30 June 2010


Twelve Things about Scream

12. "Do you like scary movies?" I recently watched this film again--as I plan to watch the whole franchise, in anticipation of Scream 4--and I was impressed anew at how well done the opening sequence is. I went completely tense at the best scene changer of all time--"I want to know who I'm looking at"--and I was screaming my lungs out as soon as that chair came through the glass door.

And when my tender mother who wouldn't hurt a fly (Ha!) walked in to investigate the noises, I screamed some more because I thought she had come to kill me.

11. "Don't you blame the movies! Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!"

Indeed, Scream pays tribute to many Horror movies and franchises that have gone before. Here are just the ones I can think of right now: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Prom Night, Candyman, Silence of the Lambs, Carrie, Psycho, Fatal Attraction, and I Spit on Your Grave.

10. And while we're on the subject: movies make everyone more creative. Don't you blame the movies!!! (Okay, Mom?)

"Word and Question" Wednesday

letter W Ampersand Sign for the Q stairs in Pembroke College
number 2

Five people said that they were willing to play this game again or for the first time, and my teacher's soul expects full attendance and then some!

(Hey! Where are you all going? Come back!!!)

29 June 2010


Teaser Tuesday!
(A weekly meme blog hop hosted at Should Be Reading)

Have a taste of this week's sampling of teasers!

Bloggers doing this meme are supposed to share two sentences from a random page in their current read. These two sentences are meant to "tease" their regular readers by announcing an upcoming review--and also to "tease" casual visitors who might just be looking for their next book to read.

I have a difficult enough time finding good excerpts for my regular "reviews" (I use the term very loosely) to want to restrict myself to two consecutive sentences; but my latest featured book is such a whirlwind of different elements that I'll accept this challenge for the first time--even though the excerpt is not going to be random.

Nick Joaquin is a master at writing sentences that stretch on and on and on--in his book of historical essays A Question of Heroes he summed up over a hundred years of history, narrative style, in a single sentence that took up over one page and felt glorious (even though I needed a stiff drink at the end)--and I thought I'd give everyone a taste of that with this chunk of a teaser . . .

From The Woman Who Had Two Navels
by Nick Joaquin

28 June 2010


Option 6: The Woman Who Had Two Navels by Nick Joaquin
(See the details of this contest/giveaway)
(Visit the new Giveaways page to learn how you could win this book!)

Leaning sternly away from her, Father Tony said: "Mad people can't commit sins either."

"Then I want the privilege of the mad, without being mad myself."

"Sooner or later, Connie, you'll step back so far you'll find yourself where they are."

"But don't you understand, Father? I want to be good. I'm trying to stay good. Does one go mad for trying to do that? Is it that hard?"

"It's very hard indeed. But you, Connie, have taken the easiest way out. You are not trying, you have given up. . . When you convinced yourself you had two navels, you retreated, not from evil, but only from the struggle against evil. People can't be good unless they know they're free to be bad if they wanted to."

I think I've saved the best for last, as the cliche goes. Nick Joaquin is my favourite Filipino writer, and this novel of his, written in prose that paints a beautifully beer-fogged dreamscape, has been haunting me for years.

27 June 2010


Writing Diary, Entry #19

One of the perks of being a "media person" (however loosely that label applies) is getting to attend lots of "media events."

Not that all that almost-free food and almost-free entertainment (All yours for the price of a well-written article!) isn't without its downside. Two Saturdays ago, at my latest press junket, I met a magazine editor who confessed that when one has to show up and make nice at up to three different parties in one day, the glitz gets really old, really fast. And she seemed a happy extrovert!

26 June 2010


LOCUS FOCUS: Take Seven!

This being the last Saturday I can submit a Locus Focus to the month-long Jane in June party shindig festival extravaganza at Book Rat, I thought I'd give my own little contest/giveaway thing a bit of a rest today. I mean, I've been giving it a rest all week, so why stop while I'm ahead? (Link up your own Jane-themed posts from this month!)

