08 August 2016


Moving Day

It has been a little over seven years since I started Shredded Cheddar. If this blog were a human body, it would have finally replaced all the cells it started out with. And if it were a thinking human body, it might also be getting philosophical, and asking what the purpose of its existence is. As its creator, I can answer immediately: Shredded Cheddar was meant to be a fun side project with content that didn't fit my main religious blog, Sancta Sanctis. (Notice the "good twin" and "evil twin" names!) It was when I made this my main blog that I found myself unable to describe it properly for the next six years.

Basically, I've been goofing off on Blogger for seven years. While there's nothing wrong with that and we all had some good, clean fun along the way . . . I find that I just want more. That is, I want to get more and to give more out of the writing I do online. And I've decided to do that from a totally new platform.

Not only am I moving Blogger to WordPress, but I'm also leaving the "Enbrethiliel" persona behind. So I won't be linking to my new blog from this post. But if we've been such good friends over the years that we've interacted off the blog, you can expect me to e-mail you my new link once I get the homepage straightened out.

Thanks so much for reading, everyone! It has been such a blast!

31 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Final Winner!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Interval, Round 3A, Round 3B, and Round 4)


This may be the only Shredded Cheddar tournament bracket in which a contender that was eliminated fair and square came back to win the whole thing. And of course it would be everyone's favourite Grand Duchy!

Granted, it is here "only" as a representative of all the Francophone ESC countries, starting with La Mere France, and including Monaco, Switzerland, and even dear Belgium. With some reflected glory for other countries that have sneaked in French lyrics--notably Germany and Austria. (Would you have guessed them?) I really should be writing this post en francais, but it's the language I (foolishly) dropped after a classmate told me I couldn't take two languages at the same time. More on that in a future post. What you really want now is the second winner of the year . . .

26 July 2016


Option #43: Marcos Martial Law: Never Again (Student Edition) by Raissa Robles
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter or see the Giveaways page for more details)

Filipinos woke up to find a country where the streets were quiet, patrolled by armed soldiers. Crime had vanished, squabbling corrupt politicians had been carted off or had fled, and the scurrilous press had been silenced.

Only the newspaper run by a Marcos crony was available, and there were no radio or TV broadcasts, except for one station that repeatedly transmitted Marcos's declaration of Martial Law . . . in between almost non-stop airing of American cartoons.

Marcos claimed that what he had in mind was a government-led "Revolution from the Center" to counter the Communists. His centerpiece programme--to create a New Society that would close the wide economic gap between the rich and the poor because "what good is democracy if it is not for the poor?" He claimed the New Society had the interests, objectives, and needs of the poorest of the working people take precedence over those of the rest" . . .

SURPRISE!!! =D We have one more book for the Philippine Literature Giveaway Pool! This is the first year that a seventh book gets to make it, and what a deserving seventh book it is.

Marcos Martial Law was actually supposed to be Option #38, because I wanted some strong, well-researched non-fiction to ground me after dream-state wanderings of Option #37: Empire of Memory by Eric Gamalinda. But I was a few pages in when I realised it was too big to bring in so early in the giveaway. Instead, I decided, I would let it have the last word. And it begins with an answer to my biggest question about Option #42: Reportage on the Marcoses by Quijano de Manila: how did the 1970s affect Nick Joaquin's earlier rosy view of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos?

24 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Round 4!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Interval, Round 3A, and Round 3B)

Well, this rules out any future for me as an ESC bookie. =P I would never have predicted which two countries would be slugging it out in the Final. But more fun for me, aye? LOL! Greece's wildcard win in Round 3B also means that only songs from the second thirty years of Eurovision will be competing this week, so Monaco, which dropped out long before the ESC's thirty-year anniversary, will not be representing the Francophones again this round. (Yes, yes, I know they tried to come back in the early 2000s, but those entries never made it past the semis.) Anyway, I have a feeling that Luxembourg won't mind one more chance to show us what it had.

Greece vs. Luxembourg

Hellas are here with another song from their most successful decade ever, the early 2000s. And few things are more Greek than a song like ΩΠΑ! Giorgios Alkaois wanted this Top 10 finisher to encourage his fellow Greeks, who were then enduring the worst of Europe's economic crisis, to stop dwelling on the past and to start over in the present. On the Eurovision stage, it became a spirited message for the whole continent. Up against it is Luxembourg's last big hurrah, from the late 1980s, featuring the Belgian chanteuse Lara Fabian, whose first language was Italiano. The yearning ballad Croire is all about the things you can believe in if you see life avec les yeux de coeur (with the eyes of the heart). Although it did not win the contest that year, it became an international hit that made hundreds of thousands of music-loving believers all over Europe. Which musical message do you think should dominate this tournament bracket?

And of course, because this is a Shredded Cheddar smackdown, another country we haven't even heard from until today could still take the crown home for itself. I hope you're ready for the final wild card . . .

21 July 2016


Pancit Malabon from Amber
(Pan-SIT Ma-la-BON)

Last Saturday, my German class had a little party to mark the end of our course. We all brought different kinds of food, ranging from "generic Americanised" to "European inspired;" and right in the middle, insisting on grabbing all the attention, was the Filipino offering.

19 July 2016


Teaser Two and Top Ten(ner)

It's a two-meme day because I'm feeling friendly! Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Books And A Beat, while Top Ten Tuesday, with the perfect topic for me this week, is from The Broke and the Bookish.

You may remember that the main reason I don't do Teaser Tuesday as often as I could is that I like waiting for a book with a cover that matches the rule of MizB's meme: two sentences only. Since coming up with that, most of my Teaser Tuesday posts have been for books with a pair of legs on the cover. But today's teaser comes courtesy of a different part of the anatomy--the sort that doesn't normally come in twos!

17 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Round 3B!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Interval, and Round 3A)

It takes a whole set of good songs to make a great show, and if there were one obvious winner from the outset, it wouldn't be nearly as much fun to watch. On the other hand, it's usually the case that some songs are clear front-runners--and then the fun becomes predicting how they will rank relative to each other. Sometimes guessing correctly that a song will place fourth can be as satisfying as correctly predicting it will take home the crown!

