Thursday, June 28, 2018


2018 is going to be known as "my year of reading gay fiction." Gay romance, gay erotica, gay mystery—I've read it, and I'll keep on reading it till you cut me and I bleed glitter. Sure, I know that gay fiction isn't for everyone, but I think it should be. If you think that gay fiction is all about boinking in the dark, kissing in secret, and having characters who are so touchy-feely when they're alone, then you have your work cut out for you. Personally though, I wouldn't mind reading something that's purely about boinking and kissing (and other kinky stuff). Who doesn't need those, right?

I guess I'm predisposed to putting unnecessary labels on things. I am, after all, a member of that wonderful but unfairly marginalized community called the LGBTQIAZGSIDFEDOGR. (Wait, did I miss a letter? I guess this is when the rainbow emoji comes in handy, no? Although I've seen the rainbow LGBT flag with two additional colors—brown and black. I have no idea what these two colors stand for. But adding those colors is a headscratcher. Why not periwinkle? Or chartreuse? Or coquelicot? Or even xanadu?) Anyway, I dream of the time when these gay fiction wouldn't have its own shelf or its own shopping category in Amazon. It would just be what it has always been in the first place—fiction.

I get why some people would be wary of gay fiction. The novels of James Lear, for example, border on porn. Every chapter, whatever the scenario, there'd be sex. And the result is one terribly funny but hot story. Open a page randomly in a Lear novel and chances are, you'll read the middle of a sex scene. Sex while doing laundry, sex in the barn, sex in a steamship, sex with the bartender, sex with the sexy village idiot who has an irresistible eggplant. The thing is though, aren't there non-gay novels that are written the same way? Of course, the Fifty Shades novels come to mind. I've read them, mind you. And I've never laughed so hard reading sex scenes that aren't supposed to be funny. Come to think of it, I've never met a gay guy who's been turned on by Fifty Shades. But Jamie Dornan though, woo-hoo. I grew up watching Dawson's Creek. So Dornan fulfills fantasies of what Pacey would look like after 10 years.

Do people still think that gays come from another planet? If you meet 10 people randomly on the street, at least 1 of them would be gay. Why are some people so hateful? Are they afraid of us and and our fabulousness? Perhaps they have heard of the gay mafia and how vindictive it could be? Here's the thing, I don't think there's a gay mafia though. If there were, shit, how do I apply? I bet the recruitment process involves "lip-synching for your life." (On a related note: I've never liked RuPaul's Drag Race. I just don't get it. The bf is very much into it. When it's on TV, I tune out. And if I'm in a good mood, I'd pretend to like it.)

What's surprising is that some of this hate comes from Christian groups. And they even have the nerve to say, "We hate the sin, not the sinner." Ummm, excuse me? Last time I checked, Jesus never wanted people to hate other people. What is this "sin" that we committed? The sin of fabulousness? And how does gay marriage weaken your "traditional Christian" marriage? If your marriage is threatened by men whose only sin is to have impeccable taste in shoes, then your marriage isn't strong in the first place, no? Yes, our flamboyance may be annoying sometimes, but don't you think we're also annoyed hearing from you how our "alternative lifestyle" encroach on your "traditional values"?

Anyway, gay fiction. There are tons out there. Lately, I've been reading gay novels published by indie presses. It all began early this year when the book club discussed Murmuration, a novel by TJ Klune. I knew that it's a gay novel so I was looking forward to talking about it. But finding a copy was a challenge, so thank goodness for Book Depository (free shipping!). Much as I'd want to support our local bookstores, online bookstores are a godsend for lazy but fabulous peeps like me. Come to think of it, I've been buying most of my books online lately. Saves me a lot of hassle. So it got me thinking why do our bookstores don't have that many gay novels in stock? Last time I checked, there were quite a number of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda though. So that's a good thing. And the usual David Levithan (love!) and Benjamin Alire Saenz (love, love!). But apart from those, relatively slim pickings on gay fiction. My technicolor heart bleeds, and my shiny shimmery soul weeps.

