Friday, March 28, 2008

Extremes In Temperature

My hosts went on a trip, with me in tow. While having lunch in a restaurant, I looked out the window and across the parking lot. Cripes! Snow! My mind and body are attuned to a Philippine summer, and it's snowing!

Relatives in Manila have emailed me to say that, as usual, it's hot and sweltering.

Spring is delayed here, according to the weatherman; it's -2 degrees. I checked the web, and as it is every summer, it's 31 degrees in the RP.

Can't there be a healthy middle ground for everyone? Like between 15 and 23 degrees?

"Nandito na nga kung saan malamig, nagrereklamo pa rin sa ginaw," someone said of me.

"Wala na nga sa Pilipinas, nagrereklamo pa rin sa init ng Maynila," someone else said of me.

"Give him a book already, so that he'll stop grumbling about the weather," my wife said. So someone did, and I am now behaving the rest of the trip.

Wala lang. Nang-aasar. It's snowing, so the Grinch in me has woken from hibernation earlier than usual. :D

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Library Experience

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the public library in Richmond, British Columbia. I browsed the many, many shelves in the place, which not only carried books, but movies and CD's as well, all free to borrow for library card holders.

One would think Richmond residents wouldn't know how good they have it, having a public library that, to my eyes, was pretty well-stocked, and that in area was as large as a forty-car parking lot (I'm estimating conservatively here, trying to include even the back area meant for librarians only). But the library was fairly full for a weekday, and people were constantly walking in and out, either borrowing or returning books; Richmond residents know the benefits of a well-run library, and show their appreciation by using it. The children's and teen's area was particularly busy and noisy. I thought that this would be because of the twenty computers with internet access free to use by card holders, but no...there were those borrowing and reading books too, and talking about them. Canada has two official languages, French and English, but Richmond has an active Chinese community as well, so these three languages were fairly represented in the library. I was told by my hosts that on weekends, the place is usually twice as full. The handful of photos above fail to do the place justice in terms of its size and what it contains.

Long-lines to check books out move quite quickly, as the act is done via scanning machines that read bar-code stickers. A computer monitor aids in the scanning, and the process of taking one item out, be it a book or a CD, takes about, oh, three seconds. Given this ease, it's quite easy to walk out with an armful of books, and I saw many people do just that. Returning books is a simple matter of bringing them all to the "Returns" section.

I've been to the New York public library once upon a time too, and that place is even larger than this one (though it serves a larger reading population than the one in Richmond). Nevertheless, both of these places filled me with the same excitement and thrill at being able to borrow books at no cost.

Imagine this: that you could walk into a well-stocked bookstore in Manila and check-out any book you wanted to read for free, under the condition that you would have to return it after a set amount of time. My hosts, knowing my affinity for books, let me use their cards, so I took three out. Something tells me I'll be going back there again once I'm done with these three. Of course, being a public library with limited copies of the same titles, you would have to wait till a book you were looking for was returned before you could check it out for yourself. But honestly, that's something I could live with.

Don't you all wish that Manila also had well-run and well-stocked public libraries like this?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Why Do We Study Grammar?

That is the question a high-school freshman asked a seasoned editor. She follows it up with, "What is the point of writing correctly than many of us speak?"

The editor, James J. Kilpatrick, gives his answer in this article. Some quotes:

"What is the point of writing "correctly"? One point, surely, is to avoid being misunderstood...if we ignore the rules of grammar, we likely will draft ambiguous laws, preach soggy sermons, and attach the dormer to the door."

"Ah, but a good writer's life is a life of disciplined freedom. (That is an oxymoron. You could look it up.) Successful writers, whether professional or amateur, have to live not only by the rules of grammar and spelling and syntax, but also by one rule that tops them all: Know Thy Reader!"

Ichi Prompts 5, And More

She's made four prompts so far (the last one here). This is her fifth, her longest, and does not detail any crime, but reveals some of her reasons for pushing the crime genre forward in the Philippines: An Appetite For Crime.

An Essay On Philippine English (Updated)

Sir Butch Dalisay's essay: "For A While", that speaks of Philippine English, and why his blood pressure shot up on a forum he frequents. The forum's currently down, but as soon as it's up again I'll make a link to that exchange.

Update: The forum's up, so here's the link to that thread, as well as to the blogpost that started the thread.


A list of lists, over at Zen In Darkness. This includes the Philip K. Dick Award, the Hugo, and the Arthur C. Clarke nominees.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Penmanila's Crime Prompt

Sir Butch Dalisay writes in his latest column, "Pinoy Noir", his contemplations on the crime genre, and whether he will push through with teaching crime fiction next semester (let's hope he does). A quote:

"In our society, crime seems often to be a cross between personal and social imperatives, and without meaning to find easy excuses such as “Society made me do it,” crime fiction could provide us with a genre that looks both at the psychology of the criminal and the topography of his or her environment while providing Pinoy readers something truly saucy to sink their teeth into. Inevitably, it’ll also look into what passes for criminal investigation and law enforcement in this country, into issues of justice."

