The Black Swan

The Black Swan, the movie that earned Natalie Portman the Academy Award for Best Actress. The plot revolves around a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet by a prestigious New York City company. The production requires a ballerina to play the innocent and fragile White Swan, for which the committed dancer Nina (Portman) is a perfect fit, as well as the dark and sensual Black Swan, which are qualities better embodied by the new arrival Lily (Kunis).

Black Swan-Recovered

Step by step process of creating The Black Swan.

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Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Review)

Lord of the Flies Cover

Title: Lord of the Flies
Author: William Goulding
ISBN: 0-571-05686-5
Published: September 17, 1954, Faber and Faber
Target Audience: Children, Young Adults
Genre: Allegorical Novel

There’s more to Lord of the Flies than a group of upper-class boys stranded on an island. It’s an allegorical novel that contains a lot of symbolisms that are too many to be told in one short book review like this. But there’s one certain thing about the book: it is an exploration of the human nature that unabashedly exposes our darkest tendencies to savagery. That and the laws of civilisation that do not hold their effect in a place where rules and the idea of harmonious society do not apply. ;

It’s a chilling tale that pushes us to reflect on the possibilities of living in a world where civilisation is removed, and we are left to our own devices to survive without order.

Synopsis

Lord of the Flies narrates the unfortunate events following a plane crash on a small deserted island. The survivors, a group of well-brought up British boys ages six to twelve, find themselves in a hapless circumstance without the guidance of an adult. What could have been a haven for kids- frolicking by the beach and splashing in the waves- suddenly becomes a threatening place to exist for the boys who do not fully understand the implication of their condition yet.

Without an adult to hold these boys together and impart the values, constraints, and conventions of a civilisation, the story becomes a struggle for dominance, order, and primal instincts. What was once a peaceful island devoid of savages becomes a war zone for the thirty or so English boys. Only the sight of the conch can gather these boys to order, but it’s becoming less effective as Jack realises its nonsensical purpose. From that point, only the slaughtering of pigs becomes a paramount importance to Jack.

Due to a fateful turn of events, the group is divided into two factions: Jack Merridew’s choir boys who enjoy hunting and pyretic rituals and Ralph’s mostly young and refined lot who want to survive on the island at peace and keep the signal fire on top of the mountain from going out. Ralph, who knows less of everything but wants to govern by the rule of law, slowly loses his squadron as Jack lures them the into his group by offering the meat of their hunt. Only one person refuses to leave Ralph’s side and that is the clumsy but ever clever Piggy. Meanwhile, driven by his passions and anarchic leadership, Jack continues to terrorise Ralph and Piggy, enforcing his dominance over the nonviolent duo.

Looting, treachery, and manslaughter are carried out without remorse as the majority of the boys succumb to their barbaric innocence. Lives are drained of blood and compassion is overridden by man’s inherent feral motivations. This goes to show that innocence has its ugly side when freed from society’s reasonable control.

Analysis

The end of innocence- this is what hit me deeply after reading the book. It’s a frightening realisation that represents a whole lot of things in this world. Lord of the Flies can be an allegorical commentary of the world’s political bodies; a religious metaphor between good and evil; a history of which man loomed in darkness before emerging from it through civilisation. But what’s striking the most is the new awareness that man might have been born naturally evil, but this only surfaces once the backbone of an organised social order has been taken away.

There are several symbolisms in the novel that readers are compelled to ponder upon for some time. For one, Ralph represents leadership and reasoning, who believes that the conch is the very symbol of law and order. Jack is the representation of man’s primordial instinct, who is driven to his innate nature of savagery in order to fend for himself- a sneak peek to what men were like before we learned to cultivate our ways. Simon depicts innocence and Piggy of compassion and intellect. But of course, all of these boys at the very beginning marvelled at their newfound freedom and indulged into wishful thinking that they might be saved by a passing ship, just before they entered a complex character arc.

There’s the obvious sense of immediacy and tension in William Golding’s writing that take us into the unfathomable drama of the story. William Golding used the third-person view and crafted realistic speech patterns for the diverse characters in his story. For instance, Piggy, whose nerves betray him every now and then, speaks in abrupt bursts and unfinished sentences. The group’s default leader Ralph, on the other hand, draws on short imposing dialogues to get his point straight. William Golding fashioned the book with his stellar writing and imagery, having been able to describe the idyllic scenery and splendid weather of the island well.

Lord of the Flies is a gripping, suspense-riddled book not just for teenagers, but also for adults. There is much to take away from this adroit debut novel by William Golding. It’s intense, fast-paced narrative takes readers deep into man’s descent back to his primal roots. Although it leaves an unsettling trail in the end, it’s a book you would truly enjoy if you’ve come past all the gory details and the degree of insanity it presents.

Rating: 4.4/5

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (Review)

Before I Go To Sleep Cover

Title: Before I Go to Sleep
Author: S.J. Watson
ISBN: 0-85752-017-2
Published: April 2011 (UK), Doubleday
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Thriller, Suspense

There was much hype surrounding S.J. Watson’s debut novel Before I Go to Sleep. Why, with a psychological thriller being tied up with memory loss, people will always find this kind of plot somewhat refreshing and a fascinating subject for discussion. And had not for the screaming one-liner reviews printed on the book’s covers, I wouldn’t have thought of bringing it home. Did I regret such rash decision? I can’t say that I did, but I can’t also recount having truly enjoyed it to the last bits.

