Dec 25, 2016


Dangal ("wrestler") is one of those films that you can watch with just about anyone—making you smile, laugh, and even cry while loving every bit of the experience. I went in without even knowing what the film was about, having no expectations, and came out with a huge smile and some happy tears. And honestly... I can't help but feel that it has been a wonderful refresher from all the recycled films made by Hollywood.

Movie Poster (Bollywood Hungama)
It's a family movie that, although long, is consistently gripping. Thus far, Dangal (starring Aamir Khan) has many positive reviews, earning raving comments and lots of buzz. And personally, I feel that this response is well-earned. The movie is by far one of my favourite bollywood films. It made me enjoy a biography about wrestling—something I didn't even think I'd like, let alone admire.

And admire, I did.

The story is about a Mahavir Singh Phogat, a father and wrestling nationalist, who raises his two daughters to be international gold medal-winning champions. Throughout the film, you get to witness how these daughters grow—under strict training in a culturally-rich environment—until you feel like you're practically part of the family, too.

The film doesn't waste time on cringy Bollywood dance numbers, love stories, or objectified forms of "beauty." Instead, it focuses on the raw potential of dreams and family. On the power, strength, and capability that these women have been born with and continue to maintain. It's a long, hard journey—but definitely one worth watching all the way through.

The payoff is so worth it.

All components of the film work nicely together. The writers did a skilful job with the script, with the lines being realistic and well-timed. Nothing felt out of place since it was such a perfect balance of serious, sad, and funny. The actors executed the script just as well. Everyone, from the child actors who are now amongst my favourite young stars to the adults who managed to build upon the characters' growth, did a great job. And then there's the director, Nitesh Tiwari, who shows the audience exactly what needs to be seen—nothing more, nothing less.

Although I loved the movie, not everybody feels the same way. Some negative reviews claim that Bollywood is sexist, and that this movie is no different. Instead of focusing on girl power, it focused on one man's "ego."

But I disagree.

The story isn't about a man's "ego," but about his dream—which he says repetitively in the movie. "Girl power" isn't the main focus here, because (let's face it) the women aren't the main characters. They're father is. Geeta, one of Mahavir's daughters, becomes a wrestler not only to fulfil her father's dream, but to earn his pride. Meaning: it's not a male-female dynamic, but a father-daughter relationship. And though the father is stoic, you see some of his defences crumbling when he interacts with his daughters. Especially since his inner turmoil (as a character) is deciding between being a father and being a coach.

In sum, the soundtrack is charming, the characters feel real (and in this case, they actually are), and the setting is well-established. But don't just take my word for it, watch the trailer and decide for yourself:

Dec 24, 2016

Common "Religious" Arabic Phrases Used Culturally

Some phrases, that when translated to English may sound over the top and archaic, are so common they're practically expected to be said in other languages. Because I believe language is an insight into culture, I came up with six different scenarios and their consecutive phrases. This post will be dedicated to the Arabic language and culture—and in them, religion plays a big role without even having to be involved.

Image by: Saad Mahmood

Below is a list (of sorts) that includes all major religious phrases used all the time without any religious context for them. For anyone learning Arabic or is new to the culture, they're important phrases to understand. Plus, they'll definitely make a strong positive impression on a native speaker.

Although this is a somewhat extensive post, it doesn't cover half of all the sayings in this rich language. Nonetheless, it's still a good phrase-guide for what to expect in certain situations.

1. Greetings & Thanks

In English, people often greet each other by asking, "how are you?" And if we're being honest, they're excepting to hear "I'm good/ fine/ okay" in return. It's the same in Arabic, except instead of replying with any of the above, people almost always say "Alhamdulillah," ("الحمد لله") meaning "Thank God." The logic is that you're already doing well—and because of that, you're thanking God. So in a sense, you skip the "I'm good" part and immediately go into being grateful. I've never heard this question answered otherwise in Arabic.

When saying thank you, there's the standard "shukran" ("شكرا") that everyone uses. But there are also stronger phrases to convey just how thankful people really are. Saying "Baarak Allahu feek," ("بارك الله فيك") meaning "May the blessings of God be upon you," and "Jazak Allahu khairan," ("جزاك الله خيرا") meaning "May God reward you with fortune" are some of the ways people do so. They're reserved for "special thanks," but are commonly said as a way to show gratitude for small yet touching gestures done for the speaker.

