Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year-End Survey


Because I don't always post surveys at Blogger, and because I haven't worked on a survey in a long time, I present to you kids the 2008 survey (courtesy of Oryza the Genius)! Everybody's supposed to have an obligatory year-end post(s), and since I haven't posted anything the past few, let this be the start of (hopefully) a series.


1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
>> Put up with people patiently. :D

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
>> I've never done resolutions before. Mebbe it's time I did. Huh.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
>> I am not that sure. My sister might have.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
>> Nobody that I know of.

5. What countries did you visit?
>> That depends. In my imagination, I roam around a lot. In real life, I am a desk jockey.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
>> Gee that's a lot. More money?

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
>> One overcast Saturday in September (it was either the 13th or the 20th - my bet's on the 13th) where the adage "First impressions last" was unceremoniously proven wrong by that fickle barmaid called fate.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
>> Quitting two jobs.

9. What was your biggest failure?
>> Quitting two jobs!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
>> Various episodes of colds and fevers. And asthma. And my leg problem came back after a wicked night of drinky-drink with the Pucholo whilst I was still working in Outblaze. I chased a jeep. The jeep won.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
>> A set of awesome headphones (with mic!) for less than 300 pesos. The coffee press I got for my dad comes as a close second. I didn't buy that many books this year.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
>> Oh, way too many people. No matter how dejected I got this year, the people I surround myself with are always, always amazing.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
>> Ooooh. Tsismoso to'ng survey na to. Pero sige - myself. And certain other folks I cannot mention since this isn't a private post. :D

14. Where did most of your money go?
>> Oh man. Travel and food. And drinky-drink. And dates. Not the fruit.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
>> My post-Christmas presents from Lauren and Ninsy. :D I knew for weeks that they had some stuff for me, I just didn't know what they were.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
>> Atlas by Battles. Cheers to Inigo and KC for introducing me to this awesome band.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
>> happier or sadder? A mix of both. For totally different reasons. Or does this come as no surprise?
>> richer or poorer? Richer (I first typed poorer here, but in retrospect, I am actually more affluent).
>> thinner or fatter? fatter. Even if all my relatives can't tell the difference. It means I still know how to dress up yo.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
>> Letting go (only a few people know what this entails. You know who you are, and you helped me through this period - I thank you from the bottomless pit that is my heart / stomach).

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
>> Drink, surprisingly.

20. How did you spend the holidays?
>> With a smile on my face that was really, really genuine, despite all of my earlier misgivings. I plan on greeting the New Year with an even bigger smile.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?
>> Yes. Thrice. Sabi nila, third time's a charm.

22. How many one-night stands?
>> None, thank God.

23. What were your favorite TV programs?
>> Heroes, House, Pushing Daisies (RIP), The Visionaries, Silver Hawks, How I Met Your Mother, Californication, Black Books, Dragon Ball Z. These were also the only things I watched that were part of a series. These were also all watched from my laptop. I can never get used to having a television around again.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
>> Hate the crime, not the person, I always say.

25. What were the best books you've read?
>> READ:
1. Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown
2. Isaac Asimov's The Robots of Dawn
3. Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Reread. His best book.
4. Kurt Vonnegut's Time Quake. AWESOME.
5. Sanjay Nigam's The Transplanted Man.
6. Jim Butcher's Grave Peril.

READING:
1. Thomas Pynchon's V.
2. Ursula K. LeGuin's The Retelling.
3. Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
4. Arthur Nersesian's The Fuck-Up.
5. Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day.
6. Various Authors, Fifty Years of Russian Prose.
7. Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family.
8. Yann Martel's Life of Pi.
9. Shirley Jackson's The Lottery and Other Stories.
10. Irvine Welsh's Glue.
If I listed them all down here, I'll probably go batshit insane.

26. What was your favorite film of this year?
TOP 5 (that I just saw this year):
1. The Dark Knight
2. Tropic Thunder
3. Voices from a Distant Star
4. Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle (yeah, I suck, I know)
5. Howl's Moving Castle (technically, saw this last year, but I saw it again this year, so meh).

27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
>> Shifts from office clothes to very relaxed.

28 Whom did you miss?
>> The Cagayan de Oro people.

29. Who was the best new person you met?
>> If I put her name down here, I am dead meat. :D

30. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
>> If something isn't working out for you, you have to bring yourself to dump whatever that thing is. If it's just going to be excess baggage, you'll only end up making things worse for you.

31. What was your greatest musical discovery?
>> Battles.

32. What did you want and get?
>> Haha! :D

33. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
>> 25th. Start of my quarter-life crisis. Spiral breakfast, then work work work.

34. What one thing would have made your year immeasureably more satisfying?
>> More willpower.

35. What kept you sane?
>> Myself, for most of the year. Somebody else during the latter part. My friends, throughout it all. My family, esp the kids.

36. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
>> Sasha Grey. :P

37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
>> I've got you under my skin. :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Diary


Of all the cool gifts I got this year, this was undoubtedly the coolest:

My copy probably has a different serial number and far, far less Japanese characters in the background.

The Murakami Diary for 2009, which came from my dear eldest sister, who got it for ₤9.99 according to the receipt I found in the book, much to her chagrin.

So here I am, with a diary whose theme involves one of the few giants in contemporary literature. This is a good thing, this, because in my opinion, I lack practice and skill in writing short and meaningful paragraphs.

This diary has a small slot for each day of the year 2009.

Every time somebody gives me a notebook or a diary, it ends up gathering dust in one corner until I finish the current notebook I have with me and find the need to continue writing on a new leaf, so to speak.

Add the fact that most of my writing is done via the computer these days, which explains the dearth of decent hand-written works from myself for around three years and counting.

A page from within the diary. Notice the snippets from Murakami's expansive body of work and the delicate page design.

With this, though, comes a challenge: each day should contain a snippet of thought from yours truly, written as carefully as I could ever muster so as not to put myself to shame by pitting my own words against the works of a master I truly truly admire.

BTW, for those of you who were wondering: yes, I did get a shirt this Christmas. We shall not talk any more of it; just know that it is orange and nondescript. I also got a pair of socks and three sets of boxers. Nobody thought of giving me a shawarma-hock, but the nice pen and the diary more than makes up for the lack of bovine meat.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!


It's the 24th and I haven't even done my shopping or most of my work for that matter. I have also not for the past two weeks, done any serious workout. I expect to greet 2009 a little bit flabbier than I was last year.

But hell. It's the holidays, and despite any misgivings, we all need to get together and enjoy the fact that at least once every year, everybody's given the excuse to shovel fattening pieces of ham and edam cheese down their gullets and guzzle some good alcohol. So what the hey. Merry Christmas, folks, and may it be a truly good one for all of you - especially those of you who really need it.

As my gift to all of you readers, here's a nice animated short I picked up from wandering around the 'net the entire night. It isn't Pixar in terms of story quality and pacing, but what it lacks in that department, it makes up for by being very, very cheeky. I know at least of one person who will truly enjoy this. You know who you are. Merry, merry Christmas to you and your (pamang)kin(s).

Without further ado, I present to you Big Buck Bunny.

And that's a wrap. Merry Christmas, people. Easy on the decadence. I want to see everybody I know as fat and as healthy as can be when 2009 comes crawling in through that door, so no keeling over on me, mkay?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

(Another) Holiday Post


It's Christmas.

The weather's slowly turned chilly; you see more and more people out with their jackets, and there's a crispness in the air, like the slow, silent crumbling of Graham crackers, or the slow popping of popcorn in the microwave. But you can't hear it.

Out there, in the street, there's gaiety and fanfare, without really being fanfare because fanfare is always planned. The kid carolers, knocking on your door and throwing rocks when you act the scrooge. Bright lights, big city lights, all throughout the avenues, and you know that just down the street from the church you can pick up a steaming bibingka or puto bumbong with niyog and luscious butter.

In the pulpit, the priests are getting ready, celebrating the reason for the season and telling us that the son of God is at hand. On the other hand, stores have advertisements and hawkers telling everybody that Christmas means a variety of sales from both retail and wholesale just so you can make your loved ones smile maybe just a little bit more.

In the television, even the Catholic channels have advertisements.

If there were snow here, you'd see more couples walking slowly, arm-in-arm, enjoying the added proximity given by the need of warmth. It's a good thing it seldom rains in Christmas, at least here.

Funny isn't it? How in the midst of all this cheer, all it takes is a moment to stop and think, and to look inside of yourself and the realization that while you're happy, there's no avoiding that gaping hole of something that sits on your chest, keeping you from really saying that hey, it's the holiday.

It's the holiday.

That doesn't mean you're not happy. Happiness is multi-layered and while it takes a little bit of effort to expose the innermost bulb, it doesn't take much to get the tears flowing.

Tears fall to the ground at the rate of at least ten centimetres per second. Dusk comes in at approximately thirty minutes earlier at eight hours on the GMT. It takes a second for an instant message from across the globe to reach my computer. And yet, time marches on slowly.

