Tuesday, October 24

About Googling your mother and writing a biography in the digital age

More proof that perhaps it's a Google world after all: John Dickerson writes in Slate on the difficulties of writing a biography in the digital age. While you can cast your net wide and google the net for sources, combing through the details of what you find about your subject, especially if said subject was a parent, it becomes a balancing act between the roles of writer and child.

Thursday, October 19

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

If you consider yourself a well-read person, try to check out Listology's 1001 books you must read before you die. As far as I'm concerned, the only thing these so-called lists accomplish is to remind me that I'm pretty much a barbarian. It's like when the American Film Institute came up with their 100 Most Important (American) Films Ever. While I was familiar with most of the films in that list and at the time I averaged a hundred films watched annually, I found out I haven't even watched half of it. We're not even touching the New York Times list.

The same is true with the Thousand Books List. After I crossed out all the books I've read and my batting average is so low that the percentage of what I've read is but a single digit. And I'm supposed to be an English major who loved books. Shameful.

I found out interesting things though. The only comic book in that list was Alan Moore's Watchmen. Paulo Coehlo made the list twice--for Veronika Decides To Die and The Devil and Prym. The only Stephen King in the list is The Shining.

The list was arranged from the most recent (2000s) to pre-1700. Of the 69 books deemed important and published since the year 2000, I've only read two: Chuck Palahniuk's Choke and Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex which totally bowled me over and the only book I've read this year that I really, really, really loved. It was so great that after every other page I was probably muttering, "Shyet, ang galing niya" and yes, that's a totally unintellectual reaction.

Of the over 700 books from the 1900s, I read around 20 and I read most of them during college. There's Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan of the Apes, novels by Winterson, Kundera, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Philip K. Dick. Only 25% was required reading. The Catcher in the Rye and The Little Prince I had already read and would read on my own even if they weren't required in class. I was asked to read The Bluest Eye in the same course where Catcher was required. But Heart of Darkness was a different matter. I read the first page over and over again because my brain just rejected what my classmates dubbed as Joseph Conrad's "constipated" prose. But that's just half of the Joseph Conrad double bill--there's The Secret Sharer to contend with. What made things worse was that both texts had to be read using the post-colonial framework and our teacher was always asking, "And what's the political implication of that?" The only good thing about that experience was that we also got to watch Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Then again, maybe I'm just compensating for the trauma. I think some books need a certain frame of mind for you to finish them. Maybe if I gave Conrad another go and it wasn't required, things might have flowed more easily. It's more difficult if you had a week to read both pieces and Jane Austen.

Which brings us to the 1700s and the 1800s, where all the books I read can be classified into extremes. It's either the high adventure of the Robert Louis Stevenson and Daniel Defoe kind or the high drama of Dickens. Of course there's also Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott--little girl favorites really. The early sci-fi from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells made an appearance. There's also the adventures offered by Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift. The weird thing is that I read all these so-called classics in grade school, before the age of twelve, between forays in River Heights and Wonderland. It's either the school librarian thought highly of us kids. Or perhaps I disdained the Ewoks story collections and I hadn't discovered Sweet Valley Twins yet.

Before the 1700s, there's really just Aesop's Fables, and that I went through before grade school. My mom got me this book that came with a cassette tape with a man and a woman reading the fables. At the end of each reading was a lesson usually as simple as "save for a rainy day" or "do not be boastful." I really liked the one about the frog who got really puffed up and burst and the one with the fox going through a vineyard sourgraping. Hmmm...

If you view this list chronologically, I seem to be reading less and less, even with the 50 book list and conscious efforts to read more. In my head, I can hear my former professor's shrill admonision: "My god, you're all so culturally impoverished!" Then again, even if all I devoted my existence to reading and forget about the world and the assumption of a life, it'll take me a lifetime or more to read all these damn books we really should be reading. Feh.

Sunday, October 15

How to write a novel, natch

52 Projects gives us tips on how to write your own novel while you're on the clock. Especially helpful if you're a bundy puncher, but perhaps most difficult when you have to stand in front of classroom and can't hide in your office all the time.

November is supposedly novel writing month once again. Either I do that. I have until March to finish a class project, but I'm starting to think that this is really an impossible thing to do. Reading about other writers, like Jeffrey Eugenides, who finished a novel in about nine years, isn't helping me much. And his novel won the Pulitzer, too. Argh!

Another solution comes to mind: abandon this thing altogether. But that will mean I'll be thrown one class back into my long hopscotch game towards finishing my grad studies. Oh well.

Planet Google

The New Yorker has this amazing piece about the YouTube phenomenon, right after news got out that Google bought the video-sharing website.

Or, as this New York Times article suggests, are we all getting sucked into the Google worm hole?

Is this a sign of the apocalypse?

Sunday, October 8

Betty La Fea Worldwide

The television show "Ugly Betty" is getting raves from critics and viewers alike. America is rather late catching on to the Betty La Fea craze. I watched the original show dubbed in Filipino by actress Chin Chin Gutierrez around four years ago.

But apparently, the one currently showing in the States is not the original but rather an American remake. The lead is played by America Ferrera, who starred in HBO's "Real Women Have Curves," previously discussed here. Also in the series is Eric Mabius, who played swim coach Tim in The L-Word, and Vanessa Williams.

