Friday, December 31, 2004

Harvest for the World

On my way to the gym today (the neck is much better, thanks), the Isley Brothers were playing on the radio. I'll let them speak for me because...well, just because. Here's their Harvest for the World:

Gather everyman, gather everywoman
Celebrate your lives, give thanks for your children
When will there be a harvest for all the people
When will there be a harvest for all the world
Harvest For The World

All babies together, everyone a seed
Half of us are satisfied, half of us in need
Love's bountiful in us, tarnished by our greed
When will there be a harvest for the world

A nation planted, so concerned with gain
As the seasons come and go, greater grows the pain
And far too many feelin' the strain
When will there be a harvest for the world

Gather everyman, gather everywoman
Celebrate your lives, give thanks for your children
Gather everyone, gather all together
Overlooking none, hopin' life gets better for the world

Dress me up for battle, when all I want is peace
Those of us who pay the price, come home with the least
Nation after nation, turning into beast
When will there be a harvest for the world

And with that, I wish you the kind of new year we're all hoping for. Stay safe tonight.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Crike-y I've a Crick-y

Does that title even make sense? I just like the way it sounds, especially if uttered in my poor approximation of an Irish brogue (oh, go ahead and try it). I have a horrible, shooting, screaming pain in my neck which I acquired two nights ago while extricating myself from Lea's substantial grip without waking her up. It was quite the stealthy maneuver, but now I'm downing the Tylenol and applying a heat pad.

I'm also staring at the Winter Fiction issue of The New Yorker and wondering if I will ever get around to reading it. I was deeply moved by Edward P. Jones' novel The Known World, and so perhaps this story will be good. I don't generally enjoy these fiction issues; I read them out of some twisted sense of duty. Once--was it two Summer issues ago?--there was a father-daughter incest story by an Indian writer. It made my stomach turn inside out and gave me nightmares, but maybe that was the writer's intent. In which case: way to go!

And in blog news...Roger Pao sure as hell calls it like he sees it. Excuse me for being unable to resist (let's blame it on my Tylenol overdose), but I must proclaim: more Pao-er to him! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Also, I was checking out my recent visitors and noticed that Guillermo over at venepoetics has linked to me. I find this both pleasant and puzzling because my blogging is so earthbound, while the poets snatch stars from the sky with every other post. Maybe it's a case of opposites attract.

And that's just fine with me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


our President, who is currently riding his bike and relaxing on his ranch in Texas, has pledged an initial 35 million dollars to tsunami relief. That's pretty nice until you remember reading that he will spend 40 million dollars on his inauguration next month. The administration insists that the 35 million is just the beginning, but I'm going to go ahead and send this e-mail because--call me crazy (oh, Ver, you so crazy...)--I don't believe a thing they say.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Words Fail

Forty-four thousand dead so far? At least one-third are children? I cannot even begin to understand that.

It's difficult to choose where to give (I decided on Oxfam America). It's difficult to feel like it will even matter. But do it anyways.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Just Back...

...from Fresno, where we spent the holiday with my in-laws, including my sis-in-law, her husband, and their three lovely daughters (ages 17-26). They are staunch supporters of the right to play boardgames, and I am often swept into the pleasant insanity. I will not play Clue with these crazy people, though; that just gets ugly.

So this time around, we played a game called Imaginiff, which requires players--more or less--to think in terms of simile and metaphor. This is perhaps an overly romantic description. Let me get specific. At one point, everyone had to vote on the following question: If Veronica (that would be me) were a dog, what kind of dog would she be? My three nieces-in-law voted across the board for "golden retriever," with one of them citing the fact that golden retrievers have "good hair." I was perplexed, but strangely grateful. "Oh, thanks!" said I.

But my sister-in-law! My sister-in-law voted for "poodle." Of course she attempted to disarm me with some sort of nonsense about poodles being well-coiffed. I countered with, "But poodles are high-strung and jittery!"

And then, well, hmmm...I sorta got her point.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

All Tied Up With Bows

Was it Miz Barbara Jane who suggested that everyone give at least one Filipino/a authored book as a gift this Christmas? Regardless, her current post reminded me to note that I did my part!

One lucky nutter on my list is receiving Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive by Patrick Rosal, and one is receiving The Forbidden Book by Abe Ignacio, Enrique De La Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, and Helen Toribio. Full disclosure: I also gave myself a copy of Patrick's book, as well as Pinoy Poetics. I didn't wrap them, though.

And on that pleasant note, I am off to complete my elfin (or is it "elvin?") duties. Meet you back here after the holiday. Meanwhile, humbuggers keep your chins up! The rest of you...go make merry.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

I'm Going In

Taking a deep breath and diving into the shopping morass. But it's my favorite part: stocking stuffers for the girls! Pick-up stix! Little bouncy balls! Hello Kitty lip gloss! Crayons! M & M Dispensers! Stickers! Jump ropes! Sketch books!

But let me leave you with this...

A first look at Marianne Villanueva's soon-to-appear short story collection, Mayor of the Roses.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

"Are You Being Sarcasmic?"

I had a friend who used to say that. It cracked me up. And instead of saying "Goodbye now!" a group of my cousins/aunts/uncles used to yell out the pleasant-sounding "Vagi-now!" (try saying it again with a soft "g.") But I'm moving off message. The message being that I was amused by this writer's suggestion for a new addition to punctuation: the sarcasm point.

He's being sarcastic, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised by the sudden appearance of such a mark. Stranger things have happened (on November 2, 2004, let's say...), after all. I would find the sarcasm point annoying in the same way that I find emoticons (no offense to those who use them) annoying. They take the challenge out of communicating effectively. If I'm being sarcasmic, shouldn't you be able to tell without my having to resort to a punctuation mark that announces it in neon?

Am I really blogging about this? Let's move on...

In typical fashion, I have hidden Christmas gifts all over the damn house and now cannot find half of them.

Moving on again...

I recently spoke (okay, it was an e-mail exchange--must we quibble?) with Eileen about the inexorable sadness of typos. I am cursed with the ability to spot them almost immediately, and I am bummed to say that I am finding certain books semi-rife with the buggers. The worst part is that they happen to be in books written by Filipinos. I find them in books by others as well, but they are not my concern! I want us to be a typo-free people, people! And because I am willing to put my red pen where my mouth is, I have invited Eileen to "use and abuse" my voluntary services over at Meritage Press (which is not to say that Meritage books are filled with typos), and methinks she will.

I like community. Community is good.

As an amusing aside, I will tell you that my proofing talent was honed while working as a copywriter for Illiams-Way Onoma-Say and having to endure the horror of a typesetter accidentally naming a bottle of barbecue sauce "Homie's BBQ Sauce" instead of the far less offensive "Homestyle BBQ Sauce."

I was hoping to be able to laugh about that one day. Today's the day.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Behold! Icy-Crispy Dragon Beard Candy!

Lea and I were in the checkout line at Ranch 99 on Saturday when we became a captive audience to six people performing an intricate ballet of grassroots commerce. One unrolled a poster--easily seven feet tall--and affixed it to the stand. It announced with dramatic black-and-gold fanfare the arrival of "Icy-Crispy Dragon Beard Candy." Another began the painstaking table display, while two others took their seats behind the table, readying themselves for the onslaught of customers. The lone white guy constructed the cardboard towers that would soon (one could only assume) house boxes and boxes of the mysterious candy. But they weren't just going old-school, people. A kid who looked no older than ten set up a computer, firmly establishing the production as a full-fledged multimedia experience.

But by this time my transaction was complete, and the passenger in my grocery cart did not care to linger. "But Lea, look! It's 'Icy-Crispy Dragon Beard Candy!' Let's watch for a little while. They're almost done. What do you think it is? Look! Look at the picture!"

"It smells like fish in here, Mama. I want to go."

"Good point. But it's called 'Icy-Crispy Dragon Beard Candy!' Don't you want to know what it is? I'm so curious!"

"Mama, I am not curious."

I tried to devise another argument, but short of rewarding or bribing the kid (and we all know how I feel about that at the moment), I could find no way to satisfy my increasingly feverish desire to learn more about Icy-Crispy Dragon Beard Candy.

Until now.

Ladies/gents, may I present...Icy-Crispy Dragon Beard Candy. A quick look at the "Tour Dates" page reveals that we were almost witness to a "Rare Live Dragon Beard Candy Demonstration" and that I would have received an icy-crispy sample.


Friday, December 17, 2004

Oddest Book Title of the Year

Okay, here are the choices. And I don't mind adding that I find each of them appealing:

1. Applications of High Tech Squids
2. The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox
3. Bombproof Your House
4. Detecting Foreign Bodies in Food
5. Equids in Time and Space
6. Sexual Health at Your Fingertips

Random thoughts:

How did #6 get by its editor?! Can you dredge high tech squids in flour, deep-fry them and serve them with lemon? Is "equids" a typo? What are the chances of someone bombing my house? Do some foreign bodies taste better than others? A whole book on Japanese lunchboxes?

You can cast your vote right here.

