Early winter (2022) reads

Following on from my last reading list, this time we tackle two bestsellers and one classic. As usual, two fiction reads and one nonfiction book comprise my reading list. I start off with David Baldacci’s latest. Dream Town is the third instalment in his Aloysius Archer series. The book picks off from last year’s A Gambling Man, with the titular character battling the baddies in Tinseltown for a change. Next up is Nick Joaquin’s story collection. I’ve made it a point to read more fiction anthologies this year. What better way to brush up than by perusing the finest English-writing Filipino writer. Finally, I tackle The Power of Regret. Daniel Pink’s self-help title charted on the Times Best Sellers. Regret is a lovely exploration into one of our least understood emotions.

1. Dream Town. (David Baldacci). The book opens with New Year’s Eve 1953. Archer has been hanging out in LA with his friend, Liberty Callahan. They go through two balls, where Archer meets Eleanor Lamb. The latter learns that he’s an investigator and hires him. She gives off a damsel in distress vibe. Archer visits her place to find a dead PI. Clues lead him to The Jade, a Chinatown bar. Along the way, he interviews a few connected women who knew Lamb. He is able to get out of tight spots as a result of his military training and some luck. He continues to work with his boss, Willie Dash. During this outing, the latter will save his skin.

He teases out a connection between Lamb and her French neighbours. He also links a Las Vegas goon to the Jade. Apparently, some famous people are indebted to the latter, which forces them to do his bidding. At The Jade, he meets this young star, who turns out to be the goon’s ex. He promises to liberate her from his clutches. As a result of his investigation, he drives to chic places: from the shores of Malibu to the mansions of Bel-Air; from the studios in Hollywood to a bonkers finale in Lake Tahoe. He likewise heads to Anaheim and its orange groves to seek answers. Baldacci does not play all his cards until the end. Thus, this makes for one helluva thrill ride.

The ending was bittersweet. Of course, Archer would score but he will lose too. Like its predecessors, the novel was a homage to the fifties. The landlines, vintage wheels, and Marilyn Manson hark back to the earlier era. I liked that the chapters were short and mostly to the point. The series has some likeable characters and the period setting was intriguing. It gave us a glimpse of what it was like to be in our grandparents’s shoes. While I enjoyed the title, I wasn’t a fan of too much attire description. Baldacci definitely overdid this. All in all, I can understand why this book trended on bestsellers lists.

Rating: 4.4/5

2. The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic. (Nick Joaquin). This was my first foray into Joaquin’s prose. This is on the heels of Murakami’s anthology, which I took in a few months prior. Murakami’s omnibus was set mainly in Japan. He employed magical realism and a few cats. Joaquin’s works were even older. Some were set in 19th century Philippines, then under Spanish control. There is also magical realism, with a dash of gothic tones. Joaquin’s fiction has variety, including in length. They range from a dozen to seventy pages. 

There were ten short stories in this ebook. I managed to finish seven of them. One look at the backend play made me wary. The titular story was based in Hong Kong. These tales concern Pinoy expats, students, superstitions, religion, post colonialism, and generation gaps. Filo slang adds colour to the narrative. The title is like a snapshot into both pre and postwar Philippines. Even though it’s an old book, one could feel the nostalgia from a bygone era. Before computers and social media, kids played sport. They ate meals and attended Mass together. Without technology to distract them, they were more caring towards their elders. Often, three generations lived under one roof.

Like a majority of literary fiction, this one wasn’t easy to digest. I had a love hate relationship with Joaquin’s work. The author has especially long sentences that go on for half a page. He constructs lists that are two dozen deep. The dialogue could be laborious to read through. Finally, his character count is excessive for the chosen genre. Any astute writer would know that you shouldn’t have more than five speaking characters. Two main ones, and another two or three minor roles. In his seventy-page stories, he has topped what is acceptable characterisation for a short story. I guess though that this is a result of playing with the genre: a hybrid form that defies conventions. On the plus side, a few of his stories were addictive. You couldn’t wait for the next bite. Regardless, this marks the fourth ebook I’ve crested this year. 

Rating: 4/5

3. The Power of Regret (Daniel H. Pink). I read this and Joaquin’s collection simultaneously. There’s no doubt that Daniel’s book was well-researched. In many ways, it reads like an academic text, complete with notes and a plethora of studies. The author created The World Regret Survey, where he compiled, collated, and analysed data in the biggest such undertaking ever. The chapters begin with three regrets from anonymous critters. They only supply their gender, age, and country.

The book is divided into three parts: regrets reclaimed, regrets revealed, and regrets remade. The first section is an unpacking of the emotion. Daniel tries to reimagine our understanding of the term, with help from decades of research. He always incorporates anecdotes that colours the narrative. This reminded me a bit of The Subtle Art, another bestseller. Most importantly, he elucidates on the concept of at least and if only. In this chapter, he uses the analogy of the Olympic medalists. The champion beams the widest while the bronze medallist is likewise jubilant. However, the silver medallist is most disappointed. Though second-best, they always ponder the what if.

In his research, Daniel uncovers four main types of regrets, which he expands in the next section. Foundation regrets are deep seated and spring from a rumination with the past. Boldness regrets ponder on the ‘thwarted possibilities of growth’. Moral regrets are more subtle, as one’s judgment is variable. However, these subsume such quandaries as deceit, betrayal and infidelity. Finally, connection regrets involves the fracture of meaningful relationships. Since humans are societal beings, lost connections will cause awkwardness. We always think of the worst while research shows that these fears are usually misplaced.

The last bit puts the argument in context. Daniel asserts that we should not dwell on the past, especially if we have a chance to learn from it and improve the present. He likewise posits that jotting down and sharing your regrets will lessen your burden. Meanwhile, anticipating regret is a double edged sword. The main body is only 211 pages but feels more substantial with the amount of material included. For me, it took about a week to finish. There aren’t many regrets books out there but this one was enlightening.

Rating: 4.05/5

women’s individual cycling
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‘The Cold, Cold Ground’

The past week or so has seen a cold snap hitting our city. Snow in Thredbo and country NSW. Daily showers across the state. Gale force winds making people duck for cover. Plummeting temps the new norm. The last weekend of May saw this sudden shift. The freezing blast continued even until the first day of June. For some, they found refuge in the heater. It was also time to get that duck down quilt. Since the change of season, nighttime temps have dropped to single digits. By the way, the post title was taken from the first Sean Duffy thriller. That series has Topher’s ‘tick of approval’.

Unprecedented but mild

The past two seasons have seen records shattered. The rainfall for the year’s first five months has been unprecedented. Dams have overflowed. Farmers who’ve suffered months of drought have suddenly been living in Waterworld. Even in Queensland, downpours have been the theme. Summer seems to have long gone. Granted, we had a mild autumn. The winds were only sporadic, though the rain was consistent. The mercury was below-average. For instance, revellers got to make the most of the Easter Show.