2. Daily Life

A good example to share and explain for this section is sneezing. When sneezing, the sneezer would say "Alhamdullilah"  under the logic that their body has gotten rid of bad bacteria through sneezing and, therefore, they're thankful. Anyone in the vicinity would reply with "Yarhamuka Allah," ("يرحمك الله") meaning "May God have mercy on you." You can easily think of this as the Arabic substitute for "Bless you," except... the dialogue is not quite over. The sneezer, after hearing that, then says "Yahdeekum Allah wa yusleh balakum" ("يهديكم الله و يصلح بالكم") meaning "May Allah guide you and fix/ purify your condition." It may sound complicated, but the exchange is so natural that it's done routinely.

Another notable term that is so very common is "Inshallah," ("إن شاء الله") translating into "God Willing." It's a very flexible term used in varying contexts, mostly in a paradoxical sense. People often use it when they're looking forward to an event happening—but it's also said as a way to lightly reject an offer or a planned occasion. The phrase is so common that I've even heard non-native speakers using it in their own daily lives to imply that something won't happen. For example, a speaker can typically say "I will go, inshallah" and that can either mean they plan to go and are looking forward to it, or that they don't plan to attend at all. The secret to knowing the difference lies in the body language and context.

"Salam" Image by: Cisco Lightpainting

3. During Sickness 

It's commonly known that people greet each other by saying "al-salamu-alaykom," ("السلام عليكم") meaning "peace upon you." But the root word used here (al-salam) is worth a short tangent. This greeting is often shorted to simply "Salam" as a casual greeting and even a goodbye from the original form "Ma'a al-salama" ("مع السلامة"), meaning "With peace." The key word here is "Salam," ("سلام") which literally means "peace." It comes in a variety of forms and carries all sorts of grammatical nuances. For example, the word "Istislam" ("استسلام") is often translated into "submission," but is more like the verb form of the word "salam"—turning "peace" into an action. And some of its other forms are even used to talk about health.

When someone is sick, people would often express their concerns by saying "Salamat" ("سلامات") or "Salamatak" ("سلامتك")—kind of like saying "Get well soon" in English. The sick person would then reply with "Allah yisallimak," ("الله يسلمك") roughly meaning "May God keep you safe."

4. When Scared

When getting spooked, a common first reaction (in-sync with jumping all over the place) is quickly saying "Bismillah," the shortened version of "Bismillah al-rahman al-raheem," ("بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم") which means "In the name of God, the Most Gracious and Most Merciful." And some even say it before shrieking—it's that well engrained into their minds. Another phrase is "A'outhu billah" ("أعوذ بالله") meaning "I seek God's protection/ refuge" as a way to confront the fear while making the speaker stronger. Although they sound long, both are very common that they don't need to have a religious aspect to their fear to be said. They're just said whenever the speaker is suddenly confronted with something unexpected (in a passing moment).

5. When Angry 

A lot of people curse when they're angry, but other sayings are just as common, lighter, and more socially acceptable. For example, "Allah yehdik" ("الله يهديك") means "May God guide you," and it's used under the assumption that the instigator acted improperly— thus needing God's guidance. Or, by saying "Allah yesamhak," ("الله يسامحك") meaning "May God forgive you," the speaker is basically giving a quick (yet bitter-ish) prayer to absolve the instigator from their wrongdoings (that angered the speaker in the first place).

In a way, saying these phrases implies that the speaker is benevolent and that they're not really that angry—they're not actually cursing the instigator.

6. When Happy 

In English, saying "Oh God" often implies a problem or a confronted issue—but it's the opposite in Arabic. By simply saying "Allah" ("God") the speaker's tone changes, and they sound more pleased than before. The word is often said when looking at something beautiful, or admiring personal/ others' accomplishments. An even more popular phrase is "Mashallah," the shortened version of "Mashallah tabarakallah" ("ما شاء الله تبارك الله") that roughly translates into "What God wants to happen, God is blessed." It's said when the speaker wants to express their amazement. So basically, it's like saying "wow" in religious terms.


