Friday, July 29, 2005

Occupational Hazard

From the nonist.

An Excerpt:

If you feel overwhelmed with a crushing pressure to post to your blog, a pressure so acute and strong that you can't post anything at all, try to remember: no one cares. You took up blogging of your own accord. Stop torturing yourself you silly bastard.

You can download the whole 6-page booklet here.

It helped me, dear ones. And if you read it and really, truly apply its principles to your blogging activities, I'm sure it can help you, too.

You don't have to be alone. Here—hold my hand.

*strikes the earnest, head-tilted, eyebrows-scrunched, nostrils-flared pose*

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Talk About Your Childhood Wishes

Some of my many favorite Charlie & the Chocolate Factory things:

1) Any of the scenes set in the Bucket household.
2) Willy Wonka screaming, "Mumbler!" at Mike Teavee in the Television Room.
3) Attack of the squirrels!
4) "Good morning starshine."
5) Willy Wonka's use of cue cards, a bit of schtick that I found really so very touching.
6) Every Danny Elfman ditty (with lyrics penned by Roald Dahl) and the Oompa-Loompa choreography.
7) The great glass elevator.
8) Grandpa Joe.
9) The puppet hospital and burn center.

I read a review that said Johnny Depp's performance felt like some sort of extended actor's exercise, but I was so taken by it. How do you play a childlike character who loathes children? It's such a contrary impulse; kids are crazy about each other because they're the only ones who "get" each other. Anyhoots, I love this movie. Obviously.

And does anyone else who's seen it think that the "look" of the young players was inspired by these Loretta Lux photographs?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Thanks. I Think.

I stumbled across two—two! not just one, but two!—strangers who blogged about my little paean to Skyflakes. Both quoted it in its entirety and even left my name stuck to it, which surprised me.

The first referred to it as a case of "intelligent people writing about inane things." To which I say: Skyflakes are not now, nor have they ever been, inane. But thanks.

The other said that her friend Sarah e-mailed it to her, apparently because she is half-Filipino. She appeared to be posting it for the amusement of her readership. Which appeared to be one person. And this one person appeared to have made a comment. And the comment appeared to say, "This actually made me laugh out loud at 2:30 in the morning!" To which I say: But was it "actually" still funny at 7:30 in the morning? Not so much, right? Ah, well.


A very belated linking to Gladys N. (who seems bemused by my love of Pride & Prejudice) and both her fine blogs: Makeweight (wherein she blogs about fascinating things that are so far over my head it's almost not funny) and Getaway (wherein she blogs about things I totally understand like, well, bird fears).

*waves at Gladys*

Not Entirely Clear

I'm a big fan of the "literary blogs," a subset of which includes "librarian blogs" and "bookseller blogs": Maud Newton, Beatrice, Bookangst 101 (soon to disappear into the ether), Bookslut, Bookninja, Booksquare, Fresh Eyes: A Bookseller's Journal, you name it.

But I read the lit blogs with the same sense of removal that I reserve for the "gossip blogs" (hey, Eileen has Fabio romance novels; I have gossip blogs): Gawker, Defamer, Go Fug Yourself, etc.

Neither one of these worlds is mine; I just like to watch. And so I was suprised at the very slight intersection I discovered yesterday between the lit blog universe and my own one-inch square realm .

I drop by Notes From the Slush Pile occasionally. I'm not sure why—it's all about children's lit publishing and though I obviously read children's lit (did I tell you? did I tell you? We're reading James & The Giant Peach and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory! Hooooooray!), I don't write it. Still, I like the blog. Anyways, it turns out that its blog mistress is Candy Gourlay, a UK-based Filipina. And she was one of the editors of Hinabang Gunita, an oral history of Filipinos in the United Kingdom.

I'm fascinated by this. Because even though I know Filipinos are everywhere, I just never imagined that "everywhere" included the UK. I'm also fascinated for other reasons, but I'm not entirely clear what they are. Which is generally how I live my life. Being not entirely clear, I mean.

