Monday, February 28, 2005

top 40 reasons i love comics

These are the reasons I love comics. Coming up with a Top 40 is a bloody process. Look at the stuff I love that didn't make it: Age of Bronze, All Star Squadron, Animal Man, Arkham Asylum, Peanut Butter & Jeremy, Astro City, Blade of the Immortal, Cerebus, Clan Apis, Watchmen, Sock Monkey...

The bottom 30, alphabetically:

Goscinny & Uderzo created some of the most enduring characters. With Asterix, they gave me hijinks during the Roman era. Bonus: the hilarious puns for names of people of various nationalities.

Along with Madman, Mike Allred's The Atomics is a funky hop, skip and jump into semi-surrealist superheroics, which simply means it's great fun to read. A mix of melodrama, action and the absurd, his brightly colored comics affect me like no other.

When Warren Ellis took over the reins of Stormwatch, the reading public took notice of his delicious writing. His fantastic run culminated in the now oft-imitated widescreen action of the first 12 issues of The Authority. Seeing how the title has devolved after him makes me want to weep.

Master of the dialogue, Brian Michael Bendis' take on multiple-word-balloon characterization is unmatched. Though he is very weak on plot resolution, his books (including Powers, Alias/The Pulse, Torso and Ultimate Spider-man) are great reading.

Jason Lutes' intense drama of people in difficult circumstances in Berlin during the time of war and uncertainty is an excellent example of how the comic book medium can tell stories like no other.

Though uneven in many places, the pure joy that is Jeff Smith's Bone mixes the "simplicity" of cartoons with the complexity of deeper issues.

Linda Medley's stories take place in the world of fairy tales with her own modernist twist. Unlike Fables, Castle Waiting manages to retain the all-important "sense of wonder".

Paul Chadwick's Concrete is the study of man trapped in a stone body, which allows him to explore themes like loneliness, longing and hope.

Louis Cha's Return of the Condor Heroes is a dizzying multi-volume martial arts melodramatic extravaganza, utterly flawed and relentlessly breathtaking.

A cast of thousands, drawn by George Perez, engaged in the struggle to end all struggles. Crisis on Infinite Earths - the DC fanboy in me loved it endlessly.

Along with Alan Moore's Watchmen, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns paved the way for a darker, more introspective method of character building.

Master of single surreal abecedaries and mindtickling single panel strips, Edward Gorey's publications, like Amphygorey, are like a bolt of lighting during a clear day.

Bill Willingham's Elementals looked into a skewed perspective of superheroics, and offered us a truly shocking Big Reveal with Shapeshifter.

James Strum's The Golem's Mighty Swing made me actually take an interest in baseball. True, observant and wise, this book is something everyone must have.

Sergio Aragones and Mark Waid made the word "mulch" funny in this series of unfortunate blunders courtesy of Groo the Wanderer, a dumb but well-meaning barbarian (and Ruferto, his intelligent dog).

Beautiful design complements the honest writing of Chris Ware. Originally found in installments in Acme Novelty Library, Jimmy Corrigan shows that there is a world beyond the saccarine optimistic drivel found in majority of todays escapist placebo comics.

Haven't read Ben Katchor's Julius Knipl books? Do yourself a favor and get Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer - see how comics can tell stories in a different way.

In the void of Sandman, Mike Carey provided Vertigo with a richly imagined fantasy series about Lucifer, the Prince of the Air. It's amusing to think that he also authored one of my new favorites, My Faith in Frankie.

The Pultizer Prize awarded to Art Spiegelman's Maus is well-deserved. Curiously, of more interest to me is the relationship between father and son than the actual horrors of Nazi concentration camps.

When I was at university, Strikeforce: Morituri was one of my fave books. The premise (you get powers but have a maximum of one year to live and use them) is compelling, and the first year's worth of stories are particularly entertaining.

Bloom County gave me Opus and his wish for wings.

In Persepolis, author Marjane Satrapi's recounts of her days as a young girl in Iran. Heartbreaking and wise, these memoirs are something to be savored and shared.

Warren Ellis is adept at fashioning stand-alone stories. With Planetary, he wrote several that are standouts. And the art by John Cassiday is nice little bonus.

More exciting than Whiteout, Greg Rucka's Queen & Country gives us modern-day espionage steeped in actual political occurances. And Tara is a babe.

Brian Vaughn's story of six kids who discover their parents are evil resonates with many empowerment fantasies. Runaways is fast-paced, with snappy dialogue and great characterization.

Carl Banks and Don Rosa gave us Uncle Scrooge , Donald Duck and the Junior Woodchucks. Majority of the stories are suprisingly well-crafted, outstripping most of anything published today.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Andy Helfer's The Shadow, that's who. Memories of "The Seven Deadly Finns" still makes me smile.

