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Days left

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I had the unfortunate chance of sitting through a career goal seminar of sorts for Literature Majors sometime in March. For a panel composed of professionals who had been exposed to great literary works during their undergrad years, you would expect to hear something original from them. Instead they maintained the shaky connection between humaneness and the humanities. As if one needs to earn a Liberal Arts degree to unlock the virtue of empathy. As if becoming an artist means becoming a paragon of goodness.

Now I've just set myself up to say something original. This isn't, but here it goes. What I've learned from studying Literature is death. Christmas season is such a wonderful reminder that we are all fellow passengers to the grave. The power of storytelling is the power to postpone a beheading for a thousand and one nights. Chronicle of a death foretold. Death of a salesman. The death of Ivan Ilyich. As I lay dying. God is dead. The author is dead. Oedipus: complex and…

Kindness

I'd been re-reading Don Paterson in the past weeks for a paper I was writing. I love him so much. He and Alice Fulton are my favorite living poets — edit: the only living poets I whole-heartedly admire. The poem below, the first time I read it, I literally gasped. It's been a long while since I've had that reaction to a text. I wish we could all know this kindness he speaks of.

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Correctives

The shudder in my son's left hand
he cures with one touch from his right,
two fingertips laid feather-light
to still his pen. He understands

the whole man must be his own brother
for no man is himself alone;
though some of us have never known
the one hand's kindness to the other.

Source: Paterson, Don. Selected Poems (Kindle Locations 1603-1608). Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Notes on 'Arsenic and old lace' and the insane

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Contemporary fictionists will tell you that there are no heroes and villains, only men and women doing what they think is right (subconsciously motivated by a traumatic experience during their formative years, which they, now in their supposedly mature, conscious state, will re-enact and manoeuvre into their desired end — your friendly psychoanalyst might add).

Take elderly sisters Abby and Martha Brewster, who live together with their mentally challenged nephew, Teddy in a huge Brooklyn house. Inspiration hit them when not long ago, a Mr Midgely knocked on their door, asking for a place to stay. The man — old and without a family to call his own — found a refuge and incidentally his final resting place in the Brewster household, where he died of a heart attack. Teddy (convinced that he is President Teddy Roosevelt) concluded that Mr Midgely fell victim to Yellow Fever and immediately dug a grave for him in the lot.


"He sat dead in that chair looking so peaceful... [Martha and I]…

Two books

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I received two books for my birthday (yay!): Zoologies by Alison Hawthorne Deming (above) and For the tempus-fugivites by Christopher Norris (below). The former was given to me by a vegan friend, so I couldn't help but ask him, "Are you trying to convert me?" The latter was given to me by my professor, and I was kind of flattered when he said it was something he could only give to a few people, since theory is hardly accessible, more so when argued in verse.

Dove right away into Norris's world of verse-essays. He offered a lucid introduction to his project and also reminded me that poetry is not just lyric poetry.


Some underlined bits from the preface:
As hardly needs saying there has to be a constant interplay or tension between meter and natural speech-rhythms such that the two never perfectly coincide but set up an asynchronous counterpoint that again helps to stimulate ear and mind. (p viii)

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[Norris paraphrasing Giorgio Agamben] Poetry just is, or is most essen…

Woman Worldwide indeed

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I was so ready to order this shirt the moment I found it on Club 75 last year and to my great dismay, the online store wouldn't ship to the Philippines (wrote them a heartfelt letter questioning this unfortunateness).

See, I'm charmed by the understated design, the neutral color and the heavy word printed across the chest. It doesn't scream fangirl; instead it can be construed as a feminist performative — kidding, we're not going there. Thank heavens Justice has decided to sell their merch in their own website, but the better news is that they realize that they have fans even this side of the world.

Am really happy with the purchase and with Sandbag UK, the merchandise company handling the band's e-commerce campaign. They deliver fast and respond to queries with a personal touch. Five stars, two thumbs up.

