5 comedy shows (+5 more) you can binge to feel better or LOL

One of my favorite self-care habits whenever I am in my dark phase or when I feel it coming on is to binge watch comedy shows on either Netflix or iFlix. It doesn’t always solve my issues in life but it temporarily lifts me up from the doldrums of my life. And along the way, you can also come up with some life-changing realizations while watching them.

Here are some shows that you can binge when you’re feeling down or even when you just want to laugh out loud. I won’t include the usual suspects anymore, like Friends or How I Met Your Mother or Brooklyn Nine Nine or Modern Family or The Big Bang Theory, even though I go back to them every once in a while. These are shows that not a lot of people (well, except for those who are like me and watch a lot of shows) know about or cared to check out, but which I find really, really hilarious.


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The Good Place (Netflix, iFlix)

Basic premise: Kirsten Bell dies and wakes up in a sort of “heaven” but ultimately realizes she’s not supposed to be there. Hijinks ensue. Twists you didnt’ see coming come up. It’s hard to explain the rest of it without spoiling anything, so just watch the first two eps to get a feel of it first.

Why I love it: I just read an excellent New York Times piece on why The Good Place is so good and it can explain better why this show is one of the best and smartest comedies around. It tackles a lot of things like what makes a person truly good, what is human nature, faith in a higher power, morality, love and soulmates, etc. And it does it in a really funny, twisted, but ultimately philosophical but understandable way.

How many episodes do I need to binge? Two seasons of 13 eps each. Season 3 just started.


One Day At A Time (Netflix)

Basic premise: Single Latina ex-Army Nurse raises her two children and lives with her feisty mother. Sounds a bit like my mom’s life. Haha

Why I love it: As I said, this territory seems familiar (except our life is not that hilarious or dramatic) and I’m a sucker for heartwarming but not corny family dynamics. And even as I laugh at and with them, they also make me cry especially when they tackle issues like crappy fathers, sexuality, and especially mental illness. I spent hours crying over one episode (Hello, Penelope in season 2) and it helped me come to terms with my own depression.

How many episodes do I need to binge? Two seasons of 13 eps each. Season 3 will start next year.


Mom (iFlix)

Basic premise: An alchoholic mother and daughter try to repair their relationship with each other and the people around them (including the daughter’s own children)

Why I love it: While it is funny and irreverent, it can also get pretty dark. Well, with a show that deals with various addiction, how can it not be? There is humor to be found in the way they (and their fellow alchoholic friends) try to stay sober and try to fix their messed up lives. Also, Allison Janey is a treasure and Anna Farris is such an underrated actress.

How many episodes do I need to binge? Five seasons of 22 episodes each. Season six just started.


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

Basic premise: Kimmy is part of group of women were kidnapped by a crazy, doomsday cult figure and kept underground for years/decades. When they are rescued, she has to adjust to a life of being above ground and the last time she was with regular people was in the 90s so she’s a bit behind, in more ways than one.

Why I love it: Just like Mom, the premise seems pretty dark but they are more absurdly crazy and over-the-top in the way they bring humor to Kimmy and the assorted weird characters that she interacts with. Titus Andromedon is one of my favorite comedic characters of the past decade and his Peeno Noir and Hold Up parody still cracks me up.

How many episodes do I need to binge? 3 seasons of 13 episodes each, plus the first half of SEason 4. The second half (and last) will come next year.


KIm’s Convenience (Netflix)

Basic premise: A Korean couple immigrates to Canada and runs a convenience store to raise their two children. The son is now estranged from the dad and the girl has just started art school.

Why I love it: Another heartwarming family comedy that will make you laugh and cringe and occasionally cry. Plus the fact that it’s about immigrants in a first world country will probably strike a chord with a lot of Pinoys. And it’s really, really funny

How many episodes do I need to binge? 2 seasons of 13 episodes each. There will be a season 3 soon!


Other shows that I can’t find on streaming but you can “acquire”

Speechless - A family comedy again, this time dealing with one of the kisds having cerebral palsy and being non-verbal. The three kids are probably my favorite siblings among the current comedy shows. (2 seasons of 22 episodes each. Season 3 just started)


Fresh Off The Boat - Before the world fell in love with her as Rachel in Crazy Rich Asians, Constance Wu has always been Jessica Huang for me. This is another family show about Taiwanese immigrants in the US, based on the real life of chef Eddie Huang (4 seasons of 22 episodes each. Season 5 just started)


Superstore - A workplace comedy set in a Walmart-like superstore chain with a lot of hilarious characters and deadpan humor (3 seasons of 22 episodes each. Season 4 just started)


Parks and Recreation - Who would have thought a workplace comedy about government workers in the Parks and Recreation department could be one of the funniest and nicest shows ever on TV? Also, Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt are the ultimate relationship goals. (7 seasons of around 22 episodes each. This ended back in 2014)


Veep - This show has a lot of profanity so not for little ears. Well, for a show set in Washington D.C and about the inept VP of the US and her equally inept staff, how can you not have profanity? (6 seasons of 10 eps each. 7th and final season starts next year)



ICYMI Pop Culture Round-Up (July 17 edition)

So many things have happened in the past few days, pop-culture wise, so in case you missed any of it, here's one post to summarize things for you.

 

STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI BEHIND-THE-SCENES

One of the most awaited movies of the year is of course the eighth movie in the Star Wars saga, this one ominously titled The Last Jedi. And at the recently concluded Disney D23 Expo, we didn't get a new trailer, but we did get a very special behind the scenes video.  We get new footage, cast members singing and dancing, and if you don't tear up whenever the late Carrie Fisher shows up, then your heart has already turned to stone.

 

 A WRINKLE IN TIME FIRST TEASER TRAILER

Probably almost all private school kids were made to read Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time in school. If you didn't appreciate it then, I dare you to read it again now, especially before the movie comes out in March of next year. The trailer looks amazing with a mix of magic and sci-fi and good-looking people. And yes, I plan to re-read the entire series as well. 

 

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR TRAILER...OH WAIT..A DESCRIPTION OF THE TRAILER

Unfortunately for us who were not in the room where it happened (heh), we can only rely on the descriptions of those who were actually able to see it (no secret cameras here, darn it). The teaser sounds pretty jam-packed with characters and details, so reading about it and actually seeing it may be worlds away. But for now, we have to rely on frame by frame details like this

Oh and we do get a first look at the big bad Thanos. Sort of.

 

THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR IS A WOMAN!

After much clamoring from fans, the glass ceiling has sort of been broken on Doctor Who. When the Doctor regenerates into Thirteen in the December special, Jodie Whittaker will be playing her! Yes, we finally have a female Doctor. While most people are pretty excited about this, there has also been a backlash from some fans who can't accept the fact that there can be a doctor that is not a white male. But who cares, can't wait for December and then the next season! Don't screw this up guys!

