Just checking in, sort of. Been mostly busy with work stuff and moving into a new room stuff, and most of my free time is spent watching t.v. while trying to figure out this painting thing. I loved reading about Wayne Thiebaud’s process with his art, which is basically more of an experimental, process-based practice than a conceptual or more cerebral approach. Like looking at shadows, and looking at colors and how they sort of interact with each other and what happens when they do.
About to finish a light YA novel, The Sun is Also a Star. It’s cute, but I don’t know yet. I hope this isn’t me growing out of YA (because I love YA), but I can’t help but think of the inevitability of baby relationship breakups, and it’s hard for me to completely root for these romances when all I see is THE END OF THE LINE. I don’t know when this happened either.
Thinking of bringing some books to a short trip we’re taking this week… they’re probably not going to be YA. I need to be less jaded, I think, when I do pick up another one and give whatever cute romance they have the justice (i.e. fuzzy feelings) it deserves.
My Spotify Daily Mix 1, which Sam has noted is kind of the most accurate reflection of your person. I agree. (Artists on mine include Julien Baker, The National, Car Seat Headrest, Lucy Dacus, Wilco, American Football, The Mountain Goats… I mean…)
Not currently watching, but I think it deserves a mention: Thirteen Reasons Why is pretty amazing. I know like two people who hate it, lol. But I felt like it’s an important show… I do want to know what other people think, though. I know it’s a really touchy subject and at the risk of sounding completely insensitive and tone-deaf… I want to know if people who are closer to the subject matter feel like it’s a good representation of it, or if it completely missed the point, or if it’s emotionally manipulative and is Actually Bad. I know they consulted with a lot of people closely, but you know…
Full disclosure: I hated the book. I remember this feeling distinctly, at least. I feel like the series addressed some aspects of the book that I hated, but I still want to know if it’s a Bad Show, good parts (e.g. actors, soundtrack, etc.) aside. Please comment, or if you don’t feel like doing that: email or DM me on Twitter. I’m really curious + I do feel a little iffy about it, despite enjoying it as a viewer.
I don’t know, man. I think my brain short-circuited and all I can think about now is how I have to finish this so I can take a shower.
Let’s not get into that.
That new skills were easier to acquire and don’t require practice and patience.
Scientists figure that out in the future.
MY FILING CABINET. A godsend for a paper h0 like me.
I had this post—a book roundup for the first quarter of 2017—scheduled for today*… Clearly noted down with a more optimistic view of the amount of books I’d have read in 2017. Well, my friends, it turns out that I’ve only finished four (3 in January and 1 in March!) in that period of time, so this post is going to probably be short and sweet, despite my decided wordiness.
Note: I’m still probably going to finish with the rest of my Capsule Book Reviews for 2016’s books… Coming to a blog post in the next millennium, maybe.
01 — Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Clothing of Books
This is actually a very short piece—an originally-Italian speech translated to English—in book form. I pretty much read and finished this on my plane ride from New Jersey to Chicago. I bought it in McNally Jackson (♥) after reading Aldrin’s best-of list for 2016, via CNN Philippines Life. Essentially, it’s about book covers and how, ideally, they should reflect an aspect of the book accurately, but also stand out on the shelves (i.e. make money), but also—ideally—involve the authors in some way. She mentions a book of hers whose cover she dislikes so much, she needs to fight the urge to rip it off every time she’s asked to autograph it. The book in question, of course, is never named or shown.
02 — Vivek Shraya’s even this page is white
Bought this collection of poetry in Volumes, a bookstore in Chicago, upon the recommendation of Leena/justkissmyfrog, and I finished it in one sitting (as I was waiting for a show), and will likely re-read it. Even this page is white is largely about “everyday racism and colonialism in Canada,” which is where Shraya is from. It definitely opened up facets of racism that I don’t think I’d previously considered before. I’ve lived in a pretty racially homogenous environment all my life, so even if I am technically a “PoC,” in the loosest definition, I definitely did not grow up with all these considerations that actual PoCs struggle with.
Shraya is a prolific artist, having released writing, music, and visual explorations. A recent favorite of mine is a photographic essay on her and her mother called Trisha.
