Shine 3: San Francisco Medallion Cab In Rain

All cabs have little TVs in the back seat now.

What does this mean? Does it mean that people are so tethered to their entertainment that they can’t bear missing a) their favorite shows or b) the news?

This evening, it rained. Self quite likes the city when it rains.


What does this mean?

Sitting in the back of the cab, self suddenly remembered the Daily Post Photo Challenge. So she whipped out her camera and started snapping away.


Streets of San Francisco

The cab driver heard self clicking away but didn’t utter a word. San Franciscans have this really steadfast devotion to respecting your privacy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Tin House, By Way of UTNE READER

.At one time, self had a subscription to the Utne Reader.

And even though that subscription has long expired, she hangs on to her back copies.

Today she re-reads a story that was in the Spring 2015 issue. It’s a re-print of a short story originally published in Tin House. The writer’s name is Alia Volz.

The story’s young narrator has a hippie Daddy, a Daddy who still insists on wearing “lavender bell-bottoms” and who goes by the name Firehawk:

  • Arriving at the marijuana garden, we find our plants quivering under an invasion of blue-and-orange-striped caterpillars. Their gruesome, beautiful bodies spiral around stalks, hang from leaves, and writhe over one another.

— from the short story “In Any Light, By Any Name,” by Alia Volz

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

That Point In the Story When —

No one is coming to help us, all right?”

That line was uttered by a passenger on UA 93. You know, the flight that went down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The passengers already knew that the plane had been hijacked and everyone had rushed screaming to the back of the plane and were all huddled there, gripping their cell phones and passing on hope.

And then one man said, very simply and quietly, and self can’t remember what his name was or where she read about him (it was probably The New Yorker, because she’s been subscribing to that magazine for almost her whole life): “No one is coming to help us, all right? We’re going to have to help ourselves.” And that’s when the passengers drew up a plan to fight back.

Self thinks this is so beautiful because, to tell the truth, she is very prone to what is referred to nowadays as ‘Magical Thinking’

  • My Masters from _______ will save me.
  • My 300-point Egyptian cotton sheets will save me.
  • My sarcasm and unflappable good nature will save me.

And then nobody saves you.

She’s still reading Ghost Soldiers, about the American POW camp in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. For the first time in three years, American fighter jets are spotted in the sky. They seem to be making a point to fly directly over the POW camp, as if taunting the Japanese guards. Or maybe warning them: you’re going to lose, so you’d better start treating the POWs well.

And that’s when the Japanese decide to siphon off 1,600 of the strongest and healthiest POWs and pack them into ships bound for Japan. And of course, no one wants to be among the number going to Japan, because they might very well die en route. And it seems so tragically pointless to die just when the Philippines is on the point of being liberated.

Author Hampton Sides shows all the fakery that individual POWs resort to keep from being on the list of prisoners being transported to Japan. Then he follows what happens on board this one ship (which makes self feel a little hopeful, since obviously there had to be survivors of this ordeal; otherwise, how could the author know how it all went down?)

Anyhoo, the POWs are crammed into the hold of this one ship, and they start to panic when the doors to the hold are shut. There’s pandemonium and yelling and suffering. Then one man (Sides gives us his name: Frank Bridget) climbs up on a stairway and shouts: GENTLEMEN! (Because this is the 1940s? And nowadays it would be something more like: LISTEN UP, DUDES!): “If we panic, we’re only going to use up more oxygen.”

Who was this guy? Where’d he come from? Like the man on UA 93, though, he was the right man at the right time. Who knows why?

This man rapped on the hatch and told the Japanese officers: “I am coming up to speak to you. And you are going to keep this hatch open.”

And they listened to him! Holy cow! If you insist on behaving like a human being, perhaps others will start remembering that they, too, are human beings? And then all the madness will stop?

The name of the ship the POWs were on was the Oryoku Maru.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Curious About the Kevin Hart Movie?

And you are! You know you are!

If you can’t get there, because you’re one of the 99% of Americans who have to work in an office (as opposed to tele-commuting, where no one can see you clock in or clock out, and no one will know if you decide to break up your workday by sneaking into a local cineplex), all you have to do is go to this great movie review website,, and read the (3-star) review there, by Odie Henderson.

Self must confess: this is the very first review by Henderson she’s ever read. So she cannot believe it when he writes, “. . .  I don’t have very much to tell you . . . I can’t tell you the jokes because I wouldn’t do them justice . . . My work here is done. Thank you, America! Good night and God bless!”

Mr. Henderson, if you should ever feel the need to branch out from your current line of work (movie reviewer: but why would you ever want to do that? Self would kill, KILL, for a job such as yours), she thinks you might be able to get a gig somewhere as a stand-up comedian.

Stay tuned.

GHOST SOLDIERS, by Hampton Sides: the Surrender

Bataan Peninsula, April 1942:

Major General Edward King, commander of the American ground forces on Bataan, surrendered April 9 without informing his superiors, or General Wainwright on Corregidor. He said later that he was thinking of the 24,000 wounded who were crowded into field hospitals around southern Bataan: The field stations and hospitals were about to come “within range of enemy light artillery” which would have resulted, he said, in “the greatest slaughter in history.”