 

DEATHS OF GEORGE ROMERO AND MARTIN LANDAU

The announcement of their deaths came just a few hours after each other, and film enthusiasts honored them by remembering their contributions to cinema and pop culture.

Walking Dead and zombie fans owe a lot to Romero because he brought the zombie genre to life (heh) in the Night of the Living Dead series of movies in the 60s and 70s. The ending of that first movie still haunts me to this day. I won't spoil it for you, just watch it if you can.

 

Landau had a lot of memorable roles, but I'll remember him most for his Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood (he won a Best Supporting Oscar for that), the guy chasing Cary Grant in the Mt. Rushmore scene in North by Northwest and as Jack Malone's (Anthony LaPaglia) dad in Without A Trace.

GAME OF THRONES SEASON 7 PREMIERE (not so spoilery)

It feels like forever since we last watched Game of Thrones and so after this long hiatus, everyone was pretty psyched. Initial thoughts here since some have probably not watched it yet (so no spoilers)

  • That cold open was one of their best ever! I kinda knew what was going to happen from the first frame, but it was still oh so satisfying and goosebumps-inducing. The North remembers!
  • The much-talked about cameo by a famous pop singer was pretty cool, especially since we did hear him sing of course. Now will he appear in more episodes, that is the question. And will fans riot if he gets killed off?
  • The Hound gets the best lines in this episode, doesn't he? 
  • The arrival of a main character in a place that I will not name is oh so satisfying but oh so bitin. Can't wait to see that character interact with even more characters. Especially that other main character. HA!
  • I really thought it would be more than one hour since we only have seven episodes this season. Oh well. Can't wait for next week! 

 

 

Podcasts to entertain you (Pop Culture Edition)

When I used to commute from Laguna to Mandaluyong every day, there wasn't any Spotify or Apple Music to amuse me then and so I relied on good ole stored music on my smartphone. How i wish I was listening to podcasts back then. Surely my 2-3 hour travel every day would have been more productive.

But now that I only have a 5-10 minute walk from my house to the office and I've discovered the joys of listening to them, I try to make the most out of it. I also listen when i take a bath and when i dress up or when I'm in line at the bank.

Here are some of my favorite pop culture podcasts. Links to where you can download/listen to them are in the titles.

I'll be talking about favorite fiction and inspirational podcasts in succeeding posts.

 

 

Pop Culture Happy Hour (NPR)

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From the name itself, you already know what it's all about. Every week I feel like I'm sitting in a room with Linda, Stephen, and Glen (I still miss Trey a lot!) and whoever is in their fourth chair, discussing all things pop culture. They make me want to be more analytical and critical when it comes to everything I consume. 

 

The Relevant Podcast

 

If you follow me on Facebook, then you know about my ongoing love affair with Relevant Magazine. This is the podcast version, only more jokey and off the rails and rambunctious. Aside from the gang riffing on each other and on relevant pop culture, there are also interviews with influential and interesting people. 

 

The Shipping Room Podcast

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When I first read about this podcast in Entertainment Weekly, my initial thought was, "Wow, did they make a podcast just for me??" Almost every TV show that I watch has a ship that I root for and sometimes, I don't have anyone to talk to about it.

I binge listened to almost 60 episodes before I got caught up to the current one at that time, and it was such a cathartic release for all my years of repressed shipping. And their talks go beyond just love, but all the other issues and aspects that can surround fictional relationships. 

 

All Songs Considered

When it comes to music, I'm really more of the NPR kind of person. That's why I probably love listening to this podcast, aside from the fact that I love listening to Bob and Stephen (who's also on Pop Culture Happy Hour) and Robin riff about all the new and favorite bands and artists. Plus, you also get exclusive interviews and performances from artists, so that's always a plus.

Buffering the Vampire Slayer

 

This is my newest discovery and If you know me, then you'll know how happy this makes me. And if you don't know me, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my all-time favorite TV show. So having a podcast talk about each and every episode of all seven seasons is such a treat. I'm still on season one so we have some ways to go (they're currently on season 2) but I'm pretty excited! This is hosted by musician Jenny Owen Youngs and her wife, Kristin Russo. Oh and every episode has an original ditty by Jenny, so that's a bonus treat. 

 

Music Mondays: My favorite Coldplay songs (that are not Yellow, Fix You, or The Scientist)

While some of my more hipster friends would sneer at people liking Coldplay, there's no denying that this band knows how to make pop rock music that you'd want to listen to over and over again. 

And since I'm seeing them live in a few days, I've been listening to their entire discography the past month (and even made a playlist of their supposed tour playlist which you can Spotify here) and I realized that I still really, really like them, music critics be darned. 

Aside from Yellow, Fix You, and The Scientist, which are of course the national anthems of Coldplay fans, here are my favorites per album.

 

Parachutes (2000) - Don't Panic

Aside from the fact that it's the first song you hear on their first album, I especially love this song since it was used in Garden State, which is one of my favorite movie soundtracks.

A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002) - God Put A Smile On Your Face

Again, this is because of an association to a pop culture moment. This is the song playing when Sydney and Vaughn first, you know, on Alias. It was just the perfect song for that perfect moment. Couldn't find a YouTube clip of that, but here's a fan-made compilation of Sydney/Vaugh scenes from the first two seasons.

X & Y (2005) - A Message

While I of course love their bombastic, arena-rock songs, there's also something about the acoustic guitar driven ones that appeal to me. Case in point.

 

Viva La Vida (2008) - Viva La Vida

It may be a little overplayed (4th runner up to those in my title), but it really is my favorite Coldplay song, arena-rock category. My heart skips so many beats from the very first notes up to the last to the owowowo-ows to the last violin strings and the oooohhhs in the end. 

Mylo Xyloto (2011) - Charlie Brown

Aside from it being named after my favorite bald little boy, it was also used as the ESPN theme in Euro 2012. It also has a very Joshua Tree-feel to it (which is of course my favorite U2 album) and the music video is also pretty cool. 

In my scarecrow dreams
When they smash my heart into smithereens
Be a bright red rose come bursting the concrete
Be a cartoon heart
Light a fire a fire a spark
Light a fire a flame in my heart
We’ll run wild
We’ll be glowing in the dark

 

Ghost Stories (2014) - A Sky Full of Stars

I fell in love with this song because of football again, as it was used as the hype video for the USA World Cup team in 2014. It was perfect and I couldn't stop listening to it afterwards (even when the team crashed out of the World Cup)

A Head Full of Dreams (2015) - Up & Up

Had a hard time choosing here because I'm not too fond of the album, but it was a toss-up between A Head Full of Dreams and this one. But I found this more catchy and it's supposedly the last song in the concert, so there may be something special here.

 

And since i can't really help it, but Fix You is really probably my favorite, kahit na gasgas na gasgas na siya. It's also the song in one of my favorite So You Think You Can Dance routines.

