Wednesday, October 24, 2018

You don't need ovaries to be a feminist

Last weekend, the book club gathered for its monthly discussion on two books, which tackle the very relevant issue of feminism. First, we talked about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's essay titled "We Should All Be Feminists," and then followed by the Filipino translation of Liv Strömquist's nonfiction Fruit of Knowledge, which was brilliant translated by Beverly Siy and given the Filipino title Puki Usap. I love both books and found them engaging.

Deep into the discussion
I love Chimamanda. Her novel Americanah is one of my favorite novels in recent years. The essay "We Should All Be Feminists" is written in the same accessible style as her novels. You don't need a dictionary to be able to fully appreciate what she's saying. Her writing speaks to you directly, and this essay speaks from the heart. I agree with her 100% that we should ALL be feminists. If you believe in equal rights for all, then you're a feminist. If you acknowledge the history that led us to this unbalanced treatment of the sexes, then you're a feminist. If you respect women and transgendered women, then yes, you're a feminist. Chimamanda makes it clear that anti-feminism is so ingrained in our culture that we most often don't pay attention to these instances. It's about time we shake things up, no?

I'm not at all familiar with Strömquist's works. So after reading her nonfiction work (which was in comic/graphic format) that tackles the vagina and how it was unfairly treated and represented throughout history. Why should be we feel iffy talking about the vagina? One-half of the world's population have one. And also, what's the deal with not discussing the clitoris and the female orgasm? Goodness, how prudish some people could be! I say let's all bring these issues on the table! Let's throw away our shame and guilt when we talk about those parts of the female anatomy.

I fell for Strömquist's voice on her subject matter. It's both angry and snarky at the same time. And Beverly Siy's style in the translation complements the tone of the book. I imagine that translating this controversial work is challenging, but Siy made it look effortless. I laughed at the use of everyday Filipino phrases and words injected into the work. I think I just found the perfect Christmas gift for many of my friends. They will be shocked, for sure, but they will be smarter for it.

The two books we talked about during the discussion
I mentioned during the discussion that the reason I fell hard for these two books is that they start conversations on feminism and other issues such as gender vs. sexuality and diversity. People need to raise questions about things that confuse them. And if we don't talk about these things, then how else can we acknowledge our differences and have respect for the people around us. How can we even begin to agree with one another if we don't even understand what the other party is going through? How can we effect change to make sure that everyone is treated fairly? What can we do to ensure that future generations wouldn't live with fear, discrimination, and shame, like so many do now?

As usual, I don't have answers. But I have loads of questions. #StoryOfMyLife

Requisite group shot
Oh, I don't think I've told you yet that I've started doing yoga. Today marks the 3rd week I've been attending yoga classes in the morning every day at 6.45 am. I still have a long way to go to get to the stability and strength that I want. I know because I'm quite shaky in some of the poses that are held for a long time, and I sometimes fall during one-leg poses. My yoga teachers are my inspiration. They look so fit (even though they aren't muscular) with bright faces that don't seem to need any product.

I'm not doing this for weight loss or to become toned. Well, losing a few more pounds of fat wouldn't hurt. But my main motivation for doing yoga is that I don't want to turn into those people who can't seem to do a lot of things because of their age. I want to climb stairs without being breathless. I wanna reach my toes comfortably while I keep my knees straight. I want to be able to hold my head down without getting dizzy. I wish to remain flexible when I reach my 50s. And I think yoga can help me with these.

I love the feeling every time a yoga class ends. It's as if all my joints are loosened and I feel a certain lightness in my step. Also, I get that pinkish glow after a good workout. "Workout? But aren't you doing yoga?" you might ask. Yes, I never thought that yoga can give someone a good sweat (I sweat buckets in the hot core class), a satisfying cardio session, and loads of exercises that build endurance.

The bf and I I attended a yoga session just before the discussion.
We were actually invited by Anne to join her class as part of her practicum,
as she's been training really hard to become a certified yoga teacher.
With Anne, after her kick-ass beginner yoga class

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From books to movies

Me: By any chance, are  you my father?
I love Stephen King's The Shining. It was equal parts creepy, in-your-face, gory, and claustrophobic. I was scared out of my wits when I read the part with the naked bloodied woman in the bathtub. I'd like to believe that that scene turned me gay, or at least made me flee from naked female bodies forever. But when I saw the Stanley Kubric movie adaptation, I kept thinking that the novel wasn't that batshit crazy. I did enjoy Kubric's movie though, especially the scenes with those creepy ass twins. Now that's something I can't say for a few movies based on King's books. I heard The Gunslinger sucked vacuum cleaners. And The Lawnmover Man was so hysterical I was farty for a few days.

Nevertheless, when I think about all the King-based movies I do like (Misery, Salem's Lot, Cujo, the latest It, Stand by Me, Carrie), I ask myself, "Would I still enjoy these movies if I didn't like the books they're based on?" And, "Would I still be able to love the adaptation even though it didn't stay true to the book?" Why, yes and yes! I love Twilight, both the book and the movie. I hated The Golden Compass movie, not because its source book is one of my all-time faves, but because the movie was so confusing and all over the place that it was painful to watch. I'd much rather have a root canal. The Bridges of Madison County, the novel, was so sappy that I developed ovaries after a few pages. But the movie had the perfect balance of gravitas and melodrama. Also, Meryl Streep.

