Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lawmaker: Right Of Reply Bill To Affect Bloggers, Texters

I haven't been following the Right Of Reply Bill issue very much; the duties on books, and personal matters, have been keeping my attention of late. In a nutshell (a very small one) what I know of it is that if a newspaper or other form of media were to publish or present something critical about someone, that someone has the right to express his or her rebuttal, and that form of media is required to carry it. Did I get that right? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

This recent article where a lawmaker says that The Right Of Reply Bill will affect bloggers and texters got my attention, though. An excerpt:

The bill's Section 1 states that: “All persons natural or judicial who are accused directly or indirectly of committing, having committed, or are criticized by innuendo, suggestion or rumor for any lapse in behavior in public or private life shall have the right to reply to charges or criticisms published in newspapers, magazines, newsletters or publications circulated commercially or for free, or aired or broadcast over radio, television, websites or through any electronic device."

"The bill, therefore, would not only affect media outfits and journalists but also all website owners, website masters, email account holders and other netizens who are not necessarily media practitioners," Palatino said further in statement released Sunday.

"This would affect the more than five million bloggers and millions more of Internet users in the country. My fear is that when this bill comes to law, it will be used to regulate the content of the Internet," he said.

"When we are checking our emails, when we open our Friendster or Facebook accounts, we are checking our websites. Does this mean that we will be compelled to moderate, modify or edit our personal websites? Is this not Internet censorship and suppression of freedom of speech and expression?" he added.

"Does this mean that whenever a criticism is published in these venues a person can use the Right of Reply to compel a blogger or moderator of a social networking site to publish a space or a reply for that person? Or when an individual decides to copy or re-post an article from a news website in his or her personal blog, and in the future the said article becomes a subject of this Right of Reply, will he or she be sanctioned or fined also?" Palatino added.

If anyone can explain the details and give a timeline of the developments of this bill to me and to PGS blog readers, please do so by leaving a comment. Even though I'm coming late to this topic, I have a feeling this may be of some matter. I'll try and do some research too, on my own. Thank you!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Beauty Of Life Made Manifest In The Art Of Music, Amidst The Bustle Of Living -- A Social Experiment

What if one of the world's greatest living musicians were to anonymously set himself in a station where thousands of commuters pass through everyday, tune his antique and very expensive instrument, and then begin to play pieces that have captivated audiences and that have lasted for centuries? Would people realize what they were hearing and stop? Would people be drawn to this music--interpreted as best as humanly possible--and glean that this music was speaking to them about their lives, about existence, about who we are as people, about more than making a living?

In a social experiment conducted by The Washington Post, esteemed violinist Joshua Bell did just that. Read this, Pearls Before Breakfast. It's a rather longish piece, so no excerpts. Just click then read, and listen to the videos. (In fact, if I were to copy-and-paste excerpts as I usually do, I might just end up copying-and-pasting the whole article.)

What do you think of the results of the experiment?

I'm not sure if I would have stopped if I had been a commuter passing through on that day. I'd probably be thinking of meetings, deadlines, reports, and what-have-you. And I would have missed out.

Stephen King Suggests Seven Books

It's a regular question that crops up in most conversations I have, or to twist it into specifics: Among those I converse with regularly, it is often asked: "What are you reading now? Would you recommend anything for me?" I do the asking every now and then myself.

Bestselling writer Stephen King recommends the following seven novels in time for the North American summer (and the Philippine rainy season). I like his list for the mix and overlap of genres: crime, suspense, espionage, action, fantasy, horror. One of the novels is even available online, legally free. I haven't read any of them yet, but nothing's stopping me from giving some, or all, a try. So if you find yourself inbetween books right now and wondering what to pick up next, you may want to consider one of the titles on his list.

Typewriter Writer

You know how much I like old typewriters, so here's something from the blog of Paperback Writer: Typewriter Writer. An excerpt:

I am an old writer. Back in the late sixties I started writing stories and poems on school notebook paper in pencil, then in the seventies graduated to pen and composition books and legal pads. Mom bought me a second-hand manual typewriter when I was thirteen, and I used that for eleven years until it literally fell apart. After that I bought a used IBM Selectric typewriter from a yard sale, and used that for writing until 1994, when my husband bought me my very first computer.

I've always thought that my learning to write by longhand and typewriter always put me at a disadvantage to younger, more tech-savvy writers. For most of my life I didn't have the marvels of the modern word processing program to help me write. No backups, no disc copies; just me, the pen or the typewriter, and the single hard copy. I've always felt a bit like the writer equivalent of Wilma Flintstone because of it.

I was explaining this disadvantage to one of my young writer friends the other day, in one of those "be grateful for what you've got" type conversations older writers like to have with youngsters. She was complaining about how slow her printer is, while I'm still riveted by the fact that I can print out an entire manuscript in less than an hour -- something that twenty years ago would have taken me a good two months to type.

"That's why you're able to write straight through everything, isn't it?" my friend asked me. "You trained to write on a typewriter, and you couldn't stop or go back or fix things."

I was surprised, but she was right. It's not easy to backspace and rewrite on a typewriter; with the two I owned I had to use White-Out or correction tape, or rip out the page and start over. I also couldn't review and edit anything I wrote before I printed it out -- naturally using a typewriter = printing it out instantly. Add to that the fact that back then typing paper was expensive, and my mom had a fit if I wasted even a single page of it.

I never thought about it before, but I guess subconsciously I did teach myself to wait until I was clear in my head about what I wanted to put down on the paper because of the limitations of my equipment.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Romance Novels Thriving In Tough Economic Times

Roger nearly lost last night, but he pulled through because I egged him on and coached him through the TV till I turned hoarse ("Play his backhand! His forehand is killing you!"). Tonight, I'll be doing the same for Rafa against Lleyton (but let it stand that I really like the latter's chutzpah). But before that, I saw this interesting article: Romance Novels Thriving In Tough Economic Times. An excerpt:

With an out-of-work husband and two children to support, Christine Mead needs a cheap – and uplifting – break from life.

So lately she's been escaping into sweet and heartening stories of love and passion, where heroines overcome insurmountable obstacles to find their happiness.

"I am left with a satisfied feeling at the end of a good book, a feeling of hope that all can, and will, be OK," said Mead, who lives in the small town of Festus, Missouri, and suffers from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.

Mead, 41, rarely goes anywhere because of the price of gas, and the family has been relying on a food pantry. Romance novels, she said, are "a distraction from not knowing what's going to happen next."

Love may not conquer all in real life, but its power in relatively inexpensive books is quite a comfort in this economy. Publishers are seeing strong sales in the romance genre as other categories decline and consumers cut back on spending.

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., a global giant in women's fiction, reported fourth-quarter earnings up 32 percent over the same period a year earlier, with US retail sales up 9 percent in 2008.

For the week of May 10, romance book sales overall were up nearly 2.4 percent compared with the same week last year, according to Nielsen BookScan, which covers 75 percent of retail sales. Travel book sales were down 16 percent, detective/mystery and self-help were each down 17 percent and adult fiction overall, of which romance is a subgenre, was up 1 percent.

Katherine Petersen, 43, of Menlo Park, California, said she feels more energized to resume her job search after she finishes a good romance. Petersen is blind and has been looking for work for about a year.

Before, reading was a hobby. Now, it's her saving grace. She said it's something she can do in braille or by listening without the company of others and without spending a lot of money.

