Friday, August 28, 2015

Why I'm still at it

I'm talking about coloring, that is. It's been a while since I had a hobby that I truly enjoyed. And let me just tell you that I am really into this coloring shiz. Bring on those coloring materials!

And I never realized that there are so many kinds of coloring materials out there. Colored pencils, colored pencils with watercolors, markers, fine liners, blending sticks, shading pencils, gel pens, glitter pens, metallic pens. Oy! It's a craft maker's wet dream!
I started with buying colored pencils.
Lately though, I've experimented with markers and fine liners.
I have never been surrounded by this much color in my life!
My favorite coloring books are still Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest.
They feature a lot of greenery (grasses, plants, trees, leaves).
And so I've been buying a lot of green markers in different shades recently.
A good friend, Ajie, introduced me to this brand.
They're great for coloring because they don't produce those ugly black
marks when the colors overlap. Unfortunately, they're very expensive.
And so armed with these markers and colored pencils, I immerse myself for a few hours into these black and white plates. I've never really logged the time it takes me to complete a plate. (It depends on the intricacy of the details, I guess.) But I think it's safe to say that it takes me at least 4 hours to finish one. And during those 4 hours, I think of nothing else.
I used colored pencils for these. See the different greens?
Normally, I prefer to color in solids, but I tried shading in this one.
I love that there's an owl that's making a peek-a-boo.
I also used colored pencils for this one, just two colors actually.
Since there aren't that much detail into the plate, I thought of coloring the background.
Huge mistake, that was. This took me longer than I expected!
Here I used markers.
One has to be careful to use that kind that doesn't bleed to the next page.
R. challenged me not to use greens for the next plate. Tough!
This plate is unfinished.
I tried using glitter and metallic pens to work on this one.
And I think the effect is beautiful!
In other non-coloring-related stuff, R. and I attended the free Airbnb orientation last weekend. We were interested at what it takes to be a host, plus other details such as fees, security, cancellations, and listings. 

I've never tried the Airbnb service. Whenever I find myself in other countries, I still go the traditional route—going online and booking a hotel room from there. During the orientation, I was impressed by the range of accommodations that Airbnb has in its listings. You can even choose to stay in a castle! Rates are good; sometimes even lower than hotel rooms.
R. during the orientation
Even though it was free, they served food!
Lucky me, as it was already almost 3 pm and I still haven't had lunch.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Why take it slow

Most of my life, I've been a speed reader. I'm not exactly sure how fast I read in terms of the number of words per minute; all I know is that I can go through a 400-page book in one afternoon. Of course, comprehension is another matter. If you read text in chunks, as I do when I speed read, you don't really get into the details. It's like a buffet—filling but not wholly satisfying taste-wise.

How I became a speed reader is a story in itself. When my younger brother was 9, my parents enrolled him in a speed reading course. He's not a big reader, my brother is. My parents probably thought that if he speed read, he'd still be able to finish books and still have lots of time playing or doing the usual, you know, boy stuff.

Anyway, my brother got sick on the first day of the course. I would never really know to this day if it was a real illness, or if it was just purely psychosomatic. And I will never understand why my parents didn't just take note of my brother's "illness" that day and force him to attend the following day.

The speed reading course was non-refundable and non-transferable. Bummer, my parents must have thought. Then they had this brilliant idea, which I now think to be a touch Hitchcock-ian. Clap, clap. (Sometimes, I feel unworthy to be their child.) For one summer, my 10-year-old self pretended to be Thomas, my younger brother. I believe I was the youngest in that class of 15. And it took me a while to respond when somebody called me Tom. So I just kept to myself and just immersed myself in all those speed reading exercises.

That summer changed my reading life. I've never looked back since.

Speed reading is extremely helpful. You go through all your class required reading in a matter of days. You can finish the newspaper in the morning, which is the only way to read it, methinks. Everything goes by in a flash. And you really have more time to do other stuff, which in my case is to read more stuff.

