Friday, May 30, 2003

fine art

Camille is a gifted painter and you can see some of her latest watercolors over at her blog. She has an eye for lanscapes, able to tease out emotion using a subdued palette - quite inviting, definitely relaxing.

My current favorite work of hers though is Bench, there on the left.

I like the use of green and central image of the bench itself, empty yet somehow vibrant, sad yet somehow hopeful. The lines of the floor, diagonal and textured, evoke a kind of calm contentment. The huge sprig in the foreground cuts through the scene and gives it a perfect sense of imbalance.

When I was very young my favorite color was green, due to the influence of Aunt Lily who adored that color. Everything she wore or used was a shade of green, and I mean everything, down to the color of her pen's ink.

Now, of course, it's black, black and sometimes black.

respite and an aside

It was good to see friends last night at the delayed new comic book day at ComicQuest. It's been an odd, wet week.

The place was jam-packed with people wanting their latest fix (you can see how Ruey and I handled waiting - as captured by lensman Budj).

I picked up one of the Alan Moore celebratory thingies, which turned out to be 10% good, 90% drivel. Hopefully, the other collection will be better. This one lacked soul and a strong editorial presence.

I was hoping for some new TPBs, but apart from Bendis' Powers Vol.4, there was nothing of interest.

Marco, Ruey, Carl and I were disturbed by the manga styling of Xmen: Phoenix (Marco says that the artist began as an illustrator for a gaming mag). It was truly abominable, especially to my eyes.

An aside: It's interesting to note that while interest in manga (and manga-ish art) continues to grow in the US and other parts of the world, sales of manga in Japan continue to drop. Over the past 7 years, people have been buying much less - the market was around 6.5 million in terms of copies sold, now it's down to less than half. Think about it. Over the past 7 years, sales are consistently dropping. What does this mean?

I think a certain level of fatigue is to blame. Or perhaps all those big eyes are finally getting to them. Or the narrative has reached the sunset phase, becoming repetitive, self-reflexive and no longer capable of holding the target audience's interest. Or there are no good stories being told. Or maybe people are getting more sophisticated, younger people wanting something flashier, something that moves - anime, video games, films. It's just a shame that in all these media, reading suffers.
the rhetoric of fashion

The three women at the fast food counter looked at me from head to toe, assessing my black ensemble complete with long black trenchcoat and thumping boots.

When they served my meal, I noticed that I got an extra generous serving of the viand - in this case, hot sinigang na baboy.

"Why so much?" I asked.

"For Keanu, sir," the girl replied, smiling broadly.

For once, I did not curse the Matrix.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

that magic moment: update

Almost done, just waiting for the pages from the last creator. This little not-quite-a-comic comic book should be out in a few days time, maybe early next week.

Everyone has written and illustrated something to do with "that magic moment", however one chooses to define it. The result is an interesting melange of sensibilities from Elbert Or, Carlo Vergara, Marco Dimaano, Vin Simbulan and myself (and hopefully, Jason Banico).

Just a little surprise for you folks out there. A little non-statement, purely for the joy of creating something, and maybe, just maybe, pushing the comic book format a little further.


My new tools, as a wannabe illustrator, are a Sharpie fine point marker and a Sanford Uniball pen. Plus a lot of paper (one day, I'll consider pencils to save on paper).


Yes, and I'll say it again: webcrap.

I'm handling two websites right now and the inanities and demands of the format are getting my goat once again.

Or maybe its the feature creep of both clients who, despite the existence of contact reports and sign-offs, still continue to add stuff to the growing ooze.

Give me something creative to do, rather than these silly wireframes and architecture crap. Let me do the content and the aesthetics.

If I had my way I'd just some good porn into their servers.

Yes. Yes, I would.
the view from the top floor

Now that the rain has stopped, everything looks so shiny, even in the dark.

Building lights, like the gigantic lit PEACE sign at Meralco across from me looks strangely sublime.

Everything is quiet in the aftermath of the storm, even the motion of the occassional vehicle seems muted, rolling lazily down Ortigas Avenue.

The air is cool and somewhat comforting, as if it was a reward for those who endured the downpour.

Before going to bed I squint until all the lights in the city become blurred, and the sign of PEACE just another random grouping of illumination.

All is well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

recalling sight

There was a time, during my early troubled teens, when I could actually see things that weren't there.

At the peaks of angst and personal sorrow, trapped in a house where love was a four-letter word, I could see things at the periphery of my vision. Moving shapes of indeterminate color, rushing away when I focused on them. But I never felt fear or dread, nothing peculiar at all.

I asked myself what I could be seeing? Elementals? Spirits? Hallucinations?

I never considered myself psychic in any way, despite the fact that my mother is very gifted. I never bought into the talking Sto. Nino, the augeries of cards or communicating with the dead. However, I did respect the fact that there were things I simply did not understand - and their existence did not depend on my understanding or acceptance (hence the innumerable books on the supernatural as well as crackpot theories on everything from the Templar's lost Grail to the secrets of Roswell to lost civilizations).

There was a time when I was frightened though. One evening, I looked into the full-length mirror in my bedroom. The lights were out but I could make out my poor reflection. At least I thought it was my reflection until it moved while I kept still. There was another person behind the glass, darkly. No one behind me, only in front of me. To this day I cannot remember the face. In fact, I think it did not have a face at all. If it did have one, my fear has erased it - because there are certain things not worth thinking about, if only to keep from decompressing my fixed and compressed reality. Really, who has time to be a Spirit Questor?

That was my most blatant act of sight. As I grew older, whatever little sight I had faded until I am as I am today: seemingly blind.

