Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Darkest Things in the Soul :)

This quote really resonates with me and my writing. I felt the need to post it here and share it with you. To all writers out there—what do you write about? :) Do we write about the same things?
I talk about the things people have always talked about in stories: pain, hate, truth, courage, destiny, friendship, responsibility, growing old, growing up, falling in love, all of these things. What I try to write about are the darkest things in the soul, the mortal dreads. I try to go into those places in me that contain the cauldrous. I want to dip up the fire, and I want to put it on paper. The closer I get to the burning core of my being, the things which are most painful to me, the better is my work.
-HARLAN ELLISON

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fanart Fun Feature 03

This week on FFF: a triumvirate of artworks featuring the awesomeness of geeky and crazy cool netizens.

CUTE
Broweristas by eskimoie. Fashionable anthropomorphic representations of browsers? I very much approve. Opera definitely rocks that hi-lo dress, but my favorite is Chrome’s outfit. :) Check out more of this artist’s works, they’re a delight for anyone who likes fashion.

Azi and Crowley
Good Omens: The Other Guys by animagess. I want to babble how ineffably cool this art is, but I’ll just paste the comment of the artist instead: “This is by no means the dorkiest thing I've ever done, but it comes pretty close. It had occurred to me that the dynamic between Crowley and Aziraphale is essentially that of a buddy cop movie, and so I spent a few hours popping this out because the image refused to leave my head. There was a lot more I could have done with it, but in the end I figured spending any more time on a parody poster of The Other Guys would probably lead to regret down the road. A flaming sword is slightly more impressive than dual-wielding plant misters, even if they are filled with holy water, but demons have plenty of other ways to intimidate.”

Fruit Drops
Fruit Drops by turtle-rn. It’s from the animated film The Grave of the Fireflies. Just looking at this art makes my heart twinge a little. This is an exceptional movie, perhaps one of the few anime movie that actually made me bawl my eyes out. I highly recommend it.

LGBTQ’s Lasting Relationships?

One of my college batchmates (I can’t remember who) once told me that he/she noticed how all of his/her gay friends don’t have long romantic relationships with their respective partners. I think I was blabbering about gay couples that I find inspiring at that time, and this friend of mine just squeezed in his/her little “trivia” matter-of-factly.

While the statement was couched in the language based on raw observation, I can’t help but notice its underlying meaning, my batchmate’s belied doubts on the LGBTQ community members’ ability to build serious and lasting relationships. In effect, he/she presented the "statistics" as a way of saying same-sex relationships don’t work.

LGBTQ

I can’t remember why I didn’t explode right then and there—I guess I didn’t want to offend him/her or something—but I did implode. One of the few things I really despise is when people become so quick to judge you or cage you in a stereotype based on unreliable proofs. Suddenly, my head filled up with names of straight couples whose marriages didn’t last (hint: one pair didn’t even last for 24 hours—hello, showbiz!) and names of gay couples who are currently adding more years to their happy marriages. I’d love to shove my own version of "observation" up his/her face, but I was too irritated to explain it at the time.

Apparently, it doesn’t mean that when you go to college, you become more mature and open-minded. Some people’s mind stay in the gutter. I hope they get it out of there before it’s too late.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Favorite Book Awards (Year 11)

You know there’s still lots of awesome left in the world if people give you awards for being the nerdtastic bookworm that you are. Ask anyone who attended My Favorite Book Awards Year 11 at the Conservatory of the Peninsula Manila about this, and they’ll know what you mean.

awarding
That ironic moment when “Solitude” brings you to a get-together kind of event

I consider The Solitude of Prime Numbers a special book long before I joined the competition—it wowed me even if I’m not particularly fond of soulmate stories or mathematics. The flurry of gifts (material or otherwise)  I’ve received because of my review for it  just carved it out an extra special place in my heart. ♥

books (winners)
“Winners”
The above table was set beside the stage. There may be us, the human winners and essayists, but everyone who attended the awarding knew that these books (and our love for them!) are the very treasures that brought us together to celebrate. They’re the real winners here.

awarding2
Mr. Neo, me, and my mother


The Philippine Star’s Ms. Tanya Lara told me that I can bring at most three persons at the awarding, so I asked my mother and one of my cousins to accompany me. The original plan was that I’d bring my friends Kitty and Debbie, but it was an epic deadly Deadlines Week at work…so yeah, it went down the drain.

Anyway, I got to meet some of my co-winners. Neo E. Valdez, who wrote about the novel Ordinary People by Judith Gues, sat and chatted with us. I was surprised to learn that he reads my blog (not sure if it’s CICB or CIRS), and was largely flattered when he said my book reviews are good.

“It’s good to have a blog,” I could remember him saying. “Most of us who read books need an outlet where we can show our views and opinions. It goes the same for this contest.” He brought his two kids with him, who are also bibliophiles (one of them is an avid Rick Riordan fan).

winner's table
At the winners’ table
I also got to sit with co-winner Rosario Patino-Yap, who wrote about Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. She brought her family with her, and if I remember it correctly, they flew straight from Cagayan just to attend the event. They’re all nice! I wasn’t able to ask if all of them in the family are readers but I guess it’s not impossible, especially that Ms. Rosario is a high school teacher.

