From The Salon: “Agora” Film Review

Rachel Weisz stars as Greek astronomer Hypatia in "Agora."

Originally released last year with limited U.S. screenings, audiences best take advantage of this next go-round because Agora is worth every second. Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, his vision of Alexandria is a sumptuous yet often gory feast. Starting at 391 AD, the film circles around three focal points, the perpetual religious warfare of the time, the disintegration of the Roman Empire, and the assumed life’s work and teachings of philosopher and mathematician Hypatia, played by Rachel Weisz, who is stunning in her Hellenic garb, draped in pure Grecian white or clothed in rich purples and vibrant fuschias. The only comparable marvel to rival her is the city of Alexandria and its great Library, envisioned with grandeur and filled with a light and beauty that matches Weisz.

Hypatia, a historical figure, was Greek, which might excuse Ms. Weisz’s conspicuously pale skin as she plays fair maiden amidst her significantly darker Egyptian and Mediterranean counterparts. Daughter of Theon, a prefect of Alexandria, Hypatia is brilliant in math, philosophy, and astronomy though none of her original writings survive. Other philosophers and scientists pay tribute, in their texts, to her contributions, which include the charting of the celestial bodies and the invention of the hydrometer. She lived in the Roman outpost of Alexandria, and Carl Sagan, a modern day champion of her, once argued, without sufficient substantiation, that Hypatia might have been the Ancient Library of Alexandria‘s last librarian. Agora‘s filmmakers took this speculation and ran with it, creating an opulent setting for one very luminescent individual.

Read entire post at Ruelle Electrique.

Felipe Abrigo Napala, 1917-2010

In loving memory of the greatest storyteller I’ve ever known.

Stockton, CA

Felipe Abrigo Napala

Oct. 24, 1971 – April 4, 2010

From The Stockton Record:

Long-time Stockton resident, Felipe Abrigo Napala passed on peacefully after a brief illness on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2010. He was an active vital 92 year old who celebrated life with great love, lots of laughter, and good food. He was born Limasawa, Leyte, Philippines and came to America as a young teenager in the 1930’s seeing his dream. He served in World War II in the Navy on the USS Idaho as a Carpenter’s Mate Second Class which information can be found on the Veteran’s History Project, Library of Congress. He retired from Sharpe Army Depot in 1988 and pursed his greatest joys in gardening, cooking, and baking.

He has now joined his wife Ramona Acompanado Napala. His loving children are Dr. Evangeline Napala Meneses, Phil Napala, Jr., and Joni Napala-Pappas. He is the extremely proud Grandpa of Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Che Vicente Meneses, Lauren Tabag Napala, Evan Tabag Napala, and Adana Napala-Pappas. He has also the love and support of wonderful relatives and many friends whose life he touched with his great heart, generosity and laughter. He was the energy of our family and he has left us with great richness of energy and love. Friends and family are invited to attend Funeral Services, Monday, April 12, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. San Joaquin Catholic Cemetery, 719 E. Harding Way, Stockton.

Savoring Memories from “For the Love of Chocolate” at the 2010 Asian Culinary Forum’s Symposium

On a windy and chilly May afternoon, when Bay to Breakers turned the streets of San Francisco into a cirque de la jeunesse, the Asian Culinary Forum hosted their 2010 Symposium “Filipino Foods: Flavor + Innovation” at the International Culinary School in the Art Institute of San Francisco-California’s UN Plaza building. Their previous symposium focused on Pan-Asian cuisine and was held at the Ferry Building. We arrived just in time for the Merienda Reception, which featured the special ingredient, tsokolate.

Mangos, sugar snap peas, and strawberries

The bar served VuQ0’s coconut vodka, a refined version of the poison my grandpa spun tall tales about involving heavy doses of tuba, also known as lambanug or bahal. We also sipped sweet mango wine from Haliya, reviewed at Winecentric, but our favorite was the dalandan juice, a tasty sweet citrus fruit that leaves your mouth hankering for more.

Marti Chocolatt

The spread was both elegant and rich, offering tightly wrapped rolls of lumpia, thick turons plump with jackfruit, and platters filled with sweet, sticky bibingka. Marti Chocolatt based in Los Angeles presented a beautiful table of dark and fruity sweets. The highlight of course was champarado (chocolate rice pudding), prepared by chocolatier Toney Tibay and paired with tuyo (salted herring), which was nothing but savory. Samples of chocolate covered langka (jackfruit), kalamansi, buko pandan, and ube tempted every guest who couldn’t just have one.

