Thursday, October 31, 2002

vietnamese nail mafia

Almost everywhere we go, where the possibility of a strip mall or a clutch of stand-alone stores exist, I see a nail place. Normally, in Manila, manicure and related nail services would be a smaller part of a salon’s services. Here, it stands by itself.

The skilled people who work their artistry on your nails, wielding airbrush, nipper and assorted implements of their trade, are almost invariably from Vietnam.

So why my thoughts on a Vietnamese Nail Mafia? Well, they seem to have a monopoly on nail services and have become ubiquitous to the personal care landscape. There is a nation-wide coalition of independent nail places that recruit from Vietnam and then rotate them all over America.

I had a nice talk with Tony from Danang, from Southern Vietnam. He says that he’s been in the States for 8 years now, the last two of which he spent in Olean, New York. He expects to bring over his wife and twin daughters by the end of this year or at the start of the next one.

Apparently, he’s well-paid because my mother-in-law pays $3 per nail – and that’s without the $5 airbrushing service! Hmm. If ever I decide to abandon everything I know and live here, I’ll look into this. There. I’ve added it to my possible new jobs in case the Philippines truly fucks up and there is no option but to leave.

Yes, I’ll infiltrate the Vietnamese Nail Mafia and wrestle control from the inside.

Besides, I’m too old and the wrong sex to be a mail order bride.

food for thought

We had dinner at The Old Library, which, as you might surmise, was once the town library. It was converted to a high end restaurant with a B&B next door. The nice thing is that they retained a lot of the original books as part of the ambiance, so we dined and rubbed elbows with Rabelais, Homer and Kant.

As usual I was defeated by the huge portions of food. I ordered a medium-sized prime rib and what arrived was enough to feed my entire Pipeline staff and myself for an entire week.

Nikki and I fell in love with their port wine cheese.. They make this by mixing cheddar, sour cream and port wine into a light fluff that’s simply heavenly. I gave Sage a taste and her entire little body went into a conniption of exquisite delight – and asked for more.

a comic shop

Nikki, Sage and I rushed through snow to enter Comics Slam! They had Magic cards and other games, plus RPG stuff and of course comics. Nothing to be excited about (in other words, no rare or interesting trades). Picked up a Squadron Supreme TPB I’ve been bugging Vin about though. The one with the author’s (Mark Gruenwald) ashes mixed in with the ink in a macabre example of a writer living on in his work.


I'm learning the differences between villages, towns, cities and assorted collections of people and buildings. I wish it wasn't so cold that the mere notion of taking a walk implies bundling up like Nanook of the North.

I'd like to go where the trees are still orange and gold and haven't given up the losing battle against the onset of winter.

At 4AM this morning, I spotted constellations that were invisible to my side of the world and watched snowflakes fall, limned by the porch light.

Everthing is beautiful.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Degas and the Dance

We went to the Detroit Institute of Art for the Edgar Degas exhibit, focusing on his obsession with the ballet. Prior to this, all I knew about Degas was his penchant for painting young girls with black ribbons around their slender white necks.

The DIA is a huge building, with shifting walls that permit dramatic new means of exhibition. Nikki and I love going to museums so this was a special treat. The manner in which this exhibit was curated managed to recreate Degas’ Paris of the 19th century, and the power and evolution of his work was shown to full effect with a large number of paintings, sketches and sculptures. It was incredible walking around with the computer-assisted guide thingie (keyed into specific items on display). We loved it.

As an extra bonus, after spending a lot of time with Degas, I decided to wander the rest of the museum and literally wept with unexpected joy when I saw my first “live” Renoir and Monet. Coming across those two painitngs plus all the other European Masters I wasn’t very familiar with (I’m a writer not an art historian) affected my soul.

Beauty need never be justified. Expression need never find a cause.

Or to borrow from Irving, “…Art is fun.”

I wish we had a month or so just to explore the museum. Nikki and I barely had time to look at the exhibits on Egypt, Greece/Rome, Korea, Japan, Tribal Africa, the Modernists, the contemporary installations, the Flemish, Dutch, Spanish and French masters…

Why can’t Manila’s museum’s be something like this? And how will we devour the Met next week in NYC?


With upstate NY in our crosshairs, we drove through Ohio and Pennsylvania. Sage was a great traveler, better suited to the road than myself.

As we drove through Ohio, I just felt the vastness of the place. And a certain emptiness. We alos declined the temptations of the Hershey plant in Pennsylvania.

Dozed on and off, wishing for ciggies. We were glad to know that the story of the terrible sniper/s was about to end. I learned that Robb was booted off the espisode we missed in "Survivor".

I wasn’t too thrilled to learn that snow was expected in a few days, or perhaps even earlier, given the lake effect.

We had late dinner at Webb’s at Chatauqua (where Clinton spent two weeks with their Brain Trust prepping up for one of his debates AND it was also the place where the hotel scenes from “Somewhere In Time” were filmed). Veal and scallops, with bourbon pecan pie and coffee and Sage mulling over the concept of a baby seat. Really tired.


We got to Ellicottville, lugged our stuff out of the car and collapsed into sleep – until Sage demanded cheefully to play. So we did until daylight and we watched a deer eat an apple that fell from a tree that covered itself in dress of red and gold.

Didn’t know deer liked apples. Didn’t expect to see deer.

The last time we were here we missed autumn and arrived during winter. This time, we got to see the tailend of the fall and the stunning colors of the leaves and trees and hills made me wish I could paint.

Breakfast was those fantastic THICK bacon slabs, eggs, muffins, cantaloupe, fresh bread, doughnuts, coffee and my much-missed Tropicana Orange Juice.

We went to the city of Olean and I marked a comic book store that I’d visit again before leaving. Along the way, I found out that haystacks were no longer in vogue, replaced instead by giant puck-shaped “bales”. Also found out the difference between hay, straw and ensilage; the price of pumpkins and what Pumpkinville does off-season; and as snow fell, the difference between snow showers, flurries, storms and how ice houses were built.

I got depressed watching the first snowfall, but perked up with the absurdly huge 20 oz. Porterhouse I had to polish off, along with my share of Nikki’s Salmon steak. Sage, again, befriended all the staff and servers and looked so picture-worthy in her winter ensemble.

I finally got a digicam, thanks to secret agent Max. If all goes well, I’ll be posting pictures at last, after I get an FTP thingie for this computer (assuming I ever figure out how to use the camera, as the luddite in myself recoils in horror).

Sorry again for all the spelling errors and the general tone of my posts so far. Really, it’s hard to be insightful and entertaining after non-stop exposure to beauty, travel, food and Sage!

mga bilin

Jason, email me the address so I can mail these comics! Vin, haven’t been to bookstores yet. But will find your stuff. Please call my condo just to see how Diovine is.

Wish everyone was here. We’d roll Vin down the ski slope with unholy glee, then write, illustrate and produce an award-winning comic about it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

made it!

Okay, just a brief report on how we got to where we are, and then the usual daily posts beginning tomorrow. Not much commentary as I need to catch up!

Greenhills – Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Nikki, Sage and I left the condo at around 3 AM and got to the airport quicker than I expected. There was already a line a Northwest so I parked my girls with the luggage and proceeded to pay the travel tax. Remember when I said I thought I had to pay for Sage as well? I told the person in charge she was just an 8-month old baby and he exempted her from the P1,620 tax – asking only P100 for the paperwork. I was happy to oblige.

We got our bulkhead seating and tried tocancel the Detroit-Buffalo leg of our trip to no avail. We could just leave the Detroit airport, the guy said, but our luggage would continue on to Buffalo with or without us, due to the nature of the E-ticket we got. Well, I decided to problematize about that when we got there.

On the plane, we sat at the end of the 4-seat middle section. Then a woman with a 6-month old girl took the other aisle seat. While we were wondering what poor soul was condemned to sit between two babies, a huge man arrived, looked at the us, looked at the other baby, grimaced in sad surrender, and sat down between us.

Manila – Nagoya, Japan

The good news is that Sage was not a problem in the slightest. She barely cried and charmed everyone around her. All my fears about flying with her were unfounded – at least, I thought thankfully, for the first leg of the trip.

The other child was a nightmare, doing everything I thought Sage would! She howled and mewled and provoked hateful stares. At one point, Sage tried to “talk” to her to help calm her down.

We arrived in Nagoya and were told that instead of the one-hour layover, it was now 6 hours, due to a hydraulic problem with the plane. I was stunned to stuck in the airport of the country I hated to be in, due to the expense, and surely enough we spent too much money getting food and other things.

Sage however worked the Alfar charm on all the Japanese salesladies (and we saw them all, I swear!). They echoed “kawaii!” over and over again and tittered among themselves.

I demarcated an area in the airport and let Sage crawl to her heart’s desire. Captivated by the baby, many of our co-passengers spent time with us and we made a lot of new friends, including the the CEO/Presidents of two other companies (unexpected networking), plus residents and citizens going home. We ended up with a number of invitations to visit, which was delightful.

The only redeeming value of Nagoya’s airport was the smoking lounge. My lighters were confiscated in Manila (I hid three and they found them all) but a nice lady gave me hers.

