Thursday, February 28, 2008

Is Listening To Audiobooks Reading?

In my iPod, I have more than a few audiobook files. I have listened to a grand total of two.

It's not that I didn't enjoy these first two and gave up on the format. On the contrary, I enjoyed them quite a lot. I listened to the first one while walking on the home treadmill, which resulted in an easy workout. I was quite distracted by the audiobook that I didn't notice time passing. The next thing I knew, after checking the clock, I discovered that I had been walking continuously for more than half-an-hour (for me, that's an accomplishment, okay?). I found out a few minutes later that the treadmill's resistance setting was adjusted higher than normal. "Sabotage!" I cried, but didn't mean it, because to my delight this meant that the walk I took was that much harder, and yet I didn't feel the extra exertion.

I listened to the second one before going to sleep a few nights later. That story was a humorous one, and whenever I burst out in laughter at some funny moment my wife would turn to look at me from her side of the bed and then shake her head as if I was loony.

But the audiobook habit didn't take hold. It's taken me greater effort to listen to the rest of the files after that. For some reason, I would start one, then stop midway. I don't know why. I have no such problems leafing through actual, physical pages made of paper, or even poring over text on a computer monitor. I wish I didn't have this problem, because then, this would make workouts (as well as driving through traffic) something to look forward to instead of something to dread.

I hypothesize that reading is a skill I have spent more time developing than the other skill that goes with audiobooks: listening. True, it is still the same words on the printed page that is being uttered by the narrator, but instead of the eyes serving as the conduit to the brain, it is the ears. Though I have no such problems listening to a live person who is speaking, be it face-to-face or over the phone, it takes a bit more effort on my part when I only have earbuds stuck inside my ear canal. (TV and movies, I think, are a different matter altogether because of the presence of visual cues, plus it is not just words but images that relate the story.) This tells me that I would be more receptive to someone alive reading a story aloud, rather than listening to a recording.

There is also the matter of the manner in which a story is read out, given voice. The way the narrator hears the story in his head will affect the way he intones the words, which may be different in slight ways from one's own "inner-ear". Whether this perception of mine is true or not, it could be that I am unconsciously rebelling against it.

But in today's busy world, with time so short and multi-tasking considered a premium ability, I think it would do me well to develop my listening skill. This way, I can get more "reading" done, not just with my vision, but also with my hearing.

There is no shortage of audiobooks to be had, after all. It seems like such a waste to let those stories go.

Keeps Getting Better

After Anvil Publishing's first book in their fantasy line, The Kite Of Stars, was launched, and after Kestrel Publishing's Philippine Speculative Fiction III was released last December, we now have available to us in National Bookstore and Powerbooks, Milflores' Publishing's Tales Of Enchantment And Fantasy, edited by the bemedalled Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo. It's nice to see contributors and friends of PGS among the anthology's writers: Nikki and Dean Alfar; F.H. Batacan, Ian Rosales Casocot, and Emil M. Flores.

To see the line-up of titles and their authors, click here, here, or here.

If I may quote Ian: "Does this mean the Philippine literary establishment has finally embraced genre writings? Let's hope so."

I'm pleased to see these kinds of books and stories growing in number. They really should stand alongside realist works. In fact, the existence of this anthology pleases me just as much as the fact that local publications that carry fiction have been more open to genre stories and not just realist ones. I'm hoping for the day when the dividing line between the two will not matter and that people will read story for story. That people will read, period.

I think local publishers are now getting in on genre, recognizing that there is an existing market for these kinds of stories, and that this market can be expanded. Now that the big boys are here, could it be time for PGS to slowly move aside? I feel happy, and even vindicated, that I helped grow the forest for a while; kept the ball rolling so to speak. But these big boys can do a much better job than a small press. It's fun to run PGS, I don't deny it; but I admit that's it's also been taxing. Nevertheless, at least 3-4 more issues of PGS are coming your way. Let's move forward as far as we can go, shall we?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Discussion Of Lists

The lists of top Philippine Speculative Fiction (2007) of Electrick Twilight Boogaloo and The Bibliophile Stalker (mentioned here and here), have brought forth a response from To The Tale, And Other Such Concerns: The Treatise To Test Top Thoughts. He also promises to soon post his reviews for the PGS Holiday Issue. I'll link to his review as soon as it's up.

He agrees with some of Boogaloo's and The Stalker's choices, but also takes issue with others, though like Banzai Cat, he also says he didn't read as many stories last year as he would have liked. Click on the link above to read his post, and feel free to share your own thoughts and comments!

Here's an intriguing quote from his post where he makes a comment on how different the two lists are:

"In a way, this is both a blessing and a curse. For one, it indicates the presence of different schools of thought on the quality of Philippines Speculative Fiction. On the other hand, it also implies that there were no truly good stories that can be elicited from a consensus of readers."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Use Of Force

When I pressed the "On" button to my desktop computer this morning, the darn thing wouldn't boot up.

I'm older now, more mature (*ehem-ehem*, not too mature, if you please; that wouldn't be fun), so I quelled my frustration and followed the numbers for basic computer troubleshooting. I checked for sufficient power, made certain that cable connections were not loose, removed the cover to make certain the RAM and the drives were snug in their sockets, la-de-da-de-da.

It still wouldn't boot up.

So I called it a few choice curse words that would've made a sailor proud and gave it a good whack upside.

