Tuesday, June 28, 2011

X-Men: First Class on LGBTQ, Racism, and Sexism

Delving deeper into the X-Men: First Class fandom—watching interviews and behind-the-scenes clips, reading press releases, etc.—I learned that the blockbuster is supposed to be an allegory for many things. Not just appearances and being an outsider, as I’ve pointed out in my first (and very giddy) post about the film.

I understand that there’s a multitude of reasons to love this flick (I really loved it, if you can’t tell), but there are things that can disappoint as well.  These reasons are making the balance beam of good points and bad points in my book precariously teetering. I’m not talking about unconvincing CGIs or plotholes or how far writers in the franchise’s newest big-screen installment have gone from canon (come on purists, give it a break! It’s a friggin’ reboot!) I’m referring to the social issues that it tackled—some ineptly, some very well; some I liked, some otherwise.

LGBTQ Metaphor?


sInadvertently out of the closet! Thanks, talkative telepath.

"You didn’t ask, so I didn’t tell,” says Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) when Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) unintentionally reveals his being a ‘homo superior’ or a mutant to a CIA official. Apparently, one of X-Men: First Class’s main theme—the struggles of mutants to be accepted into the society where they are feared—is a parallel to the hardships and bigotry facing the LGBTQ community in our society today. The scene where Hank confirms he is a mutant is the movie’s not-so-subtle equivalent representation of queers getting out of the closet.

Zack Stentz, one of the writers of the film, stands by this metaphor. There’s one heated debate in a website discussing this movie where a commenter violently disagreed with those who believe the film is alluding to gay rights. One of Deborah Hoff’s comments said, “Great. But this movie is not about gay rights. It is a movie about the origins of X-Men. That’s it. Solely for the purpose of entertainment. I didn’t see ‘Brokeback Mountain’ here. I saw, the origins of X-Men.”

The commenters’ thread was turned into a wild ping-pong of opinions, and then Stentz finally stepped in: “Um, no offense, but you’re wrong. I helped write the movie, and can tell you that the gay rights/ post-holocaust Jewish identity/ civil rights allegory stuff was all put there on purpose. Joss Whedon designed the whole “Cure” storyline in the comic books specifically as a gay allegory, and [producer] Bryan Singer wove his own feelings of outsiderdom as a gay man into the movie series. The whole “have you ever tried NOT to be a mutant” coming out scene in X2 isn’t very particularly subtle, while it’s effective.”

End of argument, right? Maybe. I loved how the writers incorporate these LGBTQ support themes into the plotline cleverly. That doesn’t deter me from having my own gripes though. For one, the new gay-related spin on the slogan “mutant and proud” and the don’t-ask-don’t-tell theory have one grave drawback: it scribbled a visible line between gays and straights. It’s like emphasizing “we’re different from you [straights] and not ashamed about it” or “we are our own team and you have yours!” It lacks the “we’re different and we want you to accept us” vibe, even if the movie is leaning heavily towards that direction. I do see the painful point of that though, because as I’ve observed irl, some straight people claim to love homosexuals yet don’t do anything aside from just saying they love them.That’s one ugly truth for you.

Also, I like to point out how the creators downplayed their showing of insights (don’t pounce on me yet—I know what a metaphor means). I mean, they could have further strengthened their presentation, put more flesh in the skeleton of their allegory. Mystique is canonically bisexual; I haven’t read all the graphic novels, but I do know that she’s been romantically involved with Destiny/Irene for a long time. Why didn’t they use that? I wish they would, in the next installments.

Moving swiftly on…if you look at it from another perspective, I think it’s not just about being gay and proud—it’s about belonging into any minority group and being proud about it (see the first three X-Men films). Which brings us to our next topic…. 

Blatant Racism?

I’m going to be as objective here as possible. X-Men: First Class, on the surface, presents very offensive elements when it comes to colored people. Take for example Darwin (Edi Gathegi), the cab driver who has the mutant powers to “adapt to survive”.

DarwinCue in Hollywood movie cliché: the black guy in the team is the first to die.

In the  covert CIA base scene, where Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) finds the mutants, he cajoles them to jump ships by saying things that may strike a chord with them. He says, “each of us will face a choice, be enslaved or rise up to rule.” After the word enslaved, the camera cuts to Darwin’s face. My first reaction? “What the actual heck? That's racist!” I still haven’t recovered from that when Shaw suddenly kills him. I was practically sure I wore the what-the-actual-heck-to-the-second-power reaction. I couldn’t believe it.

Now we also have this ‘brown’ X-Woman: Angel (Zoe Krevitz). She’s a stripper/sex worker who was—get this—saved from the topless life by the good guys (look, I’m in love with Charles’ character but his overall smugness and holier-than-thou demeanor sometimes get on my nerves). A mention of being a ‘queen’ is the bait Angel takes. So there you have it, the first person on the team to be lured to the dark side. Tsk, tsk.

Oh, and that doesn’t end there. I have to note that Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is colored too in an unconventionally fiction-ish way, and she considers herself as one of the “outsiders of the outsiders” when she’s comparing herself to mutants who have invisible powers (she’s pointedly saying this about Charles). While she can hide by using shape-shifting, she still wants to look normal. For more than once I saw how Charles makes her feel more like abnormal. Embarrassing her, making excuses for not dating her aside from her blue form (“I feel responsible for you, you’re my oldest friend” blah blah), or expressing his relief on Hank’s ‘normalizing’ cure. Poor Raven. In the end, whose camp does she belong to? Magneto’s. The bad side.

Also, have you taken a look at the Hellfire Club’s Azazel (Jason Flemyng) and Riptide (Alex Gonzalez)? Like Mystique, Azazel is a colored mutant; I believe Riptide is Mexicano or Latino or something. I jokingly refer to them as the ‘bad guy props’ because seriously, how many freaking lines did they say?

The second time I watched the movie, I mulled over it. It was incredibly offensive at first look but I couldn’t help but wonder: it seems impossible for a movie that fights for the rights of a marginalized minority to actually overlook that racism stuff, or in other terms be “color-blinded”. The creators couldn’t be that dense.

A riot in my system then ensues. Sure, director Matthew Vaughn took bits of real-life situations from the 1960s and meshed it with the superhero storyline, but is that reason enough to single colored people out and bring the white characters to the fore as better than the others, like not dying or ending up bad?

If you zero in on the story and not the fact that it’s a movie, I guess it’s going to be easier. The whole point of the flick is that it’s all about mutants and ordinary humans. Mutants. It’s akin to another race, and the ones that are discriminating them are their less-evolved kin. Banshee, Havok, Darwin, Mystique, Angel, Hank, even Charles and Erik—they have no colors to speak of, because they belong to the mutant-race. They are all the same. I’m guessing that Shaw deliberately makes that ‘enslavement’ comment to get Darwin’s attention, because in trying to live as a normal human Darwin must have already experienced that distinct kind of discrimination. If you come to think of it, Darwin's death was not in vain; it made him unforgettable. In fact it kind of helped in lighting the match of the first class' first lessons with Professor Xavier.

Remember, this movie is an allegory to oppression. This is set in the 1960s, and the Civil Rights era is at its full swing.

But let's face it: critics and moviegoers are going to point out the racism here, and shoving down their throats the very point of the film via clarification—which is actually a failure in itself already because a good film would be able to convey its message without any sort of explication—would be too lame. For the majority, even magnifying the core of the story wouldn't justify the treatment it gave the non-white characters.

Gender Politics?

Emma FrostFor feminists, the Hellfire Club’s White Queen doesn't seem to
be a queen in this flick…

Emma Frost (January Jones) is one of the most sexualized female figures in this movie. She’s scantily clad for the most part, and serves as nothing but a shapely sidekick to Shaw. "I think this [wine] needs ice”, Shaw says. Emma follows and Shaw comments, “That’s a good girl.”

