X-Men: Apocalypse and the Egyptian Mummies in the British Museum

Self took this post down for a while but then she decided to put it back up because she just went and saw X-Men: Apocalypse for the second time and — Evan Peters, hell yeah!

BTW, the movie improves on repeat viewing. But why Mystique keeps carrying a torch for Magneto is really, really frustrating. Every time she talks about him, with tears in her eyes — aaargh! That’s why it was such a breath of fresh air to have Quicksilver around: imagine, a man who feels no subliminal attraction for any of the female characters, whatsoever!

Below, her original post:

_____________________________

About a week ago, in London, self walked all the way to Shaftesbury Avenue after spending three hours in the Egyptian galleries of the British Museum just to watch X-Men: Apocalypse in the Odeon in Covent Garden.

She also thought it would be a good excuse to check out the Covent Garden area. See? Like killing two birds with one stone.

That turned out to be an excellent idea. Because the movie began with — ancient Egypt! Some dude was harnessing the power of the sacred pyramids — or something — to give himself eternal life! Of course, self had no idea that Egyptian leatherface was actually the beautiful Oscar Isaac.

Anyhoo, watching the movie was like entering a zone, where everything happening had a connection to ancient Egypt (mind-blowing, right?). Of course, it also reminded her — when all the Egyptian stuff was done — that there was an actor named Evan Peters who plays Quicksilver.

Honest-to-God, how could she have forgotten this guy? She loved his scene from the earlier X-men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, so much. But there were just so many X-Men crowding her thoughts, not to mention James McAvoy. In almost every scene. James McAvoy. And there was Nightcrawler. And the Archangel. And Jean Grey (looking exactly like Sansa Stark; self almost expected Littlefinger or Ramsay Bolton to put in an appearance). Not to mention Fassbender emoting and singing to his daughter. And J-Law being very capricious about when she wanted to be blue or not. So, finally. EVAN PETERS! She nearly jumped out of her seat. She was so happy to see him again.

Anyhoo, the point of all this. The point of all this is that she also has a short story that involves Egyptian hieroglyphics. It appeared in a fabulous magazine called Isotope, and was edited by Chris Cokinos. Isotope was a magazine that featured both science writing and  creative writing. Self’s essay, “The Lost Language,” appeared in Isotope in 2007. A year or two later, it went defunct. And now, nobody can read that story anymore! WAAAAH! (She does have extra copies of the particular issue with her essay. It’s back in her house in Redwood City, CA. Which is a long way away — across an ocean, in fact. Across a continent, even — from where self is currently: Oxford, UK. But if anyone wants to get a copy, she can promise that, as soon as she arrives back in California, she will get her hands on those issues and mail it to whoever wants one. Because it seems such a terrible waste to keep those issues mouldering in her closet, taking up space and being useless)

Here’s how it begins:

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper, they would look like a series of waves. Or like Egyptian hieroglyphics. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

The rest of the essay is very digressive and is actually pretty funny. There was a time when all of self’s short stories were so filled with angst and pain that she actually rejoiced when she wrote “The Lost Language.” At last! She was capable of showing a little more range!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: “Taka ti e pisano”

The quote for today is not from Daoud’s novel. Instead, it’s from an article in the November/December Poets & Writers magazine. That issue focused on translation (Which, since most of the books self reads are translations, like the Daoud, like the Candide she just finished reading), which is a topic that fascinates her.

The quote above is from the Bulgarian, and it means “That’s what is written for you.”

The author of the article, Angela Rodel, asks herself, How did I become a translator of Bulgarian literature?

She begins her piece with a wonderful quote from Mexican writer and translator Reynol Vazquez:

There are many sophisticated ways of starving yourself to death and being a translator from Bulgarian is one of them.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Found You, William Harvey

Self looked him up last Fall, when she was wandering around the East Coast.

She didn’t even know his name, then.

All she knew was that, in the days following 9/11, she was stuck on Salon.com, reading anything and everything.

And there was a piece titled:

Juilliard Student Plays the Concert of His Life

Maybe that’s not the exact title, but that was the gist.

