Apr 29, 2010

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

Filipino writer Miguel Syjuco won the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Palanca Award for his first novel in 2008. It was just a manuscript back then. Now it's published and out in bookstores all over the world.

It's not an easy-breezy read, but that's not to say it wasn't enjoyable. It's weird fun like a Philip Roth novel. In between moments of touching insight and human tragedy, you'll laugh, you'll cringe. You'll laugh and cringe. Or maybe because I overlapped reading The Anatomy Lesson and Ilustrado? I'm kind of ADD that way.

The authors I have relished reading are often funny, even when they're exposing sad truths and horrible realities. Miguel Syjuco now included. My friend Coey took me to the book club dinner for Ilustrado, so thanks to her I got to tell him myself. Hooray for mommy-dates!

That's Coey and the author. After dinner, we had our books signed.
Powerbooks was our gracious host. Thanks for the Cibo dinner!
I also got to throw probably the silliest question asked of him that night: Were you a good boy growing up? You and my son were both born on November 17. Fine, roll your eyes. But...

Instead of some glib comeback, he told me how he was always deeply motivated by pleasing his parents which made the decision to pursue writing more difficult then it already was. That made me think. I also wanted to give him a support-group hug for being so brave. I probably responded with some shallow quip which I tend to do when flustered plus distracted by reflection and a sudden feeling of sympathy for a stranger. In this case, the stranger happens to be a talented, cute, charming author to boot. Anyhooo....

Here's a glimpse of his novel which I'm guessing made his parents proud. This is a conversation between the protagonist, a young writer named Miguel and his mentor--the "controversial lion of Philippine letters" Crispin. Two lit-geeks, sharing existential thoughts over burgers and a chess game in Central Park.

He was watching the children play. He noticed me and smiled. "From time to time," he said, "I wonder at the value of things such as those. Maybe I should have mustered the courage to raise one."
I studied the board. "I think you made the right choice," I finally said. "The world's overpopulated. Don't you think we all have our roles? Your books will have a greater effect." I bit into my burger.
Crispin gestured with his thumb at the children. "If I'm not writing TBA for our offspring, then who for?" He watched them for a moment. "One day you'll understand."
"I get it now. It doesn't mean I agree."
"I think you'll find even literature has its limitations. That will be a good thing, if you discover that."
"Limitations keep us striving."
After the Tractatus, Wittgenstein became" --Crispin picked up his king, then put it back. I let it pass-- "a primary school teacher. Rimbaud grew bored with poetry and left for Africa. Duchamp gave up art for this very game we're playing." Crispin moved his king next to my knight. "With every new year come new regrets, Miguel. You'll have your collection of them."
"That's condescending," I said, surprised by the acid in my voice. "I have my own."
"I'm sorry that you didn't know your parents. But there's more to life than that."
"You wouldn't understand." I couldn't look at him. I wish I had. Maybe I would have seen. But I went on. "That's why with literature, at least I can control what happens. We can create, revise. Try better next time. If we fail, we only screw ourselves..."
"But if we succeed, we can change the world." I moved my knight. "Check." I looked up at him.
Crispin's face was like how I imagine my father's to have been, magnanimous and amused. "Changing the world," he said, "is good work if you can get it. But isn't having a child a gesture of optimism in that world?"
"Ugh. That's a little twee for my taste."
"Seriously, intellectually speaking. Consider it a moment."
"Sometimes we just aren't given a choice in the matter." I heard myself. I'm ashamed of how I sounded.
"We always are." Crispin moved his king. "Checkmate," he said. Sure enough there was nowhere I could go. Crispin got up and looked at me with either naked disappointment or brutal pity. He put his hands in his pockets and went and watched the children splashing. I still remember the tune he started to whistle.
Ilustrado, pages 121 and 122

I had to look up Tractatus and Wittgenstein, but I was totally feeling that conversation. Also, it's the perfect snippet for this mama-blog that's home to my twee posts. If I could join Miguel and Crispin's conversation, I'd tell them... Having children does change the world. It changed me. It's planet's most basic engine-of-change.

There are plenty more touching, insightful parts in the book. Some laugh out loud funny. Some raunchy. And the ending, wow, I didn't see that coming. Now indulge me and more of my silliness. Check out the author's inscriptions...

He signed a book for Bear, the 6-year-old who shares his birthday.

