31 May 2014


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Two!

This month, the theme was Mothers' Birthplaces. To get to them, we only had to cross an ocean . . . to cross a country . . . and to cross enemy lines within an extended family. (I didn't mention that about the previous setting, but it's true!) Next month, as I always do in June, I'll be featuring settings from novels by Filipino authors. But for now, we have one more mother and one more birthplace . . .

30 May 2014


A Final Flashback for Meme Month

Hosted @ This Miss Loves to Read

How is this for a "blast from the past"? I did a handful of "Faerie Tale Friday" posts with Irina, who stopped blogging three years ago. In 2012, I found a similar meme at Books 4 Learning, right before it kind of petered off. I don't think anyone is hosting a linkup today, though.

Given this month's May is for Mothers theme, it's kind of sad that I waited so long to write about faerie tales. These folk stories are full of mothers--both the good kind and the bad kind. And of course every story's Bad Mother is just its Good Mother turned on her head. Let me explain . . .

28 May 2014


Talking to You about Haysi Fantayzee
(Part of my series on Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran)

I don't meet a lot of Haysi Fantayzee fans. Sometimes I've played [Shiny Shiny] for people who respond, "Hmmmm, this is interesting," but in a way that's more like "There are two exits in this room, the window and the door. If this song doesn't end soon, I'm going to opt for the window." So the possibility remains that for all intents and purposes, nobody likes this song. That's fine with me. It's part of being a fan--sometimes it's a lonely thing to devote your heart to a song, especially when it's a song that literally nobody can stand, from an idiotic group with an idiotic name and idiotic haircuts. Everybody's got something like this in their life, whether it's a celebrity crush everybody else finds hideous or a team that always loses. We all have our Haysi Fantayzees. Do we choose them or do they choose us?

If anyone knows of a writer who discusses books the way Rob Sheffield discusses music, TELL ME NOW! I need to know . . .

With respect to Sheffield, I don't think I have a Haysi Fantayzee in my life. For all my moaning about how nobody likes the same things I do, my tastes are embarrassingly mainstream. I mean, Westlife alone . . . Oh, I'm not finishing that sentence. =P Nevertheless, I know what he means when he says that loneliness is often part of the experience of being a fan. There will eventually be something so personal in your liking of an artist that will make even other fans struggle to understand where you're coming from. And then, like Sheffield, you will have to reach deep into your psyche for the unique reasons why you are what you are and why you like what you like.

27 May 2014


Teasing Away

This week, I have more than usual to tease you with! Based on today's snippet, do you think you could guess the theme for my blog next month? I'll update this post with the answer next week! =)

24 May 2014


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and One!

Mother's Birthplaces is turning out to be a harder theme than I thought. There was one novel I had to scrap after I reread the chapter I only vaguely remembered, and realised that the setting wasn't the mother's birthplace but the home her father moved to after he finally retired. It still had many relics from her childhood . . . but that's not the same thing, is it?

There was another novel I considered, but neither the text itself nor the Internet could confirm beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not the mother of one character had been born in the setting I had in mind. On the other hand, the sequel to that novel--or rather, the online synopses of the sequel--were more explicit about another character visiting her mother's birthplace. So I went out and got a copy of that second novel . . . and now here is a post about one of its settings.

22 May 2014


That's What They Memed

Check out more quotations
@ ChapterBreak.net

As you can see, I found another meme I could do this month! I'm not too crazy about the badge--for the same reason I'm not crazy about seeing the faces of cover models--but I suppose it fits. After all, who could look at it and not know what the meme is about?

At the risk of turning Shredded Cheddar into a Twilight blog, I'm sharing something from Eclipse, the novel which actually got me to say aloud, "Edward Cullen says the sweetest things." (I can admit that because I now have no shame. Absolutely none.) The following is an exchange between him and Bella, scribbled on notes during class. You'll know who is saying what . . .

21 May 2014


Talking to You about Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
(Part of my series on Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran)

I spent the summer of '82 in a student exchange program at Colegio Estudio, a school in Madrid . . . The night before I left, we went to a house party where the hostess kept spinning Enola Gay, a song about two kids wanting to make out so bad it's like a bomb about to go off. When their lips meet, it's a nuclear explosion that blows up the whole world, and nothing will ever be the same. It didn't sound like an exaggeration.

You know the story behind this song, right? The plane which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima was named "Enola Gay," after the commanding pilot's mother. The bomb itself was named "Little Boy." But how obvious were the connections before OMD released this single? I confess that all I ever hear in the song is the anti-war message; I have to pull up the lyrics and squint at them to see the boy and girl for whom Sheffield says a kiss is exactly like an atomic bomb.

It's not surprising that pop music often mines politics for content, but I guess it's unfortunate that people believe their taste in pop music can be a political statement. I believe The Last Psychiatrist blog has a post which psychoanalyses those who have no identities outside their image and for whom the music is really just another label, like a tattoo. (If you don't like the way I've paraphrased it, here is the original: Time's Person of the Year Is Someone Who Doesn't Actually Matter.)

