Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

A bit of stalking and Penguindrums

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I didn’t watch any anime for about a month or so, but I watched the second episode of Mawaru Penguindrum today. Were more people willing to watch anime like these, it would simply annihilate their thoughts of it targeted for children. The second episode was well-executed and quite relevant, especially with the sporadic yet prominent cases of stalking.

I would say that stalking is a relevant phenomenon in Japan because one light novel (popular enough to be featured and published by Tokyopop) discussed it in detail. The light novel is Chain Mail, by Hiroshi Ishizaki. It’s an easy read, and the translation is fluid enough that the entire novel could be finished in two hours, perhaps even earlier for faster readers. It deals with a bunch of students who have major issues in their lives that they synthesize another world together by writing a novel with different personae in it. Trouble arises (from what I recall) when a certain troubled girl ‘stole’ another character and is confronted by another lady. Everything pans out in the end. There’s nothing really transcendent about the story, but it had a character characterize a stalker very colorfully: although Ringo is indeed a lot more benign than the stalker in the novel, I don’t think her actuations are even excusable: I think stalking in that form is downright disturbing.

This was really creepy.

I may have had perpetuated actions in my failed attempt to woo a girl that seem to approximate stalking a bit, but I have never crossed the line and certainly don’t do those things. I merely ask from friends who know that girl, and just go to the place that she’s at, but never more than that. Ringo’s mode of stalking is definitely creepy. I have read that stalking is somehow more prevalent (or maybe just more reported in Japan). Is it really?

I can’t fathom how people could allow themselves to be that attached to people without really talking to them consistently. Giving gifts and waiting for the person you like is one thing, but staying underneath his house listening to the radio programs that he likes is just horribly perturbing. I guess I’ve had a few faux pas in the past but none as grave as what Ringo has done.

Sartor Resartus: a slice-of-life generating no emotional investment is a bad anime series

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

I just finished reading Sartor Resartus (The Tailor Retailored). I can’t say it was pleasurable, but I usually finish what I start, whether with books or life choices: I’m still in medical school, after all. It was one of the earliest examples of postmodern literature, essentially being metafictional in the sense that it’s fiction about the creation of fiction: critics have classified it as a poioumenon.

Thomas Carlyle

For me, it was extremely boring. The combination of dry and archaic wit with an absence of any plot progression was just difficult to withstand, in my opinion. It is nevertheless one of the recognized English classics, and its historical presence cannot be undermined. As quoted from Wikipedia (because I’m lazy and the short entry is quite believable, at the very least):

Poioumenon (plural: poioumena; from Ancient Greek: ποιούμενον, “product”) is a term coined by Alastair Fowler to refer to a specific type of metafiction in which the story is about the process of creation. According to Fowler, “the poioumenon is calculated to offer opportunities to explore the boundaries of fiction and reality—the limits of narrative truth.”[19] In many cases, the book will be about the process of creating the book or includes a central metaphor for this process. Common examples of this Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus and Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy which is about the narrator’s frustrated attempt to tell his own story. A significant postmodern example is Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, in which the narrator, Kinbote, claims he is writing an analysis of John Shade’s long poem “Pale Fire”, but the narrative of the relationship between Shade and Kinbote is presented in what is ostensibly the footnotes to the poem. Similarly, the self-conscious narrator in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children parallels the creation of his book to the creation of chutney and the creation of independent India. Other postmodern examples of poioumena include Samuel Beckett’s trilogy (Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable); Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook; John Fowles’s Mantissa; and William Golding’s Paper Men; and Gilbert Sorrentino’s Mulligan Stew.

I have also read Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (because of Daniel‘s suggestions), and I have found both to be unappealing to my tastes. Both are too particularly English for me to love.

The novel is essentially an unnamed Editor writing about the complex Philosophy of Clothes written by Diogenes Teufelsdrockh. The Philosophy of Clothes is essentially a smorgasbord of philosophy, theology, culture, and a massive amount of tangents. I do recognize some of the wit in the tome and the attempts at humor, only that I believe it hasn’t aged well with regard to its comic side. Frankly speaking, it is about everything and nothing at the same time. If I were to compare this novel to anime, it would probably be a slice-of-life series dealing with the mundane coupled with a bit of wit. Hataraki Man comes to mind, although that series was a lot more entertaining with the issues it tackled. It’s also less forgettable compared to Sartor Resartus, because it at least has a proper plot that drives it forward. Sartor Resartus is a compilation of musings that were probably intriguing 180 years ago, but seem too trite nowadays. It would make a pretty bad anime series.