Synopsis

The story opens as the 47-year-old female protagonist Christine awakens from her sleep without a memory of how she got herself in a room with an unidentified man by her side. She immediately dismisses her surprise, thinking she got herself drunk the other night and had nonchalantly slept with a stranger- something she always did in her early twenties. But she’s in for a bigger surprise as she sees a much older version of herself in the mirror. Horrified of her discovery, Christine confronts the man, who turns out to be her husband, Ben. He then explains to Christine that she has amnesia and that most of everything she knew goes when she sleeps. The only memory she can ever recall is when she was just a twenty-ish happy-go-lucky woman- the time before she met Ben.

As Ben goes to work everyday, a Dr. Nash calls Christine every morning and introduces himself as a neuropsychologist. Dr. Nash then urges Christine to get her journal that’s been kept inside a shoebox in her closet and read it to understand what is happening. Having read the content of the journal, she then finds out that she and Dr. Nash have been working together to improve her memory. But what troubles her the most are the words “Don’t Trust Ben” inscribed inside the journal.

Slowly, through her flashbacks and diary, Christine begins to shed light on her past, particularly on the day of the horrible accident and the time before she lost her memory. The more she discovers these things, the more she grows weary of the people around her, especially Ben and Dr. Nash. Does Ben have something to do with her memory loss? Can she really trust Dr. Nash? What has really happened on that fateful night that put Christine in such terrible situation?

Analysis

Before I Go to Sleep is an interesting and terrifying tale of a woman living with the people she barely knew. This gives the character of Christine a remarkable element as we are taken to witness her anxieties and confinement because of her memory loss. Since there’s only a handful of characters in the book, it goes to show how small Christine’s world has become after the accident. Her narration gave me an in-depth view of how excruciatingly nerve-racking it is to wake up each day without so much of a recollection of the previous day. I could have easily sympathised with Christine given her seemingly hopeless situation, but I didn’t feel any connection with her vulnerable side as I went on reading. In fact, I was on the verge of putting the book down many times.

However, the book was elegantly written. The vivid, delicate description of the events tries to resurrect the book from mediocrity. Watson’s dainty prose and characterisation of the female lead made her real, a kudos despite the fact that the author is of the opposite sex.

The only obvious drawback of the book is its pace, which mostly slows to a crawl as Christine constantly begins the day doing the same thing she did the previous day. The whole process of remembering things is reiterated again and again, dragging the pace of the story to an unbearable degree. It’s a bit exhausting to read something I already knew, leading me to think that I was tricked in buying the book. The painful repetition made me almost lose my patience. But I kept reading because I have this belief that a pyscho thriller has an element of surprise to it, which Watson was still keeping up his sleeves.

Indeed, he laid the tension again in the final chapter. I was able to heave a sigh of relief as the pace picked up its speed and got my anticipation high. Suspense started to crawl up to the moment of the final revelation. But alas! The climax, the part of which I achingly so wanted to happen, slammed my expectations down. It’s not that I found the way it’s presented disappointing, it’s because I wasn’t the least surprised by it. The book is indeed full of promises, but its sluggish pace makes it a little let down.

Rating: 3/5

The Polymath

The Polymath

The envelope was ivory white, perfectly sealed so prying eyes won’t catch a glimpse. Its edges were sharp to touch, something I found a relevant circumstance to what I was about to find. A tap on one corner and ting!- a sound of a thousand needles rang through my ears. I felt being pricked not just in the skin but also into my arteries. Blood, I see a thin red streak from a small opening, a tear voluntarily snaked its way down from the tiny gash. But I was only imagining things. What was real was the envelope in my hands. Ivory white. Perfectly sealed.

“Open it when you’re alone,” I was told by my manager, “And count your earnings in private.”

But that was said to me as a half-meant joke, exactly a year ago when I received what was told to be my entry-level pay. I was happy, not that being a writer finally had given me a monetary value, but because I gave my dreams a solid start. I have been writing all my life, but never practiced it to benefit other people. On that day I received my first off white envelope, my smile almost stretched to my ears.

“What a dream to live,” my 22-year-old self used to say.

There was that slim packet again in my veiny hands, casing the familiar anxiety I detest whenever I tear it open. I was about to give it a go, but I stopped and looked around me. Perhaps, to catch a glimpse of other people’s compensations. Five figures, maybe a thousand or two more than what’s stated on my paycheck, written in consistent letters: Courier New in 9 points.

“Patience,” something only my mind whispered a lot.

“You have to start from the bottom,” my mom once said, “That’s where successful people begin.”

“I know, but do I deserve to be treated unfairly?”, I replied.

“That’s how the world spins my dear,” she said, raising her thin brows to reveal her prominent brown eyes.