Yesterday morning I went to the post office to get my books. Couldn't be happier. Practically sprinted all the way from my desk to the post office. I imagine that I left a trail of pixie dust along the way. My shallow self is delighted by the eye candy on the cover of The Imperfection of Swans. Hopefully, what's inside would be more delightful.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The thing about books is that some of them suck

Come Friday, I always post a photo on Instagram on the books in my bag for the weekend. It usually is a set of 4 books, mostly books that I've had in my shelf for the longest time. And I usually try to pick books from different genres, so that I don't get that cloying feeling you get reading books of the same theme. There's no way I'll read two love stories involving cis-genders in succession. I fear that I may grow ovaries or, at least, man-boobs (moobs?). One time, I read three gay erotic novels, one after the other, in one day. I felt sticky after the third book. So I took a shower. Three showers actually, one after the other.

One question that I often get about these posts is, "Do you really get to finish all those books?" Well, no, not all of them. I'm happy to finish one, two if I'm pushing it. If I finish three, these are probably the thinnest books on the planet, or I cheated and just read the last few pages, or Wikipedia. This is where my book editor ninja skills come in. Notice that I said "books in my bag" and not "books that I will read." (Thank you, Strunk & White! See, it still tells you to use the right words.) I love carrying books in my bag. And I have no qualms about the size, as I'm a size queen, on many levels. I'd lug around the dictionary if there were no online versions. I'm also partial to carrying a large eggplant.

Frankly, who has the time to finish 4 books in 2 days? With all the things to be done during the weekends, I'm lucky to still have reading time left. Let's see. We stay in bed and don't get up until 8  or 9, at the latest. Actually, I wake up at 4 am every day, so on the weekends from 4 to 8 am, I'm on Instagram. Crap. Then we prepare breakfast, which usually involves me whipping up something with eggs. (My current favorite is a kimchi omelette, with lots of melty cheese. Very addicting and satisfying.) Then we check out what's new on Netflix, which ends up with us watching something mindless for 2 hours. Then before we know it, it's time to prepare lunch. So it's the early afternoon already and we still haven't given the dogs a bath, played a few rounds of our current favorite boardgames, shower, go on Instagram again, and then make dinner. My goodness, I didn't realize that weekends can be stressful.

Gone are the days when I'd cut my nails to the quick because I feel stressed for not finishing a book. I have this nasty habit of cutting my nails really short, so short that sometimes, the ends of my fingernails bleed. (The bf hates this habit of mine, but I love it. Mmmmmm. To each their own, yes? Also, I have this terrible aversion to seeing the white part of the nail that protrudes from the end, a sign that one's fingernail has gotten long. Connotes ideas of laziness.) So anyway, if I don't like a book that I'm reading for whatever reason, to the back of the shelf it goes. Life's too short for bad books, or books with bad covers, or books with characters named Ashley, Chloe, and Zoey. If there's a character named Chris, he has to have an Evans for his surname.

So not all books are good, and not every book that we'll finish will be mind-blowing. Some will just be, ummm, okay, and that is an okay thing, no? But some will still be crappy and will let us hate ourselves for being suckered in. Some will have stories that will remind you of other stories you've read before, and you'll compare them, and you'll decide which one's bull and which one's shit. We persevere with our reading as many books as we can because eventually, we know that we'll find those treasures. The very few ones that we push on our friends' faces, the books that we fall in love with, those shiny few that outweigh the countless books that suck.

Anyway, just to give you an idea of those book-in-my-bag posts, here are a couple of them.

I've read 3 out of these 4. But I didn't finish them all during the weekend. It took me a while to read Ed Yong's nonfiction book about microbes, I Contain Multitudes. But I read this through because it appealed to the biology major in me. Lumberjanes is still my favorite ongoing graphic novel series recently, together with Monstress. So that was over in one sitting. I thought that I'd really like this year's Newbery, Hello, Universe, especially since it was written by an author with Filipino roots. But I was underwhelmed by it. Perhaps it had something to do with my huge expectations about this children's novel. It does help to have no expectations whatsoever, no? As for Wuthering Heights, I die of melodrama. It's a template on how not to live your life, as a friend said.

