Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: Less Than Zero

Title: Less Than Zero
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Genre: Coming-of-age, contemporary, young adult
My Rating: ★★★★ (3.5/5 stars)

Less Than Zero

Whenever I feel the need to visit literature’s moral badlands, get a hefty dose of realistic grit, or just watch in-your-face messages bleeding through un-sugarcoated storylines, I always crack open a Chuck Palahniuk book. Spinning tales with all these ingredients is his specialty. However, even if I do like his works, I’m averse to not sprinkling a little spice onto my reading list. I sought for other authors who play with the same elements in a completely different way, and luckily, I stumbled upon Bret Easton Ellis and his first work, Less Than Zero.

To a complete tenderfoot in Ellis’ works (like me), Less Than Zero does seem to emit a little vibe similar to Palahniuk’s themes… but that ends at the period of the book’s blurb.  The first page would instantly give you the feeling that you’re in for a different kind of read. The narration, characters, and dialogues weave together a tale with a gloomy overall ambiance that I haven’t seen in the fictional works I’ve encountered before.

Considered by many as a cult classic, Less Than Zero is Ellis’ unflinching dark portrait of the MTV generation—rich kids of Los Angeles caught in a string of drug-driven bashes, big C’s buy-and-sell sessions, casual sex, prostitution, and practically everything that falls under the category of self-destructive hedonism. It zeroes in on the story of Clay, an eighteen-year-old boy who comes back to LA for a four-week Christmas vacation. Instead of rest, what he finds himself facing is the inner demon of apathy that resides in all his friends—and in himself as well.

Having a penchant for characters with four-dimensional complexity, I found myself on the brink of disappointment when my attempts to connect with Clay became more and more exhausting to establish. I always believe that in order for a book to be more enjoyable, its main character must have the ability to “click” with the reader. The narrator feels more alive to me that way. He/she must move on the borderlines of his/her world without exactly breaking a fourth wall, extending his/her reaches past the physical restrictions of the paper to latch onto the hearts of the readers using sympathy, relatable experiences, loneliness, love, or even rage. In short, I believe the speaker must make me feel things, regardless if these things were negative or not. For the most part, Clay failed in this department. He’s detached from the world, wallowing in cold cynicism, moving like a trembling marionette with strings that are all too tangled that it was no use to track where they originated. I tried to dismiss it as an effect of his drug addiction, but his coke-reliant friends appear to be more fleshed out than him sometimes. That’s saying something, since he’s already given the fact that no character in the novel has depth of a remarkable kind.

It was only near the end that Clay finally made me feel something, proving that he is not the drug-fueled automaton that I initially think he is. I was irritated for the slow responsiveness, but I found myself wanting to pat him on the back when he begins to become disillusioned with his friends’ extreme self-indulgences. Vivid episodes from his pasts, which include dysfunctional families and fractured relationships, stand in stark contrast with his bleak present. This explains a little about his behavior.

In almost every book, there is at least one character that you would want to wrap in a hug, cradle against you, and whisper that everything will be okay. I was almost surprised when someone like this popped out of the book’s vapid cast of characters: Julian. Clay’s relation does not give away too much about Julian’s situation, but it’s adequate to guess how the boy just got his life’s compass haywire. He is plunging headfirst into his own destruction and he knows it.

Plot-wise, there is nothing much to say about the novel. I must admit that the story’s lack of conventional structure comes off as a strength rather than a weakness, portraying a gritty world as it should be through the eyes of a rather unreliable narrator. No frills and no embellishments, raw and stripped of sweet euphemisms.

Despite the book just basically being a peek into the quotidian lives of well-off kids who pass around drug-filled Daffy Duck Pez dispensers, it gave me a queer feeling that I do not usually get from other books. It has a rough kind of charm that I found unexplainable; it left me a tad empty by the last page, but it also gave birth to a tiny voice in my head screaming, “I’m ready to feel a little emptier if it means I’ll be able to find out what happens to the characters in its sequel, Imperial Bedrooms.” And that, of course, hit me hard: I do care about the characters to a certain degree! I do not know what kind of magic Ellis posses that made him turn the tables on me without me noticing. Whatever it is, I like it.

I think Ellis is a master of minimalism, his narration containing little to zilch emotional tinges that perfectly complements the lethargic attitude of the characters. I find it amazingly ironic how the stream of consciousness style seems so cleanly penned when its contents are generally dirty patchworks of the protagonist’s thoughts and memories. Content-wise, what the novel really wants to show is the perils of stoicism, of how too much pleasure can rob you of your humanity little by little.