Nevertheless, next week will be all about the sixth book that is up for grabs--my favourite of the whole lot and so the one I'm most excited about. It's not over yet!!!

23 June 2010


Punk Catholic Thought of the Week XI

Some readers of this blog might remember a nasty piece of business from a few months ago, in which I suggested that cradle Catholics shouldn't let converts tell them how to act or what to believe--because, you know, it should actually be the other way around.

Well, thanks to that, I decided to "walk the walk" and not just "talk the talk." After all, since I am a "revert" myself, I have nothing on those who never left the Church, do I?

NSFWednesday Night Trailer
(Alternatively Titled: Stilwell, Have You Seen This?)

Note that I'm not kidding about the NSFW part. I mean, it's a teaser trailer for something called Wax On, F*** Off. Do you really need me to spell out that third word for you? =P

22 June 2010


Twelve Things about Now and Then

12. The child stars of the 90s playing characters on the cusp of the 70s: proof that there's nothing like a double dose of nostalgia.

11. And what an interesting cusp it was . . .

"There are no perfect families," says Teeny, as she tries to comfort Samantha. And all the examples from the movies and TV that she can think of are families which lost a parent to death. Samantha is part of the first generation in which it was more common to lose a parent to divorce.

Factor in the disillusioned veteran of the Vietnam War and you know that this isn't just about four girls' coming of age, but a whole country's coming of age. (Well, at least from the Baby Boomer's point of view. Those Boomers really did feel like the centre of the universe, didn't they? This snotty Millennial should know! =P)

20 June 2010


The Midnight Warrior Rises Again!
(A sporadic challenge hosted by From Midnight, with Love)

Did you think I had forgotten??? Oh, you little minions!

The Mike Asks:
"What's guaranteed to make you happy
when it comes to Horror, Genre, or Cult cinema?"

And the Midnight Warriors Answer!
Check out our "triumphant return"!

By the way, my dear minions . . .
I will forever love the first among you who recognises the movie
from which I borrowed the above (slightly tweaked) screencap!

Well, The Mike's question is a no-brainer for me--and not in a reanimated corpse way. I think it's obvious to anyone who has been five minutes in my company that "Catholic stuff" makes me very happy, no matter where I find it.

But to write about the Catholic elements in Horror movies would be too easy.

So I think I'll write about the almost-Catholic elements. You know, the stuff that would have been explicitly Catholic if the creative minds behind them had not wanted to tweak the genre a little. And let's face it: when the tweaking is good, it's very good!

Top Five Priest Figures in Horror

1) Abraham Van Helsing (Dracula by Bram Stoker)

A general rule is that any Horror novel with vampires is bound to have a priest figure pop in sooner or later. (Unless, admittedly, it was written by a Mormon.) So let's start this list with a great "old school" Catholic from a great "old school" vampire novel: someone who isn't a priest but really might as well be! (Yes, yes, I know: I'm obviously blogging about a book, when this challenge is about cinema. But hasn't this novel been adapted enough for me to get a break on this?)

Now, "Bram" Van Helsing isn't actually a vampire hunter; he just happens to be the first doctor who recognises Lucy's symptoms as the marks of a vampire attack. That's the funny thing about priest figures: they are as incidental as they are crucial. And so they're usually not the main characters, who are properly considered the heroes. The priest figures' role is to guide them, or to assist them in defeating the evil by doing something sacrificial and/or pastoral in nature.

And you can be sure that Van Helsing understands personal sacrifice. His wife went insane after the death of their son, but he remains faithful to his marriage vows. And he devotes himself to helping those in need--even those he probably doesn't have to care about and who may only kill him in the end.

19 June 2010


Locus Focus: Take Six!

Since it is still June and I'm still hosting that contest/giveaway that is getting everyone really excited (I hope!), I shall write about another book I am offering for free to one lucky reader. (It is just one book in a whole package, really, so it's another good deal.)

