Sunspray

 









Some eight years ago, my pediatrician and I found out a pattern regarding my asthma attacks: they always occur on the first week of October. I was born with asthma, and in the clinic where I have made my trips to with my Mom (and eventually, with myself or my Dad) for the past eighteen years of my life, I shook hands with the nebulizer. I used to look at it when I was younger and find it a peculiar machine which emits a metallic smell, kind of like smelling a spoon's surface. It still is special to me.

Ever since I went to college and learned to smoke all kinds of things, the asthma subsided and was replaced by something else: allergic rhinitis. Seasonal pollen must have been a culprit, and in Laguna, especially in our campus, pollens thrive. 

But this is just self-diagnosis.  

I always forget about the October pattern until last Friday, when I had been sneezing in the morning and, after downing a beer in the office (we always have beer in the office!) and smoking a couple of cigarettes while playing foosball, I started to feel like scratching my throat. I'm very skeptic about medicines in general; when I arrived at our house I drank and gargled hot tea until my throat swam in it. 

The next morning I cooked chicken korma (I only used the leftover mix from two months ago) and added too much chopped ginger and chili that I ended up sweating the entire day. But my throat stopped itching after that.

Today, I had to entertain Perry. Our baby-sitter's out for the day. I tried to lull him to sleep but I know this much about children: they would only go to sleep after a very exhausting day. I stormed my way outside carrying Perry by my arm and the walker on my other hand and I let him walk until he panted like a dog. It was an unbelievably sunny day (and it's almost October). The cloudless sky, and then some light breeze. Every now and then I tie his shoes, but aside from that, he needed little supervision. So I took some pictures from my phone.

Tomorrow should be the last day of my allergic rhinitis, since I find it worsening in air-conditioned environments just like the office.

Readers #7 to #12

10/29/12 Comanche Moon written in pink, by larry mcmurtry, lady with red dress. Thick paperback, browning edges. The words "Fairfield Library" stamped on the spine.

12/3/12 Woman reading Tolkien, black sleeveless, cream chinos (?), black slippers of some sort. Small red birthmark on the left arm. Boarded at North Ave, couldn't see much of her with the throng of Quezon Avenue passengers. The man sitting beside her, with the prominent jaw and the white and blue plaid polo was peering at what little he could see from the pages. I couldn't see the book that much except the letters TOLKIEN. Her eyes were very, very intent with what she's reading and I'm guessing from my experience wih Tolkien, the copy I have read and never finished had a really small font. She reappeared in Cubao and her shoes/slippers were the cream ones, the maong black. Crimson nail polish on the toes. Sitting besode her is a box, a newly-bought computer screen, a Samsung LED screen in as people thinned out in Santolan. An orange leatherette bag covers her lap, and her wristwatch is white, thin. Contrary to stereotype she wasn't wearing glasses, or pimply at all. She was chewing something, a gum perhaps, at Ortigas. At Shaw we both get out and the birthmark was actually a keloid and her orange bag has this silicon sanitizer holder, the silicon with swirls of red and yellow, and the book she clutched under her arms, finally, before reaching the turnstile. The title: The Hobbit.

1/17/13 Someone was reading a book across my seat at MRT. Orange polo, gray canvas shoes, tattoo on left sleeve but looked tame. Good quality tattoo, must have been on his late twenties. Maong with tattered spot on the right knee. I can't see the book but I hope I can take a look at it before he puts it down and gets off the train. Hair is just normal, clean-cut, like a young shaven private. Thick eyebrows. Reading chapter: Field of Ignorance.

2/8/13 It was morning, 8AM. He was reading from Shaw to Quezon Ave. Looked like High School in his uniform, but I may be wrong. His reading glasses weren't thick. His blue bag was on his lap. Yale padlock on one of its handles. Samsonite Outlast, the embroidery reads. The book was close to his face while reading, though his hand shifted almost every station, adjusting its grip. The book cover was blue, and its pages are about to fray. It looked like it was reprinted by a library, and this was confirmed when I sat next to him in hopes of seeing the title. The pages when bundled together has a faint Manila from a far, stamped on blue ink--like indelible ink on a thumb. From close inspection I figured out the words: DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY MANILA. There were characters in it, like Benigno and Chona, and the setting was in a bar with women. It looked like it was written during the height of the Bomba in the 60s, and the title on the edge: on the left, Carunungan. Probably the author's last name; on the right, Satanas sa Lupa. He wasn't reading it with much gusto, as if it was some required reading from a class, though every once in a while he would be very close to the page because the binding rendered some letters to be eaten by the spine. It looked like he was teasing the words out of their cave. He had this air like he had just brushed his teeth before going to the train to school.

