Friday, August 22, 2008

The awesome power of Elizabeth and Jessica

I used to be a library rat, one of those kids who would eat their lunch in 15 minutes so that the rest of the lunch hour could be spent in the company of books in the school library. I remember choosing books by the cuteness of the illustrations alone (the more cartoon-y and silly the better). As I read more, I found I gravitated towards the thicker books, and before I realized I was doing it, I was plucking out familiar serial books from the shelves, thinking that this book must be good because I liked another one by the same author.

Most serial books (read: Sweet Valley) are pooh-poohed by the highbrow lit crowd because they're populated by flat and typical characters, don't offer much of a conflict and demand so little thinking from the reader. But what these highbrow dudes are missing is the (awesome) ability of these books to initiate kids into reading.

Kids have favorite authors because they like picking favorites. I picked up a Sweet Valley because there was a cat on the cover. From then on, any spine with a Francine Pascal written on it jumped out at me from the shelf. Kids also know a good book when they finally get their hands on one, and this is when the wonderful world of reading starts to inspire them.

The first Beverly Cleary book I read was Dear Mr. Henshaw, and I read only a chapter of it, because it was in my school textbook. I liked it a lot that I looked for it in the library and read the whole thing. I wasn't disappointed; in fact, this was the first time I got the itch to write.

Recently, I've been reading and re-reading this book by Catherine Woolley called, plainly enough, Writing for Children. I bought it because a teacher once said that to write, any writing how-to book helps, so get one. And true enough, it has helped me, at least, by forcing me to decide, once and for all, what kind of children's story I want to write.

In a section entitled "Favorite Authors" Woolley writes: A child's favorite author is the one whose books he or she has come to love and eagerly look forward to, and if that author switches to an entirely different sort of story the child reader may put the library book back on the shelf in disappointment, turn away, and look for another favorite author.

I don't think I've grown out of the favorite author phase. In fact, I think I'm collecting favorite authors! I keep dropping by bargain bookstores and bookfairs for the reason that there's a series I've been dying to complete. It only means I'll be hunting for a long time, because I also keep finding new series to begin collecting wherever I go...

...and that sums up the whole awesome power of bookshelf dust bunnies like Sweet Valley.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Illustration from Indexed

Overpopulation is being touted as a "major problem" nowadays and, to solve it, people in office propose contraceptives (and by default, anything that follows...). I can't help thinking it's the easy solution to things: to solve poverty, blame it on overpopulation, then propose a bill that puts contraceptives under "essential medicine" (Section 10 of proposed RH Bill) to make it look like you're doing something about it.

(If you watch Demographic Winter, you'll see that not only is there no population explosion, but also that there's actually a population implosion. We're all getting old without people taking our places. So, looking at the illustration above, how sure are we that the future will be crowded?)

I read an article in the Inquirer's Opinion section, this one by Michael Tan, who is a well-known anthropologist. He focuses on the concern on family size, and gives reasons why big families were an advantage in a farming society but not in today's setup. The concern he brings up is how family size (read: large families) affect the country in a bad way. Quote:

What I find missing in many of the local discussions around optimum family size is the almost total lack of reference to “collective costs” for the community, if not the entire nation. The dominant view is still: “If a couple can afford to have 10 children, by all means, let them have 10 children.” A long-term view of a sustainable environment thinks of what those 10 children might mean not just for the couple but for the country, now and in the future. Politicians are beginning to recognize this, realizing that there will never be enough resources for a constituency with a large young population, and the gaps are growing all too rapidly.

This brings to mind the ecology term "carrying capacity" which refers to how much of a certain population a place can support. Which, I might add, refers only to animal population.

True, humans affect the environment: our misuse of the natural resources depletes them faster than nature can replace them. But aren't we gifted with reason to resolve these problems? Is cutting down on people (abortion and contraception are for cutting down on people) the only solution?

Of course not.

What's being overlooked in the whole overcrowding business is our ability to improve our understanding of the world around us and adjust our lifestyle accordingly. Collectively speaking, that means we won't just pollute and pollute our neighborhood; we'll organize a brigade to put our trash away properly and effectively. Isn't that the beauty of our unique ability to reason?

This is the solution: to use that reasoning. Cutting down on people is just the lazy thing to do. Not to mention the selfish thing, too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

TV ad scripts...

Maybe I'm putting too much meaning to it, but lately some TV ads are sending out grains of thought that have set off my mental alarm system. Here's one quote from a popular beauty brand:

It doesn't matter if you're 40, just as long as you look 30!

So, does that mean it's wrong to look 40 at 40? What went wrong with looking your age? This is exactly the reason people are never happy for who they are: because they waste so much stamina in worrying about how they look.

Here's another one from a food brand:

Bawal magsinungaling.... Hindi masama ang instant noodles.
(It's wrong to lie.... Instant noodles aren't bad for you.)

