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.

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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.

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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.

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The Big Bad Wolf

Bigby-sama, show me the ways of the Wolf.

The Wolf Among Us is an episodic game by Telltale Games based on the Fables comic book series by Bill Willingham. Since I am almost always late to most video game parties and all five episodes have been released at the time of playing, it didn’t feel at all very episodic to me but was instead a point-and-click adventure/mystery drama that didn’t play so much as a game as it did an interactive movie.

A huge selling point of Telltale Games’ episodic series was that every choice you make can lead to enormous and vastly different consequences. Apart from the gorgeous graphics and the promise of excellent story-telling, I liked the choice-based mechanic of the game because it felt like an opportunity for me to learn how to be more unyielding and maybe, a bit more zen too.

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You see, I’m a chronic worry-wart and making choices is almost always excruciating for me. I irrationally suffer through the process of making decisions for myself, and suffer twice more when making decisions for others. Huge or tiny choices, it really doesn’t matter. All is fair in mental health problems and war.  If I had my way, it can take me as much time to choose what Jollibee value meal to order, or what internet service provider to choose as much as it takes to decide if I should move out of my folks’ home or not, all of which can be a looong time. And when I finally make the decision, it will always feel like something’s amiss, that maybe I still missed a pro or a con on my list of pro vs cons. Or I didn’t do enough research. Something. Anything. Sometimes, I get so bogged down by the gravity of the act of choosing (not so much the choices, as sometimes the outcome is irrelevant), that I give up and end up not making a choice at all.

That is why choice and consequence games can be a good way for me to make decisions fast (before a timeout!), stay firm about them and not look back (e.g. whine too much). I need to learn how to live with the decisions I make. Unless I die in which case, I go back to an earlier save point.

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But I digress. This post is about the game and not about me, and The Wolf Among Us didn’t feel at all like the decisions I made throughout the game really had much effect on the plot line. They didn’t feel like they added up to something big nor did I see any changes that may have been defined by tiny dialogue options that I had to click before a timeout bar disappears. Apart from a couple of obviously huge decisions (which you would know are huge choices because they are totally IN YOUR FACE), I didn’t think that every other time-based choices made an impact to the story as have been over-hyped. They would probably make you miss a two second retort from the eponymous Bigby Wolf, but nothing major will probably happen. I just didn’t feel any sort of gravity from the choices I had to make. Choose this or that, or not choose at all, and it would probably not matter*.

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Transience

Hi.

So, I’m on medical leave. It’s been 9 days so far, and I’ve been home alone cooped up in my tiny fortress of solitude for about seven of those days and it has been great. I feel like myself again, or at least a version of myself. One that gets so very easily tired. The doctor said that surgical anesthesia and getting some parts partially lopped off of you can do weird things to your body for at least a couple of weeks. So far, the weirdest things that have happened were a three-hour afternoon nap today, an irrational craving for Jollibee, and rereading Rilke.

And if I cried, who’d listen to me in those angelic orders? 

Seriously, Rilke. I first knew of him from following this older girl from the early days of blogspot and livejournal. She wrote about her first few years out of college, and I was in high school, which makes it more than ten years ago now.

She wrote so beautifully and passionately and quoted Rilke like it’s nobody’s business. She was lyrically intense, and after reading The First Elegy from the Duino Elegies and some letters from that book, I figured her obsession with Rilke has a lot to do with how superlative and passionate she always seemed to be. I wonder where she is now.

Maybe what’s left
for us is some tree on a hillside we can look at
day after day, one of yesterday’s streets,
and the perverse affection of a habit
that liked us so much it never let go.

The Selfish Gene

In the beginning was simplicity.

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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.

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

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.
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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.

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).

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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.