But once in a while, I do see something. But the message is short-circuited by a logic trap set into my brain, flushing out the absurd, and leaving me only with the slightest of shivers as I continue walking or writing or smoking a cigarette.

There is no doubt that there are worlds beyond my ken. But right now, the only ones I care to inhabit are two: the one with Nikki and Sage, and the multiple realms of imagination.
the days in between

Remember what I said wrote earlier about people being happy about the rain until the floods hit?

Well, tropical depression Chedeng (international codename: Linfa) slammed into Luzon and triggered landslides, mudslides and flooding, causing death and destruction. It is not as horrible as Black Rain in Hong Kong, but try telling that to the parents of the kids who died when their houses fell or to the people in Diliman, Quezon City where the flood waters have reached 6 feet.

And, of course, the very storm's name is ironic. Chedeng, in colloquial Filipino, is the nickname for the cars made by Mercedes Benz - symbols of status and the good life.

So it's odd how people are. Or perhaps that's just the way they are.

During the summer, everyone (including myself) complained about the oppressive heat. We couldn't wait for the rainy season.

Now that it's here, with its attendant consequences, we bitch some more.

All we want, I guess, are the days in between.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

the lost tooth

I stayed home today, captive by a slight fever and an overwhelming need to sleep and not think too much.

Before I had a nap, I thought about the tooth I lost the other day - yet another testament to getting older as well as my stubborness (and fear of the dentist).

Yes, it was wiggly, and yes, I could have had a root canal to save it, except for the following things:

1. My pain tolerance is slightly lower than an infant's (Sage could beat me in whatever pain competition you care to think of). The very thought of sitting helplessly while the dentist drills into my jaw and performs whatever implants are needed is enough to make me swoon. Yes, I am aware that anesthesia is used, but I can't even stand the needle that delivers it. An aside: when I was a young kid, I almost had my face bashed in by a military dentist who did not take well to my kicking him in the stomach. When it comes to the dentist, I'm a nutcase.

2. Root canals are expensive. Yes, I know I spend money on stuff like $35 comic book graphic novels and such, but really, I am flabbergasted by the cost here. Why do they have to save the tooth? Why not just pull it out? Yes, I know I could have had it pulled out if I really wanted to, but see point #1.

3. I never found a dentist with a "light touch", which, in terrible sexist terms, means a female dentist. One that does not make small talk or comment on the shocking state of the secret cavity I've been nursing since I don't know when.

4. I got used to the dull throbbing pain of the loose tooth. When it used to get really bad, I'd take a swig of some of Nikki's perfume. Tasted like shit, but the alcohol content dimished the pain, giving me a new foul aftertaste to dwell upon.

So anyway, I was eating and bit into something hard and the tooth gave way, leaving me with a molar gap at the back of my mouth. No, I don't have a gap-toothed grin, but somehow it seems my tongue misses the damn tooth, rooting away and feeling the emptiness where it once rocked.

I thought about leaving it for the tooth fairy, but then what kind of tooth fairy would want that old tooth?

Now that I've had my way (no dentist), all I have is a missing molar that will never grow back. It makes me feel old, making me think about getting dentures (which, of course, necessitates a visit to the dentist) and putting them in a glass of water at night, like my grandparents and step-father.

Monday, May 26, 2003

rainy season

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain.

And just like that, memories of the Covenant's "Sun of Pestilence" are cast away in favor of wind and water.

Now if we accept the metaphor then all will be washed away and everyone will be both refreshed and drenched, right? Until the floods, of course.

I'm smiling right now because my new problem is trying to find out if a trenchcoat or two survived the purge of moving house.

Yes, I think I'll wear my red Docs and splash around some.

Sunday, May 25, 2003


It was quite enlightening, sitting there, listening to each of my friends relate all their current and prospective creative work (for profit or non-profit, as Carl put it). As each person rattled off all plans and schedules, I realized that I was nowhere approaching capacity as a creator.

In fact, I am at a creative standstill.

It is not a matter of whether or not I have ideas. I do have them, a few quite exciting, perhaps one or two even potentially wonderful. However, I find myself mired down by the circumstances of my life – which normally would be great stuff to mine and craft, set down and polish – unable to pursue thoughts to their multi-path endings, unwilling to commit the time and effort to actually write. Where Jason has brain vomit, I feel the nausea of disinterest. Where Vin fights time to write with passion, I raise my eyebrows at the paucity of my computer screen. Where El considers the approach to a year-long commitment, I cannot begin to consider any work entailing more than ten minutes of my life.

It is as if I cannot go beyond the arc of my arm’s reach; the very thought of motion immediately draining me before I even begin.

As such, what I have on my plate just sits there, perfectly transfixed, plastic displays of various menu items in a Japanese restaurant. I cannot bear to even look at them, they’ve suddenly lost all appeal to me, aesthetic or otherwise.

Instead, I find myself thinking in staccato bursts. Fireworks that rise and flare in mere seconds abruptly lighting my consciousness before just as quickly fading into the night sky – all potential of beauty not even recognized by the lone observer who cannot even be moved to comment.

The longest form I can do right now is poetry, and only very short verse at that, written in first person, with a minimum of imagery – concrete or otherwise – setting monologues as prose poems with no hope of truly creating anything; just wanting to write something, anything, to keep up the discipline, to burn away time.

I began a play about a crippled girl who returns to her mother’s province. So she’s there, in the little antique store talking to the shopkeeper, and I find their conversation banal, uninteresting fluff.

