401k's

An Elite Daily article, entitled "If You Have Savings In Your 20s, You’re Doing Something Wrong" was intent on generating traffic by going against everything sensible in the world. Perhaps a strategy or plot to be one of those viral Internet pieces? (56K shares since last week, according to their built-in counters.)

Under the horrible subheading When you care about your 401k, your life is just “k”, the author, who goes by the Twitter handle @LaurMoneyMartin, succinctly expresses the outlook of the #YOLO generation in glorified, sugar-coated terms. At a time when a Carpe Diem calligraphy gets the most likes on Instagram, these kinds of articles have proven itself as the kind of fodder twenty-somethings consider as empowering.

I am coming from an unusual perspective, from someone who, at 24, has both wife and a three year-old son, the core demographic she passionately derides, along with alien terms such as maturity, which means giving a fuck about something that's not #YOLO-related.

The article is extreme in its claims: it is against the idea of thinking about the future, dogmatically throwing things such as "We’re taking our time growing up, refusing to be shackled by mortgages and diapers," among other rallying cries which can be summed up into simple, illogical equations. Youth means worrying more about experiences than expenses; life should be lived, not watched in a "rent-controlled" apartment; when taking care of your finances, think of the go-big-or-go-home mantra.

Another one, an attempt towards the existential: "Those who don’t plan for the future aren’t planning for their death."

This way of thinking is borderline asinine. If there are ways to feel glad about yourself, reading a stupid Elite Daily article is not the way I imagined it to be. Even if I were to resurrect my pot-headed, angst-ridden self back in college, I still wouldn't have the nerve to write aphorisms such as "Your 20s are not the time to save; they’re the time to gamble." Really? And the website offers more of her harebrained articles: Lovers Are Fighters: Couples Who Fight The Most Communicate The Most; Why Damaged People F*ck Better, Love Better And Live Better; I Wore A Strap-On For A Week To Know What It's Like To Have A Dick, among other blunders only pleasure-seeking, egotistical people could write about for the love of money and attention.

(Thanks to a recent training on Google Analytics, I found something funny about how we designed social media: it reads page visits as attention, which in turn is converted to money. There's no such thing as a bad viral or a good viral; virality isn't about virtue as it is about money.)

True documents

From Searching for Sebald (Photography after W.G. Sebald): 
"You have a very real nucleus and around this nucleus a large empty space. You yourself don't know the context for the depicted person and which landscape it is. Is it Southern France, is it Italy? You don't know. And you have to start thinking hypothetically. This track inevitably leads you into fiction and to storytelling. When writing you recognize possibilities: to start by drawing out stories from the images, to walk into these images (erzahlend hineinzugehen) through the telling of stories, to implant these images into a text-passage, and so on."
"The photograph is the true document par excellence. People let themselves be convinced by a photograph." 
Sebald is arguably one of the most relevant writers to quote on the sensibilities of mixing photos with fiction; of the former's relevance to the latter; and, of how--during the process of writing (handwritten or mental)--the camera acts as "a shorthand or aide memoire.

No one can succinctly describe the regret of not taking a photo quite like Sebald. It's true: there will be days where you wished you had a camera with you, capture the moment, document it not through writing (it will come later). link
"Again and again there are situations when you think that this is impossible, that it cannot be, [situations] where you would really have to take this snapshot. For example, it happened to me recently at the Amsterdam airport: when I had to sleep there overnight because the entire airport was fogged in and none of the planes could take off, after midnight everyone was stretched out horizontally on these sofas on the upper floor of the departure lounge. They were covered with the kind of thin, blue blankets provided to the campers by KLM. An extremely ghostly scenario--human beings that, laid out like the dead, were lying curled up on their side or very rigidly on their back. And outside, through the windowpane, was the mirror image of the interior."

Back burners

  • Pinning tabs on Chrome may be the virtual equivalent of putting things on the back burner, but it feels nasty to eventually populate your browser's menu bar with these little to-do's and must-reads. So I'm putting it here:
  • From an iPod note, March 9: “I think about death every single day. It's not normal. It's unhealthy. I wish I were more oblivious about it. Weeks ago, I had to come up with a 600-word article about the birth of stars and during my research, learned about how it ends. [Death] comes up in even the slightest hints in fiction, at any time of the day. from Donald Antrim's The Afterlife, to Donald Barthelme's Paradise and even now, in John Updike's Rabbit, Run." 
  • "People give them many different names. But in themselves, they have no names. When you are thinking, all things have different names and different shapes. But when you are not thinking, all things are the same. There are no words for them. People make the words. A cat doesn’t say, ‘I am a cat.’ People say, ‘This is a cat.’ The sun doesn’t say, ‘My name is sun.’ People say, ‘This is the sun.’" link
  • I'm not a sneakerhead, but if I were one, I'd spend a king's ransom for this pair of Lanvins.
  • A review of Thomas Piketty's groundbreaking book, Capital in the 21st Centurymade perfect sense.

Impulses

Ever since I graduated from college I only had two major purchases: a pair of Superga sneakers (thanks to a 20% off on its price tag) and two sets of Ball mason jars (50% off at True Value). The latter is comparably unselfish, albeit a case of hoarding; the former I considered a gift to myself, since my Onitsuka Tiger sneakers gave up on me after three years of constant wear and tear.

Then I found myself still reeling from a Crumpler bag I bought two weeks ago, at Beyond The Box Centris. Blame the saleslady: I went inside to ask if the store also had a service center of sorts, like the one they had in Greenhills. She said no: they only act as a reseller for fools like me who would comb through the shelves, the type whose hands fumble about while asking uninteresting questions. So there I was, checking out the Crumpler messenger bag and casually asked for the price. Lo and behold, it's on sale. "All Crumpler bags are on 50% off, sir."

