Book thoughts: The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

There are not many things I wish to control. I’ve spent the past few years of my life simply winging it, which has worked both ways for me. However, there is one thing I, and I suppose many of us, want more hold on – and that is time.

The Time Keeper features how Dor, also known as Father Time, first discovers how to measure moments. This didn’t sit well with God, who banishes Dor until he learns his lesson by teaching two characters how to value time – a young, intelligent girl with self-esteem issues who is bullied in school and wants her life to end, and a successful business man who wants to live forever, never mind the cost.

The premise of the book is compelling. It made me think hard about time – how uncontrollable it is, how I can only work around it, how I should be using it instead of how I’m actually spending it. When you think about it, we’ve managed to effectively limit ourselves to working within compartmentalized moments when we figured out how measuring time works. Yes, a system is essential, a routine has to be established, rules have to be set in order for civilization to progress but sometimes we forget that life isn’t all about that. Like work hours, for instance. We’ve set it at 8am to 5pm, which is majority of your waking hours. If you like what you’re doing, then well and good, and that is time well-spent. But what if you are one of those who is still searching for what you’re meant to do, but because you’re told you can’t simply do nothing, you have to settle for what’s there – which is a job you don’t really enjoy. So you’re there everyday for 9 hours at least which you’d rather spend doing something else, and before you know it, you’ve spent (wasted) several years on something you don’t love. Something that doesn’t mean that much to you. It’s a troublesome and sad thought, and might be enough to make you want to do something about it before you run out of time.

But how do you learn to understand time? How do you learn to work with it? To accept it? I don’t know. I don’t know if anyone knows the answers.

Mitch Albom’s style is simple, so the book was easy to read. My biggest problem was how rushed it felt. Albom spent quite some time explaining the technical history of time through Dor, and giving us a glimpse of Sarah and Victor’s lives before Dor came into theirs, but the book did not really explore what happened after their realizations (except for Dor). I guess this was meant for the reader to do some introspection and come to their own conclusion, but I thought it was a shame Albom didn’t do it anyway. He didn’t show us Dor’s impact on their lives which would have been a great opportunity for him to showcase more of his simple but hard-hitting prose.

While I really think Mitch Albom could have done more with the story, I think The Time Keeper is still worth checking out because it was incredibly thought-provoking and made me contemplate my views on life and time. I’m sure you, too, will be able to take something away from it.

Comic-book thoughts: Trese by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo

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When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.

Let me begin by saying that I don’t read much comic-books. It’s not that I don’t like them; come to think of it, I’m not entirely sure why I never bought more. Archie was a staple during my elementary days. After that, our housekeeper somehow got me to read Pupung, a local comic-book. The humor was simple enough for my 10-year old self to enjoy. There are some popular local comic-books and strips that are very much a part of Philippine culture (like Pugad Baboy), but I never got to pursue reading them until recently. My current favorites are Kikomachine Komix by Manix Abrera and, the subject of this post, Trese by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo.

I first came across Trese in the anthology Manila Noir (Trese: Thirteen Stations) and I was immediately hooked! As of today, I have only read Trese: Murder on Balete Drive (Cases 1-4) and Trese: Last Seen After Midnight. The enigmatic Alexandra Trese is a consultant/detective (consulting detective??) specializing in supernatural cases that seem to plague Captain Guerrero, who is kinda like Gotham’s Commissioner Gordon, except Guerrero and Trese have a better working relationship (hehe). She is a BAMF, I tell you, and all this bad assery brings up so many questions about her past — who exactly was her father Anton Trese? And grandfather Trese? And how about her immense knowledge of the supernatural and her ability to communicate with their kind? Where and how did she learn to fight? She is accompanied by her ever dependable and extremely witty personal body guards, the Kambal. I honestly have no idea what they are at this point, but they appear human in some parts, and something else in other parts, donning diamond-shaped masks of a happy face and a sad face when they unleash their powers. They have the best lines in the book. Just this afternoon I was reading Last Seen After Midnight at McDonald’s and the Kambal made me chuckle out loud. I was by myself. I don’t how that might have seemed to my neighboring tables, but they provide comic relief to an otherwise gripping case.

What really got me hooked, though, was the way Tan and Baldisimo used Philippine folklore in the story lines. Stories that were told by our grandmothers or housekeepers, the aswangs, manananggals, tikbalangs, nunos, the Santelmo, demons and other creatures that lurk in the dark, were so cleverly presented and integrated in the Manila (and other Philippine cities) of today, I couldn’t help but devour two books in one afternoon. I’m not only enjoying, I am also learning more about our culture.

The illustrations are incredibly striking as well. The books are in black and white. I’m not talking about gray scale, mind. I’m talking about pitch black against white. Being a fan of anything black and white, the art was one of the first things that caught my attention. It definitely adds intensity to the stories, making things seem darker and more ominous. It would be interesting to see them in full color, though. I read that the main character was supposed to be male, but they decided to make her female, and kept the devil’s hair cut which begs the question: Who are you really, Alexandra Trese?