And I have to say that the only thing more fun than writing my weekly Locus Focus features is getting to read everyone else's! So remember: the only one pressured to be punctual with a Saturday post is myself. If you want to link up your post on Sunday, Monday, or even Thursday, it will still be as welcome! Just leave a comment after linking so that I and other readers will know there is something new to check out. =)

18 June 2010


Option 5: Barefoot in Fire: A World War II Childhood by Barbara-Ann Gamboa Lewis
(See the details of this contest/giveaway.)
(Visit the new Giveaways page to learn how you could win this book!)

. . . BARBARA, feminine of barbarus, foreign strange. As I read the words, I knew this was me . . . "Foreign, strange" would explain why I was not like the other children, why they threw stones and mud at me, why they yelled at me, "Mestisong bangus, madaling maubos!" which literally translated means "you half-white fish, quickly eaten up" and is meant to be derogatory. My father was Filipino, but my mother was Irish-English and had grown up first in British South Africa and then in the United States of America. I was half-white, and because of that, a foreigner, a stranger in my own country. It didn't help that I hardly ever wore a dress . . . and did not behave in a way that little Filipino girls were supposed to behave.
This is one of the two books that is already available abroad, at least in the US, where it was originally published under the title Pocket Stones. So if you win and pick this option, I'll make it a real "Children's Book Package" and throw in four brightly illustrated children's books that retell local folktales, legends, and traditional (or just typical!) bedtime stories. Sounds good? =) (EDIT: As of June 2011, this special offer is no longer available if you choose this book for your prize.)

17 June 2010


Character Connection 8

Read about Agatha Raisin and other great creations
in this week's crop of Character Connections!

Today, I feature another character from one of the featured novels in my contest/giveaway. (It's not too late to join!)

It is a novel that I put off reading for many years because I thought it would be depressing and awful, like two Filipino novels in the canon that I'm not even going to name because they suck so much. But now that I have read it, I find myself wishing I had read it earlier--indeed, that I had read all five of the novels in this saga earlier--and that I could write about them with familiarity and not just awe. Well, I suppose a reader must always have something to strive for, and in ten years I'll be able to do just that.

In the meantime, here is some more awe . . .

16 June 2010


POLL: Word & Question

letter W ampersand & Q

Blogger's poll widget has been misbehaving really badly for the past twenty-four hours, so I have no choice but to take it from the sidebar and poll the best readers in the blogosphere in this old school fashion.

(Oh, Blogger, Blogger--wherefore art thou so difficult?
After everything I said in your defence to a room full of Wordpress diehards???

Now that I've brought up "Word & Question" and players have started sharing their original poems, I would like to know everyone's answer to this question:

15 June 2010


Option 4: Po-on by F. Sionil Jose
(See the details of this contest/giveaway.)
(Visit the new Giveaways page to learn how you could win this book!)

Your Reverence, we have often prided ourselves in our sense of history. Indeed, history should be kind to us for we have not been remiss in our tasks. But our service was not always tempered with wisdom.

We know that we are not going to be here forever, that the institutions we are building can only last for as long as they are cared for by Indios themselves. And I worry that they will not care for these nor will they bother to strengthen what we leave them if they don't see these--our ministrations and the Church--as theirs.

It cannot be otherwise; these institutions are in their land although we transferred them from a distant peninsula . . .

This week, the two "options" I will be featuring are unusual choices for the same reason: they are much easier to find in international bookstores. Po-on, in particular, has been translated into other languages (including, interestingly enough, Filipino itself, since it was originally written in English). Just be aware that it has a different title abroad: Dusk.

So to sweeten my own deal, Option 4 shall include short biographies of the four national heroes mentioned in this novel (two of whom get significant supporting roles). These biographies are the simple kind written for children, but they're good enough for an adult reader encountering these figures for the first time. How is that? =)

14 June 2010


Summer Study, Volume 4

The Summer Study bug which neglected to bite my brothers (who may still not know how they got through these past few months) went straight for our mother. After I tried to "set a good example" (Ugh!) by saying I would read one of the books on the list as well, my mother was inspired to try a new read as well.

And when she was done with it--and they were barely halfway through theirs--she asked for another . . . And later, a third.

