Monday, March 31, 2003

hang up those palanca awards

Nikki had them all framed out of love (since I had them rolled up and smushed in some old drawer, ignored and unloved).

Now whenever I sit to watch TV or walk around the condo, I see the four of them and I am filled with mixed feelings.

On one hand, it's kind of flattering but also so...old-fashioned. Like having trophies or diplomas on display. I mean, who am I trying to impress? Which is a funny question to ask since I'm the one (along with Nikki and Sage) who see them on the wall everyday. But I did win them. And it is my home. It's just odd that I feel kind of guilty.

On the other hand, it's like a cocktease. You're left wanting...more. Why? Because it's there, and I've proven it can be done.

And it is Palanca season again.


Well, well.
sky, sea and mountain

I'm putting together an anthology of short illustrated stories for children, featuring collaborative work by myself, Nikki Alfar and Princess Monjierra Alonto-Disini. I hope to be able to sign up my artist friends to do some work for this, as soon as I raise the funds.

The conceit that will prevent this from being a gallimaufry of things, we will have a theme: children in various parts of the Philippines; specifically, a number of precise geographic features. Nothing truly enviromental or maudlin, just good stories with children, for children. It isn't necessarily Hinirang related (in fact, I'm thinking of a couple set there already).

"Sky, Sea and Mountain" will hopefully be out around the third quarter of the year, barring any silliness.

We'll see.

sex talk

Over dinner at Harbor View along Roxas Boulevard (on a pier jutting out into the dark sea), my barkada and I inevitably watched the conversation veer towards that most juicy of topics (and really, anything other than war is a welcome change of something to talk about). So as we wolfed down Oysters Rockefeller, sisig, and other great stuff, we also strolled down the sordid past (well, mostly mine), digging up things that really were better left in the realm of memory.


Because memories become colored in time. Or they lose all color and become pale greys. You either remember more or almost nothing at all.

And there is the sad tendency for these experiences to become war stories, which, unless you commit to a novel, are not really fair.

When I think about all the women who passed through my life (not that many, but enough to learn lessons pleasant and harsh), I feel suddenly old and wiser. I am scandalized at my energy, amused by my opportunism and put off by my early attitude. But it was something I needed to go through, to better appreciate what I have now. And that's no mere justification.

Later, we had cocktails at Komiks in Malate (which had a copy of The Lost#1 on display behind glass, evincing a wry smile from me) and continued to talk about aging and attractiveness, temptation and time, desire and denial. Marco had the quote of the night (which I shall not put here for fear of ruining his reputation) and we missed the missing elements of our eclectic group - Carl, Dino Yu, Cyn & Arn.

On the way home in the wee hours of the morning, we passed through the brightly lit boulevard again - such a change from the time when it was considered suicide to walk there. I was thinking about something mentioned earlier in the evening.

About how when you're young you can dare anything, but when you get older you need to take care lest you hurt your back.

Friday, March 28, 2003

guilty pleasure

Nikki and I are such huge fans of the Heroes of Might & Magic franchise, willingly giving up time to romp around dealing with creatures, war and, of course, magic (we tagteam with Sage, who is amused by all the colors).

We got last month's add-on to HMMIV - The Gathering Storm (we'll pick up Winds of War when cash flow permits).

The Gathering Storm includes six entirely new campaigns which tell the tale of five heroes and their quest to defeat a mad wizard named Hexis, whose control of the realms of Nature and Death have begun a chain of vents that threaten not just the heroes' own kingdom of Devonshire, but all of the lands of Lodwar. As Hexis's strength grows, so does his negative effect on nature itself. Earthquakes, floods, storms, and more have begun to spread across the kingdom, and it is up to the five heroes to stop Hexis and somehow reverse the damage he has done.

Not the most original of premises, but we'll take our adventure where we can. And this is just so much fun (I like racing around trying to collect artifacts before the world ends in tears).

Escapism is the name of the game.

masks in hong kong

We asked one of my former employees (and good friend) in Hong Kong about the SARS. We were worried because of the dramatic increase in the number of affected people.

He said that paranoia was the keyword over there - with surgical masks usually retailing for HK$10 skyrocketing to HK$100.

People are afraid.
back again

After a painful couple of days, involving visits to the doctor and the physical therapist (though I balked at the doctor's packaged consultation/service fee), my back is...back.

I'm still a little sore and feel like an old man because I need to be careful when I pick up stuff off the floor (bend the legs, dammit), and I can't bolt upright from a prone position without fear of throwing my back.

Still, it's good to be able to cross the street knowing that my internal timing is fine and all.

There you go.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

we want billy

No one asks Billy Joel to sing anymore.

It's true. Event organizers would give their eyeteeth for grizzled old bands like U2 or hoary reinvented performers like Madonna, but where, oh where, is Billy Joel?

It seems that he just vanished off the face of the planet, falling to pieces after whatshername left him for the chiropractor (or somesuch). Since then, he's had episodes of alcoholic stupor and decreasing songwriting inventiveness (yeah, there was that "New York State of Mind" duet with whatshisface, but nothing new).

Well there is a Broadway show with his songs, but give me a break.

I want him to sing again, to be loved and remembered for all the great songs he made - and there are lots of them (his album "Innocent Man" alone abounds with well-crafted songs. I want him to make records again, to be heard and hummed along with, and belted out while driving. Not "Fantasies & Delusions: Music for Solo Piano".

Can you imagine my horror a while back when I heard some boyband's remake of "Uptown Girl"? For the love of god, please, no. Give me the good old Long Island guy anytime.

revisting herge

I've always loved Tintin, and thanks to this quarter's issue of The Comics Journal, I learned a lot more about the man who created him. It is just so sad that no more adventures will be created by this genius of words and art.

I first encountered Tintin when I was a young boy. A friend of mine had several oversized albums featuring this non-superhero character with a dog. The illustrations were clean but surprisingly complex, and the stories were a jaunt into a world of clearcut morality, all lovingly presented. I begged him to give or sell me even one, but he refused (this object of my envy also had some Asterix volumes).

I promised myself that when I grew older I would find the entire set and complete my collection (mind you, this was way before the internet, and when bookstores didn't have a wide selection in Manila).

When I lived in Hong Kong, I rediscovered Tintin and faithfully purchased every album (except for the Soviets, which slipped past). Reading and rereading them drew me back into Herge's vision of the world: where friends stayed true, villains were defeated and comedy was an intrinsic part of existence.

My favorite albums (as an adult cloaking a child's sensibilities) are:

King Ottokar's Sceptre - I'd give it an Oscar for Art Direction if it were possible

Tintin in Tibet - Wherein love for a friend moves mountains

The Seven Crystal Balls & Prisoners of the Sun - Fantastic development and exotic adventure

Destination Moon & Explorers on the Moon - Way before the astronauts went to La Luna, Herge envisioned it all

If I, in my lifetime, could achieve even a fraction of what this has created, then I'll pass on a happy man.

Monday, March 24, 2003

oscars aftermath

Well, it's over and done with. Since I need to live up to my blog's title once in a while, here is some commentary direct from the peanut gallery.

Best Picture - Chicago. Good call. I agree with this choice because I enjoyed it the most among the nominated films I've seen. Besides, the last time a musical won was with the god-awful Oliver (which is the reason no other musical won again, until this year).

Best Director - Polanski (The Pianist). Like the rest of the world, I thought that this would finally be Scorcese's year. But instead he joins the ranks of Orson Wells and Alfred Hitchcock. Polanski, of course, still faces a warrant of arrest in the US.

Best Actor - Adrien Brody (The Pianist) - The suspicion of a sympathy vote due to the Iraq war and the subject matter of the film Brody acted in is really way out there. Me, I'm just glad that Daniel Day-Lewis wasn't able to razzle dazzle enough voters for his overrated performance in The Gangs of New York.

Best Actress - Nicole Kidman (The Hours) - I much preferred Rene Zellweger's turn in Chicago, but I guess you can say Kidman won by a nose.

Best Supporting Actor - Chris Cooper (Adaptation) - He was a sure win from the start, for his performance in an otherwise masturbatory film.

Best Supporting Actress - Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago) - Well-deserved.

Best Animated Film - Spirited Away. Oh yes, oh yes! This is a wonderful film.

Best Foreign Film - Nowhere in Africa. Too bad both Hero and El Crimen lost. Suddenly, this German film is a must-see for me to compare.

Best Original Screenplay - Pedro Almodovar (Talk to Her) - Good for him!

Here's the complete list of winners.

the hurting

I just got back from an excruiciating photo shoot - not because of the photo shoot, but because of my back. I can tell you without a doubt that I've never felt pain like this before. It sucks, it realy does.

Walking home from Galleria was a challenge. I had to stop every few steps because it jsut became absurdly painful, which is truly sad for a person like me who has the pain tolerance of jello.

Crossing the street was a black comedy, as my timing was completely off and I tempted more injury by offering a delicious target to motorists in a hurry to get wherever the hell they were going.