 

 

 

 

Music Monday: Why you should go to music festivals

I went to my first music festival last year. If you know me, that is kind of surprising actually. (Okay, I did organize small music events, but those don't really count). I've been to a lot of concerts, but for one reason or another (money, fear of crowds, no one wants to go with me), I haven't made it to any of the music festivals. 

Until 2016. And then it seems like I was making up for lost time because I went to not just one but four festivals in a span of four months. 

  • Laneway in Singapore (Battles, Beaches, Grime, The 1975, Chvrches)
  • Good Vybes Fest (Stars, Chvrches, Passion Pit)
  • Wanderland (Naked and Famous, Death Cab for Cutie, Bon Iver)
  • In The Mix (James Bay, Panic! At the Disco, The 1975)
  • Not exactly a festival, but sort of - Walkway's Switchfoot concert
 My first ever music festival and it had to be Laneway :) 

My first ever music festival and it had to be Laneway :) 

 

Unfortunately, I failed to properly blog about any of them. This post isn't that, since the moment has passed. What this is about is why I encourage you to go to a music festival at least once in your life, whether it's in the country, abroad, with a group, with one friend, or by yourself.

 

You get your money's worth

Some may balk at the around P3500 cash you have to shell out to go to a local festival. But if you really think about it, it's worth it since you get to see at the very least 5 artists. And it's probably a great mix of local and international talent so if you don't like one, you still have four more to listen to. Bonus points if you get free tickets or if you have friends who have connections to get you in. If that opportunity arises, GO AND TAKE IT OKAY???

 In The Mix at MOA Arena

In The Mix at MOA Arena

 

You get to discover new artists

Before I went to Laneway, I knew nothing about The Internet (the band, not the actual internet ha) and Battles, but after catching their set, I now listen to them regularly. Same with BP Valenzuela and Oh Wander in Good Vybes and Blackbird Blackbird in Wanderland, among others. If you see a band you don't know in the lineup, don't skip their set as you may just find your new favorite artist. 

 

You can do whatever you want

When I attend concerts in coliseums and stadiums, I kinda feel pressured to stand up when everyone's standing up, to clap when everyone's clapping, and so on and so forth. Music festivals are usually held in open fields (well, except for In the Mix which was at MOA Arena) and so you have a bigger space to do whatever you want: dance like no one's watching, lie down in the grass (well, if there's grass) and soak in the sun and the music, try out the different food trucks while waiting for your favorite band. You will come across a lot of selfie-taking people, barkadas who are not listening to the music but just talking to each other, and other annoying people, but try not to mind them. Just as you're enjoying your freedom, let them have their moment too. 

 

You get to chat with fellow music lovers

Okay, i have to be honest and tell you that this didn't happen to me. Mostly because I'm not the chatting with strangers type. But I've seen this happen to a lot of people, so I can tell you, it's a thing!

 

You get to spend time and share an experience with people you like/love

One tip is that you have to go with a person you actually like or even love. You will be spending several hours together so you have to make sure that you won't be easily annoyed by your companion.  And if you will go regularly to these things, it helps to have a constant music fest buddy. Getting to share music with other people is one of my favorite things and so having friends with me during these times was especially nice. 

 Wanderland with Cathz 

Wanderland with Cathz 

 Switchfoot with life-long friends during last year's Walkway

Switchfoot with life-long friends during last year's Walkway

 

The music. Duh.

Nothing beats listening to live music. Mp3s and Spotify are great, but to hear your favorite bands play just a few feet away from you is just indescribable. Sometimes i just want to close my eyes and bask in its aural beauty but then I have to open them because I don't know when the next time will be where I can actually see them.  Last year was my first time to watch Bon Iver and Passion Pit, then I got to see Chvrches and The 1975 twice, and Death Cab for Cutie and Stars for the second time. The music lover in me was thoroughly satisfied. 

 If you squint really hard, you'll see Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos at Good Vybes

If you squint really hard, you'll see Passion Pit's Michael Angelakos at Good Vybes

 

 

I don't know what music festivals I will be able to see this year (I passed on Laneway and Wanderland already) but for sure, budget and schedule allowing, I will want to go to at least one or two soon!

 

Ten Books That Are Moving to the Top of My TBR pile

Don't ask me anymore how many books there are in my TBR (To Be Read) file because the number is overwhelming (both print and digital) so let's just stick to these ten that have moved up to the top of the pile for one reason or another. 

And yes, I'm the kind of reader that can read several books at the same time. Well, not literally of course, but you know what I mean. 

So in the next few weeks, I plan to finish most, if not all, of these. Re-reads and re-starts included.

 

1. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I actually haven't bought a copy yet, but tomorrow is the day. And when anything Gaiman comes out, all other books fall to the wayside.

 

2. BASAG - Bachelor in Nursing a Broken Heart, Major in Moving On by Prexy Calvario (finish reading)

For work. Also, you know, subject matter wise, this is my wheelhouse. From the little I've browsed already, so many people who have gone through heartbreaks will be able to relate and laugh with her and maybe even help in their moving on process.

3. Better At Weddings Than You by Mina V. Esguerra

The book isn't out yet, but I got an ARC and so I need to get on it while everyone else (well, except those who also got an ARC) will be waiting for it. Mina's books were my first exposure to Filipino romance in English and since then I've been supporting #romanceclass books, both print and ebooks. And this is also in my wheelhouse as it involves wedding planning and thirty-something characters (but for adults only please!). You can actually pre-order it already on Amazon

 (not yet the final book cover of course)

(not yet the final book cover of course)

 

4. The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper (finish reading)

I started it already last year but in the middle of it, it got to be too real and too heavy for me. But it is such an eye-opening book so i know I need to finish it soon and then right about it (especially as our bookshop only has limited copies)

 

5. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (finish re-reading)

Because the TV series is about to start!!! Sa April 30 na!

 

6. Miss Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why

Because i need to go back to Miss Kamala and her world. Not since Buffy have I been invested in a teenage girl and her trials and tribulations as she tries to save the world. 

7. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

My physial copy will arrive by May but the ebook that I got for supporting their crowdsourcing campaign will tide me over. And yes, this is supposedly a children's book, but hey, learning about awesome women should not have an age limit!

 

8. Disarming Scripture: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives, and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did by Derek Flood (finish reading)

The title caught my attention and the writing style is not for the uber conservative Christian (unless you're open minded) and it's "theological" books like this that I really enjoy reading.

 

9. The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs

I've had this in my Audible library for the longest time and I don't understand why I haven't read/listened to it yet. So now's a good place to start, as I slowly walk from my house to the office.

10. Four Weddings And A Sixpence

I need my Julia Quinn fix, even though it's just one short story. I need a light romance read, which gets me through tough days, really. 

Music Monday 1: How Music Keeps Me Sane

For some, music is a past-time, or just something that they indulge in. For me, it is my “recreational drug” of choice (alongside TV shows and coffee and books and football), one of the things that keep me hinged, an anchor to this world, one of the things that keeps me (almost) sane.

