Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I am the Advocate

Though I've taken the Myers Briggs Personality Test a number of times, I wasn't able to resist taking it again here:

And these are my results: Fairly accurate I would say.

ENFP - The "Advocate"

Temperament: Visionary

ENFPs are introspective, values-oriented, inspiring, social and extremely expressive. They actively send their thoughts and ideas out into the world as a way to bring attention to what they feel to be important, which often has to do with ethics and current events. ENFPs are natural advocates, attracting people to themselves and their cause with excellent people skills, warmth, energy and positivity. ENFPs are described as creative, resourceful, assertive, spontaneous, life-loving, charismatic, passionate and experimental.

About the ENFP
"They can't bear to miss out on what is going on around them; they must experience, first hand, all the significant social events that affect our lives."

"ENFPs are warm, enthusiastic people, typically very bright and full of potential. They live in the world of possibilities, and can become very passionate and excited about things. Their enthusiasm lends them the ability to inspire and motivate others, more so than we see in other types. They can talk their way in or out of anything. They love life, seeing it as a special gift, and strive to make the most out of it."
- Portrait of an ENFP (The Personality Page)

"Friends are what life is about to ENFPs, moreso even than the other NFs. They hold up their end of the relationship, sometimes being victimized by less caring individuals. ENFPs are energized by being around people. Some have real difficulty being alone, especially on a regular basis."
- ENFP Profile (TypeLogic)

"outgoing, social, disorganized, easily talked into doing silly things, spontaneous, wild and crazy, acts without thinking..."
- ENFP Jung Type Descriptions (

"ENFPs are energetic and enthusiastic leaders who are likely to take charge when a new endeavor needs a visionary spokesperson. ENFPs are values-oriented people who become champions of causes and services relating to human needs and dreams. Their leadership style is one of soliciting and recognizing others' contributions and of evaluating the personal needs of their followers. ENFPs are often charismatic leaders who are able to help people see the possibilities beyond themselves and their current realities. They function as catalysts."
- ENFP - The Visionary (Lifexplore)

"Ranked 1st of all 16 types in using social and emotional coping resources and 2nd in using cognitive resources. "
- ENFP Facts (

Famous ENFPs

Real ENFP People

  • Lewis Grizzard - humorist
  • Martin Short - Canadian actor, comedian
  • Paul Harvey - radio broadcaster
  • Paul Robeson - actor, athlete, singer, writer, activist
  • Phil Donahue - TV personality
  • Regis Philbin - TV personality
  • Sandra Bullock - actress
  • Sinbad - actor, comedian
  • Upton Sinclair - author, investigative journalist
  • Will Rogers - Comedian

  • Fictional ENFPs (Characters)

    ENFP Career Matches

    ENFPs are often happy with the following jobs which tend to match well with the Advocate/Visionary personality.

    • Accountant/Auditor
    • Actor
    • Art Director
    • Artist
    • Banker/Economist
    • Career Counselor
    • Church Worker
    • Conference Planner
    • Consultant
    • Designer
    • Dietitian/Nutritionist
    • Diplomat
    • Editor
    • Engineer
    • Entrepreneur
    • Homemaker
    • Housing Director
    • Human Resources
    • Journalist
    • Lawyer/Attorney
    • Marketer
    • Massage Therapist
    • Merchandise Planner
    • Musician
    • Newscaster
    • Nurse
    • Occupational Therapist
    • Painter
    • Politician
    • Project Manager
    • Psychologist/Counselor
    • Public Relation
    • Researcher
    • Scientist
    • Senior Manager
    • Social Scientist
    • Social Worker
    • Speech Pathologist
    • Teacher/Professor
    • Technical Specialist
    • Trainer
    • Writer

    Read more!

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Para Kay B , Book Clubs, and other "Flippant" Matters

    Our book club had its 12th meeting last Saturday. Quite an accomplishment considering:
    - there is no compelling need to do this,
    - members are all voluntary organizers,
    - and we don't really get any material rewards for doing so.
    I guess all those bullet points just want to say, we do this not because we have to but because we want to. And what amazes me is the energy that drives the members to stage the book discussion events in creative ways, each month's theme, mood, venue, treatment different from the previous months'.

    In our book club, which meets once a month, we take turns moderating. The moderator, generally, gets to pick the book or the genre, with a great degree of influence from the members. This enables us to sample a diversity of genres and authors; there is no one voice that dictates what we're going to read.

    This month, our moderator Sana Sta. Ana decided first on a contemporary novel. Then she chose Ricky Lee's first novel, Para Kay B. This was not the first time we tackled the work of a Filipino author; the first one was Carlos Vergara's Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah. But this was the first Filipino-authored novel.