"When I'm reading, I'm thinking about something else," said Petersen, whose background is in public relations. "I'm certainly not worrying about that job letter I just sent out or who I have to call or how I am going to pay the electric bill. It's kind of a freedom from that."

But escapism is only part of the attraction, said best-selling author Janet Evanovich, who started out writing romance and then morphed into mystery. She likes romance because the characters are quirky, vibrant women who take charge, are tenacious and are able to overcome crises in their lives – characters women can identify with.

The books are a feel-good read, Enderlin said. The endings may be predictable, but there's solace in knowing that things are going to turn out like they should.

For Diane Pershing, president of Romance Writers of America, the recession-proof romance is a no-brainer. Romance novels offer "rich, complex stories about good people overcoming obstacles to achieve intimacy and an eventual joining of their lives," she said.

"Along the way, they have great sex," she said. "What's not to like?"

PinoyWrimo 2008 Anthology Release

Seen over at Bahay Talinhaga: PinoyWrimo 2008 Anthology Release. An excerpt:

Received an email from the PinoyWrimo crew that the PinoyWrimo 2008 Anthology–collecting excerpts from entries in last year’s NaNoWriMo and arranging them by category–has just been released in handy ebook format.

Head on over to his site to read the rest of his entry. :)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"A Republic Of Letters"

MLQ3 twitted this article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer: "A Republic Of Letters". An excerpt:

The President ain’t deaf. Press Secretary Cerge Remonde gave that spin to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s sensible order to Finance Secretary Margarito Teves to scrap taxes, clamped by the Bureau of Customs, on imported books and reading materials.

“Books give light to my eyes,” the Ibanag proverb says.

“President Arroyo wants books to be within reach of the common man,” spinmeister Remonde explained. “She believes reading has an important value for intellectual formation, which is the foundation of a healthy public opinion necessary for a vibrant democracy.”

Manuel Quezon III opened protest sluice gates by showing in his Philippine Daily Inquirer columns that Finance Department Order 17-09 fractured the Florence Agreement. The Philippines is party to this 1950 treaty. It would spur “free exchange of ideas and knowledge,” Quezon wrote. Tax collectors instead clamped on a premium for ignorance.

The BoC claimed that the word “only” in RA 8047 authorized taxes by way of exception. Nonsense. “The word seems to be a Customs intercalation,” constitutional scholar Joaquin Bernas, SJ noted. “I don’t believe Congress would attempt to repeal a treaty commitment by the mere insertion of one word. Neither may customs attempt to insert for whatever purpose what Congress did not insert.”

The uproar over the book levy resembles the firestorm that earlier engulfed Cebu City officials when Vice Mayor Michael Rama and councilor Joy August Young tried to padlock the 69-year-old Rizal Memorial Library. Like our taxmen, they cited “reasons of economy.”

But citizens, who built the library in 1939, beat them back. Today, the library is undergoing a million-peso renovation. Which is a significant victory, too. This is after all a country where half of those between 7 and 21 don’t read anything—not even comics. And by Grade 4, many students still can’t read.

Illegal book taxes interlock with flawed textbooks. Antonio Calipjo Go, for example, documented for over a decade errors that studded science and English textbooks. Some columnists pounced on Go. They didn’t question his findings or concern over miseducating students. Rather, they fretted over publishing moguls’ balance sheets. A Senate probe fizzled.

Twelve years after the House of Representatives documented textbook errors, German national Helmut Haas (who lodged the complaint) found flaws yet again. His Grade 5 son’s copy of “The Wonderful World of Science” textbook claims “algae as a fish,” and “dust as a minute organism.”

“The Department of Education’s committee on instructional material has not done a single thing since the 1997 inquiry,” Haas told Sun.Star. “How will the Philippines come out of this economic situation when they teach this in schools?”

Led by Rep. Raul del Mar, the inquiry found that error-filled textbooks proliferated nationwide. The problem stemmed from negligence and apparent graft. Then Education Secretary Ricardo Gloria promised reforms.

Nothing came of that too. So, is it any surprise why our kids landed in the cellar of the last three international mathematics and science tests?

“The best way of gauging enlightenment of a nation is to examine the attitude of its officials towards books,” the Manila Chronicle’s I.P. Soliongco wrote in 1957. “If this test were applied to the Philippines, it would be found that we’re one of the most backwards in the world.”

Quezon provided this overdue test. Amor propio, however, prodded customs bureaucrats to stonewall, noted Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. That underscored the bureaucratic mindset.

A Literary Donald Duck

Village Idiot Savant sent in this link: "Why Donald Duck is the Jerry Lewis of Germany", from The Wall Street Journal. He says that it's "fascinating" how the "translator turned the comics into something literary." An excerpt from the article:

Germany, the land of Goethe, Thomas Mann and Beethoven, has an unlikely pop culture hero: Donald Duck. Just as the French are obsessed with Jerry Lewis, the Germans see a richness and complexity to the Disney comic that isn’t always immediately evident to people in the cartoon duck’s homeland.

“Donald is so popular because almost everyone can identify with him,” says Christian Pfeiler, president of D.O.N.A.L.D. “He has strengths and weaknesses, he lacks polish but is also very cultured and well-read.” But much of the appeal of the hapless, happy-go-lucky duck lies in the translations. Donald quotes from German literature, speaks in grammatically complex sentences and is prone to philosophical musings, while the stories often take a more political tone than their American counterparts.

Ehapa directed Dr. Fuchs to crank up the erudition level of the comics she translated, a task she took seriously. Her interpretations of the comic books often quote (and misquote) from the great classics of German literature, sometimes even inserting political subtexts into the duck tales. Dr. Fuchs both thickens and deepens Mr. Barks’s often sparse dialogues, and the hilariousness of the result may explain why Donald Duck remains the most popular children’s comic in Germany to this day.

Dr. Fuchs raised the diction level of Donald and his wealthy Uncle Scrooge (alias Dagobert Duck), who in German tend to speak in lofty tones using complex grammatical structures with a faintly archaic air, while Huey, Louie and Dewey (now called Tick, Trick and Track), sound slangier and much more youthful.

But even the “adult” ducks end up sounding more colorful than they do in English. Fuchs applied alliteration liberally, as, for example, in Donald’s bored lament on the beach in “Lifeguard Daze.” In the English comic, he says: “I’d do anything to break this monotony!” The über-gloomy German version: “How dull, dismal and deathly sad! I’d do anything to make something happen.”

Dr. Fuchs had liberal social values from an early age and a circle of Jewish friends as a young woman. Disgusted by the hypocrisy and denial she saw in Germany during and after World War II, she sometimes imported her political sensibilities to Entenhausen.

Take, for example, the classic Duck tale “The Golden Helmet,” a story about the search for a lost Viking helmet that entitles its wearer to claim ownership of America. In Dr. Fuchs’s rendition, Donald, his nephews and a museum curator race against a sinister figure who claims the helmet as his birthright without any proof—but each person who comes into contact with the helmet gets a “cold glitter” in his eyes, infected by the “bacteria of power,” and soon declares his intention to “seize power” and exert his “claim to rule.” Dr. Fuchs uses language that in German (“die Macht ergreifen”; “Herrscheranspruch”) strongly recalls standard phrases used to describe Hitler’s ascent to power.