Another Christmas Wish

Cards arrive daily. Without exception, they are devastatingly cute: the smiles! the cheeks! the cheer! They often include startling news such nephew-in-law will be on tour with Beck for most of 2005 playing guitar and inventing ever more astonishing coiffures; a Santa Barbara acquaintance moved to Italy for a year (huh? guess we're not keeping in touch as well as we should); and my cousin D. has a new addition--named Buster--to her family (let us hope it's not a man or a child).

These cards are excellent but, oh, baby baby what I wouldn't give for this one to land in my mailbox.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Brownie

I am longing to blog. But...priorities, priorities, priorities. Had to make an army of these slightly demented-looking reindeer to bring to R & V's preschool this morning. If not for the mucho appreciated help of the spousal unit (I had no idea he could wield such a mean frosting bag) and loyal blog reader Lenggay (who had no idea what she was getting herself into when she rang my doorbell at 9:30), I woulda been up way past midnight. Again.

And now for your viewing pleasure (pleasure being relative)...


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Squirrel Bait

Okay, a squirrel attack is unlikely.


But she doesn't have to know that.

On Intrinsic Motivation

Deeply inspired by this book, I am trying to eliminate the use of rewards and punishments around this place. I am aiming, instead, to light the fire of intrinsic motivation in my offspring--you know, inspiring them to do the right thing simply because they know in their hearts it's the right thing.

Anyways, it blows.

Let's say that Vida (Little Miss It's-Your-Decision-It's-Your-Body-It's-Your-Power) is poised to roll the gigantic green exercise ball down the stairs in an attempt to injure Lea who has, quite innocently, upset some make-believe play involving a rocking horse, two dinosaurs, and a basket of yellow blocks. Now. Living under my new rule of no punishments/no rewards, I am forced to keep a cool head and skillfully, patiently explain to Vida why this would not be a good thing to do. This is about 400 times harder and more time-consuming than having the following exchange:

Me: Vida! Vida! If you do not step away from the stairs I will put you outside. I will lock the door. I will tell the squirrels to attack you.

Vida: No you won't.

Me: Yeah? You watch me. Go ahead and watch me.

[A brief glaring contest ensues. I emerge victorious.]

Vida: Okay. Sheeeesh.

So you see the difficulty. And yet, and yet...I'll keep at it because--oh the irony!--I will one day reap the rewards.

Monday, December 13, 2004

All I Want for Christmas... an explanation.

Read all about it.

And it'd be nice, too, if John Kerry could stop being so damn statesman-like.


On a pleasantly unrelated subject...I would like to show some appreciation for blog tics. Blog tics (I'm making this up) are those things that individual bloggers do on a consistent basis. Eileen's moi-ing and Bino's meow-ing, for example. A.D.'s "I am encouraged," and the delightfully cryptic and brief posts of Weez. The way Rhett has been rating his days on a scale of 1-10. Corrinne's gorgeous photos, Jean's use of art, barbara jane's no-caps, gura's uncanny ability to bring her posts full circle. Oh, and Patrick has poet Oscar Bermeo on his blogroll. Mr. Bermeo often signs off with a "love ya like [insert something hilarious]." A few random ones I remember are "love ya like Macy's loves parades," "love ya like Prince loves frills," and "love ya like front row seats and cracker jacks."

The fact that these tics add pleasure to my day is either 1) kinda nice or 2) kinda sad. Either way, I'm smiling.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

"Chewing Gum is Really Gross...

...chewing gum I hate the most."

Here it is, ladies/gents, a look at Tim Burton's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory!

I never pictured Willie Wonka as having sleek and shiny bobbed hair or flawless, luminous skin. But apparently, he does. Regardless, I'm tickled.

Friday, December 10, 2004


It's been a tricky week. The spousal unit has been in NYC for most of it, and I am running on minimal, restless sleep. Lea, you see, has made the momentous decision to return to babyhood and has assumed the corresponding nocturnal patterns.

The older girls know I am sleep-deprived, and yesterday Vida suggested I take a nap. She insisted she could coerce the others into keeping the non-stop din at a minimum. It was sweet, but I had to refuse. She said, "Okay, Mom, but remember: it's your decision, your body, your power."

I'm fairly certain that is not the standard message in a typical Dragon Tales episode. Which leads me to believe that I have been uttering some, um, interesting things as I grope semi-consciously through my days.

I meet with my writer's group on Monday. Let's just hope I'm coherent by then...

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I've Been Wondering...

...about this for years: who is the genius who decided that property taxes should be due on December 10th? It strikes me as unnecessarily cruel and, frankly, a little sinister.

I googled "genius who decided that property taxes should be due on December 10," but nothing of substance came up. No doubt because he (I know it's a he; a woman would never have done this) fears my wrath.

And well he should.

Rediscovered: Cinnamon Toast

My mom used to make it for me when I was little: white bread topped with butter, sugar, and cinnamon and toasted to light brown perfection. I finally pulled it out of my mothering arsenal (replacing wheat for white) and have used it to good advantage. It's been some time--chocolate chip pancakes notwithstanding--since my offspring celebrated me as their culinary hero.

I will rest, now, on my laurels.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Even If

I'm at my perch in the kitchen, working a folktale I found about two sisters--Araw and Buwan, in love with the same man--into a long piece I'm writing. A mother is telling the story to her own teenage daughters:

Now Corazon and Baby leaned forward, and Maria Delgado was pleased with the power of her tale and the feeling--nearly forgotten now--of holding her daughters in thrall.

And later:

That night Corazon and Baby went to their mother separately, each with the same question. "Am I Araw or Buwan?" Maria Delgado gave them both the same answer and then hoped for the best.

Meanwhile, Lea is at the dining room table making a family out of markers and crayons. She didn't draw a family; the family is literally the markers and crayons. She comes into the kitchen, takes my hand and walks me to the table for the introductions. "This is the Mommy," she says, holding up a yellow marker, which heads the perfect line (a small chasm separates the parents from the kids). "And the Daddy is purple. And these are the kids. This one's the baby." The kids are crayon rejects, the stubbiest of the stubby, all about the same size. "Do you want to be the baby?" she asks, putting the sparkly blue one in my hand.

And in the family room, Risa and Vida--flush with having learned the important skill of turning on the stereo and picking their CD and song of choice--are blaring Sheryl Crow's Soak Up the Sun, spinning around in tank tops and skirts, oblivious to the reality of cold weather on the other side of the window. In their running conversation they fabricate a random situation and then pick the parts that each will play. "Okay! Okay! I'm the big sister!" Risa will yell. "Okay!" says Vida, "My leg is broken, and you have to take care of me!"

Just past noon, we sit down together for crunchy, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches and it occurs to me that we have all been doing the same thing: making worlds, telling stories. Even if we're the only ones listening.

Monday, December 06, 2004


Ohmagoodness, they found the attic where Rochester imprisoned his wife! From the Sydney Morning Herald:

A cramped secret staircase winding up to a lonely garret has been rediscovered in the manor house which is credited with launching the literary genre of the "madwoman in the attic."

Carpeted with dust, cobwebs, and a solitary collar stud, 13 rotting steps lead into a gable end where the 18th-century original of Mrs. Rochester--the tragic enigma at the heart of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre--was allegedly confined...

The staircase, found when floorboards were lifted in an attic, fills in a missing piece of Bronte's description of "Thornfield Hall," where Mr Rochester lived with the governess Jane Eyre and--hidden away on the top floor--his "mad" first wife. Bronte visited Norton Conyers in 1839 and knew the story of the mansion's "madwoman"--probably epileptic or pregnant with an illegitimate child--who had been kept locked in an attic 60 years earlier.


Um..."a solitary collar stud?!!!"

This makes me want to find my copy of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, which I first read when I was a student at SFSU. Rhys fills in the gaps in the original narrative, gives voice and history to the "madwoman," and soundly indicts English colonialism in the Caribbean (Rochester's wife, whom Rhys names Antoinette, is a creole rejected by both white and black society). Anyways, it was a brilliant/beautiful/haunting read and a unique experience in that it's not often (for me, at least) that one work of fiction has so completely affected the way I read another.

Envelope Me

I am knee-high in envelopes and having trouble maneuvering gracefully through my days. Over and above the envelopes that arrive daily in the form of junk mail, legitimate correspondence, and personal communication (which I love, don't get me wrong), there are our Christmas card envelopes, envelopes for R & V's kid birthday party, and envelopes for R & V's family birthday party. I have had my fill of this kind of envelope for today.

Instead, I would like to be enveloped in bed, uninterrupted by child disturbances, for a complete eight hours. Or I would like to drive into San Francisco, enveloped in a coat and big cashmere scarf, to look in the store windows first downtown, then along Hayes, and then along Fillmore. Or I would like to sit in a movie theatre enveloped by the aroma of popcorn and watching House of Flying Daggers. Or I would like to lay on the couch enveloped under a blanket at midnight, staring at the Christmas tree so sublimely decorated by my little family.

I think what this amounts to, mostly, is that I'm sleepy.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Oh, Why Not?

Why not submit to Small Spiral Notebook? Check.

Why not pick up something for myself while doing my online shopping? Check (thanks gura!).

