Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banned Books Week Special

It is the last week of September, and to most bookworms around the globe—especially in the United States—it is the time to go back, read, and celebrate the most challenged books of all time. Yes, folks: it is Banned Books Week!

The Caulfield Experience

The list of frequently challenged books was long, but I opted to reread The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. This is partly because (1) I sort of missed Holden Caulfield, and (2) if I want to blabber about it, I can easily drag my younger sister into a conversation. Oh, and the convos we had? They killed me. They really did.

There was a power outage due to the typhoon Pedring last Tuesday, but that did not deter me from rereading Catcher. Actually, there was something surreal and seductively enjoyable in reading by meager candlelight; I was up in my bunk, cocooned in warm blankets, helping myself to a mug of hot chocolate, and there on my palms was an angsty little tale of a teenage bellyacher. No TV, no internet (well, I checked some news tweets about the typhoon on my phone, but it soon ran out of battery and that was that).  The sound of the wind and rain outside provided an eerie kind of ‘soundtrack’ for me. I think I love this kind of reading experience.

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After that, I talked to my sister about Allie’s poetry-scribbled baseball mitts, the nuns that Holden liked, Stradlater’s narcissistic streak, Ackley’s dramatic ‘shower curtain’ entrances, and many more. For a while we joked around using the 50’s teen slang that Holden used throughout the book, and I was cracking up like there was no tomorrow. Good times for the bums. *sigh*

Anyway, about the Catcher being a banned book…I think I quite understand the grounds for that decision, but it is not enough to actually prohibit readers from seeing this oeuvre. Sure, it is all profanity galore, and Holden’s viewpoints on a lot of things may deviate from that of most of the people during the book’s first publication, but remember what they said? That the world is banning the books that is showing it its own immorality? I’ll tell you more of my opinion on this book when I post my review for it. :)

The Big Picture

Let’s lean away a little from the minute (and personal) details to see the whole picture. When readers celebrate the Banned Books Week, the usual catchword is “fight for your right to read.” But the first thing that popped in my head when I heard about it is, “Dang! Freedom of expression in literature suppressed!”

Perhaps this has something to do with me being exposed to issues concerning the rights of media practitioners regarding their freedom of expression (perks of being a graduate with a degree in journalism, I guess). No over-sensitivity here, it is merely the truth that reverberated in my head. It is a little sad to know that even now, anyone who has a power to voice his opinions through ink and words can be quieted by those who are more powerful than him. Sometimes I try to put myself in the shoes of the writers of the banned books. I think it is painful, like your mouth is being taped on, and your audience's ears being plugged forcefully. Like you just presented a gem to the public and suddenly there were these goons from behind you that would clamp a chloroform-soaked hanky on your nose because you were about to disclose something that you should not—based on their standards.  For both readers and writers, it's a no-win situation.

A wish for a literary utopia—where no books will be prohibited in the future—is perhaps impossible to come true. Freedom is not absolute, and when you think about it, it is just wise for the higher ups to provide some kind of information filter to protect the people's welfare.  But sometimes, those who have the stronger authority are not exercising their power properly. Case in point: The Hunger Games made it to the top 10 most challenged books of 2010, and for what reason? It is violent, unsuitable for age group….and sexually explicit. Sexually explicit, for crying out loud. It is either I missed the triple-x part of the book or they just did not read it.

What we readers can do is to support and be vigilant. The Banned Books Week is, in its own way, a week of healthy rebellion. We read and support those who were once robbed of their freedom to speak their stories, works that they poured their soul into. And then we revel in how good some of them actually are…

Review: Mommy, Mama, and Me/ Daddy, Papa, and Me

Title(s): Mommy, Mama, and Me/ Daddy, Papa, and Me
Author: Leslea Newman
Illustrator: Carol Thompson
Genre: LGBTQ, Children’s lit
My Rating: ★★★★
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Not so long ago, we heard about Peter Parnell’s controversial children’s book And Tango Makes Three, a true story about a pair of male Penguins in Central Park Zoo raising a chick. In its wake, many other gay-centric picture books were drawn and penned. Writer Leslea Newman and illustrator Carol Thompson created a twosome of such books, focusing on lesbian and gay parents separately.

In artful mixtures of pastel-colored illustrations and rhythmic, playful voices, these books feature a day in a life of a lesbian and a gay couple. I’m pretty sure that LGBT parents will be happy to know that there are bedtime stories that can reflect their family setup.

The best thing about these books is a message that lies embedded at its core, one that even most adults find hard to comprehend nowadays: there’s really nothing wrong with having two homosexual parents as long as they love their child and they can provide his/her needs. The writing is pretty straightforward—no frills and complexities and ‘coming-out’ problems and all that jazz. In fact the books didn’t even touch the sensitive issues of homosexuality, they just zeroed in on the loving relationship between mothers, fathers, and children.

These are not exclusive for gay parents. I think these would be great starting materials to teach any child that there are different types of families, that love comes in many different ways, and (I’ll reiterate) that what’s important in family is not the gender of a kid’s guardians but that all of the unit’s members love one another.

Controversies would always be close on this kind of literature’s heels, of course. I wouldn’t be surprised if these simple books would be listed as ‘most challenged.’

Monday, September 26, 2011

Writing towards a fairytale ending

Peculiar Quote

I nodded in agreement the first time I encountered this quote in Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I must admit, though, that I didn’t really “grew out” of my love for fables and the like. I became attached to the original fairytales—the ones where princess mermaids vanish into sea foam for daring to fall in love, where girls in riding hoods strip tease and got themselves eaten and never saved by passing hunters. Cautionary tales, they are. Disney sanitized and cloaked them with glitters and colors for the kids, but if you look at it at the right angle, the original ones teach more lessons than these twee renditions.

But oh, there are latter versions that are gritty and refreshing. I love remakes—you can tell just by looking at my blog’s name. Why leave Cinderella as a damsel in distress if you can “toughen her up”? :p

Outside of fiction, though, lots of people still clutch at the hope of a good storybook ending for their lives, attempting to avoid the happily-never-afters. Truth be told, I’m one of these people. I’m not necessarily talking about a Prince Charming—who says all fairytales are all about romance? He can be a part of the bigger picture, but he’s never the center of it. There are many things I want to achieve, from the smallest of my wishes to the biggest desires of making other people happy while I reach my star. Talk about grand—it’s not a very easy task. But it’s me who’s writing my own fairytale, with God as my guide and muse. However high the price of this tale may become, I’ll still cling to it until I reach The End.

Review: Sputnik Sweetheart

Title: Sputnik Sweetheart
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Romance/Mystery
My Rating: ★★★★

Final Sputnik

Boy loves girl…but girl loves another girl.

Sounds like the typical set-up for another tawdry lesbian love story? Perhaps, but if you let Haruki Murakami expand that little formula in his own surreal way, you might be surprised of the product presented here in Sputnik Sweetheart.

