Thursday, June 21, 2018

Saccharine, superfluous, and sybaritic

One thing I noticed about book blogs lately, well at least in my part of the world, is how many of them appear to be twee. And almost all of them write about young adult books. Now I love YA, and a good number of my all-time favorite reads are YA (Neal Shusterman's The Schwa Was Here and Gary D. Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars come to mind), but sometimes I yearn for a bookish conversation about a book for adults that I've just finished. Just the other day, for example, I finished John Carreyrou's Bad Blood, which is his investigative report on Elizabeth Holmes and her startup Theranos. I was dying to talk about it with someone. Fortunately, there was bf who listened to me rave about the book. Also, I gladly sent him YouTube links about Holmes. Hey, I take what I can get.

It's one of the most painful experiences a reader could have, no? Not being able to talk about books to other people. It feels . . . lonely. But I'll prefer this kind of loneliness to wallowing in sickly sweet conversations. I'd much rather drink this loneliness than to engage in a discussion where we just end up heaping praises on a particular book. And it's not just about arguing because you want to pick a fight. Sometimes, you just want to have a damn good reason for bringing out your knives and sharpening them when you encounter someone who has a totally different feeling on a book. There's nothing like a polarizing book to get your neurons firing.

I guess being in a book club helps, especially when they get you to read diverse titles. I belong to two actually. One's a quite popular one that meets publicly every month. The other one is a whole different banana. We don't even bring out our gadgets when we meet. And people can't post anything on the 'gram (ooohhh, the 'gram, I feel like a millennial) or Facebook (yikes, Facebook, I feel so old). In fact, I may even be compromising my membership just by writing about it. 

And speaking of books written for adults, I've been reading a lot of gay romance novels lately. And these aren't the saccharine, being-swept-off-one's-feet variety. I'm talking about non-vanilla (pistachio? rocky road?) sex in every chapter. Surprisingly, I find some of them really good. What surprised me is that there are quite a number of a few raunchy gay novels that are written by women. I guess it's a thing now. Although I have no idea how they do their research on the "good parts" of the stories. I think I'll make a blog post about these novels, as I have a mouthful to say about them. 

Fur babies!
Totally random pic, much like this post
So yes, I'm looking for something totally different but still pleasing to my palate. Something that can sting or burn. Something that can make people uncomfortable when they see me reading it. Something that will make good conversation fodder. Not necessarily extraordinary, just not ordinary. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

It's been a while

I cringe every time I see the post prior to this one. 2015, man. 3 effing years. (During this same amount of time, some of you could have gotten babies, earned a useless degree, been abducted by aliens 23 times, or have had liposuction.) Is anyone else reading blogs these days? I know I haven't. I blame Instagram. I've spent countless hours immersed on it. I also have Twitter, but that's another story. (Long story short: it's for porn.)

So why this post, anyway? Honestly, I have no idea. It feels liberating to be writing without any specific reason. It's almost like going commando, which is my preferred state of dress (or undress). I think I'd go without underwear all the time if not for all the chafing and the rubbing that will ensue. Also, slim fit pants aren't ideal for it. I can't work an outline of my circumcised penis in my OOTD.

Enough talking about that appendage and let's focus on what's changed since 2015, yes? Of course, I'm still reading. It's probably the only reason that I haven't subscribed to Netflix. I believe Netflix would've eaten some of my precious time for reading. I barely get enough hours for sleeping, so episodes of Booklyn Nine Nine (brilliant!), The Great British Bake-off (hugely enjoyable!), and 100% Hotter (guilty pleasure, hihihi) would have to wait for the weekends. You know that meme that says something is evil because it goes against something you strongly believe in? Well, for bibliophiles, Netflix is Satan.

I've a ton of reading recommendations to you, dear reader. And I'll start with my best read for 2017. It's Garth Greenwell's What Belongs to You. I can't recommend it enough. While descriptions of bonking are plenty in this novel, it's the writing style that blew me away. Greenwell's narrative is almost like poetry. It reminds me of Proust, but minus the elliptical and run-in sentences. (Disclaimer: I haven't finished anything by Proust. But every time I reference him, I feel so intellectual. Also, he's gay, and it's Pride Month. So you know, we're like family. Whatevs.)

