Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dad and Daughter

I spent last Sunday morning snickering, because when you're husband's a playwright and your daughter's really too clever to only be three, some days, you wake up to things like this. (If you've checked Dean's blog today, then you've already read this account.)
Nikki bit in at 2:34 PM :: ::
Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Peppered Fishballs

Is this not the cutest t-shirt design ever? It's called "Fish Ball Deluxe", and was created by my friend Pepper Roxas (whom I know I've never talked to y'all about before, but she's an awesome artist and an awesome person) for a contest over at Threadless.

Basically, people vote for the t-shirt design of their choice, and the design with the most votes gets turned into an actual line of t-shirts. Which means that if Pepper wins, you can get your very own trio of anthropomorphic fishball heads to wear, Froudly Filifino in a cool, uber-cute kind of way. (But I get mine first 'cause she's my friend and not yours, nyah-nyah-nyah!)

Click this link to see Fish Ball Deluxe in a bigger format, close up. And if you like it, please do vote!
Nikki bit in at 1:54 PM :: ::
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Precedence of Description

Let’s talk grammar today, shall we? Don’t worry, my writerly comrades, this is probably something you already do instinctively; I’m just going to clarify why we do it, and how it works.

The principle is called precedence of description. (You probably already gathered that from the title of this entry, yeah?) What it means is that there is an order we are supposed to apply when using descriptive words such as adjectives or adverbs. In other words, there’s a reason that the seven dwarfs* are referred to as “seven little men” and not “little seven men”—the rule is, the more definitive and/or permanent the descriptive word, the closer it should be placed to the word it describes.

“Er, what?” you ask, confused. Lemme ‘splain...

In our example of the seven dwarfs, there are several attributes we could use to describe them: there are seven of them, they are all comparatively little, they are evidently kind-hearted, and (in the Disney film version, at any rate) they are both funny and brave.

In order, probably the most definitive thing (that which most sets them apart) about our dwarfs is that they are dwarfs; i.e., little. This is what we call a description of inherent state—it is intrinsic to the creature or object described and not likely to change. So we would put the word “little” closest to the noun “men”, probably immediately before it.

The least definitive thing about them is their number—taken as a group, there are seven of them, but in theory, they are not always a complete roster of seven. (Someone has to go to the bathroom sometime, right?) Therefore, the descriptive word “seven”—being a description of number and thus highly subject to change—is placed furthest from the noun “men”, most likely at the very beginning of the descriptive phrase.

The rest of our descriptive words are descriptions of quality and are thus, to a certain extent, interchangeable in terms of order. Since we are clever writer/editors, though (We are, aren’t we?), we can see that there is a certain hierarchy of permanence discernable in our descriptions. Our dwarfs may be said to be kind most of the time and funny some of the time, but they don’t really show their bravery until the climax of the story. So out of our three qualitative descriptors, we would place the word “kind” closest to the noun, with the word “funny” preceding it, and the word “brave” before that.

The ideal descriptive phrase we end up with, then, is “seven brave, funny, kind little men”. Which is highly superior to the possible disordered version, “little, brave, kind, seven, funny men”, which you can see is confusing as hell.

A good rule of thumb when managing precedence of description is number, then quality, then inherent state (all in order of permanence, if applicable). Note that color can be either an adjective of quality (in general use) or inherent state (particularly in reference to racial heritage). In both cases, color is typically placed closest to the word described. E.g., “She is a fast white woman.”; “It is a fast white car.”
*Did you know?
The originally prescribed plural form of the word “dwarf” is “dwarfs”, not “dwarves”. “Dwarves” was a term coined by linguistic scholar J.R.R. Tolkien to differentiate his fantastical race of creatures from human beings afflicted with what was then termed “dwarfism”. The word has since passed into general use and the two are now considered virtually interchangeable... though of course I’m a stickler for form, as always.
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Nikki bit in at 3:44 PM :: ::
Friday, October 21, 2005

Tech Talk

I found a new widget for my blog. It's a ranking system, but instead of rating your blog's popularity, like most, it instead measures technical performance, including load speed, design logic, coding standards, marketing, and so on.