The original English says nothing about glittering eyes or power but merely notes, “As the minutes drag past, a change comes over the tired curator.” Even the helmet itself, which in German Donald describes as a masterpiece of “Teutonic goldsmithery,” is anything but nationalistic in English: “Boys, isn’t this helmet a beauty?” is all he says. In an interview, Dr. Fuchs said she hoped that a child who “sees what power can do to people and how crazy it makes them” would be less susceptible to its siren song in later life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Proud non-reader" Kanye West Turns Author

Here's an article full of irony, right from the title: "Proud non-reader" Kanye West Turns Author. Some excerpts:

Rapper Kanye West does not read books or respect them but nevertheless he has written one that he would like you to buy and read.

The Grammy Award winner, known for his No. 1 albums and outspoken statements on everything from racism in America to the banality of Twitter, is the co-author of "Thank You And You're Welcome."

His book is 52 pages -- some blank, others with just a few words -- and offers his optimistic philosophy on life. One two-page section reads, "Life is 5% what happens and 95% how you react!" Another page reads "I hate the word hate!"

So does he fancy himself a modern-day Confucius?

"I'm trying to end the confusion," he said, laughing and adding, "I'm gonna put that on the next album."

West's derision of books comes despite the fact that his late mother, Donda West, was a university English professor before she retired to manage his music career. She died in 2007 of complications following cosmetic surgery.

"Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed," West said. "I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph.

"I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life," he said.

Yeah, there's a lot of self-absorbed writing (and music, and cinema) out there. But I have a solution if he's worried about "wordiness": Someone give him a Hemingway novel!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Manila Litcritters Open Session

The next Manila Litcritters open session will be on May 30, 2009. Details, and the links to the stories, are here.

Free Literary Lecture By Rio Alma / LIRA Poetry Clinic Opens

From my email inbox, from Phillip Kimpo, Jr.:

Free Lecture Opens LIRA Poetry Clinic

On June 6, 2009 (Saturday), the annual poetry clinic of Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) will begin with a lecture by National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario, also knows as poet Rio Alma. The lecture entitled "Reklamasyon sa Pambansang Gunita" will be held at 9:00 AM in Room 201 of the College of Arts and Letters in UP Diliman. The lecture is free and open to the public.

For more details, contact Ynna Abuan through 0917-9017090, or visit their website at

The LIRA poetry clinic has been held yearly since 1985, featuring lectures and workshops focusing on the different aspects of poetry. The group has among its members noted and respected poets such as Michael Coroza, Jerry Gracio, Roberto and Rebecca Añonuevo, Vim Nadera, Edgar Samar, Maningning Miclat, and Romulo Baquiran, Jr.

Klinikang Pampanulaan ng LIRA, Bubuksan Ng Libreng Panayam

Magsisimula sa Hunyo 6, 2009 (Sabado) taunang klinikang pampanulaan ng Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA). Bubuksan ito ng isang panayam mula sa Pambansang Alagad ng Sining Para sa Panitikan Virgilio S. Almario, kilala bilang makatang Rio Alma. Ang panayam, "Reklamasyon sa Pambansang Gunita" ay magsisimula nang 9:00 ng umaga sa Room 201 ng College of Arts and Letters sa UP Diliman. Ang nasabing panayam ay libre at bukas sa publiko.

Para sa karagdagang detalye maaring makipag-ugnayan kay Ynna Abuan sa numerong 0917-9017090 o bisitahin ang kanilang website,

Simula pa noong 1985 idinadaraos ng LIRA ang kanilang taunang klinika na nagsasagawa ng mga panayam at palihang tumatalakay sa iba't ibang aspekto ng tula. Kasama sa samahan ang ilan sa mga kilalang makata tulad nila Michael Coroza, Jerry Gracio, Roberto at Rebecca Añonuevo, Vim Nadera, Edgar Samar, Maningning Miclat, at Romulo Baquiran, Jr.

Monday, May 25, 2009

These Stories Are Real Loo-Loo's

Talk about your disposable tales: A horror story was printed on toilet paper in Japan:

In a country where ghosts are traditionally believed to hide in the loo, a Japanese company is advertising a new literary experience — a horror story printed on toilet paper.

Each roll carries several copies of a new nine-chapter novella written by Koji Suzuki, the Japanese author of the horror story "Ring," which has been made into movies in both Japan and Hollywood.

"Drop," set in a public restroom, takes up about three feet (90 centimeters) of a roll and can be read in just a few minutes, according to the manufacturer, Hayashi Paper.

The company promotes the toilet paper, which will sell for 210 yen ($2.20) a roll, as "a horror experience in the toilet."

Toilets in Japan were traditionally tucked away in a dark corner of the house due to religious beliefs. Parents would tease children that a hairy hand might pull them down into the dark pool below.

A dark hand pulling you into a dark pool full of...eeewwww! That is scary. And gross.

If you don't like the story on the toilet paper, well, you know what to do with it.

But real life can be scarier, as this man in Taiwan found out when a snake bit his private parts.

A man in Taiwan was rushed to hospital this week after he was bitten on the penis by a snake possibly mistaking the man’s tackle for a rodent.

The China Times has reported that the man sat on the toilet at his rural home and suddenly felt a stabbing pain in his genital gland. The pain was described as “knife-like”.

The 51 year old man was taken to Puli Christian Hospital where he is being treated for “minor injuries” to his reproductive organ. A spokesman for the hospital said he will be allowed home after the lack of infection is confirmed.

Local television showed pictures of a black and yellow snake being lifted from the toilet bowl, experts say it is a type of non-venomous rat snake, also known as a Taiwanese beauty snake.

It's not flattering to have someone write about your "tackle" as having been mistaken for a "rodent". No, no, no. Talk about rubbing salt on wounds.

And then there is this story I heard recently, a 2009 summer story about a husband and wife who went on holiday to a resort that will remain unnamed. The resort is near the water, and that's the only clue I'll give. Anyway, early one morning, the woman awoke ahead of her husband and proceeded to the bathroom to relieve herself. Groggy still, she sat down. I don't know what it was that made her look down into the bowl; maybe it was the unexpected click and clack of something hard tapping on the porcelain. In any case she jumped up quickly, never mind that she was in mid-relief (mid-stream? Sorry, I couldn't resist), because there was a huge crab in the bowl, just underneath her behind.

Story goes, her scream was heard ten rooms away.

See? Real life can be scarier.

In The Presence Of Giants

Here's an article, "In The Presence Of Giants", by Ria Lu, about her trip to Donsol, from The Sunday Inquirer Magazine. An excerpt:

"I’M not particularly adventurous or athletic. I’m usually more interested in the art scene of a place than its thrills. But when my sisters voted to go to Donsol to swim with whale sharks this summer, I thought it wouldn’t be so bad. Feeling lethargic these past few months, I thought a change of scenery would do me good.

It was also good to get away from Manila and its heat for a while. I’m always excited about going to places I’ve never been to. But I must admit, I was not as excited as my traveling companions about swimming with the biggest fish on earth. I couldn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. If one wanted to see a whale shark, one need only go online and search. There are a lot of pictures out there of the butanding, as it is known locally.

But I couldn’t really say that aloud and burst everyone’s bubble, could I? Not when my sisters were so looking forward to seeing whale sharks. And not when my cousin kept jumping off her seat and shouting, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” every time our spotter thought he saw something. But I’m getting ahead of my story. Allow me to start from the beginning."

Customs Duty On Books: A Portent Of Things To Come?