I'm sure he says this to all the matronas, but I have to hand it to Mr. Syjuco, for knowing how to make aging, bedraggled moms feel a little better about themselves--even if it's just over one dinner and a few minutes of chit-chatting.

For Bear's mama who thinks November 17 Scorpio boys are awesome.
Martin Scorsese was born on that day too. And Lorne Michaels. Cool.

Swoon. Hahaha! Told you he was funny. Read his book. It's already available in Manila bookstores, Amazon US, Amazon UK and Macmillan.

Apr 27, 2010

On The Trail

We are days away from choosing our country's next President. It's been an interesting journey. Exciting times ahead, no doubt.  Mak, Tato here are a few things I've learned along the way (for future reference):

Stay positive.  Cut the crap.  Tell it like it is.  Leave the smearing to Mommy's mascara, the whining to the baby next door and the made-up stories of a childhood past to that kid in class with the overactive imagination.   Don't call anybody a loser until he's actually lost.  Oh, wait.. if he's already lost, he probably already knows that and there's no point in calling him anything.  There's actually no point in calling anyone anything anytime. Embrace the idea that your brother loves the color pink, mommy likes black,  daddy thinks purple rocks and you only have eyes for brown. Imagine a world without colors. Be ready to defend your choices but accept those made by others. If one day you want to be President of this country, by all means go.  Just keep your self-respect and dignity intact.  That would account for a mere six years of your life.  You have an entire lifetime after that.   And you deserve a great life. 

Apr 25, 2010

For The Ladies

Chick music anyone? This one from the super duper talented Kate Nash that's just... fun. Pilots-in-flight-having-martinis fun. By the way, her new album is awesome.

This one is a vimeo super 8 project called Sundays at the Ace Hotel, with soundtrack by Mr. Little Jeans, remixed by the geniuses at RAC/Remix Artist Collective.

Sundays at the Ace Hotel from Hello Super 8 on Vimeo.

Sending out good vibes for a nice lazy Sunday....

Apr 21, 2010

Young Philosophers

Children are naturally curious, prone to wondering, easily awed. They're always asking you about stuff. I've seen it and if you have kids you've probably seen it too.

si pilosopo

at si pilosopa

Which is why The Examined Life, Age 8 makes sense to me. It's a New York Times feature on a charter (non-traditional, public) school that engages second-graders in philosophical discourse. In that school, they "use classic children's books to raise philosophical questions, which the young students then dissect with the vigor of the ancient Greeks."

Before you roll your eyes and say how intellectually pretentious... there's no Descarte, syllogism or solipsism involved... just some Shel Silverstein and the pursuit of a few basic truths courtesy of those who have only had about 8 years experience in this world. Interesting read.

Thanks to my friend Raffy for the link. He's a lawyer. Ergo, pilosopo by occupation, and is raising two adorable junior pilosopos with Malou, his lovely and equally pilosopa lawyer better-half.

Apr 19, 2010

Tibial Torsion

Except when it's to avoid a much-needed bath or when its away from me in the busy shopping mall while I'm desperately trying to get some errands done, I pretty much love seeing children run. So young and carefree. The life. So really.. what could be wrong with this picture?

a closer look

If you're quite the observant one, you would notice that Tato's right foot curves in way more than usual. Something that we noticed when he was barely a few months old. It became more and more obvious when he started taking his first steps. The books and sites I checked online said it was perfectly common and would correct itself eventually. Never happy with doing nothing, I did some massaging and inverted his shoes (left on the right, right on the left). Two years and many, many bruises from tripping over himself later, it was time for Plan B. GrandDad Doc referred me to Dr G, one of the best orthopedic surgeons around. Tato loved this doctor visit. When else would he be given the go-signal to run up and down the clinic halls without Mommy screaming at him to "Stop. Right Now!"? After a careful physical exam and more running up and down the hall so the doctor could observe his stride, verdict was out. Tato has internal tibial torsion. We were sent on our way with the advice to get him into sports where he could run a lot and "stretch his legs". He said it would correct itself in due time.

What exactly is tibial torsion?
Tibial torsion is an inward twisting of the shin bones (bones located between the knee and ankle). Tibial torsion causes the child's feet to turn inward, or have what is also known as a "pigeon-toed" appearance. It is typically seen among toddlers. Tibial torsion can occur due to the position of the baby in the uterus. When the child is first learning how to walk, tibial torsion can create an intoeing appearance. As the feet toe in, the legs look like they are bowed. The bowed leg stance actually helps children achieve greater balance as they stand. The twisting of the shin bones usually improves with time. As the child grows, walking will become more normal, usually around 5 to 8 years of age.