This is also a reminder that PGS is still open to submissions for the Special Crime/Mystery/Suspense Issue. Here too is an old link about the lack of fiction in this genre here in the Philippines.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

More On Arthur C. Clarke

A couple of hours ago I read an article over at, Stellar Explosion Is Most Distant Object Visible To The Naked Eye. I thought about Arthur C. Clarke's story, The Star, how he just recently passed away, and wondered at the coincidence. It seems that I'm not alone, as The Spy In The Sandwich has also seen a connection. Read the story and I dare you to tell me you don't see the same. Hey, Ian, we thought of the same thing at almost the same time. 

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Couple Of Sites

Zen In Darkness sends in these two sites: the first is the 2008 Tournament Of Books, sponsored by; the second is Match It For Pratchett, a site raising money for research into Alzheimer's disease.

My Thanks To David Dizon

Many "thank-you's" to David Dizon of, for writing an article about PGS. Much appreciated, sir! And I'm very grateful for the time and space you gave to PGS over at your site. And like Ruel de Vera, you made me sound better than I do. It was a pleasure meeting you. I hope to see you around!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What Sci Fi Books Would You Recommend?

Here's an article that dares to answer that question: "Great Sci Fi For People Who Think They Don't Like Sci Fi".

It lists only five books, however. I'm sure many will ask, "Where's Dune?"; or "What about a Vonnegut or Clarke novel?".

If you met someone who can't seem to grasp or understand science-fiction, what books would you recommend to get them to see beyond their biases?

That's a question I should ask myself regarding some other genres (*romance*--cough cough).

Arthur C. Clarke 1917-2008 (Updated)

Arthur C. Clarke passed away in his home in Sri Lanka recently. He was 90.

He is most popularly known as the author of "2001: A Space Odyssey", a 1968 novel that dealt with artificial intelligence gone wild, among other themes.

Before I read that novel, the first of Clarke's works that I read was "The Nine Billion Names Of God". I read it first as a teenager. I still enjoy that story today.

As a science-fiction writer, he did through his tales what the genre does at its best: raise questions of how advances in any science can affect the lives of human beings. And of course, entertain and tell an enrapturing story at the same time.

Update: Many pay tribute to Clarke, saying how much his books have influenced them to be who they are today. This includes not only writers, but people in the space program. Readers, all. I particularly like this write-up (c/o The Spy In The Sandwich).

Other links, from Zen In Darkness: Still Looking At The Stars, Predictions, BBC Search List.

How Much Does A Book Cost?

If it's "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien, and it's a first edition, it goes for USD120,800.00. This happened at an auction in London.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Elyss Punsalan will have a story, "Thirty-two", published in the next issue of Story Philippines.

In a few weeks, Crystal Koo will have her story about Beijing, "Metropolis", published over at East of the Web.

Nikki Alfar's story, Glass, is now up over at Fantasy Magazine.

Her husband, Dean Alfar, has a story, "Princes of the Sultanate", in the latest issue of Story Philippines. In addition, he will also have another story, "Remembrance", coming out in Exotic Gothic II: New Tales of Taboo.

Oh, and both Nikki and Dean are expecting their second child sometime later this year.

Congratulations to all these PGS contributors!

"The Middle Prince" by Dean Alfar PGS1
"Beacon" by Nikki Alfar PGS2
"The Scent of Spice" by Crystal Koo PGS2
"Twinspeak" by Elyss Punsalan PGS3
"In the Dim Plane" by Dean Alfar PGS4 (coming soon)

Gloss Girl's Latest Horror Prompt

Gloss Girl (guest-editor for the PGS Special Halloween Issue, Yvette Tan), has a new prompt: Make Prose (And Your Reader) Jump. Her previous prompts are here and here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

If I Win...(Part 2)

After reading the news this morning, my eyes drifted to the lotto numbers, which I talked about here earlier. I got one number right. My four. When I called to tell her, she wouldn't believe me ("Linoloko mo nanaman ako, 'no?"); she had to check for herself. Now that she does believe me, she's wondering how much she won (you get a prize for picking at least three numbers right). Does anyone know? And how do we collect?

She's a bit chafed because she felt she came so close to the main prize (now at P184M, no winners yet). I'm happy she won anything, but in a way, she's right. I did so want to go splurging on books.

Good luck again to everyone. :)


We all know about book burning. What about book bombing? The conflict in the Middle East has reached book fairs.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Of Broken English" by Danton Remoto

With all the talk about language (here, here, here, here), with all the criticism leveled at the English of the winner of the Binibinang Pilipinas (poor girl's brain must've frozen from stage fright--I know what that feels like; thanks much to Zen In Darkness for the Youtube link), I thought it would be appropriate to scan and post the March 14, 2008 Lodestar column of Danton Remoto, "Of 'Broken' English" (as taken from The Philippine Star). It would also give me a chance to once more plug the book of PGS layout editor Elbert Or, The More The Manyer!

