Truth Thursday: In Time I Will Be

July 10th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I wanted to be a mermaid. Besides knowing Ariel’s “Part of Your World” song by heart, my sister and I would each have a pair of jogging pants and fit our legs in one pant leg and flop around singing: Look at the stuff! Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? I don’t remember if we even spoke a word of English, but we kept on singing. I would have been a Tagalog-speaking mermaid if we hadn’t move to Hanoi shortly after that, where English took over my brain and made itself my own tongue.

There were other wishes, of being a nun (don’t ask), a flight attendant (still, to this day, not tall enough) until somewhere along the way, the dream was to do something so big and important that I would (imagine, a megaphone) SAVE THE WORLD. Attempting to return to that moment of clarity, when everything was so simple, when I could look at something and immediately assess what it could mean for me, when there were no tints or hues in-between the blacks and whites, when something was either good or bad –the right thing or the wrong thing– is difficult.

Regression, is difficult. Reduction, almost impossible.

There was nothing like “context” or “perspective” in the moment I am trying to remember, just a clear road of good, the right-doing and true love. If I had not lived how I have lived, hunting for the full spectrum, would it have been an easier road? If I asked someone who had not strayed from that simplicity and innocence (or in some cases ignorance), what would they tell me about their life? How much did “growing up” change them? Would any of them be able to say that they have become exactly what they wanted to?

Possibly. But I imagine that they would be hardened. That if you ask them How or Why? All they could tell you is “Because”. Because. Because. Because. And nothing is reducible by cause. Even the cause, became something else, was something else, at any one point, it was different. Yes, it has been difficult to live, to grow and to become but the wonderful thing is that because I am not a mermaid (just a mermaid), I feel softened by time, and not hardened by it. Despite the complexity and the maximalism abound, I feel pliable and that all… is still possible.

In time I will be, something else, always changed, or changing, never resting, always in-between.

Truth Thursday: Songs That Make Me Brave

July 2nd, 2013 § 1 reply § permalink

Towards the end of last year (which was a tumultuous one), I made an e-mix in the midst of heartache and other… unlikely experiences. I then shared the little mix on Facebook, having tagged all my friends who loved music. I had no expections and did not imagine that it would be received the way it did – with gratitude and tears.

It was overwhelming; I wasn’t alone.

521485_10151374479809715_998211188_nRight click and save as to download.

Sometimes, that unlikely leap we need to take to be brave, to reach out into the great unknown, is worth the hands that find ours and hold on.

Truth Thursday: Today I Leave Behind

June 22nd, 2013 § 1 reply § permalink

The skyscrapers seem to have disappeared overnight. The haze caused by the illegal slash-and-burning in Borneo has crept its way into the island city aided by winds, adding an ominous feeling to the simple act of being outside. The haze has not only reduced our visibility of the sky, but has caused an exaggerated panic among residents, as if this were an apocalypse. Face masks quickly sold out and any that were still available were sold at ridiculous prices. Many of us chose to leave behind such a panic, deciding that scarfs or old-fashioned handkerchiefs work just as well to keep us from choking and coughing from the smoke. There was a brave twelve who got up early to attend a techie training course despite the hullaballoo.

Looking out any window, it felt as though the whole of Singapore was transported to a mountain-top. I had not noticed it at first; I was up in my own clouds – the ones inside my head. I started this week looking forward to the training course, something I requested personally, because it was a product/service I was impressed by. I work in the non-profit sector, so one person tends to fit multiple roles and the training will help me be more efficient.

At the beginning of the week, the haze was still just a grey cloud that hovered slightly above everything else in the city, and not yet near the giant nightmare it has become, engulfing even the taller structures out of sight. The business district seemed unfettered by the intermittent swirls of smoke thinly spread throughout Singapore. But as the days went by, the atmosphere got worse. Up on the twelfth floor of the training venue, during our breaks, my classmates and I would stand around near the coffee machine, look out the big windows facing the street and remark upon the structures replaced by smog.

Yesterday was the last day of the course and as we laughed our way out of the building, the streets felt significantly empty. I shared the disappointment with some of them who travelled from cities like Beijing and Hong Kong, only to see such a dismal and somber Singapore. I rode a cab with one of my classmates who then dropped me off along Orchard Boulevard, where an old cabbie had parked to smoke. He asked me where I was headed, nodded at my response, and asked politely, if he could first finish his cigarette. I let him, grateful I managed a cab on a Friday afternoon. He was the chatty type, which I like, because you always learn something new. And much like a doting grandfather, as I got out of his cab, he hollered after me not to go out that night.

