August-September (2021) reads

September has almost gone and now it’s time to compile my reads for the last two months. Since my prior list, I have finished four more books. Jane Harper’s The Dry (2016) was the first to be completed. A gripping tale of tragedy in a small drought-stricken Victorian town, this was a stellar debut. Subsequently, I went through J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories (1953). The collection reinforces the late writer’s status as one of the hallowed fiction writers of the previous century. In addition, I knocked back two nonfiction titles. The one I’ll review here is Eddie Jaku’s The Happiest Man on Earth (2020). This is a breezy read from the centenarian, a Holocaust survivor.  

  • The Dry (Jane Harper). As per above, this novel was released in 2016. Set in Victoria during a long drought, the plot centres around the murders of a young family. Luke Hadler was a notable figure in town and his wife worked in the local school. His death brings his friend, Aaron Falk, into town. Through Hadler’s father, Falk resolves to conduct a clandestine, unsanctioned investigation into the killings. While the settlement hates him, he finds a pal in Gretchen, a former classmate. Falk left the community with his dad many years past. They were under a cloud of suspicion following the murder of Ellie Deacon, another friend. As Falk gets more entangled into the mess, past secrets come to the surface and tensions turn ugly. Someone doesn’t want Falk to unmask the slayer and would stop at nothing to do so.  

The book is more character driven. Harper seems like she’s been producing novels for years. The plot oscillates between the present and the past, as depicted in Falk’s memories. What makes this a splendid crime thriller is how Harper keeps us guessing. The matador’s identity remains a mystery until the very end. In crafting this microcosm, Harper foregrounds the idiosyncrasies of small-town Victoria. She gives an accurate portrayal of two time periods, a pair of stages in the lives of her mainstays. She moulds flawed characters and situations that give credibility to the story. 

Her writing is likewise commendable: fluid and where every scene counts. Her chapters are well-spaced. Due to the book’s popularity, this eventually became the first of a series. Last year, an acclaimed film adaptation was released, starring Eric Bana as Falk. I must add that, despite the stunning debut, Harper has largely stuck to what gave her success. All her books are rather similar. In this regard, she is the Aussie Karin Slaughter. While the thriller functions as a crime read, The Dry is likewise a timely insight into climate change. Recommended for anyone down for a good mystery. 

Rating: 4.25/5

  • Nine Stories (J.D. Salinger). I’ve had this one on my shelf for a while. At 195 pages, it’s a relatively brief read. With the repositories closed until further notice, now was the time to get cracking on Salinger. Catcher in the Rye was his only other text I’ve read. This one is emblematic of post-war America, highlighting Salinger’s own milieu. The author served his country during WWII. None other than Ernest Hemingway praised his early work; they met during the war. Seven of the stories were published in The New Yorker. Included are two of his most renowned stories: ‘For Esme – with Love and Squalor’ and ‘A Perfect Day for Bananafish.’

The first few tales feature female leads. This impresses Salinger’s aptitude in underscoring protagonists of either sex. The collection tackles various subjects. A couple vacationing in Florida, with Seymour scarred from the war (‘Bananafish’); a mother and son debating by the pier (‘Down at the Dinghy’); a precocious kid with Hindu insights on a cruise ship (‘Teddy’). Some of these tales are loosely based on Salinger’s own experiences. For instance, a critic claimed that the character Seymour is Salinger himself. Furthermore, the author worked on a cruise ship and had a Hindu phase. 

For Esme is by far my favourite in the volume. It’s funny, specifically the line about triple-reading paragraphs. I also chuckled when Sergeant X became posture-conscious after seeing how Esme sat. The story was conceived for returning American troops who struggled after WWII. Salinger has been described as Sargeant X in situ. ‘De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period’ was likewise praiseworthy. John Smith recalls the events of his early life when he got a job at a dodgy ‘art school’. Here, he meets two Asian ‘instructors’ who ran the school through correspondence. He critiques the work of three students and just wings it. Ultimately a tragedy, the tale harbors deeper meaning: about the dilemma of making choices. The man must choose between superficial living and higher learning. This becomes a turning point in his march towards reason.

The book leaves no doubt in my mind as to why Salinger scaled the heights of the literary world. His prose, though from a different era, is terse but powerful. He gives his readers tremendous insight into family dynamics of the fifties. He democratises post-war America for posterity. Already critically lauded upon release, Nine Stories remains a classic. Salinger was not the most prolific producer but every book he released became a bestseller. The anthology is tangible proof of his literary genius.

Rating: 4.7/5

  • The Happiest Man on Earth (Eddie Jaku). This represents one of the best-rated memoirs in recent history. For starters, the author writes with simplicity – making the work very accessible. The title is also a veritable quote machine, giving readers much awareness into life. Who better to dish out advice than someone who’s lived to a hundred? The text details the struggles of a young Eddie, as he deals with Nazis in his native Germany. Being born a Jew, he had a happy childhood in Leipzig, a major urbanscape in Deutschland. German was his first language and he also spoke French. He changed his identity just to finish his engineering studies. He saw his environment being turned to poison because of the Nazis gaining power. 

He relates his experience in this culture of suspicion, hatred, and betrayal. He was twice interned in concentration camps, losing almost all his family. This included a lengthy stay at notorious Auschwitz. He faced death numerous times but was able to survive and tell his tale. Despite these challenges, he was resolved to remain positive. He focused on the good things he received and the friendships he forged. ‘The best balm for the soul is friendship, and with that friendship, we could do the impossible.’ He was amazed on the good Samaritans he encountered. Though he stayed with his young family in Belgium, he decided to bring them to Australia, where they thrived. ‘When there is life, there is hope. And when there is hope, there is life.’

Over the years, he refused to speak about his ordeal. As the Jewish community around him became more substantial, he gradually decided to share his story. Soon, his audience grew from thousands to even more. However, the memories remained painful, and he could not bear to discuss them with his immediate family. As he turned a century, he put his ordeal to paper. The result is a manuscript that’s less than two hundred pages. Reading the work in a day and a half is certainly possible. Aside from being well-written and quite quotable, this is likewise an uplifting read from someone who’s been there. He introspects near the close: ‘They will never really understand because they have not had this experience…it is something only we can understand.’ 

Rating: 5/5

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Sydney’s historic Hyde Park

Hyde Park, Sydney is a large urban park located in the city’s central business district. The Park covers two blocks (16.2 hectares) and is the oldest such parkland in the country. The Park was built between 1810 and 1927. City of Sydney owns the park, an offshoot which the NSW Government manages. It was added to the State Heritage Register in 2011. 

It is part of a parks chain that begins with the Domain, followed by the Sydney Botanical Gardens. Heritage-listed Hyde Park Barracks is within the vicinity, as are St. Mary’s Cathedral, the David Jones flagship store, the state Supreme Court, among others. The Park is home to well-tended gardens and about 600 trees. It is notable for splendid tree-lined avenues.

Hyde Park: a history

The area that is now Hyde Park used to be marshes where the local Aborigines hunted geese. The site also represented a key contest ground among the Aborigines that is part and parcel of their Sydney history. The British were not the only ones to witness said contest; the visiting Russians and French explorers likewise grasped this.

There used to be a tributary called the Tank Stream which skated the former marshes. The area of Hyde Park was relatively flat, in consonance with the valley. The place was known to be timbered just like the rest of the landscape. These included eucalyptus and palm trees, figs and apple trees. From 1788, the plane represented a locus where troops could easily assemble to quell a convict uprising. Probably, this was the site of a bloody struggle between colonial settlers and Aborigines for land dominance in Sydney.

