Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Alan Watts' writing advice

Neil Gaiman shared this "writing advice" on his tumblr a few days ago. I like how Alan Watts sounds so matter-of-fact here. Just reading it fuels my creative juices. ;)

AlanWatts

Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer.
Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon.

Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves.

Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone.

Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Read, read, read: Write, write, write

The Sky is Everywhere is an enchanting read! Music, poetry, love, grief…Jandy Nelson meshed all these elements in a majestic albeit funny ball of her own patented fiction that she hurls straight to the heart of the readers. I wouldn’t give away so much about it, but I’d like to say I enjoyed it very much. Review to follow! :)

There’s a short interview with the author after the epilogue, and my favorite bit is her advice to aspiring writers. I thought to share it here, since most of you guys I know would be interested in it. Here’s what she said:

Jandy Nelson

Read, read, read. And write, write, write. Also, remember that what makes your voice as a writer unique is the fact that you're you, so don't be afraid to put yourself on the page, to reveal your passions, sorrows, joys, idiosyncrasies, insights, your personal monsters and miracles.

Only you can be you and only you can write like you—that's your gift alone. If you have the writing fever, just keep at it—writing takes a ton of practice, patience, and perseverance—make sure to ignore the market and don't let rejection talk you out of your dream.

I love this quote by Ray Bradbury: "Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer's make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Read Yourself Interesting

This amazing ad campaign is from Pulpbooks:

Pulp Books-bar

Pulp Books-lunch

Pulp Books-boardroom

How witty! The first one really gets to me; I love how the woman finds the well-read man more interesting than the dapper one in the picture.  Honestly, I can talk to well-read  folks for hours! And I don’t mean people who get through hundreds of books, but people who let hundreds of books get through them. There’s a big difference. ;)

One of the best days of my life?

I’m very much like Looking for Alaska’s Takumi Hikohito when it comes to dreams.  One of the best days of my life hasn't happened yet. That will be the day when I'll drive my parents in my own car to their own house, and then I'll hand them the keys and tell them its all theirs. I’ll give them the life they didn’t have while being happy in living the life I choose for myself.

I once swore never to explain myself to people who will never understand, but I’ll give them the simplest tidbits they don’t seem to get: 
  1. My goals don’t revolve only around my chosen career.
  2. My dreams are never just about myself.
  3. My family is a big chunk of this lofty star I’m trying to reach.
I’m trying to juggle my happiness and my loved ones’ happiness here, and it so happens that a third factor must be involved: money. No need for the usual philosophical word vomit here. Sometimes, no matter how deep you are submerged in your own ocean of dreams and aspirations, you have  to resurface to reality: money may not be everything, but it does matter. Such a simple fact in life.

It just irks me to the core when I hear judgmental people talking about how wrong I was to discard the opportunity they’ll rather have. They don’t even know the whole story…which is partly my fault, because I didn’t bother to spill all the reasons for my decision. If I could, I would throw the said opportunity to their faces since they want it so bad! :(

I’m happy about my choice, and that’s what matters. I just hope some people mind their own businesses. Someday, I’ll be able to show them I took the right pathand perhaps that, too, will be one of the best days of my life.

/rant and drama

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Operation: Annihilate Dust Bunnies (+ a little late bookwormism update)

After having a terrible case of hives and another asthma attack, last weekend became general cleaning days specifically focused on raiding  my wee fortress of a bedroom. While there were no cobwebs veiling the furniture, dust bunnies have already started amassing, ready to bedevil us again  after their untimely demise from last month’s general cleaning.

My mother made it a point to launch feather-duster assaults at my mini-shelves and my other book storage areas (e.g. room corners, drawers, and about 1/4 of the top bunk).  I think this is because she and everyone else at home know I’ve always treated my books like my own personal weed, figuratively (getting addicted to the stories they contain) and literally (inhaling the scent of the pages) . The latter is not a good habit for an asthmatic who possess a bunch of old books, but just like an incurable drug user, I just couldn’t…quit, haha! So we’re just left with Plan B, which is to shoo the dust away as much as we can.

I helped in cleaning my babies’ mini-homes, despite their protests.

beforebooktower

Surprisingly unlike many bookworms, I always wrap my novels with plastic covers and replace them when they get too clouded with dirt/when they get creased (it’s a pet peeve). For me, the plastic wrappers are like diapers that needed to be changed. :P  I armed myself with scissors, a two-yard roll of plastic cover, scotch tape, and some clean rags. Because most of the books were newly purchased, they were not as dusty as I’ve initially imagined.