Why do I hate Japan? Because I had to buy a sandwiches for Nikki and myself, and they each cost US$5.00. Can you imagine my outrage? You couldn’t even select what kind. The menu board simply said “Sandwich”. Turned out to be the most expensive tuna sandwich in the history of the world.

Nagoya – Minneapolis- Detroit

Again, Sage proved wonderful, almost as if she was built to travel. She was so well-behaved I was perturbed. She was so well-known by then (due to multiple bondings at Nagoya) that people came up to us to talk to her en route to the US.

The other child, sadly, played the stereotype and nobody liked her. Poor thing. At one point, I was about to volunteer to take care of her myself, but my frustrated seatmate took it upon himself to suddenly become the child’s surrogate father and ended up carrying the child, making formula, etc. Sad, sad.

Time passed quicker than I thought and we changed crews in Minneapolis (due to some restriction about shifts that got put to the test with the delay in Japan).

Finally we arrived in Detroit, broke my back lifting the luggage I borrowed from my partner Marc (damn you for your kindness Marc! That bitch is overweight by its empty self!) and passed immigration and customs (I did not declare the various foodstuffs like queso de bola we had for pasalubong to various people). Because of the delay and the fact that Detroit was Northwest’s hub, we had access to al, our luggage – so no hitch, no hassle, we walked out of the airport and met with with Nikki’s mom and CIA agent Max.

By the way, the new Detroit airport is the possibly the largest and most sophisticated airport in the world. It’s the biggest I’ve been to and my god, I was just sprawling.

Detroit – Rochester Hills

We stayed with Nikki’s uncle Gene,a doctor, for a few days at his townhouse in Rochester Hills. His place had a backyard that had a stream and we’d feed the wild mallards and squirrels. I saw my first hedgehog too, as well as an albino bird of paradise that was just hanging out there in the bitter bitter cold. And yes, it was freezing. My slacks and black tee combo was swiftly covered by multiple layers of less fashionable warmth, but what they hey.

We went on food binges, visiting Greektown in Detroit and La Shish in Troy. Visions of Behrouz in Manila almost made me cry, but the middle eastern fare at La Shish was actually good. I drowned in seven varieties of baba ganoosh and other yogurt-based sauces and of course lamb and kebab to death.

Tomorrow: Degas and the Dance, Crossing Ohio and Pennsylvania to New York, and the Webb’s at Lake Chautauqua.

It’s freezing here!

Thursday, October 24, 2002

bye for now

So we’re off in a few hours. I finally get to confront my fear of flying with Sage and we’ll see if we survive with our sanity intact.

We’re spending a couple of days in Detriot to catch the Degas Exhibit and then it’s off to New York.

I’ll most likely be able to update you on what’s happening from there.

Until then, everyone behave!

last minute things

1. Had my head shaved.

2. Bought formula, medicine, diapers, new baby toothbrush, the works.

3. Bought dollars at a heartbreaking exchange rate.

4. Made arrangements with the housesitter.

5. Spent the last of my non-trip money on a visit to the Spa (relaxing!)

Okay, we’re set!

out of the bag

Let me follow Marco’s example and out the book I’m doing for Dynatica Comics. The lead character, on the left, is Peter Micron. The premise may sound like a dozen other similar tropes (boy and robot, quest for identity) but I’ll take it for a spin into some other territory and hopefully create a story that feels “true”.

I’m working out a supporting cast including Paul Joule and May Fahrenheit as well as a rogues gallery led by Billly Ballistic (or Billy Tangent).

Jason’s brief is quite a challenge to me, as I need to create an outward-looking, creativity-encouraging, not-necessarily-violent, potentially-lucrative-due-to-licensed-merchandise wonder. And wings! Deep breath.

I’ll work on the first couple of scripts in the States and throw in the series bible. If it works, it works. It if doesn’t, it’s back to sad sad stories for me.

Peter Micron is trademark and copyright Dynatica Comics 2002.

pornography (No, not that kind! Get your mind out of the gutter!)

For Vin, Dino Yu and my other pals - here is the strip I was telling you about, Pornography. I first saw it in Imperial Doughnut and it just slew me. There's a lot more on the site, but I'm not sure if the creator, Chris Goodwin, is still making new strips. But isn't it just a killer?

various things

After a great day meeting with various clients, I finished with the last of my turnovers with Marc and left Pipeline in his more than capable hands. With the support of the entire staff, he's running the show while I'm away and I have absolute faith in his ability to see everything through.

We made the decision on which designer to hire and I think this new guy is an excellent choice, given his background and work experience. He'll bring a lot of new things into the mix and the company will benefit from him. I also hope to contribute to his growth as a professional by being a good boss and giving him opportunities to develop his skills.

Still, I won't be completely out of touch, thanks to technology, and I can still do some of my work remotely. I'm committed to a number of interesting writing projects that I will see through, if through a distance.

Our last day in Manila begins today and I need concentrate on stuff for the trip.

The good news is that Nikki got us a bassinet and bulkhead seating! This is simply wonderful!

Her dad, the General, will take us to airport at an ungodly hour, negating my extra stress about renting a car for the same purpose.

We met with friends for an informal send-off (despedida) dinner and ended up laughing a lot at the silliest of things.

More tomorrow. G'night.

comics projects

Whoa! Jason's alacrity is astounding!

We're pitching a number of concepts for Singapore within the next few weeks.

If all goes well, he'll have a ton of interesting things to announce.

I need to polish up on my writing for children if I plan to get in the action.

endless delight

I went to G3 for lunch and ultimately decided to skip all the fancy schmancy restaurants and eat at KFC, my favorite chicken place.

As usual, I ordered an extra large gravy (since I practically treat it like a drink – yes, I love KFC gravy that much).

The counter girl asked me “Why?”

Me: Why? Because I like gravy.

Girl: But sir, our gravy is bottomless.

At that precise moment, I felt the earth swirl beneath my feet as the air exploded into pure incandescence. Could it be true? Did I hear her right? Did she say BOTTOMLESS gravy?

Girl: Yes sir.

Me: Ah… okay then. Make it so!

And so I spent my lunch hour at KFC trying to find the bottom of my gravy cup, utterly failing but being blessed anyway by the effort.

KFC, I love you.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002


fear of flying

With Sage, that is. And more properly, it’s anxiety of flying with Sage. As a new parent, this is one of the moments that I’ve been dreading and in a couple of days it will become a reality. Nikki and I have zero experience. Well, not really. We have been in flights with mewling babies and played the part of severely irritated passengers, muttering dire imprecations on the fools who dared bring their child on a flight. Of course, now the shoe is on the other foot.

So many things to think about.

Apparently, parents flying with infants cannot have the emergency exit seats for obvious reasons. This bit of information truly depressed me because I was counting on both the extra leg room and a little extra space to let her stand so she doesn’t feel too cramped.

My concern is that we’ll be seated in the back end of the plane with seats that do not recline. Must get to airport very very early to prevent that possibility.

So many questions too. Some seemingly sound stupid, but believe me, they’re all from the heart.

Where do we change her? On our seats? In the toilet?

What happens if she cries inconsolably?

What if she wants to crawl?

Are our supplies of water, formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, clothes, blankies, toys, medicine, teething and rash ointments enough?

Is Northwest’s water distilled or boiled?

Why can’t she have a bassinet?

Do I stow the stroller overhead or surrender it to the flight attendant?

What if she throws up?

What about the pressure in her ears during take off and landing?

How will we eat?

Do I wear a suit like I always do when I fly long haul or just a t-shirt so I can swiftly change if I get messed on?

I know there are answers to all of this, hence I’m off to Babycenter to find them.

Fear, they name is flying with an infant. But I realize that fear can work both ways - I envision the eyes of our co-passengers at the departure lounge bargaining silently with God "Please, please don't let these people with the child sit next to me."


We're flying with Sage, the little cutie.

calendar girls

Okay, I'll own up to looking forward to the new FHM 2003 calendar featuring Maui Taylor, Aubrey Miles and Diana Zubiri and lensed by Xander Angeles. Hot!

I remember when the previous calendar came out and all the men in the office chipped in so Assunta di Rossi could captivate us on a monthly basis. We gave it the place of honor on the corkboard. What was amusing was how months would fly within a week because the boys couldn't wait for real time to elapse before flipping the calendar pages.

All of this testosterone/gorilla chest-thumping naturally led to a reaction from our women and openly gay employees, who threatened to plaster naked men on the same corkboard. We reached an amicable peace but they have yet to place pictures of semi-naked hunks on the boards. Assunta di Rossi remains by her wet sexy lonesome, trapped under a waterfall forever.

It's amusing how some people get shocked by the things we post on the corkboard. As if by allowing a commecially available calendar to be posted in a publically accessible area I've crossed the line of political correctness, feminism and sexual ethics.

Is it porn? Nah.

Is it sexist? Maybe.

Do I care? Not a fucking bit. It's our office and we commonly agreed to the placement. No one feels sexually harassed.

Besides, it's possible that any one of these days, I'll walk in and see a calendar of naked dudes. All's fair.

