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01 January 2009 @ 04:29 pm

My first half of the year was uneventful. I cannot remember what I was up from January-May. No black holes, no bright sparks. Things only started picking up last June. I went to a new beat, saw old friends, made new ones. Was diagnosed with NVLD, and possibly AS. Fell in love with a city. Got a training scholarship. Went backpacking in Europe. Liked a boy. Un-liked a boy. Berlin-Prague-Dresden. Was told by somebody that my side of the conversation gives him “nosebleed.” But he still would not stop talking to me. Missed a lot of people. Became angrier, more impatient. Yelled at a lot of cab drivers. Had an almost-accident with an oven. Fell in love with John Ajvide Lindqvist and Robin Hobb. Had taken to wearing skirts and tights. Enjoyed autumn and the changing of leaves. Had one tennis lesson. Re-discovered Trashcan Sinatras and The Pearlfishers. Went headlong with new obsessions.  Made unsolicited compilations. Threw away a lot of clothes. Gave a lot of books. And now, it's January again. I take a deep breath. Always, the first month of the year makes me feel like I’m peering down into a deep, black well.

To close, a haiku by Kobayashi Issa:

New Year’s Day –
Everything is in blossom!
I feel just about average.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: The Mary Onettes - Explosions
10 December 2008 @ 02:46 pm
Ahh, livejournal. Long time, no post and I've  missed you so.

Yul tagged me. I'm supposed to write down my 15 most beloved bands and the first song I heard from them, the song that made me fell in love with them, and the present favorite. Here they are, in no particular order:

1.    Camera Obscura
First Song: Suspended from Class
Fell in Love: Suspended from Class
Current Favorite: Roman Holiday

2.    Rickie Lee Jones
First Song: Chuck D.’s In Love
Fell in Love: Jukebox Fury
Current Favorite:  Young Blood

3.    Joni Mitchell
First Song: Big Yellow Taxi
Fell in Love: You Turn Me On
Current Favorite: A Case of You

4.    Trashcan Sinatras
First Song: How Can I Apply
Fell in Love: Send for Henny
Current Favorite: Freetime

5.    Lucky Soul
First Song: My Brittle Heart
Fell in Love: My Brittle Heart
Current Favorite:  I Got The Magic

6.    The Pearlfishers
First Song: Over and Over
Fell in Love: Even on a Sunday Afternoon
Current Favorite: With you on my mind

7.    The Lucksmiths
First Song: T-shirt weather
Fell in Love: The Invention of Everyday Ordinary Things
Current Favorite:  The Town and the Hills

8.    Jens Lekman
First Song: You are the light
Fell in Love: You are the light
Current Favorite: Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig

9.    Feist
First Song: Mushaboom
Fell in Love: One Evening
Current Favorite: Brandy Alexander

10.    Ron Sexsmith
First Song: Secret Heart
Fell in Love: Secret Heart
Current Favorite: Brighter Still

11.    The Orchids
First Song: Peaches
Fell in Love: Take My Hand
Current Favorite: Another Kind of Eden

12.    Edwin Moses
First Song: I’m Feeling So much better
Fell In Love:  Brand New Day
Current Favorite: Brand New Day

13.    Pelle Carlberg
First Song: Go to Hell, Ms Rydell
Fell in Love: Clever Girls
Current Favorite: I Love You, You Imbecile

14.    Belle and Sebastian
First Song: Storytelling OST
Fell in Love: If She Wants Me
Current Favorite:  The Blues are still Blue

15.    Astrud Gilberto
First Song: Waters of March
Fell in Love: So Nice (Summer Samba)
Current Favorite: How Insensitive

In a separate development:

I've been obsessed with mastering yakisoba. I've been eating yakisoba either for dinner/lunch the past three days. I think it's one of the perfect, timeless meals ever crafted - it's got carbs, protein, and lots of veggies. And it's quick to cook. The whole prep and cooking takes me only about 15 min or so.