Yes, music is that big of a deal to me (and probably it is for you too, if we are friends). Here are some ways that music has kept me from going berserk.

 

On long commutes

…which for me, is not a daily occurrence anymore, since I now live a stone's throw almost literally from my office. So the very few times I do have long bus rides, I look forward to listening to music. And it cannot be just any kind of music. It has to be my own. And given the preference of bus drivers to tune in to the most annoying radio stations, I always make sure that all my gadgets are charged before I embark on the 1 1/2 hour ride (just in case one gadget runs out of juice). The last time I rode a bus alone without my music, I was almost tempted to beg the driver to please just turn the stupid radio off. I have no patience for DJs who talk too much, singers who should not be singing at all and pop songs played to death.

On short walks

Even if I will probably hear just 1-2 songs on my short 5-7 minute walk, I still need to drown in music or now, podcasts. Otherwise, I will go crazy from the noise pollution and the actual pollution, the really loud people who have no consideration for others and just the sounds of rush-hour metro that can really get to you.

 

Waiting at the bank

…which is one of the worst places to be stuck in, since you’re not allowed to bring out your gadgets of course. Music can keep you from counting all the stains on the ceiling or starting random conversations with strangers who will slowly inch themselves away from you.

 

Working / Studying

Some people prefer complete quiet when working or studying to concentrate better, but that would just drive me bonkers. I am more inspired to write or go on Facebook (really, that’s part of my job) or send out emails when I have my 68 gig music collection on iTunes on random or the wonders of Spotify. You never know what song you’re gonna get next!

 

When I can’t sleep

Instead of counting sheep (which i don’t think I’ve ever done) or reading a book (which will actually keep me up more than making me sleepy), I just make a sleepy playlist, which may consist of songs that have the word sleep in them or the instrumental OSTs of my favorite movies or singers with sleepy voices. Sometimes the songs even bleed into my dreams so I sometimes choose weird songs to give me even weirder dreams.

 

When I can’t find the right words

Have you ever experienced being so full of emotions (either good or bad or even mixed) that you can’t find the right words to properly express it? My own words fail me, I can’t write an original sentence to save my life, and so I just scroll through my songs until I find the right one to match what I’m feeling at the moment. And then I post the lyrics. Music becomes my mouthpiece when I have no words left.

 

When my soul is heavy

There are days when you just wake up and you feel so weary and your soul just cries out to God. And during those times when I groan or I rage or I just cry, the music of anointed people who have either gone through the same pains or have emerged victorious and joyful, have helped me figure out (along with prayer of course) what exactly ails my heart and soul.

 

When my heart overflows

And then there are days when you wake up and you feel like bursting into song because you realizehow much you love Him and how blessed you are and how His grace has kept you alive. Music helps me go to a higher plane of worship and thanksgiving and love for my Creator.

 

How has music helped you keep sane? I’m sure you have a story to tell…

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Can Read Over and Over (2017 edition)

Back in 2012, I made a list of the ten books I can read over and over again. There wasn't any particular order except for the first one, but here they were:

  • Lord of the Rings trilogy and Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien (yes cheating but I consider them to be one body of work)

  • A Song of Ice and Fire by GRRM

  • Mythology by Edith Hamilton

  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman

  • The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

  • What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey

But now 5 years later, I'm revisiting the list. The ones I'm removing are not because I don't like them anymore but because my repeat reading preferences may have changed. So here's the updated list, starting with the new inclusions and then the ones who remain on the list.

 

1. Found: Letters on Love, Life, and God by Isa Garcia

Disclaimer: I'm not putting this here just because Isa is my friend and I work for the publisher but because she has captured and put onto paper some of the deepest thoughts and longings of my heart that i could not articulate. Her letters are vulnerable, painful, but full of hope and optimism and love and grace, and if you know her in real life, she really is like that. Oh, and the postcards are gorgeously "craelligraphied" by Crae Achacoso (another friend). Shameless promotion: You can buy this at OMF Lit and Passages Bookshops, PCBS, Fully Booked, National Bookstore, and our online store, passagesbooks.com. It's also available as an ebook! Details here

 

I bring Found everywhere!

 

 

2. Love Does by Bob Goff

If you ask me if I could have coffee with any living writer and Bob Goff would be in my Top 5. Not many people know him but his book is truly life-changing. It changed the way I view loving your neighbor meant and what it means to pursue your passion and what it means to just love, although I still have a hard time actually living the life he suggests we live. And trivia: the number that he posts at the end of the book is his actual number and when you call it, he does answer. I haven't done it coz I'm too nervous but I know people who've already done it and he did answer!

 

“That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.”

 

3. The Bridgertons series by Julia Quinn

I know it's cheating again but I couldn't choose from among the 8 books (plus the Bridgertons Happily Ever After). I loved all the eight siblings and their various love stories. I love the humor and the banter and even though you know that they would of course end up in a happily ever after, their stories were still engaging enough to keep you reading. And I've read every story at least twice each (some more than twice).

Book 1: The Duke and I 
Book 2: The Viscount Who Loved Me 
Book 3: An Offer From A Gentleman
Book 4: Romancing Mr. Bridgerton 
Book 5: To Sir Phillip, With Love 
Book 6: When He Was Wicked 
Book 7: It’s In His Kiss
Book 8: On The Way to the Wedding

 

4. Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman

I first read this back in college because of my Comm 2 professor and ever since, I've made it a point to try to read the entire series at least once every two years. I fell off a bit around 2008-2012 because of reasons that I don't want to go into, but since 2013, I've gone back to doing it at least once a year. And every time I re-read the stories of Dream and his Endless siblings and the different characters he encounters, I always see and learn something new. My favorites in the series are A Game of You (Thessaly!), Brief Lives (Delirium and Destruction!), and of course, The Kindly Ones.

Chibi versions of The Endless. Aren't they cute???

 

Now those who stayed from my original list

 

5.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Silmarillion by J.R.R Tolkien

Still my favorite books of all-time and so I will keep re-reading them whenever I feel like it. I read The Silmarillion once a year as well and will still dream of a really great mini-series or movie adaptation of it someday. 

I'm still missing my old cover Return of the King :(

 

 

6. Mythology  by Edith Hamilton

Because stories about Greek gods and goddesses and the mortals that they loved and hated and killed and impregnated and blessed will never get old.

 

7. Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Still one of the women I admire most. 

 

8. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

One of those rare book and movie adaptation that I equally love. And still one of the most quotable pop culture things ever. 

 

 

9. Coraline by Neil Gaiman

It's not a hardship to re-read this since it's pretty short, but it's one of those books that I can read that have rodents in it (I mean in the story, not in the actual book. Shudder)

 

10. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Next to The Handmaid's Tale, it's my favorite dystopian story. This book is devastating, and yet I cannot fully step away from the world of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy. And the big reveal still has the power to kick me in the gut and make me gasp, even though I obviously know about it by that time. 