It's working fine now. :D

I was reminded of William Carlos Williams' classic short story, "The Use Of Force" (the title of which I borrowed for this blogpost). This story also explains why I am not a complete pacifist, even if my heart wants me to be.

Behave, computer, behave. :)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ichi Prompts 4

From her third prompt, Ichi now brings us to her fourth, the political crime of illegal lobbying. That there may be a sexual affair in it adds to the flavor.

(To also help Gloss Girl, a.k.a. Yvette Tan, I'm looking for a suitable horror prompt. Will post one soon. Submissions are open for both the PGS Special Halloween Issue and the PGS Crime/Suspense/Mystery Issue).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Another Speculative Fiction List...Almost

After Electrick Twilight Boogaloo's list, and then that of The Bibliophile Stalker's, we almost got one from Banzai Cat. Sadly, he begged off because he says he hasn't read enough from 2007. Well, I'm hoping that there'll be some story reviews coming our way soon. I'll keep tabs and post the links to those reviews once they're up.

Banzai Cat, like the Stalker, also talks about the pros and cons of an anthology of Philippine speculative fiction. It's a subject that I've heard discussed before. Outside of all the hurdles and parameters that the Stalker and Banzai Cat have mentioned, the material cost is, I think, another big obstacle. But certainly the idea of an anthology is attractive. It would be nice to hear what others think of such an anthology, the pros and cons of such, and what other parameters might need to be taken under consideration that the Cat or the Stalker haven't brought up yet.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Own Crime Prompt

Don't you wish you could get into the heads of all the players in this ongoing saga? Can you imagine what a great study this could be in internal and external conflict, motivation, character? And can you imagine the number of laws, small and not so, that may have been broken? Could you have written and created a story like it? And can you foresee the possible twists that this plot can take before it concludes? (If it ever does, because as we know, real life, unlike fiction, can sometimes have no resolution).

(Of course, this is all strictly from a story standpoint, as every player in this melodrama carries the tale like a soap opera. But underneath it all I recognize there are greater effects beyond just the thrill of watching this story unfurl, effects of heavy consequence that will affect real people.)

Okay, prompt over (with all due respect to Ichi).

Another Speculative Fiction List

My bad, for not mentioning this "Personal Speculative Fiction List for 2007" from The Bibliophile Stalker which was posted earlier. My apologies to the Stalker, but better late than never! The only excuse I can think of is that his list came very early into 2008, so I must've still been hung-over from the holiday celebrations.

I bring his list up so that you can compare it with that of Electrick Twilight Boogaloo's, which was mentioned earlier here. Might make for an interesting discussion, or maybe the Stalker and Electrick Twilight Boogaloo can make a post together, posted on both their blogs, to give the reasons for their different choices.

Thanks to the Stalker for choosing the PGS Holiday Issue as his "Best Local Speculative Fiction Magazine", and "Beacon" by Nikki Alfar as his "#1 Local Speculative Fiction Short Story".

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Some Months Old

The post-date is November 30, 2007, but I think PGS blog readers might be interested in reading these two links: "What Is It With These People?" and "It's Mundane But Not SF As We Know It". This somehow echoes some discussions I've heard on our own shores. Some of the comments are very interesting too.

Gloss Girl Asks A Question

And her question is, "What Are You Afraid Of?", her latest prompt for the PGS issue she will be guest-editing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Top Ten List (Updated)

Electrick Twilight Boogaloo has compiled his list of the best Philippine Speculative Fiction for 2007. Thanks for including Chiles Samaniego's "The Saint Of Elsewhere" and Paolo Chikiamco's "Homer's Child" in your list. Just click the links above to see the list. I'm sure Electrick Twilight Boogaloo will welcome any discussion/comment on the stories in his list, or even on any that aren't. And thanks for taking the time to make the list in the first place!

Update: Electrick Twilight Boogaloo has included some of his honorable mentions, among which are Crystal Koo's "The Scent of Spice" and Andrew Drilon's "Noche Buena". He also mentions a story by PGS contributor Elyss Punsalan, "Carmen and Josephine", from Philippine Speculative Fiction III.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ichi Prompts 3

A third prompt, from F.H. Batacan, guest-editor for the PGS crime/mystery/suspense issue. Here's the link to the first and second as well.

Beam Me Up?

The Bibliophile Stalker sent this in: Teleportation and Wormholes: The Science of 'Jumper'. It's an article that talks about the science behind teleportation, without breaking any laws of physics. A quote from the article's end:

"Tegmark said he does hope 'Jumper' gets people 'more psyched about science. I think a lot of scientists today went into science after they got fired up by science fiction. It's good for scientists to watch sci-fi, as it forces you to ask deep questions about the nature of reality. You don't want to just find the right answers, but to ask the right questions too, and sci-fi can trigger great questions.'"

"The Sky Is Falling!" said Chicken Little

The U.S. Pentagon announced that it is going to try and shoot down a dying spy satellite that's on a collision course with the Earth.

Interesting...where have I heard this story-line before?

