Monday, November 18, 2013

Coke, my sister Leilani, and 50 shades of cray

Two Belgian professors tested the 10 most borrowed books in the Atwerp public library, and found traces of the herpes virus on a copy of erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

Just goes to prove real women don't write trashy porn novels, they ride 'em.

And get this: all 10 books tested positive for traces of cocaine. Significant enough for anyone handling the books to test positive for the drug, but not enough to get high on.

A link to the news story from Time.

It is November 18, 2013, exactly six years from the day (and time: 10:35 pm) that my sister Leilani died. "Bing will have to get along without me," she said, a day or two before. She didn't want me slopping around in grief, but I did, living in a repeating reel of her final hours, 24/7, for the next few years. This year, I want to celebrate her funny, irreverent, off-beat spirit. Hence, the post above.

I can imagine she would have found the link first, then showed it to me. Then she would have roared with laughter at my quip: "Real men don't write trashy novels, they wear them." Soon after, one of us would have come up with the clincher: "Real women don't write trashy erotic novels, they ride 'em."

We were like that. Cray-cray. In a good way. We made each other laugh. I got my sense of comedy from her. I was the fast-talking stand-up, she the appreciative audience of one.

My sister Leilani posing with entertainer Sam Milby at the PSBank Christmas party, 2006.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan remains a top story in Danish press

Danish newspaper Politiken continues to give major space to typhoon Haiyan and its victims, devoting a full-page spread in its Saturday, September 17 issue. The title says, simply: "What now?"

Top story in Danmarks Radio(DR)'s noon broadcast was how foreign aid is helping -- but also hurting -- victims on the ground.

Raising funds for typhoon Haiyan victims in City Hall Square, Copenhagen, Nov 16

Young Filipina au pair receives a donation from a passerby at a fundraiser event for the victims of typhoon Haiyan, City Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen) in Copenhagen, November 17, 2013. The event was organized almost entirely through Facebook and brought together several generations of Filipino migrants to Denmark.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Letter from Merlie Alunan, poet, critic, academic, and typhoon Haiyan survivor

MERLIE ALUNAN, acclaimed poet, critic and academic, lived in Tacloban, Leyte for 20 years. She and her family survived typhoon Haiyan, their house, a relative distance from the seaside, losing its roof. I was among her many friends - colleagues, former students - who constantly monitored their Facebook news feeds for word about her. Four days ago, a message that she was safe; today, she posted the letter below on her Facebook wall, writing out of Cebu City.

Photo from Tim Tomlinson, grabbed off Merlie's Facebook wall.


Dear Friends,

For three days after the storm at least, we puttered around the house and out in what was left of the garden, trying to get dry, put things back, fix what we can of the roof. The pipes have dried up, people around us were beginning to worry about what to drink. The day after the storm, Jang and Eb and Dax and Anya took a car to go around the city and came back with stories--the looting had seriously gotten started in whatever places they could get to-- Robinson's Mall, Natasha, Godsend.

On this second day, not a sign of government presence, though we had already heard about the deaths in Astrodome, a major evacuation center, the total desolation of San Jose and the downtown area. We heard rumors of the mayor's own encounter with calamity, probably the reason why the response from the local government had not been forthcoming. We also considered how the storm had affected everyone, each one was now preoccupied with his own household to mind anything else. The black out of communication was worst of all, the city was stranded in that limbo for all the two days. We kept looking up to the skies and it was only on the third day that we heard the welcome roar of a plane, and soon after that, helicopters. We were living in the suburban area, far from the more populous downtown area. My children made occasional forays into the downtown area to check on things. They brought home eyewitness stories of the looting that was happening all over the city.