This is the first fall since we emerged from last year’s lengthy lockdown. Students have gone back to the classroom. Malls have reopened, ditto restaurants and bars. The retail sector is back in business and the spending is on. Barbers resume to do what they do best. Churches have welcomed back their flock. Even travel has returned, with long queues for eager beavers. The crowds at Sydney Airport wasn’t enough to deter some zealous travellers. The long waits were the result of staff shortages, which COVID precipitated. This is a reminder that, though the flight paths are open, the shadow of COVID looms. The issue with flying is that many people will have the same idea. We live in different times. Jetting off during school holidays may have worked in the past. Yet in this COVID world, we might have to rethink that decision.

The sporting codes have likewise resumed. The National Rugby League (NRL) is on, and so is the Australian Football league (AFL). The stadiums are packed like before the pandemic. When the Swans’s Buddy Franklin kicked his 1000th career goal, it was pandemonium. The scene of the stadium descending upon Buddy was hard to forget. In the warmer months, Melbourne hosted both the Aussie Open and the Aussie Grand Prix. As the rugby calendar unfolds, we would get pumped for another State of Origin series. This winter, who will emerge victorious, the NSW Blues or the Queensland Maroons? Tommy Turbo’s season-ending injury was bad news for us. However, we still have a flurry of holdovers from last year’s trophy-hoisting squad.

Vivid Sydney is likewise back on. The winter spectacle has been missing for the last couple of years. The lights and ideas display coincide with the freezing drop in temps. The show is an evening event, with famous displays across Sydney. This include the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo, Darling Harbour, and many more venues around our city. Vivid is sure to attract plentiful visitors, both local and even international.

What to watch

While the last week has been wet and windy, Netflix fans have been treated to season four of Stranger Things. The first volume, consisting of seven eps, dropped last Friday (27/5). The eps are longer than previous versions, clocking in at least an hour. The seventh ep was almost a hundred minutes. By three days, the mainstay series was the platform’s number one show. It unseated The Lincoln Lawyer. After finishing said volume, I did stream a couple of movies, including A Simple Favour and No Sudden Move. Aside from the first two, the final eps of Ozark have also landed. If you’re into tennis, you could also tune in to the French Open. All the semifinals have been decided. As usual, Rafa is the man to beat in Paris. At age 36, he’s aiming to be the oldest champ at Roland Garros. This time he’ll take on first-time finalist, Casper Ruud.

Where to shop

Talk of winter isn’t complete without mentioning the mid year sales. David Jones is offering up to fifty percent off. Rival Myer is also having their mid year clearance. Cotton On had also joined the berserk bargains, with reductions across the board. Surely, others like Just Jeans, H & M, and Target were also hawking similar deals. Meanwhile, Click Frenzy Mayhem just transpired last week. A bevy of retailers participated in the two-day madness. From clothing to homewares, appliances to electronics, accessories to travel, there were bargains galore. Some of the shops jumped the shark, offering huge reductions in the days leading up.

Winter is all about rugging up. I often wear three layers when at home, utilising my thermals. I’ve got a few of them, mostly merino ones but also some cotton/poly blends. Apart from my regular bottoms, I make sure to double up with merino long johns. As mentioned, I’ve very recently unpacked the duck down quilt. Nighttimes could get especially chilly. I also mobilise my Ugg boots to keep my feet warm. This is the perfect time to wear those woollens. Whether jumpers, base layers, coats, or gloves, tis the season.

What to read

In terms of books, I’ve just finished this nonfiction bestseller. The Power of Regret is especially enlightening, using an array of studies to elucidate. The book deals with the world’s least understood emotion. Despite its bestseller status, I believe that this is an underrated effort. The author definitely put in a lot of research and thought into it. Having crested Regret, this marks my fifteenth read of the year. I’ve also tried perusing this Penguin ebook. It’s Nick Joaquin’s collection of stories. The latter is one of the foremost Filo writers. However, upon reading it, I was a little disappointed. His tales have magical realism and gothic elements but they highlight the 19th century. While their literary value is unquestioned, it’s definitely an acquired taste.

There are signs of change. The weather has improved, there are more souls outside, and the sun has come up. Winter may mean shorter days and longer nights. We should make the most of the season…while it lasts.

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Player profile: Woj Bombs

The NBA is a business, and a cut-throat one at that. Today, you could be the franchise player for a small-market team. Tomorrow, you could end up as trade fodder. Change is ever constant in the league. The players, coaches, and their families are well aware of this. At any moment, they could be moved or, worse, fired. In recent years, one scribe has been hailed as the ultimate news breaker. His name? Adrian Wojnarowski. He is the go-to guy on NBA transactions. Once he reports it, you can bet it’s happening. In other words, he is the Perez Hilton of the NBA.

Woj bomb

In effect, NBAers monitor his Twitter posts. Often, as Steven Adams argued, they learn of their coach’s firing through the platform. When Chris Bosh came to Miami, Woj was among the first to break the signing. Due to their sudden appearances, these shockers are known as ‘Woj Bombs’. Moreover, the immense impact of these reports likewise merit this tag. Sometimes, the latter concerns changes that shake up the entire association. Nothing can escape his bombs: superstar moves, starter shifts, role player re-assignments, and free agent signings. His revelations are like the league’s best marksmen: it’s always money. You can’t take his scoops with a grain of salt. Once it’s from Woj, you know it’s for real.

Woj: a history

Woj is of Polish background. He plied his trade at St. Bonaventure, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate years later. He worked with the Hartford Courant, Connecticut’s number one daily while still in high school. He was also a columnist for the Fresno Bee. He has since relocated to New Jersey and New York. He reported for The Record in the former. He then joined Yahoo Sports in 2007. There, he became arguably the league’s best scooper. He offered unparalleled hits that shaped the league’s crew. The road to being one of the most credible league reporters wasn’t built overnight.

Woj became a household name after the 2011 NBA draft. There, he reported half of the lottery selections before even the late commissioner. Woj alleged that he was tired of ESPN’s stranglehold of scoops. This could very well be when the term was coined. After season upon season of astonishing revelations, Woj was in a league of his own. When ESPN signed him in 2017, it came as no surprise. In the past ten years, he had merely done wonders with his coverage.

How did he became the NBA’s best scooper? Well, it wasn’t by accident. Workmate JJ Adande rode with Woj in an elevator. The former saw Woj typing on his laptop in the lift. When he checked his mobile, he swears there was a new Tweet coming from Woj. That, ladies and gents, is Dedication. Furthermore, Woj has cultivated relationships with literally everyone in the business. Simply put, there is no one in the L that he hasn’t met. While with Yahoo, Woj and a colleague broke the story of the Connecticut Huskies’s recruiting violations. Through time, numerous awards have affirmed Woj’s excellence. For instance, he was the Associated Press’s two time ‘columnist of the year’ while working for The Record. In 2006, he also wrote a well-received book on coach Bob Hurley.