Aside from Chicken Little (the children's story--here's one version of it--and not the 2005 movie), the oldies among you (that would be those slightly younger than me and older) would remember Skylab. That U.S. space station's demise became an international media event. I remember all the newspapers of the day carrying images of Skylab's path, estimating where it would fall. The Philippines was a probable landing spot, and each morning I would check the papers to read the latest updates. The adults became like the Gauls in Goscinny and Uderzo's famed comics: they were afraid of the sky falling on their heads. Only kids like me were hoping it would hit Manila, because it would mean no school. The lab eventually fell in Australia, and one municipality there fined the U.S. $400.00 for littering. In an inspired bit of showmanship, the Miss Universe pageant, which was held in Perth a few days later, displayed a large piece of Skylab debris on the stage. In typical Pinoy fashion, I remember everyone cracking jokes while looking nervously up at the sky. I'm sure there are lot of Pinoy Skylab jokes preserved somewhere (alongside other memories of the time, like Student Canteen, Discorama, Bazooka Joe, and Seeing Stars with Joe Q). Grah! I'm old, I'm old!

But there, you see? It's an old story-line come back to haunt us in the present. It's just been tweaked a little, 'coz now the space station is gonna' be shot down. What's the name of the guy who first said that there are no new stories anymore?

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Three announcements to make, about two ladies and a gentleman:

MRR Arcega, author of "The Magic Christmas Box" from the PGS Holiday Issue, has been published in Story Philippines. Her story, "Sonia Makes A Baby", is available in the magazine's current issue.

Crystal Koo, author of "The Scent Of Spice" from PGS2, emailed to say that a short-story of hers is going to be published in Sydney in a book entitled Salu-Salo: An Anthology Of Philippine-Australian Writings. The book is to be launched on May 25, 2008, by the Sydney Writers Festival, which Crystal describes as "the biggest literary event in Australia attended by writers, publishers, and editors." She's invited, of course, and is going to do her best to be there. Let's hope she gets there so she can tell us how it goes!

A local writer, Jeffrey Resurreccion, emailed to say that he has published his first book, a high-fantasy entitled Rapiers: Twin Fangs, which is now available at the Xlibris bookstore. He writes: "Yes, 'hardcore' writers consider it as vanity publishing, but any, if not most, "rockstars" had to start with an EP. This I consider my EP. =) Note: Once you go to the Xlibris site, never mind the excerpt. You can avail of the promo copy, which is the complete first story chapter of Rapiers: Twin Fangs, Succint Sunrise, at my website, located at the Rapiers section. It'll be available in leading online bookstores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble in a few weeks time. I'm also planning to make it available in the Philippines locally. I'm crossing my fingers on this one."

Congratulations to you three, and more success!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008



Cover art is by Filipino comic book artist Lan Medina, who has done work for such titles as Fables and Silver Surfer, among many others. He is the first Filipino to win the prestigious Eisner Award for comics. It's an honor for PGS that he agreed to do the cover art for this issue. Thank you, sir!

An excerpt from The Last Stand Of Aurundar, by Vin Simbulan:
Bodies cover the ground. Some of your fallen defenders rise again, infested and shaped into monstrous new forms by Ebonnite sorcery, and begin to fight against their former comrades.

It is not long before the tide of battle turns against you. From the ranks of the Grotesqueries comes a towering colossus of corpses, a makeshift titan of bone and rotting flesh that cuts a swath through the ranks of your troops, golden helms fall like sunlight on the blighted ground and rivers of blood flow freely.

Your Duke grimly orders a retreat. The field is alive with all manner of insects, feasting on the remains of the dead. The broken ranks bravely face their foes as they fall back.

They regroup along the twin towers of your barbican and make a stand there. Your Duke sends you an urgent thought; I need your strength.

He climbs over your barbican's walkways and draws power from you as he goes. You course your might into his jeweled scepter. With a single stroke he fires a coruscating bolt of prismatic light that disintegrates the Ebonnite colossus where it stands and sends the remaining Grotesqueries fleeing from the battlefield.

An excerpt from Psychic Family, by Apol Lejano-Massebieau:
I guess from how my mom is acting that her psychic senses are telling her that there is something wrong with the Room That Was Never Shown.

She had just told a little white lie. There isn't anything to be done with that room. It is small, but neat, even freshly painted white, and the only room in the house that was already furnished when we moved in. There is a single bed, a writing table, and a clothes closet.

The only problem is that there is a bad smell in there all the time, like rotten fish, or the brown gunk oozing out when I was in second grade and got an ear infection. Mom and the maid Linda washed down the walls with Clorox bleach. They sprayed everything with Lysol. The odor remained.

“That's why the rent is so cheap, there's a room that smells like feet,” my Dad joked, looking at mom and the maid on their hands and knees, scrubbing. Mom glared at him.

An excerpt from Chimaera, by Yvette Tan:
The beggar frowned. "There are many chimaera that walk the Worlds In Between, m'lord," he said. "I'm afraid I don't know which one you refer to."

"What? The seer not know anything?" the griffin said in mock-disbelief. "Too bad because it's not spare change that I'm offering."

"That's not fair m'lord!" the beggar said.

"It is and you know it," the griffin said. "You're just hurt you couldn't dangle the information over my head and make me beg for it."

"'Tis true," Mordacay chuckled. "It's always been my pride and joy, making passers-by beg from a beggar.'

"Are you going to let your pride get in the way of making a profit?" the griffin asked.

Mordacai looked at the griffin, then at his can, then back. He appeared to be in some sort of inner struggle. Then the words came. Slowly, reluctantly, in a tone so low it could have creeped under the shadows. Mordacai said: "She never left."

The griffin nodded.

