29 December 2009


Parajunkee Design Contest

Why aren't there more contests like this one?

Parajunkee is both a Book Blogger and a professional Web designer who is offering a custom background, header and button (as well as image hosting) to the winner of this contest. That package usually retails for US$90, so it's an amazing deal.

(You can tell I want to win, right?)

28 December 2009


A Cheesy Childermas
(A Companion Post to "Los Inocentes!")

Yes, we remember the Holy Innocents here. It's the Fourth Day of Christmas, after all, and Christmas and children go together like Advent and candles.

In honour of One Who must have enjoyed His own childhood so much that He would later say, "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to Me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such," I have put together a Top 5 List which makes peace between the manly man and the meddling kid.

My Top 5 Action Star Au Pairs:

1) Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop

This is arguably the movie which started it all. I'm sure a "prequel" to tell the story of Detective John Kimble's life up to the moment he trails Cullen Crisp at that LA shopping mall would be every 80s Action Movie cliche and then some. ("I'm the Party Pooper," anyone?) I know I wouldn't mind seeing it! Yet no matter how great it is, it will never be as great as Kindergarten Cop. (Follow the live blog--if you dare.)

As a teacher, I appreciate the way Kimble finds common ground between what he knows and can do well and what the children need. His Police School model should be taught in Colleges of Education everywhere!

And as someone who has serious issues with single motherhood, I'm glad that this movie actually tells the truth about it--and does so with great compassion and humour.

Finally, there's just something about Schwarzenegger . . . Admit it: you'd trust him with your own kids. He's had such great, natural chemistry with all his young co-stars: Alyssa Milano in Commando (which I also live blogged), Eddie Furlong in Terminator 2, Austin O'Brien in Last Action Hero, Eliza Dushku in True Lies, and all the little tykes in this movie.

27 December 2009


Here's Another Good One . . .

My score was 82.5.

The only thing I want to complain about is that there was a song from the middle of the 70s in there.

Now for full disclosure . . .

26 December 2009


More Quiz Fun

You Scored 86% Correct

You are an 80s expert,

You never confuse New Order with the Pet Shop Boys.

You know which classical musician Falco rocked.

When it comes to 80s music, you Just Can't Get Enough!

Why only 86%, you may be wondering. Mea maxima culpa: I was never really into Thomas Dolby!

To make up for that now, I share the music video for the song which would have given me a score of 100%, had I only known about it . . .

25 December 2009


Merry Christmas, Everyone!

You Are a Vintage Christmas Card

You find Christmas to be the most peaceful time of the year. The holidays relax you.

Some people may get stressed out or frazzled, but not you. It's like you're celebrating a completely different holiday.

You take pleasure in the small things the holiday season has to offer. Candy canes. Happy children. Your favorite Christmas music.

Christmas may be more complicated than it used to be, but you refuse to get mixed up in the drama. You're bringing simple holidays back.

You may be wondering why you didn't receive a Christmas card from me. In that case, dear friends, know that this is the Christmas card.

(I'm really bad about greetings . . . but I do wish everyone a Merry Christmas!)

23 December 2009


Reading Diary: A Lady's Secret by Jo Beverley

It isn't often a man hears a cursing nun.

Robin Fitzviry, Earl of Huntersdown, was finishing his meal at a table by the window and thus had an excellent view of the woman out in the coach yard. There could be no doubt. She was muttering curses, and she was a nun.

She was standing beneath the outside gallery that gave access to the bedrooms upstairs, so her grey clothing blended with the shadows, but her clothing was a nun's habit or he was a mother superior. Her plain gown was belted with rope, and a dark head cloth hung down her back. There was even a long wooden rosary hanging from the belt, and perhaps sandals on her feet. She had her back turned, but he thought she might be young.

she exploded. Italian?

The reason I came to love Jo Beverley so much was that I learned I could trust her. Many Historical Romance novelists will write what Romance readers call "Wallpaper Historicals" populated with modern characters in period dress, but not Beverley. Her dedication to research has always guaranteed a high degree of historical accuracy, but the main reason I trust her so much is her writer's sensitivity to people from different times that I can only describe as historical honesty.

Now that I've read one of her latest books, however, I'd like to qualify everything I've just said about her.

18 December 2009


Before He Was the King of the World

So James Cameron has a new movie out and I'm not even interested enough to blog its name.

It may be because US$500 million is a big budget for a movie that demonises the kind of industry and technology that make such a movie possible.

It may also be because someone who directs a Da Vinci Code-ish documentary like The Lost Tomb of Jesus can't expect to have any credibility left.

And yet . . . there was a time when all you had to say to get me to watch something was that James Cameron had been involved in its production . . . though, given that he had been involved in so few movies for someone who had been in Hollywood for twenty years, I probably would have seen it already.

My Top 5 James Cameron Movies

1. The Terminator

In this movie, a Resistance warrior from the future travels back to 1984 in order to save the mother of the future's greatest general before the cyborg sent by a self-aware computer system can kill her and thus "retroactively abort" her son. It's one of the most gritty and realistic movies I've ever seen!

Cameron and producer Gale Anne Hurd coined the term "Tech Noir" for what was then a new theme in the SF genre: the dark and dehumanising side of technology. Then they refused to give audiences a happy ending, instead assuring them that, in the future, machines would launch a nuclear war against their human creators and imprison the survivors in labour camps. The Terminator is a dark movie with a grim ending . . . and yet it has one of the most optimistic messages in the world.

Perhaps it is because Sarah and Kyle are recognisable as "types" of Mary and St. Joseph, which makes the story of John Connor a kind of evangelium. Indeed, I can still recall the sense of wonder I felt after watching this movie for the first time. It was as if it were 1984 again and the future had just opened up for me the way it had suddenly opened up for Sarah. Anything was possible; anyone could change the world; and as yet the only mistake Cameron had made was writing, "The future is not set," when all serious time travel theorists know that it is the present that is never set.