Draft man

Woj is especially active during the NBA’s annual draft. Every year, Woj would surprise us with draft selections and trades often before they are called. In this sense, he is like the COVID prophet during last year’s NSW lockdown. The latter was calling it in before the Premier’s announcements. People were shocked at his accuracy. His inside information on the case numbers were later revealed. After some time, with tighter security around the numbers, he began misfiring. He lost the public’s confidence.

Some examples

Here are some famous, recent examples (out of my myriads) from his bomb work. He was the first reporter to announce the league’s suspension of the 2019-20 season due to the pandemic. Paul George wanted out of OKC and forced their hand to trade him. LeBron’s move to LA for $154 million was another. One more example: the Lakers’s trade for Anthony Davis to finally get some help.

While Woj is often on target, he’s had a few miscues over the years. He reported a trade between the Thunder and Raptors. This would allegedly involve DeMar Derozan and Victor Oladipo. Alas, the swap never materialised. He likewise reported that Kyrie would leave Brooklyn by June 2019. To this day, Kyrie remains a Net, signing a 4-year, $141 million extension. In addition, some media outlets have criticised Woj for his apparent biased reporting on LeBron, riding on unspecified sources. In 2010, he had some legal issues for not making good on a book deal. This concerned the late coach Jim Valvano. He stated that this was a misunderstanding and that he’d return the advance to his publisher.

So, if you’re feeling peckish during draft night or tossing and turning in bed before the trade deadline, ‘sigh no more’. Head over to Woj’s Twitter feed and have your fill.

St Bona in winter
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May 2022 reads

We’re in the thick of fall and the mercury is dropping. The end of April saw me battling with a thick Connelly read. The trailer of Lincoln Lawyer had been unleashed and the show premiered yesterday (13 May) on Netflix. I thought it was a good time to read the original. The Brass Verdict had been on my shelf for years and I prefer to peruse the book before watching the adaptation. At 567 pages, it was significant but thrilling. I followed this up with Steven Adam’s memoir, My Life, My fight. The tough NBAer shares his unique story, growing up the youngest  in a brood of fourteen. He only discovered basketball at age ten but has carried the torch for Kiwis in the league. Finally, I knocked back my first Scottoline, another standalone thriller from the prolific author. 

The Brass Verdict (Connelly). This represents the second instalment in Connelly’s Mickey Haller series. The book opens with a hard fought tussle between Haller and Jay Vincent, the prosecutor. Haller wins, and Vincent goes over to his side. Many years later, Vincent is murdered but all his cases are handed down to Haller. This includes the franchise case involving a Hollywood heavyweight. The latter is accused of murdering his wife and her lover. He quickly allots most of his resources to the case, given the hefty advance provided. However, Elliott seems unconcerned. He also wants nothing to delay the trial. Mickey hires Patrick, a new driver. He’s a former surfer who’s seen better days. 

Among the investigators is detective Harry Bosch. Haller grasps that he cannot win the case as a lone wolf. He agrees to trade information with Bosch. He does the same with Times reporter Jack McEvoy, who has a small part. Verdict showcases Haller at his best. He juggles his time as a father with lawyering in his Lincoln sedans. He has the help of his secretary and his investigator. After handing him the cases, he was to report his progress to Judge Holder. He also utilises expensive outside help in trying to measure the jury. He dines in eateries and bars.  

The trial finally arrives. Witnesses are called and both sides argue their case. From the start, Haller makes it clear that he is not concerned about his clients’ guilt. Still, he’s intrigued and wants no secrets. Elliott wines and dines him in the fanciest resto’s. The deceased lover’s angry family turns up for the trial, adding another angle to a full-on plot. When the matador is unmasked, you’d find it a curveball. You’d never expect the identity of the villain. In some ways, it’s a poor man’s The Poet. Most importantly, Connelly ends his narrative with conviction. There’s no doubting or grey area; characters are killed off like the whole cast of The Departed

Connelly keeps the reader guessing. For much of the book, we are left wondering who committed the atrocities. There are enough twists and subplots for an epic. The short chapters also help. There are fifty-five of them which equates to about ten pages a pop. The writing is easy as. It’s classic Connelly even as he takes to court. The title alludes to a verdict delivered via a bullet. As they say, ‘Live by the sword, die by the sword.’ Maybe it was the bigger font size but I liked this better than The Lincoln Lawyer

Rating: 4.4/5

Steven Adams: My Fight, My Life. I chanced upon this autobiography while reading his Wikipedia page. Published in 2018, the book details his journey. As mentioned he comes from a large family. He grew up destitute in Rotorua, New Zealand. When his father died, he was twelve. He stopped going to school until Kenny, an American coach, took him under his wing. He attended an all-boys private school, Scots College, where he struggled to read. On the flip-side, the school did not offer much competition to him on the court. He trained for many hours every day. He was lucky to get the help he needed. There were always magnanimous lifesavers who welcomed him into their homes. He counts his older brother, Mohi, as his saviour. His time at the farm was bliss. 

At first, he was all height and no skills. He was a 6-9 teenager who couldn’t shoot. Still, he won the MVP award each year in the NZ nationals. Adams valued and looked out for his teammates. He was forced to study in order to gain a scholarship in the US. Steven did a year in Pittsburg before declaring for the 2013 NBA draft. The latter is considered among the weakest in league history, with only two draftees becoming all-stars. He worked out for eleven teams, loving the travel and hotels. Adams arrived in the same class as Giannis, Rudy Gobert, and Victor Oladipo. The Thunder selected him with the fourteenth pick. 

He was thrust into a playoff team with a win-now mentality. In his rookie year, he wasn’t a regular starter but wasn’t relegated to the D-league either. Steven remarked that Oklahoma took care of their players, like a family. For him, ending up in OKC was the best scenario. The following season, he became the team’s starting centre. He wasn’t even the fourth option on offence on a team that had Kevin ‘KD’ Durant and Russ Westbrook. Injuries marred his sophomore season and the Thunder missed the playoffs. He learned about his coach’s firing through Twitter. The following year, the squad finished third in the conference, ultimately eliminating the Spurs. They led the Warriors, 3 games to one, before losing the final trio of games. KD left that offseason. 

With the Thunder, he was never able to get out of the first round again. In the final chapter, he singles out that being better everyday is his fight. He wants his voice to be heard and wishes to help less fortunate people. He wants to give back and help deserving people realise their dream. With the help of his co-author, the title was a breeze to read. Though it was three hundred pages long, it never felt like a laborious exercise. I managed to crest it in four days. Adams’s story is mighty interesting. He’s not the highest-paid Kiwi sportsman for a reason.  

Rating: 4.89/5

What happened to the Bennetts (Lisa Scottoline). The plot of this crime thriller intrigued me. It involved an American family going into the witness protection program after scumbags destroyed their lives. The novel opens with the Bennetts, your average East Coast family. They have a house, a car, a backyard, and a dog. Their daughter, Allison, plays lacrosse and soccer. The father, Jason, owns a court reporting business. The wife, Lucinda, is a professional shutterbug. Their subsistence changes with an apparent carjacking. Allison is fatally wounded by an errant shot. One of the thugs, Milo,  turns on his fellow, before scampering away. 

