Thursday, June 23, 2011

By J.K. Rowling 
P  R  E  S  S      R  E  L  E  A  S  E 
Strictly embargoed until 12.01 hrs British Summer Time
Thursday 23rd June 2011 
J.K. Rowling announces Pottermore  
J.K. Rowling today, Thursday 23rd June, answered mounting speculation about the nature of her new project and announced  Pottermore, a unique and free-to-use website which builds an exciting online experience around the reading of her hugely successful Harry Potter books, and is partnered by Sony.  The announcement today was heralded by the revealing of the website’s name via an online search for its letters, and a ‘coming soon’ holding page which received over a million visits within 36 hoursof launching. 
For this groundbreaking collaborative project, J.K. Rowling has written extensive new material about the characters, places and objects in the much-loved stories, which will inform, inspire and entertain readers as they journey through the storylines of the books.  Pottermore will later incorporate an online shop where people can purchase exclusively the long-awaited Harry Potter eBooks, in partnership with  J.K.  Rowling’s publishers worldwide,  and is ultimately intended to become an online reading experience, extending the relevance of Harry Potter to new generations of readers, while still appealing to existing fans.  As the Pottermore Shop develops, it is intended that it should include further products designed specifically for Harry Potter fans, offering a potential outlet for Sony products and services related  to Pottermore.    In keeping with Harry Potter’s international appeal, the site will launch in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, with more languages to follow. 
In the new website, the storyline  will be brought to life with sumptuous newly-commissioned illustrations and interactive ‘Moments’ through which you can navigate, starting with the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone. On entering, you choose a magic username and begin your experience.  As you move through the chapters, you can read and share exclusive writing from J.K. Rowling, and, just as Harry joins Hogwarts, so can you. You visit Diagon Alley, get sorted into a house, cast spells and mix potions to help your house compete for the House Cup.    
At a press conference at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Rowling revealed some key features of the website. In an announcement which will thrill fans, she described how she has brought to life both the Sorting Hat and Ollivanders experiences from her books for the first time on Pottermore, by revealing the questions asked by the Sorting Hat  - which places newcomers into their Hogwarts houses according to their characteristics - and the magic behind the Wand Chooser – which finds the right wand for each user from over 33,000  possible combinations. She also revealed glimpses of the new information she has provided on some of the best-loved characters.J.K. Rowling’s announcement on YouTube and today revealed that Pottermore (along with the Pottermore Shop) will be open to all users in October 2011.  From today, 23rd June, fans can submit their email addresses on in order to be contacted by the site following the opening of registration on 31st July, Harry’s birthday.  Also on that date, an online challenge will be launched, whereby the first million people to complete their registration will gain early entry into the website, and help put final touches to the experience.   
J.K. Rowling commented, “I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new digital generation.  I hope fans and those new to Harry will have as much fun helping to shape Pottermore as I have.   Just as I have contributed to the website, everyone else will be able to join in by submitting their own comments, drawings and other content in a safe and friendly environment – Pottermore has been designed as a place to share the stories with your friends as you journey through the site.” 
Pottermore has been made possible with the support and partnership of Sony. 
Sir Howard Stringer,  Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President  of Sony Corporation, commented: “Sony's association with J.K. Rowling's Pottermore brings together one of the world’s most innovative  brands with the most successful book series in history, in a pioneering partnership that will help shape the future of story-telling.   We are proud to be a part of it, both at this momentous announcement, and as we collaborate on its development over the coming years.” 
On Sony’s partnership of Pottermore, J.K. Rowling commented: “As I think people know, I am very protective of Harry and have always been very selective with any new initiatives, but I am totally committed to making this partnership with Sony and this wonderful  new website a success.  There are many companies I could have worked with on this ultimate digital  expression of Harry Potter’s universe, but it is Sony’s unique philosophy of creativity in harmony with technology that made them my first choice as main partner. The spirit behind Sony’s make.believe philosophy is one that rings true with Pottermore’s own values.”
The detailed creative execution has been led by TH_NK, a leading UK digital  agency,  under the supervision of J.K. Rowling and the Pottermore management team, in co-operation with Sony.   J.K.Rowling’s publishers, Bloomsbury in the UK and Scholastic in the USA, as well as her international publishers worldwide, have been active supporters in the creation of and thePottermore Shop.  Warner Bros, the makers of the hugely successful Harry Potter film franchise, is also one of the partners who have worked to support the launch of Pottermore through a variety of marketing, promotional and other efforts, and will continue to collaborate as the project grows. The storyline of the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, will go live on the site in early 2012.  The Pottermore Shop opens when the site opens to all in October, selling complete ranges of the eBooks and digital audiobooks in a selection of languages, exclusively.Designed for fans of all ages, the website has been created with child safety in mind, employing best practice and compliance with internet codes of practice in the UK, Europe and USA, and elsewhere.   

