Monday, November 3, 2014

PSA: The Mythology Class Second Edition

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mythclass_nov2014This is news I've been waiting for for such a long time.

I'm so happy to announce that one of my personal favorites will be available once again to the general public. Hurrah for Nautilus Comics' printing of the beautiful second edition of The Mythology Class!

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Monday, July 28, 2014

PSA: Trip To Tagaytay and Alternate Cast 12 Cover

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Trip to Tagaytay
 Arnold Arre's graphic novels have always been among my favorites.

There is just something magical and wondrous about his works. Not only are they reminiscent of Philippine mythology and days of Martial Law, but they also speak of humanly love and bittersweet memories.

Of all the books I haven't yet read of Arre, it has to be Trip to Tagaytay. It's the one book I didn't get from bookstores, when I was trying to complete my collection of his books. This was mostly due to the fact that it was published in 2000, a long, long time ago.

I have almost completely given up finding a copy of this, so you can just imagine my gladdened heart when I received word that Trip to Tagaytay will be reprinted this year!

When Kat of Nautilus Comics sent me an email about this development, I really couldn't rein in my happiness. I immediately contacted a few of my other friends who were Arre completists, and joyfully imagined walking through the Bayanihan Center doors this Saturday to get myself a limited edition copy of this work.

Because yes: limited copies of Trip to Tagaytay will be available at the Nautilus Comics booth at this year's Indieket in Bayanihan Center, Pasig on August 2, 2014. (Here's the FB event page for it.)

If you stumbled on here wondering what exactly Trip to Tagaytay is about, here's the blurb provided:

For the first time in over a decade, multi-awarded Arnold Arre, the local comic industry’s golden boy, will be re-printing Trip to Tagaytay under Nautilus Comics. A love story set in the future, Trip was first printed in 2000 and won the Manila Critics Circle National Book Award.

Trip to Tagaytay gives a speculative glimpse of what the Philippines will be like years from now, showing how the country’s unique culture and quirks will mingle with futuristic technology, creating a tomorrow both novel yet also strangely familiar. Yet the story also talks about the timelessness of love and the country’s history, all framed in an electronic love letter between a young couple. Trip is Arre’s most personal work, being basically a 40-page illustrated love letter to his then-girlfriend and now wife, Cynthia.

Besides this, though, they will also be releasing a variant cover by Harvey Tolibao of the 12th issue of Cast, a young-adult comic series by Jamie Bautista on the adventures of a barkada in a musical.

These two are special releases that will be only available on the day of the Indieket itself.

I'll definitely be dropping by the Indieket to check these out, so maybe I'll see you there. Or, perhaps, in a trip to Tagaytay?


Arnold Arre’s Trip to Tagaytay and Harvey Tolibao’s Cast 12 variant cover will be available only at the Nautilus Comics booth in Indieket on August 2, 2014 at the Bayanihan Center, Pioneer St., Pasig City, from 10 am to 7 pm.

For more details, please contact Rhea Bautista at rhea.bautista@nautilusgraphicvisual.com.
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Friday, July 4, 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Note: This review may contain spoilers.

This is a very interesting life story of Christopher, a boy who is autistic. He is very smart and he got an A level grade for the A maths. He wanted to solve the mystery of the death of Wellington, who is Mrs. Shears dog. He has a family with a caring father and a lost mother.

The book is very straightforward and direct to the point, and this is because Christopher, the protagonist, is very straightforward and direct to the point. He likes things in order, like train tables, but does not like the colors yellow and brown. When he sees four red cars in a line, he believes that it will be a Super Good Day, while seeing 4 four yellow cars in a line will be a Black Day, and he will not speak to anyone on a day like that.

Besides maneuvering the quite halting style this book has been written in, you may not find it easy to read about Christopher, especially when you try to imagine how the people around him must feel. (Christopher himself does not like to imagine, but he knows that White Lies are truths that are not said completely.) His family is torn apart by his curious behavior, like when he reads difficult books or watches videos about undersea life, while getting in trouble at school for punching a classmate. He himself is an oddity, but he is logical enough to survive in the real world - probably better than a non-Special Needs adult.

This slice of life tale, said in the voice of an autistic yet gifted teen, is a look into the world of some people we probably do not understand due to their conditions. It is a refreshing perspective which brings not only understanding, but also a lot of heart. A number of surprises happen here and there, from the discovery of family secrets, to Christopher repeatedly threatening people with the saw blade on his Swiss knife, so it really makes for an amazing story.

Truly an inspiring look into what goes on in the heads of the people we describe as "autistic".


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Read this book now! Here's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on Amazon (for Kindle).


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

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Atlas Shrugged
This is actually among the most brilliant books I have ever read. It's a pity, then, that I do not believe that I can really recommend it to almost anyone.

