I have not been having luck in the reading department at all. I didn’t finish any books in February, but I’m hoping to remedy that once I get some deadlines out of the way.
I will say, though, that I still haven’t picked up Yanagihara’s A Little Life from where I left off (about halfway or so), and I just feel like a lot of the violence is so unnecessary. Of course, I could just be getting ahead of myself. Like, maybe there’s a lesson to be learned somewhere or a bigger reason for all of the bad shit put on paper. Or some statement. If there isn’t, well. I’m not sure I want to finish reading it, which is a shame because I do love the characters and the whole world building. And I know not everything needs to be a statement, but still.
I’ve gotten back to writing a bit more via CNN Philippines Life. I’ve been thinking about taking concrete steps to get better at writing. Specifically about art, I think, and maybe culture. But yes, enjoying flexing these muscles.
Last night, it was mostly Explosions in the Sky. This morning/afternoon, I had been listening to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as read by Stephen Fry.
Catching up with Fresh Off the Boat season 3, Steven Universe season 4, and started The Good Place. Still not sure if I want to touch The 100 at the moment.
About how time is an illusion, but also how it’s also not.
I’m cooking a batch of veg soup for dinner + lunch for tomorrow, and I wish it finishes cooking so I can eat it.
I wake up early tomorrow and/or am a fully-functional person, since that’s felt like a rarity most days.
Blue everything + boxers with zebras in shades + no bra because freedom.
The act of moving, moving on.
Automatically being a more financially responsible individual. The resolve to do things when I say I’m going to do them. TO LEARN THAT TIME IS A CONSTRUCT BUT ALSO THAT I HAVE TO LIVE BY IT.
To find balance between productivity and Having a Good Time™ and also my soup.
Hungry??? Confused??? Like I’m not doing enough in my life???
I haven’t been reading a lot + I don’t remember any notable links I would like to share, at the moment, but Internet-wise, I’ve been watching a lot of old Just Between Us videos!
Sprained Ankle is a sparse and quiet confessional full of intimations that touch on heartbreak, self-destruction, struggles with and loss of faith, abandonment, and the steady stream of daily anxieties and failures. My favorite way that it has been described can be read on Stereogum’s interview with her: “This is the type of album that opens up like a sinkhole and drags you into an emotional wellspring before you have a second to recognize how bottomless Baker’s heartbreak is.”
I first listened to Sprained Ankle on the first of June 2016, almost a year after its initial release. I got there by way of a Death Cab for Cutie cover she did for The A.V. Club. I got there by way of a tweet. I should probably disclose that the album wrecked me a little—or, almost completely shattered, more like—and I heard it at a time when anxieties and sadness from what I saw as dangerous political outcomes threatened to consume me every day.
I was at a boarding gate, getting ready for a press trip (strangely just overnight!) that I took out of desperation. And I heard Julien Baker sing just before the morning broke open, and I felt coaxed into relief and release that I knew I needed but didn’t know how to get.
To date, I have seen her play four times in two different continents in a span of two months. And I know that seems like overkill, but when something tangible changes your life this much and gives you even one millimeter of a truly life-altering shift in perspective, and the proximity feels within reach, you will find a way. You have to make them happen, especially when you get thrown even the tiniest of bones. At least, that’s what I think.
I also think that part of why I can’t seem to really, truly, completely openly write about her is because I’m always afraid that a) I’m going to forget to mention something that, to me, feels undeniably important, b) I’m going to say too many things that aren’t, or c) everything is going to come out all wrong, and because I’m shamefully proud, I won’t take the wrong words back.
Like, I can’t even think of a title that’s not “On Julien Baker.” It all feels inadequate.
I don’t want to give a blow-by-blow account of her shows, though I do remember precisely during which songs I felt flayed open and exposed—Nov. 21 was “Brittle Boned,” Nov. 24 was “Happy to Be Here,” a new song she played that wasn’t on her set list on the 21st and completely caught me off-guard, Jan. 19 was “Funeral Pyre,” and Jan. 20 was “Rejoice,” if you care about this sort of information.
I remember being happy and excited at the thought that I was around all these people who were about to get to know her. And there’s this Say Anything tagline that goes “To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him. Diane Court is about to know Lloyd Dobler,” and that’s what I feel like every time the entire room is silent before her, and in awe, and are the embodiment of Diane Court in the hour or so that Julien picks up her guitar and sings.