Before departing, Governor Phillip designated the area as crown land. This was subsequently diminished, though Hyde Park remained within its confines. While The Domain belonged to the Governor, the Hyde Park plot was for the people. Later, this became a sports centre and racecourse – both firsts for the colony. Cricket battles and boxing fights were held there. Prior to 1810, the area was referred to as ‘The Common’, ‘Racecourse,’ among other appellations. On 11 February 1810, then-Governor Macquarie allotted this as open space, the first such instance in the country. He drew the boundaries. 

Macquarie took a page out of London, naming it Hyde Park. The designation was all part of the governor’s planning policy. Fifteen years later, the governor’s architect exclaimed that the park was to be Sydneysiders’ forever and would be accorded only the finest landscaping. The spot continued to be a sporting haven, regularly showcasing cricket matches, boxing bouts, rugby contests, and military drills. 

Over the next century, the place was still upgraded and repurposed. For instance, in 1868, the Park was the site of Prince Albert’s ball. A parks movement across the empire ensured other sizeable parklands became public property. Hyde Park also showcased exhibitions. Ultimately, the ANZAC Monument and the Archibald Fountain were put up. The former took four years to be erected and was finished in 1934. Meanwhile, the latter was done in 1932. In 1927, the David Jones store opened. The 1980s saw the city council making major upgrades on the area, improving walls and paths, plantings, and monuments. In 2016, the same council advanced the restoration of the Frazer Memorial Fountain (1881), which was to transpire later in the year. 


Throughout its history, Hyde Park has undergone changes and faced challenges. The modernisation in the CBD has gone on around the locus. Events – whether distinctive on not – have been planned and held. The site has hosted sporting meets, such as boxing, horseracing, and rugby. The ambience has transformed from rural marshes to the most expensive blocks of land in the world. While passing through with a friend, I remember describing it ‘like an oasis in the big city.’ He loved the description.

Monument central

As mentioned, the park has some significant monuments. The Archibald Fountain is chief among these. A French architect designed the geyser, which immortalised Australia’s part during the Great War in France. The centrepiece was even featured on an 80s B-movie. Moreover, a gigantic chess set is also at this end. This sits near the entrance to Saint James station. Furthermore, the ANZAC War Memorial could be found on the southern block. The Pool of Reflection complements the tourist attraction. In addition, also at the southern end, is artwork dedicated to Indigenous servicemen. There is also an Egyptian obelisk at the western end circa 1857. An outdated monument to James Cook, who ‘discovered Australia’, is to be found at the locus’s southern half. Given the #blacklivesmatter movement, I am surprised that it’s still standing. 

A heritage-listed park

On 13 December 2011, the gardens received state heritage recognition. The Park ticks all the boxes. Firstly, the locus is crucial in displaying the state’s cultural and natural history. As mentioned, the Park is NSW’s oldest and has endured despite a lot of change. Secondly, the setting has both a special and strong association with the people of New South Wales. The locus has robust Aboriginal ties. Thirdly, the area exhibits the high artistic merit of NSW. Hyde Park is the paramount example in the country of a significant public park in an urban setting. Fourthly, Hyde Park has strong associations with a specific cultural group in the state. The locus honours the ANZAC and current servicemen; the area is culturally significant to residents of Sydney. Fifthly, the place harbours endangered, rare, or uncommon aspects of NSW’s natural history. The Park is only one of two public spaces that have survived since 1810, the time of the late Governor Macquarie. Sixthly, the Park is consequential in evincing the chief aspects of a class of certain cultural environs in NSW. Hyde Park is influential as both open space and public park. There have been many copycats throughout Australia, but none as worthy as the original.

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9/11: Twenty years on


On this day twenty years past, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked two airplanes that struck the twin towers late that morning. This was the most brazen and the worst terror attack ever in history. Pictures of the crumbling towers dominated the news coverage for the weeks to come. Aside from the skyscrapers, another plane was supposed to hit the White House. Through the help of daring passengers, the jet crashed on a field in Pennsylvania. Another aircraft hit the Pentagon and caused significant destruction and loss of life. That day, 2,977 humans were slain, including 265 on the four jets and 2,606 in and around the World Trade Centre (WTC). The latter left a void in the New York skyline. When the towers were built, they were the tallest buildings on Earth. They embodied America’s commercial might. Now they were a gaping reminder that terrorists had trampled on America’s front yard. 

A little perspective

The 9/11 attacks weren’t the first on the Big Apple’s pre-eminent skyscrapers. In 1993, a similar foray transpired, which the same terror group perpetuated. However, the edifices remained intact. The genesis of the attacks could well be traced to US foreign policy during the Reagan years. Particularly pertinent is their stance on Afghanistan. They armed and financed the locals, which included Osama bin Laden, as they fought the common enemy. They also put Saddam in power, before regretting the decision and going to war with him. In the end, that America did not listen to valuable intelligence also cost them. Commander Massoud, a key opposition figure in Afghanistan, warned them of imminent terror attacks and to take the plight of his countrymen seriously. However, the US powerbrokers affirmed their commitment to neighbouring Pakistan, wary of upending the natural order in the Middle East. 

Bush’s retort

In the wake of the deadly attacks, then-US President George W. Bush announced a global ‘War on Terror.’ Bin Laden became the most despised man on earth. The leader further unveiled an ‘axis of evil’, which included Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and the Taliban. He then proclaimed that Iraq harbouring weapons of mass destruction was ‘a slam dunk.’ This became the basis of the Iraq invasion. In a matter of days, the media widely reported that the Americans had liberated the Iraqis. Indeed, they toppled an imposing statue of the tyrant in the capital. However, there was no sighting of Osama Bin Laden. Moreover, the media failed to report that Iraqi civilians butchered four American soldiers, their corpses paraded along the streets of Baghdad. Regardless, no such cataclysmic weapons were ever found in Iraq.

The aftermath

Aside from the US government’s response, the city became a no-go zone as the dust settled. Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad were to meet in a mega-fight at Madison Square Garden. The two pugilists came in to unify the middleweight crown for the first time in a decade. However, their press conference was postponed considering the strikes, which happened just a few blocks away. The fist fight itself was rescheduled to 29 September 2001. Even a golfer named Tiger became a scared rabbit, spurning his event despite a hefty appearance fee. In ensuing reports, the towers’ great crumble was reportedly heard many blocks away. The haze from the buildings was visible from other boroughs. 

An Aussie’s tale

Filmmaker Michael Moore takes a different tack on Bush, as highlighted in Fahrenheit: 9/11. He suggests that the President gave conflicting messages as he dealt with the situation. Meanwhile, a few years back, an Australian programme did a special. An Aussie who worked in New York at the time was one of the guests. He remembers the experience as being very surreal. He was in one of the middle floors when disaster happened. He recalls seeing his officemates becoming upset and despondent. Remaining calm, he climbed down the stairs. In such scenarios, using the lift is out of the question. As he made his way down the stairwell, he encountered a guy, who asked him a question. The descent took forever, and he admitted that it was the longest such walk in his life. Later, having heard of the fatalities, he was very grateful for being alive. 

The enduring battlefront

The hunt for Bin Laden became a protracted struggle in two countries. The Afghan intervention lasted twenty years, marking the longest war in American history. The main purpose of the conflict was to free the country from the Taliban’s radical rule and to oversee a democratic government. A surge in terrorists and oppression were seen as the grim alternative. Meanwhile, the fall of Saddam Hussein did not mark the end of hostilities in Iraq. Barrack Obama, Bush’s successor, finally silenced Bin Laden. This campaign had cost the US billions of dollars and left the economy in dire straits. After twenty years, the Taliban toppled the US-backed government in a matter of days. Scenes of denizens desperately fleeing the regime captured the irrationality of the war. Thus, that hundreds of Afghans would converge on an American cargo plane was ironic.   