I’m excited for the sequel! :)
Photo by: fanoussss

Visual Music Carnival

My second time at Amoranto Sports Complex was as fun as my first, although this time it wasn’t just all about rock and heavy metal music. Last May 12, the Visual Music Carnival was put up for the benefit of physically challenged people (particularly the mutes and deafs). 

Spearheaded by Kathy Taylor, rock star-femme fatale from the local band Saydie, the event was  an overload of J-Pop/J-Rock, local alternative rock and metal music, cosplay, skateboard, and rides. Attendees did not just get a charge out of the carnival, they were also able to contribute to the production of video relay service (VRS), an Internet-powered service that helps deaf people call anywhere and any time hassle-free. :)
GALA magazine was one of the media partners, so a few folks from the team went to witness/cover the event.

cow girl 2Ro-dee-yoh! There were three rides in the Carnival, and I did not hesitate to try all of them. I had a ball on this bull ride—the days-long effect on my legs was worth it.


Rodeo 2

after the rain (2)

So remember the item that is omnipresent on everybody’s bucket list? This is not the bungee jump I aimed to experience, but yeah, I think it’s close enough (let’s half-cross out the item? No? Okay). The harness practically killed my thighs, though.

The skateboard competition was held simultaneously with the J-Pop/J-Rock battle of the bands. :)

catpretendingtobeasheepThe venue was as well littered with stalls chockfull of adorable trinkets! This sheep (which according to the vendor wasn’t a sheep, but a cat pretending to be a sheep, or something like that) was unfortunately not for sale. It was so cute I was ready to buy it!

Chocolates! We had a hard time distinguishing which ones were plastic and which ones were true chocolates. They all look the same! :p

cute caps
I was planning to buy that Captain America cap, but I saw a Captain America cellphone pouch and…I just couldn’t help it. Yeah, yeah I  still have this Avengers flick  hang over.

monster bags

cute charms

with Mr. Bones
With Mr.Bones from Mr.Bones and the Boneyard Circus after their performance for the night. Angel’s got a new band to fangirl over! :p

with Kat TaylorWith Kathy Taylor, vocalist from the band Saydie. Such an awesome beauty—and she rocks everyone’s socks!

with war machineAnd of course—would we let the chance pass when War Machine graced the event with his awesome presence? Of course not. :p

My body was sore by the end of the day, but I slept with a smile on my face. We hope next year’s Visual Music Carnival will be like this, too…or more thrilling, with more music and brick-a-bracks and rides. :)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Frozen Teardrop: Special Prequel

Ever since I randomly reread PDF versions of Isis CW’s Manifestations and Revelations in my Blackberry, I’ve kind of revivified my curiosity for the continuation of Gundam Wing that is concurrently running with a new manga in a Japanese magazine, the novel Frozen Teardrop.

I stand by my first opinion, though: still don’t consider FT canon because it still reads like a bad, glorified fanfiction. Come on! I’ve had enough of all the terrible backstory bomb-dropping related to Generation Xerox, the gender-bending as obvious tactics to avoid slash pairings, and the twisting of the branches of every character’s family tree so everyone is related to each other in a soap opera-ish kind of way. If it weren’t for the gorgeous art that accompanies each update, I wouldn’t really bother checking news and announcements online. :p

Recently, the creators spawned something that got me in a quite celebratory mood: two special prequels that bridge the gap between the happenings in Frozen Teardrop and the end of Endless Waltz!

Frozen Teardrop (GWboys)Special Prequel 1: Interlude of the Heart (translation by Deacon Blues)

FrozenTeardropSpecial Prequel 2 (Yet to be Translated)

Call me predictable if you want, but yeah—I’m excited about Dorothy’s stories! Fics that date back to almost fifteen years ago played with her role as the last heiress to the Romafeller Foundation. I want to see how she got to be Queen of the World—er, President of the Earth Sphere Unified Nation in Frozen Teardrop, and I wish it wasn’t as ridiculous as other tales in the new novel.

I’ll be keeping tabs on this one! :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Philippine Fashion Week

“Just wear your heart on your sleeve, or sport your sunniest smile.” This has always been an automatic quip from me whenever someone asks me about fashion.

