Friday, October 29, 2010

Fear is in the Mind


With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be apt to creat a blog entry on my top three most frightening books of all time.

I've always been partial to horror, and though I have a taste for slasher flicks, its always been reading scary stuff before bedtime that has really made me lose sleep and leave the bathroom door slightly open just so a sliver of light cuts through the gloom. (Who knows what lurks in those dark corners).

Horror need not be all blood and gore. Sometimes, the human psyche is a terrifying thing to behold.

Reading horror scares me more than watching it. A film leaves nothing to the imagination because it depends on those who created it. Unless of course the finale is one of those vague, open-ended ones that inspire moviegoers to rack their brains for possible scenarios. With reading, your imagination pretty much calls the shots. And if you've got an an overactive one, the possibilities are infinitely more terrifying.

In no particular order, here are some titles that have instilled fear in me (and still do):

1. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Though not strictly classifiable as horror, this strange story really "freaked" (for lack of a better term) me out.

The Blackwood family is shunned by the rest of the villagers, who steer clear from the Blackwood ancestral family home due to a series of disturbing events that happened years ago. Four of seven family members were murdered; dead from arsenic sprinkled on their food. Constance Blackwood, beautiful and "innocent," was charged with the murders, but was eventually acquitted due to lack of evidence. Now, the only Blackwoods left are Constance, her younger sister Katherine, affectionately referred to as "Merricat,"  and their eccentric uncle, Julian.

Despite being treated like pariahs by the rest of the village, the three live a relatively happy existence. That is until a distant cousin, Charles comes into the picture in order to get his hands on the Blackwood fortune. He charms Constance, much to the dismay of Merricat who is jealous of the attention her beloved sister bestows on her "undeserving" cousin. An act of rebellion by Merricat, causes a fire to engulf a portion of the Blackwood home. The villagers come to their aid, but what is initially an attempt to help, turns into an ugly mob hellbent on expressing their revulsion for the Blackwoods. The house is looted, left in ruins. Uncle Julian dies soon after, leaving the two sisters alone together to fend for themselves, and Charles gone (since there is pretty much nothing left for him to inherit).

What really disturbed me about this book is how far humanity can deteriorate; how people can act so horrifically towards their fellowman regardless of whether they are indeed guilty. And perhaps what disturbed me most of all about this book is its portrayal of how a love so pure can also be so very twisted.

2. Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

Stephen King, Master of the Macabre, didn't earn this title for nothing. With books like It, Pet Sematary, Salem's Lot, and the list goes on, et. al., this man is singularly responsible for scaring the daylights out of generations of readers.

For me, the most terrifying book he ever churned out is Dolores Claiborne. No Pennywise, no Barlow, no freakish creature ready to pounce and eat your entrails. Dolores  Claiborne is a very real character, one that a few readers may be able to relate to.

Dolores Claiborne is accused of the murder of her employer. She claims her innocence but confesses to murdering her husband, a man at whose hands she suffered abuse for years.

It is a fairly simple plot, but what really frightened me was the way she did him in. I will refrain from describing it here as it will spoil the book for those who haven't read it yet, but if you take a look at the first edition book cover, it will give you a bit of an idea.

She planned (and what a plan) everything down to the last detail, in such a way that only a cold-blooded professional could. This threw me off because King makes Dolores out to be the most ordinary of women woman albeit one who was pushed to her extreme limit. However, readers (maybe some, but not all) will somehow feel a sense of pity for Dolores. Sympathy not empathy, perhaps.

This book is brilliant; a departure from King's usual supernatural thrillers that are rife with blood, gore, and fangs (Go away, Pennywise.). This book is what convinced me that Stephen King is indeed a master of his genre. This and his other book Misery. Who could ever forget Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes?

3. Tomie a.k.a. Museum of Terror by Junji Ito
If there was anything that turned me on to horror-themed manga, it is Junji Ito, the genius behind Uzumaki and Gyo.

The Tomie series was compiled by Dark Horse Comics and renamed Museum of Terror.