The War on Terror has concretised every Westerner’s paranoia, legitimising the use of surveillance in carrying out these ends. Whole new agencies were established and not just in the US. Ordinary citizens caught in the wrong situation are branded as ‘terrorists’, while the real wolves blend in with the herd of sheep. This ensured the popularity of such shows as Homeland, which built on these fears head-on. In fairness, the 9/11 attacks were not an aberration. The subsequent Bali bombings likewise resulted in the deaths of hundreds. This has been perceived as the Aussie version of 9/11. Subsequent bombings in Europe meant that this is far from an American headache. In the past few weeks alone, an attack was carried out in Afghanistan in the last days of US withdrawal.

Twenty years later

A memorial listing all the victims’ names was set up at ground zero. Like the War Memorial in Washington, this is a lasting tribute to all the lives that were tragically cut short. Regardless, during the Saturday prior to 9/11, my auntie and my late uncle were able to visit the landmark. Three days before the crumble, I must hand it to her as her timing was spot-on. This was a day that lived in infamy, the day when the threat of home court terror became actualised. Twenty years on, we remember the courageous efforts of both the rescuers and those brave passengers who defended their country when all hope seemed lost. 

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In honour of my father

Today, 5 September, marks Father’s Day in Australia. Unlike other countries such as the US and the UK, our celebration falls on the first Sunday of September. For most of us, our dads fill an important role in our lives. For starters, we can thank them for the gift of life. They are among our first teachers and growing up, are our prime role models. They are the breadwinners who nurture our talents. They show us the way. I can share a lot of tales about my dad because he has done so much good to us. However, I’ll pick a few to represent the whole. 

  • Do the right thing.’ This is one of my father’s catch phrases. Later, I heard of a Spike Lee joint with the same title. The directive seems easy enough: stick to the rules, be morally upright. Having seen the things, I’ve seen; this is easier said than done. As youngsters, this is not difficult. Most of us would listen to our elders in following the straight and narrow. We are developing a sense of right and wrong and are still finding our place in the world. Our parents are the natural buffer as we navigate the microcosm. Therefore, to be adults and to be still doing the wrong thing is inexcusable. When we make flaws, this reflects how we were brought up. In case you’re wondering, one’s abode cannot be a mere pit stop to have meals and gather things. The home is the place to grow, to learn from one’s mistakes. 
  • Grace before meals. As a child, my father bought this tablet and positioned it at the head of our dining table. It contained the full text of the grace before meals. My dad taught us how to give thanks prior to consumption. He showed us how to do the sign of the cross and soon we knew the prayer by heart. Growing up, we always had our meals together. This is significant as my classmate, Juanito, told me that they ate separately. Apart from this, he likewise taught us how to pray the rosary and we prayed this together when we had the chance. Moreover, he introduced the Thanksgiving Prayer to us. We learned how to be grateful for our blessings. The knowledge he shared has long remained. 
  • The value of an education. My dad is a staunch advocate of the merits of the classroom. He valued our education enough that I spent my formative years studying in the oldest institution in our area. When we needed something for school, he never forgot them. He was there during our graduations and even during recognition days. Regardless, he urged us to be more than high achievers. Whenever we traded stories at the dinner table, I remarked that he always had the most interesting day. 
  • Chess. When I was in school, I remember taking an interest in board games. He bought us a scrabble board, and, for me, a wooden chess set. He topped it off by purchasing two beginner’s guides to the latter. In high school, I transformed into a two-time scrabble doubles champion. Meanwhile, I played chess casually with schoolmates, forging new bonds. With chess, I was more a student of the game. Over many lunchbreaks, I watched as others showcased their mad skills. I even joined the chess club as a freshman. Furthermore, my dad also gave me a basketball as one of his Christmas gifts. Soon, I couldn’t stop watching and talking about basketball.
  • Campus writer. As per above, my father fostered our gifts. Together with my sister’s help, they moulded the writer in me. My sister heard about the qualifying exam for the school paper. Consequently, in my sophomore year, I became sports editor. That year, I would write the paper’s banner headline in the last issue. This set the stage for senior year, where I would secure the associate editor post after acing the exam. I would go on to get published in magazines. Later, I would write an Honours thesis, hard-earned manuscripts, and I maintain this blog. While I would utilise the help of invaluable lifesavers, my dad represented one of my earliest believers and proponents.
  • Cooking. My dad was a wannabe chef. Over the years, he’d cook all sorts of delicious grub for us. Whether it’s soup or pasta, American or Chinese cuisine, he got us covered. He is fond of fish, fresh produce, and sandwiches. He taught us not to be fussy and to eat everything (as he did). I have fond memories of Sundays. He would cook tuna or blue marlin in flour, which we would pair with rice and fresh seaweed. He would then make freshly squeezed lemonade from our front yard lemon grove. Other Sundays, we’d have beef soup.  Yet on other occasions, it was tenderloin steak with the same plus pili. He cooked on other days, but Sunday was best as he honoured the Sabbath. 
  • Books. Early on, he instilled in us a love for books. As toddlers, he constantly read to us despite his busy schedule. Most of our earliest reads were from Childcraft and a bevy of picture books. He bought a whole set of the World Book encyclopaedia, which I started perusing this on the summer of third grade. He both the latter and Childcraft together as a set. The tomes greatly aided my flair for writing. In high school, I wanted a copy of this nonfiction hostage book. He gladly bought it for me, brand-new. For all high school, he purchased the newspaper daily. Even though we had the nightly news, reading the papers furthered my passion even more.
  • Trying new things. Intrepid is a good descriptor of dad. He does not limit himself to one dimension; instead, he explores. When he tries something new, he’ll try the other iterations and brands. His reasoning: how can you say it’s bad when you haven’t even tried it? Aside from being daring, he’s also a plus listener. Irrespective of one’s standing, he’ll hear out their side. He’s lived in Germany, Asia, and Australia. In those stints, he has easily adapted to the change in food, climate, and terrain. From a young age, he’s shown me how one could live and thrive independently. Though he’s far from an island, he’s as self-sufficient and cool as Ibiza. 

These vignettes are light portraits of my father. His influence is such that I would need a good many blog posts and yet that would just scratch the surface. I haven’t even mentioned how, as a young man, he’s been on three continents and hopscotched through Europe. How he likes to have a mid-afternoon snack (merienda), which I have since adopted. Have I mentioned that he has a green thumb? My dad wears many hats but being a parent par excellence is at the top of them. As I touched on in a prior blog post, we remember the good deeds. As my dad has shown, being great or powerful is not the same as being honourable. I would like to take this opportunity to wish my dad and all dads out there, a ‘Happy Father’s Day!’  

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Player profile: Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson (born 7 June 1992) is a Filipino-American combo guard for the NBA’s Utah Jazz franchise. He had a two-year college stint with Tulsa and transferred to Missouri, earning second team all-state in his lone year there. He decided to forego his senior year and was a second-round draft selection of the Washington Wizards before being immediately dealt at draft night to the Los Angeles Lakers. He was an All-Rookie first teamer, an outlier for a second rounder. He was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers come 2018, before subsequently finding a home with the Jazz in December of 2019. On 24 March of 2015, he and Jeremy Lin became the first pair of Asian-American guards to start a regulation NBA game. In 2021, Clarkson was adjudged as NBA Sixth Man of the Year. 