I’m no stranger to Murakami’s worlds, especially those that totter on the border of reality and fantasy. I’ve seen his talking cats, teens attempting to run away from oedipal prophecies, girls in bizarre pseudo-Sleeping Beauty states, prostitutes that only service you through the mind, and hungry couples holding up a McDonald’s just for the heck of it. His only “normal” book is Norwegian Wood, commonly considered as some kind of The Catcher in the Rye in Japan. If I were to place a category for Sputnik Sweetheart, I’d say it was right in the middle of Norwegian Wood and his other works, particularly The Wind Up Bird Chronicle.

It takes time for many people to like the regular Murakami treat. Norwegian Wood became a hit because almost everyone—everyone who has experienced falling in love, that is—can relate to it. It’s almost the same with this book.

Sputnik Sweetheart is full of unrequited loves, of “almosts,” and of roads not taken. Our narrator, the ever-pensive yet oddly humorous K, is a 25-year-old teacher who becomes smitten with a college classmate, Sumire. Being utterly determined in becoming a successful writer, Sumire shuns any other personal commitments until she crossed paths with Miu, a Korean businesswoman seventeen years her senior. Murakami juggles these three points adroitly during the first three quarters of the book, and ever-so-slowly he morphs the romance into a hardboiled detective story. Sumire vanishes from an island off the coast of Greece and K is solicited to join the search party. In the foreign soil, K finds himself faced with lots of epiphanies that may change his life forever.

Romance may be the hub of this book, but the spokes are equally strong and thought-provoking. Loneliness and longing are laced in every page, and what’s amazing here is that Murakami can still make you laugh even at the darkest moments. I can’t help but to love K, what with his concealed feelings and his self-deprecatory personality. He is both the source of serious philosophical lessons and the comic relief in the book! And he is likeable, to boot. He doesn’t sulk so much, but no matter how he tries to strain his emotions, the readers can easily see through him, like you can see through the silent denials of an old friend.

The issues of socializing, sexual desire, and loss are the other recurring themes. My favorite would be the topic of human longing, and how there’s always a line that divides us no matter how hard we try to get closer to someone. The title refers to the Russian man-made satellite Sputnik I, but Murakami also emphasizes the etymology of the word “sputnik”: a travel companion. Sometimes, the length of journey two people made together doesn’t matter if in the end they will realize they are just lumps of empty metal circling a common planet.

As usual, Murakami wows me with his prose. From the raw human emotions to the little details of a nondescript scenario, he never fails to get to the senses of the readers. I think I will never get tired of him as a writer.

Over all, it’s a great read; it can make you think and make you laugh, and perhaps also make you cry. Like most of Murakami’s books, Sputnik Sweetheart is open-ended, with the last lines hinting of a more hopeful future.

So yes, four stars.

Babblings of a wordsmith-wannabee (All About Murakami and his “Violet Girl”)

So…Sumire. Violet. Murakami’s enigmatic, impulsive, and hardheaded female protagonist in Sputnik Sweetheart. I know that most people can relate to her behavior, but there’s just something in her that makes me feel like Murakami has written a reflection of myself. I’m sure lots of aspiring writers out there feels this way, too. And I would just like to babble about that here.

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That Distant Dream 
Becoming a writer. It’s been so long since I first saw the stardust of that faraway dream and decided to follow it. And here I am, still traveling to reach that star. In more ways than I can imagine, I can totally understand Sumire to a point she almost makes me cry. “There’s no money in that profession,” people will say. Don’t you see? It’s not the point—we just want to be happy, to create something that may last forever because our lives are as fleeting as the afterimage of a shooting star. Criticisms? Rejections? I haven’t traveled far, but I haven’t reach this point just to have my knees buckled by the slightest of disapproval, whoever it may come from. I’m not the sensitive type when it comes to writing. I’ve learned about the word “professionalism.”

Sumire is a determined girl, almost clearing her world of social life just to become a writer. Fortunately, there’s K to straighten that mistake—you need experience. You need to live in order to write about life. :) Perhaps there is no real K in my life right now, but there are pieces of him scattered around me, people who remind and teach me of this lesson all the time. And I’ll be forever grateful to them.

Nugget of Wisdom#1: The Chinese Walls of Writing
“A long time ago in China there were cities with high walls surrounding them, with huge, magnificent gates. The gates weren’t just doors for letting people in or out but had greater significance. People believed the city’s soul resided in the gates. Or at least that it should reside there. It’s like in Europe in the Middle Ages when people felt a city’s heart lay in its cathedral and central square. Which is why even today in China there are lots of wonderful gates still standing. Do you know how the Chinese built these gates?

“People would take carts out to old battlefields and gather the bleached bones that were buried there or that lay scattered about. China’s a pretty ancient country—lots of old battlegrounds—so they never had to search so far; At the entrance to the city they’d construct a huge gate and seal the bones inside. They hoped that by commemorating them this way the dead soldiers would continue to guard their town. There’s more. When the gate was finished they’d bring several dogs over to it, slit their throats, and sprinkle their blood on the gate. Only by mixing fresh blood with the dried-out bones would the ancient souls of the dead magically revive. At least that was the idea.

“Writing novels is much the same. You gather up bones and make your gate, but no matter how wonderful the gate might be, that alone doesn’t make it a living, breathing novel. A story is not something of this world. A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side.”

My Violet Mirror and Fragments of Worlds
I came to think that Miu is not the only one who has a doppelganger in that Sputnik Sweetheart: I got one, too. From penchants for saving private journal entries in floppy disks/flash drives to the writer’s/bookworm’s squalor in her home, Sumire is a reflection—a more mysterious one—of myself. Perhaps we readers were never given an ultra deep glimpse of her, but we’ve seen enough through K’s introspections and observations. It’s really amazing how Murakami came up with a character that can reflect someone so clearly.

The sexuality issues, too—not that I’m a full-out lesbian (as much as possible I don’t subscribe to any kind of tag, but bisexual or pansexual would be okay, for easy explanation to anyone who will ask). And oh, the smallest details—Sumire kind of disliking her first name? I practically laughed out loud when I read that. I wouldn’t discuss why I don’t like my first name though.

