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The Selfish Gene: In the beginning was simplicity


The Selfish Gene made me feel funny feelings about being alive. It’s nice to think of yourself as a vehicle for a million-year old replicator gene to drive around in and I find the theory that we’ve arisen from such humble beginnings to such unthinkable complexity to be weirdly self-affirming.

We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators..

George Saunders once wrote that stories are black boxes where the reader enters in one state of mind and exits in another, and that rings true to me for The Selfish Gene. I didn’t think I would finish reading it, let alone learn so much out of it and enjoy that feeling that you’ve become a slightly different version of yourself after the fact. It’s very cool.

Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are all born selfish.

This is all because of Richard Dawkins, of course. What a marvellous story-teller – he is wonderfully attuned to the voice and shape of his theories, and those of others which he built his gene-centric theory from. He writes with such cadence and uses accessible metaphors to teach laymen what we need to know, what we want to know and he makes each chapter truly a world in itself. I loved this book and can’t wait to read more non-fiction books that are as good as this.


I’ve had this in my Drafts for about two years. I read this book in 2013.

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Friday’s 7 Happy Things

When something makes me happy on Tuesday or Wednesday, the over-sharing part of my brain makes a tentative list of things that made me smile during the week, so far. Come Friday though, I get cranky and grumpy and who cares about all the good things that happened when I just want to take a nap, right? I still want to take a nap right now but I can’t and I hate everyone so here’s a list of things that made me smile the last few days, even if I’m not smiling at the moment. Also, I didn’t make it to 10 :(

1. Alessia Cara

Her EP is precious and she sounds like young Justin Bieber but smarter. Here is a gem and I feel it so much because I hate hate hate going out these days.

2. Disclosure’s Caracal

Checked it out for Lorde’s Magnets and stayed for Jaded. I love the direction they’re taking with this new album because I was not a fan of their disco/club groove in Settle (2014). Except for Latch. Everybody liked Latch.

3. Miranda July interviewing Rihanna

Looking at her, I was reminded that thousands of people search ‘‘Rihanna’s eyes’’ every year. And there they were: a pair of dizzying hazel-green starbursts. I took another gulp of wine. ‘‘What turns you on?’’

It made a stronger Miranda July and Rihanna fan out of me. Bad gal Riri so precious.

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Hong Kong State of Mind

I spent last weekend in Hong Kong, and when I landed and saw the familiar buses and smelt the familiar scent of anise in the air, I decided that Hong Kong had to be one of my favorite cities in the world. Hong Kong is charming, and busy, and vibrant, and had the right enough energy and the right enough weirdness, beauty, and confusion that I wanted to be in the center of.

I’ve always been a big city girl and resented growing up in a sleepy town so, in many ways, Hong Kong felt a bit like the home my stupid heart always longed for.

Real estate is crazy over there though, and I get turned off at the idea of living in a box, but then I already live in a box, so what’s the diff?


I’ve been wearing glasses almost all day for the past week or so. This must come off as a non-event to some, but it’s a big deal to me especially considering how long and aggressively I’ve resisted the need for these and then, here we are.

A funny thing: I always find something to complain about wearing glasses. Firstly, was that it was bothersome, because d’oh. People tell me I’d get use to it just stick with it you can do it come’on, so I did. It has gotten quite better in the bothersome department so my focus shifted to feeling the tightness behind my ears from the temples pinching into my head. I’ve been gently  pulling the earpieces apart from each other to loosen them up and they’ve loosened up, and I don’t feel the same tightness, so I looked for new things to complain about and it’s now the heaviness of the pads that rest on my nose.

It’s amazing how you suddenly feel things when you run out of ways to make yourself miserable.


Been feeling introspective lately and there have been tiny stirrings of wanting to live a creative life. Must be the haze.

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2014 in non-reading

What a weird year 2014 has been. I started out the year wide-eyed and optimistic – that my life would be a better version of what it has always been for years. I’ve set a few goals, planned a few trips and felt like a superhero. I’ve even set my 2014 reading goals to an ambitious 52 books before the year ends, because I was feeling brave and fancy, but well, we all know what happened to that. (I failed at 23 books only huhu).


photo by keight83

2014 was definitely not a year for reading but looking back, I don’t think I have lived a life as fully as I did last year. There were so many changes that happened to me. So many decisions, so many hurts and pains, failures, and joys, and so many lessons learned.

