Monday, June 30, 2008

Pixel Art Workshop

There will be a Pixel Art Workshop at Netopia Robinson's Galleria on July 19 and 26, 2008 from 1 to 5 p.m. The instructor will be Ria Lu, creator of Talecraft, the story-creation game I talked about here and here. For those of you interested in computer art, do consider joining this workshop. Click on the above link for more details.

Signs Of Print's Future

I've been keeping a close eye on the newspaper publishing business, especially in countries where going online is easier and more accessible than here. It might be a sign of where things are heading not just for newspapers, but for many print products.

Papers Facing Worst Year For Ad Revenue
The Baltimore Sun Cuts Jobs
Newspaper Death Watch

I wonder how magazines and books are being affected, and whether it's the same here in the RP.

(On a brighter note, there's a post here at Sam's Stuff about a list of Top 100 books from The Big Read (Creating A Nation Of Readers). It's always interesting to read other people's views of what should or shouldn't be in a list, and then to read the books for yourself to make your own decision).

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Apocalypse Now, Again?



(Maybe this is just an excuse for me to use the above pic again. Hehe. Homer.

"He's my hero," I said once.

"He's your future," my wife replied.)

I wrote about the end of the world in this post last March, and then early this afternoon I came upon this article, Scientists: Nothing To Fear From Atom-Smasher.

"The most powerful atom-smasher ever built could make some bizarre discoveries, such as invisible matter or extra dimensions in space, after it is switched on in August.

But some critics fear the Large Hadron Collider could exceed physicists' wildest conjectures: Will it spawn a black hole that could swallow Earth? Or spit out particles that could turn the planet into a hot dead clump?

Ridiculous, say scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French initials CERN — some of whom have been working for a generation on the $5.8 billion collider, or LHC.


"Obviously, the world will not end when the LHC switches on," said project leader Lyn Evans."


Doesn't that feel like a quote from a science-fiction book or movie about the end of the world? The scientists, or someone in authority, says, "Don't worry. Everything's under control. What could possibly go wrong? We've got the situation well in hand." And everyone else except the hero (and the readers, and all the moviegoers) know that, for sure, something will go wrong.


Naah. I'm sure that come August, everything will be fine...



Different Ways Of Writing

From Kumusta Naman?*:


"How do you write your stories?

In last week's Litcritter Open Session, we spilled the beans on our personal styles of writing, and this turned out to be an enlightening (albeit hilarious) confirmation of the fact that writers are as unique as the stories they produce."


Read her whole blog entry, Write This Way.

*Elyss Punsalan, author of Twinspeak from PGS3

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Last Reminder

Just a friendly reminder that the deadline for submissions to the PGS Special Halloween Issue, guest-edited by award-winning writer Yvette Tan, is June 30, 2008, this coming Monday. As of now, all submissions that have been sent in have already been forwarded to her. If there are any more coming in, Monday's the final date. Schedule of release for that issue is sometime before October 31, 2008. Thanks very much!

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Suggested Collaboration (With Feet, Among Other Things)

K.a.f.k.a.e.d. has put up a post, Happy And High On Flying Severed Feet, asking for a possible collaboration with any blogger on writing a short story, within certain parameters (the second parameter he has set is particularly distasteful to me). The PGS blogspot entry of Feet, Feet, Feet... has only two comments, but its mirror here on Multiply has 43, and it is the impetus for K.a.f.k.a.e.d.'s entry. Feel free to comment on K.a.f.k.a.e.d.'s blog and to join in!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

These Could Serve As Crime Prompts

Via Laughter At The Fringes Of Sanity*:

Dead Silence.Org - A blog about serial killers, both old and new
About My Life Of Crime - A blog about crime, mostly murders

*Alexander Osias, author of Inhuman from PGS1.

Bulawan Online

Received this in my inbox. I'm copying and pasting it word-for-word here:

Mula sa Panitikan.com.ph:
JUNE 22, 2008

BULAWAN ONLINE LAUNCHED

At his lecture in UP Diliman last June 19, National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario was glad to launch a new website: bulawanonline.com. He serves as chief editor while Roberto T. Añonuevo, Romulo P. Baquiran Jr., Michael M. Coroza, Vim Nadera and Fidel Rillo serve as co-editors. Phillip Kimpo Jr., Sophia Lucero, Eilene Narvaez and Ernanie Rafael are the staff members.

Bulawanonline.com gets its name from Bulawan, a refereed quarterly journal published by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts. The NCCA is also one of the major forces behind panitikan.com.ph.

The maiden issue features works and commentary by Nikka Osorio, Roberto T. Añonuevo, Ronald A. Atilano, Romulo P. Baquiran, Jr., Michael M. Coroza and Virgilio S. Almario himself. Visit the new site here: http://bulawanonline.com/.

Paanyaya sa mga Panitikero:

Magaling ka ba talagang makata o kuwentista? Ang lathalaang ito ay nakabukás para sa lahat ng mga sumusulat ng tula at maikling kuwento. Maaari ding magpadala ng salin ng ipinalalagay na mahalagang tula o maikling kuwento sa ibang wika, katutubo man o banyaga. Hangga't maaari, ipadala ang tulang hindi lalagpas sa 50 taludtod at ang kuwentong hindi lalagpas sa 15 pahina (na naka-double-space at may 11-12 points Times Roman, New York, Palatino, Book Antique, o Arial na font).

May Lupon ng mga Editor ang lathalaang ito, sa pangunguna ng National Artist Virgilio S. Almario, na pipilì tuwing dalawang buwan ng katangi-tanging tula, kuwento, o salin at ang napilìng akda ay ilalathala nang may kalakip na komentaryo hinggil sa katangian ng mga ito.

Maglalaan din ng espasyo ang lathalaang ito para sa mga pagsusuri ng aklat at talakay sa mga paksaing pampanitikan, pangwika, at pampagsasalin. Inaasahan ang kontrobersiyal at radikal na punahan bagaman sa paraang walang personalan. Ganap na pananagutan ng may-akda ang anumang paglabag sa karapatang-ari at ibang batas ng Filipinas.

Ano pa ang hinihintay mo? Maaaring ipadala nang diretso ang lahat ng kontribusyon sa editor(at)bulawanonline(dot)com. Maaari ding ipadala ang hard copy na may kalakip na soft copy na nása CD kay

VIRGILIO S. ALMARIO
Institute of Creative Writing
Faculty Center (Bulwagang Rizal)
University of the Philippines
Diliman, Lungsod Quezon
Filipinas

Para sa file ng lathalaang ito, ilakip din ang isang maliit at pinakabagong retrato ng sarili, permanenteng tirahan, telepono, email adres, at kaunting impormasyon hinggil sa sarili (petsa at pook ng kapanganakan, magulang, paaralan, propesyon, trabaho/opisina, organisasyong pampanitikan, paboritong mga awtor at aklat, atbp.).