The other new play about two sisters who struggle with the death of their father faltered as well. Most of the time, they just didn’t want to talk, and I am not the kind of playwright who sets action onstage bereft of words. It came to the point that I thought “Well, if you don’t want to talk, I certainly don’t want to write about you girls sitting around looking like Chekovian wannabe’s”.

The short stories I’m writing became tawdry showcases of technique, each rushing to the finish line – heartless, soulless and mute, just running for the sake of running. I’d rather not watch.

Really, it is as if words have lost their glamour.

That, or I’m just being lazy.

Or too pointedly sad.

sage and the rain

This morning, while sage was playing in our bedroom, it started to rain hard. Now we have a huge window in our room, it's width the span of my outstretched arms, and taller than I am in terms of height.

"Sage," I told my daughter. "Look! It's raining."

She looked up from her movable book and her eyes widened. She suddenly began talking excitedly in her inscutable jargon, picking herself up and rushing to the window.

"Yes," I said. "That's rain. See how it's falling from the sky? Kind of like a really big bathroom shower."

But she was beyond my reach at that point, mesmerized by the drops that swirled in front of her face, pressed against the glass. At that moment, I realized what the sense of wonder was all about and shut up, enjoying the magic of falling rain with my daughter.

It was as if it was raining only for her and for me.

talking about hate

The stragglers of the party ended up at the Ortigas Starbucks and, as is our wont, we ended up knee-deep in another horrendously complex discussion - this time about hate.

One of the ultimate questions Vin asked was why it was easier to hate?

Because, generally speaking, love entails a commitment, it requires that you show, display or act upon your love for the other.

Hate, on the other hate, does not require a course of action. You can decide to hate someone to whatever degree and do nothing outside the confines of your vivid imagination.

Loving is harder, because often you need to go beyond the feeling, notion and circumstances of love and into the nitty-gritty of daily living while loving someone. So what is beyond love? Duty? Responsiblity? Commitment? Nothing? Everything?

We posited many scenarios and combinations involving love and hate, marriage and responsiblity, children and personal happiness in an effort to come to terms with another aspect of the human condition that has influence on us as creators of art and fiction - at least until a sudden downpour pronounced an unexpected denouement to our conversation.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

approval from the poet

People who don't know Nikki well have cautioned me never to trust my wife's critical judgement when she critiques a work of mine.

She will approve things out of love or duty, they said.

So not true.

Among the few people I respect enough to critique my work, especially what passes for my poetry, Nikki ranks the highest. Why? Because she isn't afraid of me, isn't afraid to tell me when I'm no good, exposes the times I rely on pure technique, and challenges me to be better.

And (this is where my doxophobia comes in) she knows how to tell me when I've done something right.

Well, she read the first five poems of what is now ambituously going to be a series of at least 10-12 poems and said they were good.

As we sat discussing the way each poem worked, I realized again how outrageously fortunate I am to have someone like her.

Even if she felt Lamia was out of sequence (give me a break, wife, the order I write them is, in a sense, accidental and easily corrected in the future).

Friday, May 23, 2003

the bestiary cycle

I find myself unable to write prose or drama for the past few days (you may have noticed the sudden lack of vignettes).

I find myself mired in a blue funk - not mindlessly depressed, mind you, but still quite down.

Normally, my escape is to write. I have found, that in previous times of profound angst and depression, I am able to write up a storm, some of it quite good.

This time, however, I am paralyzed by the concept of length. Anything akin to a long-term commitment (which includes short fiction, given the way I construct it) turns me off. Perhaps it's indicative of what I'm going through, but still. It's irksome to me that I cannot write a story or two.

Hence the poems. In all honestly, I do not consider myself a poet (even if for some odd reason I have an award for poetry). I find that I lack the lyricism and much of the fundamentals that elevate verse into something sublime. I hardly ever attempt to critique poetry. I am a fake poet - simple as that. (Or, yes, maybe I'm too hard on myself.) But what I can do is to render into poetic form some of the thoughts that I intended to be stories - in particular, a small cycle of stories about female monsters.

That's the rationale for the five poems that form what I so cannily call the Bestiary Cycle (isn't the title just the height of arrogance? Believe me, I know).

I wanted to use female monsters from legend and myth and infuse them with day-to-day modern day notions about love, sex and relationships. Do they work? Perhaps if you read them aloud. I'm willing to bet that a smidgen of the dramatist in me occassionally peeks through.

I am the faces that you flee
the many to your single one:
it boils down to sex as mystery

I hunger but do not beckon
wholly of many holes
too many for you to reckon

with yet you try, all of you,
to fill me thrill me kill me
weeping when I chew your muscles into

strips of red and bone
as you pass by in your mighty ships
in an odyssey to chart the unknown

a bit of advice: when you plan
a voyage of discovery be aware
of the monsters within the span

of your desire's latitude:
for I will find and devour you
and bask in your terrified gratitude

or you can choose to flee
the deep roiling emotions
engendered by the fathomless sea

claiming that sex always has victims
that it was a simple matter
of you or me

excuse me, but you
have to move over
to another rock

I'm sorry if I led
you on but you see
another ship is nearing

no, don't give me that
look, as if I promised
something more than a song

what we had was lovely
for a time but as you
well know, all songs end

(every singer has to take
a breath once in a while,
long notes notwithstanding)

now, please, give me some
room, I don't mind if you
listen but understand

this next number's
not for you

call me what you want
it doesn't change my name;
it only gets in the way
of action

just touch me, here,
but not too gently,
don't mistake me
for poetry;
i need you hard

we don't need to talk
about anything
when i ride you
don't search my eyes for love
when you die your little death

there aren't any epiphanies
when a fuck's just a fuck

never question the reason
I question where you
were last night

sand does not carry
the truth of footprints;
the wind rearranges
every grain as if
you never left
my side
(that's the riddle, really)