If I Win...

If I win the current PCSO sponsored 6/49 Superlotto, which is now at more than P160M (US$4M), not only would it provide financial security, it would enable me to continue PGS for as long as I want.

The first thing I'd probably do is dance Balky and Larry's Dance Of Joy.

I don't usually buy tickets, but at the size of the current prize, I couldn't resist. Neither could the missus. We bought a grand total of one ticket each. Just one each. One is all you need, right? (Wait, that's two.)

During the draw last Thursday, my wife said that if her ticket had won, she would have walked out of her late evening conference call with some business contacts from abroad. "See ya!" she would've said before hanging up. If my ticket had won, and after I had performed the dance, I would've scoured the bookstores the moment they opened the next day for all those books I've been holding off from buying because of the expense. Oh, and bought new bookshelves too.

"Hey, we have kids, you know," my wife would probably have told me in sudden recollection. "We have to think of them too."

"Oh yeah," I'd probably have replied. "Them. That's right."

But no one won, so we get another chance.

The next draw's on Sunday, March 16, 2008. Good luck to everyone who's going to try their luck! If any of you win, please become a PGS sponsor!

If I win...if I win...if I win...

Yeah, right.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Two Links From Banzai Cat

Banzai Cat sends in these two links, one to amuse, the other to advise:

Mixing Comics and Art


8 Unstoppable Rules For Writing Killer Short Stories


Banzai Cat: On "Brigada" and "Logovore"

Banzai Cat expounds in this essay how his two stories, "Brigada" and "Logovore", came to be; why he writes what he writes; why he reads what he reads; and what drives him to do so. He read his essay during his talk at La Salle yesterday. Banzai Cat is also the author of "Insomnia" from PGS1. Thanks for sharing, BC! Some quotes:

"...the axiom, “write what you know” isn’t about personally knowing or experiencing what you write about, but about writing a story that only you can tell."

"I use memory as a foundation of a story and use the fantastical or horrific or science-fictional elements to raise the story to greater heights. This way, the reader has access to the story at the ground floor and will be able to climb its higher levels without the feeling of disorientation or dizziness."

"...that, I think, is important to the writer: to find the heart of your writing, to discern what your writing is for you."

"Brigada" can be found in Nikki and Dean Alfar's Philippine Speculative Fiction III, and "Logovore" won first place at the 2nd Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards.

A Verb Made Me Hungry, And The Funny Names Of Dishes

Last night, I ate out with my wife, her sisters, and their husbands. The eldest sister had a sudden craving for seafood, and invited us all to come along.

"Sige," my wife said. "Kung libre ba ninyo. Kung hindi, huwag na."

All of us arrived at the restaurant fairly early, so none of us were particularly hungry and spent some time chatting. After a few minutes, I spied this quote from Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet, on the upper-right-hand corner of the paper placemat:

"Don't overcook. Most seafoods should be simply threatened with heat and celebrated with joy."

And with that clever use of the verb "threaten", I suddenly became famished. I imagined shrimp, prawn, and especially crab, turning from gray to orange in a matter of seconds, like stop-motion animation, while being marinated in an olive-oiled sizzling skillet. The next image made my stomach protest even more: all this food on a large plate, still drenched and dripping with said olive-oil, and drowned in spoonfuls of garlic shreds. (Trivia: I learned from another of my wife's sisters last night that a spoonful of olive oil is 120 calories. It takes 30 minutes of brisk walking to burn 100 calories. Just thought you'd like to know).

"Order na tayo," I said.

"Maaga pa. Appetizer muna."

"Gutom na ako."

They laughed at me, but indulged me, and I was happy; we went and ordered that dish that had invaded my mind (it's called Crab Maritess, perhaps named after the person who created the recipe, or perhaps it's the first crab to be cooked this way, a pet named Maritess).

While crunching through the food after it was served, someone brought up the subject of that expensive Chinese soup, Buddha Jumps Over The Fence (or Wall, in some cases). Though readily available, I had tasted it only once in my life because it costs so much. My bilas said that it's usually served only with lauriat tables that cost at least P20,000.00, though he knew of restaurants that can serve it by itself, without the accompanying dishes; it would still cost in the range of P5,000.00. The story goes that Buddha caught the aroma of this soup wafting over from a neighbor's house and was so taken by the smell that he jumped the fence to ask his friend if he could have a serving; hence, the dish's name.

"Masarap nga," I said, remembering how it tasted. "That soup is a real the wallet."

"Eh, yung Soup No. 5?" someone else remarked. "Better than Viagra! Strength of a bull!"

Soup No. 5 is a Filipino dish made from bull's testicles and is believed to have aphrodisiac properties. No one admitted ever having tried it. I know I haven't. Honest. (I have a feeling Hong Kong gangs would like to serve their own version of Soup No. 5, Edison Chen style. Hehehe).