Bring on the sexy girls! (um, and the sexy guys)

still ill

I've been fighting flu-like symptoms since Saturday and I'm not certain I'm getting better. I have a consistent low buzz headache, cough and feel fatigued at the slightest effort. I can't just rest and lay around because of all the things that still need to be done, so I do my work like a doped guy.

The problem is not my physical state, but rather my mental one, since much of what I'm doing right now involves analyzing, planning and making recommendations for various clients. The last thing I want to do is to present something utterly insipid, ill-thought or jacklegged to people paying me for my creative capacity.

Sometimes though, it just strikes me as, well, kind of stupidly unnecessary. When I'm hired as a consultant I often see that the solution is patently obvious and well-within the abilities of the client to formulate and execute. And yet they don't, hiring people like me to do part of the thinking for them.

If you think about it, the notion of a specialized thinker as part of soceity is as old as the hills. The absurd part for me is being cognizant of the fact that if people just stopped and thought about their problems and circumstances, they can identify solution sets and whatnot. Sometimes, the argument of needing objective distance is posited as the rationale for having others do your thinking, but I don't necessarily subscribe to that idea.

Do I enjoy thinking for others?

Most of the time, yes. Especially if the challenge is complex and I feel I have a chance of failure. Circumstances like that make me do my best so as not to flop.

But during times like now, while I'm still ill and my brain is mush, I actively resent having to think for others.

I just want to sleep, really.


While putting together a presentation for a client about internet usage in the Philippines, I was both saddened and made optimistic by the numbers I got.

For a population of around 80 million people, sources estimate between 3.5 to 4.5 million Filipinos use the internet, primarily for email, chatting and surfing. Approximately 70% of these use internet prepaid cards and frequent internet cafés.

Why saddened? Because 1/3 of my business depends on new media, and the market is small. Brick and mortar companies still prefer to use tri-media or the oxymoronic “traditional” non-traditional below-the-line marketing tools to get their message across – this means a lot of print.

Why optimistic? Because that small space is actually growing. Even really small Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) with revenues of less than P3M per annum are starting to have requirements that conventional advertising agencies cannot handle.

The peso continues to slide against the dollar, there is the continued threat of bombings, kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf, corrupt government officials and the poverty threshold is $28 per person per month. It is not a pretty picture.

But business goes on, with more new companies opening their doors while older ones fold.

The trick is in weathering the current storm of uncertainty.

Now if it were only that simple.

stupid, stupid government regulations

I just confirmed that, as I expected, we’ll have to pay for Sage’s travel tax and terminal fee at the airport. I don’t mind, that’s the rule, even if she is only 8 months old.

The killer thing is this: if, at the time we go to the airport, we can prove that she is indeed only an infant, both tax and fee are waived.

So I should smile and feel good about the money we’ll save, right?


Because according to the rules, we need a certification from the Department of Tourism stating that Sage is an infant. Despite the fact that she’ll be with us and I can show her passport and, hell, even show HER to whoever is in charge. But apparently, the evidence of passport and the senses is insufficient, so we’ll pay the levies.

Good God, to even think of having to go to the Department of Tourism! I’m certain that it would have been red-tape city there.


flight hours

Well, according to Northwest, our total traveling time will be slightly over 20 hours, with stopovers at Nagoya and Detroit. Which, to us smokers, means that we’ll have a ciggie break after 4 hours and then asphyxiate until America.

We plan to alternate sitting Sage on our laps (as such her ticket cost only around $110) and Nikki has gone and purchased all sorts of things to keep her amused, fed and calm (cold medicine as prescribed by her pediatrician).

We’re a bit anxious about the poor little girl because I know she’ll want to crawl all over the airplane, and she can’t.

I hope we can get the bulkhead area for more room (for some reason, Northwest does not allow seating reservation until you’re at the airport).

Monday, October 21, 2002


Over a semi-relaxed lunched at "nina" (Dindo's Spanish tapas restaurant at The Podium), I realized how much work my poor beleaguered partners will have to handle while I'm away. Despite the fact that I'll be in touch with email (and thus still able to do some writing for the various projects), the entire weight of the nitty-gritty is on their shoulders.

To prove God has a killer sense of humor, we landed an annual report, a corporate newsletter, and a new set of speeches and articles. That, plus the current workload, plus the potential volume of new work from pitches in the air, make my leavetaking quite difficult. Sigh.

At least the food was fantastic as ever - paella, rosemary chicken, gambas, calamares and coffee afterwards (though the coffee did nothing to remove all the oil in my system - right now I'm kind of on a cholesterol overload).

More later.

absurdly busy

What with all the office stuff and projects I need to turnover before we leave on Friday.

I promise to write tonight.

Need to run around like a headless chicken first.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

whippet wins

Did I mention that my mother is now a serious dog fancier?

While visiting Sage, she and my sister Reb told us how Max, their 9-month-old whippet, won 7 prizes at a dog show, besting many other breeds.

Whippets are kin to Greyhounds, and are a member of a group of hounds known as sighthounds, which include Greyhounds, Afghan Hounds, Salukis, Borzois (Russian Wolfhounds), and others.

Dog shows strike me as quite interesting events (go and see Christopher Guest’s “Best In Show” for a hilarious look at things like that).

In the one Max competed in, he ultimately lost the ultimate prize to a German Shepherd (valued at P2.5M), but held his own with great élan.

the great exchange

Yesterday, Pat and his wife came over and we exchanged a ton of comic book TPBs. It was great seeing Pat’s face light up at the selections on my bookshelf, before he started taking tons of stuff home with him. We’ll return each other’s books when I get back from the US.

So what did I get to borrow? An eclectic mix, to be sure. Much I haven't read or read but didn't buy, a few I borrowed for old time's sake (re-reading something you like is akin to running into a long-lost friend and catching up on lost time):

nine volumes of Preacher by Ennis
Daredevil: Yellow
Grasscutter by Sakai
Fantastic Four 1234 by Morrison
Marvel Boy by Morrison
300 by Miller
Luther Arkwright by Talbot
Superman For All Seasons by Loeb & Sale
Strange Kisses by Ellis
Zero Girl by Keith
a pair of Black Panther trades by Priest
The Fourth Power by Jimenez
The oversized Superman & Batman books by Ross
Technopriests by Jodorowsky
Red Star by Gosset
Dr. & Quinch by Moore
Leave It To Chance by Robinson
three more Eagle volumes by Kawaguchi

Pat got stuff like Miracleman, Hellboy, and a lot of indie books plus much of work from my favorite authors list a few posts back.

Good reading for us both!

Also, while waiting for them at the nearby Starbucks, I bumped into Flim and his wife. We briefly chatted and he offered to lend me his entire collection of Doom Patrol (the Morrison run).

The ironic thing is that he credits me for turning him on to Doom Patrol, Miracleman, and the Moore and Gaiman type books many years back. And now that I’ve lost my collection twice over, he’s the one of the few people from whom I can borrow the kind of stuff I had but lost. Thanks, buddy. (We also talked about the filming schedule for the pair of films we’ll be doing. They just have to wait until our return.)

I feel like it's early Christmas.

You know, having friends you can borrow great reads from is truly a wonderful thing.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

the color mafia

Dindo and I were talking about the “Color Mafia” and how incredible it is that there is such a group in existence.

Better known as the Color Marketing Group, the “Color Mafia” is a worldwide organization of designers from different industries who gather every so often to decide which colors (and color palettes) will be in vogue for the next 6-12 months. These equivalent of "dons" determine color trends.

Members submit their suggestions and some sort of consensus is reached. Those in the know then proceed to use the defined colors in their work, with specific hues for cars, fashion, plates and whatnot.

Those not in the loop run the risk of looking outdated and perhaps even incurring the ire of clients for whom they design, the logic being that those clients will want to change the colors of their product line if it turns out that their hues were non-Zeitgeist.

Apparently, members can avail of the future palettes for US$700, and outsiders can purchase the same for around ten times that.

Intrigued? More here.

question (16 of 100)

Over dinner last night, my friends and I reflected about the nature of stories, and how sometimes it is the story itself that dictates how it flows, where it goes and how it ends – ultimately, even what it is about.

But a more fundamental question that came to my mind, given the nature of the times we live in, was why even bother to write?

People are being murdered by snipers and bombs, by terror both faceless and immediate. So is there any value in your little bits of fiction, your string of poetry, your personal essay?

What purpose does writing serve? What good does it do? What relevance does it have?

Q: Why write?

A: Because we need articulate the incomprehensible horror of things.

Because we need to shout and rage and be heard.

Because we need to escape the irrationality of things beyond our control.

Because writing, as an act of creation, counterbalances the destruction of life, hope and beauty.

Because writing, in any time period, and even more so during this current time, allows analysis and reflection, lends power to the powerless and provides structure to the chaos.

Because even the most modest of writing is better than silence.

Writing, as human expression, need never be justified. It need never be held accountable for its own rationale or point of existence.

It brings its own relevance, because the very act of writing (at that precise moment when ideas transform into words) creates its own significance.

So why write? Why write during these times?

Because we cannot afford to be mute.

Because life demands writing.

Because I believe that words, no matter how small, have the potential to change the world.

One stanza, one paragraph, one word, one mind at a time.