Screenshot preview of the site from here.

That's it, I'm officially psyched!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I saw this on a Facebook page that my friend is participating in. Since I love the written worlds with a passion, I can't help but answer. I decided to publish it here instead of posting everyday on Facebook for the next 30 days (which is probably the point but let's try to ignore that) because I don't think I have the time nor determination to finish the whole thing till Day 30. So yes, let's just pretend I'm actually posting a really long status on my Wall.

*Opens up Stanza app and memory neurons in my head*

Day 01-Your favorite Book
Can't. Pick. One. Seriously.

Day 02-Least Favorite Book 
New Moon - Stephanie Meyer

Day 03-A Book that completely surprised you (bad/good)
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Day 04- A Book that reminds you of home

Day 05- A Non-fiction book that you actually enjoyed
Fundamentals of Nursing - Kozier

Day 06- A Book that makes you cry
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffeneger

Day 07- A Book that’s hard to read
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Day 08- An unpopular book you believe should be a Best-Seller
The Gun Seller - Hugh Laurie

Day 09- A Book you’ve read more than once 
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling

Day 10- The first novel you remember reading
Tick Tock - Dean Koontz

Day 11- The Book that made you fall in love with reading
The Lucky Ones - Nicholas Sparks

Day 12- A book so emotionally draining you couldn't complete it or had to set aside for a bit
The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

Day 13- Favorite childhood book
Baby-Sitter's Club Series - Ann M. Martin

Day 14- Book that should be on hs/college required reading list
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Gregory Maguire

Day 15- Favorite book dealing with foreign culture

The Book Thief - Mark Zusak

Day 16- Favorite book turned movie
Something Borrowed - Emily Giffin

Day 17- Book turned movie and completely desecrated
The Other Boleyn - Philippa Gregory

Day 18- A Book You can’t find on shelves anymore that you love
Fearless - Francine Pascal

Day 19- A Book that changed your mind about a particular subject (non-fiction)
Microbiology and Parasitology

Day 20-A Book you would recommend to an ignorant/racist/closed minded person
Atonement - Ian McEwan

Day 21-A guilty pleasure book
Sleeping Beauty - Anne Rice

Day 22-Favorite Series
The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins 

Day 23- Favorite Romance Novel
Something Blue - Emily Giffin

Day 24 - A Book you later found out the Author lied about
The Other Boleyn - Phillipa Gregory

Day 25-Favorite Autobiographical/Biographical book
Never read a straight autobiographical book. For some reason, stories of real people doesn't interest me.

Day 26-A Book you wish would be written
The Adventures of Albus Severus Potter - JK Rowling ;)

Day 27- A Book you would write if you had all the resources
(Something to the tune of) Mortal Instruments Trilogy - Cassandra Clare

Day 28- A Book you wish you never read
Nights in Rodanthe - Nicholas Sparks

Day 29- An Author that you completely avoid/hate wont read
No one really, even Stephanie Meyer didn't make the cut. Would give any book written by anyone a try.

Day 30 - An Author that you will read whatever they put out
Queen J.K. Rowling and Cassandra Clare

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dearest Yamaha Keyboard,

I know how you must feel right now, cloaked under a foamy plastic cover while renegade dusts settle in between your buttons and keys. I know you feel disused, forgotten, abandoned even, and I don't blame you for that. I admit, I have been busy with something else lately and it must be painful for you to watch me as I cuddle up with my laptop night after night while you stay sulking quietly beside me.

But please know that my love for you have not lessened over the years. I remember the time when we would spend time with each other for hours, me attempting to do the scales and rigorous finger bending Hanon routines at the start of every session. Sometimes, I would just jump straight to playing a piece but my hands would feel stiff and the keys foreign. After a few minutes of treading blindly did I only start to feel the familiarity of your ivory keys, and the composition would start to sound the way that it should.