I stopped comparing movies with the books they're based on. I even made a lengthy-ish post about it on Facebook (screenshot below),

Yes, I'm using big fonts on my phone.
And I couldn't care less if the person sitting next to me can read my texts.
It's been years since I was last sexting.
But, pardon the grammatical lapses though. I spot 4.
Anyway, the book club discussed our love/hate thing for screen adaptations of our favorite books this month. As usual, it was an afternoon of interesting and enlightening conversations. (Kokay, the discussion moderator, was awesome!) I brought copies of two novels that have wonderfully entertaining big screen adaptations—Elizabeth von Armin's Enchanted April and E. M. Forster's A Room with a View. There, I admit, I'm a huge anglophile. My anglophilia is very much through the roof that I have watched each episode of Downton Abbey at least three times. And those British actors! Ack! How can I not fall in love with Henry Cavill, Jim Sturgess, Aidan Turner, and Richard Madden. When Madden's character in Game of Thrones died, I was this close to storming the HBO offices and asking for heads to roll.

As for the worst adaptation (we were asked to identify what we think are the best and our worst adaptations), I didn't mention a bad adaptation of a book, in the spirit of my Facebook post above. A bad movie is a bad movie is a bad movie, and it doesn't matter whether it's an adaptation or not. Battlefield Earth will always be a bad movie. And Eragon. And The Cat in the Hat. It's just even more unfortunate that these movies are based on books that are beloved by many, so there will be the inevitable comparisons. Again, people, make your life easier—stop the comparisons and be content enjoying apples and oranges separately.
Additional recommendations regarding screen adaptations
Again, all heavy on the anglo

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Peter's Pretentiously Pedantic and Prodigious Proust Project

Every year, I make it a point to read Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, or at least the first volume, Swann's Way. And every year, I fail, big time. I can't recall a time when I made it past page 50. My editor self always feels attacked by Proust's looping sentences. And what the eff is the deal with describing one's going to bed in no less than 10 pages. Go to bed, get a kiss from mama. That's it. But not with Proust. Every act, however mundane, gets the royal treatment. Fortunately, there aren't any scenes set in the bathroom. Otherwise, we'll get long, winding sentences about a character's efforts and musings in doing the number 2.

But the hell with it—I am going in. I will read not just the first volume, but all effing seven. I will be so deep in In Search of Lost Time (or Remembrance of Things Past, if you go by C. K. Scott Moncrieff's translation) that I'll be sick of madeleines and long pages of French prose wherein nothing seems to be happening. I will laugh in the face of boredom. I will wallow in the fields of ennui. I will fight the urge to throw the books at walls or at annoying people. I will fart run-on sentences and elliptical clauses.

And why am I doing this? Because I have masochistic tendencies, and Proust's books will be my outlet. Because every time I see a picture of Proust, he seems to be mocking me. "Weakling!" "You're like the lowest form of reader? Merde!" "Tu pues du cul!" (I have my French teacher to thank for this wonderful bit of profanity. I think it means something like smelling like you came out of an ass.) Because I feel a special affinity for Proust. I mean, this was a guy who spent most of the daylight hours in bed and only left it just to go to dinner invites. The life! Also, he was gay. So we're like sisters.

But, but, but. This doesn't mean that I'll read all seven volumes in one go. There will still be the occasional suspense novel or the sappy gay romance or the latest hyped bestseller. If anything, I'll probably read a volume between one or two other books that I finish. Right now, I've rediscovered how enjoyable it is to read the Agent Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. (I stopped reading the series a few years ago.) So Swann's Way after a couple of these thrillers. Because nothing makes a better palate cleanser than a French novel about French people doing French things (except for French kissing and the blowjob, which I heard the French apparently invented).

So I figure it'll take me at least 3 years for this project, no? But I'll be blogging about my progress every now and then. And probably, just to annoy some people, I'll follow Proust's writing style in my posts. It's like my "eff you" to Twitter shoutouts. Because why would you use just 140 characters to say something when you can go with 10,000? 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The stories behind my favorite pics from our Taiwan trip this year

The bf and I have a serious case of wanderlust. So we found ourselves traveling again this month. Now, it's Taiwan, the land of xiao long bao (which we didn't have) and beef noodles (which we also didn't have). I just went to Taiwan last year actually, but it was a guided tour. This time though, I'm with the bf, and he and I would be winging it. So here are my favorite pics from our Taiwan trip, dear reader, with an interesting story that goes with each one.

Our flight to Taiwan was delayed for 2 hours. Lots of groaning from fellow passengers every time the voice over said that our flight will be further delayed. As if their groans could translate to the flight being less delayed, no? Futile effort. Anyway, when we arrived in Taiwan, the weather was beautiful, and their airport's gorgeous. Took this pic just before the point where you can't take pictures anymore.