They didn’t let me touch the old books in my shelves in the living room, though, because apparently the dust bunnies decided the spaces between the novels and the shelves’ black wood would make a good headquarters. It’s not much of an achievement, but I accomplished my part of the mission with just a couple of sneezes. :)

booktower

However, I didn’t finish early. It’s because every time I pick up a book, I get an irresistible urge to leaf through its pages and read some of the parts I’ve bookmarked as my favorites. You wouldn’t want to know how long I was stuck with The Hunger Games trilogy! By the end of the day, I ended up rereading the entire Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology.

CurrentRead

On an unrelated note, I’m currently reading Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere. I was originally choosing between Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things and Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry, but I happened to flick through The Sky’s pages while cleaning. I decided to postpone the others and prioritize this one. The main protagonist is a grief-stricken girl who scatters her poems all over their town. It sort of reminded me of myself back in high school, when I used to pen random snippets of made-up songs and poems that I slip between the pages of random library books.

Also, the girl’s name is Lennon. My inner music junkie likes it! I suddenly thought of naming my future daughter Lennon, haha. And if she has a brother, the boy’s name is going to be Ono (get it? Get it?! John and Yoko?). Haha! Please excuse me, I graduated with a major in Bookwormism and a minor in Dorkology. :p

Anyway, the book is good so far.

Color Collision: Murakami meets the Sartorialist

In my stint as the managing editor of ZONE magazine, I am given the chance to e-interview a few prominent figures from the glamorous world of spotlit catwalks and glossy magazine covers. One of the questionnaires’ default item is “where do you get your inspiration?” and I’ve learned that creative juices of fashion designers can be fueled by all sorts of things.

I’m a multi-fandom geek (whose freak-out meter often goes haywire when it comes to my own possible fashion faux pas), and my approval leans heavily towards outfits inspired by some of my well-loved fictional works (case in point 1case in point 2). So when I stumbled upon the Vintage Anchor post about Sera Hur’s little lit-fashion mash-up—featuring John Gall’s wonderful cover designs for Haruki Murakami’s books and some equally colorful outfits from The Sartorialist—there’s no wonder an automatic keysmash of love from me ensued!

There's nothing new in literary concepts or illustrations inspiring garment designs, but I’m readily hooked by these. Well, they are not really inspired by Gall’s covers (surprised?), but at first look, you’d think they are. Thanks to Hur’s keen eye for detail and careful browsing at The Sartorialist, she even created a Murakami-esque effect of blurring what’s real and what’s not. :p  Check them out!

kafkaontheshore

WindUpBirdChronicle

NorwegianWood

AfterDark

SputnikSweetheart

danceDanceDance

AftertheQuake

HardBoiledWonderland

SouthoftheBorder

TheElephantVanishes

Skelly isn’t Pretty

One of my favorite questions for anyone in the fashion industry is this: “Many models say that confidence is sexy, but a lot of girls don’t seem to truly grasp its meaning; they still think they have to be really thin in order to be considered beautiful. What advice can you give them?”

Let’s face it—the clichéd “what truly matters is that you’re beautiful on the inside” won’t do anymore. Up to now, I still haven’t heard an answer that girls would immediately heed, what with their perspective of beauty tampered with and distorted by our society today. If you aren’t stick-thin and post-tall, if you can’t stuff yourself in branded teeny-weeny tees and micro-mini skirts, then most likely you’re out. The fashion industry’s obsession with size zero models with mile-long legs and filament-like arms has always unnerved me, but what can we do? That’s how the world as we know it rolls.

When I chanced upon Gavin Bond’s old in-your-face photography set that ridicules this situation, I know I should give it a space on my blog. It’s playful but definitely thought-provoking. The set features a skeletal girl doing things the typical rich girls most people revere do on the beach.

GuyandSkelly

skellylotion

Schermata-2010-11-07-a-14.43.30

skellyhangout

Skelly

skellyvacation

The photos sort of reminded me of the Apocalyptic horseman Famine from the Gaiman-Pratchett collab, Good Omens. Famine loves skinny models. They’re the living proof of his success. He creates diet fads and new foods that are indistinguishable from any other food except for the nutritional content, which was roughly equivalent to that of a Sony Walkman. It didn't matter how much you ate, you lost weight. And hair. And skin tone. And, if you ate enough of it long enough, vital signs.

Don’t let yourselves become walking skeletons, girls! Health is important, and you can be beautiful without your body image having to mimic the stick-and-paper build of a kite. ;)

The Hunger Games updates!