In a couple of weeks, Christmas is over. In a few minutes, your bank account is a couple hundred pesos poorer. In a second, a tequila shot is gone, and after a five-second period of time when you slice a block of cheese, you have just taken away approximately 1% of the entire cheese.

1% in 5 seconds.

200 in 5 minutes.

2009 in 11 days.

And what changes?

Again this year, the days leading up to the holidays I greet with a stiff glass of Jim Beam and a poker face. I don't know how you celebrate your holidays folks, but Merry Christmas, for your sakes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Crooners And Caroling


I love crooners. Seriously, who wouldn't like the way crooners, well, croon? I've been in a very crooner-ish mood lately, thanks to someone very dear. So since I can't find a version of this song performed by Sinatra (the king of crooners), go go Buble:




Everybody's making Christmas wish lists. So far, two people have been asking me about what I'd like for the season, and I've always given the same answer. Nothing. Because I don't make lists for Christmas. Give whatever or give nothing, it doesn't matter. The thought that counts and all that. Bah humbug, I have a cold.

In the spirit of my very un-Christmaslike mood, though, let me make a list of the things that I do not want to get for Christmas:

  1. shirts - Last year being the exception, I totally detest getting shirts for Christmas. Or birthdays. This is like the most basic staple of gift-giving, and it gets annoying, mostly because people usually don't know what style of shirt you like. Or, since I'm a big guy, what size you wear. Unfortunately for me, very few of my family members will read through this blog and know that giving me a shirt for the holidays will most likely result in a secret mental aneurysm.
  2. books - This is weird for me, because I read read and read a lot. But the thing is, except for a select few, people usually don't know what I like reading. I am very, very choosy about what I like. I don't complain when I get books, but that doesn't always mean that I'll read them. And yes, I know I'm doomed to get books anyway; these are better than shirts, though, since somebody's always likely to score a good title.
  3. Gifts with very little imagination whatsoever - Seriously folks. It isn't how expensive your gift is, or where you bought it. The mentality of the more expensive things = more special during Christmas is just pure failure, in my opinion. Expensive birthday gifts, or wedding gifts I can live with. But on Christmas? A well-written poem dedicated to the receiver, a rubber ball, or even a keychain will work wonders on a person's mood and morale. Give a friggin' fish for a change. A six-pack of beer. Or pork chop. An idiot's guide on how to write books for idiots. A lamp.

That said, I will now leave you folks and clear my sinuses with tap water. Honestly, I'm seldom this mean especially during the Christmas season. I just really really don't like colds.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Beeeer (Among other Alcoholic Beverages)


I don't really remember when I started drinking alcohol. It was either during one family reunion way back when I was still a kid, or during a night out with the family where they made me taste wine. I remember disliking the bitterness of beer, but like coffee, it was something you eventually get used to.

I was introduced to hard drinks back in high school thanks to a friend who decided to drag me to his neighborhood buddy's weekend drinking session. This was also my first (I think) Starbucks experience.

This kid, though, has a pretty good head start.

I've reached an age, though, where I'm beginning to feel the effects of the drink on my body. Blame my year in Mindanao where I was straddled with pansies who adamantly refused to indulge in hard liquor (I love those guys with all my heart, but hell). Blame the weight I lost (hopefully, weight that I will keep lost). Or blame the theoretical deteriorating state of my liver, which I try to lighten by imbibing gratuitous amounts of water every day. Whichever it is, Bruce and I are starting to feel the need to seriously cut back in our alcohol intake.

Yes, it has to be Bruce and me. We have discovered that the alcoholism tends to drastically escalate whenever the two of us are present during the session. To the point that slapping contests are viewed as a sport rather than stupidity.

Anyway, I won't be cutting the habit out completely - beer,whisky and wine are all way too delicious to forget about. And there're health benefits to be gained from drinking alcohol in moderation, too. So the plan is - lessened intake. A small part of my head is saying that that'll never happen, but I'm choosing to ignore it right now, and focus on being optimistic. Haha!

For the beer lovers - and for other eighties / nineties Pinoy kids - here's an ad you'd probably remember.

And yes, my YouTube player color of choice is purple. Sue me.

Monday, December 08, 2008

You've All Seen It


I'm talking about this face, gringos. Manny gave the Golden Boy such a beating that it'd take a week for all those bruises for him to heal back to his usual good-lookin' countenance. The good, the bad, the ugly? Manny's all three - a good boxer, a bad-ass fighter, and an ugly mug.

Bad Left Hook gives a really good eulogy to De la Hoya's boxing career in this post. I never got to see the fight, but I saw the HBO specials on their training (Freddie Roach looks like he's slowly losing it out of the ring), and I saw the news reports. Pacman was Yoda, De la Hoya was Count Dooku. No contest, literally.

I like that bit where SC points out that the entire time, De la Hoya knew what he had to do - he was a really good boxer, after all - but they all just kept on coming to him way too late in the game. That's always a scary thought, man. I mean, how much do you think you can take from life when all the good ideas, all the winning combinations, keep on hitting you way after you've had the opportunity?

Bang, Golden Boy. You're dead.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

And After Another Sleepless Night


I can honestly say that I never ever should have read through the entire Watchmen series because it has furthered my understanding that I might never fully enjoy the upcoming eponymous movie the way it was meant to be enjoyed (and if we're to take 300 as a template, that would be tantamount to something like no brains + more testosterone please).

Here's a nice interview with Dave Gibbons, the man who drew Watchmen, and his reactions to the upcoming film. I have to say, it's pretty heartening to hear him talk about it so enthusiastically, although there's the possibility that with Alan Moore ditching rights to the franchise as far as the film is concerned, Gibbons will be getting a bigger piece of the pie.

However, there's this really nice (and admittedly old) video of Alan Moore and his take on why his comics (or most good comics, in general) can't be turned into movies. Check his blood-curdling reading of one of Rorschach's journal entries in the middle:

I find it curious that the man who did the visuals on the comics agrees with the movie whilst the man who was behind the storytelling doesn't. I think that that's a very important aspect of why Moore disregards attempts to cinematize his works as second-rate and outrightly stupid.

Ahhh, writers. There's no pleasing them.


The other day, I started working on a post that was inspired by two news stories that re-instated my faith in the common man.

1. the first story was about this Israeli who pretty much fisted Dell over for a hundred or so dollars just because he was asserting his rights as he had read in the fine print of Dell's end-user license agreement. You can read the full story here.

2. the second story here tells us of a man who spent a hellish ordeal inside his Hummer for over fourteen hours just to make a point, the point being that Mexican police (not unlike our Pinoy locals) were corrupt to the core.

And since it IS morning and I haven't slept a wink despite the scotch, I am going to turn in.

Friday, December 05, 2008

What the Hell, Bro


I was doing a little bit of research in PhilMusic and the Yupangco forums when I came upon a really interesting thread in the former discussing why the general rock n' roll community had this tendency to look down upon the musical genre / niche emo. I know shoegaze is fast becoming the trend in the pop music scene (and along with emo, I have a pretty strong dislike for it), but the fact remains that emo was bashed by not one, not five, but almost all of the resident rock cultures from dreampop (the precursor of shoegaze, bitchez) to prog metal, so this was a rather intriguing topic.

After all, emo is still a form of music, and PhilMusic is the melting pot of Pinoy music on the 'net.

But the one thing that not even that admittedly educated discussion thread could do for me was establish the roots of emo and emocore, so I did the next best thing and checked Wikipedia.

Near the bottom part of the entry on emo, there was this short paragraph that caught my attention:

Gerard Way, the lead singer of My Chemical Romance stated in an interview that "emo is a pile of shit", and that his band was never emo.[30] Panic at the Disco also stated in an interview with NME: "emo is bullshit."[31] These two bands, however, tend to be classified as emo.

What. The. Hell. Bro.

Honestly speaking, I don't really mind emo, but I wasn't exposed to it much so I never really could make an educated opinion - all I know is that My Chemical Romance and Dashboard Confessional both sounded horrible. This dude I used to work with in Outblaze, though, played music from bands like Saosin and Coheed and Cambria so much that I eventually took the time to listen and found that while these folks exhibited emo-ish qualities, the music was erudite and were something I could learn to like (That same dude, by the way, is copyright owner of the title I used for this post haha).

But MCR . . . meh. What little respect I had for them vanished with what I just read. After all, everybody with even a little bit of gray matter knows that the band is known for being what could probably be the biggest emo band on the planet. How the hell could the vocalist say something so fake and poseur and sleep well at night?

Well, enough with that. Back to work for me.

[ segue: The fun thing about Wikipedia is that it has shown me twice now that two of the current pop trends in music (emo and shoegazer) were both established way before the 90's, and in a sense were the underground forms of musical art whilst classic, glam and grunge paraded their way through the airwaves, and it's rather comforting to know that before all the drama, the attention, the brouhaha, they were honest-to-goodness musical expressions that weren't marketable (haha). ]

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mind Fart


When I think, I write. When I write, I am forced to think.