I need to know if
you loved me
as a child
as a man
as an old stranger

if anything
ever mattered
as much to
you as it mattered
to me

repeated words become
hollow (it isn’t what
you say but how
you say it) all that is left
between us is how you
answer the question

Thursday, May 22, 2003


if you would love me understand
it is not the snakes that will hurt
you (they do not bite despite their
appearance, they are harmless
only hair with eyes and serpent
) but my eyes that have
seen only bitterness - I can
only share what I know

if you would touch me understand
that my skin is forever smooth
flesh (a trait shared with my
immortal sisters, both of them
alive only in the memory of words
set down
) and when your hands
feel nothing but hardness, it is
because they’ve become stone

if you would leave me understand
I’d prefer you spend one more
evening (echoes become poor
company though I’ve become
adept at freezing time
) but go
if you must, leave without
farewells, with your eyes
on the object in the mirror

I promise you
I will understand

Had the board meeting last night over Spanish tapas and beer. It's official. We're shutting the company down.

Naturally, I feel devastated but I've had some time to get used to the idea as well as plan for the future.

The wheel turns, after all.


I'll be putting up a new company that folds in the content development capacity of Kestrel Studios along with the legacy of the other one.

Hopefully, things work out.

If not, well, we'll see.

There is only so much I can do in terms of projecting possibilities and creating opportunities.


And so here we are at the middle of the ending and it feels damn odd, so strange, like having a relative dying of a disease in a room upstairs and you need to walk softly on your way out.

And naturally the writer in me is having a field day.

There you go.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

talking with lan

The fanboy in me got quite a kick when I was able to meet Lan Medina, artist of Fables, American Century and Darna #2.

A kind, soft-spoken man without a hint of artistic arrogance, he was graceful enough to answer all of the questions Vin and I asked him.

I wanted to know more about the creative and production process, working from overseas, coordinating with writers like Howard Chaykin and Bill Willingham, and all the editorial back and forth.

He aslo offered to lend me copies of Willingham's scripts for the first story arc of Fables. This is of great interest to me as a writer (and scriptwriter) because Lan mentioned that Willingham worked in incredible detail, describing everything panel by panel (as opposed to the looser styles of other writers who give the artist more creative leeway). Basically, I want to see how Lan interpreted the writer's vision, how closely he followed instructions and how he simultaneously protected the writer's vision while forwarding his own artistic agenda.

As a bonus, he signed a copy of Fables for me. And I left the store a very happy fan.

me and yu

I bumped into my one of old friends, Dino Yu, and we had lunch together talking about old times and the vagaries of business.

One of the things I enjoy about him is his unflinching opinions and verbosity, especially when arguing with me. We've reached that point where no sensitivities are in danger of being trampled, and we can dispense with talking around subject matters and just get to core of things. It is refreshing to be able to talk to someone like him, and we discussed the parallel situations we find ourselves currently in regarding business.

"Frankly, I'm disappointed in you," I told him.


"Because you're Chinese, and the stereotype is that you guys are the best in business."

"Really,' he smiled. "Well, I'm more disappointed in you."

"Why's that?"

"Muslims are the new driving force of the Philippine economy and what are you doing?"

"Ah," I replied, "but I'm not really Moro per se."

"And I'm a fake Chinese."

And there you have it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

fresh from the pirates

Over the coming weekend, to soothe what no doubt will be frazzled nerves from unpalatable things on my business agenda this week, I'll be watching and opining on the cache of DVDs I got: The Man from Elysian Fields, Gosford Park, Das Experiment, Opposite of Sex, About Schmidt (sp?) and a couple of others I can't remember - a really mixed bag of old and recent films (I remember wanting to watch Opposite of Sex while Nikki and I were in Seattle in 1998).

I was also shocked to find a copy of Better Luck Tomorrow, which I honestly thought would not be available here this soon. However, the vendor took it back, telling me that the quality was not good enough (how's that for a thought? The pirates exercise quality control.) It was, indeed, a case of better luck tomorrow.

Of course, going through all the available titles is quite a chore and I'm certain I've missed many interesting films. What makes me happy though is that fact that many art films (like Temptress Moon with Gong Li, Happy Together with Leung/Cheung and Samurai with Mifune) are easy to acquire.

Yes, the democratizing power of piracy. I'll pass on the "evils of piracy" angst for now, thanks.

I just finishing reading and the critiquing the latest submissions of the gang for the little writing workshop we have. These vignettes tackle the challenge of exposition, in particular the demands of describing a process or a procedure. I believe that it is important to be aware of a variety of ways to handle exposition because it appears in some form in majority of things we write (from as simple as ""I was out last night", he said" to longer segments like those that describe character history).

Anyway, I was delighted at the general level of sophistication my workshop group has shown me. These are no mere babes wandering barefoot in the woods.

I look forward to reading completed stories by the middle of next month, the first short fiction piece requirement.

Monday, May 19, 2003

relative weight

Nikki and I took Sage along with us to the grocery today, after having lunch (Sage, of course, only wanted to use the straw to sip at anything in a cup).

Halfway through shopping, she raised her hands to me from her seating position within the cart. Poor girl was sleepy.

So I picked her up and she went out like a light with frightening ease.

But she also got seemingly heavier - my back is still sore.