STAR
The VIPs: STAR Lifestyle editor Millet Mananquil, head of editorial board Isaac Belmonte and editor in chief Amy Pamintuan, Ayala Corp. chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, NBS founder and GM Nanay Socorro Ramos, and STAR Lifestyle columnist Jessica Zafra. (Photo courtesy of The Philippine Star)

The other biggies who attended the event are The Philippine Star president and CEO Miguel Belmonte, editorial board head Isaac Belmonte, editor-in-chief Amy Pamintuan and managing editor Romel Lara; Globe Telecom head of Corporate Communications Division Yoly Crisanto, NBS VP for purchasing Cecilia “Bak” Licauco, Swatch Philippines president Virgie Ramos, among others.

onstage
Bea Ledesma, Me, Raymond Gutierrez, and Liz Uy (Blurry shot is blurred!)
GOD is good!

I received P10,000.00 (Cash and GCs) and a Globe premium handyphone.

I didn’t prepare any kind of speech, so I did what I usually do when my inner emergency alarm goes off: puncture my thought balloons and let the words spill everywhere. I was speechless at first (I sort of told the hosts about it), but as soon as I got hold of the mic, the words were out.

In my non-speech, I said I’m grateful that there are business entities like National Book Store, The Philippine Star, and Globe that give awards to bookworms simply for being the bookworms that they are. Nowadays, people are so quick to stereotype you as a “geek”, “nerd,” or just someone “weird” when they learn you have  a special love affair with literature (not that there's something wrong with being a geek, nerd, or weird!). It’s a blessing for all kinds of readers to have an avenue like the My Favorite Book contest, where everyone seems to tell you that you rock for loving books! :) And I stand by that—you really are hardcore if you’re a bookworm. You live lots of lives, learn about life, put yourself in lots of other people’s shoes…and enjoy every minute of it. It’s not just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle.

“Speechless ka pa n’yan, ah? Pano pag prepared ka na?” jested host Tim Yap after I handed him back the mic.

The following came from Ms. Anna Marie Pamintuan’s Sketches column (Pleasures of Reading) in last Wednesday’s issue of The Philippine Star:
Honorable mention Amalia Airiz Casta, a journalism graduate of Lyceum who wrote about Paolo Giordano’s “The Solitude of Prime Numbers,” was happy to receive an award for her love of books – something that she said made others call her “weird” and a “nerd.” 

Several of the other youthful awardees aired similar sentiments. Someone should remind them that the nerds have taken over the planet.
The last line, folks. That is all.

Not Alone :)

WEREADTOKNOW

-C.S. Lewis. This is true. :)

Fandom on Fire V.01 (Hunger Games Goodies)

I'm dying to post my thoughts on Gary Ross' big screen translation of The Hunger Games right now, but the odds of me not getting fired when I do that are not in my favor. Haha! Can't leak! I wrote a full-page review for it in our magazine GALA, which will be out in bookstores, coffee shops, convenience stores, etc. on April 1. (Please do grab a copy! It's an events magazine and we cover everything from festivals and fun runs to album launches and movie openings.)

Anyway, I think I can find a way around this little dilemma. I can post things that I didn’t include in the review, like book vs. film nitpicks, favorite moments, and things I’m looking forward to in Catching Fire. You know, the usual things regular Tumblristas know. *wiggles eyebrows*

In a non-review related HG news in Airizverse…I got new goodies!

HG companion
The Hunger Games Companion

Here’s a book to stand cheek by jowl my other favorite The Hunger Games meta-essay compilation of some sort, Lea Wilson’s The Girl Who Was on Fire. While I  fangirl THG like it’s my day job, I still love in-depth discussions that go beyond the usual “shipping” stuff. I love metas. I’m about 90% sure I’m going to like this.

HG Tribute Guide
The Tribute Guide

There’s nothing particularly new in this book, but it’s a must-have for all THG fans. It includes colored photos and quotes from the movie and a few detailed information about all the districts. I would have appreciated this more if I bought this before I saw the film, I think. But as I said, it’s a treat for any THG fan who wanted to have anything and everything about the film and the book.

HG Soundtrack
The Hunger Games soundtrack
And of course, the soundtrack! It’s The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond, featuring tracks by Taylor Swift, The Decemberists, The Secret Sisters, Arcade Fire, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and many more. The songs were written and produced exclusively for the album.

Any miser’s going to shake his head and say “You could have just downloaded the songs.”  Yes, I could have, but like the usual books/ebooks stuff, I think there’s nothing like a physical copy of it. It’s not solely mine, though; my friend paid half the price, even if she only wanted to rip the songs from it. :p

More Hunger Games post in the future! Happy blogging and may the odds be ever in your favor! ;)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Trivia Time: Little Red Riding Hood

