I should be reading, but it’s Christmas and I am writing this instead

“Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them; but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.”

― Arthur Schopenhauer

“On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero. “

– Fight Club

– – – – —

– I should be reading, and digesting what I’m reading, but … lazy. Schopenhauer was right – if only the books you purchased comes with the time necessary to read it too. This could be a thing/mechanism in a fantasy story. Each time you spend reading a book, time stops. Implications. So you can’t be killed when you’re reading? So if a person wants to live a long time, he/she just needs to read all the time? But he/she still has to sleep, eat … so this just means that people who have a reading habit are younger than, age slower than people who don’t read. Rich people can’t just hire other people to read for them. They need to do the reading themselves. But then rich people already have enough resources where they are able to just spend their time reading. This would mean that libraries are places that the poor can age at a rate just like the rich. Either way, the rich and the poor would be well-read and at least this would result in a more knowledgeable population. There is an incentive to read then.

-But it’s not just any kind of book. Here is where the writer’s biases, well let’s be kind – tastes, will show. It will only be books of a certain kind that will have this time-stopping effect. Schopenhauer’s philosophical works will be one of these books. I think it is only proper that his works should be included as he was the originator (that I know of of the idea). So let’s add other books by philosophers who are like Schopenhauer – Nietzsche, other atheistic philosophers like Voltaire maybe, and not just their lighter works, but those heavy, hard to understand ones too.

– However, the person should be interested in these works in the first place. These are not light reading, you have to invest your attention, your imagination, your various intellectual capacities to these works. So, already there’s a weeding out that’s going to happen. Only those of a certain inclination or personality type or character would read these works. Even if you’re rich and powerful, you still can’t just benefit from these works. You have to have the right personality.

– I don’t know, I don’t really know. So in this fantasy world, this is the only magical mechanism. How would this society function? Well of course the source of power will be tightly controlled or contested. These will become sacred texts. There will also be issues with the language of the text. Like so what would happen if these texts are translated? Maybe nothing.

– So this then would be a story about the control of texts. The poor population then would have no access to these. It is the rich and the powerful who would have access to this. But not necessarily. There could be like a priesthood or something that would keep the sacred texts closely guarded. They house the texts in this large massive hall/cavern/building? I’m thinking in the scale of those buildings in the Dune franchise. Just big and cavernous and sprawling.

– Ultimately, I think it’s not that useful directly for power and material success purposes. It’s more of a cultivation of the self thing, it’s more of a character formation thing. So they’ll be young, younger, but they have a certain kind of personality that is maybe intellectually or aesthetically pleasing. But who in the world where there’s still hunger and pain and suffering, would have the time to appreciate it? ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’ sort of reasoning. It’s not enough that a thing should be beautiful. It should be useful too. But there are beautiful useless things, and some things are beautiful precisely because they are useless. Is this making any sense?

– So they’re young and well-read and maybe are a bunch of heavy thinkers, but they’re powerless. How would they turn this into something advantageous for their group? Well they could be teachers. I think this magical mechanism would be perfect for teachers. But then they would be influenced by their reading, so again that’s a limitation, or rather a flavor of their thought. These texts are self-propagating, or rather self-preserving. They preserve a certain kind of thought or mentality, a certain personality type. So in a way that is a kind of power, a kind of immortality. But it is not the immortality of an individual, but that of a certain type of human being.

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Story idea. Saturday, December 15 2018

Story idea. Saturday, December 15 2018

A young woman wakes up in a room, on a bed, with the body of a young man. The body has not yet decomposed, so there is nothing revolting (well except for the presence of death). There is a faint smell of car smoke in the room, and the young woman manages to crawl to the door, open it and take a breathe of air. She loses consciousness. Wakes up days later in the hospital, surrounded by parents. Stern mother, stern father. She is able to talk with them, etc., they ask her who the man in the room was with her. She has no idea.

The story then becomes this process of knowing who the young man was in the room with her. In the end it turns out, it was a platonic friend. Another revelation: it was a suicide pact between them. It was her who invited him to a double suicide. They’ve both been depressed and suicidal for a time. They could not tell anyone, they wrote in their respective blogs. They found each other online. No common real-world friends between them. Because of the slight brain trauma caused by oxygen deprivation, she lost several memories, most of the recent ones anyway. Her long-term memories are fine.

