Thursday, January 28, 2010

J.D. Salinger Dies of Natural Causes

The first time I read Catcher in the Rye was in Mr. Brace's English class in '96. I think Mr. Brace LOVED that book. I mean, I can't see an English teacher not wanting to teach a book he didn't love. He strongly identified with the rebellious and apathetic infamous character. Who could blame him? Sounded like teen spirit even though Mr. Brace was over thirty.

I remember one of the multiple choice quizzes from Mr. Brace's quiz - we got quizzes about chapter summaries, vocabulary and technical forms (if any, though this usually happened when we studied passionate, putrid, permeating poetry - oh onomatopeaia!) -

1) What is a clavicle?
a) a musical instrument, b) a part of a neck bone, c) a violin, d) something else.

2) What can "phonies" mean? a) fake people, b) fake boobs, c) fake teeth, d) fake attitudes, e) all of the above.

Alright, he didn't really have multiple choice selections like that (I took creative license) but they were close. It made an impression.

I tried to find out more about Mr. Salinger but found out that he was a cantankaraneous old bastard that wanted nothing to do with the world. I guess Mr. Salinger really did hate phonies in real life. I'm sure, being the sensitive old bastard that he was, he really took sensitivity to phoniness to another level; hence, the disappearing act.

But, now - Wow. Death has finally made the recluse J.D. Salinger resurface. The 91-year-old writer that brought Holden Caulfield to life has met his Maker today.
His literary estate has fifteen unpublished Salinger novels locked up in a safe somewhere in his New Hampshire house. I guess the public might see a slew of hidden Caulfields in bits and pieces in the next couple of years.

Mr. Salinger, you made your mark. Now may you rest in peace.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Chain Mail

I received an interesting chain mail from my step-mother who is a Muslim convert. She is half-Filipino and half-Japanese and worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia for seventeen years before marrying my father (who did not convert to Islam) and moved to New York with him.

Anyway, considering the source, I found the chain mail even more - shall I say - appealing.

Subject:Recent miracle in Egypt !

Broadcasted in CBS....

A Muslim man in Egypt killed his wife because she was reading the Bible and then buried her with their infant baby and an 8-year old daughter.

The girls were buried alive! He then reported to the police that an uncle killed the kids. 15 days later, another family member died. When they went to bury him, they found the 2 little girls under the sand - ALIVE!

The country is outraged over the incident, and the man will be executed at the end of July.

The older girl was asked how she had survived and she says:- 'A man wearing shiny white clothes, with bleeding wounds in his hands, came every day to feed us. He woke up my mom so she could nurse my sister,' she said. She was interviewed on Egyptian national TV, by a veiled Muslim woman news anchor. She said on public TV, 'This was none other than Jesus, because nobody else does things like this!'

Muslims believe Isa (Jesus) would do this, but the wounds m ean He really was crucified, and it's clear also that He is alive! But, it's also clear that the child could not make up a story like this, and there is no way these children could have survived without a true miracle.

Muslim leaders are going to have a hard time to figure out what to do with this, and the popularity of the Passion movie doesn't help! With Egypt at the centre of the media and education in the Middle East , you can be sure this story will spread. Christ is still controlling and turning the world. Please let this story be shared..


So, as interesting as the chain mail was, I decided to investigate a bit and found nothing to substantiate this claim. As far as I know, there was no CBS special on this.

This could be an urban Christian legend started from Egypt to promote Christianity. I've read some hardcore Christians who are presumably Evangelical say that the real story is being censored by the Egyptian government.

Friday, January 15, 2010


When I was a teen-ager, I had a martial art teacher who happened to be Italian-American. He was one of the meanest, toughest bad-assed people I knew and he had a twin brother who was even more bad-ass than he was. I mean, it doesn't get any more bad-ass than being in the Navy Seals, right?

The twins were certifiable thrill-seekers. They've scuba-dived, jumped off of planes, fought evil guys in insurance company suits, walked on fire, laid down on a bed of broken glass and nails and, of course, played contact sports like Fight Club was going out of fashion. Well, this one twin, I'll call him Bob, said that there is one thing in the world that he would like - no - LOVE to experience. "I would LOVE to be in an earthquake." "Really?" I asked. "I'm dead serious," he said. He really was.

