Monday, October 27, 2003

lies well told

If there is any book so simply must read (and you must make time for), it's Baudolino by Umberto Eco.

Set around a thousand years ago, it is at once a travelogue, catalogue of heresies, history both true and false, a treatise on love, friendship, loyalty and dreams, while deftly describing the best and worst of human (and monstrous) nature. Somewhere in the book are a locked-room mystery, discussions on the impossiblity of the vacuum, cities birthed (but more often destroyed), the seven (or so) heads of John the Baptist, satyrs-that-are-not-seen, and the mysterious Kingdom of Prester John.

And the grasal, of course.

I don't know if my intelligence has risen a bit (or if Eco has become less erudite), but I found myself entirely immersed and comprehending the novel (a far cry from my trauma with the pendulum novel).

I wish I had bought it the first time I saw in, in hardback. Still, better late than never.

Friday, October 24, 2003

little red

Yesterday, Nikki bought Sage her Halloween costume – Hellgirl.

Yes, come Samhain Eve, my little daughter will be going around the building with her orange pumpkin candy bucket dressed in cute little horns, bowtie and tail.

Excitedly, we showed Sage the elements of her attire and let her wear them. The result? A devilish grin (she loves to dress up) and a trip to the big mirror to take a look at her makeover.

Of course Diovine, her devout Christian nanny, was appalled at the thought of Sage as the Devil (or at least a diabolic minion), and about having to accompany the child on a pagan holiday, but she took it in good grace. Though not before asking Nikki if the store didn’t have an angel costume in stock.

Well, if we wanted Sage to look like an angel, it would take a pair of old flight goggles and not wings to complete her ensemble – because to me, when you say angel, you mean Angel.

batangas denied

Some of the guys are going over to Batangas to look at the sights (to get some references for Project One Hundred) and to spend the night at the beach.

Naturally, I declined the proffered invitation because a night spent on the beach lacks any pull on my mind. Unless I’m guaranteed a bed and running water in a bug-free room (an internet connection would be a big plus).

I guess some of us are truly not meant for roughing it. A definite sign that the concept of cities and comfort has overrun whatever ancient impulses we once had. Where before, as in Umberto Eco’s wonderful Baudolino, the reality of cities like Paris was an exercise in the description of winding shit-filled streets, today’s cities provide much better amenities. Sleeping like armies in tents next to a river or on a plain may hold appeal to some, but I’d rather read about experiences like that, living vicariously, instead of suffering the torment of wet sand and pointed stones.

Of course, to rough it up means precisely not to have comforts, and I understand that. But really, if the goal is to have meaningful conversations while looking at the stars with a beer in hand, I can do that in the comfort of a rooftop penthouse while soaking in a jacuzzi.

However (and this is where hypocrisy sets in), if the place offered is on a Greek island or somesuch, equations and rationalizations change, and I’m willing to go.

Sad but true.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003


Sometimes you just can’t get what you want. In spite of all your meticulous planning you end up a victim of cruel hope. It provides for even more angst-ridden moments when you have actually spent time fantasizing about having it, imagining how different things would be with the thing in your possession – because, in the heat of fervid projections, you were more than relatively sure of success.

But life is like that. Nothing is certain, and while desire colors existence in hues that are attractive, often it is better not to want something at all, and perhaps just settle for the drabness of the ordinary.

Think about how you were before you became aware of possibilities, before you imagined owning the thing. Were you not in the least content? Wasn’t your life more than simply bearable but perhaps even wonderful? When the object of desire made itself apparent, why did things change? Why did you suddenly decide that the status quo was insufficient?

The tragic thing is this: you cannot go back to the moment when you weren’t aware. Because you already know, having been exposed to the temptation of possession.

In business, this situation comes about with clients who promised you projects, only to sink your expectations at the last minute. Or with a pitch you were so certain of winning. Or by sinking money and investing in a service line you thought would be a shoo-in. Or in expanding your staff numbers in a fit of irrational exuberance.

In love, any number of dramatic circumstances line up for perusal. When the expectations between you and your partner are misaligned - when marriage is a dream for one, but not even an option for the other. When societal taboos prevent even platonic friendship from blossoming. When you desire a married woman. Or when you don’t want to be desired by a married woman. When you engage in a secret life that threatens to overwhelm your hard-won normalcy. Perhaps even when you dream or experiment or test the boundaries of propriety.