None finished in this set. Let's break it down. I don't know where Virginia Woolf is going with To the Lighthouse. Made me want to climb a lighthouse and just fling this book from the top. I've always had a problem with Pride and Prejudice. All those gossipy women aren't doing a thing for me. Everything's just gossip and more gossip. If the characters just spoke directly to their intended audience, this'll be finished in 3 chapters. The Mysteries of Udolpho is as Gothic as a Gothic novel can be. So the main character, a woman, faints a lot. I deduce that by the novel's end, she wouldn' be thinking clearly anymore. All those concussions can't be healthy.

Monday, June 25, 2018

All that BS over formal vs. informal writing (or why the eggplant emoji is my favorite emoji)

Last weekend, I moderated the discussion on Strunk & White's The Elements of Style for the book club. Much as I would have liked to focus on the nitty gritty of this very polarizing book, I chose to talk about the book's relevance. Do people still care about the subjunctive mood? Heck, do they even know what the subjunctive mood is? (I love the subjunctive. If it were possible to use it every time, I would have ran away with it. There's something about the subjunctive. It connotes missed probabilities and unfulfilled wishes and desires.) What about pronoun antecedents? And how do you manage those pesky sexist pronouns without being too wordy or cloying?

So anyway, there we were at the venue last Saturday afternoon when I head someone mention that some instances call for formal writing, and some for informal writing. Ooookaayyy. I think this is, ummm, BS. (Of course, I didn't say that upfront. I was raised right. I'll just write about it behind her back.) Why do you even have to differentiate between these two? Why can't we just pay attention to how effective our writing is, instead of being conscious whether to go formal or informal? Consider:
Dear Andrei Nikolayevich,
Please be informed that the meeting scheduled today has been postponed to Friday, 29 June. Please be guided accordingly.
Dear Gaius Julius Hyginus,
Today's meeting is postponed to Friday, 29 June.
I'm guessing that many people would say that the first example is formal in tone, and the second isn't. Why? Who the hell knows. Perhaps it's the number of words, no? And there's the use of "please." Also, the second sentence bugs me. As if without it, people would be acting, like, without guidance or whatever. I'd go with the second example all the time. You don't even need to tell people that you're informing them. The idea of your sentence is the information itself. When they read it, they're informed. The first example is just dumb, and it perpetuates the idea that being wordy is completely fine.

I'm not saying that the first example is formal. I hate labels. I prefer to think of it as smart writing. It's the kind of writing that people feel comfortable using. One tip I give to people when they're writing to someone is to imagine themselves right in front of the person they're writing to. So it doesn't make sense to say, "Hello, Heraclitus. This is to acknowledge receipt of your invoice sent via email last Thursday." You don't say that in real life, yes? (If you do, I'll poke your eyes out or scoop them with a spoon.) Just go with, "Hello, Babichenkovich. I received your invoice last Thursday." Acknowledge. Receipt. Nauseated.

Anyway, The Elements of Style. I love that book. That book has guided me when I was starting out with my career as an editor. I didn't know anything back then. (I'm a science major; I thought genitives had something to do with penises and vaginas.) I love how the rules are in black and white. There aren't even any explanations for some of them. Interestingly, this was one of the points raised during the discussion—how the authors didn't include any reason for coming up with these rules. But to include those additional sections would just fatten up TEoS. Its pocket size is one of the things that people love about it.

A good friend mentioned that we can group people based on the way we communicate. I forget the exact five groups, but it has something to do with those who are direct, those who put emotion in their writing, and those in-between. He said that I'd probably be in the first group. You think? I can recall the countless times I just replied to an email with "noted" or "gotcha" or "thanks." (You didn't really think I'd reply with, "Thank you for your email. This has been duly noted"? I'd prefer to eat my own barf.) Thank goodness for emojis. Now I can be really extra cheerful and positive and bright and sunshiny by putting a smiley face after "noted." And if I wanna throw people off, I'd use the eggplant emoji. Because nothing confuses people more than being reminded of a schlong. They might probably think, "Does he have a big penis? Is he thinking of penetration?" Newp. I just wanna make a ratatouille.

The best piece of advice from Strunk & White
Because being wordy is evil.

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.