Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Overabundance of Harmless Musings

I like this time of year. I wrap myself up in a sweater, throw on jeans, manipulate myself into my boots (I have challenging calves, okay? Okay!), pin my hair up into a messy bun with randomly placed bobby pins, and make my way out into the world.


I'm all for music in the schools, but maybe not so much for my kids. They've brought home a trumpet and a flute, and they are to practice for 20 minutes a day which, I can tell you right now, is about 19 minutes and 30 seconds too long.


In theory, I have nothing against Harry Potter. Whatever. He's a wizard, and that's cool. I personally didn't find the writing compelling and have only read about half of the first book. The fantasy genre, in general, doesn't appeal to my kids (I've tried, I've tried...), so they haven't read them either. What drives me nuts is that some folks believe that the extraordinary length of the books makes them somehow more challenging or important than books that don't weigh in at 10 pounds. The owner of a children's (indie) bookstore, The Reading Reptile," reports on an experience with a customer who has fallen for the fallacy:
I’m standing [in front of this lady] trying to find a book thick enough for her brilliant six-year-old...It’s bizarre, and troubling. I think about Jenny and the Cat Club, My Father’s Dragon, Randall Jarrell’s Animal Family, and all the treasures this young genius may never read because they have too many pictures and they aren’t thick enough. Somewhere along the line Harry Potter has become an arbitrary benchmark, something much different than the literary cure-all it’s still touted to be. The fact is Harry Potter has stolen as many readers as it has inspired. Banished them to strange criteria of weight and size, and hype. “Big” books are now published in the hundreds of thousands, stacked up like buildings in stores where most of the employees have never even heard of Angela Johnson or Jack Gantos, Tor Seidler or Polly Horvath.
The whole post (scroll down to "TEN SECONDS: Running the Hurdles with Harry Potter") is super funny, sharp, and distinctly bittersweet.


Sometimes I'm just infuriated.


Lately, I am fascinated by business. By commerce, by globalization. I was just reading a riveting article about why, despite valiant marketing attempts, we do not eat chocolate from Venezuela, which is a country that boasts the best cacao beans in the world and which, in turn, sells this raw material to the famous chocolatiers of Europe. Well, it's because we've been conditioned to believe that fine chocolate comes from Switzerland and Belgium. It's the same for Chilean winemakers, airplanes from Brazil, or Turkish refrigerators. Corona beer (once described as "Mexican lemonade") used to have the identical problem, but their relentless branding now downplays its country of origin. Anyways, the term for this is the "provenance paradox."

It applies to a lot of things, as far as I can tell. Including writers.


Some months ago, our microwave oven fritzed out. We have not spent the time required to ease it out of its cabinetry (I think the cabinets were built around it when we had the kitchen remodeled), so we've just been going without. And you know what I've discovered? You don't need a microwave FOR ANYTHING.


Just noticed: I have very thin, old lady wrists. 'Tis the only thing "thin" about me. But never mind: I celebrate my medium-ness. Really. Oh, crap.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Getting Things Sort Of Done

On the one hand, I am ever-grateful to the inventor(s) of Daylight Savings, for it has meant the end of this Fall's relentless march of soccer and baseball practices and, in fact, the end of the "Fall Ball" season entirely. On the other hand, my sleep is completely wrecked: I can neither fall asleep nor wake up. I'm in a perennial state of half-wakedness which, thank God, has nothing to do with half-nakedness, and thus unable to perform tasks with any sort of elan. I am simply s l o g g i n g.

And yet, and yet...things do get done. The lunches are made, the house is standing, homework is neatly completed, and the kids and I take turns reading to each other after dinner. Lately, Ri likes to read from her own writing: stories set in Sweden for no apparent reason, sunsets the color of "orange sorbet," and characters who like to "ponder" quite a bit. It's hilarious. Her sisters listen attentively and offer appropriate praise when she's done. Vi likes to read out loud from Stone Soup (remember Stone Soup?!), which is filled with stories and art by kids who are around their age. And Lea is into Jack Prelutsky poems—clever little rhyming pieces about "homework machines" and gigantic pizzas and whatnot. Last night—miracle of miracles!—they requested I read from Gombrich's A Little History of the World, and then they asked for Rex Warner's Men and Gods: Myths and Legends of the Ancient Greeks (the NYRB edition with Edward Gorey illustrations!), and after more than an hour of this I had to have been the happiest mother in the world.

Then they all wandered off humming Katy Perry songs and arguing about who would get to log onto Woozworld first, and I was forlorn. But you know what? We got some good stuff in, right? I've decided that I will use the same rule of thumb I use for their eating: as long as they consume leafy greens every day, I'm okay with some Halloween candy.

In other news of the world, Cecilia Brainard came to San Francisco to join me for the PAWA-hosted book launch of Angelica's Daughters. I turned my report around quickly, and you can read it here (with pictures and everything!). Cyndi Vasallo, who joined us and read a wonderful story, also blogged about the event. Anyways, I can't think of a more pleasant way to spend an early Saturday evening than hanging out with folks who write, enjoy, and support Filipino and Fil-Am literature, so high-fives all around.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Post Where I Recommend Two Stories, Announce an Event, and Explain My Non-Participation in NaNoWriMo

First of all: did you vote? Because it's important to offset the crazy.

Now, back to the regular stuff:

It's the beginning of November, so that means that I've spent the last four days or something like that pretending to myself that I'll participate in NanoWriMo. But of course I never do. I'm not someone who can write with a water pistol pointed at her face; life is already too much of a do it! Do it now! Do it NOW OR SOMETHING AWFUL WILL HAPPEN existence. I'll take my writing slow and occasionally steady, thanks. But I wish the most buena-est of suerte to all those writers who are about to brave the NanoWriMo storm! May the muse kiss your keyboard (I'm talking to you, Cecilia Brainard!).

Speaking of brave and wonderful writers, I would like to draw your attention to two excellent stories. The first is "In My Country," by Tony Robles; the second is "Like Fish to Ginger," by Rashaan Alexis Meneses. Take a few minutes out of your Internet surfing and enjoy; I know I did.

This Saturday, PAWA is hosting a book launch for Angelica's Daughters. It'll be a nice way to start your evening, so come out, come out, if ever you can; I would very much like to see your face.

When: Saturday, November 6, 2010, 5:30 - 7:00
Where: Bayanihan Community Center, 1010 Mission St., San Francisco
What: Reading (Cecilia and Veronica), book signing, and light refreshments

And bonus:
Arkipelago Books is also located in the Bayanihan Community Center, so you can shop for those hard-to-find Filipino and Fil-Am titles before or after (um, not during, 'kay?) the event!