29 June 2015


Nonsense and Some Sense Verse Smackdown, Round 3A
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, and the Musical Intermission)

Musical face-offs always do well, so I'm a little surprised that last week's intermission attracted a grand total of three votes. Then again, why be greedy for more when enough is plenty? And we certainly had enough: just when I was about to call a tie between Noel Coward (Brandon's choice) and Cole Porter (Christopher's choice), Mrs. Darwin slipped in and called it for Cole. =)

Now we can move on . . . The themes, which I started using out of desperation, have turned out to be a fun twist on how I normally organise brackets. So I think I'll continue today and next week with . . . FAMOUS FIGURES.

Round 3A
The Funny Four

28 June 2015


Book Boyfriend of the Week #6

Hosted by @ Stuck In Books

The very first year I did the June Giveaway, I scraped together a giveaway pool from the six books that happened to be within closest reach at the time: four that were in the family library because my sister, my brothers or I had had to read them for school . . . one that had been a gift to my grandmother . . . and one that a friend could lend to me. I wasn't equally enthusiastic about all of them, but it really didn't occur to me to find better books to offer. Since then, I've become a more exacting curator, and not a June goes by without a contender for the pool getting rejected. After you read this post, I hope it will be clear why the featured book didn't make the cut.

27 June 2015


Locus Focus: Take Hundert Zweiundzwanzig!

Until today, I hadn't realised how heavy this year's "Foreign Shores" settings have been. But yeah, a US state capital major American metropolis full of lonely Filipino expats, a Japanese city full of Filipino illegals, and a UNESCO World Heritage site where Filipino tourists stick out like sore thumbs aren't exactly light. The pendulum has been swinging since the last featured novel, however, and today we get to look at a foreign place that is just a foreign place.

26 June 2015


Character Connection 51

Hosted @ The Introverted Reader

It's no longer May (or for my battalions of British readers, March), but I've found a really great mother to write about today. Let me know if Filipina mothers are anything like the mothers where you come from!

23 June 2015


Option 34: Welcome to Envy Park by Mina V. Esguerra
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and see the Giveaways page for more details)

Five years in Singapore and I could feel it coming on, the rut. I was comfortable, I liked my job, I was able to make the payments on my modest property investment. It could have gone on for another year, or three, or even longer, easily. All of my friends from Manila, who had come over "to try it out" for a year" that eventually became three then five then ten, they were settling in just fine. Inertia took over, and the new city began to feel more like home than actual home.

But not for me. I sensed it coming, that poor-me ennui that made me pack up and leave Manila in the first place . . .

And that was over, I was back, and now I had an apartment, a small amount saved up, and an empty calendar.

What was next?

If Moira Vasquez were a character from a novel by Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, or Bienvenido Santos, her "poor-me ennui" would have the weight of an entire nation's star-crossed wanderlust. Since she is a Mina V. Esguerra character, she gets off more easily. She is an individual who just happens to be a modern Filipina and whose choices don't have to be anyone's business but her own. As much as I love our Giveaway heavyweights, even I need a break from their message that even those who are not interested in the war can't escape the war's being interested in them. And with Esguerra, I get to lighten up.

Which isn't to say that light Chick Lit should be silent on society: Welcome to Envy Park has a few critical things to say, but the commentary doesn't steal the spotlight from the story.

22 June 2015


Nonsense and Some Sense Verse Smackdown, Musical Intermission

According to Parkinson's Law, work expands to fill the time available for it. According to Enbrethiliel's Law, blogging work expands whether you and time like it or not. And editing other people's verse is very expansive work. So while I give myself another week to put the "Funny Four" together, here is another face-off to tide you over.

Noel Coward vs. Cole Porter

If you were around for the "Weird Al" Yankovic Song Smackdown, then you know that there are a lot of funny verses to be found in song. Cole Porter is probably the best lyricist American English has ever known, while the British Noel Coward spread his humourous writing more widely over different literary forms. (By the way, can you guess, without listening, which featured song mentions the Philippines?)

The winner of last week's face-off, with 75% of the vote (which sounds so impressive until you actually count the votes =P) is Louisa May "Queen of My Tub" Alcott!

