Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When every waking moment outside work is spent with books

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The second quarter of the year is about to end, and I thought of remembering it by making a catalog of the books I’ve read in the past three months.

  • Reading Middlemarch--which I did intermittently for a month and a half--felt like watching a soap opera with its multiple characters and branching storylines, all entangled in a small town’s web of intrigue.
  • Is it just me or are Huck Finn, Lord of the Flies and Oz adult books masquerading as children’s books?  Rereading books that I read when I was younger gives me a better appreciation of their themes – both explicit and implicit.  The things I never paid attention to before are the ones that struck me the most now.
  • The blinding beauty of Gilead, Patrimony and Olive Kitteridge and their poignant rendering of death and senescence made me glad to have been able to spend some precious time with my grandmother.  I realized that it’s our company she years for and no amount of gifts would come close to the time that that we spend with her.
  • Taking part, although vicariously, in Theroux’s adventures from Cairo to Cape Town served as a tantalizing prelude to the World Cup.  Reading his book, however, never made me late for work as watching replays of the games in the morning does.
My love affair with books continues with the entry of the year’s second half. With books around, my otherwise uneventful life becomes really exciting.

Monday, June 28, 2010

conjugating verbs and adjectives

Monday, June 28, 2010



I am truly loving my Japanese lessons. Learning how to conjugate verbs and adjectives is so thrilling that I wake up each morning with the thought, "oh yes, I am doing my exercises today!"  It's great to have something new to look forward to every day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

So Much Time, So Little To Do

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I’ve so little to do when I get home from work and so much time on my hands that I’m seriously considering going back to school – back to law school or take an online course in research and development management. All this extra energy has got to go somewhere, and learning something new is not a bad way to spend one’s leisure time, right? In the meantime, while still deciding on what course to take, I am brushing up my Nihongo, of which I took lessons years ago that I now have to relearn.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Growth of Intimacy

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

“The growth of intimacy is like that.  First one gives off his best picture, the bright and finished product mended with bluff and falsehood and humor.  Then more details are required and one paints a second portrait, and a third—long before the best lines cancel out—and the secret is exposed at last; the planes of the picture have intermingled and given us away, and though we paint and paint we can no longer sell a picture.”

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned, 1922

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tour Group

Monday, June 21, 2010

Last Wednesday, while waiting for my Internet connection to be fixed, I watched a movie about a woman who used to be a history teacher but ended up as a travel guide in Athens, Greece. It’s called My Life in Ruins, which I thought at first meant that her life lay in ruins but later on realized that it’s about her life amidst ancient Greek ruins. It wasn’t that good of a movie, but I enjoyed watching it. It reminded me of that time when D and I joined a tour group bound for the ruins of the ancient city of Angkor.


If you don’t mind traveling with strangers, being herded like cattle and waking up as early as five in the morning to have an unhurried breakfast and not keep everybody else waiting, then joining a tour group would be a good idea. With economies of scale at work, joining a multiday tour turned out to be far less expensive than if we tried to manage the whole thing ourselves. With the entire itinerary already thought of and carefully laid out for us, the trip demanded less planning—and thereby, less effort and agony—on our part. Every detail was taken care of: from the documents needed at the border, to accommodation and supplies of bottled water and wet towels. All we needed was to follow, and everything went on as planned – perfect for sticklers like me, but not so for the don’t-tell-me-what-I-should-do-or-when-I-should-do-it type like my boyfriend.

The best part was we got to travel with people who made the long journey less tedious and the whole tour, a happy adventure.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Walking in the Mall

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Where else in this concrete jungle can you walk without getting mugged, hit by vehicles, toasted by the sun or drenched in sudden outpours of rain but the mall? Badly needing the exercise but not wanting to shell out money for a measly hour in the gym, I thought of a cheaper and more entertaining workout activity: walking in and around the nearby mall.

And so I kept walking - through the corridors and up and down stairs, passing stores with their varied window displays and sometimes going in to inspect the goods that caught my eye while observing shoppers and idlers like me and figuring out the layout of the place and how it influences individual store sales. Distracted by these thoughts and the commercial pastiche found only in malls, I lost track of time and didn’t realize that I’ve been walking for five hours already.

