the case of the dead British national.  His body was cremated before post-mortem, his friends described him as a “light” drinker (even though Chinese authorities attributed his death to “excessive alcohol consumption”), and the prime suspect is a local politician’s wife, who the British national had inadvertently angered by – – – doing what, exactly?  Self reads almost to the last paragraph, and she never discovers what the British guy did to make the wife of the local Chinese official so angry, angry enough to want to murder him.

And then there is an article about the trial of the Norwegian mass murderer.  Thankfully, this doesn’t show him raising his fist in some kind of Nazi-like salute, which self finds extremely sickening.  In some photos, he is even smirking.  But she has only the utmost respect for the Norwegians, who did not “tighten up” their security restrictions in the aftermath of the tragedy, even though the number of murder victims (77) is horrifically large, particularly for a country whose entire population is only 5 million.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Poetry Friday: A Poem in Eunoia Review and Another In The New Yorker’s Feb. 13 & 20, 2012 Double Issue

Self didn’t even know The New Yorker ran a double issue in February.  Must have been because she was so busy recovering from her India trip and packing for Bacolod!  Also in the issue is a short story by Famous Author Michael Chabon.

Self does eventually manage to get through all her back-logged reading.  She may work slowly, but she always gets to where she needs to be, in the end.

Anyhoo, here we are, it is Good Friday.  Self tries to imagine the processions wending through the towns and villages of Negros.  She so wishes she were still there, boo!

One of her last conversations with Zack went something like this:

“Do you think I’ll be all right?”

Zack’s deadpan response:  “Yes.  You’ll be home soon.”

By “Home” he meant:  California.  BWAH HA HA HA!

And self did leave, and she really was all right.  Zack, you are a genius!

Today self is happy:  she planted four gladiolus bulbs, discovered that a bag of bone meal that had been left in the rain for the past six weeks was crawling with smelly white grubs, and began reading above-mentioned double issue of The New Yorker.  She also has coffee ready and waiting for her in the kitchen.

In a jiffy, she’ll have to leave to return Atonement to the library, then mail out three stories.  She also has to get more toner for her HP laser printer.  Tomorrow, self, the husband and possibly Niece G will be going to see the exhibit “The Splendor of India’s Royal Court,” in the Asian Art Museum.  The exhibit’s last day is this Sunday, Easter Sunday.  If the weather holds, it should be a very, very nice weekend.

Without further ado, here is the poem from the Eunoia Review (which self reads pretty regularly).  It’s by Aaron Poller, who is described in the author bio as “an advanced nurse psychotherapist.”  Self will only post the first half; that’s so dear blog readers will be encouraged to check out the review:


      by Aaron Poller

I waited on the verge for disaster,
the next thing about to happen. Though

I looked, kept faithful watch, it did
not show. A trick of the imagination,

a mind unhinged, unsteady. That being
said, time folded upon itself, labyrinthine,

modest, having a frank talk with myself:
this week an earthquake, followed

(That’s the first half. Go to Eunoia Review to read the rest!)

* * * * *

And here’s an excerpt from Gerald Stern’s poem in The New Yorker. Self will also not post the entire poem, as she thinks it might be considered infringement of copyright or whatever.


by Gerald Stern

You can say what you want but I love Nietzsche most
when he stood between the terrified horse and the coachman
and intervened though I have pity for his sudden
madness even if he hated pity for he was
human then nor could one word matter anyhow,
and when he went insane, as I understand it,
he suffered from shame and sadness in different cities
for which we have the very late letters his vicious
sister never burned, and though I know
it wasn’t Heine or Emile Zola I thought
it had to be either Gogol or Dostoyevsky
who threw his arms around the bleeding horse;

(Isn’t that magnificent, dear blog readers? Self is so inspired!)

Stay tuned.

The Man in the Post Office/ “The Pacific”, Disc 2/ Jacob Pitt (A Very Digressive Post)

This morning, self braved the hail, the gusty winds, the rain etc etc and went to the Main Post Office on Broadway in Redwood City to mail a copy of The Lost Language to Reena Peña (friend of a friend, who self met in Bacolod in January).

Dearest Mum suggested a restaurant for our first meeting:  Baybay, which Dearest Mum said was somewhere in the Bacolod Reclamation Area.  So Reena came to fetch self at L’Fisher Chalet, and she had her driver take us all over the Reclamation Area while we looked for this restaurant, and it was nowhere to be found.  Later, Reena asked around and found out that the restaurant had closed —  years and years ago. “So I guess,” Reena told self, “Baybay went Bye Bye!” 🙂

Anyhoo, self mailed her book to Rina today.  There was a long line at the post office.  That was OK, self loves to let her mind wander when she is standing in line.  Plus it was raining so hard outside.  Self was in no hurry to leave the post office.

