Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bubblewrap

My muse had been avoiding me since I learned of the first topic in our school paper’s “weekly blog project”. Not that I need a muse of any sort for the first topic—all I need to do is rummage in the drawers of the “Memorable Life Experiences So Far” cabinet in my head and look under the “scary ones” section. Unfortunately, there isn’t a section of that kind.

So what do I talk about? I have my own share of so-called ‘ghost stories’. Doppelgangers, perfume or candle scent defusing in the air, white figures darting along my peripheral vision…or that time when I’m home alone and typing away at my laptop and then I heard rustling pages behind me, like someone is reading…or that time when I heard my alarm clock going off when it hasn’t any battery. I do have them, but I’m not extremely creeped out by them—I just always shrug and dismiss them either as products of my hyperactive imagination.
Anyway, who said a “creepy” moment always has to deal with paranormal abnormalities (ahaha)? It can be associated with..some other disabilities too.

I’m not a very healthy person, especially back in high school. For a hobbit-sized creature like me, three illnesses is a tad too many—and the bottles of capsules and tablets and the inhalers and nebulizer are just…well, too much. Back during those times, I feel like a very fragile thing that may break into million pieces at the slightest pressure. I’m in need of some kind of a bubblewrap, and I find it in whispered prayers and poetry.

But what the doctor told my mother one afternoon we went for a checkup really scared the hell out of me. He said—my mom said he said—that I may go blind because of meds overdose or something along that line. I didn’t zero in so much about the cause--meds, or previous illness or somehting--because the only thing that I can focus on is what is going to happen to me:

I’ll go blind.

No words in the dictionary can rightly explain how terrified I was back then, and I cried for some time. All that I ever think about is: I'll go blind and I won’t be able to enjoy reading books ever again. Never will I be able to draw or paint again. Never will I be normally typing away at my laptop making stories and poems. Never will I see the stars and the moon, my favorite objects in the sky. Never will I see the whole earth itself--or what's left of it. It’s still beautiful for me anyway, and my failing eyesight will not be able to witness it until I breathed my last. It’s like my whole world is revolving around the things I see…and taking away my sight is like taking the world from me. It’s so depressing I almost lost hope—I didn’t sleep for nights for the fear of waking up and not seeing sunshine anymore.

And then suddenly, the real sunshine fell on face: have I forgotten about my bubblewrap? The prayers? How could I.

So I prayed to God, and I wore glasses and visited other ophthalmologists and doctors. The whole thing was a painfully expensive process, but my parents will do anything for me. So I did what they told me: stop being a wuss and believe I can pass this.

And pass this I did. I can still see while I’m typing this.

This may not be the best ‘creepy’ story out there, especially that it’s nothing paranormal. I cannot say it’s not haunting me anymore, because there are mornings when I freak out because my eyesight dims for a while, then go back to normal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Review: Extras

Think of an ultramodern city where everything that matters is fame and reputation. Think about a society where everyone can be “kickers” or journalists, where everyone can be “tech-heads” or inventors, where everyone can be “surge-monkeys” and undergo as many surgeries as they can in the name of fashion. Think of a city swathed in big futuristic bubble, eyed 24/7 by a mechanical Big Brother.

Sounds like the world just became a blown-up version of American Idol, eh?



Extras, the fourth installment in the Uglies trilogy-plus-one, kicks off with this new setting and a couple of new plot devices, blowing my mind completely. Our protagonist this time is a wee bit like our Ugly-verse Tally Youngblood: just a confused, fame-hungry fifteen-year-old Japanese girl named Aya Fuse. She’s more than determined to gain celebrity status and her way to do this is to follow her brother's steps: be a kicker. With the help of her hovercam (a floating camera the size of a halved soccer ball, programmed with some kind of Artificial Intelligence—for some weird reason I’m thinking of the Haro thingy from Gundam Seed), Aya records everything, hoping to “kick” an incredible story that can boost her face rank to the top one thousand. After a string of mixed adventures and misadventures, Aya finally stumbles upon a terrible secret, one that involves not only her future but also that of the whole world.

From the introduction of the “reputation economy” in modern Japan, you’ll easily get that Westerfeld has weaved a satire of sorts about our society today, which is obsessed with popularity shows and such. More importantly, the author shows us what will happen if everyone is equally given a chance to determine his individual value—in ranks—by excessive media exposure. I enjoyed this book immensely because as a journalist-in-training myself, it made me think more about media theories, the ethical dilemmas of citizen journalism and the same old arguments behind “bad” and “good” publicity. It's as if I was handed another case study, only this time I had extreme fun analyzing it.

I didn't ponder much about the new set of characters. In my honest opinion, they're not three-dimensional at all. I had trouble imagining them as real people in the beginning--seriously, how do you picture a person with "manga eyes" surge without initially thinking of him as an anime? Or a girl with a friendly hovercam without imagining her as Lacus Clyne (ALL RIGHT, maybe it's just the anime addict in me but still...)? They're almost like cardboard cutouts to me. I adjusted as the story progresses though, when I'm introduced to the characters' own quirks and imperfections. But like I said, there's not much time to develop them fully--the pace is quick as always. This time around Westerfeld really focused on the plot, and for that, I'm letting him off the hook (LOL). For the record, this is the first time I commend a book with not-so-developed characters--most of the books I really like have characters that propel the story into unfolding its glory. Well, you always have an exception. :)

A story of truth-slanting, betrayal, friendship, bravery, and human nature, Extras is one of the few young adult novels that is more than just what it seems. There was an anticlimactic element lodged near the ending (something I still consider awe-inspiring because it reminds me of one of my favorite mecha series, Gundam Wing), but the final chapter gives way to a more hopeful future for humanity.