When they get home, the FBI contacts them and whisks them away. They are then sequestered into WITSEC. Delaware becomes the new home and they have to start over again. No contact with their friends and family. No logging in on accounts. Their businesses and lives are put on hold. Hell, they couldn’t even attend Allison’s funeral. Jason tries to piece the killers together. They learn that Milo is part of an organised crime ring, called the George Veria Organisation (GVO). The casualty was George’s son. Paul Hart was their lawyer. He was having an affair with Lucinda. While in the marshes, the Bennetts have to pick up the pieces of their lives. The onslaught against them never lets, even when they’re gone. The WITSEC section is a hard slog as there isn’t much happening.  

After this, Jason takes matters into his own hands. He sets out to make contact with George and to find the truth. The main players fall off like dominoes. One by one, a blue BMW sedan eliminates the baddies. Both Milo and Jason go rogue and in time, the latter is wanted by the authorities. He goes on a race against time to clear his name. He’s reunited with his FBI pal in West Philly, setting the stage for an explosive finale. There is a massive conspiracy in high places that set off the storm. This involved Jason’s time as a court reporter in Guantanamo.  

I would admit that the book wasn’t the easiest read. There is a bit more description than necessary. On the plus side, the short chapters did help. The (mostly) accessible language was another pro. The setting was also well-constructed. This is especially impressive as Scottoline had to do her research on these places. I also liked how she used twists and subplots. It was as though you should ‘Trust no one.’ While Jason searches for answers, so do we. I can’t help but compare this to Ozark, which dropped its final episodes last month. Having taken in both mediums, I’m sure that Scottoline drew some inspiration from that series. 

Rating: 4.01/5

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A Mother For All Seasons

For my three-hundredth career post on this site, I’ll write about one of the most significant women in my life. In down under, Sunday, the eight of May is Mother’s Day. It’s a time to remember the person who gave us the gift of life. Allow me to share a few stories about my mum. 


As I’ve already written in another project, mum impressed upon me the importance of the word finder. When I was in year 3, I had started to peruse our encyclopaedias. There were a few foreign words to me. In turn, I asked her for their definitions. After patiently answering my queries, she pointed out this massive red dictionary at home. She showed me how to spot words in the tome and how to tease out their definitions. It became my first option for looking up unfamiliar words. Knowing the meaning of words is important for every reader. Once you discovered a new word or phrase, this gets added to your bag of tricks. As my instructor once said, ‘Once you find a new word, they’re yours’.

Teachers and tutors

We had so many firsts with her. She heard my first word (‘there’). She witnessed our first steps. She brought me to my first school. She taught me how to write my name and the alphabet. She read us children’s books. She cooked us our first meals. She showed us how to shop and buy things. 

Together with Dad, they were our first teachers. She taught us table manners while Dad instilled in us the value of prayer. Whether it was the Lord’s Prayer or the Grace before meals, he showed us the way. Meanwhile, mum impressed upon us the consequence of sharing. If you have more, you should give more. Just like our father, she shared tales from a generation earlier. Both of them had grown up in postwar Philippines. As Baby Boomers, they were both the youngest in their families.  

It wasn’t only prayers either. She tutored me throughout grade school. Whether it was brushing up my maths skills or improving my grammar, she always dropped her work to give us a helping hand. She fussed about our school uniforms and helped us pick our black leather shoes. 

Avid fan

Growing up, she was my biggest supporter. Since I started writing articles, she raved about my rapid improvement. It was originally her idea to transfer us to a Catholic school, where there was more variety and integrity. As our teacher put it, ‘It’s better to have a balance. Your heart should be equal to your mind. You don’t want to have an oversized mind and a miniature heart.’ To this day, as I post weekly on my blog, she continues to encourage and believe in me. 

In the Benedictine school, I flourished. They had much bigger libraries and far better facilities. I was like a man on a mission, perusing encyclopaedias and borrowing carts of books. This was also when I started my writing journey. No doubt, it was one of the best decisions they made about our education. Being broad-minded, Dad went on board with the idea. Later, they both saw the huge difference. 

While writing, I also became a two-time scrabble doubles champion. I casually played basketball. More importantly, I took to reading books. While fighting with class work, I’d spend the weekends reading novels. There was more to me than just writing or studying or simply reading, which is the school’s thrust anyway. We would have mass on First Fridays, say the rosary during October, and assemble for morning praise. We would likewise have Bible sharing and partake in agape. 

New things

She’s always been open-minded. Like Dad, she tries new things. She doesn’t pick the same brand of coffee every time. She welcomes variety. I recall playing against her and my sister in scrabble. Regularly competing against them upped my game. She has proven to be more than a one-trick pony. She does lots of thing well. Aside from the above, she has the daintiest handwriting. She asserts that ‘practice makes perfect.’ Her eloquent penmanship isn’t a fluke. Her diligence showed the way for me. Having her as a parent is truly an honour.

Aside from taking pride in her handwriting, my mum also has other gifts. She sews and fixes clothes. She has a flair for haircuts. She saves people money by choosing to go with her. She is adept at styling both men and women’s hair. She is also our model of a very neat and tidy individual. She yearns to live in an orderly world. Others have always remarked at her organisational skills, which extend even to gardens. Her incredible work ethic sets her apart. She’s also a wonderful cook and a quick learner. Whether it’s Filipino, Italian, Chinese, or even Indian cuisine, mum would make you go, ‘Could I have some more, please.’


Her other hobbies include swimming, reading and, playing the organ. The latter is her favourite pastime. It’s her way of relaxing. She’s adept at applying natural cures and conventional medicines. For us, not having to go to the doctor is so convenient. She always cures my family. I remember my dad mentioned that he had LBM and mum bought him medicine. After taking it, his runny tummy was gone. The same applies to me and my sister; mum knows what medicine to give us when we get sick. 

I’ve lived in two countries. They are quite different. In one case, your relatives are nearby. They entertain you and have your back. The weather is mostly humid and a tad bit unpredictable. However, you could feel the warmth of familiar people. In the other place, there are long, cold winters and fewer friends. Around five pm, it’s already dark outside. The days are short and nights are drawn out. In this scenario, you often only have your immediate family. Heaven forbid if you’re with the wrong cluster. 


You don’t choose your family. You can’t get Meth Damon to be your dad or Meryl Streep to be your mum. You must accept what’s given to you, just like your physical appearance. We are so glad and grateful to have our family. There’s just four of us but we grew up in a loving and nurturing environment. Our needs were well-provided; we were taught the importance of prayer, too.

Our alma mater has the motto, ‘Ora et Labora’ (Prayer and Work). There’s much fulfilment not just in toiling but in seeking God. 