A post shared by JUSTICE (@etjusticepourtous) on Feb 14, 2018 at 9:14am PST
Although, also — I was a little sad and a little relieved that the exclusive Justice …

Heart's desire

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My 35th birthday falls on a Saturday falls on a school day. I didn't want to simply attend my classes then go home — as much as I wanted to sleep after cramming an essay — so I invited Mich and Alts to dinner right after.

By some strange chance, or simply my skills in finding connections where there should be none, we briefly talked about Lacan's "Desire is the the desire of the Other" in Theory class. Now that I think about it, the discussion was born out of a question I raised. A proper signpost for what was about to happen:

On the car ride going to the restaurant, Althea asked me what my birthday wish was. The answer was delayed until we had dessert, where the ladies brought me a chocolate cake with a candle that doesn't blow out.

I know what I want, but when you're an adult, a wish is a promise. A declaration of desire is a pledge. I wish for cash; I must put in some work. I wish for love; I must forgive. I must forego pride. I must wake up early and fin…

Staging the skies

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Lauren Gunderson is a rather demanding playwright. To put it another way, her imagination demands an equally creative team of artists to translate her decades-spanning, locations-shifting story — that centers on astronomer, Henrietta Leavitt — from the page onto the stage.

Silent sky moves between 1900 to 1920, and back and forth the Harvard Observatory, Wisconsin, Cambridge, an ocean liner on the Atlantic, and a star field. Bridging the gaps in time and space are Gunderson's cinematic directions: "Margaret fades away;" "Peter and the Harvard Observatory are swept away from her as the Leavitt home takes its place;" "The room falls away as they run off;" "Time is passing as the sky fills up in swatches." A curious heroine and compelling script aside, how the set will transition from scene to scene is something to look forward to in any staging of this drama.

Joy Virata takes on the mantle of re-building Silent sky's dream-like world as she…

Beneath the covers: Notes on 'A comedy of tenors'

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Opera superstar Tito Merelli pauses midway through opening the bedroom door to eavesdrop on a hushed, rushed conversation between his wife, Maria and another man (who, unbeknownst to him, is Carlo Nucci — newest opera darling and boyfriend of his daughter, Mimi). Tito tarries till he confirms his great fear: Maria is having an affair.

This is not true, however. What Tito has witnessed are passionate gestures, words and escape stratagems taken out of their proper context and into his own unassailable betrayal narrative.


Ken Ludwig enjoys this game of hide-and-seek in A comedy of tenors, currently staged by Repertory Philippines under the direction of Miguel Faustmann. A Paris concert featuring the world's leading tenors — Merelli, Nucci, and Jussi Björling — is about to start in three hours. As farce would have it, Björling has to withdraw from the performance due to his mother’s sudden death, forcing producer Henry Saunders to hire his assistant-slash-son-in-law, Max (whom he has …

Image is everything

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So, had a little photo shoot today. Whenever I meet someone new and they say, "Where have I seen you before?" or "Have we met before?", I reply with, "I used to be a print model," because I have a sense of humor, and to check if I could actually pass for an ex-cover girl.

To rebel, to never rush

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"Eating freely without being held back." Well that's the dream.

Thing is, I've learned how to do that—and have been doing that—since I landed my first job. The freedom that money and singlehood afford, I spend on gourmandizing. That quote, by the way, comes from the Japanese mini-series, Samurai gourmet, where newly retired Takeshi Kasumi embarks on a new adventure: figuring out what to do with all the free time in his hands.

"Why am I in a hurry to go home? I don't have to go to work tomorrow," is an example of Kasumi's many internal dialogues; and the focus on introspection while keeping a lighthearted tone is the show's unique charm. Its opening credits go, "This story is about an ordinary 60-year-old man"—and they mean it.