How to make Yakisoba in five easy steps:

1. Boil soba in water until tender, about 5 minutes.
2. While soba is cooking, saute onions, garlic, choice of protein (kani, chicken, pork, sliced thinly) until cooked.
3. Add veggies of choice.
4. Add noodles.
5. Add enough yakisoba sauce to coat noodles. (You can make your own, but the sauce from the Japanese grocery store is more delicious.)

Now, I'm not saying that my yakisoba method is The Method. There's a lot of ways to cook yakisoba, according to the Interweb, but this is the one that works for me.

Happy cooking!

Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: Jens Lekman - Your Arms Around Me
09 June 2008 @ 08:02 pm

I just finished my first week in my new assignment. If I don't screw this up, I'll stay here and won't go back to the police beat; so I'm crossing my fingers that I'll get things right here. The best thing, so far, is that I get to ride the river ferry to work almost everyday. It's less stressful than traveling by land, which translates to 2 shuttles, a train, and another shuttle. That's more than an hour of commute, sometimes 1 ½ hours. The ferry, admittedly, is slightly longer (this morning, it was late so travel time was like 2 hrs) but it is less stressful. All I do is sit there, listen to my ipod, read or make some phone calls. Or sometimes, eavesdrop on conversations. The downside with my new route, though, is the view. We are traveling on a dying river that runs across the middle of this megacity. Filthy squatters live on both banks. There are abandoned sugar mills, skeletons of bygone factories and decrepit barges. The lily pads are the only happy creatures in this river – they are thriving and healthy, their stalks as big as my wrist. Once, I even saw an islet of trash. I can't think of anything more disgusting than that. Oh yeah, there's one: the kids swimming on the gray water. Near the islet of trash. Depressing, apocalyptic things race through my mind: cholera, infant deaths, global warming, where are their parents, anyway?  During the 1-hour river ride, the only glorious thing to look at is the sky. It's June now, but it still feels like the middle of March: all sticky heat and intense blue sky.  It's so pure that, sometimes, I  catch myself wishing I could drown in it.



Current Mood: groggygroggy
Current Music: The Lucksmiths - There is A Light That Never Goes Out
24 April 2008 @ 10:11 pm


Last January, I wrote a story about a town official who was killed, execution style, by 2 or 3 gunmen. At that time, the motive for his death was unclear. Like all other deaths in this unfortunate country, he became a statistic, a footnote in his neighborhood.


Last week, The Editor sent me an email from a 20 year old guy in Ohio, who had something to say about the murder story. The Guy said he was looking for his father who left him and his mother when he was a toddler. Apparently, his father's name is the same as The Village Captain's name. He was also of the same age. The Guy has been looking for traces of his father and that newsbrief was his first break. I told him that his father and The Village Captain's name is pretty common in here and that there are probably dozens of men who carry that name.


I once read something about a linguist who was into endangered languages. He trekked to a remote community in the middle of nowhere to interview the last surviving speaker of this endangered Native American language. When he got there, he was met by weeping natives. Just hours before he arrived, the  old man he was supposed to interview and  document died. I imagined that The Guy, while he was reading the news I wrote, was feeling something akin to what the linguist felt when he heard about his subject’s death and I thought I should give The Guy a break. (See, my heart is not entirely made of heavy-duty Plexiglass. To quote Camera Obscura, I’m softer than my face would suggest.) Helping The Guy find something, anything about his father - dead or alive - would be my biggest act of charity this year. After this, I can go on sinning and become the crankiest person without feeling guilty.  


So I made some calls today.  The inspector who handled the case wasn't in the office, but the desk officer gave me the number of the village hall. The Woman who answered the phone was quite helpful. She knew a lot of things about the murdered man, who was their town's village captain for decades.  Well, after the conversation with the Woman, there's a good chance that he's dad's alive. Missing, but probably living somewhere and doesn't want to be found.