Collectively, I’ve seen her play thirteen and a half songs live: her entire album, “Funeral Pyre” (or what used to be known as “Sad Song No. 11” on her NPR Tiny Desk session), “Happy to Be Here” (previously known as “Red Door”), a cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s “Photobooth” played with Ben Gibbard!, and a song that currently exists as an unnamed one for me, but I managed to catch in Chicago:
Our interview lasted about twenty-five minutes. It was personally excruciating to have to cut the words down to a manageable length, because she considered my nervous-mangled questions and answered them thoughtfully and without self-consciousness. She sang two lines from a Mountain Goats song and interrupted me one time because she liked the “Frequent Crier Program: Lifetime Member” patch on my denim jacket so much.
You know how when people say you should never meet the people you look up to because they’re never quite as bright and beaming and unblemished as they are in your head? That’s not quite true with Julien Baker. She is the type of person who invites you to dinner because she thought you were alone, and she is the type of person who remembers the small things, which coincidentally, always feels like a big thing.
I think my favorite thing about getting to know her a little bit more, through shows and the numerous conversations and interviews she’s had that I’ve read and heard online, is knowing that she doesn’t wear her sadness like a badge of honor. Yes, her music can be unspeakably sad. Yes, it feels like isolation, and yes, she’s captured that feeling of desolation so perfectly that you have to wonder if she’s been inside your brain. But the fact that she exists, and that she’s able to make jokes onstage, and be openly happy and thankful in her life, and confront the demons of her past but not let them paralyze her; and that she’s almost single-minded in her insistence on spreading hope and strength and love, instead of perpetuating fear and darkness, is something that I feel sort of indebted to continue, in whatever way that might turn out to be.
It’s like extending that chain of people she’s changed by and hopes to continue adding to. What other people did for Julien, she did for me, and I hope to do, in some measure, for someone else.
This post is mostly for my own peace of mind, but if you care in any measure, then I guess this is for you, too.
First thing’s first: I lost my passport in Chicago on the day I was about to go back to the Philippines last January. So, I feel like that’s sort of like a sign, but more of like a forcible action from God or the universe or something to make me stay put. For the moment, anyway.
I’ve written a little bit about August in Berlin (though I have way more things to say…) and Prague, but since those last updates, I have also gone to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Sydney, Coron, and a few states in the U.S. It’s been a little hectic, but you know. I’m going to seize every damn opportunity. I can’t afford not to. My lost passport says otherwise, obviously, but there you go.
Copenhagen was really beautiful. I’ve dreamt about going there since 2006 (because of a World Expo booth and some short films, full disclosure), and it felt serendipitous that I got to do that ten years later. Again, a sign! I wrote something about the stupid frakking anxiety that literally¹ gripped me somewhere else, but yeah. I began this particular trip in Berlin and Billund, and could not shake away my weird bout of anxiety until the tail-end of it, when I got to Amsterdam—about five-ish weeks later.
A Real Struggle™ in Amaliehaven
Still, I had a lot of beautiful moments in Copenhagen (I saw Mitski!), and I think it’s amazing that I got to spend my birthday here. Predictably, it was the only day it rained in the entire two weeks I was traveling by myself. I spent about eight nights there (I had planned on stopping by Sweden for a while, but again—anxiety) and mostly walked to the places I wanted to see, and while that takes a little longer than taking public transport, it really made me appreciate the quiet and the city and how these things make me feel.
On my first full day there, I went to a museum an hour-long train ride away from Copenhagen, and got to look out Nivå Bugt, which is a bay that separates Denmark and Sweden. The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is so beautiful; I wish I had gone back, even though it’s a pretty small museum. The place itself was magical.
My next and last stop was Amsterdam, which had always been on my places to see again, after a short visit in 2012 made a very strong impression on me. By which I mean, I fell in love with it. It remains to be my favorite place, which is probably a little weird and unexciting since the things I like about it are very vanilla. The moment my plane touched the tarmac, I honest-to-God felt a wave of calm wash over me. So, you know, again—a sign.