If you'd like to claim June Giveaway points after voting in the combox, the Rafflecopter is embedded after the jump!

20 June 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Twenty-One!

Another June tradition for me--or for those who want to be precise about things, a June coincidence--is reading one of the six preselected new titles for the June Giveaway, and deciding that it isn't the good candidate I thought it was. This year, there have already been two. And one of them gives us another coincidence: it is not just the second Philippine novel that gets to be featured on Locus Focus without going in the giveaway pool, but like the first, it also has the same unusual word in its title.

17 June 2015


Making Some Sense . . . and Some Nonsense!

Hangman Blue Letter W ampersand & bead letter Q
PRW 2 number 9

Word & Question went on hiatus for a year, but it is back now with a totally new bunch of players. But those who remember the old days know that one thing hasn't changed at all: I'm still posting stuff late and backdating it. My muse is many things, but he is not punctual.

By the way, one of the things he is, is odd. I hope that's okay with you all . . .

16 June 2015


Option 33: Viajero: A Filipino Novel by F. Sionil Jose
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and see the Giveaways page for more details)

What does it mean to be an exile? More and more Buddy was being confronted by the phenomenon. Was he himself one? an exile from his own self? Or now that he was in Europe an exile from the plenitude of America? America had an exile tradition, the writers who went to Europe before World War II, his father himself, seeking in France the freedom denied him in America.

And there is that exile who has never left his native land, who has shut himself up in a mansion, a shell, a prison, uninvolved with the humanity around him, as if it were some distant swamp of smells and unseen dangers surrounding him, but unable to touch him, because in body and in mind, his defences are secure. Or such an exile can, on occasion, with patronising reluctance, leave his sanctuary and go down to feel the outside, to experience vicariously its varied tastes, and having done so hurries back to the comfort of his old habitat. Such an exile does exist, a voyeur in the turmoil of the world, an excursionist--and thinking thus, Buddy was shocked that this very creature whom he detested, was actually himself.

As I explained in my review of F. Sionil Jose's Ben Singkol, which is Option #28 in the June Giveaway, all Jose's protagonists are three-dimensional analogies for the Philippines herself. But until last weekend, I had thought that only Ben Singkol himself was also a stand-in for Jose. Now I suspect that they all are, too--and that Salvador "Buddy/Badong" de la Raza learns to loathe his position of privilege above his fellow Filipinos only because Jose has had the same emotional epiphany in his own life.

At first glance, it may seem odd that the Philippines should be represented by an American citizen: a Filipino who was orphaned in early childhood and eventually adopted by a light-skinned black American couple. And that's because it is odd. =P This is Jose at his most awkward; although we clearly see his point, we just as clearly see him bending over backwards to make it. And suddenly I wonder that the Filipino children we have lost to the Pied Piper of Western adoption don't have a tighter hold on the national imagination. Out of sight, out of mind, aren't they? =/ On the other hand, the "balikbayan" or "returned native" is a favourite archetype that we've seen in other stories in the Giveaway (notably Option #12 and Option #30); and indeed, the closer Buddy gets to his native land, the stronger Viajero becomes.

15 June 2015


Nonsense and Some Sense Verse Smackdown, Round 2!
(Revisit Round 1)

This is late and backdated, so I'm going to be quick. But first, thanks to Amy, Brandon, Christopher, Itinerante, Mrs. Darwin, Stilwell, and Sheila for participating in Round 1! Here are your results . . .

Lewis Carroll vs. Edward Lear -- Winner: Lewis Carroll

A.A. Milne vs. Dr. Seuss -- Winner: A.A. Milne

Rudyard Kipling vs. Ogden Nash -- Winner: Ogden Nash

Guy Wetmore Carryl vs. Roald Dahl -- Winner: Guy Wetmore Carryl

Maurice Sendak vs. Shel Silverstein -- Winner: Maurice Sendak

Hilaire Belloc vs. Oliver Herford -- Winner: Hilaire Belloc

Eugene Field vs. Laura E. Richards -- Winner: Laura E. Richards

G.K. Chesterton vs. Spike Milligan -- Winner: G.K. Chesterton

I feel a little bad that Milligan got the dreaded null points (#EurovisionBlog), because it's clearly due to my putting him next to Chesterton. Not only was Milligan handicapped by having to fit the ANIMALS theme and to represent himself with a poem that complemented one by Chesterton, but also had to do it on a blog frequented by avowed Chesterton fans. It couldn't have ended any other way. To make it up to him a little, I'll let him show off a second poem now . . .

