Personal Library 12

449 + 53 = 502 Total Books Tallied So Far

Self is now starting on the second bookcase in the dining room (Let’s see how long she can keep this up!).  Titles on this shelf include:

The Illustrated Sherlock Holmes TreasuryThe Ophelia Dimalanta Reader:  Selected Prose, vol. 2The World of the Shining Prince, by Ivan Morris;  When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard;  Exactly Here, Exactly Now, by Nadine L. SarrealDeep Light:  New and Selected Poems, 1987 – 2007, by Rebecca McClanahan;  Blood and Soap:  Stories, by Linh Dinh;  The Hmong and the American Immigrant Experience, by Lillian Faderman with Ghia Xiong;  ERAPtion:  How to Speak English Without Really Trial, by Emil P. Jurado and Reli L. German; Life of Pi, by Yann Martel;  Birthmark:  Poems, by Jon Pineda;  The Forbidden Stitch:  An Asian American Women’s Anthology, edited by Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Mayumi Tsutakawa, and Margarita Donnelly (Managing Editor);  Oregon Handbook, 2nd edition, by Stuart Warren & Ted Long Ishikawa (part of the excellent Moon Handbook Travel Series);  The Cebu We Know, edited by Erma M. Cuizon

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Still Happy

Self is happy to be home.  Yes, in spite of the fact that the San Francisco Bay Area is still chilly, and a pesky cough seems to have returned.

Looking through more mail, self finds a rejection from The Alaska Quarterly Review that she chooses to read as cryptically encouraging (if that is not too much of an oxymoron):  “Many thanks” handwritten in the bottom of the rejection note, but no signature.  Still, would an editor have bothered to write “Many thanks” if self’s story had not had some redeeming qualities?  Wouldn’t the rejection note have been left alone if the work was simply un-interesting and un-involving?  You see how the addition of a hand-written “Many Thanks” throws self off completely, dear blog readers?

(Self, there you go again, continually parsing codes.  Not to mention, embarking on the xxxth digression of the year. Focus, self, focus!)

Other stuff in the backlog of mail:  the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal

It is already the end of March.  How quickly the time has flown!  Upcoming on the calendar are :

  • April Fool’s Day:  Sunday, April 1
  • Good Friday:  Friday, April 6
  • Easter Sunday:  April 8
  • Bataan Day (Philippines):  April 9 (commemorates the Fall of Bataan, April 1942, which culminated in the infamous Death March)
  • Tax Day:  April 17
  • Earth Day:  April 22
  • ANZAC Day (Australia and New Zealand):  April 25
  • Arbor Day; South African Freedom Day:  Friday, April 27

Self’s Zen Mind calendar has the following reflection for March:

To open your innate nature and to feel something from
the bottom of your heart, it is necessary to remain silent.

The accompanying illustration is a pen and ink painting of Mount Fuji by the artist Shogetsu, who was active in the latter part of the Meiji Era, from roughly 1880 to 1890.  There is a museum dedicated to his work in Wakakusa, Japan

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Sunday in Bacolod

March is hot.  Last night, surprisingly, it rained.  Cousins had taken her to Italia, which is a really neat restaurant/art gallery.  Last night was the opening for a new exhibit, Fécondé, by Lydia Velasco:  Self saw vivid paintings of striking women in native Filipino (peasant?) attire (salakots, etc), but with pretty fab jewelry, long manicured nails.  The women were dusky, full-lipped, high-cheekboned —  not the traditional-looking Filipino women of Amorsolo.  Self’s favorite was a series called “A Mother’s Love.”

The food was an assortment of Italian-inspired hors d’ouerves, paella (Yumm!  Self cannot seem to restrain herself from eating and eating, this trip.  The first comment made to her by anyone here was:  “Parang tumaba ka.“) and a most delicious pizza (which self was unable to eat, as she was already feeling over-loaded).

Today and yesterday, self’s nails are painted a bright blue.  The manicures here cost 70 pesos ($1.64).  If she gets tired of her blue nails, she’ll pick a new color tomorrow.  The manicurista will be so happy to see her, for self’s usual tip is 30 pesos (70 US cents).

She opens her e-mail and gets a message from the Smithsonian.  She’ll be in Washington, DC in April, for the “Asian American Encounters” at the National Portrait Gallery.  April is cherry blossom time in Washington.  The city will be beautiful.  And, for the first time ever, the husband is accompanying self to one of her literary events.  Yup, he actually got his ticket, before self left for Bacolod.

Since self is such an indefatigable researcher, she finds the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Blog, and discovers that Japan donated 2000 cherry trees to the nation’s capitol in 1910.  Unfortunately, however, those trees arrived “diseased” and the whole lot had to be destroyed.  “Dr. Jukichi Tamine, who had funded the original gift, again put up money for the purchase of more trees . . .  Taken from a variety of cherry trees lining the Arakawa River in Tokyo, 3020 cuttings (or “scions”) arrived for planting in 1912.”

