Book review: American Pastoral

I learned about this book by Philip Roth from a Ewan McGregor interview, where he mentioned having directed and starred in the film version of this novel. The film flopped despite a Pulitzer-winning material, which has also been included in Time Magazine’s all-time 100 greatest novels. Curious, I read.

Set in the 1960s, an all-too perfect, upper middle-class Jewish-American (the novel never fails to make this distinction) couple find themselves with an activist daughter who is swept off by the civil rights movement of that period. What we get is a novel-length rumination on the frustrations of a pastoral-slash-suburban family, whose American values of hard work, socioeconomic mobility, and morality, are threatened by an emerging modern capitalist society. I felt like a therapist being unloaded with pages and pages of trauma inherent in the social constructs and pressures of being THE star athlete, THE beauty queen, THE beautiful young family with the picket fences and swing in the backyard—of being an American (stars and stripes!!!)—then in the end, they all wonder about what went wrong. I have little to no sympathy for almost all the characters in this book whose collective vanity denies everyone the chance to move forward; instead, the navel-gazing merely perpetuates a victim complex and that is repetitive plot-wise and unfortunately for the reader, holds true in the dialogue, too. (A perfect example is a 2,000-word dialogue in Chapter 9 between the Swede and Sheila Salzman that is ultimately summed up as thus: “Merry is crazy.” “No she’s not.”)

No doubt this is an excellent novel to read in the age of Trump, when terrorism and violence are no longer a foreign threat, but homegrown. Unfortunately, I am in fact not a therapist and I am not being paid hundreds of dollars per hour for this session.  America, he’s with you.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

8:37 a.m.

Yesterday’s workout:

Five rounds
Five back squats at 115lbs every 1:30 mins

Partner workout
(Three rounds, 12min cap)
25 wall balls, 14lbs (recommended: 20lbs—‘di rin!)
15 jumping pull ups
*partner one finishes first round, then sprints across the floor and tags partner two; partner two does his first round, then sprints across the floor and tags partner one for the second round, and so on

Notes: Coach had to remind me of my squat form during the wall ball and that the ball had to be by my chest whenever I scooped down; Leonard and I finished at 10:43, which was second in class, but 1:03 behind the first placer

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

10:42 a.m.

Monday’s partner workout:

(30 minutes)

*switch every 500m; non-rowing partner does a 20-second plank on each set

Notes: Coach set a target of 6,500m total; no one in the class got there, lol. Gelo and I settled for third place in the class with 6,129m. I was averaging 2:05 every 500m. Grabe lang yung nag-7,200m.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

8:25 p.m.
OMG, I got a free six-month Netflix subscription from Globe worth P2,760! I don’t know what I did to deserve this. (Did they read my post yesterday? Lol.) I also did not realize how the measly monthly fee can accumulate this much. (I should really stop buying Starbucks.)


Had another talk with Ma earlier wherein she made it clearer this time—in case it went over my head, though she wasn’t exactly being subtle the last time, lol—that we should start thinking about getting a memorial plan for Pa. We actually began talking to a sales officer last year and got tons of information, though none that suited our needs in terms of location and services. (Our option at that point was to go with two different funeral companies, but which would have been more expensive.) So we got into a deadlock amongst ourselves and never got around to finalizing our decision. Now it looks like we need to resume making plans.

I cannot believe how matter-of-factly I am being about this entry.

There was news I read last month about a P10,000 hike in the funeral benefits of workers for a total amount of P30,000. I have no idea how far (or deep, lol) P30,000 will get you but let’s just say I have ordered sympathy flowers for P5,000 (charged to the company account; I’d personally rather give money) or about 17 percent of the said benefit. I’ve often wondered about how the poor can afford to bury their dead (as much as I wonder how they can afford to have children), when I’ve heard of basic memorial plots in nondescript cemeteries in the city costing P100,000 at least. So it makes me so angry to know that the Catholic Church forbids urns being kept in family homes. (With the Church, you know it’s not a suggestion.) It has to be at “an approved sacred place,” where we could charge you exorbitant prices, it might as well say. But the Church certainly doesn’t find it hard to say no to a house blessing where there’s food and the expected slip of an envelope.