How she remembered was because of her laptop. Someone, a sibling? a parent? brings it to her room one day. They haven’t been able to open it because it is password protected. It wasn’t until she unlocked it, then started browsing using the hospital’s pretty speedy internet that she found her blog, the correspondence between her and the young man, etc. It seems they’ve been communicating, sending pictures and messages, for a while. It seems they’ve grown closer with each other through that period.

Her memory of the young man is refreshed through her reading of the messages they exchanged, through the entries in his blog. Now, we go back to the present conundrum. Does she still want to proceed with her suicide? Is she still suicidal?

– – —

Why the suicide pact? Because no one wants to die alone. He did not want her to be alone. Why did he not stop her? Because he was suicidal too, and also maybe he did not want to die alone.

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Preliminary Thoughts on the Mud Story

10 NOV 2018

. . . maybe writing with a pencil is better. You can vary the thickness of the lines to your exact liking. Easier too to correct mistakes. But really, it doesn’t matter. Write using whatever medium is necessary. Another advantage: lines do not break like with a pen when the pen’s ballpoint doesn’t turn and stops the flow of ink. You can write upside down like what I’m doing now. It also I think is similar in appearance to ballpen when scanned. You can edit afterwards with a photoediting software anyway. It does get smudged though, so you have to be careful. This is especially a problem with left-handed folks because you have to rest the side of your palm on the paper which you have already written stuff on. You feel like one of those old-timey journalists with their notebooks and pencils, etc. Maybe I’d write a story just to see if it is possible.

I need to read Alice Guilliermo’s essay on Maoist aesthetics as applied in the Philippine setting. Might be useful in the story I’m planning. What kind of story is it going to be? Man against Supernatural forces? But in the end it turns out to be Man against Himself. What a twist. No one would see it coming. It must be interesting to me. I must not be bored with it. Mud golem rises out of the ricefields of Nueva Ecija. Rainy day, people watching. Creature’s progress is very slow, but unstoppable. It is ambling down towards the Capital, all the while absorbing things along its path. What is its purpose? How did it come alive? Is it even alive? What is life anyway? The protesters were right. The GM rice isn’t a good thing. It was found as the culprit for the Mud Golem that terrorized/rampaged through the plains of Nueva Ecija. We don’t know the exact science, nor we ever will. We just have to take their words for it. And so there’s police, there are protesters, there are NGO people, Church people. Just pull into the story whoever could be affected.

I don’t know where this is going. Probably nowhere. Or to Malacanang. It would be dump/dissolve/mudify itself in the Malacanang. Why? SYMBOLISM! Nah, too easy/in-your-face/blatant/lazy. We need a story. What makes a story? Focus maybe on a character. Make the reader sympathize with the character. Stories set in ricefields. Lucius Shepard. ‘Salvador’. ‘Things They Carried’ – O’Brien. Reaction/commentary from the media. Blogs, etc. would label this as fake news. Fake news until the mud engulfs the Palace. Until the grounds are covered in muck. Until it’s already too late. Dumbasses don’t even know what’s real anymore. Social media has fried their brains. Shriveled their conscience. The Mud Monster smells like sewage. That’s because it absorbed water from a sewage plant, the raw unprocessed shitwaterof the people of this nation. OKAY! Think of a POV character. Think of scenes. How does this creature look? What do the People call it? GM Putik? How can I capture the interest of the reader? Weird group attempts to magic the golem out of existence. Some occult research group in some university. Found footage.
We feel the spirit of those who suffered [what?] in the giant mud golem. We will attempt to exorcise the spirits out of this sad sad creature. To pray that the mud be now left at peace. Spokeswoman/President/Leader of the occult group talks to media. In-depth panel discussion in late night shows. Maybe a bombing scene. The military would drop bombs on it from the sky. Doesn’t work. It just regrows lost appendages. Maybe Ultraman can help. JICA could assist in some way. Children watching from afar as Ultraman battles the mud giant. I should focus on the mud. ‘DEFAMILIARIZE’ the mud. Make people see it in a new way. Rsearch soil and mud composition of Nueva Ecija. Hero – undergrad student, final year, agriculture, was doing research when mud monster appeared. Microscopes. Lab coat. Comments from Professors. SOIL SCIENCE. The mud seems to be alive. Not microorganisms in the mud, not animals in the mud, but the mud itself! How is this possible? Maybe he would find the mechanism to destroy the mud creature. You know what this brings up? LAND OWNERSHIP. Can the owner of the ricefield from where the mud creature arose be held liable for the damages caused by said mud creature? Probably not. Don’t forget to describe the flora and fauna, as this is an ecological story. Geography. Clouds arrnaged like in a regular grid square pattern. Dogs, birds, cats, coconut trees, mango trees, fish ponds. HUMAN-MADE BUILDINGS – Agrivet supply stores, farm supply stores, elementary schools, gov’t buildings, barangay halls, multi-purpose gymnasiums . . .