You see?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Lullaby Lame-Ass

Lea's bedtime routine is always the same: use the potty, brush teeth, climb into bed, read a book, turn on the noisemaker (I keep it on "white noise") and turn out the light. Then the real work begins. I am either required to 1) make up a story "about candy" or 2) scratch her back or 3) sing songs. On a really tough night, I have to do all three. Tonight, though, was just singing. I have what I imagine is a pretty basic parenting repertoire of songs: Hush Little Baby, You Are My Sunshine, on-the-spot concocted lyrics for Brahms' lullaby (this is remarkably easy to do; try it), etc.

So I cycled through those and was just starting again with Hush Little Baby when she informed me that I'd already sung it. Not wanting to disappoint her with re-runs I—oh, yes I did—sang every word of Leaving on a Jet Plane which, thanks to my third grade teacher who loved to whip out her guitar and teach us really corny songs, I have been able to do on command (though not at karaoke; you all know how i feel about that) for most of my life.

My daughter was in awe. In fact, her face looked just like it looks in this picture. Which isn't exactly awe, is it? It's more like are you serious? Regardless, she wanted more.

I couldn't think of anything. The two older ones used to love Killing Me Softly, but Lea finds it a touch morbid. Or morose. Or morobid. But just as I was about to give up and beg her to go to sleep, please oh please just please go to sleep because I don't want to miss a minute of Six Feet Under, the following words came melodically flowing from betwixt my lightly glossed lips:

If I could, I'd like to be a great big movie star
overnight sensation; I'd drive a big expensive car
I would buy you anything your little heart desires
these things I do 'cuz I'm ___________.

(First comment-ator to fill in the blank wins a QuickTime movie of me singing the song dressed just like the Stylistics in this photo.) **

Big hit, that one. "Did you just write that one, Mama?"

"Yes, boo, of course."

"Can you write another one? Right now?"

"Sure. You ready?"


"Step right up, hurry hurry, before the show begins, my friends
Stand in line, get your tickets, I hope you will attend
It'll only cost you fifty cents to see what life has done to those like you and me...

Well, let me just tell you right now, people: never, ever, ever sing Sideshow to your child at bedtime unless you're fully prepared to answer fifteen minutes' worth of questions about heartbreak, unrequited love, and general romantic misery. See the girl who has lost the only love she's ever had/she hurts so bad, so bad, so bad. What is wrong with me?! See the man who's been crying for a million years/so many tears, so many tears. Idiot.

She will wake at two o'clock in the morning, sobbing. And it'll be all. my. fault.


**I'm such a liar.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A (Brief) Return of the Nap

About a month before I gave birth to Lea, the spousal unit thoughtfully urged me to get some help around the homestead. This person was going to have to be 100% Ver-friendly because she and I would be spending entire days together co-managing the brood. I couldn't just "sorta" like her; I had to adore her. No surprise, then, that I ended up hiring a young, new-to-the-country Filipina with a full-throated laugh who was in the middle of some sort of hellish situation at an elder-care facility where she was on call for 18 hours a day. Knowing how desperately she needed the job, they worked her 28 to 30 days a month.

For some reason I still don't understand, her boyfriend's sister brokered our deal. "Does she have any experience with kids?" I asked.

"No, but you know Filipinos."

And that was pretty much that.

C. stayed with us for two years and attended nursing school at the same time. Sometimes I flatter myself by thinking that she thought of me as a maternal figure, but the truth is that we mothered each other. Not to mention the children. Late one afternoon, about three weeks after she started, I asked her to put a pot of rice on for dinner. "You trust me!" she said. "That means you trust me!" She was right.

Anyways, by the time Lea turned two, C. and I were ready to let each other go: the part-time accounting job she had was giving her the option of full-time, and the twins were about to start pre-school. The transition was smooth, and we eased it with phone calls and e-mail. It's been almost two years since she took care of us.

I mention all this not because there's some fantastic ending to the story, but because Monday she called to say she was taking Thursday off, and could she come spend it with the girls? The timing couldn't have been better for me. Without getting into details, let me just say that I am an overextended and very tired Ver. She played with the girls in the morning while I went and did the stuff that's overextending me. At lunchtime, when my excellent parents showed up with major loot from the Serramonte farmer's market, C. pushed me towards the bedroom saying—just like she used to—"Go, go. Go take a nap."

Which I did. A very, very long nap.

And so here's to C., who I hope knows how much we always appreciated her.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

But Before I Go...