A few days ago, a couple of bombs exploded in Zamboanga (south of Manila) and killed a number of people.

A few hours ago, a bomb detonated inside a bus filled with people and killed several and hurt more.

Manila and other cities in the Philippines are on the edge, and all around me people are asking the same question.

Why is this happening?

This is just wrong.

I do not know exactly what I can do by myself but I refuse to take this sitting down.

This has to end.

This has to stop.

I refuse to live in fear.

I refuse to let my children live in the shadow of terror.

But how? In what way?

These are works of evil men, stripped of their very humanity, of any hope of redemption. Beyond any ideology, beyond any possible reason, beyond mercy.

They are murderers and cowards and fiends.

I refuse to be a passive silent faceless potential victim.


Friday, October 18, 2002

survivor: thailand 5.5

In perhaps the most boring example of Survivor, Stephanie the firefighter gets booted off.


I tell you, even the promos for this episode had more life.


a sudden diaspora

In an odd unexpected show of solidarity, a lot of the people in our regular writer/artist coterie have gone or are about to go abroad albeit for various reasons.

Camille is based in Colorado but traipses all over the US.

Jason is currently in Singapore.

Cynthia left today for Japan.

Nikki and I are going to New York (and hopefully Las Vegas to see my dad and our old friends Pauline & Dino and their son, Dylan).

Dino Yu is going off to India for god-knows-what reason.

And Marco has Kuwait in his sights.

What a bunch of travellers. If only we could travel together (come on, Vin! What happened to our plans for Angkor Wat?)

At the very least, we can count on a hoard of pasalubong (souvenirs) from each other!

completely irrelevant, but look!

If I were to cast Krypto the Superdog in whatever new film ("Superman & Batman" anybody?), this is the canine I'd get. I mean, just look at him - intelligent, noble and fierce-looking. Just imagine a cape and collar and voila! Kal-el's little buddy.

You know what else this Silver Age fan misses? The entire League of Super-Pets. You heard that right. Bring back Streaky (the Super Cat), Comet (the Super Horse), Beppo (the Super Monkey)! And Proty too!

Bring back the happy times!

Bring back the madness!!
stuck in makati

Just as my meeting with a new insurance client in Makati ended, the skies broke with a sudden rain. This downpour was a real gusher and soon, to my dismay, all traffic slowed down to a snail's pace.

Feh. I really hate being trapped in slow-moving traffic with nothing better to do than play with my cell phone. I tried to be constructive and critiqued every billboard ad I saw (and majority were so poorly done it made me wonder how they were approved in the first place), but after a while sheer ennui just set in.

Traffic in Manila forces people to just slow down from their daily rush-rush. Normally, that would be...nice, because you get to think, etc.

But it can also go the other way, and the boredom combines with irrational rage at being trapped, and all the thoughts that run through your head are unsavory ones involving much pain inflicted on other stranded motorists and the Philippine government.

When the main road that travels through your capital city is congested with little hope of relief, you just want to hit somebody.

So much for constructive thinking.

a daft error

The Booker Prize people accidentally released the name of one of the short-listed authors as the winner, before the judges even met to decide on which candidate gets the prize (it's here).

This is a terrible thing to have happened and I wouldn't want to be in Yann Martel's (Life of Pi) shoes. (It's that novel about a man and tiger stuck on a raft.)


Because hope is cruel, that's why.

During one of the awards ceremonies I attended, the nominees for a particular prize were announced by the host. One of the finalists stood up and began walking up to podium, thinking he had won.

It was a sad thing to see him escorted back, red-faced, to his seat.

And then lose anyway.

root canals

I hate them.

First, I'm afraid of the dentist. Always have been, always will be.

Second, root canal work is. Hideously expensive.

Third, it's hard for my old-fashioned mind to handle the thought of saving the corrupted tooth (via root canal for around P10k-P15k) versus just extracting the damn thing (for a fraction of the cost).

Fourth, it's expensive (and that's the same reason for numbers 5 to 10, interspersed with dental fear).

Both Nikki and I need some root canal work. While I've been giving several dentists the run-around (asking for quadruple opinions, all the same), Nikki is going for hers next week (she's also braver than I am, and has the pain tolerance of a black hole).

From my perspective, it's really a hard sell. Dentophobia + absurd expense + irrational logic = "Well, I'll have it done only when I'm writhing on the floor and have absolutely no choice."

Sad, but true.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

the 100 things meme (3 of several)
wear and tear

31. Since I became an adult, I’ve only owned two pairs of rubber shoes. I just don’t like the way they look, especially the violently colorful ones. I prefer almost any other sensible footwear and have a bias towards leather shoes and sandals. Currently though, my favorites are a pair of DKNY low cut slip-ons (which my partner Dindo bought for me in HK) and my Cherry Red Doc Martens.

32. My closet is predominantly black and earth tones, and at one point in time I had 8 suits, all various shades of gray and black. For formal business meetings, I trot out the Balenciaga. (Nikki’s wardrobe is 98% black)

33. I don’t wear a watch. I use my cell phone to tell time. Prior to that, my pager had the timekeeping duties. Before that, well, I guess it was the sun and the stars.

34. I started carrying a key chain only after I got married.

35. Every morning, the following items go into my pockets: wallet, keys, cigarettes, lighter and cell phone. My day would be ruined if I missed any one of them.

36. I save a hell of a lot of money on shampoo and stuff because of my 1 cm. long hair; although that’s balanced by Nikki’s dazzling array of bathroom thingies.

37. I cut up all my credits cards except one that is never used except in the direst of emergencies. I found that keeping several active ones was just too tempting. During my credit card-using days, all my budgeting skills went out the window. Never again!

38. For the same reason, I always carry only a small amount of cash. Although the presence of ATMs all-over the place make drawing funds a little too convenient.

39. In Flim’s terms, I am a hoarder. Like a packrat I find it hard to throw anything away. It’s the collector’s mentality, I guess. Though once in a while, when there is just too much junk sitting around the place, I go on a merciless throwing spree where nothing is sacred. Except for the stuff I cannot bear to throw away. Sigh.

40. The things I invariably lose are people’s business cards. I end up pocketing them or placing them in my laptop bag with every intention of storing them in the card case, but they just vanish into thin air. That, combined with my terrible memory for names, puts me on the spot too frequently for comfort.

Sage turned 8 months old yesterday and at her regular monthly checkup with her pedia we learned that she now weighs 8.2 kilos! She has all the shots she needs for the trip next week, and rest of her immunization schedule will continue on our return.

On the crawling scene, she's learned to crawl to our bedroom door from the living room and somehow...thump the door. When I open the door and see her, she lets out a chortle (sort of a feeling-clever inhalation with a giggle mixed somewhere in it). Nothing stops her now, all hurdles have become temporary barriers to her willpower. She pulls herself up, climbs things and if you try to set her on her tummy she just flips over and gets on her knees then her butt - and then looks at you accusingly.

She's also quite the fashion maven. A couple of days ago 2 batches of clothes arrived for her (one from her granfmother in NY and the other from her godmother based in HK). Diovine, her nanny, was ecstatic and proceeded to dress Sage up for every little occasion - different ensembles for getting taho, going to the laundromat, visiting the roofdeck. When I arrived home, I was amused to see Sage in a teeny tank top with a matching lavender skirt. Sheesh.

She's just a wonder to watch.
more sex

I was talking to a friend about my reaction to the Patricia Javier thing (see post below). I was trying to explain how the entire notion of sex-as-coin annoyed me.

Him: "Well that's easy for you to say."

Me: "What do you mean?"

Him: "You're married so you don't have to worry about getting some."

Me: "What?"

Him: "Single men are a big target market for beer, and they're a horny bunch, so what's wrong with giving them a little hotsie to fantasize over?"

Me: "But the nature of a TV commercial is that its indiscriminate! We married men are targets too! We drink beer too! But that's not the point, is it?

Him: "All I'm saying is that it's just an ad."

Me: "Just an ad.

Him: "Besides, she didn't really show anything. People like you overreact. Think, if you were single, wouldn't you just love this ad?"

Me: "You maniac."

Him: "You got that right."

patricia javier naked in beer ad

*with corrections thanks to Budjette - sheesh, what an oversight!*

Circulating around the Filipino ether are images and clips of starlet Patricia Javier during the filming of an ad for beer (sorry, no gratuitous sex shots from me, go find it yourself). The reason I mention this is because my predominantly male staff were clustered around one of PCs watching the same clip over and over again. Patricia Javier standing in a skimpy top, wind blows her top away and she bashfully covers her breasts. (On close inspection of the material, her breasts were not really exposed)


This is what irks me about the state of advertising in the Philippines. The maxim of "Sex Sells" is, of course, true. But do we as creatives need to bow down to that aphorism, no matter how effective? Is sex the only way to sell a brand?

By using sex as a selling point, we cater to the most basic animal drives of the male population, true. And the beer gets sold, true.

But my god, can we not think of any other way? I have nothing against sex (love it) but if it must be used in this way, I prefer a more clever approach. Being obvious is for dummies.

(My boys continue to play back the thing over and over again, praising the power of the internet. And yes, of course I watched it too!)
wounds of youth

Flim has a long and interesting post about collectibles, and how every little dent and fleck of paint on old beloved toys are badges of your childhood.