The first Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC was held in 1935.  “Since that time, the gift has been reciprocated several times, as clippings from the DC cherry trees have been sent back to Japan to repair damage (from World War II and other incidents of flooding) to trees that line the Arakawa River.”

Later in April, son and Jennie will be in the Bay Area for a conference.  Happy happy joy joy!  Definitely, we must take them out to dinner.

In the meantime, self plans to spend the rest of the day planning day trips.  She’d love to return to the sugar central in La Carlota.  Never will she forget the sight of an absolute mountain of brown sugar in the warehouse there, in September last year.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Perfect Sentence: John Burnham Schwartz, Self Hates You

Self was feeling quite satisfied, quite righteous, for having spent most of today gardening, watering, and even cleaning out kitchen cabinets.  Her reward is settling down on the couch and continuing to read John Burnham Schwarz’s novel, The Commoner.  She had no idea what to expect, but Schwarz surprises her at every turn.

p. 29:

In winter, little girls in the country wore padded kimonos the color of trampled persimmon, the puffed fabric making them look like flocks of curious, full-breasted cardinals.

Not only is he quite a writer, he makes it all seem so effortless.

John Burnham Schwartz, self both admires and envies (and maybe even hates) you for your talent.

Stay tuned.

Perusing the Economist Best Books of 2011: Short List

Books self is interested in reading after perusing The Economist’s “Best Books of 2011” list:

Biography and Memoir


  • Jerusalem:  The Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore.  “After his acclaimed biographies of Stalin, Catherine the Great and her lover, Potemkin, Simon Sebag Montefiore has finally turned to the book he was born to write.”

Culture, Society and Travel

  • People Who Eat Darkness:  The Fate of Lucie Blackman, by Richard Lloyd Parry.  “A page-turning, if horrifying, read about the murder of a young Englishwoman in Japan and the dubious workings of the Japanese criminal-justice system.”


  • Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson.  The Economist calls it a “dense, mesmerising novella about a labourer in the American West … ” (Wonder what that is:  a “labourer” in the American West.  Not a cowboy, not a ranch hand, not a homesteader.  A labourer.  Can’t wait to read the book and find out)

Incidentally, all but three of the above books are published by Knopf (Two are published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, one by Penguin Press).  Self is suitably impressed.

Stay tuned.

Books of The Economist and Condé Nast Traveler

Oh, places far and near.  Oh, Pakistan, Japan, and Marrakech.  Oh, how reading these book reviews do instil in self a great and restless longing for foreign climes!

Without further ado, here are the books self is interested in reading after perusing:

The Economist of 21 May 2011

Bloodmoney:  A Novel of Espionage, by David Ignatius (Norton)

Bloodmoney is, among other stories, a study of Pakistan and its secret service, the ISI . . .  Mr. Ignatius is a master of the small details that give spy-novels a ring of truth (his description of the corner of London where The Economist has its office is certainly accurate).  The CIA is as much as petty bureaucracy as a killing machine.  The ISI is still enthralled by the rituals of the British Raj.  But Mr. Ignatius is more of a John Le Carré than a Tom Clancy.  Far from offering a tub-thumping celebration of America’s “war on terror” —  or a tut-tutting condemnation of Pakistan’s duplicity —  he serves up a supper of nuance and self-doubt.

The Economist of 12 June 2011

Lovesick Japan:  Sex, Marriage, Romance, Law by Mark West (Cornell University Press)

According to surveys, there seems to be less sex going on in Japan than in any other big country.  A Health Ministry study in 2006 reported that as many as one-third of all married couples under the age of 50 had sex, or even kissed or held hands, less than once a month.  Indeed, kissing itself was long considered unhygienic.  It was encouraged during the American occupation in the belief that such Western ways might promote democracy and erode the patriarchal household system.

Condé Nast Traveler, October 2010

A Year in Marrakesh, by Peter Mayne:  Documents his pioneering year in the medina in the 1950s.

Lulu in Marrakech, by Diane Johnson:  “part spy novel, part romantic romp . . .  offers a contemporary tour of East-meets-West Marrakech”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Nuclear Meltdown: Burning Questions of the Day

Self:  Why would they situate a nuclear reactor so close to the sea, where it is obviously so vulnerable to tsunami?

Hubby:  They need a lot of water.  To cool the reactors.

*     *     *     *

Self:  Why does the government allow a town of 150,000 people to be situated right next to a nuclear reactor?