Lately, however, I've come to realize that perhaps it's time to it slow. Not just in reading but in most of my routine activities. What's the point of all this hurrying? Why do I need to rush things that I find enjoyable? It's bad enough that I have to constantly meet deadlines at work, so I don't want to make speed a de facto in other aspects of my life. So consciously I've been trying (with moderate success) to read more slowly, to take my time enjoying the food in front of me, to jot down things in a notebook, to walk more leisurely.

No matter how fast I read, I'm never going to read all these great works of literature. I've gotten comfortable having my to-be-read pile around. Besides, there are books that are worth every hour your spend with them—the flowery prose of Proust, the sublime poetry of Czesław Miłosz and Seamus Heaney (still my favorite poets), the Gothic romance of Jane Eyre, and the fluid narrative of José Saramago, just to name a few.

Let me tell you, dear reader, you do feel more relaxed when you deliberately take things slow. (I even noticed that my pores have become smaller.) More importantly, you get to enjoy your reading material more. Like this debut novel by Edan Lepucki, the post-apocalyptic California. This novel had quite a buzz going for it last year, especially after Stephen Colbert featured it in the light of that Amazon-Hachette debacle. Ergo, it jumped into the bestseller lists. The New York Times even said that it won the "literally lotto."

California is fantastic post-apocalyptic fiction. What sets it apart from other works in this genre is its deliberate pace. Lepucki focuses the story on how a couple, Frida Ellis and Calvin Friedman, survives in Los Angeles, which has now been totally devastated. It's a sad novel really; you know that things wouldn't really end well for our main characters. The world has become cruel, one where being pregnant is a liability and your acceptance to a community comes down to a vote.

There's a sense of dread in the pages of California. Lepucki never really discloses why the world has come to an apocalypse, which is a very good decision in my opinion. I felt a good mix of paranoia and horror reading it. Somehow, you get a sense that what's happening in California can really happen. I do hope that I'm dead when that time comes. I wouldn't last a second in there anyway.
My obsession over coloring books continues.
So happy that I finally have Johanna Basford's works.
These are quite difficult to find in bookstores lately.
Even my 8-year-old niece has taken to them coloring pages.
She has no fear of intricate and very detailed illustrations.
Speaking of slow, this took me more than 5 hours to color.
Not 5 straight hours though. Otherwise, calluses.
(From the Secret Garden coloring book)
I've also taken the habit of taking things slow to other small things. Last weekend, we went to a local crafts fair, and it gave me a few ideas to try out. I have no delusions of becoming the next Martha Stewart though.
Those pre-arranged bouquets can be quite expensive, so R opts to buy flowers in bulk.
Besides, I think he enjoys being a florist. Hehehehehe.
I bought this lime liqueur last weekend, and it's divine.
I am loving all things citrus lately—the refreshing scent, the clean taste, the vibrant colors.
I tried adding a splash of this liqueur to sparkling water.
My own "slow" fizzy lime drink without the sugar. Win.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Why some people are just awesome

Because they can make really beautiful things. Like R, who took the time and effort to make this artwork by hand.


It's something that I can print out and color! Yes, that's me—mustache, beard, reading glasses, curly hair, and all.

This artwork is actually a preview of what's going to happen soon with the layout of this blog. After all, this site seriously needs a facelift.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why my fingers hurt like hell recently

Some of the coloring stuff that I use
The watercolors are actually R's.
I still don't trust myself with a paintbrush.
If you've seen any of my notebooks, or just any sheet of paper that I've written on, you'll notice that I write very forcefully. I always wear out ballpoints because I press on them heavily on the page. In fact, my writing is still  legible on the 3rd or 4th sheet of paper underneath the sheet I wrote on. So calluses, man. Calluses.

Come Saturday morning, I wake up in anticipation to something I last did 30 years ago. Never did I expect that I would get addicted to coloring. It has become a hobby, nay, an obsession recently. It's an obsession that extends to retail therapy. I now have more than enough colored pencils, markers, pens, and coloring books to last me a year.