After we were done, Atsi was still in an eating mood. One of the other sisters suggested a crepe place, so that's where we ended up. But by then the "threat" was over for me, and I was content with just a few bites from my wife's plate. She, however, enjoyed her order, a crepe called The Fantastic Pinay: simple mango crepe with ice cream and whipped cream on top, fresh off the hot plate, and doused in chocolate syrup. Eviiill!

"Sated" is a good way to describe all our states when we drove home.

In any case, the use of the right verb last night jump-started my imagination, my salivary glands, and my stomach-acids. Consider this while reading or writing: how the use of the most appropriate verb--like the nifty "threaten" when related to heat and seafood--can enhance a sentence by leaps and bounds, and bring out a desired reaction.

And all these dishes' names! They're like characters in stories themselves!

"I am the most expensive and exquisite of you all!" said Buddha Jumps Over The Fence, nose up.

"You want to say that again?" said Crab Maritess, claws clacking. (Oh! And threatening).

"But none of you are 'Fantastic', haay!" said The Fantastic Pinay.

"Laban nalang!" said Soup No. 5. "Let's fight! Um...foursome wrestling?"

PGS Mirror Sites

I forgot to post about this. Some time ago, I put up a mirror site on Multiply for the PGS blog. Both sites are active, though I suspect the commenters on one blog don't necessarily get to read what the commenters on the other side say (when there are any reactions at all). Such is not the case with two recent posts, Against "Ordinariness" and Another Look At Languages In The Philippines (Updated). I've enjoyed the reactions and comments of PGS blog readers, so I'm inviting everyone to these comments there too. I've placed both links in their respective titles above. Thanks, everyone!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"The rich get richer and the poor get--children."

Thanks to The Spy In The Sandwich and his latest post, Looking For The Gucci Gang, I have come belatedly to know about a certain society scandal that doesn't seem to have made its way to mainstream media, but has enraptured many bloggers for the last few days. I normally am not drawn to stories like this, and when I am, it's with a sense of befuddled distaste. It feels too ickily alien, for some reason, even more alien than a sci-fi story with, well, icky aliens. Or maybe it's because I know that the characters are not alien, and therefore, are somewhere out there. (Well, aliens are, according to scientists, somewhere out there, too). And since these characters are somewhere out there, a chance encounter with them is entirely within the realm of possibility. And for some reason, I don't feel completely right about such an encounter. Maybe it's because I know that it's in all our potentials to end up like this, if we're not careful? I don't know for certain. I know I'm not alone in feeling this way, but I think others can explain the reasons better than I. (Anyone care to take a try at putting these feelings into words?).

(I've re-read the above paragraph, and perhaps it's unfair for me to have used the word "alien". What is being detailed in the scandal is surely a presentation of an aspect of the human condition, after all, no matter how much I feel like wrinkling my nose at it. But I'm keeping the paragraph because I wrote it in heat, and I know it reflects what I felt upon reading The Spy In The Sandwich's post. That, and "ignorant hubris", as well as "haynako, here we go again.")

I find it coincidental that it was only recently that I recall feeling something akin to this, just a few weeks ago, in fact, but I don't expect local readers to know much about it. I only followed this earlier scandal because I saw the movies and pictures of one of the characters involved when I was very much younger, and found her cute! (ang babaw ko talaga) So when she popped into my consciousness through this scandal, I ended up following that too. Yes, marunong din akong maging chismoso. And that first event ended up as scandalously tragic and hilariously absurd as this second one.

The blog author that has caused this feels like a less restrained Nick Carraway, and in this case, this real-life Nick has been wronged and is out for revenge. And as far as I can see, I don't see a Jay Gatsby here, drawn to do what he does, to indulge in materialistic hedonism, out of love. But I do see this:

"(Though Nick) idolized the riches and glamour of the age, he was uncomfortable with the unrestrained materialism and lack of morality that went with it." (from a write-up about The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald).

"Uncomfortable" being an understatement.

So who says you can't learn anything from fiction? Fitzgerald's story came decades before all this.

Oh well. That's enough of that (though I might just pick up my copy of The Great Gatsby and go through it again quickly).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another Look At Languages In The Philippines (Updated)

Russ Sandlin, an American, emailed the Philippine Daily Inquirer in reaction to Isabel Pefianco Martin's essay, Myths About Languages In The Philippines. The link to the email is above, but I'll reproduce his letter here in whole because the Inquirer might take down the link after some time (to save space and bandwidth, I presume). There is a discussion on this ongoing at Dogberry's blog, in his entry, The Philippines Is A Multilingual Paradise. The email follows:

English Remains The Only Hope Of The Philippines
This refers to Isabel Pefianco Martin's commentary titled "Myths about languages in the Philippines." (Inquirer, 3/1/08) It is an example of why I fear the Philippines will never be a successful country. Her denial of the scandal and tragedy of education in the Philippines is profound and pathetic.