Finding a spot on the crowded condo elevator to go home was equally distressing. I actually considered faking collapse so that people, in sympathy, would give me a spot. But instead I elbowed my way through as usual, though the grimace on my face was not due to my customary irritation at stupid people but a candid rendition of "agony through gritted teeth".

I felt sad that I could bend down to kiss my daughter, much more carry her in my arms like I always do. Sage sensed that there was something amiss because she tried to give me a massage like her mother did (though, in Sage's case, this consisted of throwing her entire body on my back).


So I guess I have to go to the doctor's, unless I wish to do the wheelchair scene. I know its not that bad, but my god it certainly feels like it. Never again, I tell you. I've learned my lesson with the silly raised barbell thingie. I will remember to think before I do anything like that again.

What a day.
sage and back pain

Sage thumped at the door absurdly early to let us know that her new milk had disagreed with her. Poor kid's tummy was upset, so we shift back to her old milk. Sometime though we need to change milk again because she can't have the same thing forever. It's a just a matter of finding something she isn't allergic to. Hopefully, it will also be less expensive. Believe me, when your daughter consumes an entire can of milk in less than a week, everything counts - even the 20% savings off the can I used to sneer at matters.

I stupidly hurt my back upstairs this morning because someone left the bench press thingie in the highest position with a set of heavy weights. So, without thinking, Iifted the damn thing onto my shoulders like a powerlifter and down to knees then slowly to the floor (because I hate dropping weights). Anyway, nothing hurt (no doubt because whatever pain was masked by my irritation at people who just leave things without restoring them to the proper place for the use of others) and I did my own thing. But afterwards as I moved around the office, I felt this searing jolt of localized pain in the small of my back. That's what I get for not thinking. So I'll endure this thing for a while until it becomes unbearable. If it does, then its off to the doctor or chiro (I hope not though, the last thing I need right now is more expenses to handle).

I wanted to stay home and watch the Oscars, but, well, we can't always do what we like.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

vignette: mindshare

Behind the back of head I have another pair of eyes, one is crystalline (limpid, calm); the other, a secondhand Proxima LENticular VV model (still sharp focus, occasional tendency to pan left). Both serve me well when certain circumstances arise (walking down the Retiro past the second clarion, taking a fix at Roxas Promenade during brainy season), but are no good at all the rest of the time. At least in terms of what they are supposed to do - which is to provide true uni-point radial vision.

Quadvision requires a certain level of perceptual retraining, an expensive and vertigous process ill-suited to non-embryonic persons like me. Once in a while, the sudden new reality of multiple perspectives triggers a profound reaction in the neuroperrenials, causing a curious condition informally known as "mindshare".

When this happens, the new quad vicariously experiences visions of the recently deceased, short-circuit hallucinations of sidereal constellations and illusions of half-lives. Few survive the necessary adjustments.

Those that do become like me, able to see Manila through the eyes of the dead that offer no colors but deep and languorous grays.

We have become the city's oracles and clairvoyants, supplanting the mediums and seers through miraculous (though accidental) technological seance, bringing answers to questions left suspended by sudden endings. For this service we are sought out and paid by people who want to make peace or divine a secret. And for the very same service we are reviled by the Church Government of Binondo, condemned as walking desecrations for our attributed malice.

As a result, we hide in plain sight, becoming chameleons by choice, easy to find by our customers but impossible to discover by our oppressors. When someone who wishes to engage our services comes nearby, we undergo a moment of blurred sensations. Images fly though our multiple eyes (difficult to interpret apart from the essence of need) before aligning as a single gray image of the seeker. We approach the new customer and commence a transaction.

On the other hand, when it is trouble that looks for us, the gray sea of our vision is interrupted by a virulent cascade of blue (never light hues, always electric). It lasts only for a pico fraction it is sufficient to alert us, and we flee by any means possible.

It is a misconception that the dead speak through us. There is no conversation in the afterlife, only images of regret and longing. We never hear anything because they do not speak. Either they have become mute or have nothing to say.

Once, one of us created a way to record the images we saw through the eyes of the dead using parts cobbled together from decrepit computer parts she found in the landfills of old Taguig. Before the ether-server she put together exploded it was able to record exactly one picture (poor comparative resolution, but still quite detailed). It was a room, a young person's room (untidy, chaotic, littered with music warez and cheap slipchip films from Quiapo), and on the leftmost side, slightly distorted, was a veiled person, hands stretched out above as if in supplication, face contorted by a sorrow no one understood.

Except, perhaps, by us.

five reasons i've decided to go to the gym

It's true. I've given in and have a little exercise at last, after all these years.

1. If I keep on the way I am, the owners of Big Buddha will call to ask if I can be their image model (where did all my love handles come from? My God! I used to be a svelte walking stick in my early life!).

2. Because its free (I live just a floor below the condo pool, sauna and gym and it's just too close for my slothful nature to rationalize away).

3. As I grow older, I begin to care about my health (though, obviously, not enough to stop smoking - in fact, the first ciggie after the gym is a fucking headrush. Gentle Reader, meet Mr. Contradiction).

4. Because if aliens invaded the earth and I could save humanity if only I could bench press a Volkswagon, the world would come to bitter, bitter end (we're not looking to be the next cover of a fitness mag, just a little extra bulk of the non-fatty kind, thank you).

5. Because, deep in my heart, I sincerely identify with the guy in the Charles Atlas ad (though I'd still punch the face of anyone who tries to kick sand in my face, after a severe tongue-lashing, which, after all, is one of my God-given gifts).

So is it working? Well, to be honest, I really dislike the effort, but this is about discipline, dammit. But yes, I do feel a lot better, though I think it will be cold day in hell before the tummy goes away (unless I have it surgically removed).

pinoy comics scene

Something exciting is in the works for the upcoming issue of Marco Dimaano's Angel Ace. Of course, its too early to state anything explicitly, but the very notion of how things are envisioned to play out has me wearing my best Chesire Cat grin. Stay tuned to Stark Raving Mad for news from Angela's creator.

Grafic, the official comic magazine of the Comic Collective is also new this week, and it promises to be an interesting read by new comic creator voices. Check out best viewed with eyes wide open for details - tell El I sent you. (Hey El! You better hold me a copy!)

Carlo Vergara's concluding issue of the first storyline of Ang Kagilagilalas Na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah is in its final stages of completion. Expect it faster than you can swallow an alien stone. Head on over to The Carver's House for more details. Also, Carl's next book has the most fascinating premise - but you won't hear squat from me. Not yet.

Nikki Alfar is also doing something hush-hush for Mango Comics, the publishers of Darna. It's so secret that I can't breathe a word for fear of incurring wifely wrath. Soon though, you can look out for promotions, in the Massive Mango Manner.

Also, the second issue of TXTMen published by Psicom with Dynatica Comics will hit the stands sometime before I turn blue. My vested interest? Well apart from the fact that my wife wrote it, I translated her script for the first few issues from English to Filipino. Buy it, read it, send me a scathing letter regarding abuse of language. I can use a good laugh.

And speaking of Mango Comics, I understand that the second issue of Darna will be slightly delayed but is, of course, coming out. This book has generated controversy and buzz among the local Filipino comics folk, with opinions ranging to extremes. Pick it up and judge for yourself.


I'm tired of the war already. For a moment, as we waited to see what would happen, it truly occupied a significant portion of my thought life. How could it not? As a family man, I care about the future of my wife and daughter. As a businessman, I care about the future of my livelihood. And as an intelligent citizen of the world, I do care about what goes on - in the both the general sense (for example, the attack on Iraq triggering sympathy terrorism in the city I live by the Muslim militants; the peso-dollar exchange rate) and in the micro-local scale (how my own life is going to be affected).

However, after the first few days of bombing, racing across the desert and counting how many missiles were shot down by other missiles, I've fallen into a malaise about the entire thing. Yes, its horrible (good for the anti-war protestors who stand up and get hosed down); yes, its sad (warching the footage of Iraqi children in the hospital is heartbreaking); and yes, its a mess (US Senators and UK MPs giving speeches or resigning their posts offers quite a statement on the polarized nature of opinion), but it is also tiresome.

It is one thing to be aware of geopolitics and its disastrous effects on nations and people (including your own), but war and its attendant tragedies are not a subject matter I care to spend any more time thinking about. At a certain point in the thought process, one must shortcircuit certain events and reduce them to billboards or headlines in the news. Why? Because to dwell on something you cannot personally affect is a futile exercise. It is fine to have an opinion - voice it all you want to all who care to listen. But one must also never forget to go about the business of living.

Life does not stop to watch the war unfold. It goes on over it, treating the episode like an obstable in a running stream. Life needs to find a way to push, claw, flow or scamper over it because it simply must. It is alive, after all. If we consciously allow ourselves to stop for an extended duration, we cannot expect everything else to likewise come to a grinding halt.