So why is that? Is there actually some odd relative weight shift accompany a change in state (wakefulness - sleep)? Is it just in my mind? Why does someone squirming in my arms feel lighter?

if the shot fits

Andrea del Rosario, Viva Hot Babe, is aghast at the prevalence of naked pictures of her being passed around the web and as MMS messages in cell phones. All the images are of a woman in less than tasteful positions (can you say "split beaver"?).

"I don't know what I did to deserve this treatment," the tawny-skinned temptress protested. "I'm not saying that I haven't done anything like this, anything bad, like drugs or what, because I have, but not anymore."

"I am at the mercy of this man who started this," Andrea continued. "I can only tell him that karma is now computerized. It is fast. He will be "karma-ed" for sure."

Okay, but did you do it?

Sunday, May 18, 2003

learning to inhale

Once in a while, my critical eye is rewarded by something that adds something indescribable to life and existence in general - when something within me is affected to the degree that change is provoked. The change is a subtle shift in the degree of how I appreciate life. Sounds maudlin (gasp)? Read on. I'll try to explain.

We all live in an almost monotone world, trapped by the patterns of routine, practically unchanging day by day. Any change that comes is one of three kinds: the predictable "Blocked" changes, the Catastrophic/Sublime alterations, and the Epiphanies of Beauty. There is also the minor changes that, for the most part, are irrelevant to my point.

The "Blocked" Changes

The "Blocked" changes are scheduled by society. For example, going to elementary school, then high school, then university. These are massive blocks of time that, in their own context, are unchanging. You spend four or so years in "blocked" college time, serene in the knowledge that nothing will change (short of failure, which is of the catastrophic/sublime mode). There is only change from "Blocked" state to "Blocked" state, as if there were a plan to life that we need to follow towards fulfillment and meaning. Many people subscribe to this mode, whether consciously or unconsciously, living as pedestrians, finding transitory contextual happiness, from cradle to grave. That is their choice. But it isn't mine.

Catastrophe & Sublimity

The second mode of change actually has two facets: Catastrophe and Sublimity, two sides of the same coin. Catastrophe is somewhat predictable in that it will happen but you do not know when. For example, you know all your loved ones, all of them, will die. You don't just know when or how (the why is immaterial). Catastrophe also covers human experiences that seem to happen to "other people" but may also happen to you: e.g. someone's house burns down, someone's daughter gets pregnant, someone's brother is kidnapped.

It's Janus-twin, Sublimity, also functions in a similar fashion. "Good", fantastic, incredible things that most likely will happen (assuming you are of the mindset to let it happen, like marriage that works out or starting a loving family) but you don't know for a fact exactly when and how. The Sublime also seems to be experienced by people other than you, but you hope it will happen to you someday - winning the lottery, receiving honors or awards, meeting and being accepted by your real parents, finding God.

These two modes ("blocked" and cat/sub) govern much of our existence, along with smaller changes that are truly irrelevant in the greater scheme of things (like which cab you ride, which fork you pick in a cafeteria, which pair of underwear you wore yesterday) - though of course they can be meaningful (mostly in films and badly written fiction) but then they formally become part of the cat/sub routine.

Epiphany of Beauty

The change that I look forward to is the third type, Epiphany of Beauty, which I can control to a significant degree. The search for beauty. It is difficult to find among the dross the pervades our senses, but it is the grail that touches the deepest part of our humanity. It is found both in nature and construct. Beauty in nature should be obvious - it is what makes a sunrise, the stars at night, the devastation of a typhoon, the dance of falling petals, an unrehearsed embrace, the sound of rain, the scent of your lover all meaningful.

But the Epiphany of Beauty that I seek most is in the constructs of man. Everything that is created has the potential to move someone. It could be accidental - the beauty of the sheer scale of a ship. Or it can be deliberate - someone sculpts marble, writes a poem, composes music, creates a film, crafts a story. It also serves to educate someone who creates, as well as inspiring, challenging and setting standards.

Why I Am Harsh

Which, to a great degree, informs my critical eye. A film like the Matrix: Reloaded, for example, is bereft of value to me - especially since it purported to push the creative boundaries of stylized film-making. But a film like Gosford Park, with its nuanced observations and dialogue allows an epiphany, beauty that I can inhale (or if you feel the comparison unfair - kungfu for kunfu then - Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , heck, even the first Matrix film (well, a small part of it) provoke epiphanies. This is the same reason I'm horribly critical of many books, because many of them contribute nothing in terms of beauty - and obviously, I do not mean beautiful writing, beautiful plots, beautiful characters. I speak about the invisible quality that moves me, whether it is as simple as a precise vocabulary or even if it is an ugly topic, like man's inhumanity to other men in World War II (because Beauty is not always "beautiful" - the so-called negative aspects of life are rife with Beauty as well).

Beyond Entertainment

I do not believe in simple "entertainment", because if you consider the small amount of time we have to live, being entertained should be very low on the totem pole of Things To Do. I believe that the best "entertainment" should do more than simply entertain (more than just making you laugh, cry, get an erection, go "oooh, pretty" or "wow, cool!"). The best entertainment connects to what makes us human, to that part within all of us, underneath all the layers of sophistication or ignorance, agenda or innocence. It should exude an invisible something that our soul can breathe in - because that quintessential part of us is usually left gasping, in favor of things that are all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Is this type of experiental change so rarified that it excludes others? Certainly not. A poem can move a so-called "simple" fisherman who never went to school. A painting can speak to someone who did not study art history and move her to tears.