It's a rather vicious cycle.

I just finished re-reading Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and despite having read a plentitude of the man's works, I still have to say that this is his pinnacle.  The plight(s) of two nameless protagonists whose stories converge as the novel draws to a close is both heartwarming and, at the same time, heartbreaking, and works like a strong depressant injected straight to the jugular.

I have this habit of sitting down and staring into space after reading a particularly thought-provoking book, and twice now has Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World affected me in this manner. But the one thing I love most about it is that it accepts death in the most dramatic of ways, with a cigarette inside a Toyota Carina, with Bob Dylan in the background and a slow and smooth slide to eternal slumber. Sweet and tasteful, but without all the drama.

Don't get me wrong. The tumultuous build-up of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's death and unceremonious burial in Amadeus is pretty impressive too. But the one thing I fear from death isn't the separation in itself, but the process in which the self separates from the body.

Everybody says that death due to old age is painless and dignified, but I remember the time when my grandmother was dying. It wasn't pretty at all. She would be clawing at the air in front of her, seeing things that we couldn't, and moaning. My sister said something that stuck itself to my head - if angels and demons really converged upon the body of a person on the throes of death, waiting to collect the spoils after separation, then that was probably how it would look like.

Death in your sleep, while you're young and strong is an awfully chic way to go. In a way, it sounds good, but I don't buy it, in the same way I don't go for iPods or shoegaze - or even Sony Ericssons. Mobile phone technology ended with the Motorola L6 for me, and the only step-up I would ever do in terms of cellular technology would either be an L7 (for the memory card) or a built-in communicator in my head. But then again, I don't want to live too old to the point where people will have to take care of me, but they say that this is the ultimate test of the human humility these days. Humbling yourself enough to require help is the yardstick for a person's pride.

But what if you instead make up for it while you're young? Ask for help at every twist and turn of life. There's a small chance that if you use up your dignity debt while young, you won't have to go through it when you're a septegenarian. But this still doesn't mean you die pain-free.

Sometimes, I envy Chewbacca. The ole wookie was crushed by a bloody moon, and R.A. Salvatore was threatened with the pain of death by millions of outraged fans, but that isn't the point - his death was heroic, instantaneous, and possibly pain-free. I don't know if I'll be that lucky myself.

A friend of a friend once tried to do away with life by drinking poison. Fortunately, the person decided to taste-test the medicine first. It was then concluded that poison tasted horrible, and that person ended up with a horrible stomach-ache for a month.

Heath Ledger overdid his research and preparation for his role as Joker, made a mistake with the drugs he was setting up for himself, and overdosed.

Kenneth Pinyan died after having anal sex with a horse. The animal's schlong in his anus resulted in a perforated colon.

This post will die with this sentence.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Drive


Don't you just hate it when you sit down in front of your desk, open a word document

And nothing happens?

Seriously. Back a couple of years ago, you can whip up a decent (if emo) post in a few minutes, hit the post button, and go back to sleep. You even finished a short story - the first story you ever published - overnight. Some folks even say that that was your best story. Of course, back then, you were in college, didn't have to work, a rampant alcoholic, and best of all, you actually read all them long books (most of which weren't even entertaining).

Argh.

So anyway, lately there's been a large decline in my drive to put two decent sentences together. I sometimes think that this is because I lack the endorphins necessary to think clearly enough without falling asleep after several minutes of staring into space. Other times, I think I just lack more alcohol in my system, and open the bottle that's always beside my table and knock back two hefty shots of neat brandy. This, of course, doesn't sustain my creativity as much as it quickens the onslaught of sleep and / or procrastination.

Truth of the matter is, I miss the times when I was so idle due to schoolwork that I had plenty of opportunities to think a story through from beginning to end. These days, I follow a strict exercise whenever I decide to work on a story:

- I look at a draft I'd written, and then I'd start reading it from the start just to get a feel of how the language flowed

- Since I'm going from the start, I see the flaws of each sentence / idea block, and I get caught up in the quagmire of revising them even before I make any headway in the story itself. Kurt Vonnegut calls this style "breaking."

- I get lost / give up on one particularly hairy plot point / flow problem, close the document, and watch porn. Well, okay, maybe not porn, but some similar distraction.

Once I manage to save enough cash so that I can spend a bit without feeling too guilty, I am going to get myself one of those miniature notebook computers. I know that I work best when I'm surrounded by the hiss of the masses you'd usually find in fast food joints.

Anyway, that's the latest from the front line. There's actually plenty more to talk about, but that would entail too much blood, sweat and tears from me, and I'd rather have a double enema filled with brandy than go through everything that's been weighing on my mind.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Who Moved My Cheese?


This morning, I groggily woke up at around four-ish to five thirty in the morning to start getting ready to go to work. I step into the can, take the requisite morning dump, and reach out to fill the big-ass bucket in my bathroom with water. Upon closing the faucet a few minutes later, I discover that the faucet head didn't screw shut like it usually should. It slowly eased into the closed position, instead of the usual screw-and-lock feel that I'd gotten used to.

Upon closer inspection, I discover that this was only one of three minor changes in the bathroom. The shower knob had been replaced with a wonkier (albeit more functional) grip, and the hose that led from the water closet of the toilet to the pipe had been repaired. For reasons inexplicable to me, my stress level hit the roof at around five-thirty in the morning.

I never pictured myself as a person who'd react this violently to change, given my Zen outlook on life, the universe and everything. There's also the matter of me being an advocate of change, the dude who's constantly stirring the waters in all of my personal and professional relationships in order to get something new to happen. The woman I've been seeing these days actually painted me impatient, something I never really considered but in retrospect, is probably true. But I guess there's a point in every person's life where you eventually settle into a routine of sorts and stop actively appreciating the permanence of flux. So much so that a simple thing such as a bathroom overhaul would be enough to make you spaz.

I just never thought it would set in this early for me. I'm at my quarter life, trying to figure out just what it is I want out of what I have on my plate right now; I may not be what you'd term as your average yuppie (I am not a professional in any way, at least I don't think so), but you could probably squeeze me into the same group. This group is supposed to be an elite force of fresh and aggressive people, ready to tackle whatever it is today's insane world of tomorrow has to offer, and for a time there, I thought I was one of them.

So what changed?

This afternoon, an hour before I knocked off for the day, I made my way to the office bathroom to take a piss. Now, the fun thing about the office john is that the cubicles are small and tight, with enough room for one man and his dignity. You take a dump there, and you try to lessen your shame of polluting the otherwise antiseptic air of the bathroom by making sure that your shoes aren't sticking out from underneath the cubicle's door.

A co-worker of mine was leaving just as I was about to go in. Benj (I think that was his name) is a really nice guy, probably one of the smarter folks in the Australian team, and he also happens to be a vegetarian, something I admire in most folks since I can't get myself to let go of the sweet and sinful taste beef, pork, and any other meat product has to offer.

It turns out the guy has a question to ask me, something about how webpages rank in search engines, which is normal since I'm supposed to be the one-man web content expert on the floor. I step into the cubicle whilst talking to him, closing the door behind me, but since I was just going to take a piss, I didn't bother to turn the deadbolt. I expected that Benj'd be pretty happy just talking to me through the closed door, since we could hear each other perfectly anyway. And then he opens the cubicle door and just stands there, asking me about content optimization and how Google ends up trusting a given website.

Now, I didn't take that against him, since the man's pretty decent, salt of the earth type of guy. He used to be a Hare Krishna monk which explains his vegan lifestyle, and the small tuft of long hair that he'd braided around his otherwise standard-looking barber's cut. But words cannot describe how uncomfortable I felt in that minute's worth of piss. Here I am, with my dingdong out of my pants and wizzing into a bowl, and here was this effeminate-looking dude standing right behind me. Jehosaphat.

This wasn't exactly my first encounter of the gay kind, and I don't think I'm that homophobic to turn down people just because of their sexual persuasion. Once upon a time, while I was in a drunken state, I remember cupping the fake bumpers of this queer who was taking supplements to, er, transform his body into something more effeminate. I even have photographs to prove it. And I am not perturbed by the fact at all. Mostly because I only remember the occurrence in passing.

But then again, something changed in me these past few months. I don't think Benj was gay in anyway (although if he was, I consider myself very very lucky), and yet I can't help but squirm with discomfort every time I get reminded of that scene in the Logicall bogs.

I don't know if I'm starting to get more prissy about things that I find uncomfortable as I get older, or if all this thinking I've been doing for work and otherwise is starting to drive me batty. All I know is that somebody's moved my cheese and I can't help but be bothered.

Friday, October 31, 2008

I Don't Get It (aka Ex # X)


I don't blog enough. Why do I even keep this blog up anyway?