Clarkson could trace his beginnings to Tampa, Florida. He is the son of an Afro-American dad and a half-Filipino mother. His maternal grandmother is from Pampanga, Philippines. His parents both spent time with the Air Force, divorcing soon. At age six, Clarkson moved to San Antonio, Texas. He attended high school there, norming averages of ten points as a sophomore. He was an all-district honourable mention. Junior year, he averaged twenty points, six boards, and four helpers. He led his team to the state semis. That year, he signed a letter of intent to play with Tulsa. His senior year, he upped those numbers to 18 points, six caroms, and two swipes but lost in the semis stage of the state championship. He was likewise adjudged San Antonio High School Player of the Year. 

At Missouri


As a neophyte, he was named to the conference freshman team after posing 11 points an outing in 24 minutes a ballgame. Sophomore year, he became an all-conference first teamer, putting up 16.5 points and 3.9 boards per contest. In 2012, he transferred to Missouri, sitting out the 2013 season in line with NCAA rules. The following season, he was honoured to the All-SEC second team. In 35 starts, he put up 17.5 points, 3.8 boards, 3.4 dimes, and 1.1 pickpockets in 35 minutes a night. In March 2014, he declared for the association draft, vacating his senior year. 

Pro years

On 26 June 2014, the Wizards used the 46th pick on Clarkson. They traded him right away to the LA Lakers for cash. He had numerous relegations to the D-League and played sparingly during the first half of the season. However, when all was said and done, he started 38 games for the purple and gold. Playing as a point guard, he normed averages of 15 points and five assists as a starter. That night with Lin as his backcourt mate, he dropped 30 markers and seven dimes in a loss to the Thunder. On 30 March and 1 April, Clarkson normed back-to-back double-doubles. Subsequently, he was named All-Rookie first squad. He became only the fifth second-rounder to be so awarded in the last thirty years. He became a fan favourite in the Philippines considering his Pinoy heritage and the huge Laker fanbase in that country. 

Jeremy and Jordan

The comparison with Lin is an interesting one, as both are Asian-American and were utilised as point guards. They were also teammates at Tinseltown. While Lin is a capable player, his NBA career was beset by injuries. He was able to awe the world and manufacture Linsanity. The Harvard connection and bench-warming also make for the perfect underdog story. Good as Lin was, he was a limited player in the Association. ‘Make him go left’ was the common scouting report on Lin. I would assert that Clarkson is the better ballhandler as Lin was turnover prone. Clarkson is also the more consistent cager and more dependable on the perimeter. With Lin you never know what you’re gonna get. One night, he’ll put up thirty and hit four triples then go two of ten the next night for five points. Clarkson is a bit more balanced and therefore, more reliable. In my opinion, he’s tougher than Lin. That’s why he’s still in the league. 

Early on in his career, the knock on Clarkson was that he was featured on bad teams. Yes, he was a consistent scorer and played under Kobe’s guidance. With the Lakers though, the talent level was in decline, and they never made the postseason. In other words, there wasn’t enough help. Though he normed career highs across the board, they were done in meaningless matches. He was rewarded with a fat contract: four years, fifty million. 

First Finals

Mid-way through his fourth year, he was shipped to the Cavs together with Larry Nance, Jr. This was his first taste of the playoffs, and he had a limited role, averaging 15 minutes with no starts. Regardless, they made it all the way to the Finals. A J.R. Smith brain cramp in Game 1 killed any chance of making it a series. Warriors 4, Cavs 0. After LeBron left the following year, the Cavs went into rebuilding mode. During his lone full season with them, Clarkson dropped his career high: 42 points in a loss against Brooklyn. 


December of 2019, Clarkson was dealt to the Jazz for Dante Exum and a pair of second rounders. Last November, he re-signed with Utah on a new 4-year, $52M covenant. Later that month, Clarkson poured in a season-best forty-pence in a win over Philly. Last season, he ended up totalling over 18 points an outing, a career high. He led the league with 203 treys off the pine. He was reportedly only the third human in bench annals to post that stat. He bested teammate Joe Ingles in winning the Sixth Man trophy. He also became the first Utah dribbler to be so honoured. 

Clarkson’s game

At 6-4 and 194 pounds, Clarkson is a combo guard. He can run the show at the point with his good dribbling skills. Alternatively, he can play off the ball and shoot ringless from deep. He has good range that extends to the arc. He is a career 34 percent shooter from trifecta. He is more of a volume scorer, needing more shots to get in rhythm. Lately, he’s been a deadeye from the foul line, although he has admittedly started less games. Early on in his career, he was a staple of the Lakers’ first five. Subsequently, he embraced his role as the premier sixth man. 

He’s not much of a defender, although he will make the occasional interception. With the injury-riddled Jazz, he has so far not gone beyond the second round of the playoffs. He will get more chances to bomb away now that he’s teamed up with Rudy Gobert. In recent years, he has taken a liking to tattoos. Clarkson also has a bit of a temper. I recall the time when Dario Saric drove in for a layup during garbage time. He took offence and was issued a technical. With his resume, he is no doubt the gold standard for Asian American pros in the league.


From a tender age, Clarkson had shown a desire to represent the Pinoys. He was initially deemed ineligible as he reportedly collected his Filipino passport aged sixteen. Subsequently, he was merely an observer in Gilas training. However, the hoops honcho in the country stated that Clarkson got his passport as a twelve-year-old. Thus, he did not need to be naturalised to play for Pinas. Scheduling conflicts with the Lakers precluded him from participating in qualifying tourneys. Though he was selected to play for Pinas prior to Rio, red tape and killjoys prevented him from putting on the Gilas jersey. In a one-time exception, the Association finally cleared Clarkson to play in time for the Asian Games. He dropped 28 versus China and 25 against Korea but fell short on both occasions. Gilas ended up in fifth place. 

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Sydney Lockdown NON-essentials

‘To be necessary, or not, that is the question.’ Sydney, Australia has been in lockdown since 26 June. Despite the heavy restrictions (including mandatory wearing of masks), the past two days has seen the state’s local cases eclipse eight hundred. During the shutdown, various businesses and attractions have closed their doors. Those remaining open have been singled out as ‘essential’ to the economy. The label has had conflicting definitions. Unlike in Victoria, where there were clear-cut differentiations, the meaning of essential in our state has been more…amorphous. While hair salons and churches were immediately off the table, electronics, shoe stores, and fitness retailers were still welcoming customers. Allow me to provide a few examples to enlighten you. Hopefully, I’ll allay both our confusion.

  • Beaches. Aussies love the surf and the sand. Even on a sunny winter’s day, you can count on the crowds converging on the shore. Indeed, early on, the measures did not deter eager beavers from sunbathing in Bondi or Manly. However, despite our love for suntan and rips, do not be mistaken. Beaches are NOT essential. The large, packed numbers are the perfect recipe for COVID disaster. In such quantities, authorities would not be able to put a lid on things. That’s why they must ‘nip it in the bud.’ On the first day of the city-wide lockdown, the beach was off-limits. This reinforces my postulation that, in time of lockdown…no beach.