"I see," he said before turning away from a grumbling Mordacai. His hand started to glow a pale blue, the color swirling until it became a small ball of blue light. In one swift motion, the griffin, threw the ball over his shoulder, then disappeared into the road that led to the worlds of fantasy.

The ball separated, becoming seven white butterflies that flew into the beggar's can. Mordacai, complaints forgotten, watched greedily with dead eyes as they flew in. He smiled.

"Yes, that's a luv," he whispered as he fingered the can's contents; two bloodshot eyeballs, a swollen black tongue, a half-decayed egg and seven butterfly carcasses, as gray and dreary as the night around them.

An excerpt from Blink, Wake Up, by Mia Tijam:
Once there was this little girl who was already as wise and weary as old women. She knew many things, things that were not supposed to be known by a little girl, but she knew no words and no one understood her. No one would listen to her and she was lonely.

So one day she took this shard of glass and carved a face on it with her nails. The face gave her a bloodied smile and she was happy. Then she placed her mouth on the face’s mouth and breathed out her stories.

In time, she found more glass shards as she found more words for her stories and found out that her stories were supposed to be kept secret.

She told only the glass shards her stories. The shards became a glass box through time and it had many faces: one face would laugh with her, the other would cry with her, the other would rage with her, another would patiently listen to her, another would dream with her… All of them told her that they loved her.

Each face was chosen carefully. Each face swore to keep her stories secret.

Then the glass box betrayed her. She did not know or understand why. She did not know which shard broke, which face spoke of her stories first or which of them had or would. She wanted to break all the faces and see their bloodied silent screams of pain mirroring her own.

An excerpt from In The Dim Plane, by Dean Francis Alfar:
I had left my cave on my way to meet the others – something that happens every year or so, at their insistence - when I unexpectedly encountered a ghost.

It was a beautiful woman with dark hair and sad eyes.

In any other place, in any other time, this would not have fazed me. I am, or was, after all, the greatest Necromancer of Forlorn. However, in this place of shadows, on the Dim Plane, I had barely enough power to do the simplest unnatural thing and could not defend myself if this was one of the hungry ones.

“What do you want, ghost?” I said with false bravado, at a loss to explain how a ghost came to be here, in this remote sanctuary, in the first place.

“Please,” the ghost said, holding out a small ornate sandalwood box toward me.

Before I could reply, she dissolved into the dimness, the box she held settling down softly near my feet. I sensed that it was end of her tenuous existence. I took the box, both puzzled and pleased. Puzzled, because here was a mystery; pleased, because it was something I could think about.

Just as I was about to open the box, a voice boomed out from the dimness.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Blog Birthday

Chiles Samaniego, author of The Saint of Elsewhere from PGS2, sent in this link about Neil Gaiman's blog's birthday. There may be a free book in it for someone. From his blog:

"One thing we've decided to do, as a small celebratory birthday thing is, initially for a month, make a book of mine available online, free, gratis and for nothing."

There's a choice to be made first, though. Check out the link above for the details.

Bloghopping (Updated)

Here's a blog, "Into The Wardrobe", authored by Tarie from Quezon City. This particular blog entry I'm linking to is "Kaza Kingsley Blog Tour", which features a fantasy series, Erec Rex, by Kaza Kingsley. According to the blog entry, the Philippines is one of the countries where the book was first released. An excerpt:

Tarie: Fantasy isn't a very strong genre in the Philippines. (Unlike countries like the UK and the US where fantasy is such an established genre.) But there are great Filipino writers and so many great Filipino folk tales. And Filipinos love fantasy! Do you have any suggestions for how Filipino writers can solidify Philippine fantasy as a genre? Kaza: I think that writers that have a special cultural history in them have a fantastic advantage. Folk tales are such a rich source to draw from. And I'm sure the folk tales of the Philippines have their own, unique messages and characters. I think it would be great if a Filipino writer took a few of those stories and let their imagination go wild. Not only would the stories be popular in the Philippines, but everywhere! Beyond that, even just the amazing setting you have there might be inspiration for some wonderful stories. Fantasy is just imagination gone wild, in a sense, then putting all kinds of rules on it. Writers interested in that genre should just jump in and give it a try! Reading a lot of fantasy helps give a groundwork for what is out there, that can help, too.

Update: There have been several "Anonymous" comments about this post, in particular with regard to Tarie's first statement in her question. I'd like to point out that Tarie has responded over on her blog, and she clarifies what she means quite well. Thanks very much, Tarie. I'm glad to meet another avid reader via the internet. I'll be visiting your blog regularly to see your recommendations for young-adult books (my daughter's looking for more titles to read).

Saturday, February 09, 2008

If This Was A Story...

If this was a story, then it's a story we've read before. Perhaps in different variations, with different characters or settings, but we know what the next options are, what could follow, what the fall-out could or couldn't be.

In either constructing or reading a story, some of the things one should be conscious of are the consequences of certain actions, the motives of all the players, and the choices that are or aren't open to them that allow the story to unfold.

With what was reported at the Philippine Senate yesterday still burning our ears, I think it's easy for any of us to guess the different scenarios that could follow. After all, it's a story we've read before. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wherever you are, it's always good advice to be careful. Be safe this weekend, everybody. And beyond then, too.