To anyone who still hasn’t seen it, Lionsgate has released the official poster of The Hunger Games movie a few days ago.  Here’s our very own girl on fire aiming at you!

NewPoster

There are also two official stills: one featuring Katniss and Peeta clad in their Cinna-designed, yet-to-be-lit jumpsuits before the tribute parade, and the other featuring Team District 12 either watching the recap of the chariot parade or the announcement of their training session scores:

Unitards

EffieHaymitchKatniss

Is it March 23 yet?! I'm so excited!

(source: mockingjay.net)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: ████

Title: ███████
Author: ████████ █████████
Genre:  ████████, █████████ ██████████ 
My Rating: ██████

IQ84-Haruki Murakami

          ████████████ ██████████ ███ ██████████████ ████ █████ ██████ ████████ ██ ██████████ █████ ██████████ ██████████ █████ █████ ██████████ ████ █████ █████████.

          █████ ████████████ ████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████ ██████ █████ ████████████ ████████ █████ ██████ ████████ █████ ███ ███████ ████████████ ████████ ██████████ █████. ██████ ████████ ██████ █████ █████████ ██████████ █████ ████████████ ████████ ██████████ █████ ██████████ █████ ████████ █████ ████████ █████ █████ █████ █████████ ██████ ████? █████ ████ █████████ █████████ ███ ██████████████ █████ █████ ██████████ ██████████ ██████████ ██ ██████████ █████ █████.

          ████████ ███████ ██ ███ ██████████ ██████████ █████ ████████ ███████ ████████████████████! █████ ████ ███████████ █████, ████████ ████████████ █████████ ███████████ ███ ██████ █████ █████ ████████ ███████ ██████████ ██ ██████████ █████ █████.

           ██████████ █████ ███████████████ █████?

          █████ █████████████ ███████ ████ ████████████ ████████ █████ █████ █████ ███████████ █████████ █████ █████ ████████ █████ █████ ███ ███████ █████████ ███████████ ██████████ █████ ███████ ███ ██████████ █████ █████ █████████ ██████████ █████ ████████ ███ ████ █████!

           ▲ This review is blocked in protest of SOPA and PIPA. Yes, it's my own personal "SCREW SOPA" statement, because I don't want an Orwellian society. :p Read more about SOPA and PIPA and my views on them here.

Internet’s Blackout Revolution: Waging War Against SOPA and PIPA


The information superhighway has all its virtual bandoleers ready with their own version of ammunition. Yes, almost everyone online has already waged war against the bills Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Hundreds of websites are now on strike...and lawmakers from the opposing side are gradually being convinced to jump ships! I have a hunch that more of them will disavow the bills in the coming days.

Way to go, internet! But the fight is far from over. “In just 7 days, the Senate will vote on forever altering the free and open internet by instituting a new regime of extra-judicial, corporate-led website takedowns. This is a fundamental fight about who has power in society — the people with the means to communicate freely or the governments and corporations that feel threatened,” says an email that is being passed from one netizen to another.

I myself belong to the Anti-SOPA army. I'm a blogger. A writer. A literary critic. A budding artist. A shutterbug. I want the Internet to remain the beloved virtual school and home I've known for a bunch of years, a place where I can freely express my opinions, share my thoughts, and expand my creative horizon. It contributed a lot to my growth, to be honest. I have it to thank for what I am today, and what I will be...if SOPA and PIPA will not win on the 24th.

If they decide not to shelve (or better yet, KILL) the bills, it will affect not only the United States but also many countries around the world—including the Philippines, I reckon.  The unregulated Internet may have spawned a couple of plights, but it has also given birth to a lot of life-changing developments that our society can consider as boons.  While I believe there is a need to formulate a solution for piracy in the internet, I don’t think censoring or completely shutting down websites without due process is the right answer. Imagine the harrowing collateral damage it will entail! Our basic internet freedoms are being pushed onto the chopping block; even people who are not very well-versed with the Constitution know this is an infringement of the freedom of speech/expression and other related rights.

Is George Orwell right? Did he hit the bull’s eye of our future, as told in his novel 1984? It’s scary, but I’m kind of seeing it now. Dictatorial power is what the American government is trying to get, and recognizing the power of Internet, they made it their first target.  They will get this coveted power once the bills pass through the Congress. There is no going back once the ‘blacklist’ system is established. The effect of US government’s every action and decision will ripple throughout the world, and by that time you should be ready to welcome the gradual arrival of a 2012 dystopia.  I wish I’m kidding.