Here's an article from The Philippine Daily Inquirer, "Customs Duty On Books: A Portent Of Things To Come?", written by Geraldine Po. An excerpt:

In the early 1970s, it was the postal authorities who checked on book parcels and decided how much tax was to be paid. In effect, they also decided what would and what would not reach the bookstore shelves.

The Philippines Daily Express, in its editorial on June 30, 1972, noted:

“If the postal authorities would in fact insist on playing a role as guardian of the mind, or arbiter of taste in reading material, and as a nemesis of subversion, they should first prove that they are capable of understanding and appreciating the nature and impact of ideas, such ideas as are to be discovered in the very books it had already consigned to limbo.

“From the evidence, neither the postmaster general, nor his alleged committee of arbiters, is ready for the task of passing judgment on reading material coming through the mails. Indeed, it would take more than just a group of scholars to make censorship palatable, and even then they will have to be scholars who have had a lifetime of intimacy with reading, with books, with ideas. And who among this rare breed would lend themselves to censorship?”

The editorial came out a few months before martial law was declared. I hope that the DoF order is not a portent of things to come.

Though the duties have been lifted, we should make sure implementation is done properly, and keep our eyes and ears peeled.

Here's a link to a post: The Great Book Blockade of...1959.

Great News For A Monday Morning

Oh, just read these links (I'm too excited to make a proper link to the titles, so in the interest of speed, I'm just copying-and-pasting):

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pictures Of Book Bigayan 2009

Here are some pics of the Book Bigayan 2009 from The Trojan Bore. I had planned to go, but a relative is sick and in the hospital. I do hope the event was successful.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Taking The Essay Mill Route (Updated)

This link, Cheating Goes Global As Essay Mills Multiply, was twittered by MLQ3. An excerpt:

The orders keep piling up. A philosophy student needs a paper on Martin Heidegger. A nursing student needs a paper on dying with dignity. An engineering student needs a paper on electric cars.

Screen after screen, assignment after assignment — hundreds at a time, thousands each semester. The students come from all disciplines and all parts of the country. They go to community colleges and Ivy League universities. Some want a 10-page paper; others request an entire dissertation.

This is what an essay mill looks like from the inside. Over the past six months, with the help of current and former essay-mill writers, The Chronicle looked closely at one company, tracking its orders, examining its records, contacting its customers. The company, known as Essay Writers, sells so-called custom essays, meaning that its employees will write a paper to a student's specifications for a per-page fee. These papers, unlike those plucked from online databases, are invisible to plagiarism-detection software.

Call any of the company's several phone numbers and you will always get an answer. Weekday or weekend, day or night. The person on the other end will probably be a woman named Crystal or Stephanie. She will speak stilted, heavily accented English, and she will reveal nothing about who owns the company or where it is located. She will be unfailingly polite and utterly unhelpful.

If pressed, Crystal or Stephanie will direct callers to a manager named Raymond. But Raymond is almost always either out of the office or otherwise engaged. When, after weeks of calls, The Chronicle finally reached Raymond, he hung up the phone before answering any questions.

But while the company's management may be publicity shy, sources familiar with its operations were able to shed some light. Essay Writers appears to have been originally based in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. While the company claims to have been in business since 1997, its Web sites have only been around since 2004. In 2007 it opened offices in the Philippines, where it operates under the name Uniwork.

The company's customer-service center is located on the 17th floor of the Burgundy Corporate Tower in the financial district of Makati City, part of the Manila metropolitan area. It is from there that operators take orders and answer questions from college students. The company also has a suite on the 16th floor, where its marketing and computer staff members promote and maintain its Web sites. This involves making sure that when students search for custom essays, its sites are on the first page of Google results. (They're doing a good job, too. Recently two of the first three hits for "buy an essay" were Essay Writers sites.) One of its employees, who describes herself as a senior search-engine-optimization specialist at Uniwork, posted on her Twitter page that the company is looking for copy writers, Web developers, and link builders.

Some of the company's writers work in its Makati City offices. Essay Writers claims to have more than 200 writers, which may be true when freelancers are counted. A dozen or so, according to a former writer, work in the office, where they are reportedly paid between $1 and $3 a page — much less than its American writers, and a small fraction of the $20 or $30 per page customers shell out. The company is currently advertising for more writers, praising itself as "one of the most trusted professional writing companies in the industry."

It's difficult to know for sure who runs Essay Writers, but the name Yuriy Mizyuk comes up again and again. Mr. Mizyuk is listed as the contact name on the domain registration for, the Web site where writers for the company log in to receive their assignments. A lawsuit was filed in January against Mr. Mizyuk and Universal Research by a debt-collection company. Repeated attempts to reach him — via phone and e-mail — were unsuccessful. Customer-service representatives profess not to have heard of Mr. Mizyuk.

Installed in its Makati City offices, according to a source close to the company, are overhead cameras trained on employees. These cameras reportedly send a video feed back to Kiev, allowing the Ukrainians to keep an eye on their workers in the Philippines. This same source says Mr. Mizyuk regularly visits the Philippines and describes him as a smallish man with thinning hair and dark-rimmed glasses. "He looks like Harry Potter," the source says. "The worst kind of Harry Potter."

I'm sure teachers and students will find the above article of particular interest. I would also just like to say too--and this goes for everyone, and not just teachers and students--that the gains and rewards of intellectual honesty will never be regretted.

Update: MLQ3 writes about this topic here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Volunteer Chronicles 2 Writing Contest

Wandering Star sent in by PM the link to this website, which gives details to a writing contest open to anyone 16 years old and above. Deadline is on Aug. 31, 2009. Click here for more details. Thanks, Wandering Star!

The Disembodied Book

Here's an article, The Disembodied Book by Jürgen Neffe, that looks forward to a time when the printed book is no more, replaced by digital files in the same manner that we see for audio and video. An excerpt:

"To sum up the future relationship between author and book, you could say that a book needs an author but an author doesn't need a book. At least not that weighs anything, that has to be printed, packaged, posted and sold. Paper is neither necessary for writing nor reading. Billions of sent and received text messages can't be wrong. In the post-Gutenberg age, authors no longer require the classical bookshops, distributors or publishers to bring their labours to potential fruition – publication in other words. For them, content has triumphed over container, whose production, distribution and trade sustains vast numbers of jobs and guzzles huge amounts of energy and raw materials.

No book need ever go unpublished in the future – this is the good news for the overlooked and misunderstood. Everyone will have the chance to present their work to the world, be it on open source platforms or social networks. Of course this doesn't mean competition flies out the window. But it is safe to assume that under the mountains of digital shelf warmers, true gems are slumbering away. At the other end of the spectrum, then, the mass of today's average, low and no earners will get their chance at a piece of the pie.

In the wake of this global meltdown, which is wiping out eternal truths by the day, the revolution can is gaining momentum. The unthinkable is sliding in the realm of the possible. Theoretically speaking, anyone with a modicum of capital can start up their own publishing house for digital books, and with enough quality and output, make a success of it. The very bold might even come up with the idea of controlling the distribution of their electronic produce – and if they are also wise they will join a strong collective to better protect the rights of the individuals. Never before have unions of authors been more popular than they are today. And if the authors do set about publishing their works themselves, they they'd be best off concentrating on ones that cannot be contained between two covers: Out of Print publishers of unprintable books at the dawn of a new era.