The problem was that a man came in, and it was non-stop explosive sneezing.  Self looked at the man:  a middle-aged Chinese gent, with a very red face, obviously sick.  Self put a scarf up to her nose.  ACHOO!  ACHOO!  ACHOO! went the man, about 20 times.

When self reached the clerk, she practically threw her money at her and didn’t wait for the receipt.  “I have to go.  Oh my God,” self burst out.  “I just have to get out of here.”

The clerk looked at self with the most bewildered expression and asked, “Why?”

The explosively sneezing man walked right up to the clerk and self took off, practically running.

Granted, a cold virus is not as bad as nuclear radiation (unless, of course, it is SARS).  In fact, it’s a very very mild irritant, just one more inescapable facet of daily, tedious life.  But self still remembers how, flying Delta out of Narita in February, half the people who got on in Tokyo donned surgical masks as soon as they were seated in the plane cabin.  (Are those sensitive souls still in Tokyo, self wonders?  Given the current levels of radiation in vicinity?)

And she also remembers how, her first three weeks back in California, she had the most awful cough.  It kept her up every night.

No, she would not like to have that experience repeated.

When self arrived home, she discovered that UCLA and Florida were in a very tight game, and UCLA was trailing.


To calm herself, self began roaming the web, and saw something that made her think she wanted to add the Kate Winslet movie “Revolutionary Road” to her Netflix queue.  But upon logging on to Netflix, she found that she had exceeded the number of movies she can rent for the duration.

She’s been watching “The Pacific” with hubby.  There are six discs in total.  Yesterday, self found out that Disc 2 is extremely, extremely slow (at least, compared to the heroics on Disc 1, which focused on Guadalcanal).  The soldiers are on furlough in Melbourne.  There are many scenes of hooking up with comely Australian lasses.  And one of the main characters gets sent to another island for treatment of a mysterious ailment called “eneuresis”  which seems to involve much bedwetting.  But there are hardly any of those rousing scenes of battle that self was led to expect from Disc 1.  (“Why are there no Asian American soldiers?” self found herself whining to hubby.  Hubby’s immediate response:  “They were all assigned to Europe.  They wouldn’t send them to the Pacific Theater:  they might get mistaken for the Japanese!”  Oh.)

There are more scenes, however, involving Jacob Pitt, who, though far from being one of the main characters, is simply magnetic —  especially the more haggard and scrawny he gets.  This actor first came to self’s attention on “Justified,” where he impressed self with his sardonic delivery.  On “Justified” Season 2, he is becoming —  seriously —  hot.

And since self has started on the subject of “Justified,” let’s just say she loves that there is less emphasis on Raylan shooting people (During Season 1, he just about killed one man per episode), but there are some very dark characters emerging.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Post-Philippines Day 2

Today self went to Costco and purchased garbanzo beans.

Why?  Because that was on an old grocery list she doesn’t even remember writing, but which she dredged up from her desk drawer yesterday.  She has no idea what she wanted the garbanzo beans for.  A Mexican chipotle dish?  To mix with salad greens?

She also bought Benadryl, which she uses to help tame her insomnia.  And Salonpas, for an extremely stiff neck.

She drove hubby to the office —  thankfully, not at his usual departure time of 5 a.m.  But she did wake up early anyway:  the dogs were whining to be fed.

She’s begun reading back issues of Vanity Fair.  There are four issues still wrapped in plastic:  November and December 2010, and January and February 2011.  The March 2011 (the annual Hollywood issue, this one with Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and James Franco on the cover) arrived just today.  In the October 2010 issue, the one with Lindsay Lohan on the cover, which she was halfway through when she left in January, she learns that “The Killers” front man, Brandon Flowers, has issued a solo album.  She skips all the usual chit-chat about new perfume launches and “in” restaurants.

This morning, self saw that a tree in the yard of the neighbor directly across the street is absolutely covered in white blooms, and that the yellow Rabble Rouser rose bush by her front door is also blooming.  It feels like spring.

She tried, for the third or fourth time, to reach Dearest Mum.  As usual, she was out.  She’s been sleeping at Jun’s, the maid said.

Aside from this, there is no news about either the Philippines or Bacolod:  it’s as though the people self spent so much time with,  just a week ago, have simply vanished —  poof!  No Big House, No Ida, No L’Fisher Chalet, No Manang Elenita or Manong Genray or Manang Marilou or Mae.  No Lacson Street with the red Chinese lanterns.  No Ecology townhouses.  No Zack.

