Coffee & Flowers: Thoughts on Imagination & Written Word

I’ve just gotten into watching Dr. Who (beginning with the reboot–I don’t have the patience, or the disk space to begin with the older episodes) recently and the incredible imagination with which that series was crafted has had me buzzing. Every world, every plot line, everything is amazing not because it is outlandish but because at its core, it is true or real. It is just a permutation of the human condition, an image in a distorted mirror.

Here are some things that have been on my mind, lately.

  1. Thinking in Your Own “Language

    I remember my friend Ron talking about this a few years ago–about how once you read a word off the page (say, “cat”), an exchange happens and the “cat” in question no longer becomes the author’s version of a “cat” (gray and white tabby) but the reader’s version of a “cat” (black-eared Siamese).

    To a certain extent, the power of devastation on the page are more palpable because of the absence of an absolute, fixed image. The house being left is your own, the person who is being lost is your own, the heart being smashed into pieces is your own.

    I think that this is the biggest difference between spoken and written word: spoken word is like a pop song, you relate to it but it will never be yours. That ache and that pain is someone else’s: it is being recited in their voice, their body. To a certain extent, because it causes greater separation, maybe spoken word requires a bigger feat of empathy than written word.

    But written word blurs the line between selves much more effectively and therefore achieves empathy better, closer. Enter a book for long enough and you will find yourself thinking in the language of the book. Furthermore, the book also enters you: there are images that you will never forget, lines that will shape your life and really become a part of yourself because that nightmare has become your own, that hope has become your own.

    My favorite majors class in college was the Psychology of Learning and in it, we learned that memory is coded in language: this is why children can’t remember anything before they begin to speak (or at least think in words). I think that this is another very pragmatic function of literature or the written word: it helps you remember things–it also helps with how well you’re able to form connections, associations: how well you’re able to relate two things to one another.

    I remember this really irritating article talking about how the Marcos regime was “the best”–that person has most definitely not read a lot, or at least, not nearly enough because he is suffering from either ignorance or amnesia (or both). If that person had bothered to read stories about disappearance, about the lack of freedom, about how intelligence does not absolve anyone of their moral obligation to be a decent human being then maybe his reaction would have more depth and dimension than a Thought Catalog article.

  1. Creating in the Absence of Image

    Like a phone pal or a long-distance lover, it is important to create in the absence of image because it allows you to survive on your own: to be prepared for the direst of circumstances, to learn how to invent a body when one doesn’t exist. I think this is one of the most beautiful things about the human condition: that our minds can compensate for absence.

  1. The Greatest Vulnerability

    Recently, I read this very interesting article on the Time Magazine website about forming connections. The article talked about how the biggest variable was not information but vulnerability. The more emotive the links in topics first discussed (the loss of a loved one, the loss of virginity, a life-changing incident), the more likely that two people will form an “instant” connection. The article also tackled meaningfulness over meaning and said that these instant connections can end up meaning more to people than lifetime relationships because of the depth of things discussed. Our ability to form connections is directly linked to our grasp of language.

    Again, this brought me back to Dr. Who and it hit me: isn’t that the greatest vulnerability—to share fantasies? Isn’t Rose Tyler (and perhaps all of the Doctor’s companions) the embodiment of what the Doctor wants: that is, mortality, to be able to “spend the rest of your life” with someone? To not see everyone come and go (“this is the curse of the time lords”)? And isn’t the Doctor Rose Tyler’s fantasy incarnate? Adventure, to see more, to do more?

    The many, many fictions that our lives revolve around? Until we achieve our dreams, they are fiction. Until a spaceship was built, space travel was science fiction. And I thought about the many “random” friendships that I’ve started up over the years. The ones which have lasted (including, I realize, my relationship with my boyfriend) have been those where the primary subjects were how we would like to be—or how we desperately wished things were. These expressions of desire are the greatest vulnerability because we all know how much it hurts when they are not fulfilled.

Upping the Ante

Originally posted on The Typewriter Dailies:

cover photo-teaser

Logo and Logo Teaser by Trizha Ko

We’re now currently in the process of upping the ante, in an effort to give you more (the temptation to be punny did strike, yes but I resisted). We’re in the process of printing and putting together the chapbook for Chasing Tales Volume 1: Fantasy Night as well as doing a reboot of our titles, namely: Just A Bunch of Short Stories, Paperweight and Shift. We’re going to be re-layouting, re-arting (haha) and re-printing these titles as actual books and not the DIY-type booklets that we’re still fond of but have (we feel) outgrown.

We’re also going to be revamping our site with a new logo by the extremely talented Trizha Ko. You can see a teaser above. We hope that this revamp makes great books and art more accessible to you guys. Thank you for sticking around–look forward…

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Coffee & Flowers: Two Ships Passing In the Night

 There is something about Amy Winehouse’s voice that is infinite. If you close your eyes when you listen to her sing, time and place slip away. I feel like I could be in any time: in the 1940s bidding a lover goodbye as he rides off to war, in the 1920s putting on rouge before a night of dancing, in the 1970s walking into a peace rally, in 1993 slipping into a plaid shirt, in 2005 chatting on YM with my knees huddled to my chest waiting on a beautiful boy to reply, the other day washing the dishes without any slippers on.