Thank you for the info, Boston Children's Hospital.

So...tibial torsion is generally caused by living in close quarters in the uterus. Two boys, six pounds apiece, one belly. Go figure. Meanwhile I'm supposed to sit back and wait. And wait we did. But when the tripping became even more frequent and I wanted to avoid accidents such as these, we went to yet another specialist. And so our adventure took us to Doctor R with his decades of practice and his equally vintage-y office. I answered some questions and he measured Tato's legs. He recommended corrective shoes - leather kicks with weights inside - to literally help straighten out the problem. Ice skating and roller skating were also suggested. Apparently these hobbies encourage the feet to turn out. Tato was fitted. Shoes would be ready for pick up in a week.

And so I learned that there are two opposing philosophies here. Why can't we all just get along? The more modern doctors do not advocate intervening. They prefer to "let nature take its course". The more traditional ones like to "set things straight". Apparently when all the hoopla about the corrective devices - splints and bars - came out decades ago, they failed to do a control study. So yes, there were improvements because of them. When a controlled study was done years later, they found out that there were just as many positive results that came from simply doing nothing. My favorite pediatrician on the web, Doctor Greene, has some interesting points on tibial torsion here. In a nutshell, he recommends seeing a specialist and possible intervention IF the rotation worsens, IF your child is tripping even more frequently or IF your child experiences pain wearing shoes or while walking. (Added trivia still from Dr. Greene: The world's best sprinters are generally in-toed more than the average population.)

I initially thought it would be a pain (in more ways than one) to get Tato to wear his shoes. On the way home from the doctor, I explained we were all helping him so he wouldn't fall all the time and that we think we found just the solution. "Magic Shoes". Tadah! He was ecstatic and couldn't wait to wear his "magic shoes" and tell everyone about it. He wears the shoes to school everyday with no hesitation and in a little less than a year we have seen marked improvement. The only problem we encountered was that Mak started walking around the house sideways (visualizing a crab would help here) shortly after. "Mama, look at me. I need magic shoes also". And so after a quick trip to the the "clinic (department store) and a consult with the "doctor" (sales associate) , I came home with Mak's "magic shoes" (placebo) from good ole' SM Department Store. And we've lived happily ever after. So far.

Mak's shoe on the left. Tato's corrective shoe on the right

Apr 15, 2010

I Want To Be Rich!

Over breakfast Bear informs me: "Mama, if you have one thousand one-thousands... you'll be rich." It's becoming apparent that, like his dad, our resident 6-year-old likes to play with numbers and figures in his head.

Our conversation continues:

Me: "Well, yes... one thousand times one thousand is a lot of money."
Bear: "I want to have lots of money." Then adds with dramatic conviction... "I want to be rich!" There's a hopeful, innocent glint in his eye that doesn't quite match the words.
Me: "One day, when you're an adult, if you work hard enough that's possible."
Bear: "Do Lego designers make lots of money?"
Me: "I think so. They should -- for all that impressive, creative stuff that they do."
Bear: With pumping hand action he yelps, "Yes!" Then he gets up to skip-with-joy around the table.

I'm amused, but as he does his one-day-I'll-be-rich-dance around our table, the neurotic mother in my head asks, could we have done or said something to spawn material boy? If you recall, I had a similar quandary concerning a certain material girl. Then instantly I snap out of it. I am happy for our little boy with big dreams. No need to give him the money-can't-buy-you-happiness speech. Some other day, maybe.

Today, I write this moment down so he'll remember how good it feels to be heady and wide-eyed with hopes and dreams of earning one thousand one-thousands. In his mind that probably means buying us cheese pizza galore, sharing unlimited chocolate fudge brownie ice cream with his sister, getting himself his dream car a... tadaaah... Honda Civic. It's all possible because one day he is getting that job designing toys for Lego. That simple.

The boy with a plan. You can make it happen Baby Bear!

Fifteen to twenty years from now... life will be more complicated, innocence will be shed, dreams may change, a Honda Civic no longer that appealing.