    Interestingly, our first Filipino novel is in Taglish. I, personally, liked that it is so. It couldn't have been credible otherwise. Sana did not choose the book because she loved it and expected everybody else to love it too. She chose it because she knew the responses would be varied. Maybe even violent. And that would make for interesting discussions.

    And the discussions were indeed interesting. Different takes. We liked and disliked different parts. No doubt our different personalities influenced our reactions to the book. What made it even more interesting was that the author sat with us to shed light on his intentions for the book. One could argue that the author's intentions are not relevant to the reading. Maybe so. My review here reflects my visceral reactions to the book before we sat with the author, and I suppose I need to let them be. Altering my review based on the discussion strikes me as a tad hypocritical. But I have to say that after that discussion, I can't help but see the book in a different light.

    I wasn't fond of the ending of the book. Flipper Blooey liked it for its metafiction. Like I've said before, and forgive me if I dare quote myself, "Frankly, I wouldn’t recognize postmodernism even if it hits me on the face with a metanarrative." But Ricky Lee gave me a new way of understanding it. I still maintain what I said in the discussion that given that the central message and character reveal themselves in the end, I wish the author had injected more cleverly hidden clues in every chapter that would just thread the whole thing better and would make the ending more cohesive for the dense; yes, that's me. But Ricky Lee explained that that ending is what makes the novel Ricky Lee's, that it is his way of breaking norms; blurring boundaries; taking risks; cluttering what others might want to be neat; and then creating meaning, order, and substance in chaos. After hearing all that, I had a greater appreciation, not just for the novel, but for the writing process as well.

    The novel is written is what may strike people as light, very colloquial, maybe even too low brow. But it takes talent, skill, a deep understanding of Philippine culture and language, an intelligent sense of humor, a million edits, and hard work to make the reading easy. "Constant rewriting," says Ricky Lee, was the not-so-apparent secret to make the language sound so natural and believable.

    I also appreciated how intent shaped the story. Like why Ricky Lee used conventions and stereotypes so that at the end, those conventions can be shattered. I have never tried writing fiction, and after this discussion, I think I never will. It's intimidating how one needs to end a story convincingly. Ricky Lee did not start with the end in mind. But I suspect there was gut instinct that guided him through the writing process. Gut instinct that can only be developed through decades of writing.

    But the part that had my inner geek aflutter was Ricky Lee's description of the novel's intertextuality. Okay, I had to wiki that and had to wipe the blood off the computer screen as my brain bled from all that talk about Saussure and Barthes. But I will just phrase what I learned about intertextuality from Ricky Lee in the best way I know how. He talked about the play of words and letters, like how all the women character's roles names start with a letter from the name Bessie. The title, Para Kay B, is also part of this whole thing about intertextuality. The Writer, a character in the book, who plays god by controlling text, letters, words in an attempt to control life, is actually controlled by the same elements in his supposed real life. "Natalo siya ng mga letrang minamanipulate niya." I love how Ricky Lee talked about how we use words to build ourselves up as well as to devastate us.

    I do not have enough intelligent words to do justice to the ideas communicated by Ricky Lee. And this blog post could not sufficiently and succinctly capture all the other points I furiously scribbled on my notebook.

    But here's my point. The book club is a great way of enhancing the reading experience. Whatever I got from the book was multiplied, magnified by the discussion that followed. And this happens with or without the author's presence because each member adds a new perspective, a twist in the interpretation, a strange conjecture, something you missed in your own reading. But in the case of Para Kay B, the understanding and the appreciation were greatly deepened by Ricky Lee's explanations.

    Days after the discussion, I am still chewing on some of the points we discussed. Maybe without the discussion, Para Kay B, would just be a book I enjoyed. The book discussion made it so much more than that. And I learned new things about language and literature. And that's the reward that book clubs bring.

    Read more!

    Sunday, April 26, 2009

    Ang FFP Para Kay B

    The Flippers had another fun book discussion. Talaga! Etong proof.

    We discussed Ricky Lee's Para Kay B, his first novel ever.

    One of the characters in the novel, Irene, has a photographic memory and is fascinated with facts. I'm going to channel her in writing this brief report.

    Number of times the Flippers have met in a bookstore: 2 (The first one was our first eyeball sa Books for Less, Roces branch. And the 2nd time was today at Bestsellers at Robinson's Galleria.)

    Number of times we've had the author/creator join the meeting: 2 (The first one was Carlo Vergara for Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, and the 2nd time was today when Ricky Lee, multi-awarded scriptwriter and author of the novel Para Kay B came to visit. He was very accommodating in answering our numerous questions. I was so enlightened.)