LRRHart by ciahra.
  1. Name. In some accounts, the name of the girl in red riding hood is Maisie.
  2. A tale of seduction. A French engraving that accompanies the first published version of the story (1697) shows a girl in her déshabille, lying in bed beneath a wolf. The story says that she has just strips out of her clothes and joins the beast in bed, whom she thinks is her grandmother.This is Charles Perrault’s version (Le Petit Chaperon Rouge). The wolf’s act of “eating” is sometimes interpreted as a metaphor for sexual assault.
  3. Lost Virginity. Because of this tale, the popular slang elle avoit vu le loup, which translates to “she’d seen the wolf”, is an expression commonly used when a girl loses her virginity.
  4. Color of Sin. Still in Perrault’s story, the color red of the hood signifies the girl’s “sinful nature”. Perrault said that red symbolizes scandal and blood, which in turn implies the girl’s sin and her impending fate in the hands (or jaws) of the wolf. Some versions said this symbolizes rape.
  5. Wolves in Court? In the earliest versions of the tale, the antagonist is sometimes portrayed as an ogre or a werewolf (also known as a ‘bzou’). This makes the story a bit relevant in a time where inquisitions and witch trials are rampant as well as trials for werewolves (see the case of Peter Stumpp).
  6. No happy-ever-after. Little Red Riding Hood was intended to teach children and well-bred young ladies the danger of talking to strangers. In the Brothers Grimm’s desexualized/sanitized version, a hunter or a last minute rescuer comes for the heroine; in the earlier versions, she is just devoured by the wolf, and no rescuer came.
  7. Cannibalism. In an Austrian version, the grandmother is eaten by the wolf before Little Red Riding Hood arrives. Granny’s entrails are used to replace the string on the door latch and her teeth, jaws and blood stored in her cupboard. When Little Red arrives, she is hungry and so is directed to eat her dead grandmother’s teeth (rice) and jaw (chops) and drink her blood (wine).
  8. Variations. Since then, a lot of other writers create their own versions of the tale. There is one where there is striptease or defecation involved; there’s one where the werewolf is a vegetarian and the heroine is a lesbian; there is also a version where Little Red Riding Hood kills the wolf with a revolver.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pop Rock Picks

Let’s take a break from all the bookwormism’s, dorkology’s, and personal blah’s that have been frequenting my online havens for a while now, shall we? Music perpetually occupies a corner of the triangulation of my everyday life, and I now find it ridiculous that there are only drizzles of my musical fangirlism here on my blog. There should be hurricanes of them!

From now on, I’ll make it a point to put up “weeklies” about music—what’s been dominating my player during jeepney and train rides, new discoveries, old songs I forgot I loved until they replayed on the Sunday radio, or even fanmixes and literary mixed tapes. (The latter is a guilty pleasure. After reading a certain book, I always create playlists that will click with the novel’s storyline. :) I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who do this, since I know a lot of bookworms that are also music junkies.)

Anyhoo…today, let’s take a detour from the usual indie rock (I’ll get back to you, Arctic Monkeys) and climb a few notch to mainstream. Let’s talk about my pop rock picks!

Symphony Soldier

Symphony Soldier (The Cab).  

I first heard of The Cab when I researched about Dayly Entertainment’s SMASH Project that is supposed to be featured in our magazine. An officemate assured me they’re amazing, so I tried listening to them. I liked their first album (Whisper War) all right, what with amazing collab songs like “One of Those Nights” (Patrick Stump, Brendon Urie, its lyrics heavily reminiscent of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out) and songs that sound pop-punkish like “I’ll Run” and “Take my Hand.” But their sophomore release—Symphony Soldier—has a different kind of charm that tickled my slumbering, inner high schoolgirl awake. Go figure.

First things first—can I just say how I freaking love the album art?! Aside from clicking perfectly with the compilation’s title, its symbolism is simple but impactful—music is a weapon indeed! :p  This is officially my favorite album art this year (but then again, it’s only March, and I haven’t seen a lot of new albums). I think  Symphony Soldier is a mixed bag content-wise, but it’s definitely got more thumb-up’s from me. Catchy, piano-driven, string-laced, head-bopping…you name it, this pop rock package has it. There’s a song about living louder and dreaming longer (so inspiring), about the wonders and joys of being a carefree kid (strangely nostalgic and very relatable), about a liaison (so freaking sexy and desperate and…I don’t know, just a sad-and-angry kind of sexy), about true love (sweet but not really cloying—the usual Bruno Mars stuff), and...you know, more songs about love. Quite understandable. What’s interesting here is that a majority of them are tinged with the themes of war and religion.

Confession time: I don’t shout out to the whole world how I love this band, although I sort of do. They’re like my guilty pleasure band of 2012, haha! There’s just something…boy band-ish about their sounds, I guess. And I never really liked boy bands even when I was in grade school. This is a change. :p


SinglesClubEP

The Singles Club EP (Paramore).

The Singles Club is a foursome I’ve been listening to since last year. Truth be told, this extended play is a mini treasure box, a precious proof that the post-Farro era is not the “dark age” or “collapsing stage” for Paramore. They’re still in the musical warzone, and they’re still ready to fight. Way to go! *flails  pom-poms*

"Hello Cold World" and "Renegade" are reminiscent of their Riot! songs, while their relaxing albeit sad "In The Mourning" sounds as if it came from their album Brand New Eyes. "Monster" became known as a single from the official soundtrack of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and because of the heavy guitars and crunching riffs in it that Paramore don’t usually use,  it easily became my favorite. Change is good. :) Also, I love how some of the lyrics contain slightly veiled references to the departure of the Farro brothers:
I’ll stop the whole world, I’ll stop the whole world / From turning into a monster, eating us alive / Don’t you ever wonder how we survive? / Well now that you’re gone, the world is ours.
Paramore can indeed survive even as a trio! I believe that. I’m eagerly waiting for their next release!


Best Intentions

Best Intentions (We Are the In Crowd).

This is a personal recommendation from PULP Magazine’s publisher, Vernon Go. Well, you know it’s impossible not to talk about music when you’re interviewing a musician/music columnist/major concert-promoter. When he mentioned pop punk and alternative rock, I blurted out Paramore, and he told me to check out the band We Are the In Crowd. “I’m a heavy metal guy, but I grew to be a fan of We Are the In Crowd!” he exclaimed. We cracked up, but he said he’s not kidding.