The week so far, has not obscured kindness, but has done the complete opposite and brought it to the foreground. Today, I leave behind the nation-wide feeling of panic with the clearest purpose.

Truth Thursday: I Am Here

June 15th, 2013 § 1 reply § permalink

I write this on a Saturday, in a LAN-slash-arcade space, half-deafened by the noise of simulated gunshots, and gamers yelling profanities and instructions at each other. Only half-deafened, because the other ear is plugged into my laptop, which thankfully, produces sounds that can compete against the excitement around me.

I found a bar tabletop and chair next to these futuristic dart stations. I had no idea such machines existed. They remind me a bit of Tron in the way they are outlined with neon lights.

My boyfriend and his gaming league are here for a Battlefield 3 competition hosted by the Swedish Embassy. They have just won the first round, I was told –in five minutes. I am here amidst the noise, concerned about my battery depleting… among a great many things.

Ways of Seeing

May 22nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak. But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.” — John Berger, Ways of Seeing, 1970

I see you in the orange glow of the small black lamp on your desk. The one whose neck is bent to look like a coiled snake peering at you. The one you use to build with—water cooling systems for computers—things I understand in theory, but could never see the way you do. This same lamp on your desk has seen you working up a sweat in the late afternoons when you have nothing but time on you. This lamp sees what I see: how you love what you build with your hands—tangible things.

This is a reservoir. You held it just above my head to show me. It stores the coolant for the loop. It was a clear cylindrical container, fitted with black lids on either ends. It had clamps so it could be mounted onto something.

And these are called fittings. You pointed to short white metal joints, the size of your thumbs, screwed on the ends of the reservoir. They allow you to connect each component in your loop with tubing. The reservoir is one, but other components include the radiator and the water blocks. The former looks like a miniature version of what I know the word to be, and the latter is a square metallic plate pinched at its corners, with holes where I assumed the fittings would go.

The radiator keeps the whole loop cool by dissipating heat and the water blocks are what you actually mount on the hardware you want cooled. The more heat you can dissipate, the closer the coolant temperature will remain to ambient temperature. Radiator almost sounds like refrigerator, so your explanation fails to lose me.

In your palm is a compact object. This is the pump. It looks heavier than all the rest. A black cap, the shape much like the bottom of a tea candle, encases what I imagine is all machinery. This is jutting out of something with a much larger circumference, but with the same depth and shape of a camera lens cap. The ridges though, are noticeably thicker. There is a valve on top for the reservoir to feed the pump with coolant, but also one behind it. The pump sends the coolant through the entire loop and it all eventually goes back to the reservoir.

I piece what I saw and what you said in my own language, reproducing it in a way that I understand, in a place out of context, unseen and in the dark of my bedroom. There is a lamp seeing me: It lights my back and casts intangible shapes on the walls.

I, too, build with my hands, but in the ways I know how.

Across the Duniverse

December 18th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

It was raining in my corner of Singapore when I wrote this (it has been raining almost every day since) and I was reminded that in Arrakis, water does not come down from the sky like this (also reminded how geeky it is to reference a fictional planet in one’s writing). That’s okay, because I am allowed to still be unable to get over how epic Dune is. Despite having watched a few scenes from the television series as well as the David Lynch film, I had been able to envision my own Duniverse. I have the second book on standby but I have yet to finish the non-fiction I’ve chosen to read first before continuing with the series.

Poster by Kevin Tong

That’s why it’s so nice having friends who read and whose taste for certain oeuvres greatly differ from mine. Without them, it would have taken me much later to pick this up on my own. Although, I have been nurturing a soft spot for science fiction for quite a while now and thus had no excuse to be oblivious to a classic of the genre.

Whenever I read during my morning commute, I always notice other readers and imagine approaching them (ninja-style) with a high-five. Was there ever a time when having books were as commonplace as cellphones are on public transportation?  I wonder.

The following is one of my favourite quotes from the first book:

 “Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never consistent. It depends in part upon the myth-making imagination of humankind. The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man.”

I’ll leave you to think about it.

1Q84 & The Full Moon Party of One

November 26th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Finally, I am alone, but not in a lonely Murakami way. For a while it felt like there was something constantly stirring my insides with a spoon, a whirl of something untamed and unsettled. These days, I have been coming home to a suburban quiet and my thoughts appropriately mimic the placidity of my neighborhood. Instead of merely going through the motions of “being fine”, I have been looking forward to falling asleep with a book or doing chores while songs fill my rented space, in perfect solitude. And the most beautiful part of it is that I am writing again.