(If you're into FF, you might like to read my slightly cheesy Terminator Fic Nox Natalis.)

13 December 2009


Buffy vs. Edward
(A companion post to Because It's St. Lucy's Day)

Just adding more of my humble "blogger's mite" to the Team Jacob Team Charlie pool . . .

The video is described as "proto-feminist" and having the objective of exposing "patriarchal Hollywood themes," all of which disturbed me at first. And yet, in all fairness, it makes a great point.

From this we can learn that feminism is like the proverbial blind sow that will manage to find an acorn or two once in a while. (Note the politically correct gender of the sexist pig! Only appropriate, yes?)

12 December 2009


Tutor Tales, Volume 10

There haven't been any Doctor Nemesis stories in a while because he has been incorrigible and I've just been angry at him all the time. Last week, I finally broke through to what was wrong--and it was nothing I had imagined at all. While rummaging about in his school bag, I came across one, and then two, and finally three little white tablets, each sealed up in its own plastic pack.

I looked up just in time to keep him from carving his name into one of the centre tables (again) and then roared: "You've been off your meds all this time?!!?"

Then I frisked him and found a fourth little white tablet in one of his trouser pockets.

It explained absolutely everything.

I will spare you the gory details.

Now, I'm no fan of medicating little boys just so they conform to Prussian-style school systems, but as a minor part of the system, I have to work for the good from within. And right now I can think of no other alternative . . . save putting the poor lad in military school. (I'm not very creative.)

After Doctor Nemesis finally forgave me for telling his mother about the pills ("Why did you tell my mom? I thought you were my friend!"), were were able to get back to studying without anyone getting hurt. (You think I jest, don't you? That is because you've never seen me do a flying tackle! But never mind that now . . .)

08 December 2009


Team Taylor Tuesday: Thug Story

She's so "gangsta" that she bakes cookies at night . . . You know, I bake cookies at night. Now all I need is a name as cool as "T-swizzle" ("T-swizz" for short).

Or maybe not . . .

Before Rap was completely annexed by HipHop, it was a new, experimental sound that seemed to go well with pop genres as diverse as Electronica and Punk. The first commercially successful song to use Rap with any effect was Blondie's Rapture. (See the pun?) Before that, way back in the 1970s, there was Aerosmith's Walk This Way, which 80s HipHop group Run DMC had the edgy taste to cover. (Can you say "crossover gold"? How about "80s crossover gold"?) Finally, I remember Yoko Ono saying in an interview that if John Lennon had not died so young, he might have put out a Rap album.

So now let me kill two birds with one stone feed two birds with one hand and treat to you a rap-a-riffic Top 5 list.

My Top 5 Rap Songs by Non-Black People

1) Rock DJ by Robbie Williams

I tried to look for something G rated--or even PG rated--but this was all that was available. Then again, the lyrics themselves push the boundaries of innuendo, so the video, which I have long known was one of Robbie's cleverly disguised cries for help, is hardly out there. Besides, what better way to advertise your misery than in a clubbing standard actually fit to hold a candle to anything the BeeGees ever wrote? (So now you see how Robbie thinks . . .)

05 December 2009


Fourteen Things about 2012

14. The first scene foreshadows so much: a careless taxi driver doesn't notice that a little boy is playing with a toy boat in a puddle, and creates a mini "tsunami" that capsises the little craft.

13. This movie actually made me happy that I studied "Evangelical Geology." Who knew that Catastrophism was so cool?

12. The scenes of destruction are just beautiful--and director Roland Emmerich does a great job of distancing our minds from the millions of people who must have perished in terrible fear and agony. Ah, CGI, late have I loved you . . .

11. Speaking of Emmerich . . . 2012 is vastly, vastly superior to his earlier effort The Day after Tomorrow, because in this one the survival of humanity isn't centred on over-privileged, unsupervised teenagers, no matter how geekily wholesome, and snarky eccentrics . . . but on the nuclear family.

04 December 2009


Friday Night Movie: Conan the Barbarian

ConanBarbarian Poster

My dear Bloggians, there is good news and there is bad news.

The good news is that I will no longer feel bad whenever I think of Christopher and Arnold Schwarzenegger at the same time.

The bad news is that we are once more facing those four hated words: "Embedding disabled by request."

Yet what's a little disabled embedding between friends? =P

Watch Part 1!!!
(The music alone is awesome . . .)

0:18 "That which does not kill us makes us stronger" (Frederick Nietzche) I once translated that into Latin because I wanted it on my coat of arms . . . but I never got around to the rest of the project
0:25 That would be the grandfather of Giada de Laurentiis!
1:00 The "sons of Arius"? Our Arius? The heretic?
1:16 "It is I, his chronicler, who alone can tell thee of his saga." Why do I have a feeling this chronicler is going to turn out to be quite the character?
1:24 High Adventure!!! (As opposed to low adventure, which is all we seem to get these days . . .)
1:55 I love Basil Poledouris! Anyone who has scored a trifecta like RoboCop, Red Dawn, and Conan the Barbarian has an unlimited supply of cool.
3:17 Is anyone else wondering what Sigmund Freud would have to say about this sequence?
3:52 John Milius is someone else who had a hand in Red Dawn. Don't you love the man already?
4:11 What do you think of the child actor they cast as the young Conan? Compare and contrast to Schwarzenegger at around the same age.
4:53 "We who found it are just men. Not gods. Not giants. Just men." And that's why this story is good!
9:38 I don't believe this! With all the time in the world to run and hide, did they just cower there the whole time???

