Category: Writing/Literature


Currently Reading: Naked Lunch

I’ve always wanted to read the works of the Beat Generation writers, and I started with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (The Original Scroll).  I liked it and became more curious about his friends, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.  Then I saw this pretty 50th Anniversary edition of Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. I just had to buy it.

Just a few chapters into the book made me realize how much of an innocent I could be. Parts of it make me go “Huh?” or make me wince.  Never having tried drugs myself, and never having hung around junkies either, it takes a while for me to comprehend everything that’s going on in the book.

We read books to see different worlds, and this is definitely giving me a good look. Burroughs’ down-home, no holds barred style is making it a fascinating, eye-opening read for me.

Bookstore Pet Peeves

  • Shrinkwrapped books that get bent out of shape
  • Overly dusty, almost grimy, books
  • Price label so sticky that it leaves a lot of glue residue, or worse, peels off a portion of the cover when you remove it
  • Foil thingy sticker that practically destroys the page when you remove it.  If you don’t remove it and you have the habit of bringing books everywhere, you bear the inconvenience of always getting stopped by the bookstore guard at the exit because it sets off the detector.
  • Shelves that are way, way high

So what brought on this gripe list?  I’ve been going to the Fully Booked Gateway branch a lot lately, and I’ve noticed the poor condition of many of their books.  That branch looks like it is where old stocks go to die.  The second hand books at Booksale are in better condition!  The first few times, I thought that I just caught the branch at a bad time.  Apparently not so, after almost a month.

Anyway, I already wrote to Fully Booked to let them know about my concerns. As I told them, part of the joys of buying a brand-new book in a premier bookstore is the mint condition.  Oh, and the only item on my pet peeve list that pertains to Fully Booked is the one about the dust. 😉

We won!  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has already lifted the tax on imported books, and Finance Secretary Gary Teves promised to comply with the order immediately.  All’s well that ends well.  I hope…

Now the booksellers can claim the books still held by Customs, tax-free.  I just hope that they don’t get astronomical storage fee bills.  That might be where Customs would try to release bile and  get the last say.  Also, we must keep our guards up to make sure that they don’t sneak in something to circumvent the lift order or as a revenge on us.

But right now, this is a good day for all of us, especially those who did their part in fighting the book blockade.  Big thanks to Robin Hemley, Manolo Quezon, Louie Aguinaldo and the Facebook group, and the major contributors to the fight.  The pen is still mightier than the sword (literally and figuratively) even – or should I say, especially – in this digital age.

I’m guessing that most book-lovers in the Philippines are already aware of (and mad about) this issue.  Robin Hemley, the director of the Non-Fiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa who is in the Philippines for a one-year Guggenheim Fellowship, brought the issue to light.  Excerpts from his dispatch:

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.

—–

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”?

Read the complete story here.  Philippine Genre Stories was able to get the government’s side and posted it on their Multiply site.  Scroll down to the May 5 comments.

Another example of government ineptitude.  Perfect timing, too – just when Customs is pressured to increased their revenue.  Why didn’t they think of reviewing and coming up with the “correct interpretation” of the Florence Agreement at the height of the Harry Potter fever?  Let’s see what will happen and how the book sellers will respond.  Will they raise prices or lessen inventory?  Either way, it’s not good.  Twilight, for all its faults, has at least led young people to read books again.  Even if only a small percentage of them go on to read other books, it would still be great thing.

Books are already quite expensive as they are right now, though still cheaper here in the Philippines when you convert and compare it to the cover price in US dollars. But when books become more expensive because of the new tax, then fewer people will buy books.  Hmm, perfect plan to dumb down the citizens so we don’t get exposed to all sorts of ideas that would lead us to see all the faults of and question our government.

It’s not really the tax that’s bothering me.  It’s the opportunism, the violation of a treaty and a law, and the equal measure of ignorance and arrogance being displayed by the concerned government officials.  Taxes are fine, provided they are imposed for the right reasons and most importantly, that citizens reap the benefits.  Ha, another utopian dream.