2/8/13 It was around 9PM. Abraham Lincoln by Seth Graham Smith. Girl with tattoo on her left foot, which must have been really, really painful, chartreuse flats with suede-velvet texture. Looks just like red wine. Headband thin enough to be hidden. Lots of buddha beads on both wrists. Brunette or burgundy hair. Plain blue handbag, the big ones which can haul an entire bathroom kit or books, with a green sanitizer that's been widely used today, very ubiquitous. Ring on her right middle finger. Blue plastic-framed glasses. She looked just like a graduate student, wearing a semi-formal blouse, boarding at Quezon Ave and lost in her book, once in a while checking her cellphone. The next thing I know, after the throng of commuters boarding at Cubao, blocking my view of her, was that she dozed before we reached Ortigas station. The Friday traffic's just terrible.

2/19/13 Somebody in the train bothered to read Narnia at 8AM. His was a thick copy, so thick, in fact, that he couldn't even manage to put it inside his bag,


I had to do some clean up with the notes I've written on my iPod, and stumbled upon these. I already forgot about this project!

Contentment

From Skype's 10th year anniversary post > Millimallikas shots > Aquariums > Kreisel Tank > Raising Pet Jellyfish > This blog of an Estonian who have tried Millimallikas and who is currently living in Japan > The sidebar of her blog reads: 住めば都 / Sumeba Miyako, which means "the best place to live is where you are". I want it written in my epitaph.

Zeroes and ones

I have to admit The Crying of Lot 49 is an overwhelming read. Aside from the fact that it's not the book you can read aloud (or you might just run out of breath), it's also not the type which you can read during commutes; you have to book a room and absorb every thick paragraph the book hurls against you. I had to read the first few chapters of the book five, six times before proceeding to the more complicated chapters, just to calibrate the voice inside my head. It's clearly not the register I was used to read.

There are clever names like Mike Fallopian, and puns like Wendell "Mucho" Maas (Spanish for much more) and then the big word, postmodernism, looming somewhere in the book. The first time I encountered Pynchon was during a long wait at a Powerbooks outlet, not remembering who I was waiting for. There it was, Gravity's Rainbow, one of the thick, cryptic books you skim and think, how many months can an average person finish this book? Can I even finish it? But I wasn't chiefly curious about him or his works until I read and was enthused about Donald Barthelme's fiction, and read about the author, and the names included in the postmodern thread, Pynchon included, the author whom I assumed had been dead for a little more than twenty years.

Some six years later after the scene at Powerbooks (when I still had that discount card--a pre-Ondoy memorabilia) I found, at long last, a copy of The Crying of Lot 49 at Booksale. It was one of the most awful covers I've ever seen, with the stenciled lettering giving it an air of anarchist rage, or at least related to the military. (Google the covers and see how this ranks up with the rest: it clearly is the worst cover to date, bar none.)


I had to prioritize this over Etgar Keret's The Nimrod Flipout since back then, when I started reading it, I was in-between jobs, a bum reading while drumming my fingers on our dining table for a good job. Keret's is something you can read virtually anywhere: light, funny and yet thought-provoking. Pynchon's is the kind of book you read while holed up in an attic for a couple of days.

Pynchon's tone reminds me of Salinger's tone in Seymour: An Introduction, the only short story in my Salingeriana I still haven't finished simply because it had a lot of commas, and it felt like a crash course on Buddhism. Though I was thankful for the latter, with its pieces of Buddhism wisdom, to the point that I revere the religion and tried to incorporate its philosophy in my life, but the real issue for me is about the voice. voice of his narratives had been so successful since Holden Caulfield that I couldn't imagine reading something different from the author.