Anyway, sorry for digressing. This may be the shallowest part of this post, but I’d just like to rattle on about this weird “sameness”. The fragments of novels. The books I’d love and traded with a friend. Even seeking an audience for the manuscripts of unfinished works! I have this one friend in high school whom I would show my pieces. He doesn’t share a lot of likeness with K, but the fervent reading sessions with him, the long discussions about our favorite novels, and him reading my the drafts of my works—K did kind of remind me of him. :)

Nugget of Wisdom#2: People who only read books about “reality”
“I never can get it out of my mind that it’s all made up, so I just can’t feel any empathy for the characters. That’s why my reading was limited to books that treated reality as reality.”- Miu

That explains a lot, thank you very much, Murakami. :p They need to expand their reading horizon—there’s so many good fantasy/sci-fi books out there! All you ever really need is imagination. :p

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Annnd that’s where I’ll end this post. It’s getting a tad too long. There might be a part 2 of this, because my mouth (or my brain’s mouth) won’t shut up when it’s in the mood. I’ll just put it up when I’m done. Ta-ta!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Genre: Young Adult; Coming-of-Age, Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★★


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 “The composition of the human species is infinitely more diverse than most humans suspect. The real taxonomy of Homo sapiens is a secret known only to a few, of whom you will now be one. At base, it is a simple dichotomy: there are coerlfolc the teeming mass of common people who make up humanity’s great bulk, and then there is the hidden branch—the crypto-sapiens, if you will—who are called syndrigast, or ‘peculiar spirit’…”

I have a strong hunch on what you’re thinking about right now, but no—it’s not X-Men: First Class’ Professor Charles Xavier blabbering about his thesis on mutant-kind. It’s a character in Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children speaking about, well, another “peculiar” race.

Basically the story is this: Jacob Portman has always been fascinated by his grandfather Abe’s stories. As a kid, he loved hearing them—tales about an enchanted home and kids with supernatural powers—backed by a stack of vintage photographs that the old man kept. But as he grows up, he dismisses them as bedtime fairytales and decides that the photographs are fake. When Abe dies in the hands of a creature strikingly similar to those that haunt Jacob’s dreams, the boy must embark on an adventure to clear the mist of mystery surrounding his grandfather’s last words, to shed light on Abe’s past…and perhaps, to pave the way for a new future for him, too.

Book Trailer: Written and Directed by Ransom Riggs

Pre-reading, the whole package of this book just screams “horror” to me: on the cover you could see a grainy black and white snapshot of a girl with a tiara, and a little squint at her Mary Janes would reveal she was actually levitating. Below her was the creepy combo of the chalked and gravestone-type of the title. Most blurbs talk about a mysterious island and an old man’s riddle-like words before shifting off the mortal coil; the book trailer achieved its aim on sending chills down my spine. But when I finally sat with the book, I knew I’ve tagged it the wrong genre in my head. It has its share of spooky moments, of course, but the bigger chunk of it was more of an adventure story. Fantasy would be a misnomer too, but that’s the closest I could label it. Coming-of-age would actually do, too.

I loved Riggs’ prose. It was simple but has the prowess of a magical paintbrush, inflating a world populated with interesting characters and amazing mythology. I think Jacob was fleshed out in a good-portrait-of-an-alienated-teen kind of way, and Riggs made sure he didn’t leave out the hormones, the PSTD-ish stuff, and the innate smart aleck at the core of almost every adolescent nowadays. Topics executed wonderfully to fuel Jacob’s gradual growth as a protagonist were hard decision-making and identity-searching. The other characters were…well, peculiarly fascinating, though I guess they need more developing. I liked the ‘relationship issues’ in Jacob’s dysfunctional family, especially the tension-filled one between his grandfather and father. They added one dimension to Jacob’s fullness as a character, explaining a lot about his overall demeanor.

The collection of eerie black and white photographs interspersed with the book enhanced the narration, and it added to the enjoyment factor of reading it. I got a bit creeped out upon finding out at the end that the shots were authentic, and with the exception of a few that underwent minimal post-processing, all of them were unaltered. Here are some of them:

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 If we were going to talk about originality, Miss Peregrine’s would not stand out. Theme-wise it has a good and familiar message: teens can confront monsters, whether they’re creatures lurking in the night or the ones gnawing at their hearts. Plot-wise, it was practically generic: there were a few twists and turns that I enjoyed, but at its core it was a regular bildungsroman with the “Chosen One” flavor. The young adult library was choked with that kind of formula ever since I began picking up a book in the genre. I think if it were not for the photographs, this book would perhaps not gather a lot of attention from the bookworms’ herd. Sans the awesome presentation, it would still be a decent read, but not as great as being juxtaposed with the photos.

Anyway, the combination of photos and narration was sterling, and that was enough to stop me from bellyaching some more. For a novel that was woven from a collection of snapshots from 10 different people, I think it was fascinatingly solid.

Halfway through the book I had decided that I would rate it based on what I would feel after I turned the last page, and guess what? I was actually mad.

It ended with a freaking cliffhanger.

Which meant there was going to be a sequel! My excitement at this epiphany was added to the ratio of my rating system for this book (60-40, based on photo-story). So all in all, I give this 3.9 stars. :p

Cherries on Slingshots

There were days when I wish I have the power to turn back time, right to when I'm still a child…but don’t we all? My childhood wasn’t that exceptional—I was sickly, and the larger portion of it I spent indoors, resting fever away or assembling glow-in-the-dark dinosaur skeletons and Peter Pan jigsaw puzzles. But a kid’s still a kid; when I feel okay, I’d scramble downstairs and find other kids to play with.

I’d never been in a clique of little girls. I had this illogical illusion that only pretty girls with long hair and sweet smiles would be able to complete a whole ten-twenty/Chinese Garter round, and me with an unfashionably bobbed hair, skinned knees, and gap-toothed grin was just not qualified. I was never able to figure out where the thought came from, but I remembered that “rule” stamped in my head. So I sought the company of little boys, and we’d collect pogs and postcards, let our “pet spiders” wrestle on a stick, and play all the stupid games with our rubber slippers (during such games I’d go home with hands red from hitting, but I was happy).

But there was this set of moments in my head that I really missed, especially when I would accidentally sweep my eyes past the wooden blinds of my room into the bright afternoon outside…

I remembered that I was about seven then. In broad daylight, me and my cousins Nikko and Kevin would ran up to their house and sneak past the large window in one of its rooms, the one that led to the lower roofs of our neighbors. With a stealthy carefulness of a bunch of thieves, we would tiptoe on the hot sheets of ‘wavy’ metal, giggling to ourselves about our secret mission. We would stop walking when we’re about a meter from the ledge, where a branch of a nearby tree was curled like a skinny arm of a mother holding a phantom baby. That was where our treasured prizes hang: Jamaican cherries, or in Tagalog, aratilis.

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Jamaican Cherries (source)

Usually we would bring plastic cups to serve as our containers. We would yank at the fruits—red or green, ripe or not, we didn’t care—and then we’d hurl them at the cups. After picking, we would slump on our haunches (on the roof, yes) and proceed on munching on the red ones, sometimes while attempting to spot the highest kites in the sky, sometimes while talking about the feasibility of Jamaican cherry trees growing on wet cottons (our science experiment led us to those types of discussion—one of our assignments was to record the daily growth of mongo seeds on wet cottons). 

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A glimpse through the blinds now: there’s no Jamaican cherry tree anymore, and the roofs were all encrusted with rust. The tree used to shade the red roof of that little house.

