Overthinking Romance

Medieval Wedding

Last night I saw a live musical performance of Once and told my Viking husband afterwards that I would rather see someone was being bludgeoned to death in a Takeshi Kitano gangster movie than the romantic stuff that happened on stage.  “I wonder why this is?” I wondered out loud.  “It’s because you understand violence more than romance,” he replied.

We continued our conversation a bit more.  To his surprise, I told him that all throughout high school I had read a lot of romance novels, ranging from Harlequins to Amanda Quick.  This was popular with the students because I attended an all-girls Catholic high school and many girls wanted to know what the opposite sex was like in relationships.  The plots were fairly predictable as there was usually a free spirited girl rebelling against something, then she meets a handsome man and there is some conflict before they usually fall into each other’s arms reluctantly while rolling around several times having hot sex.  There is usually a serious commitment at the end of the book to seal a happy ending and the woman lives happily ever after.

Having fallen in love and experienced crushes, I am familiar with the irrationality of such emotions.  There is this high of joy you get when you discover another person.  However, such feelings don’t last forever or else you will burn out as you devote all your energy into feeding this love or crush obsession.

Perhaps I am just annoyed that romance stories are very one sided as they are written generally by women for women and the men behave oddly in them.  If I meet men who was incredibly good looking, charming and with a silky tongue; I would wonder how many women he has charmed and if he has any STDs.  Also, what are his motives for acting in such a manner?  Why would they talk to me out of all the females available?

To genuinely fall in love takes time; as I believe true love is learning and totally accepting someone for who they are, including all their faults.   Over the course of a novel, film or musical, character development is usually rushed so I usually don’t have time to comprehend why someone would fall head over heels with someone else.  The story lines run so fast that in the blink of an eye, people have gone from being strangers to getting married.  People are complicated creatures and the notion of longing for romance confuses me.  It’s like “Waiting for Godot” – the harsh truth is that most of the men on the planet don’t have a clue about romance as it’s mostly stuff made up by women.

OK, I am sounding very old and cynical, so let’s change the topic!

The latest Takeshi Kitano movie, “Beyond Outrage”, is about a war between crime families so the different generations of gangsters go out and kill each other in creative ways; ranging from a drill to a baseball throwing machine.  Simple, primitive and understandable!

Update: My husband argues that love is a chemical reaction in the brain after meeting someone, a type of attraction.  That’s fine because you have to be attracted to the person in the first place, but I stand by my belief to fully love someone you still have to know them or at least think you do.  There has to be some type of connection!
















Conversing with a Manga Artist Part 2

This is Part 2 of a conversation with Eri-Chan, a super talented manga artist from the Philippines…Part 1 of our Q &A is here.




If I were to commission you for a manga, what kind of information do you need?  A script of some sort, I imagine?

A script is okay, but a novel-like format works better for me. I love reading novels, and as such, I tend to get a better image of the scenes in my head compared to script-like stories. 🙂

What is your favourite manga?  Why?

I don’t have a certain top favourite (since I have lots of favourite manga and anime), but for the shoujo-type manga, I fell in love with NANA, Card Captor Sakura, Kareshi Kanoujo no Jijou, and Zettai Kareshi. For the shounen, I’ll always love Naruto and Death Note, and am currently getting hooked with Shingeki no Kyoujin. I also liked horror and suspense manga like Goth and Jisatsu Circle.

I don’t really like manga and anime for the art style or what~ usually; its impact on me while reading it is what I look into. Did this manga tickle the imagination in a way that either I relate so much to it, or that it leaves my brain thinking about it for a few days or even weeks?  I guess I love series that leaves my mind in a deep thinking state after I read it.

What is your dream job?  Well, you are already living it – or perhaps better way to put it – dream commission?

I’ve always wanted to work on published love story or horror/suspense manga. I’m also working on my own title, a comedic love story, and I may be releasing it by next year. (im currently writing the story J) Other than that, I still want to pursue my studies and go for a multimedia art school (once I get me enough funds for it) so I can learn all sorts of stuff to become a professional all-around artist and illustrator. 😀

Have you ever turned down a commission? 