John Ostrander's Suicide Squad was ahead of its time. 2nd and 3rd tier villains given a chance at redemption by doing government dirty work opened many doors in terms of developing themes and character.

The revitalized Teen Titans by Geoff Johns pales in comparison to the height of Marv Wolfman and George Perez's run. At that time, it was the best-selling comic book, beating the popular X-Men.

Alan Moore is known for many things, but his recent best is Top 10, a police drama set in a melting pot of science, gods and everything you can think of.

Next: The Top Ten Reasons I Love Comics!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

shoot to death

For 5 days next week, I'll be doing photo shoots for 2 clients, a mix of on site and studio shoots with 3 photographers. This means getting up at dawn and getting home, hopefully, just after midnight.

What this does to the ongoing saga of my dental ladidahs is unknown.

I'm just so glad that Friday is a holiday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


The latest victim of Jonas Diego's Graphic Detail is... me.

Check out Monday's strip here. And my trials continue on Thursday (gah).

And I may put my facial hair to use as the doomed Boromir. I know, I know. Scary.


I'll be giving a talk about writing fiction and plays this Saturday afternoon at the Synaesthetics: The 1st Metro Manila Interschool Visual Arts Convention. Venue is on the 5th Floor, DPC Place, 2322 Chino Roces Ave. (formerly Pasong Tamo Ext.), Makati City; time is from 10AM to 5PM.

“Synaesthetics” is the idea of finding an art that unites the five senses and thus also unifies the different art forms that appeal to those senses. So in addition to writing, there'll be speakers on cinema, photography, graphic design, performance arts and sequential art.

I'll have high school kids from various schools to brainwash, terrorize, bore to tears or inspire, as the case may be.

I love agenda like this and am more than happy to help out Jamie Bautista and our friends at Nautilus Comics.

Monday, February 21, 2005

extraction action

I begged out of my last meeting of the day to visit the dentist.

I have no shame in stating that I am, without question, deathly afraid of the dentist. I used to kick them in my youth. Last year, rather than visit one because of severe tooth pain, I waited out the six months in anguish until the tooth fell apart.

This time though, my molar was causing my extreme pain. So I walked to the dentist downstairs, introduced myself, explained my pathological fear of her, and warned her that my teeth were not pretty.

She told me she'd seen worse.

Then I told her my self-diagnosis, that in lieu of pulling the tooth, I'd rather have a root canal. She agreed that the tooth should be saved and told me, when I asked, that the procedure would take 3 to 4 sittings and cost P3k per root - and this molar has 3 roots.

But the tooth next to the bad molar had to be extracted.

I resigned myself to an early evening of pain and told her to clean my teeth and patch one of them up while I was there.

Of course, as soon as I saw the injection I began to tear up, but controlled my breathing and tried to go to "my special place", except that I had no "special place" to go. So to cut the long story short, I was completely frozen up, all muscles tightly wound, sweating like ice cold Mountain Dew in the desert.

Yes, it hurt, despite the 3 injections. But now that part of the horror is over, I can look forward to healthier teeth and gums (sounds like an advertorial). I can say "that was a terrible and painful experience but now it's finished".

Until my next sitting next week.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

happy birthday, beloved

The truth, as we both know, is that I would so much less if I wasn't fortunate enough to share my life with you.

I cannot think of every day without the knowledge that near or far, you are right by my side - telling me I can conquer the mountain while grounding my ambitions, sharing a laugh as we spin cigarette smoke into stories, keeping our bed warm all night and being certain enough to argue with me when I am bullheaded or simply blind.

For two people who are so defined as individuals, you give me power in my identity as husband, best friend, lifelong ally and confessor. You see through me, in me, beyond me, and share your unique perspective in ways no one else can understand.

There are times when I watch you sleeping and marvel at how someone so intelligent, so beautiful, so talented could have taken the unthinkable action of marrying me - but I know what you'll say.

I love you with every syllable I can combine in words, with every word I can make into sentences, with every sentence I put together into stories and plays.

And one day, I promise you, you will become a woman of gentle leisure once again.

Happy Birthday, beloved.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

great scott!

I'll be part of the anthology published by Anvil around April/May that collects short fiction from authors from Scotland and the Philippines.

The Filipino side is edited by Sarge Lacuesta, and includes heavyweights like Butch Dalisay, Krip Yuson, and Lakambini Sitoy.