So for me, the war continues to present a clear and present danger to my life in various circles but more importantly, it serves to underline the preciousness of the very existence I lead. I'll play with my daughter, take my wife out to dinner and a movie, get a massage, grow the business, have fun with my work and workmates, write what pleases me, have drinks and conversation with friends, read old and new comics, play with the WAP function of my phone, pay the bills, exercise and play games.

Because to life, war is just another everyday occurance - like rhythm and dissonance, death and birth, drought and plenty, tears of sorrow and peals of laughter.

Keep it in perspective.

Friday, March 21, 2003

mental fatigue

I got up early and began a loooong day of pictorials and got home past sunset, hungry and almost brain-dead.

This time, we decided to handle pictorials in an interview-like manner, with Marc and I sharing art direction while I spoke with everyone - all GMs, CEOs or lawyers. What got me tired was the sheer level of collective intelligence I had to deal with, and the stunning variety of topics we discussed - barely touching business concerns: the war in Iraq, Philippine politics, comparative analysis of graduate schools in the US, design in Europe, Southeast Asian economics, and so on. My highlight was being tasked to explain exactly what ever happened to the leader of Libya in the scheme of geopolitics and what precisely was going on in "The Hours" triptych.

Our clients enjoyed the novel approach, which did not necessitate them having to pose unnaturally. In fact, discussions went on at length and the photographer, having taken his fill, would just sit back and listen to my impromptu talk show.

It really pays to read a lot.

And to have an opinion.

And not be intimidated by titles or whatnot.

But right now, all I want is to zone out.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

work of the devil

I have never loved my phone as much as I love it today. This phone (which I call my "Arabian Wife" for reasons known only to me and my non-Arabian wife) was Nikki's birthday gift to me this year, and for the past couple of months has only been used for calling or SMS (better known as "texting" over here in Manila, the SMS Capital of the World). It, of course, had a plethora of other thingies it could do (like Bluetooth, etc.), but being the ignorant savage that I am, I simply ignored it.

Until today.

Today one of my new staff members, Kris (who has the same phone) showed me how to use the WAP feature. In mere instants I was surfing the internet for free - on my phone. I went to Google, searched for my blog and to my delight was able to read it. Work of the devil!

Suddenly, my head is awash with services and promos I can create and position for our clients, veering away from the tired old vanilla SMS. The synergy between the web and MMS may be old news to you techies out there, but it's news to me - and the new wave of Filipinos experiencing these kinds of options for the very first time. Actually, its not exactly true that I didn't know about it (my company is designing stuff for a pair of clients within this realm), but it never truly excited me until now. After all, my company is not a technology company - not by the longest of long shots.

I've always consciously expressed ennui about technology - the very notion of its coldness and distance from "warm" things is the greatest hindrance to my going gaga over it. But today all I can do is happily use my phone - knowing that there is simply a world of possibilties for me as a user and as a businessman.

So pardon my while I play with myself. I mean, with my phone.

war begins

After my little workout, I rushed to find a cab to take to work (before whizzing to Makati for another business meeting). The cabbie's radio was attuned to one of the numerous AM stations, anxiously awaiting the end of the 48-hour ultimatum for Iraq (which would occur at 9AM, Manila-time). My cabbie and I agreed that it was a deplorable occurance, an opinion shared by many people I've spoken to.

The deadline came and went with me in another car and war was briefly forgotten as a put on my consultant cap to help implement an established technology company's strategy. After the meeting, Marc and I talked about the moral right and other similar issues - as well as the nature of truth and hypocrisy vis-a-vis America's actions. I am not anti-American but am deeply shaken by the thought of an inevitable "morally right" war.

I am not particularly proud to be Filipino right now, since the Philippines is one of the "Coalition of the Unwilling-to-be-identified".

So right now, traffic to news sites like CNN or even Google News is very heavy, as people all over the world wait to see how things go.

Let it end.

font size

Okay, okay. I'm listening to the people who've said that reading the tiny font of my blog is dizzyfying (take that, Salman Rushdie). I used to have 9 points, here it is at 11. So, here, let's see if this is better.

Hmm. Seems the same to me though.

Hope it helps.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

useless knowledge

Once in a while, the silly competitive animal in me likes to be unleashed in games of useless knowledge.

Frankly, its amazing how much unimportant things the human mind retains. Advertising jingles first heard in youth, lines from poetry or fiction that do not necessarily change the world, names and places that bear no relevance to daily life, numbers and statistics of foreign economies, celebrity deaths, the list goes on.

Sometimes I fear that I need to reformat my brain's hard drive and just dump all this pointless stuff. Perhaps the reason my thinking about super-specific things is slowing down is because of the weight of trivia in my mind. I imagine new knowledge coming in and having to go really far to find a place for themselves - because the front portions have been occupied by the same old Sesame Street songs since my childhood.

But then again, the plethora of insane details does contribute to my mind's general legerity, allowing me to often win at trivia game variants (until my intellectual bully of a wife comes along with a smile and beats me within an inch of my life - in the very same categories I'm supposed to have "mastered", and then some).

So until I defrag, let me know if you need someone to explain the exhaustive history of the nutmeg trade. Or somesuch.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

my sentiment on the US' 48-hour war ultimatum

"Oh! if instead of being a hell this universe had been but an immense celestial anus - behold the gesture I make, hard by my lower abdomen: yes, I would have plunged my prick through its blood-stained sphincter, smashing the very walls of its pelvis with my impetuous movements!" - from Maldoror, by the Comte de Lautreamont

Couldn't have said it better myself (contextualized, of course). In a gesture of denial of the horror unfolding, I was delightfully informed by the Village Voice that "using exclamation points in the late 1800s, when Maldoror was written, could get you 30 lashes with a length of braided goat hair. Punctuation mark of the devil, they called it."

There you go.

question: admiration

Would you admire more a person who gave up love for a career or someone who gave up a career for love?

I don't know. Giving up a career for love sounds rather suicidal - unless of course the person you're giving it up for is disgustingly wealthy.


naked girls for free

Okay, I must confess that one of the nice things about my work are the great freebies I get from great clients in the course of acting as a consultant.

For example, today I unexpectedly scored a pair of Filipino videos on disc: the movie Hibla, and the softcore Viva Hot Babes (just when I was about to depressed when I found out that Cynthia and Arnold had worked on Joyce Jimenez's Private Joyce).

Now though neither of these pleasant offerings featured Diana Zubiri, both provided an interesting early evening diversion (while my amused wife rolled her eyes in amusement). Now son't expect a true review, because these kinds of things defy absolute analysis.

Hibla, partially written by Quark Henares, stars Rica Peralejo and Maui Taylor. The story (yes, there is a story) is about childhood friends who are separated when one of them moves to the city her with family, leaving the other behind in the sleepy province. Of course, they meet again later but are very different - and it is that set of differences that inevitably make everything end in tears. None of this impressed my jaded wife who would check on me every now and then - "so, have they taken their clothes off yet?". And yes, they certainly do, revealing their pert naked forms (though, come on, who would believe that Maui Taylor's breasts were not the result of unnatural tampering?). The story actually had the potential to be somewhat good, but naturally it followed the sad Filipino movie cliches and degenerated into maudlin melodrama. But still, delivering an earthshaking series of epiphanies about the human condition wasn't exactly the point, was it?

Viva Hot Babes, on the other hand, made no such effort in the first place. Upping the naked quotient, it was unabashedly meant to tease, and tease it did, in a series of vignettes strung together by one man's fertile (and coconut-thunked-inspired) imagination. Who's in it? Maui Taylor (again), Katya Santos (who, to me, is still too young to do what she does), Andrea del Rosario (who exudes the "Day...tubig!-slash- Huwag po, kuya, huwag po!" earthy charm), Kristine Jaca, Jen Rosendahl, Gwen Garci, Nicola Jane and Hazel Cabrera. Sadly though, majority of these so-called hot babes (also featured in a previous issue of FHM - their pictures there amplified their common lack of class) simply lack the x-factor that elevates a woman beyond looking like a cheap strumpet. So you have these young women baring their charms as they body point sensitive areas, or swim naked in a pool, or really really really get a vehicle clean. But still, for something free, I'm not complaining.

After all, my prurient interest has been stoked by these pouty nymphs, and now I think I'll write a screenplay. How's that for indecent inspiration?

One last thing: last week, my partner and I began screening photographers for various projects and my cold cold heart turned green with envy when every single one of them had, in their portfolios, pictures of not-so-sweet young things. Feh. Is it too late to gain a new skill set?
To the cat in the stairwell, letter 2

It is difficult to maintain an air of civility
When one of us is obviously less caring
In acknowledging his degree of responsibility
For the common area we are sharing

I thought that after my well-worded missive
You would see what you could do
But perhaps you actually thought me permissive
Since, again, you left your fresh catty poo

This second offense is, I hope, the last
(I understand how sometimes, things just occur -
I am not calling you a pain in the ass)
I hope and pray it does not recur

Because if it does (and this is no threat)
I will speak to the building administration
This goes beyond my right to a cigarette
Or your inveterate constipation

Yours truly,


Monday, March 17, 2003

ab ovo 2

Hey, hey, hey - Ab Ovo #2 is out! You can get a copy at any Levi's store within the week or at Comicquest.