  • Bookstores. Every bibliophile loves a decent brick and mortar bookshop. Online shopping, eBooks, and audiobooks have problematised the relevance of these trusty old shops. Some may even argue that they’re anachronisms from a bygone era. Though Borders has gone belly-up, Dymocks has survived. Some second-hand bookshops have also endured. In the first week of shutdown, a few of them have even soldiered on. However, like the beach, they are non-essential. Look at it this way. If you must choose between your next meal or read, which would you choose? Reading is a hobby, but food is quintessential.
  • Churches. They are the abodes of our faith. We go to the basilica and the synagogue to worship Yahweh. Catholics attend mass to listen to scripture, hear the Priest’s sermon, partake in prayer, and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We must impart one hour a week of our time to the Holy Eucharist. We must give generously and pay heed. One would think that such reverence would be deemed necessary, right? Wrong! The citywide restrictions were announced on Saturday afternoon (26th June). In our local parish, all Masses have been cancelled ‘until further notice.’ No doubt, our Churches are vital. However, their temporary omission is also critical if one were to stand a chance against the virus. Being an enclosed space, a cap on parishioner numbers is simply not good enough. ‘Prevention is better than cure.’

  • Cinemas. On this list, I couldn’t think of something less important. Theatres is like commercial flights; they are irrelevant in a lockdown economy. Like beaches, they are the perfect setting for a COVID hotspot. Ever since the outbreak started early last year, I dare say that they deserve no place in the status quo. Anybody who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. Remember that limo driver who attended a session at Bondi? Those patrons who bought tickets that day may have just as well have boarded the COVID Express.

In the months during and after last year’s nationwide lockdown, the cinemas kept offering basement-price vouchers. As if anyone could be bothered to snap them up. If I may, these big businesses should have done that before the pandemic, when people still actually cared. To top it off, they gladly expired members’ points in the aftermath. This is even more reason for movie buffs to boycott. Moreover, the ubiquity of streaming services has rendered these theatres as shoguns. Shelling out your hard-earned bucks on a comatose medium is just pointless. Instead of the big screen, dim your room and get a month’s worth of entertainment. If you ask me, cinemas are a luxury during ordinary times…and in COVID? Avoid.

  • Fashion stores. I must stress that this applies not only to clothing stores but likewise with shoe stores and general merchandise. As of today, over ninety percent of these fashion chains have shuttered till the end of lockdown. This is not without good reason. People will not part with their cash while risking their own health by browsing in-store. Indeed, a fair number of these outlets have already called it quits – further casualties of the COVID outbreak. The rise of online shopping has also accelerated their demise. Some of these businesses have focused instead on gaining online traction. In this case, the shops have learned to adapt.
  • Gyms. For the fitness buff, a gym would be critical, no question. People may have all sorts of reasons for cardio: to lose weight, to put on muscles, to be a different person. I have some bad news for them: according to state regulations, gyms are not paramount. Why? They operate in enclosed spaces, which endangers a COVID spreader. Furthermore, exercise could be replaced or repurposed. You could buy gym equipment or go for a run. Early in the lockdown, you could even do your exercises outdoors, subject to head caps. One look at these eerie places and they epitomise the COVID restrictions: big spaces empty, high-tech equipment left untouched.
  • Hair salons. They were one of the earliest scalps, mainly due to the Double Bay cluster. Said spreader was connected to a hair salon, one of the engines behind the state’s decision to close. Oddly enough, they were still open at the onset of last year’s lockdown. I’m not against haircuts (I’ve had two at home since lockdown 2.0). However, these salons are usually in tight spaces, which does not bode well for COVID prevention. Even if you limit the number of heads inside, what if these same clients are harbingers? You can’t be too cautious.

Hairdressing is much like exercise: with proper attention, you can do it yourself. There are stores selling the tools and online how-to’s. The closures of these hairdressers have certainly affected lots of people, potentially thousands. Even the bigwigs in the fight against the virus have not appeared unscathed when they preside on TV. Even home service is not possible, as you cannot risk having visitors while the outbreak rages. During a Sydney protest, one rallyist held a sign that said, ‘I need a haircut.’ There’s sure to be a long queue when they re-open. Perfect COVID recipe.

  • Libraries. The repositories immediately heeded the city’s COVID regulations. First, the City libraries closed their doors. The following day, all other suburban bibliotheca’s followed suit. The move was sudden and caught me off-guard. I was only able to borrow two items prior to the shutdown. Sadly, I must admit that these libraries are expendable. Last year, they were shuttered at the height of the pandemic. Some eventually offered click and collect, before finally re-opening. Though they were back, the shadow of COVID loomed. The library experience was different, with visitor caps and sometimes even duration caps. Social distancing was practiced. Just like the previous six items, libraries are typically in enclosed spaces. Hence, they are unsuitable during lockdown.

A couple of days ago, the announcement came that the state-wide lockdown is extended until end of September. The Premier has outlined her plan out of the shutdown. A model vaccination rate is critical. There will always be uncertainty during these tough times. The lockdown has already been extended on a few occasions and was supposed to end next week. The characters may be different but the feeling’s the same. Beachgoers want a dip. Booklovers need a reprieve. Fitness buffs yearn for their sanctuary. Fashionistas need their next outfit. Everybody pines for a haircut, which has been a luxury. How much is that on the black market?  

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Hemingway (2021) reviewed

A few weeks ago, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast was one of the books I reviewed. The work catalogued the author’s youth as an American expat in Paris. About this time, I saw the start of Hemingway, a documentary dedicated to the life of the great American writer. The PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) originally released the show in April of this year. Over three two-hour instalments, the series provides audiences insight into the legend. From womb to tomb, Kenyan safari to the Spanish Civil War, we witness Hemingway’s genius. The programme is notable for employing big-name actors as narrators. Veteran thespian Jeff Daniels voiced Hemingway while Oscar darling, Meryl Streep, did likewise with Martha Gelhorn (the third wife).

The series


In high school, I vaguely recall reading excerpts from two of Hemingway’s finest novels. This was part of English class. Later, while browsing notebooks, I saw his name among the premium moleskins. He was there together with two other supreme innovators: Picasso and Chatwin. This year, I’ve only started reading up on the latter. I kicked off 2019 by tackling ‘For Whom the Bells Toll.’ The book, which features an American guerrilla named Robert Jordan, was not a good introduction into Hemingway.

The show

I was not able to catch the genesis of Hemingway as I had been viewing another movie at the time. His Parisian days was where I began. Like in his memoir, the show tells of his family’s trips to go skiing during the winters. The episode quotes passages from Feast. The author had already worked as a journalist prior to his Parisian move. He had been employed with newspapers in both Kansas City and Toronto. Hadley Richardson was his first wife. They had a son, Jack (nicknamed Bumby). There was an anecdote about Hemingway’s lost stories. Apparently, he had asked Hadley to bring them to him. They were in a suitcase but were misplaced and gone for good. Apparently, Hemingway did not blame her at the time.

As a side note, Hemingway was a high school graduate before joining the Army as an ambulance driver in Italy. This experience would mould his future book, A Farewell to Arms. He was the eldest son, the second of six children. He spent his early years in Illinois. In secondary school, he edited both the school organ and the yearbook.

The twenties

While still married to Hadley, Hemingway began an affair with Pauline Pfeiffer. The latter was one of Hadley’s closest pals and a frequent travelling companion. As Hemingway began spending more time with Pauline, he burned bridges with his first wife. They ended up divorcing. The 1920s were a most productive time for the scribbler. He published In Our Time, a collection of stories, in 1925. Earlier, he released Three Stories and Ten Poems, as he tried to move on from suitcase-gate. He finally released his debut novel, The Sun Also Rises, in 1926. The title is a homage to Pamplona bullfighting. I learned that Hemingway had tried to wiggle out of a deal with his publisher by penning a crap novel, The Torrents of Spring. He was then able to sign on with his preferred publishing house.