I haven’t listened to all the tracks yet, but based on the few songs I devoured in my free time, I can totally see why Sir Vernon recommended it to me. If you’ll ask me, I’ll say they’re like Paramore meets Fall Out Boy. They produce good stuff, but I think they need to establish their own identity as a band to escape comparisons. Some fans can be horribly possessive—they’ll always ready to accuse someone or something of being a rip-off.  :)

Fanart Fun Feature 02

This week on FFF:  Some of my favorite fictional characters…depicted in Peanuts style!

Quatre and Dorothy

Quatre Winner & Dorothy Catalonia from the anime series Gundam Wing. Don’t go all “but she made a human shish-kabob out of him using a fencing epee!” on me. Bash them all you want, but they’ll always be one of my first and favorite OTP’s. :) I will freaking sink with this ship (hear that, Frozen Teardrop?).

Dream and Death

Dream & Death from The Sandman graphic novels (wish the artist did her own version of Peanuts-style D&D instead of the real Linus and Lucy). I absolutely adore the original Dream and Death scene from the novels, where I learn there’s only one person—or entity—who can chuck a loaf of bread at the brooding Morpheus, King of Dreams whenever she wants. Gotta love the sibling relationship.

Glinda and Elphaba

Glinda & Elphaba from the Wicked Years series by Gregory Maguire. This frienemy duo just bursts with all kinds of awesome, both in the book and in the musical.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Omni-Absence (Short Story)

It’s again one of those days, when all he wanted to do was curl up in his bed and seek refuge in the layered cocoon of his blankets. Escape and protection—from his own screaming thoughts—that’s all he wanted. Solitude didn’t give him these. The pain’s still sharp and she’s still gone, so he took the edge off by fighting it with his only weapon: painting.

Omniabsence

He wielded his paintbrush like a sword and battled his inner demons with the splotches of paint on canvas. Blue like the cloudless summer sky—it warded off his darkest nightmares. Yellow like fragments of sunlight through a tree’s foliage—it drove away the gloom in his heart. Pink, red, orange, and green, like candies in a gumball machine from his childhood—they lifted his spirits up.

Paintings were created, but really, what do these things give him? Temporary paradise. Fleeting illusions. When he put the brush down, reality resurfaced—he’s back in his room, alone, longing for her touch.

So he stopped painting for a while, desperate for another escape. He must be desperate because he’s trying all these crazy things that people believe could grant his heart’s desire. Every night he waited for 11:11 and wishes for her to come home. Every day he went to the town square and hurled every coin—all right, not just coins, even bills and cigarette packs and pens and calling cards—into the wishing fountain. Blew fallen eyelashes, whispered at shooting stars…you name them, he’d done all of them. Then dusk would come, and he would want to lie in bed and get away as far from today as possible.

One day, when he’s still walking outside and the sun’s about to sink, he discovered a new way of painting—a new way to get her back. No need for canvas or brushes or gouaches. Just his senses. When he looked down and noticed the asphalt and earth leading home, he saw the brownness of her eyes. When the wind caressed his face and the sunset basked him in a strawberry redness, he felt the softness of her kiss. When he finally reached home at night and stared up at the sky, he saw her black hair, strewn with shining clips that were the stars. The world’s a portrait of her. She’s nowhere and everywhere at the same time.

He met her personally again on that same day. Beautiful but broken. She didn’t change from their last encounter, and this crumbled his newfound art technique to dust. She’s immobile, still standing where she requested to be left. Cold and upright, reaching up to catch the moonlight. The dried daisies at her feet were skewered by unwanted weeds. She’s gray and weathered, edges chipping off. The epitaph on her face was nowhere near readable now, but on her chest was that deep carving of cross and three letters—R.I.P.

“Do you rest in peace?” He asked the gravestone. “I don’t. Because you won’t let me.”

He stormed into the house because it’s again one of those days, when all he wanted to do was curl up in his bed and seek refuge in the layered cocoon of his blankets.

The clock ticked 11:11. Instinctively, he wished for her.

Again.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

1st Honorable Mention :)

Remember the essay/review I penned that was published in The Philippine Star last August? It's chosen as one of 2011's annual winners! Just an honorable mention, but hey, it's still one of the top 8. :) Thank you, God!

DSC_0031

The announcement in today’s issue of the Star states the following:
The Philippine STAR, National Book Store and Globe Telecom announce winners of My Favorite Book contest 2011, who will be awarded on Tuesday, March 20, 11:30 a.m. at The Conservatory of Peninsula Manila.
This year’s batch range from a diplomat and Palanca winner to a university student, a Jesuit volunteer and a corporate executive— and their books run the gamut of fiction, autobiographical essays, confessionals and a love story written in prime numbers.

Yep! I wrote about the bolded one.

DSC_0028 - Copy

I don’t want to be nitpicky, but they got my name wrong (Aririz= Airiz), and they put the photo of the wrong book, too (see the online version). While I did dedicate a few sentences to Plato's The Symposium, it wasn't the novel I blathered about; it's The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano.

