27 July 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 56

Thomas Hardy's fans totally carried the vote! I'm a little surprised at the results, but I'm looking forward to this. I'll start reading Far from the Madding Crowd tomorrow and try to do one post every seven chapters or so. =)

Image Sources: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

26 July 2013


Reading Diary: Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

"Do you know, Mrs. Allan, I'm so thankful for friendship. It beautifies life so much . . . If we have friends we should look only for the best in them and give them the best that is in us, don't you think? Then friendship would be the most beautiful thing in the world."

"Friendship is very beautiful," smiled Mrs. Allan, "but some day . . ."

Then she paused abruptly. In the delicate, whitebrowed face beside her, with its candid eyes and mobile features, there was still more of the child than of the woman. Anne's heart so far harboured only dreams of friendship and ambition, and Mrs. Allan did not wish to brush the bloom from her sweet unconsciousness. So she left her sentence for future years to finish.

Make that future years and future books! I decided to read Anne of Avonlea while waiting for the results of my last poll to pile up, because you rarely get more "unabashedly romantic" than Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe (Am I right?), but this novel actually doesn't cover that.

Yet I'm not at all disappointed! There may be "less" romance here than in many stand-alone love stories, but only in the sense that there is less fragrance in a freshly turned bed with lavender sachets between the sheets than in the main floor of a perfume factory.

Another thing I didn't expect was all the adventure. It's such a different kind of adventure from what I normally associate with the word, so if the text hadn't explicitly pointed it out, I would have missed it by a mile.

25 July 2013


These Dreams: Pop(e) Culture

A few evenings ago, a colleague and I were discussing dreams. She said that when she wakes up before a dream feels finished, she makes herself fall asleep again in order to get some closure. Don't I know it? =P

The last time I had a "two-parter" was some months ago, but the conversation must have inspired my subconscious, because I had one immediately after. And now you're getting to hear about it.

When the dream started, Mass was about to begin at the clubhouse my old village liked to use for all its gatherings, spiritual and secular. We were a community too wary of strangers to build a real church we would have to allow access to--and too used to having things the easy way to drive one short kilometre away to hear Mass at our actual parish church. Anyway, we must have reasoned, the priests were allowing it. Cue ominous music . . .

21 July 2013


Young Detectives: R is for . . . Restoration?

Believe it or not, it has been over two years since the last Young Detectives post. How am I so pathetic? =P

I actually found my "D" book immediately after publishing C is for Clements and started reading it soon after that. But it just didn't inspire me to blog, and the last time I tried working on my draft was January of this year. I gave up then, figuring that the Young Detectives project was a cold case that I'd never crack. O me of little faith . . .

Last week, I finished rereading an "R" book I had promised some friends I'd discuss with them, and realised that although it threw off the project's alphabetical order, it would possibly make a good post. Which is more than I've had in a while.

19 July 2013


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 55

For the longest time, I've been wanting to do some unabashedly romantic reading. I'm explicitly saying so because you'd never know it from what I'm putting forward for the next readalong . . .

Vote for Our August/September Novel!!!

(UPDATE: I just noticed the date and had to change "July/August" to "August/September"!)

Far from the Madding Crowd is Thomas Hardy's only novel with (Spoiler Alert!) a happy ending. I'm not sure how romantic we will find the final pairing, given that we have to get through a love quadrangle first; but I still think it's worth a try because someone told me that this novel is Hardy's meditation on what it means to be English and few things are more lovey-dovey than ethnic existentialism. As for Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, from all accounts I've read, it's basically Pride and Prejudice set during the Industrial Revolution and injected with a social conscience. And later given Richard Armitage as well, so that nobody would miss Colin Firth.

You can pick one of these or you could go for one of my beloved "wildcard" options . . .

14 July 2013


Who Needs a Name When You Have a Smackdown?!?!?
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Intermission, Round 3A, Round 3B and Round 4)

It is time to announce our two big winners! First, the champion of the latest Shredded Cheddar smackdown . . .

Apocalypse Now = 2 votes
Bloodfist = 4 votes
The Missing in Action Trilogy = 0 votes (?!?!?)

