Friday, April 18, 2014

Syria War - #Save Homs & #Save Aleppo - In Solidarity with the Syrian People

In Solidarity with the Syrian People

"The United Nations envoy to Syria on Thursday said the besieged central city of Homs has become a 'theater of death and destruction,' and he urged both sides of the country's civil war to return to negotiations... The central city has seen some of the worst fighting in the three-year-old conflict..." from Syria's warring sides must save Homs, UN envoy urges 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Olive Trees of Gethsemane and Matthew 26

Since it's Holy Thursday, I'm sharing pictures of Gethsemane, which I took. It is said that some of the olive trees witnessed the Passion of Christ.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Health: The Sugarcane Plantations of the Philippines and Muscovado

I take Muscovado daily, primarily for the health benefits. It has a lot of magnesium, potassium, calcium, chromium, iron, zinc, and other minerals. It also has Vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, plus cholorphyll, antioxidants, soluble fiber and other healthy compounds.

 My friend, Bingbing Garrovillo Ponce de Leon, has been supplying me with Muscovado from Negros Island, Philippines.

The Island of Negros, in Central Philippines, has traditionally grown sugarcane on vast haciendas. I recall in the 1960s, when the world price of sugar was high, the kids from Negros whose families owned sugar plantations, used to fly over to my island of Cebu for the weekend. Young men owned Cadillacs and other luxury items; the sugar made them very wealthy.

When Ferdinand Marcos was in power, he and his cronies controlled the sugar, coconut and other industries, causing quite a scandal, one that contributed to Marcos's downfall.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden: Helping the Birds and the Bees with a Feeder and Fountains

I was happy to find some birds at my bird feeder. The birds can finish the contents of my bird feeder quickly, and so I parse the feed out, otherwise they finish a sack of feed quickly.  The squirrel also comes and I find him/her hanging from the branch almost committing suicide to get to the feed.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Los Angeles, California: The Fairfax District and Canter's Deli

In mid-Los Angeles, there's an area called the Fairfax District, known as the Jewish center of LA. A favorite tourist stop, it has a lively Farmer's market, CBS Television City, Canter's delicatessen, among other sites.

Canters, which has been operating since 1931, is considered a Los Angeles institution. Open 24-hours a day and close to the Hollywood scene, it's been patronized by Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, Jack Benny, Elizabeth Taylor, Sydney Poitier, Mel Brooks, Wilt Chamberlain and many others.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Vigan, Philippines: Four Women, a Man, and a Four-poster Bed

I'm remembering the time when some friends (Cynthia Posa, Maribel Paraz, Mila Aguilar) and I went to the City of Vigan, in Northern Philippines. We stayed at the historic Villa Angela, a centenarian heritage mansion, where the actor Tom Cruise stayed while filming Fourth of July. He occupied the master's bedroom, the Cuarto del Senor.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Historic Chez Jay Restaurant in Santa Monica, California

For years we drove by a seedy little bar-restaurant, Chez Jay, on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. It looked like a trailer. It was right behind Rand Corporation and the Civic Center, and one block away from the ocean.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Cats Make Me Laugh Every Day!

My cats make me laugh every day!

These two have been together from the womb of their alley cat mother. They were born behind a shrub and rescued by a saintly Animal Rescue Woman named Carol.

Tesla and Che (after Nikolai Tesla and Che Guevara, may they forgive me) were a few weeks old when we first saw them. Their first "Mom" Carol used to boil chicken for her rescued animals, and these two gray kittens were lapping up chicken broth with bits of chicken in it.

Following Carol's lead, I too boiled chicken for them at home, but they snubbed it. They are dreadfully picky. I've tried just about every label of canned food, and they'll eat a bit, then they'll hate it. Their dry food is Royal Canin Special Formula for Sensitive Stomach.  Yes, they are prone to regurgitating. And Tesla needs a Lysine pill everyday because of a chronic virus condition. Imagine what fun it is to catch him, pry his mouth open and shove that pill down his gullet. (In fact, he's quite good about this and even "arranges" the pill in his mouth so he can swallow it.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

GUEST BLOGGER: Evelyn Ibatan Rodriguez, "Celebrating Debutantes and Quinceanieras"

Our Guest Blogger is EVELYN IBATAN RODRIGUEZ, sharing with us an excerpt from her recent book, Celebrating Debutantes and Quinceanieras: Coming of Age in American Ethnic Communities (Temple University 2013). Evelyn is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of San Francisco.  Thank you, Evelyn!