Champurado with salted fish

Tables for attendees provided individually wrapped uraro, arrow root, candies made of cassava. While we feasted on Filipino favorites, we met Lauren del Rosario, Director of Sales and Business Development for Azukar Organics, which makes coconut sugar and flour. Low glycemic and gluten-free, the sugar is both sweet with a wonderful nutty essence. Delish. We can’t wait to cook and bake with it. If only it was distributed in the Bay Area, but So Cal people can easily get their hands on this product at LA health stores.

The reception eased us into the reading that followed, “Eating Our Words: Writings about Food & Family,” featuring Barbara Jane Reyes, Aileen Suzara, Aimee Suzara, Lizelle Festejo, Yael Villafranca, Lisa Sugitan Melnick, and your Salonniere.  For more on the literary event, check out the post “Writing + Food” on Ruelle Electrique.

“School Library Journal’s” Review of “Growing Up Filipinio II”

Published May 1, 2010 and written by Roxane Meyers Spencer of Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green:

BRAINARD, Cecilia Manguerra, ed. Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults. 254p. PALH. 2010. Tr $29.95. ISBN 978-0-9719458-2-1; pap. $21.95. ISBN 978-0-9719458-3-8. LC 2002104406.

Gr 9 Up—This collection of 27 short stories, the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Growing Up Filipino (PALH, 2003), reflects the impact of post-9/11 wartime sensibilities among Filipino writers living in the Philippines, the United States, and Canada. Although similar topics of family, memoir, and coming-of-age thread through both collections, the pieces are not grouped by theme, but nevertheless weave a constantly shifting tapestry of Filipino identity. The challenges and conflicts of unique ancestry and struggles for identity provide a rich background for modern urban realism. The brittle memoirs reflected in “Here in the States,” “Nurse Rita,” and “Hammer Lounge”; original legend in “A Season of 10,000 Noses”; and breathtaking tragedy in “How My Mother Flew,” among others, are compelling reading.

Read entire review

“a recent outpouring of memoirs, fiction, poetry, blogs and even some readable military reports by combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan”

The New York Times’ writer James Dao covers war-time writing from soldiers in his article, “A Well Written War, Told in the First Person,” published, Monday, February 8, 2010.

Excerpt:
The current group is different. As part of a modern all-volunteer force, they explore the timeless theme of the futility of war — but wars that they for the most part support. The books, many written as rites of passage by members of a highly educated young officer corps, are filled with gore, inept commanders and anguish over men lost in combat, but not questions about the conflicts themselves. “They look at war as an aspect of glory, of finding honor,” said Mr. O’Brien, who was drafted for Vietnam in 1968 out of Macalester College in St. Paul. “It’s almost an old-fashioned, Victorian way of looking at war.”

Read entire article

Reading List

Memoirs & Poetry

JOKER ONE: A MARINE PLATOON’S STORY OF COURAGE, LEADERSHIP, AND BROTHERHOOD By Donovan Campbell. (Random House.) Read review.

ONE BULLET AWAY: THE MAKING OF A MARINE OFFICER By Nathaniel Fick. (Houghton Mifflin Company.) Read review.

THE UNFORGIVING MINUTE: A SOLDIER’S EDUCATION By Craig M. Mullaney. (The Penguin Press.) Read review.

HERE, BULLET By Brian Turner. (Alice James.) Read review.

LOVE MY RIFLE MORE THAN YOU: YOUNG AND FEMALE IN THE U.S. ARMY By Kayla Williams. (W. W. Norton.) Read review.

POWDER: WRITING BY WOMEN IN THE RANKS, FROM VIETNAM TO IRAQ. Edited by Lisa Bowden and Shannon Cain. (Kore Press.)

Military Reports

FIXING INTEL: A BLUEPRINT FOR MAKING INTELLIGENCE RELEVANT IN AFGHANISTAN By Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Capt. Matt Pottinger, and Paul D. Batchelor. Read report.

AN UNRELEASED ARMY HISTORY ABOUT THE JULY 2008 BATTLE OF WANAT By Douglas R. Cubbison. Read the draft report (pdf).

Zadie Smith, a post post-colonial writer?

From The New York Times’ “Other Voices, Other Selves” published January 14, 2010, Pankaj Mishra explores important points regarding Zadie Smith’s collection of essays in the collection, Changing My Mind, which, according to Mishra, Smith only edges around post-colonial politics, and skirts past mixed-race themes when she should be tackling these issues head on:

The essays that follow discuss some prominent dead white writers (George Eliot, Kafka, E. M. Forster, Nabokov, Barthes, David Foster Wallace), but they display no Edward Said-style counterreading of canonical texts. Their quirky pleasures derive from Smith’s own critical persona — always bold, jauntily self-reflexive and amusing — and her inspired cultural references, which include both Simone Weil and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

There is little hint of Smith’s culturally diverse background in her essays on (mostly Hollywood) movies and stars; they belong recognizably to an Anglo-American tradition of writing about cinema that alternates between masochistic reverence and slash-and-burn japery.