He divorced Richardson in 1927 and married Pfeiffer in a Catholic ceremony. They were able to get this done as Hemingway’s first marriage was not officiated by the Church, which thereby did not recognise it. While with Pfeiffer, he published another anthology: Men Without Women. The fourteen-story collection is on a medley of subjects, including bullfighting, boxing, infidelity, and death. In 1929, he commissioned his second novel, A Farewell to Arms. The latter transformed Hemingway into a major literary player and evinced a measure of complexity unapparent in his debut. The book chronicles an American ambulance driver in Italy during World War I. He had two more sons, Patrick (b. 1928), and Gregory (b. 1932). Farewell marked his first bestseller.

He expanded his love for bullfighting in the nonfiction work, Death in the afternoon. He spent some time researching in Spain. After this, he resided in Key West, Florida, where he broke his arm. While recovering, he was unable to write for a year. He continued to travel extensively to Europe and Cuba. Together, the couple ventured to a Kenyan safari, which became the basis for Green Hills of Africa (1935). Seeking more adventure, Hemingway went to Spain to cover the Civil War. There, he met Gellhorn, a headstrong, independent woman unlike any he’d met. Here, he wrote The Fifth Column, his only play. In the doco, there was some timely archive footage of the war. Hemingway’s apathy in his friends’ plight was also canvassed.

The Cuban connection

As he gradually grew out love with Pfeiffer, he spent more time in Cuba. He and Gellhorn rented Finca Vigia (‘Lookout Farm’), a 15-acre compound. His divorce was finalised in 1940 and he married Gellhorn in November of 1940. He split his time between Havana (where he spent his winters) and scenic Ketchum, Idaho. Gellhorn impelled him to write his most famous work, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). The novel traces its origins from the author’s earlier experiences during the Spanish Civil War. While considered among his best works, other critics shared my dissenting opinion. By the 1930s, Hemingway’s brilliance was no secret. Since landing his first bestseller in 1926, all his output would fly off the shelves. He became a must-read.

World War II

Though rather reluctant, Hemingway followed Pfeiffer to cover World War II in Europe. He managed to get in by plane while leaving his missus to board a ship. He suffered a concussion from a car accident and was hospitalised. Instead of helping him, Gellhorn mocked him and said they were finished. When they submitted both their war stories to the same magazine, Hemingway got the cover story over his ex. While in London, he met Mary Welsh, who would later become his fourth wife. Hemingway badly wanted a daughter, but she suffered an ectopic pregnancy.


While in Cuba, Hemingway finished the novella, The Old Man and the Sea (1952). Only about a hundred pages long, the book relates how an aging sod catches an epic marlin, only to release it back to the sea. Apparently, a visit to Venice inspired this work. Hemingway was smitten with this teenager, Adriana Ivancich, who functions as the big fish metaphor. Incidentally, the scribbler found his second wind as the lass vacationed in Cuba. For his efforts, Hemingway was awarded the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. A year later, he would receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Old Man was cited in the press release. Hemingway did not accept his triumph in person. Footage included in the doco shows a sluggish Hemingway trying to practice his speech.

Plane crashes in Africa

In 1954, the pair took a long overdue honeymoon to Africa. Hemingway was nearly dead balled in two successive plane crashes. When search parties could not locate him, media outlets around the globe reported his death. After suffering severe burns to his face and yet another concussion, Hemingway came out worse for wear. Subsequently, Fidel Castro spearheaded an uprising in Cuba, ultimately driving out Fulgencio Batista – the US-backed dictator. Hemingway, who had made a home in Cuba, had to flee to the States in a hurry. Any hopes of returning to Cuba were quashed by the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Once again, just like in his youth, Hemingway’s output lay stranded. This plunged him into despair, and he was unable to release another book.

The last stance

In the years prior to his demise, Hemingway retook to his writing. He had made big strides in at least three books, including A Moveable Feast. He wasn’t always the model husband. In later life, he took to drinking more. Come to think of it, how he managed to complete books while on the booze was mind-boggling. When a magazine asked for a 40,000-word piece on bullfighting, Hemingway submitted 120,000 words and requested his friend to do the winnowing. The guy who was renowned for his unstated, economical style could edit no more.

Iceberg Theory

While not the best spouse, he was a doting father. One time, his second son was struck. Hemingway took care of him. In his lifetime, Hemingway released six novels, seven anthologies, and two nonfiction titles. He was adventurous, living in different countries, taking to such pursuits as bullfighting, fishing, prize fighting, and big-game hunting. He popularised the ‘iceberg theory’ in writing. Simple sentences appear to mean more. The thing about his prose is it keeps you guessing. He may have worked with a typewriter and covered three wars but to this day his work remains highly original and pertinent. This critically-acclaimed doco is perfect for all Hemingway fans out there (or even the casual reader).

Rating: 5/5

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Sweet, cuddly canines

A few years ago, a family member chanced upon this adorable picture book. Featuring over ninety stills of man’s best friend, the title is the perfect pick-me-up. The following is the book’s blurb:

‘Ears flapping, eyes wide and nose twitching: a dog hanging out of a window is a spectacular sight. Capturing these moments of delight and canine curiosity, this book is an anthology of beautiful photographs of man’s best friend in motion. Dogs of all shapes and sizes from all over the world, majestically alert and gazing triumphantly towards the horizon. Whether cute, powerful, uplifting or heart-warming, these striking images stir up the emotions of joy we feel towards our loveable companions.

In over ninety-five stunning portraits, this collection showcases some of the best and most vibrant pet photography from around the globe.’

For this post, I’ll emphasise images instead of plain text.

Tibetan terrier

‘Nicknamed ‘Holy Dogs’ or ‘Luck Bringers’ they chaperoned Buddhist monks in Tibet. A medium-sized pooch, they have a shaggy coat, an amiable nature, and are powerful.

Tibetan terrier

Shi Tzu

Chinese for ‘lion dog’. Reared to resemble oriental lions. Known for their flamboyant hairstyles.

Bernese mountain dog

A dainty and kind canine. Originated from Berne, Switzerland. They have a tricoloured, double-coat, and a relatively short life span of 7-8 years.

Border Collie

‘Sporty pooches with a herding instinct. They are known for being energetic, their active lifestyle, and considerable wits. They are considered one of the smartest domestic dogs. They live up to seventeen years, but the mean is closer to twelve.

Border Terriers

These cheerful dogs are high-energy. They are small and have a rough coat. Average life span is fourteen years.

West Highland White Terrier

‘Westies’ are the pale iterations of the ‘Scottie’ canine, having been round since the 1500s. They are living the high life.

Golden Retriever

This breed was pioneered by Lord Tweedmouth. As one of the most popular canines in the US, Australia, and others, they also enjoy playing fetch. Life span is between ten to twelve years. Though fun-loving, the breed is also highly trainable.

Chihuahua mix

These critters love holing up into their safe places. They take their appellation from Chihuahua, the Mexican state. They are usually the smallest canine recognised by kennel clubs. They average around twelve to twenty years of service.


The pampered ones. Cute and cuddly, perfect for dog grooming. The national dog of France.


The puppy that once ate my friend’s Subway lunch. See also: my post titled ‘A dog’s (healthy) lunch.’ They are a cross between a Labrador and a poodle. An Australian, Wally Conron, has been credited with naming the breed.

German Shepherd

The utilitarian speed daemon. As the name suggests, they hailed from Germany. Started out purely as a herding dog but metamorphosed into the preferred choice for a working dog. Lifespan is 9-13 years.


Brave, sociable, and intelligent. A natural-born hunter, he sticks out his tail when actively trailing a scent. Snoopy is a prime example.