I remember the hours and days of arduously studying a sheet music as well as the feeling of absolute freedom of trying to arrange my own version of a song. The best part of everything is performing a well-mastered piece, the feeling of my fingers gliding effortlessly across your vast expanse of musical possibilities.

I think you already have memorized my favorite ones so well, the ones that I would not fail to play every time we are together. Canon in C takes the cake, always the first of many classical and modern pieces that would follow after it. Its swaying melody and simple thrills relaxes me and makes me remember everything beautiful about music and you, my instrument. Valentine by Jim Brickman would probably follow afterwards, just because I know it so well I could probably play it blindfolded.

Later would the more articulate pieces follow. The Swan by Camille Saint Saens, Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms, The Entertainer by Scott Joplin, Canon in D by Pachelbel, Gymnopedie by Erik Satie and Claire de Lune by Debussy (yes, regrettably Sparkly Edward's favorite) will flow from your speakers on those times I was feeling a bit peckish for the classical era. It doesn't make me think less of myself to know that most of the sheet music are simplified arrangements. Just as long as the heart and the melody is there, I am happy.

The rest I know by chords and playing these kinds of songs straight from my brain without notes and meters to follow was liberating. Sometimes, when I haven't played an arrangement for a while, since I don't have a piece of paper telling me which keys to press, I would struggle to remember the notes that followed and exasperation will grow on me until such time that I finally get a hold of it. And I always do. I always knew how to find my way back to you.

I guess all I want to say is that I've missed you and I hope that you and I can still make great music together even after all these months.

So you see, dearest friend, you have nothing to worry about, nothing to fear. For the dusts may accumulate but the music is never forgotten.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Draco Malfoy, there you are.

A little background: I spent my pre-adolescent years reading (and writing) Harry Potter fanfiction. There was this certain fanfiction trilogy that was so superb, it garnered a legion of fans, its own fan art and even 2nd degree fanfictions. Fans would wait for the next chaper with bated breath the way canon-loving readers would wait for the next Harry Potter book by Queen JK Rowling. I am talking about Draco Trilogy, and for years, I idolized the Joss-Whedon-quoting, slash-loving and HP fanfiction legend, Cassandra Clare. 

It took me some time to read her books even though I knew (and saw in bookstores) of her published YA novels. Having reread the thousands of pages of her fanfiction Draco Trilogy, I never realized how much I missed the good 'ol days of geekily roaming around the cyberhalls of or talking about what would happen next. I also missed Draco Malfoy's complicated character in the trilogy, much better than JK Rowling's characterization of Slytherin's little prince, I dare say.

Imagine my awe and amusement as I began reading Cassandra Clare's very own world and her own set of quirky characters. They were so familiar I would be able to tell that they were CC's work even without the title and author info on the book. There were also tons of little inside jokes and other uncanny similarities like the mention of "Still Not King" button (from her Lord of the Rings humor fic The Very Secret Diaries) and even the bedtime story about a little boy trying to train a raven to please his Father (yes, with a capital "F") is synonymous to that from Draco Veritas.

If one have followed CC's fanfiction writing years as I have, one would know that she is also a fan of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel having used numerous quotes from both the series and her characters having adopted the same witty and peculiar Whedonverse tongue. It is from these inspiration, that I guess, she picked up some of the traits of the altered urban city from her own books.

There are also other things I've noticed like having a pub / restaurant catering to demons is reminiscent of Angel the Series' demon-scattered Los Angeles. Usage of birds and fireplaces for sending letters and mails, lifted from Harry Potter, as Valentine reminds me of Voldemort, the Circle a toned down version of the Death Eaters and Muggles into Mundanes.

The same way Jace is a spitting image of Draco Malfoy from CC's Draco Trilogy, Simon reminds me of Ron Weasley and Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer combined and Isabelle has the persona of Draco Veritas' version of Fleur Delacour.

Believe me when I say that all of these are rather well-meant compliments. These are precisely the things that I love most about the series. Amidst the undertone of lack of originality (which is totally not the purpose of the paragraphs above), I relish the Mortal Instruments' world because it precisely took most of the things that I loved about stories and characters that I was addicted to before and meshed it up into this epic tale that hooked me right from the very beginning. Coupled with Cassandra Clare's graphic and intelligent writing style, there is little that I could complain about.

That said, Cassandra Clare's own personal story is in itself inspiring. From writing fanfiction just for fun of it to being a worldwide best selling author of a YA series with probably a movie in the works, one can really say that, the fate that brought her into such avenue (of course with hard work, determination and a little bit of luck) is nothing short of... magical.