What Scares Gloss Girl

Yvette Tan continues to share what she likes and what she doesn't like in horror fiction. For those thinking of submitting to the PGS Special Hallowen issue, you might want to read her blog-posts: The Ultimate Frankenstein and Happy Chinese New Year! Yvette will be the guest-editor for that special issue.

Yvette even got a special treat. Famous horror writer S.P. Somtow left a comment on her blog. She's giddy about it. Previous to that, Ellen Datlow did too. If you read her blog regularly, you'll know that Yvette often finds herself hobnobbing with or interviewing the famous. :D

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Write Or Die Sponsored Talk of Sir Butch Dalisay

As you can tell from the last few posts, there were a lot of things going on as January moved to February this year. On Feb. 2, 2007, I attended Read Or Die's Write Or Die sponsored talk of Sir Butch Dalisay on creative non-fiction at Powerbooks Trinoma. I was happy to see old friends from Read or Die in Tin Mandigma and Kristel Autencio.

Sir Butch read some of his essays to us, an absurdly funny one about a Fil-Am beauty pageant in Manhattan, one about how he became a "travel-whore", and a touching one about his father. The major lesson I took from his talk is that one can draw only so much from one's personal life in writing creative non-fiction. There will come a time when one's writing will have to look outward, and yet that personal connection to a reader should not be lost.

Well, after corresponding with Sir Butch mostly through email for 2007, I was glad to finally meet him in person. At last, I got his John Hancock on the Dalisay books I own. It was an honor to meet you, Sir Butch. Thank you very much for all the support you've given PGS, and for the constant encouragement you've given to younger Pinoy readers and writers.

Dean Francis Alfar's Talk At AdMU

On Feb. 1, 2007, I went to attend Palanca award winner Dean Alfar's talk to Heights, the literary club of Ateneo de Manila, at the School of Management Building of the University along Katipunan in Q.C. The Heights members knew their genres well, as was evident as Dean expounded on how he dissects and categorizes stories.

A quote from his talk: "For me, realism is just another genre, in the same way that fantasy, scifi, horror, etc. are all genres." Being the major proponent of speculative fiction in the Philippines, Dean's goal has been to elevate this type of fiction to the same respected level as realism. Dean quoted Palanca award winner Sarge Lacuesta, literary editor of The Philippines Free Press, who told him that, "There is no such thing as genre", which I've taken to mean that Sarge is genre blind and reads stories, not genres. I've gotten on the soap box often enough saying "a story is a story is a story", meaning that one should read and write the stories that one can, and leave the categorizing and organizing to publishers and booksellers.

I've sent Dean all the pics I took , and out of respect I'll let him blog about his talk. Hey Dean, I hope you don't mind my quoting you above.

We had an interesting conversation on the way back from Q.C. to Pasig, perhaps the subject of another blogpost sometime in the future.

Vin Simbulan At Xavier School -- Second Semester Part 2

I've been writing about Vin Simbulan a lot lately, haven't I? That's because he has the power of the Jade Pixiu behind him!

This time, I visited his juniors class at Xavier school last January 31, 2008. Each time I visit younger writers and get a glimpse into their minds, I'm pleased and amazed at how developed their imaginations are. This group was no different. In fact, I don't recall having the same exciting ideas that these students have when I was their age, which is a good lookout for them. I encouraged them, as I'm encouraging anyone else reading this blog, to continue reading, to continue to find time to pick up a book and read even as you grow older and your lives become more complex. Even if you put down the pen and stop writing, at the very least, don't stop flipping through books.

Thanks again, Vin! If any of you have access to a Jade Pixiu, send one to him! You can get in touch with him via his blog. This is his year for true love!

Valentine's Day -- Love Song Lyrics

I've written about words in music before, and I feel like doing so again because I've been receiving emails about Valentine's Day from mushy friends and acquaintances asking me to share "your song", that is, the song that you and your partner have made "yours, your own", as if we were Gollum coveting the One Ring.

(A note and a warning: many of the songs that will be mentioned here are old, reflecting my age and the time I grew up in. So there. No excuses. I'm old. Also, I know tastes are subjective, so my apologies to all the fans of the songs I'll be mentioning below; I'll try not to make faces while you're humming them)

My wife and I enjoy certain "love" songs, but we also hate "love" songs that the other one likes. We've engaged in friendly arguments over them. She thinks some of the songs I listen to are horribly mushy ("Why do you have The Carpenters in your iPod?"); but I counter that she's the one who's got the full collection of Roberta Flack. But let me tell you: the most fun we've had together has been dissing "love" songs we mutually can't stand.

I've gone on record saying that Air Supply songs make me cringe. Ditto for the missus. With no words exchanged and with just a glance of agreement, we've left stores and other public places together as soon as one of the duo's songs starts playing over their sound systems.

An instrumental version of Bryan Adams' Everything I Do, I Do It For You was the muzak playing on an elevator we once took together. We were in a shopping mall in British Columbia at that time.

"Aynako," my wife said.

"This is going to be a long elevator ride," I said. "Bryan Adams is Canadian, that's why they're playing this."

"Maganda naman, ah," my mother-in-law, who was also with us, said. So we just kept quiet the rest of the trip.

Remember The Bodyguard, that movie with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston? It was a big hit in 1992, the biggest movie of that year, I think. The soundtrack sold in the millions. I remember one of my older cousins saying that when they left the theater after the movie ended everybody was "singing that damn song." You know, the one that goes "And Iiiiii.....will always love yooouuuu...."