Sarie joined me for about two days! She took a short side trip after a most amazing time in Berlin, before she headed back to London. We went to the northern part of Amsterdam, which was cool, and somewhere I think I wouldn’t have gone to had I been alone the entire time.
A few weeks after I got back, I spent a few days in Coron, Palawan with my best friends, Isa and Barby. It was pretty amazing; we went to see lots of small islands, lagoons, and a lake by boat. My favorite stop was probably the Hidden Lagoon. It doesn’t seem like a popular spot, so it was nice and quiet, and saltwater meets with freshwater there, so the water was brackish and pretty cool to experience. We went during a particularly stormy season, and actually ended up stranded there for an extra night, but it was really lucky for us to have been able to go out at all on the boat to look around.
In November, I flew to Sydney to watch Julien Baker play in a small bar. This seemed like a no-brainer to me, since I didn’t want to see her during a festival, and also I hadn’t been to Sydney, where my friend, Tata, and her husband, Kris (who I guess is also now my friend!), just moved to. So, I asked if I could crash with them (aka, no need to look for a hotel/hostel/Airbnb). My mom’s brother and his family lived in New South Wales, too, so I figured I’d go visit them.
Anyway, if you follow me on any other online platform, you’d know how big a deal this trip was, since I got to actually frakking meet Julien Baker for a piece on CNN Philippines Life. Predictably, she was the sweetest and kindest person, who articulated thoughtful and honest answers and who even invited me to have dinner with them next door (it was American Thanksgiving) because she knew I was staying for the show, and she thought I was alone. Like, what kind of angel on earth.
Tata and Kris watched the last date with me (I managed to catch the first night, too!) and now, we are all in love with her. My Sydney trip gave me a lot of separation anxiety re: Tata and Kris, let me tell you.
And I have more to say about Julien Baker—PREDICTABLY—so I’ll have to write, like, a completely different post on it. Especially because of the next part—
Two months later, I get the opportunity to go on a press trip to New York. Details on it are still under wraps, but I thought that I would extend for about two weeks, so I could go around New York City, and revisit Chicago (which was one of my favorite rediscoveries in 2014) since I had wanted to go back there anyway, because Julien Baker was opening for Ben Gibbard.
You know how I feel about Julien Baker, and this is how I feel about Ben Gibbard and Death Cab for Cutie. Again—a sign. I found out about these Chicago shows in October, but really resisted booking plane tickets (even though I whined about it a lot to many different people), so this press trip, even though it was extremely short notice, really made me feel like I had to go. I just had to. I had to!
It was good that I did, since they ended up playing “Photobooth” together.
way too happy about snow
Long story short, I went to both show dates (briefly considered going to the Pabst Theatre one in Milwaukee, because I’m me) and ended up losing my passport in between going in for the show on the 20th and leaving the show for my hotel. I was supposed to fly out on the very early morning of the 21st, but then the passport thing happened. Which, gave me a lot of grief at the time, but now that I’m home, I have, of course, resigned to my fate.
On the upside, I was able to join the Women’s March in Chicago, which turned out to be so huge that there wasn’t really a route left to march on, since people had already occupied that space. It had felt strange to be there for the inauguration, because in many ways, it felt like what I had gone through for our own administration transition, but that’s a different story, I guess, that I’m not even sure I want to tell.
On the even higher upside, all of these trips, whether or not I was in some sort of mishap or not, made me realize how blessed I really am to have so many kind and gracious and amazing people I have in my life. I’m going to be writing about these things, in detail (again, because I’m me!), but that is the gist of most things that’s been happening to me since late September.
I don’t feel quite at home at home, yet, but I do know that I have so many things I owe people, even outside my job (which has been incredible and, again, gracious, to me). But yes, I suppose the “fight,” for the lack of a better word, goes on and on and on, over here.
Title is from Lucy Dacus’ beautiful song, “Map on a Wall”:
The last C.C. was written in May! I’ve casually consumed so many things since then. We had a different president then? I’m a little alarmed? But also not? Ahem.
To be honest, this blog’s categories and series don’t really mean anything anymore, but I wanted to talk about some of my current obsessions. Even though it says “casual,” but um. Like I said, these don’t mean anything anymore. Go out of the box, etc. etc.
Also, I’m not going to backtrack… that’s not a smart thing 2 do.