Friday, June 10, 2011

House Bill 4509: “An act penalizing the distribution, possession with intent to distribute and production of any device for the physical stimulation of human genitals for anything of pecuniary value and providing penalties for violations thereof.”

After reading this statement, a few questions popped into mind: What about electric toothbrushes? Back massagers? Bathroom bidets? Cellphones on vibrate? What about vegetables? Are eggplants going to be banned?? I'm going to miss my tortang talong! What about *gasp* hands?
 Ban sex toys in PH, bill urges 
MANILA, Philippines - Two party-list lawmakers are proposing a bill that would prohibit the ownership and distribution of sex toys in the country. 

House Bill 4509, authored by Buhay party-list Reps. Irwin Tieng and Mariano Michael Velarde, aims to "protect the morals of the society," they said in a statement. 

If passed, violators would be penalized with one-year imprisonment and a P30,000 fine. 

"The influence of obscene devices primarily for the physical stimulation of human genitals may seem unnoticed. The proliferation of these obscene devices which are insensitively and openly displayed in shops or stalls is very alarming," Tieng said. 

"This is also in keeping with the policy of the state to value the dignity of every human person and to promote and safeguard its integrity and the moral, spiritual and social being of its citizenry from the pernicious effects of obscene devices," Velarde added. 

Tieng and Velarde defined sex toys as any device that "can be used to stimulate human genitals," "could trigger sexually impure ideas" or "can give room to sex-related offenses." 

HB 4509 came on the heels of a debate among lawmakers on the Reproductive Health Bill, which would see the state give condoms to the poor. 

Let me get this straight, if this is just for the regulation of the sale and display of said adult toys then I can support this bill. That shops should have adult sections in their stores and that the bangketa display of these kinds of materials in populated areas be prohibited is not at all that bad. However, from the generalization of the terms and the reason presented for this kind of law to-be, I think these politicians are trying to bite off more than it should chew.

Fine, we can rationalize this as a measure for maintaining the innocence of the minds of our Filipino youth (because, God forbid, they should have zero knowledge about sexuality and even on how their own bodies work), but saying that these kind of gadgets can "trigger sexually impure ideas" and "can give room to sex related offenses" is just plain rash.

A piece of advice, if they want to ban sexually impure ideas, then ban brains instead. Thoughts are one thing that one cannot control but acting upon an idea/fantasy is another. Objects are just inanimate things that solely rely on the person using them. These rubber-made / battery operated devices have no intention nor motive to stain the world with lust and violence. And if these respectable gentlemen worry about proliferation of sex related crimes, instead of banning sex toys, maybe they should ban PRIESTS instead. But seriously, I think having a working and updated sex offenders' database is better than banning everything that vibrates and is shaped like a penis from the market.

Why is it that these holier-than-thou religious folks treat any thing related to sex and pleasure without the main intention of creating a child as automatically evil and immoral? I quote Stephen Fry on this when he said,
It’s the strange thing about this church, it is obsessed with sex, absolutely obsessed. Now, they will say we with our permissive society and our rude jokes, we are obsessed. No, we have a healthy attitude, we like it, it’s fun, it’s jolly, because it’s a primary impulse it can be dangerous and dark and difficult, it’s a bit like food in that respect only even more exciting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese, and that in erotic terms is the Catholic Church in a nutshell.
Source: BBC's Intelligence Squared Debate: Is Catholicism Force of Good in the World?
Look who's copying who, now?
A world of freedom of expression, of informed choice and accessibility to that choice is upon us. A society free from religious jurisdictions and twisted dogmas. I believe these nuisance bills are just to further delay the widely contested RH Bill which actually values the intellect of the Filipino people.  They may dilly dally all they want, but the reality that women are dying everyday, because some people are too blind to see the facts that are staring at them in face, is still here to stay. Unless we do something about it.

Reality or dogma. You choose.

The word of the cleric is not the word of God. It is the word of a man who has studied the word of God.  
- Sen. Miriam Santiago

Thursday, June 9, 2011

It is a rare and momentous occasion for someone like me to have watched a movie adaptation of a novel before actually reading the book. It may be no big deal for some but it has been an unwritten rule for myself and the tradition has never been altered since Day 1. Except for this.