Oh, wait, there is something:  this nasty nasty cough, a last, stubborn souvenir of her trip.  A mere tickle at the back of her throat during her last days in Manila, it bloomed, finally, on the plane home.  Yesterday, when she spent most of her time driving hubby all over the place, it smote her down and kept her up half the night.

Oh Gods of Sleep, please let self have some rest tonight.  So that she can awaken bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for work tomorrow.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reading The Malahat Review, on the Hottest Day of 2010


That is all the energy self can summon up, today.

Why have we had three successive days of the hottest weather of the year?

Where is fall?

Why is Redwood City 20 degrees hotter than New York?

Can self summon up the energy to re-enter her (boiling) car, and watch another movie?

Yesterday, right after getting back from teaching a Writing Lab, self barely made it to the 3:30 screening of “Cairo Time,” at the Menlo Park Guild.

Which was excellent.  Not only that, the characters were constantly remarking on the heat.  Ninety degrees in November, or something to that effect.  If only self had a figure like Patricia Clarkson’s.  From the back, she looks like a teen-ager —  yes, her waist is that slim.  And her blonde hair is wonderfully voluminous and feminine.  And she has hips, people!  Not fat, pear-shaped hips, but slender hips!  And the guy who played her escort (Not in that way, just a friendly escort around Cairo, to keep Patricia from the unwanted attentions of roving males) had gorgeous, Omar Sharif eyes.  And the background piano music was just gorgeous.

But, today, self had nothing as exciting on her plate.  And it was just as hot.  Or even hotter.

After hubby took himself off to his dreary office, which is causing him to smoke excessively, and therefore polluting not only his lungs but self’s, self had to water.  Water, water, water.

Then she had to mail something to the Vermont Studio Center.  Due October 1, and since the Vermont Studio Center is in some remote area called Johnson, Vermont (354 miles directly north of New York City!), she had to mail the stuff today, and the FedEx rate was $29.01.

Then she went to Barnes and Noble, and hunkered down in the Mysteries section.  And found two more mystery writers she had never read before:  Christopher Fowler (a mystery called White Corridor), and Louise Penny.

And then she proceeded to Safeway, to replenish her stock of Minute Maid Lemonade.  And she decided to replenish the two cartons of lemonade with a six-pack of Shiner Bock.  And some whole wheat bread.

And after getting home, she watered some more.  And when she had reached the point of almost total exhaustion and resentment (Gods!  Why inflict this punishing heat on a woman who cannot afford a regular gardener?  And whose husband doesn’t believe in automatic sprinklers?), she decided to read The Malahat Review.  And the first piece her eyes landed on was a poem called

“The Sad Truth About Engineers”


which happened to be written by a woman named Karen Schindler, described in the “Notes on Contributors” as having herself been a former “chemical engineer.”  But Ms. Schindler has apparently escaped that sad existence, for she is described as “director of the Poetry London Reading Series in London, Ontario.”

The poem begins:

His bed propped up by a stack of textbooks,

twist of sheets at your feet.  Outside the window,


Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Random: Summer 2010

Yesterday, self was on her way to deliver a bag of clothes to the Salvation Army, most of which she has never worn, because they happen to be size 2.  Dearest Mum gives these to self after various shopping trips, with the understanding that they will not fit, and so self must give them to her Aunt, who is a size 2, HAR HAR HAR!

On the side of a bus, self saw a huge picture of Tim Lincecum, Giants pitcher and half-Pinoy, at the very top of a pitch.  His legs were waaaay out to there, and the long hair under his Giants cap was flying.  Cool!  That ad alone was enough to make self’s day!

(Also, it occurred to self while she was driving that her car is very very dirty, that she hasn’t brought it to a car wash in six months, that a car like that trolling around Menlo Park would likely be pulled over by the police for some minor infraction, simply because it sticks out amidst all the sparkling SUVs and Infinitis.  But that’s neither here nor there)

Last night, in addition to bemoaning the fact that Timothy Olyphant did not receive an Emmy nomination, self watched The Daily Show.  And there was a very cute black-haired woman interviewing a jug-eared politician from Arizona, who was very very clearly dis-armed.  Way to go, Jon!  Fill your show with cute black-haired women, which will provide necessary counter-balance to all those blonde pundits on The O’Reilly Factor!  Now, trolling the web, self learns that this same cute woman is being referred to as “a faux feminist.” Self isn’t sure what that is, but “faux” anything isn’t what she first thought of when she saw the woman.  Self’s first thought was:  Whoaaa!  Whose idea was it to put a babe on The Daily Show?  Quelle fab idea!  Because, as we all know, not only O’Reilly but Hannity (on his Great American Panel) regularly stock their show with females who are well above and beyond the average in terms of looks.  And they are killing, just killing in the ratings.  And so self thinks the future of TV lies in ever more beauteous female newscasters/pundits.  Which of course is excellent for the men of America, especially the middle-aged ones, because they are the ones who stay home and actually watch the news.