In life, desire spurs you to make more money to afford more desirable things – a house, a second car, maids, a vacation, three more kids. It squeezes you out of your comfortable circle of safety (your routine, your budget, your predictable friends) and pushes you to attempt something you know you cannot afford – materially, emotionally, spiritually.

If it is impossible to turn a blind eye to desire, then what are we to do? Live a life of denial, fearful of consequences and slaves to Excel spreadsheets? Is it possible to look desire in the eye and honestly honestly honestly say “No, I’d rather not” and still feel like you haven’t robbed yourself? Or is it better to jump in, damn the torpedoes, and screw the aftermath?

Some people think so. Some people don’t.

In the face of desire, your arsenal (rightly or wrongly) includes: your senses of dignity, pride, and propriety; your will and self-control; your maturity; your ability to live both in the now and in the future; your perspectives on action/reaction, fear and what the world owes you; your take on fidelity, responsibility and love; and what happiness means to you.

But the truth is that desire is capable of shutting down each one of these listed things one at a time or en mass.

If you so desire.

So what now?

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


Definitions of identity are more often fluid than not. The reason behind this is that people constantly change. If, on a physical level, we are renewed completely on a cellular level every few days, then certainly the metaphysical aspects also change.

We are simply not the people we were last week, last year, when we were ten years old. And yet identity demands continuity – we need to hold to the same sense of self, despite the changes in outlook brought about by experience (vicarious or otherwise) – because who we are determines what we think (and vice versa).

When someone decides to be something completely different from the status quo of slow, almost invisible change, the effect on that person’s circles of family and friends can be profound. The human being is adverse to drastic change. We seem to be configured for less drama, more akin to seedtime than anything one can invigilate.

Normally, the reaction of others witnessing drastic change is to condemn, to question, to rouse anger, to seek to restore the status quo.

But life is made up of choices, and I have less respect for those who choose not to choose. To choose to confront and then to make a choice, is, for me, the essence of the human condition.

I, for one, believe in the necessity of drastic change, because inertia is absurdly powerful and human nature prone to just sitting there. Which is why I admire and encourage people who decide to act and bring about change on themselves, because it shows a great strength of will and fortitude.

Especially when it is a change in position, something the more sententious among us would so easily condemn.

Sometimes, we need to acknowledge the “id” in identity. Even if fear and misunderstanding stand in the way.


Yesterday, in-between meetings in Makati, I decided to have a shave at a swanky barbershop. This decision caused me great angst because I actually felt I was being disloyal to my regular barber.

The new barber’s touch was light, as if he was afraid to cut me (unlike my regular barber who knows every contour of my chin and jawline and can wield the razor blind). It felt like butterflies alighting on my face only to fly off when I noticed them.

Afterwards, over a Greek lunch, I could not shake off the feeling that I had strayed from the path. An odd feeling that I could not shake away like the blackened portions of my kebabs.


What did I do last night?

I tried to help Nikki make charm pendants with really small beads and the thinnest wire filaments until my stupid big fingers finally convinced me that the task was not for me.

Instead, I fell asleep while playing with the vials full of colorful little things, and dreamt about writing something about weeping clocks and a pictorial with Mother Theresa (yes, more of my conditioning).

Friday, October 17, 2003


When bridges are burned, they stay burned.

When a person lies, steals, maligns, avoids dialogue and runs from confrontation from me, there is no way in heaven that a return to grace can be created. Some things are vitiated immediately by history, context and persona.

Even if pseudo-apologies are given years later.

Even in the face of a fatuous “road to Damascus” moment involving little girls and tragic roadside accidents.

Or a self-imposed exile.

Certainly not with a heartfelt froufrou letter (which, on the superficies, is immediately insulting). Nor an awkward civil greeting.

Trust, when lost, is nigh impossible to recover. It sits in the trash bin with other accoutrements of a lost friendship.

Stay dead, you assholes.
animation exploration

One of the (fingers crossed) animation projects Nikki and I will be writing for had it’s kick-off meeting recently. We got to meet the animators and the executive producer, got briefed on the concept, read the series bible and watched the trailer.