It was first-person. The writer was a freshman at Juilliard when 9/11 happened. He didn’t even have to think twice: he grabbed his violin, headed downtown. And then, he played in the Armory. Hours and hours. Until his fingers bled (? She thinks, anyway). And Juilliard sent its students to keep the music going. The students literally played until they couldn’t lift their arms anymore. Firemen were standing there, weeping. Exhausted and weeping.

Salon.com is still around (Thank goodness. It has introduced self to so many good writers) From time to time, self will do an archive search on Salon.com, but she never found the original posting. But, by dint of patient digging and Google, she found the student’s name. And she found his website. She found that the Armory concert was only the first of many good acts he was to do.

His latest project? He is “traveling to all 50 states in 2016, asking What is American culture?

Read his blog so you can follow him along. There’s still a lot of 2016 left!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

New Letters Editor Robert Stewart, Vol. 82 No. 1

In Stewart’s prefatory essay to New Letters Issue 82.1, “Peace,” self was struck by this paragraph:

I still believe that New Letters, a journal of writing and art, cannot isolate itself from global events; but I am not inclined simply to repeat the same issuances of grief. The song says, “Let there be peace on earth/ and let it begin with me.” Yes, I was raised to embrace peace, to turn the other cheek, but such a gentle manner doesn’t always take with me. After the November 2015 massacres in Paris, I had the ridiculous wish that I could re-enlist — just go get ’em. Ridiculous.

“If we have no peace,” wrote Mother Teresa in a prayer reflection, “it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Qualities of a Leader

  • Poise under pressure
  • Clarity of intention
  • Courage
  • Conviction
  • Charisma
  • The ability to motivate people

Self pulled the above traits from an article she is reading in Parabola (It’s the POWER issue, Fall 2013 — the last three years have been hectic, okay?), written by Linda Kohanov. It’s an article about horse taming. Or, what horse taming can teach a person.

Kohanov cites several powerful historical examples, including Alexander the Great and Gautama Siddhartha.

Here’s what she writes:

  • Horses embody many of the assets people access through more formal meditation techniques, including the ability to engage fully with reality. What seems so difficult for a grasping, hoarding, controlling, and competitive human being comes easily to these highly social, intensely aware, nomadic prey animals. Horses are actually hardwired for the state of nonattachment favored by the Buddha. In the wild they don’t defend territory, build nests, live in caves, or store nuts for the winter . . . While they react quickly in the face of danger, they also show remarkable resilience in recovering from traumatic events. They don’t ruminate over and over about the injustices of the past, or with ceaseless internal dialogues about how cruel it is that God invented predators.

She lists famous historical people (apart from the aforementioned Alexander the Great and Siddhartha) who have turned skill with horses into leadership skills: Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, George Washington, Catherine the Great, Andrew Jackson, Elizabeth I, Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan.

Fascinating, just fascinating.

 

Buzz Bissinger’s “Call Me Caitlyn” (Vanity Fair, July 2015)

Pardon, dear blog readers. Self is only now catching up with her Vanity Fair subscription. She’s been itching to get to the July 2015 issue, the one that has Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, in the white bustier (There is absolutely nuthin’, apparently, that can be done with the meaty thighs. Onward!)

Let’s see, where was self in July 2015? London.

Here’s what the article’s author, Buzz Bissinger, has to say about his subject:

This is the most remarkable story I have ever worked on in 38 years as a journalist, the only writer in the world with unlimited access to Jenner for a story of global interest, witness to the final months of one of the most iconic male athletes before he disappears and a woman appears in his place. I spent hundreds of hours with the man over a period of three months. Then I spent countless hours with the woman. It was initially weird, and virtually anyone who says it isn’t weird is giving themselves far too much credit.

And that, dear blog readers, is such disarmingly charming writing.

Stay tuned.

 

Quote of the Day: On Trump’s No-Show in the Latest Televised Presidential Debate

It speaks volumes about the general disarray of the presidential campaign spectacle that it has now reached its highest pitch over the prospect of Donald Trump remaining silent over the course of a televised debate (OK, technically Trump intends to be absent for the debate — but one can argue that in his case, the only way to ensure silence is via complete physical isolation).