But had I been among the original audiences of the following Eurovision songs, I would have bet that they'd place significantly higher than they did. Here are two more runners-up that I wish had won instead.

Round 3B
The "L'Amour . . ." Four

14 July 2016


Option #42: Reportage on the Marcoses by Quijano de Manila
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter or see the Giveaways page for more details)

". . . We tell them: Two thousand years ago our forefathers could make this beautiful pot which we cannot do now. And that has led to a different set of values. Before, in the houses of the rich, all they wanted were clocks of gold, that sort of thing. That was true of the country at one time, but not now. Now the pottery is more valued . . . Now they tell themselves that this chair was from their great-grandfather, and suddenly, that chair is so great. Before, that chair was ready for the garbage can."

And as Filipinos acquire a feeling of pride for what is theirs, for what they are, they will become more eager to surround themselves with order and cleanliness, to walk in beauty, to live, move and have their being in a just society. Culture and art and a taste for the beautiful must all lead to goodness.

"As the president said, the government is like building a house. And he told me he would build the structure, I was to take care of the refinements, the trimmings, the details . . ."

-- Imelda Marcos, quoted in "Art in the Palace", August 1968

It's time capsule time again! And boy, do I have Marcos Pa Rin time capsule for you!!!

Nick Joaquin, writing as Quijano de Manila, penned several lengthy articles on the presidential couple Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, all based on extensive interviews with them. And if you knew nothing about the Marcoses except what he said about them and let them say about themselves, you'd probably conclude they were the best President and First Lady the Philippines had ever had. In fairness to our reporter, he also knew nothing about the Marcoses except what was available to him in the 1960s. And his special gift was magical realism, not investigative journalism. Of course they'd appeal to him. Especially Imelda. =P

The catch for us is that these articles from the 60s were compiled and published as a book in 1981. But if the decade in between had affected his views in some way, we get no hint of it. Like his crime beat features in Option 24: Reportage on Crime, these pieces were republished without comment--nothing to put them in any new context. And it's actually refreshing.

10 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Round 3A
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2 and the Interval)

This tournament bracket may pit country against country, but it does so song by song. Just like the Eurovision Song Contest itself! What I loved about becoming a Eurovision fan is the mini education I've been getting just by appreciating the music. There is the lovely language aspect, of course, when the songs are in German, Italian, and French; but the cultural and historical frames around the entries can be just as fascinating.

When you have over twenty songs competing for your hearts, your votes, and a single crown, well, there are going to be some really good ones that you fall in love with but won't see win. And if you are a real Eurovision fan, you'll spend the rest of your life loudly refusing to get over it. (It's the principle of the thing.) I'm going to do a bit of that now, but more politely, with a Final Four of runners-up that I personally love more than the songs that beat them.

Round 3A
The "L'Amour . . ." Four

09 July 2016


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred Thirty-Three!

We're still looking at new books in the Philippine Literature Giveaway pool today, and this one is so meme-friendly that if I hadn't made myself save it for Locus Focus, I would have been writing about it all week. It wins the prize for most Marcos Pa Rin setting: a place that will always be tied to his memory, unless something more historically momentous upstages his regime. (That could take a while . . .) 

08 July 2016


Tinola at Home!

As I was saying, if you came to visit my country and stayed with me, I'd feed you at home. That is, I'd get my brother to feed you. I'm a decent cook, but he is something else.

One classic Filipino dish he does really well is tinola--chicken and greens in a broth flavoured with onion, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce--the ginger being (in my humble opinion) the star of the savouries. Or as a former friend and her brother like to call it, "green chicken." (You can tell they grew up abroad.)

06 July 2016


Option #41: Salingkit: A 1986 Diary by Cyan Abad-Jugo
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter or see the Giveaways page for details)

Her cousin guided her through the mass of people on the highway . . . keeping a firm hold on her elbow. Then he stopped, and just some feet away was this scary-looking tank, and there were wreaths and wreaths of sampaguita on it, while some men in uniform walked around it. One soldier was talking to a nun, and they were eating sandwiches. Then a man with a cigar between his fingers stood on the tank to talk and people clapped , and Kuya Alan grinned and told Goro, "That's General Ramos."

He didn't look particularly tall or handsome, but when he spoke, Goro found herself listening with all her heart. The tank, the general said, had been sent to kill him and the people who surrounded him, yet now the tank was there to protect them. The soldiers, he said, could not bring themselves to shoot on their fellow Filipinos.

The people clapped, once more. Some wiped tears from their eyes . . .

You never want your book to be read after the F. Sionil Jose novel in the Shredded Cheddar Philippine Literature Giveaway . . . assuming, of course, that you've even heard of the Shredded Cheddar Philippine Literature Giveaway. =P But I think there's more than its unfortunate place in the reading order that makes me find Cyan Abad-Jugo's Salingkit more than a little amateurish.

Half diary, half third-person narrative, Salingkit would have fared better if told entirely in the first person: then anyone who criticised Kitty "Goro" Eugenio's voice could simply be reminded that she's "just" a fifteen-year-old girl. Which wouldn't be a bad thing: we need more people who were "just" themselves--rather than active political players--to remind us that they made history, too. It's good to have an account of Martial Law, People Power, and the latter's militant aftermath from someone who was so apolitical that she needs 80s British New Wave lyrics to flesh out her memories.

03 July 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Interval
(Revisit Round 1 and Round 2)

After this, I'm going to stop feeling bad about Ireland's performance in my bracket. I promise.

Speaking of Ireland, I once scandalised a friend from there when I said there was a time I didn't stay for the results. I simply watched all the finalists' performances, went to bed, then looked up the winners the next day. (LOL!) My friend argued that the tallying of the votes is the best part--and well, now that I do stay up for it and scream along, I agree it's kind of essential.

It is the interval act that comes between these two main parts that remains hit-or-miss--and it is both a joke and a fact that many people choose this point to leave the room for some errand. Yet while no two Eurovision fans ever seem to agree on the results, there seems to be some consensus that Ireland's interval act of 1994 was a true highlight of ESC history. And now that I've told you that and shared Riverdance's Eurovision video, I do feel better. =)

Better enough to throw another mini face-off at you after the jump . . .