Some stories began floating around about a "group" from Samar who masterminded the looting, the Taclobanons did not start it, so the stories go, some outsiders were the ones who started it, or the prisoners released from jail. The looters brought trucks, jeeps, even cars, to cart away whatever they could--refrigerators, tv sets, washing machines, clothes, shoes, bags, computers--whatever they could find inside a warehouse or depatment store. It was like sharks in a feeding frenzy, and occasionally, we hear it told, the looters would kill each other inside a warehouse as they vie to get as much as they can of the coveted items, whatever that may be. The looters were not only the poor and the homeless, the middle class were visibly involved in it, with impunity and gloating at unprecedented opportunity to acquire for free what they had coveted for a long time. In the face of this, Taclobanons have their share in pushing their own city deeper into the mud.

Sunzibar Cafe and Canto Fresco's two units have all been invaded. Very small gleanings there. Ayo Cafe cannot be opened. All told, these little stores are down. So we only have our life--unharmed and for that we are grateful, praise God. Ayo, Sunzibar and Canto Fresco are in the respective brains of the owners and they can be transformed with a lot of will power and hard work into material reality. We are on our way to Dumaguete now where my son, Babbu and his family live. You will hear from us again. Thank you for your concern.

We would like to return to Tacloban. It had been our home more than twenty years. We have many friends in Tacloban. The most significant works of my life I may have done for Tacloban and the people of Leyte. We pray that they city finds its heart again and it will once again be a haven for its people.


Day 6 in Tacloban, Leyte; a Danish news program tells a now-familiar story of scarce aid and desperate evacuation!/

Segment on the Philippines at 06:45 - 11:50.

ABOVE, a link to DR's (Danish television) news show at 9:30 pm Thursday night. We are no longer the top story. The clip about the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines starts at 06:45. Steffen Kretz, the reporter, begins his reportage with footage of his arrival two days ago, and what greeted him; I wonder if he may be reassigned soon, leaving the other two, Søren Bendixsen and Philip Khakhar, to continue the coverage. Tacloban is being called the epicenter, the worst hit; this corresponds with many news reports forwarded by my friends on Facebook referring to the capital of Leyte as “ground zero.”
The images are the same, the stories the same, as over the past six days, themes and images also found on CNN and the BBC. “There are no emergency workers in some parts of the city, odd given the global media focus on the disaster,” Kretz says. “Food and clean water” are still what people are in dire need of.  There is no way to buy anything, and people are dependent on aid from outside. “Help comes in small parcels, and comes slowly.”

There is a welcome sight: Red Cross workers filling giant containers with clean water that has been trucked in from Manila.
To the anchor’s question of how people are surviving in city so ruined, Kretz replies that it is difficult to comprehend. People have been leaving – flown out on cargo planes or packed into a naval ship bound for another city. Children stand by the roadside, reaching out as the media vehicle passes, their eyes desperate.

The UN estimates the death toll at 4,500, the anchor says. The clip ends at 11:50.
Day Six, and this is how it looks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Guiuan town's plight in the headlines in Denmark

Danish newspaper Politiken has the Philippines in its headlines today – not Tacloban, Leyte, which has gained a lot of media coverage the last six days, but Guiuan, a fishing town in the neighboring province of Eastern Samar.  
My translation of the front page article:

Guiuan waits desperately for help (Politiken, November 14, 2013, Denmark)
Kim Rathcke Jensen, correspondent, Guiuan
Peter Hove Olesen, photo
IT LOOKS like a tropical paradise on a perfect day. The sky is blue. So is the ocean. And down below in the rolling water lies Guiuan, with white beaches and palm trees.
But it is not paradise.
"Can you smell that," the pilot asks, as he swings the little propeller plane in over the landing strip.
Already, at several hundred meters above the ground, the sweet reek of dead bodies. People and animals.
Guiuan is a town of 50,000 inhabitants on the Philippine island Samar. It was the first to get hit when typhoon Haiyan made landfall on Friday. But it is the last to get emergency aid.
The situation is the same as in hard-hit Tacloban, but maybe worse. Everything is ruined. The town, neighboring towns, the entire surrounding area are flattened. People in the hundreds are dead.
"All attention is on Tacloban," says Henry M. Afable, mayor of Guiuan's neighboring municipality Maydolong.

Therefore only a few deliveries of government aid have arrived, and international organizations such as the Red Cross have yet to come forward.