I'm not sure whether it was my teacher training or my natural tendency to be a buzzkill, but I couldn't leave well enough alone: I told my mother that I'd be giving her an assignment. (Or something.)

Of course, I don't actually want to suck all the fun out of reading; I just want my mother to have a "reinforcement activity" that both suits her "learning style" and deepens her "appreciation of the text." So I told her to get some of her friends to read the next book she borrows from me and form a book club with them. That idea she liked, but now the challenge is selling it to her friends as well.

Not that it has to be one of my books, of course. Every book club has the right to make its own selections.

3 Books from My Library
That My Mother Was Willing to Read

13 June 2010


Playing Poetry

W ampersand Q

It was interesting to get to see all the words and questions beforehand, and to try out the different combinations in private.

What I learned about words was that the more prosaic ones made the better poems.

What I learned about questions was that the ones with a life of their own--the ones which mean something extra in pop culture--make the best poetry prompts.

At least that sums up my scribbling. It's reasonable to think that other participating poets discovered other things.

And now I'm just stalling. So here we go with my poem . . .

12 June 2010


Locus Focus: Take Five!

Welcome to another Locus Focus Saturday, where you never know where you are until you get there!

This post marks my first non-fiction "setting"--one of the places from the collection of essays that a lucky reader could win in my June contest/giveaway. (One extra point for the first reader who can tell me, in the comments, why today is special for Filipinos!!!) Curious? Keep reading! =)

11 June 2010


To Elucidate . . .

Everything is clearer with examples, isn't it?

Last Monday, I shared what "went down" when I tried encouraging my brothers to be "Pink Elephants" in class. Neither of them was too crazy about the idea, which I suppose is all right. It takes a certain attitude to be a happy Pink Elephant, and it's really not for everyone. Those who can't pull it off often end up miserably bearing another label: that of "Teacher's Pet"!

Yes, Teacher's Pet is a Pink Elephant! It all makes sense now, aye? The challenge is to avoid being a Pet who happens to be an Elephant and to be an Elephant who lets the teacher think he is also a Pet!!! (I'm so full of handy hints these days!)

Anyway, here are some examples of students I've had who pulled that delicate balance off, and then some!

3 Pink Elephants
Who Made Me Happy to Be a Teacher

10 June 2010


Shelf Share Thursday 4
(A weekly meme hosted at Bippity Boppity Book)

This week's letter is M.

For some reason, I thought it was "L" week! I guess I wasn't paying attention last Thursday.

Then again, I only have two unread "L" books in my bedroom right now, so it's probably best that I skip that letter and dance over to the "M" reads . . .

3 "M" Books
That Are Making Pleading Eyes at Me

Writing Diary, Entry #18

Just when you thought I was no longer a freelance writer . . .

(Well, okay, that just might be true.
My editors haven't contacted me recently . . .
but then again, I'm sure they've just misplaced my details.)

I have no new assignments this week, but I am finally able to share some old articles that have haunted Shredded Cheddar posts in the past. (Please note that the links open PDF files of whole issues of Fully Booked Zine.)

09 June 2010


Option 3: The Manila We Knew, Erlinda Enriquez Panlilio, editor
(See the details of this contest/giveaway.)
(Visit the new Giveaways page to learn how you could win this book!)

We obviously all miss the Manila of yore: the tree-shaded streets, the open spaces, the genteel society, the ordered compass of living in a friendly, habitable city. We carry the memories still of that last Manila like "a talisman, a small pocket of grace in us," to quote our co-writer Gizela Madrigal Gonzales.

With this retelling we are passing on to our children and to generations to come our memories--of the horrific bombs that destroyed our city and killed loved ones, the streets we trod and biked on, the flowers we picked, the fireflies that mesmerised us, "the sweet high voices and dappled light" of a convent school. This is not merely nostalgia, after all. It is preserving the past and conserving it for future readers and researchers [of] what Manila was like, once upon a time.

-- from the Editor's Note

This is an odd choice for a prize in an international contest/giveaway, because I'm not too sure whether someone who isn't from the Philippines--or even a Filipino who isn't from Manila--will really want it. (Heck, I grew up and still live an hour's drive from Manila, and I struggled with some of the essays!)