Sit down. Feel your ass settle into the chair. Close your eyes and think of the last single most relaxing thing you did. Like eat your favorite chocolate. Or talk to your favorite person on the phone.

Mmm. Feels good, doesn't it?

Feels as if the past few days were a blur. You're slowing down though, like a horse fresh from the races, catching it's breath after a tenuous run. Through your closed lids, you imagine yourself looking down at your forelegs and seeing the veins bulging through your hide after all that effort. There is steam rising from your flanks, your body is so heated after the run that you're emanating an aura of sorts. You grin, and shake your head.

In real life, you shake your head as well.

It's been a good four days. Nobody will ever find the body, you think. After all the running and the effort, the pains you took to hide Elsa's corpse after you accidentally stabbed her during that last argument, there was no way in hell any one of them could find her. You were too careful. The last twenty four hours, in fact, were spent in making sure that all trails went cold fifteen minutes after you started following them, and not even the culmination of all the bloodhounds and CSI experts in the world over can track Elsa down to that -

No. Don't even think about it. Focus. Focus, goddammit.

You open your eyes since the oppressive isolation brought by the absence of sight wasn't working. You promised yourself that today, you would relax. That today, you'd try not to think about it at all.

Of course, that was difficult since her father was staring at you in the face. They shared those stormy, hooded eyes, father and daughter, and the way they both said "You motherfucker," like they meant it, and he was mouthing it now over and over again as if the chant was going to be enough, that the loss of his only daughter's life would slowly fade into the background if he kept on calling you the oldest most religious curse in the book. Against your better judgement (Umberto Eco had a funny thing to say about that phrase), you stare into his face and wouldn't you know it.

"You've been screwing Danica," Elsa'd screamed then. The two of you were in the bedroom, and she had a pair of scissors with her then, although she couldn't have hurt you with the way she held them.

So you had been fucking Danica behind her back. Big deal, you thought, Elsa couldn't even have given you head if she wanted to. The day you married her you discovered that she had what the doctors had termed as the female version of sterility, that her body never got the urges, that even if you tried, you'd end up scarring yourself due to the aridity of her nether parts. So in the midst of her tirade, you grabbed her and pushed her to the bed, to shut her up.

That was when the scissors, which she were still holding on to, stabbed her in the stomach.

There was the sound of a book closing, and you look up. You realize that you were drooling, but there won't be any evidence until after they inspect you later (they'll know that you were drooling then, oh boy). You feel groggy for some reason - you fell asleep for a few minutes, due to your attempts to relax, and for a few minutes everybody around you seemed disfigured, almost insect-like, with their pallid faces illuminated by the scant overhead light that was normally used in the sets of interrogation rooms. The guy who is hooking up the apparatus seemed to be one with the machine, the mess of wires and cables an extension of his hands and stomach, but he is blocked by the man in the black cassock who comes up to you and talks to you in gibberish, or maybe you just chose not to understand.

You instead hear her voice the first time you met Elsa, the way she smiled at you as she offered to take you up the path. She gave you a bag of potato chips - funny how you don't remember the particulars, the mountain OR the chips - and the way you got drunk and kissed each other like runners at the home stretch of a marathon, or maybe like horses, what is it with you and horses today this is the second time

Then the machine is pulled and a million (or billion? trillion? again the specifics escape you) watts of electricity pummel through your body and the funny thing is that the last thought in your mind was How the hell did Elsa kiss me so wildly if her body was unable to stimulate her sexually in any way -?

OH. This is why I keep my blog alive.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Alex Ross Kicks So Much Ass


Instead of explaining with words as to why this man is amazing, I will instead show you a photo.

Photo courtesy of Robot Walrus. All rights belong to Alex Ross.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

People and their Beliefs


It's good to have something to believe in. Really. It's always good to work for a cause, to fight the good fight so that a select group of the population have an easier time of it. I mean this in all honesty. Marxists supposedly work for the equality of the social system, feminists fight for the equal treatment of the genders, environmentalists tout the rejuvenation of mother nature for the continual benefit of future generations of the human race. We're all fighting and believing in something, and one way or the other, everybody's got a point.

Which is what brings me to mine: the -ism I adhere to is the one belief that will sit on the sidelines and chuck bombs when everybody else has gone to hell and back trying to shove each other's ideals down the next guy's throat. My personal -ism takes enjoyment in seeing the gestalt of a situation and making fun of it by pointing out the pros and cons of either side. Most importantly, my -ism believes in a sense of balance, where the good and the bad things never outweigh each other, where right encircles wrong in a slow waltz. My choice of -ism isn't an -ism at all.

That's right folks. I believe in neutrality. I am not apathetic, inasmuch as I care about the state of the world is in, and I am not impartial, since I think environmentalists and the pro-green activists are the way to go. But I like seeing how some good things will badly affect those in the immediate surroundings, while some bad choices will ultimately bring about a more nurturing status quo where fewer folks will have to suffer. I guess you could say that neutrality is all about damage control - neutral thinkers are the dudes who make sure that civilians aren't killed in the crossfire, or that you don't get accidentally shot because you were busy taking a shit when the Germans crossed the no-man's land.

Earlier today, I commented on a friend's post about Anna Garlin Spencer, a person who I know jack shit about. I understand that she was probably a pretty big proponent in the women's rights movement. The article outlined something to the effect that there are very few, if any at all, published works that praise the genius of a person who created what I imagine were plenty of useful things and ideas that the world benefits from today. In exchange, the text went on to say, her husband and children starved or suffered. A pretty ambiguous statement, at best.

Since I didn't know who she was, or what her contributions were to society and gender studies, I reacted (vaguely, it must be said) on the rather alarming statement that had something to do with her husband and children suffering. What irked me is the response of a person whom I didn't even know who seems to have snidely assumed that the person should have been common knowledge, or at least that her importance should be paramount.

Huh.

Well, miss Delirium 1986 (yes, I censor very little in my blog), if you'll forgive my blatant ignorance in the world of women's rights, I will forgive your ignorance in science and the possibility that you may not know that the man who conceptualized the radio satellite was Arthur C. Clarke, that Ada Lovelace was one of the best programmers who took over Charles Babbage's work in computers, and that the hyrax is a creature with rabbit-like features. I apologize for not knowing who Miss Spencer was, and I shall make it a point to ensure that every male person I encounter will know of her and her exploits, and why other people close to her should have suffered for the better good, whatever that is. I apologize that my world does not revolve around the same universe that you yourself consider very important, or that I should hold the immediate safety of other folks in higher importance than the point of making a statement against the status quo stereotype that females are the nurturers. After all, the fact that you don't know how I think is no fault of yours entirely (hilariously enough, this statement is true), and you are allowed the right to do and say whatever you want to show your utter disbelief that people can be so stupid.

Well, you know what, miss Delirium 1986? If you have that right, then so do I, since you, a female, and I, a male, are equal in every sense. And let me just greet you with a little "Shut your fuckin' know-it-all pie hole and shove whatever feminist-induced hatred shit you have lingering in your brain up your ass." It's feminists like you who make chauvinists out of neutral pigs like me. I believe in equal rights, I really do, but if equality is only going to bring about men and women who react like you to every gender-sensitive topic in the world out there, then why even fight for equality? We'll never have peace because people like you will be too busy yakking your self-obsessed righteousness into the world.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Inhalation


Two nose-related stories. So without further ado. . .

Lately, I've been having nosebleeds left and - well, mostly left. It started during my week-long battle with a flu that kept me in bed the whole of last week. I was woken up from an afternoon nap by a clogged left nostril, so I picked up the rag I was using for a handkerchief and blew my nose.

Imagine my surprise when I saw gobs of blood on the rag. I wasn't really shocked since I was used to my nose bleeding at the oddest of times, so I just plugged the hole with TP and went back to bed.

The past few days, though, the same nostril's been doling out the blood like a faucet. Just yesterday, I ended up wasting a brand-new handkerchief because I was gushing as if there was no tomorrow. A friend actually told me off when I was telling her about my plans to gym later in the evening, since I did just come from a sickness. This morning, though, after another episode of gooey geyser, I used the office bathroom's mirror to peer up my nose.

Dab smack in the outer wall of the nostril was this long black strip of what looked like hardened black animal skin. There was a wound scabbing over, apparently, and every time I picked what I thought was a booger, the scab would come loose and bring forth another red harvest to stain whatever nose-blowing implement I may have nearby.




I was pretty early at the gym this evening. I was thinking that finally, I'd be able to gym and get home before it was too dark. The problem I didn't anticipate was that when I got to Slimmer's World in Trafalgar Square, the entire place was packed to the rafters with every gym rat and his mother.

Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, since you could take turns with anybody on the machines, and there were plenty of free weights scattered throughout the workout area. The irksome part came when I signed up for the treadmills. All of the machines were booked for the next two cycles. So if I signed up for cardio, I would have to wait for an entire hour - which was the time I usually arrived at Slimmer's anyway, which kinda made my early arrival a useless gesture.