What delights me: first, of course, is being asked to part of this collection. It's always good to be in great company - I'm hoping some of their prowess rubs off on me ;)

Second, I get to push the Filipino speculative fiction agenda. Even it begins with a single genre story in an anthology like this, I'll happily go out on a limb and take the opportunity. It is tempting to write something realist and therefore "safe" - but still edgy - but all authors need to take risks in writing. (The funny thing is, I lost no time in recruiting Sarge Lacuesta for the spec fic antho I'm planning on putting together sometime this year.)

The pressure is two-fold.

First, my story - spec fic and all - must to be able to stand toe-to-toe with some of my writing idols, all of whom will most likely write beautifully. It's not about fear, it's about raising the banner of agenda and not embarassing myself or the cause.

Second, my story has to be able to stand proudly among all the other stories, regardless of genre or nationality. I've said it so many times here: a story should work regardless of genre. A good story is a good story.

My understanding is that all the Scots kick ass. Well, we on the Filipino side kick just as hard (there - that's my contribution towards misplaced nationalism, in writing, for the day).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


I really really dislike travelling by road, but I found myself doing just that this morning as I headed south for my ocular. My mall client, the largest in the Philippines, asked me to visit their renovated mall along the Alabang-Zapote road in Las Pinas.

Of their 19 malls, this is the 3rd largest and has just undergone rather extensive renovations (to the tune of around P250M) and now looks great. I didn't mind walking around, getting lost, and finding my way through the vastness of it, looking for sites and objects I want to take pictures of.

One of the hats I wear as Creative Director for my company is that of Art Director. That means that once I determine the photographic needs of a project (in this case, a year-long engagement with several of the mall client's various companies), I need to make sure that I get the shots I need. This means selecting a photographer (in this case, I'll work with 3, including Raymund Isaac for the portraiture), dealing with talent/model agencies and choosing the models, coming up with an extensive shot list, hiring stylists, make-up people, etc. Everything comes together during the shoot, when I direct the models and photographer - like I would a stage play.

One of my early tasks in the process is an ocular, which is when I go to the venue and construct the shots in my mind. This can be fast or tortuously slow, depending on the art director. I tend to work fast, because even before I set foot in the venue, I have a good idea of the shots I want.

The mall manager and I became instant friends as he walked me around the entire place, answering my (sometimes unrelated to work) questions. If it weren't so far off, I'd consider putting up a branch of my store there.

So the only thing I couldn't stand about today was the long and expensive cab ride from my office to Las Pinas and back. My mind tried to alleviate the crushing ennui by reminding me of all the stuff I had to do, but since I had already scheduled and prioritized my day, it did not hold my interest. Instead, I called up various clients and used the long drive to touch base and burn through my cell card (worth it when I discovered my company was awarded a new project by a bank).

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


"Our latest operations - planned and executed with precision by the gallant warriors of Islam - is our continuing response to the Philippine government's atrocities commited against Muslims everywhere.

We will find more ways and means to inflict more harm to your people's lives and properties, and we will not stop unless we get justice for the countless Muslim lives and properties that you people have destroyed."

- Abu Solaiman, Abu Sayyaf leader, on the 2005 Valentine's Day bombings

The first bomb exploded outside the Gaisano Mall in General Santos City, killing at least 3 people and wounding 33 others.

The second bomb detonated at a bus terminal in Davao City, also in Mindanao. A 12-year old boy was killed and 5 others were hurt.

The third bomb blasted the roof off a bus along the EDSA/Ayala Avenue intersection, near the Dusit Hotel in Makati. 3 people died on the spot, 74 wounded.

More terrible to me than the faceless, agenda-free horror of the Asian Tsunami are these premeditated murders, all in the name of a cause. Blood upon blood, death upon death, this terror must end.

I am ashamed to be part of a nation that kills and hurts its own people.

I was doing overtime at my office last night, stressing about my store, when text messages started to come in. I wanted to believe the least outrageous - that a power transformer had exploded - rather than consider the thought that same street I was at a few hours ago was now the site of tears.

The writer in me can only stare numbly at the news, at the truth. There is no sense, because unlike fiction, life doesn't have to make sense.

The Abu Sayyaf subscribe to the Valentine's Day tagline of one of the stores at the Galleria - "I (heart) ME" - selfish, heartless, blind and enraptured by the percussions of violence.

Monday, February 14, 2005

let the store be open tomorrow

If all works out, my store at Megamall should be open.

It's Valentine's evening and we're handling the ingress. And now they tell us we can't set up unless this and that is done - and of course I asked them much earlier for a complete set of requirements, but they forgot to mention a thing or three.


So if the fates permit, there should actually be a store tomorrow.

Drop by sometime: Petty Pets, Ground Floor, SM Megamall. We're near Sbarro's and the Julia Vargas entrance.

And we have cuties.