Other everyday struggles he faces are: mustering the courage to speak up to a rude store owner, asking loud diners on the next table to be quiet, and being himself, that is, eating pasta with chopsticks—and pairi…

Christmas reading

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This might be my earliest memory of being sucked into a story, especially an image—the Dwarf's first gaze at the mirror, discovering that the Princess' love for him is only a mockery of his ugliness.
"But why will he not dance again?"

"Because his heart is broken."

"For the future let those who come to play with me have no hearts."

Dolphin love and limits — A companion sketch

From where I sit there's a garden. My eyes on greens and skyward. "Thank you for waiting," says the woman laying down my lunch.

"No, no. I enjoyed the wait."

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Inside I'm dancing. If it's any good, a dance song will make you move, and move you while you're sat on a chair, waiting.

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Except for flights, meetings and meet-ups, I always arrive late.

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Taking my meals this way is the only luxury I can afford. I see to it that I arrive early. To think, to read, to gaze out the window if I were lucky to have that seat. Sometimes I write. Sometimes nothing. If I were truly lucky, I was waiting for you.

Dinner isn't food on plate, it's the only real thing that's also an escape.

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(Inspired by Connan Mockasin's Forever dolphin love and the sleeve art Connan made himself for the Erol Alkan rework of the song. Samurai gourmet has also greatly influenced the opening fragment.)

Dolphin love and limits

I never understood remixes. My literary background had me believing in ultimate, untouchable forms. Any rework or editing is a step toward that final draft. Not to say that I don't enjoy a good remix when I hear one. But now that I think about it, I am fascinated by this open and pliant nature of the song—something counter to literature, in particular the tyrannical art of poetry.

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Erol Alkan is making me think about it. Sometime in 2012, six years since its release, I don't feel like dancin' found its way to my player, looped for weeks. Five more years passed till I discovered Alkan's Carnival of light rework. What I heard was something subdued but exciting. How he stretched a pleasant moment, toyed with it, built on it. And when I thought it would simply go on for ever—which I didn't mind—he brought the best bit of lyrics out, leaving me with nostalgic aftertaste.

This month he shared a playlist containing songs in his "Reworks Volume 1" compilation. W…

Disjointed

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That was a long first act. When Berger (Michael Schulze) introduced himself—his version of a handshake: asking a kind lady to hold the trousers he just took off—I thought we were off to a good start. Schulze's frenetic ways were captivating, and his openness, infectious. There's a hippie, I said to myself.

Excitement, however, dissolved into dizzying confusion. Tribe leader, Claude (Markki Stroem) entered with faux—not to mention annoying but maybe that was the point—Manchester accent, and Sheila (Caisa Borromeo) convinced everyone that she believes in love. Tried to. More tribe members walked onto and away from center-stage, dropping a thought or two about life, sex, war, race, pills, grass, hair... They rambled on and on until the curtains closed for intermission.

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Repertory Philippines culminates its 50th anniversary celebrations with 1960's musical, Hair, directed by Chris Millado. For someone who hasn't seen any of the show's previous incarnations, Hair appe…

To hunt for Paula's poems

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My previous job at an online publication allowed me to interview, and that generally means discover fictionists from the US. One of them was Paula McLain. From the get-go (you know, her aura) I knew that I'd like her. The woman invited respect in me. At some point in our conversation I made a mental note to check out her books. It's her education. It showed. And I must've had this affinity with her because she started out as a poet.

I hadn't read YA in while, so I bought A ticket to ride, thinking here's a perfect chance to revisit the genre; plus, it's her debut novel. The story took forever to take off — and frankly it wasn't hinging on a good plot but rather on atmosphere and a sort of teenage mystique — but I hung on and enjoyed the ride anyway because of said mood and mystery. I finished it without that rewarding feeling, though I wasn't exactly disappointed as well. If anything it served as a charming sampler.

The adolescent narrator is also a pro…

Lullaby singer

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Anna Nalick is one of those women whose talents inspire both admiration and jealousy in me. That she's insanely beautiful makes matters worse: do I hate or want to be her?