My only information from The Guy were his father's middle name and the possible month of his birth. They may have the same name, but these details were different. According to the Woman, The Village Captain's middle is a 2-syllable Chinese sounding name, quite unlike the Castillian name The Guy gave me. Also, the Guy said his father was born in Dec; The Village Captain, had he been alive, would have been 55 last April 22, just two days ago.


I haven’t told The Guy yet the results of my inquiries. I really don’t know how to tell someone this kind of news: “Mr. The Guy, the man you thought was your father wasn’t your father. Keep on looking.” Is there a nice way to say that? I’m open to suggestions.


I concede that sometimes real life is better than fiction; there are just some stories that couldn't be made up.



Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Black Box Recorder - The Art of Driving
14 April 2008 @ 09:05 pm

It was only a matter of time. I knew I was going to write a Loretta Bobbitt story one day. That one day happened last week and the tabloids had a field day. What sells more than sex? Sex and gore!  Severed penis crime! It was truly one of the most bizarre, funniest story I've ever come across, although the Guy wouldn't be too happy about it, understandably. (His wife cut it off to teach him a lesson. She said he's a womanizer.) And really, it's a crime, although I heard the Guy wasn't keen on suing the Wife for, ah, sexual assault or malicious wounding (nice legalese)  because she's the mother of his four kids. Awww. Let's hug it out while singing that Loveninjas' song, because, really isn't it amazing to live in a world where a guy stays with his wife even though she sliced off his penis?

Current Mood: gigglygiggly
Current Music: The Loveninjas - She Cut His Penis in Two
07 April 2008 @ 09:37 pm
By its premise – two outsider kids, one of them a vampire, finds love and life in each other's company - John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let The Right One In should be sappy. Emotionally manipulative, like the Danielle Steel books. I was apprehensive buying it, but I haven't read horror in ages, so I gave it a go. And Lindqvist's a Swede – who knew those people can churn out horror? Plus, the book was relatively cheaper and thicker than the other book I was considering of buying and the novel's font was tiny, so at least I knew that the author had a lot to say.

Talk about bang for my bucks.

It's my pleasure to report that Let The Right One In isn't a sappy story. It's a strange mixture of social commentary, vampire lore, and heart wrenching pre-teen love story (ala Will and Lyra in Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass) with a bit of queer theory thrown it. Isn't genre mash up fun?! You can actually feel the layers of meaning peeling away page by page. I believe some Comparative Lit student is already making a dissertation out of this.

The story's set in suburban Sweden, a place with no history, according to the narrator. Oskar, a 12 year old boy who gets bullied and who lives with his mom, meets Eli, a bright girl somewhat his age who only goes out to the playground at night. Guess who the vampire is? Anyway, Eli lives with a man who's into kiddie prostitution and something happened to him that made Eli depend on Oskar for emotional comfort and survival.In between covers, there's pedophilia, suburban ennui, alcoholism, and zombies. That's all I can say for now. I don't want to spoil the novel for the rest of you.  

Props to Lindqvist for being so confident with the story and for avoiding the obvious. One can really tell that he thought carefully about everything, that he's committed to the story, and that he loved the horror genre so much he gave it a bit of a twist without erasing the spirit of it.  There are some stylistic issues in the book that I find iffy, but maybe it's the translation. And besides, it's a debut novel, so I can forgive the lapses. But the plotting, which is paramount in genre fiction like this, is superb. Halfway through the book, I thought: If this is what the Euro horror writers are up to these days, maybe I should go back to the fold and immerse myself in snow and blood for a while!  


The book has now been made into a movie of the same title, which came from a Morrissey song. According to comments, it's pretty good, although there were skeptics. Trailer is out in youtube and the movie should be out by mid-year, I think.