 

So how about you? What are the books that you keep re-reading over and over? 

How do I love Tolkien? Let me count the ways

Today is the birthday of my favorite author JRR Tolkien. Non-readers and non-fantasy book readers are more familiar of course with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (3 movies out of 1 short book still confounds and amazes me). And while I love those movies to death of course (the LOTR trilogy is my all-time favorite movie. Yes, I consider them just one) I have a different kind of love affair with his books, his works that were put together by his son Christopher after his death, and just the world he created in general. So why do I love him and his work so much?

 

 

 

 

I got my non-Bible life verse from Fellowship of the Ring

From the moment I read this passage from the first Tolkien book I read, I fell in love with it, and since then “not all who wander are lost” has been my “tag line.” While of course the poem pertains to Aragorn (who of course happens to be one of my favorite characters), that doesn’t mean we can’t relate to it. Being an emotional nomad, my heart is prone to wander here and there and so the line really speaks to me.

 

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He tells the stories of Middle Earth like it was a real world

When it comes to world-building, I haven’t read anything yet that can compare to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Each race (and sub-race) has its own detailed language, culture, history, characteristics, story, etc. I’ve probably read The Silmarillion, which talks about the whole history of Middle Earth, from its creation up to the time when the events of The Lord of the Rings transpired and even beyond. If your only exposure of Tolkien is LOTR, believe me, it is just one part of a very large picture. Too bad Peter Jackson can’t touch Tolkien’s other works, it would have been awesome to see some of the stories in the Silmarillion and the Histories of Middle Earth and The Lost Tales come to life on the screen. I will not trust any other filmmaker to touch that, but alas, the Tolkien estate will not let him. So until then, these stories will have to stay in our heads, and you will not hear me complaining.

 

tolkien.jpg

 

 

He created some of my favorite fantasy characters

Varda. Lorien. Tulkas, Nienna. Arien and Tilion. Fingolfin. Galadriel. Gil-galad. Earendil. Melian. Beren and Luthien. Turin Turambar. Thorin Oakenshield. Aragorn. Eowyn. Faramir. Theoden. Pippin. Samwise. Whether their characters’ stories were short or epic, I will forever treasure having been privy to their journey, their pain, their triumph, their tragedy. I feel like I went through everything with them, and when their respective chapters came to a close, i felt like I lost a friend. And yes, I’ve named a few toys or gadgets after some of these characters.

Trivia – their joint tombstone refers to Tolkien and his wife, Edith Mary as Beren and Luthien, which is probably the best “love story” in his Middle Earth. Altogether now…”Aaawwwww”. If you don’t know the story of the ill-fated (somewhat) and star-crossed lovers, that is one incentive for you to read Silmarillion.

 

 

The women are few but memorable

Tolkien has often been accused of “hating” female characters as most of the stories, especially in The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy are testosterone-filled escapades. But the few women he was able to flesh out were memorable indeed. Melian used her power to protect those she loved. Galadriel is one of the oldest and most powerful elves still in Middle Earth. Luthien is no damsel in distress and she dared to go against the greatest evil. Eowyn uttered the classic line, “I am no man!” Arwen was….well she was pretty. Haha. Yeah, he could have written her better, but hey, Aragorn saw something in her, so maybe she wasn’t all that bad.

 

 

 

Evil is not ambiguous and good triumphs in the end

While I do love modern stories, sometimes there is just too much ambiguity when it comes to the nature of evil. The rise of the anti-hero is exciting for storytelling, but disturbing for my peace of mind. In Tolkien’s world, the villains (Morgoth/Melkor, Sauron, the orcs) were not mistreated or abused that’s why they rebelled and became evil (okay, maybe the orcs had no choice but you don’t hear of an orc who suddenly chose to become good). They just were full of hatred and malice and lust and greed. They say he wrote the LOTR trilogy as an allegory for his experiences in World War I and obviously, his view is that there is no justification for war. It is just evil. But in the end, goodness will always triumph. And in a real world that sometimes doesn’t always reflect that, his stories and his own world are a comfort and a reminder that at the end of it all, it is not the most powerful or the proudest or the strongest that will win the battle.

 

 

 

 

My music interview with myself

I always like reading those 1-pager, quick-fire music-related interviews that magazines do with celebrities. And I always like imagining what I would answer if it was me they were interviewing. But since I will probably never be a rock star or even a minor celebrity, that will never happen. But then I realized, hey, I can do this by myself. So here’s my “Soundtrack of my Life” interview ala Entertainment Weekly feature 😛 

 

THE FIRST ALBUM I BOUGHT

Debbie Gibson, Electric Youth on cassette tape

Yeah, yeah, I know both the album and the format dates me. But I can still remember the excitement I got when I went to a record store (I think it was Odyssey or SM) and paid for this album with my allowance money. I then proceeded to play the tape over and over and over and sing all the songs to my heart’s content. Oh those were the days. 

 Not my picture, but I wish mine was still alive

Not my picture, but I wish mine was still alive

 

THE SONG THAT REMINDS ME OF MY FIRST CRUSH

You’re All I Need, White Lion

Well technically, he wasn’t my first crush. But he’s the first guy that I have a song associated with. It may be embarrassing to like this song now, but back then, I actually studied how to play this on the guitar (not that well) because he liked playing it and singing it. Oh gosh, I hope he doesn’t read this. 

 

 

THE SONG I WISH I WROTE

C.S Lewis Song, Brooke Fraser

This song perfectly encapsulates how I feel about this world. And it’s about or inspired by one of my favorite writers, so there’s that.

 

MY GO-TO WORKOUT JAM

The Hamilton Original Cast Recording. Maybe except Stay Alive (reprise) and It’s Quiet Uptown 

 

THE CONCERT THAT CHANGED MY LIFE (update)

All the other three I previously mentioned are runners-up now, because I saw Coldplay last month and amazing is an understatement. I still haven't processed it enough to be able to write a proper blog post, but it was truly life-changing. 

 

 

I’ve been to a lot of concerts for the past 20 years, but I could probably say that the one that has probably affected me most is Laneway 2016 in Singapore. Aside from the fact that it was my first honest-to-goodness music festival, I think it changed the way I approached concerts and how I behave during concerts and what makes music, both the known and unknown, so enjoyable.

 Before the madness started

Before the madness started

 

The other one is Death Cab for Cutie’s first concert in Manila because it was the first one I watched alone and since then, I haven’t been afraid to be alone. I wrote about it here.

 

Lastly, Bon Iver. Because Bon Iver.

 

 

THE BEST ALBUM FOR A ROAD TRIP

The Hamilton Original Cast Recording. But only if the people I’m with know and love it too.