My reading took a little ride in the backseat in January, since I was did a lot of traveling and moving around. And basically, I have found it really hard to focus on fiction, specifically, if I can’t really sit down and spend time on it. And also, if I’m trying to maximize my vacation days while working on the side.
I was reading The Clothing of Books next to a girl reading Emma Cline’s The Girls (also on my list) on my flight from Newark to Chicago, and the flight attendant was like, “I love her! Is that new?” etc. and then proceeded to tell my seatmate that she didn’t enjoy/get The Girls, right as she was in the middle of it, lmao. I don’t know why I found that funny, but I do. Anyway, the book is great. 10/10 can relate, as both a book fiend and book cover fiend.
even this page was white, I saw at a bookstore in Chicago called Volumes, which also has a cafe. Essentially, I finished reading it there as I was passing the time before going to the Ben Gibbard/Julien Baker show. It’s quite good and deals primarily with racism and colonialism in Canada, but also in what I think is an intersectional way.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil was waiting for me when I finally made it home—I had ordered it before I left for the States. It’s very delightful and you’re endeared by it… even as you realize how sad it’s continuously getting as you read on. Beautiful art, and who can deny the pleasure of The Bangles?
Currently, I’m still in the middle of a couple of books from last year—bad habit, I know!—as well as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Melissa Broder’s So Sad Today, and Michael Heald’s Goodbye to the Nervous Apprehension, which I got at a BEAUTIFUL bookstore in Chicago called Quimby’s.
For 2017, I’ve only seen 3 films so far, and that is only because I forced myself to watch them in-flight instead of just sleeping all the way through. I managed to watch Kubo and the Two Strings (which I think I would have appreciated more had I seen it on the big screen), The Secret Life of Pets (which was cute enough, I guess! But I kept imagining the voice actors for some reason), and on the way back home, Kimi no Na Wa, WHICH WAS ABSOLUTELY CAPTIVATING? It was so charming and funny and sad. And like Tara said, if you think about the mechanics of it too much, the story will fall apart (which is my biggest issue with time travel and like, the disruption of existing timelines), but even then, it’s so good.
So, yes, I suppose I did just see cartoons this year.
Um, yikes. I had to catch up with so much TV when I got home, so. I suppose I’ll just talk about my notables, and leave the bad choices buried in my shame. Just kidding. Sort of.
So, I’ve been surprisingly really enjoying this season’s Teen Wolf, for some reason? I would still like a bit more Scott, but I think after the (what felt like) extended Dread Doctors storyline, I was desperate for a change of setting, haha. I love the investigation into the power of memory, too, and how that tether sort of connects us all so strongly.
I’m also really enjoying Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which is honestly the biggest surprise for me, in general. It ticks off most of the boxes of things I’d be annoyed with, but I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, since Rachel Bloom made Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury. Supergirl has been a really feel-good series that I’ve been keeping close to my heart, especially with their, dare I say, masterful way of dealing with Alex Danvers’ coming out.
Other TV I’ve been watching:Timeless (enjoying, but again—time travel issues! The good thing is that the characters aware of the issues that meddling brings about, it seems like), Riverdale (extremely surprised by how much I enjoyed the pilot. Betty Cooper, especially, was a delight to see), A Series of Unfortunate Events (I’m still mad about Neil Patrick Harris, barf), America’s Next Top Model (really enjoying, sue me), The Magicians (enjoying with some trepidation! Also, I forgot how intense the last two episodes of the first season were), and Orange is the New Black (catching up, because reasons, and enjoying immensely).
Mostly still Julien Baker, but also a lot of Lucy Dacus! I don’t think I’ve mentioned her on here, but barring Julien’s Sprained Ankle (technically a 2015 release), Lucy Dacus’ No Burden was my favorite album of 2016.
I experienced my first winter! My moisturizers onhand did a surprisingly good job: Aesop Camellia Nut Facial Hydrating Cream and & Other Stories Cashmere Hydrating Cream. And a big (huge!) round of applause for the Nuxe Rêve de Miel for keeping my lips from splitting. Mostly just used & Other Stories Cheek and Lip Tint in Swayback Plum and an eyeshadow by MAKE for my brows. And didn’t bother with much else for the majority of the trip. I was so happy with my moisturizer, I think??