The only people who are excluded are those who do so by choice, turning up their noses at the need for beauty as something insensate and foolish, instead happily gorging themselves on the candy buffets, addicted to the empty sugar rush, mistaking it for all that there is to life - by choice.

I advocate learning to breathe. To inhale.

It may mean not going with the popular opinion, not parroting the common consensus, listening to odd music and falling in love with a string of words that others stare at dully.

It may entail a degree of loneliness, raised eyebrows and accusations of elitism (people will ask you "can't you just enjoy the thing on its own terms?")

But it also means being on an amazing quest, yearning for more, being rewarded in unexpected places and perhaps even finding others who share the love for the nearly-elusive.

It is the way I have chosen to live.

weekend film review roundup

matrix reloaded

This film exceeded expectations.

You see, I fully expected this film to be horrible and it surpassed my imagination of how bad a film can be.

Where do I begin? So many thing, so little space. The atrocious writing, the masturbatory fight scenes that refused to be edited well, the interminable rave that showcased the strength of Zion's human spirit, the dial tone acting of Fishburne (who sounded exactly like he was still in Event Horizon), the incomprehensible gobbledigook that passed for exposition, and much much more.

One of my friends said that I need to see the third Matrix film for closure. I don't think so. Subjecting myself to this one was painful enough.

"There is no film."

Final Rating: Matrix Reloaded (2003) - ** of 10 (and that's for Persephone's pointing to the door where the Key guy was)

sex and lucia

Julio Medem attempts to bring together confusing narrative threads in a film that ought to seethe with beauty but doesn't.

It commits the sin of being precious and maudlin though certain aspects of production were indeed inspired.

Writing-wise, there were good moments but those were overshadowed by challenging shifts.

Paz Vega was a revelation, a veritable chameleon being able to look like any other actress you can name.

Still, it is a film worth watching. And the sex wasn't bad.

Final Rating: Sex and Lucia (2001) - ****** of 10

the dangerous lives of altar boys

Hailed by many critics as an excellent film, I take the opposite position, finding absolutely nothing (apart from the animated sequences) good about this film.

Like many failed films, it had a good premise but miserable execution in terms of writing, pacing, casting and editing.

I so wanted to like it, being a comic fan, but by the time we reached the requisite "oh-it-is-summer, and-we-boys-are-being-boys", my brain short-circuited.

Final Rating: The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002) - ** of 10

Saturday, May 17, 2003


In her part-time capacity as Lord of Chaos, Sage came to me with an armful of books from our bookcase, dumping them on my chest.

One of them was the 50th anniversary listing of Palanca Awardees published by the Palanca Foundation in 2000. I leafed through it, just idly looking at all the names and titles, and one name suddenly lunged out at me.

It turns out that Honoel Ibardolaza, one of the creators in Ab Ovo 2, is a Palanca Awardee in the Short Story for Children category in 1998. He won 3rd prize for his story "Stars".

Isn't that neat?

writing in context

Jason asked me if I was interested in writing a "How To Write" for a manga-inspired anthology.

I thought about it for all of two seconds before saying no.

While I may be able to give useful advice on story fundamentals and such, I am almost completely ignorant when it comes to what makes manga manga. It is alien to me, like certain European comics. If I agreed to write a column or article, it would be the case of a blind man bluffing about seeing.

Granted that all stories follow strive towards similar goals, certain mechanisms in the Japanese art form (so lovingly embraced by we Filipinos) I simply do not understand. And these conventions are critical to the form, after all.

Too bad for me. But not really. I find that I am decidedly old-school when it comes to manga - Akira, Lone Wolf and Cub, Nausicaa. I have next to no interest in "big eyes, small mouth" - I find it antithetical to the evolving "Filipino" style. It one thing to be influenced, another thing not to innovate - for both story and art. There are many beatiful manga and anime (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro), but I prefer them in context - by Japanese creators who write, illustrate and create from their cultural experience (which why, despite the fact that it outsells X-Men in the Philippines, Culture Crash never worked for me).

But can a Filipino create manga that's beautiful? Certainly. But it wouldn't be manga now, would it?

Friday, May 16, 2003

weekend tpb reading

Herobear and the Kid (Kunkel ), Visitations (Scott Morse), X-Men: Riot at Xavier's (Morrison) - all look fun.

I was also delighted to find a near pristine copy of the first Grendel graphic novel (Wagner) from defunct publisher Comico, and the Breakthrough anthology from the time of the Berlin Wall's fall (with Bilal, Gaiman, Prado and many other creators from Europe).

There are still a lot of things I want to have, to read and own, but given their cost I have to be more selective. For example, I found all these Chinese comics in collected editions (translated, of course) with incredible line art and action moves like "Light of a Thousand Buddhas!" and all that. Each one though costs around $15 and I'd have to buy ALL of them. But I'm not that tempted. If it were the famous Manhua titles Blood Sword or Blood Sword Dynasty though...

vignette: what we do do

"But," said the Stickman, "we still have no idea where we are or where we are to go!"

"True, true," agreed the Whirling Lobster, waving his remaining claw. Deep in his clockwork eyes the tiny crack widened just a smidgen - but being blind to his own flaws he, of course, did not notice. "I suppose we just have to make do with what we do do."

"Well, then." the Hippogriff said, clearing her throat. "What we do do or do not do will simply have to do for now. It is certainly better than doing nothing at all. Too much of that and the world just passes you by. I should know." And she did, remembering for a moment the tragic circumstances of her melancholy captivity and the endless days and nights she spent looking outside from the inside of a cage.

"But," said the Stickman, "what ARE we to do?" He was raring to move.

His two companions looked at each other, then at him.