Tomie is a beautiful girl with milky white skin, raven black hair, and a teardrop mole (under her left eye). Tomie is also not human. What she is nobody knows, but one thing is for certain: Tomie is monstrous. Her beauty drives men (even old women) completely mad, inspiring them to commit unspeakable deeds sparked by jealousy and possessiveness.

Tomie is evil incarnate. She basks in the attention and uses all her feminine wiles to turn brother against brother, child against mother, and the list goes on. Tomie is always murdered in the end, but she can never die. She regenerates in the most frightening ways. Tomie is the personification of how vanity, lust, and greed can destroy the human spirit.

Tomie was actually adapted into eight films in Japan, and is pretty much a cult figure in otaku circles. Fascinating, grisly, and a work of unprecedented genius.

*This title is currently sold out in all Fully Booked branches.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Books Aside: Sometimes it's the Small Stuff that Counts (Part 2)

As promised, here is Part 2 of my blog entry on functional and fun non-book items from Fully Booked. There's a whole bunch of new arrivals. Some of these, specifically the items from a brand called Hogwild, are exclusive to Fully Booked's main branch in High Street Fort Bonifacio (my favorite haunt). There is a limited number of items, so it would be a good idea to snap them up while you can.
1. Crocodile Can Opener
*Exclusive to the High Street Fort Bonifacio branch
Ummmm... I don't know about you, but opening a can of sardines would be so much easier with the Corocodile Can Opener. Click on this for more info. Its fun, and it works! As the product label states, it's "For Ages 14 and Up." I guess its because there are a lot of sharp parts that SHOULD always call for parental supervision. If I was stuck on a deserted island and I had to grab the nearest animal at hand to open a can, I suppose it would be crocodile. (Wrestling it into submission would be the difficult part.)

2. Twirling Spaghetti Fork
*Exclusive to the High Street Fort Bonifacio branch; For ages 8 and up
I've always had a hard time with spaghetti. Unless its cut up into bite-sized mouthfuls, which is considered by many a dining faux pas for adults, spaghetti is an unwieldy (though scrumptious) dish. The Twirling Spaghetti Fork is a fun way for kids (and adults) to hunker down and really dig into this popular dish. This is the kind of gadget you've always dreamed someone would invent. As they say in Italy: "Mangia Tutto!"

 For more info on the Twirling Spaghetti Fork click here.

3. Spyro Gyro Activity Book
*Exclusive to the High Street Fort Bonifacio branch; For ages 8 and up

Reminiscent of the classic drawing toy, the Spirograph, the Spyro Gyro is a motorized and updated pen version, which employs a 1 AA battery. Check out this video of a 1973 Spirograph ad
The activity book comes with the Spyro Gyro stylus (the cool thing is you can actually see how it works due to the transparent "viewing area"), three patterns (squares, circles, and triangles) that you attach to the stylus, nine interchangeable ink colors, and 1 AA battery, plus a book that acts as a how-to guide and provides about 19 activities to keep you occupied for hours on end.

4. Titan Rocket Pen
*Exclusive to the High Street Fort Bonifacio branch; Not for children under 3 years
For every would-be astronaut comes the perfect pen to write home from imagined-outerspace with. The Titan rocket pen comes with its own base, and actually launches and flies--just press the red ignition button.

5. Pig Popper
*Exclusive to the High Street Fort Bonifacio branch; For ages 4 and up
This item is as fun as it sounds, and yes, there is a pig involved. The Pig Popper is the kind of item that you would never buy for yourself, but secretly wish someone would give you. Just looking at it will already make you you laugh; actually using it is laughter on an entirely different level. As the instructions say, just don't shoot animals or anyone on the head. That doesn't count as funny.
The Pig Popper basically launches soft foam balls that look a lot like mini tennis balls. The shooter is a friendly-looking swine wearing a blue t-shirt (covered in snout print) and white shorts. Stuff a foam ball into his snout and squeeze his stomach to shoot. The harder you squeeze, the further you shoot (up to 20 feet). The set comes with six foam balls and handy net bag to carry them in.