Only one day a year is dedicated to celebrating mothers but every year of your life is something you owe her. Even if you’ve moved continents, there will always be a special place for her in your heart. 

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Mid-autumn (2022) reads

This month’s tally is a return to the tried and tested. Two fiction books comprise the list with a collection of anecdotes for good measure. I start off with Camus’s The Stranger, first published in 1942. A model on absurdism, I read the novella separately in two months. Next up is ‘the Arkady Renko book that started it all, the #1 bestseller Gorky Park.’ For a while now, I’ve had this book on my shelf; it didn’t disappoint. Finally, I will cap off this month’s reads with Love Stories by acclaimed Aussie journalist, Trent Dalton. The author of Boy Swallows Universe gives us a poignant anthology of adoration in its many forms.  

The Stranger (Camus). This is the first Camus book that I finished, but not the first one I attempted. Years ago, I had tried to summit The Plague but found it too philosophical. The latter has since found an audience as a result of the pandemic. My reading experience of Stranger was different as I bought it as an ebook. The novella is all of 161 pages an is divided into two parts. Part 1 transpires before Mersault (the protanist) is jailed for murder. Part 2 takes place after his arrest and subsequent incarceration. 

Stranger is like night and day compared to Plague. The former was published when Camus was only twenty-nine. It is a much easier read and I got through seventy pages in one day. Stranger has been dubbed as lightweight and the best introduction to Camus. The plot revolves around an Algerian, Mersault, whose sick mother dies in the nursing home. During her funeral, he sheds no tears and shows no emotion. The following day, he then watches a movie with his girlfriend, Marie. He befriends his neighbour, Raymond, who is rumoured to be a pimp. He even writes him a character reference though he knows that Raymond hurt this girl. 

One weekend, they go with Raymond to the beach, where he murders an Arab on the shore. He is arrested and tried, but his atheism never wavers. Even when he’s headed for the gallows, he doggedly rejects the Church and God. He takes the blame for his actions. In jail, he reads a lot and longs for Marie. During his trial, he shows no remorse and this dooms him. The ending is nothing short of a tragedy. Stranger was originally written in the French but today is considered a classic. There are only a handful of characters in this thin paperback but upon cresting it, this title is clearly polished and well-written.   

‘There, too in that Home where lives were flickering out, the dusk came as a mournful solace.’

Rating: 4.65/5

Gorky Park (Martin Cruz Smith). The first book in the author’s thriller series sees Chief Inspector Renko scrambling to solve a triple murder in the eponymous Gorky Park. Two Russians and an American are slayed in an ice rink. Renko’s superiors believe this is an open and shut case and that the trio turned on each other. The inspector, however, isn’t so inclined. His investigations lead him to a filthy rich American fur dealer and a visiting New York police detective. Meanwhile, he has to dissect this while his marriage is falling apart. 

He loses a friend in the shuffle. Soon, his zealous search for the truth turns him into a fugitive. He uncovers a conspiracy stretching to the top of the food chain. He learns that as long as you have enough bribe money, the authorities could look the other way. Renko realises that his own greedy superior is in cahoots with the enemy. He meets a dissident, Irina Asanova. At first, she is brusque but her beauty beguiles him. Soon, he falls head over heels for her. Arkady even hides her in his apartment. She is a mystery that he wants to unpack. 

The book is divided into three parts. Part One is set in Moscow; Part Two in Shatura. Part Three in New York. A stolen lot of sables is the bone of contention. The Russians have a stranglehold of the sable fur industry. The recent developments though would undercut their monopoly. Once in the Big Apple, Renko is reunited with his lover. However, he realises that they are just part of a bigger mechanism. He also finds Kirwill, the detective who wants to give him a fair go. He learns the truth about Irina’s activities, though he’s convinced that he knew this all along.  

There’s things to both love and hate about this Renko entry. First, it paints a realistic portrait of the Cold War. Park was published in 1981 so it’s not an anachronism. Arkady is also a likeable chap: determined, loyal, and principled. Moreover, I like Smith’s finality. The ending is as decisive as one could imagine. Regardless, the chapters are rather long and there aren’t enough section breaks in them. I also found the novel to be overly descriptive. Moreover, there were a lot of lists. I am a fan of neither. In fairness, the subplots and twists made me tough it out. Based on my web-based research, Park is the finest of the series. As per the photo, a film adaptation was even produced. I would expect it to go downhill from here. I have one more Renko thriller to go through but it’s not high on my reading list. 

Rating: 4/5 

Love Stories (Dalton). A few years ago, I reviewed Boy Swallows Universe. Dalton’s debut novel, both audiences and critics received it well. Boy represented one of 2018’s best reads. He has since released another novel, set in WWII. Last year, Dalton made a return to nonfiction book writing with the publication of Love Stories. The collection has over forty essays. The title is the result of Dalton spending two months on a busy Brisbane street corner with his antique typewriter. He yearned for passersby to tell him their stories. The result is 330 pages of musings about love. Just like Boy, this was also well-received. 

Trent does not discriminate. There are the young and the old, couples and best friends, lasting and ephemeral, familial and international, comedies and tragedies. He tells of both losing and finding love. He relates fondness for kids, parents, and grandparents. He showcases stories from Rwanda, the Philippines, Netherlands, Croatia, and Ecuador. Most of the tales are short and for the most part, narrate accounts from total strangers. However, some of them are his acquaintances. There is even one tale depicting a guy who rocks up in pyjamas wherever he goes. While at it, he does this move, called a ‘floss.’ In spite of his outfit, he never feels embarrassed. He never lets other people’s opinions or stares affect him. Trent then decides to buy an orchid from the Pinay and gift it to one of the storytellers. 

One must note that Dalton undertook this project in 2020, during the pandemic. Out of tough times, hope sprung. He uses the courier new font for familiar thoughts, which add colour to the narrative. This is a nod to the ancient typewriter. One thing though: he occasionally goes on these long-winded lists. Having read him before, this isn’t new but it could be distracting. As a result, I had to skip a few pages. This is a minor flaw in an otherwise impressive manuscript.

Rating: 4.32/5  

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3% (2020) reviewed

This week, I’m going to review my Netflix series of March. When 3% debuted, it was the first Portuguese-language show on the streaming service. The critically-acclaimed first season premiered in 2016. This was followed by three more series, concluding in 2020. At heart a sci-fi programme, 3% also blends elements of drama and action. The production reminded me of Lord of the Flies. Both of them are dystopian in nature. They likewise feature a group of kids who try to find nirvana. They are thrown into a desperate situation and they have to wing it. The series’s cast highlight some of the brightest young stars in Brazilian show business. 

Season 1 (2016)

The eight-episode first season revolves around the mysterious Process. Heaven in this universe is called the Offshore. The latter is like Elysium. The inhabitants eat the choicest produce and drink the finest wine. Of the thousands of participants who vie for the Offshore, only three percent make it through. Every year, adults who’ve reached eighteen are eligible for the Process. All of them are from the Inland, home to the rest of the population. All of the Inlanders wear an earpiece, which functions as a passport/ID. 