Why not wear sweats all day? Check.

Why not eat a piece of pie? Check. And, um, check.

Why not send Jean the link I've been meaning to send her for 2 days? Check.

Why not mix the waffle batter tonight so I don't have to do it in the morning? Almost check.

Friday, December 03, 2004

A Good Night

The first Friday night in December means... delivered from Amici's (a large Margherita--half with tomato sauce, half without)
...a tree purchased on 9th Ave. (most likely a Douglas Fir)
...a fire in the fireplace cocoa made and consumed (marshmallows, yes)
...the season's first batch of Chex Mix (warm from the oven)
...addressing Christmas cards (e-mail me your snail mail addy, and I'll send you one!)
...reading in bed (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell)

Happy weekend, all.

Zinn, Zinn, and More Zinn

Just the other day Leny posted an essay--a hopeful, beautiful essay--written by Howard Zinn, a man I would handpick as my Lolo (if such things were, you know, possible). "The Optimism of Uncertainty," it was called, and you can read it right here.

Here in this post-election piece--"Harness That Anger"--the hope is not gone, but you can sense his disappointment, a little weariness. He ends like this:

Sooner or later, profound change will come to this nation tired of war, tired of seeing its wealth squandered, while the basic needs of families are not met. These needs are not hard to describe. Some are very practical, some are requirements of the soul: health care, work, living wages, a sense of dignity, a feeling of being at one with our fellow human beings on this Earth.

The people of this country have their own mandate.


On a barely related note, I could use some advice on what is probably a silly sticking point. At R & V's preschool, the teachers are quite understandably teaching holiday songs and defining lines like, "Don we now our gay apparel" which I can imagine are enormously perplexing to 4-year-olds. They do a cute version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in which little parenthetical asides are sung. Like this:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (reindeer)
Had a very shiny nose (like a lightbulb!)

The problem is that the very last line goes:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (reindeer)
You'll go down in history (like Columbus!)

Thanks entirely to the aforementioned brilliant Howard Zinn and his A People's History of the United States, I am fresh from having read all about Columbus and his acts of genocide and other horrors.

Now, my question--silly as it may I register my opposition to the inclusion of Columbus in the song? It's not incorrect--Columbus has, indeed, gone down in history. But still. And if I do register my complaint, how do I do it without sounding like a complete lunatic? Or am I a complete lunatic?

Comments most welcome.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

So Dang Hilarious: More on Lynne Cheney's Novel

I can't possibly read it, but it's just funny knowing it's out there.

Some brave and civic-minded person has dutifully transcribed every word of Second Lady Lynne Cheney's sapphic historical romance into a blog. It's worth a click just to read the various introductions to the chapter entries. My favorites are:

Chapter 16: Sophie dons pants, survives prairie fire...

Chapter 4: Here comes that "prickling tightness" again...


Chapter 6: We get to the naughty bits...

Anyways, I doubt it will be up for long because I'm sure that posting it on a blog in some way violates the Patriot Act. An Act which is--even as I type--keeping us safe from all sorts of scary things and people. Pffffffft.

And again: pffffffffft.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

What Happens Is This

I have traditionally gone to sleep on December 1st with a smug look and faint smile on my face, feeling--with some justification--that I am way ahead of the holiday game. Tonight will be no different, for I have attacked our list with the gusto and panache of a Red Velvet Miele Vacuum. At least sixteen gifts have been purchased. Our Christmas cards arrived today. Babysitting has been nailed down for all known parties thus far. Plans for Risa and Vida's birthday party are well in hand.

So, yes, I will wake tomorrow cocooned in security, swaddled in self-confidence. I will spend the next two weeks reveling in the true meaning of the season, not deeply embroiled in its commercial aspects. And then...and then..and then this will happen: in two weeks I will finally deign to glance at my list again, at which point my butt will be so completely down a rabbit hole that there will be little hope of my ever climbing out. My life will turn into a series of nightmares consisting of eternal lines at the post office, desperate online shopping, marathon gift-wrapping sessions, hurried baking, bad hair, and unkempt eyebrows.

So stay with me. The fun is just beginning.


Here, a truncated version of my cyberspace shopping journey:

Look! It's Yoshitomo Nara's little wanderer!
Excellent stocking stuffers right here!
Superb service and perfectly nice gifts only a click away!!
Look at this "Things You Must Do To Make Me Happy" pad!
Looking for ugly dolls? Well, look no further!

And just for kicks:

Another sentence ending with an exclamation mark!

Potato Penance

Will check in again later, my lovelies, but am off to the gym now for some self-induced punishment.

My mashed potato intake was entirely out of control last week. I was in some sort of cross-eyed, gravy-ladling frenzy...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Thanksgiving Battle of the Cheeks

Lea and her Uncle Matt battle it out once and for all
to see who has the cheekier cheeks.

I think it's a draw.


Monday, November 29, 2004

It's Dead, You Say? Oh.

You can usually count on running across an article or three or five like this one every year. Articles written by people who like to think they're driving the final nail into a coffin which holds the moldy remains of The Short Story. As if this will stop people from writing them. As if we will all jump up from the keyboard and start making candles or churning butter instead.

By "dead" they mean that nobody publishes short stories. But a cursory look at the "marketplace" (gawd, what a word) suggests otherwise. They also mean that you can't make money writing short stories. To which I say, "Duh." Lorrie Moore, veritable Goddess of the Genre, puts it more eloquently when she notes in her introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2004, that not since the "golden blip between Henry James and television," has a writer been able to live off the penning of a short story. F. Scott Fitzgerald used to write them to fund his novels. How's that for funny?

The death knell articles often snicker about short stories just being a warm-up for writing novels. To which I say, "Um, no." Short stories are compact and lovely, perfect as-is. They are often our first introduction to the written word--what is Goodnight Moon, after all, but a short story? or Where the Wild Things Are?--and we can return to them again and again to frame and re-frame, filter and re-filter, our experiences. And all in the space of no more than, let's say, twenty-five minutes. Well worth the time investment, at least for this reader.

So maybe I do not take the rumours of demise as seriously as I should. There's a group of UK writers who picks up my slack, though. They've started a whole web site that beseeches one and all to "Save Our Short Story."

And all of this has served to remind me that I still need to write a review of Oscar Peñaranda's Seasons By the Bay. Much to do, much to do...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

A-Wandering The Web

After reading the MELUS review of Barbara Jane's Gravities of Center, I did a little search to see what else they had placed online from the Spring 2004 issue. And I found...

...a review right here for Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas.


...a review right here for Growing Up Filipino. And if you pay attention--painfully close attention--you'll see that the reviewer, Pearl Ratunil, mentions my story, "Lolo's Bride."

And so all of that is nice. Here, by the way, are the rest of the goodies.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

So I'm Making...

...this tart. This Sour Cherry & Brandied Pear Tart. And I just put it in the oven, but I am now suffering from acute anxiety because it seems to me that the crust (bottom and top, which I also find worrisome; a tart doesn't generally have a top, right?) are a little thick. Of course, the crust is entirely butter and shortening--tended to with the lightest touch, with angel's wings, even--so it should be good regardless.

But still...a little thick, methinks. I'll know in about an hour.

*worry, worry...*

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

People Annoy Me

I hate going to the store on the day before Thanksgiving, but there's little way to avoid it.

On this ridiculous day, all the men and women who only cook once a year and who therefore do not know their way around the grocery store, emerge from their homes with carefully color-coded, alphabetized spreadsheets documenting every ingredient needed to make their elaborate and probably overly-ambitious meals. It's not long before they realize they shouldn't have alphabetized the list; they should have organized it by department. Because they waste gobs of time criss-crossing the store and muttering to themselves and calling people on their cell phones and saying things like, "Can you pick up, like, twenty more votives?"

This wouldn't be so bad except this particular type of person possesses an exaggerated sense of entitlement which drives them to believe that they are the only person shopping and that it's okay to stop smack in the middle of an aisle to make their phone calls or to put their untrained eyes to work finding coarse raw sugar, for example, or champagne vinegar. They lack grocery intuition, which allows one to sense that there are others around you who are also trying to complete their shopping and maybe you are taking up too. much. of. the. dang. aisle. I like it best when they're in the produce department and searching for fresh sage, which the produce department always runs out of the day before Thanksgiving. They ream out the produce guy, and then they're back on their phones frantically shrieking, "I need sage! I need sage!" to some unlucky soul.

Yes, people annoy me. But you do not.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


I just let the kids watch an extra 20 minutes of television (Harold and the Purple Crayon on HBO Family).

Then I made them chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.

And now I wonder: does that make me a good mother or a bad mother?

Monday, November 22, 2004

It's Complicated

Have you seen this link from daily Kos? Kevin Sites, the journalist who filmed the video showing a Marine kill an unarmed and injured Iraqui in a Mosque, has blogged an open letter to the the group involved. Here's part of it:

In war, as in life, there are plenty of opportunities to see the full spectrum of good and evil that people are capable of. As journalists, it is our job to report both--though neither may be fully representative of those people on whom we're reporting. For example, acts of selfless heroism are likely to be as unique to a group as the darker deeds. But our coverage of these unique events, combined with the larger perspective, will allow the truth of that situation, in all of its complexities, to begin to emerge. That doesn't make the decision to report events like this one any easier. It has, for me, led to an agonizing struggle--the proverbial long, dark night of the soul.