03 — Stephen Collins’ The Giant Beard That Was Evil
I love this strange and fascinating story, which I believe I got off a rec from Sanne/booksandquills. The Giant Beard That Was Evil is a delightful, somewhat somber but still plenty silly, graphic novel. Although there are many themes in this book, the one that stuck out to me was how the fear of the unknown affects people, their lives, and those around them. It’s charming, beautifully drawn, and at turns a little philosophical, and the end was perfect, though not something I expected. Is this burning an eternal flame?
04 — Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale
I started this in January, but really only got into it in March, I think. Although I appreciate the book’s unfortunate timeliness, i.e. in terms of how systems in place grab hold of women and attempt to control their bodies, and how they live, and what they can do—in the name of morality and holiness and “what is right in the eyes of God/religion, I think I was unable to suspend my disbelief at how much the worldview of that particular time flipped in such a short span of time.
Perhaps it’s naivete on my part, because the future, dystopian world that Atwood imagined in 1985 (when The Handmaid’s Tale was released) does look a lot like how it does now, even though our so-called progresses probably shouldn’t have allowed these things to take root at all. I’d like to say that I think that this horrifying, cruel future seems “impossible,” but on the other hand, certain world events have been making plot points look like terrifying possibilities.
I’m in the middle of several books—awful habit—and will hopefully have more to report when I check back in at the end of June. What have you guys been reading and enjoying?
* I don’t actually follow my schedule for blog ideas, so surprise!
The thing with staying up late and pulling all-nighters, now that it’s about seven years post-graduation, is that it takes me about two days of focused sleeping to somewhat recover, and now it’s Sunday and all I’ve done is clean paint palettes. And buy a filing cabinet for my “files,” I guess, but even then, I had to be roused from my midday nap.
You couldn’t have found a more surprised person than me, discovering on Friday that it was, in fact, Friday.
And now, I’m awake, and we have no internet connection at home, and I was in the mood to write and maybe vegetate in front of internet-reliant television. Alas.
I’m in the process of retrieving a replacement for the passport that I lost, and it’s been a weird little struggle (mostly because of aforementioned tiredness, and also, sure, procrastination on my part) but it feels like a small concern when the person you’re beside at the notary office lost hers because she was imprisoned by her employer in Saudi. It isn’t the most productive action, to compare, but how can you help not comparing? Especially, when the “ordeal” you’re going through is partly self-inflicted inconvenience.
So, anyway, the passport thing. It’s a luxury and a privilege to be able to leave whenever you want to, and the people around you understanding why you need to, and it’s jarring to realize that you can’t actually leave this country, because you had been careless about the thing that let you leave.
(This is what I look like on most days. Ahhh!)
A few weeks ago, my best friend asked me if I was happy, and I think I remember saying “yes,” but I think I’d like to amend that answer now and say “I’m not sad” instead, which feels more accurate an answer, and may seem alarming, but mostly isn’t. I just feel stuck, which is typically what I feel right before I spiral into something else, but I think I’m handling it better this time around.
(It also feels weird to whine about these kinds of things. I always feel like someone reading this is going to dismiss all of it as a stupid privileged person problem, and maybe all of it is just that, but I don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud is all.)
I do, however, feel grateful for all of the breathing room our new house affords.
It still feels weird that we’re old enough to get drinks with each other—even though it’s been that way for eight years.
We went to a Bench fashion show, and Ziggy Savella showcased a new collection, and my sister and I both died because we wanted everything, despite potentially unflattering decisions. (Mostly on my part.)
Beng, Noah, and Raymond, in a rare uncharacteristic moment of petting a dog.
Noah, a sleepy baby. Noah, a needy baby + Tara.
Isa, best friend who asks the hard-hitting questions, haha.
I literally could spend the day watching Noah sleep.
When you just need a moment at work + catching the light before leaving!
Speaking of work, this was from about a year ago, on our first cover story shoot at CNN Philippines Life:
This is the longest I’ve stayed at an actual job, and I don’t even know if it counts because it’s just a part-time gig, and I’ve taken a few chunks of time away, but I’m still grateful to be around great people, and to have been able to write about things I like and things I didn’t know I liked, and that I get some semblance of freedom within the office and outside of the office, plus other corny stuff, et cetera.
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.