Giving you jaw
and rocking a geeky shirt
And for the past 3 years, dear reader, I've been learning to cook. And I've gotten comfortable cooking with my favorite food group—eggs. Now don't get me started about that debate if eggs are healthy or not. My cardiologist (my 6th most favorite person in the world) told me never to eat more than 2 eggs a week. But there are countless online articles about how healthy eggs are. (You know, if it's from the Internet, then it must be true. Plus points for its credibility if you see it on Facebook.)

So, eggs. There's something about cooking it perfectly that's so satisfying. When you do a fried egg and pierce that yolk with your fork, it's almost orgasmic looking at how that yellow goo slowly oozes out. Lemme see, I've done a French omelette, Eggs benny, shakshuka, and frittatas. Countless frittatas. They're probably my favorite thing to eat lately. And they keep for a long time too. When you bring them out of the oven and place them on the table, bam! Huge Martha Stewart factor! Or even Barefoot Contessa! Still confused though why anyone would want to go barefoot in the kitchen

So purrrrtyy
This one has chorizo, chickpeas, spinach, and cheese.
The eggs, all 7 of them, are almost an afterthought,
Also, people are surprised to find out that I have a not-so-ugly penmanship. (Fine, I'll spit out the humble pie—I have beautiful handwriting, peeps. Italics for emphasis.) So I tried doing calligraphy and found out that I enjoy it as a hobby. I'm in Zen mode when I'm doing calligraphy. I'm like, "Don't think of disturbing me unless you're Chris Evans and shirtless, or Chris Evans in a Captain America costume that I can slowly remove. Like I said, Zen. Nothing on my mind except for calligraphy and Chris Evans.

Planner entry made in January
Like most new year resolutions, this planner has been forgotten.
There you have it, dear readers. These are what I've been up to for the past 3 years. No significant changes as you can see. I still read, still post random thoughts, still fart stealthily during meetings. I'm not sure how soon I'll write another post. In another 3 years again? Oooohhh! Like the Olympics! And I'll have a unicorn for my mascot.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My best reads for 2015

Well, well, well . . . it's that time of the year again. This year though hasn't been a great year for reading, numbers-wise. Lots of personal things happened, and work has been terribly demanding this year. Plus, I've been busy with two hobbies: coloring and calligraphy. (More on those two on the next post.)

I say it hasn't been great because normally, I would be finishing 50 books at the least by the end of the year. This year, it's a measly number. Not even 30! But there's still next year, yes? And those books will always be here—by my bedside, on my office desk, in my bag, in the bathroom, and on my ipod (hello, audiobooks!).

So here are my favorite reads this year, dear readers. I must say that this list has surprised even me. It's probably my most eclectic list ever.

I read a lot of graphic novels this year. I devoured the love story of Arnold Arre's Halina Filipina in one sitting. Scott McCloud's Sculptor is one heartbreaking read. Ryan Inzana's Ichiro is like a throwback to the good old days of comics, and it's heavy on Japanese mythological elements.

Of course, there will be novels. Edan Lepucki's California is what dystopian novels should be. I was transfixed at the two intersecting story lines of All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld. I have a few unfinished novels beside me, but I don't think that I'll get any more reading done before the year ends.

The stories in Emily Carroll's Through the Woods appealed to my horror and Gothic sensibilities. It's also a very beautiful book, with the hand-drawn elements that appear on every page. I never felt so conflicted about turning a page.

And then there are the odd balls. Kate Beaton's Step Aside, Pops, which is part of the Hark, A Vagrant! collection is such a gas. The strips feel like one comedy sketch after another. Austin Kleon's Steal Like an Artist is an interesting addition to this list. I included it here because of the author's interesting take on creativity, and what it takes to make your own art.