I knew NBC would be responsible with the footage. But there were complications. We were part of a video "pool" in Falluja, and that obligated us to share all of our footage with other networks. I had no idea how our other "pool" partners might use the footage. I considered not feeding the tape to the pool--or even, for a moment, destroying it. But that thought created the same pit in my stomach that witnessing the shooting had. It felt wrong. Hiding this wouldn't make it go away. There were other people in that room. What happened in that mosque would eventually come out. I would be faced with the fact that I had betrayed truth as well as a life supposedly spent in pursuit of it.

To read the whole thing, click right here.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A Cogent Exploration of the Fracas

I've written one poem in my life. This was in my 20s. Because I had no idea what I was doing, I sent it to Tin House. The poor thing was soundly rejected, of course, but someone--someone kind--had scribbled, "A cogent exploration of the topic" across the top of the slip. I keep it in mind because, well, "cogent exploration" is not a bad goal to aim for when writing something.

And all that is just my roundabout way of pointing you in the direction of Jean's supra cogent exploration of the ongoing fracas that surrounds the anthology Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation.

Friday, November 19, 2004

I Love the Internet

Hey! I missed out on the fact that Second Lady Lynne Cheney wrote a novel in 1981. A novel called Sisters. A novel in which the love that dare not speak its name did, indeed, speak its name.

Click here for hilariously overwrought excerpts. And if for some twisted reason you want to buy it, there's one copy available at for $500...

Thursday, November 18, 2004


I get this way sometimes. Could be the moon, could be that the spousal unit is on a business trip, could be my favorite sweater fraying at the neck. Lingering election blues. Staying up late to watch Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie Sylvia. Could be any of these things.

And it has strange repercussions, this malaise. Like my sudden urge to be adept at embroidery (what the..?!!) Or to fashion handmade invitations for R & V's 5th birthday party. Or to buy more books which I fully understand--even while in the middle of the transaction--I will have no time to read. If only it drove me instead to write or at least clean the kitchen floor. But then I guess it wouldn't be malaise.

On an up note, I have nailed down the second speaker in the surprisingly successful (not surprising to me; surprising to the people who thought I was crazy) series I've organized for the Spanish-only-speaking parents at my local public elementary school. So that's good.

And on another up note, Bino Realuyo of meowing fame is now playing shortstop on my kickball team. Keep your eye on the ball, Bino...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Come Along and Ride on A...

...fantastic voyage. Come on, come on, come on take a ride...

Sorry. I'm deep into the 80s funk.

So, I don't know why it's taken me so long to find the essay "Requiem for a Literary Journal" by one Amber Dorko Stopper. In it, she chronicles her literary adventures from the time she decides to quit her day job and write full-time; stoically rebels against the notion of needing an MFA to succeed; starts night rally, by all accounts a well-received and properly eclectic literary journal; grows indignant at having to slog through hundreds upon hundreds of poorly written manuscripts from etiquette-challenged writers; faces economic woes; has no time left to write; and...

...well, just read it already. It's a fantastic voyage.

Yeah, Pretty Good

A quote from 2-year-old Lea, five minutes ago:

"Smell my feets. Pretty good, huh?"

Monday, November 15, 2004

Come On Baby Tell Me What's the Word...

...Word up.

There are many, many worse ways to spend an evening than getting dressed in your semi-finery, eating something vaguely chicken-like, dancing to random Cameo songs with the exact same people that you used to dance to random Cameo songs with, and having the following harmless conversation with everyone you see:

Random Classmate: Oh my God!
You: Oh my God!
[brief embrace]
Random Classmate: You look exactly the same!
You: So do you!
Random Classmate: How are you?
You: Really good, thanks.
Random Classmate: Do you have kids?
You: Three. How about you?
Random Classmate: Me, too!
[brief exchange of kid pictures]
You: Isn't this crazy?
Random Classmate: Oh, I know!
You: Hey, I see so-and-so...
Random Classmate: And there's so-and-so...
[polite drifting away]

Perhaps it's the recent influence of The Lion King on my psyche, but the evening was a series of pleasant circle-of-life moments for me. We are all--what?--a little less than halfway 'round the circle, let's say, and enjoying the relaxed confidence of having made it this far intact, most of us with a partner (some on their second), most of us with children.

I wasn't at our tenth reunion, which was apparently plagued by senseless competition: do you rent or own? where do you live? are you married yet? where are you working? None of that nonsense at this one. The only discomfort I felt was at having to constantly avoid eye contact with a guy I knew from all the way back in grade school. He'd decided it would be a good idea to hire an, um, escort for the night. Kinda sad, but mostly ewwwwwww.

Best song of the night: "Let it Whip."

Friday, November 12, 2004

Tongue? Tied.

I think I'm losing my touch.

Many times in the past week or so, I have been admonished and sometimes plain ol' spanked for the "tone" of an e-mail or post. And I don't get it. I'm a writer, after all. If there were a "tone," I think I'd know it. Anyways, it looks like the newest member of my all-star blog kickball team, Shin Yu Pai, knows what (not to mention who) I'm talking about.

So to counteract any ugly that I've (accidentally? on purpose? I don't even know anymore) sent out into the world, here's a reminder that I can talk pretty, too. From a longer, in-progress piece:

Manny de Jesus arrived promptly at the Delgado house wearing a hand-me-down barong tagalog and carrying a corsage comprised of a single, heartbreaking gardenia. His hair was parted neatly down the left side and slicked back with a pomade that accentuated the wave over his right eyebrow. He was shown into the living room by Anna the maid who--intoxicated by the scent of the young man’s cologne--would dream of him that night and awake blushing, her bed sheets strewn on the floor.

Upstairs, Baby scowled at her reflection and quietly cursed as her mother twisted her hair into an elaborate celebration of the feminine. Hairpins stabbed Baby in the head hard enough to make her bleed, and though she eagerly agreed with the idea that beauty is pain, she had not counted on this. She saw Corazon in the mirror, laying on her stomach on their parents’ bed with her chin cupped in her hands and her feet stuck in the air, watching. Baby stared at her for a moment and felt her own face grow red. “Stop it!”

“Stop what?” Corazon said, scrunching up her eyebrows. She noted, with alarm, that her sister was very near tears. Baby wailed.

“Hija,” their mother said to Corazon, “please go downstairs now and see if Emanuel is here.”

“Oh, he’s here,” Corazon said, her chin still in her hands.

“How do you know?” Baby turned to look at her.

“I can tell. Can’t you just tell? Come on, come on, come on. Let’s go.”

Baby stood up and spun around; her pale blue satin skirt remained perfectly still.

“Very prety, hija,” her mothered murmured.

At the top of the staircase, there was a scuffle. Baby refused to walk down first and stood with her hands on her hips, shaking her head slowly so as not to loosen any of the pins. She resolved to be the last one down the stairs because that way Manny would not be able to allow his gaze to linger on the lovely Mrs. Oscar Delgado or the perfect Corazon without appearing very rude. “You go, Mommy. Then Corazon.”

“Me? Why me?” Maria Delgado harbored a secret fear that her husband, seeing the women of the family all in a row, would pity his wife’s disappearing beauty and bemoan the loss of her once slender hips.

So the task fell to Corazon who felt, as the others did, that first position did not suit her own particular goals. But the night belongs to Baby, she silently reasoned, and I am much too young to be in love with anyone but my own father. With that, she walked down the stairs.


Good weekend, all.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Crossing Every T, Dotting Every I

Click right here (yes, right here) if you'd like to sign the petition asking Congress to investigate last week's vote.

I think everyone would sleep better if the members of Congress would kindly oblige.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Lunch, Solo

A favorite thing: 1:15 lunch alone at the Crepevine every Wednesday, reading.

Today's selection: "This Is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," a short story by Sherman Alexie. Great story.

But not even Thomas Builds-the-Fire, the irresistible tragicomic storyteller of this tale, could keep me from becoming distracted by the equally irresistible music being piped into the restaurant.

It started with Hall & Oates' "I Can't Go For That." My ears began to twitch not because I like the song (in fact, I've always found it kinda creepy), but because it is inextricably tangled up with sappy teenage memories of sophomore year. Next came that little ditty called--I'm making an educated guess--"It Only Takes a Minute." You know it, right?-- "It only takes a minute girl/to fall in love/to fall in love." This was followed by Donna Summer's sublime "On the Radio."

Sherman Alexie was losing his considerable hold on my imagination.

By the time "Staying Alive" came on, it was over. I looked around and saw at least three other patrons fully prepared to push aside some tables and create an impromptu dance floor. Lucky for everyone concerned, we came to an unspoken agreement to restrain ourselves. I closed my book and turned to the four line cooks, visible from the chest up in their white chef jackets and black baseball caps. I thought, please start dancing. please? all four of you. like you've been practicing for weeks waiting for just this moment.