"Rodriguez presents a nuanced reading of the coming-of-age celebration in both Mexican and Filipino communities in her analysis of the two vis-à-vis larger issues of representation and situated identities. Her careful and insightful writing about issues that seem to lie beneath the surface of many of these celebrations includes extensive quotes from fieldwork that add depth and meaning to the analysis and discussion of the sexuality and complex social and economic networks inherent in these rituals." 
Norma Elia Cantú, Professor of Latina/o Studies and English at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and author of Canícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Syria War: Jesuit Father Frans Van der Lugt Murdered in Homs

 "I don't see Muslims or Christians, I see, above all, human beings (who) hunger to lead a normal life." - by Jesuit priest, Father Frans Van Der Lugt, shot to death in Homs, April 7, 2014, after refusing to leave besieged city.
The following is from Morning Star News, copyright 2014 by Morning Star News

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Garden Update: How My Orchids and Cannibal Plants Are Doing

Garden Update - I've been puttering around the yard, re-potting plants, fussing with my orchids and carnivorous plants (Nepenthes and Sarracenia Purpurea). I also checked to make sure there are wild bees in my garden - and yes there are, although not very many.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Visiting Cambria (and Surroundings) in the Central Coast of California

From the Los Angeles area to Cambria in the Central Coast California, we have to drive north through the Ventura area, the Santa Barbara region, to the San Luis Obispo region, a driving trip of around 4 1/2 hours.

The Central Coast is usually chilly, but this visit, it's been warm and picture-perfect. "Central Coast" evokes images of seashore and bluffs, and stretches of vineyards. There are many wineries in the Central Coast, and wine tasting is a favorite tourist activity,

During this visit to Cambria, we broke the drive by having lunch at Brophy's Restaurant in Santa Barbara. Brophy's has excellent clam chowder and views of the harbor.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Book Launch: REVERIE by Graduates of St. Theresa's College, Quezon City

My friend Marily Orosa is launching REVERIE: MIRROR IN THE DISTANCE, a collection of personal essays by 31 graduates of St. Theresa's College, Quezon City.  The book celebrates their high school jubilee in January 2014.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pictures of Gardens and Water Elements

I must have Spring Fever because I'm thinking of gardens a lot.

Here are some pictures of gardens with water elements.

The one on the right was taken in Burma; it's a flower arrangement in a huge jar with water.

The next three fountains with plants were taken at Sonya's Garden in Tagaytay, Philippines.

The picture with the koi was taken at Antonio's in Tagaytay as well.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Interaction Between Lepers and Regular Folk - Che Guevara Quote

My work-in-progress involves a fictional leper colony in the Philippines in 1909. I've been doing research and some of you may have read my earlier blog entries about Carville and Culion. From that research, I had enough information to get the chapter rolling, but then I got stuck, not really understanding how much interaction lepers had with regular folk.  The lepers were isolated after all, and it seemed to me logical that they would have extremely limited contact with people, beyond perhaps those providing health care.

I remembered the movie, "Motorcycle Diaries" - a good movie, by the way - based on Che Guevara's writings. The movie and book include a section where Che and his friend Alberto go to La Colonia de San Pablo in Peru. The movie makes a symbolic act out of Che's swimming in the Amazon: on the night of his 24th birthday, while they were celebrating his birthday in the compound for non-lepers, Che swims the river to join the lepers. I love the book and movie.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Garden: The Flower Market of Burma (Myanmar)

My gardening activities have triggered the memory of the Flower Market of Maymyo in Burma (Myanmar). We visited Burma two years ago, the hottest time in Burma, but it was an opportune time to observe changes in the government. The military government decided to be less restrictive and Aung San Suu Kyi was released from her house arrest. "On April 1, 2012, she was elected to the ... lower house of the Burmese parliament ... and her party also won 43 of the 45 vacant seats in the lower house." (info from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Garden: Bees and My Pride of Madeira Bush

Several years ago when I learned that bees are dying (Colony Collapse Syndrome), I made an effort to plant bee friendly plants in my garden.  I have all sorts of flowers, but the bees love my Pride of Madeira Bush and Rosemary bushes most of all.  Here are some pictures.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sphagnum Moss Almost Killed My Orchids

This is an update on my orchids, whom I'll call "The Girls."  I had bought six of them and re-potted them along with one I had at home. I watered them with mild fertilizer once a week; I misted them at least once a day for humidity. Then yesterday, I noticed that two of them looked sick. The leaves were wilted and one leaf had turned yellowish. 

I Googled the problem and quite a lot of people blamed the Sphagnum Moss that's wrapped around the orchid roots as the culprit. Orchids do not want to be soaking in water! They want good drainage!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Santa Monica City's New Tongva Park

We finally visited the new Tongva  Park in Santa Monica, which opened just last October. It's across the City Hall and near the Santa Monica Pier and beach.