01 July 2016


Character Connection 54

Created by The Introverted Reader

When I read an F. Sionil Jose novel, I like to spot the characters who are stand-ins for himself and for the whole country. This year, I also found a character who could have been a stand-in for me.

And that's a funny way to introduce this post because, at the last minute, I decided not to write about her. =P But I am writing about her father . . . and this is still a non-sequitur because he has no resemblance to mine.

29 June 2016


Option #40: My Brother, My Executioner by F. Sionil Jose
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter or see the Giveaways page for more details)

"You know, of course, that I will always help you, that I will do what you want me to do, because we are brothers."

"I am glad to hear that," Vic said. "I have been thinking a lot about us . . . I can trust you. Let me make one thing clear, however--the old days are now over. Your father--all his property--must go back to the people whom he had robbed."

Luis could not believe what he was hearing and for a minute, Vic droned on about social justice and democracy and the future. What would all this mean now? He would lose the house in Rosales and all the land that would be his inheritance. For a while this blank reality numbed his heart, and for all his protestations, for all that he had written and said, he had grown to like this ease, this surfeit of leisure, all that marked him for perdition. He was, after all, his father's son. Maybe, if he tried to dissuade his brother, there would be other ways, feasible means by which he could remain what he was and yet be totally in agreement with him, support him, and sacrifice for him.

So far, all the books I have read for this year's Marcos Pa Rin challenge have been retrospectives: historical novels or memoirs that depict the Marcos years in the light of how they finally ended. It's not a bad way to learn about history: when the authors are first-hand witnesses, it's like interviewing your grandparents. But a book actually written in the past is on a whole other level--like going back in time and meeting your grandparents' younger selves. They will be able to tell you things their older selves might have forgotten, remembered wrongly, or simply decided to keep from you. And this is exactly the case with F. Sionil Jose's My Brother, My Executioner, published in the 1970s and banned by the Marcos regime.

The central figure of the novel is Luis Asperri, the illegitimate son but only heir of the wealthy (ethnic Spanish) landowner Don Vicente Asperri. His (native) mother worked as a maid in Don Vicente's house because it was the only way her peasant father could pay off his debts. And his (half-)brother Victor is the son his mother has after Don Vicente sends her away and she finds a local man to marry. Luis and Victor are close in childhood, although the former's mestizo looks and the latter's peasant features make the neighbourhood children call them "milk and coffee." But who, in adulthood, is to execute whom? And for what capital crime?

26 June 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown, Round 2!
(Revisit Round 1)

As you can see, I have finally accepted, as unthinkable as it was, that my Eurovision smackdown will simply not get the numbers that my Westlife smackdown did. This is what happens when normal reader attrition over time is matched by a lethargic attitude toward making new friends. I thank everyone who did vote from the bottom of my ambivalently eremitic heart, and I hope we can keep together for the rest of the smackdown.

Switzerland vs. Ukraine --> Winner: Switzerland

Sweden vs. United Kingdom --> Winner: United Kingdom

France vs. Luxembourg --> Winner: Luxembourg

Netherlands vs. Spain --> Winner: Spain

Denmark vs. Germany --> Winner: Germany

Ireland vs. Norway --> Winner: Norway

Italy vs. Yugoslavia --> Winner: Italy

Austria vs. Belgium --> Winner: Austria

Since people seem to like discussing Eurovision results more than Eurovision songs, I am optimistic that there will be more comments this time around. I mean, we did lose the two biggest ESC winners, Sweden and Ireland, in the very first round. The UK beat Sweden fair and square, I think; but I feel that Ireland's huge loss to Norway happened because I didn't choose the right Irish entry. When I put The "Insieme" Sixteen together, I picked a possible Round 2, Round 3 and Round 4 song for each country; and there were two really good Irish songs I wanted to save for later. But Rock and Roll Kids, for all its polish, should probably have given way to the fluffy, easily-underrated All Kinds of Everything. Ah, Eurovision regrets . . .

They're almost as bad as the regrets you have when you don't vote in a Shredded Cheddar smackdown when you have the chance. (Just saying . . .)

The "Eres Tu" Eight

25 June 2016


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred Thirty-Two!

. . . And of course today's setting turns out to be a better blend of Conspiratorial Corners and Marcos Pa Rin than the previous one. No demographic engaged in more underground conspiracy during the Marcos era than the Marxists. Secretive regimes deserve secretive subversives.

Someone else having fun with the first theme is Brandon of Siris, who writes a Locus Focus post for the second year in a row with a setting from Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose. If you'd like to join in, check the Locus Focus page for more details. Remember that in June and July, linking up to Locus Focus gets you extra points in the Philippine Literature Giveaway. (Rafflecopter below!)

24 June 2016


Sinantol na Hipon and Laing at Abe
(Sin-an-TOLL nah HEEH-pon; LAH-ing)

The second friend I met for lunch this month, another fellow language learner whom we may call Choupinette (Guess what she's studying?), was very supportive about my plan to blog about Filipino restaurants while I'm doing my Philippine Literature Giveaway. She has been all over the country and is more familiar with national and regional cuisines than I am. She also loves hosting foreign friends--though I forgot to ask her what she feeds them when they are here. Perhaps she takes some of them to Abe, the urbane, upscale choice she suggested when I told her of my project.

23 June 2016


Option #39: Endless Journey by Jose T. Almonte, as told to Marites Danguilan Vitug
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and see the Giveaways Page for more details)

"Sir, my recommendation is we execute Plan B."

"What is Plan B?"

I just thought of something audacious to do to save the mission . . . "I will call the office of Chou En-lai and I'll convey to them . . . Given the situation in the Asia-Pacific, Marcos is considering the possibility that the Soviet armed forces may dominate the region. And before that happens, he would like to preempt the situation, and replace the US in the Clark and Subic military bases with the Russians. Before he makes that decision, he would like to ask Chairman Mao and Premier Chou En-lai what their thoughts are."

Romualdez was in disbelief, as if an alien had crossed his path. "Colonel, I have been in diplomatic service for so long and this is the first time I've ever heard of such a plan! Does the president know this?"