Well, he was out of his f*#*ng mind. I should know. I've been in an earthquake that hit 7.7 in the Richter scale. It was Baguio City, Philippines. The year was 1990. Thousands died. There was no running water and people were trapped in debris. Some people were reported to hydrate themselves with their own urine so they could stay alive. My family was in a refugee center. It was a public school - huge with a wooden structure and it was one-story. There was no fear of getting crushed by heavy floors and cement. It even seemed like we were playing house. I was ten so I guess it was kind of fun. What did I know? Kids seem to find humor in things.

Now that Haiti is devastated by an earthquake that has shattered the very core of its being, I hope that somewhere out there, wherever Bob is, he realizes that earthquakes are not fun. You don't go to one seeking to satisfy some cheap thrill. It can cost your life. People die. You don't wish to be in an earthquake unless you have a death wish.

Oh. Maybe that's just it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nat'l Book Award

Just finished LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN by Colum McCann.

Esquire touted this book as "the first great 9/11 novel." I agree. It's a kind of work that you'd like to go back to, a kind of book that reads like a story of private lives.

Though I must say I wasn't too crazy with the opening chapter - it was a bit too slow for my liking. Ok, sure, there's a guy based on a real French man named Philippe Petit, up in between the World Trade Towers in the 70s on, gasp, what? He was walking on a tight-rope, yes, a thin piece of wire way up high in the air with NOTHING to hold him except sheer will and the grace of the good Lord. Anyway, I still found that part slow. Then, it happened. The tendrils of the story piecing itself together through several different characters - an Irish monk in the streets of the Bronx, a WASPy woman married to Mr. Solomon "The Judge" that loses their son to the Vietnam War, a prostitute whose kid also turns tricks - mesmerize the reader into this strange and yet familiar world of New York in the 1970s so full of brass, grit and heart. It's a story of a city breathing and seeing through a bird's eye narrative (because the reader gets multiple and layered views of these people) how connected we all are despite the differences we perceive.

I have no doubt why this work won the 2009 National Book Award. Well done. Well done. Mr. McCann, you do the Irish proud. Hell, you do the American proud.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I love the film 50 First Dates with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler because not only is it romantically improbable but the soundtrack was amazing. It was the first time I heard of Israel Kamakawiwo "Ole IZ" and his rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It is so filled with wonder, hope, joy and love. It is one of my favorite songs of all time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Winter and Joint Pain

It's cold out which means pain in the knees for me. (Though I get the pain when it's humid out or when it's about to rain). For the past decade, people have been asking me why I have an arthritic knee. It's strange because I am under 30. Arthritis is usually for the old bunch that scream with shaking joints, "Get off my lawn!" I'd like to tell them something obtuse like alien abduction or that it's a gov't experiment gone awry. But I just say the unadorned truth - that I had a torn ACL and that I had it done several years back.

It sucks to tear your ligaments. It really does.

So what is an ACL? For the uninitiated in sports or medicine, it stands for the Anterior Cruciate Ligament, also called...dadadada...the ACL. It is one of the four major ligaments of the knee. It prevents excessive motion of the knee joint--patients who sustain an injury to their ACL may complain of symptoms of the knee "giving out."

Apparently, women have a higher risk for ACL tears than men. I even read an article years ago that the incident happens usually before the menstrual period. Strange but true in my case.

I didn't know it at the time but when your ACL tears, there is a popping sound - a loud, discernable popping sound. Anyway, I got the surgery and there are times when I wonder if I shouldn't have had it. I met a Muay Thai guy who kicks blocks of wood for a living with his naked shins who tore his ACL and opted not to get the surgery.

I'm jealous. I bet he doesn't have a weather barometer on his knee.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cameron and writing

So one of my buddies at the hospital, a surgery resident, told me that I have to keep writing. We started talking about James Cameron's new film AVATAR and how it's already made a billion dollars world-wide. What a guy, huh?

