WIP: Island of Dreams

18th century Madrid:

“You have a noble countenance, my son,” the Bishop said, finally.

“My father is a lawyer, Your Reverence,” Matias said.

“You have a noble countenance! You were born in Murcia? Who was your father?” the Bishop said, gesturing to his nose.

“My father is a merchant. He was born in Murcia but his parents are Basque. From Pamplona. My mother’s family, on the other hand — they have been rooted in the province for hundreds of years.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


“Lightning That Never Ends” by Miguel Hernandez, trans. by Don Share

Will this lightning never end, that fills
my heart with exasperated wild beasts
and furious forges and anvils
where even the freshest metal shrivels?

— Miguel Hernandez, poems selected and translated by Don Share, published by the New York Review of Books, www.nyrb.com

A Day For Posting About Spain (2nd Saturday of March 2014)

A Poem by Miguel Hernandez, translated from the Spanish by Don Share and published in the New York Review of Books, April 4, 2013

The poet and playwright Miguel Hernandez (1910 – 1942) was born into a peasant family in the province of Alicante in southeast Spain and died from tuberculosis in a prison hospital there at age thirty-one.  For much of his life he worked, like his father, as a shepherd.  As a soldier and cultural ambassador for the Republican Army during the Spanish civil war, Hernandez read his poems and plays on the radio and on the front lines.  When the war ended in 1939, he was arrested and sentenced to death (commuted to thirty years in prison).

Everything is Filled with You

Everything is filled with you,
and everything is filled with me;
the towns are full,
just as the cemeteries are full
of you, all the houses
are full of me, all the bodies.

I wander down streets losing
things I gather up again:
parts of my life
that have turned up from far away.

I wing myself toward agony,
I see myself dragging
through a doorway,
through a creation’s latent depths.

Everything is filled with me:
with something yours and memory
lost, yet found
again, at some other time.

A time left behind
decidedly black,
indelibly red,
golden on your body.

Pierced by your hair,
everything is filled with you,
with something I haven’t found,
but look for among your bones.

The Essence of Spain

A year ago, I became convinced that I should spend the rest of my life in Spain.

I made up my mind to find the true, true essence of Spain.

I decided that, until I got to Spain, I would listen only to Camaron.

I purchased maps, because I had decided that one of the important things I had to do was walk the pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela.

To prepare myself for the Spanish time clock, I disciplined myself not to eat until 10 p.m.

To get used to the idea of “siesta,” I imposed a daily two-hour nap on my hectic life, which resulted in my employment being terminated, which made me happy because I had become extremely worried about exceeding vacation limits.

(Like what you’ve read here? Read the rest of the story on Eunoia Review)

Stay tuned.

Grand: Favorite WordPress Posts on the Theme

Widya’s World posted pictures of the temples at Borobudur.

Amanda Renee posted a beautiful picture of a sailboat on a lake.

Geophilia Photography posted a mosaic of landscape photographs.

On the Streets of San Francisco posted a series of pictures of the lighted outdoor Christmas trees on her street.

Soul Additions posted a picture from a 2003 trip to Spain: a cathedral in Seville, all lit up, though it was barely dusk.

girltuesdayspeaks posted haunting pictures of the former U.S. Naval Base in Subic, Pampanga.

Summerfield84’s English blog posted a view of Mount Fuji across Tokyo Bay.

Reveries of Forevers posted pictures of a journey through “the deep southwest of New Zealand.”

And here are two photographs of self’s own, which she thinks might be relevant to the theme “Grand”:

Bob and Diane Varner have been friends of Self and The Man for decades.  This Chardonnay (2011) is hard to find, but self snagged a bottle yesterday at K&L Liquors in Redwood City

Bob and Diane Varner have been friends of Self and The Man for decades. This Chardonnay (2011) is hard to find, but self snagged a bottle yesterday at K&L Liquors in Redwood City.

Self loves Christmas.  The reason is because it's the one time of year when there is no such thing as "over-decorating."

Self loves Christmas. It is GRAND.  The reason is because it’s the one time of year when there is no such thing as “over-decorating.”