6. Pizza Shark Pizza Cutter
*Exclusive to the High Street Fort Bonifacio branch; For ages 14 and up
This Pizza Shark Pizza Cutter, well, cuts pizza. However trite this may seem, the shark design pretty much rescuess this ordinary gadget from being common. I can see this working at parties, especially when your pizza's homemade. This would be great for sleepovers, when everyone sits down to watch a movie in their pajamas, cramming themselves full with pizza.
It also really works. My sister made some pizza the other night for her birthday dinner, and we tried the Pizza Shark out. He bit through that pizza faster than you could say "Jaws." Its not a good idea to let kids use this unsupervised because the blade is quite sharp.

7. Talking Moo Mixer and Supreme Moo Mixer
*Exclusive to the High Street Fort Bonifacio branch; For ages 8 and up

Though this may strike some as a gadget for lazy people, I have to say its downright cute. I wish they had this when I was a kid. Imagine mixing up your own bedtime chocolate milk drink, while hearing mooing sounds. Ha-ha! This gadget works on 2 AA batteries, and uses a nylon mixing whisk so little fingers aren't in any danger. Mix, moo, and drink! The photo doesn't show it, but this comes with a "no-spill, sip-top lid"

There is another version called the Supreme Moo Mixer, which is more or less the same thing except it comes with a 16 oz. "super-size" glass and has a stronger mixing setting, which is referred to as a "whirling vortex of power!" The downside? It doesn't moo.

8. Race Car Pen
*Exclusive to the High Street Fort Bonifacio branch; For ages 5 and up
Combining the features of a Transformer, a Matchbox car, and a regular ballpen, the Race Car Pen will make your naughtiest boy cousin, brother, or son sit down and do his homework--after playing around a bit, that is. Tip: Don't let him transform and race his ballpen until he finishes studying!

A few moves and presto! Its...

...a pen, or...

...a car that you can actually drag back, let go, and race!
This comes in three colors!

This non-book item hunt is insanely cool! I'm amazed at all the stuff I've discovered. In fact, this doesn't end here, but I'll have to save that for another entry in case more blog-worthy items make their way into the winding aisles of Fully Booked in the next few weeks (I'm pretty sure that's going to happen). Watch out for "Books Aside: Sometimes it's the Small Stuff that Counts (Part 3)"... 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to Resuscitate A Fading Color

There was a time when the whole "GREEN" concept was viewed by many as a fad. I'm certain that a few still see it that way--that it is "fashionable" to be environmentally conscious. With all due respect to those that still do, living GREEN is fast becoming a "necessity." I suppose the whole fad aspect could have been gleaned from a consumerist vantage point. Take for instance the organic sections in your neighborhood supermarket: from organically-grown veggies to natural household cleaners, there was a time that living GREEN literally meant emptying your wallets of whatever GREEN it contained. Now, affordable earth-friendly products are being churned out by entrepreneurs who value spreading the GREEN message more than making a quick buck. (Meet and listen to a few at Fully Booked on October 23

A lot has changed over the years. I suppose with the species of flora and fauna that have ceased to exist and the many that are labeled "endangered," its not such a far fetched fate for us human beings. Its not a pretty thought, but its the truth. Its getting harder for us to thrive in our environment: we can hardly breathe because of the smog; that there are actually oxygen bars is an indication that something free, natural, and seemingly limitless can become a pricey commodity.

Looking at Pasig River--our grandparents and great-great grandparents swear it was crystal clear in their youth--and you would be hard-pressed to imagine dipping your hand into its waters. I know because I actually dipped mine into it during a field trip in high school. Why I did that I don't know, but I was overcome by such a strong feeling of disgust after. (Needless to say, I bathed my hand in alcohol and nearly scorched it from scrubbing it with soap and hot water.) The smell that emanated from the water didn't even resemble anything smelly I'd ever smelled before. There was a toxic quality to the scent that I couldn't believe could come from something as essentially pure as WATER. I can't even begin to describe it. The fact that people still make a living from it is unimaginable, but TRUE. A good thing is that there is actually an organization called Kapit Bisig Para Sa Ilog Pasig that is working towards the rehabilitation of this main local waterway.

Its the same way I feel about Smokey Mountain. I remember a foreign friend of mine asked me: "So what mountain range does this Smokey Mountain of yours belong to?" I wasn't laughing when I told her that Smokey Mountain isn't really a mountain, but a garbage pile as enormous as one. I'll never forget the horror on her face when I told her that.