The park is quite lovely, with fountains, playgrounds, and quite a lot of plants and trees, as to give the feeling of being lush.  There were also State Rangers and police around, which is good, as far as I'm concerned. The park is near the Palisades Park and the rest of the "downtown" section of Santa Monica.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Creative Writing: Conflict Problem in My Fiction and Solution

The following may get too technical, dear Readers, but my key point in all of this is that Conflict is essential in storytelling. Conflict makes the work sparkle; it makes the characters move and talk in a dynamic way.  Conflict can be internal or external pressures on the characters. A "happy" character will not do very much for you; but a character with problems will.

I'm using my own work to illustrate what I'm talking about. Don't be too concerned if you can't figure out the story. It's from my novel-in-progress, so it's long and complicated. All you need to know is that Jose is afraid of Borja. Now read on about the problem I had in writing my draft and what I did:

 Here are my notes from my Notebook, as well as excerpts of my drafts:

March 26:
I'm working on the part where Jose goes to Culyo Leper Colony and it went flat. The characters started yakking just to talk. What happened?
- No real tension
- Contrived
- No thread tying this with his "mission"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Creative Writing: Before You Write, Try Clustering

One of the activities I like to do before I actually sit down and write is "clustering."  It jostles the mind, loosens up ideas so they float up and you are able to catch them, as if casting a net in the sea and capturing fish.  What you get are seemingly random ideas/thoughts. Welcome them. Again, there's no right nor wrong here. Think of  "clustering" as playing, and then you're on the right track.  Don't "think."  Just let it rip.

Make a circle in the middle of a page, and write a word in it. Usually this word should be related to what you want to write about, but if you don't have a topic as of yet, you can jot down the first word that pops into your head. Any word, no matter how silly.

Now, without thinking, "catch" the other words/ideas/thoughts that surface. Draw a line to the main word, create a circle and write that word inside that outer circle. That word will bring up other related words/ideas/thoughts - write those down as well to "catch" them. One thought spurs on another thoughts, and so on.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Creative Writing: How Long Should Your Novel (or Short Story) Be?

Dear Readers,
Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a writer whose novel manuscript was 200,000 words. His literary agent told the writer to cut his work.

I gasped, thinking of how horrible it must be for him to hack his work. I asked if he could make a sequel instead, as in Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, and Book 4 -- for indeed 200,000 words can make four short novels. No, this person said. He had to go back into his work and throw out huge sections.

But why? I insisted.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Creative Writing: Leonardo Bercovici Legacy "Get into the Head of Your Character"

My teacher at the Writers Program of UCLA Extension, Leonardo Bercovici, used to talk about "getting into the head of your character." When he said this, he would sweep his hands by the sides of his head, to emphasize that you should inhabit the character's mind. You would then see, hear, smell, taste, feel, think, remember --- in a way BE that character.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Creative Writing: Make a Date with the Muse

Today I want to suggest that writers make a date with the Muse. This means you set aside a specific time to write, otherwise you never get around to doing so. Sometimes people talk about their writing projects  but don't structure their lives to allow time for this.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

NOT SO FAST Messrs. Putin, Assad, and Kim Jong Un!


Just because the world is focused on Malaysia Airlines 370 doesn't mean you three are off the hot seat!

Read also:

Shakespeare's Macbeth and North Korea's Kim Jong Un
Assad is Responsible for the carnage in Syria
Syrian Revolutionary Poem & Destruction of Khalid binWalid Mosque

tags: Russia, Putin, Crimea, Ukraine, North Korea, Syria, Assad, Kim Jong Un, Malaysia Airlines

This is all for now,

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pictures of Beautiful Women from Around the World

I'm thinking about the concept of beauty and how each culture has its own idea of what beauty is. Here are pictures I've taken of women from different countries. They are so different and yet each one is charming. 

The woman in green was our tour guide in Burma (or Myanmar). She had been an actress (or wanted to be). She struck this pose for us, which I managed to catch.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Beauty Tips: No to Botox, Yes to Face Yoga and Makeup

I have some friends who get botox and fillers done on their faces. I'm terrified of having poison in my system. Did I ever mention my Glutathione incident? I was trying this lotion with Glutathione from the Philippines to get rid of blemishes. The stuff was so good, I started slathering it on my face.  A few weeks later, I developed what I thought was severe asthma. The situation became worse especially at night. I was literally struggling for breath. I thought I had heart failure. The doctors checked me but couldn't figure out what was wrong. Fortunately, one night as I started to apply the lotion on my face, I had an epiphany that the Glutathione was causing the problems. I stopped and immediately got better. (I Googled and confirmed that Glutathione causes difficulty in breathing for some people.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Growing Orchids: Remembering my Mother and Taking the Plunge

My mother used to have orchids which she hung on an arbor between the main house and the separate kitchen with the cooking hearth. She used coconut husks with charcoal as the growing medium for the orchids. Her orchids were wonderful, with long sprays of flowers. Now and then she'd  put eggshells around the orchids, and thinking back, it must have been to provide additional nutrients, calcium perhaps.