All in the cards

So is it really any wonder that you choose the paths seldom taken? It was all in the cards, the house of cards, the condemned tenements of cards in which you grew up. And now, now that all has fluttered down to the ground, upset by the swinging pendulum of a wrecking ball which may be only the brass counterweight of a grandfather clock, now that all the bricks and latthe and plaster and cards have fallen and burned along with the trash and pretzels, now that the ash has blown away, you can finally see. The smoke has cleared and there is room now for other dreams. Ashes to ashes, dusk to dusk.

And so time passes, passes by, passes over, passes away and through and pass the butter, please. Sometimes time passes by so fast…you can’t even see those seconds make their little streaks of reentry into your heart.

– Excerpt from Trainsong by Jan Kerouac

Woman looking out the window


Books: The Rosie Project

The Rosie ProjectIs this another diet book? By some crazy inexplicable reason, I associated Rosie with Roseanne Barr. You know, as in weight loss project. The subject held no appeal for me because for the longest time I’ve been trying to gain weight. Nonetheless I flipped a couple of pages before going back to the opening sentence. I may have found a solution to the Wife Problem.


Wasn’t it a weight problem? Confused, I didn’t bother digging in. I shut the book and promptly put it back on the shelf.

Just recently, I needed to think about something and I do this by reading magazines or books. On one level, I’m reading. On another, the act of reading oils up my thinking. I remembered that I’ve an unfinished book– I always finish reading my books however long it takes. What was it? The weight loss project. Or was that a wife problem? There’s only one way to find out. I went and brought the book down.

After the first three pages…what was I thinking to have concluded that the Project had anything to do with weight?! Roseanne Barr has nothing to with the story. None at all.

The Rosie Project is about

Genetics professor Don Tillman whose life unexpectedly turns upside down when he embarks on the Wife Project – prospects are required to fill up a 16-page compatibility questionnaire – for him to filter out a suitable mate.

When a psychology PhD student-slash-bartender by night named Rosie walks into his office, Don knew she’s all wrong—dyed hair, sloppy, smokes, and habitually late. But then again, something is right about her too . . . Don just can’t recognize it at first.

As the Wife Project takes a back burner to Rosie’s project of identifying her biological father – the Father Project – Don finds himself breaking his self-imposed rules and routines in ways that are both uncomfortable and exciting.

When the Father Project takes them from their native Melbourne to New York City, and Don’s career is threatened by his allegiance to Rosie, Don must face the toughest puzzle of all—himself. Don must confront his long-held notions of what it means to love and connect with people and what it truly means to open up and trust someone.

Quietly hilarious, like you’re being privately entertained by someone blessed with deadpan humor. Like this one, the first time Don proposed to Rosie:

“If I find a partner, which seems increasingly unlikely, I wouldn’t want a sexual relationship with anyone else. But I’m not good at understanding what other people want.

“Tell me something I don’t know”, said Rosie, for no obvious reason.

I quickly searched my mind for an interesting fact. Ah . . .

“The testicles of drone bees and wasp spiders explode during sex.”

It was annoying that the first thing that occurred to me was related to sex. As a psychology graduate, Rosie may have made some sort of Freudian interpretation.

But she looked at me and shook her head. Then she laughed.

Who tells of insects’ private parts on proposal day? Only our anti-hero, Don. Although a guy friend tells me, I’d know I’m in serious trouble when I don’t think about sex as often as the next person does. Ha ha.

The author, Graeme Simsion, a data modeller by profession, explains that while it is not explicitly mentioned in the book, 40-year old Don exhibits signs of Asperger’s syndrome although apparently he’s in the high-functioning end of the spectrum. On top of easily churning in 300-plus pages of research proposal on “Presence of Genetic Markers for Autism in High-Achieving Individuals”, Don is an excellent cook, an aikido expert, concocts best-selling cocktails, could out-dance anybody in Dancing with the Stars, and holder of a special O-1 USA Visa for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability. Plus, as Rosie tells him, with just a change of eyeglasses and haircut, Don resembles Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. 

Graeme is brilliant in that he explores profound (Bill Gates called this book that) themes (Don’s Asperger, Don’s couple friend’s open marriage, among others) with understated humor and in a surprisingly wholesome way.

News is that there’s a movie being planned by Sony Pictures!

And there is a sequel. The Rosie Effect, which brings readers back to Don and Rosie this time in New York City as they are about to embark on having their own family.

The Art of Eating Through the Zombie Apocalypse

When the zombie apocalypse comes there will be no more take out, no more brightly lit aisles of foods just waiting to be plucked off the shelves. No more trips down to the local farmers’ market. No more microwaved meals in front of the TV or intimate dinner parties. No, when the undead rise, eating will be hard, and doing it successfully will become an art.