But Pynchon's is far more complex: bearing a lot of symbols (the muted post horn in the cover, for example) which I didn't dare to delve deeper in; thriving in puns, misspellings (REPORT ALL OBSCENE MAIL TO YOUR POTSMASTER), errors and discrepancies (mostly historical accounts), wonderful theatrics (punk-rock songs from a band Oedipa met at a motel called Echo Courts), tricks (say, the breaking of the fourth wall by Metzger: while watching a TV show Cashiered, which he starred in as a child, as Baby Igor, he was chiming in and singing the songs and even dared Oedipa to guess what's next).

I think there's nothing pretentious in the language, or in the project as a whole, not because it is written by Pynchon, but because his complex language is nothing short of promising, and that it seemed inherent, as if it's really the way his mind works: a markedly long attention span; a knack for using words out of their usual context; a keen observation of human behavior[1]. Take this:
As things developed, she was to have all manner of revelations. Hardly about Pierce Inverarity, or herself; but about what remained yet had somehow, before this, stayed away. There had hung the sense of buffering, insulation, she had noticed the absence of an intensity, as if watching a movie, just perceptibly out of focus, that the projectionist refused to fix. And had also gently conned herself into the curious, Rapunzel-like role of a pensive girl somehow, magically, prisoner among the pines and salt fogs of Kinneret, looking for somebody to say hey, let down your hair. When it turned out to be Pierce she'd happily pulled out the pins and curlers and down it tumbled in its whispering dainty avalanche, only when Pierce had got maybe halfway up, her lovely hair turned, through some sinister sorcery, into a great unanchored wig, and down he fall, on his ass. But dauntless, perhaps using one of his many credit cards for a shim, he'd slipped the lock on her tower door and come up the conchlike stairs, which, had true guile come more naturally to him, he'd have done to begin with. But all that had then gone on between them had really never escaped the confinement of that tower. In Mexico City they somehow wandered into an exhibition of paintings by the beautiful Spanish exile Remedios Varo: in the central painting of a triptych, titled "Bordando el Manto Terrestre," were a number of frail girls with heart-shaped faces, huge eyes, spun-gold hair, prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world. Oedipa, perverse, had stood in front of the painting and cried. No one had noticed; she wore dark green bubble shades. For a moment she'd wondered if the seal around her sockets were tight enough to allow the tears simply to go on and fill up the entire lens space and never dry. She could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears, those specific tears, as if indices as yet unfound varied in important ways from cry to cry. She had looked down at her feed and known, then, because of a painting, that what she stood on had only been woven together a couple thousand miles away in her own tower, was only by accident known as Mexico, and so Pierce had taken her away from nothing, there'd been no escape. What did she so desire escape from? Such a captive maiden, having plenty of time to think, soon realizes that her tower, its height and architecture, are like her ego only incidental: that what really keeps her where she is is magic, anonymous and malignant, visited on her from outside and for no reason at all. Having no apparatus except gut fear and female cunning to examine this formless magic, to understand how it works, how to measure its field strength, count its lines of force, she may fall back on superstition, or take up a useful hobby like embroidery, or go mad, or marry a disk jockey. If the tower is everywhere and the knight of deliverance no proof against its magic, what else? [pp. 10-12]
The sentence construction is something Pynchon has already honed from the very start: it allows him to pile sentence after sentence of detail, until it becomes a monstrous heap capable of imploding itself lest you remember the single thread that binds it. (Sometimes, and as expected, there is a very thin thread.) His language, potent for experimentation, wants to stretch language itself, and fiction in general, to accept such forms, such ways, narratives different from the tradition Hemingway, for example, has pioneered.