Just to note: This book, of course, is said to be THE book that ultimately epitomizes Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. If you'd like to read how exactly she pictured society in a rather implausible 1,000-page novel, then go ahead and indulge. However, if you just want to know what exactly her principles were about, save yourself the trouble, and just check out the Wiki.

And now, my review.

---

This is the story of how Atlas looked over the world, saw what was happening, and just decided to shrug it off. Well, in a figurative sense.

The plot itself is quite convoluted. It deals with a question, as well as the story of a woman desperate to run her railroad. It shows the pristine character of ugly faces, as well as the deceiving lies behind the most influential of speakers. It has a great landscape to carve its story, coming from countries other than the US, and finally honing into THE financial district of the great nation itself. It discusses the primal tones of sexual relationships, and what "love" actually is. It is mysterious and complex, rich and dynamic.

There are sparkling characters, and three-hour long speeches. There are plenty of parties and ribbon-cutting ceremonies, plenty of house calls and lunches with companions. There is dinner at the cafeteria, work at the underground, and scientists working for a new tomorrow. There are playboys, pirates, politicians, philanthropists, and powerful people. There are rail tracks, copper mines, man-made steel, shiny vehicles, and delicious food. There are airplane-flying women, incredible just judges, and the smartest of the smartest.

There is also John Galt. I can fawn over and over again for John Galt. I love Francisco D'Anconia, but John Galt just takes the cake. However, who is John Galt? ((highlight for spoilers))

However, it is a great mess. While the plot itself moves in a somewhat linear fashion (with plenty of twists and turns to keep the mind alert and the head guessing), the content itself can be quite an amazing turn-off. One time, I knew that I could easily skip almost 10 pages, knowing that these pages would have done little to pull the story forward. While the storytelling is interesting, the infomercials that Ayn Rand flashes about her philosophy can get annoying. Too much commercial, not enough show.

Add to this the seemingly plausible implausibility of the entire thing. It's too crazy, that, in reality, it might just work... (Hint: Not.) The story is too ugly, too big, too political to wrap your head around with. It's too complicated, although the grimy layer of reality is just all over the place. It is the truth that everyone wishes to deny, it is an undeniable ugliness that we wish were not true.


If you are deep in your (mis)conceptions of society, and view the society as just how it is, this book will be incomprehensible and unfathomable to you.

If you are too smart, too theoretical, you will probably laugh or argue.

If you are realistic, you will see reality here, with an unreal touch.

As for me, I take it with a grain of salt, and consider the possibility.

Nevertheless, though, I think that a lot of people would probably take it the way Officer Barbrady had: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_j56Ii...

... And for all it's worth, I really don't blame them.


Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Gitarista by Reev Robledo

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Gitarista
The music plays, and it beckons.

You hear the gentle notes making their way past the strings of the old guitar. They seem to be oh so light, playing with the rays of sunlight that stream from the windows. You are taken away by the silence between notes, and the feeling of flying.

Suddenly, the beast comes pouring in. Angry, raging, staccato. The melody changes, it is intense. Your former state is nowhere to be found. You rage, rage, rage. There is nothing but a building passion - angry, dark, taunting. You strike through the beat like a madman.

... That is, until the tempo slows, and you remember what you're here for. Tame the beast. Play the music. Soothe the soul.

----

This is a book with rhythm and rhyme, flow and fugue, melody and music. It talks about prodigies and musical talent, while remaining rather reminiscent of Manila's glories. It's not perfect, being independently published, but it is an interesting page-turner, and something I thought that was unique, especially among the local Filipiniana books.

This is the kind of book wherein you rather need to be familiar with the songs to get the context. It's fine without that knowledge, but with Leyenda or Por Una Cabeza in the background, the text gains a different light, a different flow. With my headphones on and the music making its way through, I somehow believe that I can better feel the characters, that I can better see the sights, and that I can better hear the cadence. (So yes, do yourself a favor and listen to the music as it plays in the book. The author has links to the music he used on his website.)

The story is centered on a prodigy with a gift for the guitar. Note, however, that this isn't the typical singer-songwriter or guitarist we can find in bands, but the classical guitarist, the gitarista of old. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that such pieces and talents still exist today, especially in this world of pop, rock, jazz, techno, and what-have-you. I was swayed by Alejandro's dizzying journey into the homes of maestros, into the gigs and smoky bars, and into the competitions for success. I can only hope that this kind of genius is still cultivated, even if it's just in the darkened soundproof rooms of a crumbling university.

It was also a journey into the city of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and the home of many cultural and historic icons. I rode the jeepney past the Cultural Center of the Philippines, I strode the night grass in Fort Santiago, and I braved the busy streets of Quiapo. There is also talk of Dumaguete, Spain, and the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, but its heart seems to have been left in that old, beautiful city.

This book may still use some work with little details, but I believe that this is already quite the masterpiece. The journey is unforgettable, the cameos are fun, the story is interesting, and the music is sublime. Come, take a chance, and do a tango amidst these pages. There's still music to be played on the old guitar.