She still hasn’t gotten a tree.  If only she could get one that she could stuff into her car unaided.  The Man simply will not lift a finger.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Crossing (Into Spain)

This morning self is reading an anthology of essays about Spain (Part of the Travelers’ Tale Guides that  includes themed travel books such as Gutsy Women:  Travel Tips and Wisdom for the Road; Gutsy Mamas:  Travel Tips and Wisdom for Mothers on the Road; Travelers’ Tales Brazil, Travelers’ Tales Thailand; Travelers’ Tales Nepal, and many others)

In the one about Spain, there are pieces by, among others:  Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Barbara Kingsolver, and Louis de Bernieres.  At the end of each essay, functioning like a kind of coda, is a short, one or two-paragraph excerpt by another writer, the likes of Laurie Lee, Colm Toibin, Alastair Reid, John Sayles, and Octavio Paz.

Here’s one coda, by Laurie Lee.  It follows the piece “Crossing Into Spain,” by Ann and Larry Walker:

Perched in this southern town, one felt intensely the great square weight of Spain stretching away north behind one; felt all there was to leave, from these palm-fringed tropic shores to the misty hills of Bilbao; the plains of La Mancha, sierras of pine and snow, the golden villages perched on their gorges, wine smells of noon and sweet wood smoke of evening, the strings of mules crawling through huge brown landscapes, the rarity of grass, the wood ploughs scratching the dusty fields, and the families at evening sitting down to their plates of beans.  One heard the silences of the sierras, the cracking of sunburnt rocks, the sharp jungle voices of the women, the tavern-murmur of the men, the love songs of the girls rising at dawn, the sobbing of asses and the whine of hungry dogs.  Spain of cathedrals, palaces, caves and hovels; of blood-stained bull rings and prison yards; of weeping Virgins, tortured Christs, acid humour and incomparable song —  all this lay anchored between the great troughs of its mountains, locked in its local dialects, bound by its own sad pride.

Spain is but Spain, and belongs nowhere but where it is.  It is neither Catholic nor European but a structure of its own, forged from an African-Iberian past which exists in its own austere reality and rejects all shortcuts to a smoother life.

—  from A Rose for Winter:  Travels in Andalusia, 1995


The book self began reading a week ago is French Women Don’t Get Fat:  The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, by Mireille Guiliano.

Mireille used to be overweight (when she was 17), and her (Parisian) mother, instead of humiliating her by calling her “fat,” very discreetly arranged for Mireille to see a dietitian named Dr. M.  This kind soul was so circumspect that Mireille didn’t even know he was weaning her from food.  He started her on a daily food journal, and …

Well, the point is, Mireille says it is OK to eat as much as one wants of salmon, oysters, scallops, etc, and we would all do well to follow the French habit of shopping every day in farmers markets.

Which (here comes another digression:  It’s less than two weeks to Christmas, memories are crawling out of the woodwork like termites) puts self in mind of the time she was doing a residency in Mojacar, this tiny village in the south of Spain (which is probably no longer so tiny — which, in fact, might probably have exploded by now with Danish and English retirees), when she used to spend weekends visiting markets with Eizo Sakata.  Eizo went everywhere with a hat, and when he found a fruit that looked particularly pleasing, he’d take it back to Mojacar and use the juice on a painting.

Let’s see, what was self supposed to be writing about again?

Oh, yes, French Women Don’t Get Fat.

Self is now on p. 103.  Mireille provides a very helpful sample Spring Menu.  And here are the items she lists therein:

Breakfast:  yogurt *  cereal with strawberries *  slice of whole wheat or multigrain bread *  Coffee or tea (Why does Mireille capitalize Coffee, self wonders?  Not that she has anything against coffee.  Self in fact loooves coffee — That’s enough, self!  You dingbat, coffee is the first word of a new line!  It’s like in a poem, don’cha see?  The first word of each line, whether it’s Yogurt or Cereal or Coffee, is always capitalized.  This is known as:  the Editor’s Rule of Consistency # 3!)