All this reminds me of the many times when as I child, the elders would say that when they die, they’d rather be rolled up in a straw mat and thrown into the river (ibalot sa banig at itapon sa ilog). It sounded so grotesque that I would furrow my brows and look at them with such repugnance. Now I get it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

5:26 p.m.
Drove here to Laguna last night, bringing with us an oxygen tank from Mandaluyong. Pa’s flare-ups have been getting more intense recently, that he now requires an oxygen on standby. So we brought the tank in case there’s a brownout or if the concentrator does not work again. Then this morning, a neighbor dropped by to have the tank refilled near the town proper, while my parents’ handyman cleaned the tires of the car and did minor aesthetic repairs. Thank God my parents did that civil thing called being nice to the neighbors, lol. I barely know the people in our apartment compound, except for the families I grew up with, to the extent that I won’t recognize their faces in case we cross paths elsewhere. It makes me wonder how I’d survive in my older years and I need to rely on the kindness of other people I may not necessarily be close with. My parents’ neighbors have been a great help these past few days.

Pa seems to be doing well today in contrast to how Ma recounted last night the events of the last two weeks when Ate and I were not around. I could tell how tired she was and she even summoned the courage to say that we need to start preparing for the worst. Again, having been through the worst with Pa, I’ve been more pragmatic and calm among all of us so far. I wish I could impart that composure, which I got from Pa, to Ma, who can be… frazzled, i.e., like earlier this morning when I was demonstrating to everyone how to set up and use the oxygen tank and I kept being interrupted by some of her nagging and later, shrieking when Prince got out of the door and therefore, getting dirty from the suds of the carwash; and later, more shrieking when Prince ran back to the house with mud all over the floor; and then much later, with even more shrieking when Prince ate Choco’s food—all in a span of 5 minutes, lol. I’m not sure if anyone learned anything from my demo, lol. Next month, it would be four years since we received Pa’s COPD diagnosis, which at that time, we equated to a death sentence or at the least, the end of a quality life. And over these years, there have been and continuing challenges for sure, but we’re all still thankful because we recognize that it could have been much worse. We are aware of how his sickness is like a ticking time bomb, but aren’t we all living (or dying) under the same parameter?

Review: My 2017 grooming stash & lineup

I’ve been switching up my grooming products every now and then. It’s mostly out of boredom, so you can still go back to my previous reviews and they still work just as well for me. Lately, my skin has gotten oilier again, which harkens back to my teenage and twenty-something years. And at my age, oil is a welcome problem, as long as it doesn’t come with acne (but which I do still get once in a while.) So I’ve tweaked my lineup to address my concerns.

This was my lineup in 2016:

Olay Total Effects 7 in One Day Cream (Normal) with SPF 15 Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
The Face Shop The Fresh for Men BB Cream with SPF40 Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

And this is what I use now:

Avène Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Skin Brightening Exfoliator
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate VMV Id Anti-Acne Toner
Olay Total Effects 7 in One Day Cream (Normal) with SPF 15 mixed with Quick FX CC cream Kiehl’s Age Defender Anti-Aging Moisturizer for Men alternating with VMV Illuminants+ Cream: Advanced Brilliance Treatment
Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Listing this down, I realized I have so many products, lol.

I decided to get rid of Cetaphil after having read the article, Cetaphil: Why The Popular Cleanser Isn’t Doing Your Skin Any Favors, and I have yet to read a statement from Cetaphil debunking the allegations.

“Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser contains just eight ingredients: water, cetyl alcohol, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, stearyl alcohol, methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben.

“All but the water are chemically manufactured (let’s hope), and propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, and the three parabens have a seat on the dirty dozen, a list of cosmetic ingredients to avoid as potentially toxic.”

Gaah. So I switched to Avène Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion, which couldn’t get any more emphatic in its name. It is fragrance- and paraben-free and made in France. Its water “originat(es) as pure rain mixed with sea-spray rich in mineral salts… mak(ing) its 50-year journey through the Cévennes Mountains in Avène, France.” LOL. It has an entire brochure included in the box on the subject, which could be seen as pretentious at first glance, but which I realize is really pride for their history and work, particularly in treating skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, rosacea, psoriasis and eczema. Anyway, I thought it was all wonderful, but you can decide for yourself.

My latest drugstore buys

It is a no-rinse formula, which I have yet to try doing, because being in Manila, I just have to rinse off all that grime and dirt from my commute. So I damp my face with water, then get a dollop of the cleanser—and my initial impression is that it is luxuriously creamy, even if it doesn’t lather—then rinse with water. As an “extremely gentle cleanser lotion,” it did the job well because when I used my VMV Id Toner (when I tested this cleaner at night; I don’t use toner in the morning), there were no residue on the cotton ball.

The Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate I’ve written about here. This is my second bottle and I have to admit, this product hurts my wallet the most. But my overall complexion has never been better. I have a couple of tiny spots now and I have yet to get a haircut, but if you look at this video from a month ago, which does not have any filter, this is how my skin looks on its best day.

Since I use quite a number of products, I cannot qualitatively attribute everything to the concentrate, but based on my one-year experience with it, I know this is one of the products that I cannot leave out of my grooming stash.

Olay Total Effects is a staple for decades (here’s a 2012 entry) but I might soon replace it because among all my products, I noticed that it’s one of two things that is making me oily along with The Face Shop’s The Fresh for Men BB Cream. I plan to buy the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer—and I will soon—but during one of my drugstore jaunts, I came across the Quick FX CC cream. I find it a bit expensive for a sachet that’s worth P99, but it does the job of providing the bare minimum coverage. (I mix it with Olay, which is my default way of putting on tinted moisturizer because I don’t like tint-heavy coverage.) I most like it for its zinc oxide, which is a natural sunscreen that’s also good for burns, rashes, and irritation. The cream is light green in color, which is good for cancelling out red tones, if the primary color wheel has taught us anything.

Night routine
I got a sample of Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Skin Brightening Exfoliator and I’m sold! I got two sachets and I made the mistake of using too much from the first sachet because as I realized, this is the most lather-y cleanser I’ve ever used. So now that I’m on my second sachet, I’ve been very prudent in my application, squeezing out as little as three drops and it would still lather my entire face. So if I eventually buy a bottle, I know for sure it would last me for over a year.

I love how my skin looks clear and radiant after every wash. Along with the Line-Reducing Concentrate, I know that this is one of the products that have made a huge difference on my skin. It is paraben-, fragrance-, and colorant-free. Unfortunately, the product page doesn’t say what the microbeads are made of, so it must not be environment –friendly.

For everyday use, I apply the VMV Id Anti-Acne Toner, which I’ve written about here and as far back as 2010, so folks, this is tried and tested. I only use the Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion for spot treatment because it can be very drying. Then for the last step, I alternate between the VMV Illuminants+ Cream: Advanced Brilliance Treatment, which I’ve been using since 2012, and one of my newer additions, the Kiehl’s Age Defender Anti-Aging Moisturizer for Men. The Age Defender smells so good and it does a good job of moisturizing without the greasy feeling, though I wouldn’t use it on a hot summery night. The ingredient to watch out for here is the capryloyl salicylic acid, which is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and an exfoliant, according to this website.

“Unlike alpha hydroxy acids, which are water soluble, beta hydroxy acids (and its esters—such as CSA -jason) are lipid (oil) soluble. This means that they not only exfoliate the upper layer of skin, but also penetrate deep through the epidermis to exfoliate the dead skin cells and excess oil built up in the pores. For this reason, capryloyl salicylic acid is frequently used to treat blackheads, whiteheads and acne. Yet its keratolytic ability is not the only reason for why it is so often administered to treat blemishes and breakouts. This ingredient also functions as both an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent, making it an ideal anti-acne ingredient. While many other exfoliants (i.e. AHA’s) often irritate the skin, salicylic acid does just the opposite by reducing inflammation. This is due to the fact that it shares a similar chemical composition as Aspirin, a well-known analgesic and anti-inflammatory, and thus shares many of Aspirin’s functions as well.”

Afterward, depending on the weather and usually when I’m in a hotel, I would use Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate just to seal all that product in. (I bought it last year and I’m still nowhere near halfway through my bottle.) Into the Gloss has a very informative guide on how you should layer your products.

Monday, August 07, 2017 (updated)