03 December 2009


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 5

Lucy faced the situation bravely, though, like most of us, she only faced the situation that encompassed her. She never gazed inwards. If at times strange images rose from the depths, she put them down to nerves. When Cecil brought the Emersons to Summer Street, it had upset her nerves. Charlotte would burnish up past foolishness, and this might upset her nerves. She was nervous at night. When she talked to George--they met again almost immediately at the Rectory--his voice moved her deeply, and she wished to remain near him. How dreadful if she really wished to remain near him! Of course, the wish was due to nerves, which love to play such perverse tricks upon us . . .

It is obvious enough for the reader to conclude, "She loves young Emerson." A reader in Lucy's place would not find it obvious. Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice, and we welcome "nerves" or any other shibboleth that will cloak our personal desire. She loved Cecil; George made her nervous; will the reader explain to her that the phrases should have been reversed?

I'm very sorry that I didn't put up an Open Thread last Thursday. My Thanksgiving post took precedence, but everything is back to normal again. =)

02 December 2009

01 December 2009


Team Taylor: Swift and Lautner?

If you heard her Monologue Song (La La La) when she hosted SNL, then you'll know that our Taylor is likely a member of Team Jacob as well!

Unfortunately, the bootlegged videos keep on getting pulled, so here's an audio clip with lyrics instead:

29 November 2009


What's a Picture Worth to You?

How about three pictures?

I apologise in advance for the terrible eyeshadow. I was in a hurry to leave the house and get to the meeting point.

27 November 2009


Thirteen Things about The Twilight Saga: New Moon

13) Last year, even my friends who thought Stephenie Meyer's novel Twilight was dumb were willing to watch the movie. This year, I couldn't hustle a single one of them to watch New Moon with me. It should have been my first clue, you know . . .

12) "You give me everything by just breathing." -- Edward to Bella

Yes, that is an actual line from the movie. All scenes with Edward just careened downhill after that. I don't know how Robert Pattinson can stand to look at himself in the mirror every morning.

11) "Since when are you into motorcycles?" -- Jacob to Bella

Since she turned into a heartless, people-using tease with deviant desires. That's when! -- Enbrethiliel to Jacob

26 November 2009


"The Greatest of [Country Songs] Is an Inventory"
(Can you recall the original quote by G.K. Chesterton?)

My original plan was to have a Top 5 List of nihilistic BritPop anthems from the 90s. (Please don't ask.) I soon realised, however, that that would totally go against the spirit of this blog. Shredded Cheddar is meant to be a force of good in the world, no matter what certain readers think. (Right, Christopher?)

I don't believe that everything is ultimately nothing, and I agree with Robert Louis Stevenson's observation that--

The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Now, that doesn't mean that we need stuff to make us happy. In fact, I'll bet I could make a good case for unlimited stuff being at the root of much of modern nihilism. What Stevenson does mean is that when one is disposed to be happy, all the things in the world seems to conspire with each other to make one as happy as he believes he could be. And what better response to all these cheerfully conspiratorial things than to write a song about them?

Okay! Now let's have some Country . . .

My amateur opinion is that there are two kinds of Country songs: those that tell stories and those that share lists. In honour of today's holiday, during which Americans gather together to be thankful for the blessings in their lives, I offer five of the latter type.

My Top 5 Country Music "Lists"

1) Chicken Fried by The Zac Brown Band

This is a song about everything one has learned to love--and be thankful for--since childhood. It's true that the simple things are what mean the most in the end . . . and what are best to sing about in the meantime.

24 November 2009


Reading Diary: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
(NOTE: This is now a Book Review Party entry.)

All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity, that the dry, shriveled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut.

Whether this be the case with my history or not, I am hardly competent to judge.

I sometimes think it might prove useful to some, and entertaining to others; but the world may judge for itself.

Shielded by my own obscurity, and by the lapse of years, and a few fictitious names, I do not fear to venture; and will candidly lay before the public what I would not disclose to the most intimate friend.

So begins the history--it is not allowed to be "just" a tale--of woman who used to work as a governess.

23 November 2009


Tutor Tales, Volume 9


You may be wondering about little Flatbread and Hummous. Now that he is my latest tutee, he deserves all the dignity of his own G.I. Joe name . . . so let's call him Lug Wrench from now on, shall we?

He is quite the character . . .

19 November 2009


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 4

"I believe it was my photographs that you threw away."

"I didn't know what to do with them," he cried, and his voice was that of an anxious boy. Her heart warmed towards him for the first time. "They were covered with blood. There! I'm glad I've told you; and all the time we were making conversation I was wondering what to do with them." He pointed downstream. "They've gone. The river swirled under the bridge. "I did mind them so, and one is so foolish, it seemed better that they should go out to the sea--I don't know; I just mean that they frightened me." Then the boy verged into a man. "For something tremendous has happened. I must face it without getting muddled. It isn't exactly that a man has died."

You know, I think I've always liked George Emerson.

So now let me dedicate this post and the comments that follow to him . . .


18 November 2009


Tutor Tales, Volume 8


In case anyone was thinking that I'm this natural teacher and fantastic tutor to children who just love me . . .

Well, let me just say that my classroom tactics may be the only time anyone could ever describe me as "unorthodox."

17 November 2009


Team Taylor Tuesday: Tim McGraw

For those of you who haven't heard it and think I'm weird right now, I'm just gonna go ahead and explain myself. It's not really about Tim McGraw and I'm not a stalker. It's really about two people who fall in love and their song's a Tim McGraw song. And I think it really deals with the power of Country music and how it has the power to haunt you, and take you back to places where you first heard that song . . .

Wasn't that lovely?

(I'll even admit that Country is more haunting than Synth Pop!)