In all honesty, I know next to nada about the glam-and-glitz world of catwalks and models. It’s only when I became a part of ZONE magazine that I learned the rudiments of fashion. I’ve always been tasked to formulate interview questions for the face-of-the-(bi-)month and write the cover stories of each issue, so thorough research is  always a requirement. It is only last week that I tried to really test the waters myself—yes, yes, fashion experimentations!—during the third day of the Philippine Fashion Week. :)

Airiz FW
I didn’t wear anything grand that day(although I almost did—thank God that red spandex-y, low neck-lined Lady Gaga-ish outfit required some kind of underthing that I didn’t have!). Just a new haircut, a lucky purchase from ukay-ukay, and boots that an officemate lent me. :)

Airiz Kit Angel
With Kit and Angel, right after AVON’s show.

A close up of those darling boots! Aren’t they to die for? They’re beautiful all right, but I guess I need to practice more when it comes to walking around with five-inch heels. Angel lent these to me for the fashion week, and she was right to readily bill it as a pair of “tiis-ganda” footwear, aka the “killer boots.” We spied on another attendee the same kind of boots, though hers have wedge heels instead. We plan on searching for that one. :)

The whole GALA team + the interns before going to SMX.

During the AVON show.

Some of our friends who attended the event: Hussian and Jerick (posting for the coincidental color palette, haha!). Rei and some of his colleagues went, too.

I only went for a day—I totally loved Albert Andrada’s collection as well as Kermit Tesoro’s. The night was filled with long queues and free coffees, personal convos over dinner, off-handed comments on the awesome collections, gasps at some of the models’ little faux pas… everything in it made my first attendance to PFW memorable. It’s about 1:00 AM when I got home, but even if I went to cover an event out-of-town the next day, I still have a little hang over from this night. :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

We are capable of magic.

Amazing Things

“Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is a proof that humans are capable of magic.”

-Carl Sagan

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mama’s Day is Every Day

In my mother’s day post last year, I’ve said that my mother is some kind of a Superwoman. That fact hasn’t—and will never ever—change, no matter what.

As a special post for this day, I'm going to quote one of my articles for Gala magazine’s Mother’s Day issue, which indicates a fact that every kid knows:

“Being a mother is a 365-day job, and it is no easy feat. Mothers know that days off are out of the question when it comes to taking care of their loved ones. However, no matter how many synonyms of “altruism” their vocabularies may have, mothers do expect to receive some kind of compensation: love and respect.”

I guess there’s no other way than to go cheeseballs on this post, so I better get it over and done with. I love mama so, so much, but I know my love cannot ever surpass the one she has for us, her family. She supports me in every endeavor I take; she never dictates what I should do, but she’s always there to offer advice, lighting a spark whenever the life path I’m treading on becomes too dark. She heals me when I get wounded—emotionally, spiritually, and physically. She’s a friend, an occasional diary, and a daily superheroine who dispenses an everyday vibe of hope and cheerfulness for us. There’s an endless list of all things she can do for  her family’s sake, and all I can do to show my gratitude is to make her feel like every day is Mother’s Day.

Because that’s how it should be! Make her feel like she’s a queen today,  and tomorrow,  and the day after tomorrow, and the day after the day after tomorrow, and the days after that. Sheer love, support, respect, and care are the only things we can give as “salary” for doing to most difficult but best job in the existence of being a woman. Being a mother, indeed, is a woman’s highest calling. Happy mother’s day to all mothers out there! :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Of Covers and Curse Workers

Happy midweek, dudes and dudettes! Mr. Sandman seems to love it when he toys with my already malfunctioning body clock, and since he won’t send me straight to slumberland right away, I just thought of putting on some literary litter on your dashboard. :p Cheers!

Covers Matter [To Me]

I won’t be stoned if I confess now that I don’t always subscribe to the old maxim “don’t judge a book by its cover,” right? Because yes, covers do matter to me. It’s not  the most dominant factor I consider in purchasing a book, but it’s always there down the list. Sometimes I stop in my tracks when I catch a glimpse of a familiar author’s name on the shelf I pass by; sometimes the title arrests my attention completely. Covers, I confess, can magnet my eyes too.

Judging tomes based on their “clothing” is not really what I’m doing.  I make it a point to do researches before going to the bookstore. When I like the premise of a certain novel enough to make me zip open my purse for it, that’s the time I’m going to hunt for its best cover.