Love how the bf is framed in this shot. Taken at the Bopiliao Historical Block. Unfortunately, some of the establishments are closed, as they're preparing a block-wide exhibition on people with special needs. But we were still lucky to catch a few exhibitions on the history of 18th century Taiwan and Taiwanese cinema. Now if only the captions had English translations, it would've been perfect.

The first night market that we went to was the Raohe Night Market. And we hoped to sample all those iconic Taiwanese street food thingies that we would see. Here's the bf getting his dose of cranberry juice. Quite refreshing actually. Cranberry juice is so expensive here in Manila. So pricey that you finish it expecting to see gold flecks at the bottom of the cup.

I love Taiwanese food, although the flavors in one dish aren't as broad as those in Thailand, where you have spicy, sweet, sour, salty, and savory in every dish. The bf and I notice a slight herby aftertaste to many Taiwanese dishes. I don't find it unpleasant though, but it does provide a slight difference to all the Chinese dishes we're used to here in Manila, where the flavor is sometimes just salty and saltier.

We sampled the roasted wagyu cubes (fabulous!), the candied tomatoes on a stick (weird! but good!), grilled octopus tentacle (bit tough, and grotesquely big, very Chthulu-ish), the grass jelly drink (no strong feelings on this one), the Taiwanese sausage with raw garlic (love this!), the peanut ice cream with crushed peanut brittle and chopped cilantro leaves all wrapped in a spring roll wrapper (so goooood!), the pork paper, and the dozens of milk teas on every corner.

The sun was really shining so bright on our second day that it was hard for me to not be squinting the whole time. I have squinty eyes when the sun's up, and I can't even keep them open sometimes. Interestingly, I'm not a big fan of tinted sunglasses. Anyway, this was taken at the Presidential Office Building, well, technically at the parking lot near the Presidential Office Building.

Saw this old man buying something from a vending machine at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. I think I love this picture the most.

The requisite jump shot. The person taking this picture kept saying, "So good! So great!" And she had us make several jumps. One thing about the bf and I is that we don't do things half-assedly. So when somebody says we need to do a jump shot, then we'll make it something extra, complete with fugly facial expressions and awkward body poses. Also, hitting the ground is another story. I thank my omega-3 supplements for giving me flexible joints (and icky fish breath).

The view at the top floor of Taipei 101. You have to pay NTD 600 (USD 20) to see it. I think it's worth it though, as you'll get a full 360-degree view of Taipei. Also, the elevator ride from the ground to the top is an experience in itself. It lasts for only a couple of minutes, and there's a cool animation that charts the progress of the elevator in real time as it ascends. And the elevator goes dark during those few minutes.

Once you get to the top floor, be prepared by a deluge of tourists taking selfies as if the building were to collapse tomorrow. Still, you can always find a spot where you can be undisturbed. I think they have a limit as to how many people can go up at any given time. It could also be interesting to go to the top floor at night and see all those city lights.

Should you decide to go down Taipei 101, you'll get to see its tuned mass damper on your way to the elevator. Quite a feat of engineering, if you ask me. I've always wondered how they managed to get this at this height. I know the answer's just a Google away, but I want to never stop wondering. Or maybe I'm just too lazy or forgetful.

Calves for days. This one was shot by the bf, at the Martyrs' Shrine. We witnessed the changing of the guards here, which was quite different from the one at Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. For one, you can literally march with the guards as they go to their posts. I wonder what all these guards feel, being surrounded by tourists and all.

That day was hot, dear readers. I had flop sweat, which was also probably running down my butt. And we were there in the middle of the afternoon. I just knew I'd be getting sunburned around the back of my neck in a couple of days, which always happens. The bf had to constantly stop me from scratching and scratching and scratching.

A pagoda, also at Martyrs' Shrine. I love pagodas. They don't seem to perform any function other than make the place beautiful. Much like a gazebo. Now I wonder—if there's going to be an Asian version of The Sound of Music, will they do that "I Am Sixteen" number in a pagoda? Stuff of wet dreams, I tell you.

On the train, on our way to Pingxi. The last time I was here, I went on a boring tourist bus, with a very friendly tour guide whose English was so difficult to comprehend that I just tuned out. It was quite an experience taking the train. We took 2 trains actually—one to get us out of Taipei, which took around an hour, and another one to get us to Pingxi, where we planned to do more touristy stuff.

I envy Taiwan's train systems. They're so efficient. In Manila, arrghh, I just can't. I don't even take the trains here because they're like hell on Earth during rush hour. But in Taiwan, you can even get tickets without speaking to an actual human.

So the bf and I were seated on the train when someone boarded and told us that we were in his seat Confused, we showed him our ticket and tried to ask him if he can point us to our correct seats. He just looked at our tickets, and said, "No seat number." Whut? Turns out that if you get your tickets using a machine, you're not assigned any seat numbers. But when you buy your tickets from the counter, the person gives you a ticket with a seat number.

The last stop of the Pingxi Old Rail is the town of Jingtong, which is so quaint and quiet that I want to live there. There's nothing much to do here, so you have an hour to kill before the next train arrives. The bf and I ended up having coffee at this really charming cafe where we were the only customers. Good coffee, but very, very expensive. My latte cost NTD 250 (USD 8).