UPDATE (021505): Okay, so the store is open but we have a trillion new issues, such as faulty electricals and such. So for the next few days, we'll be working to get the store in shape. As long as we're open and doing business while we tweak the thing, I'm okay. But gadz, the hole this is burning in my pocket is not amusing at all. All part of being entrepreneur, true, but still...

thanks from the little girl

A big thank you to everyone who came to celebrate Sage's 3rd birthday. The little girl was overwhelmed by the veritable delugue of cousins, relatives, friends, friends of friends and smiling well-wishers that she needed to destress by running away from her own party, but was fine when it was time to open her presents later, with her aunts and uncles in attendance.

It seems that her anticipation for her party outweighted the event itself (which reminds me of my own mother), but I completely understand her. ;)

Thanks again!

And now for some pictures courtesy of her Uncle Marco (more over at his phlog) - because my beloved digicam has...issues.

Sage and Nikki

Sage and Dean with Uncles Andrew and Vin

Dean, Jason "Boy Toy", and Camille

Saturday, February 12, 2005

health schmealth

I've decided to attempt to exercise and cut down on sugar, salt and fatty foods. the key word is "attempt". It's just ludicrous that the very same day that I planned to go to the gym, one of my business partners invited me to his new Chinese resto and I had to eat a ton of very good food (well, I didn't really have to, but what else am I supposed to do in that context? sit around and sip tea?). So here's the gratuitous plug: check out Chubby China over at Greenbelt 1. All Chinese cuisine cooks should be able to prepare 200 dishes, and they have a rather good one.

Later, feeling heavy, I get a text message from the trainer I asked to help me through my first few sessions at the gym informing me that he couldn't make it. I asked for help because I don't know my way around the gym and hurt my back the last time I lifted weights without guidance. I was pissed off because I shifted my weirdo schedule around to make time and didn't pan out.

So it's as if reality is saying "just don't". Which is not something I am particularly keen on heeding (though of course it is always tempting to let inertia overcome force of will).

A couple of days ago, my physical measurements reflected my need to lead a somewhat healthier lifestyle. I'm 5'11.5" tall and currently weight 180lbs. The normal weight range for a man my height is from 144lbs - 179lbs (while it can be argued by my lazy inner self that I'm technically 1 lb. overweight, I am still overweight and irked by my spare tire). My current Body Mass Index is 25.1 kg/m2. The normal BMI value is between 20 and 24.9 (again, I'm just a teensy bit over the prescribed range, but the evidence of my senses cannot be undermined). The Body Fat Index concurs: the normal fat index is from 17-23%; I'm at 23.8%. I'm just glad that my blood pressure is safely within normal range.

We'll see what happens next.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


In response to the new absurdly compressed timetables of ALL the projects I'm handling, I'm taking a few minutes just to escape from my brainbusting schedule (it helps that I'm at the office right now and not gallivanting around...yet) and think about the other things, apart from kith and kin and writing, that are keeping me intact.

First, there's Isle, the Friday night game I run for Nikki, Alex and Kate. The layers and intrigues of Agenda go up a notch as our intrepid trio (and friends) respond to the summons of The Bastard. Or so they think. Three brains against one, and I'm feeling good.

There's Wild Arms, my favorite Playstation game of all time (followed, in order, by Final Fantasy Tactics, Suikoden II, and Final Fantasy VII. Nikki and I unearthed the ancient discs are reliving the classic game, where Guardians and magic and quests are the rule. Its replay value is incredible, even after all these years. Just hearing the music makes me smile.

There's comics, of course (the above image is by no means an endorsement of the Keanu Reeves travesty - in fact, you'll see J.C. give the correct way to say his name, rhymes with "wine", according to his creator Alan Moore). I'm in the odd position where I have a lot of new comics and trade paperbacks that I haven't really read through because of time. But I can "guerilla read". New on my shelf: the new Bizarro World hardcover, Ex Machina, Runaways, Ultimate X-Men, a Gaiman book whose title I forgot, and I think around 7 or 8 more trades.

As for books, there are several of them as well. I'm drawing a blank trying to remember a title, but I do know there's a Lucius Shepard gem among them. I am flash-reading short stories, which my nicely thick anthologies provide.

There's the new Magic set, Betrayers of Kamigawa, the follow up to last year's Champions of Kamigawa. Nikki and I have drafted from 1AM to 3AM twice this week, using the boosters from the box I bought. The 1998 National Finalist (who led the Philippine Team at the World Championships in Seattle) trounced me the first night, sweeping me completely (as in I simpy, could not win), and had the gall to mock me by asking "Who's the best Alfar?". The next night though, the 1995 National Champion (yes, that old dog is me...has it been 10 years?) showed her the answer, by sweeping her completely. And since the overall score is 1-1, we need to settle the matter between us. We are competitive. We are Alfar.