You get 8 different stories from some of the best Filipino creators today. Look at this list:

Arnold Arre (Mythology Class, Trip to Tagaytay, After Eden)
Marco Dimaano (Angel Ace, Immacolata: The Fury of Hinirang)
Jason Banico (Baylans, TXTMen)
Honoel Ibardaloza (Bagani)
Nikki Alfar (The Lost, Ruin, As Snow As Blood, TXTMen)
Vin Simbulan (Isaw Atbp.)
Oliver Pulumbarit (Lex, Nancy & Argus)
Carlo Vergara (One Night in Purgatory, Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah)
Tony Bucu (P-Noise)

Check it out (and keep an eye out for the digital version coming within the week)!
to the cat in the stairwell

Dear Cat, (you might wonder how I knew that
You, of all things were of feline persuasion
Not a dog, an iguana or a guano-filled bat -
Really it was a rather simple equation)

The stairwell in my office building
Is something we both hold in common, we do.
But, frankly, I do not appreciate your gilding
The floor with your definitive catty poo

Each morning I go there to smoke a cigarette
To think and ponder through the days’ mess
But instead of calm contemplation I get so upset
To find your catty poo, scattered, with no finesse

Why are you in this place anyway?
Do you not have a home to call your own?
Put yourself in my position of dismay
If I shat upon your geographical zone

So I ask you, gentleman to gentlebeast
Kindly confine your scatologolical inclinations
To where it is appropriate (to say the least)
In the name of proper diplomatic relations

Yours truly,


**Really, you try going to your favorite ciggie spot for a deserved break only to find cat crap and see how you feel.**

I need to rave and vent.

I've resolved the angry situation (see my "abuse" post below) by deciding to finally burn the bridge once and for all. I do not take kindly to outright accusations of something I did or did not do - I'm the wrong person to try to bully or extort money from. It's just absurd. I'm so angry that my wa is imbalanced and that I had the equivalent of a scene in my own office, over the phone.

Sometimes bridges just need to be razed to the ground to prevent any further contact, communication, contagion, possibilities, impossibilities, whathaveyou. The very nature of bridges implies traffic and I want the traffic to stop, I want the other land isolated, unreachable, a distant rumor of something banal and uninteresting.

After tomorrow, I will not have anything to do with this person professionally or personally. I wish him no ill will (on the contrary, I've tried to help him when I can) and I hope things work out for him and his family. But I am no longer interested in maintaining ties, in engaging in mistaken friendship.

I threw a burning torch unto the bridge and right now its burning burning burning brightly and the heat is both unpleasant and close - but the wood is being consumed and the crackle of sparks rise foolishly into the air only to expend themselves in futile brilliance. And I watch with angry eyes, an angry heart and an angry soul, implementing my mind's rational directive to end things. And thus the obscuring smoke that I inhale like unholy censers.

Absurd. Absurd.

What have I lost? A strange question. Everytime something I helped create is destroyed, I lose part of myself, of course. I am a creator, a wordsmith of ephemera contained on paper or released into the air. I, with others like me, fully understand the value and preciousness of creation.

But sometimes, you need to sever something to be able to keep living, and dammit I will always refuse to be tied down by sentimentality and "give-peace-a-chance" inanities.

You just have to say "fuck it" and burn.

hear me, mortals, and tremble before the might of Doctor E!

Needing a laugh this morning, I went over here and checked out what my superhero name would be.

I am Doctor E. (I know, sounds like something I'd probably be. Mysterious mastermind with nary a superpunch. But I do sound related to Entertainment Television, sheesh!)

Nikki is Doctor Mayhem. (She sounds so much cooler than me. She sounds like she's a criminal mastermind with some gizmo and can probably throw a punch - and probably has a funky headdress. I want funky headgear.)

So I inputed my other Saturday group friends' names. Who's who on the superteam? Read on:

Carl = The Mecha Witch (I love it! Magic plus tech)
Camille = Molecule Girl (wow!)
Jason = Captain E (maybe Jason and I are part of the same subteam since we both have "e")
Vin = Black Baby (ahh, this is just too delicious for words)
Noel = Mega Warrior (at last, someone who throws a punch)
Marco = Commander X (sounds like the leader of the team)

Of course, once in a while, we are joined on important earthshaking missions by Doctor Danger and Captain Justice (Arnold and Cynthia). Whoa, they sound serious.

On rare occassions, Black Baby brings his sidekick The Yellow Phantom (Ralph).


She's become quite the talker, my little daughter.

In the mornings, she pounds at our bedroom door, demanding to be let in in her colorful argot that only she understands (just because we cannot understand what she is saying does not mean she isn't saying something). When I open the door to let her in, she greets me with more words (we suspect the language of b irds) before climbing onto the bed and diving into her mother.

After making her sure that both her parents are awake, Sage then climbs off the bed, crosses the room to where the DVDs are stacked, and picks out her favorite ones (Spirited Away, and more disturbingly Aimee & Jaguar). The rest she dumps on the floor and steps on (she is a worse critic than I am - while I confine myself to words, my daughter takes physical action against films she doesn't like, which sadly include Chicago and Hero). Then she runs back to us and babbles on while waving the DVDs in her arms, laughing at some funny thing she no doubt said, enveloping us in her delightful jargon.

Yesterday, she came up to me with one of her shoes. I took it from her as she sat down and extended her foot.

"Wait, wait," I told her. "Where is the other shoe?"

She stood up and walked over to where all her different shoes were placed and picked out the matching one, gave it to me and after sitting down, extended her foot again.

My clever, clever 13-month old girl.

Last night, someone abused my friendship and generousity.

I hate it when this happens.

Against my will there is a forced shift on my perspective in life, an unwanted off-kilter weltanschauung. In that prolonged moment, the world is reduced to stark black and white, with shades of gray standing in for the hues of doubts and aspersions. Suddenly, it seems futile to be kind to anyone, much more to care or trust someone.

Whenever I experience this, whenever a laconic sourness is thrust into my spirit, I close my eyes and seek for something inside me that can anchor me against the unpleasant wave that threatens to engulf me, cap-a-pie.

But it passes, of course. It always does.

And then, drenched but alive, I pick myself up and decide that the act of one person will never influence how I deal with people in general, that there will always be people who will abuse kindness but that there will always be people for whom the act of kindness is like a breath of life. And that there will be no explanations, no exegesis, nothing to fully explain or justify why what happened happened apart from the standard old chestnut about vagaries: Things just happen. Some people are assholes.

Life goes on, of course, but goddammit, I feel so fucking tired.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

inconsistent entertainment

Just came back from Onstage at Greenbelt, where Nikki, Carl and I attended the opening night of Dreamgirls, an old Broadway musical about a group of black singers and their lives.

The play itself was sadly weak. I do not understand how it won anything Tony-wise during the year it racked up seven (I think). Must have been a slow year. There was truly nothing to elevate this play in terms of writing, structure or music.

The production suffered from numerous technical issues such as erratic microphones and misjudged lighting, but in general the performances were pretty good, especially the star turn of Bituin Escalante (and Jet Pangan, to a lesser extent). Sadly though, it sometimes became a matter of "look, I can reach a higher note!". And the accents were beyond terrible.

Still, it was money well spent, as I found myself happily tearing the play apart and occassionally being moved by powerful voices from the ladies of the cast (though I mistakenly thought it was budding beauty Anne Curtis in the play instead of Anna Fengi).

I miss theatre, and the playwright in me wanted to start writing then and there.

Friday, March 14, 2003

today I look clean

I really hate having to go through traffic to go anywhere, but life and business demand that I often leave the comfort of the Ortigas Center, where my home, office and favorite stores and restaurants are merely spitting distance from each other.

Today, I met with clients in upscale Oakwood in Makati. Oakwood is one of those swanky condo units embraced by a highend mall (and thus, lile Rockwell, commanding rentals of around P120k for a two-bedroom unit). Their coffee shop on the 6th floor dripped attitude and if you're neither a fading star like Ina Raymundo (there with a child) or in a suit (like me, ha!), you'll look like the hired help. Which was the joke of my client who said they were the ones who looked like the suppliers, while Marc and I looked like the client.

Why am I so dressed up? Well, apart from the fact that I do like looking spiffy and shaven from time to time, we have another meeting at the a hotel, and this time, since the party we're meeting flew in from overseas to talk business, I decided to look like the GM that I am. But really, I'd rather be in a black tee, slacks and my old shoes - almost anytime.

And then Nikki and I are off to watch Dreamgirls with Carl. The original Broadway production won several Tonys ages ago, but my hope is high for this particular production. Tickets are kinda pricey, but once in a hile you have to treat yourself to something good and forget about the cost consequences (assuming you can afford it in the first place and your daughter does not starve to death).

