return to distant shores

The soundtrack for this particular blog post is, of course, “Distant Shores”, originally by Chad & Jeremy. The Company did a great cover of it here.

If I seemed to have disappeared over the weekend, well, I had a very good and very compelling reason: I went to the beach.

And I can’t find the words to tell you how I had missed the whole experience so much. Yes, true, I happily and constantly characterize myself as a city rat born and bred. I’ve lived and loved cities all my life.

But I also live in the Philippines, a country of islands, and way too many of those islands are host to beautiful beaches. Sand beneath one’s feet and the constant thrum of the waves rolling up to the shore, and the wide wide wide sky stretching overhead, and the sough of the wind that brings the cries of the seabirds and the laughter of people.

That’s the romantic summer view of a beach.

A view that I hadn’t seen in so many years.

(Of course I’m aware that I live in the Philippines, a country of islands, which is preeminently vulnerable to storms and similar weather disturbances — in which case the beach is not really a place of safety. I know this well. I digress.)

The thing about me is, as much as I love beaches I don’t really have a lot of chances to go. Blame that partly on my inability to drive: and the corollary is, I don’t have a car. I would have gone driving off every chance I got. Part of the blame is also my reluctance to get on public transportation, but that’s me being a natural scaredy-cat and someone who doesn’t like to mix in with crowds of faceless strangers. I’d have spent a lot of my money on bus fare, if that were the case.

I think I spent a lot of weekends being tired and burned out. (Previous job, and also ex-husband.)

So when this opportunity came along thanks to my current place of work, I jumped at it with both hands and feet. Bought the whole shebang of things that I had not owned for over five years: swimming gear, sunblock, sunglasses, the works. Since it was the company outing I was joining, I also happily chipped in for food (someone in my team was going to grill up some seaside eats).

It was pretty much worth it just for the chance to stand on a beach of fine white-gray sands. Just standing at the edge where the waves were washing the shore — it was such a relief and such a lovely thing to find on a fine cloudless high-summer day.

I guess the particular attractions of this stretch of coastline were the following: astoundingly clear waters. The beautiful powdery sand. The fact that it was possible to wade a long way from the shore and still have water coming up just to the hips or to the waist. The rippling carpet of sea grass underfoot, startlingly visible even a long way from the shore.

I must have looked like a fool to be standing on that beach, feet firmly planted in the water and in the sands, looking up into the clear skies and smiling at nothing.

I just wanted to soak it all in.

Which is what I did for most of the day: I lay down in a hollow on the sand and let the waves wash up to me, just to the point where I was okay with getting my ears drenched.

Just lying there, letting all the water roll up, letting the wind whisper its secrets into my ears.

I’m grateful and I hope to return — I mean, now I won’t wait for years to pass till I go back to some other sandy shore.

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Blue seas and blue skies, and the wind and the waves.IMG_20170506_133453[1]

Water up to my knees, refreshing in the heat of the morning, and really that clear. I didn’t do any editing to this other than cropping out my fingers obscuring the top edge of the photo. You can see the ripples of the sunlight and the fine texture of the sand just with this view.

I’ve got to go back and soon. I don’t mind going by myself. Just a beach, with the wind and the waves and the sky.

I take photos of the food on the table because

Because I’m not wealthy, connected, or secure enough that I can hire assassins to storm the White House and kill multiple asshole idiots, at least where not-my-presidents (in the US and in the Philippines) are concerned.

Seriously, the opportunity presents itself. Gleefully. Kill Trump and Duterte and all of their respective lackeys all in one fell swoop. Someone please do that.

And now, food photos.

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I bought a Mickey D happy meal because I wanted to get a Kuromi mirror :) And yes, hey, it’s Chicken McNuggets, and I can’t say no to those.

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A handsome and really delicious Flat White from SGD Coffee, Quezon City, Philippines. This drink revived me after a shift. Go check that place out! It’s at 45 Maalalahanin Street, Teacher’s Village.