Unlike our previous animation project, Simeon Rex, this one’s concept and conceit charmed us instantly. The NDA prevents me from talking about it with any detail, but suffice it to say that it this is an endeavor we can’t wait to get a crack at. There is only one thing that we’re all waiting for, it’s absence can break the project into smithereens.

In the course of getting to know each other, the animators showed us their portfolio – previous work they’d done as well as other concepts and test animations. I was delighted to know that they were the animators for the horny cockroaches ad that was the talk of the town some time ago.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

a year of blogging

Last month was the anniversary of Notes from the Peanut Gallery.

It's hard to believe that I have over a year's worth of thoughts (and for some time, almost always on a daily basis - yes, like young love, you can't get enough at first).

Wonderful Cynthia Bauzon (soon to be Arre) designed the look and did the hard stuff - all I did was fill it up.

So, looking forward to a year of growing my hair, I've changed my little picture to, where before baldness reigned. If I revert to the shaved look, you can be sure there'll be a change to picture again.

Because narcissism is integral to journals, whether online or not.

the joy and perils of stairs

When you’re a little girl growing up on the top floor of a condo, your exposure to stairs is severely limited (just one flight up to the pool and playroom) – for everything else, you use elevators.

So when Sage attended the joint birthday celebrations of her Uncle Ric and cousin Satchi at a resto in Makati, the discovery of a staircase proved too tempting an invitation to resist.

And up and down and up and down she went, infecting the other kids with her sheer delight at…going up and down. At first, I stayed near her, reminding her to hold on to the banister, and for a while she humored me. But as time passed, she ventured to the center of the stairs, climbing hands-free.

The next discovery was that you could put your head through the gaps of the banister. More fun then as Sage and the other kids went up and down sticking their heads in the spaces.

Until Sage got stuck.

(over to you, Ser Marquez) “At the moment Sage failed to unstick her head from the gap between the iron rails, she knew she would be trapped forever, destined to the spend the rest of her childhood kneeling on the uneven stairs, watching the same view from the same angle until her hair grew long enough to obstruct it.”

Joy turned to horror as she twisted and turned this way and that, unable to extricate herself from the stairs. Nikki calmly went over, talked Sage through the steps (like a hostage situation or a stewardess trying to land an airplane), and got her out.

Shaken, Sage clung to her mother and it seemed like the end of an afternoon delight, until a minute later, a mascot was sighted, rousing the little girl’s curiosity once again.

It was great seeing family again. Apart from the birthdays, another reason to celebrate was my sister-in-law Snooky Serna’s winning Best Actress for Drama at the Star Awards.

But one reason not celebrate was Nikki’s face-to-face with the fruit of someone’s loins. But that’s another story and only hers to tell.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

interstitial: play in progress


(LIGHTS ON. BRIAN and CAMILLE on couch. BRIAN is massaging his feet through his socks.

BRIAN (laughs)

Hit the mute button.

CAMILLE (laughs as she presses a button on the remote)

I don’t believe it. How can some people be so stupid?


It’s Survivor, that’s why. It doesn’t take smarts to be on the show.


True, true. So, how was your day?

BRIAN (chats before a commercial on TV catches his eye.)

Same. Busy a bit. Client meeting. Look at that.

(BRIAN and CAMILLE watch a part of the commercial.)


What was that?


What are they trying to tell us?


Running on top of the dining room table is healthy exercise?


It’s okay to set a formal dinner for twelve people and while they aren’t there yet, it’s okay to leave footprints on the table?

(Both laugh)


It’s no worse than that liquor girl with the match.


I love that one.


Yes, “let me light a match until it dies”. High concept.


Maybe it is.


Please. The people who make these things wouldn’t know high concept if it bit them in the nose.


How would you defend it?


What do you mean?


If you had to pitch it to the brandy client and it was your best idea?


First of all, I wouldn’t have that as my best idea. Second, I left the rat race last year, remember? No more of that. This is a kept woman you’re talking to.


Pretend. Pretend it is.


No, Mr. Account Executive.

(BRIAN’s cell phone rings. He quickly refuses the call and places the cell phone back into his pants pocket.)




I told them not to call after office hours. It can wait. Anyway, come on.


You changed your ring tone?


I did?