"We go where wings can take us," stated the Hippogriff.

"But I have no wings!" protested the Stickman.

"I have enough for all of us," replied the Hippogriff.

"But somethings are perhaps not meant to fly!" the Stickman said, aghast at the notion of leaving the ground.

"I promise to hold you and not let you fall," offered the Whirling Lobster. "My good claw, after all, is the one the Knave of Spades left me with. You will not fall."

"Besides," the Hippogriff told the Stickman, "even if you do fall, we can always pick you up. You do remember what the Little Girl used to say - 'sticks is sticks'."

"They most certainly are not!" roared the Stickman, shocked that anyone remembered the cruel words of the petulant Princess.

"Careful, careful," said the Whirling Lobster. "The last thing we need is for you to catch fire."

"All I'm saying is that if you do fall, we can pick you up, no harm, no foul. And that's all I have to say on the matter. If I've hurt you, do keep in mind that the words I spoke are not my own but someone else's and it is her phraseology that makes it painful." With that, the Hippogriff padded away, head high, stretching her wings.

"All right," muttered the Stickman, "all right."

Thursday, May 15, 2003

vignette: waiting

She stood beneath the familiar tree, her hands resting against the scarred trunk, her head bowed, unmoving.

He watched her from where he sat, elbows on the uneven grass, eyebrows raised as if a question was forming in his head.

Above them, the sky, impassive and strikingly blue, stretched out - oblivious and serene, dotted by languid clouds of no particular shape.

"So," she said, at last turning towards the man. "Is that all of it? Is this all of it?"

"Yes," he said, sitting up, rubbing the green stains from the sleeves of his shirt. "Yes, I think so."

She looked at him and held out her hands, taking one step, then two, and three towards him.

He stood up as she neared him, finding a reason to smile amid all the sorrow, all that had happened.

"So what happens now, do you think?" she asked. She felt suddenly empty and light, wanting to float away, wanting to be carried away by the wind.

"We wait," he replied. "We wait and see what happens." He thought about kissing her but knew it wasn't right, wasn't the right time, wasn't the right person.

"All right," she said, trailing a finger down the line of his cheek.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

who's out?

On my way home, I heard over the cab's radio the tail end of a news report saying that one of the Viva Hot Babes had left the fold.

Taken purely on its own, it's earthshaking news to me and their legion of fans (in reality, of course, it's nothing at all beside the horror of the new bombing in Mindanao and the continued spread of SARS - but there is a proper venue for those things).

So who left? I honestly don't know (yet). But most likely it is to pursue a solo career, such as it is.

When you're young and slutty, it takes great presence of mind to realize that your days are truly numbered and that you need to grab whatever opportunies you have.

After all, bodies get old, fans get jaded, someone younger comes along and you become an unremarkable footnote in the scheme of things.

Strike while you're hot. Make noise. Before all that is left of you are the glossy spreads and digital shots that captured your improbable appeal, fodder for fantasy.
sea change

I have in my hands a Chinese puzzle box that I cannot figure out.

No matter how many times I turn it in my head and my hands, running scenarios, each more confounding than the other, I see no solution.

Except to reinvent the puzzle.

Because I want to see how everything turns out.

it's up

My new column that I mentioned earlier is now up at Yehey!'s Internet Lifestyle site.

The Peanut Gallery will try its best not to be too outre, but hell, having me write about naughty things is just asking for trouble - I feel like a fox let loose in chicken coop.

But is it really nasty? No, not really. I don't say "fuck", after all.

Check it out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

down (and a sex tip)

Maybe it's the changing weather. The excessive heat is suddenly pierced by lukewarm rain that catches many people off-guard.

Maybe it's the fact that I've been getting by on around 3 hours of sleep at night.

Maybe it's my state of mental health. Once I decide to be anxious, I am a shoo-in for the Best in Anxiety Award, complete with dramatic clips and tearful acceptance speech.

Whatever the cause, I find myself trying to stave off illness. My body is heavy and my head is heavier. I'm running a low grade fever and feel weak.

But of course there are things that need to be done regardless of my condition (wow, "my condition" - sounds like I have a terminal thingie, sheesh).

It does not help that I got fucked by one of my clients who twisted my arm to get their desired resolution. A very expensive armtwist, something I can barely afford at this time in business.

I am one minute to saying "fuck all this" and giving the entire situation the dirty finger. One minute away.

Oddly, now is the best time to apply sex techniques. If you're too close to orgasm, stop, apply the dick-tip hold and relax. When not so excited, get back in the action.

So, okay.

Monday, May 12, 2003

fighting for power

Very early this power, we lost power in the condo and were immediately subjected to the unbearable heat. A quick check on the fuse box proved that it wasn't anything to do with that. With two guards, I checked on the Meralco meter and sure enough, by thumping the thing, we got power back. And lost it again. Something was wrong with the wiring, so we jury-rigged a harness to keep the meter in place. Which worked for until later this morning before everything went off again. During the time I fiddled with the meter, I noticed that the entire mechanism was warm - so I told the Meralco guys later that I was concerned the wires had burnt out. The last thing I wanted was a fire.

We made arrangements to fix the problem around lunch time and I left the cool air-conditioned comfort of my office (half our numbers were decimated by various illnesses) and returned home to see Sage in a restaurant downstairs, buying lunch with her yayas. We lost power again.

Upstairs, Meralco finally removed the meter and exposed a completely burnt-out wire, melted plastic and scorched metal. Indeed, a few more hours and I'd be homeless. An argument broke out between Meralco and my building maintenance crew as to who was responsible. I intervened and focused the matter on what could be done soon - after all, apart from the horrible inconvenience of melting food in a powerless fridge, the live satellite feed of Survivor: The Amazon's Announcement and Reunion show was already happening.