We touched that topic when I found out why our paychecks were meant only for one pair of eyes. I was disgruntled, of course, and had a long-winded inner conversation with myself about the predicament.

No matter how talented you are, the fact that you are fresh in the workforce neither regards your capacity to write nor value what you have achieved when you were still in school. Yes, that reality stinks like piss but as a cub I had to suck that in. Every cub has to suck that in.

I thought of opening the envelope when I arrive home. I know that won’t change anything, but at least no one has to ever see me get internally steamed up again, or sulk in one corner for that matter. Either has happened and it earned me a good whooping during evaluations.

Like the desperate and disheartened young adult that I was, I walked out after my shift without looking back. The warmth of the setting sun cast an orange haze through the glass windows. The elevator doors had a tinge of soft tangerine and strong metallic grey. The inconsistent luminosity winked at me as the sallow orb of light was slowly sinking down the edge of the horizon outside. Heaving a sigh of what seems to be a lack of complaint, I stepped inside the elevator with a heavy heart.

I thought I might explode but the elevator suddenly shuddered before I could do so as it reached the 6th floor. The doors, however, smoothly glided to each side revealing wide-paneled glass doors. It was dark inside, the blinds were drawn and the only light emanating within glowed from huge Apple Mac screens on rows of long white tables. As far as I have observed, some men and perhaps women in hooded jackets turned their swivel chairs around to see the opening of the elevator doors.

“This must be so distracting,” I thought.

Two men slowly entered the elevator as one pushed a rolling cart full of empty water containers. I tried not to mind them as I tiptoed to savor the scene in front of me. More than the awe that struck me (because yes, those Mac screens), I was curious what the company was all about. Since I thought of Apple Mac as something graphic artists and web designers must have, I presumed they were the kind of people I also want to become. Those people who are capable of creating something visually appealing other than the descriptive gimmicks writers write.

Then I saw an expanse of greyness in front of me. The silver doors quickly closed faster than they had opened. Too soon for me to understand the sedentary view behind them.

“I wish I could…” I stopped mumbling as one of the men took a pen and a notepad to list the day’s remittance.
…………………
Wonder flooded my senses until the bellowing honk of the public bus killed it. The brakes screeched hard, sending the passengers forcefully forward right on their seats. The whir of the engine was somehow soft, like a gentle patter of rain on the roof. The bus door let out a loud hissed as it opened in front of me and a man past his prime nodded as if to mean that I were expected.

“You know what’s a good thing about getting a bus ride?” I remembered my high school best friend said one day as we skipped the bus home. We were walking a good distance under the red sky, the clouds melting away like sweet little pink puffs. We walked until the sun had sunk so low and the sky was the color of a bruise.

“They’re cheaper than cabs?” I answered, somehow expecting it wasn’t the thing she was about to say.

“No, no!” she waved her slender hands, her forearms shook like rigid stick figures.

“You see, whenever I take the bus, the people around me do not matter at all. Like I’m just all I alone, staring at blurred trees and buildings outside,” she said.

“Oh, you really think it’s like that?”

“C’mon! Don’t tell me you haven’t felt it yet. I know you have, you are not just aware of it,” her pursed lips slightly smirked.

“Oh, wait, so you mean I don’t matter to you when we’re on the bus?” the thought suddenly sprang up and I was waiting for her to blow her top over that kind of question, which she sometimes did. Instead Mary Ashley, my best friend, shrugged it off like it was not a big deal.

“Lisa Cobbler’s doing her thing again!” Mary swung her right arm around my shoulders and pressed me closer to her side, “How about we stop by Casey’s for an ice cream?”

I pushed a tongue out, then told her why Casey’s would not be a good option for two hungry growing teens.

Somehow, Mary Ashley was right.

I had deep thoughts that afternoon on the bus, where I only spoke to myself internally in spite of the people around me. The sea of heads wobbled and peaked like loose attachments to necks over the back of the seats. And although I had a 20/20 vision, the faces that surrounded me were blurry.

It’s true. The trees and buildings dashed before my eyes in split second, and all I could think about were my could-haves in life. Then the thought of Mary Ashley came. What has happened to that girl? Where did she go? Does she still have the same sentiment about getting on the bus?

The road was becoming wider as the bus entered the highway. Then, we were sent forward again as the driver stepped on the brakes. Only this time, my reflexes kicked in, launching my arms on top of the back seat in front of me. Just in time as my face was about to hit it.

I moaned but everyone else did not seem to care about it, as though it’s really a thing to be lurching every now and then on the bus.

A moment had passed and as I looked through the window, I saw a 2010 white mini cooper stopping in front of my sight. I like minis, they look so chic and efficient. I wondered how much they cost and if I could ever afford it one day.

Then I saw a young woman behind the wheels, her head rested on a beige leather seat. She was talking to the person behind her, who was busy arranging what appeared to be large canvases carelessly wrapped in brown paper. She was smiling whilst talking. An expensive gold watch clasped securely around her slim right wrist. Her frail fingers rhythmically tapped the black steering wheel as she waited for the red traffic light to turn green.

