This isn’t a Pikachu reference, or maybe it is.

Pika-pika is a Filipino term for an assortment of finger foods, appetizers, or hors d’oeuvre if you’re fancy. Google also informed me that pikapika (ぴかぴか), in Japanese, is used to describe something that shines or sparkles. So, that’s what Pikachu is going on about. Apparently, everything is sparkly in Pikachu’s world.

Anyway, Filipino or Nihongo, both meanings fit this newsletter of sorts perfectly. These are some of the bits of content that sparkled and shined in April. I call this: Pieces of April.

READING

White Teeth - Zadie Smith, Book Review

White Teeth

Author: Zadie Smith

Much has been said about this acclaimed novel, so I’ll keep it brief. It’s witty and quirky and VERY FUNNY. This was the book I was speed-reading in anticipation of cracking open Frank Herbert’s Dune. But, this book has charm in spades and persuaded me to linger and hang out with Arthur and Samad and all these memorable characters come to life.

This sprawling and ambitious novel tackles a lot of issues—East meets West, nature versus nurture, science versus religion—but at the core of it is a story about two families and all the ways their lives entangled. To me, the best part about the book is the empathetic way Smith wrote about imperfect people. It manages to poke fun at human frailty without passing harsh judgment.

I tend to gravitate towards bleak, tragic novels, so I’m glad I picked up this book. If you need to restore your faith in humanity, this one’s for you!

Favorite Passages:

“Her beauty was not a sharp, cold commodity. She smelled musty, womanly, like a bundle of your favorite clothes.” — Zadie Smith, White Teeth

“If religion is the opiate of the people, tradition is an even more sinister analgesic, simply because it rarely appears sinister. If religion is a tight band, a throbbing vein, and a needle, tradition is a far homelier concoction: poppy seeds ground into tea; a sweet cocoa drink laced with cocaine; the kind of thing your grandmother might have made.”

“But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears—dissolution, disappearance.”

“What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way?”

Dune

Author: Frank Herbert

I picked this up in preparation for the movie and I ended up liking it. First of all, I think in the current context, this feels like an antithesis to the loud, showy comic book heroes. The protagonist’s power is very subtle and introspective. There’s a lot of references to psychological concepts—Carl Jung’s collective unconscious, gestalt, conditioning etc.—which all ties into Paul Atreides’ destiny as the messianic Muad’Dib.

What’s more interesting to me is that, while there are fantastical, mystical, and speculative elements to the story, much of the action is pushed forward by politics and persuasion. There’s a lot of scheming and subtext to encounters between characters which are now hallmarks of contemporary sci-fi and fantasy series like A Song of Ice and Fire, even Star Wars.

The enduring relevance of this book is Arrakis itself. The scarcity of water has created this entire culture and way of life envisioned by the author. It’s world-building at its finest. It resonates so well as we face the challenges of climate change.

Even the language of the author is spare, barren—like the desert. But then… signs of life! Such as the reunion with one of the characters. It almost brought tears to my eyes. Even as a reader I was preserving moisture. HA!

The book is divided into three. Book I is a bit slow, and Book II is where the action begins and the world of Dune opens up to the reader. I haven’t read the rest of the series, but the foreshadowing already tells me Paul’s journey in this book is just the tip of the iceberg. I am definitely reading the rest of it.

Favorite Passages:

“She stared at him. He senses truth! Could he be the one? Could he truly be the one? She extinguished the excitement, reminding herself: ‘Hope clouds observation.’

“This thought only added to Halleck’s sadness. I’m infected by mood, he thought. And he began to wonder about Paul, if the boy ever listened fearfully to his pillow throbbing in the night.”

“Thus spoke St. Alia-of-the-Knife: ‘The Reverend Mother must combine the seductive wiles of a courtesan with the untouchable majesty of a virgin goddess, holding these attributes in tension so long as the powers of her youth endure. For when youth and beauty have gone, she will find that the place-between, once occupied by tension, has become a well-spring of cunning and resourcefulness.’”

“She said a ruler must learn to persuade and not to compel. She said she must lay the best coffee hearth to attract the finest men.” — Frank Herbert, Dune

“Polish comes from the cities, wisdom from the desert.”

“Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never consistent. It depends in part upon the myth-making imagination of humankind. The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man.”

“My son displays a general garment and you claim it’s cut to your fit? What a fascinating revelation.” (Side note: In which Jessica elegantly shades the banker)

The day hums sweetly when you have enough bees working for you.

“My father once told me that respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality. ‘Something cannot emerge from nothing,’ he said. This is profound thinking if you understand how unstable ‘the truth’ can be.”

Maybe I’ll just make a different post for all the quotes. Heh. This has suddenly turned into a quotes page.

You can add me on Goodreads (storytimeasia) if you want to see what else I’m reading, and so I can also see your recommendations.

LISTENING

Chapter Five by CHPTRS

I was “infected by mood” while listening to a playlist and I latched on to a particular song: “Hold It All Together” by CHPTRS. Maybe it’s Serendipity, maybe it’s the algorithm, but the song struck a chord and I don’t know how many times I listened to it in a loop.

What I was feeling was saudade, and while the wistful melody certainly fed my melancholy, the words are actually heartwarming. It’s about drawing strength from your partner during difficult times.