It will be juicier to write about the many life events that happened but as I also resolved to tone down on the oversharing, I think it’ll be much more worth it to share what I’ve learned instead:

The more you insist on sticking to a rigid life plan, the more it’ll hurt when those plans taper off. It’s terrifying to face an uncertain future, but aren’t all our futures uncertain really? I don’t think anyone could see much from where they are right now, and my over-controlling urges for what should happen were making me unnecessarily suffer. I cannot control everything. People will disappoint me, I will disappoint people, things will not go according to plan but things will be fine, more or less, and eventually.

I’m not suggesting that you go into your life battles without at least an emotional dagger and shield because that’s naïve and idiotic, but I learned that being dynamic to life’s changes is far more rewarding than strictly following a life plan down to its tiniest bullet points. This is easier said than done of course, and I’m still struggling to separate what has happened to what is happening, and what could. I need to nail to my brain the idea that although much of my past will influence my future, the future isn’t guaranteed to mimic what happened yesterday, or what’s happening today, or anything at all. Plainly, the future is not guaranteed and you control what you can right now and fervently hope your efforts pay off tomorrow.

Life is crazy. It’s beautiful, it’s sad and it’s ever-changing. Be like water.

Happy new year, people.

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Paul Pope’s Heavy Liquid

Heavy Liquid is my second Paul Pope book after the thoroughly entertaining Battling Boy (which, I noticed, I have not written about lol), and I can see why my friend (i.e. Pope mega fanboy) kept noting about Pope’s self-indulgence in this book. I know that Paul Pope enjoys inking and there’s not a book that would attest to that as much as Heavy Liquid did.


Heavy Liquid is a bizarre story about S (short for Stooge), and a heavy liquid – a mysterious, precious metal S has stolen from one of the clown gangs of the city. For a man who both writes and illustrates his books, Paul Pope did incredibly well with the dynamism and intensity of the story and the art was interesting with some gorgeous, gorgeous stand-alone pieces. I admit that it was a bit off-putting at first – I have not been exposed to art so inked that it was initially disconcerting but the visual noise Pope rendered fits very well with the cyber-punk, thriller setting.


The story was also pretty entertaining – a scifi detective thriller in a future setting, with that insane clown posse with cubist masks; a hilarious cray cray girl gang; an art collector that reminds me of Mr. Motley; friends leaving; leaving friends; and a love lost, found and lost again.

The art fits the mood of the story so well too that reading it felt like reading a somber rock and roll song – heavy, fun, but sad.  Like, like… Interpol in graphic format.

I enjoyed this book very much and I’m glad to be exploring some new, fun, and good comic books. I can’t wait to read 100% after this.


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The Romance of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West

“Great thinker”: Virginia Woolf, painted by Duncan Grant, a Bloomsbury Group member (Picture: The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence Photo/Estate of Duncan Grant/DACS 2014)

“Great thinker”: Virginia Woolf, painted by Duncan Grant, a Bloomsbury Group member (Picture: The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource/Scala, Florence Photo/Estate of Duncan Grant/DACS 2014)

…I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your undumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it should lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is really just a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defenses. And I don’t really resent it.

So… yeah. Virginia Woolf is one of my favorite female writers and she (apparently) had an affair with Vita Sackville-West, an English poet who will become her lifelong friend. The quote above is taken from a letter by Vita to Virginia and dayummm.

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Try the hell out of yourself.

So… I dropped by Goodreads today out of sheer habit and was glared at by a vicious reminder of my flaws:


That would be 3 books in two days too. Not exactly a proud stat for someone who considers herself readerly. I haven’t book-blogged for two months now. Two months!

So what’s been up?

First: I haven’t really been feeling too chatty as of late. My mind is all over the place and it has become too taxing to switch roles: from wifey, to mama cat, to corporate biatch, to socially inebriated friendy friend, to… many other roles I have to play on a weekly basis. It’s quite difficult maintaining a healthy social life, some physical activities, do good at work, and nurture my nerdery all at the same time. I also had some personal issues I needed to work through which were very mentally exhausting.

People have been bothering me about TV episodes I cannot catch up with, and books I haven’t been reading, and believe me – I tried. I try very hard, actually, but I need to sleep too.