When all the red fruits were gone, we would pick up the green hard ones and arrange them on our make-shift slingshots. That was the fun part. We would go crazy for some minutes, throwing green bullets everywhere, like we were some kind of a trio of “Green Peas” goons hurling deadly little fruits at invisible enemies. We wouldn’t be able to eat them anyway, and it seemed a little waste to just dump them in the bin.The fun would only stop when our grandmother would scream for us to get off the roof, or when somebody from the ground—the owner of the tree, usually—would shoo us away with glares and (obviously) held-in curses.

Sometimes we would try to escape, dashing noisily across the field of slightly rusted roofs of the other houses until we reach the “other end,” where our safe haven was waiting for us: our house’s wooden balcony. Sometimes, we would just give in with guilty faces, promising to never do it again…a thing that never happened.

That is, until we became too old for such games. My health worsened a bit as I grew up, and reading books inside the house became my regular hobby Nikko would sometimes hand me a fistful of cherries through the window, but I realized that eating them inside the bedroom wasn’t as enjoyable as actually picking them from the tree. Or throwing them at random directions, for that matter.

Whenever I remember these moments, I can just sit back and imagine myself being my seven-year-old self again. Of course there’s always a kid in our hearts, one that never leaves, but once you’ve been burdened by the responsibilities of being an adult, you could never recapture the exact carefreeness of being a true child.

I’m just nostalgic, that’s all. Most people still refer to me as a ‘kid,’ perhaps because of my height and the baby fat my body refuses to shed. As an adult I’m not fully accomplished yet…and giving up would never be on my lexicon, I promise myself that.

So now, it’s not cherries I’m slinging in every direction, but chances at a better tomorrow. Who knows what those will hit? Coupled with faith in Him, there’s nothing to worry about. There would always be something for everyone, and God only give these somethings in the right time. I’m no Peter Pan and I’m continuing to grow up. But if ever there’s a chance for me to feel that childlike happiness again, I think that’s if I finally get so grab one of the stars in my dreams. :)

The Weekend Couch Potato (the perks of having internet and too much time on my hands)

Guess what I did the whole weekend! What? Read books? I may be an incurable bookworm but I love stories on screen, too. Not counting the time I spent for household chores and Sunday activities, I just slumped in front of my laptop and binged on a bunch of TV series.

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Series01: White Collar

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 I got myself reacquainted with the most charming conman-turned-FBI consultant on earth, Neal Caffrey (I’m voicing my opinion, but if you don’t believe me, do yourself a favor and watch an episode). I missed the Caffrey-Burke tandem so much I actually replayed some of the scenes where they interact the most.

I’m still catching up with the last season, and so far I’m loving what's happening. It’s still all about that dang “music box” from Season 1! No complaints here, though. I love the gradual unveiling of the mystery and all the action that accompany it.

My fangirl heart is spazzing with the amazing flashbacks-peppered storyline, but I was quite longing for my OTP (unpopular opinion time!): Neal x Alex. Come on! Alex might be one helluva of a traitorous femme fatale, but I think she and Neal has an irresistible chemistry. And I like dangerous girls. :pm That said, I’m not particularly adverse to Nealx Sarah, too. She’s also pretty badass.

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Series 02: Game of Thrones

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 Based on George R.R. Martin’s iconic fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones has been one of the most successful medieval fantasy HBO series to date. Here’s the shows log line as listed by Martin himself in his livejournal account:
In a world where summers span decades and winters can last a lifetime, the Westeros crown comes with a price. Betrayal, lust, intrigue and supernatural forces shake the four corners of the Kingdom, from the scheming south and the savage eastern lands, to the frozen north and the ancient Wall that protects the realm from the darkness beyond. Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars and noble men vie for power in the bloody struggle for the Iron Throne.
I absolutely love this show, and after the first episode I swore to myself I’m going to buy the books. Watching an episode is akin to watching a quality flick at the movie house. The characters are amazing, and I don’t mean they’re all the hero types; in fact there are so many—pardon my French—asshats in there. The fact that they could evoke so many emotions in me is a trophy already.

And just for the record, I usually shun damsel-in-distress figures, but I immediately fell in love with Daenerys Targaryen. She's a D.I.D during the first few episodes, but she evetually grows out of the pigeonhole. She’s the woman featured in the poster above. Judging from the tagline there—“I do not have a gentle heart”—I think she’s going to kick some butts in the future. And I can’t wait!

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Series 03: New Girl

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After the heavy-themed, mind-boggling episodes from the previous series, I feel the need to take a breather. Fox’s new single-camera sitcom New Girl is the perfect show for that.

Here’s the synopsis of the show from Fox:
Jess Day is an offbeat and adorable girl in her late 20s who, after a bad breakup, moves in with three single guys. Goofy, positive, vulnerable and honest to a fault, Jess has faith in people, even when she shouldn't. Although she's dorky and awkward, she's comfortable in her own skin. More prone to friendships with women, she's not used to hanging with the boys - especially at home… (read the whole thing here)
Jess is officially my new fictional girlcrush! Gosh, she’s so adorkable, it hurts. I wasn’t that much attached to Zooey in 500 Days of Summer, but in this one? I’m not even five minutes into New Girl’s pilot episode and I love her already!

The characters are all very quirky—there’s the protective bartender who drunk-dials his ex; the athletic type who hides his shyness from girls with his macho façade; and the ever-so-funny ‘douchebag’ of the group. Oh, and there’s also this gorgeous but utterly skeptical model. They make quite a remarkable bunch, and because of them I really enjoyed the first episode. I wish the next ones will not disappoint!

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Series 04: True Blood

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I feel so left out in this fandom—I’m still catching up with season 3 and I’m currently downloading season 4—but I really can’t finish all the seasons in one sitting when there’s other series waiting to be watched in my laptop. The series is amazing as usual, but too much of the same thing becomes boring every once in a while. With that said, I think I'll just insert episodes from other series between three episodes of this before continuing. Also, just for the record, no matter what happens, I’m forever shipping SookiexEric! No more, no less (I’m so sorry, Bill…).

To anyone who hasn’t got a background on this, True Blood is based on the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Mystery novel series by Charlaine Harris. It’s set in Bon Temps, a small fictional town in the state of Louisiana, and the show mainly revolves around the co-existence of humans and vampires (and other entities disguising as humans).

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
Series 05: Dexter

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Unbeknownst to most, I have this penchant for loving serial killers with hearts (or just charming law-breakers—see White Collar). Dexter Morgan is not the first type of such a criminal that I’ve come to know, but I became readily drawn to his character when I read the first chapter of Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter while browsing in a bookstore. The result: me downloading the first season of Dexter…and getting addicted.