"We need food. Medicine. Shelter. We have too little. Our supplies are nearly depleted," says Henry M. Afable.
Politiken is one of the first Western media outfits to reach the town. Everywhere, inhabitants are desperate. Many have lost everything.

37-year-old Raquel Husun lived by the seashore in Guiuan with her husband and five children. Today the house is gone. Just the floor and a wall remain. They have stretched a tarpaulin overhead, and here she sits and cradles her three-year-old Jiff.
"The water rose to our necks," she says, of that fateful day. She looks away.
The mayor in Guiuan, Sheen Gonzales, is not in doubt: "You must help us."  
Translation: Lakambini Sitoy
Below is page 4: again a full page, with a shot of Guiuan taken by Politiken's own photographer. I can count five Danish journalists in the Philippines right now (there might be more), plus the head of the Danish Red Cross who is in Manila.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In the central Philippines, a humanitarian crisis, on Facebook, TROLLS!


NOW the Danish news is focused on the humanitarian crisis in Tacloban, Leyte, and the rest of the Philippines: the delay in receipt of food, water and medicine on the ground, despite the loads of aid arriving from foreign countries. DR (Denmark's state television) has three reporters as of today in my country.

Philip Khakhar, normally assigned to Afghanistan, filed his report from Cebu, the afternoon of November 13. The death of eight people in a panicked stampede at a store or warehouse came up, Khakhar quoting a witness who said the looters were not criminals nor professionals, just ordinary citizens who were starving.

He mentions President Aquino's statement that the actual death toll was closer to 2,000 - 2,5000 instead of 10,000, adding that it sounded like an attempt to downplay the extent of the damage in the face of a storm of criticism of the government.

In the second part of the report, Danish Red Cross director Anders Laderkarl is interviewed via Skype from Manila, speaking of the logistical challenge of getting help out to those who need it.

I don't have a direct link to this report but here's a link to DR's news menu as of today, November 13:

(Sorry, it's in Danish: my loose summary is the best I can do at the moment).



For the first time in five days I've gotten away from my computer, to which I'd been glued relentlessly reading through the updates on Facebook. Today the anger and frustration have escalated into full-scale arguments among my roster of friends and connections, most of whom have ties with the Philippines if not actually living there.
There are the usual conspiracy theorists, alternating criticism and defense of the Philippine government (especially those involved in getting aid to the victims of typhoon Haiyan), and, perhaps not surprisingly, a return to the cutesy forwarded bull --- blah invited you to play blah, blah likes a page, blah has uploaded a food-porn shot as she was wont to do pre-typhoon -- that makes me want to throw the portable phone at my computer screen (not advisable, not advisable at all).

And of course, there are the trolls, the many-striped Philippine and the common North American variety, slinking around to feed with ever-growing confidence and to spread their foul leavings over the internet. Whether it's disgruntlement at the defeat of a political patron, or righteous confidence in the proximity of the Rapture, or a just-plain-racist conviction that Filipinos ought to be sterilized out of existence, trolls take pleasure in rudeness and playing on the emotions of their victims. Fortunately, their grunts and howls are easily detectable, and solved with a simple click on the cursor.

In short, things on Facebook are getting back to normal. People who, like me, were glued to their computers over the weekend up until Tuesday, are now numbed by what had once been gruesomely riveting: ships' bows rearing up over the splinters of a house, cars stacked on top of each other like mating wildlife, a vista of what had once been middle class neighborhoods lying like a heap of matches, pretty facades standing alone like faces in a war zone, faces with everything else in back of them blown away.

Grotesquely, only the dead bodies have really changed in the now well-documented wasteland of Tacloban, lying bloated and black on sidewalks.

But I'm still sitting in front of my monitor, waiting for word from the rest of the afflicted provinces. Guiuan, Ormoc, Bantayan, Capiz, Antique ... what is the news?