For the record, it wasn’t a "love story written in prime numbers" (that may be a catchy description, but it’s inaccurate). It’s a tale about soulmates, two damaged people who “can fill out each other’s incompleteness. But what prevents them from joining is that they are like “twin primes,” or prime numbers that are separated only by an even number: 11 and 13, 17 and 19, 41 and 43… close but not close enough to touch.” (x)

While I’m at it, let me shift into my bookrec-machine mode and say—READ IT! Seriously. I’m not a hopeless romantic (and I don’t like math), but darn, I didn’t realize I was swooning under the spell of Giordano’s writing until it was too late. No major character died in this story, but I consider it one of the most amazing tragedies I’ve ever read. Just talking about it makes me want to read it again.

The prizes weren’t listed, but last year I heard the honorable mentions received 10,000php (cash and GCs) and a Globe handyphone.

I was planning to join again this year, and I bought the paper to see if they changed the email address where the entries could be sent. Serendipity is officially my bestfriend! I wouldn’t have known my piece won if I didn’t buy the broadsheet. I told my father about it during breakfast, but he wasn’t surprised at all—he said he’d seen the online version when he was browsing the net a few hours before I woke up. He was about to tell me, but held back when I went outside to buy food and the paper. xD

Happy Sunday, everyone! :) I’m having one. Thank you, God. :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: Stargirl

Title: Stargirl
Author: Jerry Spinelli
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
My Rating: ★★★★

Stargirl

Picture your life—and everyone else’s around you—as a vast, boiling desert, occasionally littered with cacti and yuccas. For you, blandness is normality.  You’re all content on playing chameleon, melting against the nondescript walls of conformity, swaddling yourselves with the safety of not being singled out. You’re a bundle, you’re a “we,” and you like everything to stay that way.

But glitches occur, no matter how perfectly shielded you think your system is. It may scare you one minute and enchant you the next, but when you realize it’s jeopardizing your perfect routines, you’re going to despise it. You’ll get the urge to banish it. It’s a rare event, but no worries—it’s only a normal stimulus of most people in your place.

This is the story of Susan “Stargirl” Caraway, the ‘glitch’ that cartwheeled her way into the “normal” lives of Mica High School students…and into the heart of sixteen-year-old Leo Borlock. With her floor-length skirts, pet rat, and a ukelele strapped to her back, she faces each day with a bounce in her step and a grin on her freckle-dusted face, not minding what everyone else will think of her.

I'd like to refer to Stargirl as a rebel, even if she only loosely fits in the category. Among my roster of female fictional revolutionaries, she—ironically—is the most normal. She's not rising up against a cruel or corrupt government in a post-apocalyptic setting, nor is she preparing to serve cold dishes of revenge to those who did her wrong. She's just being herself. It's stereotype she's ramming against. It's no secret that in a world that forces you to be someone else, being yourself is perhaps one of the hardest battles you can ever fight. Not to Stargirl, though: she doesn’t even need to lift a finger to win it. She is not afraid to be unique...that is, before she fell in love. Leo is a typical MHS kid, and while he loves Stargirl so much, he doesn’t want to be turned into a social pariah because of their relationship. So he works to transform Stargirl into a normal girl, oblivious to what it will do to her.

However, Stargirl as a character is a tad too Mary Sue-ish (too Pollyannaish?), and because we haven't seen her 'side' of the story, it's easy to judge she's a shallow, flat character. Perhaps that's why Spinelli spun a sequel to mold her more? I'm not really sure. While I think the portrayal of the main female protagonist is decent, she needs more development.

Spinelli have spun a simple tale that will without a doubt resonate with every teenage heart that will encounter it. I marvel at the characterization of Leo, at how human he seems to be instead of being just another one-dimensional knight-in-shining-armor figure that pops up frequently in most of today’s young adult novels. He doesn’t recklessly rush to rescue his ‘princess’ when she’s in trouble; in fact, he even runs away from the scene, afraid of the prickly eyes and thoughts of the people around him. He is an ordinary boy torn between having to choose between the approval of the society and the happiness of being with the girl he loves. I understood his insecurities and behavior; I tasted his fears, and in the several nights he spent thinking on his moonlit sheets, it’s almost as if I caught a glimpse of everything he’s dreading. Sometimes I dislike him; sometimes I feel the urge to give him a sucker punch for not doing what he thinks is right “because the others think it’s wrong.” He’s like a bandwagon-riding, pesky little brother to me most of the time. I don't know if it will make sense to you, but I began liking him because he so...unlikable.

The world-building is not precisely first-rate, but the setting greatly adds to the symbolism department of the novel. The desert stands for the collective “we” of MHS. Then there are “enchanted places” beyond the sand dunes and saguaros—places that are always there but you can never locate with your naked eye, places that represent someone like Stargirl. More than once, a character explicates how Stargirl is closer to what we all should be, and that something is inside us already. We just need to get in touch with it by using our hearts as our compasses.

The plot only takes a backseat here, since the enigmatic Stargirl steers the wheel of the story. There are a couple of twists and turns, but nothing that can imprint an indelible memory in my head. There are poignant scenes, hilarious scenes, and a mixture of both, but what really struck a chord with me are the times of ruminations and the conversations between Archie and Leo. :)

A magnificent portrayal of the celebration of nonconformity, Stargirl is one of the few books that are so plain on the surface but is beautifully labyrinthine when you delve deeper into it. Four stars for a great read! I can’t wait to get my hands on Love, Stargirl.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Little Stories I Don’t Think About II

They're more like fragments, but I like to refer to them as "stories waiting to happen." :)

CRESCENT
The crickets’ nighttime songs swaddled him in a solemn blanket of atmosphere. On evenings like this, he always liked to lie on the roof and gaze up at the glowing beauty of the moon. But the night’s Queen is not full tonight; she sat gingerly on the wisps of ghostly clouds, bending to mimic the shape of the Cheshire Cat’s grin. He still loves her glow, though. It’s still magical. He crawled on the rust-caked roof and let himself be bathed with the meager magic light emanating from her, his head lolling to an unheard lullaby.