The watch, the mini, the paintings- the young woman in that car had everything I ever wanted. I felt envy boiling inside me, and I could have felt more resentful if I knew the young woman had painted those canvases. Until then, there’s nothing much I could do but to suppose and watch.

“Rich kids,” I muttered, apparently taking no notice of the middle-aged woman sitting beside me.

“I suppose you have a disdain for rich people?” the woman spoke.

I turned to face her, not quite sure if it was me she was talking to.

“Not at all. I do like to be one though. It is just at this moment that some people who are as young as me- apparently those born from rich parents- are now driving luxury cars and owning things only the rich buy,” I answered, sounding like an injured puppy.

“Maybe it’s true. Money is power.” She pouted her lower lip. Her soft auburn curls framed her aging face.

“Of course, it is.”

“I can’t tell you much about money. I, too, have a hitch with debts on my own. But you can use that thing in between your ears to help you,” the woman bitterly answered.

I was about to ask her if she also had used her head one time to solve her woes, but only looking at her sullen expression made me think otherwise.

“What I want right now is to be rightfully valued or appreciated for what I am doing or have done.” I looked at my shoes as I said that, a bit embarrassed by my impassioned response.

“You want to get that, yes. But all while yearning for wealth.”

I looked at her, puzzled. She smiled as she gave out a heavy, long sigh. “Of course, of course. You deserve better.”

The bus stopped without a warn and the woman got off slowly. She didn’t look back at her new acquaintance. She didn’t throw a single glance at me. I felt she could have said more but chose not to, letting her words trail off when she said I deserve better. Then I saw her walked in the street with her head down as the bus passed by her, and she never held it up until she was out of my sight.

A sudden wave of fear engulfed me. “What if I am about to turn like her? Apologetic yet vindictive, passing up shots that could have been my ticket to a good future,” I thought as soon as I recognized my anxiety.

There were many times I was offered good positions by well-established corporations, but I turned them down only to become a writer. Books pull me in as words haunt me. There’s no escape, there’s no intention of running away. But the now had me thinking if all of my choices were worth it. If being a word factory for others would ever quench my thirst for success. If enslaving myself would do me well in the end, most importantly to my soul that knows dissatisfaction is just around the corner. I was never satisfied. I am never easily satisfied.
……………….
I got my headphones on as I opened my apartment door. Bills posted on my corky board greeted me, a reminder that I still have obligations left to take care of. Mozart’s Symphony no. 25 in G minor, K. 183 blared through my ears in full volume. It’s melody leapt and the fierce unison of the violins descended, gripping my expectations hard, violent, and intense. The dotted rhythm stopped for a second and a short moment of peace and refinement consolidated my senses. Not long after, a menacing piano unison introduced a new sensation. Confidence suddenly, progressively grew inside me and overshadowed my fears and desolation.

A sly smirk curved my thin lips as I dropped everything on the floor. I gathered the oil and acrylic tubes strewn all over my working table and pulled a stained wooden box that kept my stiff brushes. I took out the single-mast easel underneath my bed, set it up, and mounted a large blank canvas on its frame. I stood there for quite some time, one hand pressed under my chin. Then, I remembered something…

I took the ivory white envelope from my bag one last time. My scrawny fingers ran over the paper’s smoothness. A tingle crept its way down my spine, spreading across my skin and sending a bolt of current on my fingertips. I shivered and pulled myself together after.

Without further ado, I tore the envelope open from one side- carefully and slowly- ensuring not to rip the crisp paper inside. I pulled my paycheck out and looked at the figures printed in Courier New, 9 points.

No words came in my mind. Not a single word formed on my lips. I pushed the paycheck back inside the envelope and looked at the blank canvas, feeling a bit hopeless yet somehow inspired to do something new.

END

Sneak Peek: The Unraveling Of Adora Caprice

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Chapter One

He Who Refuses to Pray

Do not ask me to come to church with you, or to accompany you in a prayer meeting. I like none of those things. I loathe it. Not that I hate God- the word ‘hate’, by the way, is a very strong word less than loathe. Let us just say I used to feel sick with all the Amen and Halleluiah happening everyday of my life, seven days a week, seven times a day instead of ten, because I do not pray when I am alone. I was just sick of it, that’s all. But I like the idea of God if you would ask.

There was the morning prayer whenever we got out of bed. Five minutes after a groggy awakening following Sister Maria’s bellows of good morning. I swear they were not the kind a man would want to hear at the crack of dawn. They were like sermons from hell, annoying yet frightening. We had no choice for that place’s Marias were the good people who fed and sheltered us. Although I was secretly grateful, I hated the place. No, loathed it.

After waking us up, we would get ourselves ready for the daily mass before we could fill each of our hungry innards with a cup of hot sour coffee and a plate of bland sunny side up quail eggs with two burnt slices of bread and diced potatoes, or a saucy sausage breakfast burrito with tiny pieces of meat and lots of garlic. In times when donations did not seem to amount much for our little luxuries, Sister Maria- the cook-, would instead prepare her overrated charro beans soup on the table. But before we could dive our hands into our meal, we would pray.