Areas in Central Visayas, Philippines struggle for survival after Haiyan

Last night, I saw images of the damage on Bantayan island, Cebu, Philippines for the first time since the storm struck. This was on DR's (Danish television) nightly news program, where the Philippines remains the top international story. DR flew in two reporters to Cebu province.

Heartbreaking ... children and adults lined up by the roadside, reaching out with bare hands to the vehicle bearing the camera, a girl of about six supporting a hand-lettered HELP sign. No electricity. No refrigeration, no sewer service, and no mobile phones nor internet to let the outside world know.

The attention of the world has been on Tacloban, a thriving city of some 120,000 inhabitants and the capital of Leyte, because Tacloban was one of the first areas reached by disaster teams. But there are so many other parts of the central Visayas that need help. These images need to get out, be shared, too.

Here is a link to the news story (in Danish). Above photo is a screen grab from the same story.

Tacloban - before and after typhoon Haiyan

Australia's ABC net has posted a series of satellite photos showing the once-thriving town of Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines, almost entirely devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. Roll your mouse over each image to see neighborhoods in Tacloban before, and after.

Screen shot is from

Friday, November 08, 2013

A quick look at books for children in the Philippines today

by Lakambini A. Sitoy

This article was translated into Swedish and published in Opsis, a magazine devoted to children's literature, from of the Swedish Board on Books for Young People.
THE stereotypical view of Philippine life is of a hand-to-mouth existence, where people have neither the resources to buy books, nor the mental space to read. This is untrue: the country has a flourishing book industry, with a dynamic children’s book industry.

There are over 10 publishing houses specializing in, or with a branch dedicated to, children’s books. These include Adarna House, which put out Naku naku nakuuu! (published in Swedish by Förlaget Trasten, 2013, and winner of the 2013 SBBY Peter Pan Prize), Tahanan Books, Lampara, Anvil, the University of the Philippines Press, and Giraffe. On certain occasions, private organizations, of commercial, religious or charitable orientation, may publish children’s books as well. Their collective output encompasses picture books in full color, storybooks with illustrations in either full color or black and white, novels and chapter-books for young adults, anthologies, and even stationery featuring the artwork/illustrations.

Myths, legends and fables remain a popular subject, as do personified animal stories and myth-like tales written by contemporary authors. Ever popular are series featuring national heroes and statements, most connected with the independence movement of 1898. At least one publishing house, Lampara, puts out abridged versions of British classics, in English, with new illustrations. Yet many titles deal with everyday life and its conundrums and rites of passage, and a few address difficult topics like death, child abuse, bullying, parents who must work abroad, and indigenous peoples.

The books range in price from about P 70 for storybooks, to P600 and even more. P70 will buy a meal and soft drink at a fast-food franchise, or a flimsy t-shirt, or some 5 minutes talk time on a prepaid mobile phone card. The minimum wage for office workers in the Metro Manila area is about P450 per day; however, Philippine children’s books are usually purchased by professionals who earn much more than this, i.e. with dual middle-class to upper-middle class incomes.

Incentives for writers come in the form of contests, such as the annual Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, which has a “story for children” category in both English and Filipino, and the Philippine Board on Books for Young People’s Salanga Prize. Universities with creative writing programs frequently offer a course on writing for children. Fine Arts or design students at university may specialize in children’s book illustration, submitting a mock-up of a book as thesis. The PBBY also awards an annual Alcala Illustrator’s Prize, and the National Children’s Book Awards (with the National Book Development Board). Ang INK is an organization of illustrators for children that puts up local exhibits and is active on-line. Illustrators nowadays tend to be young, well-trained and happy to experiment with new media and styles.

The Philippine government has also offered publishers incentives, such as the Library Hub, which has purchased hundreds of thousands of books from local publishers, for the use of children all over the country, including those residing in remote barrios(villages).

Language issues

In a country with two official languages – English and Filipino – as well as several regional languages, bilingualism (and tri- and multi-lingualism) is the rule rather than the exception.

It is not unusual to find picture books and storybooks with the text in both languages, printed next to each other, as with Adarna House’s titles – whatever the language of the original text, it appears with a translation.