Some of these phrases aren't "religious" in the sense that they must be said during these situations. Instead, the aim of the post is to show how these religious phrases are used in everyday life, without religious context. They're not always expected to be said out of devotion, but are just so common that not hearing them said is just ... odd. In a way, this post shows how religion and language play a role in shaping a culture.

Dec 7, 2016

Novel Like Manga—Laying out Your Story

I'll be honest: I know nothing about drawing manga, but I do know a thing or two about writing. As a longstanding manga fan, I feel like I owe it to the industry to understand how it works. And while thinking about it, I discovered a lot of connections between manga and books—some similar, others admirably different.

Image by: Stuart Rankin
Manga is a unique storytelling platform—one that relies on art instead of prose. Like any fictional story, good manga has to have an established setting, a developed plot, and relatable characters. But the added element of "art" changes the playing field. In order to maintain the important concept of "pacing," mangakas (Japanese manga artists) lay out their art through a carefully planned out process: panelling.

Typically read from right to left (up then down), manga forces readers to reconfigure their reading habits. In my case, it helped me learn that the way things are placed changes how they're perceived. The pages of a manga usually include different paneling styles and dialogue breaks—all of which are placed so that the "story flow" can grow naturally. And in good manga, it does.

Manga vs. Novel: 

In writing, the illusion of passing time is done through paragraph breaks. But manga expresses time through panels—the ultimate foundation of its pacing. By using long panels, mangakas are able to "draw out" an instance and give readers a better chance to fully take in the moment. Consequently, shorter and smaller panels make time pass faster in a manga—the eye doesn't linger nearly as long. Because there is no art in (most) novels, novelists do this by carefully crafting short paragraphs and standalone sentences. And while they might be read quickly, these short text breaks create a stronger impression of a defining moment.

Sample Manga Page Image by: Kasuga

Panel layout and design are instrumental to a story's flow, making variety an important concept. I've never realised before looking into it, but different manga genres can even have different panel templates that get used more often in one genre than the other. In a way, manga becomes a lot like film—with frames and shots getting produced by the mangaka's art instead of a director's vision. But the challenge with manga is that you can't feel and hear the dialogue the way you do in a film.

Sure, you have visuals to fill in the context for the actual text, but structure is just as important. So in addition to using longer panels, mangakas strategically transition between panels to include more intricate details. And a well-designed, well-placed dialogue bubble is one of the ways that does this best. There's interaction happening in between the panels—the same way that prose and dialogue interact in between the lines. This level of cohesion reminds me just how important it is that every scene has a purpose and a reason for being.

Mangakas have to visualise the flow of each page to control how readers go through the panels (essentially, the story)—and that's something I believe all novelists can benefit from doing.

Image by: Neitram
There may not be any art to direct, but basic text serves the same purpose. Focus on the scenes of your story and visualise how dialogue connects with prose on a micro level. It's hard work, but the payoff is definitely worth it. Think of the lined pages as panels and see how different your writing becomes. Experiment with dialogue as if it's in a bubble instead of quotes. Envision a blank page as a panel template sheet, and see how you'd fill it up.

Every medium has its different approach to storytelling ... but in the end, it's still telling a story. When getting stuck in a scene, a lot of writers suggest changing approaches by using a different character, a different point of view—a different story element. But what if, instead, you use a different format?

It could all be done in your head, by using the power of imagination if art isn't exactly your forte. The idea is to play with something new, to start "noveling" in an innovative way that might actually help better lay out your story.

Extra sources:

If you want to find out more about manga layout and what actually goes on behind the pages in more detail, then check out this post on Panelling, Pacing, & Layout in Comics & Manga #1 and #2 (written by an actual professional who knows what they're doing).

Nov 3, 2016

NaNoWriMo Tips from Someone Who Won and Lost

November is upon us once again, and that means another year of NaNoWriMo is underway. As someone who both won and lost the write-a novel-in-just-a-month challenge, I feel entitled to share some words of wisdom. Mainly, ones that came out of anything but wisdom—technically words inspired by a long chain of trials and errors. So, here I'm sharing the top five things I've painstakingly discovered along the way so you don't have to:

1. Know the Kind of Writer You Are

It took me years, and two NaNoWriMo challenges, to finally figure out how I write—or rather, how I write well. Think of NaNoWriMo as a science writing experiment. There's lots of hypothesising. Lots of testing and observing results. Lots of time needed to form conclusions. And NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity to do all of it. Example: are you a planner or a pantser? You can figure it out by putting both to the test. 