Petersburg: a city of shadows, a novel of spectres

Monday, October 18th, 2010

One of the most haunting lines written by James Joyce was a quip from Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses. Dedalus says that ‘history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.’ It seems ironic, as it is due to the seamless intertwining of history and fiction that made Ulysses an enduring novel to many a critic. I think that the best stories serve as historical tracts at the same time, and this is especially true in novels.

Petersburg in revolution

Petersburg in revolution

Petersburg, written by Andrei Bely, is both brother and father to Ulysses. It was written earlier than Ulysses, and implements that magical mixing of mythology, history, and philosophy that was found in spades in Joyce’s novel. It inculcates news reports (history), mythology, psychology, and anthroposophy in a certain city, Petersburg, just like Joyce did with Dublin in his Ulysses.

Vladimir Nabokov and Anthony Burgess, among the most prominent writers of the 20th century, had nothing but praise for this novel. The premise of the story is quite simple: a senator, Apollon Apollonovich, was marked by an unnamed Party (note that this novel was situated during 1905 in Russia) for death by means of a bomb, which was a popular method of assassination during those times. The catch was that the assassin was going to be his son, Nikolai Apollonovich.

Bely made sure this wasn’t going to be just a rendition of Fathers and Sons. There are even instances in the novel where he parodied Turgenev’s works himself, such as mentioning a certain revolutionary who died of consumption (applicable to Fathers and Sons, as well). Petersburg was something more tasteful than that, and by avoiding being moralistic, Bely was able to elevate his novel into something much more.

The fundamental opposition of the story is between father and son. It is illustrated by the difference of their ages, but more subtly by the incongruity of their philosophies: whereas Nikolai Apollonovich was progressive and a liberal, his father was a Tsarist to the core. It was the reason why he was a high-ranking official in the monarchist government, but it was also one of the reasons why his son and him did not agree with one another (and barely even talked).

Like Ulysses, however, the relationships and references did not end there: mentions of Saturn were made. In Greek he is known as Chronos, or as the father who devoured his offsprings so as they would not be able to displace his reign or dispose of him. This is in disagreement with his namesake, however, who is Apollo, the god of the sun. There remains something that still connects them as family to one another, even in all their differences: while fond of symmetry and logic, Apollon Apollonovich was soft toward his hussy of a wife; in contrast, despite his Kantian philosophies (which was one of the reasons that led him to the madness of carrying the bomb), Nikolai was a fool in love. The idiosyncrasies of their character blur their clash of ideologies and sometimes father and son are painted as similar individuals.

The sun is also a symbol of the Ego’s progression in anthroposophy, which compounds the story further. While they are seemingly just caricatures, their personalities and characteristics disallow easy generalizations, and in this regard they are just as dynamic as real people. The best thing about this novel, however, that for me made it better than Ulysses was the fact that it actually told a highly engrossing story despite its wordplay and complex narrative. Whereas Ulysses was one large sex joke hidden in magical prose and complex storytelling, there was actually an engrossing story in Petersburg. This alone made it a much better read and a much better novel, in my opinion, than Ulysses: it told me that reality and fiction can be intertwined in creative ways while still being able to tell a wonderful story.

On nihilism

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

I’ve never tried to dissemble my real personality in my writings, and I don’t think I will start soon: I’ve been engaged in a war against my urge to collect vintage video games via eBay for nearly a year now. While I can’t say that I lost the war, I also can’t say I have won: there are some times when I’m able to rein in these desires and not purchase anything for months, but there are also times when my resolve was just too easily broken (these were certainly at low points in my life).


I can easily say that I won this week’s battle, however. Instead of purchasing another impractical collectible, I instead channeled my spare time into reading novels and used some of my excess funds to purchase a pristine copy of Andrei Bely’s Petersburg. I have already somewhat triumphed on the wastrel in me, as in the previous weeks I’ve settled for one dollar items and nothing else. While I don’t know when this current self-control of mine will terminate, I do know that I’m trying to restrain this said impracticality by channeling my time into books. It has been decently successful: I think Devils is the first novel I have completed in four months.