Second: For some strange reason, the outdoors have become unduly fascinating to me. I’ve climbed two major mountains in the last three months and worried myself to eyebags for both trips. They have not been easy but mountains are so grounded, and so strong, and they all feel potent and permanent to me. I want to climb them all just for the heck of it.

Mt. Kinabalu 2014

Mt. Kinabalu 2014

Don’t get me wrong  though – I am not a great hiker; I am a card-carrying Super Noob. I am always, always worried, nervous, and scared, and my pace is slow, but “nothing else exists, only the climb.” Mountains are so unforgiving and I’ve waded through dark, maladaptive behaviors to haul myself up to the top, and I always have (so far) and I plan to always do. I have so many insecurities and doubts, but dark thoughts will not give me shelter, they will not give me those impossible views, they will not get me anywhere. Nothing else exists, only the climb.


Mt. Pulag 2014 by Michael Jay Abalos

I’ve just gotten back from a trip. It was the most outdoorsy I’ve ever been in my entire life (literally!) and I’m so drained but I am so happy. I always question my sanity before and during these relentless adventuring but I need to write this down to remind me why I keep doing this to myself – I am happy, I feel so brave, and weathering through cruel discomforts makes my soul grow. 

I am back in one piece albeit nursing an injured tailbone. I didn’t even know I had a tailbone and now I hurt it, and I cannot ascend anything without wincing. As much as I am taking delight in feeling extreme and intense outside with no roof on top of my head,  I’m taking this  as a sign to lean back gently, open a book, and go back to old loves.

I cannot wait to read again.

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What are men to rocks and mountains?*

Ah, I’m still alive. February passed like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on** and I was still rushing through my deadlines when suddenly March comes rolling in with its new set of target dates and challenges and frivolities. The last month has been an arduous struggle in getting my groove back. I have become Andy Dwyer:


… except that reading still interests me, though not as ardently as it did a few months ago. People have suggested a serious case of post-travel blues but I got back home from the great Malaysian mountain adventure on the 28th of January and a month of post-travel blues is simply ridiculous.  I blame the sluggishness on fairly recent tragedies which has made February a traumatic calendar event – it is my dead mother’s birthday month which coincides with my nephew’s death and THEN my uncle died. The meanest month my life ever did see. I hope March is gentler.

Oh well, regardless. I’m here and I’m still reading. Here are some of the books I finished last month:

Maus I : A Survivor’s Tale : My Father Bleeds History
Maus, Vol. 2: And Here My Troubles Began, both by Art Spiegelman

The Maus books is “a story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father’s story and history itself.”

The books were riveting and brutal, and savage and heartbreaking.Probably not the best companion books for an already-disheartening month but I was glad I read this important work. It was an excellent visual way of learning and understanding the terrible chapter of Jewish and world history.

I borrowed this from Shiela. Thanks!

The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I’ve heard so much about this book and being a sucker for historical romances, I just cannot miss it (especially when it presented itself to me during one of my last hunting sprees at La Belle Aurore, which is now sadly closed :(). It is a fun book, much drama, such 15th century, many romance. Wow. It was a WHALE of a book though but the intricacies of Highlander politics and the culture and everydayness of Scotland in the 1700’s were well presented, well thought-out.

And hey, there’s a series from Starz to be premiered this year.

Midsummer Moon by Laura Kinsale

My first Laura Kinsale, also a bargain find. It was fun – the lady was a clumsy inventress, and the Duke was…well, a Duke and it was romantic and fun and light-hearted and yeah… I am not very good at reviewing books, why do I have a book blog.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


The Ocean… feels like a Pratchett novel without much of the typical Pratchettian silliness. Specifically, it feels like a Tiffany Aching book with a quirky witch girl and two elder witches. It’s been a long time since I read a Gaiman novel (probably because it HAS been a long time since he wrote a non-YA novel), but there’s always something so lukewarm about his works to me. Apart from the excellent Sandman series, his novels have always felt so trite and just okay

Just to clarify: this was a fun read and very entertaining towards the end, but it was just… fine. It was nowhere near as good as the standard I have for Gaiman.  I remember feeling the same way about his other works;  whenever I’m about to read one of his new novels, I wanted so much to like it. The certain hype that follows him around lends a gravitas to the expectations I have for him, and I (sadly) find myself repeatedly disappointed.