As a mixed writer, am of two minds about this. Wondering why we are expected to declare our ethnicity time and time again, as if our skin color, our names, our history, our family, and every living pore of us doesn’t announce it everyday of our lives. Sometimes we’d just rather talk about something other than our otherness. There’s more to that, as well, why be the first one to call ourselves out. If we announce our ethnicity, we are immediately placing ourself in the ethnic corner, which the critics will do whether we like it or now. Why can’t we just be “writer” or “president” without the qualifiying

In this essay (which compares Joseph O’Neill’s “Netherland” with Tom McCar­thy’s “Remainder”), Smith passes over the many novels from outside the West that have helped expand traditional bourgeois notions of self and identity. Yet her essay on Barack Obama is replete with the postcolonial-cum-postmodernist themes — hybridity, mimicry and ambivalence — that professors of literature and cultural studies commonly employ in American and British universities. Smith’s hope that Obama’s “flexibility of voice” may lead to “flexibility in all things” derives not so much from hardheaded political analysis as from academic high theory, which assumes that those who live between cultures best represent and articulate the human condition today. According to Smith, the moral of Obama’s story is that “each man must be true to his selves, plural.”

On this point, at least, Smith is ideologically consistent. In fact, the idea that “the unified singular self is an illusion” could be the leitmotif of this collection. It allows Smith to revisit her own early assumptions and to question such essentialist notions as “black woman-ness.” Reflecting on Kafka’s ambivalence about his ethnic background, she writes: “There is a sense in which Kafka’s Jewish question (‘What have I in common with Jews?’) has become everybody’s question, Jewish alienation the template for all our doubts. What is Muslimness? What is femaleness? What is Polishness? What is Englishness? These days we all find our anterior legs flailing before us. We’re all insects, all Ungeziefer, now.”

This may sound a bit melodramatic. But then — as Salman Rushdie and other practitioners of postcolonial postmodernism have stressed — ambivalence, doubt and confusion are essential to forming dynamic new hybrid selves. Smith seems to bring to this now entrenched critical orthodoxy the particular weltschmerz of today’s bright, successful but sad young writers. This is most evident in the collection’s final essay, a long and passionately argued panegyric to David Foster Wallace in which Smith diagnoses the central dilemmas of her own increasingly lost generation. These are dilemmas, she argues, that Henry James, who assumed awareness leads to responsibility, never encountered: “the ubiquity of television, the voraciousness of late capitalism, the triumph of therapeutic discourse and philosophy’s demotion into a branch of linguistics.”

Having hybrid identities, not belonging anywhere or indeed belonging everywhere, may have its advantages, but these attributes must still contend with pressing circumstances like the voraciousness of 21st-century capitalism. Far from floating free in a state of unbelonging, most people are trapped in predetermined social and political positions; they must act within the history that surrounds them. The possession of multiple selves and voices doesn’t seem to be helping — and may even be inhibiting — Barack Obama. The victims of the seemingly endless violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan would draw scant comfort from the knowledge that the present occupant of the White House has an ear for different accents and can mimic everyone from a white Harvard nerd to a Ken­yan elder.

Read entire article

“Growing Up Filipino II” takes a bite out of the Big Apple when Albany, NY gives a shout out

From Times Union: Serving New York’s Capital Region, Albany, NY

A book of note: Growing up Filipino 2
January 15, 2010 at 10:27 am by Michael Janairo, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Here’s an interesting book that probably deserves a wider audience: “Growing up Filipino 2.” Among the literature of the United States, a recognition of writers telling stories from a Filipino or Filipino-American point of view is often sorely lacking. So here’s one book that aims to expand the understanding of what it means to be American.

See full article

Celebrate this Saturday, January 16, 2-5pm @ Bayanihan Community Center (Civic BART)

PAWA (Philippine American Writers and Artists) in conjunction with Arkipelago Books presents a book launch of:

Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults
Edited and Collected by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

Saturday, January 16, 2010
2:00 – 5:00 PM

Bayanihan Community Center, 1010 Mission St., San Francisco

Featuring Readers Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Veronica Montes, Tony Robles, and Marianne Villanueva.