Nása Lupon ng mga Editor ang ganap na kapangyarihan kung ilalathala o hindi ang anumang tinanggap na padaláng pagsusuri, komentaryo, o liham. Hindi tungkulin ng lathalaang ito na ibalik sa may-akda ang anumang tinanggap na padaláng akda.

Bisitahin ang BulawanOnline.com. Maraming salamat po.

Phillip Y. Kimpo Jr.
pykimpo(at)gmail(dot)com |
Freelance Writer, Editor, Website Manager
Member, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Batch 2006, BS Computer Science, University of the Philippines at Diliman
http://corsarius.net | http://phillip.kimpo.ph | http://thecorsarius.multiply.com
I co-own: http://komiks.ph | http://articlecrux.com

Vae victis.

English Textbooks In The Philippines

The new schoolyear is still fresh, barely a month old. On my mind's periphery, I kinda' remember a brouhaha that erupted a year ago about someone getting sued for bringing to public attention the poor English in Philippine textbooks. I tried to look for information on the web, and discovered this almost-one-year old article on The International Herald Tribune Online: English Getting Lost In Translation In The Philippines by Carlos H. Conde. A quote:


"We grow our hogs in our own farms so you're sure to get meat that is grown."

"The city's voice is soft like solitudes."

"He found his friend clowning himself around."

"He seemed to be waiting for someone, not a blood relation, much less a bad blood."

Such phrases, lifted from government-approved textbooks used in Filipino public schools, are reinforcing fears that crucial language skills are degenerating in a country that has long prided itself on having some of the world's best English speakers. At a time when English is widely considered an advantage in global competitiveness for any country, many fear this former U.S. colony is slipping.

English is an official language here, along with the native Tagalog. Yet the U.S. State Department, in its "2007 Investment Climate Statement," released this month, concluded: "English-language proficiency, while still better than in other Southeast Asian nations, is declining in the Philippines."


The name of the man who brought our attention to this, and now has to defend himself in the courts for his trouble, is Antonio Calipjo Go. Does anyone have news on what's happened since? I can find no updates (or maybe I'm just lousy at using search engines). Do any of you in education or news know if the textbooks have been improved since last year? Based on the article, nothing was done initially despite Go's pointing this out to the Department of Education, until he took out a full-page ad in newspapers to advertise the situation and got into legal trouble for doing so.

Young Adult Stories From The Reading List

As my children grow up, I've been subtly (and not so subtly) doing my best to influence them to read more. With vicious competition from video games, the internet, TV shows, and movies, it's a struggle. But the wife and I win a few battles here and there, and at the very least the kids have gotten into the habit of reading at night before bedtime. They reserve the daylight hours for other activities, but I'm hopeful and confident that in time they'll encounter books that will keep them reading even when the sun is up (the last time that happened was with The Prydain Chronicles, and before that, the Harry Potter series--I'll just keep the books flowing and another set of them is bound to catch their interest).

I've been reading some of these books for myself--always have, really, even before the kids were born--revisiting old titles and perusing new ones. I don't know how, but I've retained the joy of reading young adult books. Mine not to question why. So the Newbery's and other publications made for that age range remain on the lower shelves, beneath the books for much older readers, not because I consider them of inferior quality--they're all given equal respect, I guarantee you--but because, well, if you're still growing up you can't reach that high without a chair or stepladder to help you; the lower shelves seem the most apt place for them. Though they haven't done so yet, I'm anticipating the moment when my children will be scanning these publications for themselves when they need something to read. All they require is a little nudge in the right direction so they won't have to ask, "Could you give me something to read, please?" They can choose for themselves.

One title I couldn't believe missing out on when I was younger is Sid Fleischman's The Whipping Boy. I had read, and still remember reading as a grade schooler, his book, The Ghost In the Noonday Sun. So when I recently saw the author's name on an old copy of The Whipping Boy at a sale and realized I hadn't read it yet, I snapped it up and started reading the moment I got home. Was done in less than an hour--it's that thin and short a story--but I came out of that crime/adventure story smiling.

I recommended it to my kids right away, but the book is still a bit much for my youngest, who is still into Dr. Seuss, and my eldest is not yet finished with her Lily Quench books, given to her by her Uncle. She said she would get to it right after she's done with them, and with another book given earlier by her Auntie, Lois Lowry's Number The Stars. That one I heartily endorse, and I'm thankful for my relatives who are as supportive of reading as my wife and I.

I feared at first about giving my children older titles, wondering if there might be a disconnection because of the books' ages. But my fears were somewhat allayed when my eldest made it through The Cricket In Times Square (and some of the other aforementioned titles) with no problems. Her verdict? "I liked that one!" Hey, that's a 1960 book which I read for myself in the early 80's, so if I had no issues, and my kid had none either, then that says something about that story's strength. Wouldn't any writer love to have their works reach readers twenty, even forty years, or longer, after their initial publication? I'm sure George Selden would be proud. I'm now confident enough to leave copies of Laurence Yep's books around for my children to find, certainly Roald Dahl's.

I'm also keeping my eyes open for a copy of Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry. It's the first full book I recall reading back in grade school (not counting the ubiquitous Hardy Boys). It was a class requirement, and I remember being first introduced to the story via filmstrip in the viewing section of the school library. Slides of wonderful artwork of the story were projected onto a white screen, and a cassette tape or vinyl LP would be played. A narrator provided the voiceover, complete with sound effects, not unlike a radio play. Between slide changes, a tinny alarm would sound, signaling our teacher to press the button that would make the projector advance to the next piece of artwork. I remember lining up the recess right after class to borrow the book; the story really grabbed me right then and there. I wonder what my old school did with all their old filmstrips. What I would give to have those slides and cassettes! In case Call It Courage doesn't grab my kids, I'm hoping that maybe Scott O'Dell's Island Of The Blue Dolphins would. That one I have a copy of.

It wasn't always easy to keep up the habit of reading these books. Once I hit my mid-twenties, I'd get funny looks if I was caught fingering through a book clearly for young adults. I let it get to me, sadly, and stopped for a while; it's bad enough being criticized by some for "wasting time reading when you could be watching a movie or something", but it's a lot worse when some would say "why are you still reading those books at your age?" But I wisened up years later. When I hit my mid-30's, I became old enough to no longer be too concerned anymore with what others thought about what I did, especially if, as I reasoned, I'm not bothering anyone by doing so. It's pretty liberating to come to that epiphany. That was the time I enountered some of Garth Nix's books, as well as Eoin Colfer's and Jonathan Stroud's. Since then, I've met people who've recommended other authors, and I feel like I'm always playing catch up. It's a shame to say it, but I'm only now coming to read young-adult stories by Pinoys. I'm open to suggestions, if any of you have some to give. I'm looking for novels that my kids and I can read together, but short stories are fine too. The upcoming launch of The Night Monkeys is on my mind, but I'm looking for longer works as well.