So my buddy was saying that James Cameron was a truck driver from Canada. Then he implied me, of course, as a clerk. Not that I will be earning studios billions of dollars throughout my future career, but there's a parallel. Like Cameron, I've taken a lot of odd jobs. I used to clean houses, be a clown, work in a doctor's office in the 'hood, work in a diner, etc. He was an underdog. He didn't have a formal film education. He just had his passion, impossible ambition and methodical doggedness to take the bull by its horns.

But best of all, I'm similar to James Cameron because we both had nurses for mothers. We had hospital lackeys for moms! Yay! My victory is ensured!


It's fascinating how we artists have to have inflated egos to be able to pull off anything. I'm sure the likes of Hemingway, Dali, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Warhol and fill-in-the-blank-here-famous-person wasn't actually an egomaniac. They probably were super-egomaniacs. You have to have some hubris, some chutzpah, a spine like a sting ray and skin like kangaroo leather to weather the blows of the world that beats down on you (not by choice) until you make your mark and scream MATSUTAKE! Ok, maybe some people will settle for EUREKA! or VENI VEDI VICI or whatever victory cry you'll have in your brain.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tragic Endings

So I just finished reading Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey.

The synopsis from the book cover reads:

"This sweeping, irrepressibly inventive novel, is a romance, but a romance of the sort that could only take place in nineteenth-century Australia. For only on that sprawling continent- a haven for misfits of both the animal and human kingdoms - could a nervous Anglican minister who gambles on the instructions of the Divine become allied with a teenaged heiress who buys a glassworks (factory) to help liberate her sex. And only the prodigious imagination of Peter Carey could implicate Oscar and Lucinda in a narrative of lvoe and commerce, religion and colonialism, that culminates in a half-mad expedition to transport a glass church across the Outback."

I loved the book for its prose, its incredible take on the human psyche and the passions for good and evil that each person possesses but I hated the ending.


How is it possible to let a character, Mirriam Chadwick, usurp the main character heiress by seducing the poor hapless rather foolish Odd-Bod Crab Hopkins to become Mrs. Oscar Odd-Bod Crab Hopkins taking not only that precious title but all of Lucinda's wealth as well? Maybe because I'm sick and tired of tragic endings that I can't bear it; more than I can even bear the idea of a blond Barbie doll being tortured and decapitated by an innocent-my-ass little girl. There's too much uneasiness going around the world what with 2012 at our doorstep and trash-talking pundits having a field day with the global warming thing.

Maybe if this hussy was introduced from the beginning so that the reader is somehow aware of her plight, has time to sympathize with how she became the royal bitch that she is, that the reader - namely me - can say: Yes, I understand. And, certainly, it hand to end that way - with the defrocked Oscar Hopkins marrying the first wench to give a happy ending to his wee-wee, fucking (not in the literal sense) his one true love for life. And, certainly, he just had to die with the glass church crushing him and slicing his poor delicate white wrists to a bloody mess in the rustic wilds of the badass Outback. Certainly, certainly, certainly.

Of course, Mr. Carey still won the Booker Prize for understandable reasons. It's a mammoth sized work where all of Australia's strengths and frailties from its post-transport days are dissected with a human eye towards the leanings of male and female passions. It's all reality, no Cinderella and happily ever after here.

No wonder the movie didn't fare too well, from what I read, either. It just left people cold. There was an emotional investment that mounts up like a rushing sex drive that just pulls out before the climax. Reading the ending just made me felt cheated. What a shame.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Reading, Peter Carey and Inspiration

Reading is fantastic:
a) for expanding the mind
b) for escape
c) for seeing yourself and the world in a different light
d) for procrastination (especially when you're writing a book)
e) for inspiration (especially when you're writing a book)
f) for overcoming boredom
g) for passing time away


Here's a passage from Oscar and Lucinda, a book that won the Booker Prize by Peter Carey that I'm reading right now:

"It had not taken him long to discover that the women were by far the most interesting of the two sexes in the colony, although you would never imagine it the case if you met them with their menfolk present. For then they affected the most remarkable vapidity. But alone, or with their own sex, they revealed themselves as scientists when it came to the vectors of the human heart."


I cried like a girl yesterday reading Peter Carey's article from the New York Magazine. Reminded me of the feelings I have whenever I read that part in the poem DO NOT GO GENTLY INTO THAT GOODNIGHT.