    Number of Flippers in this meeting: 20ish

    Number of times the Flippers have met for a book discussion: 12!!! Amazing.

    The next Flippers book discussion: May 23, 2PM at Barbara's in Intramuros; read any Philippine history book. Read more!

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    PARA KAY B by Ricky Lee

    Another book that would have lingered listlessly in Mt. TBR had it not been chosen as a book club book of the month. But no regrets. I was way overdue on reading a Filipino novel. And I’m a little glad that I did not have to read an emotionally charged Filipino novel replete with profound thoughts, penetrating cultural criticism, social relevance, and historical allusions, something with a convoluted plot spanning 6 generations. This is a light read. Campy, entertaining. Just about all that my mush of a brain can take these days.

    And it’s written in Taglish. Kaya madaling basahin. Walang mga salitang mahirap arukin. Kahit hindi ko alam ang ibig sabihin ng burirak, kahit papano ay na-gets ko ang storya at tema ng nobela.

    Each of the first 5 chapters is a love story. Some of which are love stories that delve on the idea of bawal na pag-ibig. The second chapter is a bit hard to take because of the incestuous theme. Medyo kadiri. Ang favourite ko ay ang 3rd chapter, yung tungkol kay Erica. Feeling ko para siyang Latin American magical realism chuva na hinaluan ng kabaduyan ng ABS-CBN at GMA 7 telenovelas. Parang Ricky Lee is poking fun at the realm and genres in which he makes his living as a scriptwriter.

    The main theme that ties the 5 stories is the idea, ang teorya ng narrator na may quota ang pag-ibig. Sa 5 na iibig, 1 lang ang magiging masaya. Does the novel prove this thesis? I guess you’ve got to read the book to find out.

    The best way to enjoy this novel is not to take it too seriously. It’s not meant to be intellectualized too much.

    After all, Ricky Lee’s intention is really to make this novel as accessible as possible to the masses of Filipinos who might not otherwise read novels.

    Imagine, nag FGD at nag-interview pa siya ng iba’t ibang tao in the process of writing this novel. Hmmm, and that could very well be the failure of this novel as well.

    Feeling ko okay siya from chapters 1 to 5. Natuwa ako. Lumobo ang ilong ko sa kakatawa. Kahit medyo exagg and slapstick. But after those first 5 chapters, it became one gooey, incomprehensible mess. Masyado nang gumulo. Confusing. Drawn out. Ang labo. Maybe that is the point when the FGDs and other people’s comments got in the way. Parang nawalan ng control ang author over the story. Parang he tried to have an ending that would please everybody, which of course is not possible. This is also the point that you really have to consider that Ricky Lee has a strong cinematic perspective. That ending, with all the characters popping out of the woodwork might work best in a movie. But in a novel, it seems awkward, over explained. Medyo mapapakamot ka sa ulo, asking yourself, anoraw?!? Inadjust ko na lang ang thinking ko. In the movie in my mind, I imagined it to be something like Bayaning Third World. So ayun, natanggap ko na rin ang ending kahit papano.

    Sa tutuo lang, ang nobela ay hindi lang tungkol sa pag-ibig. It’s also about writing, the power of the word, the power of the writer to move the world, to change history, to alter memory; to express ideology or not to; to arrange time, place, character according to one’s liking or to others’. To paraphrase what the novel’s Writer (also a character in the book)says, sa pamamagitan ng salita, he can stop movement, he can reveal the secrets of people, make rain fall, punish corrupt officials, and totally eradicate poverty from this county. But in the end, that power is finite. Futile. Powerless against reality. Kahit anong galing, ganda, o saya ng sinulat mo, haharapin mo rin ang tutuong buhay kung saan hindi mo kontrolado at malamang hindi mo gusto ang mangyayari. I like that message. And it's a message I, as somebody who has romanticized the power of that word, needed to hear. It struck me maybe because lately I’ve been finding myself in that quandary. Minsan gusto kong walang gawin kung hindi magbasa ng libro. Masarap eh. Masaya. I can escape into other worlds and feel for other characters without having to take the personal risks and all that drama. But the truth is real life has to be attended to. Kailangan magtrabaho, maglinis ng bahay, maglaba, madumihan, pawisan, makisama sa mga tutuong tao na hindi lahat ay gusto mo o gusto ka.

    Our book discussion will happen in a few days. Ngayon pa lang, marami nang mga atungal at papuri. Iba ibang reaksiyon at pananaw. Gusto ng iba ang nobela. Ang iba, nangookray na. Nakikinita ko na, para silang si Bessie at si Ester magtatarayan at magdakdakan. Kaya parang si Sandra, tanggap at enjoy ko na rin ang real life. Parang tutuo.
    Read more!