Something Borrowed, a best-selling novel penned by Emily Giffin, is a story about a 30-year-old type A plain-Jane lawyer who happens to have an affair with her best friend's fiancĂ©. Being the Maid of Honor in the ceremony and a life-long friend of the bride, conflicts arise as she works out her feelings about what she wants and what she is tasked to do. The movie adaptation was released early this May starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield and John Krasinski.

Having watched the movie first before reading the novel, it was surprising for me to find out that the film adaptation strayed farther than expected from the original plot, and it worked. The added plot ornamentations and character replacements worked quite brilliantly, as a matter of fact. Normally, these circumstances would have been a source of irritation when I watch the characters who have played in my head in different light, but this time, I thought the plot moved at a better pace and the characters were more likable on screen compared to their written form.

It is commendable how the screenwriter added a history between Rachel and Dex, making the affair much more reasonable. I think Ginnifer Goodwin did a terrific job portraying Rachel and made the choices she had more understandable to the viewing public. However, let it be said that John Krasinski absolutely stole the show, delivered all the best lines and almost single-handedly made the movie enjoyable to watch. The interesting thing about this is that his role isn't even that prominent in the book. Rachel's primary confidante about her forbidden relationship with Dex is actually female colleague. Which is unfortunate because it's Ethan's character that drove me to read the actual novel.

Speaking of novels, part two of this heartfelt and easy to read chic lit is Something Blue. We follow Darcy as she goes through her life with (spoiler!) the discovery of her best friend's treachery with her very own fiance and Marcus' baby in her womb. Told entirely in Darcy's shallow but endearing POV, we get a glimpse of the self-absorbed socialite Rachel has been ranting about during the previous book. Here we find out that there is more to the New York queen bee that meets the eye. 

The only criticism I have about the novel is that it felt like the plot just started to take off halfway through the book when Darcy decides to head on to England and crash in her childhood friend Ethan's pad. The plot was fairly predictable, but that did not lessen the enjoyment one should get while reading the novel. As a slow and easily distracted reader nowadays, I finished my e-book copoy in less than 48 hours and loved every minute of it.

Something Borrowed and Something Blue. Two novels about romance gained and lost and the two ultimate forces that drives us all, love and friendship. Read 'em and weep.


Something Borrowed (Film Adaptation) : A-
Something Borrowed (Novel): B
Something Blue (Novel): A

Thursday, June 2, 2011

High School. Sort of.

Dark skinned, with glasses and braces = the complete cliche package of an ugly girl falls in love with unbelievably handsome and charming upperclassman. Of course he has to be perfect in every way possible, all sensitive and artistic (but athletic and hot at the same time) while she is the clumsy nerd in the shadows.

The movie opens up with Nam's quirky group of friends and a teacher who is too straightforward for her own good. A few juvenile scenes of picking out crushes, passing notes during class and stolen glimpses and suddenly, the story becomes all too familiar.

All those enchantment-believing, book-reading and daydreaming moments could might as well be anybody else's story and it was that gravitation to something so recognizable to all, I think, that made this movie so popular and endearing to people who have a heart and once used it for something no matter how one-sided and futile the experience was.

But of course the lead character must shed off her veil of ugliness and become this pretty swan in a matter of a few months. Any story set on screen could definitely not end with the Prince Charming falling in love with the still visually despicable commoner! The transformation was so dramatic I had to Google if two different actresses played her part. 

I found it bothersome how society (apparently even in Thailand) entails that for a character to be noticed and loved, she has to be physically beautiful. Yes it's nice that after a lot of name-callings and schoolyard torture, the caterpillar that we have grown accustomed to has wreathed out of her cocoon and transformed into a beautiful butterfly. But still, wouldn't it be more interesting, and inspiring even, if the Prince Charming and the ordinary girl had their happily ever after without some cliche make-over / metamorphosis in the middle to make everything easier on the eyes?

For me, it was a rocky road from the moment Nam became painfully beautiful. She suddenly lost her adorable awkward charm and it was not as interesting seeing her being fawned upon by random schoolmates. Fortunately, the story picked up near the ending with humiliating confessions, predictable heartbreak and some flipping through a black book.

Overall, it is a must-see for everyone who have gone through high school and/or puberty. I guaranty you will relieve those tiled school halls with such clarity it's disconcerting. The trailer got it right when it said that it is based on a true story of everyone. And I find myself agreeing with that claim. At least for the first 30 minutes. ;)

Orchestr-o-meter: A
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