Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories by Cyril Wong

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Chiefly character-driven, Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories by Cyril Wong takes us to the highs and lows of life in Singapore. We feel a spectrum of emotions throughout the collection as a child deals with a loss of a family member; a movie ticket clerk dines with a wealthy woman he just met; a philanthropist reminisces his journeys in charity work; and a single mother pilfers a pair of pants for his son, among others.

In “Susan’s Certainty,” a story where a woman ventures into introspection brought about by experiencing different forms of art, Wong writes: “All of these things connected with her, releasing a surge of emotional fulfillment […] leaving her dazed and relieved that someone had articulated her private miseries through art.” This seemingly cements Wong’s goal with this collection; he paints the foil of Singapore’s hustle and bustle—a city where individuals dwell with uncertainty, crises, and loneliness.

Wong wrote most of the stories as fictional while some are saliently autobiographical. But, there is noticeable poetry in his fiction in the way it carefully magnifies beautiful, strange, moving, and poignant imagery in the lives of his characters.

[Cover art from Epigram Books.]

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The Most Important Meal of the Day

It has been months since I last posted and I could not think of any other fitting topic to talk about than breakfast to mark my return to this blog.

Last Sunday, my family and I went on a rather spontaneous trip to Tagaytay after dropping off my sister at work. We initially planned on having breakfast in a nearby McDonald’s, but we couldn’t find available parking space so my aunt suddenly declared, “O tara, Tagaytay.”

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We went to our favorite breakfast places ever, Breakfast at Antonio’s.

This is the Golden Waffle. We always order it. It’s perfect–crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Excellent with butter and a drizzle of Antonio’s burnt syrup.

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This is the bacon roesti (potato pancakes). Breakfast at Antonio’s makes their own bacon, and it has the right amount of fat and salt. The bacon rests on a pile of thin slices of crisp potatoes, while easy eggs and Swiss cheese sit on top of the bacon. The dish comes with a piece of bread (though that particular piece was not freshly baked and was actually quite hard).

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One bite and suddenly everything became all right.

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This is actually how my part of the table looked like, because I still had stuff to read for a report in class the next day. LELZ

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I washed everything down with a cup of really thick hot chocolate.

My parents had rice meals (beef tapa, if I recall correctly); my aunt, eggs benny; and my brother, the corned beef roesti. His roesti had housemade corned beef (so tender), Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut.

If I had more money and more space in my stomach, I would’ve ordered their pancakes and omelettes, which also taste amazing.

A great fictional character by the name of Ron Swanson once said: “Why does anybody in the world ever eat anything but breakfast food?” To which an equally great fictional character, Leslie Knope, replied, “People are idiots, Ron.” Such is the value we must give to breakfast–to the point that we call people who don’t like breakfast food idiots, BUT I AM ONLY KIDDING. I think breakfast generally sets the tone for the day and effects of a good beginning may carry over to the rest of the day.

I know of some who skip breakfast because they don’t have time for it. I, on the other hand, always find time to eat breakfast because I don’t feel like myself when I skip it. It just sucks that some can’t really afford to eat in the morning, though I do hope we all find time to sit down to a good breakfast every once in a while.

Cheers to freshly fried rice and eggs done to our liking!

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

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Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh | 2013, Touchstone (book cover from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1757164-hyperbole-and-a-half)

(A shorter version of this review is on my Goodreads page.)

I love this book! The stories about the dogs still get me (I’ve read them all before when it was still a blog), and the illustrations are hilariously on point. The prose itself is funny enough to stand by itself, but the inclusion of illustrations (that sometimes tell the story more than the written text) makes the humor more solid. Some illustrations, in fact, can also stand by themselves, as if to form a comic strip. Though I loved it, I rated it 4 out of 5 stars because there were some parts where I found the illustrations more interesting than the prose.

Brosh not only makes good use of hyperbole/exaggeration but is also able to control it and it doesn’t scream at you to force you to laugh. I think it’s what makes the book great.

The inclusion of screen caps of the goose video was so funny that I laughed out really ugly laughs. It didn’t help that I was in a clinic when I was reading it.