It's true.

Once in a while, a revival of toys or cartoons past brings back a surge of memories, and I go out and try to purchase a bit of my personal history.

It may not make sense to other people, but when I get an old Lego set in a garage sale, I swoon with ill-repressed delight.

I remember playing with my sets, constructing things beyond the models provided and creating new structures - and then making up stories about it. I loved the castle set series because of my leaning towards fantasy. I remember vowing, just a couple of years ago, to begin collecting Lego again, since my finances were in a whole different level compared to when I was a child. So to Nikki's amusement, I bought several of the large sets.

But it wasn't the same. It wasn't that the sets I really wanted were no longer available and that I had to make do with was on the shelves of Toys r Us, but rather the sad epiphany that I couldn't go back, not completely, and reclaim to absolute magic of my youth.

The pieces still held the potential to become battlements, spires and portcullises, but somehow I had lost the original blueprint of the ur-Castle of my previous imagination, and could only see things as an adult.

Realizing that, I put away the new sets I got and picked up a novel to read instead.

But of course deep down inside, I'm playing with my Lego, creating scenarios of war, romance and heroism.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

writing for children

Nikki and I are planning to submit stories to a Short Story for Children competition whose deadline is November 5. However, since we are flying off next week, we need to finish, edit, polish and print our entries and have them notarized. Nikki has all her work done and I... I haven't even finished my story!

I'm thinking of a girl with fire for hair who is sadly condemned to live in the sea. But thinking is not writing.

Apart from the less than accomodating circumstances for writing (busybusybusy), I find myself paralyzed by certain notions I have about writing for children. The last thing I want to do is to "talk down" to them, because I recall as a youngster how I reviled books that had that certain condescending manner. But I also do not think that my normal mode is accessible enough. Part of my style involves ridiculous run-on sentences with many a clause interposed, contributing sense only if the reader has enough stamina to get through the entire thing. Well, not really, but other things like vocabulary words and such have become issues for me. And yet, I know well enough never to underestimate the capacity of children to comprehend things adults assume are beyond them. Gah. What to do.

And it does not help that the target age range is 6-12! 6-12! That's a funky range! A six-year-old will not necessary enjoy something written for a 12-year-old. So what's the plan? Write for the midrange of 9? I suppose I'll have to.

Or I could just any story I damn well like and submit that, for as long as the content is appropriate, right?


head hurts

I had a four-hour consulting meeting with one of our clients this afternoon, discussing generalities and specifics for the year to come. At the end of it all, I had a killer migraine and collapsed at home, waking up only to have dinner.

It's rare that such mental exertions leave me like a wilted flower, but this was one of those occasions that sapped my intellect.

I guess it's the just the enormity of the planning and execution ahead (we need to have a proposal of sorts in a week's time) that affected me. That, plus the other things that need to be done in the next few days for other clients old and new.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I just have to adjust to the workload before I burn myself out.
my top 12 best comic book writers

These are the writers I particularly enjoy reading. Their combined work make the case for comics as both a literary and entertaining medium. I tried to narrow my list down to 10 but found it impossible; hence, my top 12:

12. James Robinson – for Starman. Robinson has a flair for imbuing colorful superheroics with the richness of everyday life. In Starman, he showed his respect for the things of the past, creating moving stories that allowed for richness of character (even his city was a character in itself).

11. Paul Chadwick – for Concrete. Chadwick wrote about the life of a man trapped in the indestructible body of a golem. The power of his writing, like Robinson, was in being able to show the relevance of the mundane world. Concrete was a ordinary man with his own insecurities and hang-ups, thrust into the extraordinary.

10. Jason Lutes – for Berlin. No spandex, just the horror of lives caught in the shadow of World War II. Lutes, in this ongoing series, explores the nature of love and hope, terror and horror, with a cast of finely written characters.

9. Brian Michael Bendis – for Ultimate Spiderman & Powers. Dialogue is Bendis’ forte. In USM, he reinvigorates an old title with fresh ideas and wonderful lines that ring “true”. With Powers, especially in the early issues, he shows his capacity for tone, beat and cadence.

8.Matt Wagner – for Grendel and Mage. Wagner’s ambitious Grendel was a opus on the psychology of people who danced with the devil. Mage’s conceit was the rebirth of heroes of mythology and legend in a modern-day setting. Both worked exceedingly well.

7. Adrian Tomine – for Optic Nerve. Intensely personal, Tomine’s vignettes offer glimpses into the workings of the mind of a gifted artist. Little things do not overwhelm but contribute to the sincere depth of reflection.

6. Grant Morrison – for Doom Patrol. Before his popular takes on X-Men and JLA, he wrote the mindfuck that was Doom Patrol. Filled with esoteric concepts that would serve as precursors for his work with The Invisibles, Morrison imbued the title with an other-worldliness that has been unmatched since then.

5. Mike Mignola - for Hellboy. Mignola’s gift is for concept, mood and dialogue. Hellboy proves his ability to tell a sequential graphic story with just the right mix of words and art.

4. Alan Moore – for Miracleman. It was hard to select just one work that epitomized Moore’s talent, but with Miracleman he took a concept and ran off with it, and no one has been able to follow – though many have tried to walk in his footsteps.

3. Warren Ellis – for The Authority. Kick-ass attitude with simply-drawn but sharply focused caricatures of characters. His over-the-top, big-screen style influenced a new generation of writers whose emulation often proved less than edifying.

2. Neil Gaiman – for Sandman. For sheer beauty and “literariness”, no one writes like Gaiman. His ability to write eloquent stories in a variety of modes surprised and delighted me. Even at his lowest point (The Dream Hunters) he was still head and shoulders above the crowd.

1. Mike Allred – for The Atomics. Surprised? Don’t be. Allred’s writing is terse and funny, honest and exciting, simple but powerful. He isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he sure is mine. Read and enjoy him, if you dare.
mind blank

If you strike my head with a hammer right now, you’d hear echoes reverberate.

So now I have this buzz of a low grade headache – and there’s still work to be done! Gah.

I’ll write something a little longer tonight, when I get home. For now, I just want to have a ciggie.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

last supper
question (15 of 100)

Q: A three-part question, brought on by yet another set of food posts from Marco (he always makes me hungry)!

1. It is your last dinner on earth (fill in the reason - extinction-level event or it's your last day alive, whatever). Which 3 living people would you invite over?

2. Where on earth would you hold it?

3. What would be on the menu?

Assume that you can afford next to anything.

A: Last supper-type questions always end up being asked. Okay:

1. First on my list of invitees is my wife, Nikki; there's no question of her presence. Second, my maudlin(!) buddy Vin; because since it is in fact the last time for some reason, inevitably we'll end up talking about good times, and this sentimental fool has a way with both word and memory. Finally, my daughter Sage. I hope she'll be big enough to sit by herself - otherwise, beloved Vin doubles as a nanny. Sorry to all my other immediate family members and friends.

2. A huge outdoor terrace in a chalet overlooking snow-covered mountains and a valley. It would be crispy cool and we'd be in suits. Nikki would be in a dress with a killer decolletage (I plan for a little something after dinner while Vin babysits) and Sage would be in velvet.

3. It would be a catered affair with a legion of chefs and waiters. A full formal dinner with various wines and a sideboard of cheeses. On the menu will be a selection of food from the various places we loved to eat in, but specifically I'd have salads, prawns, duck, a variety of pork dishes, and carrot cake and ice cream for dessert. Sage will have expensive cereals, of course.

Honestly though, the exact food will not matter too much. Conversation will drive the night, as always.

conflict of interest

My office has a democratic way of determining what music we all listen to over the big speakers.

We installed a digital jukebox, placed everybody’s mp3s in it, and randomized thousands of songs to determine which gets played and in what order.

This has led to really unusual musical bedfellows, given our collective eclectic taste – the latest chill-out groove followed by “Pass The Duchie” , Canto-pop, the a cappella version of U2’s “Pride”, a Filipino love song and ending with a rousing rendition, in Japanese, of the theme song of “Mazinger Z”. Other days, we have a mix of lounge music, bossanova, Top40, grunge, old Broadway standards and Amy Grant (sigh). Today, we were alliterative: Britney, the Beach Boys and Black Box Recorder. I just cringe when we hit death metal, left behind on our servers by another exployee.

Democracy, I realize, does not mean everyone is happy (but you feel like a winner when your song gets played!).
birthday and farewell

After our big morning pitch, the entire office and I went to Club Filipino to mark two things (well, not all of us; we left Cosi Cosi the Jack Russel Terrier on the 9th floor).

First was my partner Marc’s birthday. Second, it was the last day at work of one of my writers.

So it was funny and bittersweet, as things like that go, and we ate well, focusing on the good food and the good times instead of the sadness that leave-taking imparted. Crispy pata, kare-kare, pancit molo, grilled prawns, sinigang na baboy, blue marlin, lots of rice and good stuff to drink.

It’s a good thing we all chose to walk to and back from the restaurant. My God, we needed to burn off some calories.