"No, sir."

Not only did this book almost not make the Giveaway Pool, it almost didn't make my personal collection. If you are a regular visitor to Shredded Cheddar (in which case I'd like to hug you!), then you are well aware that political memoirs are not the type of book I normally read. I got my copy of Endless Journey through my grandfather, who had known General Jose T. Almonte and was able to get it personally autographed for me. Lolo didn't get one for himself, because his eyesight had grown too weak for him to read anything; but he said he hoped I would read it and then have a long chat with him to tell him everything. And though I did get started on it, Lolo died before we could ever have that chat.

While what I'd tell my grandfather about a book is quite different from what I'd tell my blog readers, this time there is going to be some overlap. Endless Journey is, in many ways, a Marcos Pa Rin book (as defined by me) and I'd give almost anything now for Lolo's take on General Almonte's impressions of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Take Almonte's confidence that he could tell the Chinese premiere a blatant lie about the president's plans and that the latter would be perfectly okay with it . . .

21 June 2016


Teaser of the Year

Read other two-sentence teasers this week
@Books And A Beat

At the rate I'm going, I link up to MizB's meme . . . once a year. =P And my archives show that I usually do so when I'm having my annual giveaway. Well, it is a good way to promote a book in the Giveaway Pool!

This year, the Giveaway theme is Marcos Pa Rin and its focus is on the influence of president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Translated as "Still Marcos," it is most often understood as the catchphrase of loyalists and apologists; here, I use to point out that even among those who most oppose and loathe him, his legacy remains strong.

17 June 2016


Option #38: Killing Time in a Warm Place by Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.
(Scroll down for the Rafflecopter and see the Giveaways page for more details)

I was the last to be called in a batch of "detainees" that formed a queue at the processing centre, outside a special room called the "Exclusion Area," and the shorter the line got the more desperate it became, because of all the thuds and screams that spilled out into the already-ugly air. No one came out the way he came in, because they had another exit into another hallway or, for all we knew that first time, a hospital, a morgue, or a crematorium for the swift disposal of exhausted tissues. By the time they got to me my nerves were mashed, but they were pooped, "they" being a smallish, balding intelligence officer who sat behind a desk, a stack of folders at his feet, a clerk, a soldier in a T-shirt and fatigues, and an orderly or janitor, who was mopping the floor; they were all sweating despite the late December pall, and the officer was tipping a cigarette out of a pack into the soldier's hand when I stepped in, having been called by name. The orderly left the room and returned with a bottle of Coke for the chief, a bottle so fresh that the gas was still wisping at the mouth when the orderly stood it beside the table, beside my file.

After the wild imaginative sweeps of Option #37: Empire of Memory by Eric Gamalinda, I thought we should ground ourselves in some Marcos Pa Rin realism with our next book. And I almost went with some non-fiction until I remembered Killing Time in a Warm Place, a novel based on journalist Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.'s memories of his own student activism and illegal detention during the Marcos Era. The story is told in flashback, with an older, possibly sadder protagonist thinking back to his heady years of fighting for a cause . . . and the subsequent sober years of having "sold out."

Boy, do I hate that phrase. Just a few weeks ago, on Twitter, a former colleague, who had quit the corporate world three years ago to focus on her art, announced she, too, would be "selling out" by getting another job. It was a saddening decision for her, made even worse by her belief that she was letting down a lot of other people; but the fact was that she simply couldn't afford to pay rent and buy food on an artist's income any longer. I replied to say that sometimes what we think of as "selling out" is really growing up, and that this could still be a positive move for her. In any case, I argued, we should be careful about whose labels determine how we feel about our lives. Now I wonder if I would have said the same to Noel Bulaong, a young Filipino with a history of Marxist reading, violent protests, family estrangement, and military torture, if after his release he considered getting a job with . . . the government.

14 June 2016


Binagoongan at Mesa

Over the years, I've had the pleasure of showing friends from other countries a bit of the Philippines. We usually visit historical sites and eat at Filipino restaurants . . . but since I don't force them to try the more "exotic" stuff on the menu, I wonder how much of a "Filipino experience" the latter is to them. The next time I host someone, I'll just invite them eat everything my family is used to at home.

On the other hand, it has been a blast eating at Filipino restaurants with fellow Filipinos, as I learned when I brought fellow language learner La Traidora (Guess what language she is learning!) to Mesa.

11 June 2016


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred Thirty-One!

Miss these meme, anyone? I never did wrap up last year's Conspiratorial Corners challenge . . . a miss that is working its way to another mark this month. Today's setting may not be a place where a conspiracy was plotted out, but it is a notorious emblem of one of the most conspiracy-driven governments in the history of the world. Few other places in the Philippines fit the Marcos Pa Rin theme as well as this one.

06 June 2016


Option #37: Empire of Memory by Eric Gamalinda
(See the Giveaways page for more details or scroll down for the Rafflecopter)

"Oye, you lucky bastards are going to write a book . . . The [president] wants you to finish volume one of his encyclopedia for the New Society. Leatherbound, gilt-edged, a national heirloom. He wants it by September. A martial law tenth year commemorative project . . ."

. . . "What's the first volume going to be about?" Jun asked.

"Philippine prehistory."

"That's going to be a short subject," Jun said. "A Brief History of Philippine Civilisation, in ten pages."

Tarantado, the [president] isn't joking . . . You've been here long enough to know that."

To know, that is, that the president had been planning an ambitious book project to 'reinterpret' the history of the Philippines leading to the declaration of martial law and the founding of his New Society.

You'd think that a historical novel whose two protagonists have to dig through all sorts of historical sources in order to write a historical encyclopedia would be historically accurate, but Eric Gamalinda's Empire of Memory includes the disclaimer: "Although portions of this novel were based on actual sources, no attempt at historical accuracy was made." Wow, right?