They are good line cooks, but lousy mindreaders. After "Car Wash," I was outta there.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Hakuna...Oh, Never Mind

We took the girls to see The Lion King over the weekend. I was torn between watching what was going on onstage, and watching them watching what was going on onstage. Because, really, these are the moments I love most. They expect wonder--expect to be fascinated--at every turn. Lea spent the first act perched on my lap, shaking. Excitement? Fear? I wasn't sure.

And Risa sat through almost the whole thing with her hands pressed against her cheeks and her mouth hanging open. When Simba decides to return to the pridelands, she and Vida jumped out of their seats yelling “Go Simba! Go Simba!” It’s corny, I know, but I wish we could just freeze them at this age. Before they get all cynical and jaded at…what? Nine? I’m thinking that they’ll lose their innocence right around the time that they reach the height where they can see all the machinations going on below Disney’s “Small World” ride.

Yup. Gotta freeze 'em.

Do The Right Thing

Update. Turns out this is a done deal. Hager is not the chair (it's actually a woman from Stanford), but he is indeed on the committee. Here's the whole roster. Apparently, this e-mail was originally circulating some months ago. Interesting, isn't it, that it's surfaced again? A reaction to the climate, I suppose. I thought about just deleting it here, but...nah.


I was in a blind rage when I forwarded the following message this morning. So in case I missed you or you're not in my address book, I'll post it here:

Hi All,

I hope many of you have already received this e-mail. This is not about being a Republican or Democrat; it's about our rights as women to own our reproductive freedom. Please take action.



Dear Friends,

President Bush has announced his intention to appoint Dr. W. David Hager to head up the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. This committee has not met for more than two years, during which time its charter lapsed. As a result, the Bush Administration is tasked with filling all eleven positions with new members. This position does not require Congressional approval. The FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee makes crucial decisions on matters relating to drugs used in the practice of obstetrics, gynecology and related specialties, including hormone therapy, contraception, treatment for infertility, and medical alternatives to surgical procedures for sterilization and pregnancy termination.

Dr. Hager is the author of "As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now." The book blends biblical accounts of Christ healing women with case studies from Hager's practice. His views of health care are far outside the mainstream for reproductivetechnology and modern gynecological practice.

Dr. Hager is a practicing OB/GYN who describes himself as "pro-life" and refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women. In the book Dr. Hager wrote with his wife, entitled "Stress and the Woman's Body," he suggests that women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome should seek help from reading the bible and praying. As an editor and contributing author of "The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality Reproductive Technologies and the Family," Dr. Hager appears to have endorsed the medically inaccurate assertion that the common birth control pill is an abortifacient (causes abortion).

We are concerned that Dr. Hager's strong religious beliefs may color his assessment of technologies that are necessary to protect women's lives or to preserve and promote women's health. Dr. Hager's track record of using religious beliefs to guide his medical decision-making makes him a dangerous and inappropriate candidate to serve as chair of this committee. Critical drug public policy and research must not be held hostage by antiabortion politics.

Members of this important panel should be appointed on the basis of science and medicine, rather than politics and religion. American women deserve no less.

There is something you can do.

Below is a letter to be sent to the White House, opposing the placement of Hager. Please copy all the text of this message and paste it into a fresh email; then sign your name below. Please forward e-mail to

I oppose the appointment of Dr. W. David Hager to the FDA Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. Mixing religion and medicine is unacceptable in a policy-making position. Using the FDA to promote a political agenda is inappropriate and seriously threatens women's health. Members of this important panel should be appointed on the basis of science and medicine, rather than politics and religion. American women deserve no less.


You know what to do.

Monday, November 08, 2004

I'm a Loser Baby

I cannot find what I call (for lack of a better term) my Lolo Larry's "archives." After his death, I somehow ended up in charge of two boxes of photos, newspaper articles, and some personal correspondence all of which spotlight his standing as the finest professional golfer ever produced by the Philippines. I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but he was like hot butter on breakfast toast...(nod to Eileen, new poet darling of the hip-hop crowd!). At least that's what it says in the boxes.

But I can't find the boxes.

And now, of course, my clan is annoyed with me. My cousin, who lives in Manila, is in the process of creating a foundation to assist young, economically-challenged golfers. He plans to name this organization after Lolo, and has the marketing machine in motion to boost awareness and whatnot. It would help if he had the boxes, so he asked for the boxes.

But I can't find the boxes.

This weekend, in attempt to help me, the spousal unit searched the entire upstairs. Nothing. Except one article (circa 1970), which made me laugh because it began like this:

Larrupin’ Larry, who he? Abundio “Larry” Montes, that’s who. He’s still swinging and winning at sixty. And who doesn’t know good old Larry, 13-time winner of the Philippine Open and all-time great of Philippine sports?

Golf champion of champions, man about town, good-time Charlie, flashy, groovy one and bon vivant, that’s Larry Montes. Where’s he now?

What kind of writing is that? "Groovy one and bon vivant?" It's looney! Anyways, in the hopes of buying some more time to search, I posted the whole article on my family blog. You can read it here, if you like. In the meantime, I have more searching to do...

Friday, November 05, 2004

Snapping Out of It. A Little.

In the last few days, the following things have made me laugh:

1) HBO keeps airing From Justin to Kelly. For aesthetic reasons alone, I am unable to watch the entire thing. However, viewed in bits and pieces, it is a wonderful way to temporarily disassociate from the madness. For example: the scene in which an entire town--let's just call it "Goober Town"--extemporaneously breaks into song and dance, the song being "That's the Way I Like It (Uh-Huh-Uh-Huh)" and the dance being...even worse than the song. Click on that link up there. You know you wanna.

2) My friend D. distributing a faux issue of Time with our fully mandated (pfffft) President on the cover and the headline "We Are Fucked."

3) Vida crushing extraordinarily hard on G., a boy in her class at preschool. Every morning before we arrive, she gets dreamy and says things like, "Oh, I just think he looks so great every day." It should be noted that Vida, who talks to everyone (with complete disregard for whether or not they want her to), is rendered speechless in front of G. And she seethes if Risa speaks to him.

4) This little film, a short but thorough exploration of the age-old question, "How can you not like muffins?"

And that's about it.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Let's Move Along, Shall We?

In an attempt to brighten my blog, I am now inviting one and all to comment on a matter of dire importance: what approach should someone--let's say, me--take when deciding what to wear to her high school reunion?

Please crack me up.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Can you...

...figure out how to do this? Believe in America? Because I can't.

Not today.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Thankful for the Distraction...

...on what looks not to be a good night for John Kerry. Or America. Or the world.

I just received an e-mail from poet Victoria Chang, who says that the comments I left on her blog contributed to her deciding to shut it down. I am so, so, so sorry that she's reacting in this way. I e-mailed her a response, and I want to post it here as well:

Hi Victoria,

I think it's generous of you to take responsibility for your misstep. I don't apologize for what I said or how I said it, but I am indeed sorry that you feel compelled to leave the blogosphere. You seem to think that the opinions I expressed translate into "Victoria Chang is a heinous and spiteful woman, period." So not true. I felt you acted badly in this one circumstance, and for some reason that I still cannot fathom, I felt compelled to call you on it. Anyone with half a heart could see where Bino was coming from. That's why I was so impressed with your "let's talk about it" approach. And why I was so disappointed when it became clear that you didn't really mean it.

Anyways, thanks for the advice, but rest assured that I do not run around leaving semi-hysterical comments on the blogs of people I don't know. This one thing just really pushed a button for me, is all. I'm unsure of how to translate your warning (is it some sort of veiled threat?) that my "tone" could harm me in the future and that behaving like this in a public forum could be a "dangerous practice" for me. I haven't said or done anything that I'm even remotely ashamed of. But, again, thanks for your concern.

I hope you re-evaluate your decision to stop blogging. Your readers value your postings; why would you let me, of all people, stop you from sharing your thoughts with them when someone as fabulous as Oliver de la Paz wants you to continue? Please go back and read my comments when you've cooled down a little--why are you reacting so extremely to my saying that you behaved in a way that I found unbecoming to a poet/someone with a conscience? You say that I didn't give you enough credit for holding back? Well, I think you gave yourself too much.

I don't want to fight. This all--rather embarrassingly--comes down to: I thought you were being really mean to Bino, and you think that my saying so was "aggressive" and rude. I hope this e-mail convinces you that I'm not a terrible person; I'm actually quite charming. Hahahahahaha!

In peace and with respect,


So what I've learned from all this is that 1) really, sometimes I should just keep things to myself and 2) really, sometimes I should just keep things to myself.

And also, I do hope Victoria decides to keep her blog.


Monday, November 01, 2004

The Suspense is Killing Me...

...and it's also forcing me (I don't know why; do you?) to eat many assorted crunchy things, mostly pumpkin seeds.

I'm obsessed. I check daily Kos every ten minutes to discover and become enraged over the Republicans' latest voter intimidation tactics. I get teary-eyed reading the many auto e-mail messages sent out by the Kerry campaign. I just dropped off a copy of Fahrenheit 9/11 to a neighbor who says he's still undecided (not for long!). My children cheer when they see a Kerry/Edwards sign and say, "Oh, no, there's one for the other guy," when they spot one for, well, the other guy.