According to the education secretary, 80 percent of secondary school teachers in the Philippines failed an English proficiency test last year. I closed my call center here. Filipinos have much worse English than their Indian counterparts. Not even 3 percent of the students who graduate college here are employable in call centers. Trust me, all of us are leaving for China.

The Philippines has a terrible talent shortage, and the government and the press are in denial. Martin does not get it. English is the only thing that can save the country, and no one here cares or even understands that the Filipinos have a crisis. For now, English is the dominant language in business, not Ilocano, Visayan or Tagalog. The poor English, coupled with the ala mañana work ethic here, bodes poorly for any bright future for the Philippines.

When Marcos was kicked out, so was English, and you have not brought it back yet. You must, or you will never have more than 250,000 call center seats, and you will lose all BPO and call center business and all these jobs to China within five years.

It is sad that the Philippine Daily Inquirer published such a terrible article.

I love the Philippines, but as an American and a businessman, I am one of the thousands leaving here.

Good luck to the Inquirer. It needs to reevaluate its writers, unless it supports such a misguided set of ideas.

God save the Philippines. I hate to see the country falling ever deeper into an English-deprived abyss.--RUSS SANDLIN, via e-mail

Update: The Bibliophile Stalker weighs in with this essay, and this one.

Against "Ordinariness"

I chanced upon this article, Science-Fiction's Future -- Is It A Mundane One?, by Rob Shelsky. Mundane science-fiction, if I can borrow from the Wikipedia entry, "focuses on stories with a believable use of technology and science as it exists at the time the story is written." The mundane SF movement was begun in 2004 by author Geoff Ryman. Meaning, this sub-genre of science-fiction will not accept stories that include interstellar travel, worm holes, faster-than-light travel, aliens, or alternate universes. For advocates of this sub-genre, those topics fall under "science-fantasy". Mr. Shelsky shares his opinions about this sub-genre. Here are some quotes from his article:

"It would seem, for better or worse, that sci-fi is headed in that direction. Instead of science fiction imagining something new, like energy beings that eat light, for instance, and running with it; "mundane" science fiction wants us to take something that already exists, such as cloning, and then tell us what it might bring in ten years time. (YAWN!)

I don't really understand why this is now so popular. After all, if all these marvelous scientific achievements are coming so thick and fast, don't they show the incredible possibilities of things to come?

" there room for the "mundane" in science fiction? Most assuredly. There always has been. But also and more importantly, and foremost in my opinion, there is and should continue to be room for the marvelous in science fiction. For a child or adult alike, not to be able to stare at the stars in a night sky, not to be able to marvel at them and the universe beyond, not to be able to imagine unlikely and wonderful things about them, would be a terrible thing."

Late Returns

My Own Horror Prompt (Sort Of)

As I promised, I've been looking for a suitable horror prompt to help Yvette Tan for the PGS Special Halloween Issue which she'll be guest-editing. Unfortunately, the only recent horrific experience I had is one that's on a personal level. I doubt if everyone will be as terrified as I was.

(Telephone rings)

Me (picks up phone): Hello?

Caller: Mr. Kenneth Yu, please.

Me: Speaking. Caller: Sir, this is R________ from your dentist's office. It's time for your check-up.

Me (breaks out in cold sweat): Oh...

Caller: Actually, sir, we've been texting you for two months now. Did you receive our messages?

Me (lying):, sorry. Might...might be low signal strength.

Caller (snickering): Well, I'm glad I was able to reach you. When can we schedule your appointment?

Do you know what it's like, facing down bullies as a kid? No matter how much you want to resist, when they say "do this" or "do that" you end up following them out of fear and against your will. My dentist is a sweet lady, and very friendly and professional; not a bully at all. And yet, I react to her in the same way. It's easier to not answer a text. It's harder when you're actually talking to her assistant. So I ended up setting an appointment, and when I put the phone down and realized what I had just done...well, now that's "horror".

I'm still debating whether I should blog about my actual appointment. It's got nothing to do with "story" anymore, except now that it's over, I can look back and see that it's a "funny story" in itself. :) I'm glad my dentist still bears with me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inaccessible (Updated)

For the whole day now (March 11, 2008), both and have been inaccessible. Is it the same with you guys, or is it just me and my connection?

Just wondering.

Update: as of 6:45 p.m., both sites are now back up. I wonder why they were inaccessible for most of today.

Apocalypse Now?

Forgive my blogging about a science-fiction kind of end of the world scenario with this post. Maybe it's because one of my earlier posts had a link to LiveScience's Top Ten Ways To Destroy The Earth, and that link is still fresh in my mind.

According to, a real death star (ala Star Wars, the 1977 movie) could strike the Earth. It seems that a strange space pinwheel many light-years away might blast our planet with death rays, sometime in the future.