The waterfalls at Shifen, which is a good 20- to 30-minute walk from the place where they release sky lanterns. Not shown in pictures are the hundreds of tourists taking selfies with the waterfalls in the background.

Another thing about Taiwan is that they love their milk tea. There's like 3 different milk tea stalls in every corner. I love milk tea, but I can't really tell why one milk tea stall is better than another. In Taiwan, it's probably easier getting milk tea in a food court than water, which we experienced unfortunately. We were in a food court at a mall and I couldn't find a stall that sells bottled water. I'm guessing that if we stayed a few more days in Taiwan that if you cut me, I'd bleed milk tea.

I like my milk tea straight up, with none of those pudding or pearls or jelly or fruit bits. Those pearls are weird. They're black, gooey, stick to your teeth, and don't even taste anything. They take way too much space in the cup. Anyway, don't you love these Hello Kitty cups? Perfect for gay guys, no?

At Jiufen, where we again overwhelmed by the number of tourists. I can't even recall if there were this many the last time I was here. My advice to anyone going to Jiufen: just skip it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Bookstore run in Taiwan

Hello, dear readers! Just came back from our 4-day Taiwan trip, and tired as hell. It was an adventure though, as unlike last year when I went there on a guided tour group, I had the bf with me and we just planned to wing it. And wing it we did—from shuttling between trains, taking confusing buses, being told that we're taking up somebody else's seat on the train, getting lost, and being misunderstood most of the time. I tell you, there's no other way to travel. Guided tours are all convenient and everything, but I don't think they'll give the full experience. Also, going DIY in your travels is hardcore, no? (Also, cheap, which is the best reason.)

Anyway, like in all of our travels, we've decided beforehand to visit at least a couple of bookstores in Taipei. So that's why we usually ended up going back to our hotel room around 9 or 10 pm already, as the bookstore run was usually the last thing in our itinerary. We actually visited 2 bookstores—Eslite Bookstore Dunnan in Da'an and Kinokuniya Books inside the Breeze Center in Songshan. Both proved to be pretty interesting and worth visiting. But when you think about it, bookstores are always worth a visit, no? No matter how many times you tell yourself that you're not getting anything, you do end up with a couple of things, whether books or stationery stuff, to take home with you.

On our second night in Taipei, we went to Eslite Dunnan branch, which is a 24-hour bookstore. We just came from a city day tour and we figured we might as well visit it as it's just a couple of train stops away. I wasn't really expecting many titles in English, as not many Taiwanese speak the language and there aren't as many English-speaking expats and tourists in Taiwan, as compared to, say, Singapore and Bangkok. Still, there were a couple of shelves that had English titles. And when I checked out the American and British literature selection, there were a few English editions located together with their Chinese editions.

I also wasn't expecting that many people to still be in the bookstore at that time of the night, but there was still a significant number of customers So I'm assuming that business is doing good. And I noticed that there are so many titles that had Chinese editions, so I'm thinking that the locals love to read. (I love Taiwan already)

I gasped when I entered Eslite. So beautiful.
And the books in stock are so diverse.
At the ground floor of Eslite is their stationery section.
Had to stop myself from buying those Moleskine notebooks.
The bf couldn't resist making a quick doodle on the sample pages.
Of course, he had to draw a chihuahua.
Another floor in the Eslite building houses their music stuff.
And there was a live performance of a local group when we got there. 
On our final night, we troop to Kinokuniya Books in Songshan. We always make it a point to visit a Kinokuniya branch in the countries that we go to. So far, we've been to Kinokuniya in Singapore, Bangkok, and now Taipei. Hopefully, we'll get to visit the ones in Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur next year. I can't seem to describe it, but every time we find ourselves in Kinokuniya, it feels like coming home. It's like ordering your favorite dish at a restaurant. You're just comforted by its familiarity.

Like Eslite, the Kinokuniya in Taiwan didn't have that many English titles. Actually, I didn't see any book in English except in the long shelf that housed their graphic novels. I was eyeing a manga that has a gay BDSM storyline, but ended up not buying it because, one, I wouldn't be able to appreciate it fully and, two, I can always just check out porn in the internet for free. The bf was interested in a couple of figurines (which I call "dust gatherers) but unfortunately they were out of stock.

We're actually quite wet in this pic.
From sweat because we walked a few blocks, and there was a light drizzle.
Rows and rows of books I can't read.
It's still a heady feeling being around books though.
Also, a couple of other bookish things last week. On our way back from Jiufen and Shifen, we chanced upon a book vending machine at the train station! I (figuratively) climaxed; I would've literally if there were books in English. Still, books are books are books, no matter what language. Also, I don't think book vending machines are for me, as I usually have at least 2 books in my bag. I've been known to lug a hardcover of Infinite Jest in my backpack, born out of the fear of having nothing to read while stuck in traffic, in a boring meeting, in a restaurant that's taking it's time to fulfill my order, or in less-than-pleasant company.

