On My Writing Thingy

My writing got published on SunStar Weekend last Sunday. It was amusing but also very embarrassing. Do you know how it is with actors who can’t stand watching themselves on screen? How looking at themselves through the eyes of an audience makes them cringe and squirm with discomfort? That is me, but with published work, most especially with very personal pieces that you never really think would go anywhere.

So why publish then? Why go through the ordeal of looking at all the ways your piece has gone wrong, or why this line isn’t working, and suddenly seeing ways to improve a sentence or a point after the fact? Why open yourself up to the world?

It’s probably hubris – a tiny voice in you that dreams a little more than being read by a handful of friends. It’s probably just wanting to write about the painful things and later realizing that these deep, painful things that always felt like yours and yours alone, are part of a bigger, grander pain that are endured by other people too.

Writing has always been therapeutic to me, it has always comforted me and made me feel less lonely. In the process of sharing my experiences with the world, I hope I made other people feel less lonely too.

Election Afterthoughts

The election season (at least most of it) is behind us and it was crazy and draining. This is the first time social media has played a huge role during the campaigns and I fear that the whole messiness was a mere preview of the years to come. Campaign seasons will  become more and more toxic in the coming years. The empowerment that social media has brought will enable people to scream louder, not always with enough forethought to examine what they are screaming about.  I am not looking forward to it.

I have taken refuge in the idea that the elections have helped me filter the people that I like and respect, and those that I don’t. My threshold isn’t even that high – as long as people don’t spread misinformation and don’t get personal, then you’re okay in my book. There are some people who I like and respect but have gone crazy with the campaigning that I couldn’t help but temporarily unfollow them, or at least “see less” from them. I know you love your candidate and Du30, Miriam, Mar, Poe, and (sighs) Binay, are probably inspiring if you pick out their best parts, but I don’t want to be bombarded with their faces all day. I see them everywhere enough as it is – on the walls, on trash bins, in fliers scattered across the roads and pavements, in banderitas, at the back of people’s cars – so please let me have this little slice of peace to myself. Know that I didn’t wish to unfollow you out of spite, but just out of a craving for serenity and quiet.

The elections have also sprung forth new pet peeves and deal breakers:

  • If you rely on Mocha Uson,  Adobo Chronicles, etc., as reliable sources and react so passionately about what they broadcast, then I don’t know how to understand you. I don’t even know where to begin.
  • Wrapping your rudeness with poetic niceties doesn’t make you nice, it makes you annoying.
  • Being passionate about governance and against corruption will not soften the criminal act of evading taxes.
  • Conditional nationalism. Why should I pay taxes when it gets stolen anyway? Why should I throw garbage properly when it never gets collected on time? I will change but only when you change first!

Continue reading “Election Afterthoughts”

Unfollow Wednesday

I’ve weeded out all the noisy political militants off my social media feeds – at first slowly, in trickles, and then quickly, really quickly like flood. They say avoiding engagement is an act of political immaturity. That it’s best, healthy, and wise to engage and even seek other people’s opinions. But what about self-preservation? Zen?

I have always been apolitical. I’ve only registered last year and have never voted. In many ways, engaging at a time where everybody seems to have a say about something – no matter how inane, is the worst time to start being political. So why do it? What was I thinking? When did my political consciousness start? What came first? Facebook or the misery?

Social media has made sharing opinions as easy as opening a window and shouting outside, hoping enough people pass by to hear how wise or funny you are. It’s even less embarrassing and more acceptable to rant in Facebook or Twitter than to actually shout outside. I am guilty of this. I’ve shouted out into that void too. In some ways, this writing is a form of that shouting. So why do I do it?

I’d like to think that I share things because they’re reasonable and right, but everyone thinks they’re right. The high school classmate I’ve unfollowed, without guilt or remorse, for openly supporting BBM thought she was right. Do I want to show people how much more right I am?  Am I enriching people’s lives when I repost memes? Is this how I want to make the world better? Do I even want to? Can I even?

This is giving me a headache.

Logging into Facebook the past few weeks has given me headaches and has kept me up at nights, tossing, turning and rethinking about the meaning of my life. It seems like the most boring way to go – dying while holding my phone, indignant at people who are screaming at each other on a web site. The only thing I’ve gotten from this is a heightened respect for people I already respect and a sense of disbelief and sometimes disgust for people I only mildly cared about. If this is my way of making the world better, I am failing miserably.

So I unfollow people, and then turn towards more achievable goals like spending a part of the weekend picking up trash outside my house, or reading a book and then writing about it. We can always open the window to look at the beautiful summer sunset, and we don’t even have to say anything. Now, my mind is clearer and I feel lighter, as if ridding myself of the social media vitriol allowed me to focus on pieces of the world that I like.

When I log into Facebook and feel my chest tighten with outrage and disbelief, I try to remember that there are many other ways to make the world bearable.  There are many other ways to make the world right again.