“It’s an honor to wade here”—that’s the part that captivated me. I’ve always been a sucker for poetic sentences. Anyway, I’ve since listened to the full album and Chapters One to Four. If you’re also infected by mood and you want to feel the feelings, CHPTRS will be a good soundtrack to that.

VIEWING

Modern Family, Season 11

The show ended last year, but I just caught up to it this month because it was finally dropped on Netflix. This show still gets me. It’s amazing how much the kids on the show have grown. The adults aged, too, but Lily and Manny on Season 1 versus Season 11… Man, I feel old. Predictably, I cried. “The Last Halloween” and “Legacy” were particularly memorable for me. 

The Irregulars, Season 1

This one was worth it for me, if only for the portrayal of Sherlock Holmes as a washed up genius. As a supernatural whodunit set in the Victorian Era, it was just so-so. But as a study of Sherlock as a deeply flawed and fallible character, it is… *chef’s kiss* There was one episode where Sherlock was confronted by a love interest about his narcissism. Sadly, the showrunners did not give justice to her character. But her whole monologue was worth the whole season, in my opinion. Or maybe just search for that clip on YouTube.

Booktube

Yes, I have been living under a rock. I just discovered Booktube! While I watch Booktube videos to keep myself motivated (tsundoku is real!), I don’t go there for recommendations. For one, the recommendations are mostly in the YA genre which makes sense because these Booktubers, at least the more popular ones, are on the younger side. I’m not a snob. I do read YA, but perhaps I’ve just gotten old.

I also prefer standalone books. The last fantasy series I loved, “The Kingkiller Chronicles,” is still unfinished, the same as “A Song of Ice and Fire.” I know HBO concluded the thing, but it was a crappy ending, so I’m still waiting for the Game of Thrones ending (GRRM’s version).

I’m happy that reading as a hobby is thriving, but it really does seem like reading on steroids! Some of those Booktubers read like 90 books a year or something crazy. 

There are a couple of YouTubers, ASMRtists specifically, whose book haul videos and book recommendations fit my taste in books: Mauve ASMR and Sarah Lavender ASMR. I guess they both fit into the VIBING category of this post, but I usually don’t put their videos in the background because I like listening to their rambles. Mauve prefers literary books, while Sarah Lavender has some great recommendations for fantasy.

VIBING

I have a different category for these types of content because vibing has taken a life of its own during the pandemic. There’s a great article about the commodification of this vibey content. There’s a whole subset in YouTube that focuses on hygge as a vibe, which is a Danish term for a homey or cozy feeling.

These videos often illustrate quiet moments through curated snippets of everyday life—cooking breakfast or making coffee or artsy nature shots—backed by gentle, calming instrumentals.

Vibing, simply put, refers to atmospheric content. It doesn’t demand your full attention. These are ambience, white noise, moody content—perfect for putting in the background while you work, read, or simply lost in your own thoughts.

And although this can seem out of touch or escapist given our fraught existence, to me these content creators are creating these spots of oases in cyberspace to help you regain your sanity and live to fight another day.

I lumped ASMR videos in this category because ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), AKA the thing that gives you tingles, is usually created not for your full attention, but more for your relaxation and oftentimes to put you to sleep.

These are the vibe creators and vibe curators I quite enjoyed in April. Let’s vibe!

Rica G

The creator, Rica Garcia, posts short vlogs of her routines hygge-style, no talking, but with textual commentary as well as some ambient sounds in some clips. The creator often stumbles into profound moments, and it is joyful to watch the little pleasures of life which we oftentimes overlook because of the pressures of productivity.

Morgan Long

This is what I put in the background as I read. The video quality is great. I also like the whimsy of it all. I just imagine myself transported in her cozy setup as I read, when in reality I really should be cleaning up. I mostly stick to her “Read with me” videos, but she also posts vlogs about her life and creative projects.

ATMOSPHERE

She is possibly the most hardworking ASMRtist around. Her ASMR universe is cinematic, epic in structure, and beautifully labored. Her followers have even created an explainer, Wiki-style, for her universe with interweaving narratives and predictions. Supporting this channel and her Patreon is worth it. I suggest watching her videos from the beginning for the full experience, but her “Herbal Healer” video is possibly one of her most accomplished works.

Latte ASMR

She doesn’t fail to give me tingles. It’s hygge and ASMR in one. I don’t know if she’s the one who started the trend, but her style of starting her videos with close up shots of sedate activities, like pouring tea or putting cookies on a plate, before getting into the roleplay is particularly satisfying. I think Goodnight Moon did it first, but I find that while GNM is gifted in props and set design, Latte gives me more tingles because of the way she speaks. Her level of patience and attentiveness pays off, I think.

해그린달 haegreendal

There are a lot of “clean with me” videos on YouTube that are equally satisfying and relaxing to watch, but what I like about this channel is her attention to detail. The amount of care and love she showers into her surrounding, living and non-living, is just inspiring,

Aside from its calming tone, the creator often interjects nuggets of wisdom with day-to-day tasks and chores. In one video about planting, she underscores the importance of having something to look forward to. These short-term and long-term goals add purpose and milestones to our existence. There is pay off to waiting, and there is beauty in the changing of the seasons.


That’s it. See you again next month for all the content that sparked joy in May.

Follow me on my socials! Links somewhere on this website.

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