And of course, porn. Ask Jolene for pictures and vid clips. Because, "the internet is for porn".

Work calls, so now back into the breach.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

to anyone, anytime

Yesterday, as soon as I walked into my office, one of my crew came up to me and told me softly that my architect brother Ricky (whose desk is across a glass divider from mine at work) had suffered a heart attack and was in some hospitals ICU.

For a moment I felt all the blood drain away from my head and experience a sickening sense of vertigo. I remember thinking, oh shit, how can this happen?

So I called his cell phone (well, in my mental state I reasoned that if he answers his cell phone he must be okay) and he answered it. And he was in the ICU, IV'ed, monitored and hooked up to whatever. And he sounded okay.

Today, I used my lunch hour to visit him and discovered that while he exhibited the symptoms of a heart attack, what he really has is unstable angina (I just despise medical literature), and will be okay after another night or two at the hospital.

I hate things like this. I did not take it well when my mother was in and out of illness (and for a particularly challenging time, was given X years to live). I hate hospitals, I abominate illnesses, I abhor the thought of having a condition beyond my personal control.


So I'm finally finally getting a medical plan thingie (all I have is life insurance) that will pay for my hospitalization, medication and therapy when the day comes. Maybe I-Care or Blue Cross.

I am getting older and with my nasty smoking habit, I may be next (and before my beloved friends and readers go on a "then quit smoking, you dope!" comment campaign, please don't. I am aware. I am.).

And maybe a little real exercise. This ring-around-the-belly is getting old.

vignette: giapetto's daughter

When the boy inevitably grew up, married and moved away with his own growing family, the toymaker decided to make a girl. He did it this time in secret, afraid of what his neighbors would think, fearing the potential unjust accusation of prurience when all he wanted was someone he could talk to, whose conversation would eradicate the heaviness of his solitude.

Giapetto worked at night, carving wood with his spotted hands by the feeble light of low and fat candles he favored from his youth, recalling how he watched his grandfather shape magic from wood and humming a song whose words he had long forgotten. He worked from midnight until just before dawn for five weeks, struggling with the impatience that old men with erratic memory suffer, losing himself in the methodology of his craft, shaving wood to reveal the delicate limbs and the small torso of his waiting daughter. Then at last he reached the part he liked best: shaping the girl’s face, determining the contour of her cheeks, the ridge of her brow, the curve of her chin, the hollow of her eyes. For her hair he chose the color of burnished bronze, planting and pulling the strands in and out of her hard scalp. For her eyes he selected the color of the bluest sky, fitting the glass spheres with a precision that only a master toymaker possessed. Just before he finished, he covered her polished nakedness in muslin and lace, cutting and sewing the sleeves and the hem and the ruffs.

Giapetto straightened up and grimaced at the creak of his aching back and looked at his new daughter, reaching forward to gently put an errant lock back in place.

“Now we must be patient, you and I,” he told her, standing up. “If my son could come to life, then certainly so should you.”

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

vignette: cardinal

Greed makes her dizzy, the myriad possibilities of acquisition triggering the onset of vertigo. Her mind spins with ephemera, some of it garish cartoons (swimming in McDuck's moneybin, spitting out coins), some of it in the parlance of silent films (newspapers flashing then fading, headlines announcing her latest incredible additions).

"I'll tell you what I want."

Anger makes her cry, the tears her body's coping mechanism against the buildup of heat behind her eyes. What trails down her cheeks sizzle and sputter, the coolness of forgiveness and goodwill evaporating as miniature wisps of pungent steam (she hates this occurance, thinking it a display of weakness).

"Don't, just don't. This is not about me."

Lust makes her laugh, so innured to the demands of satiation that the thought of bump-and-grind is reduced to absurdity. When she gets horny she imagines animals copulating in the bush, giggling at the helpless yelps of the female whose head it clamped down in the jaws of the male (amused because of her knowledge that even the act of fucking is contextualized politics).

"What makes you think it's you I want?"

Monday, February 07, 2005

girl alfar

Sage is turning three next Monday.

I remember breaking down in tears in Hong Kong when we discovered we were pregnant and the months of anxiety that followed: thinking about how we were going to afford the child, coming back to Manila, starting a new company, Nikki falling asleep in mid-conversation.

I remember the small resentments I felt guilty about: how my life would change, how Nikki's life would change, how our married life would change - no more sudden impulse trips abroad, no more unnecessary books and comics and films and music and theater and food and friends. Goodbye to the 1 Bedroom condo at Greenhills, which was perfect for two people but impossible for 3 plus nanny.