Donning ultra-feminist’s goggles would reveal you some things that may depict violence against women. First, that scene where Erik (Michael Fassbender) ties up and strangles Emma (I'm going to take this opportunity to say I'm not convinced that metal bed frames can actually crack diamonds); second, that training session with Havok/Alex (Lucas Till) where the targets are female mannequins.

Let's don't forget Angel's job and all. Then we have Agent Moira McTaggart running around in her underwear for a good few minutes while on a stakeout (please don't be blind though, the plot begs for that because she wouldn't be able to infiltrate the club if not for the stripper outfit). Moira is being a little ‘oppressed’ as a part of the minority—at least in the CIA. "This is why the CIA is no place for women!” groans her boss.

I guess everything’s a no-no for the feminist’s eye.

Well in my opinion, the flick gives us a good depiction of sexism in the 1960s—painful maybe, but a good, realistic depiction just the same. It's not that the movie refuses to hold everything in; understand that it's a reflection. When Shaw tells Emma to freshen his drink, we see how she puts on a face but obeys anyway. Canonically Emma shouldn’t be a weak character, but the creators are trying to show the gender inequality parallels of the decade where it’s set.

However, as a movie that challenges prejudices, they could’ve done more. I mean they’ve practically rewritten history with the Cold War and the mutant fear-induced almost-World War III, why not put changes in the gender politics? Better yet, also in the racism issue? They are trying to convey a message to and teach the audience all right, and spot-on nods to the realities of that decade don’t seem to be the best way to relay what they really are trying to say.

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Review: Touching from a Distance

“I stared at him, he was so still. Then the rope - I hadn’t noticed the rope. The rope from the clothes rack was around his neck. I ran through to the sitting room and picked up the telephone. No, supposing I was wrong—another false alarm. I ran back to the kitchen and looked at his face –a long string of saliva hung from his mouth. Yes, he really had done it. What to do next? I looked around the room expecting to see Ian standing in a corner watching my reaction. My instinct that he was playing a cruel trick.”


Untitled

The most common question people tend to have after a suicide is “why”. Even when he was alive, Ian Curtis, lead vocalist and lyricist of the post-punk band Joy Division, has always been an enigma. When he took his life on the 18th of May, 1980, he snatched with him the keys that may unlock the mysteries that had so long shrouded him—including the one about his eerie attraction to an early grave. This book, Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis and Joy Division, is Deborah Curtis’ attempt to rest her husband’s ghost to rest. While it didn’t hit the bull’s eye of the reasons of the suicide, it still gave devoted fans a glimpse of the rock icon when he was not on their minds’ highest pedestals. This book is a brave account regarding fame and its cost, and the honest ruminations of a woman in a disintegrating marriage.

Deborah Curtis is the only qualified person to pen this biography, but even with the credential of being his widow, Ian was still not that transparent to her. Ian proved to be a hard person to read and his personality was further complicated by his epilepsy and his medication. I understand how D.Curtis portrayed Annik Honore, Ian’s mistress, as an antagonistic character in their lives, but I commend how she wrote her husband: a not-so-good yet very confused human. D.Curtis didn’t feel the need to further develop the typical rock-star myths revolving around his husband, being a prominent icon emerging from the music scene of his decade. She’s all sincere in telling this story, although of course she did sound a tad bitter for the most part (not that I blame her).

You know that moment when you have this certain music icon that you call your “hero”, then you get the chance to talk to him in person and suddenly he’s this ordinary guy next to you instead of the god-like figure you had in your head? That’s what happened when I read this book, even if the whole tale’s from a secondhand source and not the “hero” himself. I must say, though, that it didn’t make me like Joy Division—or Ian Curtis—less. I loved them more even, feeling a little closer to them. I guess Ian was ultimately selfish, but he’s not alone in the title because there’s a lot of other people in the industry who checked themselves out for an egocentric kind of immortality: Kurt Cobain, Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Sid Vicious, to name a few.
Aside from the biography, this little tome contains photographs of Ian from his childhood to the time when he’s on the peak of the music scene, some poems, a complete gig list, and discographies (unreleased songs, rough drafts and original lyrics of the released songs, etc). This is not meant to be a light read, but having those additional features made me enjoy the reading experience more. Icing on the cake maybe, but icing just the same.

This book inspired a biofilm called Closer, which is as chilling as the former. They are an epic treat for devoted fans. I recommend both. 
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get the book here

Friday, June 24, 2011

An Underestimated Format

Appearances still matter. For so many years people keep on mouthing the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but there’s a multitude of proofs everywhere that most of the time people treat it like a time-worn statement that is meant to be ignored—both in the metaphorical and the literal sense. The literary world is not spared by the destructively continuous influx of judgmental people, and looking at it from the correct perspective, the scene was more saddening than infuriating. Case in point: the underestimation of graphic novels.

tumblr_lna22p5ZN11qav9ywo1_1280 
Falling in love with art + literature

The plethora of reading materials that comes my way has a sizable chunk of sci-fi/post-apocalyptic graphic novels. More often than not, when I have my nose buried in one, I’d receive a couple of condescending stares that scream, “Comics? Seriously? Grow up!”

I’d be more than glad to shoot back at them with a baleful glare and tell them, “Grow up? Here’s a mirror and kindly tell the person you see there to grow up.”  But no, I wouldn’t. I know that no snappy comeback or one-liner would be potent enough to shove a big rock blocking a person's open-mindedness regarding the smallest of things.

Moving on, what’s worse for graphic novels is that people don’t judge them by the appearance of their covers alone; the appearance of their insides as well are frowned upon and dismissed as a kid’s stuff. Comics, the graphic novels’ predecessors, are often stereotyped as kitsch—which is in itself a grave accusation, since a lot of comics are amazing. I’m not just talking about tomes upon tomes of compiled superhero issues; I’m also talking about the comic strips that we often encounter in the entertainment section of most local broadsheets. Political, satirical, or just plain sweet, those strips require a lot of thinking in the artists’ part. Unfortunately the readers don’t keep the end of their unspoken bargain, since they readily dismiss this format as a waste of time. Huh.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been trained as a school organ editorial cartoonist since I was in grade school that I’ve learned to appreciate the meaning of a single picture. More so a compendium of narrative ones! But then again, I know that even if I wasn’t trained, art would always be there to be valued. All that we really need is a good sense of appreciation and a depth of understanding.

Anyway, just because a story is told in the form of a graphic novel doesn’t mean it wouldn’t weigh more than a feather. Far from that, believe it or not. I’ve read graphic novels that have more substance compared to some of the wildly popular books today.

dCbz version of "Preludes and Nocturnes", open in my desktop

I’ve seen this phenomenon too, in the underestimation of animated series compared to live action or ‘real-life’ television shows. Some ‘serious’ readers tend to avoid graphic novels like the plague because they think it’s all made up of immature stuff. I’ve asked someone before why he wouldn’t read one, and he answered something along the lines of “Those are only created for kids who have short attention spans; the cheap pictures are a magnet to keep them reading.” Really? You think the ‘cheap pictures’ are nothing but an eye-candy? That kind of mentality wouldn’t take you anywhere.

Graphic novels are products of a good mix of literature and art. The artwork that comes in the package is never just for decoration; it's doing half the legwork of the whole mechanism. For one, panels can effectively help the story pick up speed or slow down when it needs to. Just a few frames, a clever usage of onomatopeia, a couple or so of thought balloons, and voila! The readers are in for a good-paced story. Having encountered many books, I know that pacing is still a hard work for most novelists. I could point out more use of the art, but I’d rather let the others discover it by reading something in this format.

I only wish that more people would read graphic novels—I bet they’d be surprised by the ample amount of philosophy, wisdom, and heart-pinching epiphanies that these books could give. If only they’d drop the mentality that penciled characters talking in speech balloons should never be taken seriously, it’ll all be easier for everyone. Aye?