My wife and I weren't together yet in 1992, but a couple of years later, on one of our first dates, the instrumental, four-string quartet version of that song came on in the restaurant we were patronizing and our reactions were simultaneous and immediate:

"Inay," she said.

"Patay," I said.

In a way, that was a good thing, 'coz we smiled at each other's reactions and it guaranteed that I was going to get another date after that.

There was a local remake of David Soul's Don't Give Up On Us some years ago. My wife and I were in the car stuck in traffic, and while scanning for a station to listen to, the local version, which we had not yet known existed, came on.

"Stop! Stop there," my wife said.

"You're kidding, right?" I said.

"No. There's something different about it."

"Is there?"

We listened for a bit, and it did sound different, though still just as sugary-sweet. Diabetes runs in my family, and I remember feeling the sweat-beads forming on my forehead. My health! My health! I thought.

"Must be a cover," my wife said.

"Must be. Do you like it better now?"

"Naah. Go ahead, change. Change it now."

"Okay, good."

So really, my wife and I have no one "love" song, but going "anti" on certain "love" songs has certainly brought forth an understanding between us.

I'll leave you with two things: first, Yahoo has compiled its own list of The World's Cheesiest Love Songs. Enjoy! :D

Second, a friend of my brother's burned many copies of a CD which he entitled, "Songs You Said You Hated But Secretly Liked", and gave it away to his friends. On the cover of that CD are the following lyrics, which were passionately said, and not sung, during a bridge in the middle of the song:

Hey, you know what paradise is? It's a lie, a fantasy we create about people and places as we'd like them to be But you know what truth is? It's that little baby you're holding, it's that man you fought with this morning The same one you're going to make love with tonight That's truth, that's love...

A free copy of the coming PGS4 to the first one to correctly identify the title of the song, the name of the singer, the year it hit the top ten in the U.S., the year it was first released, the title of the movie it was used in, and the year that movie came out! Yes, I know, a lot of questions for a silly song, but put some work in for your free copy! The search engine is your friend.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! May your day be filled with a Total Eclipse Of The Heart!

Or not.:)

P.S. This blogpost is dedicated to Vin Simbulan, who is looking forward to finding his true love this Year of the Rat. He just called me again this morning, nagging me for his Jade Pixiu.

P.P.S. The contest is open only to those 26 years old and below. For anyone older, it's much too easy. And the winner will have to sing the song to a panel of judges (who will represent Paula, Randy, and Simon) before he/she gets his/her free copy.

Update: someone has already answered all the questions correctly over at, the mirror of this blog. Congratulations! I'll be in touch. Get your vocal chords ready!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Prydain Chronicles

I mentioned here and here the books that have failed or succeeded in capturing my eldest child's fancy. It's up with J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl, down with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles Of Narnia. What did this mean? Were the older books that I grew up with so far removed in topic or style from her interest? I don't want to think so. I'd like to think my daughter will grow up to have wide tastes because she said she enjoyed Natalie Savage Carlson's The Family Under The Bridge, and I've seen her eyeing my old copy of Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw, two old books with realist settings. Maybe it's the way fantasy is presented in these older works? Well, she got her hands on a copy of The Book Of Three recently, the first book in Lloyd Alexander's The Prydain Chronicles. I watched her closely to see how she'd react.

Great news! After less than two weeks, she's worked her way to the fifth and final book, The High King. She's halfway through it as of today. This is the first of the older books that has grabbed her the way Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl have. I now engage her in coversations about the series' characters: Taran Assistant Pig-Keeper, Princess Eilonwy, Gurgi, Kaw, and all the others. I have a surprise for her too. As far as she knows there are only five books in the series, but I have a copy of The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain, a book of short stories narrating the backgrounds of some of the main characters. I can't wait to spring it on her and see her read it!

"Happy Chinese New Year!" (Part 2--The Fantasy Elements of Predictions)

(continued from Part 1...a bit long, this part)

"I bought hopia for Chinese New Year," Vin said.

"I'm not sure, but I think hopia is to celebrate the end of ghost-month, and not for Chinese New Year."

"But it's round. I also have grapes. And oranges."

"The grapes and oranges are fine, but don't blame me if ghosts haunt you the rest of the year because of the hopia." I was making this up, of course. I wouldn't know if this was the case or not.

"That would be something," Vin said. "Are you going to do any feng shui consultations for the Year of the Rat?"

"Hmm? Oh, no. Not really. I have relatives and friends who do, but I personally don't do much of that," I answered.


"No, neither Eastern nor Western astrology interests me much. Don't know much about it. I can name the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, but not in order, and I don't think I can do the same for the signs of the Western zodiac. Heck, I can name the seven dwarves from Disney's Snow White better than I can name Jesus' twelve apostles. Who were they again? Doc, Dopey, Bashful, Happy, Grumpy,...hehe...Grumpy, I've always liked him. Argh. I can't remember. Who were those other two dwarves?"

"Aww. I was hoping to hear some forecasts."

"Oh? Wait. Let me check my emails. I think one of my friends sent me the forecasts for each animal this year."

"Yay! I'm the year of the pig. Read it out to me. No, wait, start with the Ox. I'm asking for a couple of friends."