Anyhoo, as a counter to the babe interviewer, Jon Stewart had Marilynne Robinson talk about her new book, a non-fiction book called Absence of Mind.  And though it was not an uproariously funny interview, it was a very thought-provoking interview.  Self just loves Jon Stewart.  She thinks he must be very intelligent.  He got Marilynne Robinson to laugh!  More than once!  And, as we all know, Marilynne Robinson is a person with great gravitas.  But it is really really nice to see her throw her head back and laugh.

Let’s see, what else about this summer?  Oh, son will be here in a few hours!  Fridge is stocked —  no, overflowing!  —  with all his favorite food!  Self really went to town with the fresh fruit yesterday!  And also bought French bread, salami from Draeger’s, veggies, you name it!  Naturally, as soon as he arrives, we will be off to see a movie, self hasn’t decided yet whether it will be “Predators” or “The Karate Kid.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Brain Cloud, 3rd Thursday of April 2010: 7 Hours of Sleep, No More Symphony, 2nd Chance for Shteyngart

Oh, self had suuuch a good sleep last night, dear blog readers! She fell asleep on the couch while hubby was watching the Sharks in the Stanley Cup play-offs, and then she woke up just in time to catch some of Craig Ferguson, and then she wrote a few pages, and then she started reading an Economist article and started feeling her eyelids drooping, inexorably drooping, and next thing you know, it was 9 am, and Gracie was going ballistic barking, and the big Japanese street-wrecking machines were outside (They’re completely re-doing all the sewers on our street: at least the local government must have some funds), and there was a very loud bang and self knew it was hubby leaving for work (banging the door to wake her up, probably).

So, let’s see, if self adds up the two hours she was asleep on the couch, and five hours from 4 am to 9 am, she had seven hours sleep all told. Hallelujah!

Today, self had to work. And she had to water her garden. And she had to walk the dogs. And she had to buy them their extra-special diet dog food ($53 for 28 lbs., from Bow Wow Meow, but — anything for the li’l crits!)

The phone did not ring, not once while self was home. Oh, wait! There was a tinkle just a few minutes ago, but self saw it was from the San Francisco Symphony, and as self and hubby are imminently to be jobless and income-less (probably), we have decided not to take any more calls from the Symphony, much as we enjoyed the last two years of watching Michael Tilson Thomas and assorted greats (not to mention all those desserts at Citizen Cake!)

Self was in such a good mood that she even rescued the Shteyngart book (Absurdistan) from her car, which she was about to return to the library. And, as it turned out, immediately after self had made that momentous decision, she suddenly came upon a most hilarious scene (not the circumcision scene — about a dozen pages after), and it was about the 325-lb. hero falling in love. And self found that scene so absolutely sweet (though certainly it was written from a very sex-crazed young man’s point of view) that she smiled, then began to guffaw, and ever since then, self has been hugely enjoying this most picaresque novel of the new, mind-boggling Russia.

And now self, having walked and fed the dogs and checked all her e-mail (No one, no one has e-mailed her. And she can’t even decide whether to watch a movie this weekend, as it is going to be a very busy one — she has to be in the city Saturday and Sunday: let’s just hope her car doesn’t break down on the free-way! It does have a very weird knocking sound which even Dear Cuz remarked on, last time she was visiting, a few weeks ago, but that’s neither here nor there), is now all agog watching TMZ. God, WHY is she on TMZ? Why can’t she just watch “Justified” 24/7? She’s avoiding finishing her Netflix movie, “My Sister’s Keeper,” because she forgot when she ordered it that it was about someone dying of leukemia. And though the acting is very top-notch, it makes her weep.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Friday Evening, Still Awake

What an achievement! Even though self’s brain is fogged up (She believes she got close to three hours sleep — spread over 12 hours), she managed to pick up three 1-gallon pots of Osteospermum (What an odd name, but anyhoo) from Home Depot, her new favorite plant place. One-gallon plants were $4.45 each, what a deal! Though the drawback is that a lot of them look like they’ve been underwatered, or have roots crawling out of the bottom of the pot, so self makes sure she only gets plants that look like they haven’t been allowed to languish. Today there were quite a few serious shoppers who reached in and pulled out individual specimens and positioned them this way and that, so self didn’t feel at all conspicuous doing same.

Then self went to Laurel Street in downtown San Carlos and bought four cans of Fruitables Read the rest of this entry »

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