There's also a LiveJournal community that has also posted photos of the various Ugly Betties worldwide. Apparently, the trend now is not just dubbing an entire series but remaking it. In Russia, their version of the 80s show "Perfect Strangers" also just debuted. I wonder if the Philippines would soon follow suit. I also want to see whether they made adjustments to the script to adapt to the show importer's home culture.

Public Service Announcement: Notes on Manila Crime

Manila Police District acting director Senior Supt. Danilo Abarzosa identifies petty crime hot spots around Manila. Just so you know where to hold tight to your bags and mobile phones in case you find yourselves in these areas:

"R-10 Road, España Street from Morayta to Lacson, Pedro Gil Street from Osmeña Highway to Plaza Hugo, and on Taft Avenue from Vito Cruz to Lawton, Recto Avenue from Abad Santos to Del Pan, Quezon Boulevard to Quezon Bridge, and from Quezon Boulevard to Legarda (University Belt area)."

According to Abarzosa, criminals usually strike in these crime-prone areas from 4 p.m. to 12 midnight when workers and transients travel home from work. I can personaly attest that the long stretch of Pedro Gil from Malate all the way to Sta. Ana is really dangerous. I had a new backpack slashed and had my phone stolen, and later while on a jeep, some guy with a knife snatched my bag. Another passenger tried to give chase but was almost stabbed by the snatcher's posse so we let it go.

Thursday, October 5

Green Crayons

So somebody's been making googling me and the link lead me to a student blog. She was ranting and it wasn't really clear what it was about. Then she said something like this:

"I'm spinning around and I don't really have a point. But it's okay. It's not like I'm submitting this to (kantogirl) and she's not going to mark this with green crayons."

That's mostly it. Yes, I had this phase when I corrected papers using dermatographs--blue, green, orange, but never red. They're not really crayons. Better that than angry red ink. These days I just use pencils. Hey, at least I got off easy.

Unlike some other colleagues who got called names like bitch or fag, mostly because the kid got low grades in their subjects. The Bitch found out about this student blog entry about her on a really good day (like the night of a big literary award) and her husband googled her name and they found the blog. The supposed bitch is usually very nice and so she was surprised that somebody would call her names. She couldn't really remember the kid, but good thing because the blog had photos. When she ran into this kid in a busy hallway, she accosted him and said, "Would you like me to also blog about you?" Poor kid.

Meanwhile, the colleague who got called a fag wasn't offended at all. It's stating the obvious daw.

Anyway, it's paper checking season. Sooner or later, some disgruntled student would post something about a low grade they got in that subject and rant about it in their blogs. I'm pretty sure a bunch of kids are calling me a bitch somewhere. Let them. Then I'll do a google search later and do a Bitch/Fag combo. I'll stalk them right back. Or maybe I'll post excerpts from student papers this semester if I've got the time. Students aren't the only ones with blogs, you know. Hehehe.

Random Wisdom from Girl Goddess #9

I had probably done this before, but since I saw it off The Sandwich Maker's blog, might as well post it again:

1. Grab the nearest book
2. Open book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post text of sentence on your blog. Please include book and author along with these instructions.
5. No digging about for the "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! (I know you were thinking about it!) Just pick up whatever is closest.

My sentence is this:

"If there was going to be beauty she would have to make it herself."

That's from the story "The Canyon," found in Francesca Lia Block's Girl Goddess #9, which I just finished reading. The weirdest story in that collection was "Dragons in Manhattan." It's about a girl who runs away from her two moms, Izzy and Anastacia, to look for her father. One of the women is her birth mother, but the bizarre thing is that one of them turns out to be her father as well. When I got to that part, I was already going like, "You've got to be kidding me."

Anyway, I used to like reading Block when I was in college. She writes about kids talking to blue creatures from their closets because their mom just died, a groupie who followed and slept with rock stars, girls who know Cocteau and fall in love with boys because he can name all the rose varieties in the garden. All her characters have weird names like Lady Ivory or Tuck Budd or Pony and Pixie. Probably why I had characters named Ludovico. Weh. I wasn't able to read this book the first time it came out because it probably was too expensive at the time. But I got this particular book for 20 pesos in this small bookstore near Morato. Not bad.

Monday, October 2

Sad Bastards Wanted

Francey Russell longs for the nearly extinct sad bastards in American cinema: "Whatever happened to real men in cinema, and when?" She presents a screen history of the angry, sometimes inarticulate men typified by Nicholson and Brando (and even later, Patrick Swayze--yes, that one) and how these men have all but disappeared and replaced by Valium-popping guys like the one played by Zach Braff in Garden State.

Which then reminds me that you can get a copy of Rick Moody's novel Garden State --which doesn't really have anything to do with the Braff's film with the same title, I think--from the newly-opened Fully Booked in The Block in SM North. But sadly, you can also get from there a copy of Mitch Albom's new novel that basically tells you that you should live a full life. As if that's not bad enough, "For One More Day" sounds like a diva song title, the kind that will have revved up motorbikes, thunderclap and lightning incorporated in the song and goes "Oh, baby baby baby." Sure, it makes for great videoke entertainment really. But then again, who buys books for their potential videoke entertainment value? So you can console yourself about this last thought by sitting in their cafe and get warm. That cafe must be the only place above freezing in that area.