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    10 Most Amazing Places I’ve Visited

    I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to travel. And though oftentimes I travel for work and don’t have the time to tour, I do try to grab pockets of time to absorb the culture and just totally enjoy the beauty, the exhilaration of seeing something for the first time. And for those trips that are purely vacations, ahhhh, I’m a great vacationer. I do my research and I make it a point to see something new and interesting. I also love visiting a place alone. So I can totally enjoy the place at my own pace, take as many photos as I desire, take short little appreciation breaks, linger, ponder, meander, without the vacation nazi (aka my husband) breathing down my back so he can beat some imaginary record for the shortest time to get from one place to another. But I digress.

    Here are my top ten amazing places:

    1. The Louvre, France – This is a place that humbles you. One of the first stops is the Department of Egyptian Antiquities ( As I gawked at relics of early civilization, I just felt the reality that I am just one inconsequential fraction of a nanospeck in the timeline of the world. The giant paintings at the Medici Hall made me feel small, insignificant, and I realized that whatever talent and skills I had could not possibly match those of the creators of those master pieces. I felt so humbled, yet my soul felt so elated, my eyes so sated, and my heart a little proud to be part of the human race that has created all these beautiful works of art. The one day we spent at the Louvre was hardly enough. One of my dreams is to be able to come back to this place to wander at leisure for days.

    2. Harajuku, Japan – One stop from the Shibuya station in Tokyo, and you leave the train to step into a different planet. Harajuku offers dazzling out-of-this-world spectacles. And it has nothing to do with the architecture, art, or any manmade tourist attraction. It’s the people. Young people. With an aversion for looking like everybody else. Japan’s fashion sub-cultures sporting the strangest, hippest, wildest of fashions taking the streets as their runway. Name a color, and somebody around there has that in his or her hair. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve last been there, so I don’t know if it’s still the same avant-garde young fashion capital of the world. A peek at Wikipedia says parts of it have become mallified. But Japanese youth in Manga, Gothic Lolita (the first time I’ve heard of this fashion genre), hip hop, still swarm in this surrealistic fashion wonderland.

    3. Tsukiji Fish Market, Japan - You have to wake up at dawn to be able to catch the action here. The noise first, and the smell next accost you, wake you up. And then it’s the frenetic activity that wipes out any vestige of sleepiness. Your eyes dart from one spot to the next because there’s something interesting going on wherever you look. Who knew that fish auctions can be that much fun to watch? You look at the organized lines of frozen fish, numbered like marathon runners, most of them longer and bigger than most of the humans there, and you just know that the tuna panga you had in Davao or GenSan is related to some of the headless carcasses lined up on the auction floor. There’s also a market section retailing a dizzying array of seafood from all over the world. Because we were staying in a hotel, we couldn’t really go shopping for our lunch. But then again, I don’t think I would have been able to buy anything, because I would have been too overwhelmed to make a choice. Salmon, cuttlefish, fish I’ve never seen before, the longest clawed crabs. With my scuba dive card forever out of reach, this is the closest I’ll be to being underwater.

    4. Huntington Gardens and Library, California – I’m surprised not a lot of people know about this place. Selfishly, I’m glad not a lot of people know about this place. It’s sort of a secret hideaway only a few minutes from Los Angeles. You pass a posh residential area to get there. The library is a bibliophile’s wet dream. A high ceiling accommodates two levels of rare, leather bound books. My heart ached in envy and desire for my own library to be that awesome. The 2nd print of the Gutenberg Bible, encased in glass, brought out the geek in me, and I almost genuflected, thanking God, and Gutenberg of course, for inventing the printing press. But the library, magnificent as it is, holds your attention only for a few minutes. The gardens, take note of the plural form, beckon. I made the right decision to go alone so I can walk at my own pace, and sit down when I wanted to just rest, read, relax, and wish that I could sketch. Each garden has a theme. The Japanese garden might look familiar to you since it has been used for some supposedly Japan-set Hollywood movies. There is a rose garden, an herb garden, and an English garden they call the Skahespeare Garden. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but from my memory, I liked the desert garden best because I got there by sunset and the giant cacti drew dramatic silhouettes against the orange cast sky. Next time, you’re in LA, check out these secret gardens.