Services like editing and layout have long been available on the free market, and the publishing houses make use of them increasingly. The classical book people, on the other hand, might soon have to make room for strangers in their world. Competition could emerge from today's literary agencies, or equally from entirely new Internet portals which, thanks to tougher selection procedures, will guarantee quality with their name. So why not go just take production and distribution into your own hands right away?"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus!

This picked me up, on this Saturday morning: the trailer for Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus!

King Kong Vs. Godzilla this ain't, but it could be close! I don't know about you guys, but I find this to be such appealing schlock!

That it stars erstwhile 1980's stars Deborah Gibson and Lorenzo Lamas (yes, that Deborah Gibson and that Lorenzo Lamas) just adds to the smile-inducing kitsch.

Actual quote from the movie: "Let's get them to kill each other!"

That quote's meant for Gibson and Lamas, not the shark and the octopus, by the way.


Friday, May 15, 2009

The Manchester Writing Competition

The Manchester Writing Competition is a short story and poetry contest open to international writers aged 16 years and above. For the fiction category, the deadline is August 7, 2009, and first prize is £10,000 (there is an entrance fee of £15.00, and the judges are Sarah Hall, M. John Harrison, and Nicholas Royle). The poetry prize is also £10,000. Click here to go to the contest's home page.

My thanks to Breaking Camp for informing me (via Twitter) of this contest.

Blogging From SM City

Trying out the wifi at The Block, SM City, care of this announcement by Azrael's Multiply Land. :)

Call For Submissions -- Philippine Speculative Fiction V

Notes From The Peanut Gallery has issued a call for submissions for Philippine Speculative Fiction V. The deadline is October 15, 2009, and the word count of the story must be between 1,500 and 7,500 words. All submissions must be in *.rtf format, and sent to nikkialfar(at)gmail(dot)com. Click here for the detailed submission guidelines.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Top Ten Tips

No, not the top ten "writing" tips, or "reading" tips, or "how to organize books" tips.

These are the top ten "tennis" tips (I like this bit of alliteration, don't you?).

It's completely off-topic for the stuff I usually blog about, but I'm blogging about it nonetheless because...well, I find these tips so wonderfully basic, so unquestionably, um, true. They've reminded me of all the principles behind the drills that were, er, drilled into me during my first couple of years of learning the sport, and which I needed to remind myself of periodically even when I somehow managed to scale the ladder from beginner to intermediate player.

In fact, the tips appeal to me so much that, in fear of that web-page suddenly being deleted, I am copying-and-pasting it all here:

This is a list of musts for tennis players. If you are struggling with your game I suggest you look at this list of back to basic tips and make sure you are doing all ten of these things correctly.

1. Watching the Ball-It is crucial to watch the ball all the way to your racquet.
2. Moving Your Feet- You must have quick feet. Don't run around the court with long strides, take short quick steps.
3. Keeping Your Head up when you Serve-Keeping your head up helps you watch the ball all the way to the point of contact.
4. Following Through- The follow through is one of the most important aspects of the most common strokes in tennis.
5. Turning Your Shoulders- Turning your shoulders helps you get your racquet back into the right position.
6. Step Into Your Volleys- Stepping into your volleys is a great way to make sure that you get shoulder turn and a lot more power into your volleys.
7. Pointing at the Overhead- When you point at the overhead you create a target.
8.Getting the Racquet Back Early- Late swings account for the majority of poor shots.
9. Using Your Hips with the Two-Handed Backhand- Using your hips gives you a compact but solid backhand.
10. Develop Match Play- If you can play as well in a match as in practice you will be successful.

There you have it, the top ten to do list for tennis players. It is very easy to get away from good fundamentals, but just as easy to get back to these good fundamentals. Implement these ten tips into your game and you will be back on the road to happy hitting.

And to make doubly, no, triply sure that I don't lose this, I'm going to save this into my computer, and print it out as well.

Strangely, I'm doing this even if I can't play the game regularly anymore, damn my bum knee.

It's always a good idea to fall back on the fundamentals when you're having trouble with whatever it is you're trying to do, don't you think?

Manila Litcritters Open Session

Taken from Notes From The Peanut Gallery:

Everyone is invited to join us for an afternoon of stories on Saturday, May 16, 2009, 2PM at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Robinsons Galleria.

Click here for the links to the stories that will be discussed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

With E-Readers Comes Wider Piracy Of Books

From The New York Times: Print Books Are Targets Of Pirates On The Web. An excerpt:

...some publishers say the problem has ballooned in recent months as an expanding appetite for e-books has spawned a bumper crop of pirated editions on Web sites like Scribd and Wattpad, and on file-sharing services like RapidShare and MediaFire.

“It’s exponentially up,” said David Young, chief executive of Hachette Book Group, whose Little, Brown division publishes the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer, a favorite among digital pirates. “Our legal department is spending an ever-increasing time policing sites where copyrighted material is being presented.”

John Wiley & Sons, a textbook publisher that also issues the “Dummies” series, employs three full-time staff members to trawl for unauthorized copies. Gary M. Rinck, general counsel, said that in the last month, the company had sent notices on more than 5,000 titles — five times more than a year ago — asking various sites to take down digital versions of Wiley’s books.

“It’s a game of Whac-a-Mole,” said Russell Davis, an author and president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a trade association that helps authors pursue digital pirates. “You knock one down and five more spring up.”

Sites like Scribd and Wattpad, which invite users to upload documents like college theses and self-published novels, have been the target of industry grumbling in recent weeks, as illegal reproductions of popular titles have turned up on them. Trip Adler, chief executive of Scribd, said it was his “gut feeling” that unauthorized editions represented only a small fraction of the site’s content.

Both sites say they immediately remove illegally posted books once notified of them. The companies have also installed filters to identify copyrighted work when it is uploaded. “We are working very hard to keep unauthorized content off the site,” Mr. Adler said.

Several publishers declined to comment on the issue, fearing the attention might inspire more theft. For now, electronic piracy of books does not seem as widespread as what hit the music world, when file-sharing services like Napster threatened to take down the whole industry.

The Hunt For Gollum Is Up

The Hunt For Gollum has been up since early this month. FYI.

Very Late Returns

Methinks librarians reading this article will either smile in satisfaction, or gnash their teeth at the tardiness. A long-borrowed library book was finally returned after three decades. An excerpt:

On March 16, 1978, with Jimmy Carter in the White House, Dick Cavett on late night TV and hi-fis on sale at Hecht's, Sarah McKee walked into the Arlington Central Library and borrowed a book.

She was 39, a single mother of three and had just become a lawyer. She lived in a three-bedroom apartment in Fairlington that already was filled with books. But she was a literary "omnivore," and on this day her eye fell on Alvin M. Josephy's "The Patriot Chiefs," about great Indian leaders.

It was due back April 5.

This month -- three decades, one career, five presidents, three relocations, seven grandchildren and thousands of books later -- McKee happened to open "The Patriot Chiefs," spotted the library card in the pocket and thought: "Drat."

And so May 5 -- 31 years and one month overdue -- it arrived back at Arlington Library with a note of apology and a check for $25.

"To my great embarrassment," the note said, "I recently opened this book and discovered it is yours -- not mine. My apologies for my tardiness."

Despite the length of time that had passed, points should be given to Sarah McKee for returning the book and paying the fine. :D

Irish Student Hoaxes World's Media With Fake Quote

How does that old adage go? "Don't believe everything you read?" An Irish student set out to test it, as he made up a fake quote which journalists the world over picked up as authentic. An excerpt from the article:

When Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he said he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media was upholding accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news.