I whined at these moments, sometimes while playing a spoon with my hand. There was one time Sister Maria- the alarm clock- caught me rolling my eyes as Sister Maria- the Grammar teacher- said it was time to give thanks to the Lord for the food on the table. There were times I was happy to oblige to this when the food seemed good, but that day was the charro beans soup day. And Sister Maria, the formidable Maria of the seven Marias in the boys’ orphanage and the one who alarmed us at dawn, came to me in tight strides.

I was ready for an ear pinching and beating. But the formidable Sister Maria only stood behind me and placed her two hands on my shoulders. It was not even a tight grip, but a simple touch bored with caution. I smelled the caution from her hands, not just felt it. Because whenever you see the formidable Sister Maria, you approach her with caution, regardless of who approaches first. She smelled like old people, too.

“Is there a problem chico?” she calmly asked, still not moving a finger on my shoulders.

“Nothing that I know, Sister. Well, is there a problem I should be concerned of?” I asked in pure sarcasm, though I was stiff as a stone at her presence.

“Maybe… if you stop being an ingrate for a second. If I were you, I’d be patient enough to wait for my release, which is a year from now. I’d be 17 at that time, not too young or too old to explore the world outside, but certainly incapable and unknowing of how to move around after a 17-year confinement. The world out there is not what you think it is, not the kind one chico. Certainly not. If you think this place stinks like piss, wait ’til you see the outside,” she paused for a few seconds and continued in a gentler tone, “So why don’t you make every second in here count? You’ll miss the food and accommodation a year from now for sure.”

“I hope not. The meals started to become predictable when I was six. Prayers became meaningless when I turned twelve. I still don’t know your names and assume you are all Marias. And I’m dying to get out of here since then,” I said as I slightly turned around and craned my neck to see her eye to eye.

The tension in the air rose, though the children from the far end tables continued eating, oblivious to what was happening. The teens, on the other hand, were aware I was at it again. They fairly knew my ability to get into the formidable Sister Maria’s nerves.

Sister Maria heaved a painful sigh and removed her hands off my shoulders. Then, caught by surprised, my right ear suddenly stung. Sister Maria was grabbing it with her two tiny fingers. I flinched in agony, fighting the urge to scream in pain and give her the satisfaction of seeing me submit to her authority. But I had no choice. I bit my tongue behind clenched teeth as I followed her outside the kitchen, toward the front left side of the orphanage.

Damn my ear hurt like it was struck with fire. The strength of the formidable Sister Maria did not surprise me though. No matter how well-fed we looked at the boy’s orphanage, her ear pinching would carry us around. Our bulky stature was no match for her two tiny fingers.

I was outside then, a bit glad that I escaped the day’s lectures and prayers. I was a veteran at that and would exchange my limited privileges plotting my escape under the sweltering heat of the sun. Then, regret would dawn at me by noon, as the stinging temperature and humidity become insufferable. I would bathe myself in sweat and remain stinking by the end of the day- hungry, parched, and feeling idiotic.

Inside the orphanage, the prayers would go on: the Angelus at noon, the giving of thanks before lunch, the three o’clock prayer, the Angelus at dusk, the giving of thanks before supper, a quick visit at the chapel which I would skip, and the prayer for a good night’s sleep. The last, I had barely practiced. We lived there like monks, but lived with some nuns, ironically.

Anyway, I realized Sister Maria, the formidable, was somehow right. Although I respect authority, I easily lose it when the people put in that role cannot justify things or put logic into perspective. That time, Sister Maria might have said her side well. One year is not that long, only if I would sleep it through or do something worthwhile aside from the routine. Besides, I had my three other amigos in the orphanage who understood my detestation for the norm. I had Manuel, Jimmy, and Hugo- three men who knew I was not one to keep in a cage. But these three amigos also believed, by suggestion, that I enjoyed a solitary life most of the time. That was why they did not do the things that I did.

That noon, I was already sitting on the front steps of the kitchen’s exit door. I saw some little boys, ages six to nine, running around inside the huge sandbox in front of the building. It was after lunch and they were enjoying a 30-minute break before classes resumed. I felt a pang of envy because those little brats had their breakfast and lunch heartily, obviously not minding how predictable their meals were. I could use a glass of cold water to cure my hunger, or jealousy, to say the least.

As if God heard my inner desire- not prayer because like I said, I do not pray when I am alone- Sister Maria, the mother superior, sat beside me and casually handed me a tall glass of cold water.

“Here, have something to relieve your hunger,” the mother superior said.

“Thanks,” I simply said in awe and wonder. Not quite used to this gesture, I started to become queasy. As she sat down there beside me, I could imagine some talc-like dusts clinging on her black habit, exactly the shape of her bottom, not in a lasciviously way though.

“You know kid, I’d like to help you sometimes. You know, just let you outta here, opening the gates wide open. But I’m doing your mother a favour. Whoever left you here,” she said, as if my biological mother obliged them to take me in until I turn ripe at seventeen.

“Nah, don’t bother. I can take care of myself,” I said before chugging the water down in two quick successions. The coolness washed over my dried throat, expounding the soreness in each hard gulp.