So instead of waiting for a free treadmill, I hiked to the workout area's second floor and got on one of the stationary bikes. Now, the thing with me and bikes is that the last time I rode a bike (stationary or otherwise) was six years ago at least. Unlike running, I didn't know what to anticipate and I had no idea of how I should pace myself.

There was this neat little dial thing sticking out the front end of the bike that adjusted the difficulty of your workout. Me being the clueless idiot that I am put the dial on "15," which I found out was pretty high up on the scale. After two minutes of duking it out with a bike that refused to move without the application of gargantuan force, I lowered the handicap to ten, and finished fifteen minutes' worth of cardio exercise.

I had no idea stationary bikes could be that intense. My feet were wigging out on me as I climbed down the stairs, and I had a hard time getting a full breath of air. Still do, as a matter of fact. Today, I learned a lesson. Stationary bikes are perfect for insane folks like me who don't know what the hell it is they're doing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Tale of Tetebaluchi


Gather 'round, kiddies, and let me tell you a horrifying tale. This little ditty ain't no sham - it tells the truth (upon my honor) about the mad-dog menace of the stick they called . . .

TETEBALUCHI.

Now, as things started out, he was just a tree mindin' his own business down south of the country. But then one day, the choppers came, and saw no finer wood for profit than Tetebaluchi himself. He protested, oh yes with all his tree-given gifts, but the axes were sharp, the men's arms strong as an ox during the matin' season.

Tetebaluchi fell, amidst a furuious cascade of profanities that would make your sailor brother's mother's uncle pink with embarrassment. Oh yes, boys and girls, Tetebaluchi fell, and he shattered the earth beneath him with a thunderous CRACK!

Now, the thing about them trees is that you can cut them down, but you can't ever kill them, no sir. When you cut them down, you hurt them and take away a little bit more of their life, but wood only die when they're willin, and you can bet your last two centavos Tetebaluchi wasn't going down without a fight! The entire time he was in the millin' camp, being chiseled down to a mere stump of his former glory, throughout the nerve-wracking sanding and mind-boggling shaping, he hardened his resolve and swore to get back at man for all his suffering.

Years passed, and Tetebaluchi changed hands faster than a whore who needed abortion money. He was no more than a stick now, but a proud stick he was, strong and resilient in his forced turgidity. His owners varnished and polished him right daily, transforming him into a beautiful little weapon of mass destruction. And he bade his time well, that Tetebaluchi. He made sure that his vengeance would be swift, unexpected, and decisive.

But his time in the city made him soft. No matter how strong his resolve, Tetebaluchi postponed and postponed and postponed his avenging strike. The oils used to wax him were relaxing, and repeated coats of varnish as his older coat flaked off or grew old was like getting a facelift for goddamn free. This was the life of a stick, he reasoned, and it couldn't get any better. Vengeance can wait.

Until one day, when his present owner brought him to a bar gig somewhere in the metro. The obscenely loud noise from the guitars, the clashing and crashing of de-tuned cymbals and the agonizing, stifling smell of tobacco smoke in the stale air of the bar woke the fury burning in his heart of hearts. He remembered his life as a tree, and he remembered his downfall. His shame.

His revenge, thought Tetebaluchi, was at hand.

He sat down, patiently, looking for the perfect target. Beer bottles were emptied, ashtrays were filled with stale cigarette ends, and yet he lay there, observing. Feeling through the intensity in the air for the perfect victim. And after several hours, Tetebaluchi, that darn cuntfucker of a stick, found his target.

Me

Photo courtesy of Mahal Adams

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Post-Hiatus Vignette #1


He really needed to get back to his fiction. After checking out an artist's blog for inspiration, he felt it. It started small, a creative rush dripping throughout his body. It didn't feel like writing on the adrenaline-induced equivalent of crack or staring into the eyes of God, no.

This was something different.

It was like coffee, or Super Mario Brothers. This was what one would feel after downing a mugful of rich, luxurious espresso shots. This, he reasoned, was probably how Super Mario felt like after eating a mushroom - bigger somehow, and more secure that while he wasn't really larger than life, there was this voodoo majik that gave him the endurance he needed to storm the castle and save the princess.

Super Mario and espresso. Some reach, he thought after a second. Holy shit, that was a false start. He stood up and closed the computer, headed for the bathroom to take a shit. Afterwards, there was dinner to look forward to. So much for day one.

Where in the World Did the Time Go?


Wow. I promised to fix up this blog a long time ago, but even after all that, I only get around to doing it now. And I go and choose a default layout, to boot. What a jerk.

So anyway. Hi.




The problem with coming back from a blog hiatus of sorts is that you've had plenty of opportunities to write decent blog entries but you end up saving them for the future when you get to bringing your website back to life. I'm no stranger to that, I'll admit - so many things have happened these past few months that made me stop and thing that "Hey, there's something nice to blog about!" only to be followed by the thought that "Oh shat, I haven't cleaned up my blog yet."

It can get very frustrating. Especially when the only bit of writing you do get to doing involves work.

Which, by the way, is doing great. I've never been busier - dealing with the constant demands of the clients for better, cleaner output can be both frustrating and rewarding, despite the hideous amount of overtime I end up pulling. I still get to gym thrice a week, which is always good, and then there're band gigs and rehearsals every once in a while. This last bit can get pretty troublesome, sometimes, since gigs are late-night affairs and I usually have really early mornings. But it doesn't worry me much, for now. A busy Kilawinguwak is a happy Kilawinguwak.

I also managed to get that six string bass I've been threatening my bank account with. Cost me a good fifteen grand, but I think that Dr. Evil (not her real name) is somewhat worth it. The overall boom of the sound does tend to fall kinda flat when you get to the groove, and the mids could use a little bit more brightness, half the time. But a new set of skirts (pick-ups) on that baby and she'll be purring like a big-ass momma cat. Photos of her once I get the time to take decent shots; meanwhile, head on over to Abbey's Multiply for MaHaSa gig shots with me and the lil' darlin.

On the homecourt, in the meantime - everything's been pretty decent. Mom's doing well enough for everybody to be happy, although she does complain that she doesn't get to see me due to my insanely busy schedule. Which in turn makes my dad get on my case. Vicious (although not really very troublesome) cycle. I'll just have to juggle my schedule a little bit to set aside enough time for the family. So yeah - I know you read my blog dad. Haha. No heartwarming comments in this blog - if it doesn't have testosterone, keep it out (ok, I'm kidding).

As for the blog itself, there have been a few major changes. Firstly, I'll be converting this blog to a truly personal repository for my thoughts, rather than a place for noteworthy reads. I gave that a shot for some time, and I just really ran out of juice way before I could even get into the groove of things. Secondly, I'll be limiting the amount of outgoing links on display in the sidebar. I won't be optimizing this site for SEO purposes, since I don't really plan on turning the Mezzanine into an earning project. So yeah, people who link to me for purely linkback purposes, eat your hearts out. I've also removed the Google ads on display like I promised, and I have to say that the website looks much better without it.

So here's to a not-so-fresh start on blogging. Hurray to me. I'll be seeing you bitches in the next installment.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Revamp?


Okay. I promised to fix this blog's layout waaaaay back, but I still haven't gotten around to achieving even a remotely noticeable improvement. I still plan on getting that done - inasmuch as I myself am starting to find everything about this batshit layout absurd - but until then, I will entertain by providing an image not that far removed from the subject, or object, of this post:

The Dance of Meat by Aaron K. Fucked up sideways, innit?

Oh, in case I didn't warn you kiddies, this post was highly liable to be R-18. Yes, I am an asshole.

I have to admit that the Google AdSense banner's color has inspired some ideas within this otherwise graphically inept troglodyte. I do plan on getting rid of those ungainly ads, since I don't think anybody would really want to learn more about tinnitus and cerumen after an elucidating visit to my humble piece of the Internet.

Oh, for those reading this via Multiply, this does not apply to you. Only the Blogspot readers can fully appreciate this post. The rest of you are missing out on the full impact of my brilliant words. Feel free to be ashamed. My eloquence is boundless and made of win and awesome.

Anyway, until next time. I pray that by then, I will have had the presence of mind to actually fix the damn blog before I even type four words' worth of tripe. Ta-ta.

Friday, July 25, 2008

More On Superheroes


I've been mentioning left and right that The Dark Knight (once again, I say, if you haven't seen it, you must, for great justice) was a harbinger, the proverbial catalyst for the evolution of superhero film adaptations. And the fun thing is, a lot of critics from Rotten Tomatoes seem to be in agreement: the genre is going to be so shaken up after this that we literally don't know what to expect next.

This article, though, sheds light on a different angle: The Dark Knight could be the meteor that killed off all the superhero movie dinosaurs. Well-written and highly intelligent, this piece pokes around in nearly a decade that saw films festooned with tight-wearing crusaders with a taste for vigilante justice. And while I'd like to be optimistic about how things look for the geek culture ever since Iron Man and The Dark Knight aired, I can't help but grudgingly agree to A. Scott's article: the strains of repeated platitudes and ideals, a lacking sense of finality, and plots loosely based on a formula of sorts, are showing on the genre.