Current Mood: dorkydorky
Current Music: Sandie Shaw - Girl Don't Come
26 February 2008 @ 07:00 pm

Me and the dead white male Russian novelists, we don’t agree much. I’d love to finish a novel from Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but they always defeat me. I tried reading The Brothers Karamazov in college, but gave up. Same thing with the Idiot, which was a gift from a priest who went to Peru, I think. And Anna Karenina, just thinking about it makes me tired. Is it the never-ending winter? The torturous relations? The labyrinthine 17th-century political drama? The funny thing was I adored the characters in the two novels. Alyosha and Prince Myshkin, the world mocks them, but they’re still good. They don’t open fire at shopping malls or kill themselves with prescription drugs. I’ll heave a sigh here. Nobody writes this kind of heroes anymore.

 Recently, I vowed to finish a Dostoevsky this year. Thanks, to Janko Tipsarevic, who made me want to read Dostoevsky again. Tipsy was the one who almost beat Roger Federer in the third round of Aussie Open. According to commentators, he has reread The Idiot several times. (He also wears glasses on court, another plus, although Ira said they were visors. I don’t care, I like living in denial-land.) I envy people who finish a DWMR book, they got the stamina and the discipline to see it through: there was Anna in the fiction class, Trixie who wrote about Anna Karenina and then, Tipsy, who, to prove it, has quote from The Idiot tattooed in his arm: Beauty will save the world. You got to hand it to the Dostoevsky: he can sentimental and sincere but never cloying. That's hard to pull off. Maybe it’s all those years in the Siberian gulag and the perpetual gambling itch mixed with Russian Orthodoxy. I should feel excited about this. If I don’t have a Dostoevsky book in my end-of-the-year list, please feel free to yell at me. I’d be disappointed in myself too.  


And to Tipsy: Hope you win a Grand Slam soon. I like you more than I like the Djoker, even though he does mean impressions.



Next topic: John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In. Music geeks alert: the  title was taken from a Morrisey song. Guess what? It’s a vampire novel/love story/social commentary/urban fantasy. For me, the more slashes, the better. And it’s from Sweden, of all places. (So, they don’t just write about crimes there huh?)  Oh, and it’s got a movie coming out this year and I heard it’s good.

Current Mood: blahblah
Current Music: Club 8 - Whatever You Want
06 January 2008 @ 06:22 pm


This is the list of books I finished reading in 2007. The magic number is 70. That means I’ve read 1.3 books a week.  Not bad, although I wanted the number to be higher. I excluded the rereads and the magazines and the journals (The NYer, Believer, Granta, etc.), although the time I spend reading NYer, for instance, is equivalent to one Agatha Christie book. If I include them, the list would be well over 100.


Fueled by my love for the deadpan existentialist Scandinavian police procedural writers, the mystery/detective fiction dominated 2007.  New discoveries include Vernor Vinge, an SF novelist and Torgny Lindgren, a Swedish writer who writes bleak novels (in Sweetness, the characters are trapped in a remote village covered in snow and two of the three of them are waiting two die. What is bleaker than that?).


This year, I’m thinking of reading more SF and fantasy. Other 2008 resolutions: I resolve to read more contemporary fiction. I resolve to read the Lit theory books gathering dust under my bed. And lastly, I resolve to maintain clean bookshelves and stop the ugly habit of leaving my empty coffee cups on my desk, near the books.  Wish me luck.


I’ll refrain from giving reviews of the books or rating them, for that matter for the simple reason that there's 70 of them. (Hey, I got to work!) However, I’ll list the top 5 books/authors worth noting about:


1.      Wilkie Collins

19th. Century writer of “sensationals” and a best friend of Dickens. The Law and the Lady (#2) is the first novel where the sleuth is a woman. The plot and the writing are not at par with The Moonstone, Collin’s earlier effort and considered his masterpiece. It’s rambling, confusing, heavy handed and the characters, except for the reluctant sleuth Valeria Brinton-Woodville, are not well formed.  But for fans of the mystery/detective fiction, The Law and the Lady’s an instructing and interesting read. Hey, you have to know your roots!