So there you go, dear readers. I wish you a happy 2016. Here's to more books!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Why it hasn't been a good year for reading (so far)

Because I've been mostly coloring, that's why.
The black background certainly provided a good contrast.
What was challenging here was how to make the building distinct from one another.
When you're given a set of 60 markers, you go and use every single one.
This is from the Vintage Patterns coloring book.
I'm into metallic and glitter pens lately.
And this Asian dragon plate is perfect for them.
Also used glitter and metallic pens for this chameleon.
The green background came with the page, FYI.
The colors made me smile on this one.
From the Secret Garden coloring book.
This is actually a spread, and it took me a week to finish.
Also from Secret Garden.
The thing about glitter and metallic pens is that they're trick to capture in a photo.
You have to find good lighting or you angle the camera sharply.
This is a closeup shot of the plate before it, taken at an angle.
Only then will the glitter and the metal pop up.
Because it was our anniversary month. Also from Secret Garden.
Just used pink, red, and violet markers on this one.
My mom has joined the coloring craze as well!
Here's her first finished plate.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why the book club may or may not break the bank

For the past 7 years, I've been part of this wonderful little group known as a book club. Now when I mention this bit to people, I'm sure they imagine a group of lonely, pseudo intellectuals who engage in cerebral masturbation. Or a motley assortment of persons who are just bored out of their lives and just want to talk about the stuff they've read. Or probably a gathering of snobs who meet to sneer at what the rest of the world is reading.

I guess these thoughts have a grain of truth in them, however small. And I guess I've committed a few instances of book snobbery every now and then. (I've read all the Twilight books and I hated them all after finishing them. I bashed it like there's no tomorrow. But if it got lots of people to read, then Twilight is our "savior," yes? Now I love, love, love Twilight. Ditto Fifty Shades of Grey. Ditto all those young adult vampire/werewolf/angel/fairy novels.)

No self-respecting wide reader would say that he or she wouldn't come close to a book just because it's at the top of the bestseller list. Come on, that's just plain stupid. Thinking that "literary" novels are better than genre novels (romance, sci-fi and fantasy, horror, thriller) just reeks of elitism. Just gag me with a spoon.

But I digress, and I believe that I'm writing about the book club. If there's one thing that the book club has something going for it, it's that it'll force reading materials down your throat. And some of these books belong to the kind that you've been staying away from all your life. So let me share some of the books we've read and talked about through the years, dear reader. And let's begin with 2012, the year I started taking pictures of all our books of the month.
2012 was heavy on the classics. We read The Count of Monte Cristo, The House of Mirth, and Noli Me Tangere. I particularly enjoyed TCoMC, which was basically a revenge story. Also, Ready Player One was a blast; R. moderated it, and it was one of the best attended discussions of the club. Interesting story: it was I who forced RPO down R.'s throat; I just knew that he'd like it.

From this set, I was disappointed with Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle. I died of boredom. Perhaps I was expecting too much from it, which is due to the terrific movie adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki. Also, Habibi got the group divided. I enjoyed it though. Also The Geography of Bliss, which is like a wonderful travel book of the world's happiest and least happy countries. Looking back, 2012 was a good year, reading wise.
2013 had me co-moderating Stephen King's Night Shift with R. We had the book discussion at a very old house in Manila, and made sure that the discussion went into the early evening hours. You know, just for that creepy feel. From this set, I enjoyed Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Gaiman's Season of Mists, which is part of the Sandman graphic novels.

I had mixed feelings about Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan. It's well written, of course, but it didn't pull me in like what Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five did. The discussion for Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game was an interesting one. The novel was unquestionably thrilling; however, the author's homophobic remarks have put a dark cloud over it. Can you really separate an author's work from his personal beliefs? 
2014 was the year I faced so many challenges, so I was able to attend only a few book club events. It was also the year we tackled our first audio book, Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe. The book club even went away out of town for the weekend just for the discussion. I just came out of the hospital at that time, so I wasn't able to go.

Another first for the book club was our discussion on the screenplay of a classic Filipino movie, Sa Puso ng Himala by Ricky Lee. Orly, the moderator, even had a short screenplay writing workshop at the end of the discussion. I couldn't get into Neville's The Eight though. I found it too slow and ridden with a lot of details. But I will always have a soft spot for Morgenstern's The Night Circus. It will always be one of the most magical and romantic novels that I've ever read.

I didn't read that much last year. All I remember was I hungry most of the time. 
So now we get to 2015. And still I haven't been reading that much. What's surprising is that I'm not bothered by this at all. Still, I'm glad that early this year, we discussed the works of one of my favorite writers, Ernest Hemingway. Who doesn't love a handsome guy who could write? And then there's Levithan's Boy Meets Boy, which I think everyone should read. It's just so damn beautiful.