Then again--and this may be Gamalinda's greater point--why does anyone need to care about the facts of history in the Philippines, where no one ever remembers anything anyway? There's something fitting about a book set during the Marcos era playing fast and loose with history, given what Ferdinand Marcos himself did with the same. (And just now, I have decided that the official theme of this Philippine Literature Month is Marcos Pa Rin. Usually meaning, "I'm still for Marcos," here I use it to say, "Marcos is still with us." For he is totally still with us.) Take the tribe Gamalinda makes up for his story, the Isneg . . .

05 June 2016


Eurovision Song Contest Country Smackdown!!!

It's smackdown month again, friends!!! =D And surely you all saw the theme coming . . .

If you're not a Eurovision fan and don't really have a favourite winning country, that's excellent. Then you can actually vote for the song in each face-off--which is how it's still supposed to work. (Yeah, really!) I arranged sixteen of the top countries in a bracket and tried to find a good mix from the contest's six decades. I hope you enjoy listening to them and casting your votes!

And if you are a Eurovision fan and can't believe which sixteen countries made my official cut, well, it is in the spirit of ESC fandom to leave really angry comments on social media. I welcome them all! =D

The "Insieme" Sixteen

Switzerland vs. Ukraine

Let's begin with the first winner and the latest winner: the oldest of the old school and the way of the future. For all its political neutrality, Switzerland was eager to help its neighbours heal the wounds of WWII with song and became the very first Eurovision Song Competition host. And apparently good deeds still went rewarded, for it won with the nostalgic chanson Refrain! Sixty years later, it was all about politics: Ukraine entered the ethnically-influenced 1944, inspired by the deportation of Crimean Tartars by the Soviet Union. While I personally think countries should keep their squabbles out of Eurovision, I also see the advantages of settling national disputes on cultural stages rather than literal battlefields. Which country would you rather see in the next round?

01 June 2016


And Giveaway Month Begins Anew . . .

The more things change, the more they stay the same--not just on Shredded Cheddar, but also in the Philippines. At least it has been true for the past thirty years, as we see in this year's special theme.

Earlier this year, the Philippines commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the EDSA Revolution, which ousted a dictator, raised a housewife to the highest office in the land, and made everyone believe in democracy again. (Bwahahahahahahahahaha! Oh, my aching sides . . .) You'd think that something so momentous would have left a mark on the national character beyond powerful nostalgia, aye?

Family and friends know that I've kind of been obsessed with this topic for years. Why does the national memory turn into such a sieve where this event is concerned? Compare and contrast now. We all have a good sense of what went on during the Spanish era--and if our memories of its terrible last years overwhelm its true golden legacy, it still makes sense that later happenings would stand out better than older ones. We're also pretty clear on the politics of the American era, if not as clear as we are about the bright side of this national humiliation that we have chosen to focus on. And nobody argues about what really happened during World War II and Japanese rule, even though you might also argue that nobody really cares. So shouldn't something that happened a mere thirty years ago, and the dragged-out, decade-long build-up to it, be fresh enough in living memory for those born after the fact to be able to retell the story from, well, memory?

26 May 2016


Twelve Things about X-men: Apocalypse

12. Half of everything you need to know about X-men: Apocalypse can be found in a gratuitous "meta" scene in which some characters discuss the original Star Wars trilogy. It is the early 80s, they have just seen Return of the Jedi, and one of them speaks for the rest when she says, "At least we can all agree the third one is the worst."

It's funny because the movie we are watching is the third of what we might call the "X-men prequel trilogy" and director Bryan Singer is calling his own movie terrible before any of us can. Hahahaha . . . I mean, get it??? Hahaha?

11. Seriously, the only reason this movie was made was to introduce new versions of the old characters from the "original X-men trilogy," which Singer also screwed up directed. So he could both "come full circle" and get a second chance to make the exact same mistakes. For instance, I hadn't thought it was possible, but here Cyclops is more impossible to respect than he was in the first trilogy. It's quite plausible that the character of Scott Summers reminds Singer of someone who made him feel inadequate in high school, and four unflattering movies in a row still isn't enough revenge. 

10. The other half of everything you need to know about X-men: Apocalypse is the dramatic opening sequence . . .

17 May 2016


Character Connection 53

Created by The Introverted Reader

If we have different personalities in different languages, are we also different readers? That is, if what we project outward changes depending on the medium of projection, does what we take in also change, for the same reason? I'm going to say yes, though this is one (more?) hypothesis I will never be able to test, because of my experience with the German translation of a novel I was already familiar with in English.

Since it is very likely that you are also already familiar with this novel, see if you can figure out which scene the excerpt is from before I reveal the answer . . .

12 May 2016


The Thirteenth Thing about The Matrix

Can I get distracted or what? When I started writing my review Twelve Things about The Matrix, I had no plans to get really philosophical about the blaue Kapsel and the rote Kapsel. But these two really do take over every discussion of the film (especially in deutsch? =P), and I hadn't realised that I totally failed to say what I had actually set out to say until, well, just now.

The gruene Kueche

I'm not the only one who isn't too impressed by those pills. The Oracle, magic mirror and lovely lady, shows us the truth about the red pill very clearly: it's nothing but a glorified oatmeal cookie . . . not very different from a glorified steak. If the condition for your happiness is a red pill that you think is being kept from you, how is that any different from the condition for the same being a blue pill that is also being kept from you? Accordingly, my defense of blue pill existence is not a defense of unconsciousness, but a defense of personal accountability. The idea of the red pill has unfortunately become a way for people to blame others for their own self-inflicted problems. Yet as true as this is, it does sidestep the essential question of whether or not the Matrix truly exists.

So let's go in the other direction now and see what happens when we have some hard evidence that the Matrix is real . . .

04 May 2016


Reading Diary: BSC #18 Stacey's Mistake by Ann M. Martin

Remember the Baby-sitters Club I used to belong to in Stoneybrook? Well, I sort of carried the club back to New York with me, except that I'm the only member of the city branch. For some reason, none of my friends here seem interested in sitting. On the one hand, this is nice, because there are plenty of little kids in my building, so I get lots of jobs. On the other hand, I have to turn down lots of jobs, too, and I always feel bad about that. Besides, I miss the meetings our club used to hold.

Well, anyway, a total of five parents called up a whole month in advance to ask me to baby-sit on the afternoon of the big meeting. I felt bad about turning four of the families down, especially when the parents were all going to be at the same place for the same time. If only--

And that was when I got my brilliant idea.