"I used to appreciate this spiral just for its beautiful form, but now I can't help a twinge of feeling that it is uncannily like looking down a rifle barrel," said researcher Peter Tuthill, an astronomer at the University of Sydney.

The report goes on to say that in that pinwheel are two hot stars in orbit with each other, with gas from their surfaces streaming and colliding. One of the stars is a Wolf-Rayet, the last known phase of a star before going supernova. When it does, it will emit blasts of gamma and cosmic rays along its axis, which, according to the astronomers, is pointed right our way. Even if we are so far away from it, the scientists say the rays can still reach us, which will have adverse effects on our environment and could cause major mass extinctions.

(My first reaction: "Yeah, like the human race isn't already doing enough to the environment on its own. Thanks for the help, Mr. Death Star.")

According to the article, the supernova could occur anytime within the next few hundred thousand years.

This seemed initially like a long time to me, but if you think about it, that's a very short period when you consider how old scientists say the universe is.

I haven't read that many comics, but isn't it the Fantastic Four came about because they were bombarded with cosmic rays? At least, that's what the movie says. And wasn't the Hulk created because Dr. Bruce "You-wouldn't-like-me-when-I'm-angry" Banner got caught in a gamma radiation blast? So after we get hit by this death star, we'll all be divided into five groups: stretching, invisibility, spontaneous combustion, and super-strength variations of either green, or orange-pebbly skin.

I blog about this because this article seems so much like the background of a science-fiction story from the latter part of the pulp era in America. If someone had submitted a tale like this to PGS, laying all the science down in layman's terms like at, and weaving a well-told story around it, I just might have taken it. Suddenly, something like this is so plausible (the end-of-the-world thingie, I mean, not the stretching or invisibility).

'di na to sci-fi. Realism na 'to. :D

An Essay On Languages In The Philippines

Via Dogberry, here is an essay entitled Myths About Languages In The Philippines, by Isabel Pefianco Martin, as copied and pasted to Dogberry's post, The Philippines Is A Multilingual Paradise. This essay was published in the March 1, 2008 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It's a very informative essay, and makes a case for "Philippine English" as well as local Philippine languages. Some quotes:

"The link between intelligence and English language proficiency is very flimsy. In this world, you will find intelligent people who cannot speak a word of English, as well as not-so-smart ones who are native speakers of the language."

"This aspiration points to the myth that there is only one kind of English language in this world, and that is, Standard American English. What many do not know is that World Englishes exist, and Philippine English is just one among these many Englishes."

"Finally, the most dangerous of all myths is the belief that there is no place for the local languages in basic education."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Green Publishing

Publishers, bit by bit, are going green, according to this news report. It is clear that every book published uses a certain amount of pulp, the raw material for paper, which comes from trees. Using recycled paper is one way to conserve the resource, and it's something that I should explore for PGS. I'm not sure yet of the availability of recycled paper here in the Philippines, or the cost of it, but if I can, I think I'd better consider switching to it to make PGS more eco-friendly.

I remember the last time I checked this out some five years ago, recycled paper was not available, and those large recycled rolls or reams that could be bought were imported, and cost more. But I'll make a few calls and find out how the state of things are now. But, I think, since I haven't heard anything lately about this, I have this sinking feeling that the case five years ago is still the same today.

Is this another case for going online? Because it's more eco-friendly? Perhaps, but we must remember that using the computer costs electricity, a level of power that we would not consume reading a book in hand and switching on a lamp for sufficient illumination. So we'll be consuming another resource while using the computer: power.

Doing the right thing by the environment is harder than it looks, isn't it?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Faked Books

There've been quite a lot of them lately. Here's the latest article.

So, "Love and Consequences" by Margaret Jones (real name Margaret Seltzer), and "Born With Wolves" by Minique de Wael, are the latest faked books. Other books are mentioned in the article. I kind of remember the memoir "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey also having been put under the microscope.

Would such a hubbub have happened if all these were labeled as fiction and not as memoirs?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Is A "Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction" Anthology A Good Idea?

The Bibliophile Stalker has written about what goes into producing a Best Of Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology, and he hits many nails on their heads. I pose this question to PGS blog readers: do you think such an idea is viable? In other words, would you buy such an anthology, and how much would you pay for it? The Stalker has raised a fairly good idea.

Let's say that said anthology contains between 45-55 stories, what the editor(s) would consider the best speculative fiction from, say, 2005 to 2008, for example. Or even 2009. It would cover the stories first published by Pinoys from this time period, and would cover magazines like: The Free Press, The Philippine Graphic, Philippine Genre Stories (natch!), Rogue, Story Philippines, and anthologies like Philippine Speculative Fiction I, II, III, Tales of Fantasy and Enchantment, as well as all the others with speculative fiction in them. It would also cover foreign publications, as well as online ezines, as long as the stories were by authors who are Pinoys or of Pinoy descent.

Just an informal question, mind you. Nothing solid or concrete. Just talking. Just shooting the breeze. Nothing more.