Does MC live in a dorm or does he commute everyday? Commuting every day would be better. Can showcase or describe surroundings/environment/setting more this way. What operating system does he use in his laptop? How many friends does he have? How old is he? Where does he live? What do his parents do? Any siblings? Just bring up/add detail that would relevant to the story. University life, univerrsity cultures … Stereotypes of students from said this or that university. Weird/start contrast between the scenic/placid vast ricefields and the high-speed traffic/life/existence in and along the highways. Heat, sky, sun, pollution. Chickens transported in trucks and tricycles. There’s a dead one in the bottom cage. Probably from heat exhaustion. Poor animals. How in heaven does this relate to the story? Probably doesn’t. Dead chicken to establish tone of story? Read more short stories to learn how shit works. That Uruguayan writer who wrote that story about a decapitated chicken _ _ _

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Music I am into these days

So beautiful, yet so skinny. It kind of made me sad seeing her. Her arms like twigs, almost half the width of the neck of the guitar she’s playing. She looked like a scarecrow, especially wearing that billowy floral-patterned dress. Otherwise, she’s perfect. I really hope she’s fine and healthy. [Nakano Miho, of the blues rock n’roll band Drop’s] I like their sound, I’m listening to it right now. The guitar especially is very bluesy. They are very unlike the other all-girl Japanese rock bands I’ve listened to. Her voice is nothing special. And that’s what makes it endearing. It sounds authentic, genuine. There is little to no artifice. It’s just pure expression. Blues, rock and folk don’t need great vocalists. They do just fine with someone who can reach and maintain certain notes consistently. It’s more on emotiveness rather than vocal abilities.

I think part of the appeal is that I don’t understand the lyrics. I can just imagine or try to grasp the meaning by tone of voice, by the sound, rather than the lyrics. And it sounds melancholic and warm, makes you want to just lie down and relax. The way she performs, her expressions and movements on stage, she’s the real deal.

My musical tastes I like to think have changed significantly since my time in high school when I really started being choosy and aware of the music I’m listening to. Now I’m into girl group kpop. Not even that, I like certain songs of certain groups. I don’t like most of the output of the S.Korean pop industry. I just stick to the ones I find unusual and well-done, and then listen to that until I’m bored. I wait a while, maybe a few days, then I listen to them again. ‘Baby Face’ by WJSN/Cosmic Girls for example. It is so sweet and bubbly, so cloying that it verges on parody of the genre. But it is so well-done and the voice is just perfect that it is repeatedly listenable. ‘Galaxy’ by Ladies’ Code is a sombre and sorrowful piece. The music video to this especially wonderful. Everything looks so sleek and cold and sad. This work is shadowed by tragedy, as it came after the accident which took the lives of two members of the group and left the others injured. Maybe it’s this fact that adds to my being attracted to this song. And I cannot say for certain since I’ve only known the group with this sad knowledge. Nevertheless I think the song can be judged for its merits. I think it is unique and unusual and beautiful. It is slower and more introspective-sounding than most kpop songs these days. I like the flow of the song. It starts slow, the elements are added one by one, then it speeds up to the chorus which is so catchy. It repeat this alternating fast and slow tempo until the end.