It looks as if Baby-sitters Club President Kristy Thomas isn't the only one who can have really brilliant baby-sitting-related ideas! But only Stacey McGill would think of mixing business with the pleasures of a weekend-long sleepover and a boy-girl party in New York City. It sounds fantastic, doesn't it? So why isn't the title something closer to Stacey's Great Idea?

My wild guess is that it's because the most accurate label for this book would be Ann M. Martin's Mistake. I refer, of course, to her late-rued decision to make Stacey move away in BSC #13: Goodbye Stacey, Goodbye--which she corrected as soon and as credibly as she could. But if there is a part of her that wishes she could go back in time and prevent herself from even needing to correct it, then there is a part of her that is open to a parallel universe in which this book never existed. In that universe, we'd still have all the subsequent Stoneybrook-set stories, since it would just be a matter of dropping Stacey back into them. But we wouldn't have this particular adventure at all.

And there really is an AU feel to the baby-sitting part of the story . . .

22 April 2016


Twelve Things about The Matrix

12. The last time I brought The Matrix into a movie post, I was pretty negative about it. You could say it is the "poster film" for everything Alone says is wrong with modern men. While I still agree with his analysis, I'm no longer totally on board with his analogy. I was moved to revisit this story a few nights ago because I'm currently reading Bis(s) zum Morgengrauen von Stephenie Meyer (wisst ihr: Twilight--oder: "Everything that is wrong with modern Maedchen?"--in deutsch) and it has dawned on me that Neo and Bella are the same type of character . . . and their stories are the same type of myth.

If you're a regular here, then you already know that what I'm going to say is that The Matrix and Twilight are both modern reimaginings of Snow White.

11. Red apple, red pill: is there really any difference? Both are symbols pointing to something that will change your life so completely that the best analogy for it is death. Or to be more accurate, death and rebirth. (Oh, hey, we're still in Easter season!)

10. So which pill would you pick? Answer honestly . . .

16 April 2016


Eurovision 2016: Big Five and Host

There are two things that define my life these days: the Tridentine Mass and the Eurovision Song Contest. I figured that I should get a blog post out of at least one of them . . . and the ESC won out. It would be a little too indulgent to review all forty-three entries, but I figured the six automatic qualifiers should, you know, automatically qualify for a post.


Well, it seems I'm the only one who not only really likes Sweden's entry this year, but also prefers it to the song with which they won last year! I guess I'm fed up with humanist hymns atheist anthems that were written to the scale of the biggest stage in the world . . . but that you couldn't really sing to a child at home. In all seriousness, one thing I ask when I evaluate a Eurovision entry is, "Could little children and their grandparents have fun singing this together?" Granted, a breakup song like this one probably doesn't cut the cheese as well as I'd like. But the light melody makes the overall effect one of playfulness. And if you can tell a story like Naso d'Argento in the nursery, then you can sing the "devil in disguise" lyric there, too. I also really like the structure of the song, and its irony, both of which are worthy of last year's Nonsense and Some Sense Verse Writers Smackdown.

03 April 2016


Twelve Things about Hannah Montana: The Movie

12. Well, it's easy to see why Miley Cyrus used to be such a huge child star. I found her annoying when Hannah Montana was at its peak, but seven years later, I can be fairer. Gosh, she was cute! And very, very talented.

11. Notwithstanding my initial reaction to it, the Hannah Montana concept also made for the right show at the right time. While girls have been dreaming about being big stars since at least Mary Pickford's heyday, there were always clear lines between their fantasy lives and cold, hard reality. That hasn't been the case since the Hannah Montana target audience entered its tweens. This is the first generation of girls to lead double lives comparable to that of their idol, thanks to media: their real lives and their projected lives on social media accounts.

And let's remember now that before they had their own social media accounts, they guest starred on those of their parents. Likewise, Miley--the real Miley--could never have achieved her stardom without her famous father Billy Ray.

10. It seems that every modern children's movie must have the obligatory klutzy father slapstick comedy sequence. It's not a trend I like very much, but I can't get upset about it here. For we have since learned that "Robby Ray's" gratuitous playing of the clown in this scene . . .

31 March 2016


Life as a Language Learning Challenge, Step 5

So far, so good . . . I've been counting and doing sums exclusively in L2 for months and praying the rosary in anything but L1. The only bad news is that giving up Il Volo for Lent made L3 take a hit that even Grisu Il Draghetto couldn't shield it against. (Happy Easter, by the way . . . That is: Frohe Ostern, uebrigens! And Buona Pasqua!)

The latest great way that life and language learning has overlapped is in my crafting hobbies . . .

17 March 2016


Theme Thursday 22

It turns out that the very first Theme Thursday link up I joined was back in 19 May 2011, when the theme was Male Person, though I waited until a whole month later to tell you about General Douglas MacArthur. If I hadn't already done this theme, I'd probably be telling you what I really think about Donald Trump. (Gasp!)

He's really not today's topic, but some time after he kicked off his campaign, I learned that there is a book that he and I have in common as an influence. I haven't had a chance to reread it, but I did find another by the same author that happens to fit the 26 May 2011 theme to perfection.

This Week's Theme:

15 March 2016


"Word" Problems

Did you ever have those awful flashcard drills in Maths class? And was your Maths teacher also a sadist who thought it would be a good idea to divide people up into teams that would compete to solve the flashcards the fastest? . . . The PTSD never goes away, does it? 

I've been traumatised for life, but I'm betting my long-lost identical twin who was raised in Germany hasn't been. For addition and subtraction are vastly easier in German than they are in English. That is, Zehneruebergang is simpler to do than regrouping, although they are basically the same thing.

You see, the "problem" with adding and subtracting two-digit numbers in English is that we process the digit in the ones position first but say the digit in the tens position first. If you had to solve the first addition card on the left, you'd add 2 to 9 to get 11, set the leftmost 1 aside on some mental side table, add the rightmost 1, 2 and 5 to get 8, pick up the leftmost 1 (if it hasn't fallen off the table in the meantime), put the 8 and the 1 together to make 81, then finally say "Eighty-one" aloud.