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Two of the most elusive donuts in the Philippines, or at least that’s what my Facebook friends believe. And I have to agree: hard to find these motherfuckers, especially when one is craving donuts in the first place. Dunkin’ Donuts, you need to stock your butternut and choco butternut donuts everywhere. I cannot live without them.

updating the pen post

You might remember this one from the very first post on this blog:

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A few months later, here are my pens and their brand-new case.

IMG_20170426_185720I’ve made some changes to the actual pens I’m carrying around — and of course it’s a different case I’m carrying them around in, made necessary by acquiring a smaller purse to schlep my things around in.

And while the new case seems more diminutive, there’s actually enough room in it to carry my blank index cards and, funnily enough, a pair of scissors in case I should need to snip something in a hurry.

The orange seems a little out of character for me, doesn’t it? Well I have to admit I’m starting to fail at looking for dark-colored things in the dark-colored interiors of some of my bags. Hence something that’s very high-visibility.

I hope to add a new pen to my arsenal this year, since there’s a lovely Lamy limited edition coming to my shores this summer.

lipstick fun

I only found out this year that I ought to be wearing dark lipstick — like dramatically dark stuff. And not even red!

How dark is dark? I’ll show you in a moment.

Now I want to comb all the local beauty shops to find dark blue shades. I might even be crazy enough to try green, but again, it has to be super dark shades or it won’t look right on me.

this or that

Two shades of lipstick here, one in very dark plum and the other in — well, the other one is black. :)

So, informal poll, which one looked better?

On the left: plum lipstick on the top lip and black lipstick on the bottom lip.

On the right: black lipstick on the top lip and plum lipstick on the bottom lip.

Let me know what you think — and suggestions for other lipsticks and dark shades are very welcome!

Farewell to the New World.

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You’ve seen this screenshot on my blog before, and now it’s back to mark a somber occasion. I heard the news last night that after ten years of operation, the Singapore servers hosting Granado Espada (Sword of the New World) are finally closing down. I became a little bit famous in the community of players in SEA because of my NineMoons Family blog — well, famous and notorious at the same time. And now the game is gone and the only way to play now is on the North American servers (accessible via Steam, I think?) and — well, that’s a lot of memories for me to look back on and remember.

(Unfortunately, the links on the blog that used to go to the Singapore-based home site for sGE no longer work.)

just something I’m happy to keep showing off

And also, sort of a goals thing, because there are one or two really lovely blue inks I want to buy this year and so I hope to put them to use on the pages of my current journal, soon.

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In photo: three fountain pens on a page of the journal in this Instagram post. Above the three pens is the line “meet the pens!” written three times, to correspond with the various nib sizes of the three pens. The fountain pen at the top is a fine or extra fine Manuscript with its own proprietary ink cartridge, while the two lower pens are both Lamys using converters.

Rogue One! Spoilers! Tears!

And yes, I cried at that scene in The Force Awakens, the scene lit with lurid lethal red.

But Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? That ending? That sequence on the beach? Kill me stone-cold dead. In my heart I knew that ending was coming. In my mind I knew there was only one possible outcome that made sense. But Gareth Edwards and his team did that ending and I’m so damn emotional.

Have you seen the movie yet? Then you can continue to read this thing.

Haven’t seen the movie yet? Um. There are spoilers here. Lots of spoilers. Here is a “Read More”. Please do yourself a favor, watch the movie, then you can appreciate all the screaming and crying and emotions all the better.

Continue reading “Rogue One! Spoilers! Tears!”

current obsessions

The news on the TV is a farce and an unfunny one at that. The news in the newspapers is just plain unreadable because in twelve hours or less it will be contradicted. The news on the radio? No thanks. So I am going to ignore all of that and talk about things I current find interesting, instead.

Last week I wound up listening to the Hamilton Mixtape (Volume 1, as I understand it?) and seeing the Disney film Moana at the same time. What ties those two things together is Lin-Manuel Miranda, who basically created the musical Hamilton and who wrote songs for Moana. It was quite a day, I’m telling you, a day full of good music and great jokes. Who knew that the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) could at least carry a tune, and then rap? I loved the hell out of the movie — there were lots of jokes in there for the kiddies, and for the adults as well.

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Pua is the cutest pig ever. Hee hee.