I know that I have to get this compulsive buying of art supplies in check. After all, it takes me 2 hours to completely color a plate. So on a good day, I can do at least two. Saturdays are good days. Weekdays, not so much. Sundays are a pain. Literally. My fingers kill me every Sunday morning. Shame on me for subjecting them to 4 hours of intense activity. And then add the fact that, like the way I write, I also color with forceful abandon. The sharpener has become my best friend.

So that's the way it is during weekends. Saturdays are for all the coloring shiz. Sundays are for reading. Just enough time to have my fingers recover and let them help me do money-making stuff on the weekdays (i.e., work).
Last Saturday's get-together turned into an impromptu coloring party.
I printed out some sheets to color and brought loads of colored pencils.
See, there is an activity that does not require WI-FI.
It can get really intense.
I believe this was already early evening, just before dinner.
Even the kids joined in the "adult" coloring activities.
Here's R not coloring.
We agreed that he should draw something that I can color.
And I can probably use it as my blog's masthead!
If you haven't tried out coloring, you're missing out on a lot. In more ways than one actually. You miss out on the hours that you exercise another part of your brain (as R said, which I imagine that part to be rainbow-colored). You also miss out on not thinking about work, not making mindless talk to the person nearest you, not eating (so messy to be doing both!), not even farting (can't recall farting and coloring at the same time).

It's very FREEING.

And it needn't be an expensive hobby, provided you keep your impulse buying proclivities in check. There are lots of free coloring plates available online. I like the ones found here and here. I'm still looking for the Secret Garden coloring book though. It's the one that started all this wonderful craze, and the plates are just beautiful. Anyway, here are some of the sheets I colored recently.
I challenged myself to use just 3 colors for this one.
Not too happy with the blue though. It's way too dark to be seen.
I'll stick to more pastel-y colors next time I use markers.
This is from the Vintage Patterns book.
Probably one of the easiest plates in this book.
Easy = 1.5 hours
Should've made a pattern on this one, no?
Like a heart or a shape or whatever. But still pretty to look out.
I left one person uncolored. Can you spot it?
And here's proof on how hard I press on the colored pencils.
See how the pages have warped on the blue areas?
R helped me choose the colors on this one.
And what have I been reading? Two novels: a contemporary novel and a less-known classic. I saw Edan Lepucki's California last Friday and just need to have it. I read 200 pages in white heat yesterday. It's that good! The classic is by Elizabeth Von Armin, and it's one of her more famous works, Elizabeth and Her German Garden. My first Von Armin read was Enchanted April, and I've been, ummm, enchanted with her works ever since.
This is how you do post-apocalyptic fiction.
And no zombies! How refreshing!
Look at how Von Armin showed two owls "talking."
So charming!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why you should never, ever join a book club

Warning: This post contains some pictures taken a few years ago. So be prepared to see more than a few pics of a chubby KyusiReader. You've been warned.
The books that we talked about for the past 4 years
The big picture on the left is this year's selections.
The three smaller pictures on the right are from 2012 (top) to 2014 (bottom).
I do wish that I could go back to 2008 and never have attended my first meet-up with the book club Flips Flipping Pages. Now that was the biggest mistake of my life, I tell you. And that book club has the absolute worst kind of people that you could possibly meet.

First, they'll make you wear silly hats and come in crazy costumes. I have no idea how hats, capes, masks, etc. are relevant to book discussions. Whoever thought that this was a good idea is an a--hole. Why oh why would you subject yourself to such trivial pursuits?
During our Noli Me Tangere-themed Christmas party
How shallow can these people get?
Stupid parties . . .
During the A Game of Thrones discussion
Just because I love AGoT doesn't mean that I have to come in costume!
Oh, the humanity!
During The Godfather-themed Christmas party
It's bad enough that I have to wear a silly hat;
they make R wear one too!
During the discussion on Howl's Moving Castle
If you don't see the connection between my hat and the book, don't worry.
I don't see it either.
During the steampunk-and-Poe themed party
R was forced to make our costumes for the party.
And, true story, I really am drunk in this picture.
Second, they make you meet authors whose books you have no strong feelings on. Now let me tell you, these authors wouldn't want to meet their readers anyway. If they have good social skills, they wouldn't be writers, spending all day in front of the computer.