I highly recommend the Trese comic-books as they have topnotch material. This concept of humans and supernaturals has been touched upon by other authors and writers in different media (I am a huge fan of the television series Supernatural), but having the peculiarities of local monsters, and the intensity of the illustrations, make Trese such a unique and exciting experience.

Find out more about Trese here!

Book thoughts: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I dived into the book with high expectations. I’d been hearing good things about it, not to mention the fact that it’s an international best seller. Did it live up to the hype? Let’s see.

Warning: Spoilers ahead, so if you hate spoilers, then I suggest you stop reading now. But if, like me, you don’t mind, then I hope what follows makes sense.

I found it interesting that from the beginning, I felt no sympathy whatsoever for Nick Dunne. Quite understandably so, given the shit fest he’d managed to find himself in. But I felt the same way about Amy’s entries in the first part – like okay, I’m supposed to be feeling for her but there was something so manufactured, something trying too hard about her entries. I kept thinking if it was intentional in Flynn’s part or something was missing with her writing. True enough, when the second part rolled in, things made more sense. I was jarred, and my sympathies shifted. Sort of. I can never completely root for a cheater, no matter what the sorry reason behind it was, BUT Amy was just fucking twisted, man. Nick was an asshole, but Amy was really fucking sick.

I tried to like the book, I really did. The writing was compelling enough for me to want to finish it (though I rarely leave a book unfinished), and I was invested enough to want to know how things would turn out for the two main characters. The element of surprise was there. The book made me wonder what would push someone to that point. But there was no… heart. There was no conviction especially behind Amy’s characterization. Sure, we know she feels ripped off by her parents, that she probably deserved a better childhood, but really, I was not convinced that was reason enough for her to turn out the way she did. Then again, I do acknowledge that I don’t really know what that’s like but unlike, say, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, for instance, that had some twisted shit in it, too. But Larsson provided enough history and feelings and psychology for me to at least understand why the antagonist did what he did. It wasn’t an excuse, I never sympathized with him and I still cringe at the very thought of him, but it at least made me understand. And the effect was intense; it left me deeply disturbed, and thinking deeply about the humanity of it all. It’s not to say that this book didn’t disturb me, because it did to a certain degree, but it still lacked something.

The ending was anti-climactic as well. I’ve read enough books to know I can’t always get the ending I want, and I’ve read books which didn’t end the way I wanted them to, but this particular ending left me unsatisfied in the sense that it didn’t really drive home any message for me other than psychotic people can get their way? I don’t know. I’m still trying to digest it.

It was entertaining, and it was not without its moments of brilliance. I thought it was clever, the way the book let you form an initial impression of Nick, only to turn it around in the middle. His character was also fleshed out better than Amy. I thought Flynn was good at drawing out the moments of suspense, and her prose, especially in times of rage, were rather effective. I could feel the rage coursing through me as well and wanting to throw Amy into the ocean or Desi into the lake.

Gone Girl was indeed suspenseful, and left me on the edge for the most part, but it could have done with more conviction. Perhaps it’s a personal thing, and I’m probably in the minority here, but this is my humble opinion.

Song of the day: Gravity by Sara Bareilles

To be perfectly accurate, this has been my song of the day for the past three or so days. It’s also become a muse of sorts for me, making me want to write (or keep on writing) when I listen to it.

I came across this last weekend. I’d heard it previously, but last Saturday was the first time I properly listened to it, and I haven’t stopped loving it since. I’ve been on a Sara Bareilles kick recently. Between The Lines has been a favorite of mine for a few years now, and I’ve always found Winter Song (Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson) so hauntingly beautiful. Listening to these two songs last week finally made me check out the rest of her albums. Sara Bareilles is an incredibly underrated singer and song writer. Her lyrics are deceptively simple in the sense that they seem conversational, but when you dissect them, you realize how utterly poetic and deep and painful they actually are.

Now I can’t stop listening to her, and I wish more people would.

I don’t want to fall another moment into your gravity.

An avalanche of Who feels

I want to fangirl but I don’t have anyone to fangirl to in RL, so I’m throwing it to the interwebz, as I always do. (Thank you for always being there, internet. *pets*)

THE TWELFTH DOCTOR, GUYS. I just. I can’t. I wasn’t expecting him, but then he makes sense, you know??? It makes sense that the Twelfth Doctor will be older than the previous three, I don’t know how or why, but after everything and everyone, it just makes sense. I am incredibly excited to see where the show will go with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I imagine the Doctor-companion dynamics will be a bit different now. I loved Nine (Eccleston was bad ass), Ten (Tennant was a darling) and Eleven (;LAFJDALKJSDF MY DOCTOR), but to be quite honest, I was getting a bit tired of the whole pining-for-the-Doctor theme that surrounded modern Who. It was alright for a time, but after a while it just got… repetitive? Which is probably why I enjoyed Donna immensely because she just kept slapping Ten and treating him like a proper friend instead of being all lovesick and it was so refreshing! Again, don’t get me wrong, because I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED AMY POND. She is >>>> life and I liked the way her relationship with Eleven eventually settled into something a bit more profound. Plus, Rory’s pretty bad ass, you know.