The Amazing World of Gumball

8:55 a.m.
I didn’t have time to write on my journal over the weekend: P whisked me out of town on Saturday afternoon and we got back in Manila on Sunday night. I had been extremely sleepy the past two days—P kept turning over his bed throughout Saturday night to early Sunday morning, so I didn’t get straight hours of sleep. Then he was awake/he woke me up by 8 a.m. He went out to buy breakfast in Jollibee, then he slept until 2 p.m., while I checked my phone (though barely) and watched one of the most amazing cartoons I’ve seen on TV—The Amazing World of Gumball. (Cartoon Network did a marathon of it throughout Sunday.) I couldn’t wrap my head around how sick (in a good way) the characters and storylines are. The first episode I saw was about how Gumball’s fish, Darwin, got lost in the ocean, and Darwin had to trek through deserts, jungles, and cliffs to get back to the family home. No explanation whatsoever how a fish could survive out of the water—it just was, lol. It even grew a pair of legs, so now, throughout the storyline, Darwin walks around the house and neighborhood, lol. It also kept playing this flashback of how the family came together: both parents—the father’s a rabbit and the mom is a cat, lol—ran away from home, got pregnant out of wedlock, and married against their parents’ wishes. In another episode, the mom, frustrated by the chaos that was her family one dinnertime, imagined how different her life would have been if she married a different person. In one of those fantasies, she married well and was ultra-rich and filled with Botox and silicon injections, lol. Of course, she wasn’t happy, so she ended up realizing that she made the right decision. I thought it was extremely progressive and creative (there were testimonials from the kids in one of the ads). It reminds me of one episode of Powerpuff Girls, wherein the girls had to battle fake news, haha. There’s also another cartoon, Bare Bears, which I once saw tackle bullying. (And I just read this nice article about it, Balancing Comedy With Melancholy In We Bare Bears.) I love how the creatives are doing their part in righting this crazy world.

2:45 p.m.
I’m reeling from the announcement of Anna Faris and Chris Pratt’s separation. None of this would have mattered to me a month ago, but since then, I’ve subscribed to her podcast and I’ve been recently going through her archives, wherein she talks a lot about Chris and their relationship, including how they met; his first pick-up line (it was so lame, about their astrological signs being a match); being parents to their son, Jack; and recently, how Chris’s rocket to A-list status changed the dynamics in their relationship (mostly due to outside interference, e.g., celebrity gossip mill and the paparazzi). Anna once recounted how, during a trivia night party at Kate Hudson’s, Anna had a mini-breakdown because she was so bad at it and Chris, like a knight in shining armor, as she described it, came to her rescue and essentially let everyone know that it was the game that sucked. Overall, I got the sense that they’re Hollywood outsiders who prefer quiet nights at home.

This is heartbreaking. This is why you shouldn’t get attached to people, #loljk.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

2:44 p.m.
Was almost tempted to take a sip of the Coke that went together with my order of Chickenjoy with palabok in Jollibee at lunch earlier. We sat outside as the lunchtime crowd formed a veritable mass inside the restaurant. The noontime weather was steamy so I took off my white-speckled blue cardigan as I sat face to face with my newly sworn nemesis. Beads of condensation trickled down the transparent glass as excess bubbles from the fizz continued to skim the drink languidly, taunting me. You know the crunch from the chicharon in the palabok can only be washed down by the hiss of fizzling carbon, as does the crackle from the now-famous chicken skin. It’s the formula for a perfect marriage. People make endless swipes on Tinder when fried chicken and Coke—together—have cracked the code. Water is boring. Water disrespects the genius that is fat that is deep fried. Water is the enemy. You want to spit on the face of water except that’s gross because you are drinking it later.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

10:32 a.m.

Yesterday’s workout:

14 deadlifts at 95lbs every 1.5 minutes for five rounds

Partner workout
(Five rounds, 20min cap)
Row 500m
21 dumbbell (20lbs) push press

*working simultaneously, then switch

Notes: Finished my last 500m row a few seconds before the time elapsed, but there was still the last switch remaining. Gelo and I finished the workout anyway, with him doing the row, and me the push press. Never managed to do an unbroken push press, always had to break it down to two.


Learned last night that a childhood neighbor—this guy, whose head I smashed onto a hanging flower pot1—has died due to a heart disease. I don’t have the details except that his family tried to admit him to the city’s government hospital, but he was at number 100. We last got to talking during the wake for our former landlady whom I’ve written about. Having the same age as mine, he asked me if I’ve settled down, as he had, and told me he was now based in Pampanga. I remember there was a hint about the economic disparity between us, that he admired how I looked and dressed in my corporate wear, such that from then on (he stayed with my former landlady’s family for a few days since they are relatives), I was embarrassed for him to see me ride/get off my Uber as he milled about his relatives’ sari-sari store.

Ma and I are planning to go the wake tonight.

  1. He was daring me, “Sige, untog mo ulo ko, sige!” So I did. Several times. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

8:39 a.m.

Yesterday’s partner workout:

Five rounds, 20min cap
10 scaled pullups*
15 situps*
400m run

*working simultaneously, then switch

Notes: Before the class, I was able to do my first ever rope climb, which took all two long and strong pulls because of my height, lol, though I still need to work on my technique, especially going down.