It’s the type of series that could make me wish there’s more than 24 hours in a day. I so badly want to finish this, but the tug of my unfinished books (and the throbbing of my aching eyes) made me want to turn off the computer for a while. My only regret is that I didn’t discover this show sooner. It already has 5 seasons! :(

The show is about Dexter Morgan, a bloodstain pattern analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department who moonlights as a serial killer. With a killing structure based on the rules of his “Harry’s Codes” (named after his  adoptive father Harry) he makes sure that he doesn’t get caught and only kills morally bad people.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
Series 06: Modern Family

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Ah, my favorite mockumentary about…well, a modern family. :p Each episode never fails to make me laugh out loud! Gloria would forever be my favorite, what with her crazy antics and that sexy, thick Columbian accent. She’s got a hilarious morbid streak too, perhaps one that can almost make Wednesday Addams cringe. XD Just kidding! But I have to say that even if I love Gloria, Claire is always the true-blue winner of the Best Mom trophy for me.

There’s no complex plot to speak of about Modern Family; it’s just a comedy show that centers on a dysfunctional family that, despite having members that are far too different from each other, can still love and respect one another.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

And…that’s what my last weekend’s TV series lineup. I just watched the first episode of Doctor Who and I loved it, but I guess I’ll do a separate post for it in the future. I need more space to spazz about that (and I’m determined to reach the episode that Neil Gaiman wrote!). :D

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad

Title: A Visit from the Goon Squad
Author: Jennifer Egan
Genre: mixed
My Rating: ★★★★
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“Time is a goon.” This not-so-popular adage served as the bobbin where Jennifer Egan unspooled threads of human foibles, which she deftly wove into her Pulitzer Prize-winning tapestry, A Visit from the Goon Squad.
This book is hard to classify. A novel? A collection of interlocking novellas? An anthology of short stories? With a wide array of damaged characters fueling the tangled tales towards a conclusion that humans are helpless against change and time, the book can easily become a concrete example of the concept of gestalt, or “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Each chapter can stand alone, but they are more powerful as a part of this one mobius strip of a book.

I think Egan’s true genius lies in how she handled the creation and development of her compelling characters. I have personally referred to them as “Dorian Gray mirrors,” reflecting different versions of our embarrassments, flaws, follies, frustrations, and other things that most people would prefer to be covered up in sunny facades. They are all broken, but not two of them are broken in the same way—their self-inflicted tragedies are as unique as their fingerprints.

You would think that for a book populated with supposedly pity-inducing characters, it would be not hard to draw out sympathy from the readers. Egan did not play from that angle; in fact, I think she was shunning from it, making the characters as real and as unlikable as possible. She succeeded in doing just that, as it did take me a while to like the characters. After I uncovered the histories of their inner scars and after having them engaged in indirect emotional hotplates, I began to actually care for them. I even have a few favorites: Sasha, the kleptomaniac secretary of record executive/The Flaming Dildos ex-bassist Bennie Salazar; Scotty, another TFD rock star who has gone off the grid for a long time; and (surprisingly) Lulu, a she’s-going-to-rule-the-world kind of girl following the steps of her powerful publicist mother, LaDoll.

Now we discuss Egan’s orthodox style, which has spun lots of criticisms as well as praises. The whole book covers a span of forty years, ranging from the seedy music scenes of 1970s to a post-apocalyptic, techno-savvy future. It would have been easier for the readers if Egan chose linear narration, but apparently the word ‘easy’ was never in her lexicon. She arranged each chapter in a non-chronological way, and then penned them in different POVs (all three) and formats (there was a 76-page story in Microsoft Powerpoint Presentation form!). One minute we see a balding Bennie Salazar sprinkling flakes of gold in his tea for sexual potency, then we see him as a robust young musician strumming his bass in the next; that’s basically the formula, jumping in time loops at random. Egan chose a labyrinthine storytelling that will come off as awfully confusing at first, but once we picked up the “links”—the music and the characters’ colliding fates—it would be equivalent to giving ourselves a mental map.

The chapters contain a hodgepodge of genres: a few were dark and depressing, a handful was heartfelt and inspiring, and some were side-splittingly funny. My favorite chapter was Scotty Hausmann’s X’s and O’s, where the readers were finally given a glimpse of the lost TFD frontman. I consider it as the funniest among the bunch and one of the most emotionally affecting ones, and it amazed me how Egan pulled that off. Scotty has become a janitor after the members of The Flaming Dildos went their separate ways, and he paid Bennie a visit in his office one day after learning of his friend’s success from a magazine. Here are two of my favorite paragraphs from the chapter:
“Things had gotten — what’s the word? Dry. Things had gotten sort of dry for me. I was working as a city janitor in a neighborhood elementary school and, in summers, collecting litter in the park alongside the East River near the Williamsburg Bridge. I felt no shame whatsoever in these activities, because I understood what almost no one else seemed to grasp: that there was only an infinitesimal difference, a difference so small that it barely existed except as a figment of the human imagination, between working in a tall green glass building on Park Avenue and collecting litter in a park. In fact, there may have been no difference at all.”
“I looked down at the city…I thought: if I had a view like this to look down on every day, I would have the energy and inspiration to conquer the world. The trouble is, when you most need such a view, no one gives it to you.”
All in all, this is a good read: moving, humorous, thought-provoking, and inspiring. Giving it 4 stars! :P

They don’t teach me how to deal with YOU (plural)

The Kindly Ones

So says Lyta Hall from The Sandman volume 9: The Kindly Ones. School is important, we all know that. It serves as an institute that do not give us direct answers to our biggest problems;  instead, it gives us some time to master the basics of life while we totter on our training wheels. At the end of the day, life itself is your school, and you continue to learn.

But let me indulge myself in adding a few they-don’t-teach-me’s on Lyta’s list. My head’s currently cloaked with cobwebs of worry, annoyance, and guilt that my personal journal wasn’t enough to be a shock absorber for me. Here’s my own set (and it's a bit personal--you've been warned!)…
  • They don’t teach you how to effectively convince someone to forget you because it’s for the better.
  • They don’t teach you how to start again and not wind up in the same dead end at the end of the day.
  • They don’t teach you how to trick yourself to be happy.
  • They don’t teach you how to deal with holier-than-thou people.
    • They don’t teach you how to not think about tomorrow, even if tomorrow is the only thing you’re looking forward to.
    • They don’t teach you how to keep the tears at bay during your saddest times.
    • They don’t teach you how to stop knocking at the hearts of people who have no time to open up to you.
    • They don’t teach you how to stop when you’re going like this, when it’s all catharsis and all that you see are grays—no blacks or whites…
    • They don’t teach you how to confront someone whom you know have created a bad image of you in his/her head yet continue to flash false praises when you’re in front of him/her.
    • They don’t teach you how to deal with people who continuously pretend they’re happy for you--and they don't even make an effort to make it look authentic.
    • They don’t teach you how to stop pretending to say a heartfelt “you’re welcome” to trade with the fake admiration.
    I could list more, but it’s going to be too long and it would sound a tad too personal (as if this one’s not yet? haha). As a rule I’ve always avoided venting out here (#1: personal stuff is for diaries) but I can break it from time to time. :p

    Thank you, Lyta Hall.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    MIBF trip

    If you are a bibliophile in the metropolis, you have probably heard of the 32nd Manila International Book Fair, a five-day annual event where readers, publishers, authors, and other literary enthusiasts come together to enjoy book-related activities like quiz bees, storytelling, and cosplaying. For me, the best part of this fair is that going here will never hurt your purse—even if you leave with a stacks of tomes in your arms!