Tim McGraw is a very bittersweet song and yet very satisfying to play.

Now it's lesson time! =D

16 November 2009


These Dreams: Time Travel

In the grand, if still young Shredded Cheddar tradition of letting it all hang out on the Internet, I'm going to give the world wide web a peek into my subconscious mind.

Last week, I had a dream about one of the following English bands from the 80s.

TheClash Photobucket

NewOrder OrchestralManoeuvresDark

TheSmiths SpandauBallet

I know I've only divulged the name of the band to one other person on this planet. I warn him now that if he reveals it to anyone else, I shall never speak to him again. Ever. Except, perhaps, in Heaven. But does he really want to wait that long? Especially when divulging the secret would only lengthen his stay in Purgatory anyway?

So now for the story, which I fancy is still pretty interesting, despite my having withheld all incriminating names of people and places . . .

15 November 2009


I [Heart] T.B. Player


Remember the movie That Thing You Do?

One of my cousins didn't like the way it ended. She was sad that the bass player's name is never revealed and that even in the end credits Ethan Embry's character is called "T.B. Player." I tried to explain that it was a joke and her sister tried to explain that it was a metaphor . . . and of course, my dear cousin tried to explain that every nameless musician is also a person.

Don't you love it when everyone has a different contribution and yet everyone is right? It's like playing the same song with different instruments. You know, like a band . . .

And, yeah, what would their only hit have been without that solid low end from T.B. Player? (Hint: it wouldn't have been a hit.) I actually like him best on Little Wild One . . . and all Wonders fans will agree (or else face my wrath) that he is the reason All My Only Dreams is even remotely sexy.

That Thing You Do made a valuable contribution to my now full-blown bias when it comes to musicians who play the bass guitar. This post is for five of my favourites.

My Top 5 Bass Players

1) Paul McCartney (The Beatles)

McCartney has achieved so much over his decade-spanning career that we often forget that he started as the Fab Four's T.B. Player--and was a d*** good one!

14 November 2009


Tutor Tales, Volume 7
(Note: This has a companion post at my main blog--Education in the Dark Ages.)

My cousin Fire Storm may be my most well behaved student, but he's the most academically challenging. Remember that I don't merely help him with his homework, but actually take charge of most of his homeschooling. This means we are learning English, Filipino, History and Science together, with me leading the way. (It's horrifying already, isn't it?)

A short while ago, I read an article by a homeschooling mother who admits that she is hardly qualified to teach all the subjects her children had to learn. Yet homeschooling works for her family because she doesn't think that learning always depends on an adult authority imparting knowledge to a child. She has found that learning happens just as effectively when an adult and a child get to explore something new together.

Now, I just love that reflection--and yet, because Fire Storm is not my own son, I worry that it's not a professional way to think.

13 November 2009


(Steinbeck's) Seven Quick Takes
(Note: Check out this week's Quick Takes round up on Conversion Diary.)


I'm going to pretend this is a Book Blog, at least for today . . .

(You do recall who Steinbeck is, right? . . . Yeah, I name everything.)

7. My first draft of this post included short takes on books that I've been reading and thinking about. I edited them out today because I felt that I was marginalising my "Reading Diary" feature. This throws a small spanner into my plan to let future Quick Takes address the following seven points: Books, Food/Recipes, Christine/Guitar (or Music in general), Movies, Work (Freelancing or Teaching), 80s Nostalgia . . . and a "wild card." Then again, there's more to blogging about books than just books, you know! ;-)

12 November 2009


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 3

"The Signorina had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!"

"And a Cockney besides!" said Lucy, who had been further saddened by the Signorina's unexpected accent. "It might be London." She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M.A. Oxon.), that was the only other decoration on the wall. "Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds of things are just outside . . ."

11 November 2009


Tutor Tales, Volume 6


Sometimes I feel as if a tutor's job involves little more than following after teachers with a mop and a bucket.

It's not that teachers routinely make messes that other people have to clean up, but that there are certain messes which teachers don't believe it is their job to clean up. Speaking from my own experience, if I had a class of seventeen year old girls, all of whom were planning to go to uni in a year's time, I'd expect a certain level of performance from them. If they find it hard to understand an assigned text, I'd be glad to make that the starting point of our discussion. If they find it hard to understand certain words in the text, I'd expect them to know how to look up the words' meanings on their own. Any teacher will tell you that, after a certain point, if you can't swim, then you'll just have to sink.

Today, I find myself rescuing students whom, in my former position of power, I used to banish to watery graves. It's a whole other experience of the education industry--and a saddening reminder that, in much of this modern world, education is viewed as just another industry.

So how are the little darlings faring on my assembly line?

10 November 2009


Team Taylor Tuesday: Fan Feature

First of all, I apologise to the legions of Taylor Swift fans who follow this blog (Hi, Marianne and family!) for completely forgetting Team Taylor Tuesday last week!

To add insult to injury, it is not Taylor I feature tonight, but one of her fans. However, I found him really funny and likeable, and have already enjoyed his parody of Teardrops on My Guitar several times. Give it a try:

(Yes, the audio and video are not in sync, but that's a small flaw.)

08 November 2009


Reading Diary: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Mrs. Norris was often observing to the others that she could not get her poor sister and her family out of her head, and that, much as they had all done for her, she seemed to be wanting to do more; and at length she could not but own it to be her wish, that poor Mrs. Price should be relieved from the charge and expense of one child entirely out of her great number.

"What if they were among them to undertake the care of her eldest daughter, a girl now nine years old, of an age to require more attention than her poor mother could possibly give? The trouble and expense of it to them would be nothing, compared with the benevolence of action."

Lady Bertram agreed with her instantly. "I think we cannot do better," said she; "let us send for the child."