Yes, what happened to Beethoven?

BRIAN (shrugs)

I must have changed it. Anyway, defend yourself, young miss.


No, it’s silly.


Come on, you know you want to.

CAMILLE (laughs)

Fine, fine, Brian. You be the client, okay?

BRIAN (frowns and adjusts the collar of his shirt)

Okay. So, Ms. Camille, I understand your agency has the final concept for our TV ad.

CAMILLE (teases)

Yes, sir. I’m here to present storyboards in my titty dress.


Well, out with it. We don’t have all day. Someone has to bottle everything at the plant, you know. Afterwards, if I’m in mood, you can show me your bazongas. I’m busy and powerful, so come on.


Tight shot of beautiful girl. She lights a match and holds it close to her face until it dies out. When it does, screen goes blank and we have your logo.


That’s…less than overwhelming.


Oh, oh! But can’t you see the beauty of its simplicity? It’s very post-postmodern. Life is as brief as the span of time it takes to consume a match. While you’re alive, have some brandy. Brandy is life.


I..I… What can I say? I have tears in my eyes. Besides, your feminine charms are rather…considerable.-

CAMILLE (shrieks)

Brian! The show already started!

BRIAN (grabs the remote control and press a button)

Shit, shit!




BRIAN (pressing a button on the remote)

I wouldn’t last three days on this show.


I know. You’d be the first voted off the island.

BRIAN (nods)

I can’t help it if I’m the leader type. Someone has to tell people to do things.




What’s for dinner?




To eat.




With a fork?


Talk dirty, papa.




Well, you have a choice of tuna casserole or spaghetti.


Sounds too complicated.


Not a problem. That’s what microwaves are for.


But you need to boil the spaghetti.


Then tuna it is.


Need help?

CAMILLE (stands and moves to kitchen area)

No, no, I’ve got it.

(BRIAN’s phone rings. He looks at it and answers in anger.)

BRIAN (to phone, angrily)

Who is this? What? What? No, I don’t know you. Stop calling me.


Who was it?


I don’t know. Some asshole.


How did he get your number?


I don’t know. I don’t feel like being a phone pal. Sheesh.


Breathe, puppy.

(BRIAN calms down. CAMILLE moves around the kitchen, keeping an eye on both the microwave and the TV.)


There was this big accident along EDSA today.


Really? Where?


Guadalupe, southbound. Near the ice tea billboard.


Is that still there?


The truck?


No, the billboard.


Yes, but I think it has to go down soon. No one’s buying that stuff.


We did, remember?


And did we like it?

CAMILLE (putting stuff in the microwave)

It wasn’t that bad. I didn’t feel like collapsing backward into a pool of cool waer right after I drank some, but it wasn’t, you know, horrible.


Anyway, the accident.


Yes, sorry. A truck, you said?


Flipped over.


What kind was it?


I don’t know. I don’t know any truck brands except Tonka.


No, no. What kind of truck, as in what was it carrying?


Soil, I think. Something red and soily.






What a mess. Was it raining today?


Not much, but yeah, it’ll muddy up the place. Killer traffic. Good thing I was going the opposite way.


Anyone killed?


Nah. Didn’t seem like it.


Good, good. Life’s bad enough.


Hey, were on.

(BRIAN presses a button on the remote as CAMILLE joins him on the couch)


I’m glad you’re okay, sweetie.





(Still BLACKOUT. BRIAN’s phone rings.)




I’ll mute it. Go ahead.


No, no-


It’s okay, nothing’s happening anyway.


No, just-

(LIGHTS ON. CAMILLE is pointing the remote control at the TV. BRIAN is looking at his ringing phone.)


Damn it.


Just hurry and answer it.

BRIAN (to phone)

Hello? Who is this? What do you want? Stop – stop calling me!

(BRIAN angrily puts down the phone on the couch next to him.)


Un-mute it.




What happened?


I don’t know.



(CAMILLE stands, opens the microwave and takes out the casserole.)


You want dinner now or later after the show?


It’s up to you.

(CAMILLE stands behind him with the microwave dish.)

BRIAN (pointing to the TV)

Look, it’s that stupid ad with the stupid jumping people.


Aren’t you hungry? I thought you were.


If you’re hungry, then go ahead and eat.