So many books, so little time. But that's the way it is for almost all of us, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Times Archives

For those of you with an interest in history (the last five letters of the word being really what it is all about, if you think about it), the online archives of The Times is particularly interesting. They've scanned selected pages from their issues from 1785 up to 1985, 200 years!

Aside: As a printer, I was initially interested in the printing method used back then, studying just how they produced newspapers at the time. I even enlarged the scanned images of the pages just to get a closer look at the magnified type, and how they laid the text out. I ended up reading a lot of material on old printing methods, mostly letterpress methods.

Some of the interesting stories now available for us to read as The Times reported it back then are: Marie Antoinette Goes To The Guillotine, The Battle of Waterloo, The Great Famine In Ireland, Abraham Lincoln's Assassination, Florence Nightingale, Jack The Ripper, Amelia Earhart, Winston Churchill And His Great Speech, and The Falklands War. There are a lot more on a lot of other topics and events. There's even an interesting 1921 human interest article: What Women Really Want.

Head on over to read, get a picture of life in Europe at that time, and you'll find out that at its basest, the human condition, and what drives people to do what they do, hasn't changed in more than a century (and for far longer, far, far longer). And yet, it all remains so interesting. Reading these stories from the past could very well teach us something about ourselves also. There is an old adage that goes "History is doomed to repeat itself"; and another one, "The more things change, the more they stay the same". So perhaps there are clues to how current events might just turn out in these old pages from The Times.

Would that we could have the same online access to Philippine newspapers and books, and from periodicals and publications from other countries as well!

Consider too, that what is published today, whether in hard print or online, just may be read 100 years or more hence (as long as the human race hasn't destroyed itself yet). Today's stories will interest those future readers in the same way that The Times archives interests us today. And that will include your own blogs, people!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Discussion On Fanfic

Found this on Fantasy Magazine: Fanfic: Menace Or Threat? A quote:

"I’ve written one piece of fanfic, back when I was in my teens, featuring the Uncanny X-Men, the supervillain Arcade, and an embarassingly thinly disguised version of me. I’m curious what people’s experience in the arena of fanfic are — what do you think someone gets out of writing it? Is there a world that you’d find more tempting than others to write fanfic in? Is it a useful exercise, an entertaining diversion, or a waste of time?"

Head on over there to read the ongoing discussion. Feel free to join in, or to start one here.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

More On Salu-Salo: In Conversation With Filipinos

Continuing from this earlier post about Salu-Salo, the recently launched Philippine-Australian anthology, Crystal Koo (author of "The Scent Of Spice" from PGS2) has put up her second blog entry on the Sydney Writer's Festival. She writes about going to the Consul-General's house, and the book launch itself. Head on over to her blog to read about it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards

Fully Booked has launched the 3rd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards. Here are the contest rules and other details. PGS contributors and friends did very well last year, which really gave me a lift. Good luck, everyone!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Chick-Lit

As Zen In Darkness*, who sent the link below to me, wrote in his email, chick-lit "is genre too, after all".

Joanna Trollope defends chick-lit, and in fact, calls it wit lit: Why I Love Chick-Lit. An excerpt:

"I've been reading a lot of what the media calls chick-lit lately (I've got another name for it - tell you later - bear with me ... ) This is because I'm a judge for a newish prize which I've every faith is going to become a New Big Thing - not least because it's for the books we actually read because we want to, as opposed to the books we buy because ... well, I needn't finish that sentence.

It's called the Melissa Nathan prize and it's for what she called comedy romance. That's what she wrote - remember The Nanny and The Waitress? - before she died two years ago, at only 37, leaving a husband and a little boy and the idea/wish for this prize. Last year was its first year, and the judges - Jo Brand, Sophie Kinsella, Jessica Hines, Gaynor Allen (chief fiction buyer for Tesco) Alan Davies and I, had such a good time that we insisted on being allowed to do it all over again this year.

It hasn't just been fun, it's been a revelation. The thing is, it's hard to write good romantic fiction, and it's much, much harder to write funny good romantic fiction. One of the criteria we judges were given was that if we hadn't laughed, or been really beguiled by the end of chapter one, we should hurl the book away from us (and yes, a lot of books deserve hurling, but that's the fault of their quality and not their genre).

What Melissa wanted was to introduce a little merriment and teasing into the world of literary prizes, where pretension and literary snobbery often find fertile ground. This seems to me a sensible aim for the English, who have a particular and ever present sense of humour, and a propensity for embarrassment when things get emotionally heavy, despite being as emotional as the next nationality."

PGS is open to these kinds of stories. Maybe a special chick-lit issue? Heh. Maybe. But not in the near future. Got to get the Halloween issue and the Crime/Mystery/Suspense issue out first.

*Chiles Samaniego, author of The Saint Of Elsewhere from PGS2

Kit Whitfield's Top 10 Genre-Defying Novels

Kit Whitfield lists her Top 10 Genre-Defying Novels over at The Guardian. Click on the link to see her list, but in the meantime, here's the first paragraph of her article to whet your interest:

"Genre is all very well, but it's a cage as much as a support. Who knows how many books a person who won't touch women's fiction or only reads sci fi is missing out on that they'd otherwise love? But for a writer, the effect is more insidious. A work of art needs to be complete on its own terms: it needs to ring with internal rightness, never mind whether it makes sense in terms of genre. A writer who forces a trope in or leaves an idea out because they're worried about genre categories has mutilated their book. The best novels are those that are so effective in themselves that they let genre go hang: use what works, leave out what doesn't, and come up with whatever's fresh and vivid that serves the story you're trying to tell."

Feet, Feet, Feet,... (Updated)

...how many feet you meet!

Here's another crime prompt for the PGS Special Crime/Mystery/Suspense issue:

A 6th human foot is found on Canada's Pacific Coast, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"Another human foot was found Wednesday on a British Columbia shoreline, the second this week and the sixth within a year in a bizarre mystery that has confounded police. Like most of the others, it was a right foot encased in a running shoe, said Sgt. Mike Tresoor of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He said a citizen spotted it on a beach and no other remains were found.

The latest find and most of the others were recovered within a few miles of each other along island shorelines in the Strait of Georgia, which lies to the south and west of the provincial capital of Vancouver."