Now, I'm not a planner—far from it since I procrastinate my way through life. But I'm beginning to discover that I'm a "writer who plans.I would have never known this had I not forced myself to actually plan this year's story. After five straight hours of story developing and facing my plot issues, I finally came up with an outline that was more than a few sentences and some margin doodles. It may not sound like a big deal, but this outline (I'm hoping) would help me sculpt my story into something formidable. So that next time, when someone says they would love to read the novel they just found out I wrote, I wouldn't have to reply with a panicked "Um, no. You really don't."

Also, don't be afraid to try out new things. You might discover that writing in third person works best for you (or the story) instead of your preferred first person. You might change tenses before settling on what you decide you're comfortable with. You might even find a better hidden story within the one you're currently writing. Whatever it is, NaNoWriMo gives you the chance to discover your style—all you have to do is track your changes for future revision. 

2. Do Some Recon Work

It sounds like military tactics, but doing some reconnaissance definitely helps in writing, too. Read what others write and listen to what those around you have to say. Be open to new ideas, and actively seek them out. Inspiration is like an urban legend—don't fall into believing it happens to everyone all the time (like I did). Instead of waiting for it, go lurk around enemy search engines and start researching. Your findings will ultimately count as necessary intel as soon as you start your writing mission. They will help you establish the right atmosphere for your characters and even for yourself.

My first NaNo story was a 100% pantser-creation. I went in blind, barely knowing how my setting worked and how my characters behaved. I figured it would all come together on the page. It didn't, and I had to improvise a lot of eyebrow-raising scenes. But since I reached the desired 50K, I didn't mind much. It gave me the confidence I needed as a "successful" novelist. And so, I recycled my methods for my second NaNo story... which did not work out so well for me. That was when I realised why soldiers do recon work—and a lot of it. In November, you're not just a writer. You're also a soldier (of wordwars instead of the actual kind). 

3. Do Not Lose Momentum

This one sounds simple, but is probably the hardest step of all. NaNoWriMo is a writer's marathon, and a writer who takes a day off is akin to a runner who stops running. It can get hard to continue running in top shape after a long break leaves muscles inactive. Same with writing. That is why warming up your "Writing Muscles" before NaNoWriMo really helps with getting a head start and an early practice. Runners do these warm-ups to avoid pulling a muscle—which, for writers, is equivalent to the dreaded Writer's Block.

But that doesn't mean that writing should take over your life in November. Set a habit or a system that works for you—a daily word limit, a magic hour, or simply just coffee. My personal one is aiming for 2000 words a day. It might sound like a lot, but I would push for at least 500 words in really tough times. I try not to skip a day because even if I could afford the word gap, it will live to mock me the next morning. Like chess pawns that reach the opposite end, these 500 words are game changers for me. They give me the strength to sort of "honor" the effort I made by making up for the resulting gap with renewed drive. Even if it sounds stressful, trust me, it's so much better than skipping a day of writing. At least you wouldn't also lose your momentum. 

My second NaNo story was a failure because I turned into a backslider. My word count kept decreasing, and I kept getting demotivated until I eventually stopped writing. I realised I was going no where, and just gave up because I lost that push to get something done. One good way to avoid becoming a cautionary tale like me is to "always end a writing session only when you know what's next" (—S.B. Roberts in an article by Jessica Strawser). I'm following that advice this year, and it's been working so far. 

4. Foster Support

Because science and the questionable food industry managed to trap energy into drinkable cans, it no longer becomes an issue of great concern. Besides, there's always coffee as extra fuel. But motivation isn't as simply cured. Having a network of equally frustrated yet inspiring writers though, makes a big difference. People are great motivators, and fostering that sense of community goes a long way towards a sustainable writing future. Even if you're not joining the traditional NaNo challenge, take advantage of the productive atmosphere. Drink up the November spirit—it only comes once a year. Why not even use it for your own personal projects?