After that, it's off to see the other guys, relax and let my stubble grow.

part of our world

Here's the Hinirang interview that will also appear on the site. This is my corrected version which accounts for the invisible parentheticals, and I put in the links. And I fixed up my stunning grammar. So, yeah, think of this as a "Dean's privileged reading" of the interview and you'll be okay. (We'll place the original over at Hinirang, of course).

And They Called It Hinirang
by Ria Elainne C. Mendoza
Computerworld Philippines
17 Feb 2003

It was a relatively crowd-free time at MegaMall, being a weekday and all, this gigantic mall that houses one of the widest varieties of patrons - the rich, the yuppies, the teens, the hip-hops, the punks, the sporty, the intellectuals and yes, the creatives, all within its white, rectangular form. It is within this block that the creative spark of Hinirang was initially ignited. And it was quite poetic, that this is also where the interview for this article was held. And there they came, Nikki Alfar flanked by Dean Francis Alfar (Kestrel Studios, Jason Banico (Dynatica Comics), Carl Vergara (Carver House) and Marco Dimaano (Angel Ace). The full cast includes National Book Awardee Arnold Arre and Cynthia Bauzon (Tala Studios), Vincent Michael Simbulan (producer of "Isaw Atbp." under Quest Ventures and manager of Comic Quest) and Dino Yu (official Hinirang yowler and project manager).

Without even pausing for coffee, the interview started. Asked how Hinirang came to be, Nikki Alfar starts, "Marco and I were talking around and he had this idea - what if we make a Filipino fantasy setting? We talked about it with our friends and we were all excited but none of us could afford to publish books or comics just like that. Then Jason had a great idea - why don't we have a Web site!"

And because of the financial constraints, especially for a full color comic book or anthology, the group had to consider the alternative. Once they found out that it was an affordable and easy to manage solution, they acquiesced. Dean Alfar expounds, "With the Web (thanks to Jason, our resident tech head), it was an easy sell. I resisted at first because I did not know much about Web publishing. But we decided that if we wanted to try something out, we would give it our best shot. Since by and large we are all creative to an extent, we decided to contribute to Hinirang where our strengths lay individually. In the case of Nikki and myself from Kestrel Studios, our strength has been in writing, in the ideas, in the concept, because we cannot draw a stick figure to save our lives!"

"Primarily we wanted to have another way of working together which would be competence-based. From time to time we work together in print. For example for the National book Awardee "Isaw Atpb.," we were all represented," Dean adds. If you look at it closely, all these creative minds have been working on the same concept, though individually. "We realized that a lot of our individual works reflect what we call the Hinirang sensibilities - respect for the Philippines of the past, a love for our nation and a feeling of belonging to a country as an individual and as a creator. Any of us could go and create western-style work but it would not contribute to the Philippines (not that we're super-patriotic). Much of our individual work (whether it is Dynatica or Carver House or Arnold Arre-Cynthia Bauzon's Tala Studios or Marco Dimaano's work) have stories and characters that are rooted in the Filipino experience. What better things to write about?"

All of this historical and magical grandeur (just check out the art and readings at Hinirang and you will see what I mean) would not have materialized online if not for Dino Yu. While talking about the concept and basically doing nothing to advance it, Dino Yu yowled at them (yes, yowled, and fortunately they were kind enough not to mention the expletives), and said something to the effect of "are you just going to sit there and let the opportunity pass?!"

And Hinirang Came to Be

With that great push, Hinirang came online, in a medium that Dean Alfar claims, would let its creators go beynd the material boundaries of the printed page. It will extend its wings and reach Filipinos from all over the world. It will captivate even those who have never heard of tikbalangs or manananggals. It will open their eyes to a world of fantasy they have never seen before. Hinirang is a muted world that will draw you in, not with a lot of fancy visual effects but with words tightly written. It will not flood your senses with color, but it will tease you with the magic drawn by the artists topping the comic book industry.

"If you look at the materials in Hinirang, it is not quite the usual hi-tech culture of our western counterparts. The stories in Hinirang are more quiet, more angsty, more intense emotionally. I"d like to say that it is a unique flavor to the world that we created for now we are focusing on the more quiet, smaller stories, and when you create smaller stories, they add up and create the world eventually," Carl Vergara expounds. "It foregoes that those who may want to see how a Filipino fantasy setting may be treated. When we were toying with the story of Hinirang, I told my friends about it. One of them laughed. He said, what you'll have a Spanish-speaking manananggal, then he laughed thinking that it was absurd. Of course I rushed to Hinirang's defense and said, so what's wrong with that? We are so open to having all these other western writers write European-based fantasy settings and we readily accept it - new races, new languages and we are so open in accepting that. Here we have a Filipino setting and we can't accept a manananggal speaking Spanish? I think that is sad. What we are trying to do is to create a paradigm shift, that it is possible for some writers to go out of their way and create something new."

Jason Banico adds, "There are a lot of Filipinos who look for alternative settings, culture. Personally, when I wrote Baylans what I wanted was a venue for people to learn about our cultural heritage without necessarily researching or doing it as an academic piece of work, which is usually the case when people learn about these things."

"We are folklore nerds," is the beautiful summation of Nikki Alfar. To which her better half adds, "And we are not ashamed of it because that is where true magic lies. The plethora of riches in Philippine folklore is barely examined in this point of time. It is fairly known to a select few, primarily writers in that particular genre and students of those writers." They write about Philippine mythology, folklore and folk tales but with their own twists and interpretations because Hinirang is their Philippine fantasy. A Philippine fantasy set in what they regard as a romantic period full of potential. They can create from a number of inspirations, the Spaniards, the katao (natives), the Filipinos, the magical south, the monsters and mystical people against a rich geographical background. Lu Parlore d’Anjelia or The Parlor of Angels by Carl Vergara was the first long piece written for Hinirang. It was immediately followed by L'Aquilone du Estrellas or The Kite of Stars (which is currently located on Strange Horizons) by Dean Alfar and Lu Veneno d'Amores or The Poison of Love by Nikki Alfar.


Carl Vergara is responsible for the visualization of this virtual world we know as Before fully immersing himself in its creation, Carl first looked into the flavors that make both oriental and western designs. He noticed that western flavors include cooler colors because of the quality of the atmosphere, a lot of greens and blues. In contrast, oriental designs have warmer colors such as bright red, yellow and oranges.

"As far as Filipino settings are concerned, there is a lot of tribal-based, a lot of nature. I decided to go for the more muted earth colors: muted greens, muted yellow, muted browns. There are two objectives to that, first it captures the atmosphere of the world, and secondly, it is a site where you read - the colors don't overwhelm you. They don't cause eye strain, they are very relaxed colors. Then we have the icons, the other design elements, the European accents because it was the Spanish time I had to include to add to the atmosphere. The site is very simple, it is easy to navigate, not a lot of flair because that is not the point of the site."

True enough, it is easy to navigate, with only eight items at the navigation bar to choose from (Home, Background, Literature, Malayan Realms, Press, Catalog, Forum and Contact Us) and it does not overwhelm with bright, flashy colors either. The muted colors give off a relaxed atmosphere that invites a visitor to come and read. Within its pages is also a listing of the Persones ei Lugares (People and Places) for the whole of Hinirang and a Talaverbo (Glossary) for The Parlor of Angels. Malayan Realms contains a wonderful collection of articles explaining the different origins and beliefs as well as references for this wonderful fantasy world.

Hinirang means promise, and the creators of Hinirang view this as the "promised land." And by its meaning it shall be known. And by its meaning it shall live up to. Being individuals who have worked closely with one another from one project to another, they know exactly what they want. They have an intimate understanding of each other that will make this world grow beyond what it is now. Marco Dimaano gave it a name, Dino Yu huffed and puffed and gave it a big push, Jason Banico gave it a medium, Carlo Vergara gave it a face, Nikki Alfar, Dean Alfar and Vincent Simbulan gave it words, Arnold Arre and Cynthia Bauzon gave it color. And now that it is out there, awaiting visitors, they will continue to add to it where their skills and strengths lie, be it in writing, drawing, concept, design or combinations of each.

Before these comic book luminaries disappeared back into the crowd that makes up a weekday night at MegaMall, they promised uploads to Hinirang - soon, more comics, more illustrations, more stories. True enough, it has not been a week and they already have two new stories (Ang Mahiwagang Manok ni Menggay by Nikki Alfar and Terminos by Dean Francis Alfar). It is true that one need not travel far to experience a new world, and for you, it will only take a click to be transported to one that is strangely familiar.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

oderint dum metuant

With all due respect to all my American readers, I think this entire situation with Iraq has gone beyond absurd.

War must be avoided, other options must be exhausted, and bullying tactics must never be legitimized. The authority of the United Nations must be upheld, the decisions of its Security Council followed. Otherwise, the entire organization represents nothing but sham politics where the strong always get their way no matter what.

