From Grimdark to Louise Penny

Is quite a leap, self is sure dear blog readers will agree.

Just this morning, we were in bloody Valbeck, but now we are in oh-so-refined Paris, in a gracious building in the Seventh Arrondissement . . .

Hello, Book # 16 of the Inspector Armand Gamache series, All the Devils Are Here.

Post-dinner, self curls up in bed with two books. One of these will be her next read. She’s indecisive like that.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Onward!

Eddie’s Boy was a very satisfying read. So fleet of foot! No anguished moralizing! Only kill, kill, kill!

Next: Ice Walker: A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic, by James Raffan.

Opening Sentence:

  • “Imagine you are in the International Space Station, curving over North America.

Love it!

But oh no, coming from behind is a book about insects, The Butterfly Effect: Insects and the Making of the Modern World, by Edward D. Melillo.

Self may wind up going for the insect book.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Reading for the Times: Chapter II, p. 42 of THE ANNOTATED HOBBIT

More Hobbit thoughts with Relevance for the Year Upcoming:

Bilbo was sadly reflecting that adventures are not all pony rides in May-sunshine . . . There was a hill some way off with trees on it, pretty thick in parts. Out of the dark mass of the trees they could now see a light shining, a reddish comfortable-looking light, as it might be a fire or torches twinkling. When they had looked at it for some while, they fell to arguing. Some said “no” and some said “yes.” Some said they could but go and see, and anything was better than little supper, less breakfast, and wet clothes . . .

Dear California Residents: Health Insurance is Now REQUIRED

Self receives an e-mail informing her that she has 84 days to sign up for a health plan if she wants to avoid an IRS penalty.

After providing the necessary information on yearly income, age, gender etc. here are the choices self was given: (If below $70,000 annual income, you may qualify for financial aid!!! Of course, everyone in California earns AT LEAST $70,000/yr. Because if you don’t, and you live here, you have got to be pretty stupid. Just sayin’. Plumbers and electricians start at $160/hour.)

Of course, you could always go the Do-It-Yourself/Home Depot route. And enroll in classes like Do-It-Yourself Drywall or How to Wield a Plumber’s Wrench and Do It With Confidence. Pray you never mess up.

Kaiser Permanente

  • Monthly Premium: $916.71
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

CCHP Health Plan

  • Monthly Premium: $1,085.67
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

Blue Shield

  • Monthly Premium: $1,229. 14
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

Health Net

  • Monthly Premium: 1,303.65
  • Yearly Deductible: $6,300.00

How exciting that self is being given an opportunity to sign up for $1,000/month medical insurance! Will you just look at that stellar array of choices, ranging from $1085.67 to 1,303.65. And she thought paying $500/month for COBRA was bad!

When’s the deadline to start paying $1,000/month? Dec. 15.

Whew! She’d rather put off paying $1,000/month to the last possible moment. That way, she has until Dec. 15 to feel not-so-poor.

Self wonders who came up with this genius plan to get all California residents on health insurance. Medical insurers?

Of course, now she feels very very embarrassed that she cares so little about her health that she even considered NOT getting health insurance.

But now the government is forcing her to action! No more prevaricating!

WAIT: The IRS penalty is only $700.

To avoid it, self was actually considering paying $1,000 a month.

lol lol lol

This is what self will do: She will CALL THE IRS and ask them what the worst thing they can do to her is.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Freedom! Thinks the 21-Year-Old Narrator

And then Tim O’Brien says, Not so fast.

The border with Canada is so close, all the narrator has to do is get to the other side of a river.

  • My conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame. Hot, stupid shame. I did not want people to think badly of me. Not my parents, not my brother and sister, not even the folks down at the Gobbler Café.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Existential Crisis of the Day: To See or Not to See Fifty Shades

Fifty Shades Darker or John Wick 2?

Self is a big fan of Dakota Johnson.

Yup, that’s right. DAKOTA JOHNSON.

Plus, the Jamie. Come on. Ever seen this guy’s back blown up on the side of a building?

Well, self has. London, 2015. Somewhere in the South Bank. That back was pretty fine.

She is also a big fan of Keanu Reeves. Yesterday, an NPR reviewer called John Wick 2 the apogee of something: “designer violence” or “designer mayhem” or, anyway, something designer. Niiice!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Next 3 Books on Self’s 2017 Reading List

Self began reading Ape House, by Sara Gruen. It really plays with your head because right away, the bonobos are introduced with such clearly human traits, and we don’t see them as “animal.” (So what is the point? If they’re already human, why are we reading? Dare self say — because on p. 11 there are already seeds sown of a romance? Ugh. It’s not that self hates romance. It’s just that she wanted to read a story that was primarily about bonobos) But, no denying, Sara Gruen really goes for it. She bare-knuckles her story and you either buy her point of view or you don’t.

Self then began reading the next book on her reading list: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. And, OMG, he doesn’t pull any punches either. He goes straight for the mythopoetic, quoting from a book on American folklore (and, eerily, finding the exact quote to reflect what self has been thinking all these years, which is: why are there no tikbalangs or mangkukulams in the United States? Is it because these creatures cannot get on a plane?)

So, because self is always searching for certainty, and she just finished reading Peter Lovesey’s Skeleton Hill and it was excellent, and self thinks she might be on something of a run, she decides to be truly daring and pick up the third book on her 2017 reading list: Phil Klay’s Redeployment. And here’s yet another writer who doesn’t pull any punches. His stories of men fighting in the front lines in Iraq — they will not thrill you. For instance, the title story: “We shot dogs. Not by accident.”