If you are somewhat familiar with these groups, you should have known by now that these are all female-voiced. This could be a blowblack from all those years in high school and college when I mostly listened to heavy metal and grunge, most of which are fronted by male vocalists. There are a few bands like The Breeders and Veruca Salt which are female-fronted that I listened to, but mostly I was into male-voiced rock bands. In the past months and years I swung towards the other extreme – Bubblegum Europop, again female-voiced. Groups like Sqeezer, Whigfield, Aqua. These are the most poppish of the pop songs that were produced during the 90s, which was the period of my childhood. I guss part of the appeal in their consumption is nostalgia. These were always playing in the background then and maybe they managed to engrave themselves into my subconscious, surfacing every now and then. Carly Rae Jepsen is also another artist I’m into these days. Her album ‘Emotion’ and ‘Emotion Side B’ are wonderful pop goodness.

Now I think I’m moving back slightly to heavier stuff. But I still prefer if it’s female-voiced, and not so overly bubbly. Maybe the voice could be a bit raspy, like Nakano Miho’s, and maybe the guitar is bluesy too, and there need not be any drums.

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Old Gods Returning

I pray for the return of the Old Gods so they would bring justice once more in these islands. Maybe a time traveller would go back in the past and capture these Gods, I don’t know how, and bring them into this present time. These Gods would be so confused at first, but in the end they’d shrug their shoulders and be like whatever, let’s just do this thing, I get paid in gold right? The time traveller says yes, and opens his shiny futuristic satchel filled with shiny golden nuggets to show to the God that he’s real, he ain’t joking yo.

It turns out to be an assassination. Political campaign period, politician singing to the watching seating populace in front of the massive stage. Old and fat and corrupt as fuck, see him try a few dance moves from this new dance hit the kids are into these days. The seated lower-level politicians behind him, on the stage, laugh and clap, the bastards are so amused. The people are so amused. The futuristic golden nugget guy meanwhile is peeking from a hidden spot somewhere. He is not amused. He orders the God to do his thing.

The God is tattooed all over with repeating connected geometric shapes. There’s a large bold ring of this around his lower torso, thighs and calves. He is wearing a red loincloth and on each buttcheek is a large spiral almost covering the entire skin. He is short but compact, well-built. His skin is a deep brown color, the color of a certain type of clay only found deep in the hinterlands of Mindanao island. He has long black shiny hair. He hefts his spear, positions himself and chucks it thirty meters straight towards the undulating, gyrating form of the campaigning politician where it penetrates through the breastbone, impaling the heart.

The crowd falls silent, and then erupts into screams. The panicking multitude starts running towards the exits. The politicians on stage slither their own separate ways into their respective sports utility vehicles. Some of the politicians and security personnel minister to the fallen politico. The guards look everywhere, searching for the assailant, but alas, he is nowhere to be found. It is only later when they review various footage of the event that they are able to fully piece things together.

The God and the Man from the Future eat at Jollibee. The God has been persuaded to change into more time-appropriate clothing. His hair is tied in a manbun, he is wearing jeans, and poloshirt with short sleeves revealing his biceps and forearms filled with tattoos. He eats with his fingers, carefully separating chicken flesh from chicken bone, all the while licking his fingers and talking to the Future Man about the prospect of future collaborations. Future Man says oh we still have a lot more jobs to do, don’t worry. He smiles and takes a sip from his pineapple juice.

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Sustainable, environmentally-friendly, Kpop girls

Cute kpop girls. What’s not to like? Pretty young women gyrating their hips, showing off them ankles and calves and thighs, making cute faces at each other. It is easy to put down as another mindless entertainment for the masses. And this is actually true. But like anything, you can intellectualize it, and thus provide a sort of apologia, a defense, for its consumption. One would ask, isn’t this just another example of the male gaze, you know, what is it you ask, this male gaze, you know that academic term where young women are being gawked at only for the visual pleasure of the male of the species. But, kpop enthusiast replies, a lot of the fans of these groups are women – young women. Most are the same age group as the performers themselves. It would be interesting to look at the gender makeup of the fans of these groups. I’ve heard that Red Velvet has a huge female fanbase. I wonder what the numbers are for other groups. And we aren’t even talking about the male kpop groups whose primary audiences are young women. Maybe some guys, hetero guys like watching these groups too, for their fashion sense or just the sheer spectacle of it, we don’t know, we shouldn’t judge.