I've been rediscovering artists I first met in my youth through social media. Recently, I stumbled upon Nalick's Instagram, learning that the 2 AM crooner was about to release a new record. Here and there she'd post clips of her singing what would make up "At now". Then I'd remember how I used to love girls with guitars.

But Nalick has a distinct kind of magnetism, marked by something sexy and poetic and messy at the same time. Her voice is pained but never vulnerable, powerful when quiet yet cracks open an entire world when climbing high notes. She is one of the few lyricists whose words make me pay attention.

When Aura hit Soundcloud earlier, I got excited right away. I just knew that the album would be good. I trusted in the artist, and that time and age would do the trick.


Maybe list…

Gestes magnifiques

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Alain Passard talks obsessively about gestures in Chef's table – France. It's the first time I've heard someone bring that up as a crucial element — if an element at all — in any discipline.

When I was a child, I would mimic adults in unglamorous professions: the cashier swiping a product under a scanner, then hitting a few keys from the till before punching the big one that opens a drawer of cash; or the bus conductor thumbing through a bundle of tickets (the working thumb covered in rubber), after-which reaching for his pouch for loose change.

I didn't know exactly what they were doing back then — how the tickets were counted or what the other buttons on the cash register were for; but seeing them so confident in their actions drew me in. It was their expert gestures that compelled me to imitate them.

"Slicing a shallot can be done 25 different ways. However there is that one gesture to which we can add that elegance, that love," says Passard. Apparently, h…

Suffered plenty

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This slim book is a huge test of endurance for me. At a hundred and twenty seven pages, and what seems to be font size 13, double space, Ernest Hemingway's The old man and the sea has the promise of a breezy, melancholy Sunday afternoon read.

It's so boring. If anything I can relate to the old man in the middle of an endless sea, waiting and fighting for his life and pride. I'm the type who'd deliberately abandon a novel if it doesn't excite. But I choose to stick it out with Hem, thinking I can't be beaten by a novella, and at least I'd know for sure if I hated it or not.

At that point when I feel like completely giving up — page 80 or so — it picks up. I want to know, Okay, will old man Santiago catch his fish or will he die? What will he learn about life? What will I realize for myself? Because it's that kind of book that screams, There's a moral in here somewhere, find it. (Would love to hear the vegans' opinion on the story.)

What I like a…

To give way to new books and do good to mankind

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I've long given up any pretenses of reading all the books I wanted to read in my lifetime, so I'm not sure why I hold on to books I have fallen out of love with, or have the slightest interest in.

Actually I know why: laziness, selfishness, and my choice of decoration. If I had a huge home, I'd keep every decaying tome, every awful novel until I die. Staring at shelves crammed with things I no longer recognize, however, pushed me to finally clean up.

What I thought would only take an hour took an entire afternoon. Reorganizing and decluttering my humble library gave me a massive headache. But here's the fruit of the labor. I'm giving away these books for free.







When the messages start pouring in (and there are a lot), my heart floats. People are excited. And hearing them talk about how much they love a specific book or author — seeing their value through another's eyes — kind of makes me not want to let go of them anymore. That's how selfish I can be!

Some a…

An erring lace

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One night in 2015 maybe, I was walking with a friend towards a club. I couldn't remember how the conversation went there, but I declared, "I look my best now."

As I write this I think, No. I look my best now;

And think of perfection. My every day has been a deliberate (though not always successful) step towards that. In 2014 I got my own space. When friends would invite themselves in, I'd quip, I want it to be Instagrammable first, give me time. I want my home to reflect who I am, therefore I want it to be perfect.

Although I know there's no such thing and if I ever reached it, What else?

Then I came across this Robert Herrick poem published in Love poems, a collection of poetry read on BBC Radio 4's Poetry please:

Delight in disorder
Robert Herrick

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness.
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthralls the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and …