31 July 2015


Knitting Diary: La "Penso Solo a Te" Berretta

Not every book I read gets reviewed and not every knitting project I make gets blogged about. Which is why, unless we know each other on Twitter, I never got around to telling you what happened to the Popemobag.

But today's project is totally blog fodder, being a nice intersection of several of my interests (which always typically include at least one interest of a friend's), and therefore the best time capsule for this time of my life. This time, that friend was the multi-talented guitarist Christopher.

28 July 2015


Book Bingo

Having finished my annual Philippine Literature Challenge, which doubles as your Philippine Literature Giveaway (Congratulations again, Sheila!), I can get back to the 2015 TBR Challenge. Unlike my previous "Three-legged List," which featured titles I picked for myself and just put off reading, this one has three books that I never asked for, but that others thought I'd enjoy. So how did they fare?

Well, in general, none of them gave me that "right book at the right time" feeling--though a couple of them convinced me that "the right time" isn't always a recurring planetary aspect you can always run into again . . . even if it takes centuries . . . but sometimes a period of personal history that a window can slam shut on forever. In which case rewarding reading requires a time machine.

3 Books for My TBR Challenge
I Needed A Couple of Nudges to Read

24 July 2015


Early Edition: Superhero

You'd think a psychic would see his own death coming . . .

In all fairness, assuming that "seers" in general exist, it's perfectly reasonable to say that they wouldn't see their deaths coming if they weren't in the habit of looking for them.

In our discussion of the previous episode, I suggested that Gary's receiving The Paper was a kind of psychic power. He's not anyone's idea of a clairvoyant, but you can't deny that he's got clear insight into the future. And I must have been picking up "vibes" from the Early Edition writers, because they totally go with that idea in this episode!

20 July 2015


Nonsense and Some Sense Verse Smackdown, Final Winner!
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Musical Intermission, Round 3A, Round 3B, and Round 4)


Our champion is a very busy man, so when we (you know, the editorial we) tried to reach him for a comment on his victory, we were told that he could make time to answer only one question. And that question was almost "Which Eurovision song do you think has the best lyrics?" because the editor-in-chief is a troll. Albeit a sincere one. But in the end, also a conscientious one. Which is why that question ended up being:

"Do you have any advice on writing poetry?"

And true to form, Carroll's answer rhymed and scanned like nobody's business . . .

19 July 2015


A Eurovision Eurolanguage Blog

When people hear the list of languages I've studied, they tend to ask some version of the same question: "No Asian languages?"

And I find some tactful way to say: "I have no interest in modern languages that weren't formed under the Cross." Unless I have a really compelling reason to make an exception, Filipino will be my only Asian tongue.

So it's clear why some languages just won't make the cut. But this doesn't explain why some did. I've been recalling why I started learning those that I know, and the connection between each starting objective and what I ended up with when I decided to stop is telling.

16 July 2015


Theme Thursday 16

This will be the last post for the Philippine Literature Giveaway until the winner is announced on Monday. Remember to claim all your Rafflecopter entries before then!

Today's theme is from 7 April 2011. And by lovely synchronicity, the excerpt I'm featuring to match it has one of those troublemaking expats.

This Week's Theme:

13 July 2015


Nonsense and Some Sense Verse Smackdown, Round 4
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Musical Intermission, Round 3A, and Round 3B)

It's always a pleasure to get to the finals, aye? =D And for me, also a relief. =)

Before I wrote the posts for the Funny Four, keeping my mind as open as possible about who might move on to the next round, I tried to find two strong poems from each of them: one for the posts I was about to write and a second in case I picked them to move on. I did this because I didn't want to declare a writer a winner just because I knew his oeuvre better. And as I learned more and more about the Funny Four, I found myself setting aside more and more poems--because there were six possible pairings, and therefore, six potential posts. It was clear that Carroll/Nash face-off would be very different from a Belloc/Richards face-off, since the contenders must complement each other in a dance as well as slug it out in a fight. And though I think I've made the right decision for the end of this smackdown, I'm still a little sad about the Ogden Nash vs. Laura E. Richards draft that will now never see the light of day.

Leave it to me to start the most exciting part of the smackdown on a bittersweet note! I think all our writers had a good run; and if I could invite them all to dinner, I'm sure there would be no hard feelings. But before I start planning the menu, we have to know which writer will take the seat of honour . . .