I’m recommending this. :D

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Confessions of a Bookworm (at Tumblr)

Because I can't actually finish a meme someone else made at Tumblr, I decided to start my own. Haha. There are still only three confessions at the moment, but I'm quite enjoying it. :)

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This is so true. I always feel the need to bubblewrap my book-nerd heart whenever I get attached to a certain fictional character, especially when I know they're going to be hurt. I make all sorts of reactions when they're getting in trouble, when they just avoided a brush with death, or even when they're just contemplating about something. Being the only bookworm at home, all my family members think it's a rather amusing/adorable quirk of mine. Sometimes, though, I catch them throwing confused glances at my direction, their faces flashing why-the-heck-is-she-crying-now-she's-just-laughing-about-fifteen-minutes-ago expressions. Not that I can blame them...but still, I wish I can bring them to see the world these books are showing me. If only they're willing. *snorts*

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This is not the first time I wish there are more than 24 hours a day. Or that I have eight arms. Or four eyes. Not that I want to be a genetic freak or anything; it's just...a bookworm thing. *shrugs*. Having said that, books are not my whole life contrary to what many people believe. However, it is true that I don't think I can survive a day without reading even ten pages of a book. I'm serious. No matter how busy I am, I make it a point to squeeze even a thirty-minute time for a novel. It has become a necessity. I miss the days when I can sit or lie whole day, losing myself in a fictional world, but other important things tug at my attention. :/

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You can't get a plane ticket to Narnia (or kick open your wardrobe and pretend you're being sucked in a new world without feeling like a childish bubblehead), but you can sure get yourself comfy, grab some books, a mug of hot chocolate, and set your imagination in action. That's enough to get you wherever you want. No one can stop you from going to places one paragraph at a time, if you just do it the right way. Books can bring you anywhere, whether that certain place exists in the real world or not--they're your cheapest passport. :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fic Fragment: Heels over Haloes

Note: this is only a fragment of a literary piece I submitted to The Sentinel last year, about a boy who can see auras :). I blew up the drabble-ish piece into short story size, then picked up this part. It's inspired by a real-life banter between me and a friend.

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“You should have at least brought an umbrella with you,” he said in greeting. “The sun can toast you alive.”

He chuckled when she gave him a mind-your-own-business glower. He shaded his eyes with the cup of his left hand, wondering how long she had been staying there. Beads of sweat glittered on her brow and her cheeks were suffused with a raw flush resembling the shade of her aura, but she did not look irritated or anything. She was too absorbed in sketching. He heaved a sigh and looked over the busy city.

“Sometimes I wonder what cities would be like if they were women,” he mused out loud. “I think Manila would be an intelligent but very exhausted mother, too exhausted to even notice she’s finally growing gray hair. Makati would be an elegant chick, probably having obsessive-compulsive tendencies, but that fact would be overlapped by the swing of her hips and her smooth, mile-long legs. Quezon would be the party girl, overly friendly and talkative and skimpily dressed. Caloocan…well, I’ve never been there, but based from what I heard, she’d be an obnoxious little girl. She’d haughtily try to be independent, but she couldn’t at the moment. She’d be a creature that a mother Manila would like to take care of.”

Of course, he did his research. He found out she was staying in Caloocan. Helena seemed to be aware of this. She looked up from her drawings and rolled her eyes. “There you go,” she said, feigning disinterest. “Do I need to remind you that I just met you the other night, Mr. Darcy? What do they always say---it’s just my name that you know, not my story.”

“I’m glad that you remembered my name, but it’s Caloocan that I described, not you,” he said calmly. “I figure that’s the kind of environment you’ll grow up in.”

She tossed a handful of hair behind her shoulder. “Don’t play your game with me and please, please stop reading Austen books. I guess you’re being too involved with them to a point that you’re introducing yourself as a fictional character.”

His head was thrown back with the force of his laugher. “You know, I told my mother almost the same thing when I finally got to read Pride and Prejudice. I said in jest that I’ll try not to hold a grudge against her when she named me after that Fitzwilliam Darcy. I don’t even like the character.”

He spied a ghost of a smile on her lips, but it did not develop into a full one. Not allowing the silence to stretch, he asked, “have you ever wondered what you would be like if you were a city?”

“Caloocan-ish?” she guessed mockingly.

“No. You’ll be like a very noisy city: all jeepneys and cabs caught in a traffic jam would be blowing their horns. What? Why are you glaring at me? That’s even so subtle, I would’ve said there were machine guns in the city hall just to describe how extremely harsh your mouth works. Hmm.  The houses would be huge and grotesque, masterpieces of one joke of an architect. There would be fleabags scampering after mice around the darkest alleys; large dogs would be chasing robbers and serial killers in the middle of the night. You'll be a city of your own, a city like no other. Helena City.”

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