13 June 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Twenty!

Every June is Foreign Shores month for Locus Focus, but this is the first time I'm actually going foreign on you. That is, everything was formerly foreign to you, but now it gets to be foreign to me. (Get it?) Last week, we almost went on an unforgettable tour of a major American metropolis. (It is the "almost" that makes it so unforgettable.) Today, we visit a city in another country that has played a part in Philippine history and continues to figure, whether it likes it or not, in the Philippines' present.

11 June 2015


Option 32: The Day the Dancers Came by Bienvenido N. Santos
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter or see the Giveaways page for more details)

As soon as Fil woke up, he noticed a whiteness outside, quite unusual for the November mornings they had been having. That November, Chicago was sandman's town, sleepy valley, drowsy grey, slumbrous mistiness from sunup till noon, when the clouds drifted away in cauliflower clusters and suddenly it was evening. The lights shone in the avenues like soiled lamps centuries old and the skyscrapers became like monsters with a thousand sore eyes. Now there was a brightness in the air and Fil knew what it was and he shouted, "Snow! It's snowing!"

. . . Fil [was] smiling to himself as if he had ordered this and was satisfied with the prompt delivery. "Oh, they'll love this. They'll love this."

"Who'll love what?" Tony asked, his voice raised in annoyance.

"The dancers, of course . . . They're arriving today. Maybe they've already arrived. They'll walk in the snow and love it. Their first snow, I'm sure."

I don't read much "Migrant Lit," but I get the impression that the most successful books about immigrants end happily. That is, no matter how sad the beginning and how agonising the middle, the ending will always affirm that the first generation made the right decision for their descendents. Of course, I may be wrong, and there may be quite a few ambivalent or deeply regretful memoirs out there. But the US-set stories of Bienvenido N. Santos, who has divided his life between the Philippines and America, tell a different story. His new American citizens can barely admit to themselves that they made the biggest mistake of their lives.

Surprisingly, sometimes that big mistake is not choosing America, but not choosing America. (Does that sentence make sense?)

10 June 2015


Nonsense and Some Sense of Our Own!

letter W ampersand & letter Q
number 2 number 9

As fun as it is to read other people's humourous verse, it's not a proper party unless we write some poems of our own! Our Word & Question game has waned in popularity over the years, but optimism springs eternal and I can't think of a better time to venture a comeback. Not only will we be surrounded by scads of inspiration this month, but there will also be a chance to earn entries for the June Giveaway!

For those new to the game, the object of Word & Question is to write a poem that uses a certain word and answers a certain question. These prompts come from other players in the game: everyone must contribute one word and one question, to be used by another, in order to join the game. (It's fun! For some examples, check out these rounds from previous Giveaway Months: June 2013, June 2012, June 2011, and the one that started it all, June 2010.)

If this sounds like fun, e-mail me a word and a question by Saturday (10 June 2015) and expect a reply from me, with your prompts, by Sunday (11 June). I will get my poem up (and update the Rafflecopter) as early as possible next week, so that you can start linking up yours as soon as possible. But you will have until the end of the month to finish. Well, how about it? =D

08 June 2015


Nonsense and Some Sense Verse Writers Smackdown!!!

As some of you know, I started a new job last month. While it's a really great gig, it's also kind of the worst thing to happen to my blogging in years. LOL! And that's why, after several hours of trying (and failing) to put together a tournament bracket based on a vague idea I had at the end of last year's successful smackdown, I decided to let this year's Giveaway Month go by without one.

Well, that was before my blog turned into a virtual ghost town! Now, the most rational reason for this is that those who are eligible to enter the giveaway just can't think of anything to say about the latest two books that have entered the Giveaway pool; but I prefer to go with the superstitious reason. Not having a smackdown has clearly cursed me. And now I must now reverse the curse with the new idea that came to me during Corpus Christi Mass. (Yes, truly.)