How SOPA Would Work

Here’s a video with the infographic from americancensorship.org showing the gist of SOPA:

The Internet Blacklist Bills

And here’s additional information provided by the Read Write Web:

SOPA (bill text) sets up a variety of ways for the U.S. government to block sites that are seen to be infringing on intellectual property. The bill is tailored towards the entertainment industry to protect movie studios, TV networks and record labels from having foreign websites illegally copying and distributing copyrighted works.
Along with the Protect IP Act of 2011, here are the ways the U.S. government can enforce the proposed laws.
1. Force ISPs to block access to Domain Name System servers to infringing foreign sites. Here is the pertinent portion of Section 102 of SOPA: A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order, including measures designed to prevent the domain name of the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) from resolving to that domain name's Internet Protocol address. 
2. Force search providers to make such sites that have been flagged as infringing undiscoverable. Prevent the foreign infringing site that is subject to the order, or a portion of such site specified in the order, from being served as a direct hypertext link. 
3. Force payments processors to shut down the ability for infringing sites to make money. Suspend its service from completing payment transactions involving customers located within the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and the payment account. 
4. Force Internet advertisers to cease doing business with an infringing site. Prevent its service from providing advertisements to or relating to the foreign infringing site that is subject to the order or a portion of such site specified in the order.

The Phalanx Against the Internet Blacklist Bills

Last month, Techcrunch have listed at most 40 internet companies that came out publicly against SOPA. I can’t find an updated roster but I’m pretty certain the number upped a notch today, and will continue to rise as the date of the voting nears. Here are some of the websites flaunting their ‘blackout pages’ and statements to protest the bills.

FACEBOOK

Okay, while Facebook doesn’t have a ‘blackout’ page of any kind, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg  released an official statement today. Yep, they’re against the bills as well:
The internet is the most powerful tool we have for creating a more open and connected world. We can't let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the internet's development. Facebook opposes SOPA and PIPA, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the internet.

The world today needs political leaders who are pro-internet. We have been working with many of these folks for months on better alternatives to these current proposals. I encourage you to learn more about these issues and tell your congressmen that you want them to be pro-internet.

You can read more about our views
here.

GOOGLE
Google Blackout

Lawyer David Drummond prepared an post on Google’s official website explaining their position on the issue.
Fighting online piracy is extremely important. We are investing a lot of time and money in that fight. Last year alone we acted on copyright takedown notices for more than 5 million webpages and invested more than $60 million in the fight against ads appearing on bad sites. And we think there is more that can be done here--like targeted and focused steps to cut off the money supply to foreign pirate sites. If you cut off the money flow, you cut the incentive to steal. 
Because we think there's a good way forward that doesn't cause collateral damage to the web, we're joining Wikipedia, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Mozilla and other Internet companies in speaking out against SOPA and PIPA. And we're asking you to sign a petition and join the millions who have already reached out to Congress through phone calls, letters and petitions asking them to rethink SOPA and PIPA.


WIKIPEDIA
WIKI
MOZILLA
400474_2548545155504_1310085209_32123319_788884987_n
REDDIT
Reddit Blackout
CRAIG’S LIST
craigslist_blackout
WORDPRESS
WORDPRESS
DP.LA
DPLA
THE OATMEAL
OATMEAL
It’s actually a gif, but it’s kind of NSFW. :) Click here to view it on their official website.

ONEWORD

LIVEJOURNAL


And last but not the least...

MY TUMBLR

Yep, that's Cinderella in Rubber Shoes today! There's a script going around Tumblr that allows you to put a "SOPA blackout" banner on your site. It can be circumvented by clicking anywhere. :)

“What’s in a Name” Reading Challenge

Aside from Goodreads’ reading challenge (my goal is to reach 50, but I can always add more if I finish it early), I also decided to take “What’s in a Name” challenge this year, hosted by Bethfish. It looks fun, and I can complete both of challenges at the same time. Here are the guidelines:

Between January 1 and December 31, 2012, read one book in each of the following categories:
  1. A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title: Black Hills, Purgatory Ridge, Emily of Deep Valley
  2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title: Moon Called, Seeing Stars, Cloud Atlas
  3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title: Little Bee, Spider Bones, The Witches of Worm
  4. A book with a type of house in the title: The Glass Castle, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Ape House
  5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: Sarah's Key, The Scarlet Letter, Devlin Diary
  6. A book with a something you'd find on a calendar in the title: Day of the Jackal, Elegy for April, Freaky Friday, Year of Magical Thinking
The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category. Other Things to Know
  • Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
  • Books may overlap other challenges.
  • Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.
  • Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.
  • You do not have to make a list of books before hand.
  • You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: Going Bovine