Of course, the reasons for this might not be crime related, but wouldn't it be nice to weave a crime story around this mystery?

Isharaine is over in British Columbia right now. Hey, Isha! Here's a mystery for you to solve! Since most of the feet are found in running shoes, don't go sleuthing in sneakers...wear stilleto's! Tobie might like that. :D

Update: The sixth foot was a hoax. But the other feet were real. More detailed reports here, here, and here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Journalists As Bloggers, Writers As Bloggers

David Dizon writes about what he terms an "upheaval of sorts" in the Pinoy blogosphere: Journalists As Bloggers. It's about the "old media" vs. "the new media", traditional journalists versus bloggers. A quote:

A few weeks back, an article by www.abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak reporter Carmela Fonbuena "Journalists urged to blog, set examples online" (Journalists urged to blog, set examples online) caused an upheaval of sorts in the Pinoy blogosphere. The perceived fault line and source of all the hubbub was the comment of UP professor Luis Teodoro who encouraged "journalists to consciously go into blogging to set examples."

"Many of those who post information online are irresponsible," Teodoro was quoted as saying. "Sometimes, it becomes damaging. It disrupts the democratic dialogue."

Finally, he also proposed that there should be self-regulation in blogs. "Journalists should be models online," he said. Be it a blog on political opinion or personal lifestyle, "the principles of journalism should apply."

Days after the story came out, one blogger (Talk About Kettles Calling the Pots Black) virtually pilloried Teodoro by calling him a CPP-NPA front man and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility leftist. Another blogger (Confessions of a "New Media" Heretic (or, the jester-in-exile throws yet another gauntlet before the MSM "priest caste")) asked Teodoro to "get off your high horse and tell your peers to clean up your stables before you come online and tell us how to live our lives." And finally, one blog (Challenge of the blogs) castigates the professor "for not finding anything good to say about blogs except that they pose a challenge to mainstream media."


Sometime late into 2007, The Spy In The Sandwich wrote about Literary Blogging, and how keeping a blog helps writers (mostly younger ones) keep the words flowing. There is a bit of that "old media" vs. "new media" here too. A quote:


"Can blogging be rightfully considered an effective tool in creative writing? If so, how or why? I ask this question because a prominent writer, an icon in local literary circles who will remain nameless, once suggested to me that I should not waste my time blogging, because blogging he says only takes away from the few hours we have for ourselves for what he calls “real” writing. I suppose he has good reasons to be concerned about blogging becoming a literary vampire of sort—but it soon occurred to me that the suggestion he posed smacked of one accusation: blogging as a worthless exercise in literary considerations, a “waste of time” basically, something that cannot be considered real writing at all. And so I threw the question into the air, by text-messaging some of the writers I knew who kept blogs, hoping that they had a sense of knowing why they blog in the first place, and how it keeps them in tune with the fact of being active writers."


The common thread here is that for some, blogging is not considered beneficial to "real" writing, be it creative or journalistic. The opposite opinion holds true for others. Thus, the conflict.

I think that there are creative writers--fictionists and non-fictionists--among PGS blog readers. I believe that there are students too among the readers (and not necessarily enrolled in writing courses either). There may be a few journalists. I know that there are a few teachers. May I ask you to share your opinions on this? Is blogging a boon or bane to writing, whether it be for academic, personal, or professional reasons?

It wouldn't be fair for me to ask for your opinions without sharing my own. The Spy In The Sandwich texted me for what I thought about blogging before writing his essay, and he couldn't use what I said because, I have to admit, I told him that blogging neither helps nor hinders what I write during my private time. I think this is because I'm pretty new to blogging, having started in late 2006, and only started posting regularly and in earnest sometime in the middle of 2007. So perhaps the more experienced of you can share your thoughts. I'm aware, though, that by posting this online, most of the responses will be in the positive, since responders will also be bloggers. So I'm asking also that those of you who do know the opinions and reasons of those who find blogging unhelpful to writing, to please do share them here too. It would be interesting to find out, and might also make for an entertaining, and educational, discussion. Thank you, folks!

Flash Fiction Workshop

A Flash Fiction Workshop will be held at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Bonifacio High Street, Global City, Taguig, on June 24, 2008, at 7:00 p.m. One of the speakers is Dean Francis Alfar, contributor to both PGS1 and PGS4. More details here. (Note: only 60 slots are available).

A Blog Entry About English

Here's a blog entry from K.a.f.k.a.e.d.: Engrishee ees not clazy! A quote:

"English isn't Latin. Latin has precise grammatical rules so that if a verb takes on one sound, other verbs will take on similar sounds. In Latin, if you will, grocers will groce and fingers will fing. But there is a price to pay for such unchanging precision in a language.

Why is Latin so unchanging and precise? Because it's dead.

If it is used at all it is used by scientists and specialists who need a non-"crazy language" whose grammar, spellings, and usage do not change. That's how you know that scientists in Japan, China and the former Soviet states are referring to the same animal when they say Canis Familiaris.

Living languages, like English, must by their very nature change, adapt and grow. They will, upon contact with another language or culture, borrow words and change their meanings and spellings."

More On Filipino Sword And Sorcery

The Grin Without A Cat* continues to ruminate on Filipino Sword And Sorcery in this post, Conan vs. Panday! He's also wondering if anyone would join a small group blog he would create and call Pinoy Pulp, with the goal of creating just such stories.

*Joseph Nacino, author of Insomnia from PGS1

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Soledad's Sister Now Available

Remember how I gloated about having an early copy of Soledad's Sister, and from Sir Butch Dalisay, the author, himself? Well, it's now available at National Bookstore, according to Sir Butch's June 16, 2008 blog post, "My Favorite Thongs". Scroll to the bottom of the post for more details on the book, but do so only after you read his essay on Australian slang.

Bookay-Ukay Bookstore

Grand Opening on June 28, 2008, 10:00 a.m., at 55 Maginhawa St., U.P. Village, Quezon City. They promise big discounts and lots of books! If you have time, you may want to go and check this out.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Night Monkeys

Tahanan Books is launching an anthology, The Night Monkeys: More Palanca Prize Winners For Children, on June 30, 2008, 5-7 p.m., Mary Grace Cafe, Serendra, Fort Bonifacio Global City. PGS contributors and Palanca winners Nikki Alfar and Yvette Tan (from PGS2 and PGS4, respectively) have stories included in the anthology. Click the link above for more details.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ateneo Press Anniversary Sale

The Ateneo Press is having a Book Sale, 10%-50% off all titles from June 16 to June 30, 2008 at the ground floor of the Bellarmine Hall of the AdMU campus along Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.