If you can't find a community, then make one. Help writers gather together and bounce ideas or, better yet, writing anecdotes. Join write-ins or chat rooms, and interact with both budding and veteran writers—they both offer something new to learn from. Who knows, you might even make lifelong friendships. At first, my NaNoWriMo experience was daunting, but getting to know the writers in my region and arranging for meetings and write-ins literally became the highlight of my NaNo lifestyle. Remember that even though November ends, writing doesn't. 

So take this chance to build something long-lasting. 

5. Have Fun 

For many of us, writing is a hobby. For others, it's an occupation. Whatever it may be, writing is something we choose to do because we (most likely) enjoy it. NaNoWriMo shouldn't be an overwhelming challenge, but a fun experience. Don't get too caught up in tracking word counts, but remember the reason you started in the first place. It's easy to get caught up on the "what," but it's more worthwhile to remember the "why." 

If, as the creator, you can't get excited over your own story... then chances are that prospective readers wouldn't either. Don't try to enjoy writing, but actually do. Listen to music and jam out mid-writing session. Carve out intervals between long writing periods for a fun activity of your choice. Or come up with something entirely different and refreshing. If for some reason you still can't enjoy writing, then that's an early sign for you to tweak some concepts or test out a new story altogether. 

When I was writing my second NaNo novel, every chapter felt like a life sentence where time behind bars somehow evolved into words on a page. I loved my idea and I adored my characters—but it wasn't enough. Writing their story just didn't "click" for me. I realize now that I was too overwhelmed and, more frighteningly, falling out of love with writing. After some much-needed time off and a revived need to write (that I doubt ever went away), I'm making my comeback. 


Do what you want to do. You can listen to these tips or choose to ignore them—maybe even make your own. Whatever the case, do what feels right for you. And always: Happy Writing!

Oct 24, 2016

Perpetually Dreaming — My Reality

As the saying goes, there are always two kinds of people. They are always doing or being two different kinds of things. To be honest, that always bothered me—two is never an accurate number. But I keep (hypocritically) dividing people in two groups myself. In my mind, people are either dreamers or doers. And I'm a little slow for only figuring this out now, but I'm a complete dreamer.

"Sweet dreams" by Muxxi
I always have been.

The thing about always dreaming is that you're never awake—even when you should be. In my case, well... I never truly have been. I've been avoiding real life for as long as I can remember, but I only just realised this now.

Fantasising and daydreaming are like second nature to me— if not first. As a kid, I constantly played with my dolls (yes, I was that girl who had a favourite doll) and imagined scenarios that made me lose myself in possibilities. I'd create a world where the protagonist (yes, that same doll from above) was actually extraterrestrial with super powers and a mission to save the world from, like, a really bad guy. I'd make playlists as I was discovering new music, losing myself in the lyrics and creating new stories inspired by them. I even got the "Most Likely to Get Lost in Her Own World" superlative back in High School (which isn't really that big of a deal, but still). Back then, and even now, I'd look out of windows with glassy eyes thinking of my future. Not about having a job or a family, but about accomplishing great things. About breaking records and proving myself and everyone who ever doubted me wrong, while also making those who didn't very proud.

I've never felt more alive than when I wasn't really living (in the real world). In some ways, being immersed in a story was almost always what kept me grounded in reality. I would count days by anticipated book releases or updated manga chapters. I would look forward to the next year just so I could finally find out "what happens next." I would always be reading books. Or watching movies. Or living in songs. The point is, everything that wasn't a story to me felt like a chore—something I needed to get out of the way.

It went beyond the boundaries of escapism.

But I never really minded because life seemed better that way—even if it wasn't really living. I was happy making my own worlds, and just as happy living in them as whatever I chose to be: a bystander or a queen. Those worlds were my refuge. And they're responsible for making me who I am. I learned so much from researching and world building. Languages, trivia, life skills... I've gained so much from "escaping" that it felt wrong to stop. 

My problem wasn't avoiding life, but avoiding wanting to live. I developed a love-hate relationship with hopes and dreams. I wanted to stop hoping and dreaming of coveted futures and impossible expectations because they've been shot down too many times before. I've been snapped back to reality in sudden jarring ways that I stopped believing in what I dream. But in the stupid way that brains work, I couldn't make the dreaming actually stop. So in a way, I've developed a seriously bleak view on life. 