Review: Writers Gone Wild: The Feuds, Frolics, and Follies of Literature’s Great Adventurers, Drunkards, Lovers, Iconoclasts, and Misanthropes.

Everybody knows that skeletons of the past fill up an average person’s closet, usually up to the brim. When I got my hands on this gossipy compendium of anecdotes centering mostly on the foibles of a bunch of well-known, well-loved wordsmiths, I was given a peep through the keyholes of their closets. That’s when I realized that some people’s closets are not only choked with ghosts of yesterday, they also provide portals to places that are way crazier than Wonderland or Narnia.

tumblr_ln0yyagfmD1qav9ywo1_500

But this is non-fiction. I’ve always known that most writers are bonkers—it’s almost like a requirement actually—but that didn’t stop the pin of my Insanity Meter to go totally haywire while flipping the pages of this book. For so many years some of these writers worked hard to inflate their literary brainchildren to life, fleshing out characters to a 3D fullness. A little did they know, even little bits of their lives make the best stories ever, and they themselves are insanely amazing characters. Incredibly intriguing, addictive, and awe-inspiring, Writers Gone Wild is a gem that literature buffs will surely love.

From the author info in the book I learned that Bill Peschel is a copy editor and layout designer(?) at the Harrisburg Patriot-News, and that he loves collecting weird and wild stories. Being written by someone who’s got some journalistic background is a reassuring fact that these stories have credibility. With his cool and simple writing tone, the reading is made more enjoyable.

Here we get to see Franz Kafka’s ‘Kurious Kollection’ of porn materials, Philip K. Dick’s prophetic visions, Virginia Woolf sneaking onto a Royal Navy ship disguised as an Abyssinian Prince, Sylvia Plath bite-kissing Ted Hughes on their first meeting in a literary party, Theodore Dreiser resigning from a newspaper company after fake-reviewing a performance that has been cancelled, and many more. For a few more teasers I’d like to share a few direct lines from the book:
  • Of his many affairs with both sexes, and even with his half-sister Augusta, Byron by far preferred teenage boys. But he had to be careful expressing his desire. Before publishing his love poems, he carefully changed the pronouns from masculine to feminine.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald liked champagne or gin, but when he was trying to cut back would limit himself to thirty bottles of beer. A day.
  • When Shakespeare found love, it certainly wasn’t with his wife, Anne. At his death he left her only “my second best bed with the furniture.” While some biographers have tried to put a positive spin on it, it should be noted that in his first draft of the will, he didn’t mention his wife at all.
  • Chekhov’s funeral was anything but serious. The procession to the graveyard crossed paths with the funeral cortege of a Russian general, and some mourners ended up following the wrong body.
All in all this is a fun, juicy romp through the lives of the authors that most of us loved during our high school days. :p
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Get it from amazon

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pa

father, n.
- a male parent | an old man; used as a respectful form of address | a man who creates, originates, or founds something (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

father, n.
- the very first man in the world that I ever really loved| that awesome man whose job (aside from the one where he’s getting paid in form of money) is to teach us how to be strong and disciplined; this in turn would be compensated with love and respect | a man who, instead of being made up of bones and flesh, is made up of all kinds of awesomeness | the most handsome man on earth, that's why he's got the most beautiful woman in the planet (aka Mother) | SEE ALSO: Ricarte Caasi Casta (from the Bottom of Airiz Casta's Heart)

DSC_3423
With papa at a post-graduation family date.

Screw Marvel and DC Comics! Even if he has no bizarre costume or mutation of any kind, my father would always be the most powerful superhero that my world would ever have—the perfect match for my Supermom, as evidenced by this post. Swishing a cape of life lessons, battling everyday's little evils in the confines of his workplace, steeling himself for the unexpected jabs that life might throw his way…when everything’s done he’ll remove his protective armor and melt, because at the end of the day, his family would always be his heart’s kryptonite.

Like ma he’s got X-Ray Vision too: he can see through me like my skin’s transparent, and what’s more fun is that he seems to share what he sees inside my head: the geekiness about science fiction and fantasy, the penchant for faux boxing matches or pillow fights, dining table discussions about oddball stuff that only the two of us in the family can understand...'ya know, that kind of silly things. It gets deeper when it needs to—he can know what I love, dislike, or fear without any effort. He must be some sort of modern genie too, because those little wishes he’ll see in my head, he’ll grant them if he can…and most of the time, he indeed can—material or otherwise (not hard on the material part because I don't ask for too expensive gizmos or the like). He’s the partner to my other crutch that is mama, ones that I use whenever I get punched out by life so much that I think I can’t handle it anymore. Mama provides a life compass; he provides the map. His presence alone radiate happiness to me, pulling up the sides of my mouth during bad days. The best kind of superheroes, I believe, are the ones that can make your heart flutter without using any real superpower. :)

However, there's more to him than being just a he-saves-the-day kind of a superhero. If he saves me once, he'll save me next time by teaching me to save myself. He lets me see how the world devices its own games and knows that in order to survive every stage, I need to learn the tricks of the trade. :) He wordlessly tells me that those stars are never going to crash onto my palms so I need to stretch my wings and jump...with him providing a springboard.

If only I could present the Nobel Peace Prize of Awesome to him like what I planned to give ma, I really would. But I guess non-existent medals or rewards could not rival the best prize he should receive: love and respect from me, from both his daughters. So I’d give him all the compensation he deserved, and like Mother’s Day, I’d make Father’s Day an everyday holiday. :) I know that shedding my cocoon of ‘teenagedom’ this coming August would be kind of hard for the most obvious of reasons, but if I were to emerge into the world of adulthood as a butterfly, I know my wings would not be as fragile as glittered paperboards. And you know why those wings are going to be sturdy? It’s because my parents made them that way.

I really don't want to go cheeseballs on this, but there's no other way to say this clearly.
Love you pa and ma. :D

First Class Posters

Even though it’s set in the 1960s, the original posters for Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class almost didn’t have the hint of belonging to that decade. Be that as it may, I still commend how they juxtapose the posters to contrast the characters. The one that features Charles Xavier has him standing against his home (in the future becoming the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters) and a calm blue sky. The whole image speaks of his pacifist’s beliefs and optimism for humans-mutants coexistence. The one that features Erik Lensherr has him standing against rusted gates of the concentration camps, signifying his revenge-driven personality induced by his early tragedy during the holocaust. In the bodies of waters at their feet, the reflection of their future selves could be seen.

More lurking around the First Class fandom-dominated webs lead me to the SuperPunch blog, where a poster contest was held before the release of the movie. There are entries that are clearly minimalist, some are executed in comics-style, and some possessing the 60’s vibes that the original promo posters lack. Here I’ll show  some of the bests I saw from the competition plus a couple I stumbled upon at Deviantart and at Tumblr.


Print


xmen










by Gruffydd Ywain:xmen poster




by z3r0t0lerance (propaganda posters):x_men_first_class_propaganda_1_by_z3r0t0lerance-d3hu0ni

x_men_first_class_propaganda_2_by_z3r0t0lerance-d3hu0vg


Saying that people in this fandom are creative is an understatement. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Think of your life having a soundtrack. You have a song that turns up when you know you’re about to discover something big, a different song that plays when your world seems to crumble down, and yet another song that emerges out of nowhere along with the butterflies that suddenly ram against the walls of your tummy. You’re aware that your playlist is on shuffle mode because life is unpredictable. But you also know that as long as you sing along with every track, you’re going to survive until a brand new period of your life requires a brand new soundtrack.