I have unfortunately not seen classic Who (I AM ASHAMED OF THIS OKAY), and I promise to make it one of my goals in life, but I expect Twelve will give us a bit of the classic era feel (maybe from the new dynamics? IDK) during his run as the Doctor. I cannot wait to see some hardcore sci-fi!!! I’ve really missed the RTD-esque episodes, episodes that really made me think about humanity and morality and how utterly huge the universe is and how small yet potent we are in changing things for the better. I hope Moffat can come up with more compelling episodes this time around — it would be such a waste of great talent if he didn’t make the most out of Twelve.

ANYWAY. I’VE RAMBLED LONG ENOUGH. THE MAIN POINT IS I’M SO EXCITED, YOU GUYS. I REALLY AM. When I found out Matt Smith was leaving, it really broke my heart. I’ve grown so, so fond of him and his take on the Doctor. He has made me cry so many times, has made me feel so much, and I imagine I’d be a mess when he regenerates, but then we get PETER CAPALDI. I have high hopes for series 8, I really do. ❤

Old soul?

See, I have this dilemma.

Sometimes I’m convinced that I was born 50, 60, maybe even 70 years too late. I’m always drawn to vintage styles (photos, accessories, turn tables, what-have-yous). I genuinely enjoy listening to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and even extending a bit later (thanks to my parents) to The Temptations, Bee Gees, Smokey Robinson, Three Degrees, etc. I dream of having a custom-built (or restored) ’67 Chevy Impala someday. I know, that’s mostly because of Supernatural, but had I seen it in any other film, or even in the flesh (not that cars have flesh??), I’d still feel the same way about it. Which is probably why I also have a thing for Mini Coopers, because they have that vintage look, too. Or a classic Cadillac. I’ve always, always wanted a Cadillac since I first read about it in Archie comics, if I remember correctly. Anyway, the point is, I’ve always been intrigued with how life was during those times and I’m very keen on reading and seeing more about it, and have thought, more than once, of wanting to have lived during those decades.

Then again, I am sometimes appalled at how archaic some people still think these days. How stubbornly they view religion (or spirituality), how utterly backwards they think of the wonderful LGBT community, women, politics and life in general. I imagine it would have been even more restrictive back then, so you see the dilemma I’m in??? I don’t know how to reconcile these two parts of me, because really, there are times when I see or hear something and simply want to jump out of my skin and into another timezone altogether, but I’m not entirely sure if I would like living in the past. Back when we didn’t know better and our ignorance was more pronounced (slavery, racism, etc.), which is still around today albeit at a lesser degree, I hope. Perhaps if I had the same thinking as the others in those times, I would be fine, but given the way I think now (I consider myself more open-minded on certain things – maybe even more liberal – than most, at least in our country), I’m not sure if I’d survive back then. I suppose those decades speak to my senses more than these modern times, but intellectually, we may not be as compatible.

I don’t know why I think about these things. HAHA. But there you go, my weird, random thought of the day.

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

Last night, I saw this post: The Most Important Life Lesson Older People Want Younger Ones To Know.

How timely. I spent the past week with relatives from Canada, and it has made me question (not for the first time) what it is I really want to do with my life. One of my cousins, who we’d known all along would go into the food and beverage industry, is now a sous chef and is gearing towards becoming an executive chef soon. Had they stayed here, he might not have made his dream into a reality – or at least not as easily as how it actually happened. As I listened to him talk about the hard work and discipline that went into the past seven years, I also sensed the passion and happiness he got out of it despite the pressure and the long hours. I was genuinely happy for him because he was doing what he’d always wanted to do. Not a lot of people can say the same.

Like me, for instance. I was once again I was reminded of the fact that I am not exactly where I want to be (not that I know where that is). Well, okay, it’s not that I have no idea. I’ve eventually come to terms with the fact that my interests lean towards literature, languages and history. But this realization only became concrete in the past year or so. Come to think of it, those have always been my interests, even back in high school. I just never thought of them as options to shape a career out of.

Also, I want to be rich, and I sure as hell am not getting there in my current job, nor through my interests alone. So, business has to be thrown somewhere in the mix. When the money starts rolling in, then I can finally start pursuing my true interests. For now, I’ll just have to suck it up and roll with the punches. It’s not easy having to convince yourself to like what you do, and it gets sad at times. But I’m still luckier than most, and for that I am thankful.

I do hope you all are having better luck pursuing your dreams than I am. 😉

Title of the post is the song by U2 and, incidentally, the theme song of my life.