Otherwise, the text may be in English or Filipino. Most mysteries or chapter books are written and published in English, as are storybooks with longer text. Rare is the trilingual picture book, or for that matter, text in the regional languages such as Cebuano or Hiligaynon.

There is a sense that Filipino, and the Tagalog language on which it is based, is a language under threat and must be nurtured by providing literary models of the best possible sort. It is also viewed as the first language of many Filipinos and thus, the best way to reach them at a young age. Yet English is privileged in the country, owing to its associations with cosmopolitanism and better job opportunities abroad as well as at home.

Reni Roxas, publisher of Tahanan Books, explains why the house began, some five years ago, to introduce Filipino or bilingual titles into what had been an all-English inventory: “First, the demand for vernacular books is fueled by the quest of a developing country still in search of itself. Second, Filipino families living abroad are enjoying renewed interest in the Filipino language. … Filipino-Americans who grew up in households where learning the mother tongue was de-prioritized in favor of cultural assimilation into the host country, now regret not having learned the language of their parents. They now want to teach Filipino to their children.”


The greater challenge, however, is how to grab a share of a market dominated by foreign books, which are readily available brand new all over the country, as well as from secondhand bookstores/ shops. In the latter, stocked mostly with rapidly-replenished inventory from the United States, books for children can be had for as little as 10 pesos. The ready availability of material at every price point is good for Filipino children’s reading habits, but puts local publishers at a disadvantage, with parents preferring to put their money on international super-sellers like the Harry Potter series, or Disney.

As with the rest of the world, Filipino children devote considerable attention to television, computers, mobile phones and, among higher income families, newer digital devices such as iPads or smart phones. These are valued for the entertainment they provide and as learning tools that augment what goes on in the classroom.

Even without the competition from electronic devices, the children’s book industry must reckon with the priority given to textbooks in a family’s budget. This is not surprising, in a culture that puts a premium on education, and where enrollment at the better schools is neither free, nor even subsidized. ***

Monday, October 21, 2013

Perfume oils in my collection

Coming soon: thoughts and images from my trip to China, and the earlier trip to Greece, and from the Gothenburg book fair, where I met three wonderful Filipino colleagues.
But first, some text that I already have on hand. I'm beginning to notice that, every time I think to update this blog with something I've already written, it turns out to be some frivolous stuff about perfume. Testing new perfumes and writing reviews about them is a great hobby -- something I devote more hours to that I'm willing to admit. In Scandinavia it's also a bit of a vice -- the culture here could even be described as anti-perfume, with "fragrance free" being the selling point for loads of bodycare products and makeup. I hardly wear perfume when I go out, for this reason.
Anyway, the perfume aficionado website to which I belong has a message board. Here there's been a slew of posts about perfume oils, how long they last compared to alcohol-based fragrances, how best to apply them, and how they smell. There's a whole range of perfume oils from the Middle East and India, where the use of alcohol in products is unpopular for religious and/or cultural reasons. Western-leaning perfumistas are only just discovering them. 

The chief attraction -- to me, at least -- is that they smell weird.  They are lush and over-the-top. Many of them have oud (synthetic in the cheapest), a component that Western designers are just discovering and exploiting. I'm one to be intrigued and excited by strangeness, and to me the strangest of all is that the same heavily floral- oriental- woody perfume is marketed to men as well as women.

My own experience with perfume oils is modest. Last year I bought a score of 6ml roll-ons from al-Rehab, and added to my collection of "inspired-by" oils available on a British website (which, by the way, thanks to tighter Royal Mail rules, no longer ships outside the UK, so that's the end of collecting for me). Here, some reviews of a few of the al-Rehabs in my collection, for those who may be interested in this brand. Their products sell for very little, by the way.

Now, my reviews.