    With two other friends, I attended the second day of the event. I guess the major activities are going to be held on the last two days, since all that we saw were numerous book stalls and shelves strewn inside the SMX Convention Center. My friends practically lunged at the nearest shelf that contains 99php worth of brand new hardbound books (80% of it is Christopher Paolini’s Brisngr, though, so I wasn’t that overjoyed when I saw it).

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    Scholastic books! I can’t help but take a snapshot of this table, where The Hunger Games trilogy was arranged beside the Harry Potter series. I really adore the HP treasure box (or is that an old trunk?). Lots of people will agree that inside it are one of the most significant treasures of their childhood. :) At the back of HG and HP sets are Maggie Stiefvater’s young adult werewolf series…with a freaking free shirt. If I were interested in her books, I’d totally buy them. The one-star reviews of people I trust sort of scared me away from them.


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    I contemplated on buying the first Dexter book by Jeff Lindsay. I first learned about it when I stumbled upon a trailer of the HBO series adaptation of these books, and I think I’m going to like it. With only half of the first season downloaded (our tortoise-slow internet connection was the most infuriating thing ever), I guess I’d read the source material first. The books got mixed reviews at Good Reads, and most of them are saying the books are not as good as the series…which is a rare situation. Still, that did not discourage me from wanting to read the DDDs.

    Outside the NBS’ “territory,” there were an amazing number of makeshift stalls on Philippine publication: Ilaw ng Tahanan Publishing, UST Publishing, Philippine Bible Society, Philippine Christian Bookstore, and many more. Although dwarfed by these large posts, a few foreign stalls were still noticeable in their own little ways. I tracked down some microphone echoes in hopes of finding an enjoyable activity, and at one corner of the Center I found out there was a contest.  People were flocking around the stage so I couldn’t see what it was about, but based on the questions I overheard (something like “Who is the woman described in this nth verse chapter nth of the book of…”), this is definitely some kind of Biblical quiz bee. So rad! And the people seem to enjoy it.

    I also happened upon the sophisticated-looking stall of Rex E-bookstore. It didn’t look like a “stall,” really, more like an independent unit inside the center. Lots of people are purchasing their ebooks there, too. I wish I could post a photo, but my camera’s memory card decided it was finally time to be “corrupted.” What a perfect timing. *sniffs*

    We only got a little time to enjoy the fair since my friends have classes in the afternoon. All in all the three of us bought 1000php worth of books, and we received a freebie for it. I still have a towering stack of “unreads” at home, so I only bought one book--and no, it wasn't a DDD (that one I just mentally scribbled on my to-read list). Instead, I purchased this:

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    One Day by David Nicholls. My friends loved the flick to itty bitty pieces, and I’m intrigued. The premise is reminding me of The Solitude of Prime Numbers so much, so maybe I’ll like this one, too. :) We’ll find out if I finally get to it.

    Anyway, I was planning to go back tomorrow at the fair. It’s the penultimate day of MIBF tomorrow, and I was thinking there would be bigger events. Plus I need to purchase more Murakami books with a discount (they all cost a bomb at a regular bookstore).

    It was a short trip, but I definitely enjoyed it.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Headphones that totes rock my socks

    Since I'm already trying to go back and be active in my previous fandom, I reconnected with some GW-deviantart communities that I could participate in—something I’d decided to do after my long hiatus. I searched for some other groups that I could be interested in and stumbled upon Bobsmade’s page. The artist makes a lot of artsy stuff—bags, Chucks, tees, hoodies, you name it—but what totally caught my attention was the set of headphones she designed. Here are a few:

    bunny_crowd_headphones_by_bobsmade-d41tbq6

    spinyah_headphones_by_bobsmade-d3e1cxg
    cute_turtle_headphones_by_bobsmade-d39fzmf

    uk_meets_usa_by_bobsmade-d3hxzzu

    scraggy_and_scrafty_hp_by_bobsmade-d430w5h

    zombie_walk_headphones_by_bobsmade-d3ecpnw

    little_fox_headphones_by_bobsmade-d46qw6i

    ninja_owl_headphones_by_bobsmade-d49ps2c

    out_of_the_box_headphones_by_bobsmade-d36vxiq

    reggae_music_headphones_by_bobsmade-d3iwxd2

    halloween_headphones_by_bobsmade-d48bxh8

    They’re completely rad! I hope I can design my own, too... I just wish I have such amazing talent to do that haha!

    Like a letter I never bothered to read

    Yesterday, I wasn’t able to go online because my sister needed the laptop the whole night to tweak and re-download the soundtrack for their Humanities stage play. It was fine by me; I have nothing else to do on the net since my Tumblr posts are usually queued and I only go online to write here or check my FB/email.  I spent some time revisiting my old stack of books, going back to my favorite parts of my favorite author’s works. For half an hour I jotted down some memorable quotes from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. And then a memory fluttered in my head, like a misguided ghost that finally found its way home: someone back in college gave me a mix.

    It's nothing like Nick and Tris’ situation in NANIP. I could remember everything clearly: the bell just rang to signal the end of our class, and we were all hurrying to get home. As for me—I wanted so badly to go the restroom so I told my friends I would go ahead. This guy friend of ours—not so close at that time—blocked my way, and with an almost apologetic expression plastered to his face, he handed me a CD. I wasn’t able to make out what songs were written on the cover because I was busy staring doubtfully at him. In a flash, he was able to escape my scrutiny, gone in the noisy ocean of jacket-clad Lyceans flooding the corridors. I shrugged, for a few seconds not knowing what to do with the CD. When I turned around, I saw my classmate Nile smirking at me. My next action was all impulsiveness. For some reason I got a little peeved by my classmate’s reaction, and then I shoved the CD to her hands. “Tabi mo, kunin ko nalang sa'yo next time (keep it, I’ll just get it from you next time),” I said nonchalantly. Nile didn’t say anything in response; she slid the CD inside her bag and off we went to our destinations. To my utmost relief, she never breathed a word about it to anyone.

    Guess what? That 'next time' never came.

    Now that I think about the whole scene, there was no doubt I made a stupid move…and it’s something I could have rectified for the next couple of years of my stay in Lyceum. But I didn’t.

    It's ironic, since I sometimes turned to this guy for music recommendations after the CD mix incident. It’s weird that my brain kind of turned that memory off the whole time we’re discussing music. It’s like I brainwashed myself or something, and now that it’s back in my head, I felt like there’s a letter from long ago that I never bothered to read.