In German, on the other hand, the digit in the ones position is both the first to be processed and the first to be said. So you can add 2 to 9 to get 11, say the leftmost 1 aloud as "Eins," add the 1, 2 and 5 to get 8, and immediately say ". . . und Achtzig." For everyone other than savants like Bat, it can mean the difference between being on the winning team and having everyone shun you at recess. Again.

I wonder if my Maths teachers would have let me get away with saying "One and eighty."

09 March 2016


Early Edition: Last Page

And we're done! With a season finale that I was not expecting at all . . .

This episode was hard to blog about because it doesn't give Gary the usual moral or logistic dilemma that I tend to zero in on. By this point in his life, he seems to have hit his stride as The Reader. All the conflict he runs into here is external, and he deflects it all expertly. Both his friends and the city police are now taking his strange vocation for granted. This isn't a "Gary episode," you see. It's a "Marissa episode."

07 March 2016


Knitting (and Crocheting) Diary: The Loft

One reason blogging has been so slow lately is that it is simply difficult to type and to manipulate yarn at the same time. I only have one pair of hands--and even if I had that proverbial second pair, I'd still only have one brain and therefore one focus. Plus, the two projects I did back to back this time were greater investments of time than anything I had tried in the past. It all started when I realised I wasn't loving my little loft as much as I used to.

Did I really think I'd always be happy to have rough plywood be the last thing I see before going to sleep and the first thing I see after waking up??? Also, using a monobloc stepstool as a makeshift bedside table made me feel like a homeless squatter. It was all just too ugly.

You'd think the next step would be obvious to a yarn crafter, but it wasn't until I saw a magazine cover which set a model against a background the same colour as my wall that the wheels started turning. For I already had a lot of yarn in the same colour as her dress. And then it was only a matter of finding yarn in the third colour on the cover to get the same cool effect the cover designer achieved . . .

23 February 2016


Reading Diary: A Cry in the Night by Mary Higgins Clark

"Oh, Erich, you scared me," she said. "I didn't hear you come in."

His eyes never left her face. "I thought you'd want your gown, darling," he said. "Here it is."

He was holding an aquamarine satin nightgown with a deep V cut in the front and back.

"Erich, I have a new gown. Did you just buy this one for me?"

"No," Erich said. "It was [my mother's]. He ran his tongue nervously over his lips. He was smiling strangely. His eyes as they rested on her were moist with love. When he spoke again, his tone was pleading. "For my sake, Jenny, wear it tonight."

It has been yonks since I read a modern Gothic novel (or as we say in modern literary terminology, a Thriller), and A Cry in the Night was the perfect way to break my "fast." It definitely ticked all the Gothic boxes . . . Naive heroine who at one point runs around in a nightgown? Check. Brooding hero who might actually be the villain? Check. An exotic setting? Oh, wintry Minnesota is so exotic! A castle or large manor house with secret rooms? And then some! Supernatural agents? Well, more or less. At least one really nasty Catholic? I'm pleased to say that we apparently can't have everything. =P

Reading this also reminded me of the nineteenth-century attitude toward novels. You weren't really reading if you were just reading a novel. In fact, far from improving your mind, you were probably rotting it. And if you were a young woman with a Gothic novel, well, you were also contributing to the ruin of your character. A Cry in the Night may only be my first Mary Higgins Clark novel, but I already know that I won't get any credit for reading it. But who cares? I finished it in one night and wished I had a book club to discuss it with.

My big question for them would be: If you had been Jenny, at point would you have been certain that something was terribly wrong with your marriage?

I might have freaked as early as the nightgown on their wedding night.

18 February 2016


Theme Thursday 21

If it weren't for these "filler" reading memes, my blogging would look much slower than it really is. I wish there were similar ones on language blogs. I'd create one myself, but I haven't made many inroads into the online language learning community . . . likely because most of the bloggers there are actually vloggers. (You know, that makes sense.) While Shredded Cheddar still has pretensions to being a book blog, I'll continue relating themes to recent reads, resuming with something from 12 May 2011 . . .

This Week's Theme:
Women Relationships

14 February 2016


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 140

Who knew that ten fiabe would take so long to read? When I settled on the number last November, I thought I'd be done before the end of December! Perhaps I would have, had I been willing to read Italo Calvino's stories in English . . . but I wouldn't say Italian is the culprit here. As you may have noticed, I've been going through a bit of a blogging slump. If you're still reading, Amy, Brandon, Itinerante, LTG, Mrs. Darwin, Sheila: thanks a lot for reading along!

Bat, I know that you are still reading, so you get a special thank you all your own! =)

Now for our last fiaba so that we can get St. Valentine's Day over with and properly settle into Lent: Fantaghiro, persona bella or Beautiful Fantaghiro.

05 February 2016


Twelve Things about Mrs. Doubtfire

12. My post Twelve Things about Stepmom included a tiny, throwaway allusion to this earlier movie about "non-traditional" families and divorce . . . and guess which movie everyone preferred to talk about? =P

I think I've waited long enough. Here's another go at another film which sends up that time-honoured genre of children's storytelling: the faerie tale.

11. We begin with that classic source of childhood misery: a broken home. Since this is a modern story, it's not death that parts the parents, but "irreconcilable differences." Yet every child understands that those are crappy reasons, so the movie has to bend over backwards to keep the mother, who initiates the divorce proceedings, from looking like the villain.

I can't remember what I thought about Sally Field's character when I watched this as a child, but as an adult, I see exactly where she is coming from and I understand. I also empathise very deeply with Robin Williams's character. There is no malice in their relationship, but there is incredible frustration. Should they have stayed together? Of course. Could they have stayed together without one of them becoming truly miserable? I have a very strong opinion on that, but never mind it now.

10. What we know of their marriage begins with the "last straw" . . .

28 January 2016


Grisu: Watchdog, Parts 2 and 3

Our darling little dragon may not have been very successful the first time he set out to be a dog, but he gets two more chances in the next episodes of Grisu Il Draghetto. (These were also episodes of Grisu der kleine Drache, but they weren't shown in the same order.)