If there's one thing the novel had in mind, it's to stretch the foundation of narratives, of fiction itself. It wants to reinvent the language of fiction, in the ways Barthelme and the rest of them wants it to be: playful, inventive, and at some point, surreal. I am amused by the novel's description of California, which seemed surreal and spot-on at the same time, and I find it eerie that my fondness of California's well-curated cityscape/landscape has made it through the short novel.[2]

One of the major themes of the short novel is paranoia, whether drug-induced, societal, or personal. Its onset, I believe, can be felt in the first few pages, when Oedipa was remembering this instance of taking a call in the middle of the night.[3] Pynchon, having mastered numerous voices and registers, used it to his advantage and made it as a symptom of paranoia. Oedipa's transformation from being the typical housewife (or is she?) started when she was plagued by her psychologist, Dr. Hilarius, and then by being named as co-executor of Pierce Inverarity, her ex-lover, and his gigantic estate, and then, later on, by her own husband on LSD prescriptions subscribed by her very own psychologist. There are hundreds of details: the play; Metzger, the other executor; and then her delusional thoughts which are unbecoming of her character, had it occurred years before. As the plot unfolds, and the mystery of the Trystero deepens, one by one Oedipa finds herself being stripped of her men. Only when the director of The Courier's Tragedy, her only lead with the Trystero plot, took "a Brody" did she realize this. And then, that rhetorical question at the end of it all: "Where am I?"

Which leads me to conclude with a guess, with the backing of the narrator, or Oedipa's consciousness that the novel didn't want--or even hesitant--to arrive at a certain truth. It resorted to binaries instead, and leaves the reader with choices, a yes or a no:
"...For it was now like walking among matrices of a great digital computer, the zeroes and ones twinned above, hanging like balanced mobiles right and left, ahead, thick, maybe endless. Behind the hieroglyphic streets there would either be a transcendent meaning, or only the earth..." (p. 150)
It can be implied here that the novel insists on the duality of meaning: that a single occurrence might mean something, or nothing at all. After reading the book's last few pages--the auctioning of Pierce's estate and yes, the very last sentence: "Oedipa settled back, to await the crying of Lot 49."--I suddenly grew sick about meaning. Clearly, had Oedipa left it all behind--from the Trystero, the underground mailing systems, the coincidences--she would have probably kept her wits intact. But without it, the novel disintegrates.


__________________

1 "That's me, that's me," cried Metzger, staring, "good God." 
"Which one?" asked Oedipa. 
"That movie was called," Metzger snapped his fingers, "Cashiered." (p. 19)

2 "Like many named places in California it was less an identifiable city than a grouping of concepts--census tracts, special purpose bond-issue districts, shopping nuclei, all overlaid with access roads to its own freeway." (p. 13)

3 "It took her in the middle of Huntley and Brikley to remember that last year, at three or so one morning there had come this long-distance call, from where she would never know (unless now he'd left a diary) by a voice beginning in heavy Slavic tones as second secretary at the Transylvanian Consulate, looking for an escaped bat; modulated to comic-Negro, then on into hostile Pachuco dialect, full of chingas and maricones; then a Gestapo officer asking her in shrieks did she have relatives in Germany and finally his Lamont Cranston voice, the one he'd talked in all the way down to Mazatlan. "Pierce, please," she'd managed to get in, "I thought we had---"(p. 2)


Goya


The Colossus by Francisco de Goya


Office tunes

Yo La Tengo - Cherry Chapstick is like a winding road to our ancestral house in Sta. Maria. It's just fields and hills and a really little chapel for Christmas mass. I've been there some couple of months ago and it's already a palimpsest of what I can still remember (the empty lots are still there, and mango trees, and the same rocky road) and what seems new to me (more houses, tracts of land now reserved for real estate development). The song is all about winding roads. I had this far-off memory about driving this really little car with my mother in San Jose del Monte. I was behind the steering wheel, driving it downhill. It was most probably a test drive.

Mona Ki Ngi Xica by Bonga - It feels like Cuba with all the outdated but magnificent architecture.

Here is Gone by Goo Goo Dolls - Some things coming back to me: the green fields surrounding my catholic High School; that morning view from the windows of my school ride--a Tamaraw FX, plate number UFD 635.

Sonar in my Soul by Richard Youngs - My Dad purchased this CD back in the 90's (or 80's) in San Francisco which he rightfully calls as "musical farts". It's just ten tracks of instrumentals and it was… psychedelic. Just like this track. But I liked the CD (couldn't remember the artist) as it doesn't sound like musical farts to me. At least years ago.