These are just sad reminders of how the color GREEN, the color of LIFE, is fading from our city. What more the world as we know it? Its not too late though. There are so many ways we can make a difference; even the simplest of these can go a long way if done everyday.

Fully Booked is launching a campaign for the months of October and November 2010 to help raise awareness. It is called "Echo the Eco." To view the details click here. Part of this campaign includes green book recommendations, which help in the education process. Here are two I really like:

1. My First Garden from the Little Green Books series

This is the story of a little girl and her vegetable garden. She helps her mom grow different kinds of vegetables. Its a nicely illustrated book, and is a simple way of introducing kids to the whole concept of gardening and the bigger picture of saving the planet. I believe it subliminally imparts the message that vegetables are yummy (something I had a really hard time with as a kid). There are other books in this series and they are all made of 100% recycled material. They also tackle a variety of earth-friendly topics in their stories (i.e. endangered species). 

2. Green Goes with Everything: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet by Sloan Barnett

Sloan Barnett is the green editor for San Francisco's KNTV. This is a great book for parents who are serious about integrating environmental practices with home living. Barnett gives a lot of tips on how to make your own household cleaners, and there is a wealth of information on the effect of toxic household cleaning materials on the health of your household. Its a nice resource for keeping your home clean and green. Its a straightforward book that disseminates information that can really be put to use.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Books Aside: Sometimes it's the Small Stuff that Counts (Part 1)

I've always enjoyed receiving small presents. As a child, I far preferred getting an assortment of little gifts to one big one--regardless of whether it was a bicycle or a big doll. Up to this day, I'm the only one in my family whose face still lights up when its time to ransack the tree (or rather what's under it) on Christmas Eve, and nevermind if all the gifts don't belong to me; tokens from my mom's business associates. My family pretty much sits around making fun of me ripping open each present, rolling their eyes at each other, silently wondering: "When is she going to outgrow this?"

This brought me to my decision to deviate from my usual modus opernadi while at Fully Booked (which is poking my nose in as many books as possible). A little-known fact is how many cool "non-book" things there are in Fully Booked--besides the collectibles (it's pretty hard to miss those!). Think quality art materials, everything from pens to erasers to pencil cases to magnets, bags, iPod, iPhone, and laptop covers. Actually, even a trip to the children's section will yield a host of finds, all designed to keep your kids happy and busy, and I'm not talking books here.

Here are some cool finds that made my inner child jump around like it just ate a whole bowl of candy corn:

1. With Halloween coming up, I couldn't help but be drawn to these self-inking stamps (self-inking meaning you don't need a stamp pad).

Cute, huh? You know what's even cuter? Two things: one, when you stamp, the faces change (there are four different face designs). Look at the photo below. It's the same set of stamps as the one above.

Two: they wobble! Also, since they are self-inking stamps, you don't need to buy a stamp pad. This is something that I would have loved to find in my Halloween loot bag when I was younger (Confession: I still go trick or treating but I wear a mask so nobody tells me off for not acting my age. He he he!). Check out the designs!

2. I simply adore planners. I remember when Fully Booked first brought in the Moleskine! I went nuts I think. I'm not as ga-ga over them anymore as they can be found just about anywhere nowadays, but pretty much nothing can ever make me feel that way about the classic Teneus planner. I think technology is great and all, but somehow, I don't think I'll ever trade my planner in for one of those Blackberry-type things, even if they are really cool. Fully Booked got their stock of planners early this year. Here is what I chose for myself as an early New Year present!

I really like Art Noveau, especially Toulouse-Lautrec's work. Seeing this got me excited for 2011. I'm hopeful its going to be a great year for the country.

3. Remember those slap bracelets from a couple of years back? Well, this Slap On Watch pretty much did the job of reminding me how much I loved those as a kid.

The watch is made from pretty durable material, and comes in white, blue and pink (this tangerine one is my favorite though). The analog display gives it that classic feel, but the strap makes it a fun accessory.