 

 

 

THE ALBUM THAT CHILLS ME OUT

There are so many! But currently, it’s A Seat At the Table by Solange

 

 

 

THE MUSIC I WANT PLAYED AT MY FUNERAL

The whole All That You Can’t Leave Behind by U2. Album title is self-explanatory. 

Trailers unveiled during this year's San Diego Comic Con

In case you missed all the trailer goodness, both for movies and TV shows at the San Diego Comic Con 2016, here is all of them so you can watch them in one place :) 

 

MOVIES

Of course I'm most excited about Doctor Strange because of my unwavering love for anything that Benedict Cumberbatch is in. The trailer gives off a very trippy, Inception-esque vibe with all the weirdness that comes with it. I'm in the middle of reading the Season One comics, and it seems to have the same spirit. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch :) (Coming this November)

 

And of course, everyone's favorite Amazonian's full trailer did not disappoint. It is not as dire and dark as the past DC movies, so expectations for Wonder Woman are pretty high. Plus, you can't get that music out of your head.  Coming: 2017

 

I am still cautiously optimistic about the Justice League movie, given our recent history with DC movies. But Jason Momoa looks gorgeous and menacing and Ezra Miller seems perfect as Barry Allen (although I still feel bad for Grunt Gustin. But I think we can love them both).  Coming: 2017

 

I'll reserve judgement until after I watch the movie. But safe to say, I'm not that excited about Suicide Squad, to be honest.  SHOWING: August 4

 

Now this one, I'm pretty excited about! Will Arnet for the win! Coming: 2017

 

Seems like a grittier take on the King Arthur legend, because of course Guy Ritchie is directing. It's weird though that Merlin is not around. And hey, Charlie Hunnam, thanks for turning down 50 Shades and doing this instead. (David Beckham is in too, but you can't see him in the trailer. Boo) Coming: 2017

 

I'm not that big of a Potterhead, but this looks cool. And of course, Eddie Redmayne makes everything interesting.  Showing: November 17

 

TV SHOWS

OF COURSE THIS IS THE ONE I'M MOST EXCITED ABOUT!!! Let's hope it gives justice and even improves on Neil Gaiman's novel. American Gods, I can't wait to meet you!!! Starts January 2017

 

Legion also looks pretty interesting and trippy and weird. It's also weird to see Dan Stevens so far from Matthew Crawley. It looks very much unlike the other superhero shows on TV right now. Let's see... Starts early 2017

 

The 3rd new series I'm interested in, only because it's my brother's favorite comic superhero. It would also be interesting to see if Finn Jones can do justice, at least according to the fanboys who are still not too keen on him. Starts March or April 2017

 

Not such a fan of Luke Cage the character, but Daredevil and Jessica Jones were pretty awesome, so maybe this can sway me.  Starts September 2017

 

Not really a trailer, but a teaser. And yes, super psyched for this as well

 

Not a new series but the second season of a very under appreciated series. You guys, you have to start watching the first season before the second one drops! Second season starts either late 2016 or early 2017

 

Not really a Trekkie, but this will probably be the first of their series that I'll be watching. 

 

SHERLOCK SEASON 4!!! That is all. Also, see my all-encompassing love for anything Cumberbatch

Albums I'm Listening to Right Now (July 2016 edition)

(click on album titles for links to Spotify)

1. Hamilton - Original Cast Recording

Well, if you follow me on social media, you know about my obsession with this hip-hop musical about one of the founding fathers of the USA. For those who know that I'm not a fan of rap and hiphop, it really is strange to hear me waxing lyrical about this musical and Lin Manuel Miranda and Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr and Philippa Soo and everyone involved here. It will take me a whole blogpost to talk about why I play the entire album every day (sometimes more than once) so let's save that for another day.

 

 

2. When the Light Shines Through - Switchfoot

This is the other album that I listen to every day. Switchfoot, in particular Jon Foreman, always finds a way to articulate in musical form, the deepest longings of my heart (and a lot of my friends can attest to this too. Their newest album does that once again. My favorite song so far is I Won't Let You Go, which is a perfect companion song to my all time favorite Switchfoot song, Let That Be Enough, and my 2nd all time favorite Switchfoot song, Enough To Let Me Go (do you see a pattern here?). 

(no video yet for the song, but here's Float which they shot in Tondo)

 

 

3. Cheers To The Fall  - Andra Day

When I first came across her album, I thought it was an unreleased Amy Winehouse record. She sounds uncannily like the late singer. But the more I listen to her, the more I can see how her voice is just as amazing in its own right. Her song Rise Up is such a beautiful "you can do it" motivational anthem. Oh, and she's on the cover of the new issue of Relevant! 

 

4. Arigato, Internet by Reese Lansangan

I first fell in love with her voice and her tongue in cheek songwriting when I heard Grammar Nazi. And the more I listen to her, the more I want to become her friend. And when NMFTV started posting videos of her live performances, all the more that I want to listen to her all day (in between Hamilton breaks of course).

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5. A Moon Shaped Pool - Radiohead

This band will always be one of those artists that I need to have playing when I want to zone out and write or just stare dreamily into space. Their latest album brings more of the same, but with a more painful, sometimes bitter, sound and look at the end of relationships and loss of humanity and all the things that make us want to question what is it that we live for. So yes, not the album to listen to if you're looking for something joyful. 

 

Other albums on constant repeat:

  • i like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it - The 1975
  • Human Eyes - Clara Benin
  • The Colour in Anything - James Blake
  • In Colour - Jamie XX
  • Of Dirt and Grace - Hillsong United
  • Hardlove - Need To Breathe

Pop Culture Things Making Me Happy Volume 1

 

One of my favorite podcasts to listen to is NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, because if you didn't know yet, I'm a pop culture junkie. Every week, they have this segment called "What's making me happy this week" where they share all their little pop culture discoveries. I've always said to myself, I should do this on my blog too, since a lot (and I mean 2 or 3) of people always ask me for recommendations. 

So, right, here's this week's edition and my very first!

 

HORROR/MYSTERY PODCASTS

I only listen to 3-5 podcasts, and all of them are non-fiction and pop culture related. But around 3 weeks ago, on a road trip to Zambales, my good friend and officemate Stef "forced" us to listen to the fiction podcasts she listens to. And that is the beginning of the end.

While Welcome to Nightvale was absurdly hilarious, what hooked me was The Black Tapes podcast. How to describe it? X-Files meets Serial is the simple explanation. The basic premise is a journalist exploring paranormal mysteries and then focusing on a man who has made it his life's work to disprove all these "ghost stories". And if you've seen me post how I've fallen in love with a fictional podcast character, Dr. Richard Strand, you have to listen to this serialized podcast to understand why.

 Alex Reagan and Richard Strand, the two main characters from The Black Tapes

Alex Reagan and Richard Strand, the two main characters from The Black Tapes

 

And then when I ran out of episodes (it's once every two weeks only), I started with Tanis, a spin-off of The Black Tapes which tackles mysterious events (some based on real characters or events) that may or may not be related to this search for a place called Tanis that may or may not exist.