Oh yes, a lot of times. And it breaks my heart to turn down offers of illustrating beautiful stories just because the client wants a rock-bottom price for the art, I mean, I would definitely love to draw for them, but of course, I have bills to pay too, right? Aside from that, there are a lot of stories that didn’t suit my style, (like shonen stories, sci-fi, action, sports), and I always try my best to be honest with my clients if I know that my art style isn’t gonna be the best one suitable for their kind of story. I don’t want to accept a request if know that I can’t do my best on it.

For people who want to become manga artists, what tools would they need?  Do you use tablets or certain software?  What tips do you give in general?  (Eek!  I know one is to backup stuff as there was a huge issue when her computer died…damn electronics!)

Yes, having backups of your files would be one of the most important ones, if you’re going for drawing manga digitally (especially after what I’ve been through with my pc when it broke down on me since I do everything on my PC~ haha..😀 I use a graphics tablet, and Paint Tool SAI + Photoshop CS3 for drawing. I can’t give that much advice for traditional mediums in manga, since I do stuff digitally, but I do believe that investing time to study the art and everything about it that you use will be very helpful in the long run. . Also, take in mind that there will always, and always be people in the industry that are better than you, but don’t let that get you down. Lastly, always be open to new ideas, like what my artist friends are always telling me.

I’m still starting up, and I’m looking forward to learning more as well.

This conversation continues onto Part 3…

Conversing with a Manga Artist Part 1

Originally I contacted Eri-chan because I wanted some manga style portraits and was collecting quotes.  I narrowed it down to a few artists and chose her because her style looked the most professional out of all the portfolios I looked at.  Her art can be seen here at https://eribloodberry.blogspot.com or http://www.erikatsuona.deviantart.com .

Eri-chan is from the Philippines and she is a young independent manga artist.  She currently has several projects on the go at once so she is a busy woman!  She is also very brave as she is involved with cosplay activities which I often want to do, but I feel too old…


Hi Eri-Chan, thank you first of all helping me out with my project.  It’s been a blast and a lot of fun.   So can you tell me a bit about your background and how you became a manga artist?  What inspired you to become one?

Thanks, Jean~ I had fun drawing your characters as well. You have such a very nice imagination to come up with such interesting and diverse characters. 😀

About your question, I was originally in college, taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management. I felt that it wasn’t for me, and that it’s just not what I wanted to do. I’ve been living alone since I was 12 (so that makes it 8 years ago), and been paying for my studies since then, and happiness means everything to me. So I dropped school and worked as a call center agent as I tried to rebuild my first love, which is anime and manga art. When I’ve got the beginning equipment I needed to start as an artist, I left my (really toxic) job and stayed home to draw all day for people who found my art fascinating for their projects. It was something I really liked doing, although I tend to get picky with the projects’ genre, since my style most likely suit shojo and love stories. I never really imagined myself doing this when I was a little girl, I mostly thought of myself as someone who might be a businesswoman in the future, but I guess it’s just that this was what I loved doing, and I love seeing my completed works.

My dad used to be an assistant comic book artist during his teenage years. He was my first idol when it comes to art, and he taught me the basics when it comes to drawing. My dad was a kinda boastful guy, and at first I just wanted to prove him that I can do better than him… and suddenly I just got hooked with drawing. I fell in love with seeing what I created, and that wonderful feeling of “Oh god… I made this artwork?!Wow.”, because honestly, up to now, I still can’t believe that I can draw like this. 😀 So yeah, my dad was pretty much mostly the one who inspired me. 