“We’re not depriving you of food. We only want you to realize how you can earn it by simply being good. It’s all common sense if you come think of it. In here, you are no god, but you can be an angel,” she replied with a lilt in her voice.

I looked at her from head to toe, as though I was sizing her up. I thought she was no more than sixty years old, old enough to become my grandmother. She had exaggerated creases on the forehead and little lines on both sides of her mouth. I’m not even surprised, as years of taking care of boys is no easy feat for a woman. But Sister Maria, the mother superior, just acted cool and confident that she could talk with boys my age.

Check out this review of An Abundance of Katherines

Here is a review by Nikkah: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1166906397

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I admit this book tickled me the most above all YA novels I had read. Its light, crafty humor had me giggling at best. But although I like it in a way I like toddlers, I also find it some sort of annoying. Reading An Abundance of Katherines led me to believe I might be old for this YA stuff.

I thought Colin could have made use of his superb intellect making something more worthy than formulating a theorem for his inability to keep a Katherine. He spent straining his neck, as well as his 200+ IQ, on what I think is a crappy subject for his level of intelligence- regardless of how he applied math in there. But maybe this is why he never became a genius.

For Colin Singleton, “You matter as much as the things that matter to you.”… And what only mattered to him was how he can keep a relationship last, especially with a Katherine- the reason for the roadtrip, which, by the way, led him to a more self-centered person than he was: Lindsey.

However, above everything else I just said, is a praise I would like to give to John Green for his clever writing and humor. Green saved the book, annoyed me with the hopeless romatic Colin and his theorem, and saved the book again.

Artists Are Never Satisfied

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I do not always feel content. This can be seen by how I end my stories and artworks. What I often do is abandon my work, as if it is finished, as if I am already contented with what I have done. But I am never content about it. Every time I see my work, I think of what I could have done more if I continued working on it, but I could not care less of finishing it.  Though, it looks like it’s done.

To say that I am already content with my work although it isn’t finished yet is wrong. That’s just how I see my work- when I feel that it is done, it is done. It is a feeling of some sort of unhappiness, but never of contentment or satisfaction.  I am never satisfied. There will always be a fragment of wonder and regret on each piece.

To the people who see it, they think I have done a wonderful complete job.  Some are fascinated by unfinished works, thinking they are already done when the creators think they really are not.

That is also how I see art: incomplete, unsatisfied. That is how I see artists: dissatisfied, frustrated more often than not. Artists keep moving on.

War, death, and moving on to a new place are also some of the reasons creative pieces are sometimes left incomplete.

Where were Mona Lisa’s eyebrows? What was Tolkien searching for that he failed to finish The Silmarillion? Would Hemingway be happy about the posthumous publishing of his unfinished novels if he was alive? How would Kafka feel that his unfinished stories were published against his request to destroy them after his death?

There are just things that are better left undone. People have this need to fill the gap on some fascinating, yet incomplete works of art. They are given the chance to grab an insight into the minds of their creators. These creators, like I am, are impulsive. We are moved by intense feelings, and when these feelings subside in the middle of our work…

I am Where I am Not

girl-running-in-town-painting-wallpaper

To a writer who savours a quiet environment, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, a countryside bungalow or a modern block house on top of a chilly mountain is the ideal living space. Why would such isolation console my being? How does it constitute to my personal and career goals?

It’s all about that one book, or maybe two that I hope to publish one day. Every writer believes he has a book in him just living inside, waiting for the perfect piece to complete its plot. But I don’t need that piece. What I need is a place, a place where I can freely roam my imagination far beyond the skyscrapers currently blocking my view, more distant from the loud rev of engines I grew up listening.

It’s not that I lack creativity, because they say creative geniuses flourish in chaos. It’s only that I need a tranquil abode where I can put the chaos of my mind into order. I am done with the pandemonium passing by me every single day, and I am on the edge of dealing with my own chaos, my own demons. My mind is a rich place of ideas, of stories that I am eager to let loose, yet it’s also filled with frustrations and disappointments that bound to grow every time I think of not being able to write that book. It makes me feel less of the person who I think I truly am- a writer.

My own kind of a perfect retreat: a bungalow sitting in the middle of verdant greens where my stories naturally flow. It should be overlooking past the lush mountains to the far away sea. The window, yes, my working table should sit near that window. Then, I would cuddle in a thick blanket at night, still not taking my eyes off the letters slowly but surely filling the blank space. I would sleep peacefully without rushing to go where my dreams take place, because why not? In that place I am free. No pressure. Nobody can tell me my writing sucks. Nobody can judge me by my inexperience. Nothing is stopping me to grow.

In there, as for me, I am complete. I have life.

But I have to eat so I have to work. I need money so I have to work. I need to take care of some people so I have to work. I don’t want to be completely alone so I have to fucking work.

This is my life but this isn’t me.

(My DailyPage Prompt #1. Visit http://www.dailypage.co/)

Surviving Sinulog Music Festivals the Smart Way

Photo by: DJ Fabian taken during Lifedance Cebu 2013.

Photo by: DJ Fabian taken during Lifedance Cebu 2013.