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For me, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist reads exactly like that—except that the soundtrack is shared by two people that are thrown into each other’s lives with an unexpected springboard of a rash kiss. Told in alternating he-said/she-said narration, a story of love, music, and friendship unfolds in one long roller coaster of a “first date” in Manhattan. Can anyone really fall in love in less than twenty four hours? Can two people hold on to a small spark in their hearts when the embers of the last flame are not truly gone?

Nick O’Leary is the non-queer bassist of a queercore band. He’s recently dumped by his girlfriend Tris, who walks into their gig one night…with a new guy. In efforts to avoid her, Nick asks the girl next to him to be his girlfriend for the next five minutes. Norah Silverberg, daughter of a big-time recording company executive, will do anything to evade her frienemy Tris, so she answers Nick’s request by a lip lock. With that impulsive gesture, they have unwittingly unlocked a door of new romantic possibilities.

What I really loved about this book is that the characters are perfect portrayals of the teenagers that they really are. I’ve encountered a lot of books where teens sound like what the authors wish them to sound like (precocious is not the right term but it’s the first that comes to mind), inadvertently tagging themselves as literary ventriloquists. One classic example—committed by most female YA authors—is they’re making teenage boys sound like their ideal thirty-year-old men. They’re not fleshing out characters when they do that; they’re just making use of puppets molded by their dreamy notions and frustrations.

Here, Nick is just a guy—an emo punk, overly angsty and cheesy guy who continues to make break-up mix CDs and wallow in his pain. And Norah is just a girl—a witty but very paranoid feminist who is not positive if she doesn’t deserve being called a “Tin Woman” for allegedly not possessing a heart. XD Their quirky voices hit all the right notes in the alternate storytelling part, as if they’re singing the same song on their own until the chorus arrives and their voices blend, a perfect duet with back-up voices of strong supporting characters. If this novel is an album, the listeners will encounter a lot of songs about strippers in nun costumes, taxi driver wisdom, minutes-long on-again-off-again relationships, heart-vs-mind debates…and a jacket named Salvatore. :p

This is why I think the Cohn-Levithan duo is such an exquisite collaboration. They are so in-sync with each other that you can only wonder why they can flawlessly make the story go on, yet know who’s penned what because of their distinctive styles. Admittedly I haven’t read other books by Cohn, but I immediately know which character she wrote because Levithan’s writing still has the undertones of his Will Grayson, Will Grayson style as well as that of Boy Meets Boy. I’m sure that he wrote Nick’s part.

To add bone-crunching riffs to the funky rhythm of the plot are themes and messages wonderfully presented. LGBTQ is there of course, epitomized by Nick’s gay bandmates as well as Norah herself, who’s got bisexual tendencies. And then there are short commentaries on the current punk scene, lessons about family and education, among others.

I’m not easily impressed by most love stories, but this novel thawed my frosty literary heart from the very first page. I guess it has something to do with me being a music junkie, since all the musical references there made me love it more. The geek-talk may confuse non-music lovers though, and the massive deployment of f-bombs in every page may turn some readers off.

All in all it’s a very satisfying read! 
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get the book here!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Writing Soundtrack

When I write, I sometimes put on some music in hopes that a filter in my head would magically convert the sound waves into mental electricity, energy that would make my bulb of idea overhead shine brighter. It works most of the time.

More recently, when I’m penning some drabbles or adding some flesh to a thin skeleton of an unborn story, I shove in my headphones and try to fish out some ideas from the lyrics that I’m hearing...that is, if the song playing does have some words. This is extremely effective for writer’s block, I highly recommend it. Here I’m going to share some songs from my music library—I’ll only choose fifteen to make this post short—that have further helped and inspired me in my writing. :)

1. Piledriver Waltz by Alex Turner
2. The Ballad of Mona Lisa by Panic at the Disco
3. Shadowplay by Joy Division
4. Paperback Writer by The Beatles
5. For the Price of a Cup of Tea by Belle and Sebastian
6. Pictures of You by The Cure
7. After Hours by We Are Scientists
8. Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis
9. A Certain Romance by Arctic Monkeys
10. The Hand that Rocks the Cradle by The Smiths
11. Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day
12. Wildflower Soul by Sonic Youth
13. Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel
14. In My Veins by Andrew Belle
15. Wonderwall (Oasis tribute) by The Vitamin String Quartet

I chose those fifteen from iTunes by hitting on the shuffle mode and writing down the song that plays.Needless to say, that’s only a small chunk of my writing soundtrack. The contents of my playlists may change from time to time, but what’s important is they’re helping me with my writing process. Especially now that I’m planning on writing more short stories and carefully outlining the beginnings of a longer work.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Super Airiz' Superpowers (I Wish)

Guess who’s got some sort of a flick hangover? *raises hands in mock surrender*

Actively lurking in a myriad of websites dominated by the X-Men: First Class fandom for a couple days, I stumbled upon a random thread with the topic: “if you have superpowers, what would they be?” Most of the responses in the thread—specifically the “whys” of their choice of power—had me chuckling for a while. Seriously, x-ray vision? You don’t need to stretch your imagination too far to know the reason they opted for that, but hearing it straight from those geeky guys made it more hilarious.

Anyway I asked myself the question too, and just for fun I’m going to post my five answers in no particular order.

Superhero_by_AmandaSupakIf a lollipop can be a superhero, I can too! LOL

#1: Telepathy. Perhaps in most people’s personal dictionary this is synonymous to grave mental trespassing. But come on! Who doesn’t want to read, communicate with, and control other minds? This is a rather cliché choice, but I quite agree that it’s an awesome ability…you know, barging through people’s brains and accessing their most private thoughts. That sounds a little evil, but imagine a life where no one can lie to you because you know what exactly they’re thinking. :p Initially I wanted to have the ability to see auras, but why choose that if I can have the whole package? *greedy much?* I want to have it controlled though. There are some thoughts that I don't want to hear of course. *hint hint*

#2: Empathy. Gross, right? After wanting to break through people’s skulls to see their naked brains, now I want to barge into their ribcages and toy with their hearts. Or yeah, go back to the brains and manipulate the hypothalamus and other responsible brain parts, if you’re a freaking nitpicky science buff. Hmph. But please be rest assured that in wanting to have this power I don’t intend to steal Cupid’s arrow-toting job; that’s all his, thank you very much. Maybe I want it just to make someone feel calm or okay when they’re having a problem or something. Most of the time that’s my problem—I always fumble for the right comforting words to say to make someone feel alright, but the words simply wouldn’t come. :’(

Possessing this ability, though, is a double-edged sword. The main meaning of empathic powers, which is of course related to simple English word, is vicariously experiencing someone else’s feelings. That won’t be of much fun if this can’t be controlled because you can feel someone’s agony or sadness. :p

#3. Time Manipulation. Kin of time traveling! Controlling the flow of time—reversing it, slowing it, fast-forwarding it, even stopping it—sounds awesome, huh? It’s the power that every normal person wants to have, especially those who have grave regrets or what-ifs or even those who can’t wait to see the future. Technically that means everyone. But having this power is totally useless if you can’t change events in any time period (think about the Grandfather Paradox).

#4. Invisibility. Right. There are times when I want to disappear, not because of the problems that I’m facing but because sometimes I can find company in solitude. Being invisible is perhaps the epitome of isolation…not that I want to be a pariah or anything! Haha! There are a lot of fun stuff that one can do in an invisible state, but I think I don’t have the guts to do any of those (I blame various episodes of the local TV show Wansapanataym for the good ol’ lesson it planted in my head as a little girl).