The Curse Workers Trilogy

Unfortunately, it always turns out that the best editions are not available in the country. The Curse Workers trilogy by Holly Black is an example. I just stumbled upon the UK edition cover of the third installment Black Heart, and I find it very attractive. It’s simple, chic in a traditional kind of way, and it gives off a surreal vibe that the storylines possess. I really hope the local bookstores have these ones now! The American version of this series is quite sub-par, in my honest opinion.

Black heart

White Cat

I gave it 4 stars in my review: “Holly Black is a marvelous magician. She may have no wands or bubbling cauldrons or magic spells, but her raw talent in creating a society that has a four-dimensional reality tantamount to our own and fleshing out characters that are easy to love (and love to hate) is enough to enchant her readers with her literary prowess.

"This is what she presented in the first installment of the Curse Workers trilogy, White Cat…there’s grit and beauty in equal terms; there are a few flaws, but it’s still a gem…Holly Black, welcome to my literary rock stars roster!”

Red Glove

I gave it four stars in my review: “Bringing the readers back into the deliciously dark realm of mobsters, magic, curses, and cons, Holly Black once again proves that she is an inimitable wizard of words in the second installment of her Curse Worker’s trilogy, Red Glove.

"With a plot that never quits, wonderfully complex characters, and a setting that is strikingly familiar yet eerily different from our own, this book presents a kind of urban fantasy that noir fiction lovers will devour.”

(read more)

Let the Rumpus Start…in Heaven.

I just learned of it this morning and I know I had to make a quick doodle before I go to office. RIP Maurice Sendak. You have been a really good gift to the world of literature.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Free Comic Book Day 2012

May’s first Saturday is perhaps the Christmas Day for comic book geeks around the world! Robinsons Galleria’s lower ground floor was jam-packed yesterday as Comic Odyssey celebrates FCBD. I attended the event with a friend, and we swore to go to FCBD celebrations of Fully Booked and other participating shops in the next few days.

The lines were long, but ennui was out of the question when you were surrounded by people that are obviously made of awesome. Behind me, a man in his late twenties was reading a Spiderman issue; in front of me, a group of constantly snickering boys were munching on shawarma. Based on the snippets of convo I got from unintentional eavesdropping, they still have hangover from the latest Avengers flick. I bet my bottom peso they love Tony Stark :p

And oh, there’s a Superman and a Batman loitering around. A Loki was seen lining up for his copies of free comic books, too. :)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
No one watches you like Lisbeth Salander!

I got a special edition preview of Vertigo’s graphic novel adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I wasn’t keeping tabs on the spin-offs and whatnots of the Millennium trilogy lately, so this took me by surprise. Totes cool! The first volume will be out November this year. Check out the gorgeous art below!

Framed Pressed Flower
Henrik Vanger receives another “gift,” a framed pressed flower

'She's Different'
Lisbeth discusses the Wennestrom libel case

The SEP also includes blurbs from:
  • Fairest. Balancing horror, humor and adventure, Fairest explores the secret histories of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, Snow White, Rose Red and others. Remember: they may be beautiful, but there will be blood.
  • Saucer Country. As the Mexican-American Governor of New Mexico, she’s dealing with immigration, budget cuts and an alcoholic ex. She’s about to toss her hat into the ring as a candidate for President in the most volatile political climate ever.But then…a lonely road and a nightmarish encounter have left her with terrible, half-glimpsed memories. And now she has to become President. To expose the truth – and maybe, to save the world. 
  • The New Deadwardians. In post-Victorian England, nearly everyone of the upper classes has voluntarily become a vampire to escape the lower classes who are all zombies. Into this simmering cauldron is thrust Chief Inspector George Suttle, a lonely detective who’s got the slowest beat in London: investigating murders in a world where everyone is already dead! But when the body of a young aristocrat washes up on the banks of the Thames, Suttle’s quest for the truth will take him from the darkest sewers to the gleaming halls of power, and reveal the rotten heart at the center of this strange world.
The New Deadwardians
  • Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child. New Orleans is the most haunted city in America: a town of centuries-old ghosts and newly drowned spirits; where vampires, voodoo spirits and loups-garous make their home. Ruling over this all are the powerful Voodoo Queens, whose influence stretches into politics, business and crime as they maintain a delicate balance between the mortal and supernatural worlds. But in the aftermath of Katrina, all that has changed, for someone or something has murdered the Voodoo Queen and most of her court. The number one suspect is Dominique Laveau, a grad student at Tulane who is about to discover that her entire life has been a lie. Now Dominique must forge alliances with those out to kill her while seeking to uncover the truth behind the royal murders, as she is ultimately forced to deal with a destiny she could never have imagined.
Aside from this SEP, I got a cute button pin (with a rather unrecognizable superhero icon), The New 52, and FCBD’s official comic book this year featuring art by Manix Abrera, Mel Casipit, and more. :)

On May 18-20, all back issues in Comic Odyssey’s bins will be priced 50PhP.  All Metro Manila branches of Fully Booked will celebrate FCBD on May 19th, and you can avail all their graphic novels with 20% discount.