I'm not really looking forward to reading Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. I didn't even plan to buy a copy. (The hardcover in the picture was given to me as a gift.) How the book came to be published just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

More and more people from the book club don't buy the print versions anymore. They prefer the (gasp!) the ebooks. I love paper so much, that I can't bear the thought of reading a story on a screen. I'm not going to get into the ebook vs. print thing though. (It's moot and academic.) Both versions get people to read, so everything's fine by me. What bugs me is that books are getting more and more expensive. And that, dear readers, is a topic for another day.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Why I have been feeling less stressed lately

No, not another post about coloring! Just indulge me one more time, dear reader.

This took up way more time than I anticipated.
Black markers for the flowers, and colored pencils (Faber Castell) for the background.
I felt that the plate had way too much colors already, so left the leaves uncolored.
Decided to go twee with this one
So lots of pastels such as pinks, purples, and baby blues
And green, lots of green. Green is my color of the moment.
This is, like, 99% complete.
A friend pointed out that I missed a flower outline (upper left).
And then I noticed that I left out a few purple feather lines as well (bottom).
R. challenged me not to use any green in my next Secret Garden plate.
So fall colors on this one. Although we don't have that season here in Manila. Hehehe.
This plate made me fall in love with Derwent colored pencils.
Used both Derwent and Prismacolor pencils for this one.
The bolder colors are Prismas, which have cores that are too soft for my taste.
The Derwents have just the right balance.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why pens will be my ruin

I think I have a pen fetish. Or I probably am a pen hoarder. Gel pens, sign pens, fountain pens, felt-tipped pens. I couldn't get enough of them. I

I draw the line at ballpoints though. I've never been really a fan of them. Perhaps it has something to do with my pressing on the paper too hard with the pen, so I usually crack the tip of the ballpoint. And if a ballpoint falls and hits the floor with its tip, it's practically useless.

My love for a good, hefty pen got me thinking—what if I try out calligraphy? That craft makes use of pens, right? Besides, most of my friends keep telling me that I'd be a natural at it because of my handwriting. Hmmm . . . .

So I got me some calligraphy pens and just winged it. And that was the biggest mistake of my life. Argh! I never knew that it was so hard! All those lines, serifs, holding the pen at certain angles, descenders, ascenders, versals, gothics, and what have you.
Quite an interesting read, this book is.
It even has bits on the history of calligraphy.
Here are a few of my early attempts. I used no lines as guides, no fancy paper, just cheap calligraphy pens. So saying that these leave a lot to be desired is an understatement.
I guess I was too excited for the weekend.
Just for clarification: this  is "woot!" and not "woop!"
Getting comfortable angling the pen
And aren't weekend craft fairs just lovely? You end up buying cute and kitschy stuff. And only when you're headed home do you realize that you bought stuff that you have actually no need whatsoever. Oh well . . . .
Pens fit so satisfyingly in this pouch.
Also, last weekend was when the book club discussed Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's SuperFreakonomics. So yes, I'm still squeezing in some reading. But here's a confession: I didn't really get to read this one; I listened to the audiobook, which was wonderfully read by Dubner.

Aren't audiobooks great? They let you multitask. Now you can finish a book while driving, having sex, feasting on a buffet, picking your nose, and in my case, coloring pages. It took a while for me to get comfortable dividing my attention between holding a crayon and understanding what Dubner is saying. When I started, I had to "rewind" the audio just to be able to completely understand the topic. (Hey, is "rewind" the correct term here? Somehow, it reminds me of a cassette tape or VHS.)

Anyway, SuperFreakonomics isn't as a good as the first one, which I found really fun and brought a lot of a-ha moments. This book, which was published in 2009, just felt watery. There isn't enough substance in this book for it to become credible. It's as if Levitt and Duber were rushing to publish another book even though they didn't have enough material. For shame!

Books like these should be able to surprise you, to offer something that you can use during dinner party conversations. Reading SuperFreakonomics made me blurt out, "But I already knew that!" or "Of course! That's just common sense!"

The book is still an enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to economics enthusiasts. The authors do make it a point to integrate economics principles into the essays as  much as possible. But, but, but: I couldn't forgive them for making a false statement about global warming. (Water vapor is not the most significant greenhouse gas; it still is carbon dioxide. Come on!)