#5. Levitation. Who wants to defy gravity? Me! I don’t mind having wings, but I think it’s better if I’ll just have Tinkerbell sprinkle me with her fairy dust. I want to fly to the sky and have a chat with a few cherubic cloud attendants over a cup of hot chocolate. *chortles* Kidding aside, I’ve always wanted to fly ever since I had a panoramic view of the city from a rooftop for the first time. I remember having the urge to jump when I looked down and the feel of the wind on my skin was priceless. The want was intensified when I had my first Ferris Wheel ride when the carnival went to our community half a score of fiestas ago. It must feel  great, floating over the cities and being overwhelmed by the feeling of sudden freedom. :)

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And that’s that!  I enjoyed writing this post, not only because it made me dredge up my inner kid to help me answer the question but also because it had me thinking. Wishing to be a superhero is harmless, but everyone should keep in mind that we are superheroes in our own little ways. We don’t need to have these superpowers to save others or to save ourselves. A bucketful of faith, a pocketful of inspiration, and fistfuls of love—these are often enough to substitute for the abilities only fictional characters seem to possess. :)

Review: Red Glove

Bringing the readers back into the deliciously dark realm of mobsters, magic, curses, and cons, Holly Black once again proves that she is an inimitable wizard of words in the second installment of her Curse Worker’s trilogy, Red Glove. With a plot that never quits, wonderfully complex characters, and a setting that is strikingly familiar yet eerily different from our own, this book presents a kind of urban fantasy that noir fiction lovers will devour.

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In Black’s world there are hyperbathygammic people, or “workers” who can do magic with just the mere brush of their fingers. One in a thousand can be a worker and their specialties can be one of the seven: memory, dream, luck, physical, emotion, death, and transformation. Because of these, hands are treated like weapons, and anyone who doesn’t wear gloves is deemed dangerous.

Cassel Sharpe, the main character, learns in White Cat that he is a worker of the rarest kind. But discoveries like this—coupled with being surrounded by meddlesome and deceitful relatives—do not produce neat results. He cannot trust his family anymore, and because of that he becomes a walking dichotomy of equal parts vengeance and remorse. One of his brothers was killed and the dominant feeling he has is relief. One minute he’s ecstatic for finding out that the girl she’s smitten with miraculously returns his affections; the next he’s devastated because he discovers that someone else aside from Cupid tampered with her emotions. As if matters are not chaotic enough, a couple of FBI agents appear, believing that Cassel can help them solve his brother’s murder case by looking into the only clue left at the crime scene: images of a woman in red gloves. That’s about the same time a leader of a big-time crime family is courting for his service, knowing what Cassel can do with his magic.

Cassel has to be careful in every step he takes in the minefield of choices presented to him by the mob and the government. One misstep and everything will blow up.

Smart and suspenseful, I love this book as much as I did White Cat. The thrill is undiminished, and I think the murder mystery at its core is responsible for this. The twists and turns of the plot are as shocking as ever; with the first class cons that Cassel pulled off in the first book, I didn’t expect him to be able to do something of that caliber again. Apparently I was wrong. XD Also we see how Cassel grows up into a more mature character. He is surrounded by people egging him to be a bad criminal that he should be, but he keeps on clinging on to the “good side”, willing to do the right thing even if it costs him everything. The best example of this is when didn’t opt to take advantage of Lilia’s love-cursed state even if he does love her so much. Instead he evades her, waiting for the magic to subside. Cassel is also working on his antisocial attitude—slowly but surely, he is becoming more open to his friends.

What I find the most interesting in this novel is the role of politics in it. The topic has been raised in White Cat and I’m glad Black decides to further explore it. Workers are often considered the society’s misfits/freaks, but the government knows how to pull the strings in order to use the workers to their own ends. There are worker rights fighters of course, and the clash of opinions is profoundly exciting. :p

Needless to say, I’m excited for the final installment, Black Heart

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dorky Dhadudes :)

 You have to understand, I could not quite contain the fangirl bliss that gripped my dorky heart after watching the movie X-Men: First Class (ha-ha-ha). Hence another post sort of related to it…and to my father.

Knowing that he’d be thrilled to know if the flick’s any good, I immediately texted him after exiting the movie house yesterday:

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No surprise here—I expected the reaction. XD I blathered a little more about the movie but gave no heavy spoilers; if there’s anything in the world I was sure of that moment when we’re texting, it’s that he’d watch it too.

Pa’s always been a sci-fi/fantasy movie buff, and to me he’s like the potato couch equivalent of my inner bookworm. That’s why we have a silent understanding of our addictions; there would be no comment from him on why I kept on rereading The Hunger Games or Zombies vs Unicorns, and there would be no comment from me on why he kept on re-watching the re-runs of Star Wars on HBO for one whole week. The only difference is that sometimes I’d plunge to the sofa and join him watch, and he’d talk ceaselessly about the portions I missed—no questions asked. I can’t remember him asking what’s happening in my novels. :p

Anyway, whenever someone would make a remark about our geeky similarities, I’ll just say—in jest—that it’s in the genes. :p

X-Men: First Class—A First Class Flick

Warning: this entry is created with occasional fangirl key-smash and squeals, so please bear with the giddiness and spoiler-ishness of the blogger’s writing. Thank you.

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Before he became Professor X, he was Charles Xavier. Before he took the name of Magneto, he was Erik Lensherr. Before they became the worst archenemies, they were best friends, working together with other Mutants against a common nemesis. Chronicling the “why’s” of the philosophical rift between the two main characters—and the resulting clash of their teams in other X-Men movies—X-Men: First Class is a first class flick that effectively quenched the thirst of all geek hearts that has marveled the waning Marvel classic franchise (okaay, I’ll stop having fun with puns now).

x-men-first-class_610x3551THE FIRST CLASS in the Mutant’s school of awesome! *confetti*

With a plotline that keeps you on the edge of the seat, a well-rounded cast of characters, and a metaphorical message that is still relevant to our society today, this is easily the best superhero film that I’ve seen this year. The actors did a great job in bringing to life the beloved comics characters, though of course I commend Michael Fassbender’s performance as Magneto the most.

As someone who likes alternate histories with a touch of science fiction in it, I loved that the important chunk of events in the story are overlapped with the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War. Sebastian Shaw’s plan to ensure that the missiles arrive in Cuba in order to commence World War III (and then make sure that Mutants will take over the world) is made of ass-kicking awesome. I’m not rooting for his team, but the clichéd antagonistic schemes look amazing when translated to the screen. XD

bromabce
SUPERHERO BROMANCE: Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) & Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender)

Anyone who doesn’t see the “bromantic” connection between Charles and Erik needs to wear The Magic Goggles of the Obvious. :p Haha.  James McAvoy even called it a “love story”, but let’s don’t go there anymore, kaay? Charles is kind of an egotistic, condescending genius and Erik is fueled by revenge and rage, but they click together as partners-in-crime (or anti-crime, whatever you want). They also consider each other as trusted friends. All along they think they’re the same, but the heartbreaking scene at the beach near the end of the movie reveals the crevice between their beliefs. The non-spoiler-ish dialogue:
Erik: *looking down at a wounded Charles on his lap* We want the same thing.
Charles: I’m sorry, my friend. But we do not.
Fangirl Heart: *breaks*
Anyway, it’s the kind of tandem that reminds me of Watson-Holmes. Needless to say, it’s a new favorite. :)

nsbdWELL HELLO THERE KATNISS: For a moment there I thought she’s going to give him the famous upside-down Spiderman kiss. :p

It’s Jennifer Lawrence, more known to The Hunger Games fans as the actress who will portray Katniss Everdeen in the big screen adaptation of the THG trilogy. Raven/Mystique didn’t kick so much ass in this flick, but I know that if she did, she’s going to magnetize all the attention (pun not intended). That said, I’m expecting The Hunger Games movie to rock.