2.      The Stars, My Destination by Alfred Bester

This SF novel was written in 1953, but never feels dated (well, except for the rape scene.) (The original name of TSMY was Tiger, Tiger!, culled from a poem by William Blake. Blake’s one of my favorites, so props to Bester for that. ) The story’s about Gulliver Foyle, an ordinary, ambition-less man who extracts revenge against the people who left him for dead in deep space. Foyle’s the granddaddy of all those one-man machines on a quest that litter the SF landscape, like Case of Neuromancer, considered the first novel of the cyberpunk tradition.  The novel has a great opening scene – the origin of the word “Jaunt” - and has one of the most satisfying and logical endings I’ve ever read.  


3.      Dashiell Hammett 

An alcoholic, TB-ridden, unrepentant communist considered to be one of the pillars of the American hardboiled tradition. A Hammett book is a master class on how ordinary, street language could be so crisp and visceral. In one of his stories, he described one character as somebody who was “howled out” of his job. Wished I thought of that.


4.      Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge 

 Vinge was a computer scientist and a university professor who now writes SF full-time. In Rainbow’s End,    Robert Gu, a notoriously mean former poet laureate found himself free from Alzheimer’s after a high tech operation in a technologically-mediated world. The novel’s a great meditation on aging, technology, the future of libraries, the Internet, and family. 


5.      Philip Pullman 

Pullman writes fantastical children’s books that are read and loved by adults. Like me. His Dark Materials is anti-organized religion, but it’s never mean.  I read the three
Pullman books in one weekend and the effect after I was finished the series was physical. My eyes were red-rimmed from the sad future of Lyra and Will that left me heartsick for days.  

Current Mood: dorkydorky
Current Music: Taken By Trees - julia
11 December 2007 @ 10:55 pm

After the funeral march last Saturday, we headed to Elaine and Suyin's house where I slaved away in the kitchen for the belated birthday lunch. The menu in mind was pasta with tomato vodka sauce and couscous salad. But since I couldn't find couscous in Shopwise, we ordered pizza instead.  I got the recipe from epicurious.com, but I slightly modified it and used onions and added a bit of tomato paste. After eating, they watched Run Lola Run and I took a nap.

1 35 ounce Italian plum tomatoes
1 pound penne (I used the spirals)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, sliced finely
1 large white onion, sliced finely
1/2 cup vodka
3/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 tomato paste
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
chopped parsley
ground black pepper
italian seasoning/herbs

1. Boil pasta according to package directions.
2. Cook garlic and onions in olive oil. Add pepper flakes. When the onions are soft and translucent, pour in the plum tomatoes (coarsely chopped) with the liquid.
3. When the tomatoes have boiled, pour vodka and simmer. Add parsley and other seasonings.
4. Add cream to thicken. Then cheese. At the last minute, add butter. Mix with the pasta.
5. Eat. Good for six

Current Mood: crappycrappy
Current Music: Belle and Sebastian - I'm Waking Up to Us
01 December 2007 @ 05:58 pm

D didn't know about the short hair cut. So on the train the other night, he thought he saw my doppelganger.
-It looked like her, but I wasn't sure so I didn't say hi, he told C, who knew about the drastic hair cut, but hasn't seen it yet. She stopped typing and squinted at him.
-Ok, what was she wearing? C said. 
-Some kind of a jacket or a sweater, eyeglasses, and a really, really big bag. 
A guffaw from C. - Yes, that's our girl!


Another related incident, VJ accompanied me to the grocery store last weekend. Grocery shopping is my favorite chore - it gives me a sense of purpose and makes me feel very middle-class, although in my present condition, I am just barely.  It was our first time in that gigantic supermarket and we couldn't find the bathrooms. I stopped a passing employee and inquired about it. His reply: It's that way, sir. He didn't even correct himself, nothing to indicate that he made a mistake,  he just went his way. But I don't begrudge him; it was late and he must have been tired. ( Do I smell class guilt?)  Needless to say, VJ found it very amusing and he was laughing and we sort of trotted to the bathrooms because now, he really really needed to pee.

Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: The Fiery Furnaces - We wrote letters everyday