Hoping to finish these posts before the year ends! I’ve reached the halfway mark, so I’m a little happy about that!
MAY (PART 2)
For the first half of May Reads, please refer to this post.
19— After Eden by Arnold Arre *
I lent someone in high school my original copy of After Eden and never saw it again, but that this graphic novel presented to me the idea of love—the purest, realest love—remained with me for years. So, I was excited to learn about its reissue, jumping on the chance to acquire it again and read it. Arre admits to some rewrites, to better fit his worldview, etc. since the book had existed for so long. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite hold up to the version I’ve long kept in my head. I don’t know if it’s the changes, or if it’s just a simple case of me outgrowing it, but After Eden felt infinitely more special the first time I read it. Without my original copy, I can’t compare or track the changes, but I suppose part of me will always think of how much this book meant to me the first time I met it.
20— Saga: Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
As it turns out, I’m shit at keeping up with ongoing comic book series, but Saga is just one of those stories that you can’t quite leave behind, even after forgetting about it for a while, in between waiting for issues. Though it happens in a highly fantastical world—it is a space opera after all—Saga, through the eyes of Marko, Alana, and the rest of the cast of characters, takes on deeply compelling issues that touch on some aspects of today’s socio-political climate, especially with regards to racial differences, as well as the looming threats of war on micro and macro levels. Compiling issues 31 to 36, Saga’s sixth volume inches towards the broken family’s reunion, and even more challenges up ahead for them.
Mainly a short volume of beautiful poetry. The homoerotic nature of Sappho’s poetry has been consistently contested, but the way devotion and desire were shaped in this collection, no matter how short, is gorgeous and luscious.
I loved this book, though I took quite a leisurely stroll through it. If you have vague knowledge of Wayne Thiebaud, you probably know him for his cakes—the same way one might know Pollock for his action paintings, Koons for his balloon dogs, da Vinci for the Mona Lisa, and Warhol for Marilyn or the Campbell’s soup cans—but Thiebaud is quietly prolific, and unabashed in the way he works and approaches art, which mostly is concerned with experiments and learning, rather than proving oneself in terms of whether or not one’s art is real. Over a series of interviews and/or conversations with Wayne Thiebaud, Thiebaud reveals that he spends no time on questions about the validity of his art. Instead, he spends time answering his own questions about art that are concerned with things like light and shadow.
23— Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
I spent (most) of this book listening to Aziz Ansari read it out to me. I’m a fan of Parks and Recreation, so the lilt of his voice is familiar to me. I feel like, even without the aid of the visual graphics on print versions that are unavailable to the audiobook, his narration lent a lot of character to the book. I appreciated how well-researched it was, abut it left me super exhausted at the thought of dating in the modern love. I have decided that I do want love (in a very specific way, I think), but having all of this data read out to me by Tom Haverford made me question if it was worth the trouble. The data doesn’t really give me a definitive answer (just a sneak preview of tiredness)—but Mitski says it is—and to be honest, I’d listen to her over any sort of research, any day.
JULY (PART 1)
24— Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan
Another offering by BKV, and one I keep tabs on, too. Jonty gave me a signed copy of the first issue, and I’m so happy with how well the story is and has been progressing. If you’re not familiar, it’s an adventure/fantasy/friendship story set between the ’80s and the future, and features honest-to-God paper girls and some type of alien–time-travel mystery and drama.
I’d been waiting for this book for a long time before I finally got it. My Book Depository shipment got lost and they couldn’t send a new one to me because they had no more stock left, so I had to wait for it to go on paperback, then it shipped out in a Balikbayan box that took forever to get here. Even with all that time, I mostly went into it blindly. I loved the honesty of it, but I was a little unprepared for the discussion of parenthood, even moreso than when I realized that a bulk of the thoughts concerned gender. Overall lovely book with exquisite writing all the same.
This took me a long time to read, and while I appreciate it—especially because of when Woolf thought these thoughts and penned these words—but I really got stuck with it at some point.
27— The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist Volume 1
Such a great volume of spin-off work for fans of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (my favorite book!). Not quite an extension of the lives of Joe and Sam, but a great glimpse of “their work” on the novel’s fictional superhero, the Escapist.