At the end of my very first smackdown, an infrequent commenter said I should do one without "a foregone conclusion." Of course, the second I obliged him, he disappeared. =P I remembered him when I was putting this bracket together over a month ago, because it seemed like another one with an obvious winner. I guess I totally underestimated the parallel universe that is Shredded Cheddar

Now, yes, there's a sense in which Apocalypse Now should have won, as it was not just the best film I reviewed for this bracket but also the best film I've ever reviewed for this blog. Whether you believe it or not, it's also the one I had hoped would win. But there was one thing it lacked which Bloodfist had and which made a significant difference: the B-movie was the one which loudly and proudly proclaimed its Philippine setting. What that has to do with art, is nothing. What it has to do with last month's theme is everything.

In short, this victor makes sense.

And now for another winner's announcement, which, depending on how you're taking this news, will either be the salve on the wound or the cherry on the sundae . . .

07 July 2013


Oh, the Things I Could Have Named This Smackdown!!!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Intermission, Round 3A and Round 3B)


At last, we make it to the Finals!!! =D Our two contenders have battled bravely to make it this far, and they have made it because one is really, truly good (despite Marlon Brando's best efforts to sink it) and the other represents everything in terms of sincerity and artistry that I aspire to when I blog (and gives Don "The Dragon" Wilson top billing).

But before I ask you to cast your vote, I must bring out one last surprise . . .

It may have occurred to the especially cultured cinephiles among you (*Cough*Christopher*Cough*) that there were at least two movies made on location in the Philippines that didn't make either the "Apocalypse Now Sixteen" nor any of the mini face-offs I threw in for spice. Perhaps you thought I had forgotten about them, or (Gasp!) didn't know about them to begin with. Nothing could be further from the truth!

To make this my most epic tournament bracket ever, I now give you not one, not two, but three movies as the Wildcard contender for the Shredded Cheddar Smackdown crown . . .

06 July 2013


Option 24: Reportage on Crime by Quijano de Manila
(See the Giveaways page for more information)

. . . It was an ice-cold night, the dark of the moon, but the two brothers shivered not from the wind blowing down the lonely, murky street but from pure horror of the house that had so fatally thrust itself into their lives.

But the wind remembered when the sighs it heard here were only the sighing of the ripe grain, when the cries it heard here were only the crying of birds nesting in the reeds, for all these new suburbs in Makati used to be grassland, riceland, marshland, or pastoral solitudes where few cared to go, until the big city spilled hither, replacing the uprooted reeds with split-levels, pushing noisy little streets into the heart of the solitude, and collecting here from all over the country the uprooted souls that now moan or giggle where once the carabao wallowed and the frogs croaked day and night. In the very new suburbs, one feels human sorrow to be a gross intrusion on the labours of nature. Even barely two years ago, the
talahib still rose man-high on the plot of ground on Zapote Street where now stands the relic of an ambiguous love.

--from "The House on Zapote Street"

So now you know why The House on Zapote Street got to be Locus Focus: Take Ninety-Eight! Before it was a movie setting, it was a real-life crime scene--and one of the first which journalist "Quijano de Manila" found fit for a historical saga. He begins this True Crime article with "just the facts, ma'am," but ends it with a menacing meditation on the nature of the suburbs.

The thirteen articles in Reportage on Crime are not straight news. While they do report the facts, they also frame the narratives. But this is less because their author wants to manipulate the reader into condemning or acquitting certain parties than because he thinks there are greater lessons to be learned from their lives. Where most of us just see current events and sordid gossip, he sees the complex threads of post-colonial history, migrant anthropology and urban geography--and he cannot help writing epics when he is tasked to write the news. Basically, when Nick Joaquin gets the crime beat, murders, robberies, arsons, and even illegal gambling become mirrors of an entire society.

Oh, what's that? You didn't know that "Quijano de Manila" was Nick Joaquin's nom de plume? Well, now you do! And did you really think I'd let an Annual Giveaway slip by without reading a new Joaquin book? ;-)