Moving on, I’ve mentioned before a “metaphorical message” of the movie that is applicable to our society. What I’m talking about is appearances. Raven/Mystique is a shape-shifter and having an original blue form makes her feel more of an outsider. Mutants normally are, but some can blend in with the crowd. If it weren’t for her abilities she wouldn’t even be able to go outside. Hank/Beast feels the same thing, so he formulates a “cure” that can make them appear normal. I loved the be-proud-of-who-you-are/no-need-to-hide stuff that Erik always tells Raven. :) The message is connected to our society today that has an ugly perception of beauty. A non-verbatim heartbreaking exchange:
Raven: We don't need to hide…
Hank: We may save the world tomorrow, but you have to accept that in our society your blue form and my big feet are never going to be deemed beautiful..
Raven’s heart and Fangirl Heart: *break*

asdwqeqFIRST AS A TEAM: Erik, “Banshee”, Charles, Moira, “Mystique”, and “Havok”

What makes this movie more exceptional are the funny moments that are perfectly juxtaposed with the serious ones. Like that training time with the guys, with Banshee being pushed off a window trying to improve his skill by using his scream instead of just a whistle, or that time when Moira mentions a kiss in a CIA meeting. Then there are course the epic cameos!

Wolverine has an uncredited appearance here! When Erik and Charles are locating Mutants that may want to join them, they go up to Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in a bar. But before they can even make a proposition, Logan tells them to “Go f*** yourself.” That elicited laughter in the movie house.

There’s also a scene where Raven/Mystique is trying to seduce Erik. Erik of course thinks she’s too young and says something along the lines of “maybe in a few years..” Seemingly challenged, Raven transforms to Rebecca Romjin, the actress who portrays the older Mystique in other adaptations. That also made the moviegoers laugh. XD
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All in all an amazing movie! Some visual effects are not convincing, but they're just small flaws. I’ll certainly watch it again if I have a chance. :)

You know what's keeping my fangirl adrenaline going, though? Fox Entertainment said they're envisioning to make the "First Class" franchise a freaking trilogy. PLEASE MAKE THIS A REALITY! :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: The Solitude of Prime Numbers

Soulmates, they are called. In Plato’s The Symposium, it is said that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a two-faced head. Zeus feared their power so he tore them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves. But what if they are destined never to meet? What if they are seeking for the safe refuge of solitude instead of the missing piece that would complete them?

I usually don’t pick books about hackneyed tales of finding your soulmate or Prince Charming, so I’m grateful to Lady Luck or whoever is responsible for pre-programming this sweet serendipity: stumbling upon a copy of The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano. The idea that some people are similar to prime numbers—lonely things, only divisible by themselves or by one—struck a chord with me, and I started pondering how two ‘primes’ can be soulmates. Even in mathematics, prime numbers cannot end up next to each other.

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This book in one sentence: it’s a literary gem that toyed cleverly with my brain and at the same time sent my heart pounding with bittersweet ache.

There’s not so much to say about the plot; it’s practically like a rather depressing compilation of anecdotes, or pages from a journal containing quotidian happenings in the life of two pariahs. The characters are something though. Without treading on the Mary Sue grounds, the characters are fleshed out in convincingly damaged portraits. Misfits, Mattia Ballossino rejects the world and Alice Dela Rocca feels rejected by it. Their brokenness is induced by childhood tragedies that triggered emotional and physical changes to them—Alice becomes anorexic and Mattia starts to cut whenever he’s under stress. Their broken natures magnetized each other and in my mind they formed the image of the “cleaved” humans from The Symposium. They can fill out each other’s incompleteness. But what prevents them from joining is that they are like “twin primes”, or prime numbers that are separated only by an even number: 11 and 13, 17 and 19, 41 and 43… close but not close enough to touch.

The span of the novel is from 1983 to 2007, chronicling the happenings in the lives of the two characters in alternating viewpoints. Giordano’s writing—which is elegantly elegiac—captured every moment with poetic beauty. I’ve always heard that describing/explaining something too much is a no-no, since you’re not leaving enough wiggle room for the readers. No legwork at all. But in the adroit hands of Giordano it is different; the more he explains, the more the meaning is conveyed. His understated descriptions are both cerebral and emotional, and though they were frequent, they didn’t look overdone. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions in the perspective of Mattia, a math genius who tends to look at things numerically or scientifically whenever he feels tensed (i.e. when he approximates the diameter of a woman’s loopy earrings or when he tries to guess what geometrical shape the sinking sun in the horizon makes). And when Giordano’s describing emotional scenes, the elegance of his subtle prose is amazingly effective. Like in this kiss:
“All Mattia saw was a shadow moving toward him. He instinctively closed his eyes and then felt Alice’s hot mouth on his, her tears on his cheeks, or maybe they weren’t hers, and finally her hands, so light, holding his head still and catching all his thoughts and imprisoning them there, in the space that no longer existed between them.”
If you want a soulmate story with a happy-ever-after, this is not for you. The characters have suffered greatly apart that you think they deserve a happy ending, and it’s going to have you looking through rose-colored spectacles. I remember trying to keep the tears at bay as I stayed up in the wee small hours of the morning to finish it, knowing that the characters will not be together because of one stupid decision. I remember wanting to throw the book away because the characters had the chance to be happy yet they made a stupid choice again, and the remaining pages are not enough for them to give each other another chance. It’s… ineffable, really.

Tackling the complexity of human relationships at its core, The Solitude of Prime Numbers is a poignant and haunting tale overall. I highly recommend it.

Translators in the Clouds and God’s Magic Ears

One boring Tuesday several weeks ago, I was aimlessly flipping through TV channels and then chanced upon an old local movie in Cinema One. There was this scene where a kid and his mom went to church. As they settled on the pew, the kid looked around and observed a lot of people—most of them sad and teary-eyed—kneeling and praying to God. The kid asked his mom in Tagalog, “Ma, does God get confused when a lot of people pray to Him? They’re so many.”

A typical kid’s query, of course. I used to have a similar question back when I was but a wee thing, one that I was able to formulate after nights of hunching in front of the TV watching tear-jerker flicks or sob stories in news: “Ma, don’t you think they should speak clearly when they pray or ask for God’s help? He would not understand them.” In my defense, I was seven, okay? The people in those movies and news items were practically wailing/gasping/crying for justice and God’s help, and my young ears couldn’t get a clear word out of the sound bites they were producing.

Over time I learned about and believed in God’s omnipotence; the questions above baffle me no longer. Every time people beseech and kneel, even if there are no audible words, even if all their prayers are reduced to the language of sighs and sobs, I learned that God would understand them—maybe even make the angels sing, as if those sounds are music after all. Any broken soul that prays would want God to refract those sounds, to answer the pleas. I learned that whatever we ask would always be answered, though not always in the form we’re expecting. Opening our hearts and all our senses is the best way to perceive His responses. :) We should always be thankful for them.

Whenever kids would ask me similar questions—especially when I’m visiting Vacation Bible School—usually I give playful answers like “God understands those different languages because He created mystical clouds that translate those words upon entering heaven,” or “He has powerful, magic ears!” The kids would nod in awe, and even in those child-friendly choice of words they recognize the power of God. :’)


okay random musings end

Thursday, June 9, 2011

His name’s Sebastian (flash fiction)


HIS NAME’S SEBASTIAN

“If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.”

-George MacDonald
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Addison’s sneakers, which were once immaculately white, were now stained with brown splotches of mud. She didn’t care, though. She was too irritated to care. The storm was practically a monster—its roaring crashes on the waiting shed’s roof were deafening, but these still appeared to be drowned by the soft tick-tocking of her watch. She gnashed her teeth angrily. 

Mikaela was late…for the nth time.  Late for an appointment she herself set. How marvelous. 

Addison was actually used to it by now; it has always been like this whenever they set important appointments or just when they would meet for a snack. What irked her to the core was that lately, she noticed it was getting worse—the once thirty-minute tardiness now extends to an hour or more. She would’ve understood if it was because of some emergency…but no, it was because of a boy. 

