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.