But music isn't political in and of itself. By what standard can we say that there are songs proper to fascists, but not communists . . . or proper to republicans, but not monarchists? Isn't the nightclub a perfectly democratic catholic venue, where we can all just get along?

20 May 2014


All Teased Up and Nowhere to Go

Well, who says Teaser Tuesday has to stop for the rest of us just because the host can't make the party? =P

Perhaps someone wrote a Locus Focus post for last Saturday, when I missed my own meme. LOL! But I can promise it will be back this weekend, with a setting from today's featured book, which makes this post a proper teaser at long last!

16 May 2014


Reading Diary: Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

. . . The date for my transformation was tentatively set for shortly after my graduation from high school, only a handful of weeks away.

A sharp jolt of unease pierced my stomach as I realised how short the time really was. Of course this change was necessary--and the key to what I wanted more than anything else in the world put together--but I was deeply conscious of [my father] Charlie sitting in the other room enjoying his game, just like every other night. And my mother, Renee, far away in sunny Florida, still pleading with me to spend the summer on the beach with her and her new husband. And Jacob, who, unlike my parents, would know exactly what was going on when I disappeared to some distant school. Even if my parents didn't grow suspicious for a long time, even if I could put off visits with excuses about travel expenses or study loads or illnesses, Jacob would know the truth.

For a moment, the idea of Jacob's certain revulsion overshadowed every other pain.

The most insightful review of the Twilight series I ever read was by a grown man who read it because he was curious about what his daughters and his students (both male and female) were going on and on about. He made the excellent point that if you don't understand what the characters are feeling, then you simply will not understand the story. All the characters' thoughts and actions will only make sense in the light of their emotions.

I learned that the hard-but-fascinating way last week, while dealing with a crisis of power ballad proportions at work. It has been cleared up now, but while it hung in the air, it consumed me. For days, it was literally the last thing on my mind before I fell asleep and the first thing I thought about when I woke up. And though I went about my life as usual, being both adult and professional, I couldn't stop feeling the storm of emotions right beneath the surface. So when I started Eclipse last weekend, I happened to be in the perfect mood to click with the constantly overshadowed Bella Swan.

And now I think I like Twilight . . . 
Go on and hate me if that makes it easier for you . . .

15 May 2014


Eurovision 2014: If You Can't #BeatThem . . .

You Can Still Cattily #LetThemKnowTheirLogoWillNotAgeWell

Even when I forget my monthly themes, my blog doesn't. We've had much music this May, and we're about to have more. I mean, this is Eurovision month. =P

Now, there was a time when the Eurovision Song Competition made sense. The continent was recovering from World War II and the European Broadcasting Union thought it that music might help to heal its wounds. And for the first few years of the contest, everyone tuned in to listen to beautiful songs, to celebrate culture, and to support their neighbours. But at some point along the way, both the songwriting and the singing became about "self-expression" . . . and when some countries didn't think they had a shot at winning one year, they'd send a musical act for no other purpose than to party. (At least that's what I think happened. #amateurhistorian) But I peer into the past now only to introduce the question of how one is to judge a competition like this.

I don't have an answer yet, but that didn't stop me from awarding points to acts anyway, as if I had been a participating country, popular vote and jury and all . . .

12 May 2014


Talking to You about The Go-Go's
(Part of my series on Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran)

I assumed my sisters would scoff at the Doors, but Tracey ended up doing a book report on No One Here Gets Out Alive. We were always checking out each other's music, books, magazines, everything, looking to surprise each other with new kinds of fun. One day I put on the cassette of Jesus Christ Superstar only to find that Tracey had taped something new over it: the Go-Go's album Beauty and the Beat . . .

. . . Man, we listened to that tape over and over again. Every song sounded like it was the chronicle of a world that was much cooler than the 70s burnout rock we heard all around us. It was a report from California, where sassy girls got dressed up and messed up and went out to cool places to do evil. "This town is our town," they sang. "It's so glamorous! Bet you'd live here if you could and be one of us!"

I actually didn't listen to The Go-Go's much in the 80s. While I can sing We've Got the Beat and Head over Heels (and like Belinda Carlisle's solo stuff), I was unfamiliar with Rob Sheffield's personal recommendation of Our Lips Are Sealed. And even back then, The Bangles were more my style.

But it was another 80s girl group which really got me and my only "sister" singing. (I refer to a cousin whom I was so close to that we were practically sisters . . . and who was virtually the only friend I had for the first seven years of my life.)

10 May 2014


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred!

Well, this is shocking . . . ;-) This time last year, I thought about ending Locus Focus forever with Take Ninety-Nine, but it turns out that all I needed was an eleven-month hiatus. LOL! It's nice to be reminded of this blog's roots again--kind of like the characters in the books I'm going to be featuring all month. Last week, China got to be the first setting for my Mothers' Birthplaces challenge. And of course, today I have something as different from it as possible . . .

09 May 2014


Reading Diary: BSC#13 Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye by Ann M. Martin

"Stacey?" said my mom gently. "We know this is a surprise, but think how much you've missed New York."