"Hmm...okay. Hold on. Ox...hmm, the bull...hey! Good news! It says, 'you have a premium ticket throughout this year. For males especially. Female oxes'--aren't they called cows? Oops. That doesn't sound nice, no wonder they wrote 'female oxes'; and it should be 'oxen'--'would do well to get assistance and support from the males. Oxes are supposed to do well in career and wealth this year.' Hmm...wait, let me skim...oh no...despite all this, "you will feel a strong sense of insecurity and emptiness within. Your moodiness will affect your emotions and lead to depression, leading you to activities that will take you further from the truth. Be careful of overspending. For those who are married or attached, it will be a rocky year. The relationship is sure to grow weak and brittle this year. Gossip is a danger. For those who are single, the chances of finding the love of your life is slim because of your moodiness, insecurity, and immaturity."

"Oh no!" Vin said. "Paano na si A_____? Paano na si N____? They'll be moody and depressed! And they will have brittle relationships!"

"But they'll be rich. They shouldn't complain. If they do, they're ingrates. Tell them that if they give me their money, their depression will lift. It will do wonders for my own depression too."

"What should they do?"

"It says here they should place a Citrine or Agate in the room or office to control emotions. Place a Vanadinite too to curb overspending. I guess they're stones or minerals of some kind. Since they recommended Vanadinite, whatever that is, will they recommend Kryptonite also? Hindi naman tiga-Krypton si A_____ o si N____, diba?"

"What about me? What about me? Pig! Pig!"

"Hmm..Pig...let me look for it...hehehe...'baboy'..."

"I hope it's not bad like the Ox."

"Here it is. Pig. Oh oh. "This year is not going to be easy for you."

"Huh? That can't be!"

"'People will be nasty to you this year. Your health is of prime concern also. You will be prone to illness. You will also be very accident-prone. Be very careful. And most of all, you must conserve your energy.' So no shagging for you this year!"


"To continue: 'Though you may have outstanding performances in your career this year, there will be many power struggles and unhealthy competitions. There is not many who will help you.' Hmm...'is' should be 'are', I think."

"Get on with it!"

"Right. Sorry. 'Don't let others push you into a corner. You must put down your foot where necessary. Use your diplomatic and political skills. Move slow and steady.' 'Put down your foot' would sound better as 'Put your foot down'".

"What does all that mean?"

"I don't know. I'm just reading it. I guess it means you have rivals and backstabbers somewhere in your future."

"Grrr...curse them! Curse them all to heck! What else?"

"'Money matters could be tight this year. Make no investments.'"

"What? No money again this year?"

"You can borrow from A_____ and N____. They'll be depressed. Easily persuadable to part with their cash. Ah...some good news! 'If you are in a relationship, you will have a loving year.'"

"But I'm not in a relationship!"

"Oh well, too bad. But it does say that if you are single 'you will have a good chance of finding the love of your life this year.'"

"I'll find true love!"

"Geez. What a load of hoo-hah this all is."

"Stop that. I finally get some good news and you dismiss it."


"What should I do?"

"Place a Metal Pagoda in your wealth position. Carry a Jade Pixiu. Place a Scepter near you.'"

"What's my wealth position?"

"I don't know. Your wallet? You'll look funny with a lumpy metal pagoda in the back pocket of your jeans."

"And what's a Pixiu?"

"I don't know."

"How can you not know?"

"Wait. Let me ask."

"Who will you ask? Is your Mom or Grandmother there?"

"No. I'll just google it."


"There you go! A Jade Pixiu! Nice!"

"So what is it?"

"It's a magical beast in ancient Chinese mythology with a dragon's head, a horse's body, a qilin's feet and the overall shape of a lion. I guess it's meant to protect you from all this ill fortune. Sort of like the fu-dogs, except your Pixiu is portable and meant to be carried around."

"Where can I get a Jade Pixiu?"

"Are you serious?"

"Yes! Where can I get one?"

"There are a lot of stores in Binondo that sell stuff like this. Metal Pagodas and Vanadamites included."

"When are you going there? Can you buy me one?"

"I can, but I don't go there that often. Maybe near the end of the month. But I have friends who live there. I guess I could text them. Wait...are you really serious?"

"Yes! I don't want to be sick! I don't want to be poor! I want to find true love!"

"If you're in a rush, there's a feng shui store in V-mall in San Juan. Second floor, I think. Follow the smell of incense."

"Really? There's a feng shui store there? Okay, maybe I'll go. Wait, I want to ask for one more friend, D___. He's a Monkey."

"Okay. 'D___ is a Monkey.' Hehehe. 'D___ is a Monkey.'"

"I think the Jade Pixiu is cool. Anybody who messes with me messes with my Jade Pixiu!"

"'Monkey: this year is good for concentration and learning. You can pick up new skills and get involved in strategic planning.' Sounds like a business course instead of a forecast to me. Ah, here's where it gets interesting. 'This year, many people will speak ill of you, will point fingers at you, and will backstab you at every opportunity! Office and family politics will be extremely severe!' crime! 'Do not gossip, and do not be the source of gossip. What goes around comes around.'

"What about wealth? Can I borrow from him?"

"'Wealth for the monkey is average this year. Be careful with investment, and do not be greedy."

"Shoot. Can't borrow from him. I'll focus on A_____ and N____. What else?"