His report card: Wikipedia passed. Journalism flunked.

The sociology major's made-up quote — which he added to the Wikipedia page of Maurice Jarre hours after the French composer's death March 28 — flew straight on to dozens of U.S. blogs and newspaper Web sites in Britain, Australia and India.

They used the fabricated material, Fitzgerald said, even though administrators at the free online encyclopedia quickly caught the quote's lack of attribution and removed it, but not quickly enough to keep some journalists from cutting and pasting it first.

A full month went by and nobody noticed the editorial fraud. So Fitzgerald told several media outlets in an e-mail and the corrections began.

Some More Writing Workshops This May

In addition to those workshops mentioned already, here are a few more:

Writing About Art: An Art Appreciation Seminar” will be held on May 16 from 9 am to 5 pm.

“Lighting the Lamp in a Hurricane: A Poetry Appreciation Seminar” will be held on May 23 from 2-5 pm

“Writing the Personal Essay” will be held on May 30

Click here for pertinent details. My thanks to The Intersections & Beyond for posting about this.

ACPI/UNESCO Flash Fiction Script Writing Contest

The Animation Council of the Philippines, Inc. (ACPI), in cooperation with the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines (UNACOM), proudly announces the first nationwide animated flash fiction scriptwriting contest as part of its active campaign in producing original Filipino content in animation that’s grounded on the rich cultural heritage of the country.

With the immense popularity of animated films and cartoons among the young generation, not to mention adults, animation has become an effective tool in raising awareness and educating the public about Philippine traditions, history and culture. However, there is a dearth of Philippine culture-centered animation. Foreign productions have been dominating the movie houses and taking over the boob tube.

Click here for more details. My thanks to Bahay Talinhaga for posting an entry about this.

Monday, May 11, 2009

No Better Weather

Penmanila, Sir Butch Dalisay, writes about his recent trip to New York here. An excerpt:

I HAD a very fruitful trip out to the US these past couple of weeks, mainly to participate in the 5th PEN World Voices Festival in New York, a gathering of about 160 writers from more than 50 countries. The festival was focused on the theme of “Evolution/Revolution”—the political, social, and economic changes taking place around the world, both fast and slow, and their impact on literature (or, conversely and perhaps more hopefully, the impact of literature on societies and governments at large).

I was, I was told, the first Filipino to be invited to the World Voices Festival, thanks to the efforts of Filipino-American novelist Jessica Hagedorn—who was, unfortunately, too burdened with teaching duties to attend the festival herself. But in three separate events, I had a chance to meet and interact with fellow writers from all over—as well as to touch base with New York-based Fil-Am writers like Luigi Francia and Angel Shaw, and even the traveling Robby Kwan Laurel, who just happened to be attending a conference upstate at the time.

Like true Pinoys, the US side of the family—my mom Emy, daughter Demi, sister Elaine, sister-in-law Mimi, nephew Toto, and niece Eia, not to mention Beng, who followed a day later for a surprise reunion with everyone else—all trooped to New York to attend my talks and readings, soon to be joined by Pinoy expat-friends including the photographer Dominique James and artist Kim Bello.

Click the above link to read the whole blog entry.

Wanted: Writers

Helping a contact, linking to his post.

"Book Blockade" Irks Miriam; Senate Probe Sought

David Dizon of writes about this topic here: "Book Blockade" Irks Miriam; Senate Probe Sought. An excerpt:

Online outrage against a Bureau of Customs decision to impose duties on imported books has reached the halls of the Senate, particularly author and chairwoman of the Senate foreign relations committee Miriam Defensor Santiago.

Santiago urged the Senate to investigate the BOC for imposing import duties on all imported books in violation of the 1950 Florence Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials, of which the Philippines is a state party.

The BOC based its decision on Republic Act No. 8047 or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act, which allows "tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing."

“The Florence Agreement provides that the contracting States undertake not to apply Customs duties or other charges on, or in connection with, the importation of books, publications, and documents,” Santiago said.

Click here to read the whole article. Click here for more information and updates.

Thank you for writing about this, David!

May 25 Is Towel Day!

Here's a lighter post: May 25 is Towel Day!

So with all the inanity going on in the world, remember: Don't Panic! And carry your towel with you!

Read about Towel Day here, here, and here.

My thanks to Zen In Darkness for informing me of Towel Day!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Polarity Is Interesting But (Updated)

Above is the scanned image of an article by Angelo R. Lacuesta from the May 9, 2009 issue of The Philippines Free Press. For some time, only those who have bought or borrowed a copy have been able to read it, as it hasn't been published online. I have asked the author for permission to put it up, and he has given it, so here it is.

Here are some of the reactions to that essay after it first came out, oh, about a week ago.

Dun dun dun dun

Almost Professional

Excuse Me, Your Cred Is Showing

Fear And Loathing In The Philippines Free Press

Bribe And Prejudice

I felt that the reactions have been more readily available to readers than the article they were reacting to, given that they have the advantage of being online. I believed that it would be best for everyone to be able to read the article in its entirety, with the quotes taken from it in the reactions seen and read from the context of where they were written. That is why I am happy that the author agreed to allow me to scan and place the image here, so people can read and decide for themselves where and how things stand, and to gauge for themselves whether the reactions' interpretations fit, or not.

Please do read the scanned image above first, then read the rest of the links, including all the comments, then make a decision/come to a conclusion yourselves. Thank you!

Update: Here's a link, Written In Poverty By Floundering Spirits, by An Exercise In Youthful Blasphemy, posted on May 12, 2009 as a form of closure, I think, over all this.

Friday, May 08, 2009

"Literature Of The Fantastic" At Filipinas--The Magazine For Filpinos Worldwide

PGS contributor Alex G. Paman, has an article up at Filipinas--The Magazine For Filipinos Worldwide: Literature Of The Fantastic. An excerpt:

Fantasy and horror movies have always been staples in Filipino popular cinema. A quick glance through the DVD rental section of any Fil-Am grocery reveals a wide variety of the most current ghost stories, martial-arts superheroes and native fables fresh off their initial broadcast in the Philippines. These uniquely Pinoy films, however, are often low budget and quickly made, imitations of current trends that lean more toward showcasing attractive leading stars than producing quality native fiction.

But away from the American superhero parodies, recycled fairy tales and derivative Japanese horror imitations, there is a growing literary movement in the Philippines that seeks to dispel the camp of pop Pinoy sci-fi. Composed of award-winning journalists, writers, artists, and editors, these masters of science fiction, fantasy, and horror are now endeavoring to make a statement within mainstream literature, taking their place among the world’s top storytelling traditions to express the Filipino imagination.

“Fantasy and horror are deeply rooted in our oral traditions,” says award-winning author Dean Alfar who, along with his wife Nikki, co-edit and publish the annual Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology. “We are storytellers and listeners. It’s in our blood.”

“It’s so exciting!” says Nikki, reflecting on the current state of the genre. “Not even slightly long ago, you couldn’t write a fantasy or sci-fi story in this country without some serious scholar popping up to say, ‘But what’s the point of that? Why bother writing such a thing if it doesn’t help the plight of the poor?’ And it was fruitless to try and point out that a well-written story can illuminate the human condition, encompassing anyone’s plight, at least as well as any social realist text, because people’s minds were simply closed to the potential of writing in alternative genres.”