    5. Kiangan, Philippines – Check this out.

    6. Sapa, Vietnam – It was the perfect vacation and we came at the perfect time – during the Tet holiday. It was the first time we’ve taken an overnight train ride. I slept at the upper bunk and my husband took the one below. We slept and when we woke up, it was dawn. We took a van with a number of people who were on tour. And that’s how this amazing vacation started. Sapa is breathtakingly beautiful especially in the winter, when there is a heavy mist covering the town plaza and the church. Women from different tribes pester and follow you around selling their wares – and at some point you give in and buy something that’s beautiful, and colorful and done with painstaking detail. The vacation is about hikes -- hikes up mountains, hikes down valleys where the tribesfolks live, make indigo dyed fabrics, hikes along cliffs with awesome views. But the highlight of my Sapa adventure was the magical rose plantation. It looked surrealistically beautiful and I felt that I just stepped into the dream scene of a period movie. Even more astonishing was when these local teenagers called us into their cottage to have tea with them. A cottage so simple the floor was of packed earth. Song, our tour guide, helped me to communicate, but mostly it was their facial expressions of innocent wonder that spoke to me. Sadly, I never blogged about the experience, but sappy as it may sound, this scene will forever be etched in my memory.

    7. Hanoi, Vietnam – In the trendy store at Church Street, Tina Sparkles, they sell a beaded bag that says “I was in Hanoi before McDonald’s.” One of my biggest regret is not having bought that bag, which says so much about what Hanoi is, but might not stay that way anymore. It is a place that one must see now, before the malls take over. While it still feels like you’re in another place in another time. While the streets are lined with little stores selling the most colorful crafts and art; you get the sense you’re in the Orient’s version of the souk. I only lived there for 7 months, but a part of me will always miss Hanoi with its 7 lakes, Highland Coffee shops, 12-dollar hotel rooms, street food; where getting lost in its littered streets is a game I play; where hopefully no golden arches will ever invade.

    8. Capones Island Lighthouse – Scattered along the coasts of the Philippines are Spanish-era lighthouses badly ravaged by time and neglect. My first lighthouse trip was to the one in Burgos near Pagudpod. I’ve also visited the Bolinao and Calatagan lighthouses. My favorite is the one in Capones Island in Zambales.

    9. The waters of Donsol and the Butandings (Whale Sharks) – Butandings are solitary creatures. They do not swim in schools. They are also very shy; you get too close to them, they leave the surface and go down into the depths of the sea. So, they’re a bit hard to find. When I finally got up close and personal with one, I was stupefied, glued to one spot in the water, and with the snorkel in my mouth, I just exclaimed, Oh My God. I was in awe. Laughing too. The butanding we saw was a magnificent creature. It had rows of white dots on its back. It looked more like a whale than a shark. It was amazing being only about 3-4 meters away from the creature. It glided under me and I saw the whole beautiful creature. Awesome.

    10. I struggled to choose the 10th place to put in this list, so I’ll just list down the runner-ups which will share this last slot – Old Town beside Jet D’eau in Geneva, San Francisco’s Halloween night, Little Italy in Boston, Bethlehem Town in Pennsylvania during the Christmas season, New York, Palawan, Bohol and the underwater world of Anilao.

    The other amazing places I still want to visit are: Morocco, Egypt, Greece, Batanes, Borobudur, and Ankor Wat.
    Read more!

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Woohoo! Flippers for World Domination. Let the Geeks Inherit the Earth

    Who would have thought that doing what we love best -- buying, reading, talking about books -- would land us in the broadsheet?

    Thanks to Blooey for opening the opportunity to land in the papers and promote our love for books.

    Read more!

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    Take the Reading Challenge!

    April 23 is UNESCO World Book Day – and just because the Global Voices team loves blogs, doesn’t mean we have forgotten other forms of the written word! In fact, because we think reading literature is such an enjoyable way to learn about another culture, we have a fun challenge for all Global Voices contributors and readers, and bloggers everywhere.

    The Global Voices Book Challenge is as follows: Read here.

    Read more!

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    My Reading Nook Unveiled

    It's still work in progress. Still have a few more books to shelve. And the rest of the room is still a mess. But I'm loving my reading nook. I pretty much read everywhere else, but this is where I read at night, a few steps away from the bed where my husband snores away. That floor to ceiling shelf filters the light so he does not complain so much now about the light getting in the way of his beauty sleep.

    It is as cozy as it looks. And it is my corner. At least, it's mine until we get cable, and then this lounge chair will double up for TV watching, and the battle for the remote and the comfy chair resumes. In the meantime, this corner is mine.

    I also do my knitting and daydreaming here. Read more!

    Saturday, April 11, 2009

    NORWEGIAN WOOD by Haruki Murakami

    So I have decided to be a Murakami fan. And this book made me do it. Not because it's the best one I've read of his thus far, even though it is. But because Murakami's voice is becoming a familiar one, and I'm liking it. Of course, a big part of that voice is that of translator Jay Rubin. And then there are the voices of his characters, each one distinct and to me quite endearing.

