Wednesday, June 24, 2020

It's tough having ovaries

It's sobering every time I think about gender equality. Yes, we've made huge strides in closing the pay gap, in abolishing discrimination in the workplace based on gender, and in creating safe spaces for women and LGBTQIA folk. But let's face it—these steps aren't enough. In some cultures, it's still a grave sin to be born a woman.

I'm reading this wonderful Korean novel by Cho Nam-yu titled Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, and it made me realize that the battle for gender equality is far from over. Like our main character, Jiyoung, for example. She's had a tough childhood because she was born a woman in a family that has always wanted a son. Even after graduating from college, she finds it difficult to get a job interview because, yes, she's a woman. Almost everything doesn't work out for her, often making huge compromises just because of her sex. It's quite painful to read at times, especially because every circumstance is still happening in Korea.

The novel has so many footnotes pertaining to actual statistics and studies on gender equality in Korea. But they don't interfere with the narrative. In fact, they seem to strengthen the novel's main thesis. It's still a society where women need to be dolled up all the time and where men still don't give much value to them. If they feel that they're sexually harassed at the office, Korean women just have to grin and bear it. Why oh why, Korea?

Speaking of Korea, the bf and I have been thinking of going there. Next year perhaps? When the virus blows over. Besides, I don't think overseas travel is a possibility anytime soon. And lately, we've been watching Korean dramas on Netflix. Them Koreans do know how to spin a yarn. (I highly recommend "Reply 1988"!) Now if only they'd treat their women better.

We've also been cooking Korean food.
This is the bf's kimchi stew. Perfect on a rainy evening.

I used to hate kimchi.
Now, I can eat it by itself, even though it's supposed to
be a side dish. I love this aged bokchoy kimchi.

Monday, June 15, 2020

All about those plants

Let's take a break for a moment from my big Russian project for a moment, shall we? Because I want to talk to you about this book:

This book has got me hooked.
And it was a perfect read on a sunny day.
The plant in the background is Oxalis triangularis,
which is also known as false shamrock.
I've always been fascinated by plants, probably just as equally as by animals. I don't understand why many people are more interested with animals, ignoring these photosynthetic organisms and never realizing how important plants are to the ecosystem. That air we breathe? Its oxygen probably came from the Amazon rainforest. That burger patty? They're from cows whose whole life has been spent eating grass.

I still haven't finished Lab Girl though, but I am really enjoying it. I feel a certain affinity for Hope Jahren, as she's one to promote the importance of science. Scientists don't get much recognition, no? It's only now with this pandemic that we appreciate how invaluable their work is. I love how Jahren talks about how she started her laboratories. I feel her struggle. I know of a few friends who work in a laboratory, and they can attest how thankless their jobs can seem sometimes.

This is a tree from the bf's place.
Love how the sun shines through its branches
in the morning.
Jahren's passion for the study of plants really comes through in this book, which is enough to make me ponder about the plants around me. It's also made me think how fortunate that I live where there are plenty of green spaces. People always complain that our mall culture trumps our liking for parks. Unfortunately, yes, I agree. Because one, there aren't that many parks and garden in Metro Manila. It's a concrete jungle through and through. And two, the outside heat can be punishing, and malls do have air-conditioning, which is de rigueur for a tropical country.

But a well maintained garden is a treasure, and if the weather's just fine, staying in it could be the thing that gives our minds a repose. We should bathe our bodies in more greenery. I know we really need it these days, as our mental health has probably suffered because of lockdowns. To be surrounded by all these organisms—ones who take in sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide and then magically transform them to food—is blissful. To be in the company of a hundred-year-old tree is wonderful. To walk in a field of grass that's actually just one single plant is calming. That's why I love Lab Girl, because it celebrates plants and the people who study them.

The bf and I have been taking walks along the village lately.
I love these walks because trees and plants are plentiful in the
village. And it's quiet, although we do bump into a few hikers
every now and then.
Anyway, every time we pass by this house, I just have to take
a pic of this life-size brachiosaurus. So random.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Peter's Big Russian Project #1: Nikolay Gogol's Dead Souls (1)

Let's start with Gogol's novel, shall we? I know zilch about Gogol and his works, so I'm amused by the text at the back of this cover, which says that Dead Souls the greatest comedy in Russian literature. Them big words, no? So does this mean that, if I don't find this book funny at all, then there's no hope for other Russian comedic novels? So, as I'm not a big fan of setting myself up for failure, I'll erase that heavy label attached to this book and have no expectations whatsoever. One thing I'm sure though—there will be snow.

This Gogol guy, he seems a real character. When he burned the second part of the manuscript of Dead Souls, all he had to say was that it was a practical joke played upon him by the devil. Seriously. Then after that, he just chose to stay in bed and refused all food given to him. He died soon after, and as reports would have it, "in great pain." It's no surprise really, yes?

Also, remember that main character in the book/movie of The Namesake, the one played by Kal Penn? He was named Gogol because his father survived a very nasty train crash while holding a book by Gogol. This got me thinking about my name, and how I have this absurd concept in my head that my parents were reading Anna Karenina when they were pregnant with me. I would have loved to be a Vronsky or Alexei. Or even Pyotr, which is quite close to my actual name.

I just started on Dead Souls last night, and I have to say that I'm amused at how Gogol describes his character using negatives:
Seated in the britska was a gentleman – not good looking, but not uncommonly in appearance either , not overly fat, nor overly thin. You couldn't say that he was old, yet you could not say that he was overly young either. His arrival created no stir whatever in the town, and was not accompanied by anything  out of the ordinary. 
I counted 10 nots in that text, and I even didn't count the no and the nor. For some reason, this has got me excited.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Peter's Big Russian Project: An Intro

Hey, hey, hey! How is everyone? I see that it's been way, way too long since I last made a post on this blog. I didn't even make a post last year! But you know what, dear reader? I'm thinking of writing more posts soon, and let me tell you why.

Since March 15, before the country was placed on lockdown (here, it was officially called "community quarantine"), I've written a daily post on my Facebook on just about everything. While I rambled on and on in many of these posts, I think I wrote a few noteworthy ones. By noteworthy, I mean non-cringe-inducing and just a tad more coherent. I've written 78 posts in total, ending it all on 31 May, exactly two and half months since we were placed on lockdown. During that span of time, I realized how much I enjoyed writing, even though I'm not really writing for anyone else except for myself. It felt liberating.

Of course, I do would love an audience. And judging from the many comments each post received, I'd like to believe that people read what I've written and somehow picked up something from it, however trivial or inconsequential that may be. But the audience is just a bonus, if I may say so. What I really looked forward to every day was writing that post and exercising the few creative neurons that I have.

So that's why I'll be writing again, and that's why I'm doing it here on my blog. Because this blog is still mine, and I have a significant control over it. Also, does anyone still read bog blogs these days? Maybe not that many anymore, I figured. Which is perfectly fine. Which is just the way I want it to be. Because there is nothing as free-ing as writing for one's self.

Oh, and by the way, if somebody's reading this, it's also my way of introducing you to another project that I'd be undertaking—the Big Russian Project. Why? Because I love Russian novels. I love the angst, the drama, and, yes, even the snow. I also want to dispel the thinking that everyone's depressed in a Russian novel. Not everyone, mind you! Well, maybe just 75% of them characters are. So if you stick with me, I'll share my thoughts on the current Russian novel that I'm reading.

Unrelated picture of the dog bite from one of our mini pinscher.
I'd like to believe that this somehow earns me enough credibility
to talk about Russian books. Because, them Russian thugs!

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?