I feel as though I went through phases after a recent break-up: denial, fear, longing and then, acceptance. Like the moon and its phases – I have turned and changed. Now, I am full and glowing in spite of darkness.

I started reading Haruki Murakami’s recent novel “1Q84”, which talks a lot about the moon and its power to orient/disorient us, a few weeks after the break-up. It was a time of self-doubt, which is very suitable to Murakami loneliness. I think this is why, despite having known about the novel months earlier, I chose to start reading it right then. The copy I own is a three-volume box set, which I found while on an errand. Its case was slightly damaged, but it was their last copy and I was drawn to this particular edition even with its corners crooked. I devoured the first book within a week. It was amidst a messy time early on during the aforementioned phases I went through, and it took a while to find the right momentum to move forward.

Four months later, all loose ends have been resolved; the personal messes have been sorted and the book, finished before my tropical December begins. I even managed to squeeze an interesting non-fiction book in-between. The end of 1Q84 (which in the novel, also coincidentally, ends in December) seems to have been perfectly synced to meet me at this apex of singlehood.

I was never a huge and gushing Murakami fan, but I have always appreciated how he writes about loneliness. In this recent work, he even tries to find a solution for it. It echoes Aristophanes belief that there is someone out there for each of us, our other halves. I am still unsold on this idea of having a soulmate. I grew up thoroughly believing in its magic, hoping that my unfortunate encounters were mere setbacks. I have felt, too proactive, in meeting it. Maybe, you are supposed to wait with your hands pinned under you: for the right time and the right person. These will come, as long as you want them to, but you are not supposed to force any sort of collision (which I feel I may have been doing). These rationalizations come and go. I have been too shy to admit to anything aloud. Reading this novel has certainly made me toy with the possibility of a soulmate again, but still, I am mostly, unwilling to be disappointed.

So here I am, alone but not in a lonely Murakami way. This is not an exhaustive hole of a bleak singularity but a space – a kind of temple – I have built for myself. I have measured it to certain specifications:  I can lie inside it, jump and dance inside it, but it is unable to fit another body but mine. Its walls are neatly lined with photographs, in a grid, of those I have loved and learned from, each one candidly capturing the fall: the moment I appreciated them the most, the moment I thought I fell in love. This place would have looked differently ten years ago when I had imagined love to be reserved for a lifetime partner: a boy friend who became a boyfriend and then idealistically, a husband. My soulmate. He would have fit in here with me, and images of him would surround the room (it would have been less a temple and more of a shrine).

In this temple I find myself building and rebuilding time and again, apart from the photographs, I imagine that inside it, is also a canvas. It holds my thoughts, ideas and self-proclamations. It contains many layers of words, some of which have been noticeably erased, in a profusion of colour. In the middle of the scrawls and scribbles, of these things I hold true, surrounded by a membrane of whiteness, but occupying a significant amount of space is a word painted clearly and boldly: ALONE. It does not try to explain or define itself; it is unashamed.

It is the perfect time to be done with 1Q84. Though I was enamored and charmed by the story (it is probably my favourite Haruki Murakami so far), I am ready to be more adventurous. Love is different now, and so is loneliness. Neither of which, are so terrifying.

Photo by Ilya Maeda

You Can’t Have Everything

October 10th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

A lot can happen in a few weeks. The possibilities multiply based on how often you socialize and meet new people and how often you make things happen for yourself. A routine will make any day slower, especially, if much of it is spent alone. Being alone means you’ll spend more time thinking, and if your brain is the kind of brain with a selfishly wild imagination, you’re in for a difficult few weeks.

Otherwise, if you’re lucky enough to be spending your time for a bigger purpose (i.e. outside yourself, coexisting with other humans), you realize that how fast or how slow it runs, is actually relative to many factors. Often, you think things are going by quickly because you are doing too many things according to certain time markers you’ve set for yourself. When the laundry’s done. The minute you arrive your workplace. The last sip from your first cup of coffee. Lunch time. When you finished photocopying. When the e-mail was finally sent. Dinner.

But you can also stretch your time markers to gauge durations. Instead of a second or a moment, time stretches and becomes specific: How long it takes for you to reach his doorstep, or how quickly you can hide your feelings. Or perhaps the few minutes before your cab arrives. The long and silent ride home. The time it takes you to find songs in your music library to compile a thirty-two minute digital mix. Or the time it takes you to write an accompanying reflection about how a lot can happen in a few weeks.