(Self thinks it is probably because the town consisted of families of the people who worked at the nuclear plant.  Duh, self.  This is the reason why there are California cities like Folsom and Solano that have sprung up right next to a medium-security penitentiary or a state prison)

*     *     *     *

Self:  Why are people walking around Japan wearing surgical masks?

Answer by TV news reporter:  To protect themselves from excess radiation.

(Do masks really help?  Alas, self thinks not)

*     *     *     *

Self heard over the news today that there are 50 employees still working at the nuclear plant to try and contain the catastrophe.  These people are definitely heroes.  They are going to die from radiation poisoning, and they know it.  The radiation they’ve absorbed by now is probably 400 times the limit that any human being should be exposed to (Hubby says what’s the big deal?  They’re all wearing safety suits.  OK, guess that means self can stop worrying about them)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Hawwttt !!!

The Giants are hot!

Self watched the last out, just a minute ago.

Must confess, Giants relief pitcher Brian Wilson had self biting her nails.

Baseball is so much like Kabuki. There are these long stretches when nothing apparently happens. Then, suddenly, KA-BOOM! A flurry of explosive action.

Self knows whereof she speaks. She watched Kabuki when she was on a summer exchange stint with Sophia University in Tokyo. In fact, self almost chose to go into Japanese Studies rather than Chinese Studies. She finally decided on Chinese because China has a long and richer relationship with the Philippines. (Self, are you simply incapable of writing a post without digressing??!!)

But the drama of the pitcher standing alone on the mound, facing his demons (There were two Braves on base, self could hardly bear to watch!) is … EPIC.

Now, self is all wrung out.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Think Like a Geisha

Presenting on flat-screen HDTV (which now sells at Best Buy for approximately half of what we paid for it three years ago) is 60s comedy series, “I Dream of Jeannie.” (How self used to love watching this show!  Oh, the hours self spent imagining herself in Barbara Eden’s genie get-up, wearing the diaphanous harem pants and floaty head scarf!).

Son has awoken! (She distinctly heard him talking to someone at 3 a.m.; he sounded extremely jolly)  With fear and trepidation, she proposes her plan for the day:  to see a movie.  If he agrees to come with her, self says, she can take him to the 3:45 screening of “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”  On the other hand, if he already has plans for the day, she will go by herself and see “Brothers,” showing at noon.  He hems and haws.  Self tells him that It’s OK, she’ll go see “Brothers.”  But then he changes his mind and says he will see “Fantastic Mr. Fox” with her after all!

So then self sits down to resume reading a most interesting article in a back issue of Condé Nast Traveler, “My Life as a Geisha.”  Self has seen an article about this woman before:  She’s a western woman who decided to enroll in Geisha training school.  Self saw her featured in Marie Claire, one of self’s favorite women’s mags.  But the article in Condé Nast Traveler is substantially longer, and begins this way:

I have come to Japan to learn about allure.  I’ve been married for seventeen years, and while my marriage isn’t falling apart, it is fraying at the edges:  a victim of minutiae like leaky taps, lost airline tickets, and PTA meetings.  Nowadays when I ask my husband a fairly innocuous question such as, “Does this green dress suit me?” he gets this deer-in-the-headlights expression.  I want Ram to look at me without fear and without adoration.  So I have come to Japan to learn about feminine allure from its acknowledged masters:  the geisha.

(What a very interesting name this woman’s husband has!  Self for the life of her cannot imagine what being married to a man named “Ram” might be like.  Is that an Indian name?  She knew someone at Stanford, a tall, statuesque blonde, who was married to a gorgeous but delicately built Indian man, about ten years her junior.  It seems to her this person was also named Ram, or perhaps that was just a nickname?  Why, self, are you now so obssessed by this name???)

The Condé Nast Traveler article reminds self of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.  Also about a book self read a couple of years ago, about a woman who went to Kyoto to take classes on the niceties of the Japanese tea ceremony.  Self thinks a really good topic for another “women’s self-help” book might be (inspired by the Vera Farmiga character in “Up in the Air” of course)  “How to Hook Up with Men Like George Clooney and Still Keep Your Husband and Kids Happy.”  Self thinks that book would be a No. 1 best-seller, sold in all airport bookstores from here to New York City, and be especially pertinent to all women who log at least 50,000 flyer miles on business trips a year.

Stay tuned.

Only Sixty-Five of Her Poems Exist

Below, a poem by Lady Horikawa, servant to retired Empress Taiken, whose husband ruled Japan from 1107-1123 (Piece is taken from the book Hokusai: One Hundred Poets, edited by Peter Morse and published by George Braziller.)

Editor’s Note: Although it seems very personal, this poem, we are told, was composed at the emperor’s request. It may or may not reflect the poet’s own experience.

If it be for aye

    That he wills our love should last?

Ah! I do not know!

    And this morn my anxious thoughts
    Like my black hair, are confused.


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