12 July 2015


Not a Eurovision Blog, But . . .
(. . . I've still got stuff to say!)

What were you doing back in 2006, when Greece gave us that semi-final opening? I was just about to start my first year of teaching high school English, with Greek mythology on the syllabus. And if I had cared at all about Eurovision then, you can bet my students would have got an earful.

The best thing about knowing Greek mythology is being able to divide the world up among the gods in the pantheon. I don't mean just the obvious stuff, like Hera ruling marriage and Athena ruling crafts. Twelve different things in a single category could "belong" to different deities. Give me a few minutes on my favourite crafters' Web site and I'll show you twelve kinds of knitting projects, one for each Olympian. And give Greece a few million Euros on credit (Forgive me . . .) and they'll show you which famous Eurovision song best represents each of them as well. So, how many can you identify?

Answer key after the jump!

10 July 2015


Option 36: "The Summer Solstice" and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin
(See the Giveaways page for more details or scroll down for the Rafflecopter)

"But how can they believe such things?" demanded Dona Lupeng of her husband as they drove in the open carriage through the pastoral countryside that was the arrabal of Paco in the 1850s.

Don Paeng, drowsily stroking his moustaches, his eyes closed against the hot light, merely shrugged.

"And you should have seen that Entoy," continued his wife. "You know how the brute treats her: she cannot say a word but he thrashes her. But this morning he stood meek as a lamb while she screamed and screamed. He seemed actually in awe of her, do you know. Actually
afraid of her!"

-- from "The Summer Solstice"

It turns out that my rule that all books that make the Giveaway Pool should deserve to be there and not just be my little indulgences is secondary to my rule that Giveaway "Month" should always end with Nick Joaquin. If I were a better curator, I'd bundle this book with another collection of his short stories, which is Option #18. And perhaps I'll still do that! If you win the giveaway, do you want to bet that I will? ;-)

This book should really be entitled "The Summer Solstice", One Other Short Story, and a Novella. This trio come with no introduction, just a generic essay on the author's background. But having finally read the novella, I want to shake the hand of the editor who put it with the other two. For what they all have in common--which you can only really see when they are all together--is a sense of a lost past. And that's very, very Joaquin.

06 July 2015


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

Thanks to a combination of sloppy planning and absolutely no sense of time (which may be the exact same thing), I've had to extend the giveaway for another two weeks. (Ha! I'll bet you thought I was going to say that I had to backdate the post two days! But yeah, that, too.) Remember that the announcement of the giveaway winner is traditionally made with the announcement of the smackdown champion! My hope is that if I'm amusing enough, like J.K. Rowling, who won last week's little face-off, that you'll all forgive me.

And even if you don't the last two W&Q 29 stragglers will! Right, ladies? ;-P

But back to the brackets: today, we're going to see which of our last two contenders gets to enter the finals on the back of a poem about a FAMOUS FIGURE.

Round 3A
The Funny Four

05 July 2015


Meanwhile, behind the Blog

Last May was an uneasy month for me, for two reasons. First, I realised that two strategic life choices I had made a few years earlier were mistakes. One was grave enough for me to take it to confession; the other was crazy enough for me to take it to this blog today. You might recall that when I first seriously considered learning a foreign language, I implied that it would be Italian. I changed my mind and went with German because: a) Italian seemed too much like Latin (which I had already studied) and I didn't want to apply myself too narrowly; and b) I believed in the idea that the harder something is, the more satisfaction you get after you finally master it.

Well, that second bit may still be true, but I've discovered an unexpected corollary to it. For there is also great satisfaction to be had in making such quick strides with something easy that you can start to apply it almost immediately. And that was precisely my experience with Italian, when I finally caved in this month and bought an Italian grammar guide.

While it's hard to say that I should have gone with Italian all those years ago, it's as clear as day that if I had made a different choice, my experience of Eurovision 2015 would have been very different. You see, while Germany, Austria and Switzerland had English-language songs this year, Italy sent something that actually sounded as if it came from its country . . .

04 July 2015


Option 35: A Taste of Home: Pinoy Expat and Food Memories, edited by Edgar B. Maranan and Len S. Maranan-Goldstein
(See the Giveaways page for more details or scroll down for the Rafflecopter)

And so we issued the call for submissions--to our friends in the overseas Filipino community . . .