(CAMILLE puts the casserole down on the dining table.)


No need for the attitude, you know.


Whatever. What makes these people think that happy people jump around? Do I jump around? Do you jump around?


Who was it?




Your caller.


I don’t know.

(CAMILLE goes to her purse, gets her own cell phone and punches in a number on speed dial. Within moments, BRIAN’s phone rings. It’s Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. BRIAN picks up his phone and looks at it. He then looks at CAMILLE.)


Why are you calling me?

(CAMILLE cancels the call and places her cell phone back into her purse.)



(BRIAN shrugs.)

BRIAN (pointing to the TV with the remote.)

It’s almost on. Come on.

(CAMILLE silently sits next to him.)


undercover scheme

As part of a new social experiment, we joked about sending one of us along with Buddha during one of his dissolute Friday night outs (nights out?) to see what goes on. I've volunteered an unwilling Carl.

Or, we could all go out and replicate the experience ourselves. Marco and I will probably suffer the most since witticisms are forbidden while Vin enjoys the vino.

And the reason we even bother to consider this? For me, it is about understanding more about the younger crowd. For a writer of any stripe, that's valuable. As a playwright, I'd kill for the dialogue (the more insipid, the better).

The way Buddha tells it, it sounds like Godot.
dinosaurs walk the earth

Nikki and I traipsed over to Makati last Sunday to compete in a Magic tourney. The last time we played competitively was years ago (Nikki’s peak was ‘98 when she became National Finalist and led the Philippine team – which included Rickey, hey Rickey! - to the World Championships in Seattle; I was champ in ‘95) so we weren’t expecting to do well – just get some new cards, see old friends and eat.

It turns out that the new set attracted not just us old-timers but other dinosaurs from Magic’s history. It was a blast seeing old faces – in fact, I wanted to request that the old folk be given our own bracket. Interestingly, in a field of about 60 players, there were 5 National Champions (mostly from Magic’s first 5 years).

In a way, it was like coming home. People were happy to see us (because when I left Magic, I made it a point to have nothing to do with the brand anymore – a new start) and we exchanged stories, catching up on the last 3 or 4 years.

I didn’t scrub out as horribly as I thought (if you’ve played Magic, then you know how rough competition can be). By the 4th round I was playing at the top 2 tables. Things didn’t end up quite as I wanted though, as I was handed a pair of losses from irreconcilably powerful decks, more than my speedy flexideck could handle. Nikki also did well, trouncing the opposition before succumbing to various time limits.

We love this new set of cards, enough to play casually.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

return to magic

Just for tomorrow.

Nikki and I gave in to temptation and are competing in a sealed deck competition for the game I used to be the Brand Leader of.

I'm excited because I still love Magic but also tense because I know I'm terribly rusty.

Whatever. I'll just tell myself I'm not there to win, just to play and enjoy the company of friends I haven't seen in a long time.

And get more cards to twarth Nikki's "Pussy Galore" deck.

Will this be a regular thing? Will I really return to the game?

Nope. Too expensive.
beaucoup blah-blah

The thing I enjoy most about my business is the time when I pitch to a client (yes, even moreso than creating the initial idea set). I got ample opportunities to do just that with a pair of clients this week, and I'm happy to say that I think the company will be okay until next year (but then again, the wheel turns, so I must keep that in mind).

I believe that to effectively pitch anything - be it campaign, concept, idea or a plea- you need to have passion, inventiveness, quick-thinking and flexibility. Mix and use in necessary degrees with a strong concept and most likelyyou'll win the account against other bidders. There is no such thing as an idea that sells itself. It still has to presented. If a strong idea is presented weakly, you will lose.

On the other hand, the best blah blah will not sell an insipid notion. I have too many war stories to tell about incidents when I walked into a power boardroom with chutzpah and pathetic materials. At the end of such presentations, I just want to die.

But thankfully the people I work with are both intelligent and creative.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

crash, crash

Early this morning, a virus ravaged my home pc which was supposedly inure to such attacks because its silly Windows ME OS. Apparently, this was not the case.

I feared the worse, reliving memories of similar "aha! watch me delete EVERYTHING you have here!" over several unsafe years. I tried to remember the last time I backed up, which was more than a year ago - which meant that everything wirtten since then was at risk.