If you’re looking for a quick and funny read, this is it, this is the book that you need. It also makes for a great gift for someone who’s into David Sedaris. I find their senses of humor almost on the same plane.

#Marupok on Spotify

Greetings! It has been a while! Anyway, a couple of months ago I badly wanted to escape office work (hehe) so I created a playlist and called it #Marupok (frail). Truth is, I wasn’t even feeling sad that time, just really, really, ridiculously bored. I figured these are the songs one could listen to post-breakup/when longing for someone. After all, studies have shown that listening to sad songs when sad could actually be a form of self-medication.

Happy healing, I guess.

EDIT: So the Spotify embed code’s not working. 😦 Here is a link to the playlist: http://bit.ly/marupokplaylist

  1. Gabe Bondoc – Fickle
  2. Damien Rice – The Blower’s Daughter
  3. The Perishers – Pills
  4. Kate Walsh – Your Song
  5. Frank Ocean – Thinkin Bout You
  6. How to Dress Well – Face Again
  7. Kings of Convenience – I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From
  8. Maude – Habol
  9. Charlie Lim – Knots
  10. Tahiti 80 – Easy
  11. Up Dharma Down – Sana
  12. The xx – Angels
  13. Michael Andrews, Gary Jules – Mad World
  14. Damien Rice – 9 Crimes
  15. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
  16. William Fitzsimmons – Just Not Each Other
  17. The Album Leaf – Always For You
  18. Sufjan Stevens – Casimir Pulaski Day
  19. The xx – Fiction
  20. Teddy Geiger – Try Too Hard
  21. Friendly Fires – Strobe
  22. Amy Winehouse – Love is a Losing Game
  23. The Weepies – World Spins Madly On

Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl

Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl | 1990, Random House Vintage Books (book cover from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/394689.Tales_of_the_Unexpected)

This afternoon’s thunderstorm caused intermittent brownouts in my office today, and soon enough it became a full-fledged brownout that lasted for an hour.  I was left with nothing to do while waiting for my brother to pick me up from work, so I finished reading Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. Roald Dahl is one of my favorite authors–he’s one of the many people whose work motivated me to write.

Tales of the Unexpected is the first ebook I’ve finished reading in my new smartphone. I used the app Aldiko, which is a pretty nice reading app. The only drawback is the limitation of features–there were so many passages I wanted to highlight but I couldn’t because I have to upgrade to the premium version of the app for that certain feature. iBooks is still the best reading app for me.

I immediately noted down my critique after swiping to the last page of the ebook through my phone’s Quick Notes app. I didn’t bother rewriting them here into a nice, coherent review anymore because I’m a colossal bag of lazy bones.

  1. The stories in this collection reminds me a lot of O. Henry’s.
  2. There’s no doubt about Dahl’s writing prowess.
  3. But it gets tiring to read too. Until now, I’ve never bothered to finish reading my collection of O. Henry stories because I know that I will be surprised in every story.
  4. First, a disclaimer: I haven’t read other reviews for this book. But it didn’t quite exceed my expectations. When an author decides to switch flavors–in this case, when a known children’s literature writer ventures into writing books for an older audience, it’s not always well-received. It reminds me of how people reacted to The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.
  5. But it’s weird that I immensely enjoyed The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, another short story collection by Dahl that is also for older readers. I first read it in grade school and if my memory serves me right, I borrowed it twice from my school’s library.
  6. The women in these stories are so kawawa (pitiful). The wives, especially. Take for example Louisa from “Edward the Conqueror,” the last story in the collection. She was trying to convince his husband, Edward, that getting this certain cat is the most exciting thing that has happened to her recently. And how did Edward react? By telling her to go make her dinner. Good grief.
  7. Some subjects and topics in the book are too… foreign for my taste. There was a story about an auction–see, I can’t recall the title! And it really, really, really bored me.
  8. My favorites from this bunch of stories are “Galloping Foxley,””Royal Jelly,” and “Nunc Dimittis.”