Yet I include it as "Option 3" because it would give me no end of pleasure to send a copy of this odd time capsule--a "collection . . . by people who have their roots firmly planted on this bit of earth"--to an international reader. (Assuming, of course, that my one compatriot who has entered this contest/giveaway doesn't win it! =P) Not that you should let my whims influence your choice, of course. Pick a book you think you'd like!

08 June 2010


Let's Play Poetry!

. . . Katy now proposed that they should play "Word and Question" . . .

Each girl was furnished with a slip of paper and a pencil, and was told to write a word at the top of the paper, fold it over, and pass it to her next left-hand neighbour.

"Dear me! I don't know what to write," said Mary Silver.

"Oh, write anything!" said Clover. So Mary obediently wrote "Anything", and folded it over.

"What next?" asked Alice Gibbons.

"Now a question," said Katy. "Write it under the word . . ."

The questions were more troublesome than the words and the girls sat frowning and biting their pencil-tops for some minutes before all were done. As the slips were handed in, Katy dropped them into the lid of her work-basket, and thoroughly mixed and stirred them up.

"Now," she said, passing it about, "each draw one, read, and write a rhyme in which the word is introduced and the question answered. It needn't be more than two lines, if you like . . ."

"Oh, what a hard game!" cried some of the girls; but pretty soon they grew interested, and began to work over their verses.

Doesn't it seem as if every "girl's book" from the nineteenth century had a smattering of original poetry by the characters? The most famous example is, of course, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, featuring the "scribblings" of Jo March. But I think Susan Coolidge could have given Alcott a real run for her poetry: for it it not just Coolidge's heroine Katy Carr who writes "verses," but also every member of her club the S.S.U.C. (which means, whether you believe me or not, the Society for the Suppression of Unladylike Conduct).

Here are some samples of their work . . .

07 June 2010


Summer Study, Volume 3

Cue-card Boy is standing next to our beanstalk.

(Me: "You look like a prisoner in front of a firing squad!
Everyone is going to think I make you read until you cry!")

(Camera Man: "Why do you look so emo?")

What may appear to be a red stick insect on the twenty-first leaf
is actually Jeffrey "Maniac" Magee,
although he was more of a runner than a climber.

06 June 2010


Reading Diary: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

He thought about it all day, how before Leslie came, he had been a nothing--a stupid, weird little kid who drew funny pictures and chased around a cow field trying to act big--trying to hide a whole mob of foolish little fears running riot in his gut.

It was Leslie who had taken him from the cow pasture into Terabithia and turned him into a king. He had thought that was it. Wasn't king the best you could be? Now it occurred to him that perhaps Terabithia was like a castle where you came to be knighted. After you stayed for a while and grew strong you had to move on. For hadn't Leslie, even in Terabithia, tried to push back the walls of his mind and make him see beyond to the shining world--huge and beautiful and terrible and very fragile? . . .

A few months ago, I reread An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L'Engle and saw that death can be no more than the closing of a time gate. All those we loved and lost are still alive, somewhere in time, where we last left them or where they were most happy . . . but the time gates, temporal in more ways than one, will not open for us again until eternity begins.

Just this week, I reread Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, in which death is as natural as the inevitable fraying of an oft-used rope, and as primordial as the banishment from paradise.

L'Engle seems to ask, "Now that you've lost them, does that mean you wish you had never found them?" Paterson whispers: "The rope may be broken . . . but a bridge may be built."

(Spoilers ahead! This is a reflection, not a review.)

05 June 2010


Locus Focus: Take Four!

Welcome to another Locus Focus Saturday! I hope you like the setting I've featured today and are planning to link something up as well. =)

My original plan for today was to feature Terabithia from Katherine Paterson's beautiful novel, the simultaneously dated and timeless Bridge to Terabithia. But then I decided, for the sake of my contest (which anyone can join at any time during the month of June), to use this month's bunch of memes to write more about the titles that I am offering.