You probably think you don't care about that kind of stuff, but you should! Three reasons why:

1. Because we all love validation, and that's exactly what this is. Don't tell me you don't care--why else do you allow comments on your blog, hmm? 'Fess up! But more importantly...

2. Whatever the reason is that you actually keep a blog, you wouldn't be posting your personal whatevers online if you didn't want them to be read, right? Now the thing is, your computer keeps a cached version of the websites you visit most, which most likely includes your blog. This means that, while your blog may display itself with perfect obedience on your own system, it's possible that other people may not be able to view your blog properly or at all. Silktide's Sitescore will give you an accurate picture of whether or not your blog is working the way you want it to.

3. It will also tell you how you can improve your blog, which hopefully will also improve your readership and Nikki's life. What do I mean? Some of you--and you may not know who you are--have incredibly slow-loading blogs, and it is only for love of you and your work that I and others like me endure the waiting time necessary before we can actually read your stuff. Now people who don't know you or the quality of your work may well just quit before your blog ever even shows up onscreen. You don't want this to happen, right? You also don't want people to be turned off by a messy layout or a tiny snippet of code that doesn't work and somehow affects the entire shebang.*

So what are you waiting for? Click this link and get your blog validated now! You'll get a nifty button like this to display proudly (or not so) on your sidebar.
I got a rating of 8.2 out of 9.something. Contradiction in Terms was ranked "excellent" in most categories, "good" in a few, and "poor" in Features--because they tell me they've detected profanity within my web pages.

What, me? Are those shitty assholes trying to fucking tell me I have a goddamned foul mouth!? The dickheads!

*You probably don't need to worry about any of this if your blog was designed by me. But do the Sitescore test anyway so you will appreciate my fabulousness anew. Heh.
Nikki bit in at 3:34 PM :: ::
Thursday, October 20, 2005

Clean Slates

As much as signs and advertisements all across the city make me go around wincing all the time, the names of Metro Manila laundromats rarely fail to put a smile on my face. A few stellar examples:

Lavandera Ko: so ubiquitous, most people don’t realize it’s a pun. You can pronounce it “labandera ko”, meaning “my laundrywoman”, or “lavender ako”, in reference to its signature purple logo and hangers.

Laba Daba Doo: I wonder if this name means they specialize in stone-wash, from the Stone Age?

Wash Happening?: Related names include “Wash Up”, “Wash Me”, and “Wash List”.

Laba Ducky (You’re the One): Yes, believe it or not, the tag line appears on the sign.

And my personal all-time favorite, complete with orange spirals all over the signage, reminiscent of your favorite (or unfavorite, in my husband’s case) cinnamon roll shop:

Sinabon: Heh.

I’m sure there must be dozens I’ve missed or forgotten, but what’s up with this? Are laundry franchise owners just particularly witty by nature? Or is it sniffing all that bleach that makes them high?

You gotta love ‘em.
Nikki bit in at 12:06 AM :: ::
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Pre-School Sex Scandal!

“Mom,” my three-year-old daughter said to me after her pre-school let out for the day, “everyone in my school is having sex.”

What?” I asked her, dropping what I was doing.

“Sex,” Sage repeated. “All my classmates.”

As I stared at her in shock and disbelief, she proceeded to clarify: “Maxine has sick. Hanson has sick. Edwin has sick. Everybody is having sicks.”

She was a little ticked off when her mother just couldn’t stop laughing.
Okay, I'm sorry for misleading y'all with the title, but it was just too good not to share! This anecdote was originally published on Sage's blog, Learning to Be.
Nikki bit in at 10:42 PM :: ::
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

We Interrupt our Regular Programming.

There will be no short story, vignette, or poem today, in direct consequence of the incredibly, abysmally, monumentally suck-ass day I had yesterday. Instead, let me tell you aalll about it.

First, the setup: Last Friday, my laptop simply refused to charge its battery. Nuh-uh, it informed me, smugly flashing its “critical battery” light, won’t do it, shan’t do it, ain’t gonna, you can’t make me do it. “Can so,” I retorted, and promptly hauled it off to the warranty-covered service shop in Makati. Where they told me that all they needed to do was tighten some connections and recalibrate the battery, and I could pick the laptop up by Monday. And all would be well, and all would be well, and all manner of things would be well.

You would think I’d have known better, wouldn’t you?

So, fine, Monday rolls around; and I don’t have cash to actually pay a cab to take me to Makati, so I cross the street to Robinson’s Galleria, where they have an ExpressNet ATM in the deepest, darkest bowels of the building. Unfortunately, my journey to the center of the Earth reveals that said ATM is offline. “No big,” think I, for my auditor friend K8 recently enlightened me that BPI cards can also function in BancNet and even some MegaLink machines. Which are handily available on either side of the ExpressNet machine; only they spit my ATM card out as if it has been coated in a noxious sheen of ampalaya extract.

“Still no big,” I think optimistically, “for there is a BPI Family Bank but a stone’s throw from Galleria, and surely the ATM at the bank itself will be functional.” Oh, me, of too much faith. I leave the overcrowded and malfunctioning bank with a burgeoning hatred of all devices electronic.

I decide to go to Megamall, where one of the plethora of ATMs will surely resolve my monetary dilemma. Now Megamall, from Galleria, sits perfectly on the cusp of too far to walk comfortably and too near to justify cab fare. Since I was strapped for cash in the first place, I decide to hoof it; and arrive at the ATM vestibule, glowing lightly from the heat and humidity, only to be told that my ATM card has been reported lost or stolen.

So then I have to go to my actual bank; where, having definitively demonstrated that I am in fact me, I’m told by the clerks that someone probably misreported the account number of their own lost/stolen card. All they need to do is revalidate my PIN, they tell me; and proceed to do so. Minutes later, the nearest ATM happily accepts my card, but then solemnly informs me that “only inquiries are allowed”, since my PIN has just been revalidated.

I fight my way back to the bank counter, where I calmly, rationally, and even sweetly explain to the staff at large that I will disembowel them all if I do not get some cash. In my hand. Right. Now. (If you cannot imagine how this is done, then you’ve never seen me in action.) They hasten to oblige; and by three-ish, I am finally in a cab en route to Makati.

Just past the Guadalupe bridge, however (and therefore only within the boundaries of Makati in the most technical sense), said cab is plowed into by an SUV. Which staves in the passenger-side front door, which of course is about six inches in front of my knees. I slam my forehead against the window, but it doesn’t hurt because (a) I have very high pain tolerance, and (b) I am too busy expanding my circle of hatred to include all machines with inorganic moving parts. I step out of the car, eyeing my watch with suspicion and loathing.

Now in some other countries, the presence of a policeman at the scene of an accident is greeted with words like, “Thank goodness there’s a cop here!” In the Philippines, however, we say, “Oh crap, a cop. This is gonna take a thousand years, and probably a couple thousand bucks as well.” So then I have to participate in a lovely question-and-answer session in which I barely understand what said cop is asking; which is fair, because he barely understands what I’m replying. Still, it was not my cab driver’s fault; but everyone is acting as if it is because, well, he’s a cab driver, and the other guy is rich enough to own an SUV. I therefore stick around a bit and struggle womanfully to say “reckless swerving” in Tagalog.

Another taxi and much linguistic agony later, I am finally near the laptop service center, but out of cigarettes. The female cigarette vendor on the sidewalk takes one look at my empty laptop bag and quotes the astronomical price of 45 bucks for a pack of Marlboro Reds. “As if!” think I to myself, and march into the nearby 7-11 to get my nicotine supply there instead. Except that they’re clean out of my brand, so that I have to slink back to the manang and pay her damn gouging rate… only to cross the street and find a Mini-Stop just around the corner, with a Marlboro sign winking encouragingly from the shop window.

At this point, it is becoming easier to mentally enumerate the things I don’t hate, since they are rapidly becoming outnumbered by the many things I would cheerfully incinerate.

To top the day off perfectly, my laptop has now been repaired so that it charges up obediently, but will not load Windows. So whereas, last Friday, I couldn’t use it if it was unplugged, now I just can’t use it, period. And the tech guy tries to tell me that it’s a fault of my software and therefore not covered by my warranty. So I go ballistic—in my calm, rational, sweet way, which gets me a service unit to use while they try to figure out exactly how they managed to fuck up my primary means of making a living.

And oh, yes, heading home, I tell my latest cab driver to drop me off at the San Miguel Avenue side of Robinson’s Galleria, which is where my condo is. Exhausted, I fall asleep and wake up, naturally, on the EDSA side of Galleria. I thus have to drag myself through the irritatingly crowded mall, hating the overall fact of existence in general.

I finally get home. I am greeted by my concerned husband and jubilant daughter… and I realize that, if there are days when I just can’t seem to win, at the very least, I can never entirely lose.

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Nikki bit in at 2:53 PM :: ::
Thursday, October 13, 2005

So You Want to be an Editrix

It’s Vin, I think, who first started calling me “editrix”—which, yes, is the feminized version of the noun “editor”; but which also, I suspect, is meant to evoke the sense of the word “dominatrix” as well. Don’t think I haven’t picked up on that, Vinnie-Boy!

Anyway, my friend Cathy, who is considering a bit of a career shift, asked me for a brief rundown on just what it is an editor does. And since it seems a lot of people who read my blog are wordsmiths of some sort, I figured I might as well just share the info with y’all. Okay? Here goes:

Professionally, I do two types of editing: copyediting and content editing.

Copyediting basically entails correcting for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and general readability. In short, my job in this case is just to make sure the author or publisher does not get laughed out of town as a result of the finished product. In this case, I do not concern myself with whether or not the text is boring, inaccurate, or inappropriate—if someone wants to deliver a pompous yet pornographic three-hour speech to an audience of third-graders, I merely ensure that the pompous pornography is prepared in flawless English that hews as closely as possible in tone and style to the original text. I will suggest addition, deletion, or transposition of sections as necessary, but I will not bother with word or stylistic choice—if the author uses the word “very” 2,000 times in a 3,000-word document, I will assume that he or she intended to, and leave it at that.

As soon as I am required to write more than three sentences of my own devising, I consider the task to have shifted to content editing. Content editing entails all the duties of copyediting, with the added responsibility of ensuring that the text actually makes narrative (as opposed to just logical) sense. In a work of creative writing, such as a story, this means that I have to understand all the characters involved and check for consistency of portrayal. I will recommend suitable tones and styles based on the intended audience, purpose, and nature of the piece; and I will reorganize the text as and if necessary to ensure story flow (even if it’s not actually a story) and optimum comprehension. I will question presented facts, metaphorical significance, and overuse of clichés. More often than not, content editing for me turns into a form of ghostwriting, but I accept that that comes with the territory and simply ensure that I get paid for it.

My official (meaning you are not my good, good friend; a long-time client; or a client who guarantees successive projects) rates are: P500 per page/screen of finished product* for content editing, P300 for copyediting. This is inclusive of two major rewrites, each to be requested within two weeks after I submit the edited text for perusal; anything beyond that gets charged again, because otherwise I might spend years revising and re-revising a single text. My friendly rates are about P200 lower, respectively (Hey, you should see what I charge for actual writing!); and next to nothing for creative writing projects helmed by people I happen to like a hell of a lot. If you are Vin, you get to pay in food and soda; if you are Dean, you can pay in the bookstore or the bedroom, your choice.

Okay, so in sum, copyediting = making text readable; whereas content editing = making text comprehensible and enjoyable. Most employers/clients will assume that these are the same things; it’s really up to you to decide whether you should let them get away with this.