“Sebastian, huh,” she almost spat the boy’s name, kicking at the puddle of mucky water at her feet. “I never pegged Mikaela for the type who’ll worsen her already marred timekeeping record because of a maybe-boyfriend.” 

A jeep screeched to a halt near her and splashed grubby water on her calves; she clamped down the expletive that almost spewed out her mouth. The weather, like her mood, wasn’t getting any better. 

“Hey, Addy!” called a voice behind her, probably from someone getting off the jeep that had just stopped. She didn’t need to turn around to see who it was. “Sorry I’m late.” 

“As usual,” Addison deadpanned. 

Mikaela fake-pouted. “Come on. Patience is a virtue!” 

“So is punctuality.” 

“Whatever,” Mikaela waved her hands, as if wanting to ward off the conversation. “So…let’s go now? I’m going to introduce you to Sebastian.” 

At the mention of the name, Addison’s face curled into a grimace. Needless to say, she was incredulous—and furious. “Are you saying that we’re going to have lunch with him?” 

“Yeah,” Mikaela playfully replied. “Do we have any problems with that?” 

Addison opened her mouth to speak, but not a single word came out. All the possible “problems”, all the rants and insults she could come up with bounced around her head; she could chuck them out at Mikaela anytime. She really could, but she wouldn’t. 

“Then let’s go.” 

The smile Mikaela gave her was so smug that Addison was tempted to hit her just to wipe it out. She jammed her fists in her jacket’s pockets just to stop herself. Mikaela fished out her umbrella in her bag and tugged at Addison’s hand, leading her friend towards the alleyway near their school. 

“Where exactly are we going?” Addison snapped, snatching her hand from her friend’s grasp. 

“My dorm room.” 
“Your dorm room? Are you nuts? Sebastian is in your dorm room? I don’t know whatever’s wrong with your head right now, but—” 

“Just pipe down ‘til we get there,” Mikaela interrupted. “You’ll like him.” 

Shutting up was the last thing Addison wanted to do, but her thoughts were suddenly becoming messed up and shadowed that she couldn’t properly string them into logical sentences. So she kept silent, throwing baleful glares at the back of her friend’s head and muttering rants under her breath. 

They reached Mikaela’s dorm room in no time. Addison exchanged greetings with Dale, Mikaela’s roommate, who was hunched on the upper bunk arranging books. 

“Where’s Sebastian?” Mikaela asked. 

“Still there. Where you left him,” Dale replied, with a mischievous glint in her eyes. 

Mikaela asked Addison to sit on the mushroom-shaped stool near the door while she fetched Sebastian. Addison understood why they need to hide Sebastian; boys were not allowed to stay in girl’s rooms unless you have permission or signed passes from the hall master. 

She looked up when Mikaela returned—and gaped. 

“Addy, say hi to Sebastian,” Mikaela introduced. “Sebastian, this is Addison, the friend I’m talking about.” 

‘Love at first sight’ was not the right term, but it was the first that came to mind. Sebastian was nothing if not perfect—the caramel-colored skin, the slender neck that Mikaela was lovingly touching with her fingers, the open black suit that was half-swaddling his entire body… 

“Speechless?” Mikaela teased. 

“That,” Addison faltered, “is the most handsome violin I’d ever laid my eyes on.” 

Mikaela and Dale laughed in unison at Addison’s expression. 

“He’s yours,” Mikaela said, cradling the instrument like a baby as she handed it to her friend. “Beautiful, right? I chose him just for you.” 

Addison wanted to have her own violin ever since she could remember. She’d been vocal about it to her friends. Necessity over luxury was her motto when it comes to money though, so she never got around to giving something like violins even a little chunk of her financial pie graph. She couldn’t remember buying anything outside the category of “school expenses”, “transportation”, and “food”.  

She accepted the violin, a smile dawning on her lips. “All this time you made me believe Sebastian’s actually a boy.” 

“If I remember correctly, you’re the one who assumed it’s a human boy. I didn’t say he isn’t, but you never asked for details. And if I told you what he is, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise, would it?” 

“I didn’t ask for details because I didn’t want to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong,” she defended herself. “Hmm, so the reason you’re late…” 

“Is that I’m asking friends who know how to play it for a few details. Not how-to-play info though. Just the how-to-take-care-of-it ones. So…” Mikaela reached for the case. “Here. Jane told me that you have to rub this stone thing—I thought she called it resin or rosin, can’t remember—you have to rub it on the horsehair of this bow here so it would produce sound…” 
Outside, the weather—again very much like Addison’s mood—was getting calmer. The sun was even beginning to peek between the clouds. She had always thought Mikaela and herself were like night and day: so different from each other, yet so the same. On bad days, Mikaela makes her laugh as though it’s her job, just like how the sun lends some of its light to the moon so everything wouldn’t be so dark. On good days, they know they’re going to stand by each other, just like how the sun and moon take turns in guiding the earth below. There were some days of petty arguments—when they seem to be lost between the clouds—but they’ll always find their position no matter what happens.

Surfacing from her sea of thoughts, Addison found Mikaela still going on and on about the instructions. She liked the violin all right, but the thought that Mikaela bothered giving her this gift, that she bothered to ask around about how to take care of it—that was what she loved. She caught Mikaela in a grateful hug. 

Her friend complained that Sebastian was being crushed between them, but she returned the gesture anyway.
Sun and moon may be so different, but there’s a reason why there’s an eclipse.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sa Gitna ng Mga Pahina (Imaginaccion XII: Existentia short story)

“Ang sa kindat ng buwan ay mistulang ginto
Sa kutya ng araw ay nagiging tanso
Sa bagay ay sayang,
Ang ganda na sana…”



-Onofre Pagsanghan (Ginto at Tanso)
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Maraming klase ang milagro. Para sa ibang tao, ang mga “himala” ay karaniwang ganito: maari kang manalo sa loto, o bigla na lamang matunaw ang kanser sa atay mo, o kahit yung simpleng bagay na hindi mo inaasahan gaya nang hangaan ka rin ng taong hinahangaan mo. Sa katunayan, ang mga pangkaraniwang himala sa buhay natin ay ‘yung mga pinipilit natin hindi pansinin.

Kung iisipin mo kasi, hindi kailangan ng kahit anong uri ng mahika para makita mo ang mga maliliit na bagay na maaaring makapagpabago ng inog ng iyong mundo.

Katulad ko. Kung ikukumpara mo sa mga milagrong nabanggit ko, sobrang napakaliit lamang‘nung akin. Sa bagay…isa lamang naman akong simpleng babae.

Ito ang aking kwento.

Nasa silid-aklatan ako noon, iginagapang ang aking mga daliri sa mga librong nakahanay sa istante. Nababalutan na ng alikabok ang ilan, ngunit ito ay hindi ko alintana; ang atensyon ko ay nakatutok sa mga titulong nadaaanan ng aking paningin. Kimika, pisika, heometriya…aghambuhay. Tumigil ako at marahang hinatak ang aklat—at napatigil nang isa pang kamay ang dito’y dumampi.

“Ay, sorry. Kukunin mo ba?”

Napatingin ako sa nagsalita at kunut-noong inalala ang pangalan niya…si Mar, kamag-aral ko sa aghambuhay. “Oo sana eh,” wika ko. “Pero sandali lang naman, ipapa-photocopy ko lang. Gusto mo sabay ka na sakin? Tutal pareho naman tayo ng assignment eh.”

Agad siyang umiling. “Hindi, sige, ikaw muna.”

“Okey. Bahala ka.” Nagkibit-balikat ako—ganito talaga itong si Mar, kadalasang nag-iisa, may sariling mundo. Minsan nga ay niloloko siya ng iba kong kamag-aral na mas nanaisin niya pang makisama sa kanyang mga likhang-isip niyang kaibigan kaysa sa mga tunay na tao.