Title: Going Bovine
Author: Libba Bray
Genre: Young Adult, Surreal Dark Comedy, Speculative Fiction
My Rating: ★★★★ ½
Warning: SPOILERISH

finalbovine

Take a modern day Holden Caulfield diagnosed with the human equivalent of mad cow disease. Throw him in a mission to find his cure (and save the world!) with a hypochondriac dwarf and a Viking god cursed as a lawn gnome. Add a punk angel with a penchant for spray-painting misspelled messages on her wings, a cluster of fire demons, an enigmatic Wizard, and a wormhole that will bring the dreaded apocalypse. Stir well—and voila! You just prepared Libba Bray’s surreal dark comedy, Going Bovine.

There are many authors who attempted to concoct an effective formula that can render their stories both fall-off-the-chair funny and heartbreaking at the same time, but I believe only a handful of those who declared “Eureka!” got a positive response from the reading world. Libba Bray is one of them.

Speaking through the (vulgar) mouth of teenage lazybones Cameron John Smith,Going Bovine is a story of death, choices, friendship, and of course, life. Bray’s spot-on sense of humor is reminiscent of Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; her writing style is addictive and convincing. The characterization is astonishingly brilliant, and it proves to be more than enough in persuading the readers to root for the unlikable, unreliable narrator.

Cameron is perhaps one of the most irksome antiheroes in Young Adult literature. The ennui he builds around himself is perpetually backed up by his I’m-the-world’s-most-apathetic-jerk-and-I-know-it-and-you-can’t-do-anything-about-it attitude. Considering himself a ‘social paramecium’, he wants to survive high school (and life in general) just by, well, having mass and occupying space. Nothing more. The word ‘effort’ is nonexistent in his lexicon. Bray makes it so that Cameron comes off as a sardonic quipster that can give you the urge to punch him just for being who he is. That is until he finds out he acquired a fatal illness, the Creutzfeldt-Jakob variant BSE.  Suddenly, he is forced to grow out of his shell of indifference; he is forced to care. He has to face many questions, the most important being: have I lived a meaningful life? Have I ever lived at all?

Clearly, the answer is no. Cameron wasted a majority of his life existing, not living. With only a few time left before shifting off the mortal coil, he learns it is too late for him to taste the essence of life. He begins to despise everyone who will outlive him. But as in Pandora’s box, after all the bad news emerges hope: the angel Dulcie gives him a chance to live. He grabs this opportunity and sets off in an adventure like no other, to search for his supposed cure.

Most of the poignant moments occur while Cameron and his newfound friends are on the road. Why is it only when Death is reaching out to you with open arms that you are finally noticing the things in life worth hanging on to? Cameron belongs to a dysfunctional family, and though he does not admit to hating any member, his attitude toward them is the usual “I don’t give a damn.” Everything changes when his impending death is confirmed. When Cameron talks with his father on the phone, you could almost hear his croaking “I love you.” He has a couple of touching moments with his mom too, but my favorite is the subtlest, when he dines at Konstant Kettle and misses his mom’s Grammar Nazi-sh pet peeve. He decides to call her:
There’s a pay phone in the way back next to the men’s bathroom. I drop in all the change I’ve got and make the call. It rings four times and goes to voicemail. I hear my mom’s familiar message. 
“Hi, this is Mary Smith. I can’t come to the phone right now because I’ve probably been carried away bygriffins. But if you leave your name and number, I’ll get back to you just as quickly as Hermes would.” There’s a pause, and then she says to me, “Cameron, did I do that right? Oh! We’re still recording! Oh my goodness…,” and her laugh is cut off. That message used to annoy the crap out of me, my mom being all spacey and mom-ish. But right now, hearing her voice is the best thing in the world, like waking up and realizing there’s no school. There’s a beep, and my stomach tightens. 
“Um, hi, Mom. It’s me. Cameron. Well, you probably figured that part out,” I say, sounding like the biggest dork. “Anyway, I’m okay. I want you to know that first. And, you know what? Keep grading those moronic English Comp 101 papers, because otherwise, we’re all gonna be getting our gas at the K-W-I-K S-E-R-V and drinking our E-X-P-R-E-S-S-Os at the Konstant Kettle, two K’s. Seriously, the world needs you. You matter. A lot. Okay, I gotta go, ’cause the griffins are here and you know how much they hate to wait. Love you,” I add quickly, and hang up.
Halfway through the novel, Cameron is becoming a more pleasant person. He is still a potty-mouthed smartass, but he cares a lot now. He even loves. I enjoyed reading about their “stops” and how Cameron picks up a couple of lessons from them that he hasn’t learned in the past sixteen years of his life. However, it easily became clear to me that the story will take a Lewis Carroll-esque turn. I’m not certain if it’s because of the plethora of clues strewn across each chapter or the extreme surrealism of events, but either way it did not deter me from liking the whole thing.