I mean, I couldn't help but cry out for bloody murder when SPOILER Gordon was killed at the end of The Dark Knight's first act END SPOILER. That alone, the fact that change is almost always a bad thing for a comic book franchise, can become a pretty big problem when it comes to developing the characters for a film adaptation.

And the most alarming thing of all is that most of the big film production companies have announced big-name films in the making, enough films to last the industry for the next few years. Right off the bat, I could name a few:

  • Iron Man 2
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  • The Green Hornet
  • Thor
  • Watchmen
  • Tintin (I consider this a comic book superhero)
  • G.I. Joe (this, too)
  • Hercules (uh huh)
  • The Avengers
  • Justice League
  • The Last Airbender (an adaptation of a good cartoon)

the list goes on. It can be pretty mind-boggling. Most of these films have already gone into production, so if the superhero bubble bursts before even half of the films are out, it could turn out to be a very gristly turn of events for filmmakers and consumers alike.

Of course, we've been living with superhero films for a long time (let's not forget the Adam West Batman: the Movie, or classic underrated films like The Phantom or The Shadow). So who's to say when the public has had enough?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Meme And Other Things


I was tagged by Lauren. Please don't kill me.

The rules are simple. At the end of the post, the player tags 6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blog and leaves a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.


1. What was I doing 10 years ago? (July 1998)
I was in 2nd year high school. My professor was Indri Sybunsuan, I think. This was also the year I weakened my knee. And the year the high school gang of ten were finally formed.

2. What are the 5 things on my to-do list today?
No to-do list, really, but today I've:
a. Gone to mass.
b. Seen the Avatar finale.
c. Discussed The Dark Knight with Inigo and Cholo.
d. Spoken with Lauren.
e. Emailed several people regarding my lost mobile phone.

3. Snacks I enjoy: Cagayan de Oro cheese bread, pan-de-sal, turon, HK Style Noodles, peanut butter sandwiches.

4. Places where I lived: Mania, Cagayan De Oro.

5. Things I’d do if I were a billionaire:
a. write and travel a lot
b. make sure my parents are comfortable and have nothing to worry about.
c. be drunk a lot
d. absorb all available art in various forms.
e. engage in extreme sports (especially once I lose all my weight)
f. Sky-dive
g. Fund the research and development of alternative energy sources.
h. Build a time machine.

6. People I want to know more of are Abbey, Obbie, Trina, Anna, Denise, John and Mike!


In other news, today was the day everybody who cared one quid about Avatar: the Last Airbender had all of their greatest dreams and worst nightmares come true. The two-hour finale of AtlA was, in very, very simple terms, quite epic. It wasn't as epic as The Dark Knight was, but it was easily almost of the same calibre, if you ask me. I can't really give a detailed analysis of the finale (or the series) right now, since once again, I am still reeling from the shock, but expect something from me within the week.

So now the question is: now that Avatar's done and TDK's over, what else do we have to look forward to?

Well, for one thing, I'm currently swamped with plenty of books. So many books, in fact, that I'll probably be busy for days to come catching up. I've begun reading The Dresden Files thanks to the timely intervention of a friend, and I have to admit that the hard-boiled treatment of magic and wizardry is really pretty new (well, maybe not that new, but new enough). I also like the narration: Dresden's first-person storytelling gives it an even more authentic detective story feel that I have a hard time telling it apart from one of those classy detective stories of yore.

Only problem is - and if you've weathered through the Harry Potter series, this probably isn't too big a problem - that the storytelling comes off as a little bit more than a glorified light novel. But I'm usually not one to judge a book by it's cover story.

Lost Mobile


Yep, ladies and gents, I have once again lost my mobile phone. This only happens in Manila. Seriously. Just email me your mobile numbers and such other details at kilawinguwak@gmail.com. Thanks!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I Am Speechless


This review cleverly summarizes everything there is to look forward to when you watch The Dark Knight. So go, read it. Because I've seen the movie twice, and I don't think I can even illustrate, however remotely, just how AWESOME this film is. If you haven't seen it, go watch it. If you have, watch it again - I know I would.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Odd Things You Notice


I tend to notice when I build up ear wax. My ears, the insides, start to itch something awful, like they were begging me to scratch them or something. And I do. I start scratching around the circumference of the earhole, and when that doesn't cut it, why I drive a finger in and give it a good wriggling. Yes, I do this in private. Most of the time, anyway.

I've done this countless times throughout my life. So many times, in fact, that it has somewhat become an involuntary reaction. I notice that I especially feel the itch whenever I'm wearing a pair of headphones.

One thing that never fails to surprise me, however, is that whenever I start plunging my appendages (not those appendages, you perv) into my ear, I end up with bits of cerumen at the tip of the fingers. It's usually a dab when my nails are short, but when the nails are long, some of the ear wax is scooped up by the extra cuticles.

Yes, I know this is normal. And yes, I expect this to happen all the time. What I never expected to happen was the fact that I enjoy finding large amounts of ear wax built up inside my ears from time to time.

Why?

Because I don't use cotton buds. Instead, I use an ear scooper. This clever little spoon goes into your ear, and with a smoothly executed grab-and-tug motion of the wrist, you can scrape off gratuitous amounts of ear wax from one corner of your inner ear. You'll see it sitting on the rounded edge, like primed royal jelly waiting to be cured for human consumption. If it weren't so gross to consider, I'd probably sit and watch a scoop my my ear wax for minutes, just because I sometimes act like a retarded baboon.

The other odd thing I've noticed is that my right ear tends to build up more earwax than my left ear. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that my right ear is what I'd call my dominant ear - that is, this is the ear that I use to figure out fine-tuned melodies or speedy bass riffs. So technically, it's the ear that does around 60% of the listening.

And yes, I know talking about ear wax is a really smart way of breaking the ice from a blog hiatus. Sue me. I like my ear wax.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Splinter of the Mind's Eye


When my grandmother was born, at least according to her, she could hear the bells ringing over at the local church.

The exact moment she passed away was at around six in the morning, wherein the local bells were also ringing, waking the people up for the early morning Angelus.

It's six in the morning as I type this entry. Whenever I'm fully functional and awake at this time of the day, I can't help but remember my grandmother, and the dreams I had of her months, then weeks before, and the days after she died. I miss her candidness sometimes, her laid-back attitude and ready, winsome smile that everybody loved. But most of all, what I do miss is her piano playing - not that I'd want to hear her playing now, because that'd be freaky as hell, but she once told me that it used to be part of her morning exercise, to stretch out on the piano and noodle a bit with the keys. She was inseparable from the piano. It was her opinion that she didn't need a house; all she needed was a baby grand piano that she could sleep on.

My grandmother's ideal house

Don't you ever wish that you lived at a simpler time? I remember back in my childhood, whenever the rainy season came about and the storms started visiting Manila for a week or so, I'd be so excited that I wouldn't mind waking up in the morning since I knew that I'd wake up to the beautiful sensation of freezing sheets (a rarity in Manila), hot chocolate, awesome winds, and flooded streets that, if you didn't need to go out - and what kid did, during a storm? - were the greatest toys you could ever hope to find at your doorstep, literally. I'd pester one of my siblings into making a paper boat for me, and I'd sit at the porch, watching the said boat swim around in the water until the novelty wore off. And then I'd just go find something else to do, like draw (at which I sucked rather badly) or read.

Today, there's a storm raging outside. I told off one of the housekeepers (the dumber one) just a couple of minutes ago since the daft woman opened the windows, letting the storm wreak havoc and pandemonium on anything that wasn't at least five pounds heavy. Then I went up to my computer and started typing this entry. Maybe later, I'll play some PSP. Then I'll work out. Go to mass. Spend time with the folks, and maybe watch a movie with them. Maybe talk to some friends. If I'm lucky, I'll get to write a bit. And once evening comes, I'll have to start preparing for the next day, since work becomes such a big part of your life once you're older.

Someday, I'll have kids who will do everything that I used to do as a kid, and I will watch them, and be content. No matter how many things I may have to do on that day. And when that day comes, I know I can die happy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Shalimar The Clown








Salman Rushdie's probably in his declining years, as evidenced by his performance with one of his newest books entitled "Shalimar The Clown." Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Rusdhie's work - although I've never read "Midnight's Children," his ouvre, due to the sheer length of the book, I've read and enjoyed most of his other works, most notable of which would be his short story collection "East, West" and one of the newer novels, "Fury."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happily Ordinary


STARE INTO THE MIND of a genius, and you will end up extremely bored.

Okay, some folks might crook their eyes at this, and bring up examples like Einstein or Mozart. Well let me tell you, those guys weren't just geniuses, they were enlightened souls. When I talk of genius, I mean people who just happen to be smarter than your average above average person (smarter than me, say).