Then I also got hooked on Lore, which is not fictional, but an exploration of the "frightening history behind common folklore". If you scare easily, these podcasts may not be for you. But if you like scary, spooky stuff, give them a try! 

 

INSTAFREEBIE BOOK FREEBIES

If you don't know what Instafreebie is, it's an online tool that you can use to give rewards and freebies to fans and social media followers. While I've used this tool for a while for work, I only just recently discovered the joys of actually downloading the free ebooks that they offer. It's a great way to discover, uhm, undiscovered authors. Just go to blog.instafreebie.com to see some of these titles. 

And I'm super happy and proud that our very own Justine Hail got her Shy Shelly short story featured in the Staff Picks. You can still get the free ebook here. Oh and Book Two of the Shy Shelly series is out now

 

 

THE NEW GHOSTBUSTERS TRAILER

An all female Ghostbusters may sound either awesome or hokey, depending on how you view remakes and reimagining of things you love. When they announced the casting, I was already sold: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones are some of the funniest women around. And when the final trailer came out, I couldn't help but feel giddy. Here's hoping that the actual movie is gonna be as awesome as advertised.

 

 

Other things that made me happy

  • Mad Max: Fury Road getting a lot of technical love at the Oscars
  • This week's Law and Order SVU episode was all kinds of awesome and sad
  • The season finale of Agent Carter. In fact, the entire second season. Hopefully, they get a 3rd season, although it's highly unlikley.
  • Wanderland 2016, the music in particular. Separate blog post soon.

 

Things that didn't make me so happy

  • Mad Max: Fury Road not getting Best Picture (not to take anything away from Spotlight which is a gem of a movie)
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt walking away from the Sandman movie
  • Still no word whether Galavant will get a 3rd season.
  • Harlequin books not available anymore on Scribd :( 
  • Wanderland 2016, the crowd. Well, at least, some of them.

If I could marry these songs, I would (my favorite not so mushy love songs)

Yes, I admit I had a phase where just the opening strains of such cheesy love ballads like You Were There, You’re All I Need or More Than Words were enough to make me go “aaaaawww” and “kilig”.

But as I grew older (and more musically adventurous, I’d like to believe) all these pop, R&B power ballads that make most people squeal have the power to make me nauseous and it takes a huge effort for me not to roll my eyes, especially when the people around me seem to enjoy it.

As they say, different strokes for different folks.

But of course there are songs that make weak in the knees and make me long to actually be in love (as opposed to my almost always loveless state) just so I can really relate to the songs.

Here are 10 of those songs. Oh and yes, for the sake of disclosure, one of these is a Celine Dion song there somewhere. (click on the titles to go to the YouTube videos)

1. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths

For people who’ll say “Huh? What song is this?”, this is the song that Tom and Summer bonded over in the elevator. And for some reason, I just find the  idea of wanting to die with someone in a car crash, morbidly romantic.

“And if a ten-ton truck kills the both of us, to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine”

If I do get to see Morrisey live sometime, I will probably bawl my eyes out while singing along to my heart’s content.

 

2. Comfort In Your Strangeness by Cynthia Alexander

This for me is one of the most beautifully written and composed love songs ever. And if I do get married someday, i will probably insist on having this as my wedding march. And if the future groom will not agree, I will seriously re-think our engagement. Kidding. Or not. Anyways, he will probably be strange, so he would definitely agree.

“I have seen, I have been to places far and deep in my mind, only to find comfort in your strangeneness”

 

3. I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie

Okay, does it say something about me, that 2 out of my 3 favorite love songs is about death? Okay, i will refuse to psycho-analyze myself and leave that to the psychology majors out there. But theological issues aside, this song really is the sweetest. And the fact that it’s just accompanied by an acoustic guitar makes it all the more poignant

“If there’s no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark”

And yes, when I saw them live and they sang this, the whole room just sang along and I think everyone was crying or at least teary-eyed. Can't wait to watch them again next month in Wanderland and sing this song again.

 

4. Fly Farther by Jars of Clay

Okay, make that 3 out of 4 favorite love songs are about love and death. I’m now realizing that the two are intricately entwined in my head for some reason. But this lovely song is about a couple growing old together and gives me hope that there are still some people out there who can make it until the “till death do us part” of life

My time flies but we’ll fly farther
Into the night where the eyes of loneliness can never bother
All the dreams of together
Uneclipsed by never never
My time flies
I see it in your eyes
But we’ll fly farther

5. My Favorite Book by Stars

The first time I heard this song, I just immediately fell in love with the idea of comparing someone I love to something that I really love. And of course one of my non-negotiables when it comes to falling in love with someone is that he should be a bookworm like me. So yeah, this should be perfect for us.

How I know your face, all the ways you move, you come in, I can read you
You’re my favourite book
All the things you say, the way you shift your eyes
I never knew there was someone, to make me come alive

 

 6. Stay (Faraway, So Close) by U2

With or Without You will probably be on most people’s lists, but this U2 song is for me the most evocative of the romantic side of Bono and company. Although if you really listen to it, it’s more of a heartbreak song than a romantic one. But still swoony

And if you look, you look through me
And if you talk it’s not to me
And when I touch you, you don’t feel a thing

If I could stay.. then the night would give you up
Stay, and the day would keep it’s trust
Stay, and the night would be enough

 

7. Inevitable by Anberlin

Probably the cheesiest on this list, next to the inevitable Celine Dion song of course. But who wouldn’t swoon with lyrics like “i want to be the last first kiss that you’ll ever have” right? And it’s been proven that if you use this song on a wedding AVP, sighs will be heard all around

I wanna break every clock
The hands of time could never move again
We could stay in this moment (stay in this moment)
For the rest of our lives

 

8. As Time Goes By (the Billie Holiday version)

I first heard this song when I was a very little girl, and somehow, it’s stuck with me ever since. And it helps that it’s the theme song from one of my favorite love stories ever, Casablanca. I sincerely believe they don’t make love songs like this anymore

Moonlight and love songs – never out of date
Hearts full of passion – jealousy and hate
Woman needs man – and man must have his mate
That no one can deny

9. Two Of UsI Wanna Hold Your HandI’m Happy Just to Dance With YouI Want You by The Beatles

Yeah, I know I cheated. But I equally love these four romantic Fab Four songs and so it’s hard to choose. So let’s just dub then my four favorite Beatles love songs, yes?

 

10. If You Asked Me To by Celine Dion

Yep, here it is, I admit it. This song is the current state of my heart. Enough said, Just listen to it. That is all.

 

How about you? What are your favorite love songs?

 

Some of the songs here aren't on Spotify, but I'm building a playlist and hopefully add more songs here. Any suggestions?

 

5 Ways Reading Changed My Life

Reading has truly changed my life, from the first time I started reading words together, up to now when I finally became part of an industry where reading is one of, if not the most important thing.