— Chris Lehmann in The Baffler

The reason the quote struck a chord: self firmly believes that the only way to ensure silence IS via complete physical isolation.

The (awfully) big question Lehmann asks is: Is Trump a “big feminized baby” or “a terrorist enabler”?

OMG. Dying.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Selling Lingerie to the Egyptians: Peter Hessler, The New Yorker, Aug. 10 & 17, 2015

Self finds the Peter Hessler essay in The New Yorker, “Learning to Speak Lingerie” absolutely fascinating.

She started reading Hessler because he wrote about his two years living in China (as a Peace Corps volunteer) in River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. Self is a graduate of   East Asian Studies, concentration in Chinese, hence the feeling of connection.

Moreover, Hessler is a very very very good writer.

He wrote his essay about Asyut, in Upper Egypt. Here, in this very conservative place (“Virtually all Muslim women there wear the head scarf”), there is “a Chinese Lingerie Corner in a mall whose entrance featured a Koranic verse that warned against jealousy.”

Along a “three-hundred-mile stretch,” Hessler reports he found “twenty-six Chinese lingerie dealers.” Their product? “butt-less body stockings, nightgowns that cover only one breast, G-strings accessorized with feathers, see-through tops . . . Brand names include Laugh Girl, Shady Tex Lingerie, Hot Love Italy Design, and Sexy Fashion Reticulation Alluring.”

Clearly, this is an essay that demands self’s full and unfocused attention.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Also Reading: The New Yorker, 8 September 2015

Self is reading Patrick Radden Keefe’s New Yorker article “The Avenger,” about the brother of a man killed in Lockerbie.

Lockerbie.

Self read in the Stanford Alumni Magazine, not too long ago, that the father of yet another victim, a lawyer, had died of cancer. The man was tireless in aiding the hunt for his daughter’s killers, even putting up reward money. As self would do too, if she were in his shoes.

Three years ago, self was in Hawthornden Writers Retreat, only 40 minutes by bus from Edinburgh. Every time she took the bus back, she saw the sign for Lockerbie.

Lockerbie, Lockerbie.

The New Yorker article is about Ken Dorstein, a sophomore at Brown whose brother David had been on the plane.

This is what he did:

He traveled to Scotland and spent several weeks in Lockerbie interviewing investigators and walking through the pastures where the plane had gone down. He read the transcript of the Scottish Fatal Accident Inquiry, which exceeded fifteen-thousand pages, and he located the patch of grass where David’s body had landed.

Dorstein tells The New Yorker: “I had found a less painful way to miss my brother, by not missing him at all, just trying to document what happened to his body.”

He also married his brother’s ex-girlfriend. When he told his wife that he wanted to go to Libya to confront the “culprits who were still alive,” he invoked what they call in their marriage “the Lockerbie dispensation.” She could not refuse him.

Dorstein showed the New Yorker reporter a large map of Lockerbie, “with hundreds of colored pushpins indicating where the bodies had fallen.” In death, as in life, there were divisions: first-class passengers clustered in one place, economy passengers in another (But isn’t it interesting that they all ended up in the same place anyway: which is to say, dead)

Shhh, now.

Self has to finish reading the article.

Stay tuned.

War, Literature & The Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities

In a few weeks, it will be time again to remember 9/11.

Self is so glad she bookmarked War, Literature & the Arts, which she’s been dipping into for a very long time now.

Today, she read Donald Anderson’s essay on Phil Klay’s story collection, Redeployment.

It begins:

I’ve long guessed that serious students of “war literature” are not war lovers, that love of war is not why they turn to literature.

Anderson’s first Phil Klay quote is this:

We shot dogs. Not by accident. We did it on purpose, and we called it Operation Scooby. I’m a dog person, so I thought about that a lot.

Honestly, that was truly, shockingly painful to read. But she believes every word. That is, she finds it entirely plausible.

She thinks she may just look for Klay’s collection, next time she’s in a bookstore.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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