To celebrate more than thirty years of quality academic publishing, the Ateneo Press is putting all its titles at 10 to 50 percent off list price from June 16 to 30, 2008. Sale hours are from 8 am to 12 noon, 1 to 6 pm, Mondays to Thursdays, and 8 am to 12 noon, 1 to 5 pm, Fridays, at the Ateneo Press bookshop, ground floor of Bellarmine Hall, Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Ave., Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

On sale are classics and bestsellers like L. Arceo's *Titser*, R. Ileto's *Pasyon and Revolution*, and S. Schlegel's *Wisdom from the Rainforest*, as well as new titles under the Press's various series.

Some of these are in history, like B. Anderson's *Why Counting Counts*, D. de Lario's *Re-shaping the World*, and P. Jurilla's* Tagalog Bestsellers of the Twentieth Century*; literature and criticism, like M. Bernad's *The Waiter and the Fisherman and other Essays*, R. Lucero's *Ang Bayan sa Labas ng Maynila*, and R. Tolentino and A. Atienza's *Ang Dagling Tagalog, 1903-1936*; politics and governance, like S. Borras's *Competing Views and Strategies in Agrarian Reform* and N. Quimpo's *Contested Democracy and the Left in the Philippines after Marcos*; science and society, like B. Peczon and A. Manalo's *Straight Talk about Biotechnology*; and theology, like F. Baggio and A. Brazal's *Faith on the Move*.

The complete list of titles may be viewed at www.ateneopress.org, and multiple copies reserved by emailing msanagustin(at)ateneo(dot)edu, or calling 02-4265984, 4266001 ext 4610, 4613.

As always, tea and cookies come free with browsing :-).

Thank you and happy bookshopping!

Mary Anne Suyom-San Agustin
Ateneo de Manila University Press
Bellarmine Hall, ADMU Campus
Katipunan Ave., Loyola Heights
Quezon City, Philippines
Tel.: (632) 426-6001 loc. 4610


Lucky Or Not?

Today is Friday the 13th, and I'm making it through, no less lucky or unlucky than on any other day.

But some Dutch statisticians have crunched the numbers and concluded that Friday the 13th is perhaps even luckier than regular days. Maybe it's because everyone thinks it's such a bad day that they're actually playing it safer?

And while according to Chinese custom the number "8" is supposed to be lucky, 2008 is proving to be anything but for China, what with the massive earthquake they just suffered, the snowstorm earlier in the year, not to mention the riots in Tibet. Come to think of it, 2008 has been fairly unlucky so far for the whole world the way gas prices are rising, taking every other commodity with it. As a result, many in China are rethinking the whole lucky number "8" concept. Some are putting the blame on this year being that of the Rat's, which is considered far from lucky (though I beg to differ, because my brother was born in the year of the Rat, and my family is lucky to have him).

"That's why it's better to be born lucky than rich," said the mother in D.H. Lawrence's The Rocking Horse Winner.

And I've heard the sentence "It's better to be lucky than good" so many times, in reference to everything from academics, politics, sports, health, science, publishing, and general life, it's become a bit of a cliche.

Frankly, I'd like to be all three: good, lucky, and rich. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't anyone? :)

Are We Getting Stupid?

Could be, could be...

Is Google Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr

A quote:

"Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle. I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet."

Pardon me while I (try to) avoid the computer and my cellphone for this entire weekend, to focus on the actual while staying away from the virtual for a while...

via The Grin Without A Cat

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

J.K. Rowling's Commencement Address...

...to the graduates of Harvard (2008).

Some quotes:

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."

"I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you."

"So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged."

"The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned."

"
And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know. I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid. What is more, those who choose not to empathize may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy."

"
We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."

"I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children's godparents, the people to whom I've been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I've used their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister. So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom: As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters."

Link to the full text here: The Fringe Benefits Of Failure, And The Importance Of Imagination

Filipino Sword and Sorcery

I came upon two blog entries on two different blogs about the existence of Pinoy Sword and Sorcery. Sword and Sorcery is a subgenre of the wider fantasy genre, and is one of those types of stories that PGS is open to.

The blogs agree that, as far as they can recall from all that they've read, there exists no good Pinoy Sword and Sorcery tale (though one commenter has suggested that perhaps Ang Panday is one).

The blog entries are here:

Filipino Sword-And-Sorcery
The Conan Question

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Image Inspiration Writing Contest #4

Philippine Genre Stories will give a free copy of the next issue and P100 -- enough for a good cup of coffee -- to the person who writes the best genre story (fantasy, horror, crime, mystery, romance, science-fiction, etc.) in 500 words or less based on the above image. The winning story will also be published in a future issue. Send your entries to pdoimage(at)yahoo(dot)com and label your email "PGS4 Image Entry". Deadline is August 15, 2008. Include your name and pertinent contact information.

This issue's Image Inspiration is provided by ROBO MONKEY PIXEL FIGHTERS, the go-to place for all your art, graphic design, and comic production needs. Fast turn around time, prompt delivery, and not to mention mind-blowing work by some of thehottest creatives from this side of the world are just some of the reasons why we're the on to go to when you want to bring your project to the next level. Jonas Diego is the Head Monkey of ROBO MONKEY PIXEL FIGHTERS and he finds it weird talking about himself in the third person. You may contact the studio via jonas_diego(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Bedside Stories



A relative returned from a European vacation, bringing with her a small, handy-sized book--one of a series entitled "Bedside Stories". The scanned images of the cover of this particular book (with the inner flap unfolded), a brief introduction, and the Table of Contents are above.

The stories came from a contest that NH Hoteles sponsors, the NH Vargas Llosa Prize for Short Stories (scroll down to the bottom of the link to read about it). A quote:

"The NH Mario Vargas Llosa Short Story Awards, with a prize money of 60,000 euros, aims to foster reading and literary creation, to prove support for contemporary writers, and contribute to the promotion of cultural leisure offerings.

The prize-winning stories are published in English, Spanish, and German and distributed in all the rooms of the chain's hotels, as a free service for customers.

Since 1996, NH Hoteles has had some three million books printed and distributed... More than 10,000 writers from all over Spain and from 28 other countries on different continents have taken part in previous competitions."

What a novel idea, providing hotel guests not just with towels, stationery, or newspapers (oh, and a comfortable place to sleep and wash up!), but stories to read! Stories that come from a contest that is sponsored by the hotel chain. I've read through a couple of the stories already, and they have a distinctly European flavour about them.

