Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bursting with Hemingway

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Current obsession: Ernest Hemingway

It started with my watching a BBC documentary on Hemingway’s travels, Hemingway Adventure, where Michael Palin revisited the places and passions that defined Hemingway and his works. Those places include Chicago and Michigan, his birthplace and childhood haunts; Italy in WWI, where his experiences as a volunteer Red Cross ambulance driver became the basis for his novel A Farewell to Arms; Spain, where he translated his experiences into a manifesto on bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon, the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the propaganda film Spanish Earth; Africa, which inspired The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Green Hills of Africa; Florida’s Key West where they continue to hold annual Papa Hemingway lookalike contests; Cuba where he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, which won him the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature; and the American West where he spent his last days in search of peace and solitude.

As the show took me to the places where Hemingway has been, I sensed that same jolt of excitement I felt when I first encountered Hemingway’s work, For Whom the Bell Tolls, eighteen years ago. He got me then. I became an instant fan. And as I learn more about Hemingway, my regard for his work and his attitude towards life has turned into something akin to an obsession.  Watching the HBO movie Hemingway and Gellhorn did not help either: it just increased my fascination with the man.    

I can talk for hours and days about Hemingway and his novels, but I confine myself to just writing about him, instead. Who would listen to a lengthy discourse on the author, anyway? Not even my friends would. My colleagues haven’t even heard of him. And they are not interested in a dead guy who’s famous for writing a story about an old fisherman who had gone 84 days without catching a fish.      

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Travel Resolutions: What Have I Achieved so Far?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Half the year has passed, yet I’ve achieved only one of the ten travel resolutions that I made at the start of 2012:  

See more of my country

I remember that moment when, realizing how inexcusably ignorant I am of the wonderful places in the Philippines, I resolved to discover the land of my birth.  And I‘m proud to say that for the past several months I did just that. I was able to climb three mountains in different parts of the country - Mt. Pulag in Northern Luzon, Mt. Pico de Loro in Southern Luzon and Mt. Pinatubo in Central Luzon.   To fully describe the beauty and grandeur of those places is to fail – a thing I won’t even attempt. And to see more of my country is to discover unplumbed parts of myself.


Half the year has passed, yet I’ve achieved only one of my ten travel resolutions. It simply means that I have the rest of the year to revel in the delights of making the other nine real. 

(Response to the Indie TravelChallenge 2012 Week 26 Prompt: “Look back at the travel resolutions you made for the first week of Indie Travel Challenge. What have you achieved so far? What is something that you are proud of?”)

Monday, June 25, 2012

the last dream of my soul

Monday, June 25, 2012

I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul…. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.

~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Swimsuits and Memories

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My friends and I have started planning for another getaway.  We haven’t decided on the exact location, but it would most probably involve some sun, sand and surf.  What a perfect excuse to buy another swimsuit, I told myself. And so, indulging my vanity, I did.  I bought a two-piece, green and black twist bandeau.  Its sight gives me that extra push whenever I’m too lazy to exercise. 


Embarrassing as it may sound, I admit that I collect swimsuits. One-piece, two-piece, bikini, monikini, tankini, bandeau, maillot, halter top, string top – I have them in different styles.  It’s fun to look at each of them and remember where I wear them for.  Each swimsuit I associate with a happy memory, a fun vacation, or a wonderful place: the brown, polka-dotted two-piece that I was wearing when my boyfriend and I walked along the shores of Tanjung Aru in Penang as the sun expired; the pink floral maillot that I was in when my eyes got seriously infected while snorkeling with the girls; the floral swim dress that I wore when my friends and I had a marvelous time island hopping in Boracay; the yellow tankini that lent me some needed propriety in the company of family in more conservative areas in the country; the blue and green bandeau top that I wore while watching people frolicking in the sands of Pattaya.  Every piece is special because of the happy times that went with it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Something that tastes good can also be good for you

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I recently read a compelling article from The New Yorker about whether or not there is still a clear distinction between commercial fiction and literary fiction.  The author argues that “for the longest time, there was little ambiguity between literary fiction and genre fiction: one was good for you, one simply tasted good.” And that distinction is now starting to collapse: “the presumed superiority of one type of book over another no longer passes unquestioned.”

So what distinguishes commercial or genre fiction from literary fiction, anyway?

Literary fiction is “elegantly written, lyrical, and layered" and focuses on creating "introspective, in-depth character studies" of "interesting, complex and developed" characters. (Source) Purportedly of less literary value, commercial fiction relies on formula, convention and uncomplicated prose.   Whereas literary fiction is character-driven, commercial fiction is plot-driven. Or so they say.