There were quite a few occasions when I had to endure the pain of meeting these uninteresting personalities. So boring, these meet-and-greet instances are. I'd much rather chew razor blades than meet another author.
Meet-up with Gilda Cordero-Fernando
Oy lady! We know that you're 83 years old.
You don't have to shove all your youthful vigor and zest for life in our tired faces.
Attending Bebang Siy's wedding
There's food, dancing, musical performances, and a short film. Yawn, yawn.
And it was even a book-ish wedding with books as decor. How uninspired.
Third, and what do we get to read? Well, such unintelligible drivel such as books published in the 19th century, books with controversial themes, and novels that defy genre conventions. Now why on Earth would you read those?

What we usually read are so inexplicable that they can't even hold a candle to the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E. L. James. Wouldn't it be nicer to read novels with a straightforward story and cookie cutter characters? We're not literature students, for crying out loud.
The Count of Monte Cristo
Boring.
Watch the movie adaptation instead.
The Left Hand of Darkness
Confusing.
Characters with no genders! Why, we can't have that!
The Sirens of Titan
Pretentious.
All those allusions to classical mythology are pointless.
Fourth, these book club people—they eat a lot. My goodness, you should see how much these people eat. It's as if they're not fed enough at home. It's embarrassing to be seen with them in a restaurant, really.

And I blame them for my having gained a lot of pounds ever since I joined in 2008. How can I not? These people have no fear of calories.
During the food trip at Chinatown
And they forced me to wear read because it's the Chinese New Year
Cliché.
At the early morning Mercato Centrale food trip
After this, there was even a wine tasting thing in the afternoon.
Lord, help me.
At the Pampanga food trip
These people aren't even satisfied to just eat here in the city.
I had to endure a two-hour drive to Pampanga with these gluttons.
Persian dinner at a member's house
So you get invited to dinner and eagerly anticipate the steak and potatoes.
But hell no. What you'll have instead are elaborate home-cooked dishes.
Fifth, they're the ugliest bunch of people that you'll ever meet in your whole life. Well, I guess that's a good thing in a way, as being with them makes you feel such a paragon of pulchritude. Seriously, I would give each of them a free makeover. But I guess they're not just ugly; they're clueless too.

It's a good thing that meet-ups are held where there aren't that too many people. If one of my friends sees me with any one from the book club, then let the ground swallow me up whole. Thank goodness that meet-ups are just once a month.
With ugly people from the book club (except for R)
These are probably the ugliest of the bunch.
With an ugly person up-close
Dimples are so overrated.
Sixth, they'll give you totally useless stuff. If they really understand you, they'd just give you money, right? But no, they'll give you things that'll just clutter your room. Absolutely no effing value whatsoever.
Like this caricature made by Ajie
Don't you think that she's making fun of my book hoarding sensibilities?
And I think she's mocking me. I don't have this kind of upper arm strength.
And I got this from Marie last Christmas.
She told me that she spent hours doing this scarf.
I just don't buy it.
Seventh, they make you do stupid things. Over and over again. Take a look.
They're just not as passionate talking about books as I am.
They hold this totally useless gift wrapping workshop.
And when I made this perfectly wrapped box, they made fun of it.
They force you to come out of the closet.
They make you do these stupid over-the-top beach jump shots.
Jump shots that can literally injure you
Really, all that blood!
They molest you.
They organize these outreach programs with street children,
when all you really want to do is just stay in bed and read.
They make you attend prom all over again.
For some reason, a lot of them are into Doctor Who.
And this "doctor" has this screwdriver.
Whatever.
They constantly ask me, "Who's Gatsby?"
They make you drink wine.
Seriously, you're better off being on your own. Whoever said that being in a book club enriches your reading experience is crazy.