SWING
He shook the headphones off his ears when the music’s unpalatable tang sank into his taste buds. Sometimes he wonders why heartbroken people still listen to songs that tell them terrible things about love. Sometimes, he wonders why he still joins their “martyrs” horde. But he muses, maybe that’s what real love is. You let your past swing from the tangles of your aching heart and be okay with it…because pain is an important part of the package.

SWEAT
The sun was so outraged today that he sent blistering fingers to squeeze out all the salty rainwater from everyone’s skins. I stooped, imbibed the last drops from my canteen, and let myself be squeezed some more. I was a warm, human raincloud. The heat wave is still rolling.
_

more at my OneWord.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Thing About Murakami

A tumblr friend once asked for my advice about continuing to read Murakami. She said she tried reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World but eventually gave up on it because it seemed like 'such a mess of stuff about nothing.'

“I still have it and my mom recently bought 1Q84,” she added. “I just have such a long list of books to read that I can’t decide which one to read first. So I decided to ask you, since you’re my favorite blog about books. Thanks in advance!”

Murakami

Here’s my response:  I love Murakami so much…but I think he is not for everybody. His works usually dip in and out of fantasy and reality (this is aka magical realism) so  to most people they come out as a jumble of thoughts and events that are only held together by the main protagonist’s philosophies. Halfway through a Murakami book, readers who want a concrete story with a concrete direction will feel as if they are just in some wild goose chase. The endings, which are often open and surreal, would just seem to confirm their early suspicions.

The thing is, I find books like these fascinating. Murakami’s style is the epitome of the literary version of “it’s the journey, not the destination” adage. Like Neil Gaiman, Murakami seems to have a penchant for tapping into the subconscious of their characters and connecting the readers to them. He’s bringing you to a world of fantasy without actually going past the doorjamb of reality, and he drops a handful of nuggets of wisdom while he’s doing it. I hope I’m making sense.

If you want something more normal from Murakami, start with Norwegian Wood, which has also been turned into a movie:

Norwegian Wood

It stars Ken’ichi Matsuyama, who is more known to anime fanatics as the “L” in a Death Note live action movie. I have the three volumes of 1Q84 (haven’t started reading them), but I think they’re more similar to his surreal works. Happy reading, girl! And sorry for rambling!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fanart Fun Feature 01

Welcome to fanart fun feature! Every week, I’d be featuring drawings, paintings, photographs, graphics, and any kind of fan craft (by other people) that tickle my fancy.

Today’s fanart is called Heroines.

It’s no secret that I’m a lover of fictional girls who can kick ass in their own little ways and be able to stand without any help from any Prince Charming figure . That’s why I got a tad thrilled when I stumbled upon this art on Briarthorn’s site a few years ago while searching for the Old Kingdom trilogy fanart--I recognize a few faces! Uh, maybe except for Bella Swan, I think a majority of them are pretty smart, strong, and straight-out badass, and  I will use this image as a reference; I haven’t read/watched all the films and books where some of the characters above were featured. I'll check them out in the future. :)


heroines_again_by_briarthorn-d2wau1j

First row: Lyra Belacqua (His Dark Materials), Lirael (Old Kingdom Trilogy), Lissar (Deerskin) Mosca Mye (Fly By Night), Rae Seddon (Sunshine), Renn (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness), Cassandra Mortmain (I Capture the Castle)

Second row: Kestrel Hath (Wind on Fire Trilogy), Yvaine, the star (Stardust), Amelie Poulin (Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain), Eowyn (Lord of the Rings) Bella (Twilight), Hermione (Harry Potter), Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Third row: Amalthea (The Last Unicorn), Ariadne (Inception), Cassie (Animorphs), Kitty Jones (Bartimaeus Trilogy), Ivy Walker (The Village), Gemma Doyle (Gemma Doyle Trilogy), Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice).




PS: I'll be answering your comments on my previous post when I get home tonight! Have a great day!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bookwormism Update

Someone’s on cloud nine! Guess who? ;)

The Fault in Our Stars

I'm late to the party, but who cares? I finally got John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars! All the local bookstores I’m contacting the past month kept on telling me this book’s out of stock. But a couple of weeks ago, while hunting  for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making in NBS Tutuban,  I chanced upon Green’s newest gem on the YA shelf. I wasn’t able to hold in the little giggle-squeal that bubbled up my throat (how little that squeal was, I’ll never know—I had my earphones on).

After reading and rereading Pamela Haag’s list of awesome words, I think someone needs to coin a term for that ineffable feeling you get when you find that special book you’ve always wanted to have. “Bookstore serendipity”, which I always use, sometimes seems a tad too broad a term to describe the feeling. I’ll still use it though.