Among these aspirants is Michele (pronounced Mi-she-lee). Her ultimate mission is to find her brother, who disappeared years ago. Even at the start, she is forced to make an improbable choice just to save her own skin. Ezequiel heads the process. An intense overseer, he exudes a certain enigma. He’s not an open book. Another central character is Fernando, a wheelchair bound hombre who is the smartest kid in the competition. Meanwhile, Rafael sneaked into the contest by doctoring his mouthpiece. He had previously participated but was unsuccessful. He sometimes resorts to crooked ways to attain his objectives. Joana is another cognisant entrant whose humble backgrounds belie her toughness. Finally, Marco comes from a long line of Offshore immigrants. He becomes the resident bully. 

In season 1, we are introduced to the Cause. This guerrilla organisation tries to destabilise the offshore by planting seeds in the kingdom. Apparently, there are two honeybees who successfully make it through this year’s Process. Their faces will soon be unmasked. Ezequiel always seems wary of these saboteurs. We realise that he was himself suffering from a personal loss. We are there as the aforementioned protagonists jump every hurdle on their way to the next level. One of them will be seconds away from glory. Another two would quit the process for various reasons. The rest may have some issues but make it through. We learn the catch: you would need to get sterilised before gaining entry into the Offshore. 

Season 2 (2018)

The series returned with a ten-episode second season. This picks up from the previous iteration. Though Michele is now in the Offshore, she is stuck in rehab. She can see her brother but cannot communicate with him. Rafael is also there. He begins a romantic relationship with the doctor. Fernando is back in the Inland, where he rekindles his friendship with Gloria. Joana is working for the cause. Rafael volunteers to be part of a task force sent to the Inland. He desperately tries to make contact with his peers. He plays a Jekyll and Hyde type, trying to appear as a dedicated soldier while convincing the plebs that he’s one of them. Rafael feels guilty about how he left his family. 

Meanwhile, Ezequiel professes his devotion to the cause. He asserts that he never really left them, in spite of the evidence. Gloria is among the new batch of contestants. In spite of being handicapped, Marco becomes the leader of bandits. Marcella, his mother, becomes the Offshore’s new leader. The Cause continues to cast its shadow, aided by new blood. We also learn more about the Offshore’s history. Common knowledge holds that the Founding Couple founded the latter. Michele learns that it was actually a Founding Trio. Michele tells Fernando her plan: to build a third alternative called The Shell. 

Season 3 (2019)

This edition features most of the main characters relocated to The Shell. The latter is like an oasis, with food, plants, and electricity in the middle of the desert. As mentioned, Michele builds upon the idea of the third founder. At season’s start, everything is working like clockwork. They plant their own veggies, harvest their grains, utilise renewable energy, and collaborate. Even Marco has seemed to turn over a new leaf. Rafael is the only exception and he’s treated as a pariah. His younger brother is his sole ally. Michele is adamant that they should not align themselves with the Offshore. 

Suddenly, things go awry. A storm wreaks havoc on the Shell. All the plants die, so do the renewables. They only have three months’ worth of supplies left and they have to ration everything. The fire and pitchforks appear. The leader is forced to hold a Process of her own. Michele instructs competitors to remove their earpieces or they must leave the Shell. The masses meet her decisions, at times partisan, with fury. Michele often has to make heartbreaking choices. She becomes the scapegoat, hunted out of her own project. Her subjects are too naive to see beyond surface level. Michele rejects a takeover offer from Marcella. Meanwhile, Joana acts as emissary between the Inland and the Shell. 

Season 4 (2020)

The final season unfolds with Michele sending a delegation to the Offshore. This include Joana, Rafael, and Marco. Gloria stays behind. In the Offshore, Joana meets what she thinks is her real mother. The group secretly tries to destroy the Offshore. Meanwhile, Marcella remains detained in the Shell. With patience and dedication, everything is back to normal there. However, Marcella convinces Gloria to annihilate this little haven. She knows what Gloria wants so this is a painfree endeavour.  

In the Offshore, the delegates attempt to search for a submarine that will bring down Eden. Michele herself visits the Process to stop the turbine. However, Gloria outs them and soon Michele is on the run. Her brother becomes her nemesis. He is now the new Process leader. She learns the truth about what happened to her parents. The Cause’s founder is likewise revealed. She was connected to the Founding Couple. Marco meets his grandad. The ending was more dramatic than I envisioned. However, the finale leaves no doubt that the plot has ended. 


Most of the episodes are around forty minutes long. There were 35 eps in total. This marks the second international series on Netflix. The first season was critically-acclaimed. The show also reminded me of Elysium, starring Matt Damon. Both productions are dystopian in nature, utilising high tech gadgets. I must note that this one adds the Process to the equation. I wouldn’t call the series undemanding. Between the action and thrills, we must remember that 3% is conducted wholly in a foreign language. There are some nifty panoramas though. For instance, the Process was shot at a pair of Sao Paolo favelas. Meanwhile, the Offshore exteriors were taken at the Inhotim Institute. Finally, the shell was filmed at a conservation unit in Rio Grande do Norte. An early model for international Netflix productions, the show set the bar for others to follow. Since then, series like Narcos, Dark, and Money Heist, among others, have carried the mantle. 

Rating: 4.25/5

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The Royal Easter Show: past and present

This year marks the second staging of the Royal Easter Show since being shelved by COVID. Last year, despite a daily cap on visitors, the Show attracted the biggest post-COVID event numbers in the state. The annual Easter Show has a storied tradition. Sponsored by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, the event has entertained state residents since 1823. The affair goes for twelve days, including the Easter long weekend. Sydney Olympic Park in the western suburbs is the current home of the festivities. The event was previously held at Parramatta and at Moore Park. It is famous for its Easter show bags, which the kids love. There are also rides, games, and produce. It is also famous for its competitions, which include food, dog and cat shows, arts, cookery, and wood chopping.

Hottest ticket

In years past, the Easter Show has always been the hottest ticket in town. Crowds would converge on Homebush and on Easter Sunday, it was bumper to bumper. The show is massive enough to warrant a map. There are eateries spread over the grounds. There are dedicated pavilions for certain animals. Visitors are not supposed to feed them. I recall seeing an older gent instructing his grandson to throw some bickies at this goat. Good thing they weren’t seen. A while ago, my dad and I spent some time patting canines. A dog lover at heart, he was really looking forward to these furry critters. I also remember tossing some rings and winning a small snake. 

Some of the games were rather constipated. They had so many restrictions: no leaning, no jumping, etc. There was nil chance of shooting ringless and walking away with the prized teddy. I also recall patting some alpacas. When I went there with family, I got a Pepsi show bag. It came with some drinks and knickknacks. The black Pepsi bag was the gem. I used it for a few months before getting a Jansport pack. Meanwhile, I remember going to sit at a bench. There was this Filo girl who kept her distance from this bearded man. He was holding a pram. ‘Fear the beard’, I thought. 