I honestly didn’t watch movies by myself for a very long time, and now that’s all I seem to be doing, and I find I like being the dope who grins and laughs and comments to herself while things unspool on the silver screen. I do miss having someone to react with, but I guess that just means I have to head home after the movie and get to talking on social media.

(Sneaky sneaky Lin-Manuel, getting Hamilton friends to sing on the Moana soundtrack. Hello Christopher Jackson and Philippa Soo.)

Over the past couple of weeks I have been avidly watching a BBC series called Call the Midwife. It’s a medical show, and specifically it’s a show about sex and pregnancy and childbirth, but it’s set in the East End of London after World War II — and the thing that really sets this series apart from all others is its sheer reliance on women. The main characters are midwives (well, as if you couldn’t tell from the title) and nuns, and they basically talk to each other about everything under the sun, and the men are literally satellite characters to the ladies with the glaring and adorkable exception of the Human Disaster known as Dr Patrick Turner.

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Just look at their faces!! I want to smish them all, yes I do.

I’m just glad this show has gotten so popular that it will still be continuing for the next few years. I wonder what other topics they’ll be able to tackle, and about the new characters they’ll be bound to bring in.

Actually, it looks like I’ll have a lot of things to watch come Christmas. Holiday specials galore! Doctor Who and Sense8 and…oh, right, does Star Wars: Rogue One count? It’s an actual movie and not part of a TV series. Doesn’t matter. Have a gratuitous gif of Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe anyway.

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Please don’t die please don’t die please don’t die.

But then again: Rogue One is the story of those brave fools who stole the plans for the first Death Star. We don’t hear much about them afterwards. It isn’t a spoiler to surmise that bad things might happen to them over the course of their heist. bleh.

a good day and a bad one, all at once

It’s okay to feel grief at the passing of a loved one, and it’s okay to feel grief at the passing of someone or something that you might not have known on an actual hello-nice-to-meet-you level. I think that’s just the way human thoughts and emotions work. We become attached to things because they help us get through the dark days, or we become attached to things because they help us to find happy thoughts and good things, and in this case I’m talking about food and a quirky series of videos.

I learned today that Francis, the titular dog of the Web series Cooking With Dog, has died. (Got it from the official Web page, in this case the official Facebook page.) And as I’ve said elsewhere: it was always clear in the videos that Francis was not a puppy. It was always clear that Francis was kind of getting on in years, in terms of dog years anyway. Death was a nearer possibility on his particular horizon, and the official FB page says that he died at the ripe old age of 14. (In terms of human years, anyway. What that means in terms of dog years, I have no clear idea, since I’m not too sold on the idea of one human year = seven dog years.)

Still, I feel shocked and unpleasantly surprised, and I feel the grief that comes from losing a sort of distant kind of acquaintance, and an even more distant kind of “friend”. I’m putting that word in quotes because — hey, what does Francis know about me anyway? I’m just a fan of his videos. But those videos have gotten me through some tough times. They’ve helped keep me sane during some really bad nights and some really interminable work shifts. They’ve kept me hungry, and inspired me to try to eat and cook new things. Francis and Chef were — well, they were sources of smiles and laughter and inspiration, and now one of them is gone and it’s also been made clear that Chef really is getting on in terms of years. I wonder what will happen next — will the Web videos continue? Will Chef gracefully retire? Will there be a different cooking series? No idea.

But maybe we can remember Cooking With Dog and Francis the dog by cooking and eating and continuing to watch the videos, whether they keep going or stop at the latest installment.

Here’s a link to one of my favorite Cooking With Dog videos. This is in part because I love to eat this particular dish — it’s become sort of my point of judgement whenever I go to a Japanese restaurant, sort of how I know if the people in the kitchen know their stuff. And this is in part because this video made the process of making this dish so easy to understand.

Cooking With Dog – Katsudon (remastered)

And now, to end this entry on a more positive note.