The annual Lifedance and Spectrum’s Sinulog Invasion, as well as other music festivals rocking the grand Sinulog Mardi Gras have people with good tastes for dance and music excited. But attending these grandiose music festivals isn’t all peaches. Along with the euphoria we get from listening to the electronic ear-popping music, is also our anxiousness of making it out alive from the restless sea of movement.

Outdoor street parties and music festivals have become a rite of passage for teens and adults. For those eager to cough up a thousand(s) of cash from their pockets to witness their favourite bands and DJs do their ‘thang’ live, here are some tips to make the most out of Sinulog music festivals without ever feeling skittish.

1. Dress for the Fun Occasion, Comfortably

As seen in teen.com

As seen in teen.com

This is my favourite part and it all boils down to initiative. You should know that the weather in January, especially the dates around the festival is kind of erratic. Therefore, you should be geared for all kinds of weather. This no-brainer tip means you should put on the right clothes.

For Women:

Lifedance, for example, is going to be held on the SRP ground which is highly-susceptible to flood and mud when rain comes pouring. Your expensive Tory Burch flats or Manolos won’t do. Don’t even think about wearing slippers if you don’t want to get mud sticking on your barely-covered feet or bottle splinters piercing through your skin. The best footwear to wear is an inexpensive but durable ballet flats or a pair of shoes made of synthetic rubber like a stylish semi-Prima Crocs flats. You can also sport a pair of sneakers.

You should also find a comfortable yet stylish top that you are willing to dispose after. Actually, a simple white shirt or sleeveless will do. It’s because you’ll never know what other people are going to throw at you. You can buy Sinulog festival shirts in Island Souvenirs and other local shops that you can cut or customise for the occasion.

A pair of denim shorts will do. If you can help it, avoid denim cut-offs that are short enough to qualify as an underwear.

rompers-trend-4

Speaking of don’ts, a romper might be a good outfit to keep you cool and cute, but imagine yourself peeing naked in a port-a-potty. I really don’t think rompers are good to wear in music festivals where finding a decent toilet could be a problem.

For Men:

MenFIN

You can do well with any comfortable shirt that isn’t pricey and a pair of men’s shorts (khaki, chino, plaid). Complete the look with a pair of shoes that you’re ready to expose in mud and dirt.

Here are some smart choices you could pull off:

From Topshop.com

From Topshop.com

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music-festival-mens-fashion-style

2. Don’t Over Accessorise

Not necessarily less is more, but think about your comfort.

Not necessarily less is more, but think about your comfort.

As much as you want to look festive like your Christmas tree last December, over-accessorising may bring you more hassle than fun. They tend to be heavy when you move and might hit others close to you as you jump and wave your hands to the music. Otherwise, a single or layered long necklace is enough. You can also add a few colourful bracelets if you’re itching to wear some.

If you’re planning to wear a headgear (this isn’t Coachella!), it’s fine as long as you keep it to a minimum. You can amp this look with a pair of trendy sunglasses (oh, not the neons) if the party is in broad daylight.

A money belt tucked in front of your shorts is also a smart choice if you want to avoid pickpockets. See how Kylie Jenner pulls the practically fab look:

Kylie Jenner rocked that gold-studded money belt.

Kylie Jenner rocked that gold-studded money belt.

And if you don’t take my word for it, you can always opt for a cute shoulder bag.

3. Know Where the Toilets and Port-a-Potties Are

Lots-of-Porta-Potties

Relieving yourself could be a bit frustrating in large music festivals. Most are likely doing the pee-pee dance when they’ve waited long enough far in the line. You should know where the nearest port-a-potties are so when time comes you have to let it go, you can always get there fast. But sometimes lines could extend far beyond your patience, so find alternative toilets from nearby establishments. The farther, the shorter the line.

4. Go in Groups

group at a music festival

In music festivities, being alone is no fun. Go to these events with your party-loving buddies. You will never know what will happen to you when you’re alone. It’s possible that phone network signals get jammed during Sinulog.

You and your friends should plan ahead for everything. This means getting to an agreement of your meeting spots when mobile communication isn’t possible.

5. Have These Essentials in Your Bag

Women, heads up!

Women, heads up!

• Wet/Shower wipes- because you’ll start smelling as the hours tick by.
• Small Cologne- to freshen your sweaty bod.
• Pocket Money- just the right amount to get you to and from the venue and buy you some booze/water and food to consume.
• Some grooming tools for a quick retouch
• Cellphone- but bring this along with extreme caution
• Keys & ID
• Alcohol/ Sanitizer- because public port-a-potties will inevitably get disgusting.
• Extra Shirt

6. Have Fun!

The goal is to feel comfortable as much as possible. But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can do whatever you want as long as you are having fun and are wise enough to survive along with the lively crowd. Don’t get bummed up if others spill drinks above the partying crowd or get dirty in the experience. Soak up everything in if you wish.

Don’t get anxious with these tips as they are just mere guidelines to make the best out of the experience. Don’t feel pressured or anything to follow them.

After all, you’re going there to enjoy the music and the experience.