    Toru Watanabe narrates in a voice reflective of Nick Carraway's in The Great Gatsby, Toru's favorite book. His is a voice that tries to subdue itself as the other characters assert themselves, loudly, emotionally. Just a few steps away from being a fly in the wall, he observes life around him and lets the other characters move him. He moves as the seemingly sane and stable character in a sea of broken souls.

    I fell in love with the most broken among them, Naoko. Naoko and her beautiful sadness. And her hair slide. And her troubled past. And her attempts to set her life right in an asylum where the objective is not just to "correct the deformation" in their characters but to recognize and accept them, and still continue to live. "That's what distinguishes us from the outside world: most people go about their lives unconscious of their deformities, while in this little world of ours the deformities are a precondition. Just as Indians wear feathers on their heads to show what tribe they belong to, we wear our deformities in the open. And we live quietly so as not to hurt one another." She makes me think about my deformities, those I acknowledge and those I hide.

    Like Toru, I was also torn between Naoko and Midori. Midori, the light against Naoko's dark spirit, the one who represents hope amid and despite a life filled with death and pain. Lively, wild, offbeat, her voice is a necessary one in a novel that would otherwise be too dismal for enjoyment. Her quirky language, her micro-minis, her bizarre dreams, her even stranger daydreams and fantasies, all lovable.

    And then there's Reiko, the one who should have had the life of a successful pianist. Instead, she lives her days in an asylum to escape the outside world, a world which has battered her soul. Her voice is the most musical of all in a novel that's typical Murakami, heavily spiked with music. Reiko plays her guitar for her healing as much as for the healing of others around her. The Beatles' Norwegian Wood is among her repertoire.

    There are other voices as well. The voice of Japanese youth in the 60s. Nagasawa's (Toru's college buddy and sexcapades mentor), charismatic, intelligent. The world is his for the taking, and he takes all that he possibly can. Kizuki's (Toru's childhood best friend and Naoko's boyfriend) voice from the dead, that continues to haunt and affect Toru's and Naoko's life.

    But Toru speaks back to Hizuki: Hey there, Kizuki. Unlike you I've chosen to live - and to live the best I know how. Sure, it was hard for you. What the hell, it's hard for me. Really hard. And all because you killed yourself and left Naoko behind. But that's something I will never do. I will never, ever, turn my back on her. First of all, because I love her, and because I'm stronger than she is. And I'm just going on getting stronger. I'm going to mature. I'm going to be an adult. Because that's what I have to do... I have to pay the price to go on living.

    These voices haunt me even weeks after the reading. And I've got Murakami to blame for it.
    Read more!

    Friday, April 10, 2009

    THE DIVING POOL by Yoko Ogawa

    Japanese litfest continues.

    3 novellas comprise Yoko Ogawa's The Diving Pool.

    The first novella, with the same title as the book, is narrated by Aya. She is the daughter of a couple running an orphanage. Ironically, she feels the least privileged among the orphans living under their roof. They, at least, have the chance of being adopted and moving away. It's from that dreary perspective that Aya sees her world.

    The only bright spot in her life is Jun, an orphan in their home. He dives to compete, but to Aya, he dives so she can watch his graceful body cut through air, water, time, and her emotions "to reach the deepest place inside of her." Stealthily, Aya watches him dive, admiring the grace of his motions, the line of his muscle, the alignment of his wrists. Ogawa narrates with a focus on the minutiae, on the languid but not innocent thoughts that run through Aya's head.

    The other novellas are told with the same languor. Drama kept at a minimum. Emotions not over emphasized; merely suggested. The narration of events calm. Yet, the reader's reactions would be anything but. Because what the novellas have in common is the theme that danger lurks underneath a surface of tranquility, evil behind a facade of normalcy.

    The second novella, Pregnancy Diary, merely hints at the diabolical. And it is the most sinister of the three stories. In the end, you're left to using your own imagination, which is probably more frightening than anything the story could narrate.

    The third novella, Dormitory, is the one most likely to become an episode of Twilight Zone if that show were to be revived. Again, the ending does not spell everything out for you. You're left imagining the worst.

    The Diving Pool is a light, easy read of themes that are heavy, disturbing, haunting. Not quite satisfying, because I'm left wanting more. Read more!

    Beppo's Barber Shop: Barbelicious!

    One of the best things about being a missus is accompanying the mister to the barber shop. Barber shops are usually no-nonsense places, awash with brash white lights, devoid of exotic eastern decor. That's why they are not as seductive as spas. Absence of fancy Asian frills notwithstanding, they provide comparable levels of service.