...a fuzzy phone picture I just received from Marianne! This was taken at the SFPL reading on Sunday. From left to right: bella poeta Barbara Jane, writer Steven Kahn, enchanting Marianne, and yours truly.

B Bk Sn

Feeling the need to retreat a bit, and so I think I'll go with it.

What is it that Gene Wilder says in WW & the CC?: "So much time, so little to do. Strike that, reverse it."

Or something like that.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

SPFL: Marianne Villanueva & May-lee Chai

Starting backwards:

8. Heading home, it took me almost 30 minutes to drive down Van Ness and onto the freeway, and at every stop light I cracked open Marianne's book to read from her story, "American Milk."
7. In reviewing the drinks and tsismis portion of the afternoon, I am one with Barbara Jane: lips? Sealed.
6. Two (white!) gentlemen almost came to fisticuffs (I've always wanted to use that word) during the discussion portion of the event. Fisticuffs! I believe the parting zing was something like, "That is complete elitist bullshit!"
5. I'm happy to report that the man with the coffee, cookies, and rolling cart who so unmercilessly interrupted Patrick Rosal with his evil, excruciatingly squeaking wheels and other random noisiness lo those months ago, did much better today. Or perhaps it was just chance. Regardless, he was not disruptive.
4. Marianne read the title story of her collection Mayor of the Roses. May-lee Chai described it as one of the best short stories she's ever read, and I'm inclined to agree. Deeply moving, with a quality of disturbance that lingers. And lingers. And lingers.
3. May-lee read a portion of her story about a Cambodian family living in South Dakota (this from Gorgeous Asians). An engaging reader, both fierce and tender. If only she'd brought along copies of her book to sell!
2. These two women filled almost every seat! On a Sunday! And not just any Sunday, a sunny, bright, gorgeous San Francisco Sunday.
1. Why did I not know Barbara Jane had cut her hair? Quite fetching.

And now I'm gonna hop into bed and finish "American Milk."

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Feel-Good Post

I was straightening out my bookshelves—you know, aligning everything, re-sorting, wondering, 'why'd I buy that?' and whatnot— late, late, late last night. For whatever reason, I plucked Edward Said's Culture & Imperialism down from up high and brought it with me to bed. The receipt was still inside, and I felt a little ridiculous when I saw that I'd bought it in 1997 (at the Border's on State St. in Santa Barbara, if you must know) and hadn't truly read it yet.

When I hit the part in the introduction, the part where he points out that "The block other narratives from forming and emerging" is one of the ways that imperialists do their, um, evil imperialist things, I started to think about all the current busting out we're doing, people! Shall I count some of the ways? In no particular order:

1) Bino A. Realuyo just won the 2005 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry.
2) Barbara Jane, Evelina Galang, and Tony Robles all have books coming out.
3) Marianne Villanueva's Mayor of the Roses from Miami U. Press.
4) Kundiman-ites doing their Kundiman thing, even as I type.
5) Sarah Gambito's Matadora from Alice James Books.
6) Luisa Igloria's Richard Lemon Poetry Fellowship.
7) Eileen Tabios' whomping 200+ downloads of "Songs of the Colon," a digital chapbook from Ahadada Books.
8) The Forbidden Book by Abe Ignacio, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, and Helen Toribio from T'boli Publishing.

I know I'm missing a dozen other things, big and "small" (add them in the comments, if you like!!), but you get my point.

Is this a corny post? I'm just feeling so kum ba ya, so ding-ding, so Polly Positive (evil twin of Nellie Negative) today. And it doesn't happen all that often, so indulge me.

*love ya like McFadden & Whitehead love Philly*

Thursday, July 14, 2005

You Didn't Hear it Here

HAPPY UPDATE: Please check out Eileen's blog, wherein she breaks the news that Bino A. Realuyo has received the 2005 Agha Shahid Ali prize in poetry.

Congratulations to the beautiful, fearless Bino!


I echo The Chatelaine: a whispered congratulations—soon to develop into a deafening roar—to one of our finest.

But you didn't hear it here...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Have Horn, Will Toot

You're invited to a party! Well, it's just a cyberspace party, and it's just here at my blog, and there won't be any food, drinks, music, dancing, or hot-looking people (correction: there will be hot-looking virtual people), but still.