Lunch:  Asparagus flan * Green Salad *  Cherry clafoutis without dough *  Noncaloric beverage

Dinner:  Pea soup *  Grilled Spring Lamb Chops * Cauliflower Gratin *  Rhubarb compost (Did self just write “compost”?  She meant compote, of course!  Pardonnez moi!) * Glass of red wine

Well, see, this menu plan doesn’t work for self.  Here’s what works exceedingly well for self:

Breakfast:  Coffee (Aged Sumatra), black

Lunch:  More Coffee (More Aged Sumatra), maybe a dollop of half’n half

Dinner:  Everything self missed out on during the day, two servings of those

In addition:  No snacking during the day, not even one cupcake.  No soft drinks, even though the husband drinks Coke so ostentatiously, even flirting with self and making goo-goo eyes while polishing off his can.  No gelato and no frozen yogurt, no matter how many times self’s errands take her to downtown Palo Alto.  No potato chips, even though self has been hitting the Walgreen’s every day in the hunt for the elusive Benadryl, and the Walgreen aisles seem to be crawling with at least 20 different kinds of potato chips and a dozen different kinds of dip.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: On the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

Vanity Fair surveyed 52 experts, “including 11 Pritzker Prize winners,” and asked them:

What is the most important piece of architecture built since 1980?

Answer:  The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

The results of the survey were published in an article in the August 2010 issue (the one with Angelina on the cover)

This is a “massive, titanium-clad structure” designed by Frank Gehry.  Upon seeing it for the first time, Philip Johnson, “the godfather of modern architecture,” declared:  “Architecture is not about words.  It’s about tears.”

Looking at the accompanying photos, self is reminded of another building of organic shape and shiny, reflecting walls.  It was in the Seattle Center:  self had been invited to participate in a reading with other Filipino American writers, as a guest of the Seattle Filipino American community.  This building was swathed in silver and looked like  —  a snail?  Or, at any rate, like a metal carapace?  She doesn’t know what its name was, but she can’t have imagined it, surely  —  even though it is very frustrating that after googling and searching on Wikipedia, and looking up all sorts of permutations, including “Seattle Center”, “Seattle Parks” and “Seattle Museums,” she can’t come up with a single picture.  Anyhoo, rest assured, dear blog readers, this snail-like thing exists.  In Seattle.

Stay tuned.


An All Too Infrequent Occasion

Son walked in the door this afternoon, looking very very thin.

He was wearing his favorite orange T-shirt.  He was accompanied by Cal, a Read the rest of this entry »

Conference Announcement

Academic Autobiography, Intellectual History, and Cultural Memory in the 20th Century: *
*An Interdisciplinary Conference*

March 26-28, 2009, University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)

Plenary Speakers:

Ihab Hassan, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Shirley Geok-lin Lim, University of California-Santa Barbara
Nancy K. Miller, City University of New York
Alun Munslow, University of Chichester
Robert A. Rosenstone, California Institute of Technology

Proposals are sought for an Interdisciplinary Conference entitled “Academic Autobiography, Intellectual History, and Cultural Memory in the 20^th Century” to be held at the University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain) on the 26-28 of March, 2009. This conference aims to engage the current paradigms of the debate on autobiographical writing by academics (historians, literary critics, anthropologists, and sociologists, among others) and analyze these in the interdisciplinary context of the consciousness of the ways intellectual history and cultural memory may be developed, articulated, and promoted in the twentieth century. Autobiographies by academics who have played important public roles and whose scholarship have shaped the ways we think about disciplines, society, culture, or politics—such as Nancy K. Miller, Eric Hobsbawm, Clifford Geertz, Leila Ahmed, Edward Said, Jill Ker Conway, Ihab Hassan, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Yi-Fu Tuan, among others—may be explored as new approaches to the discourses of intellectual history and culture in our age. We invite proposals that offer new ways to read these autobiographies and analyze their discursive possibilities in the historical, cultural, and academic contexts in which they were written.

Specific topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • the academic as author/historian;
  • academic life writing as history or cultural discourse;
  • academic autobiography as intellectual history;
  • life writing and the definitions of academic disciplines;
  • the intersection between private and public lives in academic autobiographies;
  • academic autobiography as a literary or historical genre;
  • the ways in which the notion of literary or historical discourse may be rethought in the context of this form of writing;
  • the ways academic autobiographies challenge our notions of historiography or literary analysis.

500-word abstracts and a 1-page CV must be submitted (email submissions preferred) before October 15, 2008 to the Conference Organizers at this address:

Prof. Rocío G. Davis
Modern Languages Department
University of Navarra
Pamplona 31080

Fax: 34-948-425636

Email: acadautobiography@yahoo.com

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