The Manila International Book Fair happened last week as well. We visited on the day it opened, which was a Wednesday, which was also the day before our Taiwan trip. So it's either we visit on that day or end up missing the book fair entirely. The latter is out of the question, as I've been going to the book fair for 31 consecutive years. I still remember the time when exhibitors simply had tables to showcase their titles and everything was still low key. Now, it's become so hectic and stressful to go there especially during the weekends. And what bugs me even more is that there are quite a few stores selling non-bookish items like stationery and toys. Nevertheless, going to the book fair will always be something in my calendar.

The book vending machine at the Songshan Station in Taipei
An initiative of the Taipei Public Library
Book loot!
The 3 books in the top row were from the book fair. The other 2 were from Eslite. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Dark reads (also being artsy fartsy)

Sometimes, all I wanna do is curl up in bed with a novel that has a very dark plot. So dark that it feels like every time you open it, you're dipping your fingers in blood. I guess that's one reason why I'll never have a liking to Austen. But give me a novel where the women kill, where the world has gone into anarchic chaos, and a speculative world where the society is deeply matriarchal and religion is controlled by sorceresses. For some reason, the novels I chose for this post all feature women as major characters. Woot!

Yes, this novel is one of those that seems to ride on the popularity of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. It's not as suspenseful as those two novel though,but still entertaining. I guess I will never get tired of unreliable narrators.

This one I was 10% behind. It's some sort of a post-apocalyptic novel set in a world where people lose their shadows, and along with this loss goes their memories as well. It's a bit of a downer actually, especially when the protagonist couple get separated because the woman, after losing her shadow, decides to flee so that her husband is spared from all the tragedy that's bound to happen to her.

I've a thing for beautifully illustrated graphic novels,  much more if the story is so rich that every pagea is a delight This one is that rare comic. I love the world building and the religion-inspired imagery that the story conjures. Also, plus points for having relevant themes on feminism and race.

There's another thing that's happening this week, and that's our trip to Taiwan. Packing for trips gives me great anxiety. Do I pack an extra pair of shorts? How about underwear? Do I really need all these toiletries? Also, more importantly, should I bring two or three or four books? Or five?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Crazy rich gaysians

I found my calling in three words—to be a crazy rich gaysian. And that's primarily because I saw the movie Crazy Rich Asians last week, and I loved every part of it. I guess you'd say that I was predisposed to liking it, being a crazy Asian myself, but frankly, I wasn't expecting anything much except to watch how two things this movie has in buckets, which are diversity and inclusion, would be translated to the big screen.

Singlish is love.
And I miss hearing the expression, "Can?"
Like, "You free for dinner tonight, yah? Can?"
The mostly Asian cast did it for me. Ah, Henry Golding . . . Just be the next James Bond already. I swear, every time he's on screen, you're struck by how shiny he is. And that voice, so sexy it can make polar ice caps melt. Good fashion sense too, on and off screen. There was this issue about him not being too Asian enough, as his father's British. But let me tell you, dear reader, when I look at him, I see only an Asian face. Constance Wu is so precious that you wanna put her inside your man-purse (murse?) and just take her out to show her to your other gay friends and fag hags. Can't believe she's 36, a few years older than HG, who is 31. Asian age can be deceiving, yes? And when I grow older, all I want is to be Michelle Yeoh. If HG is hot, MY is so icy that the temperature drops whenever she enters a room. And don't we all wish that we can have a bff like Awkwafina?

The book club discussed Crazy Rich Asians in 2015. I remember liking it and defending it when a few people commented that there's an inherent shallowness in its story, that it's all fluff and too materialistic. Well, isn't that the whole point of the novel? I think I mentioned that we shouldn't really think too much about it. And that it doesn't ask you to read it in another profound, deeper level. It's all about Asians who are filthy rich, some of whom are so full of themselves that they're blind to all of their shortcomings. The novel's storyline is classic telenovela fodder: outsider girl marries into an old rich family. It's something we've all read and seen in varying permutations, even when we were young when we listened to fairy tales. But Kevin Kwan't novel is distinctly Asian. For that alone, reading it is an experience.

Anyway, let's get back to the movie, yes? It's just so fabulous. I suddenly miss Singapore, with its shopping malls with their airconditioning on at full. I swear, every time I enter a mall in Singapore, my balls shrink a few centimeters. What is going with the AC? It's like people there want to escape that tropical humidity as much as they can. Also, one is amazed at the genius of the costumes in the movie. Constance Wu's character isn't rich, but she ends up not wearing the same thing twice because of crazy rich Awkwafina, who plays her close friend. Yes, some of the things she wore might appear frumpy and too fussy, but they suit her. Henry Golding looks like a god with or without clothes. Michelle Yeoh's clothes are all clean lines and sharp silhouettes, which fit her stiff character. And Awkwafina is one of the few people on this planet who can rock a pajama-type ensemble. Did I mention that seeing shirtless HG is life changing?