An ex-classmate told me that he always looked forward to the woodchopping display. I had a look myself. In the last decade, the ticket prices have risen quite a bit. The current charges are $49.90 for adults and $39.90 for children. There are also options for a family pass. Indeed, even a while back, the high damage discouraged my ex-classmate. Public transport is also included in the ticket. Moreover, there used to be an option for cheaper entry after five pm. 

Over the past two years, there have been some incidents that have tainted an otherwise cool event. Last year, a brawl erupted. This year, the same happened, only it had a fatality. There was also a ride hiccup when a disabled four-year old wasn’t buckled up. His mum was seeing red. The boo-boo was widely reported but thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. 

Friday Frenzy

Yesterday was Good Friday. This coincided with twelve days of free public transport across Sydney. The show was absolutely packed. Since the incident, there were more bag checks and tightened security. This made for very long queues. One kid said that he waited for an hour. Even inside the grounds, people were shoulder to shoulder. Due to the free travel in Sydney, the Friday numbers had quadrupled from last year. The same thing is happening at Sydney Airport. Employee absenteeism due to COVID coupled with the holiday rush has ensured the long queues. Some travellers had to book nearby hotels as others waited for many hours.  

The Friday turnout was markedly different than Good Friday in the Philippines. As Catholics, the day is revered as the year’s holiest. All families are expected to stay at home, fast, and reflect. On Good Friday in Sydney, all the shops are closed. This has ensured that the masses flocked to the Easter Show. That day, not only was it the hottest ticket in town but also the only one. I’m guessing that most of the visitors weren’t Catholics. 


Despite the wait, people will continue to flock to Olympic Park. I remember our Swedish teacher asking our class if we knew about the Easter Show. Sensing a few head shakes, she went on to say that ‘It’s a big show down in Homebush. They’ve got rides, food, tunes, and pets.’ 

I nodded along as though this was news to me. It’s not just dogs and alpacas; creatures big and small are there. From bunnies to cats, horses to chickens, there’s a pet for that. During one of my previous visits, I recall visiting the Seven tent, where I got to meet Alex Cullen, the former sports reporter and Sara Groen, the then-weather presenter. They both looked slimmer in real life. The Showgrounds are right next to Olympic Park station. Thankfully, the affair is always blessed with good, sunny weather. Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, should be as packed as Friday, if not more so. The school holidays, coupled with free travel and the Sabbath, will surely make it the busiest day. If you’re in town and looking for some fun, why not head to the Easter Show. It’s for everyone: kids, parents, oldies, hobbyists, and even kids at heart. 

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Early fall (2022) reads

This month, I’ll take a different tack. Usually, two novels and one nonfiction title comprise my reading list. For now, I will review two memoirs and one story collection. I start off with Julie Wang’s Beautiful Country. I’ve had my eye on this for months and reading it was a pleasure. I followed up with Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes. Seventeen stories, of varying length, provide a glimpse into yuppie culture and generation x. This was a chance to learn from the master. Finally, Will Smith’s autobiography rounds out the trio. One of Hollywood’s most powerful men, Will – like Julie – lived the American dream. He has the unique distinction of reaching the pinnacle on three platforms – music, television, and film. The book was written with the help of bestselling author, Mark Manson. As a side note, the Will review seems more pertinent now. The slapping incident at this year’s Oscars, coupled with Smith’s Best Actor nod, has given the work more notoriety. 

Beautiful Country (Julie Wang). The title derives from the Chinese name of America (Mei Guo). Wang was born in Shijiazhuang, China, the daughter of professors. All of her family were there and they were a close knit clan. Her father left for the US when she was five. He vowed to bring them there. Two years later, they joined him. They led a very impoverished life in Brooklyn, New York.

Her mother has to do menial jobs for peanuts while her dad struggled to provide for the family. Her earliest landlord was a hunchback who hid in a kitchen closet. One time, Wang imitated her and promptly fell asleep. When she entered school, she had to teach herself English. Defying the odds, she would soon best the classmates who oppressed her. She was also fortunate to have a caring mentor, who expedited her learning. At the same, time, there were others who challenged her. Early on, she had dreamed of studying law at Harvard. Their disbelief only cemented her resolve.

Due to their illegal status, her father told her to avoid asking questions and to be inconspicuous. They lived in fear of being outed. Even when she could converse in English, she felt like a foreigner. Her tummy often rumbled and she stared at items that she couldn’t have. Her experiences were reminiscent of Lion by Saroo Brierley. Weekends were at McDonalds, where she could not comprehend ‘Maw Chi Ton.’ During this time, they would also collect discarded items. These deficiencies made other Americans suspicious, as though she were feigning ignorance on purpose. However, she was able to make friends, including a stray cat. 

Julie rode the subway every school day, where she contended with unsavoury types. She chose the name Julie as a nod to the puppet from The Puzzle Place. She met ‘Auntie’, her mum’s co-worker, who died weeks later. Her mum too was rushed to hospital due to a tumour. The operation revealed that it was not cancer. After the op, her mother wasn’t the same again. At this time, she stayed with family friends. She found out that the struggling ones treated her better. Throughout the book, there’s lots of humour. For instance, Julie writes, ‘We would be deported now, as soon as someone cares to investigate why I didn’t have enough to eat.’ Anyhow, she sometimes overuses steamed bun and dumpling metaphors, which turn corny. In case you’re wondering, Julie graduated from Yale University and is now a managing partner at a law firm. The writing was easy to grasp and the story was quite compelling. I devoured most of it in four days.

Rating: 4.7/5

Will (Will Smith). The long-awaited memoir from the media-hopping titan is finally here.  Bestselling self-help author, Mark Manson, helped Smith with writing the biography. The 400-page trade paperback brings us back to Smith’s Philadelphia childhood and his overbearing father. He is the second of four childen and the oldest son. His dad owned a big ice packing company, where he worked. When his so-called daddio hurt his mum, his inaction made him feel like a coward. His father though was a good provider and he studied in a private school. As a result of attending an all-white school, he often felt caught between two worlds. Since his lyrics and language were squeaky-clean, some dudes would say that he was not ‘black enough.’

Even though he was accepted to attend college, he chose to try his luck in the entertainment business. With his Philly crew, he achieved instant stardom. Their first album went platinum and won them the inaugural Grammy for rap. At the time, the hip hop scene was just fledgling and Smith would go a long way in making it go mainstream. He also talks about his love life, where he wants to shower one girl with all his affections. Eventually, his inexperience and ‘play hard’ lifestyle would make him teeter on the brink of bankruptcy. By turning up to the Arsenio Hall Show, he was able to score an audition with a Quincy Jones, a Hollywood producer. He became the star of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which ran for six seasons. 