It's interesting how, as Filipinos, we tend to mark almost every event with food. And I mean everything. We need only the barest suggestion of a reason, and before you know it, your family and friends and neighborhood is there to celebrate or commiserate with you.

Is it because food comforts? Nah. We just love to eat.
the 100 things meme (2 of several)
mixed bag

On we go.

21. I’m a Coke addict. No, not the kind Columbian drug lords peddle, but the carbonated caffeine-y goodness from Coca Cola. And the regular kind, not Light, Cherry or whatever. However, I’m also partial to Mountain Dew (the nectar of the gods).

22. My first real paying job was in high school, when I was the editor for a coffee table book. The theme was the “Best of the Philippines” and I got to interview and write about various personalities in Manila.

23. I’m next to useless around electronic gadgetry (I’m really a luddite at heart, I guess). If computer games did not exist, I don’t think I would have gone near a computer, sticking to a typewriter instead. I started with an Apple II in the days gone by.

24. I like playing games that engage my mind and are competitive. Hence stuff like Scrabble, Upwords, Magic, Pente. On the PC, I enjoy RPG games like Neverwinter Nights. I do not like shoot-em-ups.

25. Sparky (I know, but it’s true) was the first dog I truly loved and cared for. He was a Japanese Spitz and such a smart pooch. He vanished one day and broke my heart. I still think he was stolen by the construction workers next door and eaten.

26. One time I was late for a theatre show gala. I parked and ran as fast as I could to the doors, adjusting my coat and tie as I did. I cleverly decided to use a short cut by jumping over a barrier – and splashed into the moat-like water divider and submerged myself completely. Without missing a beat, I climbed out and ran back to my car and drove home, leaving amused people in my wake. (If you’re familiar with the Meralco Theatre, you know what I’m talking about.)

27. When I was younger and prone to wearing odd things, a counter girl at McDonalds asked me point blank if I was a Satanist. I smiled, fingering my ankh and said “No, I’m a born-again Christian.”

28. I used to wear my hair really long but had it cut very short a few days before I got married. I was getting tired of it anyway. It was a bitch to maintain (shampoo, conditioner, dryer, feh).

29. An old favorite snack of mine: taco shells, peanut butter and whipped cream. Spread PB on TS and generously spray WC. A summer delight.

30. I like to cook but hate washing up and putting away afterwards. However, once in a while, the craving for fastfood just overwhelms and I stuff myself with burgers and fries.

Monday, October 14, 2002


I remember someone saying that focus was the key to success in anything. It certainly rings true for any cerebral task, no matter how boring. Difficult things to write, while they do fry my brain, at least challenge me to completion. Routine things to write, like white papers, actually take more effort on my part and slow me down.

And I hate being slow.

Is it too easy? Not necessarily, but it is humdrum mundane, repetitive and some things are so obvious that they really do not bear definition – and yet, they must all be set down.

Sometimes, when faced with something like a long form, I find myself making mistakes because my mind tries to race through it, and by doing so I overlook items that are painfully obvious.

I immensely dislike having to write routine things down, like my street or office address or names and birthdates of family members. Oddly enough, when I slow down to think, I sometimes experience a momentary knowledge blackout, unable to remember my current address, but able to remember the place I lived in 8 years ago.

It is particularly taxing for me to write long form proposals, because I have to prevent myself from just stating the project title and the cost. All the little details wear me down. Gah.

This is perhaps why I haven’t been able to complete a novel. Not because it’s easy, but because I lack the necessary focus (and patience) to concentrate on a single body of work for an extended period of time. The longest thing I’ve done is a 2 ½ to 3 hour long musical. Other than that, I’m good for short stories, essays, one-act plays, TV scripts no longer than a hour’s air-time and poetry (yes, I have written a couple of long form movies but I’m not particularly happy about those).
no rest for the weary

Okay, I’ve been working non-stop for 6 hours on the materials and campaign plan for our presentation to our apparel client tomorrow morning. We’re presenting multiple looks for multiple sites, a comic book, a magazine and media plan, all in the context of a communications plan. Aieee!, indeed.

I’ve taken a couple of ciggie breaks because I found myself in a situation of aphasia – suddenly, the word I need to write is gone, gone, gone. Must step back.

When there is intense activity, there is hardly a sound in the office. After all the meetings and discussion and creative arguments, we’ve all hunkered down to do our stuff. It’s odd because we’re very very loud people.

I don’t mind writing the copy or the powerpoint or whatever. What I really really dislike is writing the thick final proposal/campaign description/quotation/blahblah which describes in detail just what the hell we’re going to do, how we’ll do it, the stuff we need to do, the metrics of success, the cost of each little things, blahblah. Feh.

My new goal in life is to develop a one-pager that has everything, in regular 10-point font. With smaller clients, I’m down to two pages, and I realize that I can be even briefer. I have learned that some client actually prefer voluminous agreements, in which case the dreary chore becomes an exercise in fluffer jargon – thanks to consultancy-speak.

Enough escape, back to work. Thanks for listening.
breaking walls/great blogs

Jason has decided to talk about things other than his comic company, and his first couple of posts are great to read. Go there!

So what makes good blog reading anyway? I've put most of the ones I really like on the left bar. For me, it's about content, though a killer sense of style (design-wise) adds more to the experience (a fine example is Imperial Doughnut). I like blogs are reflective (like Liv's Life and Professional Amateur) or outlandishly funny (like Flim's blog where his adventures in filmmaking produce hilarious posts).

I like blogs that talk about things, not necessarily "deep" or political or life-changing things, but stuff that matters to the author - though obviously there is much insight and depth that can be found by readers in even the most trivial-sounding of entries. For example, I like reading Marco's thoughts on food (along with his usual zinger-of-an-observation on human nature innocently buried in his prose), blueredorange's observations on daily living in New York and the heartbreaking honesty of It Matters Now.

I like blogs that expose thoughts or express strong opinions (like Blogatelle). I enjoy work that is obviously written by very human...people.

I like to read things that subvert precious little listings and movie/book/music reviews (hmmm, I may have hurt myself there - ouch!) and offer more than just a modicum of exposure, because I find myself likewise exposed by my very act of reading.

And that is the power of the blog, for me. There are hundreds of thousands of reflective glass - go find those facets that reflect something of yours (or wish you had), and see what there is to be seen.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

the 100 things meme (1 of several)
growing up

Okay, here we go. I’m chopping it up into bits because I don’t think I can sit down and just post 100 things about me in one go.

1. I am an only child, but have a total of 7 half-siblings and 7 step-siblings. I suppose my sheer personality compensated for the sudden explosion of brothers and sisters.

2. I’m closest to my half-siblings on my mother’s side and I do not consider them half-anything. The nomenclature, while exact, does not describe the fullness of our relationships.

3. I grew up partially in the US, and my earliest memory of being there is playing in a sandbox with a blond boy named “Frankie”.

4. When my parents divorced and my mother took me back to the Philippines, she had very little money. She was helped out by a near-stranger, a Korean lady who sold flowers.

5. One time, as a young child in Puerto Princesa in Palawan, I pushed a bit of sago (spherical concoction of tapioca, yam (?) and sugar) up in my nostrils and proceeded to suffocate. My lolo sucked it out of my nose. Icky but true.

6. My first onstage appearance was as “Bacteria#2” for an elementary school play at De La Salle University (back when that institution wasn’t just a college). My mother, bursting with pride, invited the entire neighborhood for my all too brief debut.

7. Around the same time, I’d go to the school chapel (St. Benilde’s) and pray to the Greek gods. I had read about them in the library and thought they were real. Zeus, of course, was the man. It was only after a shocked but kindly priest pointed out the error of my misplaced faith that I returned to the fold.

8. I’ve always loved books. The first thick book I remember reading completely was “The Great Train Robbery” by Michael Crichton. I was 9 or 10. Then I encountered Le Guin and Tolkien and the world changed.

9. The first play I wrote, in 2nd grade, starred myself as “Captain Deanie”. It was performed by my class and I remember thinking how neat it was.

10. The first comic book I ever had (not borrowed) was an issue of “Omega: The Unknown”, given to me by my mother. It went downhill from there and I wanted more and more and more.

11. The first competition I won, also in grade school, was an Extemporaneous Speech Content. We all stood on the stage and waited nervously for the judges to give each contestant a unique question. When my turn came, a bespectacled woman voiced this into the microphone: “If you were the scientist who built Skylab, how would you feel right now?” Skylab, at that point in time, was in a decaying orbit and there were concerns about where it would land. I recall launching into a little spiel about responsibility and scientific progress, in my squeaky pre-adolescent voice. Apparently, it was good enough to net me the gold medal. (Perhaps that was when I realized that there was a market for blah blah!)

12. I’ve always reviled sports. I’d feign illness when Phys Ed class came about, preferring to read a book. I almost had to repeat a grade, despite all my sterling academic marks. Hence my anomalous situation - a Filipino completely oblivious to whatever is happening in basketball.

13. When it was time for High School, I transferred to the University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS) and got the shock of my life. Compared to things at La Salle, this government-funded school looked like a farm. But unlike the spoon-feeding style of my previous school, we all had to work for knowledge – an attitude I’m very grateful for.