    Men go to the barber shop not for the ambiance but for simple pampering sans zen music and that irritating soundtrack of birds chirping. Given a few minutes, you start appreciating the DOMish music, and even start finding it strangely comforting.

    The good thing about barber shops is that, unlike beauty salons, they are not frequented by gaggles of girls bonding, texting, gossiping. Just men, quiet and serious, intent on only one purpose: to zone out from the world, the work, and the wife. An invisible "Do not disturb" sign hanging around their necks.

    This particular wife tagged along but promised to ignore the husband so she can also zone out. He picked Beppo's Barber Shop at the ground floor of A Venue on Makati Ave. She picked the foot massage from the extensive menu of services.

    She picks well. After several days of hard, physical labor -- moving heavy objects and standing for hours dusting and such -- she feels the soles of her feet are screaming, "Massage us, massage us!"

    *Ending bothersome third person narration here*

    Sheena, my therapist starts with hard, reflexology-like movements from the knees down. She goes easy on the oil, just enough to make it pleasurable, and not too much to make me feel like I'm being prepped for roasting. As I focus on Wuthering Heights, Sheena focuses on providing comfort to my tired feet and her deft fingers do not miss a spot, rubbing away my pains. After the thorough kneading, which I think is glorious enough, she brings out this scary contraption that she straps to her hand. When her fingers touch my flesh, I discover that one thing missing from my life until now, well, two things actually -- Sheena and her wonderful, vibrating machine.

    Nirvana. I am not fond of using eastern religious terms, but WordWeb's definition fits perfectly -- complete bliss and delight and peace. I drop my book at its story's most exciting part, as it is getting in the way of my zen. That wonderful vibrating machine, from hereon to be called WVM, is the answer to all the world's problems -- wars, drugs, road rage, and Britney Spears. If everyone would just have Sheena and her WVM, then everybody will be living in a state of well being, and we will all just get along.

    After the WVM does its wondrous job on my feet, the rest of my body feels envious. Sheena hears my shoulders' jealous rage and massages my arms, hands, shoulders, head. I run out of eastern mystic terms to describe the ecstasy.

    Then she slows the pace and ends with a light finger massage. And I understand finally what my guy friends mean by "happy ending." Then she does what very few spa therapists do -- towel wipe out the oil and slap on a splash of one of my favorite scents in the world, rubbing alcohol. Then she covers me up with some fuzzy towels and lets me nap for a few minutes.

    As I hover between dazed awakeness and the brink of REM, I understand why men usually top up with more services they don't really need like manicures and ear waxing. They just don't want the experience to end. Sad sigh.

    Sheena doesn't allow me to leave with bedhead. She spritzes water on my hair and brushes it, making the fat tip and the pension plan I'm planning to give her so much worth it.

    Really, this is the most fun and pleasure you can have without taking off your clothes (I mean, taking off your clothes at the spa, pervie). All for 350 pesos.

    My new word: barbelicious.

    Try out Beppos' Barber Shops' grooming and massage services. They also have branches at Cash & Carry (South Super Highway) and The Link Building (Makati Avenue across Landmark)

    PS: (June 8, 2009) Today I went for hot oil treatment and again had a pleasurable encounter with the Wondeful Vibrating Machine, this time on my head. Lovely. Great hand massage too on the shoulders down to my fingertips. Mmmmm!
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    Sunday, April 5, 2009

    A PALE VIEW OF HILLS by Kazuo Ishiguro

    Another Japanese authored book. There are two more posts on the way. Our book club, Flips Flipping Pages, discussed Japanese literature last March. And we had the liberty to choose any title for as long as it fell under the broad category of Japanese literature. I read 2 books before the discussion, and followed up my JapLit education with 2 more.

    Thus far, the one thing I found that all these books had in common is: cats. Cats figure prominently in every piece of Japanese literature I have read. The last one I read, Norwegian Wood, almost did not meet this criteria. Then, near the end a cat named Seagull entered the picture. In A Pale View of Hills, the loathsome creatures play a central role, symbolizing dispensable relationships and responsibilities. People who know me know that I hate cats - the animal as well as the topic. So, let's move on.

    I also noticed that Japanese authors like to tell their stories the way they serve their tea. Slowly, lyrically, patiently. Maybe a bit mysteriously. Testing your ability to sit still, an underdeveloped skill in this time when people and events move in the speed of light just to catch up. Storytelling that forces you to slow down, linger, hold your breath, and wait for something to happen. A Pale View of Hills is self-indulgent narration. By that I mean, the author asks you to indulge him, to patiently read through the long meandering thoughts, and you just hope that somehow, somewhere, some time in the novel, there is a point. Halfway through the book, I still had no idea what this was all about. You just simply make a decision to drop the book or just enjoy the narration and hope that it would be worth it.