"I know. I know. I am thinking about that."

I really
had missed New York, even though my last few months there had been pretty unhappy, what with doctor visits, and friends who had become former friends, and even a couple of stays in the hospital. On the other hand, I liked Stoneybrook a lot. I didn't have any former friends here, only true, good friends . . . And I had the Baby-sitters Club and Charlotte Johanssen and a school I liked and a whole big house, instead of a not-so-big tenth floor apartment.

If you've ever had to ask, "Which baby-sitter is Stacey again?" . . . you probably got the answer, "The one with diabetes." But when Ann M. Martin decided that she wanted one of her characters to have a physical limitation, she probably didn't guess how helpful, inspiring, and memorable that character would turn out to be.

Now, I'm just guessing here, but I think it was readers' reactions to Stacey (which included a few girls realising that they might have diabetes, telling their parents about it, and being properly diagnosed!) that really showed Martin that a juvenile series can be both entertainment and a public good. And that was why she was open to taking requests from readers whose only source of catharsis would be seeing how their favourite characters might handle real-life crises the latter themselves had endured . . . like saying good-bye when somebody must move away.

But of course, with the BSC, you get a special twist. ;-) 

08 May 2014


Theme Thursday 9

This is another meme I miss a lot. I wasn't a regular participant, though, which is why I didn't contact the host after she quietly dropped it, to hint that someone might want it back. I haven't really meddled in other people's blogging since the time I encouraged someone to add a linky to one of her weekly features and it ended up attracting both little interest and very irregular participation from me. What do I know, right?

Since there will be no future Theme Thursday posts, I'm going to have to mine the past, starting with the very first theme the blogger ever posted . . .

This Week's Theme:

06 May 2014


Teaser Tuesday Again!

Now that Locus Focus is back, I'm trying to see how many other memes I can squeeze into May.

Teaser Tuesday was never one of my favourites, but I did like personalising the basic challenge to find two sentences from a book by trying to find two "legs" that a book could walk around on if it needed to introduce itself to new people. (Get it? =P) Since this isn't easy to do with every book, I made myself wait for books which also had legs on their covers. Preferably two legs.

05 May 2014


Reading Diary: Talking to Girls about Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield

It's complicated, the way we use pop-culture artefacts in our day-to-day emotional relationships. The popular stereotype of this is the overbearing boyfriend who tries to get his girlfriend to appreciate free jazz, football, or World War II documentaries--but everyone knows it goes both ways. Consider Pretty Woman, a movie that only exists so that women can force their boyfriends to watch it. Your boyfriend has probably seen it more times than you have, once for every relationship. (Never more than once--unless something was seriously wrong.) And while you may kid yourself he thinks the women are hot, he's really just showing off that he's man enough to take the punishment . . .

But there's nothing at all wrong with an exchange like this. As a boy, experiences like this are part of learning girl languages. What else is pop culture for?

For the record, I have never made a man watch Pretty Woman with me! How can I when I don't like it much myself? =P And yet I know Rob Sheffield writes truth because I have made family and friends alike watch The Terminator with me! So if you have ever decided to watch the latter film because of something that you read on this blog . . . Congratulations! I will love you forever.

There have also been times when I had to learn to speak other people's languages. Most memorable was the summer when I visited some cousins I hadn't seen in about seven years, and I had to learn how to speak Clueless with them. (I wonder what they'd think of my Twelve Things review . . .) But they weren't equally successful in getting me to speak Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins or other American bands with them. Instead, I taught them to speak Oasis. A lot of Oasis.

03 May 2014


Locus Focus: Take Ninety-Nine!

"If you don't know where you came from, then you don't know where you're going." The friend who quoted that old, ironically unattributable saying to me added that Where You Came From is not just the place where you were born and raised, but the place where your ancestors lived and died--and he argued that even the chasms of centuries do not sever the connection between you and your forebears.

Now, I'm hardly equipped to trace four or five fictional characters' lineages all the way back to the dawn of time, so I thought I'd let another month of May Is for Mothers give me the wimpy limit of one generation back. But even this easy challenge is turning out to be harder than I thought . . .

02 May 2014


Early Edition: Lottery Winner

By this point, I'm sure you've thought about lottery numbers or winning horses or other news items that can be used to make easy money. Or maybe you haven't thought about them at all! =P Pop culture is a language, but while most people seem to speak the Sliders dialect, fewer are conversational in Early Edition. I'm considering putting this series on hiatus, in favour of a more promising one, at least for the rest of the month.

01 May 2014


Character Connection 44

It must be all that Marian fallout from the last "Two or Three" Book Club pick: now I want to do another May Is for Mothers month, complete with Locus Focus posts every Saturday. (You're thrilled, I'm sure.) My personal challenge is Mothers' Birthplaces, but I'd love to read linked up posts about any setting that you want to blog about, too. =)

The "book club" itself will be on hiatus until mid-July . . . because I need to get ready for you-know-what in June! ;-) As for today, let's all meet our first mother . . .