Devils is one of the major novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky. As he is universally recognized to be among the best writers of all time, even his minor works are better than most of other authors’ major novels. Devils, like his other major novels, was a great novel. Unlike his other novels, however, this was primarily a novel of ideas. Nihilism was a budding idea among the youth at the time of the novel’s writing, and Dostoevsky wanted to offer his own opinion with regard to it: it is all the more impressive in retrospect because Dostoevsky was able to predict what would happen to his beloved Russia years from the novel’s publication. In addition, Dostoevsky differentiates the true nihilist (Stavrogin) from the politically-leaning ‘nihilist’ (Verkhovensky), alongside many other things. It’s a brilliant political tract, although it most definitely can’t be read without focus or lightly, like all of Dostoevsky’s major works. I have written about it to some extent in the past, but it was only this week where I re-read the novel and finally finished it, too.

As an idea, nihilism is extremely unsustainable (without going to its denotation), because it’s essentially a belief in nothing. It’s not anarchy, for example, which is the upheaval of the current social structures and burning that to the ground. That’s not a belief in nothing. When one truly believes in nothing, one shouldn’t care if no one else has faith in that belief: after all, he believes in nothing, not even himself.

Even at a cataclysmic event will not be enough to trigger a widespread belief in the beauty of nihilism. Nihilism is essentially a one-man show, something that even post-apocalyptic series and anime do not show within its characters. Man must believe in something for him to continue existing. Whether it is in God or in himself, he attempts to find meaning in the chaos that surrounds his world. This has been the case in a lot of anime series dealing with disaster, from Bokurano to even Neon Genesis Evangelion: even Shinji ultimately just wants to be accepted; Rei wants to be loved and so does Asuka.

Can you really believe in nothing?

Tatami Galaxy (Yojo-han Shinwa Taikei) – 06: the battle of virtue against vice

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Every single one of us, single or otherwise, has faced a crossroads on love. The forking paths may not be as iridescent as what one can see in TV dramas; they may not be as much of a struggle, but they remain to be a struggle within everyone who calls himself human. I do not brag of my conquests in love: to summarize, I may have failed more than succeeded for the most part. But I have been there despite myself and my shortcomings, and I have been in love. It may not have been a romance with a raven-haired maiden, but I can say I have had my share of loving my family and (abnormally,) vintage video games as what my previous readers have seen. With my luck (or misfortune, perhaps, however one looks at it), I have never the problem of loving more than one woman: I have not even experienced the querities of loving a woman yet, and while I will cross the bridge when I get there, I am in no rush.

He is my friend and my enemy.

He is my friend and my enemy.


[Intermission] Overthrowing the colossus of time

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

It is unfortunate that I am currently unable to accede to the requests of those people who have pledged monetarily to help me in my pursuit of a historical video game that I need in order to write an essay on. Despite this temporary setback, I feel that I have been able to utilize the free time that I have had the past week well in the evaluation of a recognized literary giant. If any of you feel that the short write-up has pleased you, kindly aid me in my pursuit of that important arcana by giving a few dollars. In exchange, I will entertain your requests in writing about any topic (not merely anime) so long as I can obtain the material for free.

Thank you.

Overthrowing the colossus of time
[History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.]

Having gone back to my hometown, I hoped to be able to enjoy anime during my short vacation. Sadly, my Internet connection disagreed with me, and I was left with a lot of free time. I thought that it was high time to finish Ulysses, purportedly the creed of the Modernist movement of literature given the circumstances that surrounded me. It was akin to the desire of cleaning out the last ounce of soap: I wanted to avoid wastage, and the time seemed ripe for my reading of the novel as there were few distractions and the burdens of schoolwork have been temporarily lifted from me. Besides, I am of the opinion that one must rely on only oneself to adjudge any purported masterpiece or work of art. It may seem asinine for some, but I personally believe it prevents me from being a hypocrite: I do not merely agree with what other people tell me, especially regarding serious works of literature such as this. After all, Ulysses was recognized by Modern Library’s editors to be the greatest novel of the twentieth century, certainly no small praise for a novel. (more…)

Evil as entertainment

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

It has almost been half a year since I have read anything literary. I realized that in this quasi-break of ours (after all, there are no classes and exams) I needed to catch up on my literature, even if by a little. I actually had a title in mind, and it was Solomon Grunsky Was Here by Mordecai Richler. It just popped out of my mind one morning while I was sauntering around, and that was also the morning where I visited a second-hand bookstore with a cheap but well-tended copy of the novel. Despite the length, I bought the book and started reading it a week ago.

Remember the yellow butterflies?

Remember the yellow butterflies?


Taste is incomprehensible

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Other than the recent stub, I haven’t really been writing much: I have had to deal with more pressing matters, such as the choice that would dictate all my future endeavors. Writing was among the least of my priorities, if you catch my drift.