I don’t really know how to draw, seriously, but I love anime very much. When I was in my first year in High School, there was this girl classmate of mine who draws anime really, really great and I was so amazed that I asked her to teach me how to draw. She said no in a really disrespectful way, and I got kind of pissed off and frustrated. Back then, I drew like a 5 year old! I know how to draw some forms, but it was like a kid’s drawing compared to this classmate of mine. That summer break, I locked myself in my room with a cheap book on how to draw manga that I bought, and practiced day and night while watching animes. I guess that was the time that I started to learn and improve. I was driven by frustration and the will to draw better that that girl who embarrassed me. When classes started again, she was very surprised by the improvement. I continued drawing during classes and my spare time (eventually got better than that girl, haha), until the only thing that’s driving me to draw is my love for what I’m doing itself, and my love for the characters that I draw. 🙂

Is it difficult to be a freelancer?  I mean, lots of people dream about being their own boss!  Although most of the time I saw my husband filling creating lots of paperwork (taxes, invoices, etc) when he was freelancing…

Yeah, it’s pretty difficult, especially when people don’t really acknowledge that you actually work. In my case, my relatives think that I’m just playing around. I’m still young, after all. The most difficult part for me, I guess, is when clients undervalue your art for something cheap and “just a drawing”. I put my heart to what I do, and it really hurts me when people don’t give enough credit to the work. It’s like being stabbed face-to-face.

Another thing is marketing yourself. There are LOADS of great artists in the Philippines, and most are being overshadowed by the popular mainstream ones. Finding a place where you can find clients who may be interested to have you illustrate their story is a bit of a problem, especially for a young, starting up artist like me.If we put up a blog or site, exposure is a bit slow. So we tend to go to freelancing sites like Fiverr, of which even though it kinda lowers the value of the artworks, the exposure to possible clients is good.

Do you usually draw manga for Asian countries?  Or is there demand in other countries?  Also, do the publications do well?

Most of my clients are from America, Europe and Australia. 🙂 There are just so many talented writers there, and they all want to see their works fleshed out in a Japanese-style manga. I don’t have many Asian clients at the moment, and here in the Philippines, the manga industry and publications is just starting up. Most of the few manga being published are cheesy love stories, so I guess it might take a little more time and market tests before other genres make it big here. 

Continues onto Part 2…

Quick Nursing Home Stories

Today I took some time to visit my 98 year old grandma in the nursing home and then “broke her out of jail” as she calls it, for some dim sum at a nearby restaurant.  It seems like she really hated the place as they cooked crappy food (she was a really good cook), rushed her during bath time, didn’t have enough activities and in generally, she was really bored.  We only asked her to go to the nursing home (at age 95) after she kept falling and bleeding when her head hit the walls since she was on a lot of aspirin.

She described one of the activities, in which all the residents are suppose to sit and listen to Chinese Opera in a common area on a big screen:

Nursing Home Worker: Hi, would you like to join us in listening to some Chinese Opera with the others?

Grandma: No, my leg hurts.

Nursing Home Worker:  The music is so beautiful.  Your leg won’t hurt after listening to it!

Grandma: What kind of BS is this?  Of course my leg will keep hurting.  If I fall, can you even lift me up little woman?

The worker ran away soon after this conversation.  It’s not hard to imagine where I get my cynical humor from as I started laughing after this story.

Grandma also described some of the residents she avoids:

The 94 year old lady – I can’t talk to this lady who is in a wheelchair, she is crazy.  In the beginning she asked, “What is your last name?”  So I told her.  Then she kept asking me, again and again, “What is your name?”  OK, that was annoying.  But then at meal times, she would say, “Oh, my mother-in-law is waiting for me to eat” and then she would wheel herself out of the dining room.  She is 94, I’m pretty sure her mother-in-law is dead!

The new resident – Recently at my dining table, they assigned a new resident, a man.  He won’t go to physiotherapy because he says nothing is wrong with him.  I told him something must be wrong with him, or he wouldn’t be here!  He is also a pervert because he keeps looking at the nurse’s butts.  He claims he can tell their fortune by their faces and touches them.  Yuck!