Wouldn't this be a good idea for the local hotel industry? Perhaps a local hotel can sponsor a contest, print and publish a book of "Bedside Stories" (translated into the proper language suited to their guests of course), filled with tales written by Pinoys that reflect something about the Philippines. Guests can bring these books back to their homelands, and they can serve as a reminder of their visit here.

Just thinking.

Salu-Salo: In Conversation With Filipinos


I received last week a copy of Salu-Salo: In Conversation With Filipinos, An Anthology of Philippine-Australian Writings, care of Crystal Koo, author of "The Scent Of Spice" from PGS2 (this was first announced here and here). Crystal has also written her first blog entry about her trip to the Sydney Writer's Festival, where the anthology was launched last May 25, 2008. In her blogpost she writes about the different seminars she attended, and what she learned about reading, publishing, and writing Hollywood screenplays.

Above are scanned images of the anthology's cover and its Table of Contents.

Thanks very much, Crystal!

Incidentally, Sir Butch Dalisay was there too for the launch, and wrote about it here.

Announcements

Dominique Cimafranca, author of "Twilight Of The Magi" from the PGS Holiday Issue, blogs about Dagmay, the literary journal of the Davao Writers Guild:

"Dagmay is the literary journal of the Davao Writers Guild. In its third and present incarnation, it comes out as a special one-page insert of the Sunday Sun.Star Davao. The web site is an archive of the works published since August 2007 (some months still missing while we're finishing up, but soon!) So far, there are 52 pieces already posted."

Celestine Trinidad, author of "Beneath The Acacia" from PGS2, emailed me to say that she has a story, "Alternate Futures", on the webzine India And The Conundrum. She writes:
"
I just wanted to shamelessly plug, er, I mean, tell you that the webzine India and the Conundrum was re-launched yesterday as a double issue, and I have a story there, entitled, "Alternate Futures". :) Basically, India and the Conundrum is a webzine for serialized original fiction, with serials ranging from wuxia to modern fantasy to magic realism, and chapters for the stories will be released every six weeks. My serial actually falls into the category of light teen fantasy, so it's more YA than anything. The webzine is still looking for contributions from other authors and illustrators, and it's open to serial fiction of all genres and ratings."

Celestine provides more details here on her blog.

Dean Francis Alfar, author of "The Middle Prince" from PGS1 and "In The Dim Plane" from PGS4, writes that his 1991 Palanca winning play, "Short Time", has been made into a film. Read about it here and here. A quote:

"The actors peformed very well, and for the first time in a long time, I felt bad for Danny at the end. This got me to thinking about the difference between theater and film. Staged, the play is supposed to feel more "real". But Direk Rico's treatment, complete with Chekovian pause and extreme close up, affected me more. I don't know if this is because I watch more films now than plays..."

Sunday, June 08, 2008

No To Age Banding

From No To Age Banding:

"We are writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers, publishers and booksellers. Some of us have a measure of control over what appears on the covers of their books; others have less.

But we are all agreed that the proposal to put an age-guidance figure on books for children is ill-conceived, damaging to the interests of young readers, and highly unlikely, despite the claims made by those publishers promoting the scheme, to make the slightest difference to sales.

We take this step to disavow publicly any connection with such age-guidance figures, and to state our passionately-held conviction that everything about a book should seek to welcome readers in and not keep them out."

Via Zen In Darkness.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

From The Filipino Librarian (Updated)

Still on the topic, The Filipino Librarian says:

If a student raises her hand in a class on Philippine literature and says, "Hindi ko maintindihan ang Tagalog" (I can't understand the Tagalog), should the teacher say, "Eh kasi tanga ka" (That's because you're stupid)? Well, this was essentially what happened when blogger-columnist Connie Veneracion complained that she and her husband, who were in fact trying to help their daughter, couldn't understand the Tagalog used in Mga Ibong Mandaragit by Amado Hernandez. Exie Abola, another blogger-columnist, pointed out that Veneracion's attitude toward literature was unfortunate because she is "an adult, not a seventeen-year-old, and a parent at that." Other writers and bloggers would not be as restrained in their responses. Ibong Mandaragit dot com, a website dedicated to understanding the book was set up, but it seems its owner hasn't gotten past the first chapter. As far as I can tell, the "debate" degenerated into an unhealthy my-argument-is-better-than-yours, you're-so-stupid, one-sided "contest" that has all but obscured the important-but-apparently-not-important-enough-to-ask-their-opinion protagonists: the readers. It's important to remember that this debate is not about Veneracion. She is not the enemy. She is a reading advocate (see her posts on "reading") who is making a complaint about the Tagalog used in Philippine literature. Maybe she's arrogant, maybe she generalizes too much, maybe her arguments don't make sense. But the way I see it, she is a customer providing feedback. In a previous life, I learned that "a complaint is a gift" and "don't shoot the messenger."

His full blog entry is Bloggers On Mga Ibong Mandaragit.

The links here have been updated, including one more: Absolutely The Last Word from The Spy In The Sandwich.

Update: And another one, Sa Muling Paglipad Ng Ibong Mandaragit from The Sumatra Woman's Brew.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Opening Lines (Updated)

"'ello, baby. I'm Kenny. What's yours?"

No, not those kinds of opening lines.

As a reader, is it wrong to require a piece to grab you from the get-go? And if it doesn't, do you chuck it? I know of readers like that. Stern folk, they are, with furrowed brows, piercing eyes, no-nonsense voices, and the weight of importance on their shoulders. They only lighten up when Air Supply comes on the radio :D (just kidding, and no, we are not going there again).

I try my best not to be that severe. I usually give a short story about five to seven pages, and a novel maybe betwen fifty to a hundred, before I decide whether to continue reading or to set it aside for another time. But a good start, a good opening line or a strong set of opening paragraphs or chapters, ensures that I'm going to feel more benevolent to a piece as I flex my reading muscles and make my way through it. Most readers are this way, I think. And most readers, as far as I can tell, make it through to the end of whatever they're reading.

I'll deal with opening lines and paragraphs from short stories in this post, as it wouldn't be practical for me to type out whole early chapters from novels.

Here're the opening sentences from "The Snake: A Story Of The Flat Earth", by Tanith Lee (Realms Of Fantasy, June 2008):

"The snake lay under a low, flowering tree, at the side of the forest path. The snake seemed like a small spill of amber that the sun had firmed and coined with scales.

What the author did for me here, in just a couple of sentences and with the clever use of verbs, was to paint a vivid picture of a snake, a tree, the sun, and a forest path, and in many colors too, with the snake standing forth in amber. I knew I was going to give this tale a more than even chance for me to get through it. From the description alone, my interest was piqued.

