Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The hassles and joys of printed books

Last Saturday I came across the Powerbooks book sale at the Upper Ground Floor of SM Megamall. I got three hardbounds for less than Php 1500! The acquisition of too many books (the Japanese have a word for it: tsundoku) poses a subject of conflict between Manong and me--probinsiyanos who live in a small rented space in Metro Manila. Before going home I could almost hear my brother ask me in a serious tone, "Where will you store those?" He wasn't too pleased when, a few days ago, I brought home five volumes of De Vita's Oncology textbook, 11th edition, and stacked them on the dining table. The lack of space is the main reason why I've mostly turned to Kindle for my leisure readings and my iPad for my academic readings (journals, textbooks, and so on). Most of the books I've accumulated since 2004 have been shipped back to Koronadal, where my mother had an entire cabinet installed to house them. (My late father carefully packed them in neat boxes, some of which still exist, bearing his neat and careful handwriting.)

Thus far, the transition to digital has been seamless. I've discovered that I read more slowly with printed books; I'd much rather use my iPad to read DeVita, for instance. It uses the same amount of concentration but less muscular ability: plus, I can read in the dark, which is really how I study. A pillow propped behind my head, my body in a supine position, with comfortable pajamas. Some would call it "getting ready to sleep." The physicality of the reading process is more pronounced when I leaf through actual pages, being able to smell them, crumple them, and write little notes on the margins. Other than that, I haven't had many issues. The blogger Tim Challies said he endeavored to transition to ebooks completely. Just don't remind me of Michael Dirda's Browsings, that beautiful account of a biobliophile whose main hobby is collecting first edition prints of books. After reading Mr. Dirda's essays (in my Kindle, ironically), I had a shopping spree with my fellowship allowance money, where I bought all copies of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels and some more. They're in one corner of the dining table.

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I'm reading David Lebovitz's l'appart, his account of buying a space in the 11th arrondissement of Paris and renovating it. I've enjoyed my time in Paris in 2017 and look forward to going back.

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I got Bulfinch's Mythology for my brother. This pacified him and even excited the English major in him.

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The page edges are in gold. I hope that I can spend entire days with these stories.

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Viet Thanh Nguyen, who wrote the masterful novel, The Sympathizer, edited an essay collection. The pieces are written by refugee writers. What does it mean to be taken away from one's home to live in a foreign land, with a different culture and value system? I always think of Christianity as a life of refugees in a land both foreign and familiar: in the world but not of it. Our home is in heaven, which we will see someday. I'm not sure if the book resonates themes of longing and homesickness (it can be, I expect, extremely political), but I hope it does.

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If you have time, visit SM Megamall. I saw unopened comic books, children's books, and even Stormy Daniel's account of President Trump on sale. No Christian or theological books, unfortunately, but there are many places for those.
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Over-sharing

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I met my friend Paul, now a citizen of New Zealand, over lunch yesterday. The subject of my blog popped up, Paul having seen me in 2004 start mini-website at an internet cafe near the UP Shopping Center. (There wasn't internet connection in Kalayaan Dorm yet, and this was the time when only Paul Balite and Luther Caranguian had laptops, which made them extra-cool.) "I'm sorry I sometimes forget to check it," he said, issuing what I still feel is an unwarranted, misplaced apology. Some friends think I oblige them, wherever they may be in the world, to read this little space of the web.

I told him I'm glad my phase of over-sharing--which included taking photos of all the food I've eaten, writing about how I felt about this or that film or movie--is of the past. I was, in a sense, social media savvy even before social media gained traction in Filipino culture. The closest thing to a social media in 2004 was blogging, now considered dead by some, but something that I continue to enjoy working on.

I'll meet him, Lord-willing, in Australia by the end of the year. He promised to drive me around. Paul, if you're reading this, I'll hold you accountable!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Multiple corrections

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This was the menu of Mr. Poon Restaurant in Ermita, Manila. To conserve paper and avoid plastic lamination, the managers decided (I think) to use white correction tape.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

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Fishing

Along a beach in Hong Kong (2016), where Minori N. showed my brother and me around.
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At the male restroom at Café Breton, Tomas Morato, Quezon City. Too bad the branch at Robinson's Place Manila is now closed. It used to be the place where I did some leisurely reading, where I picked up a French novel whose author I now forget, and where I almost always ordered the mushroom burger (perhaps the best in town, second to Trisha's beside SMRAA in Koronadal), and cafe americano plus sugar and butter with lemon crepe for dessert.
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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Before work

Before work

It is quiet at 4 am. I brew a cup of espresso, reheat the ensaymada given yesterday by a colon cancer patient now in remission (praise God!), and start my devotions. I turn my iPad on and scroll through the ESV app. Ephesians 2--that glorious chapter. That life-changing "but" that has given me, and so many others, hope and eternal security.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

My heart cries out, "Thank you, Lord!" I have seen too much human suffering the day before. I need perspective, clarity, and hope. The secular world does not have these things, but Scripture does. This is where I should be looking.

The ensaymada is delicious, imbued with the perfect softness, layered with melted cheese that has begun to crunch. The coffee keeps my stomach warm. My pen glides with green ink on soft, unlined, Japanese paper in cream. My day has begun. I wish you safety and joy.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

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National Handwriting Day!


Written using Vintage Parker Duofold (ca. 1930s) in Sheaffer turquoise ink—among my life’s miscellaneous joys.

I found in vintage pens a marriage of my fascination for fountain pens and history. During the Christmas break, I discovered eBay, the online marketplace, repository of all things old and new. It has been recommended by Dr. Butch Dalisay, whose fountain pen collection is a continual source of admiration.

I tried my hands at the auctions—a relatively harmless pursuit, I supposed, something I considered similar to haggling, only with a computer and sans the chatter. It took me a while to learn the ropes. I lost many times. There was joy in that, too, because the process left me with the possibility that I could win—what if nobody else cared for that 1930 Parker Duofold or that rotting model of a Vacumatic? What if I could get the pens at a low price?

Part of the thrill was the existence of these what-ifs. Another was the possibility of holding in my hand, shipped from elsewhere, a piece of history, a metallic object with a 14K gold nib, bearing scratches and pigmentations from way before World War Two had even begun. I won.

More than three weeks later (because I picked the cheapest shipping option), our office secretary received notice that I had a parcel to retrieve from the Post Office. I braved the Metro Manila traffic, entered for the first time the old, decrepit Post Office Building, and got the vintage pen of my dreams.

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