14. And it was coed. And my first daily exposure to girls of my age. I fell in love and had my heart broken numerous times with a certain kind of cruelty reserved for the young.

15. For my first love, I built…a diorama. Now is that weird or what.

16. I became a crazed fan of Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, The Cure, The Smith, Tears for Fears, the Psychedelic Furs, OMD and Japan. When Duran Duran came to Manila, my barkada and I were there in force, singing “Save A Prayer” with closed eyes. I know, I know. And yes, I STILL unabashedly love that kind of music.

17. We had vinyl records then. And the Extended Play Singles or Remix Versions were rare. You can still buy old vinyl records at a store in Cubao, in front of Ali Mall (named for Muhammad Ali when they held “Thrilla in Manila” here).

18. I cannot stand cinnamon. Anything about it – smell, taste, looks - turns my stomach. My theory is that somewhere deep inside me is a traumatic memory. Maybe my mother force-fed it to me or something like that.

19. I wanted to be comic book letter hack, and partially succeeded, getting my letters published in books like Elfquest, Strikeforce: Morituri, Hellblazer and Doom Patrol.

20. I started role-playing then, running games as the DM (Dungeon Master). This gave my imagination free reign and gave me the confidence to tackle almost any situation in life – I just had to be “in character”. But I also learned that not every situation has a “saving throw”.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

weekend reading

In between wife, child, naps, food, computer, writing, friends and thought-life, here are the things I’m reading over the weekend.

Fiction – “A Case of Curiosities” by Allen Kurzwell (a visit to the 18th century, which is enough of a hook for a history nut like me) and the back list of Strange Horizons (like “Little Gods” by Tim Pratt).

Comics TPB/OGN – “Lost Girl” by Nabiel Kanan (tip from Cynthia, provided after extreme pressure by Vin) and a couple of thick compilations of “Eagle” by Kaiji Kawaguchi.

But really, it seems I'm falling asleep half the time!


Sage is oddly having trouble falling asleep. She's active, crawling around, playing with her toys, but when it's time to sleep, she begins to wail. Nikki thinks it because she's rebelling against the very notion of sleepiness and fatigue, wanting to play forever (she is definitely my daughter, to rage and burn against the human condition so early in life).

And indeed, Sage is a whirling dervish.

When she’s playing on her alphabet mat on the floor and she sees you, before you know it she’s suddenly next to you, having traversed the floor with breathtaking speed, hands and knees in not-so-perfect accord. I don't know what to do about the Christmas tree come December. We plan to have one for her to see, but will she pull it all down? I can picture her sitting delighted amid the ruins of the tree, candy canes and ornaments around her.

She’s taken a liking for taho (soy bean curd) and grimaces at the taste of lychee flan – but asks for more. Her adventures into the realm of taste has begun in force.

She’s also completely outgrown her baby bathtub, and Nikki has started to give her bath in the bathroom. This is a good thing because she will eventually have to learn to use he bathroom (after all, all women spend approximately half their lives in one, regardless of locale), and we certainly can’t lug around a new bathtub on our trip two weeks from now.

I love watching her grow up, in time-lapse photography whose speed is measured in heartbeats.
fanboy confession - comics I buy regularly (5 of 5)
homemade reads

Filipino Comics– This is a mixed bag as creator-owned comic books are few and far between. I make it a point to support the work of my fellow Filipino creators whenever I can (the only exceptions are when I feel that the material is of questionable worth, either as a read or as Filipino - I may not agree with the sensibilities of everything that comes out, but I do respect the love and effort the creators pour into all they do). My best recent read is Arnold Arre’s After Eden”, a thick book that explores the nature of love and friendship – a shoo-in for next years National Book Awards given Arnold’s skill at illustrative storytelling. I liked this book enough to put it on my bookshelf along with the Gaimans and Ellises and Moores, which is surprising because I really have a hard time swallowing happy endings – but Arnold’s deft touch reduced my deeply-ingrained non-closure-seeking penchant to a goofy smile.

Other books on the horizon I’m looking forward to reading are the new “Darna” comics (by Yonzon and published by Mango Comics), “Zodiac” (edited by Vin Simbulan and published by Sanduguan), the reworked “Baylans” TPB (by Jason Banico of Dynatica Comics), “Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah” (deliciously crafted by Carlo Vergara of Carver House), “Immacolata” (by Marco Dimaano), “Twilight Empires” (by Vin Simbulan of Quest Ventures), the definitive collected edition of Gerry Alanguilan’s “Wasted” (when it's coming out, no one seems to know, but it ought to be soon, damn it) and new stuff from our friends at Alamat Comics. These various books count as two choices since these books do not come out on any fixed schedule, but rather on an “if-it’s-there-be-thankful-and-get-it mode.”

a purgatory movie?

Rumors abound concerning a movie being planned or already in pre-prodcution based on Carlo Vergara's "One Night in Purgatory", a finalist for this year's National Book Award. At this time, we are unable to get any information regarding the veracity of this news, but it does trigger two reactions from me. First, of course, is how flattering it is to Carl. Second, and more important, is the anger of not being informed. Carl owns all intellectual rights to "Purgatory" and it's only right that he be informed. Of course, the fact that he hasn't been informed reinforces the notion that perhaps there is nothing to the rumor, but still. "One Night in Purgatory" is a story well-told, and if it is to be retold in another medium, the author and owner should be involved (or his permission secured). If all ends well, then I can start posting casting picks.

Something similar happened to me when one of my plays, "Short Time", had two runs in Manila without my knowledge. I felt very insulted. I wasn't even dead yet and lived in the same damn city. It wasn't a matter of being paid, but a matter of being acknowledged. The fact that the manuscripts of my plays are available at the Carlos Palanca library (open to the public) does not negate my essential authorship of them. Besides, I would have loved to have watched them myself!

Friday, October 11, 2002

survivor 5.4

Ghandia's gone, thank God. 'nuff said. (Hey, this is probably my shortest post so far!)

fanboy confession - comics I buy regularly (4 of 5)
allred and ellis

X-StatixAllred converted me to his worldview with his incredible “Madman” and the late lamented “Atomics”, both examples of comics that were a sheer pleasure to read. The attitude these books embodied was delight, a throwback to the Silver Age. With the relaunch of “X-Force”, Milligan and Allred recreated the indie flavor within mass market Marvel, carrying on in “X-Statix” the premise of superheroes as media stars. Allred’s art is like a splash of cold water, as if deconstructing the very notion of what superhero art should be in the very comic he’s illustrating with his seemingly simple renditions. Recently: Disillusionment rears its ugly claws and the splintered team must find its focus soon. By Peter Milligan and Mike Allred, published monthly by Marvel Comics.

PlanetaryWarren Ellis is a damn fine writer. With his run at “Stormwatch” and the first 12 issues of “The Authority”, he’s proven himself capable of literate stories that challenge his readers. With the rare issues of “Planetary”, he spins single provocative tales that are set against a larger text. He upturns conventions established in comics and retells classic tropes in a variety of ways, consistently creating fresh and innovative stories of startling depth. He makes writing seem effortless. Word is that this book returns to its monthly schedule next year. I can only hope. Two TPBs collecting the first year of the series are available. Written by Warren Ellis and published rarely by Wildstorm.

nature of the news
question (14 of 100)

While waiting for my meeting with Jason and the people at Yehey, I had coffee at the Serendipity Lounge at the Discovery Suites, one of favorite places to unwind or hold meetings. It’s on the 22nd floor of the hotel and, apart from having a great view, is cozy enough to hold discussions in.

Anyway, I picked up a copy of the Philippine Star and was gratified to see one of the print ads we made, dominating a page (almost as good as a full page and less expensive). Anyway, a lot was made of our Lady President’s comment on getting “plenty” of sex, including a quotation from the First Gentleman that he has sex three times a day (the cynical follow-up question would be “With whom?”).

Gabriela, the vocal feminist movement, nailed her to the cross stating that her disclosure was insulting to women and in poor taste. Perhaps they don’t get enough themselves, who knows.

The rest of the news was uniformly bad: bombings in the South, the horrendous exchange rate, fighting among the politicians, and various lawsuits.

It’s hard to enjoy coffee when most of what you read is unappetizing.

Someone once told me that it wouldn’t quite be a newspaper if all it printed was good news. Well, another friend is thinking of putting up a paper that does just that, so I guess we’ll see if the observation holds true.

Q: Are we hardwired to delight in horror, scandal and the unsightly? Must the nature of the news titillate, shock or disgust to attract our attention? Or can we teach our hearts to be gladdened by less-earthshaking news of a positive nature?

A: I am as guilty of the next person. When I pick up a paper or go to a news site, I find myself looking for a degree of bad news. But I also look for things that interest me, and invariably these are the odd little things, not necessarily good news, but stuff that pricks my brain.

Would I buy a newspaper that published only good news? Honestly, probably not. The cynic in me suspects that despite its truth in terms of actually occurring, I’d consider it escapist fare.

Can I change my mind? Sure, if the good news is written in an engaging way that does not reek of saccharine feel-good fuddy-duddyness.


In my past life, I used to be the Philippine coordinator for Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering. Magic is a collectible card game with a following that I helped build for around 5 years, ending up creating events (like a costumed convention) and running massive tournaments for.