One moment I am certain of victory, and the next I am wringing my hands and biting the inside of my cheek. I shuffle around the house, muttering. I absent-mindedly keep pushing my hair behind my ears, a nervous tic I display only in the most uncertain situations. Is it possible that the spousal unit scheduled his current business trip just so he wouldn't have to watch the results come in with me tomorrow night? Gads.

Anyways. I think it's important to put names and faces with numbers (the number being 1,117 at the moment), and that's what this web page right here is all about. I can't believe how many of these men and women were only 20 years old.

Gotta refill my bowl of pumpkin seeds now. Vote smart, and I'll see you back here tomorrow.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Can't I Just Mind My Own Busy-ness?

Yesterday I careened through cyberspace on a foolhardy mission do what, exactly? I have no idea, but it didn't keep me from making myself available for a possible blog pummeling. For gory details, see here. Fortunately, though, I ran smack into A.D.T. in N.Y.C. who finds me, um, rational and intelligent.

Shall I argue otherwise? I shall not.

And so it is with unabashed enthusiasm that I proclaim the unemployed (but nevertheless charming) A.D.T. as the newest member of my blog kickball team.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

My Huntsman Lives!

So, yes, my huntsman is a bodyguard, but before he was a bodyguard he was a houseboy. Named Nino for now. And here he is with Eva and Arturo Sy on the day my Snow White was born:

The day that Eva Sy gave birth, Nino was cracking ice as she labored, timing the downswing of his pick with her cries. She had insisted on delivering the child at the Alabang house rather than the hospital, and because Arturo Sy could deny his wife nothing--including mountains of fake snow in the gardens at Christmas, cheese imported from France, and a whole room given over to her hobby of stitching fine linens with golden thread--he had eventually agreed with an “Okay, okay,” and a flick of his wrist.

Eva wanted only her mother, who was visiting from Sweden, and the local midwife--toothless, barefoot, and with strings of fat nara wood beads encircling her neck--to attend to her. In the beginning, Eva thought she would go mad with the constant clack-clack-clacking of the beads; but as an hour grew to eight, then, twelve, then sixteen, the sound brought comfort, as did the midwife’s hands as she moved round and round the bed, smoothing Eva’s sheets, massaging her lower back as she lay on her side, wiping her brow.

Nino once heard a maid--a girl of just sixteen--give birth in one of the rooms behind the cocina. She had made the sounds of someone working to climb a mountain or to outrun a man bent on murder. But the noises from Eva Sy were like the screams of the aswang that can be heard in the fields at midnight, screams of pure terror that tore though the house like a terrible wind. The worst of these was followed by a silence and then frantic shouts to fetch Dr. Lim from the other side of the subdivision.

Eva was dead before he arrived.

Just wanted to prove to myself that I really was working on it. Now it's after midnight, and really I must go because I have to wake up early to get Risa and Vida ready (this entails wigs and make-up; I don't mess around) for their Halloween preschool parade which ends at a senior citizens' home. There they will sing a slew of Halloweeny songs. They are not particularly uplifting songs, but I seem to be the only one concerned about that. I mean, what do you think of this (the children have been directed, mind you, to look very sad throughout this little number):

Oh once I had a pumpkin,
a pumpkin, a pumpkin,
Oh once I had a pumpkin
without any face.
With no eyes and no nose,
and no mouth and no smile,
Oh once I had a pumpkin
with no face at all.

Methinks this is no way to spread cheer...

Kerry & Springsteen

I had no idea that Madison, Wisconsin, was so. freaking. beautiful.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Tsismis Makes the World Go Around

Oh no! Miz Barbara Jane reports that one-of-a-kind Marianne Villanueva was making tsismis about writing groups. And guess where I'm going in an hour? To my writing group with one-of-a-kind Marianne Villanueva.

I shall pin her to the wall (this will be simple, as Marianne is quite petite) and force the truth from her! To save herself, she will say, "Naku, Veronica! I had too many Wyder Ciders! It's all Barbara Jane's fault!"

We shall see, my people. We shall see...

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

First-Ever Toy Purge

In preparation for the seventy-five metric tons of gifts that family and friends so kindly bestow on our three children (the twins' birthday is on December 29th, making things even more insane) during the holiday season, we will soon be conducting our First-Ever Toy/Book Purge.

This year, our purge will benefit Books for the Barrios, the much-lauded organization in Concord, California, that has so far shipped nearly 5 million pounds of books and other educational doo-dads to barrio schools in the Philippines.

So attention Delfino Clan: if you have things you'd like to donate and your house is somewhere between mine and Concord, I'll be happy to pick your stuff up. If a still-warm bag of pan de sal awaits me, so much the better. Here's what they need:

• Games and Puzzles
• Toys, Stuffed Animals and Tennis Balls (tennis balls?!)
• Athletic Equipment
• Crayons, Pencils and Scissors
• Clean Scrap Paper
• Children's Storybooks
• National Geographic Magazines
• Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
• Computers (Pentium I or better)
• Little Girls Dresses

Ready? Set? Purge.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

For the Men in Your Life

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Shall I quote from the poorly translated Portuguese? Yes, I think I shall: It is the Latin spirit of Antonio Banderas exceeding barriers to seduce the world...

Friday, October 22, 2004

Not Quite Redeemed by French Fries

Of the 100 facts that The Nation presents in its Non-Arguable Case Against the Bush Administration, only one failed to raise my ire:

#62. At the behest of the french fry industry, the Bush Administration USDA changed their definition of fresh vegetables to include frozen french fries.


Unfortunately for the GOP, this single good deed in a roiling sea of evil and mind-numbing greed is not enough to sway my vote.

I think The Nation should have included this fact instead: when the sister of James Byrd--the Black man who was tied to a truck by three white men and dragged along a Texas road to his death--stood in front of Bush in tears and begged him to sign a hate crimes bill, he refused. Without--as Molly Ivins pointed out--even offering her a tissue.

Is that what they call a "compassionate conservative?"

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Odd Ball

"Mother, am I odd?"

So said Risa and, I have to tell you, the question gave me pause. Because I have often felt that she is, indeed, odd. Or maybe 'quirky' is a better word. Anyways, to buy time I said, "Why do you ask?"

"Someone said I was odd."


"I can't remember."

"Oh. Well, you're not odd; you're just Risa."

But then night before last as I was putting her down for the night, she said, "Can you take a picture of yourself at this number (translation: at this age) and then give it to me?"

"Sure. Why?"

"So that when you die, I can remember you like this."

I got goosebumps. Then I thought isn't that sweet? And...odd?"

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Making Exquisite Sense Today...

...when it is dark and raining, there is Play-Doh in my hair, and my darlings are flinging themselves off the bookshelves:

What cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson writes in Composing a Life...

It is time to explore the creative potential of interrupted and conflicted lives, where energies are not narrowly focused or permanently pointed toward a single ambition. 

These are not lives without commitment, but rather lives in which commitments are continually refocused and redefined.

In another one of her books, Peripheral Visions, I was fascinated to read the following about the Philippines:

...on my desk I put a small, carved figure of Christ, one of hundreds detached from crucifixes and sold in Manila as antiquities, usually armless, with their pointed European noses sliced off during the era when Filipinos rebelled against everything Spanish. I wondered sometimes, seeing these mutilated images that redouble the Spanish preoccupation with suffering, about the limits of empathy across cultural lines. This cristo has drops of blood carved in the wood, running down its side.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Big Fresno Fair

Maybe they call it the Big Fresno Fair because the ewes, bred to give birth while at the Big Fresno Fair, are heavy with their lambs, and the ones who have just given birth, are heavy--alarmingly, uncomfortably, almost comically--with milk. At the sight of one of the latter, my sister-in-law said said, "She better feed her baby soon or something bad is going to happen."

(Allow me to stray briefly from my Big theme to note that there was a lone black baby sheep amongst all the white ones, unclaimed and utterly alone, chewing on a stick. I almost broke into sobs, which is one of several hundred thousand reasons why I am thankful I was not raised on a farm.)

It's possible that the Big Fresno Fair is named in honor of the cows. Every year, in my official role as Mistress of the Obvious, I wander aimlessly around the Livestock Exhibit and say something brilliant about how big the cows are. I say, "Damn, those cows are big."

Perhaps they call it the Big Fresno Fair because when you leave, you are bigger. You are bigger because you ate several fried things. You are bigger because you bought the still-warm kettle corn in a bag almost as tall as you are. You are bigger because even though you didn't eat the fry bread, funnel cake, cinnamon rolls, fried zucchini, onion rings, caramel apple or chocolate-covered frozen banana, many other people did, and you feel big by association.

Or maybe it's called The Big Fresno Fair because calling it The Medium-Sized Fresno Fair would be just plain silly.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Virtually Yours

So this is me, virtually. Do note the tiara.

Me, Virtually

Now you try. And don't forget to post it!

Happy weekend one and all...