I remember waking up and revisiting my financial status on my computer, checking the same dwindling amount, and thinking about future expenses. I accepted my fear, my ignorance, my anxieties - indicated by the fact that I did not know what the term "layette" meant.

I remember, horrible imagination that I have, crying one night because I thought about what would happen if Nikki had complications during delivery and died. Or the baby died. Or they both died.

I remember focusing on the essence of just what I needed to do, the non-negotiables: generate enough money for expenses, provide a decent home environment, and become someone new - a father, with all the mystery that role entailed.

I remember the ultrasound that told us the baby kicking inside my wife was a girl. I was honestly disappointed at first that she wasn't a boy instead, then ashamed of my reaction, then doubly shamed because I decided to settle for second-best. With my fear of being a good father, I thought that at least if I had a son then I had all the male bases covered. But a girl.

She frightened me. And I do not take well to fear.

I remember when Sage was born, that Valentine's Day she decided to claim as her early entry date into the world. I paced liked any father, exhibited all the proper symptons of stress and excitement, got into scrubs/greens and held my wife's hand while she was cut open while making jokes with the surgeons, and then seeing my firstborn for the first time, covered in my wife's fluids, fuzzy with lanugo, raw and sightless and bloodly and impossibly incredibly mine.

I remember falling in love with my daughter, seeing her in the hospital nursery, pink bracelet that boldly declared "GIRL ALFAR", an overwhelming love whose source my heart is only a small part of. It is a love that is bigger than anything I previously knew, different from my love for my wife, my love for myself, my love for writing - unalienable, encompassing, thunderous and strange.

It empowered me to deal with my fear, anxiety and guilt. It made me a father.

I remember all her firsts, all her seconds, and the other ordinals. I recall wishing she could speak, then longing for the time when we could finally converse, and how entraced I was by words she uttered, common words that became magical, forceful, rare and true because she said them, formed them, controlled them.

She's turning three next Monday. Time is both too fast and too slow, never in a Goldilocks fashion "just right".

Last week: Sage, Nikki and I are in bed. It is night. We noticed sparks from the building across the street. I tell Sage to part the curtains and check it out, my explanation about contruction and welding lost in her trail.

She looked out the window, white light flashes like she's being photographed.

"Dad," she says. "That's amazing."

Thursday, February 03, 2005

visiting billy: brotherhood of the ring

Last time I was over at Billy's, he took me aside because he said he wanted to ask me something private. Hands filled with pirated DVDs, I asked him what he wanted.

BILLY: Salahuddin, are you already part of the Brotherhood?

ME: What Brotherhood?

BILLY: The Brotherhood of the Rings.

ME: Like The Lord of Rings? I already have the DVDs-

BILLY: No, no. The Brotherhood of the Rings.

ME: I guess not.

BILLY: You should be.

ME: Why?

BILLY: Because for Muslim men like us, it's very important that we satisfy the needs of our women. You agree, right?

ME: Well, yes, of course. And not just for us Muslim men.

BILLY: So you haven't done it yet.

ME: Done what? What?

BILLY: Become part of the Brotherhood.

ME: ...

BILLY: Of the Ring.

ME: No.

BILLY: You should. It's fantastic. My dick is so much thicker and heavier when it's hard. My wife loves it.

ME: What? What are you talking about?

BILLY: The operation is simple and quick, ten minutes tops. Take your cell phone out. I'll give you his number.

ME: Whose number?

BILLY: Doctor Jamal. He's in Davao right now, but he'll be back in Quiapo soon. You can call to set and appointment. Just pick him up at the mosque. Then you go up to his hotel room. He'll give you something so you don't feel a thing. Then he'll inject the, what is it called?

ME: What?

BILLY: What they put in boobs? In people's noses?

ME: Silicone?

BILLY: Silicone. Then he'll inject silicone into your dick. Here, give me your finger, I show you.

(DEAN gives BILLY his hand. BILLY selects the middle finger.)

BILLY: He injects here, under the head. Then the silicone goes around and around. Then, later, when you get hard, it's fantastic.

ME: What?

BILLY: I went with our cousins in a batch of five. We all waited our turn. It took only ten minutes for me. I walked out and even played basketball afterwards. Ten days later, my dick is fantastic. It's unbelievable.

ME: Okay.

BILLY: So you'll call him? Or do you want me to text him for you now? You'll get a discount because we're related. I think I get it for around P2k or P2.5k, for you.

ME: Let me think about it.

BILLY: What's there to think about? It's fantastic! Everyone around here is a member of the Brotherhood!

ME: Everyone?

(BILLY waves to various people in adjoining stalls.)

BILLY: Brother! Brotherhood!

VARIOUS MEN: Brotherhood! Ring! Ring!

ME: I...see.