This is a True Heart by Julia Holter - I melt in this song. The intro's just magical. It feels like watching something magnificent and slow, like opera, or a play. I like the vocals--you can feel her lips and tongue enunciating the lyrics, but just the right amount of force. I like that it's a bit jazzy. It's the kind of song you should play while drinking martinis in a very posh bar, eating financier cakes; or lounging in a museum cafe, waiting for a date from Craigslist.

Will Calls (Marfa Demo) by Grizzly Bear - I like the varying intensities in this song. Too soft at first, then it becomes too loud. I've never heard any likable Grizzly Bear tracks until I found this.

Another Love (Zwette Edit) by Tom Odell - Light music for the rainy days. Everything feels still while playing this song. I was thinking this morning about how I consciously try to stay away from really mushy songs. For one, the typical love song uses lyrics to exude the right mush it wants--and I'm just not a lyrics person. I seem to have this bad ear for lyrics in English (in Tagalog, which is my first language anyway, I have a good ear), which is the very reason why I like instrumental stuff so much (or distorted lyrics a la Crystal Castles where the lyrics doesn't matter--where the lyrics are often warped and transformed into just another special effect, just like every synth there is.

Island Song by U.S. Girls - The droning sounds of this song is amazing. It feels like a marching band is coming somewhere with a Mediterranean setting (plus the quite gibberish vocal style; very Balearic) like Malta or Greece.

Dontcha by The Internet - I suddenly remember this video for Permission to Love, only spiced up by the vocals. The guitar reminds me of Lee Ritenour's instrumental/jazz rendition of Bob Marley's Jammin'. All smooth and groovy.

I Don't Know What I Can Save You From - Kings of Convenience (Royksopp Remix) - One of the simplest remixes I've heard in years. There's still this acoustic element somewhere in this song. The original reminds me of my early days in one of the best apartments I've lived in, way back in college: where breakfasts are shared with my girlfriend, and using a single toaster I make sandwiches out of gourmet bread and sausage from one of those delis near the campus.

Kura by Gogo (Lulu Rouge Remix) - It feels like walking in this posh store in SoHo after having some coffee at Dean & DeLuca.

Hold on to Me by Placebo - Didn't think they could grow their music this way: neater than their previous songs.

Truant by Burial - It warps you to a game of Silent Hill, where there are weird-looking creatures behind you. I used to play the game with my former roommates and it would creep the hell out of us.

Escolta, etc.




























1. I was listening to Fatalist Palmistry by a band called Why? the other day. Its lyrics ("and now my socket sits like empty catcher's mitts waiting") remind me of this man near the bus bays of MRT North Avenue, panhandling for coins, just last week. Not only is his face deformed (by some really strong acid reaction), his eye sockets were for all the world to see: carved out, as if his eyes were scooped out of its sockets by drug syndicates, and probably sold in the black market.

2. Things have been busy: Wednesday was my first night out with my new workmates in this tapas bar. Then I went to Escolta just yesterday to sell zines with my friends.

3. At Copylandia was this man with a bruised left cheek. I was wondering how he got it, but declined to ask later on. He was just focused on getting the reams tight for the photocopy machine, for my zines to look like zines.

4. There was this single Thursday when I arrived late and found out that I'd be spending the night all by myself (my wife and my son are with my in-laws), there's beer in the kitchen, some leftover food in the fridge, and everything else. Is this the feeling of not having a family? When I've been dreaming of finding the house all by myself, it dawned on me that it's miserable to be alone, to cook your own food. I suddenly missed the warmth of my family, and the problems as well. I went to my bedroom, which turned out to be fusty after a couple of days, and tried to absorb the silence. Some three years ago I was very much at home to this feeling of silence conducive to reading books, to watching porn and masturbating, to calling several friends, to smoking weed, to writing on my typewriter certain things for my thesis, and to lying in my bed, or smoking cigarettes in the balcony, enjoying the boredom. Now, I can't stand it. To lie in my bed alone is to note the absence of my son and wife. I found myself without purpose, without any reason to spend the rest of the week working. I wouldn't have realized how selfish my teenage years were, but it became that when I got married. Ashbery would have a better turn-of-phrase here, about this feeling of sudden change of perspective regarding the past, that it had been selfish all along.