Maybe I should have been contented with the fact that I don't really give a fuck about stores in Centris. (Save for Echo Store--which sells Theo & Philo chocolate bars.) Maybe traipsing all over their vast grounds was a bad idea. I was faced with a parade of excuses and justifications: The store was about to close at 9PM. I needed a bag that has both form and function, since wearing a big, bulky North Face backpack for years has given me the look and reputation of someone who pitches a tent at Ayala Triangle whenever one pleases.

After a few days I have finally convinced myself (and my wife) that it's actually a pretty good deal. Crumpler bags have a lifetime warranty. The one I bought, Cut of Horror, is waterproof; the straps are unusually comfortable even if unpadded, and it's surprisingly roomy despite its slim and stylish appearance. (It can fit a Lenovo Thinkpad T440, a couple of gadgets, chargers, notebooks, two paperbacks, a lunchbox, and an extra shirt, among other misc items.) And it's also sturdier and sleeker than *ahem* Herschel.

Here's to hoping this would be my last major purchase for the year. Kampai!

Storykins

  • "Staffage is the little people, or sometimes animals, in a landscape painting, there to give it scale or liveliness but not portrayed for their own sake. A shepherd or soldier off in a field somewhere is staffage, or bricklayers on the Tower of Babel, or CGI coffee-drinkers strolling delightedly through a lobby in an architectural rendering. Karel van Mander, the Vasari of the north, called these figures “storykins” (Dutch storykens): “little stories” to animate the scenery and bring it to life." link
  • The debate on More Than vs. Over. link 
  • A refresher course on grammar. link
  • Because I start my sentences with "I" a tad too often, revisiting an article I read about priming sentences: "Being an expert writer isn't just about forming the technical guts of a good sentence. It's also about figuring out how to hew serviceable planks in one set of tasks and then, in other duties, build syntactic confections that don't taste like wood." link
  • "There is no throwing away. This is going to catch up to us. If people start buying wild fish and only use the fillet, it will be crazily expensive. But if you start to use the whole entire animal, even the head and the skin, what is expensive? Expensive for me is not how much I pay—it’s how much I throw away of an ingredient." link

Carpets

Something seedy, like mustard mashed from far away. A spice. Anise? Haven't smelled fenugreek yet, but something Indian. Just a note of spice. Maybe the smell reminds me of airports? SFO? Or the drawl of air-conditioning units? The carpet that makes you feel important? Port Authority? Boston hotel? Falafels down the street? A bit sour. Funky. The same smell on my second day--the same smell, like burnt or moldy wood. Wood panelling? Tablecloth? Airports and the smell of silence, if there's one. An air of importance, of people with heels clicking.

Turbulence

 Herbstmeer VII (Autumn Sea VII)

Bewegtes Meer (Rough Sea)

Meer Mit Helvioletter Wolke (Sea with Mauve Cloud)

Tropensonne (Tropical Sun)

Intrigued by Emil Nolde from an article from New Yorker: the Anti-Modernists. Realized how horrible it should be for Emil, what with 1,052 of his works considered Degenerate Art during Hitler's time. Herbstmeer VII is turbulent; it's a painting I could stare at for a long time. Bewegtes Meer is very psychedelic. Meer Mit Helvioletter Wolke is fragrant and floral, a predecessor of Marimekko prints. Tropensonne has an eerie resemblance to the Japanese flag--was this about World War II in the Pacific? (A stupid question, since each work of art produced during the 1940's will always be about the war.) These seascapes reminds me of Derek Walcott, of how he described the sea in a million ways, having been born and lived in the island of St. Lucia ("a poet who comes to consciousness on a small island"). Weekend had me watching an NHK documentary about a herd of cows who miraculously survived the March 2011 tsunami. As the Japanese are wont to do, their take is very animistic, attributing everything to a "chain of life" that a number of elementary students must do. I find it overly sappy and melodramatic.

Bathroom song

Today for my son 
I made a song: "Don't eat your 
toothpaste; it's not food."

Manatee

Image taken by my wife

A part of me wanted to celebrate my son's third birthday in an ocean park just because I wanted to go there. Call it one of those unfounded obsessions. Consider this--and my love for beaches--a longing my inner Pisces has for the past few decades of living in landlocked provinces, feeling deprived and fed up with resorts teeming with machine-generated waves and kitschy landscapes.

Which is why I find John Witte's Manatee riveting, with its dream-like sequence. The poem draws stillness from its aquatic environment: the hushed, ambient, even meditative Oceanarium of sorts.

The poem starts in a delirious haze: the dreary "red eye", the final words, the You gonged in morphine. There's a touch of helplessness, even grief, in this line: "diaper gonged on morphine drifting / up out of sleep."

The graceful line cut happened at "drifting", transporting us in front of the cloudy glass, to the approaching manatee. Then there's the unsuspecting granddaughters, which faces I imagine to have this blue and iridescent glow against the pitch-black viewing chamber, "gazing openmouthed having forgotten about you entirely," a strong statement against memory as a construct, perspective. A manatee is just an exciting new creature to them; to the persona, it's an enlightened, transcendent manatee--a fictional layer, a folklore of sort. (In Palahniuk's Fight club: the "power animal.")

Through the course of the poem, the You becomes reanimated and transfigured in the same way memories do. It's a bit of myth-making, really: attitudes and perspectives hardened into beliefs--beliefs reshaped until the make-believe looms up, become embodied by mementos, cursed objects, or bad weather in fair days.

After Barthelme's Sentence

The visual artist can deal with almost every kind of material, even sound, but the writer deals with only one kind of material: sentences. The solution, therefore, was to treat sentences as though they were found objects. link