Patalilis na sana ako nang makita kong hinatak ni Mar ang libro ng heometriya. Isang misteryosong ngiti ang sumibol sa kanyang mukha habang palihim na inilagay ang isang piraso ng papel sa gitna nang makakapal na pahina ng nasabing tomo.

“Ano ‘yun?”

Daglian niyang isinara ang aklat at muli itong inilagay sa istante. “Isang paraan ko upang mapasaya ang iba.” Ikiniling niya ang kanyang mukha, halatang nalilibang sa aking pag-usisa. “Gusto mong makita?”

Muli akong nagkibit-balikat. “Kung pwede,” sambit ko—wala namang masama hindi ba? Isang marahang tawa ang kanyang pinakawalan, sabay lakad palayo sa mga istante, palayo sa akin.

“Wirdo,” bulong ko. Gayunpaman, tiningnan ko pa rin kung ano ang isinuksok niya sa aklat.

Isang tula.

Ilang minuto akong naparalisa sa aking kinatatayuan, paulit-ulit na binabasa ang maikling piyesa. Hindi ganoon kalalim, hindi ganoon kababaw, ngunit bawat parirala ay tatagos sa masinsin na kawalang-interes na marahil ay bumalot na sa akin dulot ng pang-araw-araw na nangyayari sa aking buhay. Hindi ko alam na mahilig palang gumawa nang ganito si Mar; hindi naman kasi halata sa kanya, kahit na sabihing mukha siyang napakalalim na tao.

sdadfasd
Ito ang aking kwento. Ito ang aking milagro.
Simula noon ay palagi na lamang akong naglalakad-lakad sa aklatan, pasumalang pumipili ng mga makakapal na libro at matiyagang inuusisa ang mga pahina. Kakatwa nga lamang dahil natatagpuan ko ang mga tula sa halos lahat ng aking paboritong mga aklat.

“Sana’y nagugustuhan mo,” minsa’y nabanggit sa akin ni Mar sa klase, habang kami’y sumisipi ng bagong leksiyon. Napaigtad ako sa kanyang sinabi, at ngumiti lamang siya sa aking naging reaksiyon.

Hindi ko alam kung bakit sumilay din ang isang ngiti sa aking mukha. Mabilis ang lahat ng kaganapan—tila naging normal na lamang sa amin ni Mar ang maghintayan sa aklatan, at sabay naming babasahin ang mga tulang kanyang nilikha. Umuupo kami sa malamig na lapag, sumasandal sa mga istante habang nakikinig sa isa’t isa. Mas gusto kong siya ang nagbabasa sa mga tula niya, habang ako nama’y nakadantay lamang sa kanyang balikat…

Medyo kakatwa, pero tila isa itong himala para sa kanya. Kahit kalian ay hindi binubuksan ni Mar ang kanyang mundo kahit kanino man; isa siyang napakapribadong tao. Ang mga isinusulat niyang tula ang nagsilbing portal upang mailabas niyang lahat nang gusto niyang sabihin…at nakahanap siya ng isang taong makakaintindi sa kanya—ako. Isa rin itong milagro para sa akin dahil habang ako’y nakikinig, tila ako’y hinahatak niya palayo sa mga mabibigat na problemang ibinabagsak ng mundo sa aking mga balikat…kahit sandal lamang. Inililigtas niya ako.

Ito ang aming kuwento. Ito ang aming milagro.

Ngunit napapaisip ako minsan…marahil sinasabi ko lamang ito dahil masaya ako. Minsan, isang mapanglaw na hapon, pumuslit ako sa aklatan upang makipagkitang muli kay Mar. Isa pang tula ang kailangan ko noon, isa pang panandaliang pagtakas mula sa mga problema. Matagal akong nakayukyok sa malamig na sahig, nakikinig sa pintig ng sarili kong puso habang yakap-yakap ang aklat na sa unang pagkakataon ay walang kalakip na tula.Ilang oras ang dumaan, ngunit hindi dumating si Mar. Gayundin ang nangyari kinabukasan, at sa mga ilang araw pang lumipas. Ni hindi rin siya nagpapakita sa mga klase namin.

Ngunit patuloy akong naghintay. Araw-araw sa aklatan, pasulyap-sulyap sa orasang tila nanundyo, yakap-yakap ang pag-asang magbabalik si Mar upang muli akong iligtas. Napapaisip din ako kung kailan ako naging ganito kahina—bakit dumedepende ako sa kanyang tinig? Marahil ay nasanay na ako na nandito siya…
Ilang linggo siyang nawala, at alam kong may nagbago na nang muli siyang magpakita. Nagkatagpo kaming muli habang ako’y gumagawa ng takdang-aralin sa aghambuhay sa isa sa mga upuang nagkalat sa labas ng paaralan.

“Pasensiya na’t nawala ako nang matagal,” ang kanyang unang mga salita.

Tumango lamang ako, nagpakita ng isang huwad na ngiti at binalikan ang aking takda.

Napabuntong-hininga siya. “Hindi kasi pwede eh…alam mo na…”

Oo alam ko, sabi ko sa aking sarili.

“Naghintay ka ba?”

Isang ngiti ang muli kong isinagot. Wala nang kumibo sa amin pagkatapos noon.

“Mar!” Isang boses nang lalaki ang tumawag sa kanya. Hindi siya tumugon dito. Nararamdaman kong nakatitig siya sa akin, pinagmamasdan marahil ang magiging reaksyon ko sa aking naririnig…

“Mar!”

Hindi pala ito ang aking kuwento. Hindi pala ito ang aking milagro. Isa lamang akong simpleng babae…

“Mar…Marielle naman, sana tumingin ka diba?”

…at siya ay isang simpleng babae rin.

Humahangos ang lalaki nang marating ang kinaroroonan namin. Nagpalitan sila ni Mar ng matatamis na ngiti, at hindi ko mapigilang tumingin sa mga kamay nilang unti-unting nagkahawak.

“Pasensya na,” sambit ni Mar sa binata. Hinarap niya ako. “May pupuntahan pa kami…kita nalang tayo sa klase mamaya ha.”

“Sige,” tugon kong marahan. Hindi ko sila pinanood habang naglakad silang papalayo sa akin.
Maraming klase ang milagro. Para sa ibang tao, ang mga “himala” ay karaniwang ganito: maari kang manalo sa loto, o bigla na lamang matunaw ang kanser sa atay mo, o kahit yung simpleng bagay na hindi mo inaasahan gaya nang hangaan ka rin ng taong hinahangaan mo. Sa katunayan, ang mga pangkaraniwang himala sa buhay natin ay ‘yung mga pinipilit natin hindi pansinin. Kung iisipin mo kasi, hindi kailangan ng kahit anong uri ng mahika para makita mo ang mga maliliit na bagay na maaaring makapagpabago ng inog ng iyong mundo.

Katulad ko. Kung ikukumpara mo sa mga milagrong nabanggit ko, sobrang napakaliit lamang‘nung akin…at iyon ay ang makapagpatuloy sa pagmamahal ng isang tao o isang bagay kahit alam mong hindi ka nito mamahalin pabalik. Mahirap, ngunit pag nakaya mo, parang isang himala na rin ito.

Hindi naman kaso sakin ang maghintay nang matagal…basta nga lang mayroong darating. Minsan, kahit dumating na siya at nalaman mong iba pala ang destinasyon niya, ang kaisa-isang bagay mong kayang gawin na lamang ay maging masaya para sa kanya.
 
FIN
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A/N: This is one of the two stories I wrote for our literary folio, Imaginaccion XIII: Existentia, that features LGBTQ theme. I received several reactions for this piece (as well as the other, which instead of lesbian is gay), and I’m glad that our professor in our Rizal course approved of it. :)