Taken right before the book club's discussion
Gaysians know that one should hold wine glasses only at their stems.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

King of convenience

A couple of days ago, the books I ordered from Book Depository finally arrived. I lurrrrrrve that online bookshop. Two words—free delivery. The timings of order fulfillment could be better though, as my orders usually arrive in 6 weeks at the earliest. Fortunately, that really isn't a big issue for me. I'm in no hurry to read particular books. My TBR is limitless, and literally half of my bed is covered in books, which can be a pain when I make it every morning. Come to think of it, I'm probably just using a third of it as sleeping space; the rest is books and pillows. I need at least 4 large pillows at least to get a good night's sleep. When I'm at the bf's, I have two, which isn't a problem as I have the bf's sexy body and a dog (usually Coco the poodle or, rarely, Boolet the chihuahua) to compensate for the missing pillows.

Anyway, what I love about Book Depository and other online stores is the wide selection of titles. Here, I feel that local bookstores focus more on young adult and bestsellers (thrillers and romance), which is understandable as these are the ones that really sell. And I feel that customer service isn't as efficient as before. It's tedious to call repeatedly or make more follow-ups, no? One time, I reserved a book and never even received a text or email that the book's available. I only knew that they had it in stock when I saw the book in their shelves. So frustrating. So online I go, and online is where I've been getting my book fix. It's kinda weird that I still haven't corresponded directly with an actual human in any of my transactions, but hey, no complaints so far. I'm easy to please, I think. Put a cupcake on my desk and we're, like, bffs already. Give me a teeny tiny bar of chocolate and I'll be your bitch.

And don't get me started on LGBT titles in our local bookstores. They're practically nonexistent. Do people have the notion that gays don't read? Or that we just spend all our money on clothes and killer shoes? Well, okay, maybe 50% true, and probably like 75% for a few of us. Still, why the dearth of gay titles, huh? I guess it has something to do with us not being vocal that bookstores should have a few LGBT fiction in their shelves. With these online bookstores, this has become a non-issue. So, yay. Now the only thing that's holding me back is disposable income, and that mountain of a TBR that will kill me should it topple down.

So do I still check out the bookstores in the metro? Of course. But there's another thing that ruined the buying experience for me, and that has something to do with price. Why the sudden jump in price? Sometimes, a trade paperback almost costs as much as a hardback. Is it the recently enacted TRAIN law, which resulted in inflation? Hmmmm... Unfortunately, I can't find the answers to these from the books I ordered.

Books from the "mail," all gay titles
Although, full disclosure, these didn't arrive at my doorstop.
I just received a notice from the post office that I have a parcel for pick up.
Which is kinda weird, as there's another person here at the office
whose order arrived directly to the office, which is also my delivery address. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

J-horror, it's a thing

My love for Japanese horror, or J-horror, knows no boundaries. We've always known that the Japanese can come up with weird shiz, but the horror stories they're able to conjure is simply inexplicable. But in a good way. In a horrific kind of good way. It's not for everyone though, especially if you're turned off by body horror or perverse sexual elements. But hey, if you're reading horror, then shouldn't you be expecting to be disturbed and made uncomfortable with the story?

I'm not really big on manga, the comics made by Japanese writers and artists, but I will make an exception to Junji Ito, who is now one of my favorite writers and storytellers. I just discovered him this year, when I randomly pulled Shiver, his 2017 collection, from the shelf of a local bookstore. I say randomly because whenever I'm in a reading slump, I usually turn to the graphic novels section of the bookstore and check out titles without any rhyme or reason. I discovered lots of wonderful graphic novels this way—Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp, Beauchard's Epileptic, and Brosgol's Anya's Ghost, to name a few. Interestingly, it was the bf who got me into reading graphic novels. Before the bf (B.B.F.), my middle class upbringing taught me to look down at these works, which is totally the fault of my parents.

Perhaps the only reason why I don't have much love for manga is that its stories are terribly slow. I'd probably have more fun watching paint dry or looking for wrinkles slowly develop on my face. But with Junji Ito though, I just never know what to expect. Well, I've read only his short fiction collection so far, but what I've read lets me get my horror fix, which I've been rarely getting from the horror novels I've finished lately. There's just something off right from the first page of the story that you could subtly detect, whether it's the oddly proportioned face of a character, the too-perfect veneer of a house, or the cheery friend who seems to be hiding her broken self. I revel in these stories. It's not at all like "The Twilight Zone," but more like the copulation of Hitchcock (for the suspense), Stirling (for the speculative aspect), King (for the jump scares), and Barker (for the out-of-this-world body horror).

I can't get enough of the body horror that Ito tells in some of his stories. In one story titled "Glyceride," a man pops his many pimples and lets the oil drip onto his sister. In "Dissection Girl," a girl dreams of being dissected alive and goes through great lengths just to make it happen. And those are just the "tame" ones, dear reader. There are far darker and grosser instances of this kind of terror in Ito's work.

Another thing I find unsettling in many of Ito's horror stories is his depiction of women. The way he draws his female monsters amd ghosts gives you that slight icky feeling. The blank eyes and facial expressions, the uncomfortably svelte figure, their hair which seems to have a life of their own—stuff of nightmares, I tell you. And it's because of this that I'm really glad that I'm gay. Anyway, check out these "ladies" in the pictures below. Note how the style of the illustrations also give them both a sexual and a predatory feel. But again, these do nothing for me, sexually I mean.