But I hope you realize that you will never be too old to do your happy-and-hopeful dance around the table as you did this morning... a 6-year-old boy, with two missing front teeth, wearing a sando with baby-blue airplanes on them.

Apr 14, 2010

Natalie Merchant Rocks Children's Poems

I am a certified 80's kid who grew up listening and emoting to Natalie Merchant who was, back then, still part of 10,000 Maniacs. Remember What's the Matter Here? Like the Weather? Hey Jack Kerouac? These Are the Days? And I loved, loved... loved her obscure but nevertheless great version of Cat Steven's Peace Train.

Well, just this morning Natalie Merchant rocked my world again and I don't care if this makes me look like a complete weirdo but she made me cry watching her performance at this year's TED conference. She sang songs from her upcoming album Leave Your Sleep where she resurrects 19th century children's poems by setting them to music. When she started singing E.E. Cummings' Maggie and Millie and Molly and May I just couldn't help myself....

"Maggie and Milly
Molly and May
they went down to the beach
one day to play.
And Maggie discovered
a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember
her troubles...."

For anyone out there who might appreciate the words, the stories behind the poets, and the music, here's the lovely Ms. Merchant who completely deserved that standing ovation:

P.S. for our featured artist: You were once the sweet-singing seashell (a'la E.E. Cummings) for an awkward, kind-of-troubled teenager (a-Maggie-in-Manila) circa 1980s. La la la li la la la... Thank you.

Apr 12, 2010

Taken For A Ride

(in Singapore Zoo, over lunch, a few weeks ago)
Me (to MacDaddy): Interested in riding an elephant? Not my thing. Rip off.
MacDaddy: Not for me too. Did you see the line? Waste of time.
Me: Waste of money and time!

(same scene, same time, different characters)
Mak: Tato, do you want to ride the elephant?
Tato: Of course.
Mak: So...Let's go!

Living proof that there is a sucker (in some cases two) born every minute.

Apr 7, 2010

It's A Cartoon, It's A Sculpture, It's A...

Cross media installation! Feast your eyes on Augmented Sculpture presented at Interior Design Week 2010 in Cologne Germany, created by Grosse8 and Lichtfront....

Augmented Sculpture by GROSSE8 & LICHTFRONT / Passagen 2010 from Lichtfront on Vimeo.

In a comment on their Vimeo page, Lichtfront explains how the light sculpture was created: "We did it with 4 projectors, placed around the object. The graphics were done in AfterEffects. We worked in a composition that was cutted into the 4 output movies at the end. Then we played the 4 videos on 2 computer, synchronised by a vvvv patch."

In other words, it was not animated. But I still can't completely understand how that wasn't some cool kick-ass piece of animation. My kids call it awesome. I call it a great dose of aesthetic-influence for the day.

Apr 6, 2010

Who's That?

Haha. That was Ageless Parenting from Liza Donelly, cartoonist and writer who blogs at Open Salon. Could those be my kids in the future?! I think she's hilarious. Here's another one....

I SO CANNOT RELATE TO ANY ONE of those cartoons. Hehe. Don't have much time to blog lately. Summer. Kids bugging me with me 24/7. New work project. Deadlines colliding. But obviously I still have A LITTLE time to muck around the internet. Summer is HOT but life is GOOD... that's all.

Apr 5, 2010

Bucket Lists

I like making lists. I particularly like drawing that line across each item. Nothing like saying done, done and done. Several months ago MacDaddy and I managed to scratch off three things (in two days! ) from our combined bucket list. That felt really good. And so one night before bedtime we got around to talking "bucket lists".

Me: What's one thing you wish you could do?
Mak: Be an animal
Me: Mak, not something that's impossible. Something you wish you could do or see. Something that can really happen.
Mak: See a rhino and a hippo
Tato: Touch snow

Geez. Tall order. Snow, hippos and rhinos in good ole Tropical 'Pinas just won't happen. Neither will hippos and rhinos in snow anywhere. I did a little bit of research. (Thank you, internet!) And then I made my own list. Pocket-friendly, child-friendly, MacDaddy-friendly, some "snow", a hippo, a rhino. Bingo! We left a few weeks ago as soon as summer started.

starstruck at the Singapore Day Zoo

A rare white rhinoceros

Mak meets a pygmy hippo.


Tato eager to put on snow boots

renting snow gear


Done, done and done. And judging from the smiles, I'm guessing it felt really good.