I like to say of every smackdown I do that I'm only really ready to start it after I've finished it--but it has never been truer than for this one. And I almost gave up twice before coming up with compromises that I could live with. For instance, since I hadn't actually "met" several of the contenders until today, there is no way that I can properly introduce them to others. But (or so it took me an hour to reason) if I give everyone the same "handicap," at least things will still be fair. (Right???) Anyway, that first handicap is . . . ANIMALS.

Round 1
The Silly Sixteen

Lewis Carroll vs. Edward Lear

At least I can begin with two writers I'm decently familiar with! Lewis Carroll is most famous for his novels Alice in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass, and it is from the latter that I lift his strange, dark poem about a walrus and a carpenter taking advantage of some innocent oysters. Edward Lear, on the other hand, published several books full of nothing but "nonsense verse"--the most enduring of which have been assorted limericks and the following longer piece about the elopement of an owl and cat.

06 June 2015


Locus Focus: One Hundred and Nineteen!

Thanks to my latest reading challenge to read more books by writers from or with settings in other countries, I decided to twist the June Giveaway accordingly . . . or at least try to. Will it really be possible to feature four non-Filipino settings from books by Filipino writers? We'll see at the end of the month, but right now I'm pretty confident!

05 June 2015


Character Connection 50

Hosted @ The Introverted Reader

If you had to create an original superhero who embodied the best about your country, what would that superhero's defining power be?

When I first decided that The Filipino Heroes League of Giveaway Option 31 would be providing a member for a Character Connection post, my choice was between my two favourite supers--both of whom are wonderful embodiments of the cross between local talent and local aspiration. I certainly didn't think I'd end up picking my least favourite of the team. But serendipity and my subconscious should carry the day more often, because it wasn't until I had finished writing about her that I realised how much about her there is to like.

04 June 2015


Option 31: The Filipino Heroes League, Book 1: Sticks and Stones by Paolo Fabregas
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and see the Giveaways page for more information)

"Good evening and welcome to the ADS-ZBN nightly news. I'm Ricky Tolentino. Now to our top news story.

"Our most beloved Filipino superhero, Bomb Boy, became an American citizen today. He celebrated by aiding his long-time partner, The Great American, in capturing the terrorist, The Blade of the Desert . . . A proud day indeed for Filipinos everywhere. In other news, an inferno raged along Nueve de Febrero. No one was injured. Now to the weather . . ."

"Putang ina! We saved 3,000 people in that fire and we don't even get mentioned on the evening news!"

I'd say that 2011 was a great year for superhero teams. Marvel had just assembled the last two major Avengers for the Brobdingnagian blockbuster that would finally put them all together as a team . . . the breathtaking X-men: First Class (Read my Twelve Things!) made superhero cinema beautiful . . . and Paolo Fabregas celebrated the national release of the first Filipino Heroes League graphic novel. The latter probably won't be a movie any time soon, but hey, even the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn't built in a day!

02 June 2015


Early Edition: Hung Jury

A Paper that you might get some morning

Gary is pretty good at taking orders. Compulsive, even. Once he reads something in The Paper, he has to do something about it. But when someone else with authority tells him not to read any paper, he's such a stand-up guy that he obeys that order as well. And The Paper has to pull some pretty crazy stunts to make sure it gets read.

01 June 2015


And Giveaway Month Begins!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is my sixth year running my June Giveaway, and I still haven't learned how to plan properly. I like to say that part of the challenge is writing all the posts in "real time," because scheduling too many posts in advance is inimical to the spontaneous spirit of blogging . . . but we all know that's just rationalisation. =P

If you're already a frequent visitor and active commenter, please don't feel shy about jostling for a free book. There's nothing I would like better than to send you one! (Yes, you!) And given all the hoops I ask entrants to jump through, it will hardly be "free," will it? LOL!

Remember to check back throughout the giveaway period, because more books will be added to the pool and more entries will be added to the Rafflecopter. Good luck and suwertehin ka sana!