Aside from carrying significant messages that will send you pondering, what makes Going Bovine stand out from today’s flurry of cookie-cutter Alice in Wonderland tales is that it makes you question what really happened. That said, I absolutely love the concept of parallel worlds/alternate realities. In the readers’ perspective, everything is just a Don Quixote journey…but what is real, anyway? Bray poses that rhetorical question from the very start. Like Schrödinger’s Cat experiment, who’s to say only one reality exists? Can two realities not happen at the same time? Perhaps it’s only my inner kid’s happy-ever-after alarm going off, but I took comfort in the fact that this recurring element may also apply to the storyline itself.

There’s one thing I did not see coming: the identity of the Wizard of the Reckoning. I was shocked in a good way, and that’s plus points in my book. The final pages were amazingly bittersweet and thought-provoking. I was sobbing quietly, but a sense of eternal hope is also lingering there, making me smile (therefore making me look like a first class idiot, haha).

Going Bovine is officially taking its place in the bookshelf of my favorite novels. 4.5 stars out of 5 for an unforgettable read!

“We’re all mad here.”

Going Bovine Art

I can’t say a lot of things about Libba Bray’s Going Bovine without spoiling anything, so I’ll just say…read this book! You’re going to like it. It will make you think. It will make you feel, and it will urge you to live your every day like it’s your last. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll laugh while crying. This is perhaps one of the best books about a dying teenager I’ve ever read. Cameron Smith is such a memorable kid, and I’m willing to revisit  this novel over and over just so I can see his growth and hear his voice. It’s that good.

I’ll share one of my favorite poignant moments in the book. It’s an exchange between Cameron and his dad, right after they learned Cam has a fatal illness. They are not really close. His dad usually chides him harshly for not being the son he wanted him to be, and the sudden change in his attitude when he learns of his son’s fate makes for an amazing drama:

“Hey, buddy.” The last time Dad called me buddy I was eight and had the measles.

I look up briefly. “Hey.”

“How’re you feeling?”

“Okay.”

“Yeah?” He asks like he really wants to know.

“Yeah. You know. Okay.”

“Yeah.” He nods and picks up a Great Tremolo LP and pretends to read it. “This guy any good?”

I shrug.

“Your mom told me about the, ah, the doctor’s visit. I swear those guys don’t know their asses from their elbows. Anyway, Stan in my office—you know Stan Olsen?—he gave me the number of a specialist in Dallas. I made an appointment for Tuesday.”

“Okay.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing, Cam. Viruses can mimic all kinds of things. The doc will probably throw us out for wasting his time.” Dad puts the Great Tremolo LP down. He looks at the junk-strewn floor like it’s causing him actual pain but he only clears his throat. “Cameron, what did you see? When the toaster caught on fire? Your mom said something about fire giants.”

“I guess I was just getting sick.”

Dad thinks it over, nods. “Speaking of fire, maybe I’ll build us one tonight. We could toast marshmallows, watch a movie?”

It seems like a bad time to point out that it’s sixty degrees, not exactly cozy fire weather. “Sure.”

“Okay. Well. I’ll, ah, just … chop some wood. Okay, buddy?”

I hear the sliding doors into the backyard open and close. When I peek out my window, Dad’s standing in the yard with his hands on his hips, just looking around like he’s never really seen our backyard before. He picks up the ax, takes a halfhearted swing at a puny log. Then he drops to his knees and closes his eyes for a minute. I’d almost swear he was praying. But my dad’s a scientist. He doesn’t believe in religion. He leaps up and swings the ax down hard on the log, putting his whole body into it again and again till there’s nothing left but a mess of splinters.
Did you hear the pain in the father’s voice while he assures Cam the previous doctor made a mistake? And did you feel the hurt in the image in the last paragraph? Everything about this totally breaks my heart. He loves Cameron, even if the kid is one heck of a jerk who doesn’t want to achieve anything in his life. Just rereading this part makes my eyes sting with tears. :’(

Coach Lipsyte!

Here’s Robert Lipsyte’s writing pep talk for last year’s NaNoWriMo. Like any other writing advice for the event, it’s applicable for writing "for all occasions", if you know what I mean. I thought of posting it here, since I know a few of my visitors here will be interested:

LipsyteRobert
Listen up, Word Warriors.