4. Okay. I know what I'm getting my lola for her birthday this November!
In case you can't see the fine print it says: "Greatest Grandma Award: Always caring, loving and wise, your joy for life and your wisdom are a motivation to everyone around you. Thank you for all your hugs. You are the greatest Grandma in the whole wide world. You're worth your weight in gold!" My sentiments exactly. I love my lola! She can wear it:
(This isn't my lola. It's one of my buds pretending to be my lola. He he!)

Or, she can display it proudly on her dresser like so:

Not your grandma's special day? Don't you fret. This comes in different inscriptions dedicated to your best friend, mom, or dad, etc.

5. Bulgogi, Kimchi, funky fashion, and the digi-perm--just a few of the many awesome things Korea has given the world. The one thing I love most is their stationary. Fully Booked carries this Korean stationary brand called Pansydaisy. Their series called Magic Soup Diary features cute redheads (who looks a lot like Little Orphan Annie, if you ask me). I picked a hardbound diary:
 ...with blank pages and ribbon bookmark!

I also found this cute calling card holder:
 ...for all my important contacts.
And last but definitely not least, this cute lined notebook: write down all my random thoughts instead of constantly muttering to myself all the time.
They look even better as a set! He he he!
6. Another brand that was introduced to the local market some years ago by Fully Booked is Miquelrius, which has several sub-brands like: Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Jordi Labanda, but my all-time favorite is really Kukuxumusu! I love animals, and this brand renders them in such a humorous way. I just had to have this awesome backpack (even if it would look cooler on one of my little neices or nephews)
This isn't me, by the way. It is another friend modeling my purchase! (I'm sure she is going to end up borrowing this sooner or later!)
And this ends part 1 of my Books Aside entry. Watch out for part 2, which is going to cover more practical (but not any less cool) items.
Oh, and in reply to my awesome--and patient--family's unspoken question: "Never."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tales Respun: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me


I've been waiting for this particular book to arrive for some time now, and so when I spotted My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales in Fully Booked, I immediately got myself a copy. Truthfully, I haven't finished it yet--there are 40 stories after all.

If you take a close look at the book image, you'll probably see one or two (or more) of your favorite authors on the cover. Basically, this book is a compilation of fairy tales many of us grew up reading, adapted by quite a number of some of the most gifted authors (Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Neil Gaman, Michael Cunningham, etc.). The fact that its edited by Kate Bernheimer (author and editor)--pretty much one of the most respected authorities on fairy tales, with a foreword from writer Gregory Maguire (Wicked, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), who could probably author a book entitled How to Retell a Fairy Tale Successfully, and the fact that its dedicated to the queen of the contemporary fairy tale Angela Carter, pretty much had me sold despite the fact that I've always had an aversion to remakes (its hard to watch, read, or listen to what you love get botched up) of any kind, especially the kind that puts a contemporary twist on anything deemed "classic."

Of the stories that I have read in this collection, a couple really stood out:

I've always liked the story of Cupid and Psyche, a Greek fairytale on the trials of true and forbidden love, and with a vengeful mother to boot. In this compilation, Francesca Lia Block takes on the task of taking this old fairy tale and making it new in "Psyche's Dark Night." (Note: I'm not going to give away any of the plots in this blog entry because I wouldn't want to deprive anyone the joy of discovering these gems for themselves). What ensues is a really refreshing take on this classic tale, one that isn't burdened by its effort to be...well...contemporary.

Another great story is John Updike's take on "Bluebeard." (Actually, there are two stories based on "Bluebeard." The other is great too, and is by Joyce Carol Oates). It totally lives up to the fear that reading the original instilled in young brides-to-be (or anyone for that matter). A bit of a spoiler: Bluebeard here is an old man with a much-younger wife (though she is by no means young in the story). Though it was never stated in the original, I always envisioned Bluebeard to be a bit advanced in terms of age. One thing I'll say about this story: sometimes reading about a bad deed in the head can be freakier than reading about the actual thing.

I'm really looking forward to reading the other stories, especially the renditions of "Little Mermaid" and "The Snow Queen" by Timothy Schaffert and Karen Brennan, respectively, and that's what I'm going to do now.

Happy weekend, everyone!