I rushed Weebo (named by my deceased cousin) over to the office and Dr. Bok made everything better.

And now I'm backed up again. (He also raised an eye at the outrageous amount of space I used up on my big drive - well, porn does that.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

the things we do for love

One of my greatest inabilities is my lack of drawing skills. Ditto for Nikki. We'd rather paint in words, but sometimes that's not an option.

Last night, Nikki and I sat down with Sage, a bunch of paper and a lot of crayons for a session of drawing.

“Puppy,” Sage told me sternly.

So I expelled a sigh of despair and did my best to draw a little dog. Of course, what came out looked nothing like a puppy (unless you tilt it to the left, squint a bit and be very very generous).

Sage looked at my drawing then looked at me.

“Look, Sage,” I said, pointing to the distorted thing. “Where’s the puppy?”

And she looked around and said “No more na.”

In the meantime, Nikki had better luck with her stunning rendition of a spotted cow (identifiable because my clever wife added a pair of horns and spots) and a seal (which is a form of cheating, because if there is one thing in the world my wife can draw, it’s a cutie seal). Sage happily began to color them in.

Not to be outdone, I whipped out a duck (complete with blue water), a cat and a “bear” (which looked like a pig even to myself) - all the while making appropriate animal noises.

Nikki responded with an octopus and a horse head (and what sound does an octopus make?).

Royally trounced in what had become an unspoken competition (and Nikki is one of the people who can beat me at things), I pulled out all stops and sketched Sage. Of course, the figure looked really inhuman (but somehow interesting in a Sunny Baudelaire way) because I could not resist throwing in fangs.

“That’s not Sage,” Nikki said unkindly.

“Yucky,” Sage commented, before taking the drawing and flipping it facedown on the floor.

Crushed, I added lips to Nikki’s cow and tried to impress the little girl by drawing with two crayons at the same time. Nikki laughed and patted my head as we drew more and more, reveling in our utter artlessness.

Sage watched us both, picking up each drawing as it was finished and laughing at her absurd parents who created a menagerie better suited to the Cthulhu mythos than for a 20-month old toddler.

That’s what love can do, I guess. For one little girl, two parents will plumb the deepest recesses (or the sad shallows) of creativity – just to show her that life is good and art is fun.
galileo: king of night vision

After 14 years of sending incredible pictures, the Galileo probe was finally embraced by the crushing gravity of Jupiter. What’s amazing is that it was powered by the same chip in the ancient computer game Pong. What’s even more amazing are the things it showed us, including proof of an incredibly vast subterranean ocean beneath Europa, one of the moons in the Jovian system.

The Indigo Girls had it right: Galileo, king of insight.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

the drained dean

Some things, like playing with your almost 20-month-old daughter, running from an angry mob or eating very hot soup, are best done when you are not exhausted. The past several days, I’m sorry to say, have been enough to want me to curl up in a dark and cool corner and simply shut down.

If you have ever been given the task of getting one picture of one person exactly right, then you know that it isn’t a matter of having a camera and asking the person to smile (some people are afraid to smile, in the same way that some snakes don’t bite or certain pens simply refuse to write on the most normal of paper). There is the matter of the location, the light, the background and props, the makeup, the styling and grooming, and where the art director can buy a fresh pack of cigarettes. Multiply all that by an inordinately large number of people (even if they are beautiful) over the course of three days and you’ll understand the meaning of 15-hour workdays.

I’m not complaining though (I’m absolutely certain that someone somewhere has real troubles, enough to make my little fatigue as inconsequential as a black ant is to a red ant). I enjoyed the work but did not relish being barely awake when I got home every night, unable to spend more than a few waking moments with Sage (who waited up for me), before I helplessly fell asleep in my work clothes.

When everything was finished though, I zonked out over the weekend (a term which here means “slept until late afternoon, making people think I was set to decline dinner, breakfast and lunch forever”) and slowly recharged.

Hence, the delays on the updates here. That, and the lack of an extension of the new landline for our room where the computers are, and the fact that I was swept into the series of unfortunate events that plague the poor Baudeliare orphans (hence the tone of this entry, wink wink) and lusted over the Mirrodin set from Magic: The Gathering.

But now, now work calls again and I must be off.