As for my rates listed above, do bear in mind that I am quite experienced and have a couple of industry awards to wave around to justify my prices. I am also not the main breadwinner for my family, which means I can afford to stick to my guns and turn down clients who can’t afford me. Finally, modesty aside, I am very very good, very very reliable, and very very very very very fast. (And yes, I intended to have all those “verys”.)

After all, hey, the novel I edited this year won the Grand Prize in the Palancas. Yes, three or four of those award-winning words in Dean’s Salamanca are mine.

But I’m a good professional editrix, so I won’t tell you which ones.
Some copywriters/editors charge per hour or day for their work, but it just doesn't make sense to me to reward slow work! I prefer—and I know my clients do, too—to get the job done as quickly as possible. So I charge based on output.

It's important to know that this charge is based on final output, not page/screen count based on MSWord or whatever program you use. Why? Because a single arresting sentence meant to be displayed alone on a magazine page or billboard can entail as much concentration and conceptualization as the 2,000 or so words on your standard MSWord page. As a creative, you are mainly charging for the work of your head, not your hands.

Of course, I actually charge a lot more for billboards. But that's me.
Hey, this wasn't "brief" at all, was it?
Nikki bit in at 2:27 PM :: ::
Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yes, I Know...

I haven't been posting too frequently lately, but just look at the kind of thing I have to try and translate into comprehensible English:
Oh, the sorrow too is the strength to live. The anger too is the strength to live... Somebody said so, didn't he? Since I cannot trust myself anymore, isn't there only method to live with the anger against those who made me not to trust myself with the sorrow of not trusting me?
You see? You see?! Now normally, I am the fastest copywriter I know, but even I can only work so quickly when I spend half my days staring at the monitor in bewildered stupefaction. And occasionally overcome with bouts of hysterical disbelief.

I think I need a clone. Even my evil twin Skippy would do, at this point.
Nikki bit in at 11:15 AM :: ::
Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Salt: flash fiction

Blood gushed unchecked from between her mother’s legs, as the midwife urged her to push, push, push. They lived by the sea, that brought them their food and demanded their toil; and it was in their storm-tossed shanty, attended only by a midwife with no tools but clean cloths and hot water, that her mother died bringing her into the world.

Tears did not fall from her father’s eyes—not then, as her mother gasped her last; not later, when she herself wailed lustily at the indignity of being thrust out of the womb; and not after, when both mother and child were each bundled as appropriate, in shroud and blanket respectively. Her father never cried, for his wife was dead and his heart had died with her.

Broth was what the midwife fed her; made from fish and crabs and seaweed, and whatever else she could find that might nourish a months-old child. Milk was hard to come by on the coastline, and dearer than gold. But it was more than sustenance the child craved, for her father put out to sea every morning and came home every night with neither coos nor caresses for his daughter, only the day’s catch flung upon the shanty floor.

Fish they shared when she was old enough to eat it, the midwife long gone to bear children of her own. He caught it and cleaned it. She cooked it and served it. They ate in habitual silence—she, dreaming of an impossible day where they exchanged more than the barest minimum of conversation; he, dreaming of days past, when words had hardly been necessary.

Sweat pooled beneath her breasts as she climbed the highest outcropping overlooking the sea, for here, at least, after her father cast off each morning, she could sing out her sorrows without shame. Shame that she was intruding upon his grief, shame that she dared to think her loss as great as his, her anguish as important.

Breeze caressed her face and brought her words back to her. But although the words were hers, the voice was not—and as she gazed down in astonishment from her lonely outcropping, she saw that the singer was a man, with long, tangled hair like sea wrack, and scales instead of legs. From her dim memories of the midwife’s tales, she knew him to be one of the merkin. He called to her with her own song, holding a hand out in invitation.

Water broke around her as she dove, though she knew that the male merkin were carnivorous, and made no distinction between human flesh and animal. As the sea closed back in over her head, she found she did not care. It felt welcoming to her, salty and warm—like blood, like tears, like love.
This story was originally set in Hinirang, and previously published in the comics anthology ab ovo.
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Nikki bit in at 1:12 PM :: ::
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