The end of the world is near, young people are tired and powerless, and so they’d rather entertain themselves until the sweet kiss of oblivion. This is the last generation that could possibly save Nature, says this article in this website I can’t recall. But Nature’s fine, as George Carlin, great American prophet and comedian, once said. Nature’s fine, it’s human beings that are doomed. The Earth is resilient. It’s the biosphere (not even that, just the ‘anthropo-sphere’) that’s going to shit right now, but with humanity gone, I’m guessing it would recover just fine. The planet would be this mausoleum for Homo sapiens. There would be plants and other green things growing in the high rises, the airport terminals, the bus stations, gasoline stations, the airports, all the massive buildings, and other structures that once were used by humanity. There would be new species of fauna probably that evolved because of the various gene-altering chemicals that were left behind. I actually like the imagery of this, curmudgeon that I am.

I’m thinking lizards that glow in the dark. But not the usual fluorescent green. Maybe a sort of red-orange glow, announcing to possible predators that this one’s toxic and could cause stomach upset maybe even death. The Earth’s been damaged so much that no land mammals larger than rats have survived. The largest animals are all in the ocean. I have a slight thalassophobia so let’s just say that though the ocean was polluted, it is so vast and large swathes of it have been left unmolested by humanity that its recovery was quicker.

No cute kpop girls in this future. Why even live? It’s not like you have a choice anyway. Shit’s going down, this ship is being sucked into the void, this plane has sailed, and all other images and or metaphors, whatever. What we should be doing, if we haven’t been swallowed completely by the ink-dark pit of pure hopelessness is working towards the production of sustainable k-pop girl groups. We must channel our energies so that this treasure would still be available thousands maybe even hundreds of thousands of years in the future. I don’t know how we could do this. Maybe start recycling or segregating the waste one produces or something.


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Staying inside, just reading

I am in the flatlands of CEntral Luzon. This is where the Maoist movement in the Philippines was born. A bunch of students and instructors from my University, so many decades ago, allied with the already extant armed movement here and formed the CPP-NPA. This is where Luis Taruc’s rebellion happened. This is where the Taruc clan still lives. I kind of want to see all the relevant places, but the heat reaally is too much. This is not the time to be travelling. I was in a tricycle days earlier in the town proper and I happened to glance at my face in the mirror, and man it was not a pretty sight. I just cannot function well under heat. It is the -ber months already and still there is no coolness to be had.

So instead of going out I stay inside and read. And what I’ve been reading: Mo Yan’s short stories, V.S. Pritchett’s short essays collection regarding writers and their novels. Some of the essays are illuminating, but most are kind of uninteresting or at least interesting only to those who are into this sort of specialized thing. Literary criticsim. I’m not into it. I just read criticism in order to look at what to do, what not to do, what to read next, various tips and tricks to apply in my writings.

Mo Yan’s story about the fantastic children who found out that iron is edible started out very good, but ended kind of for me in a question mark. The other one about the wife who escaped her husband by flying into the sky also is the same way. What I like about these CHinese writers I’ve been looking at recently (Mo Yan, Yan Lianke) is the earthiness of their motivation for writing. Both have lived their childhoods during the Mao years of famine, and both have had experience of hunger, of oddly enough, eating coal to deal with this hunger. Yan Lianke thanks Mo Yan in his introduction to one ofh is books. I don’t know which of them is older. That New Yorker (I think) article about Yan Lianke was incredibly well-written. (Yan Lianke’s Forbidden Satires of China). I like that he’s not that concerned about literary theory and criticism. I guess coming from the social realist school of writing for the masses, his criteria seems to be that so long as it captures the attention, it works. I’m cool with that.

This reminds me of this Russian writer, Pelevin who also writes about the Communist period, this time in Russia. It is interesting to contrast and compare how the Chinese and Russian writers make of the Communist periods in their respective countries. Pelevin’s Omon Ra’s bleakness reminds me a bit of the tone in Mo Yan’s darker works. I want to see how they thought of the figures of ultimate authority in their respective nations. Authoritarianism, the treatment of it in these works of fiction would be an interesting thing to look at. Garcia Marquez’s ‘Autumn of the Patriarch’ came to mind when I wrote that earlier sentence.

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