I mean, I realize that there's a wealth of knowledge that's ripe for the picking for everybody, and I also know of the orgasmic feel that comes with learning something knew or ground-breaking, so I'm not putting these intelligent folks down, because they're important too. What I'm saying is that sometimes, you just can't help but think that mebbe these folks focus too much on knowledge.

What brought this about?

I was reading the blog of a friend I recently met, and I realized that all of her entries were strikingly long, and strikingly honest - and abominously boring. Don't get me wrong - you read through her blog posts and you'll know just how brilliant she is, but what can you do when a rant about life starts to involve religion and deep-end philosophy into the mix, resulting into a 1000-word contradictory essay? She's smart, and you'd enjoy talking to her in person, but read any of her personal works, and you'd die of boredom.

Makes me wonder about my own style of blogging (writing is different from blogging). A few of my friends have labeled me as a good but boring writer, not so different from the person I just finished describing now, and while it bothered me for a time, I guess I've outgrown some of the insecurities that comes with being a dude struggling to find his place in a world that's slowly becoming more and more convoluted. And plenty of things have happened between then and now, and I guess they've either grown accustomed to my style of writing, or I've become more entertaining, somewhat.

But assuming that it was the former, then I'm glad I went through all the normal shits your average man on the street had to go through. If everything went according to plan - if I managed to shift from LSGH to IS Manila in grade 6, or if I had stayed with the honors section and skipped seventh grade, or if I'd actually stayed and excelled in college - I'd probably be even more pompous and unbearable than I already was now. Sure, there're merits to excelling and giving your studies your all, but that would have entailed a whole host of sacrifices that would remove a lot from what I was today - and I don't think I'd have been any happier, anyway. Fact is, I'd probably be worse off if I had actually gone and studied.

Sure, a lot of you readers might think that this is just me railing against the educational institutions, but I doubt it. I think life's a much more exciting thing if you handled it head-on, rather than if you looked at it from behind the pages of a book, or the screen of a television. This is why I think that book geniuses, while awesome, must have it tough, since their lives depend on the theoretical and the intellectual.

Me, I'd rather be out there, drinking beer with my buddies.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Enter Post Title Here (This is Not a Typo)


I LOVE WALKING. When you've got a lot of weighty things that require some thinking, a good, long walk's probably the perfect thing to clear away the cobwebs in your head. Matter of fact, I love walking so much that I've taken to walking the twenty minutes from my house to the stop where I take the bus that shuttles me to work every morning. Conversely, when I take the bus (or the occasional jeep) back home, I walk the twenty minutes from the bus stop to my house. This way, I make sure to take the requisite 4000 steps / day cardiovascular requirement of the average human body (not that my body's average in any way). I also get enough alone time to think.

This evening, I got to thinking about titles. Back in Journ 101, Ian Esguerra helped us establish that the lead paragraph of a news article was what drew your readers, so an effective lead was your bait, so to speak. When it comes to fiction (or, according to one of my dearest friends, blog posts) titles hardly seem to matter - or at least, that was how I saw it. I'll be the first to admit that I have absolutely very little skill in coming up with a captivating title. It's like all my mental faculties fail me when it comes to properly labeling my work. I can never make something as innocuous-sounding as Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost, and while I admit to the importance of having awesome headers for your written piece, I just really don't care when it's my work, sometimes.

Funny how the other night, two of my friends talked to me about titles. One was a fellow writer, the other's a doctor-to-be, and both of them, by the gods, wanted to hear of my opinion on the importance of titles. One was concerned about the blow-by-blow wording of a prospective title he had in mind, while the other was gushing about how sometimes, the titles were more exciting than the blog entries themselves.

Frankly speaking, my ego's been taking a beating lately, which means that I didn't have much of an opinion to give. It made me think about just how lacking in creative ideas I've been recently. Maybe it's the writing day in and day out. Am I burning out? I hope not. I could be, but so far, my writing - or blogging, at least - is still fairly decent. But it's been my fiction, my creative writing, that's been suffering. I can't remember when I really sat down with a story or a chapter of my big project to hack it out with the furies. When people ask me to edit some of their works, I feel somewhat helpless and panicky. When people start talking to me about theory, I tend to back out unless I was inebriated, but then, there's the fear of sounding stupid. When people ask me about titles, I'm either nonchalant or unsure. It gets to a point where even an acute discussion of titles gets me sweaty and nervous, because I almost always never know if I was talking coherently about something or not.

Gandhi once said that people often become what they believe themselves to be. Let's assume that upon coming up with a title, you put all of your determination into it; if the creation reflects the spirit of the creator, then it won't be incorrect to assume that the title could possibly reflect your own willpower and self-confidence, thus achieve the ideal title bursting with an allure all its own. But then, that's always subjective; lots of factors affect what the reader thinks is an effective title.

Take education, for example. Your average educated person might go for cheesy, direct-to-the-point titles like Braveheart, say, or even Fast and the Furious, while the rest of the intellectually apt might find something quirky in titles like, say, Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain (this title was, by the bye, shortened to Amelie by the American who brought it into pop culture, the shame). Some people like being teased by the titles, while others prefer them straight-up, like a shot of dry bourbon.

That's just one of the cultural factor that makes people gravitate to the titles that they normally go to. Gender, religion, nationality and race all help determine what a good and what a bad title is. So in true neutral fashion, I'd like to propose that there is no such thing as a 100% effective title. You can have a good title, and you can have an eye-catching title - but it won't be the best title there is for the entire population. And while a sad fact that may be, there's also something good about the subjectivity of social strata and their perceptions.

Because there will always be somebody out there who will appreciate your work. Even if it's only a title.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

So Radioactive Sago is No More


          YEAH, THEY OFFICIALLY BROKE UP TONIGHT, during their tenth anniversary celebration over at Saguijo in Makati. I was at Green Papaya in Quezon City when I found out, and while it was kinda surprising, I didn't really make much of it.

That was probably because I just came from (or was leaving) a very heavy discussion of Joel Toledo's take on poetry and poetics, which, while interesting, was getting a tad too hum-drum for my layman's ears. Here I was, surrounded by a bunch of award-winning writers and people who actually had an idea of what artistic writing was, and all I could think of the entire time was which mattered more to Joel; the enjoyment gleaned from a piece, or what the reader understood.

Which was, in every aspect, a very utilitarian view. But hey, I like to live a very cosmopolitan lifestyle, so I guess that was where that came from.

Back to Sago. While I don't personally know the folks from Sago, I do know the band's frontman somewhat. Lourd de Veyra was a mentor of the TWG and the UST-CCWS, was one of the other folks responsible for my measly honorable mention at the USTetika way back, and much to my surprise, was a friend of my eldest sister. This was possibly the bridge I used to, well, bridge the gap between my froshiness and his seniority, so to speak, and found a way to gab with the man during the few times I ran into him. The most poignant conversation I had with him was at the doorstep of ABS-CBN, where we shot the breeze over a couple of cigarettes (I was still smoking at the time). We got into discussing Jorge Luis Borges, and one way or the other, we got into a discussion of writing passionately, wherein he delivered one of the most memorable lines I have probably ever heard: writing was just a job. Which, if you remove all of the drama and hardships encountered when coming up with a written piece, was pretty much fact.

If you'll notice, from talking about Radioactive Sago Project, I went to a direct tangent from the band to the frontman. Which doesn't say much, to the common reader, because hey, the vocalist was usually the dude who drew the people in, and it was no different with Radioactive Sago. Which (I seem to use the word which a lot these days) is kinda sad, from a musical perspective, since I tend to listen to the gestalt of a band's performance, whether digital or live. While a singular element of a musical piece might be impressive, it's the entirety of the song, the cohesiveness of each instrument and the planning that goes into each phrase that makes a song what musicians call "legendary."

Now, back to my focus on Lourd when discussing Sago. Sago was a very very good band, no doubt about it; it's rare to find a somewhat commercially successful jazz act in contemporary Pinoy culture, but Sago was able to hit it, ever since the single "(Gusto ko ng) Baboy" hit the airwaves. But see, the song relied mostly on its comedic element, which was provided for by Lourd through his masterfully crafted lyrics. So in a way, when you talk about Sago, you talk about Lourd.

This explains my pretty lackadaisical reaction to Sago's break-up. After all, I went around social circles that often crossed paths with Lourd, so I hadn't lost anything; I could always hear him perform in the future, or read his newer works. In other words, it won't be Radioactive Sago that I'll be looking for when I look for Radioactive Sago; it'd be Lourd, and since Lourd was still pretty much active - well, you get the picture.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Da Fey


Read this story. Read it. Savor it. Enjoy as every moment throughout the tale unfolds, smacking your lips with every delectable sentence, letting the rough R's roll off your tongue as the Spaniards would since this story borrows heavily from the Iberians. Roger Zelazny might have become famous for his Amber saga, but the truth is, you see the full extent of a writer's skill in his shorts because he doesn't have enough room to create as full-bodied a story as he would in a novel (which leads to the rise of short short fiction but that's another topic altogether), but Zelazny is a genius and Auto-da-Fe is one of my favorite stories by this author who was well-received during his time but doesn't get half the public exposure it deserves in this day and age.

