Thursday, April 28

Nancy Drew, 75, Teenage Sleuth

Photographs from left: The Secret of the Old Clock, The Mystery at the Ski Jump, The Spider Sapphire Mystery, The Crooked Banister, all by Carolyn Keene via Grosset & Dunlap/Copyright Simon & Schuster. The Nancy Drew Files No. 2: Deadly Intent, by Carolyn Keene from Simon & Schuster. Graphic Novel No. 1: Demon of River Heights by Papercutz

Melanie Rehak, author of the forthcoming "Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her," chronicles and analyzes the enduring popularity of the forever titian haired teenage detective.

The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories are a staple of almost every girl's (and boy's, if that matters) reading fare in grade school. I first discovered Nancy Drew one day in second grade, and had to be pulled away from the library at the end of the day. But not before I grabbed three of the books and finished them all in one night.

In high school, one of my favorite tests of independence (aka playing hooky) was riding a jeep and taking the very long way home: Get off at Legarda, cross over to Recto and then Avenida and end up in Carriedo. All the while checking the piles of dust encrusted volumes for readables to take home. The Recto Chain of Booksellers has a weird pricing index--they charge you depending on the book's thickness and popularity. Thus, Danielle Steele and Harold Robbins commanded upwards of Php40-50, and you can get J.D. Salinger for what is now the price of a stubby 200ml bottle of Coke.

I always checked out this Booksale stall in Isetann Recto because they had hardbound Nancy Drews going for twenty pesos each. I'd stop by and get me a book a week, until one day all the titles were gone. The attendant told me that a girl came by earlier in the day, squealed and bought all 20 or so remaining copies. I was heartbroken.

One of my last stops was the Goodwill in Rizal Avenue. They were perpetually holding a sale, and the books were going for five pesos each. In one of the tables were piles of books of something called River Heights. Thinking that this was another update of my favorite girl sleuth, I got the first ten books and cracked the first volume the second I secured my butt on the jeep home. That was when I discovered that River Heights wasn't the same neighborhood I thought it to be. This isn't even anywhere near C.S.I. It was Sweet Valley High crossed with The O.C. and Melrose Place. Oh yes, Nancy Drew dropped in once in a while in her old school, but only to say hi and remind everyone that R.H. High used to be her playground.

The character first introduced by Edward Stratemeyer in a post-Depression America has gone on and lived through economic crises, world wars, terrorism, and hair spray. And to prove her longevity and lasting appeal, was recently updated for the graphic novel reading and computer game playing set. Nancy Drew in an RPG? Now that's kewl.

This newest incarnation says a lot about our heroine. Since she first appeared in the 1930s, Nancy Drew has changed her car from roadster to convertible, lunched with chums George and Bess, and even got herself a boyfriend in Ned Nickerson. She's lived through bobs and flips and AquaNetted hair, and will soon be sporting huge doe eyes, but her appeal has always been this: Nancy Drew is her own tough young woman.

Rehak further points out that, "In that sense she was the most modern of role models -- a girl who knew how ''to think for herself and to think logically.'' Her mother was dead, her adoring father never got in her way and there was no challenge she could not meet, be it putting together the perfect outfit for a tea party or escaping from a kidnapper -- sometimes both in the same afternoon."

Nancy Drew's River Heights was vaguely Midwestern, and relatively free from the poverty that plagued America post-Depression. Nancy never got older. She seems to be the perfect icon that the feminists in the 1960s would uphold as figurehead: This one wasn't cut up for marriage or children.

Upping the feminist quotient even more was the way the Nancy Drew cottage industry was run: It was an all-female agenda. Stratemeyer died just 12 days after the first three Drew books were published. His daughters took over the company. And while they proved to be perfectly capable in running the show, the men in publishing pandered and basically patronized the Stratemeyer girls. Then there was the writer. What the world came to know as "Carolyn Keene" was actually Mildred Wirt, a tough young writer from Iowa which the elder Stratemeyer recruited to hack the series. Wirt blossomed best when multi-tasking: The onset of World War II meant a decrease in journalists manning the homefront. So Wirt juggled writing for The Toledo Times and writing various writing jobs aside from churning out the latest from the girl with titian hair.

I'm just wondering how the newest incarnations of Ms. Drew will turn out. Will she be using techie gadgets to solve the mysteries or will it still be good old fashion clues?