04 June 2010


Option 2: Owl Friends by Carla M. Pacis
(See the details of this contest/giveaway.)
(Visit the new Giveaways page to learn how you could win this book!)

Amelia turned to stare at the kinky mass of black hair beside her. She was sure she saw something peep out from under it.

"What are you looking at?" demanded the owner of the hair.

Amelia shifted her stare to look at the dark brown face before her. His hair surrounded a face that was as flat as a plate, into which his nose had all but disappeared except for two wide nostrils. His black eyes, which now looked straight at her, were round and unblinking. His dark thick lips were pursed in irritation . . .

This is the second book you could choose, if your name is drawn as the winner. And it's so thin . . . and I love children's books so much . . . that if you choose it, I just might throw in a second one by the same author! =P

Now for the details! Remember that if I missed anything, you can ask me more questions (and earn more "Top Commenters" points!) in the combox. =)

03 June 2010


Character Connection 7

Meet Captain Frederick Wentworth and other dreamy (?!) characters
at The Introverted Reader this week!

Yes, it's that time of the week again! This Character Connection post gets to do double duty as a regular entry and as extra information on the first book on offer in this month's contest/giveaway. (Get all the details in the Announcement post.)

Warning: My "secular" readers should know that I get all Catholic and gooey in the following analysis. I used to be "Catholic and Gooey" all the time on my old blog, and I think I'll be doing some of that once in a while over here. Consider it my last-ditch attempt to let that other blog die and stay dead.

02 June 2010


The Inevitable Boy Band Post

Does it get any cheesier than boy bands???

Now that I really think about it--and yes, I really am thinking--it's quite a wonder that Shredded Cheddar has not yet acknowledged the cheesy excellence that is the boy band. Yes, their assembly line Pop can be excruciating and the furthest thing from real art besides noise . . . but the music is just part of the whole wonderful package of the boy band genre. (And we love genre here, remember?)

As a genre, they're pretty embarrassing. Find five boys who can sing, dance and charm the (very young) ladies. If they only seem as if they can sing and dance, they'll still do. Write them love songs and make them learn a lot of choreography. Make their concerts about spectacle and let their music videos run the spectrum of metrosexual style. In a few years, should one of them leave to start a successful solo career, while the rest absolutely tank and slowly slip into obscurity . . . then you'll know you had the right formula when you started out.

Speaking of formulae . . . those aforementioned boy band concerts are also a genre of their own. My favourite convention, which is, unfortunately, only optional, is the boy band's medley of other people's music. The entertainment value of such sets is astronomical, even if (going by singles and releases and such) the industry has judged their commercial value to be nil. Whatever, right? We're all about entertainment here, too.

My Top 5 Boy Band Concert Medleys

1. Take That's Beatles Medley

It was very cheeky of them to homage the Fab Four, but then again, they did inspire a mania all their own all over much of Europe. Of all their medleys, it was this classic crowd pleaser which the remaining four members brought back for a reunion tour that became, though they didn't know it until later, the beginning of their comeback.

01 June 2010


Option 1: Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan
(See the details of this contest/giveaway.)
(Visit the new Giveaways page to learn how you could win this book!)

Saenz has consulted with various branches of the police and other law enforcement agencies in Manila often enough to gain an intimate knowledge of their investigative methods and techniques, as well as their frustrating inadequacy. Over the past few years he has formed a theory about murder in the Philippines that would prove highly controversial if he ever went public with it . . .

[He] surmises that the country probably has a hidden murder rate, and that this rate is probably far above the [Philippine National Police's] annual murder statistics . . .

Taking this logic one step further, he also concludes--contrary to most popular perceptions--that serial killing is a far more prevalent phenomenon in the country than the police force have the capability or the inclination to detect . . .

The back cover brags that this book is unique in Philippine literature, and I have to agree. It's not a serious attempt at a "great book" or anything, but we don't get many Forensic Thrillers over here.

Now, because I'm sure you are already imagining yourself the winner and wondering whether this is a book you'd like to read, let me get to the details: