Should books smell like café latte?

by Cygne Sauvage

At the start of summer vacation for public schools in the country where I am based, I was pressured to accede to a family friend’s request to accommodate her daughter as a student trainee.  The 17-year old lass is on her way to the final year of senior high school in the succeeding term.  Her mother boasted that her third female offspring is knowledgeable in computer where she spends most of her time.

Interviewing the student-trainee  reveals her  deficiency in communicating both in verbal and written form.  When asked what book she has read during the last year, apart from what they were required in their homework,  she proudly responded that she is into The Diary of the Wimpy Kid. I told her that that’s way below her education level, and unashamedly she said that she enjoyed it because of the simple words and the pictures, an easy read.   When I queried what books they were required to read in school, she groped for an answer, and then suddenly remembered that their readings were those posted by their teachers on their tablets, which every student is required to own one.

This millennial girl could be the typical student, not the exception. Despite the advancement in communications technology, these young peoples’ capability to correspond or exchange ideas has been hampered by the pre-designed repartees facilitated by electronics and social media. In everything, from how to respond in situations to expressing one’s feelings, a certain emoticon is ready to be pressed to match it. Words are lost, real emotions uncaptured, remains repressed.

The gift of communications is honed by diligent reading. Social media has likewise summarized everything in pictures. Electronic books pose no attraction as they’re just a bunch of words.

There must be an effective way of motivating young people to read books. Libraries and bookstores must present alluring atmospheres that would draw them like ants to a drop of honey. Should we make books smell like café latte’ since millennials crowd coffee houses? Incidentally, an article in Popular Science says that “old books actually smell like chocolate and coffee.” Read it here:



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“Bibliomania, the Dark Desire For Books That Infected Europe in the 1800s.”

“Book lovers and collectors feared becoming a victim of the pseudo-illness.”

While not a real psychological illness, book collectors and bibliophiles described “bibliomania” as a medical condition.”.  Read here:

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Intermezzo 1

by Marc Romyjos

There was something neither funny nor clever with the way he said it, but I took it to mean I should man up and piss my emotions uprightly astride a bowl. There was an option to shave my head — which wasn’t really an option; I was much too vain,— or hobble home drunk, which wouldn’t amount to any resolution, just a dreadful whitewash of death wishes, injured pride and maybe a few unconscious moments of homage to the ‘Ol Failed One that invariably leads to hiccupping hopelessness.

But what I did in the ensuing occasions, and I was smarter for it and credited by my own silly triumphant grin, was to tell my perpetually annoying colleague to bug off one day at work, and to finally refuse the offhanded propositions that prey on the sordid vulnerabilities of my situation, and to get messed up over trifles with everyone. Being generally angsty for a week was eventful, and succeeded in segregating the characters of my immediate environment into good egg vs bad egg baskets, to the end that i’ve inadvertently established a scheme of human relations that I found easy. It was a matter of deleting a friend or ignoring a friend request, as the commonplace dismissal of tact in facebook goes, and in its stead, an internal uprising over the lack of feeling with which people engage with each other these days.

Then someone would wake me up in time for lunch, and i would crawl astir in curious recollection of the morning I bolted by shutting off the alarm. Someone would feed me an omelette sandwich, or a similar normalized novelty that could pique my interest little by little until I get to the point of hearty laughs. Those things — and then you find that you could be cruel and negative in your description of the ‘Ol Failed One, like a bitter rock star who wasted most of his intellectual moments eking out an idea that occurred to him while he was inebriated. And give or take a few crow’s feet, it’s how you move on and become decent again.


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Doesn’t she know that there are things called toys?

by Cygne Sauvage

“Doesn’t she know that there are things called toys?” is the vehement reaction of the little girl who received a set of books from me. These were well chosen reading materials, made sure of their appropriateness to her age and interest. Yet, at the age of six, reading a book has not caught up with her enthusiasm for the pre-installed computer games in her electronic gadget, latest doll crazes from the enterprising movie producers and collecting Peppa Pig in various poses and expressions.

This personal crusade to inculcate reading commenced upon observation of children within my family circle and those of my colleagues’ nibbling on their food with eyes set on the monitor of either their mobile phones or ipods. Doesn’t  Apple realize the inanity of its corporate brand which represents the fruit of knowledge? Well, we cannot put the blame on big business for having turned a big chunk of the world’s children population into zombies.

A child’s home environment casts the formative values. Partly responsible for my penchant for reading is an uncle who used to stay with us while attending college until the time he reviewed for his state exam.  A big bulk of his luggage are books and very seldom do I chance upon him not preoccupied with one of the volumes.  My mother, likewise, on rare occasions not burdened with housework spends her brief siesta with either a magazine or a book rather than with neighbors for an exchange of juicy gossips or with other housewives who delve into trivial pursuits.  My grandmother, whose trade involves collection of old magazines, entitled me to browse into them which are housed in a small warehouse-like hut.  Perusing these foreign publications of glossy, colorful pages never fails to leave me in awe and entice me further into the habit.  Thus, though the public financed school I attend that time cannot render quality books that would arouse enthusiasm in the students, my household provides me the atmosphere as well as the materials. I am so appreciative when my uncle hands  me down all his entire Perry Mason series, my initial encounter with detective stories. This is prior to my being able to afford discriminating with food for my thought.

Hence, those who are in this similar crusade as mine can only do so much as promote books through gift-giving on various occasions. I choose to target children, exposing them early to the genre for their impressionable minds.  But, it seems I have been beaten by Samsung and Steve Jobs.