Sunday, April 24

A Weblog Webliography

If you're doing a research paper on blogs, jill/txt points us to this very thorough and informative bibliography of articles and research papers on blogs and blogging. The 184 items in Kairosnews' list saves you the hassle of toiling google for sources, and is more than enough to prop your research papers.

It puts together some of the earlier articles about digital culture, including Dave Winer's History of Weblogs; Rebecca Blood's own history and perspective on the blogging phenomenon; Rebecca Mead's "You've Got Blog", an article which originally appeared in the New Yorker and coaches us on how to put our businesses, relationships and lives online; and Joe Clark's deconstruction of Mead's article, wherein he argues that blogging is an inherently incestuous preoccupation, in that “the other people who have blogs... read your blog, and if they like it they blog your blog on their own blog.”

Ten years ago, the web was still a distant hum in our universe--especially in the backwater areas like the Philippines. During that time, in my own research paper class, there was a grand total of a single paper on the topic: an attempt to "empower the students," which was pretty farfetched, given that net access was restricted to a handful of people.

Now I get no less than five web-related proposals in each of my research paper classes. True, a lot of them deal with friendster, and the students tend to write in a web/net cast not too wide and not too deep. You can give them all the framework and theory you want, but unfortunately, critical thinking can't be bought in your corner 7-11. But I'm still hoping that this improves.

Holy Penguins, Batman!

Apparently, even penguins are considered dangerous now that they have to pass through airport security machines. I can emphatize with Penny and Pat, who was described as the "more good looking one." I know I'm a little rusty, but how the hell do we know what an "attractive" penguin should be? More suave in his tux?

The ordeal made the penguins confused. I would be, too. I mean, a penguin as a threat to national security? Pat must be saying, "It's not like I planned to hijack the plane to Antarctica."

Saturday, April 23

I am not Jack's f*cking playlist

Whereas the old proverb states "you are what you eat," experts are now claiming that
what's on your playlist (or the contents of your digital library reflects listener's personality.

But as more parts of our lives are seized by technology, Ate Vi's (or was it Melanie Marquez's) pronouncement--"show me who your friends are, and I'll show you who my friends are" has to be reworked for the digital age. You are now defined by what's on your playlist. For those non-digitally inclined, "Playlists are groups of songs a person can tailor to his or her own tastes or moods for playback on an MP3 player or computer. Those tunes are picked from the larger library of music that a person can store on a portable player or computer." Psychology consultant Jason Rentfrow, who co-authored a 2003 University of Texas study of more than 3,500 people that showed musical taste can provide a road map to a person's personality, even claims that playlists and digital music libraries can be a way of evaluating potential mates or political candidates. "We do find that people are able to make fairly accurate assessments solely on the basis of a person's top 10 songs."

While I still don't own an iPod or an mp3 player, my computer's hard disk is now largely occupied by music files. If playlists now function as a pseudo-personality decoder, what does it mean then, if my library contains a Viva Lola Madonna playlist, some Simpsons (via Lisa, not Jessica) music and two versions of "Oops, I Did it Again"--one by Britney Spears and the faux 1932 Louis Armstrong original? Feh. You've got to listen to it to understand.

Sunday, April 17

Red Hot Pope Idol

If you're one of those people who have attended, at least once, either a Catholic school or a simbang gabi--and that's being really shallow of me, really, to equate religion with two rather pedestrian rituals, but rituals nonetheless--and to everyone else who gives a flying cares: the conclave begins tomorrow.

I was checking out the New York Times' coverage of the entire thing. It was interesting to read about the rituals of how to choose a new pope. Just picture this: 115 guys in red hats in a secluded villa, their decision heralded by a shoot of white smoke--it's amazing how much attention is given to the details. There's even the suggestion that cardinals are not immune to peer pressure. That guy Ratzinger arguably is the most influential of the lot. He commands at least 50 other cardinals, which although short of the 77 required to influence the early stages of voting, still counts for a lot.

According to this NYT report, the next pope can't be too conservative or too radical; he can't be a photocopy of John Paul II or present too much discontinuity. They even have a template of what the next guy should be like: "Charismatic and basically conservative. Intellectual but accessible. Speaks Italian, Spanish and English. Not too old, not too young, since the cardinals want neither a 26-year papacy like John Paul's nor a pope who will be bedridden in two or three years. A pastor, but one familiar with Vatican bureaucracy. Someone willing to let local bishops go their own way - within limits. Perhaps he would be from the third world, where the church is growing, but he has ties to Europe and could reinvigorate the flagging faith there."