I have lately been reading, however, and within the past two weeks (barring my failure with BarthesS/Z), I’ve finished reading Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy and a textbook on neuroanatomy. While more insights could be obtained from Jude the Obscure with most people (and it would also probably be more relevant to them) I rediscovered something in my choice of reading Neuroanatomy instead of other literary texts: in a statement, taste is simply incomprehensible. While I would like to have blown my horn and say that I did it in preparation for medical school (hyuk hyuk), the truth was that I purchased it and read it primarily because the cover appealed to me (it was purple). As most people say, don’t judge books by their cover. There is some truth, however, in that despite my utter lack of understanding with the content as I read the book, it has prepared me for the grueling task of reading a few hours everyday, something I would have to be very familiar with when medical school comes, and something that is currently alien to me (I haven’t exactly been an excellent student in university). For all the reading that I’ve done I could honestly say that I only understood about 10% of the book; and that may even be a gross overstatement. Despite that, at least I could also honestly say that it has somewhat contributed to me honing my patience and perseverance in reading more academic texts.

I think the same can be said with regard to my tastes in anime. I do think that Honey and Clover, Cowboy Bebop and Ocean Waves are great anime, and a lot of people would agree, but I also appreciate and like ToLoveRu, something that erudite and elevated individuals would dismiss as rubbish. I sometimes prognosticate wrongly, like what I did with Toradora (by comparing it to Honey and Clover). I can even bear finishing series like Gin-iro no Olynssis, and I think I’m among the few people who did. It’s ultimately puerile and stupid, not to mention hypocritical trying to comprehend the tastes of others; yet I admit I am sometimes that. Biases just inherently exist within us, I guess, and Roland Barthes explained (in the twenty pages I’ve attempted to understand in S/Z) why subjectivity and objectivity don’t really exist for the most part in reading, or in the appreciation of media: the I who reads (or watches, or listens) is himself a compendium of texts (or music, or video, or movies, or anime). How he perceives a text is grounded in the texts that he has encountered before. Furthermore, reading (or any appreciation of media), isn’t actually a parasitic act. We also write something as we read it. This is why no two texts are appreciated by the same way with different persons. My reading of the neuroanatomy text was merely to complete what I’ve started and simply was due to an irrational impulse; to an aspiring neuroanatomist, however, the text may be a godsend. The difference in appreciation is among what ultimately makes us human.

Toradora – 22: His and her pain

Friday, March 6th, 2009

It can be argued that the previous episode was the climax of the series. Not only did the episode show the catharses of both Minori and Ami, it also featured Taiga’s subconscious confession to Ryuuji and subsequently Ryuuji’s realization that Taiga liked him a lot and was hurting herself immensely because of her desire to pair Minori and Ryuuji up. The event caused quite a ripple in Ryuuji’s psyche: the very first scene is his dream of that specific occurrence.

He was sleeping in class, however, so when he woke up screaming Taiga’s name (because they were falling into a ravine) it was with the rest of the class. While it was especially awkward for Ryuuji, both the teacher and the rest of the class understood the trauma Ryuuji was in, so they merely nodded and continued on with the discussion. It is extremely notable that when the camera pans to the rest of the class, Minori and Ami were not featured. Even Haruta’s silhouette at the very back is noticeable, but Ami and Minori are nowhere in the picture. After this, however, Minori is focused on, and she has a mix between a sad and a concerned face. (more…)

REVIEW: The Sound and the Fury (1959)

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

The Sound and the Fury, written by William Faulkner, is universally acclaimed to be one of the best novels ever written by an American. It’s also recognized to be one of the best books of the twentieth century. Its intricate construction and its well-written streams of consciousness underlie a tragedy so total and so complete because the Compson members are unable and unwilling to love one another. From the man-child Benjy, to the selfish Jason, the family is torn from within because they remain inflexible in the face of cataclysmic change. Each of the featured characters end up tragic in their own unique way; it is arguable, however, that the least sympathetic tragedy among them was Jason’s. His tragedy, compared to Quentin’s and Benjy’s isn’t a moral tragedy: the novel itself suggests that Jason is extremely amoral and immoral, that he cannot love beyond a miserly notion for money. His tragedy was the most physical as compared to the torturous mental disintegration of Quentin and Benjy’s permanent entrapment into the mind of a retard. His was a tragedy he himself could rectify. Ultimately, his tragedy was that of an utter resistance to empathy and positive change.

This was the original film poster.

This was the original film poster.