This is nothing compared to all the trekking and hiking that we plan to do, but it’s a start, right?

“…I walk with like-minded souls, or I walk by myself. In our technologically obsessed world, I set out on foot in defiance of the quick and expedient. On some level, I become a saunterer in my own crusade to recover the Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels, to realize my own hope for a true and authentic world.

I walk to discover new things, and to remember in my heart the ones I once found. I walk in celebration of discovery, and in the evocation of real people and place. I walk to remember.” (Bill Beleville, Why I Walk, 29 April 2010)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Forcing Lolita on my Boyfriend

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Whom would you want to be with on your flight back-- Madame BovaryRebecca or Lolita? I asked my boyfriend the last time he was here. I’m certain he would have taken me if he could, but he chose Lolita, instead. Forced to listen to my incessant praise of Nabokov’s masterpiece—its facility of language, wit, grace, complexity, intelligence, beauty--he finally succumbed to my insistence. Being my boyfriend, he has to put up with my incurable reverence for the literary world. I would have loved to share my collection of books with people around me, but, sadly, there are no takers, just poor D who can’t but refuse me.


Against his wishes, and to my delight, my affliction is slowly rubbing off on him. The books I asked him to bring home for me, he has read already; previously intolerant of magical realism, he has recently read and enjoyed Toni Morrison’s A Mercy and is now about to venture into the phantasmagoric reality of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Knowing that I can share my love of books and reading to the person I love thrills me endlessly.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rereading the Prince

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Since our country has a newly elected president, I thought it would be a good time to reread Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince (1532):

“…whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far, distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Friday, June 11, 2010

I was like her

Friday, June 11, 2010

Her resolve fueled by adolescent stubbornness and listless indolence, my sister was adamant in her refusal to attend the clan reunion that relatives from our grandmother’s side organized. The reasons that we thought would convince her to go were countered with excuses of her own: just thinking of the long commute already makes her limp; she doesn’t want to miss the television shows she’s following; she doesn’t know anybody there, anyway. And then I realized that I was like her when I was her age. I would have refused to go, too. I would have come up with irrefutable reasons for not going. But while we were able to compel her to go in the end, I—at her age--would have remained unyielding and unflappable.

In big social gatherings like clan reunions smiles are worn like armor. True selves remain hidden, for fear of giving offense. Your whole existence is encapsulated in a one-line introduction that is oftentimes off the mark. You try to correct whatever mistaken notion they have of you, but thought it best to just smile and let it be. Small talk is the norm, and interest for something or somebody you don’t really care about has to be feigned. Ostentation and exaggeration abound almost as food, in such gatherings, does. Through it all, you can’t but keep that smile on your face and eat heartily.

Despite these things that make such parties a bore and not worth attending, family gatherings—as I’ve only now realized—are invaluable. Surrounded with countless relatives whom I’ve only heard stories about but haven’t seen before, I felt that I belong with them. We probably won’t see each other in the next ten years or until the next reunion; knowing that we will always be tied by blood is enough.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

in that pit of black despair

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

You thought that, having found love, you’d never go back to that place where nothing but tears exists, but you did. You’ve been there several times that the place felt strangely familiar yet darker than before.  In that pit of black despair, the last obstinate vestige of hope was swallowed up by the darkness, and, defeated, you wept in anguish till there is not a tear left.

All crying spent, you groped your way out of that place. You thought you won’t make it. You almost didn’t, but you did. You emerged strong, unscathed, unbroken. Through it all you thought you lost the love you found, but you didn’t.

Friday, June 4, 2010

tottering in the midst

Friday, June 4, 2010



The poor thing had no force to fling out any passion in return; the terrible collapse of the illusion towards which all her hope had been strained was a stroke which had too thoroughly shaken her: her little world was in ruins, and she felt herself tottering in the midst as a lonely bewildered consciousness.

~ George Eliot, Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life, 1874

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

each grain brings him closer

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June has come, and the countdown begins. In my mind sits an hourglass, and with bated breath I listen to the slow trickling of sand. Each grain brings him closer; each day makes the distance gradually disappear.

 
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