If the US makes war with its "coalition of the willing" then it perpetuates the error of artbitrarily linking terrorism and Iraq, sowing more terror and confusion.

This is simply not the way.

Assuming all "goes well" (and that is a preposterous assumption because nothing in war goes well, especially for the victims of war), what is next? Shall the sabre-rattling target North Korea next? Shall we watch the self-proclaimed defender of God-given democracy take on a more terrifying aspect? After all, there are any number of nations it can target next. Whatever respectability or goodwill the US has achieved in its years of diplomacy by example is being tossed out the door.

Must we watch in mute shock?

Career diplomat John Brady Kiesling, in his letter of resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States, asks: "Has oderint dum metuant (Latin for "Let them hate so long as they fear" - thought to be a favorite saying of Caligula) really become our motto?"

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

pale shelter

Last night, we gave shelter to Jeanne.

We know Jeanne because Sage plays with her charges almost everyday at the playroom on the roofdeck.

Jeanne is the nanny to 3 children ages 1, 2 and 4, as well as the all-around maid for a family that lives in the condo we stay in. Their unit is a studio-type, with less than 30 sqm. A total of 9 people live there - 2 grandparents, 2 parents, an uncle, 3 children and Jeanne. Apart from taking care of the 3 children, Jeanne does everything else, including feeding the grandparents and cooking for everyone. For all this, she is paid P1,000 a month (around US$20). She just turned 17.

Last night, she knocked at our door, weeping, with her single bag of possessions in hand. She was trembling and inarticulate, and my first angry thought was that she'd been harmed. She managed to say that she'd decided to leave because of how they treated her - with words like whips - and how the small sum of money that was her monthly salary was conistenly "borrowed" from her by her employers and paid back in small increments. Of how she slept on the floor with a blanket she bought herself. And how she hardly ate anything, subsisting on water, crackers and air.

Appalled, we took her in for the night, persuaded her to eat and gave her the comfort we could (Sage wanted to wipe her tears away). When I learned that she had absolutely no money, I gave her half her salary - to help her go home to the province or just to have some security against the uncertain tomorrow - which she tried to refuse, horrified by generosity (what a world we live in where such acts can be alien!).

I wish I could hire her myself, but we cannot afford to. So today, one of my helpers will accompany her to the credible and safe agency we patronize, with the hope that she can find new employment. If not, she has to go home.

review: Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)

Hayao Miyazaki, one of Japan's best directors and storytellers, outdoes himself with this well-imagined, cleverly crafted and utterly charming film.

A site describes offers this synopsis of Spirited Away (I hate writing summaries, ending up getting into analysis).

"Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi is a fantasy adventure with a ten year-old girl, which starts in everyday Japan but goes somewhere very different. For young Chihiro and her family, a mysterious tunnel and haunted town lead to the Land of Spirits, inhabited by gods and monsters and ruled by the greedy witch Yu-baba. Chihiro's parents are transformed into pigs; to rescue them, she must surrender her name and serve in this world. Luckily she finds friends and allies, including the handsome but mysterious boy Haku. Initially sulky and listless, Chihiro (or Sen, as she's now called) finds inner strengths and establishes an identity in this strange world. But can she win back her name and return home?"

Believe me, this is one of the best films I've seen, period. All aspects contribute to the sense of wonder (it's just too bad that Disney didn't give it the attention it deserved). My harshest criticism is to call a film "a waste of life". Viewing this film contributes to experience of life.

If you haven't seen this film, run, don't walk and get a copy now.

Final Review: Spirited Away

********* (of 10)

think you're smart, eh?

My old diplomat friend, Deric, prior to his new posting to Moscow, sent me a list of exam questions guaranteed to crush my intellectual vanity. Take a break from watching CNN and admiring the good-looking Kenyan and British anchors Zain Verjee and Daljit Dhaliwal. Give it a spin - it's just hilarious.

Describe the history of the papacy from its origins to the present day, concentrating especially, but not exclusively, on its social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, and Africa. Be rief, concise, and specific.

You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have 15 minutes.

Twenty-five hundred riot-crazed aborigines are storming the classroom. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.

Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 500 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effect on the English parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.

Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with flute and drum. You will find a piano under your seat.

Based on your degree of knowledge of their works,evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following:

Alexander of Aphrodisias
Rameses II
Gregory of Nicea

Support your evaluations with quotations from each man's work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.

Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct an experiment to test your theory.

Define management. Define science. How do they relate? Why? Create a generalized algorithm to optimize all managerial decisions. Assuming an 1130 CPU supporting 50 terminals, each terminal to activate your algorithm, design the communications interface and all necessary control programs.

The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed in a box on your desk. You will also find an instruction manual, printed in Swahili. In ten minutes a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel is apropriate. Be prepared to justify your decisions.

Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas:

Donatist Controversy
Wave Theory of Light

Outline a method for preventing these effects. Criticize this method from all possible points of view. Point out the deficiencies in your point of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.

There is a red telephone on the desk beside you. Start World War III. Report at length on its socio-political effects; if any.

Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your position.

Explain the nature of matter. Include in you answer an evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics on science.

Sketch the development of human thought; estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any kind of thought.

Describe in detail. Be objective and specific.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

a darker philippines

Hinirang received mail from Dion over at Wirehanger. It's always good to hear from fellow creatives and authors who visit our little corner online.

Dion has devoted a lot of time creating interesting Philippine-based content for Ravenloft (for you non RPG people out there, Ravenloft is one of the settings of AD&D that is features vampires and other undead, very gothic, very moody).

Check out his takes on the Katipunan, the Aswang and Igid Rabi-i (an Ilocos-based Ravenloft domain).

Dion lives and writes in Baguio City, the always-cool Summer Capital. I'd like to visit again but you know how much I actively despise the hours spent on the road, every fraction of a second mindnumbingly boring (in fact, the last time I went there, I took a plane and had quite a thrill because of Baguio City's very short airstrip).

Monday, March 10, 2003

review: L'Aquilone du Estrellas (The Kite of Stars)

The egotistical smuck that I am, I occassionally go over to Google and put my name in. Why? To see if any references to me and mine have been made, and by whom and for what reason. Apart from the usual links from my friends, I found several about my writing. For example, I published a short story at Strange Horizons a couple of months ago. To my delight I was reviewed by a number of people and mentioned in a few online magazines - all positive, thank god.

Today, I found another one over at this book review site, short and sweet:

"A great short story! Entire lives wasted on a love that was never real. A real love wasted, thrown away for a dream. A terrific short read."

Thank you very much, Ms. Shaffer - every comment means worlds to me.
vignette: oil

We began with me on my back, my head pressed against the thin unforgiving pillow. Any discomfort about being naked and exposed to a strange woman vanished the moment I felt her fingers press against my back. Her touch was firm yet oddly soft, engaging my skin and muscles in a pattern of give-and-take.

I lost all sense of time, trapped between the eternal moment of pressure and release, a repeating pattern of rhythmic motion, as if my skin had surrendered all intimate knowledge of its secret aches and places to her fingers and palms.

I realized then that the scent that enveloped me was oil - thick and cold at first but dramatically rendered airy and warm by her conversion of her touch. I could not form a single coherent thought, instead reduced to embarrassed moans, all with the half-life of a shy moment.

When she moved her fingers down my back, I counted each vertebra as she coaxed them into feeling, fighting the urge to forbid her any further trespass. She paused then to pour more oil onto the small of my back and the curvature of my buttocks, denying the liquid any routes of escape by quickly rubbing it into my skin.

Against my will, I felt myself growing hard, as she sought deep muscle in tight focused circles. I tried to shift position to relieve my hardness, but her fingers rode my motion like old seafarers sailing in familiar oceans, adjusting, adapting, never breaking our union of skin.

cost of living

Once in a while I just have to let it all out: why is everything so fucking expensive?

Everywhere I turn, there is an expense associated. Everywhere I go, I have to pay for something. Even just going to a place where stuff is free costs because of transportation. And certainly we have to eat. The internet that has a lot of free content costs me over P2k a month to maintain. New books, magazines, films, music, everything costs so much.

There are days I just want to stay home, hermit-like, just to have a single day of no expense (though of course there's the electicity, rent and other bills, but let's pretend I don't have to pay for any of that just for one day). Inadvertantly, Sage will need something like milk, diapers or fruit. Or the helper will tell me we've run out of soap. Or, horror of horrors, I run out of ciggies.

No, it's impossible.

What I need is a few good investments in my assets portfolio to generate income out of my usual revenue stream to pay for all the little things in life.

Which means back to business. Again.

ne'er was: bloody abortions

Over coffee with Nikki and Jason, I got to talking with Flim about a possible new film project with the usual parameters - tight budget, sex and/or horror genre, very trim production crew. So in the course of generating 3 concepts, of which the one involving mirrors was the strongest, I recalled all the sad and frustrating times I was commissioned to do a film, and did my part only to see the thing either aborted or end up as a beast I did not father.