What’s inside her suitcase?

She packed couture evening dresses, lawn blouses and linen riding skirts, cotton shirts and fur coats, sweaters and scarves, canvas and leather boots. Beneath layers of lacy petticoats she hid guns, cameras, and film, and wrapped up many pairs of binoculars and pistols as gifts for the more important sheikhs. She carried hats, veils, parasols, lavender soap, Egyptian cigarettes in a silver case, insect powder, maps, books, a Wedgwood dinner service, silver candlesticks and hairbrushes, crystal glasses, linen and blankets, folding tables, and a comfortable chair—as well as her travelling canvas bed and bath. She took two tents, one for Fattuh to put up the moment they pitched camp, so that she had a table to write on, the other with her bath, to be filled with hot water once there was a fire, and her bed, to be made up with the muslin sleeping bag laid out under the blankets.

– on Gertrude Bell’s 1909 journey to the Middle East, from Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell.

Consequences the series

via divasdailybookblog

I stumbled upon this series at Goodreads.  I was intrigued more by the cover designs than the synopses provided. A puzzle is depicted on the first book’s cover and my mind immediately went what warranted what consequences?  My initial thought of the story was that it was the usual boy-meets-girl-who-he-falls for crazily and after that the reader’s taken on a ride through dramatic events until finally either the boy or girl dies or both realize their happy ever after in one another.  But good thing, the cover design got to me first.

Reading halfway through Consequences, a thought bubble made me laughed out loud:  Anthony Rawlings, the protagonist, makes Christian Grey appear like Jiminy Cricket!  And to think that not so long ago, FSOG was soundly criticized for it’s pseudo-psycho hero Christian Grey!

The Consequences trilogy is part romance, thriller, and mystery.  A story of vendetta spanning three generations ending with the kidnapping of Claire Nichols by Anthony Rawlings.  Claire’s the granddaughter of a former FBI agent whose investigation implicated and eventually led to the imprisonment of Anthony’s grandfather, Nathaniel Rawls, founder of the Rawls business empire.

Anthony, himself founder of a multibillion company, and Catherine who was Nathaniel’s second wife are the only surviving members of the Rawls.  Embittered by Nathaniel’s imprisonment and eventual death in prison, Catherine took upon herself to avenge him.  She then compiled a list of families who she refers to as the “children of children” who she alleged were responsible for her husband’s death and their ruin and plots for their elimination.  Anthony isn’t quite as involved in her plan although he bankrolls her activities when needed.  The only person in her list he decided to get involved in was Claire whom he had privately watched ever since she was a teenager.

Anthony kidnaps Claire and imprisons her in his mansion.  Catherine tells him to eliminate her as what they did with the others but Anthony counters that he has a better plan which is to break and completely control her.  Catherine is doubtful but he assures her of success.

Claire all that time is oblivious to Catherine’s and Anthony’s vendetta on her and her family (her grandfather and parents had all been victims of “accidents” and together with her sister are the only survivors).  What she knows of her kidnapping is that it was for having agreed to Anthony’s proposal of him paying off her personal debt of USD250,000. In return, and on top of her “imprisonment”, all she had to do, Anthony tells her, is follow his rules which are:

In the beginning, she made mistakes which earned her, what Anthony calls them, negative consequences which are quite violent.  The worst is the “accident” perpetuated by Anthony which almost killed her.  This particular incident despite it being just fictional is the one thing I had difficulty shaking off because it’s close to depicting real life effects of domestic abuse and violence.

Claire, not Anthony, is the puzzle.  She is put into a role of someone returning stronger after every ‘negative consequence’.  She is likened to a Phoenix.  Anthony is both stunned and irritated at this, because remember his objective was to completely control her, so he devises increasingly sinister ways to crush her seemingly indomitable spirit.

What’s Claire’s secret?  Unbelievably simple actually.  It’s her walks in the woods in Anthony’s estate, a routine she successfully negotiated from him.  It’s also her perspective of her situation.  She schooled herself to the image that Anthony wanted of her but inside she kept her true self intact and she accomplished this by compartmentalizing.

The unexpected twist in the story is their marriage, twice for that matter, each one for a different reason and context. From a sampling of readers’ reviews I read, this is the point where readers wanted to throw their paperback or e-reader at the wall.  Because how could she, after the restrictions and violence he’s done to her?  I thought it ingenious for the author to be able to elicit such real world reactions and debate on the turn of events in the lives of these fictional lovebirds.  I on the other hand had only one thing in mind, to quote Leonard Cohen:  There ain’t no cure for love.