BILLY: And since you are Muslim, and my cousin, and one of my best customers, I wanted to share with you.

ME: I'm actually happy with my dick.

BILLY: Hahaha! Call him! Call him and you will be happier! Your wife too!

And so, yes, I do have the number of the Philippine Muslim world's #1 enhancer of penises. Let me channel all the ad copy from all the penile enlargement emails that clog my inbox and tell you: "You dare fuck with that small dick?".

I'll accompany you to Quiapo.

I'll even wear my "tough" Muslim face ;)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

running on fumes

Nikki, commenting to a client about my sudden inability to distinguish left from right, said "He has had about six hours of sleep in the past three days". And while that's not entirely accurate, it's pretty close to the truth.

I got to sleep at around 4AM this morning, a few hours after a midnight call from a client with requirements who was a natural owl like me. Then I woke up to the sound of my cell phone at 7AM, with another client who decided to go ahead with a pair of BTL (below-the-line) campaigns, giving me a briefing on the phone. I also had a scheduled morning meeting in the Bay area which lasted until around 1PM. In the midst of that meeting, a crisis struck, concerning one of the placements I reserved and confirmed for another client. Back in the office, I apprised my staff of the horrendous deadlines and read my emails, and my heart sank when I noticed a thick Manila envelope for me, sitting heavily on my desk - from my website client with their ream of changes. Two clients to go, and I still had to do my groceries. I decided to hit two birds with one stone, brought my family to Galleria and met with the Leasing department and smoothed out the knots. Then down to the Supermarket for comestibles and sundry. Of course, my cell phone rings and it's a client wanting to talk about an idea I pitched to them a month ago. Back home with the groceries, I take off my shoes and lie down for a power nap before getting back up and doing some technical writing. Over dinner, another client calls to tell me they'd faxed my office their conforme for a juicy project I've been anticipating. One of the obvious lessons here is that client trust, once gained by good performance, does lead to other engagements - and the belief that I am mutant with the startling ability to multitask beyond human capacity. I've already turned down a couple of projects, just to keep sane.

So it's now almost 9PM and I still have a ton to do, a mix of analysis, writing, project management, campaign planning, collaterals planning, multiple photo shoot shot lists, and fretting about timetables. In the back of my head, segregated from the concerns of helping other people communicate better or improve upon their businesses, is the constant anxiety over the status of my pet store, as well as the concern that I am about to turn into a pile of gibbering mush. And I still have my personal creative stuff to do, in a sad attempt to maintain my discipline of writing despite the magnitude of other things that require my attention.

Nearby, my stack of new pirated DVDs call out enticingly, singing in harmony with all the unread books that sit unloved and ignored on our bookshelves and bedsides - and yes, I do plan to give in, maybe after this post, just to zone out and recharge my brain cells.

These are what keep me sane and going like the Energizer Bunny:

Sage, helping me remove my socks, her features arranged in grim determination to triumph; and later, telling me about all the people she invited to her 3rd birthday party next next Sunday; and again later, telling me she loves me;

Nikki, sick as a dog herself, valiantly hurling herself against the cliffs of copy requirements but managing always to maintain her good nature and what buddha calls "her grace"; sharing a cigarette with me during lunch by the bay; relentless teasing me about my "secret and shameful top 10 movie" (what it is, I'll never tell, because my entire dubious reputation as a person of taste would collapse like a house of cards); and telling me she loves me;

And one of my clients, in a moment of epiphany, who told me just how much he appreciated all my work - before proceeding to recommend my company to his friends.

Plus the knowledge that I'm running a game on Friday, and am having the usual rejuvenating dinner and maybe singing with my friends over the weekend.

While life is not work, work does play a big part in my life. I am nowhere near the point where I can afford to sit back and money just gushes in. I'm just glad that when I feel like I'm running on fumes, I have somewhere where I can stop and rest, even if just for a while - the embrace of wife and daughter, the invigorating clarion call of a new idea for a story, and the sense that somehow, the work I do is not utterly pointless. I am thankful I have no really terrible crutch like drugs, alcohol or self-pillorying to get me through my times of anxiety, apart from nicotine and caffeine.

Do I think about escaping and running barefoot, free from the demands of business and other people? Of possessing a sinecure that provides money for little or no effort? Of course I do. But that's not very realistic. A little too escapist and time-wasting for my taste.

Enough jibberjabber. My thoughts diminish and have become too tangential. The moment of decision has arrived: continue to work or take a movie break?


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

graphic details

If you like seeing the personalities of the local comic book industry exposed in a new light, check out Jonas Diego's Graphic Detail, a Monday and Thursday strip over at his blog. The current one features Komikero Gerry Alanguilan. You gotta see it.