 

I always knew that I would end up working in an industry connected to books. I planned to take up Comparative Lit in college, but somehow ended up in Film. While I did somehow regret that choice, I still learned a lot, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t fall in love with film and temporarily forgot about my first love. But now, I am here, working in a publishing company and I couldn’t be happier, bringing books to people, being a reading advocate, and just surrounding myself with books, both for work, and also for leisure.

 

So how did reading change my life? Let’s limit it to five for now, or else this will turn into a novel.

 

1. Reading helped me speak English better.

Whenever someone asks me how I became good in English, whether it’s a student, a casual acquaintance or even a Westerner who is amazed at Asians who are fluent in English (yes, there are a lot of them out there), it boils down to two things: I had good English teachers and I read a lot (watching movies and TV also helped too, but that came later on). From the moment I could put letters, then words, then sentences together, I fell in love with reading and with books. The first non-school book that I read was The Bourne Identity (I was bored and I had a dictionary the entire time).

Yes, you can study grammar rules and vocabulary words, but nothing beats actually reading the English language, written down, “spoken” by the book’s characters, thought about by the author. I know that reading is an effort for some people, but if you really want to excel in English, then you have to make an effort, unless it really comes naturally to you.

 

 The first non-school, non-baby book I finished

The first non-school, non-baby book I finished

 

 

 

2. Reading made me go places

Of course not literally. But way before I actually got a passport and was able to travel by plane, I already went to Greece, Italy, England, the US, Luxembourg, Spain, Australia, the jungles of the Amazon, the beaches in the Meditteranean, etc. It started with the “See the World” edition of the Childcraft Encyclopedia, where I listed down all the places I wanted to go to after I read the entire volume. (for some reason Luxembourg was number one) Then I moved to reading Harlequin and Mills and Boons later on (after the Sweet Dreams and Sweet Valley phase) where the wanderlust bloomed. And even though I have been able to actually travel but not yet to those places, I feel like my world has expanded immeasurably because of reading.

 

 

 

 

3. Reading deepened my faith

When I became a Christian back in college, one of the things that helped me in my journey of faith, aside from the Bible of course, was reading through the works of Philip Yancey, Elisabeth Elliot, Max Lucado, and Harold Sala. Little did I know that I would eventually work for the company that published and republished their books, and that I would get the chance to have a small part in getting their works out to other people who were going through their own spiritual journeys. Some use #blessed ironically, but really, I do feel blessed that I actually believe in the books that we make and promote and introducing local authors to the public.

 

 Harold and Darlene Sala at the Manila International Book Fair last September

Harold and Darlene Sala at the Manila International Book Fair last September

 

 

4. Reading opened my mind to a lot of ideas.

Even before Internet made the world both a smaller and bigger place, my sponge of a mind was able to understand complex, complicated ideas that were so far removed from my actual reality. It helped me understand that what’s around me is just a tiny, tiny fraction of what the world is actually like. And while I may not necessarily accept all these ideas, I believed it has helped strengthen my convictions and at the same time, it has helped me understand people that are different from me.

 

 

 

 

5. Reading helped me deal with depression.

It may sound cliche, but really, sometimes reading saved me from falling even deeper into depression. During those times when I didn’t feel like talking to or even seeing anybody, when I felt too ugly to go out of the house, when I felt like no one understands my seesawing emotions so I’d rather not meet anyone, when I just feel sad and misunderstood, instead of just wallowing in self-pity and drown in dark thoughts, I’d pick up a book, either a bubblegum love story to help me forget that I don’t have a love life, or a depressing book about a person who has it worse than me (not always a good idea), or an inspiring book to help me get out of the doldrums, or a book to help me understand my aforementioned seesawing emotions, or just a book to keep me entertained. Books have been my companion in both the darkest of times and the happiest of times.

 

 

 

 

Other ways that reading has helped changed my life

  • Helped me get out of my shell sometimes (well, at least online)
  • Met new friends, both online and offline (Hi Honey, Blooey, Tina, Judith, Mina, Anne, etc) and even reconnect with old friends (Hi Chrissie)
  • Of course, it got me to my current job and my “calling”
  • Taught me to multi-task (meaning reading several books alternately)
  • Taught me to be a better writer (or so I think)
  • Built up my ideal man and then subsequently destroyed the idea of an ideal man
  • Helped me embrace things about myself that I wouldn’t have discovered if I didn’t see it in characters that I read about

My Pop Culture To-Do List for 2016

I won't call this my New Year's resolution but more like my to-do list, pop culture-wise

 

1. Read at least 5 serious, literary books this year

in between all the YA, romance, and bubble gum books that I like to consume. Not that there are no "serious" books in those genres. But you know what I mean. I'm targeting 70 books this year and so there should be room for books that will make me think deeper and would make my actual and digital bookshelves look a little more well-balanced.

 

 

2. Write down at least 3 things that I learned/liked/disliked with every piece of pop culture I consume.

I used to tell my students before that they should not just say they liked or disliked something. They should articulate why. And in learning to do that, we can be more discerning, we learn something new every day, and we remember why we actually need books, movies, tv shows, music, etc.

 

 

3. Revive my pop culture schedule so everything gets equal billing

TV shows have actually turned into my go-to thing, but I cannot neglect the others. So what I did before was create a daily schedule where I dedicate part of my after-office hours to a certain kind of pop culture. Mondays are for reading, Tuesdays are for movies, Wednesdays are for scrapbooking, etc etc. As for weekends, it's a free for all or whatever suites my mood that day.

 

 4. Learn to create playlists again instead of relying on Spotify

When Spotify came along, I suddenly lost the desire to create my own playlists. Actually, scratch that. I just became lazy and let music streaming services just do all the work. I want to rediscover the joy that comes with actually choosing which songs I want to listen to. And of course, in sharing them with other people. Maybe through Spotify. You can tell that I just love that service right?

 

5. Learn to curate stuff better

I like to think of myself as a pop culture curator. Meaning i share a lot of links. And I mean a lot. Some like it, probably a lot get annoyed. So maybe I should start an FB page or something. Or just use Flipboard. And encourage people to use Flipboard. Because it's awesome.

 

6. Do that weekly Pop Culture Recommendations post

I realized I did just two last year. Come on Ida, I know you can do better. And some people have told me they look forward to that kind of post. Gulp. I hope I won't fail this time. 

 

7. Listen to more podcasts

While I have my weekly regulars (Pop Culture Happy Hour, Relevant, All Songs Considered), I really should make room for more. I have a list of recommended podcasts, but I've never gotten around to actually start something new. So let's target at least two new ones for this year. 

Update: A few days after I wrote this, Stef introduced me to the wonderful world of fiction podcasts. I am now hooked on The Black Tapes. But that's another blog post.

 

8. Blog more

This  is a good first step yes?