"Blackbird" from Fragments of Horror (2013-2014)
"Whispering Woman," also from Fragments of Horror
I love J-horror in all its forms. Ju-On and Ringu still remain as two of my favorite horror movies. Coincidentally, both also have elements of body horror and female antagonists. One other thing to note about J-horror is that the horror just happens without having the need for an explanation. So there's usually no tedious back story that we all have to painfully go through. It's the same thing with Junji Ito's stories. Weird stuff just happens, like people being chased by floating heads, a woman being turned on by a house and eventually having sex with it, and a man having all the heads of his ancestors living on top of his head. It's just is, man.

The books in my bag last weekend

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

If I turned into a cockroach

I finished another story by Kafka recently—the one where the main character wakes up one day transformed as a cockroach, "The Metamorphosis." And can I just say that I loved the absurdity of it all. Like when you read The Idiot, you just swallow your disbelief and just run with it. Of all things that one can turn into, Kafka had to choose a cockroach, that vile insect that everyone seems afraid of. And my goodness let's not talk about the flying variety.

Now I'm not a person who's uncomfortable around insects. I love them arthropods—beetles, ants, termites, mantises, etc. Yes, some of these are pests, but as a Bio major, I know how important they are to the ecosystem. But cockroaches are another matter. I have always speculated what their roles are. Ah, one of the great mysteries of life. These critters should be annihilated. When we were in line at a temple in Bangkok, we saw a cockroach idly crawling near us. Of course, none of us dared to step on it because, you know, Buddhist respect for all life. I could imagine all the feelings of disgust and desire to scream and flee from the insect that they bottled inside. Of course, the bf and I were just amused. We come from a third world country; we literally sleep with these critters.

I have a weird affinity for spiders though. I can't bear to hurt these cute animals. When you meet a spider, keep in mind that it's probably more afraid of you than you are of it. And it'll probably sting only when provoked. Interestingly, this morning I saw a huge spider in the shower. Probably with a leg span as long as my hand. (BTW, I have huge hands.) So you can probably understand my dilemma. Should I risk it and take a shower? Or should I just splash water on my face and just put baby powder all over my sexy body? In the end though, I took a very quick shower (i.e., 2 minutes) at the farthest corner of the bathroom.

And crap, I have digressed in the two previous paragraphs. So let's go back to "Metamorphosis" and how I reveled in Gregor Samsa's transformation. Imagine waking up one morning being unable to immediately get out of bed because you've discovered that your body is now flat and you find it difficult to move your legs, all 6 of them. Then your family's, like, no biggie, we'll just lock you in your room and feed you every day. I find it ironic that Gregor would turn into a cockroach, that creature which seem to serve no purpose at all (except to make white people squirm). Prior to this metamorphosis, Gregor was the breadwinner in his family, earning enough not just for his family's day-to-day but also to pay his parents' debts. But you couldn't do that anymore if you're a cockroach, no?

Eventually, his family's tolerance to his new form reaches a tipping point—they can no longer stand having him in their house. At one point, in a hysterical set piece, his father was trying to step on him while Gregor was scurrying around the walls and the floor of the room. "Metamorphosis" is a sad story of a man caught in a surreal circumstance. Kafka doesn't even bother to explain this transformation. And why would he? It's the utter in-your-face absurdity that makes the story. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Dear Diary, #1

Hey, D.! This is P.

So the bf's been seriously bitten by the travel bug. Now he has itchy feet. I've a few realizations regarding traveling, now that we're planning to go to a few countries in the near future. One, of course it's going to be costly. I'm now down to two meals a day just to save up. Hopefully, not just more money but more prominent cheekbones and jawline in the coming weeks. Remind me to take a before and after pic, D.

The donut socks are mine.
We took this picture right before entering the temple, as cameras weren't allowed inside.
D., I just realized that I no longer have plain white or black socks.
We're going to Taiwan next month, which, if I weren't going with the bf, would be unfortuitous for two reasons. One, I've been to Taiwan just last year, albeit for only 3 days. Two, we just traveled last month, and my fat ass needs some bit of a recuperating time. But who am I kidding, D.! It's only my slim wallet that needs time to fatten up. Seriously, you think that you're getting a good deal with a travel promo, and then you realize you need a pocket wifi, museum tickets, a tour guide for a place you're really hoping is worth it, etc. It's a good thing that the spa and massage aren't my thing. I feel iffy when strangers touch me. What's wrong with me, D.?

I love Taiwan. Clean, friendly people, delicious food. I can't recall a bad experience during the 3 days I was there last year. Well, except for one night when I got lost and ended up walking for almost 3 hours because I was too stubborn to ask for directions. Woe is me when I took a bite of that humble pie and hopped into a taxi just to get to my hotel. Can I permanently live in hotels, D.? I kinda feel that it's my natural habitat. Three words: crisp white sheets. I know that there's this awful urban legend on how hotels don't really change their sheets as often as they should. But as long as I don't see those buggers, then they're 100% antiseptic bed covers for me. Also, there's a reason that our senses have a limited range, yes? Also, I think of it as exposing myself to those germs and beefing up my immunity in the process. So, win-win.