Comment away, please. I'd love to hear what everyone has to say about such a project. I really, really would.

A Blogpost On Online Fiction

Via The Bibliophile Stalker: here's a post, Ostriches Sure Like To Shove Their Heads In The Sand, with some crunched numbers of online stories, from oldcharliebrown's journal.

So, in your opinion, is the trend for short-fiction (all kinds, and not just genre) going online? What's your projection on the future of print for short-fiction (short stories, flash fiction, novellas)?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Some News

By way of The Bibliophile Stalker: News Tidbits, where he tells us of the death of Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, and links up to articles about book thieves. Thanks!

On Booksellers And Free Books (Updated)

A discussion between an author (Neil Gaiman) and a bookseller (Don Muller of Old Harbor Books) on free books and their effects on brick-and-mortars.

By way of Zen In Darkness. Thanks for the link!

Update: he also sent in this link with more free books (from Cory Doctorow) and an article on intellectual property.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Love Of Stories

I want to share with you the first five pages of the book I'm currently reading, Elie Wiesel's The Gates Of The Forest:

When the great Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov
saw misfortune threatening the Jews
it was his custom
to get into a certain part of the forest to meditate.
There he would light a fire,
say a special prayer,
and the miracle would be accomplished
and the misfortune averted.

Later, when his disciple,
the celebrated Magid of Mezritch,
had occasion, for the same reason,
to intercede with heaven,
he would go to the same place in the forest
and say: "Master of the Universe, listen!
I do not know how to light the fire,
but I am still able to say the prayer."
And again the miracle would be accomplished.

Still later,
Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov,
in order to save his people once more,
would go into the forest and say:
"I do not know how to light the fire,
I do not know the prayer,
but I know the place
and this must be sufficient."
It was sufficient and the miracle was accomplished.

Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn
to overcome misfortune.
Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands,
he spoke to God: "I am unable to light the fire
and I do not know the prayer;
I cannot even find the place in the forest.
All I can do is to tell the story,
and this must be sufficient."
And it was sufficient.

God made man because he loves stories.

I think these first five pages can be enjoyed whether you are of faith--any faith--or not. I know I did.

More "The Best Of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2007"

Over here at A Discussion Of Lists are the previously mentioned links to the "Best of 2007" choices of a trio of discerning readers: The Bibliophile Stalker, Electrick Twilight Boogaloo, and To The Tale, And Other Such Concerns (the same links can also be found here and here).

They are now joined by Banzai Cat, his list of his five top tales plus five honorable mentions: PSF Short Stories, Best of 2007...Finally. Thank you for adding Nikki Alfar's Beacon and Celestine Marie G. Trinidad's Beneath The Acacia to your selections, sir, and for taking the time to post them!

Update: The Bibliophile Stalker has sent in this link (which is also here at the Philippine Speculative Fiction blog) which summarizes some of the lists, shortening each of them into a top five (or a top three in one case).

Monday, March 03, 2008

Lists From LiveScience

LiveScience is a site I visit whenever I have enough time on my hands because of their fascinating lists. I'd like to think that if I had grown up in a country which had a strong emphasis on engineering and science, I would've made a good lab rat, especially in research. My mother, a doctor, owned this light microscope once upon a time, a left-over piece of equipment from her med-school days, which she let me and my brothers use just for kicks. I remember enjoying looking at everything through its lens: pondwater, dead insects, fingernails, blood samples, soil, grass, skin flakes, feathers, leaves, hair, amoeba, parameciums, and other single-celled organisms that I grew in my very own petri dish cultures.

But the Philippines is not such a country, and I eventually found my way to books. Nonetheless, science still fascinates me plenty, and the lists on LiveScience can stimulate anyone's storytelling, if they just let it reach their creativity. Science, after all, which tries to complete the sentence "What is..." in explaining anything, is just a short, short step away from storytelling, which tries to answer the question, "What if?".

A sample of LiveScience's lists, with a lot more liberally spread throughout the site:

Top Ten Unexplained Phenomena
Top Ten Ways To Destroy Earth
Top Ten Beasts And Dragons: How Reality Made Myth
Top Ten Missing Links
Top Ten Deadliest Animals
Top Ten Mysteries Of The Mind
Medieval Torture's Ten Biggest Myths
Power Of The Future: Ten Ways To Run the 21st Century

A Couple Of Reasons Why PGS Was Published

These are not the only reasons, but they're certainly major ones. I've received a number of emails and letters in text- and chat-speak that only succeeded in making me dizzy. There's a place for text- and chat-speak I think, and that's on SMS, but outside of that, when you have to write reports and formal correspondence, then please ditch the text-speak and observe proper spelling! At least the writer of the letter from the newspaper clipping tried her best, and didn't use text-speak, but think of how much more witty acid she could've poured into her letter if she had been a reader. In any case, I hope these two images amused you for a while.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Shakespeare Over Pizza

I experienced a truly surreal moment over Saturday dinner at my in-law's place last weekend. My relatives were talking politics in the Philippines, dishing out their two cents here and there, sharing what facts (interspersed with even more interesting rumors) that they all picked up over the week.