What am I celebrating, you ask? At the very real risk of appearing hopelessly tacky, I am taking a cue from Walt Whitman and celebrating my own dang self. So without further to-do, I present a press release that appeared in my in-box over the weekend:

Contact: Tel: 703 276 0427


“Bernie Aragon Jr. Looks for Love,” a lighthearted and poignant short story by Veronica Montes, captured First Prize in The Ivy Terasaka Short Story Competition sponsored by Our Own Voice, online literary ezine. The story will appear online at Our Own Voice in September.

Veronica Montes is a native of San Francisco, California. Her fiction has been published in the literary journals Prism International, Furious Fictions, and maganda, and in the anthologies Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America (Anvil, 1997), Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, 2003), and Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas (Calyx, 2003).

Dr. Luisa Igloria, sole judge for the competition, is Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Program & Department of English at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. In reviewing the entries, she praises Bernie Aragon as a “well-rounded story … because of its balanced mix of humor and pathos.” As a fictionist herself and a multi-awarded poet, Dr. Igloria notes that Bernie Aragon possesses a “confident sense of dialogue and place . . . resurrect[ing] the narratives of [an] era rife with the tensions of racial violence, anti-miscegenation and other discriminatory practices; and dramatizes the situation of Filipino busboys and migrant workers in 1927 Watsonville and up and down the West Coast.”

Veronica Montes will receive a check for $100 and a copy of Our Own Voice Literary / Arts Journal (Firstfruits/PWU, 2003). Our Own Voice extended an invitation for her to read her prize-winning story at a gathering of writers in the Library of Congress, Washington, DC in Spring 2006 for the LOC Asian Division’s centennial commemoration of the Filipino First Wave Migration to the U.S.

The competition was named for Ivy Terasaka who was an emerging writer vacationing with her family when the Tsunami of 2004 swept the beach resort where they were to spend their holiday. For a short while, she was a familiar face and voice at various Singapore literary events. In late 2003, Ivy discovered Our Own Voice and submitted a short story. "The Last Time I Saw Nanay" was published posthumously in the January 2005 issue of Our Own Voice. To honor her dream of being a writer, the editors of the cyberspace ezine will be holding the annual competition in her memory.

Ten finalists were selected by the Editorial Board and presented to the independent judge for selection of the winners. No awards were given for Second or Third Prize this year. The competition attracted entries from around the world. A majority of submissions were from the United States and the Philippines, and other entries came from The Netherlands, Denmark, and Australia.

- end -

Many, many thanks to Our Own Voice and to Luisa Igloria for giving "Bernie Aragon, Jr. Looks for Love" the nod. I am quite grateful and happy. And...I'm going to the Library of Congress!!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Ewwww. Ewwww. Ewwww.

Back when I was far more conscious of what I was eating, I referred to hot dogs as "nitrate-filled death tubes." I'm not so hard-core today, and have been known to indulge—with the kids, of course—in the occasional National Hebrew reduced fat beef frank. They taste better than any other hot dog, and I like their slogan: "We answer to a higher authority." It's so cheeky.

Okay, but none of that is really the "Ewwww" part of this post. The "Ewwww" part of this post can be found when you click on this link.

*strikes the Moon-Unit-Zappa-gag-me-with-a-spoon pose*

Now. The Delfino mini-reunion is at my house on Saturday, and I realize I've just completely set myself up for someone bringing a big 'ol platter of Octodogs, but I'm just telling you right now: you will not gain entrance.

This, I swear.

At The Library

I will definitely be smooth-sailing it into the city for Marianne Villanueva's reading at the SFPL. Here's the info:

Who: Marianne Villanueva reading from Mayor of the Roses, May-lee Chai reading from Glamorous Asians: Short Stories & Essays, and Claire Light discussing Hyphen Magazine.

When: Sunday, July 17th @ 2:00 pm

Where: San Francisco Public Library/Lower Level/Room 1224-Latino Hispanic Community Room

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Good Saturday Clicks

Posting on a Saturday?! Almost unheard of. But I came across these links and thought you might be interested/amused/bewildered. In that order.

At Resonance Magazine, Howard Zinn talks about the role of artists during times of war.

At The New Yorker, a look at Roald Dahl's life and writing. And more or less related: countdown to Charlie & The Chocolate Factory: 6 days!