When I have time, I try to call or visit grandma as she is quite lonely.  My mother says she shouldn’t complain as she is fed and someone does her laundry.  Mom plans to run for senior president on the floor and party once she gets to the nursing home.  My dad says that is BS…oh well…things to look forward to!



Being Sold into Marriage Sucks…lesson from a "Scar Film"

Yesterday afternoon the TIFF goddess took me to see a depressing film called “The Women from the Lake of Scented Souls” (Winner of the Golden Bear at the 1993 Berlin Film Festival).  The main character is a woman named Xiang, who was sold at 7 years of age to a rich family and forced to marry a crippled husband.  She wanted to commit suicide, but didn’t, due to her iron mother-in-law’s lecturing.  Later on, she establishes a scented oil business and made her family the wealthiest in the village.  Her husband would party all night (watching singing and HK movies on boats with other men, as well as drinking) while she did all the hard labor, running of the business, etc.  They have a son who is mentally delayed (also has epileptic seizures) and a normal daughter.  One day her son demands a wife as he sees some children pretending to get married.  Since her son has a crush on a local girl from a poor family, she buys the girl to become her son’s wife after some manipulations of local lenders who couldn’t collect from this family.  The business grows bigger as a single, modern Japanese lady invests into the business, making  Xiang realize that her life is pretty crummy in the rural village and she has a really crappy husband.  In the end,  Xiang becomes enlightened as she realizes she may have destroyed this girl’s life by buying her and forcing her to marry her son.  So she offers to let the girl go.  But the girl cries as she doesn’t think anyone would want her as a wife.

The cinematography was incredibly beautiful in this movie and the people traveled down the river in wooden boats, adding to its exoticism.  The director Xie Fei was there, explaining that he had been sent to this village for “re-education” as he had been a professor during the Communist Revolution.  The TIFF staff who did the Q & A asked if he was sent to the village to learn, as if it was a vacation or something.  Xie Fei just smiled politely and said that he learned a lot about the struggles of women there, as he said the women did all the hard labor while the men partied on the boats, doing no work.  We learn that because of the Cultural Revolution, films were not made for popular consumption between 1966-1977.  He is a “fourth generation” director, which means he had received his training before 1966, but then had his career disrupted by the revolution.  This film is also considered a “scar film” which depicts the harsh reality of rural life, oppression, subjugation of women/peasants, old patriarchal system, death, destruction, war and lots of suffering.

women scented

Are Chinese women gaining more ground in society?  There are articles on rich Chinese women in Forbes and many are more educated than before; but there is much contradictory data on the web.  In a study by National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the New York-based Asia Society, they state that just 10 of the 205 Communist Party’s Central Committee members are women, and no woman has ever held a spot on the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body.  In a 2010 survey of women’s social status in China by the All-China Women’s Federation, 61.6% of men and 54.6% of women surveyed said that “men belong in public life and women belong at home,” which actually increased in numbers from a survey done in 2000.  Accounting firm Grant Thornton surveyed 200 businesses in China, of which 94% employed women in senior roles, which is good news.  If you are interested in reading more, there is an article with links about the topic here.

This movie reminded me of my grandmothers as one had an arranged marriage and one did not.  The grandmother that got to chose her spouse seemed happier I suppose, but there were also other factors; such as her wealthier family background, a chance at education and a choice in career (she became a high school principle).  The other grandmother grew up in a rural community and was arranged into marriage at the old maid age of 18.  This grandmother laments that her family refused to educate her, although her father was a school teacher and ended up only being able to do manual labour or crafts for money as a result of this (farm & embroidery work).  Both grandmothers wanted the best for their children and grandchildren, especially the females, and passed on the lesson of the importance of education and not depending on anyone else for survival.  Years later I asked the grandmother with the arranged marriage if she ever fell in love with grandfather, like on the Hong Kong soap operas.  Her answer was that “it was different back then.”  Today, the project manager that I work with listened to my description of all this and commented on how in present day that things are skewed the other way.  People have fantasies and expectations of the other sex which are not realistic.  They are all looking for a perfect someone which does not exist.  The reality is that no one is perfect and being with someone means accepting their flaws.