All of these thoughts have been running in my head lately—especially after listening to these lyrics from the song "Patience" by Bad Suns:
All my dreams have been weighing me down
Like an anchor to my bed
I can live my life instead
I've been writing my thoughts down
To clear my mind
To try and figure out my brain
To confront and set aside my pain
And I've been searching for meaning
In a blood red field of
Wasted dreams and wasted breath
Baby, wasted dreams, that's worse than death  

But I can't really live my life—not yet. So I use these stories, these made-up realities, instead. I write characters that express my emotions for me. Characters that do what I've always imagined doing, go where I've always wanted to go... ones that simply live the way I always thought of living.

And I'm okay with that. Because of these characters, I got to live different lives. Become different people. Learn different lessons. It made me realise that while some people dream and others do, I get to do both. By dreaming, I am doing. And I can live with that—dreaming, I mean.  

I figure it's a fair trade, anyway.

This is all pretty raw for me, but it feels right. So I'll end with another song lyric that had me really thinking— "Ask Yourself" by Foster the People:
You're coughing blood again
I know 'cause I clean up the mess every now and then
Fold the line along the seam
Force a smile and never say what you mean
You're in the promised land in someone else's dream
If you want more, and you'll get there
Throw in a quarter in the well
It's okay, you're fine, ambition's not a crime
And you say that dreamers always get what they desire
Well, I've found the more I want the less I've got
Is this the life you've been waiting for?
Or are you hoping that you'll be where you want with a little more?
Well, ask yourself 

So... is this the life you've been waiting for?

Jul 29, 2016

Duel of Fire by Jordan Rivet

This book was a quick fun read. Sword fighting, magic, and a funny prince? I knew I'd like it before reading--and I totally did.

Set in a fantasy world, Duel of Fire is filled with new concepts and strong characters. Dara Ruminor is an eighteen-year old duelist who is serious about her work. And Prince Sivarrion (Siv) is ... well... less serious about his. But due to fate--and the storyline--the two must work together to defeat a secret threat before it defeats them.

Too bad they don't really get along--at first.
Then Siv stuck out his tongue at her. Dara was so surprised she eased up on her blade. Siv disengaged his own and whacked her on top of the mask. 
Dara and Siv are both captivating characters with the rare ability to be more captivating together than apart. With both of them coming from different worlds, they compliment each other in ways that even the characters don't expect at first. But for all their banter, they really do click. And it's a natural process that had me smirking every time things didn't go down the typical YA romance route. All those interruptions and misunderstandings!

More than that, they are wholesome characters that are so relatable I feel we can be friends. Dara is a duelist, yes--but she's also trying to escape a family business and a future of painful memories.
For her part, she was tired of suitors and guilds and paperwork. She was tired of trying to replace her sister when she didn't have the same ability. She had to find some way to ensure that she wouldn't totally dependent on the Fireworking business for the rest of her life. 
And Siv, though a young prince, is out to prove himself with his family heritage. They are different. But they know what they should do and shouldn't--and that's refreshing.
"You think I don't know? My father is a popular king in a long like of popular kings. I'm supposed to maintain the status quo and keep my mouth shut around the right people, nothing more." He whirled back to face her. "You think I don't sometimes wish I could make my own name? You don't know me, Dara."
The other characters are also well-fleshed out. Everyone, from Siv's younger sisters to Dara's duelist friends, is interesting in their own right. Some of them even became characters I looked for in the page.

Although I really liked the characters, I wish I felt the same about the world building. Don't get me wrong, I did like it... but it still felt somewhat lacking. I didn't know what it meant to be a citizen of Vertigon or to come from the distant land of Trure. What were some of their customs or characteristic traits? What made the people different from each other? I didn't find out and that bothered me a bit. Especially since the world has so much potential--I mean, there's molten fire magic to control! (And a water version of this skill that was hinted at but never fully explored.) Also: cur-dragons. I'd love to see more of them in action.

Instead (not that I'm complaining), the action revolved around the duels and the Vertigon Kingdom. It fell strongly in the middle, between being overwhelming and being boring. It wasn't action-packed throughout, as I thought it would be, but it still managed to maintain my interest. And that's all I really care about. There's lots of politics, suspense, and promised danger that actually pays off. The plot is well-structured, and the pacing just right, that it felt natural to read and continue reading. I could easily picture what was happening and where (for some reason, it gave me medieval vibes...).