Click here to read Alex's entire article.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

"Turnabout" By Dominique Cimafranca

A bit belated, but PGS contributor Dominique Cimafranca had a story, "Turnabout", published in the March 30, 2009 issue of The Philippine Graphic. I found an online version of it here. Belated congratulations, Dominique!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wanted: Webcomic Artist

Ksolaris needs a webcomic artist. Scripts already exist, now an illustrator is needed. It's a paying job. Click here for details.

Andrew Drilon's Free Comic Book Day Contribution

There's just no stopping PGS contributor Andrew Drilon. He's like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps going and going and going. Check out here his contribution, Xia, to Free Comic Book Day, and see just what a talent he is. Congratulations, Andrew! Man, talk about productive.

A Couple Of Posts From An Exercise In Youthful Blasphemy

An Exercise In Youthful Blasphemy has two new posts on his blog.

The first post is Mistakes We Knew We Were Making, A Few Addenda. It's a follow-up essay to his post mentioned here. An excerpt:

I know my essays often read like a promiscuous Pez-dispenser of acerbic witticisms that strive towards cheap and easy bon mot-hood, but rest assured that each and every text I read and write about are given every chance to prove its point, each and every pointed proclamation is calculated and well-considered, and never driven by whatever personal issues people assume I may have. I have nothing against F Sionil Jose or Krip Yuson or Marjorie Evasco. I actually appreciate their existence as, together with Dalisay and Abad and the Tiempos and the Hidalgos, etcetera etcetera etcetera, they made me possible. They planted the trees whose fruits I regularly glutton on. They set the conditions that I am currently enjoying and/or despising right this very minute, in the same way that I am right this very minute setting the conditions that people will enjoy and/or despise fifty years from now. Unlike most people, though, I don’t confuse that appreciation for blind devotion. So when I say that it’s okay to not have Krip Yuson’s breezy blurby blessings or Marjorie Evasco’s limning reaction paper introductions in our books, it’s a pataphorical burning of effigies. In case it hasn’t sunk in, yet: when I suggested we commit “patricide/matricide,” I didn’t mean it literally, ie, we actually physically kill them in their sleep. I meant it metaphorically. It was an earnest call for maturity, rendered symbolically. I criticise them for what they represent, not for who they are. If people are given the freedom to celebrate these Fogeys as icons, people should be given the freedom to burn them as such.

This essay was also printed in the May 2, 2009 issue of The Philippines Free Press, and on that same page was a short paragraph saying that the editors of the magazine would respond to this essay in the May 9, 2009 issue. That May 9 issue is now out and available, so you may want to go get yourself a copy.

The second post is Necessary Ficciones, Part Two, Elaborations On The State Of The Nation Of Speculative Fiction. Part One was mentioned here. An excerpt:

In Part One, Dean Alfar agreed that Speculative Fiction at present is already out of the literary margins, but with lingering doubts about its sustainability outside of the support structures it is currently enjoying, the very same support structures that helped push it out of the margins. Kenneth Yu related a few truly horrific stories about some of the more myopic people he had had the misfortune of encountering both in the Academe and in SciFi/Fantasy Fandom itself, and concluded that SpecFic will always encounter marginalization in whatever form as people will always be biased against it somehow, and all that we can really do is just deal with it. I end Part One with a few questions about Speculative Fiction’s lack of a Bigger Politic, and its desire for Approval and Legitimacy and its demand to be left alone, two seemingly contradictory impulses.

The interview/discussion/debate was conducted just this March 2009, through eMail correspondence. The goal was to put to bed some of the issues surrounding the genre, i.e., the claims that SpecFic is still marginalised, and maybe effort to start new topics for further discussion and debate, i.e., the development of a functional critical framework solely for Speculative Fiction. This is Part Two of Three. Things heat up a bit towards the end.

Heh. I'd like to point out that though An Exercise In Youthful Blasphemy describes the stories I told in Part One as "horrific", and the people as "myopic", I look back now on those events with wry and amused detachment.

The National Artist for Literature under whom I studied and who told me not to write crime stories anymore is someone I respect very, very much. I learned a lot from him, and when I tempered my writing to match his curriculum and his preferences because, after all, he was the boss in the class, I did so respectfully, with an attitude of being open to learning new things from him despite my inclination to genre. I still have very fond memories of that man, notwithstanding his mild scolding to eschew crime stories. I mention in Part Two just what I would have done differently after he had told me this, if I had known then what I know now.

As for the other incident when PGS1 was released, where an award-winning member of the academe told me with some frustration in her voice that the term "genre" adds to the market confusion that the term "speculative fiction" had begun, well, that incident happened so fast, and the venue was so full of people, that a proper discussion could not ensue. So really, I'm fairly sure something healthy would've come out of a respectful exchange. At least, I'd like to think so.

As for the final incident mentioned with that single member of FanDom, well, I admit, that was pretty bad; but I'd like to point out that since that time I have made healthy relationships, and even friendships, with many other members of FanDom, and I consider a large number of them as good people who are deserving of respect. Many of them share too my drive to push reading and literacy. Local fandom is made up of many good people, and the unfortunate encounters I had with one person did not destroy my being open to other members of that group.

So, click on the above links and get reading! :)

My Submission To "Real Man"

My submission to "Tunay Na Lalake" just got accepted! :D :D :D

ABS-CBN: Di Tunay Na Lalake
dahil ang Tunay na Lalake
walang abs
salamat ke kapwa Tunay na Lalakeng Kyu

Sabi ko sa inyo, tunay na lalake ako! :D

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Inscribed May 2009

After Erica Gonzales got "Memos" published in Inscribed last year, another Pinay, Catherine Batac Walder, now has two of her essays published in the same magazine. Her email:

It’s May!
Two of my essays appear on Inscribed’s May issue (a magazine based in Canada). Check out, "A Magazine for Writers" Vol. 4, Issue 5 (top right hand corner)
1. Page 5 – an essay about our trip to Iceland last year – and how the country reminded me of the Philippines.
2. Page 19 - an essay that I reworked from an old e-mail to friends – that hour-long tea and chat with Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder (Sophie’s World, The Solitaire Mystery) in September 2005. I thought it was worth sharing though this essay is half of my original transcription.
Thanks to PGS (read about the magazine’s deadline from one of Kyu’s posts).
The second essay is accompanied by an artwork courtesy of my brother. It’s called “Snow Creeping,” inspired by a photo I took while living in Sogn, in Oslo. Mike took the photos for the first essay (though of course I get all the credit :-D).

Congratulations, Catherine!

Penmanila In NY

Click here to see photos and read comments about Sir Butch Dalisay's sojourn to New York for the PEN World Voices Festival, which he wrote about here. And then click here to listen to him speaking at the event.

His latest blog entry, "The Good, Raw Stuff", is up, where he talks about the recent UP Writers Workshop. Click on the above link to read his whole entry, but here's an interesting quote from it, which adds to some sentiments from older PGS blog entries:

I HAD an interesting chat in the sidelines of the workshop with crime novelist Felisa “Ichi” Batacan, whose Smaller and Smaller Circles quickly acquired a following after its publication in 2002. Now based in Singapore, Ichi is working on a “prequel” to Circles, and has co-edited a collection of Filipino crime fiction. Both of us continued to wonder why the crime-fic genre hasn’t been as popular here as it is elsewhere, especially when—as the tabloids never fail to remind us—we’re swimming in a sea of crime.