The Price of Marriage in China is a fascinating article about modern spouse hunting in China in a country by the end of this decade, which will have a surplus of 24 million unmarried men.  Chinese women postponing marriage to pursue careers, but are pressured to try to marry before 28 or they become stigmatized as “leftover women” or shengnu. Opposite are shengnan, “leftover men”, mostly poor rural men left behind as female counterparts marry up in age and social status. The article follows Diamond Love, a dating agency for rich men (fees range from $50,000 USD to more than $1 million USD) who want women that are young, beautiful and of course, a virgin.  Interestingly, the agency rejected a rich woman client who wanted to spend $100,000 USD to find a husband which they said was impossible as she was too successful.  The reporter also follows a mother trying to find a wife for his son who has a lower salary than women he meets.  The girls either reject him, or offer to take care of him for the rest of his life.  Very interesting and long article, have a look if you have time!

It's the end of human society – women breadwinners!

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of articles which talk about the positive and negative rise of women in the workforce.  A recent Economist article, “The Natural Order”, mentioned that census bureau data in the US showed that four in ten American children live in household in which their mother is the primary breadwinner.  In typical American fashion, this sparked outrage from everyone’s favorite channel, Fox News and a panel of four distraught men went on about the impact on the poor children and how this is tearing marriages apart.  One of the guests, RedState editor Erick Erickson, stated that this trend is defying biology:

“I’m so used to liberals telling conservatives that they’re anti-science. But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology — when you look at the natural world — the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complementary role.”

Fox News blogger Suzanne Venker writes on a similar note to her fellow colleagues in her post, the “War on Men” –  that men don’t want to get married because “women are not women” anymore.  They are angry, bitter creatures who won’t let men take care of them.  The solution of course is: “Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.”

So basically women should let men dominate them in work/life or the end of human society is in sight!

Another perspective is shown in the Globe and Mail’s article “Female breadwinners: Good income, bad outcome?” which talks about men’s problems with females earning more.  Basically as women become more educated and earn more, if they are married to men who are less educated and earn less, the marriage tends to end in divorce due to the frail man-ego.   As well, the  Economist did an article in 2011, The flight from marriage, which had some interesting statistics on women in Asia marrying later and the percentage of them not marrying increasing over the years.  The reasoning behind this shift in Asian society is due to women becoming more educated, wanting a man with higher education than themselves and having a job increases a woman’s autonomy.  She has more options which include not having a husband as she can support herself.

econ marriage asia

The guru that I often listen to is my 98 year old grandmother.  While growing up, she was not allowed to have an education and was put into an arranged marriage at the old maid age of 18.  Throughout my life she often told me that the only way for me to be happy in the future was to obtain a good education and job, so that I can support myself and not depend on men.  Being trapped in a bad marriage is worse off than not being married.  She was way smarter than my grandfather I think, so she was not that happy.  I wonder what choices she would have made if she had options.  Maybe I wouldn’t exist…alas…

These debates will continue until women and men are considered “equal” by general society – but then again, this may never happen due to gender differences.  Often, I have been jealous that my husband has never had monthly menstrual pains or have to imagine the horrors of child birth.  Complaining about this in business class made me seem like a dominant man-woman as my male classmates nodded nervously in agreement.

Another issue in these debates is that there is never a thought to consequences.  So if a women has children and is dependent on her husband, what happens if he dies/divorces her/leaves, etc?  This is a similar issue with pro-life arguments – people want all children to live, but no one wants to take care of them.  Do people practice what they preach?  Usually no!

My alternative solution to all this is to have all future generation of children created in artificial cabbage patch wombs, have robots do housework and parents put on the same schedule for “balance” family time at the end of the day.  Then one day, all the future children go berserk due to some DNA split gone wrong, blow up the planet Earth and the debate ends…hm…we can make a movie from this!