29 June 2014


Early Edition: Missing Child

For one of those "high-concept" shows, Early Edition is getting me to focus a lot more on the technical storytelling than on the thought puzzles. It's not what I had expected, but it makes an interesting blogging challenge. So let's continue . . .

If you ever had to write news articles in English class, then you likely remember the 5Ws and the H, which give every news story its "form." Thanks to this convention, it has been very easy for Gary Hobson to fix tomorrow's mistakes today . . . until the day he reads one that is missing a couple of Ws.

28 June 2014


Option 28: Ben Singkol by F. Sionil Jose
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and see the Giveaways page for more information)

. . . "I suppose each generation faces some kind of test. Whether that generation is strong or not, not the entire generation itself, but its members, individuals like you. Like me. My grandfather's generation . . . It was the Spaniards who tested them, and the Americans, too, whom they fought courageously . . . And my generation, it was the Japanese who tested us."

She leaned back and looked very thoughtful. "And perhaps, mine--it is being tested now by Marcos."

I nodded. I was sure she would pass the ordeal. And suddenly, again as in the past few weeks, cold apprehension, of fear even, enveloped me. My only daughter, my joy, and she was walking on the perilous edge. She knew what Marcos's soldiers had done . . .

When I decided that Ben Singkol would be my F. Sionil Jose novel of the year, it was mostly because I thought it was a World War II novel. And while the Japanese occupation and the American revenge do play a huge part in the plot, it is not strictly a WWII novel anymore than it is a Martial Law novel. It's more like a wide sweep of twentieth-century Philippine history, as seen through the eyes of one man.

Jose has a wonderful way of making his main characters "stand-ins" for the whole country. You've already read about Istak Salvador of Po-on (Option 4), whose growth parallels the Philippines' development from a colony into a nation . . . Phil of The God Stealer (Option 7), whose desire to impress an American friend mirrors the dysfunctional relationship of both countries . . . Ermi and Mac of Ermita (Option 14), whose frustrated love story embodies what patriots must feel when they see their country playing the whore . . . and even Tranquilino "Spider Man" Penoy of Gagamba (which I decided against adding to the giveaway pool), whose deformities are a metaphor for the corruption in the Filipino character. But Benjamin Singkol stands out for also being a stand-in for Jose.

27 June 2014


Character Connection 45

Read about Doc Holliday and link up your own post
@ The Introverted Reader

Look! The Character Connection linky is back! =D Just in time for the June Giveaway, too! I've never done my annual reading challenge without writing at least one Character Connection post, and I'm glad to say that the tradition remains unbroken this year.

And by the way, Jen, I have three more Character Connection posts that I wrote up in the past year, in anticipation of the linky's return. So I can join a few more of your future parties, any time you want to host them! ;-)

26 June 2014


Children's Programme "Fake" Band Smackdown, Intermission
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3A)

Just when I thought I wouldn't be having one of my "intermissions" . . . I'm a little embarrassed to say that work has been getting the better of me (but compensating me adequately!) and that I'll have to put off the second half of the Final "Fake" Four until next week. But in the meantime, you can still vote for another "fake" band and get an entry for the June Giveaway.

Iron Weasel vs. Love Handel

So far, most of the "fake" bands we've looked at have been young--which should be no surprise, as they are from children's programmes! But today I present two new bands buck that trend . . . in order to reflect that other trend of middle-aged rock stars extending their coolness into another decade. =P Iron Weasel is a "vintage rock" group whose remaining members hired their biggest fan to replace their original lead guitarist. (What musical fan hasn't had a fantasy like that?) In contrast, Love Handel is a band which made it big in the 80s, fizzled out just as quickly, and reunited years later with all the awkwardness you'd expect . . . just in time for the anniversary of two people who met and fell in love during one of their early concerts.

The Rafflecopter is embedded after the jump. If you have anything to say about the bands or their shows, please leave a comment as well. And before I forget . . . yes, Mystik Spiral totally crushed Jesse and the Rippers last week!

22 June 2014


Option 27: The Praying Man by Bienvenido N. Santos
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and read the Giveaways page for more information)

"They say the pan de sal is getting smaller and smaller," the President said, "and that's how those in the flour industry are trying to keep the price down."

"That can't be done with pills and medicines," Cris responded with a muted nervous chuckle.

"Of course not, but still . . ." then he paused.

Perhaps the President was worried about the charges of the opposition that adulterated drugs had proliferated in government hospitals and clinics since the present administration took over. Someone close to the administration had a monopoly on government pharmaceutical orders.