Gitarista by Reev Robledo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Book of Virtues: Audio Collection, Volumes I & II by William J. Bennett

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The Book of Virtues: Audio Collection, Volumes I & II
This audio collection is very nostalgic for me. I remember the times when my mother would play these for me (in glorious cassette form, no less!), and I would listen to these memorable stories, told with only the most soothing of voices, until I fell asleep. When I got older, my mother had the cassettes recorded and burnt into CDs, and I, in turn, got the MP3s and listen to them on my portable media player from time to time.

The stories come from far and wide, featuring the mighty Genghis Khan to the poor little match girl to the tenacious Susan B. Anthony. Narrated by none other than William Bennett himself, along with other amazing voice talents, this collection shares in stories the virtues that most men find admirable: Responsibility, Honesty, Compassion, Courage, Faith, Friendship, Persistence.

The stories are simple ones, and yet they ring true for every person of every age. There are those that are sad, those that are dark, those that are fantastical, and, of course, those that are incredibly moral. While not all of the virtues might not be valued by everyone, I believe that there is always a story here that would nudge the spirit and tear at the soul. I like particularly the little intros that Bennett adds to each, because they aren't too overbearing, and yet very personal.

This is also where I find solace when I feel that the world is so hopeless. The familiarity and solidness of the characters in these different worlds brings me comfort, knowing that there are people who lived like that in the world, and that these people are those who I can strive to be.

To end, I will leave one of the poems featured here, one that I adore and think back on every so often.

If—
by Rudyard Kipling


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!



The Book of Virtues: Audio Collection, Volumes I & II by William J. Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cube by Michael Whetzel

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Cube
Caution: This review may have some spoilers.

Have you ever wanted to live more than one life, say two or three lives, all at the same time? To be able to choose not just one path, but to be able to see the possibilities for all paths you would have liked to take? To be by the side of your great love always, while also living the life of an astronaut in space? To be seeing amazing wonders, while also devoting your life to serving your fellow man?

Well, my friends, the Cube will take you there.

This is an amazing story of a simple man who found a seemingly nondescript cube. He takes it home, and soon discovers that he has come by a really great gift: the gift to choose more than one path in (and out of) this world. Using alien technology, tons of scrap metal, and a whole lot of guts, Curtis discovers that adventure awaits in almost every corner. The only question is: is he honestly prepared to take in the real consequences of his great journeys?

I was easily taken in by this novel. It has just the right elements to give me sci-fi thrills (from space travel mechanics to otherworldly lifeforms), while also giving me a nice on-the-ground feel of love and fellowship. Masterful storytelling has been done to take me to new heights, and it has provided me with something very fresh, something different.

This may be a topic tackled by one science fiction writer or other, but the way Michael Whetzel has made it is just ingenious and nothing short of awesome. I applaud this work, and it has made me truly a fan of Whetzel's writings.

If you're up to it, take the time to examine the cube. Dare to take that first step into a world of so many possibilities.


Cube by Michael Whetzel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

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Kafka on the Shore
It is morning. You breathe in the scent of the sea.

The sun's rays pour into your being, touching the deepest depths of your soul. There is soft music playing in the background. You feel the warm breeze kissing your face with the faintest of whispers.

And then you open your eyes. You are on the ground, smelling damp earth, while your shirt has a butterfly-shaped stain right in the middle of your chest, next to your heart. You don't remember what happened before you fainted, but at least you know your name, or what you think your name is. At the very least, you remember the boy named Crow.

There is a kind of mystery that not all of us can fathom. We seek answers to questions we cannot phrase, or maybe look for persons we know are strangers. We run from what angers us, pretending we know best; we pretend to not know because it is uncomfortable to know. It is mystical and dreadful at the same time.

After all, who really knows what's real?

This book seeks to understand, and yet confuses with its theories. Elements of magic and disbelief lie in these pages, these pages that hold the stories of different peoples of seemingly different times. There are quotes, books, and records; there is war, afterlife, and sand. It is linear while being nonlinear; it is allegorical while remaining realistic yet superstitious. It challenges your perception, while confirming your reality.

It has a number of dark overtones, while it basks in the warm sunshine. The line that delineates what is true from what is not is not ever present, but you know it happened even if you can't believe it.

The book is relatively easy to read, but also not so. It can be difficult to accept the characters here, all splayed out with their dirt sullying the pages. Still, they can be pristine, and enjoyable.

Pick up this book to read between its lines. There is a story behind the story, and words behind the words. It is ok to be confused, because even the cat is confused. Accept that what will happen will happen, and don't forget the hue of blue of that beautiful shoreline.

The drowning girl's fingers
Search for the entrance stone, and more.
Lifting the hem of her azure dress,
She gazes --
at Kafka on the shore.



Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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