Priority Pile

So let’s take a look at my priority pile (come on, it’s about time I make one. Toss coin sometimes doesn’t work when it comes to choosing what to read next). As you can see, I also got a new Jerry Spinelli book, Stargirl. A friend was repeatedly recommending a Spinelli novel that has a yoyo string or something like that in the title, but I can’t find that anywhere. Since Stargirl is omnipresent in bookshops, I guess I should try it first. I found it the same day I purchased The Fault in Our Stars.

Next is George R. R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings, second book in A Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy series. I know I should have read it right after I finished book 1, but I kept on getting tempted by other novels. Season 2 of HBO’s Game of Thrones is just around the corner, so I better get started on this one. I look forward to reacquainting myself with the people of Westeros. It’s ironic how summer is coming here irl, but I’m readying to see what will happen in a fictional, decades-long winter from Martin’s enchanting realms. :p

Then we have The Girl Who Played with Fire, second book in Stieg Larsson’sMillennium trilogy. I heard Lisbeth Salander is going to be stripped open in this book like a dissected frog (umm, okay, it’s not the best of metaphors, but we’re talking about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s got a lot of that stuff too—and they forever scarred my mind). I love enigma in characters, but not as much as I love watching how their secrets are scooped out of their secretive shell. That…and I can’t wait for more Salander badassery! :)

Daniel Sandler’s Why We Broke Up. I know, I know, I’ve been blathering about this for weeks. I’ll start it soon.

And Steampunk!: A Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, a collection of short fiction by some of favorite authors (Garth Nix, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, etc). It’s the only copy in NBS Robinsons Manila. I’ve been eyeing this compendium for a while now, since I found someone on Good Reads saying it’s the best anthology she’d read since finishing Zombies vs. Unicorns. ZVU is amazing, so that’s saying something. I’m excited for some steampunk! It makes me miss Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series. :’)

So yeah, that's my Priority Six.There’s still a lot to be read from bookstack 1 andbookstack 2, but I promise to get back to them after I finish the above books. Toodles!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

{MY REACTION TO} DATE A GIRL WHO READS

GIRLS

DATE A GIRL WHO READS
Original article by Rosemarie Urquico
(In response to Charles Warnke’s You Should Date an Illiterate Girl)
 
Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve. 
Okay, first things first—I don’t intend to offend anyone who loves the above piece by writing this response. The article’s been popping up more and more frequently on my dashboard and I just can’t help but notice how many people still ignore that Urquico is somewhat poking a hornet’s nest with a stick of her cloyingly sweet, irresistible interpretation of the female bookworm. I think it’s about time I un-zip my mouth about it now, eh? And here’s what I got to say:
  1. There’s no wrong way to be a girl.
  2. Date whoever the heck you want.
I’m a girl who reads. I can’t live without books—I read like I need to breathe! Anyone who’s following me must be aware of that by now. All the same, I value being a woman too; I value being outside any stereotypical cages some people forces us to be in. I value not being underrated because I don’t do this thing that makes others seem cooler or more “special.” While I can really relate to a lot of the descriptions Urquico provided (hello, second paragraph!), I believe she seemed to have painted girls-who-read in an idealized portrait that has, for the most part, misogynistic shades. Am I the only one who noticed it?

I’ve already given my not-so-subtle jab at Urquico’s piece the first time I posted it here: I attached the illustration above, featuring reader girls who are obviously also spending their money on beautiful clothes. See paragraph one (italicized line). There’s nothing wrong with you at all if you like clothes and books. Heck, there’s nothing wrong with you if you like clothes alone or something else instead of anything related to literature! Just because you don’t like books doesn’t mean you’re inferior to those who do. It doesn’t mean you’re not smart, deep, or interesting. It doesn’t mean no one deserves to love or date you. It just means that you have different interests! You are still you; you are still a woman, and there’s no wrong way to be one.

This is not the only article that seems to value a certain “type” of girl by depreciating the others. I remember I stumbling pieces like this, all with the formulaic title “Girls who (insert hobby here).” If you Venn-diagram them all, what you’d see in the center are their subverted competitive natures, their haughty ways of hoisting their own featured girl up on the rung higher than the others so they can be tagged as “better.” Look at it at the right angle, and it would look like a pointless battle between women with superiority complex, writing off other girls who are not as interesting as they are (in consonance with their essays).

Urquico’s is a dichotomy of an article—while it pushes bookworm girls up the pedestal (in a rather unhealthy way), there are also some passages that can be harrowingly patronizing. Not just that, it as well contains suggestions for the message’s recipient that are outright destructive when it comes to a relationship. According to the essay, if a bookworm girl says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses, she’s just saying that to sound intelligent (because apparently she really can’t understand it and she just needs to show off to you!). According to this, it’s completely acceptable to lie to her (because apparently she will understand why you need to do it, she knows how to figure out the mechanics of your psyche—oh, she learned it from books!). According to this, it’s okay to fail her (because apparently, like her favorite novel, there’s going to be a climax, a resolution, and a sequel that will weave happy-ever-after endings for your life stories!). SMH.

The last sentence says, “Better yet, date a girl who writes.” Oh, would the close-minded Our-Kind-of-Girls-is-More-Desirable stratification never cease? I’m sick of this special-snowflake mentality that seems to run rampantly here on Tumblr. :(

In its own way, the article seems to give permission to whoever its recipient is to do what he wants with the girl, because he deserves to. In effect, the girl becomes a guinea pig swaddled with the almost fantastical vision of an ideal partner. I consider literature as my favorite escapist plane, but I don’t let it become an excuse for other people to treat me like a saint-like, psychological punching bag that begs for their approval. If the bookworm girl you date gets mad if you lie to her or fail her, it doesn’t mean she’s a shallow reader or a poser—it means she’s  a human being. We all are!