 

Friday Fave: A Round-Up

I shall try to make up for all the Fridays I missed with today’s post! My music listening has been pretty good lately, thank to my Spotify Premium account I’ve availed through Globe’s GoSurf  promo. The Discover tab has been very useful. I haven’t tried Apple Music yet, but some reviews say that until Apple fixes its glitches, Spotify is still king in music streaming.

Anyway, here are my five favorite tracks as of late, in no particular order. Do give these listen!

RAN – Nirwana

“Nirwana (Nirvana)” is the sixth track of Indonesian group RAN’s third album, Hari Baru (New Day, thanks Google Translate!) released in November 2013. I’ve been a fan of the group since 2009/2010-ish, and I have to say that I’m glad to say that their sound has greatly improved. “Nirwana” is a testament to this: both vocals and guitars are refined. But if it’s your first time to listen to RAN, this is a great track to start with as it introduces you to RAN’s musical vibe: fresh, pleasant, and relaxed. Never mind if you don’t understand Bahasa.

OJ Law – Tongue Tied

“Tongue-Tied” by OJ Law rightfully deserves a spot in the must-listen The Ultimate SEA Indie playlist by Spotify Philippines. The synths are nice and they build up its disco-ey character. Law’s voice reminds me of another artist’s (I just cannot pinpoint it) but I think it’s excellent. My favorite part is when Law croons, “I dreamed of love before we met.” It comes with a kinda cute music video too.

Childish Gambino – U Don’t Have to Call

Look, I love Drake. But here’s the thing: if you ask me who the better singer is between Drake and Childish Gambino, I will flat out say it’s Childish. This track from his mixtape STN MTN, which you can download for free at  DatPiff.com, is a cover of Usher’s 2001 song. Though it’s stripped of layers unlike the original, it’s just as sexy. This track shows off Childish’s vocal chops; how his voice can reach different heights (listen to “And I”). And when the beat drops, it introduces you to his other talent, one of his many: telling a story. From reaching high notes, his voice sinks deep as he tells you a story about race, strip clubs, and how he’s gon’ steal yo girl.

Kimbra – Madhouse

Kimbra is more than just the girl who sang with Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”. Her 2014 record The Golden Echo, to which “Madhouse” belongs, is worth a listen. But for “Madhouse,” my focus is not on her voice but on the funky feel of the song.  I absolutely liked the riffs and percussions at the 3:21 mark. I really, really, really liked it.

Alabama Shakes – Don’t Wanna Fight

I first heard roots rock band Alabama Shakes on Saturday Night Live, when they were the musical guests when Dakota Johnson was the host. I’ve never head them before, but after that performance, I really got into them. “Don’t Wanna Fight” from their sophomore album Sound and Color has an unforgettable intro with its guitars. And as I’ve told my friend, frontwoman Brittany Howard’s restrained scream to soul vocals in this track forecasted that the whole album is, for a lack of a more suitable word, great.

Newly bought records!

I took time off from work today and went to Cubao to have my teeth x-rayed. Since I was pretty near Cubao X where The Four Strings is located, I decided to pay the shop a visit. I’ve been meaning to go to the place–they sell local indie bands’ records. For people who can’t go to gigs regularly like me, getting albums is made easier through The Four Strings. It’s mainly a ukelele shop, but they also sell other stuff–I remember seeing dream catchers, coffee, and Manic Panic hair dye. I initially went there to get Loop’s Flirting the Universe LP, but the guy at the store told me that the last copy was bought yesterday! But there’s no reason to fret, as I bought these equally awesome records:

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That’s Prelude by Honeydrop, and indie rock band that hails from Cebu, on the left and Caprice by Ivan Theory on the right. Ivan Theory broke the news of their disbandment just a few weeks ago, but I’m psyched to listen to their record nonetheless.

I had a very brief Q&A with the guy from the store and learned that the handcrafted ukeleles being sold are made from acacia, narra, and lauan wood, to name a few. The prices range from Php 2,500 to Php 7,000. I left the store saying “Pag-iipunan ko muna” (can’t wait to get my hands on my own ukelele). 🙂

For more info, check out The Four String’s Facebook page here.