You have to stop thinking of yourselves as sensitive scribblers waiting for inspiration. It's perspiration you need. Forget about muses; think coaches. Grab a couple of metaphors off the weight rack and follow me.

We are members of a varsity team that kicks sentences, dunks paragraphs, passes pages, slugs out stories. We need to train just the way physical athletes do—hard, consistently, with discipline and goals—because that's the best way to improve.

For warm-ups, read. And read like a writer, not like a reader. Look for what you can use in your own work.

Just the way school ballers study college and pro athletes, young writers have to learn the moves of their favorite authors. Examine their techniques, how they handle dialogue, description, plot, sentence structure, simile. See what they do that you like. See where they swing and connect—or swing and miss. Be sure to read not-so-good writers, too, and try to figure out what you would have done to make the story better.

Now you're ready for your own workout.

Before NaNoWriMo, try to write every day—the same way you would work out physically, but instead of running, lifting, and stretching, you'll be listing ideas, writing notes, character sketches, and outlines. Always carry a notebook. You don't want to miss a good thought—but more importantly, you need to get into the habit of thinking of yourself as a varsity writer in training.

Writing is usually something you do alone. But as with most athletes, it's always better to have a coach and a team for support. By coach, think of a teacher, friend, or family member who can keep you motivated. By team, think of all the other young novelists, online or in your class, with whom you can share problem-solving and ideas.

Okay, let's get out there.

Ready?

Sit.

Write!

Use your hurt. :)


The Ab. T.Diary of a Part-Time Indian

That is all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Genre: Young Adult, Coming-of-Age
My Rating: ★★★★ ½

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

It’s a massive understatement to say life is hard for someone like Arnold Spirit, Junior. Being geeky and having hydrocephalus, epilepsy, stutter, lisp, and extra ten teeth made an outsider out of the aspiring fourteen-year-old cartoonist in an already outsider of a community. He’s used to the feel of punches and kicks on his body and the sharp stings of barbs on his heart; to take the edge off, he uses his humor and talent in the arts. “I belong to the Black-Eye-of-the-Month Club,” he jests when referring to the bullying. “I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats,” he says about his drawings.

Like everybody else in the Spokane Indian Reservation, Junior acknowledges the fact that they are destined to be poor for the rest of their lives…but only at first. He has a lot of dreams, and deep inside he knows he will not reach them if he stays in the rez. One book-hurling incident and a heart-to-heart talk with a teacher later, Junior decides to change his fate: he’s going to study in an all-white school and start chasing his dreams, even if the odds are not in his favor. His choice pushes him up a step closer to being a social pariah. Everyone in the rez thinks he’s a traitor (an ‘apple’, red on the outside and white on the inside) and everyone in his new school thinks he’s different (he’s the only Indian in school…if you don’t count the mascot). Junior knows it will be a difficult journey, but he figures it’s better to search for a brighter future than to surrender to the bleak destiny he is expected to fulfill.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is one of the books I’ll recommend without second thoughts to people who want to have a good laugh…and perhaps a good cry. There are only a few novels that can make my spleen hurt from laughing too hard one minute and then break my heart the next, and this one is perhaps the best of them. Sherman Alexie nimbly handles the hilarious and poignant moments with his simple but powerful writing prowess, and by that I don’t exactly mean he uses an extraordinarily brilliant prose. I just admire how easy it is for him to make Junior sound like a genuine kid blathering about his uproarious mishaps after a long, exhausting school day. In short, Alexie makes the readers feel like they’re conversing with the characters instead of actually reading a book (which, if you ask me, is a sign of a really good book). Even if you don’t have a drop of Indian blood in your veins, finding a friend—or bits of yourself—in Arnold is a cinch. The conversational narrative helps in drawing in the readers closer to the storyline.

I heard this is Alexie’s first foray into the young adult genre, and honestly, it doesn’t show. He knows how a teenager’s mind works, he knows how a teenager’s mouth speaks, and he knows how to use this knowledge to reach out to all the teenagers inside of us.