-Vorrei tanto riparare al malfatto del ultima volta!-
(I would very much like to make up for the mistake of last time!)

"Ich moechte zu gerne, dass unglueck von neulich mit dem verbrannten Panzer wiedergutmachen!"
(I would very much like to make up for yesterday's unlucky moment with the burning tank!)

Depending on the type of reader you are, you are either wondering what the missing word is or wondering if you missed the Grisu post on the verbrannte Panzer. Well, I can't help you with the former until my Austrian friend helps me (AKTUALISIERT: Danke, Freund!), but I can assure you that you didn't miss any of our little dragon's adventures. By the end of this post, you'll know all about the tank and a bit more about the order in which the German episodes were aired.

24 January 2016


Religious Reading

Is this still a book blog? From where I sit, it's starting to feel like more of a language blog--and if the drafts I'm currently working on make the cut, it may feel that way from where you sit, too. Yet I still do most of my reading and general media consumption in English, and will continue to do so as long as I have a TBR Pile casting baleful looks in my direction.

What this blog has never been--or so I've protested too much since I started it--is a big-C Catholic blog. There is the occasional religious commentary, but in general, I try to be more small-C catholic. But if you're visiting for the first time, you'd never guess that from this post alone.

Three Big-C Catholic Books
Recently "Redeemed" from the TBR Pile

20 January 2016


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 139

Today's fiaba is a bit of a repeat--which is inevitable, I guess, when the biggest factor in the story selection process is luck. We first encountered this type of tale with I Due Gobbi of Meeting 134; but I first read this specific one (but from a French source) and a version of the same from Andrew Lang as a child. They were probably already very obscure then, too, and I was lucky to run into it. But I do think we're a bit poorer for our ignorance, as if our vocabulary has lost several words. (And now I wonder how many we've totally forgotten that I will never know about . . .)

18 January 2016


Early Edition: Walking Catastrophe

It would have been nice to get my series on Early Edition, Season 1 done before diving into Grisu . . . but let's not dwell on why things didn't work out last year. There's a new year upon us, exactly one more episode left, and several weeks before the one-year anniversary of the post in which I announced my word for 2015, so I can still CLEAR this with dignity!

When you've got the "What," "Where," "When," "Why," and "How":
Does the "Who" still matter?

Gary is one of the most conscientious characters ever written . . . but do you suppose he would have let an entire city block burn if The Paper had revealed just who was behind the fire? LOL!

14 January 2016


Theme Thursday 20

On this day in January 2016, we finally enter May 2011. Imagine how life would be if we all moved through time at different speeds! Perhaps we really do and just don't notice it because we agree to keep the peace by following the same calendar and clock. (Well, mostly. Right, Orthodox friends?)

Way back on 5 May 2011, the focus was on characters . . .

This Week's Theme:
Female Person

11 January 2016


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 138

Well, I was right about one thing from last week: I finished today's long story, Ari-ari, ciuco mio, butta danari!, the day after I chose it, because I was worried that if I tried to read it in bits and pieces, it would take me forever to get done! But the complexity made possible by the length got me dragging my feet when it came time to write the post for it. Perhaps next time I should go with a medium-length fiaba.

UPDATE: We have a story for Meeting 139! But it's not quite medium-length, as you will see when you scroll to the end.

07 January 2016


Twelve Things about Open Water 2: Adrift

12. You know that movie based on the story of two scuba divers who were left behind by their boat and then had to deal with a shark? Yeah, I thought I was watching the first Open Water, too. =P This sequel makes a decent understudy, though: also based on true events, it is about six friends who forget to let down the ladder on their yacht before diving off it for a nice swim. It's all fun and games until you can't get back into the boat.

11. It seems that the general reaction to the premise is: "How could they be so stupid???" But that's the whole point of the horror, isn't it? We all know what it's like to make a really careless mistake. It's just that our mistakes don't usually turn out to be so deadly. And go easy on the condemnation there: you don't want to be saying that these poor idiots deserve death. (Or do you?)

10. The tagline on the English poster is the staccato and straightforward: "Fatigue. Hypothermia. Death." The translation of what you read on the German poster is: "In water, no one hears you scream"--which is a cute but senseless reference to a Horror classic I'm sure you don't need my help to name. The best one is on the French poster: "Et vous . . . combiens de temps tiendrez-vous?" (Translation: "Und Sie . . . wie lange werden Sie fest halten?") Isn't the "fun" of watching what must surely be called Survival Horror wondering how long you would last in the same situation?

Or if you don't like making it so personal, wondering how long each individual character will last . . .

05 January 2016


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 137

The above may be the only image of we have of the North Wind (La Borea) and the West Wind (Il Favonio) together! If we wanted to be playful, we could say that it was witnessing the birth of Venus, goddess of love, in the company of il Favonio that gave la Borea the idea that kicks off today's fiaba from Italo Calvino!

03 January 2016


Twelve Things about Pitch Perfect 2

12. "AVERT YOUR EYES!" There must have been a hundred classier ways to open this movie . . . but then again, there's no better way to tell the audience that they're watching a Girl Grrrl Power movie than (Get your Secret Decoder Rings out) to shove female genitalia in their faces.

Note that the whole line is:
"Avert your eyes or take it all in!"

11. There are two other movies you need to see to put Pitch Perfect 2 in context. They are the first Pitch Perfect, which introduces most of the main characters, and Mad Max: Fury Road, which came out the same week as this movie and came a distant second to it at the box office.

It apparently peeved a lot of people off that the "woman's movie" of the month was not going to be the one with a "kick-ass" "strong woman" saving the day in a misogynist dystopia, but the one with cute college girls in dresses strengthening their sisterhood and realising their musical dreams. I myself haven't seen Mad Max: Fury Road yet--which makes me one of the female movie lovers who overwhelmingly chose the Barton Bellas over Imperator Furiosa! LOL! But I'll get to the other eventually, for sure. In the meantime, it's enough for me to point out that girls can definitely "kick ass" through music and fashion.

10. The music part is self-explanatory: our heroines are a competitive a cappella group, after all. As for the fashion, here's a visual . . .