Coffee & Flowers: The Things That Save Us

Lately, I have been in alternating states of peace and anxiety—for now, mostly the former. I’ve been admittedly lagging with these Coffee & Flowers entries: I began this saying that I would post one entry a day in the hopes of looking on the bright side (it’s a quote from a song that goes “Live on coffee and flowers, try not to wonder what the weather will be.”) but I also don’t want to force it. There are days when there isn’t anything spectacular that happens and that’s fine.
But I’ve had a good few days and so I thought I would share a few tidbits about them.

Here are some of the things that have saved me from the gnawing of the mundane.

1. Good Books

I won’t dwell on this too much because I already talk about it a lot as is but good books are more than just distractions or escapes—they always leave us with more than we walked into the tale with. They change the way that we look at life: I’m not sure but I think it was David Foster Wallace who said that good books comfort the disturbed and disturb the contented. I’ve been reading a lot of Margaret Atwood lately (have been for the past few months, actually).

2. Movies/Music

I think that this scene from Only Lovers Left Alive which I daresay is one of the nicest love stories there is in film. It’s funny, touching and oddly optimistic. This is by far my favorite scene wherein Adam and Eve start dancing. I especially love Eve’s semi-monologue at the beginning.

How can you have lived for so long and still not get it?
This self-obsession is a waste of living that could be spent on surviving things, appreciating nature, nurturing kindness and friendship–and dancing.

3. Conversations

I remember my freshman Algebra teacher, Ms. Hernandez telling us that everything in life goes: what you wear, the way you look, what you can afford to do but the one thing that you should invest in is being a good conversationalist because barring physical and mental illnesses, that is something that remains.

I’ve had a lot of great conversations lately (the contents of which I cannot be very specific about) and hearing other people talk—especially in a work/living environment such as mine where I am required to be in my head most of the time—is very refreshing. I remember a line from the movie memento where (I’m paraphrasing) the main character says something like I need to believe in a world that doesn’t disappear when I close my eyes.

4. Friendships (Old and New)

Laughter is very important to me (isn’t it to everyone? I’m not sure) and most of the time of day when I feel the best is when I’m laughing. This morning, for instance my friend/seatmate Rianne and I were laughing over the fact that InstaSize, the collage-making app wouldn’t let us upload the photos that we’d accumulated over the past week. Laughing at the inability of something to process memory, for lack of memory due to those memories; oh, hilarity.

5. Craft

I was very productive last night. I added one new piece of work to one of the pet projects I’ve been working on for the past year. If there’s one thing that I love about my life thus far it’s that I have had the luck of being to dedicate almost my entire day to writing whether it be fiction or otherwise.

Here’s to hoping that things turn out okay and that the rest of the week follows suit. How are you guys doing?

Time Is Never Time At All

Sometimes, I’ll be waiting for the coffee to drip. Sometimes, I’ll be thinking something. Sometimes I’ll forget. Sometimes, I’ll grab a pen and jot it down. Sometimes, I’ll allow myself to digress. Sometimes I’ll explain until I am exhausted. Sometimes I’ll enjoy this lack of energy, the grinding of teeth, the dreamless sleep. Sometimes I’ll be stringent and succeed. Sometimes I’ll make dinner. Sometimes it’ll be 4:00 pm. Sometimes I’ll look forward to something. Sometimes I’ll be waiting. Sometimes I’ll be thinking. Sometimes I’ll forget. Sometimes I’ll grab. Sometimes I’ll explain. Sometimes I’ll enjoy. Sometimes I’ll be. Sometimes I’ll make. Sometimes it is 4:00 am. Sometimes I look.

Memory is A Telephone & Other Thoughts

Sometimes, when I’m at the office I take to writing down different thoughts and questions. I like (love is an overstatement,maybe) writing drafts and occasionally, uploading them. But there are drafts that I forget about or which seem irrelevant to me later on in the day.

Here are some of my favorite ones from the past few months.

Memory Is A Telephone
(written the day after I met up with my childhood friend, Tim)

When I think of memory, I think of those DIY telephones that we used to make as kids, with a thread running through two paper cups. It’s a conversation, something that exists because it is being held between two objects: something that is not entirely solid, not entirely taught.

I grew up in a very small school—a school so exclusive that until now, the experience and memory of growing up with the same twenty people year in, year out is a memory place that only a few people can inhabit: even in retrospect, it remains exclusive to those people who sat in that classroom. Or even less, I’ve learned. The thing about telephones is that you can hang up. You can put the receiver into the cradle and walk away from the conversation. I’ve found that a lot of the people I know have put that time to rest.