Anyway, I don’t play anymore, but some of the friends I have dinner with do, and with the release of the new set, it was inevitable that part of the conversation shift to the game’s odd jargon, to the puzzlement of the other people.

Mike: So, is there anything to replace the Mongrel Dog?

Ralph: Wala pa. (None yet.)

Jason, a non-player, and not realizing the conversation shift, pauses for a while and considers the statement.

Jason: I was about to say there are many other dogs, but that’s not what we’re talking about, right?

Me: Yeah, like my mother’s new P40k dog.

The flow of great dialogue is one of the hardest things to write in fiction. You have to make it sound natural, coming from specific character’s mouths, because the way in which they express themselves contributes essentially to how they are perceived by both the reader and the other characters.

In playwriting, obviously, dialogue is the key – after all, you have something that is meant to be performed (or read/spoken) out loud (even the drawing room plays that are written just to be read have to “sound” correct). Of course, there are exceptions to naturalistic dialogue. If your point is to sound formal, give the impression of a second language, are writing in verse or are bring experimental.

Most films also require a good handle on dialogue, if that is the vehicle for the film to get its point across. Of course there are times when silence speaks more than words.

The best source of dialogue for me is other people. There are times when I just shut up and listen (which is probably going to be a shocking thing to read for those who know me, given my penchant for endless opinionated conversation-domineering).

People talk like people. It doesn’t necessarily scan right nor does it normally conform to perfect grammar and structure, but it sounds correct. Non-sequiturs abound.

The chaotic nature of a group conversation is a challenge to plot out or diagram for the purpose of using it as a basis or model for future dialogue writing. But unless you’re a gifted writer to begin with or have great memory, you will learn to rely on the natural cadences and patterns you hear, even if sometimes it doesn’t look good after you’ve written it down.

There is much to learn when you listen to a social exchange. The politics of communication are vast, as each person (consciously or otherwise) jockeys to make a point or support one or move the conversation to a new thread or throws something humorous.

Conversation, by its nature, is both raw and contrived. When it is prepared for or edited (like a “Dear John” scenario or an announcement), it gets even more interesting because of what is said and not said.

Everyday we are caught in the ebb and flow of conversation, some brief, some long, some venturing into the surreal, some quite banal, some unintentionally hilarious, some you can do without, but all worth listening to for reference.

And participating in, of course. If you feel like talking.

Thursday, October 10, 2002


Well, so much for my good mood.

It’s happening again.

It’s with great anxiety that I follow the news about the sniper who’s going around killing people in Washington, DC. A high school barkada of mine lives there (and Dozer too!) and one of the horrid things about being a writer is an overactive imagination that generates unwanted scenarios.

Why do people do things like this?

The very senselessness infuriates me.

The cruelty appalls me.

And when I place myself in the position of those who’ve lost a loved one because this evil man, my heart cannot help but rage.

We live in a world that awards the Nobel Prize for Literature on one hand and helplessly witnesses unreasoning violence in the other.

Over here, kidnappings occur with sad frequency and our Lady President says she gets “plenty of sex”.

What’s going on?

what a day

A very fruitful one. Good news from a pair of clients – they want to retain my company’s services on a monthly basis because they liked our work. Let me tell you that for a company like ours, that’s equivalent to the holy grail. This is precisely the nature of a business relationship I’ve been wanting to build, one in which we do not rely exclusively on one-shot projects. The best part is that these two clients are NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) that are well-funded.

Nikki dropped by the office to pick up the scripts for the CD ROM project we’re doing for a bank. The funny thing is that I outsourced the writing to her and she ended up doing the voice-overs (you may be sickened by the way I rave about my wife, but another of her qualities is her killer voice).

We got the go-signal from the government agency for whom we’re creating a pair of calendars, so I’m sending one of my senior designers to Hong Kong next week to oversee the color separation process.

And later, I was able to consult with Jason for another two projects we are about to embark on. He’s a whiz when it comes to the technology side and I’m tapping him to handle the monster e-commerce site we need to build.

Such a far cry from last week’s despair, but business is like that. It’s cycles are enough to drive me up the wall. Projects come in packs, like wolves. But when its a drought, you fear for your very existence.

pipeline media

In a nutshell here’s what we are: Pipeline Media is an Integrated Marketing Communications company (IMC) that does three things very well – graphic design, content development and digital media. I keep a lean crew and act like a digital agency in some aspects.

If you need to know more, just write me.

after hours

Continuing my great day, I visited Mike at his store, Comicquest. The new stuff was there of course, but I made it a point to ignore the comics (willpower!) in favor of beginning work on our a little writing project with him.

Nikki joined us, followed by Ralph, Jason and Marco and we all had dinner at “Steak Joint” and talked about Jason’s peculiar dreams, Marco’s foot fetish, the new Magic: The Gathering card set release “Onslaught”, and how to win the lottery. The pot is huge (P160M/US$3.2M) and expended all we knew about patterns and chaos theory in an attempt to discern the winning numbers.

I made Jason promise to give each of us 1% of his prize money – in case he wins (remember the story about the guy who won and how he split the money with his barber because he promised him half)!
fanboy confession - comics I buy regularly (3 of 5)
another from hell, another from fairy

Hellboy– There was a time (circa Mantlo’s “Alpha Flight” that I couldn’t stand Mike Mignola’s art. Then he did Hellboy and I was hooked. With equal parts fairy tale, evil undead Nazi and a flawed hero, Mignola creates a book that reeks with atmosphere and fine characterization. His moody art is uniquely his own; his use of shadows and style of paneling evokes nuances unseen in other books. His supporting characters, including a golem, a fishman and a ghost, are quite engaging. He is particularly compelling with his short stories, and most of the Hellboy corpus is availlable in TBP format. My only criticism is that he doesn’t do enough issues. A feature film is in the works. Currently playing: The Third Wish, where the impulses of revenge and redemption wage war. Written and illustrated by Mike Mignola and published infrequently by Dark Horse Comics.

Castle Waiting– Our predilection to fairy tales led Nikki and myself to this ongoing series by Linda Medley. Her tales are quiet and wise, gentle and humorous, involving a cast of castle-dwellers who have stories to tell. Her artwork is light on the eyes, but its her storytelling that earns her a place among the best in the field. Her dialogue rarely appears "written" and instead flows naturally. It's difficult not to be charmed. Check out, if you can, "The Curse of Brambley Hedge", for a taste of what she has to offer. You won't regret it. Currently playing: "Interiors", a return to the lives of the castle and its inhabitants. Written and illustrated by Linda Medley and published semi-monthly by Olio Press.

mrs. alfar

When I was younger, I never truly considered marriage, thinking it to be an unnecessary shackle. I was surrounded by too many people who married young, for one reason or another, and were desperately unhappy. A lot of young husbands I knew treated their wives like a burden, disheartened at their loss of freedom. They were almost like strangers, bound together only by the children they had – never partners, never equals. Besides, given my intellectual arrogance, I didn’t think I’d find anyone who could challenge my mind.

Until I met Nikki.

It’s a long story best told another time, but it began with her surprising knowledge of John Byrne’s work, her love for “Sandman” and her uncanny ability to whip my ass at word games.

I married my best friend and I’m not embarrassed to say that she’s smarter than I am. She’s an accomplished writer, a mean competitor (and I thought I was harsh), an incredible mother and sexy as hell. I enjoy her company above all others because apart from loving her with all of my heart, I like her a lot – which, I realize, makes the difference.

It is possible, after all, to love someone without liking them.

We’ll be celebrating our seventh anniversary soon and it boggles my mind when I consider all we’ve been through, and all we look forward to doing together. All the wonderful and silly and insipid clichés you know about love, everything you think is fabrication from the supple lips of dreamy-eyed poets, all of that is true.

What do I want in life? Ultimately, it’s really simple.

I want to grow old with her by my side.

She’s Mrs. Alfar, my partner-in-crime.
mr. alfar

It’s inevitable. In formal correspondence, initial meetings with clients and phone calls from suppliers, among others, I am referred to as “Mr. Alfar”.

I always prefer to be called just “Dean”, but sometimes I become “Mr. Alfar.” It feels odd because first, it makes me sound so old, and second because the “Mr. Alfar” I know is father.

People who knew my parents when they were younger come up to me and say “You are the splitting image of your dad” or “You walk like him”. I guess the genetic imprint is strong.

I once read someone who wrote (and I paraphrase from flawed memory) “I wore a shirt and saw my father’s hand come out of the sleeve” or something like that (if you know who said this, please let me know). This elegant turn of phrase encapsulates the feeling I have right now.

And now I am a dad myself.

Identity is a peculiar thing. You spend years trying to become yourself, a unique creature, but ultimately you are reduced by society and biology to the basics: your father’s son, your daughter’s father, your wife’s husband.

We cannot escape the imposition of relationships because they partially determine identity. I may be “Dean” to my friends, but I’ll always be “Mr. Alfar” to the bank manager or to nurses at the hospital.

(Sometimes, even my first name is treated as a title – people occasionally mistake me for the Dean of some college. I realized this when they kept calling me “Dean Alfar”.)