As I write these words, it’s the 7th of November in my part of the world, and that might not mean much to some people but to me, and to the many other people who fell into the fandom centered on the video game franchise Mass Effect, it’s N7 Day: it’s the day when we commemorate the stories, music, characters, and pretty much everything about those games. It’s a day to play the music from the games, or maybe start another playthrough, or just anticipate the upcoming sequel. (Mass Effect: Andromeda might come out next year, delays and rewrites and retools notwithstanding.)

I actually can’t tell you the reasons why I just fell into the fandom. Maybe it’s got to do with the female version of the hero, Commander Shepard (of the original games, anyway) — she takes no shit and she saves the galaxy despite all the obstacles thrown in her way. Maybe it’s got to do with the way she interacts with her friends and family and crew. Maybe it’s the music or the moral choices. I certainly can’t play third-person shooters worth a damn but Mass Effect is just compelling to me. And that’s why I was happy to be reminded that today is N7 Day. I’m happy to be part of that group that got into the games, and maybe got to feel a lot of emotions because of the games and the stories and the characters.

So — raise a glass to Commander Shepard, whoever s/he might be, and raise another glass to his/her squad, and raise yet a third to the upcoming hero of Mass Effect: Andromeda, Ryder. May he and she take us through just as compelling a world and game universe.

 

back from another world…

…and I wish I were exaggerating, but really: I’ve just come back from my first trip to Singapore and it really is like coming back from another planet, or another reality, entirely.

Some impressions:

1 – The public transportation system. I will single out the public buses and the MRT in this case, as they were two of the three main means of transportation that we (meaning my family and I, who had gone en masse to Singapore) used to get from place to place. (The third means was Uber, so that doesn’t really count as public transportation.) The buses were universally comfortable whether one was sitting down or standing up, and they really were convenient as a means of getting to one place or another, and it was pretty cool to watch them navigate the twisting roads and slopes.

The MRT gets its own paragraph because — well, we’ll never get anything like that in the Philippines. Not in the next fifty years anyway. Efficient trains, safe platforms, announcements in multiple languages, and the sheer cool factor of the fact that you could watch all the cabins ahead of you “dance” on the winding tracks — it’s like a great show, at least for an absolute newcomer like me. Add in the fact that people had no problems with connecting to the Internet and making or receiving phone calls, plus the whole idea of the stations being designed to double as bomb shelters: wow. All of it. Just amazing.

I’m sure that had I had a longer stay I would have noticed things to dislike about the buses, or run into a delay in terms of the trains, or something. But I guess the double mystique of being a first-time visitor plus the good luck of having mostly good weather made things much easier, and contributed a lot to my ongoing case of starry eyes.

2 – Food! Shopping! Books! Let’s see: I made it to the Chinatown hawker center for a steaming bowl of bak kut teh, then ate mango pudding. My brother took us to a fancy restaurant for a grand meal of fish and seafood. (Oh my god, best fish and chips ever. Fish and chips.) The first meal I ate in Singapore was an airport snack of kaya toast and milk tea and I was in raptures because whenever I order a hot milk tea here in the Philippines, there always seems to be some kind of metallic taste to go with the tea? It’s rather off-putting. But the milk tea in Singapore: it was lovely, there was no metallic taste, and it was just the right kind of sweet (meaning, not too much sugar).

Before flying off my mom had been encouraging me to save part of my shopping budget for clothes and — I’m glad I listened to her. I bought frocks! And I haven’t worn those in years! Normally I’m a trousers kind of girl, and I still dream of buying a suit some day, but now I have casual frocks to wear for when I’m out and about. They fit me and they’re really easy to care for, but importantly, they’re easy to go walkabout in. I wished I could have bought shoes, too, but problem one: small feet and problem two: I didn’t find the styles I liked.

I still bought books anyway, especially since they were books that I was not likely going to find back here in the Philippines: I got The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley, and The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman. I’m on a total nonfiction kick these days, don’t ask me why, but I feel that I need to read those books and so: I got them.

Oh, and I bought the fountain pen I’ve been looking for everywhere! I picked up a Lamy Vista with a broad nib. The body of the pen is made of clear plastic so you can see the inner workings of the whole thing. Fountain pen makers have been manufacturing demonstrator pens for many years and this was the last thing I wanted on my fountain pen list. I am a happy collector, and I will not be buying any pens for a while. (Now inks, well, that might be another matter entirely.)

