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
Watch the movie adaptation instead.
The Left Hand of Darkness
Characters with no genders! Why, we can't have that!
The Sirens of Titan
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
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.
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.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Why read Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth

One can usually tell if a book is a favorite by having multiple copies of it.
The top one has foxed, but it's a beloved copy.
I read The House of Mirth twice using that old edition.
Sometimes, I just wish that I were filthy rich. Wait, who am I kidding? So let me rephrase: All the time, I just wish that I were filthy rich. In life, all you really need is 100 million dollars.

Which is exactly one of the reasons why I love Edith Wharton's novel, The House of Mirth. It's a novel that lets me peek into the world of New York City's old rich at the turn of the century. And the picture it shows isn't pretty. It's a ruthless place to be, in fact. NYC's upper crust society is so exclusive. If there's one word to describe them, it'll have to be anal. Damn tight, these folks are.

There are plenty of reasons to read The House of Mirth. Lily Bart, the main character of the novel, is such a polarizing figure that it's impossible not to have a strong feeling about her. Wharton's novel is basically about Lily Bart and her attempts to penetrate the old rich by marrying someone with money. Calling her an ambitious bitch would be an understatement.

But the novel ended so tragically that it broke my heart when I closed the last page. Lily Bart is all to blame for her fate. Yes, she found herself in a pit of vipers, but there were several instances when she could've had it good. There were lots of "almost" proposals from different men, but somehow, she manages to f--- it up! Oh, Lily Bart! I love you, even though the stars didn't really align for you.

I love The House of Mirth to bits. I love it so much that I even moderated a discussion of the novel for the book club. Needless to say, the discussion made it evident that there were two camps: the pro-Lily and the anti-Lily camps. It was tough staying neutral, being the facilitator. Even though in my mind, I had my hands around the necks of those self-righteous anti-Lily people.

Speaking of book clubs and the wealthy, last weekend afternoon saw the book club at a rather fancy tea place in the metro. We discussed Kevin Kwan's best-selling novel, Crazy Rich Asians. As the novel had crazy rich Singaporeans as characters, Joko, the moderator, opted to hold it at TWG, which is originally a franchise from Singapore.
The obligatory group photo after the discussion
I'm at the far left in the light green shirt.
I specifically asked the person to take the photo from this angle.
At this angle, one always appears thinner.
I'm not big on iced tea, as I always feel a bit bloated after drinking it.
But I was transfixed watching this lady make this fancy shmancy iced tea.
Iced tea at home: instant powder + water. Stir and then add ice.
When we feel a bit more extravagant, we add those cute little umbrellas.
The high tea set, or as would call it—the afternoon tower of carbs
Joko ordered several of these. (Thank you! Mwah!)
Scones, good. Scones + clotted cream + jam, better!
Other tea sets had macarons, which my seatmate and I kept on stealing.
Anyway, back to Kevin Kwan's novel. I did find Crazy Rich Asians entertaining. I didn't think too much of it, as it was just about crazy rich Singaporeans guarding their crazy ass money by keeping their crazy rich families very exclusive. So yes, there's interbreeding. And Kwan certainly knows all the big name fashion designers as there's never a page where a luxury brand isn't mentioned.

I got a bit railed up when somebody mentioned Edith Wharton and Kevin Kwan in the same sentence. Apples and oranges, people! Both novels had rich characters, but the similarities end there. You read The House of Mirth because you want to delve into the characters' minds. You read Crazy Rich Asians for the fluff and the mouth-watering descriptions of Singaporean food.

I would recommend both books though. So you see, I'm not a snob. One you take to the beach, and the other you read before going to bed. Crazy Rich Asians is funny as hell. It's gossipy, biting, and hysterical. I have to hand it to Kevin Kwan; he certainly knows what he's writing about—from the schools, clubs, hawker centers, and fashion boutiques, to Chinese traditions and class systems.
Just your nerdy Asian, playing with the fisheye lens
I recommend Crazy Rich Asians, but with a caveat.
After reading it, you'll realize that you're dirt poor.
And there's a sequel—China Rich Girlfriend. What's with the title?
Do R and I look rich? Well, maybe just crazy.
This was actually taken at a children's party, held just before the discussion.
I remember having 4 glasses of red during the party.
So I might've been a little tipsy during the discussion.
This past week, I discovered the joy of coloring books. I never realized how therapeutic and stress-relieving they are. I believe they're all the rage these days, well at least here in Manila. My only concern is that they're another thing to keep me from reading. But that's a happy problem. I love my happy problems. They make my boring life seem very exciting.
My current coloring book collection, bought from bookstores
For some strange reason, I find myself having 4, even though I just started last week.
R is an enabler. Every time I ask him, "Should I get this?" He always says, "YES!"
So I blame R. But he's très generous. The Art Therapy book came from him.
The first sheet that I finished, yesterday afternoon
Not too happy with what went on with the feet though.
Who has ever seen gray socks? Should've left those areas uncolored.
This came from the Japanese Prints book.
My second, which I did immediately after the Japanese print
I was looking for a P, but alas, there was none. Had to settle for S.
This came from the Typography Colouring Book.
By the way, I was multitasking—watching "Jane the Virgin" while coloring.
Never, ever underestimate the amount of time you plan to spend finishing a plate.
I actually paid attention to the timings. Goodness, 2 hours per plate!
Right now, I use colored pencils, but I'm thinking of getting markers too.
All those sharpening is driving me crazy.
R is so talented. He's a graphic artist by profession.
So all these are, like, peanuts to him.
He helped me out by rendering flesh tones to the skin areas.
By the way, I lost those blue glasses during the discussion.