Why, that's a lie already! The ad then elaborates that the noodles no longer have artificial preservatives, and that's what makes it so healthy. But it completely overlooks the fact that instant noodles are unhealthy because of the high salt content, which is known to aggravate heart problems like hypertension.

Unintentional? Perhaps. But when you're trying to sell stuff, all tricks seem fair. As a consumer, one must always be careful. To put it bluntly, beware of brainwashing.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Nothing's wrong with Miss Piggy

I recently caught this 2006 fairytale film Penelope starring Christina Ricci and James McAvoy, and despite the bad reviews I found online, I like it. Sure, it's a mishmash of "picture book" and contemporary London, and the accents are confused, but those things don't matter because this is a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Penelope's impediment doesn't really make her look bad. Perhaps it's her being sheltered too long that causes the shocked reactions. But her mom, played by Catherine O'Hara, makes that difficult for her--possibly out of the shame of bearing a baby with a snout. (Whatever happened to "the face that only a mother will love"?)

Penelope's escape paved a way for her to be seen by the public...and of course they accepted her (but let's not discount the "because she's a freak" reason). The irony in the tale is that what breaks the curse is not marriage to somebody from an equally snobby family, but Penelope's acceptance of herself. It didn't come easy because of the influence of a mother who only cared about the superficial.

This mindset is the problem that the movie makes a caricature of. Because the true funny face of the movie is not Penelope's, but the addiction to looks that overlooks what matters most: the human being.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A poem to read sends a monthly newsletter and in the latest one (which found its way in my SPAM folder for reasons I somewhat understand) there's a poem by Malcolm Alexander called Beginner's Lessons. I like it, so I wanna share it here.

You must know: I'm not big on poetry, but some poems pass through the sieve and get through to me. (I suppose I appreciate them better when I don't feel I have scrutinize or explain what they mean.) Without further ado:

Beginner's Lessons
by Malcolm Alexander

If you wish to be wealthy, duck beneath
the topcoat of a well-dressed river
until you come up with a mossy boot
filled with shiners. Spend them wisely.

To tread lightly on the earth,
first breathe in and out slowly
to sense how oxygen walks barefoot,
then observe butterflies, so weightless
even our poetry burdens them.

Avoid mistaking sadness for blueberries,
but if this happens remember only one
of the two tastes like a somersault.

Make nothing more of the moon
than what it is, a great big pebble
hunting for a shoe, not to be confused
with the heart, likewise a vagabond.

Inside of every stray cat lurks a person
who discarded love. Remember this
when you bend over to wind them up.

If you feel compelled to fly a flag,
note how it struggles in vain to be a rainbow
and how envy will make it twist and flap
like a tongue. Consider instead a kite.

If you desire to reach heaven,
have your body buried in an aspen grove.
In time, all of you will wick up
into a loud version of it.

If the din of the human world overwhelms you,
trace the voicebox of an orchid with your finger.
When you get to the aria, listen.
But beware, for beauty can be a lacewing
or a meteor, and lands wherever it pleases.

When you finish reading a poem,
bend it around so you can see
yourself in it. Then laugh out loud.
Everything else now should come easy.

Friday, August 1, 2008

August is Breastfeeding Month

One of the things I remember about putting together the August issue is the word "breastfeeding." It got so overused that I could type it while wearing a blindfold and not make a single mistake (this is a big thing, considering I never learned to type properly).

Almost all our articles in here has something to do with breastfeeding--who knew we could cover so many stories on one topic? Not only is breastfeeding healthy for the mother and the child, it also encourages so many women to do something for their community.

For my story "It takes a village" I found out just how many moms go out of their comfort zone to spread the word about breastfeeding. They donate milk, wet-nurse, counsel, and get their husbands to willingly support their advocacy. Ines Fernandez of Arugaan even created (of course with the help of other Arugaan moms) a daycare--called a Creche--so that mothers could be taught to care and nurture their babies in the most natural way possible.

On a more glamorous angle, we also covered moms who make breastfeeding in public a more modest affair. Stylish nursing wear, nursing bibs and baby slings allow mothers to breastfeed discreetly--the blouses have secret holes in them so moms could feed their baby without fumbling.

Here's a sample of the 6-page fashion spread we put together. Our Editor-in-Chief Diana Uichanco got the idea of putting models against a cartoon background from a fashion spread of a magazine she used to read...but of course, we worked hard to make it better than the original (which was no easy feat!). As one of our mommy models put it, it's so easy to read but it takes so long to put together!

Our photographer for this is Harvey Tapan. The three brands we featured are Bosom Buddy, Blissful Babes and Procreation. The one who did the illustrated backgrounds is Natasha Bautista, my talented sister!

I learned so many things in this issue, and I hope many moms would too. The cover baby, by the way, is Anya Dominique R. Bautista, who is smiling for photographer George Cabig's camera.

Baby Magazine is published by Marathon Publishing, Inc., and is available in National Bookstore and SM Baby Co. stores nationwide. Enjoy!