Wire haired dachshund

Bushy eyebrows plus a beard make this canine a wise-looking pal. Albeit having short legs, they have a big personality.

Yorkshire terrier

A most popular lapdog breed, their small stature belies their huge personality and spark. They represent one of the most compact terriers around. The ideal maximum size is 3.2 kilograms. They trace their origins from Yorkshire, England.

Griffon Nivernais

‘One of the oldest French hunting dogs’. Medium-sized, with a rough coat, long ears, and tail. Has been described as daring and independent.


Has a long and fluffy outer coat, with a soft and dense undercoat, making the Pomeranian the dog lover’s favourite playground. While chomping on my burger and fries, a Pomeranian once eyed my meal greedily.


A ‘gentle giant.’ Despite their bulk, they have a very sweet disposition, are loyal to a fault, and are super with the little ones. Nana, from Peter Pan, exhibited all these traits. Originally bred in Newfoundland, Canada by fishermen.

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July 2021 (lockdown) reads

Another month, another list. Since my last catalogue, I’ve cleared another trio of reads. I started off with Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, which has been dubbed as the foremost Filipino novel. We studied this text in high school, although the English version is new to me. Upon cresting Mount Noli, I took my time with Project Hail Mary. Written by the author of The Martian, the book is the year’s most anticipated sci-fi read. Finally, I browsed through A Moveable Feast, which is a portrait of Ernest Hemingway’s youth. Posthumously published, the latter remains one of his most acclaimed works.  

  • Noli Me Tangere (Rizal). First published in 1887, the Noli was originally written in Spanish. Rizal had been studying in Europe, where he became an ophthalmologist. The Noli is a combination of things. On the surface, the work is an impassioned love story between the protagonists. The book is also a satire, a caricature of the Franciscan Friars who ruled the Spanish province. Furthermore, the novel is a time capsule of eighteenth-century Pinoy life. In addition, the volume also reads like a Shakespearean tragedy.

The Noli tells the story of Crisostomo Ibarra, a Spanish mestizo who had studied in Europe. He comes back to the Philippines, where the friars effectively killer his father, his graveyard ransacked, his bones thrown to the river. Regardless, he is betrothed to Maria Clara, daughter of Captain Tiago. They have been childhood sweethearts. During his welcome back dinner, Father Damaso becomes irate. ‘How a neck and wing in a friar’s plate of tinola can spoil the happiness of a celebration.’

Ibarra is the epitome of his country’s idealism. He tries to build a school so that kids can learn Spanish. He acts as a bridge between his countrymen and the ruling elite. He has a good relationship with the captain-general, who oversees the territory. However, Father Damaso meets him only with insults and ultimately excommunicates him. What ensues gives Romeo and Juliet a run for their money. Though Ibarra is the axis, the other characters prove the flaws of the system. Elias, the anti-hero, has his family savaged and vows revenge against the establishment. ‘Enmity is the law of life.’ He endeavours to open Crisostomo’s eyes: ‘I want to life the scales from your eyes, senor, and help you avoid a sad future.’

Sisa is the exemplary parent, always looking out for her boys. Instead, she is met with contempt, her boys labelled as thieves. This proves too much for her. Meanwhile, the philosopher Tasio is deemed too loony. He writes in hieroglyphics because he believes the future would better understand them. Interestingly, none of these characters would endure. There are various Pinoys who come off as social climbers, bastardising Spanish to comic effect. The friars are sketched as power-hungry and lascivious, too quick in judging and insulting their subjects. The plebs are unimaginative and inveterate gamblers.

Being excommunicated is not enough. Just like Rizal in real life, Ibarra is alleged as a filibuster. The wrath of the entire church is heaped on him. He becomes the archenemy of the very people he tries to save. He loses everything barely two months after arriving home. A final twist: who is Maria Clara’s real father? There is a lot of intertextualities, reinforcing Rizal’s genius and cognizance of his time. Being a classic, this is not the easiest read. At times, the prose could be taxing. Yet the time you’d invest in this gem is well worth it. ‘I die without seeing the dawn’s light shine on my country…You, who will see it, welcome it for me…don’t forget those who fell during the night-time.’

Rating: 4.25/5

  • Project Hail Mary (Andy Weir). As above, the scribbler entered the scene with The Martian, which was made into a Hollywood blockbuster. This time, the world is under threat and only has a few decades left. The sun is losing its lustre, spelling doom for our planet. Ryland Grace, a science teacher, is recruited by Stratt. The latter oversees the international rescue mission. Grace’s expertise on the offending substance – astrophage – is maximised. He gets to attend important board meetings and goes aboard aircraft carriers. He works together with the world’s finest scientist in analysing the astrophage. The top nations would throw everything at a mission that would extend our globe’s expiry date.

At the onset, he wakes up after years of being in a coma. He finds his two fellow travellers as corpses beside him, unable to surpass the coma. Slowly but surely, the memories come flooding back to him. For much of the book, we alternate between a desperate past and a hopeful present. He contacts an alien, Rocky, from the planet Erid. He is the lone survivor on Blip-A, a high-tech ship. Their species are intelligent and live in xenonite. Their atmosphere is a lot denser than ours, and they have five legs. Theirs is a different conception of time, sleep, and food. For instance, Eridians like to repeat words three times when they’re happy or for emphasis. They also have the creepy habit of watching their companion sleep. However, Grace manages to communicate with Rocky through utilisation of wizard technology.  

International Space Station (ISS)

Grace realises that they both want the same thing. Astrophage in their suns has threatened life on their planets. Though they have their differences, they join forces. Rocky is a highly skilled engineer who can make and fix practically anything. When the taumoeba eats all the fuel, Rocky’s mad skills come to the rescue. His surfeit of astrophage proves a game changer. Apart from bailing out Grace, he even saves his life. Rocky is amazed at how technologically advanced earthlings are.

Meanwhile, Grace proves that he is up to the task. He goes on spacewalks, gathers samples, and makes decisions that would shape our world. When they go their separate ways, he must make a tough choice between his own desires and the fate of his friend and Erid. There are shades of The Martian in that Grace is the lone human ‘in a galaxy far, far away.’ Thirteen earth years is the distance between the two points. At 476 dense pages, I must admit that this was not the lightest read. Certainly, it’s very original. Upon perusing this, I am convinced that Weir knows his astronautics.

Rating: 4.1/5

  • A Moveable Feast (Hemingway). This memoir, a treat for Hemingway fans, represents the third leg of the tripod. The book is based on some writings that the author left in two trunks at a Parisian hotel. Upon retrieving them decades later, he worked on the handwritten gems on and off during his last years of his life. The title tells of his life as a struggling expatriate writer in Paris. He lived in a shabby complex together with his young wife Hadley and Jack, his firstborn. He writes of his love for bullfighting and his wins at the races. He details his wine consumption, which is ordinary in Europe. He recalls the many city spots where he would get his writing done, including cafes, parks, and hotels. He relates the winters when they would swap Paris for skiing at Schruns.

Most importantly, he shares the thriving American expatriate community in Paris. He met other literary titans during the so-called lost generation: Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce (who was Irish), and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Through the help of this cluster, he was able to jumpstart his literary career. He remembers Stein labelling one of his tales as ‘inaccrochable’ and that he should stick to what would sell. He recalls how Pound admitted not reading any Russian writers, which was a shame. Hemingway had looked forward to debating said literature with Pound. He thought Fitzgerald was not maximising his talent and that his wife, Zelda, was very envious of his work. Once, the pair went on a trip to Lyon. He painted Fitzgerald as an inveterate hypochondriac with occasional fainting spells. He was always a doubting Thomas.