For you non-believers let me tell you this: J.K. Rowling can bite Zelazny in the behind, since none of the Harry Potter novels even comes close to the magic that this story generates. The first few paragraphs plunges you into an Andalusian-like vista filled with the hot sun and the humanity of thousands, the "tiers of humanity" with "sunglasses like cavities." Zelazny first establishes the sensory aspect of the time and place because this is important, once the plot begins the reader is thrown face-first into a world filled literally with nuts and bolts.

When the main character is introduced, he is not given his name right away. He is introduced as the mechador, which, as the story progresses, is something similar to Spanish matadors, except their business is done with classic, hood-stripped and violent cars with their own personalities - it just so happens that these automobiles, for one reason or another, are bred to attack any and all moving objects with an intent to kill, and it is the mechador's job, in this case, the celebrated Manolo Stillete Dos Muertos, to provide the onlookers with a show of dismantling and eventually "killing" the said vehicle, much like matadors would to a bull.

The short story is bathed in ambiguity, the least of these being how the automobiles have any sentience to begin with. There's also an obvious lack of background information about the event itself, although this isn't much necessary, as the story is self-sufficient as it is. The state of mechanization of both automobiles (via their sentience) and human beings (Dos Muertos is described as having died twice, and revived both times, and as having veins pumped with motor oil) seems to be rather advanced, if sloppy, although the sloppiness adds to the character of the tale.

One interesting point to consider is the title; auto da fe roughly translates to an act of faith. The cultural act of auto da fe, during the Spanish inquisition, referred to the ritualistic public penance of condemned heretics, which would precede the execution of the said transgressors afterwards. Whether this parallelism was important to Dos Muertos' tale, or was just an additional element to give the story more spice is unsure; the intermingling of bullfighting and religious penance into one subject can be traced back to the Spaniards (the bullfights continue to this day; the autos da fe do not), but while the mechador's fight can be seen as a public ritual act, I doubt that Zelazny was portraying these acts of faith through a sarcastic viewpoint.

This story was first published in 1980 in Roger Zelazny's short story collection "The Last Defender of Camelot." I am a better man for finding this short story collection. I will make my children read it, and if they do not rear their own kids with these stories told by their bedsides, I will most probably roll in my grave.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fantasy Storytelling and the Books that Make the Tale


I love hunting for really old bargain books whenever I can. In the country where I live in, there's this chain of bookstores that specializes in the acquisition and distribution of really really old books at bargained prices, and sometimes I would just lounge around in one of the said bookstores, running my hands through the volumes and hunting for the occasional book that might catch my eye.

While these bookstores carry mostly unsold books from publishers and other such surplus volumes, one can usually find the rare treasures from within the mess; classic literature books, for example, can be unearthed if you dig through the piles long enough (I have experienced this countless times; sometimes it's fruitful, other times, you end up frustrating yourself). Slice-of-life and adventure books literally litter (pardon the alliteration) the shelves of the more popular / consumer-friendly books, which are usually thronged either by romance novels or textbooks. In the popular fiction section, one can feast on a plethora of awesome sci-fi and fantasy novels from the classics, where authors like Orson Scott Card and Isaac Asimov rub shoulders with Roger Zelazny and Michael Moorecock.

During my forays into the depths of this bookstore, I've ended up with quite a lot of books that would have cost me a small fortune otherwise. My best finds include the entire Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, books by Sanjay Nigam, Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, and various short story collections by Larry Niven, Ray Bradbury, and Roger Zelazny. In the pure literature section, I managed to find (along with Corelli's Mandolin) a copy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago and Mother of Pearl by Melinda Hayes.

Dark Imaginings. Why ancient? It was originally published in 1978, nearly half a decade before I was born, and features stories the likes of which were probably published during the last few years of the 1800's as an attempt to trace the roots of gothic fantasy storytelling. The authors, in their preface, draws inspirations from C.S. Lewis [...the "arresting strangeness" of high fantasy ...], in defining the boundaries between the two classes of fantasy. I mentioned "high fantasy," which in simple terms is your classic fairy story where the world is set in a different world from ours, and magic / the impossible is rampantly evident. At the other end of the spectrum is "low fantasy," a method of storytelling that infuses the magical into the all-too familiar reality of our world.

Another key feature of gothic storytelling presented here is the omnipresent, if not openly felt, ambience of dread. The authors cite H.P. Lovecraft's "Supernatural Horror in Literature" as the explanation for the omnipresence of dread, foreboding, or a mix of the above. This point is masterfully depicted by Lovecraft himself in his own short story featured in the collection.

Finally, Dark Imaginings draws one more element - perhaps the most important of its elements - from another great author by the name of Geoffrey Chaucer. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's first story, "The Knight's Tale," involves a scene wherein the narrator (Chaucer) depicts the Temple of Mars in such a manner:


Ther saugh I first the derke ymaginyng
Of felonye, and al the compassyng;
The crueel ire, reed as any gleede;
The pykepurs, and eek the pale drede;
The smylere with the knyf under the cloke;
The shepne brennynge with the blake smoke;
The tresoun of the mordrynge in the bedde;
The open werre, with woundes al bibledde;
Contek, with blody knyf and sharp manace.
Al ful of chirkyng was that sory place.


the title of the collection is taken from the first line of this selection, which is fitting; this is, perhaps, one of the earliest forms of gothic fantasy that can be attributed fully to a given author (Beowulf, while older, is non-attributable), and thus serves justly to provide the proper ambiguous foreboding that instantly sets the mood for the reader.

Monday, March 24, 2008

An Ode



It's very rare that you encounter something that can be both poetic and powerful at the same time these days. Sometimes, you think all the miracles had been exhausted during the earlier centuries of history, and that we were stuck here, left to fend for ourselves. Sometimes, you end up thinking that maybe there really isn't anybody up there watching over us, or if there were, the dude was doing more watching than caring. Sad as it may seem, the outlook of majority of today's people goes a little something like this: we're alone in the world, so we have to look out for our own. I'm hardly at my quarter life, and I tend to see things in this light (which is, admittedly, kinda sad). It's like a defense mechanism generated by people living in a world that's become run by fast-paced businesses that require sufficient sacrifice of the self in order to survive.

The other day, though, something happened that helpd bolster my belief that somewhere out there, a holistic order of things that keeps tabs with what we're doing.

One of my family's oldest friends is this unassuming little man named Jose De Luna. When I say little, I mean little - while he wasn't shorter than your average man, he was pencil-thin, mostly due to the hardships life had dealt him with. But despite that, he managed to stay cheerful and happy despite the fact that for the longest time, his line of work was reminiscent of Charon on the river Styx, the chauffeur of the dead, a decidedly morose line of work, lonely, for the most part, because dead men tell no tales, and dreary because death is a significant sign of an ending.

One thing about the man: he was one of the most diligent workers I've ever seen. Joe wasn't someone who'd complain easily, no matter what the situation. He could be working round the clock - especially in his last job as the mortuary owner's personal chauffeur - only to come home to a wife who only cared about his money, and he would remain steadfast. He'd argue with his wife long and often, but while other people would have long gone and jumped ship out of frustration, Joe would lovingly talk it out with the woman, caring for her to the very end, with very little regard for himself.

Joe was also a very good friend of my grandmother. The man helped out my family throughout all the deaths we went through, and when my grandmother passed away, he personally undertook the procedure of her internment, making sure that her body was seamlessly and speedily shipped from the house to the mortuary to be prepared, and to the local chapel to lie in state, all of which took place in the span of a single day. He was, in every sense of the word, industrious to a point, and despite all of his other shortcomings as an individual, he was one of the closest examples of nobility I have ever seen.

He lived the simple life and loved it even though he had to live with a lot of problems that would have brought down other "stronger" people. Joe was the most normal individual you'd ever get to meet, but in his complacent existence, there was something magical and hero-like, something that the world hasn't seen for centuries, the kind of goodness that you'd see in kindly-faced janitors or security guards who'd go out of their way to make your day a little bit easier, or in barbers that would give you a complementary backrub after your haircut. There was, in him, the most eager, honest, and fierce devotion to service without limits, service without a second thought.

It was that drive that made small, simple Joe a special individual.

Joe De Luna passed away in a poetic and rather poignant manner last Easter Sunday, the Roman Catholic celebration of the Lord's resurrection. He had been suffering from stage IV cancer, and had been given a few months to live. The man could have died at any time, and yet his life finally gave out on the very day the Lord vanquished death.

Say what you will about the reason behind the celebration; the symbolism isn't lost to me.