"Mr. President, I'll do more than that. I'll step up production of the necessary drugs for the depressed areas and donate them for the administration to distribute," Cris said, speaking with the incisiveness and conviction of a student reciting the pledge of allegiance . . .

Who says that medicines can't "get smaller" in some way when someone needs them to? The Praying Man may have been published in the 1970s, but the politics depicted here are hardly retro.  My first memory of the flour industry's pan de sal trick is from four administrations after the one which banned this book. At first I thought the government's handling of the problem was something out of a George Orwell novel (Chocolate rations, anyone?); but now I see that we didn't have to look beyond our own literary canon: the "solution" was straight out of this Bienvenido N. Santos story.

Since I'm running behind, I'm not going to do a Character Connection post later this week on Cris "C.M." Magat, the "Praying Man" of the novel. But I will spotlight him here . . .

21 June 2014


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Four

It was nice to start this month's set of Locus Focus posts with a barrio whose origins are so lost to memory that it might as well be the most ancient place in the entire Philippines . . . but today, we're zipping forward in time to someplace a bit more modern. Although it's another purely fictional setting, it is still one that a Filipino will recognise immediately. I have passed by many such places in my city, but can only imagine what it would feel like to have climbed out of one, like the characters in the next June Giveaway novel.

20 June 2014


Twelve Things about Casper

12. It has been a while since I've blogged about "child-friendly" Horror movies (or well, any Horror movies at all), so I'm glad that I remembered this old one. Genre purists may quibble with me--and I welcome them--but I think I can make a good case for Casper as an appropriately scary story with a moral based on what we all seem to agree about when it comes to ghosts. Even if its ghosts happen to be friendly. =P

11. The second reason why I decided to watch this again was that it touches one of my pet ideas that pop culture is just our way of telling the same stories over and over again, using the same vocabulary of symbols we've always had. Contrary to that annoying new meme "Only 90s kids understand . . ." someone born 500 years ago would, with some dubbing, totally get Casper, too.

This occurred to me during a conversation with one of the 90s kids among my cousins. She asked, "Enbrethiliel, did you know that the actor who was with Christina Ricci in Casper also acted with her in Now and Then?" . . . Child, please . . . "That was Devon Sawa, sweetie, and he was the Zac Efron of the 90s." (The "forms" of actors are part of our symbolic vocabulary, too.)

10. So let's test your fluency now . . . or better yet, reveal the flaws in my own . . . by studying this screen grab from Casper . . .

18 June 2014


Children's Programme "Fake" Band Smackdown, Round 3A!
(Revisit Round 1 and Round 2)

If you were paying attention last weekend, when I published a backdated Locus Focus post, then you know that I don't plan parties as much as I improvise them. So although I planned to have wildcards to liven up this smackdown party, I've since changed my mind. These posts will continue to be interactive--but only because comments are my energy source and without them I shrivel up and die. You wouldn't want that, would you? (Would you???)

Last week, Fat Albert and the Junkyard Band trounced School of Rock. Which of these next two bands do you think will come out on top after seven days?

Jesse and the Rippers vs. Mystik Spiral

A "fake" band doesn't always have to play a big part in the plot of its programme. Sometimes it's just there to flesh out a character some more. I mean, of course Elvis and Beach Boys fan Uncle Jesse of Full House would have his own cover band. And it tells Daria fans a lot about the sarcastic, unimpressed title character that she can be reduced to blushes by the slacker lead singer of a Grunge garage band. (I had a 90s flashback just typing that sentence.) Having had to round out a singer-songwriter character of my own by writing a song for him, I appreciate writers who go the extra musical mile.

Voting for one of these bands today will not get either of them a wildcard slot, but it will get you another entry in the June Giveaway Rafflecopter, which is embedded at the end of this post. [UPDATE: I forgot to add the entry to the Rafflecopter last night, but it's there now!] But first . . .

Round 3A
The "Fake" Four

15 June 2014


Option 26: Eight Muses of the Fall by Edgar Calabia Samar, translated by Mikael de Lara Co and Sasha Martinez
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and read the Giveaways page for more information)

. . . Daniel had decided that he was going to write about Atisan and he was in the process of creating characters for his novel . . .

Slowly, the main character in his novel began to take shape. Arcangel. Despite the fact that they were the same age (even though he was never specific about the age in his notes), and like him, Arcangel took up Psychology in college, Daniel never admitted, even to himself, that he was Arcangel.