Which to read first? In point of fact, self already has six books lined up: the other three books on her current reading list are by Mary Beard, Francis Parkman, and Edward Gibbon. Eminent historians, all. Self hasn’t read so much history in a very long time.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Foolish Things

  • As a result of dropping by the Robert Frank exhibit at the Cantor Art Center on the Stanford Campus yesterday, self got it into her head that she would very much like to own a Leica.
  • After leaving the Robert Frank exhibit, self fully intended to go to Aquarius in Palo Alto and watch Rory Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam.” But she did not.  Instead, after filling up with gas, she went home.  And today — alas! — that film is no longer showing.
  • Self hasn’t looked at her story “The Peacock.”  Not once.  Not since it was workshopped at Squaw. She has no idea what to do with that story. It just sits there, like a lump on a log. Taking up space in her computer. In her store of unfulfilled projects. She wanted it to be a memoir about her and Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying. She wanted it to be desperate and lonely, the voice of a soul lost in the Cambodian wilderness after failing to connect with the splendor that is Angkor Wat (Dear blog readers, do you know that there’s a RAFFLES HOTEL IN SIEM REAP???)
  • Self has wanted to replace the desert of the front lawn with trees — perhaps olive trees — to screen her house from the busy street. But she’s remained staring at that patch of bare, weed-choked dirt for 10 years. It sounds really lame to keep bringing up the drought.

Ugh, ugh, girl. Why can’t you just do? Why must you always be re-hashing the old, or rehearsing for the future? To what end?

How quickly you forget: just yesterday, you got word from Witness that a piece you sent them eight months ago is going to be in their Translation issue.

As for somehow missing “Last Days in Vietnam,” “Gone, Girl” is showing in the Redwood City Century 20 and she heard from a friend who read the book that it’s actually pretty good. Self is not a Ben Affleck fan — seems he is pretty much a control freak with his wife, and no doubt he took care to present himself in the best possible light in this new role — but what the heck? Maybe she just wasn’t in the mood for another hard-hitting documentary yesterday, maybe she should just try and ignite a new respect for Ben Affleck? She did like “Argo” a lot. He’s not a bad director.

And if she’d managed to watch “Last Days in Vietnam” yesterday, she would have missed seeing the San Francisco Giants’ nail-biting victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. She would have missed seeing the way the two teams went head to head all the way to the 9th inning. She would have missed that sweet, game-ending homer.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Between 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Today, self is choosing to interpret the week’s Photo Challenge, BETWEEN, as a choice between this or that.

21 Choices in Claremont: So hard to choose between Golden Nugget or Oreo Mudslide! Self finally decided on # 19: Golden Nugget

21 Choices in Claremont: So hard to choose between Golden Nugget or Oreo Mudslide! Self finally decided on # 19: Golden Nugget

DSCN6217

Unrelated to food but still related to the theme of BETWEEN, here is some brotherly advice offered by Hamlet to a distraught Ophelia.

You’d be surprised how many people still say this to women nowadays, especially women who seem to be on the verge of . . . something.

Hamlet's advice to Ophelia

Hamlet’s advice to Ophelia

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Southern Vivid

In a few days, self is hopping on a plane and heading south to visit Sole Fruit of Her Loins.  It’s been an age, almost a year, since she’s been down there.

Which is a pity because self hugely enjoys the southern part of her home state.  Movie nut that she is, how could she not?

The southern part of California is like the northern part, only everything is bigger and the weather is always warmer.   South means huge palmettos, gardens as lush and colorful as a Rousseau painting, Vroman’s, and The Huntington Botanic Gardens.  It means Claremont and driving and malls that feel shiny and new and women with great tans and poodles.

It means cavernous movie theaters where you get to pick a seat based on a seating chart (Just like in the movie theaters in that mall in Magalang, Pampanga!)

Anyhoo, travel energizes self.  Always.

And, son and Jennie are there.  Which means self will not be alone, as she usually is during her hectic peregrinations.

Now, she will have dinners to share and people to talk to.  She will discover new restaurants (though the milk shakes down south are humongous.  Those could keep you going two full days, at least)

And you know what else is down south?  Her Villanueva relatives from Bacolod —  woot hoot!  For some reason, they all settled down there.  All except for niece Ri Na, who’s in Sacramento (Must visit her soon!)

Yesterday, self received both good news and bad news.

The good was that she got an e-mail from the editors of the Crab Orchard Review that her short story “Crackers” had been accepted for their special issue on writing from The West and Beyond, which is planned for publication in September this year.

Right after that, she got two contest results, and naturally she did not win or even place.

Back to the good.

Ever since self got that e-mail from Crab Orchard Review, she’s been checking her “in” box almost every two hours, just to make sure she didn’t dream the whole thing.  Because, folks, she’s been sending her stories to this particular magazine for decades.  She sometimes panics and thinks:  It’s a mistake!  They didn’t mean to put self’s name on the acceptance letter!  Someone will apologize and say, That letter wasn’t meant for you!  It was meant for someone else!

Anyhoo, self still hasn’t gotten the retraction, so she still feels pretty great.

Deciding which books to bring along is harder than the decision about what to wear.  First of all, BLGF is 1000-plus pages and is, moreover, hardcover, so if self decides to bring it she will have to check in her luggage.  Must. Discuss. With. Jennie.

Self happened to glance at her text messages just a minute ago, and there’s another message from Jennie to dress “business casual” for an event she’s taking self to.  Oooh, fun!  Self asks Jennie whether that means a suit, or can she just wear a skirt and sweater?  Does she need to bring along pumps?

Self had almost decided to leave BLGF behind, in favor of some less prodigious paperback, when she gets yet another Jennie Text:  Bring your books!

YAY!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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