By the way, I also penned an article for this event on Gala magazine's May issue, please do grab a copy! I interviewed Comic Odyssey proprietor Sandy Sansolis for that primer. :)

So many books, so little time :(



Friday, May 4, 2012

Bookwormism Update!

You might smack me with all the redundant intro’s but—I’m still sorry for all the sparse updates! A flurry of (non-work and work-related) events are taking over my life lately and they are eager to pull me away from my online havens. Not from my books, though! To join my other babies (which I know were silently whimpering for the lengthy week of 'abandonment' I just gave them) are these:

New babies

  • Rant: An Oral Biography of  Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk. I think I need a dose of Palahniuk’s trademark mind-squeeze-inducing stories, I terribly miss it. :) I think this one’s about a serial killer.
  • Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. My first of Ellis, lots of people are shooing me away from this for some reason—and it’s not that it’s a badly written book. Anyhoo, I decided to try it. USA Today said it’s The Catcher in the Rye of the MTV generation—we’ll see about that. From Amazon: Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980's, this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money a place devoid of feeling or hope.
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth. Finally.
  • Numbers by Rachel Ward. I like the premise of this book, even if (or especially because?) it sounded a lot like Death Note. After her mom’s death, the girl protagonist can see the dates predicting deaths of people with brute accuracy—when she looks them in the eye.
  •  Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. Sequel to the dystopian love story Delirium. Hope it’s better than the first book!
  • The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. This is going to be my first MJ novel. I bet it would be nothing like her awesome shorts! It’s a thriller set in London, full of humor, suspense…and ghosts. :)
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Everybody knows I love fairytale reimaginings. Meyer offers the world one of her own, with  a cyborg Cinderella in the forefront. How. Can. I. Say. No. To. This?! I hope Cinderella is not a damsel in distress in this one. :D
  • The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. Ah, I love time-bending tales. Two youngsters could mysteriously see their future—spouses, careers, status updates—in Facebook, at a time when Facebook was not even invented yet. “As they grapple with the ups and downs of what their lives hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right--and wrong--in the present.” Sounds promising. :)
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Been hearing a lot of good things about this book! Chris Schluep’s blurb says, “Erin Morgenstern’s dark, enchanting debut takes us to the black and white tents of Le Cirque des Reves, a circus that arrives without warning, simply appearing when yesterday it was not there. Young Celia and Marco have been cast into a rivalry at The Night Circus, one arranged long ago by powers they do not fully understand. Over time, their lives become more intricately enmeshed in a dance of love, joy, deceit, heartbreak, and magic.”

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hearing Secondhand Serenade…firsthand. ❤

Personal playlists and “life soundtracks” of  teenage girls with a penchant for tales about heartache and unconditional love are perhaps dominated with songs by John Vesely, also known as Secondhand Serenade. And can you blame them? Saccharine facades wrapping bitterness and sincere apologies, his compositions are to guarantee eargasm to any hopeless romantic who listens to them.

VIP- 2ndhand Serenade

Last May 1, Manila had the chance to hear choice songs from all of Secondhand Serenade’s three albums firsthand. Vesely and his accompanying band performed Fall for You, Your Call, Vulnerable, Awake, You and I, Like a Knife, Stay Away, Reach for the Sky, The Last Song Ever, Goodbye, and many more—with bonus covers! I wasn't an all-out, uber!fangirl, but strangely, I happen to know all the songs he played. Well, they are the most popular. *shrugs*

Hearing the crowd sing along with him was enough to make up for all the hassle we went through, especially because of the hard rain that battered the city that day. I was an arm span away from the singer himself, and I was in no way star-struck or overcome with fangirly sort of feelings. I was just there, singing aloud with the others, absorbing the moment as if I was a memory sponge, looking at the musicians as they make the Skydome scream just using the subtlest yet most powerful of weapons that can touch the hearts: their music. I will never forget that night. :)

Anyway, I was at concert to cover for Gala  magazine. The post-cov article would be featured in our June issue. Please do grab a copy!