Let’s all just continue to make noise about this issue until this nonsense is scrapped.

******

Update:  May 12, 2009

Manolo Quezon has a detailed and well-research blog entry on the issue.  It includes a timeline dating back to 1945, plus references.

Our concerns are continuing to gain ground, so let’s not simply let this issue go.

From The Graveyard to The Queue

Last night, I closed the gates on Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and headed straight into Vladimir Sorokin’s The Queue.  I felt sad after the bittersweet ending of the first book, so I needed something upbeat or quirky.  The Queue is composed entirely of one-liners from an assortment of characters in a seemingly never-ending line for god-knows-what in Soviet-era Moscow.  I’m still only 32 pages into it, but I’m riveted.  I thought it was going to be difficult to keep track of what’s going on and who’s saying what, but I actually found it easier to do the former once I stopped doing the latter.  And the fun part this evening?  I read about 20 pages of it while standing in a long line for the shuttle going home.  How’s that for a bit of life imitating art? 😀

Presenting my pet project…

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Application Description:

Ever found yourself pressed for time, yet still wanting to prepare delicious and healthy meals? Want a different way of serving regular desserts and drinks? Then the Eat Rich Quick cookbook series is for you. Eat Rich Quick presents flavorful, easy-to-prepare recipes that don’t require long hours in the kitchen. Watch out for different themes in succeeding volumes.

Eat Rich Quick 1 is labeled “The Cheater’s Guide to Eating Well”. This application contains recipes that allow you to save time and energy; and when you serve the food, the others in the table won’t even have a clue about how quick it took you to prepare it. You can choose from 14 different recipes, ranging from appetizers to desserts. All the recipes are stored right in the application so you can access them anytime; no need for a wi-fi connection.

Eat Rich Quick also contains these other features for a more informative and interactive experience:

» Food shots (including some step-by-step images) – Tap to enlarge
» Cook’s Notes – Tips and tricks from the author
» Grocery List – Check-box feature to help you while shopping
» Cooks’ Community – Email the author or visit the blog to post comments, get more cooking tips, and see what other Eat Rich Quick users are saying

Enjoy cooking, and watch out for the next volume of the Eat Rich Quick series!

I loved doing this project!  I enjoyed working on the interface with the graphic designer and the developer, as well as with the author.  It was also nerve-wracking since it was our first time to come up with something like this.  There were plenty of bumps in the road, but finally seeing it on the App Store and seeing the download statistics were all worth it.  We’re still seeing a lot of things to improve, but this version’s not bad.  I would say it’s great, but then again, it’s my baby, so I’ll leave it to the users to decide.

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597603 One of the iPhone/iPod Touch comics apps our company has been developing is finally up for sale ($0.99) at the iTunes store.

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Here’s the description of the series:

From the Dead
Written and Drawn by Jonas Diego

When strange murders started happening all over the city the mysterious organization known only as “The Foundation” turns to their best operative, Frank to help them clean up the mess and solve the problem. The only problem is that Frank’s been retired for many years and less than enthusiastic about going back to work for his former employers.

The Foundation however has ways and means to convince him to take the case.

Having no choice in the matter he takes the case hoping to close it quickly and get The Foundation off his back.

Frank’s only lead is an informant belonging to a cult who could possibly shed some light on his case and point him in the right direction.

Things take a turn for the worse when his beautiful contact appears from nowhere, out of her mind, and being chased by monsters…which is about one of the worse things that could happen to Frank.

Because one of his few weaknesses are damsels in distress…

Though this is not the first iPhone app developed in the Philippines (I believe it’s iManila), this is the first comics and the first that is also relevant to the international market.

For now, we’re focusing on e-book applications.  Next up (pending approval from Apple) will be the e-cookbooks – my pet project, yey! 😀

Calling on Filipino authors…if you have interesting e-book ideas, please get in touch with me through this blog.  Leave your email address on the comment box (I won’t publish them) and I’ll contact you for the terms and conditions.