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Redirections #1

Favorite long reads that do not (cannot) make it to my yearly reading goal but sustain my need for good stories that punch you in the gut.

Sometimes, I start writing only to find out one paragraph in that I have nothing to say. It is weirdly frustrating. I’ve been consuming a lot of very good writing recently yet the greatness barely rubs off. An old adage insists that good writing comes from good reading, so I read and read and read. It would be nice to share a story too, but until I find my voice and a good tale to match it, I might just as well go on reading.

And so I read. Every break I get from work turns into short sprees – from Stephen King’s On Writing, to Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle Part 1, to the first few pages of Anna Karenina. I’m also supposedly to be in the middle of two short story collections but I can never seem to want to read them, but I want to read something long and engaging but nothing too long and too demanding so I turn to great writing on the web instead.

Roxana Halls
Roxana Halls

One of my recent favorites is Zadie Smith’s Dead Man Laughing – an essay about growing up a comedy nerd, her father’s love for comedy, and the jokes that run through her family.

Zadie Smith is a long-time writer girl crush. She writes so beautifully and her words will cover you with a nice rose-tinted veil of happiness and introspection. There are people who see the world differently, and Zadie’s gift is to write about this distinct worldview so wonderfully.

The humor of its people helped make it [Britain] bearable. You don’t have to be funny to live here, but it helps. Hancock, Fawlty, Partridge, Brent: in my mind, they’re all clinging to the middle rungs of England’s class ladder. That, in large part, is the comedy of their situations.

Another good one is Emily Nussbaum’s The Last Girl in Larchmont – a profile on the fascinating Joan Rivers. I’ve always known Joan Rivers and her brand of comedy but I have never gravitated to her Fashion Police stint. Roast comedy has never appealed to me (it feels cheap and exploitative), but I loved how Nussbaum framed Joan Rivers’s comedy as a product of a sexist era. I’ve come to admire Rivers for standing out in a man’s game during a time when it was harder to be a woman.

.. her flamboyant self-hatred made possible this generation’s flamboyant self-love, set the groundwork for the crazy profusion of female comics on TV these days, on cable and network, cheerleading one another, collaborating and producing and working in teams, as if women weren’t enemies at all.

Roxana Halls_
Roxana Halls

Another favorite is Larry Ypil’s  A Song of Two Cities – a nostalgic narrative about being a Cebuano expat in Singapore. My casual disregard for the quirks of my island city always gets shaken every time I read about Cebu from the perspective of someone who is away from it.

To be a Filipino expat writer in Southeast Asia is to be a witness to ways in which versions of oneself are mirrored in landscapes that are different from and similar to one’s own. To suffer the weather of the same but also of the not quite.

* Featured Image: Augustus John’s The Blue Pool. 1911

Storytellers’ Night #6: On the Road

I’ve been wanting so badly to write about Storytellers’ Night, but work has been persistently nagging and when I get home, all my brain wants to do is shut off and rest.

It’s a pleasure to have had shared a piece of my life in each of the last four Storytellers’ Nights I’ve been to.  It’s been a year since I was first invited to share – I started on Summertime Big-Girl Independence, a very personal piece about growing up with my mother and then growing old without her. It was also the first piece I sat down to write in what felt like years. I’m typically very discreet. I don’t talk about my dreams and I’m even more private about my deep-rooted grief, so getting down and dirty with my personal demons and sharing something so intimate was a revelation to me as it probably was to the people present that night.

Last Saturday was the event’s sixth night and we talked about adventures or misadventures On the Road.

As much as I enjoy the actual story-telling, the stories we share before and after are something I always look forward to. While talking about who/what we’re reading right now, Patskie transitioned to telling me about this video then suggested that I read Stephen King’s On Writing. I am in the middle of that book right now and it’s so much fun. From here onward, anyone who disrespects Stephen King is dead to me, but more on that later.

Dylan also showed me his latest volume of sketches – his work just seems to get better and better every time I see him.

And I only ever get to see him and all these other cool cats on STN. I am so thankful to Mark and Jo of Happy Garaje for getting these people (including me) out of our caves.

Mark said that there is magic in these nights – nights when we are able to share things that we normally couldn’t and for some of us, Storytellers’ Nights are the only places we can ever partake in this magic.  Thanks, Happy Garaje/Folk Fiction, for being the purveyor of that magic. You have truly made something beautiful.

‘Til the next night.

 

 

 

Book Swap Cebu

I dropped by the second Book Swap Cebu event last Friday to have some of my old favorites traded with some of other people’s faves. I missed the first one earlier this year so I’m really glad they organized another one so soon after.

These are my loot:


I haven’t been book shopping much lately, partly because I have no time, but mostly because I really haven’t got the space for more books after I’ve moved in to a smaller apartment. I have tons of books and I’ve given away so many (including my Harry Potter set, nbd) but when I moved out last year, I was very much surprised to find that my books still took up a good four boxes + 1 shelf.