I'm not really a close follower of the church. (At least not since I attended the State U--which was right after elementary graduation. All my schools since then made me wear maroon.) But I suppose it'd be useful to observe what's in store for a church that's still a billion strong.

Here's a look at the frontrunners of
the candidates who may soon be elected pope, bearing in mind that "the final decision is made by secret ballot, but before that time comes, many different candidates are considered and given an initial rating based on their personality, drive, conviction and other holy qualities." The ratings indicated are their approximate current standings as of Friday night.

Here are my two cents on the entire pope thing:

I think the two guys ranking 98 and 94 are cheating. They're one and the same, unless you're color blind and believe in the absolute powers of hair rebonding.

Although #78 is known to inspire new graduates, he's also a bit too enterprising and self-involved for my taste. I can see it now: he's going to make everyone wear aviator shades in church. Which may be a good thing.

#26 thinks that he's a shoo in. After all, he was close to God and he already exhibited magical powers. But I think he's too dangerous as he might recall the church's stand on violence and have everyone carry guns on their persons and in their purses.

It's also a close call between 36 and 37: the latter got really good reviews last year and if elected, he might reinstall Aramaic as the official language of the church, and without subtitles at that, although I think nobody and nothing can shake nor stir the former. So I think #36 is the way to go.

Saturday, April 16

Dude, where's my earthquake?

Earlier this week, a flurry of emails and text messages sent many people scurrying home before 5pm in fear of a huge earthquake that was supposed to affect Manila and Quezon City.

On the day of The Big One, I was up in Palma Hall screaming my tonsils out at students who must be from the mollusk side of evolution--they have brought along their involved parents and extended families to terrorize the registration people roughly half their age. When that particular hell blew over, went over to the shopping center to assist Yummy pick his tofu. At the cash counter, I vaguely overheard the manangs talking about some earthquake. But dense as I was, I didn't pay much attention to it until I read this blog entry from 1one2two, who vaguely reminds me of some Taiwanese boy band.

Here's a portion of the email warning us of forthcoming doom:
Now, I'm no huge fan of divination; although I will admit to being scared silly when "The Man Who Saw Tomorrow" was shown on television when I was a kid and everyone was saying that Saddam Hussein was the antichrist. It seemed plausible at the time, given that we just had this really monstrously powerful earthquake and waking up to find ash from Pinatubo on your backyard and realizing that no, it's not snow. (I believe Patricia Evangelista would have been delighted and then devastated by that, but hey.) I was studying in a Catholic school and all the nuns had us kneeling and praying all the time, and the favorite recess conversation was happenings in the Book of Revelation. I was like, what, all of ten years old?

That seemed like a lifetime ago. They also said the world was going to end with Y2K, and guess where we are right now. If the world is going to end, what else can we do? In the meantime, we have these predictions and although, again, it seems a bit plausible. People believed it. But I don't think I'd be having home before 5 especially if you note the part where the gas depot lights up and turns into a sea of fire. I can see the huge batteries of diesel and unleadeds from my window for chrissakes! If you climb up some more, I'd say you can see Manila Bay. Where do I go then to hide out the passing of the Apocalypse?

Thursday, April 14

Drive by cook

The god of Thai cookery. Whapak! Btw, sorry about the glare. That's their pic. If I took that, it'll be worse. Nyahaha.

I heart Thai food, even if sometimes I can feel the steam literally going out of my ears and other bodily orifices. Thai food can be had in a lot of places around the metro. There's Manang Thai just outside the Diliman campus, or your usually overpriced restaurants around town. Of course, the best place to eat is still the point of origin. But since my friend W, who is a chef, returned to Manila after a three year stint in Bangkok, and given the state of my finances, I doubt it if I can go back there in the near future.