"This book will be a collection of Filipino expats' reminiscences--especially during the writers' growing-up-into-adulthood years--primarily of home and hometown, but having Filipino cooking as the unifying thread: favourite dishes and native delicacies, family recipes and food rituals, favourite watering holes and memorable eating places . . . liberally sprinkled with anecdotes about and reflections on family histories, hometown tales and events, the social milieu during those times, etc., perhaps not directly related to food, but reflective of the 'mixed' Filipino culture.

"It will be about Filipinos abroad writing on what they miss most, how they cope with this absence . . . The contributed piece should also include: a) how that culinary past has survived in the expat's present life . . . b) the expat's first encounter with foreign cuisine, and what comparisons he/she could draw between that and native cuisine . . . c) reactions of foreign-born or -raised children to 'Pinoy food'; and d) as a side-dish, a culinary tip from the writer, such as a much-loved family recipe."

This book fits this year's Philippine Literature Giveaway theme so well that it should have been one of the first "shortlisted" books for the pool . . . but I was lucky to have found it just one week ago. Really lucky if you consider that I never visit the foodie section of bookstores: I don't enjoy normally enjoy reading about food, unless it is the warp to a more interesting woof--such as history, culture, politics, or humour. While the many essays in A Taste of Home achieve this sort of savoury mix of topics, I'm afraid I was a bit disappointed by the paucity of proper "fusion" offerings.

Or maybe I was just let down by the medium's not quite fitting the message. When many of the essays are basically glorified menus, it's awful not to be able to place an order! It also doesn't help that I've always been mostly indifferent to Philippine cuisine. My family's versions of adobo, sinigang, and tinola (dishes which I'd definitely put in a Top 5 list) are not the big stars of my childhood; and I can't really relate to the expats who missed them abroad. Heck, not only did not I not languish for lack of them during the two years I lived in a foreign country, but now that I'm back, I am also homesick for New Zealand kumara and fish and chips in a way I never was for Filipino food.

02 July 2015


Movie Monster Meditations

To kick off the May at the Movies Locus Focus special, I wrote about the Colonial Theatre in The Blob and delighted at the quaintness of a cinema in a Horror movie that wasn't making some meta statement about the genre, the industry, or the audience. It really seems to me that Horror directors are the most genre-aware auteurs we've got.

There is something consoling in the idea that evil exists apart from us--a separation that is perfectly signified by the fourth wall that protects us from everything we see on the screen. Accordingly, the idea that we, too, may have to wrestle with the monsters we are watching is unnerving. We don't want them to be there when the lights go back on any more than we want our nightmares waiting for us when we wake up. But this sort of thinking is the reason we often believe we can bomb ourselves into peace: after all, if the problem is "those guys over there," then isn't a happy ending merely a matter of getting rid of them?

It is a rare Horror film that dares to suggest that one reason why evil never dies is that we aim at all the wrong targets and never realise that the on-screen monsters only point to the real-life monsters who are sitting in our seats.

Top 5 Meta Movie Houses in Horror

1. Scream 2

Horror movies don't create psychos, the first Scream movie argued, but they do make psychos more creative. Scream 2 continues the debate, asking whether Horror movies--or at least the people who make them--can be held responsible for the actions of some of those who watch them.

Its very first sequence perfectly illustrates both ideas: a psycho creatively uses a movie theatre full of hyped up patrons to cover up his crime . . . and those patrons literally let someone get killed right in front of them because they can no longer tell the difference between real life and a show.

"Ghostface" doesn't literally step out of the screen . . . but whenever a fan dresses up as him, he still kind of does. And when life imitates art, isn't that evidence of the power of art? It's not quite a supernatural power--but it has diabolical effects all the same.

It's life being completely in thrall to art that is frightening--and we see this in the Scream audiences. (I refer to those within the movies, but now I'm also starting to wonder about those on our side of the screen. =P) I can't think of another franchise that gets away with being so openly critical of its target audience, nearly to the point of contempt. Individual characters who are Horror fans seem to be okay, but get enough of them together in one room and they turn into pure possessed id. And it turns out that the one who wields the knife just may be less monstrous than the ones who cheer him on.

For more of my thoughts on all four Scream films, please click on the Screaming tab.