I've just remembered that my Reading Diary is meant to be an informal record of all my reading and not necessarily a collection of reviews. This takes some of the pressure off, and I'm relieved to say that what follows is definitely not a review.

07 November 2009


The Sum of a Song's Parts

"What I am searching for, I suppose, is a unified field theory that defines what I like about sound."

-- Chuck Klosterman attempts to answer the question "What kind of music do you like?"

I don't suppose the analytical approach to music is the right one, but I like the exercise Mr. Klosterman has developed for himself.

It didn't work with the songs I "consistently enjoy the most," because all their musical threads are woven together so perfectly (to my untrained ear, at least) that I wouldn't know the first thing about picking them apart. So I settled for five songs (well, four songs and one composition) which have often struck me as experiments in sound as much as "pure" music.

My Top 5 "Parts of Songs"

1) From Duran Duran's Wild Boys: The Chanting

What Duranie hasn't done the back-and-forth "Wild boys!" chant with a fellow fan?

(Roger Taylor's percussion effects are great, too. I try to tap out the same beat with whatever is handy when the song comes on. Then there's John Taylor's effortless, relentless bass guitar . . . and Andy Taylor's short but soaring guitar solo . . . Really, this song is just begging to be chopped apart and loved for its bits and pieces, isn't it?)

05 November 2009


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 2


Book Clubbers: Shall we finally break the ice? =)

Non-Clubbers: Books? What books? All we actually do is play these crazy games until we pass out from all the non-literary fun. Really.

04 November 2009


Writing Diary: Entry #12

Before we finally launch into our first "Two or Three" Book Club discussion tomorrow, I wanted to share the first article my editor wouldn't take.

Since I'm not going to be paid for it at all, I can do what I want with it; and right now, what I want is for it to be read.

When I stopped by the publishing office a few days ago (while we were both still mixed up about what they wanted from me), my editor told me that the Foodie magazine she had asked me to write for had been scrapped by the publishers. Apparently, a meeting with pessimistic advertisers had swayed them to nix the idea. There are currently eight or nine Foodie magazines competing for a slice of the national readership, and several of them have had such poor sales (not necessarily low, just below target) that the advertisers don't believe that there is room for yet another publication.

That means that I am getting paid for the two articles I already submitted, but that nobody will ever read them . . . which is actually worse than not getting paid for an article which at least some people get to read. I would know, wouldn't I?

So here, for your free reading pleasure (or probably not), is the article on TV celebrities, which is still mine to do what I like with. I removed the TV guide's name and inserted this blog's name, which is only right. (Oh, and I added the modifier "irresistible" to the phrase "TV candy.")

02 November 2009


Reading Diary: Pep Talk: Inspiration from America's Greatest Coaches
(Update: This is now a Book Review Party entry.)

This book offers words of wisdom from my peers who have helped others overcome their obstacles and achieve their goals.

We all need encouragement at some point, from the President of the United States on down to the lowest employee. Share these words with those around you and motivate them to be the best they can be.

-- Tommy Lasorda, Foreword

What has sport to do with words? Feats of bodily strength, speed and agility don't seem to need the "small member" that is the tongue. On the playing field, one's actions should speak for oneself--and sport would certainly give new meaning to "body language," if a prose snob would only let it.

And yet words are necessary to athletics: the right words at the right time can make the difference where talent, training and endurance are equal. It's almost magical . . . and we amazed mortals watching from the stands hope we can distill a bit of the magic for ourselves by preserving the words in print.

31 October 2009


Twelve Things about Paranormal Activity

12. I see the potential for a great new genre. The average "RomCom" may be a lighthearted romp of a story, but "RomHor" has morality play potential.

11. There must be something about "shacking up" that unsettles the psyche. This movie never would have worked with leads who are married and either raising children or open to having them someday. No matter how committed two people in love are, if they describe themselves as "engaged to be engaged," then they're sublimating something.

10. Over the decades, Horror movies have got a lot of mileage from scary children of all ages, including the unborn. Paranormal Activity has no children: it may be set in a nice "family" home with several upstairs bedrooms and a big backyard, but these are just to make the absence of little ones all the more conspicuous. I nominate the term "Yuppie Gothic."

30 October 2009


Hey, "Two or Three" Book Clubbers!

Yes, that's right: all two or three of you! (Or, judging by the number of votes on our poll, all four!)

First of all . . .

There are a little over twelve hours before our poll closes and A Room with a View and Treasure Island are still tied!!!

I see that it will take more than titles and cover art to swing the vote. How about some "random" quotes? Prose carries much weight, after all.

27 October 2009


Team Taylor Tuesday: Drew vs. Joe

Just when you thought Tuesdays couldn't get tweenier . . .

Last week we heard Taylor's song of longing for Drew Hardwick. I thought that this week we could have some fun with a fellow in her past who is going to inspire a very different kind of song, if he ever manages to turn muse . . .

It's probably not a good sign that our first video is a gossip report--but then again, the first time I ever heard of Taylor was when Jayca told me about a certain girl in the music industry whom Joe Jonas tastelessly broke up with over a phone call. Again, it's not the best way for Taylor to pop onto someone's pop music radar; but I don't think it does much harm.

26 October 2009


Writing Diary, Entry #11
UPDATE: You'd think editors would be more precise about assignments, wouldn't you? See below . . .

From my contact at Atlas TV Guide, my next assignment:

TEN BIG DOCUMENTARY SHOWS and/or CELEBRITIES who have made (and still are making) an impact on viewers, stirred controversy, or hogged the headlines in the world of television--plus updates.