Having conquered music and TV, Will set his sights to be the world’s biggest movie star. Along the way, he met his wife – Jada Pinkett. They have two children together. Owing to his work ethic and desire for perfection, Smith made one blockbuster after another. They were not all critics’s darlings but were massive commercial successes. Smith’s sustained excellence shattered box office records. At one point, he was the highest grossing film actor ever. Will’s diligence ultimately became his downfall. His thirst for flawlessness and his humongous ego caused his relationships to crumble. In the book’s latter chapters, Smith tries to battle his demons. He sees the beauty of silence and rest. He becomes a voracious reader. He goes to Peru to be healed. He essays an ascetic life. Finally, he tries to bungee jump from a chopper above the Grand Canyon. The book contains twenty-one long chapters. I must admit that this was a more challenging read than Beautiful. However, the effort required was well worth it.

‘Life is learning…the whole point of venturing into uncertainty is to bring light to the darkenss of our ingnorance.’

Rating: 4.4/5

The Elephant Vanishes (Murakami). This marks my second foray into Murakami, after Norwegian Wood. I picked up this story collection off the library shelf. Published in 1993, this one is an older book. One would immediately notice the earlier technology, from landlines to radios, televisions to handwritten letters. Seventeen varied tales fill this omnibus. There are recurrent themes among the stories. First off are those in Japanese settings. There are also a few pets/animals. Most of the protagonists are younger, irreverent males. A couple of times, some magical realism is utilised. Elephant is a telling portrait into 90s yuppie culture.

‘Barn Burning’ is perhaps the most renowned of this title. When I read the story, it looked very familiar. I deduced that this was the inspiration of the Korean movie, Burning, starring Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead). Another tale was expanded into a three-part novel that was released the following year. The book has a bit of everything: a detective story, love stories, humour, and magical realism. They range in length from six to thirty-eight pages. For the most part, the writing is pretty accessible and is a good introduction into his fiction. There was only one story that I skipped, titled ‘The Kangaroo Communique’. 

Murakami ponders the ordinary and weaves narratives out of the commoner. The issue with this book is the profusion of rather unremarkable people. Murakami’s heroes are husbands and wives. They are students and in advertising. They eat McDonald’s and cook spaghetti. They lose a girl’s number, a brain cramp, but also dance their way into her heart. His heroes despise their future in-laws and Sunday afternoons. They mow lawns and look for a decent hamburger. They write and neglect writing letters. They order TVs and have vivid dreams. They drive and they take the train. It still took me longer than usual to finish this book. I had to divide my reading time between Elephant and Will. Fiction is meant to transport you to a different place and time. This one does that well.

Rating: 4.1/5

Yale University, Julie and Indra Nooyi’s alma mater
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On Journalling

Recently, I received a journal among a bag of birthday gifts. We had discussed the importance for any writer of recording their thoughts. I am a relatively late convert to this practice. I had only started last May but it has made a big difference. 


I have a couple of key reasons for keeping journals. Firstly, I use the pages to jot down my ideas, arranged by date. Our imagination is inconstant. A great idea now may evaporate in some time. Indeed, this has happened to me on occasion. As a Knicks announcer once said,’Once the moment is gone, it’s gone for good.’ This makes writing down the thoughts imperative. Thus, having a notebook at hand is always a good idea. Secondly, I use the log for reminders. Of course, our smart devices could likewise do this. However, notebooks offer the convenience of not having to stare at a screen. Just like with ideas, scribbling reminders ensure that they will not be lost in the bustle of everyday living. 


Innovators, whether great or ordinary, have long taken up the journal craze. Some of our finest artists have been down this road. At the top of the pyramid are the moleskin notebooks. These hardwearing journals are premium stationery. Titans such as Bruce Chatwin, Ernest Hemingway, and celebrated painter, Pablo Picasso, have all utilised these logs. Last year, this online store had a moleskin sale. Some of them were down to 8.80. However, this was misleading as the shipping fees would double the price tag. Though I was tempted, I decided not to make the purchase. 

The moleskins have gone a long way since Hemingway’s time. They have the standard ruled journals; the blank ones; the graphed ones; and the dotted iterations. At the end of the day, I thought that it’s just a notebook. You’re only paying for the brand name and thicker covers but they have little difference. If I remember correctly, eighty-five of Chatwin’s moleskins were given to a library. They were chock full of his notes. Chatwin makes light of his journalling in his hybrid book, The Songlines. A fair bit of the book was dedicated to his journal musings. 

I initially bought a black notebook from a large retailer. It had a cardboard cover, a spiral binder, 200 A5 pages, and some slots at the front and back. Here you could put things like receipts, post-it’s, and the like. I filled it with all my book ideas, corrections, reminders, big words, and quotes from books and media. I register my thoughts while streaming, while having meals, in the morning, even after hitting the sack. I used it pretty much everyday; this became my constant companion. I noticed that the front cover wasn’t very durable, but I liked how I could easily remove the pages. All this time, I mobilised a simple ballpen to record my thoughts for posterity. Pro tip: always get a spiral notebook for ease of access. 

‘The notebook’

At the start of February this year, I had filled up the log. I had some options. I had purchased three thinner A5 notebooks from Kmart. They had varying cool designs and were good value. My sister had also bought four notebooks for me from this stationery store. They were even cheaper. Before the lockdown, i also purchased three identical black notebooks from a department store. I decided to use one of these. My current log is pretty similar to its percursor, with black covers, two slots, a spiral spine, and a similar A5 size. Unlike its predecessor, I wasn’t as religious in jotting down my ideas. I use the journal mainly for reminders and benign notes. Instead, I used one of my sister’s notebooks to plot out my ideas. Last month, I also got a pricey four-pack of gel pens for good measure. The pen is more reliable than your standard ballpen. It makes you want to write more.

Game changer

The pandemic has certainly redefined our lives. We’ve learned to adapt perhaps more than ever before. As lockdowns were imposed, people busied themselves with puzzles, board games, and Lego. Reading and buying books has had a renaissance. No doubt, some writers would be impelled to buy more journals to lock down their ideas. Thus, I would encourage budding writers to follow my lead. You lose nothing by spending a few bucks. It’s like having a portable backup, a snapshot of your days. You don’t need to dedicate a page to ‘Dear diary’; I don’t. Just regard it as a handy friend that will be of use both now and tomorrow. I want to reiterate that you don’t need to spend a premium. It’s the content that matters, not the cost.  

Despite all these implements, we must note that no one will write the words for you. You might have the best instruments but without some talent and lots of diligence, the tools are insufficient. Your thoughts are the building blocks of your maunscript. Once you’ve outlined your ideas, transfer and organise them onto the paper. The editing comes later.  Soon you’ll realise that you can’t take your eyes off your work. You’ve become obsessed with the process. Times may change, technology may advance, literary styles may go in and out of fashion. In spite of these variations, journals will always have a place. Remember: a man full of ideas will never be poor. You’re welcome. 

home library
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