I really didn’t expect to go home with so many books as I’ve restricted myself to only pick up titles that are very compelling so imagine my surprise when I found someone who traded in China Mieville’s Kraken and C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed. Grief has been on my death reading list for so long, and I am the biggest China Mieville fan I know lol, so I was ecstatic. I felt like a child again.

I also traded in my copy of Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (A Discworld book), so it was amusing to get another Discworld book back (Witches Abroad) as a sort of funny Discworld barter.

The place (Handuraw Mango) was packed and too bad I couldn’t stay for Short Reads live after the swapping as I had to rush to the other Handuraw for Karla’s book launch. That place was also stuffed to the brim, but I managed to get a copy of her book.

It’s exciting to have two prime hangout places in Cebu crowded with book-loving people on a Friday night. I never thought I’d see the day.

January Wrap-up

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January has been to me a good month for reading, likely owing to the two weeks I was out of work recuperating from my fancy hospitalization late last year. I’ve closed 8 books this year, making me far ahead of the schedule in my goal of reading 30 books for 2016.

Here are my January reads:

1. Light by Rob Cham

2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

3. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Recommended to me by Emily Blunt’s immaculate face who will be playing the eponymous character in an upcoming movie adaptation. This book is a fun, fast-paced thriller that is reminiscent of Gone Girl though not as masterfully made.

Continue reading “January Wrap-up”

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Second favorite from the pile of books read in January (total population: 8, woo!). Amy Poehler is one of my favorite comedians. She’s funny and insightful and I am so happy for all the success she’s been getting. I am obviously a big fan of her and her brand of humor and this is probably why I enjoyed this book immensely.

As a fan of her, I loved this but as a fan of books, I felt like Yes, Please could’ve used a lot more editing. There are so many portions of the book that were all over the place.

Continue reading “Yes, Please by Amy Poehler”

Jane Eyre: A Book Review, Some Regrets, Fassbender’s Face, and a Short Feminist Rant

This book was a pleasure to read from start to finish. It’s a shame it took me so long to pick this up now knowing it has many things I would’ve liked to read while I was growing up. I’ve always enjoyed Gothic novels, delighted in opinionated female characters, and enjoyed beautiful, descriptive writing.

After finishing the book, I was browsing its Goodreads page to see what others thought of it, as I’ve been wont to do because I am nosy and enjoy mentally agreeing/disagreeing with other people’s judgments about things I like. A lot of people hated it, but many others loved it too, sometimes as much as I did though not in the same way. One very poignant review passionately pointed out that she “… could bang Mr. Rochester like a screen door ’till next Tuesday.” Interesting. In another review, Jane’s plainness and sob stories were found boring, and Rochester was found to be insufferable, immoral and uninteresting.

I never really viewed Jane Eyre as a romantic novel. I vehemently refuse to experience it as a love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester because Jane is so much more than her romantic relationships. I also think Rochester is gross, and her admiration for the man ludicrous.* I understand when people are put off by this romance because I hated it too. (Full disclosure: I’ve read Jean Rhys’ prequel Wide Sargasso Sea years back and thus have already formed negative opinions about Rochester before reading Jane Eyre).

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Just saw the 2011 adaptation and Fassbender made Rochester less gross (darnit, Fassbender!!), still old and intense though.

If you allow yourself to look past that ridiculous May-December love affair, you will appreciate Jane’s education – from her difficult time at the hands of the Reeds to her training at the Lowood Charity school, which fed her hunger for a life outside of those walls leading her to the most important part of her coming-of-age at Thornfield Hall. You will love her spunk, and you will enjoy her comebacks to people who did her wrong. You kind of expect Victorian ladies to be all coy and modest but not this Jane. I’ve done far too many mental hellsyeah! every time she tells people off. When her cruel aunt told her cousins to stay away and not associate with her as she is not worthy of notice, she remarks, “They are not fit to associate with me.

Continue reading “Jane Eyre: A Book Review, Some Regrets, Fassbender’s Face, and a Short Feminist Rant”

Light by Rob Cham; and Limbo by Playdead

Light is a worldless comic book created by Rob Cham and released by Anino in 2015. The pages are framed in black and features a backpack-toting, nameless fella that travels across different lands, and encounters and battles different monsters in his mysterious quest.

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His journey unfolds delightfully in pitch black backgrounds, with the occasional peppering of colors to signify a milestone. The illustrations are beautifully rendered in the limited color palette that Rob Cham chooses and reminds me a lot of Limbo, a wordless puzzle-platform game made by independent Danish game developer Playdead.

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Both titles play around with black and white, they have beautiful visuals, and both tease their audiences with a mystery (What are these kids up to?) that makes us want to keep going til the very end.

Continue reading “Light by Rob Cham; and Limbo by Playdead”