Here's another one, from "Events At Fort Plentitude", by Cat Rambo (Weird Tales, Jan/Feb 2008)

"December 27th, Duke Theo's reign, 11th Year, Fort Plentitude -- In the coldest nights of the winter, the fox women come out of the pine woods. Their flashes of hair are scarlet against the blue snow shadows. They sing an odd, whining song like puppies that have lost the teat."

Spooky, that one. With only two colors this time: scarlet against blue snow. Which told me that maybe the rest of the story was indeed going to be spooky. And it was.

Sometimes, it's not just opening lines, but opening paragraphs that gets you. The first two paragraphs, long as they are, of a story I reread every year, "Mateo Falcone" by Prosper Mérimée, pulled me in and lost me in the story as completely as getting lost in, well, the maquis.

Once your mind bites into a story and samples that initial flavor, it serves as a stimuli, the response of which is that you reflexively expect something of it. You bring all of yourself, after all, when you read, so your reactions depend on who you are (and remember that you're growing as a person too; who you are today is most certainly altered from who you were five or ten years ago). Your initial thoughts could change as the story progresses, but that initial taste whets your expectations. In other words, both these stories' beginnings set the tone for what else is to come. A good beginning grabs you, like bait on a hook grabs a fish, and the middle and end serve to reel you in.

Here's a beginning from "Gang Of Three", by Jas. R. Petrin (from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May 2008)

"You realize," Robideau pointed out, "I'm not a peace-officer anymore. I'm just filling in for Chief Butts until he gets back from his well-earned vacation. I don't have any official powers."

"But what we got here, Chief, is grand larceny, an' somebody's got to do somethin' about it!"

Seems plain enough, fairly catchy, but, for me, not that big a standout. But enough to draw me in, and move on through it. And I felt rewarded as a reader because the middle and end came out quite well. That story is nominated in the Best Short Story category at the 2009 Edgar Awards, sponsored by The Mystery Writers of America.

That's why I try my best to give stories a chance, in the hopes that I can luck out and come upon a tale whose opening lines may not have grabbed me by the lapels, but draws me in once I get to know it. Sort of like that girl (or guy) who didn't catch your fancy when you first saw her, for whatever reason (some of it your own fault, for sure), but over time, you find yourself, well, attracted and captivated. And wanting to know more. There are very good stories whose beginnings aren't as strong as they could have been, but somehow they make a comeback with a terrific middle or end, or both. The smooth slide inward, as opposed to being hauled right in. But whatever type of beginning you come upon, it's best that, as you give the stories a chance, you try to be as open as you can to the possibility that what you're reading could be a good story.

Keep in mind that a bad beginning is sure to kill outright whatever interest any reader might have. Some killers include poor choice of words, uneven tone or voice, confusing viewpoints, or poor grammar (unless called for by the characters of the story). A teacher in his late-forties once told me that he didn't have the patience or the time to wade through some of the stuff he had to read because his interest was killed right from the start due to bad beginnings. Man, I wouldn't have wanted to be under this Professor. I think I would've gotten a low grade, for sure. It's certainly easier to read than to write.

Mind you, having a good start does not excuse a story for slacking off in the middle or the end. That would be like a basketball team that plays well only in the first quarter and then mails it in for the next three. It'll all end up as wasted effort, and just add another notch to the "L" column. The best stories to read, of course, the ones with the "W's", are the tales whose great beginnings, middles, and ends, all work together toward a tale well told.

Would you like to share the great (or not so great) opening lines that you have read? :)

Update: Found a site with a quiz about opening lines in famous novels. You might want to give it a try, and then try and read all the novels listed there.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

We Were Talking About Frost, Geddemmit!!

(I usually write about books, reading, writing, PGS, genre, etc., but seeing as a recent post has turned to music, this post is a brief intermission. Besides, with all the seriousness that has gone on before, this would be a good, fun, break.)

Based on the comments from this post, Poetry As Punishment (check out the PGS-Multiply in particular), we suddenly veered away from Robert Frost and started to discuss Air Supply. Much to my chagrin.

I hold Palanca winner Tapayan Ni Hans mostly to blame, but it did start when PGS contributor Laughter At The Fringes Of Sanity started to sing Air Supply songs in the comments section (wala na nga sa tono, mali pa ang pronounciation). Everyone soon joined in, and then people starting admitting to liking and having the following in their music players:

1. Abba
2. The Bee Gees
3. Barry Manilow
4. The Carpenters
5. Donna Summer and 70's disco
6. The Village People
7. Kenny Rogers
8. Lionel Richie
9. Michael Jackson
10. Spandau Ballet
11. Bananarama
12. Celine Dion
13. Michael Bolton
14. Kenny G.
15. Lionel Richie
16. Whitney Houston

Sige na. Ilabas niyo na lahat. All in one go. What else do you have in your music players?

Tapayan Ni Hans is challenging us to list our "top 25 most played" in our iPod. He thinks that in that top 25 those artists above, or similar ones, might show up.

And to quote Dogberry in one of his recent posts, "Elitists will be shot."

Aminin niyo na! Pati kayong mga matatanda may High School Musical sa mga iPods ninyo!

Given how much flak I got for dissing Air Supply in the previous post, consider this the post where you can all gush about your favorite music artists from the list above.

(Wouldn't it be ironic if somehow, our discussion veered back to Frost?)

Okay. I'll start.

When my wife found out I had Hajji Alejandro, the original "crush ng mga kolehiyala" in my iPod, she said, "Eeeeeeee!"

"O! Bakit?"

"Hajjeeee....."

"Okay naman yung mga ibang kanta niya ah!"

"Oo nga!"

So there.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Another Horror Prompt


June 30, 2008, is the deadline for submissions to the Special Hallowen Issue. That's less than a month away. Here's another horror prompt for that issue.

In a cemetery at the boundary of Caloocan and Malabon is a tombstone depicting the famous scene of St. Michael slaying a demon or sending Lucifer to hell, but in reverse (the actual picture is above). The spear that the demon or Lucifer is holding is gone, and the entire tableau has been caged to prevent vandals from destroying it.

To add to the mystery, written on the left side of the enclosure is a conversation in Filipino between the angel and the devil/demon, but time has weathered away the words except for the last line supposedly uttered by the angel: “Tao, tulungan ninyo ako na labanan ang kasamaan at iwasan ang kasakiman sa salapi at kapangyarihan na pinagmulan ng ligalig (People help me battle evil and shun greed for money and power, the root of all trouble).”

Further, a witness claims that everytime she visits the cemetery to visit her deceased relatives at another tomb some meters away, the figures move. According to her, the archangel falls further down and the devil/demon stands nearer to the prone figure.

There is an Inquirer article about it over here.

And I picked up this story, along with others, on this thread about ghost stories at a forum I visit every so often.