It is a light floral fragrance (mainly a transparent sort of rose) overlaid with some very disconcerting and very pronounced synthetic oud. I associate oud with heavy, sweet, woody or ambery scents, so the treatment is quite different here. The oud is the first thing you smell, even from the bottle, and it remains a definite presence the entire time the fragrance lasts, even though the rose eventually takes the fore. An acquired taste. Just outside the borders of my comfort zone, but I wouldn't mind my closet smelling like this, with the scent lingering on my clothes. EDIT: This lasts quite a while. After washing my hands, I could still smell the somewhat lemony rose, but not the oud.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Tower of Babel" poetry and prose reading in Copenhagen

I am sharing some photographs from the Tower of Babel poetry and prose reading (September 5), part of the Images Festival held in Copenhagen recently.
The organizers of the festival had set up a temporary structure, long and rectangular like a shipping container, on one side of Dronning Louise's Bridge in central Copenhagen. There were booths containing various exhibits; the  Ord og Debat (Word and Debate) booth was where the reading was held.
The roof of the structure was a platform where people could hang out and party and we could hear various thumps and bangs all evening. The Ord og Debat booth was a sight to behold, decorated floor-to-ceiling with yellowed books, their pages pleated, crumpled, folded and slashed to produce texture on texture: an ironic statement on the physical beauty of paper, the irreverence of creativity and the ultimate irrelevance of content. It was "text transformation" on the totally material level, invoking fillips of delight and dread in bibliophiles like myself.
Later I found out that the booth's decoration was a joint effort of some of the authors who had been invited to participate in some of the activities at the Festival!
That evening, however, the word was audible: text turned to speech and voice. Most of us brought samples of our published work  to read from or show to the audience (I took the opportunity to plug the French translation of Sweet Haven), although suppose with the unspoken hope that our books would remain happily intact and, unlike the books that decorated the walls, agape on account of being read.

I took lots of pictures, but ironically, have none of myself reading. If someone has a pic of me overcoming my chest cold to read the opening pages of Sweet Haven that evening, please send me an email! Muchas gracias in advance.

 Eye-popping decor

The little stage. Intimate, no?
The participants
 A chest of books, literally, showing the work of some of the authors who read that evening. Interesting table legs.
Danish poet and travel writer Thomas Boberg
 Bolivian poet and educator (and our houseguest later that week) Jessica Freudenthal Ovando

Indian novelist Mridula Koshy and Korridor proprietor/Tower of Babel organizer Simon Kristensen

 Malawi author Shadreck Chikoti
Peruvian poet and translator Renato Sandoval (left) with the Danish translator of his work. 

 Danish writer Stine Bork Kristensen
 Hungarian composer and musician Krisztina Vas

Dronning Louises Bridge in Copenhagen, where temporary booths had been set up to house various events making up the Images: Occupy Utopia Festival.
It was dark by the time we were done, which gave me a chance to finally capture a cityscape (or lake-scape) I've seen so many times before, heading home from visiting friends in the city.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Reading my fiction in Copenhagen

I will be reading an excerpt of my fiction along with other writers--visiting and Denmark-based -- at an event called Tower of Babel, Thursday, September 4, from 7 pm on to midnight, onstage at Dronning Louises Bro. This is a part of the Images Festival which opens in Copenhagen the weekend before.

Here are a few words from Simon Kristensen, the organizer, explaining the set-up:

"Tower of Babel finder sted i Kbh torsdag d. 5. sep. ml 19-24 på en scene på Dronning Louises Bro. Konceptet er korte oplæsninger (5-10 min.) hvor hver forfatter/poet læser op på originalsprog samt hvis muligt på dansk eller engelsk (selvfølgelig forudsat at originalsproget ikke er dansk eller engelsk). Afhængig af hvor mange vi bliver vil hver forfatter læse op 2-3 gange i løbet af aftenen. Tanken med aftenen er selvfølgelig også – udover spændende oplæsninger – at skabe et forum hvor forfattere og publikum kan mødes og indgå i forhåbentlig interessante samtaler."

Sorry, no English translation at the moment (that’s on my to-do list), but with a few clicks and crossed fingers, you can get an idea of it through Google Translate.

Will keep you all posted!