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Vespertine Press Is Nice

When I submit work to a journal, I often feel like I'm sending it to a black hole where it moves slowly but surely to the bottom of a pile until the paper it's written upon finally disintegrates, and it's as if it never existed at all.

For real.

And I was beginning to feel that Vespertine Press, a new Asian American literary journal that the charming Barbara Jane (see her? she's the one with lots and lots of lip gloss...) brought to my attention oh so many months ago, was one of those black holes. Briefly at the end of July, their web site basically said that if you hadn't heard from them by August 1st, you should stamp the word "REJECTED" on your forehead. And so I did. Consider myself rejected, I mean. And then just a few weeks ago, I checked the site again to see if the first issue was available for purchase because rejected though I was, I know how important it is to support "minority" (pfffft) literature.

What do you suppose I saw? A message saying they were still considering their 2004 submissions. Hmmmm. Now what's a writer to do? After a week of doing nothing, I finally sent an e-mail asking them--kindly, ever so kindly--to clarify the status of the submissions, as I was simply trying to keep accurate track of my manuscripts.

Two days later, I received a lovely reply from publisher Mamie Ju Raynaud. Why lovely? Because the first line said, "I remember your story!" It proceeded to get less lovely because, well, my story didn't make it into the journal (which, by the way, is experiencing some production delays). But then it got lovely again because she said I made it through a couple of rounds with the editors.

She also mentioned that--strange, is this not?--all the prose submissions that they really liked ("Yours was one of them," she said, pushing the e-mail back into the lovely realm) revolved around death or a funeral. And she didn't stop there! She went on, inviting me to re-submit the story ("If it's not taken by another publication," she said in a distinctly lovely way) next time around.

I'm not too proud to say that I have never been so thoughtfully cared for by a literary journal. And I'm a rejectee! Imagine the silk slippers and scented candles the Accepted Ones will receive! This is the proper care and feeding of writers, methinks. So let it be known throughout the land: Vespertine Press is nice.

Oh, and get this: Mamie closed her e-mail by telling me to feel free to write her any time with questions. Am I mistaken in thinking that most editors, due to the fact that they are already drowning in mail both solicited and unsolicited, will do their hot-diggity-darnedest not to encourage such communication? Told you: nice.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Happy Ver Sary

We don't look like this anymore. But after thirteen years, that hardly seems to be the point.

With many thanks to the spousal unit for kinda liking me.

No matter what.


Originally uploaded by ver.

(Most) Novelists Are Cool

And the proof is right here. Will ignore, for now, the fact that Amy Tan appears to be the lone AsianAm represented. Or perhaps I was scrolling too quickly...

Monday, October 11, 2004

Dog Days

I am intensely uncomfortable around animals. Dogs (particularly giant poodles), cats, birds (particularly swans), goats, lambs, like that. Make of this what you will--I'm sure it reveals some deep character flaw and that it will prove to be the straw that broke the camel's back when Judgement Day arriveth. Though I'm sure they sense my anxiety, I try not to display it in front of my daughters. After all, the last thing anyone needs is four females shrieking in unison when a hamster breaks free of its cage.

This is all by way of telling you about the canine (mis)adventures that Lea and I have had in the last month. Without further ado:

1. Pug Off!

I hold Lea's hand when we're out because 1) it's kinda nice and 2) she is far too busy looking around to realize that she's about to walk into a pole, garbage can, some strange man's leg, or whatnot. The other day, despite the fact that I was holding her hand, she careened into a pug (he came up to about her knees) with such force that they bounced off each other. If I'd had a video camera with me, I tell ya--Bob Sackett would be all over me by now. The best part is that they were both pissed. The pug's owner and I just smiled at each other and dragged our angry children away.

2. Relax, It's Just a Pitbull

When we first passed the pitbull, it was sunning itself contentedly at the feet of its master, who was eating breakfast in the outdoor seating area of a little cafe. Twenty feet past it, we heard low barking and an unfamiliar clatter. Turned around to see the damn thing running right at us, dragging a chair with it. Its genius owner had tethered it to a flimsy plastic chair. I scooped Lea up and turned my back, half hoping it would just disappear but knowing that if it didn't, I would rather have my back mauled than my front. And I could just drop my body right over Lea's. The owner was--big surprise--little help. She just screamed, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" and attempted to run after it in her high heels and movement-restricting jeans. Luckily, the Evil Beast got itself tangled up around a parking meter before it reached us.

3. Lea's First Joke

Big dog at the playground. Big like a pony; I think it was a St. Bernard. Whatever the case, it stood about 3 inches taller than Lea. I will always remember this dog because it's one of the few that didn't immediately strike fear in my heart. Don't get me wrong, I didn't pet it or anything, but it had such a peaceful vibe. Just a big, dopey dog. When we walked past it on the way to the car, Lea said, "Whoa. Mom, you better put a diaper on that dog." And then she started laughing. She laughed so hard she couldn't walk. I had to pick her up and put her in her carseat, still laughing.

And, well, that's all.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

I Can't Hear You, I Have a Banana In My Ear

Okay, I'm open to the idea that this is just a conspiracy theory, but it would explain a lot about the President's bizarre debate tics which--and I sincerely mean this--don't make him seem "folksy and endearing," but frighteningly off-balance.

For example, I couldn't figure out why Bush's eyes were constantly darting around during the debates. I thought that's a weird way to try to convince people of your focus and unwavering commitment to your mistakes. But now it makes perfect sense: his eyeballs won't stay put because he's hearing voices.

Have you guys noticed any other odd things he does that could be explained away by the fact that he's using an earpiece? I'm thinking now of the way he is silent for a number of seconds and then suddenly just blurts something out. I dunno. He's either being fed information or he's plain old weird. And I'm talking bad weird, not good weird...

Friday, October 08, 2004

Research, Procrastination, or A Little of Both

I have been working on my Huntsman story. I have. But when I'm not, I'm reading Gregory Maguire's Mirror, Mirror, which places Snow White (called Bianca de Nevada here) in Tuscany during the 16th century. Just forty-three pages in, and I've already been privy to three or four points of view, including a dwarf's. But no Huntsman yet. I'm ambivalent about the little woodcut-inspired illustrations in this novel. They're a bit gimmicky for my taste, and they don't do much to enhance my reading experience. In case you wondered.

And then of course there is this compulsively clickable hypertext version. It is An Evil Trap sent to derail me. Unfortunately, knowing this does not keep me from succombing to its siren call.

Wish me buena suerte...

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Imagine my chagrin when a fellow student, uncomfortable with the number of writers in the group, showed up at Meanings of Motherhood class brandishing a self-styled document declaring that what is said in class must stay in class, and that quotes--whether attributed or not--were strictly forbidden. She had typed out each of our names and was now asking that we sign the paper.

A journalist (one who will not mind being quoted here) sitting beside me said that her code of ethics would prevent her from using the class for material without consent anyways. I signed the damn thing smiling and thinking to myself I'm a fiction writer, and I have no ethics.

That said, this is the last you will hear of my little foray back into the classroom. (Is that a collective sigh of relief I hear?)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Oh Cheney, You So Shady

Egads, I love this roundup of various media reactions to last night's debate.

And, yeah, it's from the Kerry-Edwards Blog. You got a problem with that?

Makes Sense, Actually

What do many people do while drinking coffee? Read.

And so my cyberpal Tracey found an intriguing little spot for some of her flash fiction: the label on a can of Storyhouse Coffee. It's almost too adorable. They also accept poetry, non-fiction, graphic art, or whatever tickles their, um, funny bean.

Welcome to the blogosphere, T!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Broken Sword, Flying Snow

Left my brother with the kids and snuck out to Emeryville with the spousal unit to finally catch the visual majesty of Hero.

I'm still recovering.


First Meeting
Originally uploaded by ver.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Tommy Used to Work on the Docks

In an effort to preserve parental sanity, we play as little "kid music" in the car as possible. If Risa and Vida have a hankering for such offerings, they are free to don their headsets (Lea can't get the hang of it--she always ends up with the spongy earpieces on her cheeks) and bliss out to Raffi. Otherwise, they listen to what we choose. So. On the way home from preschool the other day, I was flipping through radio stations when I heard the deliciously cheesy synthesized opening of a Bon Jovi classic. It was irresistible, especially when Jon's voice broke in with the unintentionally amusing, "Tommy used to work on the da-ah-ocks." For kicks, I stopped hitting the search button.

I checked the rearview mirror frequently and saw that all three girls were listening with great care. When it came time for the uber-corny, "...Take my hand and we'll make it I sway-yer/Oh! Oh!/ livin' on a prayer," lines, I sang along at the top of my lungs and flung my hair around. Not to worry--it was a residential area with very little possibility of an outright accident (almost took out a mailbox, though). And when the song finally reached its "We've gotta hold on to what we've got/it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not" ending, I switched off the radio.

"Did you guys like that song?"

Polite silence. And then Vida, unofficial spokeswoman for all three, softly said, "Mom? Not very much."

As if she was worried my heart would break, as if my well-being depended on her answer.