I had some ideas to offer Ichi:

Crime in this country often isn’t just crime against persons; crime tends to be socially and politically rooted, involving issues of power, privilege, and, inevitably, justice. Our crime fiction begins where others end—the solution of the crime is just the beginning of the search for justice. Our problem isn’t solving crime—our problem is the solution: once we know whodunit, what then? How do you go up against the powers that be?

But then we’re no longer talking fiction, are we?

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Great Book Blockade Of 2009--New Information (Updated)

The previous post has been updated, with a link to further links and other information, in the comments section.

My thanks to all who have been contributing further information on this matter.

Update: The post above has been updated again; I was able to get the side of Undersecretary Estela Sales of the Department of Finance.

Could The Net Become Self-Aware?

Could The Net Become Self-Aware? is the title of an article I chanced upon over at New Scientist. I was led there via this article at Cnet. Sounds like a Terminator movie, doesn't it? Or like Isaac Asimov's Multivac, which I've blogged about before twice. An excerpt:

In engineering terms, it is easy to see qualitative similarities between the human brain and the internet's complex network of nodes, as they both hold, process, recall and transmit information. "The internet behaves a fair bit like a mind," says Ben Goertzel, chair of the Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute, an organisation inevitably based in cyberspace. "It might already have a degree of consciousness".

Click here to read the whole article, and here to read "Eight Things You Didn't Know About The Internet".

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Dispatches From Manila

The link on this blog entry, as well as the comment left by The Trojan Bore here, have led me to the rest of Robin Hemley's posts at McSweeney's, appropriately entitled Dispatches From Manila. Click on the link for some interesting reads.

Bill Would Make Better Writers

Here's an article of interest over at the Inquirer: Bill Would Make Better Writers. An excerpt:

The country needs better writers. So in this day and age when disseminating information and sharing one’s thoughts are easier than ever through the Internet, according to a party-list lawmaker.

Alliance of Rural Concerns Rep. Narciso Santiago III has filed a bill that would put in place a National Writing Program to improve students’ writing skills as well as the way writing is taught in schools.

The Great Book Blockade Of 2009 (Updated)

Over at McSweeney's, I found this article by Robin Hemley, who is spending a year on a Guggenheim Fellowship in the Philippines. Here's his article, The Great Book Blockade of 2009. An excerpt:

Few countries can compete with the Philippines when it comes to corruption—it's always near the top of the list of most-corrupt nations and the G20 nations recently blacklisted it, along with only three other countries, for its banking practices. In polls, Filipinos tag customs as the most corrupt department. And for good reason.

Over coffee one afternoon, a book-industry professional (whom I can't identify) told me that for the past two months virtually no imported books had entered the country, in part because of the success of one book, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. The book, an international best seller, had apparently attracted the attention of customs officials. When an examiner named Rene Agulan opened a shipment of books, he demanded that duty be paid on it.

"Ah, you can't be too successful in this country," I said. "If you are, then people start demanding a cut."

"Even before you are successful," she said. "But, yes, I'm a Filipino, but I have to admit this is true. Have you heard of 'crab mentality'?"

I'd been hearing of this so-called crab mentality since I first arrived in the country 10 years earlier. It's the notion that crabs will climb on top of one another to escape the pot in which they are to be cooked, but, instead of letting one crab escape, the remaining crabs pull the other one back.

But most crabs I've encountered in the Philippines are small-time little hermit crabs or dashing sand crabs. The crabs in government are the kind you'd find in an old Japanese horror film, with an entire city's population running in fear as the crabs snip away public works, entire highway projects, intangibles, such as hope and justice, and, now, books.

"Yes," I told her. "I've heard of crab mentality."

The importer of Twilight made a mistake and paid the duty requested. A mistake because such duty flies in the face of the Florence Agreement, a U.N. treaty that was signed by the Philippines in 1952, guaranteeing the free flow of "educational, scientific, and cultural materials" between countries and declaring that imported books should be duty-free. Mr. Agulan told the importer that because the books were not educational (i.e., textbooks) they were subject to duty. Perhaps they aren't educational, I might have argued, but aren't they "cultural"?

No matter. With this one success under their belt, customs curtailed all air shipments of books entering the country. Weeks went by as booksellers tried to get their books out of storage and started intense negotiations with various government officials.

What doubly frustrated booksellers and importers was that the explanations they received from various officials made no sense. It was clear that, for whatever reason—perhaps the 30-billion-peso ($625 million) shortfall in projected customs revenue—customs would go through the motions of having a reasonable argument while in fact having none at all.

Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales explained the government's position to a group of frustrated booksellers and importers in an Orwellian PowerPoint presentation, at which she reinterpreted the Florence Agreement as well as Philippine law RA 8047, providing for "the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing." For lack of a comma after the word "books," the undersecretary argued that only books "used in book publishing" (her underlining) were tax-exempt.

"What kind of book is that?" one publisher asked me afterward. "A book used in book publishing." And she laughed ruefully.

I thought about it. Maybe I should start writing a few. Harry the Cultural and Educational Potter and His Fondness for Baskerville Type.

Likewise, with the Florence Agreement, she argued that only educational books could be considered protected by the U.N. treaty. Customs would henceforth be the arbiter of what was and wasn't educational.

"For 50 years, everyone has misinterpreted the treaty and now you alone have interpreted it correctly?" she was asked.

"Yes," she told the stunned booksellers.

Your comments on Undersecretary Espele Sales, on her remarks, and on Customs, as well as on Hemley's article?

Update: Further links and information can be found here, on the PGS Multiply. Thanks.

A Couple Of Posts From Bahay Talinhaga

Bahay Talinhaga shares two posts, one a summary of summer writing workshops, the other about his recent trip to bookstores:

Summer Workshops 2009

Bookstore Raid

Thanks for posting these entries.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Wabi-Sabi, 'Wa-sabi, And Me

Angelo R. Lacuesta, literary editor of The Philippines Free Press, has an essay up over at the Far Eastern Economic Review: Wabi-Sabi, 'Wa-sabi and Me. This essay was also published in the May 2, 2009 issue of The Philippines Free Press. An excerpt:

Perhaps wabi-sabi is best explained through the inner and outer meanings of the two words that make it up. Leonard Koren helpfully, or unhelpfully, explains how wabi denotes the kind of perfect beauty achieved by the right kind of imperfection. The usual example is a bowl with a mouth bent out of shape ever so slightly enough for you to know, every time you use it, that it is handmade. Sabi, on the other hand, tells of a kind of beauty that is achieved with age, or use, or neglect. For an example let us call on the delicate bloom of rust on emblematic objects such as keys or cemetery gates, and you get the idea.

At any rate, I am further informed that this concept is so difficult to explain in Western terms, meaning it might not after all be applicable to a pair of pants, even if they were made by human hands in China for The Gap a whole two weeks before you wore it.

Perhaps this is what makes wabi-sabi so appealing to me. As someone who belongs to a culture so comfortably and appallingly Western in its ways, I am one would like to remain, or thinks he would still like to remain, still quite Asian.

That is, I don’t think I am Western enough to want things explained to me, if not by instruction manuals or infomercials, then by very direct examples. I hope, for example, that I don’t always need stuff like handmade bowls and worn-down keys to suggest meanings for me so immediately or so urgently.

That said, I think what attracts me to wabi-sabi might be its very lack of an available meaning, and by the fact that the experience of that meaning only comes through over time.

An Exercise In Youthful Blasphemy reacts to the essay here.