My mother rolled her eyes when I told her that I was about to make the transition from Reliable Movie Reviewer to Wired-in Entertainment Writer, but I think I'm plugged into the post-1980s pop culture enough to manage a low-key article or two. In fact, I think my relative ignorance of this sphere will turn out to be a strength, since a contemporary celebrity would have to be really BIG for me to consider putting him on the list.

So far, these are the TV celebrities whom I believe merit inclusion . . . (Let's see how many you can name.)

24 October 2009


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 1

If you voted "Ugh!" to the proposed Book Club, don't worry. There's no need to dally here and I won't make you read it . . . even if you were in the minority.

If you voted "Yay!" to the proposed Book Club, you already want to "Keep Reading!", so I won't stop you . . .

23 October 2009


Friday Night Movie: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

0:11 One day I'm going to make a list of all the wonderful 80s movies we owe to Orion.
0:23 Listen! It's the bass of the future!
0:30 It sounds as if synths have come back! (Will come back?) Who would have guessed?
1:03 Long before he was Neo . . .
1:07 Shortly after he was Marko . . .
1:34 I had to look up Big Pig, a band I don't remember from the 80s at all. Is anyone else wondering why we don't have a Wyld Stallyns soundtrack?
2:30 "Even the dirt is clean!" Near the end of a decade full of dark dystopian imagery, we find ourselves with an optimistic movie.
2:41 "This is place is great! . . . But it almost wasn't." No matter how secure the future, the present is always uncertain and vulnerable. The best Time Travel movies know this.
2:55 First impressions do last.
3:00 "Don't worry. It'll all make sense. I'm a professional." He's right. Trust me. I'm a professional, too.
3:30 I don't know what those sounds are, but they are not chords.
4:30 On the other hand, the sounds they make with air guitar are . . . excellent.
4:49 "I'm waiting." An interesting first line for the History teacher--even though History teachers actually do more than wait for the past to record itself.
6:14 Who wants to bet that these two clowns are secretly his favourite students?
7:22 "Express to the class how an important historical feature from each of your time periods would view the world of San Dimas, 1988." I wouldn't mind preparing that oral presentation--and putting a decidedly Catholic twist on it. Who better than historical Catholic figures to pass judgment on a town named after the very first saint?
7:42 If I ever become somebody's step-mother, I'd want to be like Missy Preston--feathery 80s hair, convertible and all.
7:51 Well, I will draw the line at being only four years older than my step-children, though I've already played "second mother" to high school kids.
8:02 Hey! Her hair is different here!

22 October 2009


Tutor Tales, Volume 5


There will be no more Peaches and Cream stories. Her mother informed me that she has decided to take over the after-school tutoring for both her daughters. It was an economic decision rather than a reflection of my tutoring, but it still hit me personally before it hit me economically. I'll miss Peaches and Cream. I'll also miss the income. Anyone who has been blindsided by the world economy knows that that isn't as mercenary as it sounds.

That is why I'm hoping that a certain other prospect will turn up gold . . .

21 October 2009


Wednesday Night Trailer: "Party on, Dude!"

Yes, Friday Night Movie is back! (No need to thank me . . .)

20 October 2009


Team Taylor Tuesday: Teardrops on My Guitar

I heard this song on the radio last week while taking a taxi to the tutorial centre. It's too emotionally drippy to be one of my favourites, but I like Taylor's sense of humour as she shares the backstory in this clip . . .

Best Quote: "It's crazy how having a Top 5 hit with a song won't get you over somebody."

Teenagers are so cute when they're being profound . . .

Oh, yeah . . . her guitar sounds amazing! Doesn't it make you want to indulge in a tutorial?

18 October 2009


Strumming Patterns

I've been laying off the finger picking lately so I can work on my strumming.

It may be from the old Beginners Course, but it's still great.

The second pattern is what Andy Taylor used for Rio. Brilliant!

16 October 2009


(Christine's) Seven Quick Takes
(Note: Be sure to enjoy all the rest of this week's Seven Quick Takes.)

I really like these "linky" posts that everyone does at once. They make me feel like a pre-loved paperback in a used bookstore: that is, in good company. (If Forrest Gump had only been more of a reader, then he would have compared life to a used bookstore . . .)

This is really the most social I ever get.

Now please tell me you remember who (or rather what) Christine is.

These Quick Takes (written from my point of view, not hers) were the easiest I've ever written.

7. I read somewhere that for 90 percent of guitarists, the hardest chord to master is B (224442). The other 10 percent get their callouses handed to them by F (133211). Well, I fall into the majority.

I can play B now--thank goodness--but that's a story for another post.

15 October 2009


Writing Diary, Entry #10

Reviews are my favourite articles to write. Oh, the felicity of being opinionated on paper and being paid for it!

Of course, an honest review requires that the writer have read the book, watched the movie, eaten at the restaurant, used the mobile phone, tried the beauty product, etc. One of my biggest challenges is working with an editor who uses the word "review" as a blanket term for any feature article about media. Thank goodness for technology! I was able to download a torrent of the first movie she asked me to write about, and watch the second in its entirety on YouTube.com.

Then came her latest assignment: a "review" of a movie which hasn't even come out on the big screen yet!!!

14 October 2009


Sweet Valley, California: Been There, Read That
(Note: This is a Book Review Party entry.)

When I started teaching, one of my students asked me how many books I had read in my life. After I tried to explain that asking such a question is like asking a guitarist how many songs he has ever played, she pressed: "Why don't you start counting from today, and give us a number at the end of the school year?" Students! Sheesh . . .

If I had to start counting, I'd at least have an easy start. I read all of my mother's (and the school library's) Nancy Drew books, all of a friend's Fear Street books, and all of an aunt's Sweet Valley High books, before I started my own humble book collection with Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley Kids, Unicorn Club, Goosebumps, and a little bit of The Baby-Sitters Club, for good pop culture measure.