Interspersed with the story are the cartoons (by Ellen Forney)Arnold draws. These do not only serve as complementary illustrations, they also help the narrative to flow smoothly and provide additional humor (and on some occasions, insightfulness) to the story. Take a look at these doodles:

cartoonbyJunior - Copy

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I think the best thing about the book is how Alexie attacks serious issues like racism, poverty, alcohol and drugs usage, etc. with his sharp wit. In the process, he colors the prose with a lighter tone, but he never forgets to imply that these issues are grave enough to define the Native American life that exists even before the story starts. My favorite theme presented in it is the constant tug o’ war between individualism and collectivism, which Junior finds himself participating in while searching for his identity and place in the society. How do you continue to function in a community that sees you as a traitor? There’s nothing like watching a boy succeed in dealing with the heap of new burdens his own choice dropped on his shoulders, problems that would normally send an adult’s knees buckling. What’s fascinating here is that Junior doesn’t come off as precocious, like most kid geniuses in YA literature who hope to pass up as normal. He still sports the fragility of a kid, and he has a kind of optimism no one in the rez ever possessed.

While I cannot say all the characters are well-developed, I think a majority of them can leave a mark deep enough in the readers’ hearts to make them remarkable. I give Alexie a thumb up for portraying everyone in gray shades; no one is one hundred percent hero and no one is one hundred percent villain. They are justpeople, described with stark honesty in the eyes of a fourteen-year-old.

4.5 stars for an enjoyable read! I’m now considering reading more of Alexie’s works. :)

Reading in the Dark :)

If there’s something I really can’t stop doing, it’s reading. It’s true that there are nights when I just slide to dreamland without my noticing (with the book clutched in my hands ending up dog-eared, creased, and betrayed in the morning), but when I can struggle to be awake, I spend a lot of time reading stories.

Insomnia has its perks sometimes, though not in the health department. My sleepless nights are frequented by my mother’s voice telling me for the nth time to turn the lights off and sleep. Since I don’t want to cause a lot of trouble, I half-pretend to obey: I flick the lights off, but I can’t don’t sleep.  I just fish out my old MyPhone from my bag, crawl beneath the sheets, and start opening e-books. As stated in FAQ#08, I prefer real books to the electronic ones, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m  averse to reading the latter. :)

readbeforeyousleep

I don’t have a Kindle or a Nook at the moment, but I’m planning to get one. My Tumblr friends say I’m not going to regret getting an e-reader, especially that most of the newly released e-books are cheaper (and there’s always the power of free Internet download! Haha). I'm just using my phone right now. With a 4gig memory card and a spacious phone memory, I can stuff it with as many e-books as I like. I think that's enough for the time being. :)

I got Daenerys Targaryen!

There’s a rather popular A Song of Ice and Fire personality test that many George R. R. Martin fans on Tumblr have already taken. I was initially hesitant to try it in fear that I might come across some spoilers, but I got bored one morning and answered the test anyway. :p Fortunately, I only stumbled upon unfamiliar names—nothing that can spoil A Clash of Kings and the other books for me. :)

It was quite a longer and more comprehensive exam compared to the other fandom personality tests I’ve taken before.  At the end it said I’m most like Daenerys Targaryen:

Dany
A queen must listen to all. The highborn and the low, the strong and the weak, the noble and the venal. One voice may speak you false, but in many there is always truth to be found. 
You are Daenerys Targaryen.  
Also known as Daenerys Stormborn, you are the last of the "Blood of the Dragon". You have put up with a lot of difficult people in your life, but you have not let this get you down. You may not seem like it right away, but you are a natural leader. You have a great amount of love for the world, but you know how to stand up for yourself when it needs to be done. You are very open and adaptable—you enjoy learning about and experiencing different cultures. Social justice issues are especially important to you. Madness may run in your family. You are strong, compassionate, and fiery. 
You are also similar to Robb Stark and Bran Stark. Your polar opposite is Robert Baratheon.

Perhaps this test is not 100% accurate, but I think I do have the qualities stated above. Honestly, I would have been more satisfied if I got Arya Stark! I believe she’s a little Airiz thrown in a medieval fantasy world (only I’m not as “athletic” as she is, and I guess that counts a lot when it comes to passable Arya-ness). Haha!

Monday, January 9, 2012

“My Strength is Not for Hurting”

These posters came from a campaign by Men of Strength, a project by California Department of Health Services and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA). CALCASA is a statewide coalition of rape crisis centers and prevention programs founded in 1980.

Perhaps I’m so 2000-and-late, but this is the first time I stumbled upon a site that actually enlists young men to take action to stop rape. Their vision is to make the world free from sexual violence. I’m very happy it exists, and I wish there are more of them. The campaign speaks a universal language: it centers on the theme “My Strength is Not for Hurting,” and is designed to raise awareness of sexual violence among youth and highlight the vital role that young men can play in fostering healthy, safe relationships.

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Spread the word! :)