You don’t have any time left for another batch of laundry tonight. But this is a first in a long time, when you’re able to sit down and really think about anything. You’re thinking back on the last few weeks and there are moments you want to rewind, moments you want to fast-forward, and a rare few that you actually want to pause and freeze. These are the moments with someone else, away from your selfishness and away from your imagination. Thanks to your smart phone, you might not have been in the same room. If there was anyone physically there with you, who were you with? Did your eyes ever meet or were they shut with the image of someone else?

You can’t have all of time; you certainly can’t have everything, but you are allowed to keep some things quietly yours.

Digital Mixtape 001 – You Can’t Have Everything

Three Down, Thousands to Go

April 2nd, 2012 § 2 replies § permalink

I’ve been reading again and now know why I wasn’t moved to tears when I found myself at the last few pages of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (ELIC). It wasn’t because of my strong will to not look like a dramatic fool on the train, but it was also because, I read it on my Kindle.  Before you get the wrong idea, and interrupt me with your important opinion, I have to tell you just how much I love my Kindle. I love my Kindle so much that the last three books I read, was finished on it. But now that I’m re-reading bits and pieces of my physical copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s ELIC, especially the last sentence and flicking the last pages with my thumb, I feel the tears coming.

This isn’t an argument about whether or not the Kindle changes the experience of reading a book, because obviously, it does. This is about how much more I would have cried if I had read the last few pages on a book. It’s definitely not for everybody, but what thing is? I love words and how they can move me. Not just the figurative, transportation of my physical being into any new world with new people, but also how they stimulate my brain and are able to force my whole body to react. I get giddy and restless when two characters fall in love, and will cry if someone feels pain. I don’t just read for the sake of filling my head with something to distract me from my life, but I’m one to appreciate how writers can make bracelets out of the words they have chosen to use.

I’m really late on the fawning over of this book, but I’m glad to be one of its fans. A lot of my friends read this in college, but I stopped any leisurely reading then, and as a general rule, I try to avoid reading a book at the peak of its hype. I learned this after reading Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would. The praise, and my own experience reading it, did not mix well. I bought my copy of ELIC one or two years ago and finally, finished it. I loved it so much that I went on to read his wife, Nicole Krauss’ works, hoping to catch a glimpse of why they fell in love with one another.

I was surprised to read that she was less poetic (not to be confused with the word talented – because that is not what I was driving at), but was amazed at how she mapped and structured her novels. I was definitely not as taken to the first book I read of hers, The History of Love, as I was when reading ELIC, but I found myself feeling heavy and ponderous afterwards. I didn’t feel the need to be emotional, but I wanted to be hugged in silence for a very long time.

I continued to be intrigued by Nicole Krauss, and so proceeded to read her latest book, Great House as soon as I had finished reading The History of Love. Her novels really are intriguing, and yet I found it difficult not to compare her prose with her husband’s. I was ill-at-ease upon finishing Great House, because I felt there was this big thing missing from what I read. However, I’ve since realized, that that may have been part of the message of the novel.

I’m happy I took the time to read these. The variety of books out there, is making me so hyper. Today marks the last day of unemployment, so again, I will probably have less time to read, but I’m still going to try to finish at least one each week.

New Layout: Ms. Woolf as a Wolf

March 26th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve been using the username/alias “wearwoolf” for a few years now, but it wasn’t until I read Virginia Woolf and when I took a Gender Studies class (adopting the feminist advocacy into my life) that it meant more to me than any of the other ones I’ve kept. While my old Yahoo! Messenger username “diaperhombre”, has an interesting story involving me and of course, a diaper, this one’s my favorite. At first it was – an apparently unoriginal – play on words, on wearing wool and wolf: my attempt at poetry (blah blah blah the dichotomy in us to act as the sheep as well as the wolf). Apart from its adding more meaning to the name, Virginia Woolf’s death anniversary is also coming up and as a budding feminist, I’d like to pay her homage.

I spent the whole day on the coding and so this short post is a result of my impatience (and my post-rock-climbing aching body). I couldn’t figure out the code for one of the links, but Joe helped me with it and now the link back to the main page (on the right) is blue!

If you are interested in Women’s issues as well as feminism, here are some interesting articles that have kept me awake:

Sex offenders (AKA Rapists) vs. Lads’ Mags
Women’s Day 2012: (No) Progress Report

Don’t be scared of the F-word. It’s more than what you think it is.