Arcangel was his creation. And a creation and its creator can never be one and the same. He ignored the many instructions about creating a character. He skipped the part about describing Arcangel physically. He tried so hard to convince himself then that this was not important.

As you can see, I have completely dropped my rule against offering translations in the June Giveaway. Caveat lector . . . and let's leave it at that.

While I was still in the middle of Eight Muses of the Fall, someone asked me what it was about. I said, "Well, it starts with the main character being pushed off a cliff, and I think you spend the rest of the novel learning how he got there, who pushed him, and what happens next." Having now finished it and forgotten whom I was talking to (which, if you've read the book, you know really figures), I wish I could go back in time and say, "It has a main character wants to write a novel and it was written by a novelist who seems fascinated by the possibility that he himself is a character in someone else's story."

You know I like to quote my favourite professor's opinion that "every good novel is about its own writing," but now I think that I may have stumbled upon the exception.

14 June 2014


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Three

It took me long enough to get this post up, didn't it? Apparently, I approach the June Giveaway the way I approach all the parties I throw: no matter how much I prepare for them in advance, I still like to make a lot of things up as I go along. And then sometimes dinner is late. But at least it's always interesting, right?

Well, you can be the judge of that after you finish this "second course" of the month . . .

13 June 2014


Early Edition: Championship Game

It's always someone's idea of a slow news day

Since the Children's Programme "Fake" Band Smackdown, currently on Round 2, is more than filling this month's musical quota, I thought I'd pause my equally melodic series on Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran and resume blogging about Early Edition for a while.

12 June 2014


Reading Diary: Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog by Edgar Calabia Samar

Naisip ni Daniel na mas nakakatawa na kahit inikot na niya ang buong baryo [ng Atisan], wala pa siyang makitang Atis. Doon siya natutuwa sa baryo niya. Sa ilampung barrio, ito na lang halos ang mas kilala sa sinaunang pangalan. Halos lahat, pinalitan na ng pangalan ng santo. Iyung Putol, Sta. Cruz na ngayon. Iyung Ilog, San Diego. Iyung Kalihan, San Francisco na. Iyung Balagbag, San Isidro. Iyung Balanga, San Antonio na. Iyung Malamig, San Jose. Iyung Balaho, Santiago. Iyung Banlagin, Sta. Filomena. Iyung Tikew, San Marcos. Iyung Malinaw, San Lucas na. Iyung Wawa, Del Remedio. Iyung Palakpakin, San Buenaventura. Nabinyagan halos ang lahat ng barrio. Atisan na lang ang Atisan pa rin. Nakikipagmatigasan.

Last week, entirely on a whim, I decided to read a Filipino novel. That is, a novel in Filipino. My first since high school, when I read them only because I had to and did very badly.

The whim didn't come out of nowhere any more than I did: we both came out of that day's German class, which had been more of a struggle than usual. From there, as planned, I went to the bookstore (Ich bin zum Buchladen gegangen!) to buy the English translation of this novel for the June Giveaway pool . . . and the reds on the cover of the original Filipino version caught my eye. All I thought to do then was to read the first paragraph in both Filipino and English, to compare them, but after I started reading the former, I didn't want to stop. There was something so appealing about the Filipino language at that moment. As difficult as it was for me to read, it was much easier than German! And suddenly, instead of being the one shameful failure in my history of language studies, it represented a pretty decent level of achievement! The day my German becomes as good as my Filipino is the day I fulfill my dream of reading Middle Grade books in more than one language! =D

Besides, I told myself as I paid the cashier, the looks on the faces of my family and friends would be priceless. They'd take bets on whether or not I'd last, as they always do--but to paraphrase Edgar Calabia Samar, makikipagmatigasan lang ako. (Wouldn't it be hilarious if I didn't get that word right? LOL!)

10 June 2014


Children's Programme "Fake" Band Smackdown, Round 2!!! 
(Revisit Round 1)

One really interesting thing about writing a series that is as dependent on reader interaction as a votes-based tournament bracket is that even I get to be surprised! And I don't know what surprised me more: the results from Round 1 . . .

The Archies vs. Josie and the Pussycats -- Winner: Josie and the Pussycats

The Banana Splits vs. The Electric Mayhem -- Winner: The Electric Mayhem

The Beagles vs. The Chipmunks -- Winner: The Chipmunks

Kidd Video vs. Kids Incorporated -- Winner: Kidd Video

Barbie and the Rockers vs. Jem and the Holograms -- Winner: Jem and the Holograms

California Dreams vs. The Zits -- Winner: The Zits

2Ge+her vs. Big Time Rush -- Winner: 2Ge+her

The Monkees vs. The Partridge Family -- Winner: The Monkees

. . . or what I found myself doing with them . . .