So recently, I've been trying to cook my own food. (It's not just Thai food. I don't know why I sprouted a sudden interest in cooking. Fellow dungeon dweller Yummy accuses me of "nesting," which is unlikely since (1) I don't have a nest but a dungeon, (2) said place doesn't even have a stove, goddamit.) I got the cookbooks, and I've been tearing my hair and gnashing my teeth because I can't seem to find any curry paste in the supermarkets. The other day I threw up my hands and just got some curry powder, and though I haven't tried it yet, I just know it's not going to be the same. What I do is also very elementary school science lab--experimentation is the key word. But so far, I haven't really missed yet.

Then I read this article in Inq7 and basically learned that The Thai Cooking School at the Mandarin Oriental offers drive by cooking lessons to wannabe chefs. "The school offers daily and weekly culinary classes (Monday to Saturday) conducted either in English or Thai by Thai chef Sompop Nonta-ud, one of two resident teachers. A course usually takes an entire week, with at least four dishes taught each day." The clientele is rather mixed--you've got housewives, ladies who want to cook their own lunch, foodies and bonafide chefs. Although a huge percentage is supposedly to be Americans, and there are certain drawbacks. The entire course must cause an arm and a leg, given the location and clientele; then there's also the thought that I really don't know my way around the kitchen. I'm just a go and just do it girl. I can't even bake. Although I do think it's still going to be a worthwhile venture.

Anyone out there who's willing to release their inner Martha Stewart who's willing to roadtest the course and let me know how it goes?

Saturday, April 9

29 Thoughts About the Apparent Sexiness of Angel Locsin's Darna*

This is a kantogirlblues production. Don't give me crap about the image. Don't have Photoshop and am only using Paint from Windows.

1. Wait a minute, is this Star Wars or Superman?

2. Celia Rodriguez looks like some 70s bading with her ultra long lashes. Someone in the costume department is having so much fun.

3. That dating book is wrong. Women are not from Venus. They're all from Planet Marte and they're all badings in red
leather and fake eyelashes.

4. Now it's clear. This is not Mars Ravelo's Darna. This show is actually Disco Inferno.

5. And I was so sure Darth Vader's going to show up any second now.

6. I get a message on my phone: "Are you watching Darna? It's disturbing: You look like the young Narda."

7. Hmm. So does that mean I'll grow up to be Angel Locsin?

8. Bluekessa replies: "Sige, wait a few years it might happen. Or hanap ka ng bato, lulunin mo. The bigger the better."

9. Even if it's the same size as Darna's bato, it's still a tough one to swallow. Rectagular kaya yun!

10. Speaking of Young Narda, that girl better be paid well. She got the royal treatment of a soap opera heroine: kicked, beaten, lost her parents, burned house, enslaved by rich relative, got poured with water--the works. They even threw in a giant snake. It was agonizing to watch.

11. Then I realized, Omg! This show is not Darna after all. It's Darna vs Anaconda!

12. Soon, it'll be Darna vs Freddy, Jason, Alien and the Predator.

13. For a moment there, I kept thinking, please people, don't forget it's a superhero show. It's not Jolina or Angelika dela Cruz in the costume.

14. We don't want Angel Locsin trampled upon. Spare her the tears.

15. End of Day 2: Where the hell is Angel Locsin?

16. If there's something to be learned here, it's that all Manila girls are sluts. Just look at young Valentina. She's a slut AND a snake.

17. Manila girls have never heard of the healing power of moisturizers.

18. Somebody bring that girl to Body Shop or the nearest toiletries section.

19. End of Day 3: When is she--oh there she is. Finally.

20. Day 4: We should all be looking closely at the janitors in our building.

21. On second thought, maybe not.

22. There's something to be said about that transformation sequence, like how she sorts of surges forward, as though the force of the change is really powerful and knocks the wind out of her. But she can handle it.

23. Really, it is quite assuring that your superhero looks so, uh, healthy. The last Darna I remember was Nanette Medved. And boy, it made you want to mail her your leftovers as a sign of gratitude.

24. Gratitude is swooning in Darna's arms after she kicks some ass inside the LRT purple line to save you: "I've been riding this train for a year now. Oh Darna, where have you been all my life?

25. I just wish that every time she kicks ass, that costume better be superglued. Nobody wants to see their superhero naked.

26. Then you see that cloth hanging between her legs. Aanhin ni Darna ang lampin? Para pag natanggal yung bra niya, may pantakip.

27. Requirement ba na kulot dapat si Darna? Then I saw Valentina and she's also kulot. Valentina's mother is kulot and really evil. So there you go: kulot is both good and evil.

