Saturday, July 20, 2019

Put to bed

ONCE upon a time, to “put to bed” in publishing meant to make content ready for printing.

That expression may fade away, in the wake of digital-led revolutions overtaking print. Recently, major academic publisher Pearson announced it will update more frequently the digital rather than the physical versions of its 1,500 academic titles.

A company official said this “digital tipping point” responds to the preference of the “Netflix and Spotify generation… to rent not own” their textbooks, reported the BBC.

Digital books are easier on the pocket and on the shoulders. Few students want to invest in an imported academic reference in paper format, which can command four or five figures in pesos. Students prefer to download free PDF copies of books or share e-copies within their networks.

Given the time it takes to write a book, submit to a publisher, review, and finally print and distribute the title, it makes more sense to consult journals, many of which are already on digital portals, rather than physical books for the latest in research. Digital books also have other add-ons not found in print, such as assessments for feedback, videos for a more interactive immersion into the subject, and other links.

A hybrid approach works best for now, with students using the resources at hand and making their own innovations. Borrowing physical books from the library but avoiding extra weight in their knapsacks, many students take photos of needed pages, an act of virtual self-service that is an advance from paying a vendor for photocopies.

When a reference I needed was not yet ready for circulation, I made the most of the room-use rights given by the librarian by taking photos of the pages with the smart phone I am still learning to use.

A linear manner of comprehension, nurtured by a lifetime of reading paper books, means I read from start to finish, turning a page from the right to the left side of the spread, and then flipping back the pages to reread. Add to these the marking of passages, jotting on the book’s margins, sticking of notes in the pages, and writing in a notebook with ruled lines.

These traditional survival skills are displaced in the flurry of scrolling, swiping, and metalink-clicking involved in ebook-reading. Persevering in reading the images of pages in a smart phone screen or an electronic tablet, I effectively put myself “to bed.”

Soft snores hardly herald a revolution. It will do for now as I cling for life to the coat- tails of the digital juggernaut.

( 09173226131)

* First published in SunStar Cebu’s July 21, 2019 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Absent ones

WE are only as good as the way we treat the others we view as “lower” than us.

The Golden Rule is often interpreted as espousing the principle of reciprocity: treat others the way we want to be treated.

Yet, reciprocity implies a relationship between equals, as between person to person. The lens with which we “other” the sentient beings we judge to be essentially “different” from us—such as animals— does not only shift the planes that put us on unequal footing but also severs any link connecting us to them.

Nonviolence then, more than reciprocity, demands that we cause no harm, not even when we condescend to “be kind to animals”

In this altered state I left the Bohol Enchanted Zoological and Botanical Garden in the Poblacion of Bilar. I have visited enough zoos in this country to associate the experience with trepidation but cannot also resist the flutter of hope anticipating that the next animal “sanctuary” will turn out to be closer to Mahatma Gandhi’s vision that, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

V., our driver and guide, informed us that the facility was recently opened and is monitored by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The animals—civets, owls, lizards, monkeys, lemurs, tarsiers, butterflies, rabbits, guinea pigs, and a crocodile fish—are placed in enclosures that would have blended in the sprawling landscape of lush trees and brightly hued flowers and bushes were it not for two distractions: the cages and their disgruntled occupants.

Every enclosure has a marker of information worth reading. The Cebuano interjection of “ay, kagwang!,” expressing displeasure or insult, refers to the Philippine flying lemur or Philippine colugo. Feeding and sleeping high up in the trees, the lemur is the object of many human misconceptions, mistaken for the mythical “aswang,” which preys on the unborn, perhaps because it hunts by night and sleeps by day, with upright head.

Ensconced in high branches, the facility’s two lemurs, unreachable and invisible in their resemblance to shriveled jackfruits, may have been the most fortunate of the inmates. The “cutest” attracting the most attention from us—the sleeping civets and the tarsiers, both nocturnal and arboreal—were curled and perched where they were within our importunate attention and pitiless smart phones.

Standing apart from the cage of tarsiers and the photo-frenzy, I noticed a forlorn pool. There was no marker, just fallen leaves, mossy pebbles, and two brown sticks. Or water snakes. Or maybe not.

To survive, animals shut us out. Or must learn to.

( 09173226131)

* First published in SunStar Cebu’s July 14, 2019 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

Saturday, July 06, 2019


HOW many types of “friendly” are out there?

Crisscrossing Manila and Cebu, I picked up a new word: “checkpoint friendly”. I had to Google to understand why airport inspection personnel have shifted their interest from my clothing to my gadgets.

A laptop can hide a bomb, confirms the search. The Transportation Security Administration advises that carrying laptops in a “checkpoint friendly bag” with a “butterfly style, tri fold style, or sleeve style” speeds up the airport checking process.

Just when I choose shoes that are easy to slip on and refrain from using a belt, airport security personnel no longer demand that I remove my jacket, shoes, and belt before undergoing the electronic and manual checks.

Recently, I had to take out a laptop and notebook from a tote and put these in separate trays. On another occasion, the person manning the scanner and a colleague discussed lengthily the image of the same tote before the latter requested me to open the bag and remove for closer inspection two pouches containing the gadgets’ accessories.

Peering at my purple MacBook Air power cord, the officer asked me what it was. Irony is the last thing I expect from the bureaucracy. I answered: my friend crocheted this for me, referring to the yarn in shifting shades of purple that Y. devoted her weekend to in covering the white-coated loops.

Both men looked back at me. Crochet hooks or knitting needles? I wondered suddenly, seeing Y. work with her hands: driving motorcycles, cleaning them, painting, cleaning her brushes, crocheting…

Then I remembered that Y. loops and ties the yarn by hand. She joked then I was so obsessed with keeping my year-old cord white and clean, she would make it easier when I reentered the university as a graduate student.

Indeed, in the library where other students’ cords of white and black are snaking on the floor, mine is the only purple serpent. An undergraduate once asked me where I purchased my cord. Because this was a library and not an airport and I was facing a fellow admirer of art and not security authorities, I smiled and remembered Y.’s hands and their movements as she sent me off with waves of purple.

“they taught me different is wrong,” Ani DiFranco sings in her poem, “My IQ”. In the airport, I took another look again inside my bag and saw the notebooks and pens I bought as gifts to encourage two friends to write.

“'cause silence/ is violence/ in women and poor people,” writes DiFranco in the same poem. “'cause every tool is a weapon -/ if you hold it right.”

( 0917 3226131)

*First published in SunStar Cebu’s July 7, 2019 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”