The story is told from Dara and Siv's point of views, and it was kind of surprising to realise that I didn't prefer one over the other. And the chances of that happening to me when reading alternative point of views is very very rare. I liked being in both of their heads, seeing both of their views, because they both added something new to the story. It really was a wholesome read in that sense.


Definitely recommended to fantasy-lovers who are tired of cliché romances. It hasn't received as much attention as it deserves.

Short Review on: Goodreads

Jul 24, 2016

Traditional Music Instruments from Around the World

Much like how different dialects in different languages have different sounds, music instruments from around the world carry distinct traces of unique cultures. In a way, listening to different music styles and instruments becomes a form of cultural immersion.  

Which is simply beautifuland different, of course. 

Map of the collective origins of music instruments covered in this post.

Because theres so much to cover, below is a list of just some traditional music instruments from around the worldalong with where they're from, how they work, what they sound like, and other fascinating facts. And brace yourselves because I'll admit... its a pretty long post.

Jul 10, 2016

Frederic - A Unique Japanese Sound

Frederic (フレデリック) makes the type of music I would recommend to people who are genuine music lovers. They're so interesting and unique that it's hard for me to label them with a single genre--though Japanese Rock seems to be the general umbrella.

Personally, I'd go with "Indie (pop-ish?) with funk-like rock"--or simply: just good music.

Originally from Kobe, Frederic is a three-member band that has been creating music since 2009. And as a developing band, you can definitely hear their progression--which I'm personally looking forward to tracking. With two members being brothers--Kenji Mihara (Vocals, Guitar) and Koji Mihara (Bass, Vocals)--and the third, Ryuji Akagashira, playing the guitar, the band gives off a close-knit vibe.

Their hit single, "Only Wonder" is such a cheerful tune that it instantly uplifts the mood. And its music video, featuring a choreographed cheer by a class of schoolgirls, is equally adorable--if not motivating.

More than that, they're simply a clever band. Their most recent album, Ototune, is a clever play on words, with the character ("Oto") meaning "sound," and the word "tune"-- vaguely sounding like "autotune." Each track has its own catchy tune--set apart by distinct vocals and different themes. And this happens across all their other albums--including "Oddloop" and "Owarase Night." Like the title tracks of each album--which are equally great--the songs "Ai no Meiwaku" ("Nuisance of Love" from "Owarase Night") & "Jyarimichi" ("Gravel Road" from "Oddloop") have a unique style that just make them classic "Frederic songs." Lyrics either carry weight instead of the usual fluff or create strong images. For a better taste of their Indie-style songs, their album "Uchuu ni Muchuu" ("Fog in the Universe") does not disappoint.

Even without understanding all the words, it's very easy to get lost in their songs. Which is a good thing... usually.

Feb 12, 2016

Losing a Voice

I've come to realise that I have lost my voice. No, not my actual voice with vocal chords and all, but my writing one... which in a way, feels exactly the same.

The thing about losing your voice is that it's a lot like losing your "self". And that can be scary.

For me, it means not knowing how to say what I want to--and when I do, it sounds wrong. So for a while, I've been too scared to write anything. And by anything, I mean everything from emails and texts to poetry and stories. Even writing essays and homework was too much, which meant I gave up on assignments before even trying. At some point, I even had to stop work because I was just in way over my head.

I'm not quite proud of that, but it seemed like the better alternative. Facing the paper was too hard, and not because of a lack in ideas or motivation, but because it felt foreign. And that was scary to me. Writing never felt foreign to me. It was almost always what helped me deal with emotions and stress, thoughts and regrets. Writing was my tool and my voice. So not being able to use it was ... well ... difficult.

And if I'm being honest with myself, I don't know if I've "gotten over it" yet. I may be momentarily "okay," but I just don't feel the same. I'm not "cured" completely, but maybe I'm missing the point. It's not about finding a cure and regaining my voice. It's about dealing with it.

And I guess I'm writing this to say that I am--dealing with it. Slowly, but ... well ... yeah. It's a post more for my sake than anything else. For me and for anyone who has ever felt the same way.