Teaching basic Filipino to Danish students this fall

Am looking forward to the fall term, which for me starts on Wednesday, 4 September. That’s when my class in basic Filipino at Studieskolen (Gothersgade 12, 1300 København K) meets for the first time. We had a great spring term with some very dedicated students, and I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of new faces – and the great diversity that such a class involves.

Medium of instruction will primarily be English, though students are of course free to express themselves in Danish, and there will be Danish translations as needed.

And as for my lovely students last term, I’m hoping to see some of them again in Filipino II, which is also being offered this fall. Filipino I is not a pre-requisite, so if you are in Denmark right now, and feel you know the basics of this extremely-flexible Malayo-Polynesian language, then feel free to sign up. In Filipino I last spring, we managed to string sentences while avoiding verbs (yes, it’s possible!) but this time, in Filipino II, we’re going to see some action!

Do contact Stine Hejlesen, tlf. 33 18 79 37, andresprog@studieskolen.dkfor more information.



Friday, June 14, 2013

Scandinavian language lesson, 1

One of the friends I made on-line, a Filipino nurse in Norway, commented on the seeming illogic of Norwegian idiom here:
The web post invites us to puzzle over the expressions
"tørr bak i øret" , literally "dry behind the ears", but meaning "of advanced years"
"holde i sjakk", literally "keep in check" but meaning to keep under control
"svart i øye", literally "black in the eye", but meaning in a rage
I don't know Norwegian, but perceive the similarities with English, apart of course from the grammar and structure of the words.
English has an expression "wet behind the ears" which means very young, newborn in fact. The reference is to the amniotic fluid that covers newborn puppies, foals, etc. The mother usually licks them "dry" with her tongue, removing all the birth gunk and allowing the clean saliva to dry off naturally. I can see how this expression might have originated in a culture where farming and keeping livestock played a major part. To be "dry behind the ears" would be the opposite. I don't think English has a counterpart to the Norwegian expression, though. Or maybe there is -- in some village in Yorkshire, previously inhabited by Vikings. James Herriot, can you help?
"Holde det i sjakk" doesn't translate to "hold it in chess," as the original post suggests, but to "hold it in check," i.e. to control, which is English, though admittedly so much a part of the language one hardly notices that it is, in fact, idiomatic. I guess "check", "checks" (as in plaids) and "chess" have a similar etymology.
"Svart i øye" could refer to the tendency of the pupil to dilate under intense emotion, causing pale-eyed people (like the original Norwegians) to turn dark-eyed for a moment or two. Reminds me of the English expression "eyes darkened with passion", found in romance novels and the like, and which I often found, to my great amusement, in the work of my creative writing students at the University of the Philippines -- writing about men and women in a contemporary milieu. As most Filipinos have black or brown eyes, I don't think passion would darken them, except figuratively. I like logic in all things.
Language is all about practices and lived reality.
And really, the Scandinavian languages are not as impenetrable as some native speakers would have us believe. Knowing English gives you a key to a few of the locks in the mighty series that keeps Nordic people (oh, okay, to be fair, Danish people, as for the most part my experience is limited to Denmark) secure in their strongholds of exclusivity.
When my husband and I discuss language, it is often a journey of mutual discovery --that an expression in his native Danish has an English counterpart, and vice versa.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Querida : an anthology about mistresses



I'm very pleased and proud to be part of a new anthology titled Querida, a word of Spanish origins which in the Philippines means “mistress.”

My piece is a semi-fictionalized biography of Josephine Bracken, best known for her scandalous relationship with the Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, but whose days as a revolutionary fighter (the war for independence against Spain in the late 1890s) have been largely forgotten.

Love the cover photo. Definitely evokes the old-time concept of mistresses -- and a reference to the days when people all smelled a bit of violets and roses, and more than a little bit skanky under their clothes.

The anthology is edited by Caroline Hau, Katrina Tuvera and Isabelita O. Reyes, and is published by Anvil. It will be in Philippine bookstores and possibly available on-line very soon.