My first was with Flim and our subject was the Filipino women who were used by the Japanese army as "comfort women" during World War II. Flim and I were tapped because of our individual awards and we developed this lovely script with a melange of sensibilities. Alas, the horrible unprofessionalism of the producer led to my leavetaking, followed by Flim who refused to work on the unfilmable new script. The poor guy left behind was my brother-in-law, Ricardo Cepeda, who signed on because he wanted to work with us. The resulting film was a fiasco. (Of course I watched it, I wanted to see how much they ripped me off - besides, it's like a roadside accident; how can you not look?) Of course it never made the Berlin Film Festival. Please.

Then came another actor-producer with his own production house. He got me because of the awards again (and here I thought they were just pretty). As a bonus, my brother-in-law was to be cast in the movie. I was given a kernel of an idea and asked to write it in Filipino. So I asked for 6 days - 3 to write in English, 3 to translate to Filipino. This time, I was paid 50% of my fee (thank god). What happened here? He kept adding elements to the script - a car explosion (because he found "budget" for it), his wife (because she was suddenly free to co-star, and so what if the original film had no female leads), sex (well, because what is the female lead for, right?), a school gang (used to be a street gang, but the setting became a school, so, okay), blah blah blah. By the umpteenth revision, there was nothing of my story or vision. But the worst was yet to come.

Him: Have you seen "Dangerous Minds"? The one with Michelle P.?

Dean: Yes, is that the tone you want?

Him: No, no. That's the movie I want.

Dean: You mean in terms of mood?

Him: No, I want you to copy it. Just translate it to Tagalog and have me and my wife as the leads. Oh, and write yourself in too. That way you can make a little extra cash.

Suffice it to say, I got out.

There was also the producer who couldn't accept the fact that I did not believe in happy endings. Or the film about the thousand paper cranes that died stillborn. Or my inital Super 8 film stock that vanished in Hawaii. The tragic thing is amount of time I've spent thinking, writing, revising. And given my nature, it is easy to take advantage of my other skill sets - I can consult, art direct, design, coach, blah blah. So it is never a case of "just writing".

I still want to do a film within the next five years. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, it just has to be true to my vision.

Most recently, I was asked to consider developing a script for a new studio. The challenge was to create an art film in English but set in the Philippines and give it a Merchant Ivory feel - period, structured, costume drama. Maybe I'll say yes.

But right now I'm enamored by what a woman sees in the mirror. Who knows? Perhaps one day you'll get to see it.

known and unknown

"There are known knowns. These are the things we know we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we don't know we don't know."

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's canny observation does much to verbalize what we all know but don't concretize. Applied to writing (in the context of the still-continuing conversation triggered by what a writer should write about) we are trapped by the universe of the knowns, with the often accidental discovery of the unknown (or a deliberate search for answers to questions fielded) yielding the most interesting of works. Sometimes, what is revealed or discovered is the unconscious agenda. Sometimes, it is the apparent lack of it.

It would be interesting to posit a method of writing about the unknown, in terms of being free of agenda (unconscious or otherwise). What would it be like? Considering the infinite universe of the unknowns, what would the subject matter be? Sadly, apart from so-called "automatic writing", I know of no such thing.

But if there was a way, could one still claim authorship of the work produced, considering the writer made no conscious decision in terms of topic, style or even format or language (apart from simply deciding to write something)? What I mean is this - I can claim responsbility for something that I write when I am consciously writing, for the act of creation (though sometimes inspired) is deliberate. But while I am the one who dreams when I sleep, the content of my dreams are not under my control - in other words, I do not create my dreams (I am not a lucid dreamer). Are we responsible, in terms of creation, for only the things we are aware of of creating, the known knowns?

The conceit here is the old standing argument of duality between conscious and unconscious. Two sides of the same coin, light and shadow. Of course we are both, a gestalt, but doesn't the very nature of the "unknown unknowns" defy both easy definition and control? Am I the author of my unconscious? Can I claim primary authorship?

I know I do not know, you know?

Saturday, March 08, 2003

wasted, finally

A pleasant surprise last night at Vin's store was when Gerry (Alanguilan) and Neil (Yu) walked in with copies of Wasted: The Final Edition. Always wanting to have a copy of this seminal work first published 10 years ago, I bought the very first one and like the fanboy that I am, had Gerry sign it. Nicely printed in larger than digest mode, Wasted is a story of anger and lost hope, as well as about the courage to defy society and the heart's conventions. For only P100, this is a steal. Go and get one wherever Pulp Magazine is found. Go!

last supper

Had dinner with my departing staff at Casa Armas which lived up to reputation of expensive, inedible food and lousy service. And if another group of strolling guitar players and singers come my way while I'm eating, I swear I'll throw a fit.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

thinking aloud

It's been a very busy past few days and I, for one, look forward to the coming weekend just to kick off my shoes and get some rest.

The traffic situation, entering its final experimentation stage, is still a mess, but everyone has seemingly come to the conclusion that all the buses have to be color-coded as well. Hopefully, that will help lessen the mind-numbing pile-ups. Really, getting to meetings and client presentations has been increasingly frustrating because of the sheer amount of time spent on the road.

But what can you do if your client's office is located in a farflung place? Grin and bear it and try to develop an idea or three in the cab.

I was talking to an animation studio who wants to partner up with my company with the goal of creating and marketing short animated films. Great idea, of course, like Simeon Rex, but the hurdle is the cost to produce a demo (much more an actual pilot). Depending on the complexity of the script, character and set designs, and the amount of action involved, you're looking at P75k - P90k for a 2-3 minuter (with Animo). So if the plan is to create a number of demos to show proof of capability, you go out of pocket. If the plan is to develop something new and then pitch it, you're looking at a huge expense.

What to do, what to do? The intelligent course of action is to pre-sell the concept (with a hefty NDA, of course), but even that entails cost. You need storyboards and a lot of food and coffee.

Everything costs. Feh.

Monday, March 03, 2003

one for the soul

I'm telling you, there was so much to see at the National Museum. Here are some highlights (and this functions as my reaction paper since I jokingly told my staff one was required).

Last week, my partner Marc and I took our company staff for a day of culture (which was the original plan, but I'm getting ahead of myself). Nikki and Jason (who both have both personal and professional ties to Pipe) joined us as we piled into the rental van and headed off for the National Museum. Just travelling there was amusing, since I'm stuck in a van with a bunch of off-kilter people. One of them pointed out a signboard that extolled the fantastic nature of a man's repair capabilities - not just zippers and umbrellas but he repairs your luck as well (now that we know where Noli has his stand, we'll visit him when we need the best joss).

Anyway, I've been raring to go to Manila's museums for the longest time but was always disheartened by the things I heard about the state of our institutions - filthy, disorganized, far and not worth the trip. However, with our country's reclamation of Juan Luna's Spolarium, interest in our cultural heritage (not just artwork) waxed. There was even a well-recieved production at the Cultural Center of the Philippines about Luna's life and times with Robert Sena and Ryan Cayabyab.

Now one of the things about my business is the fact that we've narrowed down our choice of clientele, and one of these groups is the NGO (Non-Government Organization). Since we do a lot of varied work for these entities, Marc and I end up talking directly to the Board of Directors. One of our NGO clients has John Silva as a Director.

John Silva is the head of the National Museum and a hilarious (and very knowledgeable) man. When he heard about Pipe's intent to visit his museum, he made himself available as our tour guide. So we didn't have to suffer the charms of some ignorant volunteer - instead, we had a free-flowing walkabout all over the museum, accompanied by Silva's color commentary.

In addition, I got to take pictures - not that it prevented three different guards from trying to stop me (there's a lot more, but these are among the ones I really like - I think the inner photographer in me is crying out).

We began in the central garden which was nicely juxtaposed against the rebuilt Department of Finance building. During World War II, the Japanese retreated to this particular and used it as their headquarters. Naturally, the Americans hit them with heavy mortar fire and leveled the place. Around 90% of the museum's collection went up in smoke. The old blueprints were found much later and the reconstructed edifice is a replica of how it was before the bad times. (Gah! I feel a seque about the absurdity of Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" coming on. Wait, wait. There, it's gone.)

Before the government turned over the building to the National Museum, it was in a sad and sorry state. Squatters lived within the halls and feces was displayed instead of art (the origin of all the bad press I heard - and it was apparently true!). Ultimately, the National Museum was granted three buildings, including the old Department of Tourism (unfortunately, a great deal of brouhaha concerning the old Jai Alai building resulted in a gaping hole where art could have been displayed).

In his overview about the National Museum, he related an anecdote about a ghost that walked the fifth floor, which naturally set all our minds racing (alas, the fifth floor was not to be part of the tour).

We began our inspection of the halls and exhibits with the Archaeology Department. This was a pleasant surprise because I did not even expect the National Museum to have such a thing (I was under the impression all we'd see were paintings and sculptures). Silva, in planning the exhibit, decided to make the hall more interactive. Certain pieces can be touched, for example, and old bones are positioned in the context to the creature that owned them.