In the final pages of the first book, Claire, already married to Anthony, is accused of attempting his murder by allegedly serving him poisoned coffee.  In fact, she was set up both by Anthony and Catherine.  Anthony, because he was testing her.  Anthony offered to help her out of jail only if she pleaded insanity.  She refused, the consequence of which is seven years of incarceration.  He eventually divorced her while in prison.  As a counter measure which is more a retaliation, she told her attorneys the real story:  her kidnapping, imprisonment, and his abusive and violent regard to her.  The DA who’s Anthony’s ally is shell-shocked.  He goes to Anthony and informs him of Claire’s story.  Anthony refutes the story, called it a complete lie, and ordered a gag on the information divulged.  The story got leaked nonetheless but contained only within a limited group whose members, mostly friends of Claire and Anthony when they were still a couple, were divided as to who to support.  The majority backed Anthony because they couldn’t believe that a well-established member of the community would do the unthinkable.  Also, for his close friends, also his employees, it was difficult for them to reconcile the CEO Anthony that they’ve known for years to one who’s Claire’s kidnapper and tormentor.  It was a lesser headache to simply blame the outsider, Claire.

In the second book, Truth, the story takes on another surprising turn.  Claire is granted pardon after four months in prison, the pardon unbeknownst to her was facilitated by her faithful friend, the wife of Anthony’s VP.  Claire relocates to another State.  When Anthony learned of her pardon and relocation, he immediately set out a scheme to bring her back because for the first time since he had her kidnapped, she was free of his surveillance which was not ever part of his plan.  During the pursuit, they both managed to have a child.  In this series, Anthony is shown as going through a change, for the better.  Now, instead of irritation, he is amused at Claire’s Phoenix-like come backs and playfulness,

But, Emily, Claire’s sister, who is vehemently against everything that Anthony did to Claire, reminds her that it is the 21st century and she could very well bring up the child on her own. Claire is adamant that she and Anthony will raise their child together. Claire eventually agreed to return with him to his home, if only to give the child an established future.  Again, Anthony’s friends are stunned at the turn of events, but they take their cue from him.  If Anthony says he’s reconciled with Claire, then they too are.  Toward the close of this book, Claire agreed to be his fiance once more.

In the third book, Convicted, we see Claire’s story, the one she recounted while in prison, published as a book.  In yet another unexpected turn, Anthony and Catherine are arrested, their plots of vendetta having finally caught up with them.  Initially, he instructed his legal team to do everything to keep him out of jail, but after some thinking he voluntarily turned himself in “for the sake of Claire and our child”.  In other words, he didn’t want that one day when they’ve already established themselves as a family, authorities would come knocking at their door to take him away. He decided that it was best to face his sentence now.  A negotiated agreement was reached with the FBI which considerably reduced his sentence to four years which was for kidnapping Claire.  Incarcerated, Anthony knew what Claire had known during her incarceration:  a public failure.  Didn’t he just have the rule for that?

The learning that can be taken away from the series I guess is that wrongdoing as what Anthony has done to Claire cannot be wiped out clean by a simple I forgive you from Claire because as what he himself has pressed on Claire, actions always have corresponding consequences.  In his case, a legal one.  And in order to restore himself to himself, to her and to the community, he had to undergo the consequence of his action.  I guess this is called justice.

And Claire?  She accepts him despite the bad he’s done to her.  This is precisely the source of readers’ confusion and tension over the story, because should Claire?  I don’t know.  But it’s why Emily provides the perfect counterbalance in the story:  she represents real life practicalities.  Then again it’s Claire’s story, and against all odds, her decision to reconcile with Anthony, unbelievable as it is, led to where she hoped it would — change and happiness — proving to every reader that as far as she’s concerned she made the right decision.

Trade Show to visit: Manila Fame

Manila FAME is a global platform for the country’s small and medium
enterprises (SMEs), which features certified, export-quality products such as furniture and furnishings, holiday gifts and décor, garments, and fashion accessories designed and crafted in the Philippines for the global market. It is the second longest-running trade show in the Asia Pacific.

original images via manilafame

The fair runs from 14-17 March and again 16-19 October.  More on its website on WordPress.

It would even be better, in near future, if the organizers can bring it to the regions, in partnership with LGUs and DOT ROs as part of regional development (economic as well as cultural) actions, since there are many local entrepreneurs, as for example, those supported by I/NGOs who are interested to join at that level.  It would boost marketing linkages for local livelihoods and entrepreneurship.