And I'm somewhere down the firing line... gulp.

Jonas illustrated MTV Ink & Palanca-awardee Luis Katigbak's story for the very much delayed Siglo: Passion.

give me the damn store!

Today was the supposed reopening of my Petty Pets store, but is it open? Nooooo.

This past week we tried to hurdle the latest obstacle - the fact that SM had not, in fact, sent us the new lease contract. A small fact that the people we put in charge to handle that part of the project overlooked, as we handled construction, inventory ordering, hired salespeople and commissioned the new sign.


I am so upset that I went and bought a lot of DVDs. Our new opening date has been reset for the middle of this month - but I don't know.

If I see a cutesie rabbit right now I will wring the poor thing's neck.

But still, I do not want to let go our location at SM Megamall. It's so hard to get a spot (believe me, the line extends backwards in terms of years). But I am thinking setting up elsewhere. We'll see.

In related business matters, I decided to pass on the coffee shop franchise. There is a danger of spreading too thin. I'll focus on the primary business, plus just one or two more.

But dammit, give me my store.

visiting billy: the haul

I spent my lunch hour at the Metrowalk Mall along Meralco Avenue, which on certain nights is the new hangout of choice by the twentysomethings because of its resto and bar mix, but is also the new home of the DVD pirates of vanished Virra Mall in Greenhills. Billy, my Muslim relation, set up his store there, along with every other pirate that Metrowalk could accomodate.

The rest of the pirates scattered across the city like stray bullets. Some ended up in Cubao where they are the lowest man on the totem pole, subject to frequent raids since their power is not yet consolidated. Others have it worse, being able only to ply their illegal wares outside the streets near Star Mall and Edsa Central along Shaw Boulevard at night, having no space in either mall. Some landed even further in all directions. But Billy is okay, so I'm okay (let's leave the entire argument about the "evils" of piracy and my grey stance for a later date).

Billy greeted me with a big smile when I arrived, and proceeded to tempt me with a deadly combination of art films, Oscar contenders, commercial hits and -ahem- films for gentlemanly pleasure. Since I had exhausted my previous horde (which had a good mix of films like "What Alice Found" and "Saved"), I more than happily sorted through the piles of movies, got the ones that appealed to me, texted my business partner, and got him what he wanted. I usually purchase around 4 or 5 films, but this time bought several more - our cable TV is on the fritz which means, yes, no American Idol or any of the reality TV shows or comedies or even Discovery. Sigh.

While I do not have a film-viewing schedule set in stone, I do end up watching movies during late evening or at the wee morning hours when insomnia or fatigue set in, or when I need to take a break from creative writing.

I am happy with my haul for this week:

Lies by Jang Suu Woo - A film from 1999 that Time said was "a sado-masochistic romance between a married sculptor and a high-school girl half his age, a class-act film that fashioned poetry from pornography and high-fived the current zeitgeist, though it is banned in Korea."

Battle Royale Special Edition by Fukasaku Kinji - From the time I first saw it during its cinema run in Hong Kong in 2000, I loved it immediately, making it one of my top 10 favorite films of all time.

Grand Ecole by Robert Salis - 2004's adaptation of Jean-Marie Besset's play (by himself) attracted the playwright in me. A big plus is the promise of much flesh. Hence, the purchase.

Romance by Catherine Breillat - I've read many good things about French filmmaker Catherine Breillat, and this 1999 films that explores sexuality from the female point of view is something I've been meaning to get. Hmmm... So far it seems I like sex and violence, yes?

La Finestra di fronte by Ferzan Ozpetek - Released as "Facing Windows" in the US, this Italian film about love, marriage and discovery swept the Italian equivalent of the Oscars in 2003.

Mean Creek by Jacob Aaron Estes - Generally generating favorable critical reviews last year, this film about playful revenge gone wrong intrigued me. Let's see if it's good.

Head in the Clouds by John Duigan - I became a reluctant Charlize Theron fan after seeing her Oscar-winning turn in Monster. It's said that she dominates this film because of her bathtub scene, which, in my usual prurient manner, is good enough reason to see it. LOL

Modigliani by Mick Davis - This is the story of Amedeo Modigliani's bitter rivalry with Pablo Picasso, and his tragic romance with Jeanne Hebuterne. It has Andy Garcia, whose early work I enjoyed.

I also got The Aviator (Martin Scorsese), Ray (Taylor Hackerford), Closer (Mike Nichols), Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood), Merchant of Venice (Michael Radford) - for my Oscar fix; plus the odd When Will I Be Loved (James Toback), and two Disney films for Sage: The Lion King and the classic Peter Pan.

Oh, and my "gentlemanly films". Of course.