The scribbler talks of his craft, how writing did not come easy. He would take hours just to get a paragraph down and had to skip meals due to meagre funds. He touches on his jaunts through the Champs-Elysees. and the Siene. Moreover, he borrowed books from Sylvia Beach, an American who established a library. Before she published Joyce’s Ulysses, she was an early advocate. A Moveable Feast is all of 165 pages, including an introduction by the grandson. Apart from a long chapter on Fitzgerald, the biography is composed of eighteen other (mostly) brief chapters. Originally published in 1964 by Hemingway’s widow, many of the Parisian spots mentioned in the book could still be found. The title was supplied by his biographer, A.E. Hotchner. Apparently, Hemingway had mentioned the phrase before.

‘If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.’

Rating: 4.3/5

Rizal Park, Manila
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Fear Street Trilogy (2021) reviewed

As per my previous posts, this month has been lockdown in Sydney. I haven’t finished my latest read yet, but I’ve gone through a couple of series: The Mechanism, Atypical (season 4), and Dash and Lilly. My latest watch has been the Fear Street Trilogy. This is a recent Netflix addition, the first being released on 2 July, followed by the latter two. As a teenager, I was introduced to R.L. Stine and Fear Street. He has been described as the master of young adult thrillers. The trio of films were supposed to be released in cinemas last year but became another COVID scalp. Being released exclusively on Netflix, all three have been critically acclaimed.

the author

Fear Street Part One: 1994

Director Leigh Janiak gets the ball rolling with this teen slasher flick in a high school setting. Siblings Deena and Josh try to navigate school. They live in Shadyside, the opposite of neighbouring Sunnyvale. The latter is one of the wealthiest stops in the country. There is a love angle, with Deena being the ex of Samantha. Meanwhile, Josh has a secret crush on Kate, one of the popular cheerleaders. Otherwise, he taps away at his bulky desktop. Earlier, a lone knifeman spanks one of their peers and goes on a murder spree in Shadyside Mall. When a prank by the Shadysiders goes too far, even stranger things would take over.

Suddenly, the whole town is against them. Deena, Josh, Samantha, Kate, and Simon try to fight their way against the slalom of undead. They realise that their pursuers are not after them, but Sam. Her blood dripped on the witch Sara Frier’s hand. Their weapons are insufficient as their opponents cannot die. The only solution is a tough one: they must ‘kill’ Sam to disconnect her from the matadors. The group utilises the pills that Simon and Kate sell. They will lose friends along the way, but Josh’s history lessons on past Shadyside slayings will prove invaluable. Simon even labels him as ‘Rain Man.’

The teens figure out that there was a lone survivor from past attacks: C. Berman. Deena attempts to contact the revenant, to no avail. When Sam falls asleep, they revive her using EpiPen’s and CPR. The police pin the blame on the pill bearers. They have been known to hawk their treats. Since they are six feet under, they cannot bury the hatchet. Deena and Sam become open about their relationship. The former receives a call from C. Berman but not before being hit by her lover. Veteran actor Gillian Jacobs portrays Berman.

Rating: 4.3/5

Fear Street Part Two: 1978

The second instalment takes place in a summer camp. C. Berman is the narrator, saying that her sister -also in the camp – died a week after her story started. Her foes label the protagonist, Ziggy, a witch. Actor Sadie Sink (Stranger Things) portrayed the latter. Her character is pictured as a rebel, both against her family and her oppressors. She’s a toughie. One of the counsellors, Nick Goode, has taken a shine to her. He helps her with her revenge. Meanwhile, Cindy – Ziggy’s older sister – finds Tommy, her boyfriend, turned into a killing machine. She had tried to stop the nurse from slaying her mate. Apparently, the latter knew something was up and was merely trying to avert chaos. Tommy terminates Cindy’s friends and sets his sights on the camp, including his sister. Cindy desperately tries to save the kids.

In their attempt to make things right and to end the curse, Ziggy spills blood on Sara Fier’s hand, which resurrects the undead. With more comrades turned into cadavers, Ziggy, and Cindy retreat to the tree where Fier met her Maker. Upon digging a rock, they realise that this wasn’t the site. The slayers arrive, intent on Ziggy. Both are murdered, until Nick resurrects Ziggy via CPR. The viewers will realise that C. Berman is Ziggy; real name: Christine. They join forces to end the curse once and for all, as the group had found Fier’s body. They inform her that the camp has turned into Shadyside Mall. Josh and Deena dig the hand out of the same tree. They return it to the original burial spot when Deena has a sudden vision as Sara Fier in 1666.

The film was released on 9 July 2021. Most critics heaped praise on the picture. Some have even adjudged it as ‘strongest film in the trilogy.’ Others have asserted that the flick has a lot going on and tries to be many things but doesn’t stand out in any of them. One pundit gave it two out of four stars, citing the lacklustre delineation of the camp. Personally, I say that the actors were well-casted for this period piece. The plot was a real nod to seventies suspense and gore.

Rating: 4.4/5

Fear Street Part Three: 1666

Compared to the first two, which were mostly slasher fare, the third instalment is a supernatural frights movie. Part Three was released on Netflix last Friday, 16 July. This edition picks up where its predecessor dropped off. In 1666, Deena is transformed as Sara Fier. Janiak does a commendable job with the casting. Though audiences are teleported to the seventeenth century, the cast is mostly familiar faces. For instance, her brother Henry is the self-same Josh. A couple of villagers are Simon and Kate from Part One. On the flipside, this could be a budgeting thing, as they wouldn’t need to ferry in newcomers. Either way, the conceit works.

Back to 1666. Sara Fier is involved in a tryst with Hannah Miller. The latter is played by the same actor as Samantha Fraser. The two are caught up and the villagers want their heads, bringing fire and pitchforks with them. Following their rendezvous, things mysteriously turn sour in the town. The pig becomes a cannibal, the reverend begins acting up. This gives the villagers even more reason to blame the pair. They are tried by pitchfork and sentenced in a kangaroo court even with zero tangible evidence against the lovers.

Through all this, Solomon Goode remains Sara’s only ally. They were arranged to be wed before the storm hit. When the townsfolk come searching for Sara, Solomon hides her. While lying low in his abode, Sara/Deena discovers that Solomon has embraced the dark side. It was he who poisoned the water, who saw her with Hannah, who killed the kids. Sara tries to escape from him but loses a hand in the process. Sara admits to everything to save Hannah. Before her death, she vows vengeance against Solomon.

The latter third is dedicated to 1994: Part 2

This time, the group knows the real baddie full well: Sheriff Nick Goode. At the start, Sam is still possessed. They find an ally in Martin, who owes Josh a favour. They concur to lure Goode, where the Shadyside matadors will silence him. They manage to trap the killers and lure Martin to the nexus where Ziggy douses him in Deena’s blood. Nick escapes. Deena and Sam follow him. When the latter attacks Deena, she knocks her out. Nick overpowers Deena, almost killing her. However, the latter exposes him to some beating organs, and this gives him a vision of every one of his killer’s victims. Deena stabs him, making the matadors disappear and eliminating the curse for good. The Goodes are then exposed. Deena and Sam reconcile at Sara’s grave.

Filming took over three months in Georgia. Now, this is the highest rated of the three. A slew of observers has offered that Part Three was a fitting end to the trilogy. I liked how the players acquired southern accents for this outing. I was also a fan of the 1994 revisit, adding some spice. All three instalments are around the two-hour mark, enough to keep you riveted. Altogether, a well-crafted tripod that exceeds expectations.   

Rating: 4.6/5

Kiana Madeira (Deena)
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