With the exception of my friend Peluchi (who is oddly enough the farthest away from me geographically), I find that most of those people have left their end of the makeshift landline in the soccer field, gathering dust with our old rubber shoes. Between the blue short shorts and the learning to smoke and kiss and figuring out the true purpose of cars, I feel like a lot of people have forgotten that tiny school: shoebox.

I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to find people who remember. Instead, I’ve found strangers: this guy who used to write me love letters talked to me once about finding God and I could tell that I wasn’t there, for him. I was not someone who’d known him when he was awkward and falling down a hill but just someone—a random stranger—to evangelize. There was no shared street or string. Another time, I was sitting in a car with one of my bestfriends–someone who turns out, I didn’t know very well; she was just trying to get high: that was a conversation about forgetting.

It does not help that I only see Peluch every few years or so but it is nice that we keep in touch. It’s one of the things I treasure the most.

So for a long time, I’ve felt like these memories had been severed by garden shears at the string—reduced to monologue. Last night, I hung out with my friend TIm, who I hadn’t seen for 13 years and it was both comforting and disturbing to hear someone else repeating memories to me. We talked about balloon fights and landline conversations, pissing in cracks in the ground and calling them creeks. I’d almost forgotten that those things had happened.

(Written back in March, when I had to write a class on Biology and History)

I am in the business of putting fonts on—Perpetua for serious, Calibri for show. Let me gift wrap the gist: you don’t know what I know. I type myself into another sentence this is this and that is that like a seagull to the little Mermaid (guessing at the ends of a telescope). Times New Roman for the money, Century Gothic for the road. Let me fasten the bow onto the point: I know, I know, I know. I scribble myself into a string of syllables Van-Lee-uwen-ho-ek (just checking). Book Antiqua when I’m lazy, Wingdings when you lean over. This is the: how could you know?

Untitled Draft
(Written back in May, on some random afternoon after I massacred a pack of Oreos)

It’s four in the afternoon. And it’s Friday. And to my left there are Oreos sitting in an emptied-out Selecta doubledutch plastic tin (plastic?), behind that there are two pink jugs that I forget to take home (or maybe intentionally leave here because I just can’t be bothered)—one of them is empty, the other one is filled with rotting bits of coffee from those days before my sister bought me a coffee tumbler and my coffee would keep getting cold in the morning so I’d just throw some of it out because I couldn’t stand how it tasted. To my left is my officemate, who is wearing white: I can see him from the corner of my eye, lateral to the frames of my glasses. To my right, which is somehow more distant to me than my left is my lunchbox and my copy of J.Strange & Mr. N. And the mouse. And under that, as a makeshift mouse pad is my approved leave form—I’m on leave Monday because I suppose it’s about time I got my license. That’s three long days from now—from here anyway, perched on top of the curve it seems long but I know (I think) that once I get out of here and slide down that spiral, it’s going to be Monday and then Tuesday and then I’ll be here again, at 4:13 in the afternoon on a Friday, itching to go and cuddle with my laptop. Time is weird. It’s the hair on a clown. It’s steel wool. It’s the wiring in braces.

Why Manila Needs Stories

A recent media interview (nuks) that Nico and I did for MoarBooks has kept this question on my mind—the interview that we did (which hopefully, I can share here later on) was about Chasing Tales and I think that this is one of the most pertinent questions that we are most frequently asked: stories are cute but you know, what are they for?

This talk that the spoken word poet Phil Kaye gave discusses this, but as much as I agree with what he said and as much as I love Phil’s work, watching it felt to me like watching an other answer that question. And that’s fine: we share the internet but we live in essentially different worlds. San Francisco is not Manila. New York is not Manila. But we already know that.

So here is my response to this question.

Image taken from Google

Manila needs stories because these are the only real solution to our problems. We don’t just need to learn what to talk/write about as much as how to talk/write about them. If we look at all of the things plaguing our capital, they have something, fundamentally, to do with language and flawed story-telling. Why do the masses vote for matinee idol politicians? Because they were told that this is what a hero looks like: self-deprecating and handsome, crossing himself thrice before leaving a church. Why do our Jeepney drivers block intersections? Because they were told that if you wait your turn, someone else will take it. But if we didn’t think that way, if everyone waited for the light to turn green—would this be true? This is fact born out of miswritten fiction. Why is there a bad connotation to being called “ambisyosa”? Why is it a bad thing to aspire to intellect, to have ambition? Why are people afraid of science? Why do our people see experimentation as the opposite of god? Why do we discriminate against our own skin color? Why is it that being brown or dark cannot mean that you are also beautiful, attractive, intelligent? Why must you be these virtues despite your skin color? The answer: because of flawed and careless story-telling.

Manila needs stories that push the envelope. Manila needs stories that aren’t afraid to talk about things in a manner that is intellectual and well-discerned—we shouldn’t be afraid to make up worlds; it is the only way we can better the one that we have.