28. Eddie Garcia is very concerned about all creatures great and small. Especially small--he even advises one of them:
"Abegail, kung saan saan ka nakakarating. Gimik ng gimik. Baka mabuntis ka nyan." How cute, if it weren't for the knowledge that one of the writers is indeed named Abegail.

29. If the writer is going to show up in the soap at all, sana hindi as an ipis. What does that say about her karma, huh?

*I know. I've been reading too much Nerve.

Thursday, April 7

That computer dilemma

It's official: Computers don't help students any. The Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tested 100,000 15-year-olds in 32 developed or developing countries for math and literacy. The research revealed that students with computers actually showed diminished performances.

The scholars Thomas Fuchs and Ludger Woessmann of Munich University argued that the government drive to equip more students with computers was simply misplaced. "Computer availability was simply associated with better off, better-educated families and once family background was accounted for, the effects of computer ownership were found to be negative." On the other hand, the researchers also found out that "students with more than 500 books in their homes performed better in maths and science than those with none".

This latest study debunks the myth of the computer as educational tool: Students almost always never really use it for schoolwork. Instead they play online games, email their friends, download stuff. Or, as the researchers implied, computers actually contribute to a certain scholastic malignancy: "..if they are doing their homework, getting into bad cut-and-paste habits which will get them into trouble for plagiarism at university, assuming they ever get there."

This last part is of particular concern to me. For in the past week alone, I caught two students who applied the cut-and-paste method in their paper. I'm not saying that it's all bad. People are naturally attracted to the shiny rows of gadgets, and they do herald some sort of advancement. I can't imagine my life now without or before I acquired the computer. Actually I can: I can still see myself writing on reams of yellow paper and clacking along on a portable typewriter with its pica keys. The computer--especially one that's portable--is also very much appreciated, especially if you're a writer writing scripts that need numerous revisions. Save yourself from typing them drafts over and over again! But there's also the huge potential for distraction. Student, writer or office worker, it's all the same. You surf one site, you'll click the link and before you know it, hours and days are gone.

The report didn't say anything about laptops helping teachers teach though, but I suppose it's the same thing. It's still in how you use it, and there's really something to be said about the more traditional ways of education. Rather than acquiring shiny new objects, maybe that money's better spent on more teachers, classrooms, and (gasp!) books.

Tuesday, April 5

Hug Me, That's Right

You know I want this:

Aren't they just adorable?

The MoMA Design Store's Shake Salt and Pepper Shaker Set will just so absolutely complete my kitchen. Not to mention that it'll go really well with the voodoo knife rack. Well, that is, as soon as you lovely people send them them to me. I know you will. :)

House of the Rising Sun

House of the Rising Sun is one of those karaoke staples sung by your neighborhood toma boys. Something in the same vicinity of "My Way" and maybe "The Whiter Shade of Pale" and why-why-why-Delilah.

The song's origins is uncertain, as most folk pieces are, but much has been made of that house that was the "ruin of many a poor girl." It's always been thought of as a New Orleans song, draped with scarves and red lights. The search for the real Rising Sun stretched across generations, as the song was handed over from its 1930s incarnation as a blues number, to its more popular rock version sung by The Animals in 1964.

Recently, excavations done in a parking lot unearthed a suspiciously large number of liquor bottles and rouge pots, prompting the historical organization to dig deeper, hoping to finally unearth the legendary bordello song. Interesting bits found at the site include bones of exotic animals, which added more fuel to the mystery. According to research, girls who reside in houses of ill repute are more apt to keep pets of exotic origins, most likely birds.

Quite interesting read not just for those into pop music, but also for those into archeology and sociocultural research.

Sunday, April 3

Quake hits Metro

I was surfing while slurping my morning brew when I detected a mild swaying in my lair. No, it's definitely not caused by the karaoke upstairs. Here's the report from inq7:
Quake hits Metro Manila
Posted 09:38am (Mla time)

A MILD earthquake was felt in Metro Manila Sunday morning. There were no immediate reports of damage.
That's it. That's all of it. Wish ko lang merong additional information on how strong it was, an epicenter or if this is just one of those regular tremors we get. But no, it's like someone was sitting in front of a computer with her morning cup and felt it and then clacked some keys and then hit 'Publish.'

There you go, morning news for the people. Ha.