3 – I actually had a reason to be in Singapore, and that was to celebrate the first birthday of my niece. My adorable niece who loves to blow raspberries at everyone and who is just itching to be able to walk on her own. My adorable niece who will probably warble along with lots of both English and Filipino nursery rhymes when she starts speaking. My niece! I have a one-year-old niece! I am such a proud auntie I can’t even.

4 – Brief as my Singapore trip was, it allowed me to touch base with two friends. One I’d only ever interacted with online: she’s a fandom friend and we’ve even collaborated on a couple of things — and on this trip, she whisked me off to Books Kinokuniya for the abovementioned books and fountain pen. I was glad to be able to demonstrate my fountain pens for her, incidentally.

The other friend I was able to see was someone dear to me from high school. He was more or less the first friend I made on the first day of HS freshman year. We’d had a brief run-in back here in the Philippines when he unfortunately had to come to town for the death of his father, but we promised each other we’d have time to spend together in Singapore. He was literally the last person I saw in Singapore, aside from my family, and he took the photograph of me that appears at the end of this post.

Do I want to go back to Singapore? Of course! There’s so much I haven’t seen yet!

Do I want to keep traveling? Yes! I want to go back to Hong Kong, the only other city I’ve ever visited, just to see what’s what. I want to go to Kyoto. I even dream about going to Barcelona, and setting foot in the one church in the world that I actually want to visit. (Yes, here I go again with my obsession with the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.)

Reasons to keep living. (She said, smiling.)

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On Haji Lane in Kampong Glam, in the heart of the Muslim quarter in Singapore. That famous mosque in the background is, of course, Masjid Sultan.

If the pen were truly mightier than the sword….

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…do I have an arsenal or just a piddling handful of rusty weapons?

When I was in high school, my dad enlisted me to help a Korean maker of pen and paper products break into the local market. I attended a focus group discussion with a few other young people, and we talked about using gel pens, which were still somewhat new in terms of pen technology at the time.

Maybe that’s where my attitude towards pens with excessively fine points / nibs comes from, because, yeah, tiny handwriting looks pretty great with fine points, but I have never mastered that skill. So I’m not a big fan. I like my ball-point pens to lay down thick lines, thanks.

After they were successfully introduced into the Philippine market, colorful gel-ink pens became very popular at schools, for art projects, and even in offices where they could be used to organize notes and lists and similar things.

(Not even my mom is immune to the lure of colorful gel pens.)

As for the fountain pen thing…I guess I’ll just wind up blaming a combination of Wikipedia and my friends? All I know is, I wound up asking for a calligraphy pen for Christmas one year, and then after that, I felt like I’d started falling down that endless rabbit hole.

You can see my pens in the photo above. When I noticed that I had two or three fountain pens to carry around I decided to buy something more proper to place them in. The flat case I have is for paintbrushes and art supplies, but — hey, my pens fit in the slots, and it didn’t cost much, so win-win.

I favor medium to broad nibs in my fountain pens, which are on the left side in the photo. Like I said, I like pens that lay thicker lines. Even the gel pens on the right side in the photo have fairly thick points. I like their sparkly inks.

The leftmost pen in the photo is a Japanese fountain pen. Apparently people in Japan favor pens with very fine points or nibs, and that’s partly because of the paper that they write on, but primarily because of their various alphabets. I bought that one on a lark, and actually like the color of the ink. I might convert it into an eyedropper pen in the future.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I probably have very weird penmanship. I’m left-handed, but I have never used fountain pen nibs that are specially made for left-handers. But my pens write well in my hands, except for the occasional skip and scratch. I do have to deal with the traditional ink-stains on the side of my hand, though.

(Maybe I should try to write something down, and then take a picture of it and post it here, and then you’ll see what my handwriting looks like. That’s an idea for the future. I’ll put a pin in it.)

Yes, I’m planning to buy a fountain pen when I go to Singapore. I can’t pass up on the chance.

Why are fountain pens sorta pricey in my part of the world, I gotta ask….