"'Do not bring gossip home or it will disrupt the harmonious atmosphere of the family. Also, health is not good. You will have insomnia, headaches, flu, and colds non-stop throughout the year. You will also be prone to many accidents this year. Watch your step! But the worst thing this year is that many people will hate you and try to get you into big trouble. They want nothing but bad things for you this year, and will do their best to keep you down. Keep your comments to yourself and your emotions in check.'"

"Okay, what must he do?"

"'Put a Paua Shell and Lepidolite near you.' Probably more of those minerals/stone thingies. Hey! They also recommend Monkeys to carry Jade Pixiu's with them!"

"What? I thought I was the only one with a cool Jade Pixiu! Never mind. My Pixiu is better than his Pixiu!"

"I have to tell you, my old classmate, his father knows all the feng shui there is to know. People actually come to his father to consult him about it, and even offer him money. When my classmate was old enough, he went to his father and asked to be taught. His father said, "Son, this is all a lot of b___s__t. Really. Kalokohan lang 'to. Put your mind to better use."


"Yes. And the irony of it is that my classmate knows all that 'kalokohan' paid for his lunch money, and more, when he was studying."

"And you? Have you ever believed this stuff?"

"Not much. But I admit back in the 90's, I suffered about three car accidents in the span of two months. I talked to a relative, who said that I should keep a small Golden Pagoda anywhere in my car to protect against accidents. Despite my skepticism, I did, and I didn't experience anymore accidents with that car."

"There! You see! It works! Get me a Jade Pixiu! True love! True love!"

"Be careful what you wish for. Your true love might end up looking like a Pixiu."

"What's your animal?"

"I'm an Earth Rooster."

"And what's your forecast?"

"Whoah! Look at the time. Gotta' go. Back to work, you know."


"Talk to you again. I'll let you know what I can do about your Jade Pixiu. Bye."

"Happy Chinese New Year!" (Part 1--Something About Language) Vin Simbulan called and greeted me over the phone this morning, just before noon. Vin is the author of "Wail Of The Sun" from PGS1, and he has another high-fantasy story set in the same world of Forlorn due out in PGS4.

"Kung Hei Fat Choi!" he said. "You're at work!"

"Thanks," I said. "The same to you! Yes, I am at work. The Philippines isn't like Singapore, Hong Kong, or China. It's pretty much a regular day here, but today is as big as Christmas in the Philippines in those other places."

"Did I say it right?"

"Say what right?"

"'Kung Hei Fat Choi.'"

"Yeah, I suppose so."

"What do you mean you 'suppose so'? Don't you know?"

"Well, 'Kung Hei Fat Choi' is Cantonese, the dialect in Hong Kong. I don't know any Cantonese."

"Oh. But everyone here says it."

"Yeah, I know." (here's an article that might shed some light on the subject)

So what's the dialect here? How do you say it?"

"The dialect is Hokkien. Kiong Hee Huat Tsai."

"Kiong Hee Huat Tsai."

"Yeah, you just have to say it right, but I don't feel right teaching you 'coz my English is far better than my Hokkien, Mandarin, or even my Tagalog."

"So Hokkien here, Cantonese in Hong Kong, and Mandarin in China, right?"

"Yeah, but even Mandarin can change depending on where you are in China. The expressions and pronounciations can difffer from place to place. The Mandarin in Shanghai or Beijing can sound different from that in Taipei."

"Would you know?"

"Sadly, no. I do have to brush up. I'm missing out on a lot of great books, TV shows and movies."

"Do you think you can still learn?"

"With intensive training over a few months, I think I'll get by. I'll never be mistaken for a native speaker, but I don't think I'll go hungry if you plop me in downtown Beijing. I know how to ask for food. And directions, especially to the bathroom. But I'll probably freeze to death. The winter there's terrible right now. My brother, who's in Guangzhou, says it's so cold his hair's frozen over. Depending on the length of his hair, if he flicks a strand he can play all the notes on the musical scale."

"Haha. So Mandarin's not uniform like English."

"Well, I wouldn't say English is completely uniform. Our English here is heavily influenced by America, and English in the Philippines has developed its own nuances and expressions. I'm sure our English will be fine in most of the U.S.A., but say, go to the deep south and there will be differences. Go to Harlem and the gap may be wider. Go to England and it'll be the same. I find it hard to follow cockney. Go to the Australian outback, or India, ditto. You can actually establish setting through the way a language is used, say, in a story: choice of words, choice of expressions, choice of how to translate, etc."

"Hmm. Well, I learned something new today, about 'Kung Hei Fat Choi' and 'Kiong Hee Huat Tsai.' How will you spend your New Year's?"

"The family ate out last night, New Year's Eve, at a Chinese restaurant. Ten-course meal. Yum. Eating. That's one thing that doesn't need any translating."

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ichi Prompts 2

From her first prompt, about the loss of some seven billion dollars in the high finance industry, Ichi Batacan now prompts us about a different kind of crime. She's waiting for your crime/mystery/suspense stories, people!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Thanks to Elbert Or, PGS layout editor, for recommending me to LBC's MExpress . The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories can now be bought online, delivered to your doorstep anywhere in the Philippines! I hear they're working on international deliveries soon too, so hopefully, PGS can be made available to anyone anywhere in the world. You can get to the order page by clicking the above link, or by going to MExpress's home page and clicking on "Kemdy Prints, Inc.", the company behind PGS. There may be a slightly higher delivery surcharge, but you'll also experience the convenience of having PGS brought directly to you!