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by Marc Romyjos

It’s horrid, and there’s substantial gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair involved. It’s the first circle of hell  after you’ve gone through an entire purgatorio of coursework and much haggling among social life, full-time employment and other self-improvement projects (such as exercise). As a social science graduate student I am starting to feel myself a more compelling study for issues on oppression and poverty. However, I have a sister who swallowed the myriad opportunity costs of attending law school for four years, and the bar review for six months, only to subject herself to bar exam torture for a month. I’m sure she still has scars and stress-fat deposits, as my medical school friends are still treating eyebags. I’m officially an insufferable whiner.

I don’t suffer intellectual labors, but the inverse of it. After going part-time, corporate and freelance, I sure as hell won’t be screaming for depth. And having gotten used to air-conditioning, I daresay I’ve grown disproportionate disgust for the fetid swamps of fieldwork (Actually I exaggerate), and I’ve been eerily perfecting the skills of the white shoe worker. Why? Because I’ve been told future employers love order, and who am I to make a fuss, really? I’ll pretty much end up a sales agent for the neo-liberal afterlife everywhere I go, even without pretending to take palliatives with the consumerist gruel I’m fed everyday. I’m basically made. And I hate poverty.

So a desire to be relevant, in pursuit of a masters’ degree in anthropology, is actually superfluous for several reasons. One, on empirical basis, people, except perhaps academics and authentic intellectuals, resent discursive language, apparently because the framing of practical concerns should be sacred and cannot be messed up, or tumbled down, by vocabularies that exceed their own. Anti-intellectual intellectuals like Nick Hornby, Helen Fielding and Francis Wheen shed some tears of hilarity for the language they understand but will never use, because their splendid literary pieces make people laugh — and making people laugh is an impressive industry — so success in writing really all boils down to speaking lionish for lions, and basically just keeping to the taxonomy between who the author is and and for which species the intellectual fodder goes to.

Also, humans find sick titillation for the deprived, depraved and deviant, so tackling ordinary lives might just be a little too unproblematic to be propounded as a cause for research deserving sweet grants. I think this problem might not be so irreversible for people who can slap covers on inane writing and package it into a book. But for the rest of us who are grilled, skewered and, waaaaaah, omitted for the teensiest crash in logic, the bestselling book dream is bust.

As for the thesis…well, how can it exceed its functional role in my life, really? I can’t even represent myself well in it. If I bump out the poker faces and straight laces and philosophy I’d literally be left with nothing to write about but facial tattoos, entertaining books and visual arts. And YES! I liked The Elegance of a Hedgehog but hated it for my bittersweet bristling for ideas I can not grasp, and can only rebuke, if only to make myself feel more…relevant.


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Being with Scrooge, the Grinch and the Nutcracker is a better way to enjoy Christmas

by Cygne Sauvage

There is always the child in us that pops out every now and then. For some reasons not difficult to explain the young element in everyone’s heart unfailingly peeks out of its repressed status during the last two weeks of December. Well, Christmas is a religious celebration but it has pervaded humanity and transcended cultural nuances. The season evokes a particular aura that could penetrate and soften the meanest of the Ebenezer Scrooges out there.  In the spirit of this feast that is supposed to be about love and humility countries pardon criminals, war zones declare truce. Though cliché’ it may be, we wish it would be Christmas every day.

Certainly that is merely  a wish in a bubble.  Looking at the other end of the spectrum, civilization has trampled  what is regarded as the jolliest season of the year. Big business must have invented every possible way to attract shoppers, causing horrendous traffic, stress and anxiety as well as elevated systolic and diastolic readings.

The country where I have first known Christmas holds the record of the longest celebration, perhaps from the time Mary was told of the immaculate conception to the visit of the three magis. Once the calendar hits the ninth month of the year, carols fill the atmosphere, malls display everything that would not let you miss out on what is to come.  Technology further adds up to the sophistication of the commercialist attitude,  the materialist frames of mind, and of burying deeper in our subconscious what is Christmas all about.  Travelling becomes a difficult feat, gift-giving turns into a mechanical to-do list.

I have learned my lessons, thus, every Christmas time, starting four years ago, I chose to be in dreamland. I think this is much better than having a spat with the inefficient mall cashier or arguing with an airline crew over lost baggage, be caught by social media and go viral. Plus, doing so, digging into my old books about Christmas, perusing them anew lets out the child in me in a more relaxed mood.Image result

Children’s books dealing with Christmas abound and they are always a pleasure to reread. Definitely, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens tops the list, the story that gave us the word “scrooge” in lieu of a miser.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse by E. T. A. Hoffmann in which a young girl’s  favorite toy, the Nutcracker, comes to life, battles the  Mouse King and takes her to a magical kingdom full of dolls has been adapted into a ballet with music provided by the famous Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and is perhaps the most popular in the world under this dance genre.Image result

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel  follows the Grinch, a grouchy, solitary creature who does not like Christmas so he steals every Christmas-related goods from the houses in a village on Christmas Eve. Despite this, the villagers still go on with their celebration which compels the Grinch to  return what he took  and became the  guest of honor at the Whos’ Christmas dinner.Image result

A Child’s Christmas in Wales by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas is a retelling Image resultof Christmases past  from the view of a young child,  portraying a nostalgic and simpler time. It is one of Thomas’s most popular works.

The Story of Holly and Ivy
is a heart-warming tale of an orphan, a little girl named Ivy who leaves to search for her grandmother’s house and along the way she encounters Holly, a doll in a department store.  Little Ivy does not really have a grandmother as it is just a wish on her part. This wish is the basic theme of the story, which begins, “This is a story about wishing.”

Image resultOther books lined up for reading during the Christmas retreat from endless parties, hobnobbing with phonies and charlatans, pretentious exchange gifts and tone deaf carolers: The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst and Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel.

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Colossal Deception: A Case Study of Corruption, Cronyism and Regulatory Capture in the Philippines

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December 13, 2016 · 3:05 am