Our zumba instructor used this song in class last week and I was immediately hit by waves of nostalgia. I was in high school when this song was released, and I remember thinking how I could relate to the song. You know, the typical crushing-on-the-cool-guy-who-doesn’t-know-you-exist kind of thing. HAHAHA. Don’t tell me you never had one of those high school crushes?? Anyway, I think the beat of the song is quite characteristic of the popular songs of those years – around 2000-2003 – and hearing them always give me good vibes. High school wasn’t my favorite, but life was much simpler then, and that’s always a refreshing thought these days. 🙂

Song of the day: Tell Me How You Feel by Joy Enriquez

A speck in the sky

Most of you may have already seen this – I know I’m four years late – but I’m still going to share it anyway in case you haven’t seen The Most Important Image Ever Captured by The Hubble telescope.

I was incredibly amazed and humbled after watching this. It’s true, I cannot fathom the immensity of the universe, but it has cemented my belief that we are not alone. That we are not the center of the universe. Who are we, what our worries, our anxieties, our fears, our arrogance in all of this? Nothing but specks of dust in a space that is continuously expanding. We hem and haw about the most infinitesimal of things, believe ourselves the victims, demand for something we think we deserve, all the while forgetting to realize that there is something greater than ourselves, something other than ourselves that we cannot comprehend as of yet.

My emotions are tumultuous at best. One minute I feel so insignificant, that no matter what I do, in the grand scheme of things, it will be lost. And the people who will remember will also be lost, inevitably destined to be one with the cosmos, like I am. Yet at the same time I am awed because human beings have managed to get this far and put things in perspective. We may be leagues behind other intelligences, but we have managed to take the first step in wrapping our heads around the incredible universe. We have managed albeit bloody and bruised and imperfect beyond belief, we have managed. I am proud of this feat that others have pulled off and I look forward to gaining more knowledge from them, and in turn am hopeful that people will learn to be more open-minded and selfless from the knowledge gained, in the same way that I strive to become that way, too.

I truly am in awe of the vastness and grandness and utter majesty of it all. I saw the video yesterday and until today, I cannot shake the feeling of wonder and helplessness off.

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.

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.

Song of the day: Gravity by Sara Bareilles