The Fear to Disappoint

The Fear to Disappoint

The Town I Miss

I miss home, that is, If I really have any. I grew up in a small town, too old-fashioned, a town condemning people who disappoint. If you get pregnant at such young age or out of wedlock, you’re the hottest gossip whilst getting disgusted looks. If you’re the child of an ex-convict, no one bothers to check you out or get serious with you. If you’re the ex-convict, the doors for employment close in a blink. If you’re the only child, don’t bother thinking it’s okay to fail. Everyone gets a reputation to save.

That’s why I learned to hate the place. I actually have a love-hate relationship with it. I get sentimental at this point, which sometimes do happen, feeling too homesick and nostalgic. Don’t judge. I’ve never stepped on its soil since March of 2013.

If you’d ask me why I haven’t gone home since graduating from college, the answer lies on my first point- I don’t like coming home as a disappointment. FYI, I am an only child. FYI, I was an achiever. FYI, my mother is one of the best teachers in town. FYI, my father is already a disappointment (refer above, see which fits). And so I have a sense of responsibility to show the world that I’m the only redemption left to my father’s sorry state and to my mother’s high expectations.

The Struggle to Not Disappoint

So I got a promising job in one of the country’s biggest conglomerates. I had myself dressed in black blazers, knee-high pencil skirts, tan or black pumps, and most of the time, a handful air of confidence. That’s my first job, where I have to look after 6 older, able, and more experienced real estate agents than me.

The hard part is, whatever they do, how much money coming in from their sales, or how poorly they perform- they always reflect at how good of a leader I was. It’s dumbfounding, nerve-racking, and stressful. Remember that it’s my first job. I was just a 21 year-old fresh graduate acting like the oldest, wisest member of the team.

I felt so fake. I thought, “I got to fake this feeling. I’ll just wear a smile and show to them that everything’s fine. I hope they believe me, this 21 year-old know-nothing achiever.” Yet, that feeling didn’t say much of how I can lead a team. I know I was born to lead, I’ve felt it since I started leading groups to greatness at school. The only problem was, that’s not the perfect time to lead one. I know deep inside that to effectively lead a team, you’ve got to be a member first to know the ins and outs of the job. You can’t lead a battalion to war without knowing the terrain first. Ask Sun Tzu about that.

Just as I thought I was on my way of showing the townsfolk that I was on the road to success, I stopped and examined how I really felt. “I am not happy. Not at all,” I said to myself. No matter how I tried to be optimistic, I knew I didn’t love what I was doing. And so I called my mother, sucked the corporate air into my lungs before dropping the bomb, and said “I quit.”

I tell you, it felt good. The corporate air I heavily breathed turned menthol cool as I breathed it out. Of course, my mother was disappointed, but understanding. “Do what makes you happy,” she said.

Three months after, I got a new job as a writer in an Australian-owned company- the job I’m having now. It’s my dream to become one, even though others take credit of what I so professionally do. I’m cool with that and happy to be of service to them, so far. Hey, the fact that I write as a job is already fulfilling on my part, let alone covering topics that I’m interested into- business and marketing. This makes me somewhat of an expert.

Again, I don’t think people from my place is proud of what I’m doing. They expect more from me. When I graduated from the university as a Magna Cum Laude, they put up a big banner in front of my high school Alma mater to let others know they’re proud of me. And so the people passed by it might have said, “Wow! She’s that good? Let’s wait until she gets a job. A job they can also be proud of.”

That’s unfair!

The Reality to Live or Leave By

I miss home though. I want to go back without ever being judged or asked about what I do. I’m proud of being a writer, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that, it’s not what they pictured out in their minds of me doing. They don’t care about writers, the world is already full of it. What they think they need is an engineer, a doctor, a politician, a teacher, or a manager. That’s just how a town, which is gloomy and desolate on normal days, think I think. It needs something or someone to be excited about to make it alive again.

I don’t also like them asking me why I’ve become this stick thin (a little exaggeration here) and have to tell them that I’m stressed at work or I lost my appetite or I experienced some kind of illness. I don’t like being prodded with questions which have obvious answers. In short, I don’t want to be talked about in a bad light. I already grew up in the shadows that I have to escape from them. And being in a bad light means I’m becoming a disappointment.

I only think of these things whenever I plan on going back home. Most of the time, I let go of my doubts, thinking I will never be truly happy if I keep on meeting other people’s expectations. It’s as if I’m not living my own life if I do that. I’ve got one life to live so I might as well live it as I want it to, and that excludes being the person I am not.

In reality, I’m not really sure what the people from the town think. I haven’t been in there for a year and a half, maybe they’ve changed. Anyway, not all people from there are like that. There are some with open minds, always accepting the changes as they come and go, and I’m happy that I know this kind of people.

Fact of the matter is, as I write this piece, I also think that maybe I’m the one who’s old-fashioned. I write this as if I represent what the townspeople do or think. Or maybe I’m the one who’s pushing myself too hard to please others, the one who really condemns myself. Maybe there’s really no bar of expectation for me to exceed. That I’m just making these things all up just to compensate for what I think are my failures.

The town is not at fault, there are some people in it who are. Including me.

Please do forgive me. I love you.