And what is going on here? (No hating in the comments, please) This young Pinoy is garnering all kindsa crazy notice. I can't help wondering: do you think he's for or against GMA's resignation?

Friday, July 08, 2005

A Long Time Coming

This is a relatively new phenomenon, and it deserves some sort of acknowledgement here on the ol' blog. The conversation goes like this:

Me: (standing in the bathroom doorway): Hey, guys, I'm gonna take a shower.
Them: (scattered around the downstairs): Okay! Great! Okay!
Me: I'll be out in ten minutes.
Them: Okay!
Me: I'm gonna leave the door open. If you need something, just come in.
Them: Okay, Mom!
Me: What is the one thing that you shouldn't do no matter what?
Them: Answer the front door.
Me: You got that? Do not answer the door no matter what.
Them: Of course not!
Me: Okay, then. No answering the door. Because you did that one time when Uncle E. came over.
Them: Mom!
Me: Yes?
Them: We were only four then.
Me: I know, it's just...
Them: Mom!
Me: Yes?
Them: Will you just take a shower now?
Me: Oh. Okay.

So this post is dedicated to my daughters, who do not open the front door no matter what.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Summer Reading

Quite happy to have picked up Sabina Murray's (and why do we not know more about this PEN/Faulkner Award-winning Filipina?) A Carnivore's Inquiry on yesterday's rounds. One of the reviews likens the writing style to that of Angela Carter. And what a coincidence since last week I picked up a $3.99 copy of Carter's Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories. Dangerous, beautiful reading ahead! Also in the queue is Paula Gunn Allen's biography, Pocahantas.

I don't know how to account for my new interest in biographies. Last weekend at the lake after finishing Dark Lover: The Life & Death of Rudolph Valentino, I was so sad. I knew the book would end with his death at age thirty-one, but I was still somehow surprised. In his closet at the time of his sudden hospitalization were, among many other things, 146 pairs of socks, 28 pairs of spats, 13 canes, 110 silk handkerchiefs embroidered with his initials, and 22 white vests. Which makes me many white vests does one guy need? Anyways, fascinating read.

Little time, many books.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Sharing Time

Teacher J. pulled me aside this afternoon all tickled about Risa's "sharing time" experience. Apparently, she held up her Monchhichi Doll and announced that lots of "Philippine girls" have Monchhichis in the "Filipinos." She ended with, "And I'm a Philippine girl." None of which makes sense, but that's okay because it's in keeping with yesterday's goings-on.

Yesterday, my parents brought over food from Kuya's, the new restaurant in San Bruno (public service annuncement: the chef at Kuya's used to preside over the kitchen at Ong Pin): catfish sinigang, bbq pork, bistek (my special request), etc. Well, my girls kept asking for more "chalupa," but I was so busy enjoying my bistek that I ignored the first, oh, five requests. Finally someone said, "Mooom? Hello? Can I have another chalupa?"

"What's a chalupa? There are no chalupas. Isn't that a Taco Bell thing?"

"Um, Mom? Right there?" she said (I don't know who it was; one of 'em), pointing like I was some sort of slow-on-the-uptake ditzy-type person.

"Oh. Wait. That's not 'chalupas,' you nut. That's lumpia."

Much hysterical giggling ensued and—not surprisingly—the word "chalupa" (it's not a real word, is it?) is now in heavy rotation. This is fine with me because, as you know, the previous funniest-word-in-the-world was "butt."

All of this is just my way of saying that I think I've been remiss in their cultural education. Must get on that right away.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Scrabble Babble

I don't remember the last time I beat my Mom at Scrabble. Or my brother, for that matter. And that's saying a lot because, frankly, I am one helluva Scrabble player. And yet the two of them have thwacked me soundly countless times, leaving me forlorn and silently cursing what seemed to be my permanent fate.

But at last, at last, my time in the Scrabble Loser Seat has come to an end: three turns into our fourth and final game on Sunday night, I attached all seven tiles to an existing "g" to form the word "elbowing," a move which garnered a whomping 79 points from which mi madre never recovered.

Vengeance is mine!

Next up: my brother.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Party Like It's, Um, 1999

Have a happy fourth, you lovely people. In fact, live it the f**k up because, as you know, Justice O'Connor has resigned and all of our civil liberties may be revoked by Tuesday.

On that happy note, I'm off to find sparklers...