The last paragraphs kill me every time I reread them. “Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable…if you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.”

Tsk. You know what kind of girl can give you “the most colorful life imaginable, the world and the worlds beyond it?” The girl you love. No matter how ordinary she is, no matter how little she knows about literature or photography or baking or sports, no matter how many combinations of Girl Types she may be—if you love her, she’s going to be more than enough. Trust me on this.

Date a girl not because some viral article tells you to. Date her because you want her, because you like her. Date her because you love her.

I’m saying all of this because:

1. I’m a girl who reads.
2. I’m a girl who writes.
3. I’m a girl.

The third one, I believe, is the most important.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Caricaturist!

I don’t have any featured doodle tonight (been too busy doing other stuff), so I’ll just repost here a caricature I did back in high school. It’s an exercise given to us by Mr. Rene Aranda (editorial cartoonist of The Philippine Star). He made us pick a partner—which is technically one of our competitors from around Manila—and try to draw them. I can’t remember where my partner studied, but I can still remember that her name is Sybil. :)

Here’s the drawing:

Rene Aranda

Amazingly, the training course—which started as a quiet session full of representatives from competing schools—became a weeklong of hangout between cartoonist friends. The high schoolers (self included) also became surrogate sisters and brothers for our grade school counterparts.

You see that little signature at the bottom left side? That’s the autograph of my favorite seven-year-old caricaturist, Alex Padilla. I bet he’s an awesome artist right now.

Friday, March 2, 2012

RIP Sir Isagani Yambot

Just as I was readying to immerse myself in a grateful, peaceful sleep a couple of hours ago, I received a very bad news. Mr. Isagani Yambot, publisher of The Philippine Daily Inquirer, died of a heart attack tonight. Hew was 77.

Seventy-Seven Years Seem Too Short

Sir Yambot (Ampatuan Comm)

Sir Gani,

Everybody acknowledges the fact that you already contributed a lot to the betterment of Philippine journalism, but seventy-seven years still seem a tad too short for me (and, I bet, for hundreds of other people who knew you). We believe you could still do a lot for the field you love!

But I guess, like what this bitter nugget of wisdom says, all good things have to come to an end. You may be gone now, sir, but you will never be forgotten. All your efforts to hoist up the quality of print journalism, all the commendable attributes of a committed public servant that you exuded, all your visions for the media-practitioners-in-training and the other young crops that you strongly believe will grow tall and strong if they build their own sunny spots in their chosen career paths…these will forever live.

I’ll say a little prayer for the eternal repose of your soul, sir. 

Sincerely,
One of the Said Young Crops


Remembering Some ‘Sir Gani’ Moments

I can’t say I know Mr. Yambot very well, but I was given a chance to glimpse a side of him that I wouldn’t thought he had if we didn’t reconnect with him after the seminars, tours, and talks he spearheaded for our whole college journalism class.

He was our main interviewee for our thesis last year, which zeroed in on PDI’s layout. Our journalism professor/thesis adviser gave us Sir Yambot’s cellphone number, saying that the latter could help us communicate with the graphic artist of PDI. But since everyone else in the lay-outing department was busy at that time, Sir Yambot said we could interview him instead. Which is so kind of him, because we’re aware that his schedule is a little tight, too.

We only asked for an interview, but he still managed to squeeze in a mini-lesson (twenty-minute crash course?) about PDI’s front page layout design. He’s very much like our journalism professor: if you want to learn something, he’ll do all he can to give you the appropriate lesson session. He’ll want you to really learn.

yambot 1

The above photo  is a scan of a page from our thesis, taken during the said mini-lesson/interview. I can still remember this moment, how he laughed out loud after realizing he used permanent marker on that white board! He couldn’t erase the red line he’s rubbing with his thumb! :’)

And speaking of laughing…Sir Yambot’s got an endless supply of sense of humor. I can attest to that! Below is a part of the transcript of the interview.

Sir Yambot

The transcript is peppered with a lot of  hilarious moments, but this one’s my favorite. Debbie and I were pretty exhausted and sleepless the previous nights, and laughing was a little stress-reliever. For some reason, I never forgot that senior citizen jape.

I don’t know how he knew it and I don’t care if it’s worth mentioning or not, but after the interview, he sort of guessed I’m a scholar and he asked for my name. I didn’t know if he remembered it though, because I rarely saw and interacted with him in my short stay at PDI after graduation. Be that as it may, I can still say that he’s been in some way connected to my being a developing...pseudo-journalist. Or journalist-in-training, if you’ll call it that at that time.

Anyway, for young people like me, I’ll say all the knowledge he’d instilled in every mind he’d encountered will forever blossom…and that way, I’m confident that he will always be remembered. :)


Statement from the Palace


In a statement, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte described Yambot as a “calm, cheerful presence not only in the newsroom and boardroom of his paper, but in every gathering of note among journalists and between media, civil society, and government.”

Valte noted that Yambot “was one of the links with the pre-martial law press who mentored a new generation of journalists to understand just how much a free press matters.” “The loss of his presence will be felt deeply by a nation that knows all a newsman can ask for, in the end, is this simple epitaph: he wrote it, as he saw it, with honest words and with his only master, the truth,” Valte concluded.