Round 2
The Electric Mayhem Eight

05 June 2014


Theme Thursday 10

In yesterday's review of Butterfly People by Robin Lim, I brought up the Philippine tradition of hilot or "spiritual massage." Practitioners are known as manghihilot (or just hilot). In English, they are sometimes called "faith healers," which I think is a misnomer; I prefer Lim's term "witch healers." To help you understand why, I have included an excerpt from the novel which happens to fit an old Thursday theme from early 2011 . . .

This Week's Theme:

04 June 2014


Option 25: Butterfly People by Robin Lim
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and read the Giveaways page for more information)

On the day Fativa would become a mother, the hilot, Nanang Vicenta, saw the pain of a scared and damaged girl in the eyes of her daughter-in-love. She comforted her like a baby. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she promised, "No one will ever cut you again. Just breathe and let your baby come."

When the contractions became unbearable, [Fativa] gulped air and whispered [to her husband] . . . "Christians circumcise their sons, yes?" Nico nodded: Yes. "Then promise me now--or I will die holding this child back--that, boy or girl, you will never circumcise my children. Promise!" she screamed.

On his knees, Nico said, "I vow to protect your children no matter what. I will never cut them. This I vow."

She allowed her legs to open and the baby crowned . . .

Have you ever tried to write the history of your family? If you had to tell the stories of previous generations, how far back could you go? And most importantly, why would you want to do it? Midwife and author Robin Lim can go all the way back to 1854, to her great-grandparents' generation--and she opens Butterfly People with the birth of her extended family's first "witch" healer or manghihilot, in whose footsteps she has chosen to follow. The whole book weaves the family's collective memories with Lim's own fictional embellishments so tightly, that it is difficult to tell what was real and what has been made up.

The results are both fascinating and disturbing. Take the wartime story of one Filipina girl who falls in love with an American G.I. When he informs his family in Philadelphia of his intent to marry her, his scandalised grandmother informs him that they will never accept a daughter-in-law from a culture that eats dogs . . . or any culture but their own, for that matter: "We have never mixed our good pioneer blood with that of foreigners. We don't have any Negro, Mexican, Italian or Jew friends." That's a direct quotation from the character's letter--and such bad writing that I find it hard to believe as a plot point, although I'm certain that  interracial couples from that period would have encountered similar resistance. But if it didn't happen, that means that Lim made it up out of her own understanding of white Americans, which really gives me pause.

02 June 2014


Children's Programme Fake Band Smackdown!!!

If you were around last year, then you know that nothing . . . NOTHING . . . will ever top the June 2013 smackdown, which may be fondly remembered among future historians as the June "The Dragon" 2013 smackdown. But I'm not going to let the fact that I peaked one year ago stop me from reaching for a different level of greatness now. (Thanks for the idea, Brandon!)

To help me determine which "fake bands" make it to Round 2, pick your favourite out of each pair below and let me know in the combox.

Round 1
The Archies Sixteen

The Archies vs. Josie and the Pussycats

I thought I'd begin with the two most famous cartoon bands of all time, one of which even had a hit that charted in the "real" world! If I had been around in the mid-1960s, when these two cartoons first came out, I would have been a little skeptical about these bands' making the transition from print media to TV. Writing and animating the stories is one thing; composing and recording original music is another. But Filmation and Hanna-Barbera clearly knew what they were doing, and I'm amazed at how high both The Archie Show and Josie and the Pussycats set the first bar for "fake" bands.

01 June 2014


June Giveaway 2014!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As you may be aware, the June Giveaway for you doubles as a reading challenge for me. My goal is to read read six books by Filipino authors and to blog about them so that the winner has a good idea of which book he'd like me to send him. This is the fifth year I've been doing this, so there are already twenty-four books in the Giveaway pool.

The easiest way to get a Rafflecopter entry is to tell me which book you are most interested in, so go through the pool, read old posts if you want more information, and claim an entry as soon as you can! Then keep watching the Rafflecopter on the Giveaways page (or at the end of all new reviews and related posts) because I'll be adding other ways to rack up entries all throughout June. Best of luck to everyone! I hope that you'll all have as much fun as I will. =)