When I was in Business school, I ended up tossing all those series books into a huge box and donating them to a rural public school which was trying to start up a lending library. It was probably not the best move. Since then, a certain non-profit organisation which creates starter libraries for Filipino elementary schools has made it clear that they do NOT accept these sort of books as donations--the kind of books that make a young non-American reader unhappy to be a young non-American reader. Even as I arch an eyebrow at that policy, I concede the point.

A part of me has had other reason to regret my impulsive generosity. As you know, I'm feeling very retro these days, and wouldn't mind reading some of those old books again. Here are a few titles this not-so-young, still-non-American reader wouldn't mind revisiting:

My Top 5 Sweet Valley Books

1. Sweet Valley High #62: Who's Who?

This is such a classic plot! The main reason it's not more popular among SVH fans is that it's not as amorally, delightfully trashy as the earlier titles, which were much closer to Cecily von Ziegesar's Gossip Girl series than to what the rest of the Sweet Valley franchise has become since the 80s.

I think this title is a great representative of the series because it has Jessica getting herself into trouble, Elizabeth gamely bailing her out, an unlikely only-in-Sweet-Valley scheme triggering the conflict, the twins' identical beach blond looks serving as a plot device, and two couples pairing off at the end of the story. SVH makes high school dating seem so easy.

The book begins with Jessica saying she is tired of dating the same type of boy over and over again. She thinks it would be a great idea to make up a whole new personality for herself and to submit the fake profile to a dating service. Well, make that two whole new personalities: as a twin, she has been thinking in twos since birth. She names her snooty, super-cultured persona Daniella Fromage, and her rock chick party girl persona Magenta Galaxy. What follows is a true Comedy of Errors, Sweet Valley style!

13 October 2009


Team Taylor Tuesday: Featuring Def Leppard

This week we have a live performance that gives new meaning to the phrase, "Pour some sugar on me" . . .

Until now, I hadn't realised how much I've missed Def Leppard. Joe Elliot is a pro! So far, this is also the only live performance of Taylor's that I've really liked--and certainly much better than last week's attempt to rock something out.

09 October 2009


Recipe: Red Velvet Cake

Miss Marva steered the three of us into the kitchen and gave us plates heaped with red velvet cake. Between mouthfuls of cake Hardy told me Miss Marva was the best cook in Welcome. According to Hardy, her cakes and pies won the tricoloured ribbon at the county fair every year until the officials had begged her not to enter so someone else could have a chance.

Miss Marva's red velvet cake was the best I had ever tasted, made with buttermilk and cocoa, and enough red food colouring to make it glow like a stoplight, the whole of it covered with an inch-thick layer of cream cheese frosting.

We ate like ravenous wolves, nearly scraping layers off the yellow Fiesta ware with our aggressive forks, until every bright crumb had vanished . . .

What I remember most about Sugar Daddy--Lisa Kleypas' first foray into Contemporary Romance--is the food. From the remarkable Miss Marva, the heroine learns "the basics of Texas cooking," expanding her repertoire to include chicken-fried steak topped with white cream gravy . . . okra dusted with cornmeal and skillet fried in hot grease . . . pinto beans boiled with a hambone . . . turnip greens with pepper sauce . . . chicken and dumplings . . . and that glorious red velvet cake.

(In another chapter, she strolls through the food court of the Redneck Roundup fair and muses, "It does not occur to Texans that some things just aren't meant to be put on a stick and deep fried." It's really too bad I can't go into that aspect of the story now.)

Back to the red velvet cake. Miss Marva's recipe is so amazing that she warns the heroine never to bake it for a man unless she wants him to propose to her. What an interesting bit of baking it must have been, aye?

Sugar Daddy may have pushed red velvet cake into my radar when I read it a year ago, but I wasn't inspired to do any real baking until just this week, when my mother surprised me by demanding it.

08 October 2009


Let's Try This Again . . .


If I had wanted any proof that Shredded Cheddar's readers (both those I know of and those who lurk) are mostly male--not that there's anything wrong with that--then I got it when the proposed "Girly Girl Weekend" was shot down.

What this means, I guess, is that instead of having one weekend a month in which the cooties run free and wild (and which the fellows have been forewarned to avoid), each month will be a minefield of scattered cooties. (You know, that might actually be more fun!)

In the meantime, there is a new poll . . .

07 October 2009


Tutor Tales: Volume 4

Last week was slow at the tutorial centre, thanks to the untoward weather, but we've since regained our momentum--with not a moment to lose, it turns out.

It has also been a slow year for the centre, thanks to the global recession and the glorified regular flu scare, but things are about to get hectic very soon. The first exams of the school year are around the proverbial corner. Anyone who has ever been a tutor knows what that means:

06 October 2009


Team Taylor Tuesday: Should've Said No

0:16 Don't you just love a girl with a guitar?
0:20 Strumming patterns are harder to figure out than they look.
0:28 Is that a chop . . . or just the way her guitar sounds?

05 October 2009


There and Back Again

Now, I'm a huge fan of comebacks; but I also think they should be done right. After all, you want people to think you're in it for the love of music and the joy of performng, and not for something so crass as the money. (Right?)

Let's start with a really good example: Take That.

Their greatest hit, a Christmas #1 and the single which finally cracked the US charts, was Back for Good:

(Now that the Noughties are almost over, I can see how utterly 90s the above video is. Slightly embarrassing, but never mind that now . . .)

Interestingly, when Take That's four non-Robbie members decided to reform ten years later, their former boy band status actually worked in their favour. Nobody expected them to have the same sort of appeal they once had; and despite their chart-topping successes, they weren't exactly known for making timeless music, so it would have been pretty easy to make a better record the second time around. If you have a decent ear for Pop, you'll know what I mean when I say that Patience didn't put them to shame:

Just look at the audience in that stadium. Now that is the way to do a comeback.