Oh wells, this has been a good read but not what I would recommend for someone looking to read their first Neil Gaiman.

Thanks, Odina!

* Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
** Jonathan Safran Foer

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Wolf of the Steppes – For Madmen Only


“There once was a man….called the Steppenwolf. He went on two legs, wore clothes and was a human being, but nevertheless he was in reality a wolf of the Steppes. He had learned a good deal of all that people of a good intelligence can, and was a fairly clever fellow. What he had not learned, however, was this: to find contentment in himself and his own life…”

I am not quite sure what to feel about Hermann Hesse’s Der Steppenwolf (“the wolf of the steppes”). The language is beautiful, without a doubt, but it sometimes reeks of self-absorption. It’s very solipsistic and masturbatory and further reading into the author’s background while he was writing the book tells so much about his life crisis during that time.

Der Steppenwolf was the last book I read for 2013  in my fortress of solitude and while I was deeply enamored of the whole thing while reading it, it is a bit pretentious in retrospect.  Pretentious, not because it is elitist by nature, but because the character is too focused on identities – a very first world problem. No wonder kids fall over themselves for this book. Identity crises are issues of either teenagers or the privileged – something I find annoying now that I’m entering my late twenties and have no qualms rubbing my “wisdom” in other people’s faces. Oh, you’re not content with your life? Try not having enough money to buy food for you and your six children! Oh, having dejection issues? Try losing your home in a flood and seeing the rest of your family die a watery death!

I know, I know. Depression is a serious mental health illness but to read a fantastical book and identify yourself with a character that incessantly questions the meaning of life because he gets a weekly allowance and doesn’t have to think about his next meal is clearly teenage.  Oh so you’re destined to be alone? Nobody understands you? Nothing in this world interests you and you’d be better off dead? GET A BLOODY GRIP, STEPPENWOLF!


I know I am waving my prejudices out in the open, my ageism especially, but this book gets really rambly for so many pages and for so long. It was beautiful rambling, mind you, but rambling is rambling. Shit also gets weird towards the end, especially the bit on the Magic Theater (For Madmen Only) where everything suddenly becomes trippy, Burtonian. I expected Johnny Depp in a funny hat to appear any second. This is a huge contrast to the wallowing, maudlin ramblings of yester-chapters so I don’t know what to make of the whole thing apart from Hesse’s interpretation of Harry Haller (der Steppenwolf) descending from mild depression masquerading as identity crisis to a full-blown mental breakdown.

Hesse did commented on hope – that this book has been misinterpreted by many and while agonizing, this book should ultimately give us hope. Hmm. Hope for… misanthropes? For suicides? For killing beautiful things? For dancing? For people who wish to find their inner woman?

Bah, I wish I was 16 again. Or maybe 55.


by Dem Iam

by De Gust

by De Gust

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“The banished sun circles the earth, like a grieving mother with a lamp.”

The Road

Photo by beeeezer

The Road is a profoundly moving story of a post-apocalyptic journey to a desecrated future where no hope remains, but in which a father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love, by their own versions of faith in a greater good.  And in a fire that keeps burning amidst the dark, gray, and dreary earth.  The Road is a harrowing story about fatherhood, love, and hope, and everything is sad and beautiful, and everything hurts.

This is my first Cormac McCarthy and his literary style of reductive sentences and sparse vocabulary best suits his philosophical pessimism and the thin plot he lays out. The story is single-layered and it is McCarthy’s beautiful writing that carries the novel through the bleakness and despair. The scant sentence fragments strung together create a sense of danger and desperation that the Father and the Son live through everyday – a life so devoid of simple human pleasures that only the perpetuation of self and human goodness defines them as being alive.

Their conversations have a silence to it – a silence especially boosted by the lack of marks that evokes the lullness of the world itself.


I am very sad after reading the book, and the gloomy weather compounded my feeling of desolation but  ultimately, as with all books I’ve read, I am glad that I found the courage to read it.  It is dismal, yes, but it is also filled with hope and the contrast of the ashen Earth of The Road made me grateful for this tiny island that I live in, for the love of family I enjoyed all through the years, for what I am, and for what I have to give.

Absolutely sparse and bleak and beautiful, I recommend this book to everyone.

Do you think I should watch the movie?