    I wish I at least spared some time to ask him what songs were included there, when we’re still “connected.” Mixed tapes usually have messages in them, and knowing that he was trying to tell me something and I just brushed it off—it made me feel a little guilty. And regretful, of course. I wondered why he never asked me if I liked the mix, or if I got whatever he was trying to tell me with the choice of songs.

    I made a mental note of asking Nile about it, though in my head, something’s telling me it would be better—hesitant as I was—if I try to message the guy about it. Like apologize for not even bothering to listen to it.
    Oh well. Sometime soon, I would definitely correct this little mistake.

    Review: Good Omens

    Review (repost): Good Omens
    Authors: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
    Genre: Fantasy, comedy/satire
    My Rating: ★★★★★

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    Nowadays, when I plunge into the info superhighway or when I just lurk around a local bookstore, it’s almost impossible not to find something that relates to the end of the world. Internet memes discussing the Last Generation, tomes about 2012 rapture and Nostradamus’ prophecies…there are even a bunch of flicks about the coming Armageddon. Bogus or not, it’s clear that people are drawn to this topic; most of them—it’s ridiculous but it’s true—are now panic-stricken and are readying for the last days.

    In my case, it’s different. When I hear someone pronounce the word “apocalypse”, my face will curl up in a toothy grin because a certain creation of two literary rock stars will automatically pop in my head. It’s called Good Omens: A Narrative of Certain Events occurring in the last eleven years of human history, in strict accordance as shall be shewn with: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter Compiled and edited, with Footnotes of an Educational Nature and Precepts for the Wise. Or simply, Good Omens. :p

    What’s so funny about the end of the world, you ask? Terry Pratchett (Father of theDiscworld series) and Neil Gaiman (Creator of The Sandman graphic novels) illustrate all answers to that in this droll masterpiece and cult classic. It details the Armageddon…or perhaps how Heaven and Hell comprehend the ineffable plan of God about the day of reckoning, and how a Satanic nun messes the whole thing up by a switch-at-birth mistake that involves the Antichrist. An unlikely partnership between representatives of heaven and hell was formed after agreeing that they don’t like the world to vanish so soon, as they became so fond of human lifestyle after many years of staying on Earth. They decide to look after a kid who they thought of as the Antichrist and make sure the kid will receive balanced influences. But it turns out that the real Antichrist ends up in the care of the wrong family—away from heavenly or demonic influences—and grows up to be a normal child, resulting in a series of events that will undoubtedly make the reader laugh out loud.

    I think the genius of Good Omens is that at its heart, it is more than just a four-hundred-page of bon mots and silliness; its satiric foundation lies not too deep beneath the thick layer of English humor. The authors are able to convey their message through adroit storytelling, never letting the reader feel a minute of boredom while tackling issues concerning religion, the environment (Global Warming in particular), government, war, and poverty, most of which are told via the anthropomorphic characters of War, Famine, Pollution (Pestilence retired in 1936 when penicillin was invented), and Death, also known as the Four Horsemen—or motorcyclists in this case—of Apocalypse. Human behavior and the workings of mortal minds are as well discussed very efficiently especially in conversations of the two main protagonists.

    The main characters: Aziraphale (an angel and part-time rare book-dealer) and Crowley (a demon, or an angel who did not so much fall as sauntered vaguely downwards) become the best of friends after six thousand years of thwarting each other’s deeds on Earth.

    Usually it is through Crowley’s introspection that the readers realize “the good are half-bad and the bad are half-good”, and the fact that most of the time humans don’t need any diabolical urgings to conceive bad things and put them into practice. He easily became my favorite character because of his attitude. He is often seen as a cool, gadget-loving, sunglasses-toting guy who drives a shiny black Bentley and kills time by doing minor mischief. The poor demon, however, has his bottled up fear and anger towards Hell and he often shows this to his houseplants by talking and imposing to them the fear of God—or more precisely, the fear of Crowley. Hell exercises tyranny over him and he vents his frustration by exercising the same kind of tyranny over his plants. For some reason, his character seems to tug at my heartstrings in an odd sort of way. Behind his grinning façade is someone who suffers—“He’d been an angel once. He hadn’t meant to Fall. He’d just hung around with the wrong people.”

    Aziraphale is also not hard to love: he is the tartan-loving, sushi-craving bookworm with a penchant for using endearments for everyone. Aziraphale once believed that anyone from his lot will only do good things, and anyone from Crowley’s side would only commit bad acts. But in the end, he learned that’s not always the case—and he himself is a proof of it. Together, Aziraphale and Crowley make an unconventional, hilarious partnership that can rival Watson-Holmes (no goggles needed to see the bromancy friendship!).

    The plot charges along at a gallop, and there is no single page that will fail to make you smile or giggle. Mini-storylines pop out every once in a while, and though they may not show any relevance to the main plot, you’ll discover at the end that everything is linked together. One remarkable thing I noticed about these subplots is the characters. No matter how short their exposure may be, there will always be something that will stick in your mind and heart: a peek at their touching ordinary lives laid in stark contrast with the complicated happenings leading to the Armageddon. The authors successfully showcased their morbid humor here.

    This book, for me, is a personal touchstone: a masterpiece that will bring entertainment like no other and at the same time relay thought-provoking messages that the present society needs to understand. It’s been twenty years since its first publication, but its contents show how timeless this story is. There’s a scene in the story where War, Pollution, and Famine vanish into thin air, and when someone asks where they went, Death replies: “Where they belong. Where they have always been. In the minds of man.” Everything boils down to this: humans are lousy stewards of the earth, and if it is going to be destroyed, then we for sure acted as a catalyst for it.

    Five stars for a rippingly humorous and surprisingly riveting read.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    You should date an illiterate girl

    Penned by Charles Warnke, this is the original article that Rosemarie Urquico responded to by writing Date a Girl Who Reads. I just want to say this is an amazingly written piece that so many self-proclaimed ‘girls-who-read’ bashed and criticized, not knowing what it really meant. "What a trashy article," some would say, shaking their heads. "Of course girls who read are better!"