    It's a bit like walking through the forest; trees, shadows, and mist obscure the path, and you're not certain if it's going somewhere...ah wait, I'm doing that right now, am I not? I am waxing Ishiguroesque. Ah, I am so easily influenced by the things I read. Anyway, let's get on with it.

    A Pale View of Hills is about Etsuko. Transplanted to London, recent events have made her recall a summer after the war, right back when she was in Japan. She was newly married, pregnant with her first child, and like her fellow Japanese, trying to rebuild a life.

    Two sub-plots develop, One concerns her neighbor, Sachiko, a single mother obsessed, but not quite upfront, with the idea of finding greener pastures in another land. Kazuo's Ishiguro's use of dialogue hints without telling that this is a woman you can't trust.

    Sachiko's story is interspersed with a seemingly unrelated story -- the conflict between Etsuko's husband and her father in law.

    These 2 stories move in parallel lines, and how they come together and affect Etsuko's present eventually emerges at the end in a surprise twist that reveals how her past shaped her present. History repeats itself. The generation gap between Etsuko's husband and his father is echoed in the strained relationship between Etsuko and her daughter, Niki. This time, culture differences, as well as a generation gap, test their kinship.

    After all that, yes, there is a point. But you do have to slow down to enjoy the telling. Kazuo's gift for description, characterization, and narration makes the slow meandering journey through the pale hills worth it.
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    Saturday, April 4, 2009


    In the Introduction, Murakami likens the writing of short stories to planting gardens and writing novels to planting forests. In this book, he planted a lush, colorful collection of stories written from 1981 to 2005. The book is like Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook, containing studies for bigger works, studies that are complete art by themselves. One story, Firefly, is a study that he eventually developed into the novel, Norwegian Wood, the work that brought Murakami into the nova of international bestseller authors.

    One gets the feeling that a lot of the stories are autobiographical. In Chance Traveler, for instance, he specifically names himself as the narrator and places himself in the story.

    I’m not fond of short stories. Most of the time, they’re weird, vague, ending abruptly leaving me scratching my head muttering, what the fafaya was that about?!? (Interrobang intended.) And then there’s Haruki Murakami, known for his delving in the bizarre and surreal.

    The combination of short stories and Murakami really intimidated me.

    I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is very low on the weirdometer; not intimidating at all. And the biggest surprise is that most of the stories have very neat, complete plots, with dénouements not usually seen in short stories. Some are so well developed, they seem more like novellas than short stories.

    Wiki describes Murakami’s work as “accessible yet profoundly complex.” With this book as basis, I have to agree. His prose is easily understandable, the narrative simple and fluid, and the themes universal. Though some stories have a touch of the bizarre and most exhibit Murakami’s style of magical realism, they are stories that are easy to relate to. Because underneath the fantastic plots are emotional themes most people can identify with.

    The one that resonated with me best was the story of Tony Takitani, whose wife was obsessed with the accumulation of clothes. In my case, my obsession is amassing books. I’ll spare you the spoilers so I won’t say much about it except that it shows Murakami’s dry, humor as well as his splendid way of taking what’s ordinary to weave extraordinary tales.

    A Poor Aunt Story is more fantastic but still very easy to grasp, which is not to say that it is simplistic or dumbed down. The narrator in the story suddenly finds himself bearing on his shoulder a poor aunt that just won’t go away. It’s great how this metaphor can be interpreted in different ways by different readers. The shoulder-borne aunt may represent limiting mindsets, bad habits, debilitating fears, and counterproductive behavior. Or whatever you think it is.

    So relatable are the stories that if you take away the Japanese names of people and places, these stories could happen to anyone anywhere in the world. Anyone who suffers loss, experiences love, and wonders at life. Maybe because of it being so universal, what is missing is the "Japaneseness" of it. If you look closer though, the issues can be those which are prevalent in Japan. Suicide, for instance.

    Expectedly, the stories show Murakami’s obsession with death, particularly suicide. A character says, “Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” Even then, death is not trivialized; his characters ponder much on the loss of life and the sorrow that comes with it.

    Before this, the only Murakami piece I’ve read was Kafka on the Shore, which wowed me with the writing but freaked me out with the oedipal theme. After reading this, I have not yet decided if I should become a fan. This might not be the book to convert me into a Murakamite. It is not iconic like Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, or Kafka on the Shore. It is rarely listed among his notable works. But if this well written book is not one of his best, then I would certainly like to read the rest of Murakami’s works.
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