Dinner was composed of unhealthy doses of pizza and fast-food fried chicken downed with soda. We don't normally eat this way during my wife's family's get-togethers. The meals that're served are usually of Chinese or Filipino influence (with occasional Italian or Japanese dishes thrown in). I don't know why we were eating greasy chicken and pizza; I arrived late after everyone had already started. I suppose someone didn't want to cook that night, not that I was complaining, because I believe in that hypothesis that the more unhealthy a type of fast-food is, the better it tastes. That my body punished me for it the next day (not to mention all that gunk that I added to my blood, which will stay there for months) is another story altogether.


So there we were seated at my in-law's large lauriat table inappropriately covered with pizza and fried chicken, talking Philippine politics, when someone mentioned that Gloria Arroyo, the current Philippine president, should beware the "ides of March".

We don't usually talk books, reading, or literature among my in-laws. We don't usually talk books, reading, or literature among my own family members, even. Some of them read, true, but to discuss? Doesn't happen. I'm pretty much alone in my interest, and I learned early that it's a pleasure I should enjoy by my lonesome because I won't draw any interest from anyone in my family if I should dare bring it up, barring a very few, some of whom don't read but are nice enough to indulge my strangeness. So to hear one of them utter one of the many terms and phrases that have come down to us from the bard did more than raise my eyebrows; I ended up choking on my bite of pizza and dropping my slice on my plate.

"Ano ba yung 'ides of March?'" someone else asked.

"Parang March 18 ata," another person said. "Or 19?"

"Ano bang ibig sabihin ng 'ides'?"

"Bakit ka umuubo, Kenneth?"

"I think it means March 15," I gasped after a drink. "Though one of my teachers insisted that it was the 31st, but it's the 15th for most folks."

"Where did that come from?"

"Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare," I said. "The ides of March was the day Brutus and his fellow Senators stabbed Caesar dead."

"Is that historically accurate?"

"I don't know, but the play has made that date famous."

"So why should Gloria fear March 15?"

"Baka papatayin siya ng mga Senator sa March 15. Mukhang Brutus, yung kalaban ni Popeye, si Senator __________."

After the laughter died down, I was asked to explain what the term meant, and said that the "ides of March" has come to mean a sign of impending doom. An evil omen, if you will.

One of my wife's brothers-in-law, who does not read, said, "No matter what happens, we will still have a lot of problems. We saw that everytime an administration changes. The effects of what they did continue, and regular people like us suffer. The evil that men do lives after them."

For the second time that night, I was surprised. It was a good thing that I didn't have anything in my mouth that time.

All of a sudden, we left politics and started talking Shakespeare. Someone mentioned the witches and the quote "Double, double, toil and trouble" but couldn't name the play.

"Alam ko 'yan. 'Yan yung may, 'Out, damned spot!'"

"Sounds like a commercial for detergent."

"Well, Kyu?" my wife asked.

"Macbeth," I said.

"'yun! 'yun! 'di ko nakuha yung play na 'yan nung nabasa ko nung high school. Ang labo."

"Saan galing yung `Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears'?"

"Julius Caesar din."

"Mga kaibigan, mga tiga-Roma, mga kababayan, pahiram naman ng inyong mga tenga?" another brother-in-law translated into Tagalog.

"Si Congressman ____________, yung dating Speaker, marami siyang tengang mapapahiram."

"Who knows 'To be or not to be'?"

I remember memorizing that whole soliloquoy once, but I can't recite it anymore; for some reason, I've forgotten it. I also recall another teacher saying that that scene was the most overdone in history, like a song you've heard once too often. To be frank, I have more cheerful memories from the movie of the same title.

My wife shared then our experience of having watched "Romeo and Juliet" at the Shangri-la Mall when we were dating years ago. All we remember was that it wasn't a very good experience. The actors were young, and there were many poor cues.

"Sayang," my sister-in-law said, the one that reads, the one I can talk books about. "Bad Shakespeare is really horrid."

"But there was that time when we were in the U.S.," I reminded my wife. "We saw two teenagers in a museum rehearsing a scene from the play. They were good. We, and a whole lot of others, watched them for a while, remember?" She did.

Bit-by-bit the discussion on Shakespeare ended and our talk moved to other things. It was a strange shift for me while it lasted though, because I never thought that the plays of good old Bill would ever become a topic of conversation among us. Shows his influence, I believe. Think of all the quotes from his works that have become a part of our lexicon: "doth protest too much"; "All the world's a stage"; "Parting is such sweet sorrow"; "The winter of our discontent"; "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"; "a method in the madness"; and so many others.

So many, in fact, as to enter the conversation of a group of people who don't normally read, over a dinner of pizza and fried chicken. Such stuff as dreams are made on.