A Saturday in the Bookstore

Posting from Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street, using Tintin’s ThinkPad… She’s currently roaming around, probably nesting in the cookbook section.  I’ve already done my bit earlier while she was creating her travel journal and uploading travel photos.  This is my first time to go to this branch and I love it!!!  I may never go home, hehehe.  I’ll hide somewhere so I don’t have to leave at closing time, and then I’ll have the place all to myself afterwards. :evil grin 

I got Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man!  I’ve been searching for other Discworld books, specially the ones featuring Death.  I love that character.  I know that Death is supposed to be morbid, but he’s really very funny and very “human” in the Discworld series.  Actually, I bought the last two shelf copies of Reaper Man – one for myself and one for Tanya.  I just had to text her and ask if she wants me to buy it for her.  It’s called “self-preservation”.  She’s quite obsessed with Terry Pratchett, and that’s putting it mildly, haha!

It’s odd how I keep combing bookstores for books that I want to read but can’t seem to find, even though I could always get them online at Amazon.  But for me, nothing still beats the physical experience of going to the bookstore – soaking up the texture, and yes, even the smell of books!  Even if I don’t always buy anything, I still enjoy every trip to a bookstore. 

We’ve been here since around 2pm (it’s now almost 6pm), and I don’t know what time we’ll be leaving.  There’s a Starbucks conveniently located on the 3rd level.  It’s also the Eraserheads reunion concert tonight here at The Fort.  We don’t have tickets, but I hope to hear some parts of it.  I don’t know the exact venue, but I’m almost 100% sure it’s gonna be open air.  There’s no enclosed show venue here!

Gotta go now…I still haven’t explored the fourth level, which has the art, design, architecture, photography and music sections.

A Re-discovered Book Heaven

I felt like getting lost in rows and rows of bookshelves before going home tonight.  I’ve already had enough of Powerbooks Megamall and Fully Booked Gateway, so I decided on a new venue – the National Bookstore Super Branch in Cubao, right beside Gateway Mall.  Guess what?  I scored a great find!  Terry Prachett’s illustrated The Last Hero – for only P355.  I haven’t seen it in any of the other bookstores that I frequent.  Maybe a lot of people here already have a copy of that, but I’m a belated reader of the genre (thanks to Tanya and Trish for getting me into it) so I’m really happy about it.

I’ve also rediscovered the fourth floor of this particular National Bookstore.  It’s filled with bargain books (almost everything goes for only P200) and anyone with the patience – and time – to comb through miles of shelf space will surely emerge with great finds.

This branch was my favorite stop-over before going home back in college.  The emergence of Powerbooks and Fully Booked, plus working in Ortigas and Makati (rarely passing Cubao on the way home) eventually pushed it towards the back of my head.  Now I’m really glad to be reacquainted with my old book haven.  As my officemates and I discussed during lunch break yesterday, at least our addiction is not on drugs or anything harmful and wasteful. 🙂

For the first time in a while, I’ll have the weekend free…I think. I’m off to Gateway with Anna this evening, but after that, I’m a free agent for the rest of the weekend. Well, it’s my dad’s birthday tomorrow, but I still don’t know what the plan is. There’s also a vague plan to watch Kung Fu Panda with my friends, but I haven’t heard from them about it, and I actually don’t feel like going out this weekend. Resting for the Baguio trip, haha! A veg out-weekend is starting to look very appealing to me right now.

Or maybe start writing again…now that my muse appears to be in the vicinity. And yes, he is male and even has a name in my head – Carlos.  This Enigma in the office building somehow inspired me, giving me lots of stories in my head, some of which germinated in “what-if” sessions with Tricia.  We have this fun game of inventing lives for familiar faces and interesting characters in the building – which usually turns out to be complete opposites of their real lives once we got to know snippets of those.

The Enigma is just so intriguing and appears to have a complex character that I just have to plumb its depths, if only in fictional stories.  I have a feeling though that his character can never be fully unlocked until…