By Karen Pierce Gonzales

What I like most about folk stories is that they tell us something important about other people. They create specific examples of universal themes that exist in all cultures; they express the uniqueness of a particular time and a particular people that enlightens us all about our own humanity.

This is what I recently experienced after reading Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults, a collection of contemporary stories for young adults collected and edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard.and spread the word to friends, family, students and other interested parties…


…Other stories also reveal the hard facts of immigrant life. Alma (‘Here in the States’ by Rashaan Alexis Meneses) struggles to understand how hard her mother must work as a nanny to make ends meet. Shame and sadness mingle when she questions the discrepancy between her mother’s role as a respected professional back home and her new role as a domestic helper. Adolescent resentment and rebellion about having to help care for younger siblings (something the maid back home did) further complicate Alma’s efforts to make sense of this new world. It is in her mother’s quiet strength and acceptance of life’s uncertainties that Alma finds her greatest comfort and connection.

Read More

BOOK DESCRIPTION: A welcome addition to Filipino American literature, Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults is the second volume of the Growing Up Filipino series by PALH. In this collection of 27 short stories, Filipino and Filipino American writers explore the universal challenges and experiences of Filipino teens after the historic events of 9/11. The modern demands do not hinder Filipino youth from dealing with the universal concerns of growing up: family, friends, love, home, budding sexuality, leaving home. The delightful stories are written by well known as well as emerging writers. While the target audience of this fine anthology is young adults, the stories can be enjoyed by adult readers as well.

CONTRIBUTORS: Dean Francis Alfar, Katrina Ramos Atienza, Maria Victoria Beltran, M.G. Bertulfo, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Amalia B. Bueno, Max Gutierrez, Leslieann Hobayan, Jaime An Lim, Paulino Lim Jr., Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor, Dolores de Manuel, Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Veronica Montes, Charlson Ong, Marily Ysip Orosa, Kannika Claudine D. Peña, Oscar Peñaranda, Edgar Poma, Tony Robles, Brian Ascalon Roley, Jonathan Jimena Siason, Aileen Suzara, Geronimo G. Tagatac, Marianne Villanueva

ISBN: 978-0-9719458-2-1
ISBN: 978-0-9719458-3-8

PUBLISHED BY:
PALH
P. O. Box 5099
Santa Monica, CA 90409
Tel/fax: 310-452-1195; email: palh@aol.com; http://www.palhbooks.com

For more information on the event contact:
PAWA, Inc. at pawa@pawainc.com, http://www.pawainc.com

Its not a small world after all?

Covering the flip side to “world music” The Guardian’s Tony Naylor in his “Is Ethno-techno exploiting world music?”reports some musicians love the freedom this genre grants and others think that freedom is a shameful lie:

Matias Aguayo, however, is less enthusiastic. Born in Chile, raised in Germany, now resident in Buenos Aires, the electro maverick concedes that it may be a matter of taste – “and, in most cases, putting samples of traditional songs on a techno beat is in very bad taste” – but he rejects any deeper reading of this “ethno-minimal” trend. To him, such music is cheap “exoticism”, in a colonial tradition. Where you, in La Mezcla, might hear a joyful intermingling of ideas, he hears a Western techno producer imposing order: “It doesn’t seem very ‘free’ to me. Adding a few congas and a ‘Latino’ vocal does not reflect a willingness to learn from other cultures.”

Such musical references feed into the idea of techno as this fluid global community, but Aguayo is scathing: “Maybe for techno’s easyJet set it’s a small world. But ask young musicians in Santiago or Buenos Aires how easy it is to move around. It’s naive, in a brutal way, to say that we’re all world citizens.”

Think on that next time you’re whooping it up to La Mezcla.

Read the article.

Pantheism in the NY Times

I don’t like this NYT columnist by any means, but how often does Pantheism get into mainstream news, save for the Harper’s blogger, who is always posting the Youtube symphonies paired with Romantic art? Ross Douthat in his “Heaven and Nature” barely touches on an excellent point, that pantheism is the preferred doctrine for artists and intellectuals since the classical era, think Lucretius.

…Instead, “Avatar” is Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world…

At the same time, pantheism opens a path to numinous experience for people uncomfortable with the literal-mindedness of the monotheistic religions — with their miracle-working deities and holy books, their virgin births and resurrected bodies. As the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski noted, attributing divinity to the natural world helps “bring God closer to human experience,” while “depriving him of recognizable personal traits.” For anyone who pines for transcendence but recoils at the idea of a demanding Almighty who interferes in human affairs, this is an ideal combination.

Read more