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, there was already a strong Filipino culture (how tempted I am to call them Katao, the natives of Hinirang). This is exemplified by the plethora of artifacts on display. We saw a balanggay, which is a huge boat that carried families across the archipelago. Eventually, the word became barangay, which is the basic tribal unit. I saw a lot of pots, bowls and similar artifacts - and none of them the more popular blue & white Chinese porcelain that you find in rich people's display cases. These were just as beautiful, and indicated that an artistic sensibility was at work beyond mere functionality.

One of the interesting displays was a midden - a cross-section of shells that showed how the diet of our ancestors was based on shellfish easily gathered from the sea or river. Given the fact that the ancient Philippine barangays were, by necessity, riparian or coastal in nature, this is no big surprise.

One of the ways we learn about the past is by studying funeral rites. Our ancestors believed strongly in the afterlife and venerated their departed family members. There was a belief that the afterlife could only be reached by boat, thus necessitating a post-life journey across the trackless sea.

I was delighted to see several peculiar burial jars with faces for lids. What made them truly outstanding was the fact that they had outstretched arms - not molded into an embrace as commonly seen, but extended beyond the body of the jar Nikki's theory is that the arms were used to hold offerings like flowers). The head was studded with holes for the living to entwine the hair of the dead in. There were see rows and rows of jar heads, sorted by style and expression, not a single vacuous look anywhere.

Apparently, a practice from the old days was to bury the dead with much honor, wait for a few years, exhume the remains and then place them in the secondary burial place (the jars) with much celebration.

We left the realm of the dead and watched centuries fly by, all the way to the time of the Spaniards. I was delighted to find a huge globe that showed, in twinkling lights, the route of the Galleon Trade. The light show starts at Macao, then the Philippines, then 5 months by sea to Mexico, then across the land to the opposite side, ending with a 7 week voyage across the Atlantic to Spain. Already, the rumblings of a number of Hinirang stories were echoing through my head. When I looked at Jason, he was similarly disposed.

In the Anthropology Department, we took a whirlwind tour of a number of different ethic groups, sorted by where they lived - not in terms of geographic location, but in rather in terms of geologic features. It was there that we made several fascinating discoveries such as the Ambahan (a poetic form of seven syllables writ on bamboo), the Borak (a sphinx-like creature from the Maranao in Mindanao - human head, animal body and wings), and Sarimanok-headed vessels the shape of a stealth fighter.

Weapons, musical instruments (including an expensive virtual instrument-player which we had a field day with) and daily work implements were in abundance, as well as clothing (nothing beat the dazzling cloth-of-gold from the South), headwear and anitos, the family idols.

We whizzed past things and found ourselves in an exhibit hall that looked like the hold of a ship, and naturally all the things on display were in wooden cases - huge jars (that held smaller pieces), delicate blue & whites (one of them with a rare winged elephant) and other pieces too many to see at once.

Another room held the San Diego exhibit. The San Diego, a galleon, was sunk by three Dutch vessels off the coast of Fortune Island centuries ago. In recent years, a combined force of French and Filipino divers managed to reclaim it from its watery grave. The result - a cornucopia of finds, including cannons (and cannonballs), a real astrolabe and other priceless artifacts. Its captain survived against his will (he wanted to go down with his ship but was saved by a zealous Filipino crewman) and wrote about his experience. Later, our National Hero, Jose Rizal, found the Spanish manuscript and published it with annotations, careful to balance the Spaniard's near-contempt for the Filipinos with his own nationalistic perspective.

Across the garden was another hall filled with bowls and jars and jewelry, centuries-old. But as Silva said, "When you've seen one blue & white, you've seen them all."

Finally, we got to an art gallery where giant canvasses of the old Filipino Masters and National Artists were on display. Silva was careful to point out that some painters, influenced by the propaganda of historians, created art that implied that Philippine history began when the Spanish arrived to save us from our heathen ways. Thankfully, a Filipino-centered consciousness evolved that made subsequent artists question the near-dogma of Castillan dominance and create work that reflected their newly-found sensibilities.

We ended our tour of the museum where we began, at the central garden, and bade Silva thanks and farewell before hitting the museum shop. Nikki found more samples of old poetry and got me a replica of a map circa the Spanish Period.

I was saddened by the necessary brevity of our visit and swore to return very soon - Nikki and Jason were of the same mind. We plan to bring our creative group over and spend the day, looking at frozen time behind glass and making stories that revive both the splendor and agony of what was, and create a history that never was (then again, the thought of having Flim over brings images of bulls and china shops).

Over 2000 people visit the National Museum everyday (P100 adults/P30 students on weekdays; everyone free on weekends).

Are you one of them?

one for the tummy

By the time we finished, we were starving and elected to eat at Binondo. The highlight of our Chinese-food pigout was oysters toasted in XO sauce - amid mounds of other great stuff like hot & sour soup (I opted not to get the notorious Soup #5), steamed broccoli, Yang Chow and fish rice, spicy shrimp, stylized spareribs, pancit and others. To wash it down, I was delighted to find that the restaurant had Vanilla Coke - fantastic!

This was our last meal with our beloved office manager and chief designer who are both off into the wild world. Sniff. We'll miss you, Ajie and Jolet.

one for the wallet

After that very heavy meal, most of us were in the mood for something else, so, led by Joseph, we made our way to Quiapo. Specifically, the place where the pirate DVDs are found at jaw-droppingly low prices (P65 or around US$1.25). I threw away my qualms and went amok, buying copies of Spirited Away, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Four Feathers, The Shipping News, Hero and several others, including the classic Clash of the Titans (all to be written about, I assure you). Bulletproof Monk, due for American release in May, is oddly available as a DVD with features.

one for the body

To complete the day, I took Nikki, Cams and Jason to my barbershop where the ladies had facials and we gentlemen had a haircut (Jason) or a shave (me).

And so exhausted, my wife and I got home to a playful little girl whom we missed terribly.

We opted out of the usual Friday night out and collapsed in bed, all the richer for a day spent well.

a beautiful client

(Top) Nines, Mia, Celine. (Bottom) Eileen, Dean, Trin

Last Friday, I directed a photoshoot for one of our most delightful clients. Apart from doing socially relevant work and being professional (and paying on time!), they are a highlight of my work week (so I'm never too busy for them, natch).

These young friends of mine all have a sense of humor that matches mine (which is quite a frightening thought) - hence the great time at the Old Manila at the Manila Peninsula in Makati City. Erik Liongoren, my favorite photographer, took all the shots and gave me this harem-esque outtake with a few of my client friends.

Well, a man can always dream, right?

Chin up, and keep it professional!

Sunday, March 02, 2003

hinirang feature article

There is a feature article about Hinirang in the Feb 17, 2003 issue of Computerworld Philippines.

I'm quoted quite liberally, which really tickled me (how horrible to sound so...ungrammatical).

"We realized that a lot of our individual works reflect what we call the Hinirang sensibilities, which is a respect for the Philippines of the past, a love for our nation and a feeling of belonging to a country as an individual and as a creator."

Our group was represented quite well: Nikki and myself, Jason, Marco and Carl all have sound bites. Too bad Arnold, Cynthia, Vin and Dino couldn't make it then.

We'll place it in the Press section of the site, of course, and add the new stories to the site once the artwork is done. Hopefully we'll have Halimaw (Monster) by Vin Simbulan, the first two episodes of Jason Banico's journal tale (illustrated by Camille Portugal), and Dragon Eyes by myself plus another installment of Marco Dimaano's Immacolata.

vignette: butterfly emporium notes (play in progress)

I thought I'd share how I sometimes work. I've been mulling about a writing a full length play called the Butterfly Emporium.

Here are my first notes, which form a crude outline of how I want thing to progress as well as the elements (narrative and otherwise) that I plan to inject. In my experience though, I'll probably use less than 20% of the stuff I've written down here, the balance developing as something new during the actual act of writing.

BE: Act One

Young girl with single crutch seeks her mother, as well as the reason she’s lame.

Finds the butterfly emporium, a shop that sells oddities and miracles.

Stories are told about the items there:

-fire flowers falling (maranaw)
-the fishermen of the north (pepper’s tale)
-the siren of palawan
-the nuno who loved mama ninang

girl purchases the butterfly chrysalis.

BE: Act Two

Goes on quest underground to find her mother.

Action happens in two fronts: fantasy and real. In reality, they see a lame girl. In fantasy we see a questing heroine.

Of course she makes friends along the way. They tell stories:

-a woman who collects things to burn
-the naked madman who criticized god’s raiments
-the boy child who fell from the sky
-the lost river
-the loneliest animal in the world

She needs to understand that not all stories are true or fraught with meaning. The chrysalis beats and throbs. She meets the black dwaves, spirits of despair and faces the twist in the play.

She succeeds and finds her mother and we end with her still lame but with a killer monologue.