Whether or not there is an abiding distinction between the two, I simply don’t care.  I read both kinds.  As discussed in a podcast I regularly listen to, it is a question of quality, not taxonomy.  There can be art in both the pulpy and the highfalutin; there is brilliance in both literary fiction and genre fiction. It doesn’t matter if a novel appeals to lowbrow or highbrow tastes, I will read it as long as it is absorbing and written well. 

What keeps me absorbed nowadays is the third book in George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice of Fire dystopic science fiction series. Prior to that, I was engrossed in a collection of essays on political and cultural topics written by Christopher Hitchens. And before reading those essays I went from a chic lit take on the life of a former US First Lady to E.M. Forster's masterpiece about the British Raj to Jonathan Safran Foer’s nonfiction account of factory farming to a Stephen King horror classic to Mark Twain’s adventures through the Wild West in the 1860s.  There is something truly satisfying in sampling all categories and genres of the written word. Shifting from fiction to nonfiction, from one genre to another and from commercial to literary fiction gives me different ways of looking at the world.

It must be that something that tastes good can also be good for you.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Palasak

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Magkahalong yamot at pagkamangha ang aking naramdaman habang kapiling ang isang grupo ng kabataan paakyat ng bulkan. Isang dekada lang naman ang tanda ko sa kanila, ngunit tila hindi ko maunawaan ang kanilang usapan. Ganito na nga ba ang tipo ng pag-uusap na palasak sa kasalukuyan, o ako ba ay nasanay lamang sa sinauna? Lahat ng kanilang pangugusap ay nagsisimula sa katagang ‘tang-ina na binudburan pa ng mas makukulay na salita na panunungayaw kung ituring ng iba. Sa tono at wika ng kanilang pananalita lahat ng bakas ng pagpipitagan ay tuluyan ng nawala. Ang mga salitang ginagamit ba nila ang dahilan o ang kawalan ng katuturan at paggalang sa kanilang usapan? Marahil ako lamang ay nagiging mapanuri at mapanghusga o sadyang tuluyan nang tumatanda.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dormitory

Monday, June 11, 2012

Carrying pillows, clothes, books, coat hangers, toiletries, what looks like a month’s supply of food and everything else our youngest sister could possibly need to live comfortably away from home, we trooped to her dormitory located inside the campus. She’s about to enter college, and it amazes me how excited she is about the whole thing.  The idea of living among strangers surrounded by ceaseless movement and babble makes me shudder.  Having to be gracious, nice and easy to live can be such an arduous task.  

Maybe that’s why I’m in my mid-thirties and still alone and impossible to live with.  I never learned—nor even tried—to coexist with people outside my family circle.  Living a few kilometers from the university, I had no reason to live in a dormitory, and having the same set of friends from high school eliminated the need to make new friends in college.  Twenty years later, I still find it difficult to establish new friendships and be with people.  If friendships are built on shared interests, how can I make any when it seems like I’m the only one who cares about the things I care about?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

He had better be able to make the lady laugh

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: He had better be able to make the lady laugh. Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life. If you can stimulate her to laughter—I am talking about that real, out-loud, head-back, mouth-open-to-expose-the-full-horseshoe-of-lovely-teeth, involuntary, full, and deep-throated mirth; the kind that is accompanied by a shocked surprise and a slight (no, make that a loud) peal of delight—well, then, you have at least caused her to loosen up and to change her expression. I shall not elaborate further."

~ Christoper Hitchens, “Why Women Aren’t Funny,” Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens, 2011

Monday, June 4, 2012

House Hunting

Monday, June 4, 2012

A three-bedroom house with a backyard - that’s all we wanted. With the number of houses out in the market, it looked simple enough, yet house hunting proved to be more difficult than I thought it would—or should--be. 

We thought we already had that mustard-colored two-storey house, but at the last minute, when everything appeared to go according to plan, it was snatched away from us. Offering a price higher than the house’s assessed market value seemed to be a good idea just to secure the house, but it turned out to be the opposite. Trusting our realtor’s word and exercising patience over glaring inefficiencies were errors in judgment that cost us that house. And we simply cannot battle a system that is operated by automation and built on bureaucratic principles. 

But then again, maybe it’s simply not meant to be. That house was not for us. 

It’s been months since we started the search, yet our dream house continues to be just a dream. I hope it won’t be for long. The search goes on, and each day we look forward to a new listing; we hope for our offer to be accepted; and we yearn to find that house that we can call ours.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What is home then?

Friday, June 1, 2012

What is home then, you might wonder? The place you first see daylight, or the place you choose for yourself? Or is it the someplace you just can’t keep going back to, though the air there’s grown less breathable, the future’s over, where they really don’t want you back, and where you once left on a breeze without a rearward glance?

 ~ Richard Ford, The Lay of the Land, 2006
 
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