Previous horror prompts here, here, and here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Poetry As Punishment?

From Bad To Verse: Vandals Get Classroom Penance

Poetic Justice: some young people broke into Robert Frost's former home, had a party, and subsequently trashed the place. As part of their punishment, they're required to take classes in his poetry.

"This is where Frost is relevant. This is the irony of this whole thing. You come to a path in the woods where you can say, `Shall I go to this party and get drunk out of my mind?'" Professor Jay Parini, 60, said. "Everything in life is choices."

Even the setting had parallels, he said: "Believe me, if you're a teenager, you're always in the damned woods. Literally, you're in the woods — probably too much you're in the woods. And metaphorically you're in the woods, in your life. Look at you here, in court diversion! If that isn't `in the woods,' what the hell is `in the woods'? You're in the woods!"

The Professor is, of course, referencing Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken".

I can imagine how this could be punishment for some. Maybe they'll learn something from it. Punishment for me would be either a dental appointment or a course in Air Supply music. Or worse, a combination of both, like an appointment with a dentist who likes to pipe in Air Supply music.

Some Links On Bootleg Books In Vietnam

My sincerest thanks to Zen In Darkness for sending these interesting links on the book industry in Vietnam. Please do take the time to read them and to find out a bit more about the book industry in our Southeast Asian neighbor.

High Book Prices Make Reading A Luxury
Bill Could Allow Foreign Businesses To Import Books
Bootleg Books In Cambodia And Vietnam
A Google Search On Vietnam Book Piracy

While reading these articles, I was looking for clues as to what fuels the demand for bootleg books there, or rather, what drives the people there to read, to channel their resources toward books and reading them, over other items and activities. It's easy to see that economics plays a role. Expensive originals raises the demand for cheaper fakes; just see the DVD and CD market here for music and video in the RP. One would think that cheap, bootleg books would be undermining our bookstores here in the same way that cheap, pirated DVD's and music CD's are undermining our video and record bars. And yet, we don't have any bootleg books (not that I know of). Is our reading market really that small? The number of bookstores we have here belies that notion. Maybe it's as simple as no one has thought of selling fake books?

Again, I am in no way promoting piracy, whether of books, music, or film; it's against the law. This topic has caught my interest solely because I'm trying to learn a bit more about reading in our country, especially in comparison to other countries.

Doing Some Math

In relation to the previous post, I decided to crunch some numbers, making some conservative assumptions along the way, and just to drive myself a little bit more nuts.

As of the latest census I could find, the Philippine population is listed at over 73M right now. Would it be conservative to estimate that maybe 5% of that number are habitual readers? That's 3.65M. Okay, to be even more conservative, let's cut it to 3%, which is 2.19M. Still a big number, don't you think?

Now, out of that 2.19M, let's get a percentage of that number who read local books. How about another conservative 3%? That gives us 65,700. Surely, with a population of 73M, 65,700 readers who patronize local books is not impossible. Granted that not all 65,700 will buy, since some of them will be sharing books among themselves, let's take a very conservative fourth of that number to be buyers, which is 16,425.

16,425 buyers of local books, from a local readership market of 65,700, from a total readership market of 2.19M.

Being a printer/publisher who knows the value of economies of scale and the current prices of printing materials like paper, plates, and ink, I can assure you that an order of 16,425, though not big by international standards, is still "aight" in the RP. You can achieve a healthy measure of production scale with 16,425, and dilute the fixed costs fairly significantly. Consider that a first print-run for a new author's first novel in the US is between 5,000 to 10,000 pieces.

And yet, I have heard reports from other publishers that to sell even just between 2,000 to 5,000 locally made and written books is already considered excellent. And that this could take a year or more. 5,000 is not even a third of 16,425; and 2,000, even less so.

So, what gives? How do countries like India and Vietnam generate the number of readers that they do? True, India's population is above the billion mark, so that larger starting figure to draw percentages from can create a larger market, but Vietnam is close to the Philippines at 85M.

Frankly, I would be happy if the number of total readers, not just of local books, is indeed 2.19M, but even that figure feels a bit high. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that this could indeed be a true figure (and maybe even too low) because the Philippines, through the bookstores here, is a heavy buyer of imported books.

So is it safe to say that local books and authors don't have a large enough market, even among their own countrymen? Painful as it is to admit, that statement might be true. If so, why don't we read our own?

Have to give this some more thought. There are many possible reasons. Will continue this in the future. Synapses are snapping and overheating, since they're not used to any kind of serious thinking. Have to wait for them to cool down. (I really should learn never to try things beyond my capabilities).

Besides, I'm distracted by the current results of the French Open. :D Go Roger and Rafa! I want to see you both in the Finals!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

They Read The Way I Wish We Did

Sunday lunch, with my family. After the usual long, meandering conversation over food about everything and nothing (which, I feel, is important, because it's the everything and nothing that draws us closer), the topic lighted somehow on books:

My Brother: You know what? In Vietnam, they sell pirated books on the street the way they sell candies, cigarettes, and pirated DVD's here.

Me: What do you mean? As in full books? Whole books?

My Brother: Yeah, cheap, pirated. Printed and reproduced illegally and sold cheaply.

My Sister-in-law: And not just popular books. Everything. Even hard-to-find titles. Fiction and non-fiction. Whatever.

Me: What? You mean pirated books, the same as pirated software, music, and movies?

My Sister-in-law: Yup. Perfect reproductions, and even cheaper options of photocopies or lower-quality printed ones.

Me: And...people BUY?

My Brother: Well, of course, numbskull. They wouldn't print them if they didn't.

Me: To READ?

My Brother: No. People buy these pirated books to use as doorstops and paper-weights. Or to make their shelves look full. Did you take your medicine today?

My Sister-in-law: The bettter quality pirated books with the nicer paper aren't found in Vietnam, though. They're found in India.

Me: They sell pirated books in India too?

My Sister-in-law: Oh, yeah! Also on the streets. And people buy them there like anything. And the quality is nice, looks like the original thing. All the social classes are voracious readers over there.

Me: Oh man...

Is it any wonder that India churns out so many novels? There is a demand for pirated books there that probably matches the demand for pirated DVD's here. Not that I'm promoting piracy, because it is against international law after all, but I reacted the way I did because the fact that pirated books are being sold in those countries drove home to me the fact that there are many people over there who have taken reading as a habit. They read. Actually read. And, it seems, a lot. They actually set time aside to do this. My Sister-in-law believes it's a reflection of the education level of the Vietnamese and the Indians. I don't know if it's a non sequitur on my part to conclude that maybe this is why those countries are progressing fast, but I couldn't help thinking it.