This gig just cracks me up, I swear.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

An Afternoon at AACP

It was a tiny group at AACP, but the vibe was pleasant and the food was good and, really, what more can you ask? Marianne Villanueva successfully lightened the load of Going Home books in her rolling suitcase, and that is always good news.

Oscar Peñaranda was MIA (he sent his regrets via T'boli publisher Eduardo Datangel), leaving me to wonder what in the world Barbara Jane, Eileen, Jean, Michelle and Leny did to him at the embassy on Friday evening? But it was such fun to meet the delightful Liza Erpelo who teaches English and coordinates the Kababayan Program at Skyline College. At one point she made me laugh uncontrollably in the middle of someone else's reading (Lord, what bad form...), and it reminded me of when my cousin Jodi used to--on purpose!--sing inordinately loud and off-key at Mass until I laughed so hard the pew started to shake.

Then there was the trio of mighty manangs from FAHNS with old-school Bay Area stories to share. And I am so pleased to say that I now know poet Tony Robles, whose relaxed reading style I admire. It's like catching up with an old friend at a cafe and letting your coffee grow cold (I don't drink coffee, but that's entirely beside the point...) because you're too busy listening to bother taking a sip. I hope he doesn't mind that I'm about to share a poem that poet and teacher Nick Carbo particularly enjoyed in 2001:

Ode to the Sandwich Makers
by Tony Robles

In the financial district
the construction never

concrete slabs, frozen
tongues piled silently

held in place by

Papers stacked
and shredded

confetti on the 1st

In the midst of this
stone graveyard is
a deli

12 noon, the
line snakes from
the door

Inside, 7 sandwich
makers behind
a glass counter

all Asian


With the grace of
a blackjack dealer,
they stack the salami,
ham, cheese

on bread of

white, brown, sour,
or wheat

Any sandwich, any way
you like it

Meat piled thick

sealed with
strokes of

perfectly with care

The line
moving quickly
like at the

These dealers,
these sandwich

these builders

Taking the order

buildings of

among the


And I picked up two copies of The Forbidden Book which, as others have pointed out, is stunning. I think it's appropriate that it's not easy to get your hands on it; it's forbidden, after all.

Anyways, if you're heading down the peninsula, stop in at AACP and let Leonard and Florence show you around. Good people, them.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Reading, 10/2, AACP - Revised

As expected, a few changes in the line-up for the reading at Asian American Curriculum Project in San Mateo:

12:50. Introduction by Vangie Buell, President East Bay FANHS.

1:00. Frank Samson of DeAnza College discusses The Forbidden Book

1:45. Then me for Going Home to a Landscape.

2:30. Vangie Buell, Liz Megino and Marie Yip for Seven Card Stud with Manangs Wild.

3:15. Discussion and signing.

3:30. Poetry from Tony Robles and Oscar Peñaranda.

4:00. Oscar Peñaranda reads from his new book of short stories Seasons by the Bay.

4:45. Q & A and signing followed by a discussion about publishing and the state of Fil-Am literature in the schools and the public library.

all on Saturday, October 2nd, at:

Asian American Curriculum Project
529 East Third Ave/San Mateo, CA/94401

Man. That's a lotta stuff.

Money Money Money Muh-nay!

This from last night:

So far, even typically hostile TV pundits -- and some Republicans, including John McCain just now on CNN -- are saying John Kerry more than held his own against Bush tonight. And apparently Kerry's strong performance has many Americans digging into their pockets. The Kerry campaign just sent this one line email to reporters: "As of 10:41 p.m., the Democratic National Committee is receiving 5 online donations per second." -- Geraldine Sealey

Did you notice that the campaign pointedly neglected to credit my blog for the last-minute donations? Shall I quibble? I shan't.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Before the Clock Strikes Twelve

Not to get all political on you, my people, but this is fresh from the Kerry-Edwards blog:

Based on the money that is raised by midnight tonight, the Democratic Party will make key decisions about how much to spend and where to spend it. We want those decisions to be based on the strategy choices that will win the election, not financial constraints.

I donated yesterday when an amazingly earnest 20-something woman stopped me as I strolled down Burlingame Avenue. It didn't hurt one bit. Now you try.

And hurry.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Rice, Rice Baby

So my question is this: Have you ever gone seven days without eating rice and then, upon eating rice fresh from the cooker on the eighth day, found that the whole world is sparkly again?

I have.

The More Things Change

I used to name things. I named shirts for a company which, when pronounced in Pig Latin, sounds like Anana-Bay Epublic-Ray. I named poorly-made toys. I named, for example, the Topsy Turvy Turbo. It was a red plastic car that flipped over when it ran into a wall or some other solid object. I named soups, too, but I can't recall any of them. The product never made it into the stores, something that could very well be my fault.

I wrote instructions. How to make a bird house. How to survive in an avalanche. How to escape an angry bear. How to hone the blade of your carving knife. How to create your wedding registry for a company which, when pronounced in Pig Latin, sounds like Illiams-Way Onoma-Say. How to keep from getting lost in a California desert. Of course I cannot now remember how to do any of these things.

I wrote those signs in museums that nobody ever bothers to read. A 40-word history of the first known horse in America. A 25-word introduction to San Francisco's Italian fishermen. Lots of signs about glaciers, plant life, Native Americans, and the orchards that used to blanket Los Altos.

I urged customers to purchase outrageously-priced scented dishwashing soap, scented candles, and scented lotions. Explained the benefits of 18/10 stainless-steel. Suggested that this handpainted platter from Italy, these Moravian cookies, this glassware from Poland, or the Queen of England's toaster could somehow brighten their lives. I penned mini-stories to grace the back of a set of six dessert plates, the front of which depicted French waiters on ice skates (dead serious here, my people) performing various waiter duties.

I sent countless extraneous words out into the world.

And look! I'm still doing it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Reading, 10/2, AACP

So pleased to be reading with Oscar Peñaranda, some of the Seven Card Stud with Manangs Wild gang, and others this Saturday to celebrate the (re)opening of Asian American Curriculum Project in San Mateo. The schedule is still shaping up. We're going non-stop from 1:00-4:00, and it looks like this so far:

•Frank Samson discusses The Forbidden Book: The Philippine-American War in Political Cartoons by Abe Ignacio, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, and Helen Toribio.

•Various contributors read from Seven Card Stud with Manangs Wild. ...Our grandparents, parents, uncles, siblings, and assorted relatives and friends live once again, gathered around gambling tables, migrant camps, pool halls, and dining rooms.

•Oscar Peñaranda reads from his new book of short stories, Seasons by the Bay. Signing to follow.

•I'm up next representing Going Home to a Landscape.

•Poetry from Tony Robles and Oscar Peñaranda.

all on Saturday, October 2nd, at:

Asian American Curriculum Project
529 East Third Ave/San Mateo, CA/94401

If you raise your eyebrows at me, I'll raise my eyebrows at you. Deal.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Game of Baseless Admonitions

I was about a hundred pages into Norman Rush's Mortals when I ran into this paragraph and could not stop laughing. Here is Ray Finch ruminating on recent changes in his marriage to Iris:

There were other things in their the game of Baseless Admonitions, where one of them would shout completely arbitrary or inappropriate injunctions and warnings and accusations at the other, like You love only gold! or Be true to your school! or...what others? This means war! Christ, there had been dozens of these canards and where were they now? You mate with any beast! had been another one, thank you very much. Why had the game dropped away? This was an interesting question, and so was the question of who had been the first one to stop initiating these exchanges.

Of course I've been inventing Baseless Admonitions ever since. Mine are Baseless Admonitions Addressing No One In Particular:

You favor paisley!
Nothing but rubbish!
Remember the Alamo!
Your torpor grows old!
Men don't have bangs!

I am so easy to entertain. Pleasant weekend, one and all.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Accidentally Fabulous

It happened because of the garlic fries. The Trader Joe's garlic fries which, by the way, are especially good if you ignore the official cooking time and let them get super-crispy.

This afternoon I opened the oven door to retrieve said fries and was blasted in the face with 425º heat. I turned my rosy little cheeks away, but felt something odd happening to my eyes. At first, I thought it was my contact lenses drying out in reaction to the heat, but by tuning in a little more to my body I realized it was my eyelashes. Something had happened to my eyelashes. Singed? About to fall off? I suppose part of me wasn't that interested in finding out because instead of trotting to a mirror, I continued prepping the girls' lunch, right down to hulling the strawberries and making the chocolate milk.

I settled them at the table and headed to the bathroom to check on the damage. Along the way I wondered 1) how long will it take to re-grow a full fringe of lashes? 2) why was I so distracted that I put my face right smack in front of the oven when I leaned over? 3) what sort of environmental minutiae would assault my eyes now that they were not protected by lashes? and 4) is there any culture in the world that values eyelashless eyes?

I looked in the mirror. My eyelashes were, lovely. The intense temperature must have reactivated the quick coat of mascara I'd given them this morning. And the fact that the heat blew at me curled them in a way unrivaled by any eyelash curler--even that fancy one from Japan.

Rest assured I will not be repeating this dangerous little beauty trick again. For now, though, you can sign me...

Accidentally Fabulous