* * * * *

03 October 2009


"The Saturday Evening Blog Post"

What a good idea! A monthly carnival of random bloggy goodness!

I thought quite a bit about which September 09 Sancta Sanctis post to feature. While I had a soft spot for my anti-WWJD Catholic Q and A, I couldn't deny the huge success of Mantillas on My Mind.

Remember when Kate Winslet said, with the shrewdest condescension, that if one really wanted an Oscar, then one should make a movie about the Holocaust? (She went on to win an Oscar for a lead role in a movie about the Holocaust.) It reminds me of a similar unwritten rule of the Catholic blogosphere: if you want a lot of comments, then publish a post about veils. Not that I wrote said post merely for the comments; it was a topic I had been thinking about for weeks.

(You may notice that it's far more polished than the Catholic Q and A post, which turned out to be my first rough ideas rather than the final cut. That was another factor.)

If I had nominated a Shredded Cheddar post, it would have been Tutor Tales: Volume 3. With all due modesty, that one was so comic that it even had me laughing as I wrote it.

02 October 2009


Reading Diary: Woman on the Run by Lisa Marie Rice
UPDATE: I have entered this review in Cym Lowell's weekly Book Review Party.

Cooper nodded thoughtfully. "I guess Simpson's a bit like that. No one has done anything up in a long time. Shops have been closing for ten years and no one's investing in the place. Town's not going to last long if someone doesn't do something. Places need attention, just like people."

Places need attention, Julia thought with a sudden pang. Cooper's words echoed in her head. She was guilty of neglect, herself. She had lived for a whole month now in her little house and she hadn't done anything to make it nicer or more comfortable. It was unheard of for a Devaux. She was in Simpson under duress, it was true. Yet her mom had been in Riyadh under duress. And their house there had been her mother's decorating triumph.

I haven't done anything at all to make my new life into something better
, she thought. Her mother would have been ashamed of her.

If I'm going to do this, I might as well do it defensively. So let me start by saying that I usually keep my distance from EroRom (Erotic Romance). The little I knew of the subgenre truly turned me off, but I wasn't about to make a survey in order to justify that impression.

Let me also say in advance that since I finished this novel, I've done more browsing through the subgenre, hoping to find other authors like Lisa Marie Rice. Yet it looks as if she's the best there is. Everyone else is happy to fill their books with sluts and man-whores. I can't believe that that shit gets marketed as "Romance" . . . but that's not a rant for this post.

Not that any of the above explains why I have an EroRom novel on my Reading Diary. In brief, Rice came on my radar when I heard rumours that she might actually be a man. You see, I like the idea of men writing genre Romance--especially if they have to do it secretly. (There's something almost Chestertonian about such subterfuge.) Indeed, there's a male Romance author whose books I read as a matter of course--not because he's particularly good, but because he does deliver the proverbial je ne sais quoi. Besides, his sympathies lie with the Confederacy. I used to stay the heck away from American-set Historical Romance because of the anti-South bias, but I can relax when I read his books. (I may feature him in a future Reading Diary . . .)

30 September 2009


Tutor Tales: Volume 3

Classes have been suspended all week, due to the heavy rains and flooding over last weekend. Many roads are still inaccessible by anything but boats and many public schools are doubling as temporary shelters for families who have lost their homes. In the meantime, the Catholic private schools are doubling as relief centres with a volunteer staff of teachers and students.

Tutors, on the other hand, can work out of classrooms. For such "teachers errant," it has been work as usual.

When I arrived at Fire Storm's home yesterday morning, his older brother was headed out the door to volunteer at his own high school. He had begged his parents for years to let him study in a big traditional school instead of their Evangelical church's small private school. Since, in the Philippines, "traditional" means "Catholic," they resisted the move for as long as they could . . . before finally giving in.

As for Fire Storm, he's doing well. We've just started reading William Gibson's play The Miracle Worker; consequently, his homework for tonight is to eat his dinner while blindfolded. (Can you tell that we also took up conjunctive adverbs today?)

Sometimes I wish all my tutees were like Fire Storm. It would certainly make my job easier. On the other hand, if they were all like Fire Storm, then I never would have met Doctor Nemesis two weeks ago . . .

29 September 2009


Team Taylor Tuesday: Picture to Burn

I love the official video ("Gasp! She's driving the truck!"); but "embedding disabled, etc" so . . .

26 September 2009


Random Writing Exercise, Page 1

From What Colour Is Your Parachute? (2004 Edition) by Richard N. Bolles:

Write seven stories about things you did just because they were fun, or because they gave you a sense of adventure, or gave you a sense of accomplishment. It does not matter whether anyone else ever knew of this accomplishment, or not. Each story can be about something you did at work, or in school, or at play--and can be from any time period of your life. It should not be more than two or three paragraphs, in length.

Ideally, each story should have the following parts . . . :

I) Your goal: what you wanted to accomplish
II) Some kind of hurdle, obstacle or constraint that you faced (self-imposed or otherwise)
III) A description of what you did, step by step
IV) A description of the outcome or result
V) Any measurable or quantifiable statement of that outcome, that you can think of

Seven stories? No more than two or three paragraphs each? He's kidding, right?

Well, I don't know how many I'll be able to do, and I do insist on at least five paragraphs (to allow for style as well as substance).

Here's my first story . . .

A few years ago, I was a very active member of a certain actor's online fan club. I won't tell you who he is. Just know he was in the following ensemble cast . . .

22 September 2009


Team Taylor Tuesday

This is the video for You Belong with Me, which won Best Female Video at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

Cliched? Maybe. Cute? Oh, yes!