    I don’t mean to sound harsh, but if you take something—a text, in this case—just by its face value, I think you should...read more. Or at least try not to be a snob, as if you're better just because you consider yourself a reader when in truth you can't get past the most literal meanings of writings like this. Urquico’s article is beautiful in itself, sweet and almost mushy. But this one has its own beauty too, and in all its brutality and honesty, I can tell it evoked more meaning and depth compared to the first article. See for yourself.
    Date a girl who doesn’t read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her. 
    Let the anxious contract you’ve unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi, and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into it every time the air gets stale, or the evenings get long. Talk about nothing of significance. Do little thinking. Let the months pass unnoticed. Ask her to move in. Let her decorate. Get into fights about inconsequential things like how the fucking shower curtain needs to be closed so that it doesn’t fucking collect mold. Let a year pass unnoticed. Begin to notice. 
    Figure that you should probably get married because you will have wasted a lot of time otherwise. Take her to dinner on the forty-fifth floor at a restaurant far beyond your means. Make sure there is a beautiful view of the city. Sheepishly ask a waiter to bring her a glass of champagne with a modest ring in it. When she notices, propose to her with all of the enthusiasm and sincerity you can muster. Do not be overly concerned if you feel your heart leap through a pane of sheet glass. For that matter, do not be overly concerned if you cannot feel it at all. If there is applause, let it stagnate. If she cries, smile as if you’ve never been happier. If she doesn’t, smile all the same. 
    Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail, frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return, or as if you might blow away on the wind. Contract a terminal illness. Die, but only after you observe that the girl who didn’t read never made your heart oscillate with any significant passion, that no one will write the story of your lives, and that she will die, too, with only a mild and tempered regret that nothing ever came of her capacity to love. 
    Do those things, god damnit, because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell. Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent as a life unfulfilled—a vocabulary that parses the innate beauty of the world and makes it an accessible necessity instead of an alien wonder. A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, god damnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick. 
    Do it, because a girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows, and rightly demands, that the ebb comes along with the flow of disappointment. A girl who has read up on her syntax senses the irregular pauses—the hesitation of breath—endemic to a lie. A girl who reads perceives the difference between a parenthetical moment of anger and the entrenched habits of someone whose bitter cynicism will run on, run on well past any point of reason, or purpose, run on far after she has packed a suitcase and said a reluctant goodbye and she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a period and run on and run on. Syntax that knows the rhythm and cadence of a life well lived. 
    Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness. 
    Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are the storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so god damned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life that I told of at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. I hate you. I really, really, really hate you.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    The 9/11 tragedy and the other 9/11’s that sandwich it

    Last year, when I and my classmate Debbie were photographing numerous dusty volumes of The Philippine Daily Inquirer for our thesis, we found it impossible to not stop for a while and scan pages of the broadsheets that detailed the most important events on our pre-made list. The September 11 attack on the World Trade Center was on it.

    DSC_0093

    I could still hear the metronome of fear I had while leafing through the pages. “There were people trying to escape before the towers fell! They are jumping out the windows to their deaths!” I exclaimed at Debbie, showing her the other WTC-related issue. “God. This is so scary.Why does this have to happen?”

    Even if it was frozen on the pages, the surreal, smoky landscape of the rubble of what used to be the seat of the United States’ military power sent chills running down my spine. That was nine years ago after the fateful day, and I was already reflecting: how far has the world gone after that day?


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    When this harrowing event happened, I was only two years shy of graduating in grade school—but I was well-acquainted with current events already, being a participant in Dep-Ed’s Mini Press Conference and Contests for public schools. Our ‘reviewers’ changed; we were made to clip news and columns about the terrorist’s attack, and the editorial cartoons I sketched almost always came out too morbid. The details crowded my head—conspiracies, the image of Muslims changing forever, the most powerful country deemed vulnerable by a single assault, the heartbreaking consequences it produced. I was ten then, but I felt a lot older, as if I’d opened my eyes too soon to an unpleasant surprise the world was preparing for me: the reality. Yet I didn’t regret it.

    There were far too many things to discuss, but here's what I know: there are heroes that day. So in this post, I would like to pay tribute to people who belong to that category: the firefighters, the soldiers, the rescuers—everyone who took part in the rebuilding process after the fall, and everyone who braved the avalanche of inferno that was ironically falling from the sky. They deserved more than to be festooned with awards or to be given numerous salvos; I pray for the souls and the loved ones left by everyone who met their untimely demise that morning.

    But I would also like to point out how this event does not necessarily mean it’s the worst that could ever happen to our world today. 9/11 has been dubbed the ‘day that changed the world,’ and somehow, somewhere deep inside the people who were not directly affected—those who could only show their compassion toward the victims of the event—this does not sound like ‘news’ at all.

    In a poem by a Muslim named Nabeelah Ahmad entitled 9/11 Happens Everyday in My Lands, he said: “In Palestine, my people are bombed constantly, Homes bulldozed like grass being cut with a lawnmower. In Afghanistan and ‘Iraaq [sic], my people are cowardly bombed from the sky, Most of the time, killing women and children, And destroying homes and families. In Somalia, my people are raped and their neighborhoods bombed, Until my people wake up every morning, expecting the worst…”

    His message is true not only for Muslim people. If you have seen my brief comments in my post In the Eyes of the Innocent (a war-related flicks faux review), you would understand what I was trying to say. The very idea of 9/11 has been the reality for more people even before 9/11 became the ‘day that changed the world.’ It was like the hundredth wake-up call for us, yet stubbornly, we scrunched our eyes shut. Up to this day. World War 1? World War II? Holocaust, atomic bombings, Cold War, the conflicts in the Middle East? Even now, locally, if you travel south to Mindanao, it is impossible to miss the fact that they're still exchanging bullets. We are too stubborn to learn.

    I could babble some more, but I’d just leave with you with the very first poem that made me weep in elementary, a concrete example of world's reality that most of us "choose" not to learn from. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I read it after actually watching on TV how two giant towers slid down into a mountain of ash and fire to the ground, but maybe it’s more about the idea that innocent lives are wiped out unfairly (who says life’s fair?). It’s about a bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963:

    The Ballad of Birmingham
    by Dudley Randall 

    "Mother dear, may I go downtown      
    Instead of out to play,
    And march the streets of Birmingham
    In a Freedom March today?"

    "No, baby, no, you may not go,
    For the dogs are fierce and wild,
    And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
    Aren't good for a little child."

    "But, mother, I won't be alone.
    Other children will go with me,
    And march the streets of Birmingham
    To make our country free."

    "No baby, no, you may not go
    For I fear those guns will fire.
    But you may go to church instead
    And sing in the children's choir."

    She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
    And bathed rose petal sweet,
    And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
    And white shoes on her feet.

    The mother smiled to know that her child
    Was in the sacred place,
    But that smile was the last smile
    To come upon her face.

    For when she heard the explosion,
    Her eyes grew wet and wild.
    She raced through the streets of Birmingham
    Calling for her child.

    She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
    Then lifted out a shoe.
    "O, here's the shoe my baby wore,
    But, baby, where are you?"

    A tribute to the WTC Tragedy Firefighters

    Here’s some political cartoons that pay tribute to the rescuers—particularly the firefighters—that became some of the heroes in the 9/11 incident ten years ago. A space on my blog is the least that I can give. :)

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    I would have uploaded my own editorial cartoon I made for our organ back when I was in grade school, but that would require me to dredge it up from the mountains upon mountains of paper in my drawers. :p I’ll put it up when I find it, though.

    For more political cartoons similar to this, go here.