I'm molting.
Or, simply gross pic is gross.
And speaking of immunity, dear D., I have a strange case of skin shedding on my hands. I doubt if it's caused by soap, as I've been using the same brand of unscented soap for a few years now. I have a weird dislike for scents, haven't you noticed, D.? I believe that we should only be smelling one's scent if and only if we're hugging him or her. Otherwise, ummmm, I wouldn't be able to have an intelligent conversation with you. My brain can only process so much stimuli. It's either your voice or your scent.

Anyway, don't ever think that this gross skin condition is a result of friction brought about by skin rubbing against skin and aggravated by repetitive hand movements. If that were the case, D., I would've had this since I was 13. I can't even shake other people's hands, as they'll be grossed out by that rough feeling. Or they'll think I'm spreading some sort of skin virus. Whatever.

Taking the commuter boat in Bangkok, with Wat Arun behind us
We weren't really planning to visit this temple, as it's across the river.
But we were told that to get to the boat that will take us back to downtown Bangkok,
we had to cross the river and take the boat from that side. So, "blessing in the sky."
So I'm really excited for next month's trip, D. I've been checking my itinerary for the last time I was there and crossing out sites that were just meh. If it were totally up to me, I'd skip Yehliu Geopark, because they're just rocks in weird shapes, and there's plenty of rocks with weird shapes where I come from. But the bf wants to visit it, so I'll play the role of dutiful husband and just go with it. Maybe, just maybe, the configurations of those rocks just changed a bit. I'd gladly skip that paper balloon flying at Shifen as well. I don't think it's environmentally sound, and such a waste of money. It's literally seeing your money go up in the sky and then exploding in flames. Just think of all the dimsum that you could've bought with that money. Mmmm.... dimsum—the best reason to go back to Taiwan.

Boolet the chihuahua does not approve of our frequent trips.
Just look at that smug face.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Kafka virgin

My two favorite quotes from Kafka's The Trial
Our book club's selection for this month is Kafka's works, beginning with the novel The Trial. I've never read Kafka, and I have this notion that his works will read like those of Russian novelists such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I have a special affinity for Tolstoy's and Dostoevsky's novels. I don't mind that their main characters are drunkards (or throw themselves in front of a moving train), they live in squalor, and the weather is always freezing. Somehow, pondering about life's biggest questions seems easier if you have these unfortunate conditions. Maybe I'm just a closet romantic, no? But Kafka's The Trial is completely different in tone and subject matter. And I am jarred. Well, at least for a few minutes.

The first thing that struck me about The Trial is its pace. The writing is so frenetic that it leaves you catching your breath—long paragraphs with hardly any punctuation, dialogue that you have to decipher as to who exactly is the one speaking the lines, and events happening one after another in a span of a few sentences. I love it. The pace is perfect in evoking an atmosphere of claustrophobia and unpredictability, as these characterize the situation tha Joseph K., the main character, is going through. What exactly can K. do when he wakes up one morning to find people in his apartment who are there to arrest him for a crime unspecified throughout the story?

But pacing aside, the novel's story is told straight through. But the range of situations that K. finds himself is so vast that it forces you to question the genre of the novel. Is it absurdist? Is it metafiction? Is it a satire? But cares about genre these days anyway? I don't. I just want a good story. So, these situations—they can go from being absurd one moment to sensual the next. And it is this absurdity that makes me forgive K.'s wrongful actions or, more often, inaction to be able to get himself out of that ridiculously surreal situation. How can one act rationally if the circumstances that go your way are irrational?

Bureaucracy is one of the prevailing themes of The Trial. No matter how many people that K. meets who can help him with his coming trial, no one seems to have a clear idea on how to help. K. is forced to consult a lawyer, listen to a preacher, and talk to a painter and court reporter. They all present a grim outlook for the trial. It's a bleak picture that Kafka paints in this story. It's not exactly entertaining, but it certainly makes you pause and think. I have so many questions after finishing the novel. Thank goodness for Google.

The cover of my copy of The Trial kicks ass.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Artsy fartsy AF (part 2)

A continuing series. If you give an eff, you can check out part 1 here. Also, my Instagram here. A warning though, my IG is a bit all over the place—food the bf and I cooked (a good number are pics of frittatas), travel, chihuahuas, and the occasional random shot.

Probably my favorite book of 2018 (so far)
Couldn't recommend this enough
Woot, woot! An LGBTQ young adult novel!
Such a profound question this novel poses—Is humanity worth saving?
Another wonderful read, with fully realized characters. Worth the hype.
Loved all the characters' voices that each take you to a different time
I've been waiting for so many years for Miller's next novel
This one feels different though, but still has lots of drama
Had no expectations for this one, so was surprised that I really liked it
Shoved this book into the faces of a few peeps at the office
And of course there will be horror, and one that uses the story of the Donner party as context
Second half wasn't as good as the first, but still satisfying overall