Titles and sound

Come to think of it, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has to be one of the stunning titles for any work of fiction I've come across in years. I've read it in 2009 and the image I had in mind didn't bear much impact the way it did now: the whirring sound of a fast approaching airplane coming right at your office desk, with all the Doppler effect. (And the slow-mo as well.) It's a title about sound, not image. It's a description of sound nearing you, and it reads like a warning, as in a shout, a fire truck, some state of panic in a crowd. This epiphany came when I had to type the title on Facebook and I had goosebumps.

So maybe it's an effective title. 

I'm almost finished with Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 and--not that I'm expecting the phrase to jump right at me--but I was thinking that this title has to have some anchorage from the plot, character, anything! Or maybe it's the premise of this... pompous postmodernist project.

With Don DeLillo's The Body Artist, it's about the character, god bless her. Just a simple, striking title. Same with Oondatje's Anil's Ghost, or The English Patient.

Same with Fight Club. It's a title about something.

Haruki Murakami's After Dark is more of a mood title.

Reader #6

Someone is clutching an Ayn Rand book. He's unusually tall, around six feet, quite muscular, with a brown (or that distinct mix of brown and violet) bonnet, gray shirt, a sling bag. He's looking stern with a goatee. He's a cross between an average computer programmer and a gym buff reading Ayn Rand sitting on a makeshift seat in the aisle provided by the busboy. The bus revs its engine for the steep climb to Skyway. He looks really really serious about the book, his back turned from everyone else. The book's title is Night of January 16th, the copy yellowing and a vintage cover.

Spices













Aside from work and weekends, nothing else. I'm still reading Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. I've had enough of good food last Friday; thanks to the Glorietta event I attended for work, I had a platter from Outback for lunch and a really good burger from Apartment 1B for dinner. Plus the tub of San Mig Lights which is the usual at the office every Friday, and which I found, for the first time, refreshing (which surprised me: maybe I was drinking it too cold to mask its flavor; or maybe I'd been drinking it with too much ice; or, I hypothesized, maybe it's the beer-in-the-can aluminum container, minus the froth typical of the bottlenecked kind). My wife bought this coffee siphon in those Japanese surplus shops sprouting here and there, only for 600 pesos (its original price is 3,700 pesos, according to the price tag), and the Batangas coffee she brewed tastes amazing. She also baked two trays of spiced Dutch cookies, Speculaas, the predecessor of the craze that is the Speculoos cookie butter from Trader Joe's. Mighty good, especially the chocolate ganache she laced with cardamom and cinnamon. Then the burrito pictured above, heaven-sent from one of the canteens near the office. Some other pictures: my son and my wife on the backseat; a seller of nuts from a bus stop in Muntinlupa; the rest are shots taken by my Lumia 710 in Makati.

Songweather


  1. It always feels like it's raining in New Order's Ceremony. It's biting-cold-in-the-bus music, the kind which--at that instant of lifting the curtains--turns bus windows into haze, droplets and zero visibility.
  2. Monomono's Kenimania is Radioactive Sago Project on a Nigerian street market setting. 
  3. She's Spanish, I'm American's Long Summer Days has the right mush. It feels like Miami Beach with the trees and, you know, the canned tropical scene--sweltering hot with alfresco restaurants and cafes and people rollerskating.
  4. I imagine drinking to Neil Young's On The Beach with my Dad, a lover of jazz. 
  5. Though I suspect he would feel averse with listening to Hugh Masekela's Stimela, another jazz with a dash of spoken word and African roots. It talks about the mass migration of Central and Southern African men (Mozambique, Namibia, etc.) to Johannesburg to mine for gold, only to find themselves working for sixteen hours straight in harsh conditions and a wage which would make them regret about their choice. The spoken word part is brief but altogether poetic, chimed in with breathtaking instrumentals, all nine minutes of intense emotions.
  6. I only have two music-related entries in this blog, and it's embarrassing.

Work and play










Took all these pictures with the Nokia Lumia 710. The earlier pictures were not too good, but I'm learning. I distrust camphones for their ability to take pictures, but it's handy enough. Does this mean more pictures? Maybe.