Hampton Sides:

Never had the U.S. Army fought against an enemy about whom it knew so little. The initial encounter between victor and vanquished would involve an extreme clash of two proud cultures whose profound ignorance of one another predictably generated intense feelings of racial animus and mutual disdain. There was a sense in which the defeated Americans had become victims of their own blithely held notions of racial superiority. (p. 51, Ghost Soldiers)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Jerusalem, April 2008

Self was there.

Here are a few pictures:

  • The Wailing Wall; members of the Israeli Army (Look at the casual way those young women haul rifles: they do it the same way California girls haul gym bags); a bazaar in Jerusalem.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Jericho, West Bank:

One Saturday, several years ago: An abbreviated version of Ehrenreich’s encounter with three teen-age settlers. Ehrenreich is meeting up with his friends Ahmad and Irene. (Full version on pp. 212 – 213):

Three teenage settler boys were walking past . . . One of them carried an infant strapped to his chest with purple cloth. The boy with the baby began shouting. His name was Binyamin.

“All the time, he’s drunk,” Ahmad tells Ehrenreich.

He didn’t look drunk — his gait was steady and his speech unblurred . . . “This house and every house, they are all ours,” he yelled in Hebrew . . . “We will conquer this whole city.”

Ahmad told the boy to be quiet.

“I’m not scared of you,” shouted the boy. “I’m scared only of God.”

Somehow the baby strapped to his chest slept through it all.

Eventually he got tired. Irene and I hiked out past the old archaeological excavations to the empty lot in which she had parked her car. As we were leaving, I noticed two settler children, boys about nine or ten years old, standing beside a soldier on the hill above us. They looked almost angelic, dressed all in white, lit from behind, their blonde hair and forelocks gilded by the sun. The one on the right held up his middle finger as we passed.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Nostalgia For Venice

  • For this challenge, show us what nostalgia means to you — perhaps a moment or scene that makes you feel wistful, happy, sad, or somehow longing for the past.

— Jeff Golenski, The Daily Post

Self went with Margarita Donnelly to Venice in April 2013. Margarita was battling breast cancer. She passed away in December 2014.

What self remembers of that trip was that she was always getting lost. The streets of Venice are labyrinthine.

These pictures have a melancholy feel. Her Venice is more the Don’t Look Now Venice instead of the hectic, tourist-packed place it really is.


This was self’s second trip. The first time was when she was 11:



Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Photographs in THE WAY TO THE SPRING

Self doesn’t think any of the reviews have mentioned the photographs in The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine. But they are powerful. They make you see the people behind the words and the politics.

The first one that catches her attention is Bassem Tamimi in his living room in Nabi Saleh, taken by Keven Manor: Bassem has a somewhat Peter Stormare look about him.

The picture immediately below it is pretty stunning: Ahed and Nariman Tamimi outside their home in Nabi Saleh, Summer 2012, taken by Peter van Agtmael (the captions are infinitesimally small: she can barely read them, in fact. Must get bifocals!) The same photographer took the stunning picture of a boy taking cover as soldiers fire rubber-coated bullets, somewhere near Nabi Saleh, February 2013. And a third picture by van Agtmael is so sweeping and powerful, in composition it reminds self a little of Goya: Men sit beside a fire in the ruins of Shuja’iyya.

Many of the photographs are by author Ben Ehrenreich. Of Ehrenreich’s photos, self’s favorite is one of Eid Suleiman al-Hathalin’s daughter, Lin.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Self would really like to thank Ben Ehrenreich for The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine. The book’s been well-reviewed (She got interested in it after reading a featured review in The Economist) so Ehrenreich certainly doesn’t need self’s approbation or anything like that. But it took courage to do what he did, write from the point of view of an encircled, really powerless people. Who seem to be operating out of sheer nerve.

Ehrenreich writes:

  • From a distance, it was easy to mistake velocity for hope. (p. 117)

She cannot get an image out of her mind: the image of a house in Gaza, cut off from its neighbors, completely encircled by Israeli-constructed fences and barbed wire. The occupants of the house were told they could have fifteen-minute intervals in which to come and go. The rest of the time, they were virtually prisoners. The owner of the house at first refused to accede to this, but then the Israelis kept the locks on the gates for two weeks. So they learned to accept the new restrictions.

A few Palestinian villages are organized enough to keep up a sustained program of resistance, one of these villages being Bab al-Shams (The name means “The Gate of the Sun”). There is a lot of hope in the first months of resistance. But when Ehrenreich returns to Bab al-Shams after an absence of several months, he finds that the village was not, after all, “the beginning of a new stage of resistance, but the climax of an old one. Everything goes in cycles.”

Self picked up a copy of The Economist, a few weeks ago, and in it she learned that the occupation in Gaza, which has dragged on for seven long years, has no end in sight.

Still, despite knowing that most of the characters in Ehrenreich’s book are as oppressed as ever, despite how very depressing this knowledge is, she has sworn to finish the book, and to read all the way to the bitter end.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



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