I watched amazed as the pair of electricians quickly pulled out wiring from somewhere and reapplied power to our home, refusing payment, just happy with a glass of water.

And so we have electricity again and I can rest knowing my daughter won't wake up utterly dehydrated.

survivor: the amazon winner

Spoiler alert and all that, so go away if you don't want to know.

Survivor addicts that Nikki and I are, we were completely caught off-guard by the revelation that 21year-old, ditzy, spoiled brat, swimsuit model Jenna won the contest with 6 of 7 votes.

Amazing. I haven't had this much Suvivor fun since Africa.
lost opportunity

The 4th UST National Writers Workshop in Baguio looks like it was a hit, joining the other respected summer writing workshops like those of Silliman University and the University of the Philippines in terms of providing a venue for a select number of new writers to learn from intense critique and analysis.

This one had perennial Palanca poets Cirilo Bautista and Ophelia Dimalanta and National Artist F. Sionel Jose - three names that the educated Filipino would recognize immediately as giants in world of the Philippine letters - providing lessons, opinions and access to their skills, talents and experience. A great opportunity for those who made the cut and attended the sessions.

There is great value in winning a fellowship at one of these things. Apart from what you learn about craft and technique, your work gets analyzed and scrutinized, you meet great writers, become part of the network of men of letters, see what other people are writing about and how they are expressing themselves, hang out with people who care for writing as much as you do. Invariably, a vast majority of fellows go on to literary acclaim (during my two fellowships almost everyone there went on to win and publish in various genres and categories).

But read this little bit, written by Eric Melendez, one of the panelists:

"Oh, and to the successful applicants who chickened out or didn't turn up: it's not as if we scribbled your names down on strips of toilet paper, crammed them into a chicken wire tambiolo and picked out fellows at random. We took your sorry manuscripts seriously, spent scarce resources taking you in, and ended up wasting slots that could have gone to more earnest applicants. You're the reason workshops are a waste of funds, for the flighty-nuts image people conjure up when they think of writers. You could have traipsed to UST in bright orange bell-hop clothes, pulled out a cheapo imitation Sony boom box, done a Romany organ-grinder jig and gotten the same spit bucket regard we have for you now. What's worse, you guys stood up two premiere poets and a National Artist. Hell hath no fury, folks. Better drop the writing dream and take up Malacology instead."

And I agree with Eric's sentiment. Many many young writers with dreams of learning send out manuscripts for consideration to all the important workshops. But given the nature of these things, slots are limited (to keep the sessions intimate and to provide as much time as possible for each person's work) and intense competition to be named a fellow is the name of the game. If you made the cut, it means that on the basis of your work the organizers have seen great potential - but it also means that many other people will be denied the opportunity.

So to win a slot and then not attend is like a bitch slap - to the organizers and to the person next in line who could have attended instead.


I only want to say
If there is a way
Take this cup away from me
For I don't want to taste its poison
Feel it burn me
I have changed
I'm not as sure as when we started
Then, I was inspired
Now, I'm sad and tired
Listen, surely I've exceeded expectations
Tried for three years, seems like thirty
Could you ask as much from any other man?


Sunday, May 11, 2003

mother's day

Happy Mother's Day to Sage's mom, my beloved wife, partner, co-parent, lover, confidant and eternal kakampi - Nikki.

What would I be without you?
ab ovo in mtv ink

Ab Ovo (Kestrel Studios) gets a nice little write-up in the latest issue of MTV Ink, courtesy of reviewer Oliver Pulumbarit (thanks to Budj for the shout out).

After Eden (Tala Studios) and Batch 72 (Alamat) complete the comic book summer reading recommendations.

All of these books are available at Comic Quest - just ask Vin.


Taking my best friend's recommendation seriously, I read the first issue of Runaways (Brian Vaughan & Adrian Alphona ) and loved it.

The writing is well-crafted - nuances of character are done in a page or two and strike true. The dialogue is spot on. And the premise is too too delicious.

I'm in for the long haul.

A wonderful read. Pick it up - if you can get a copy of this seriously underordered Marvel Tsunami book, or wait for the TPB.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

TXTMen 2

It's true! The second issue of TXTMen, script by Nikki Alfar and Filipino translation by yours truly, is now available thanks to creative producer Jason Banico of Dynatica Comics and the good folks over at Psicom.

The adventures of the heroes of Transliterated Extradimensional Technologies continue at the Greenhills Theatre Mall where they face a bunch of nasties, illustrated by Armand Roy Canlas.

Go pick it up and make fun my horrendous Tagalog.

Also, TXTMen #1 has gone into second printing, and TXTMen #3 should be released in a month or so.
adventures in the skin trade

My new online column for the best Philippine portal should begin next week.

The Peanut Gallery will focus on naughty bits like good old porn and other odds and ends that form part of my prurient agenda.

I'll let you know when its up and post a link.

Yes, I'm channeling my inner sex worker.

Friday, May 09, 2003


Late last night, I couldn't sleep. It was hot and I felt restless, my mind going nowhere in particular.

I told told my wife I was going out for a drink and walked to St. Francis Square and hung out at one of the bars there, the same default bar I go to when I need a drink.

I'm not much of a drinker, but sometimes, well, you just have to have some beer in a place where you can smoke. Not for any macho reason, but just because. Just because.

The last time I was here, one of the ladies I talked to told me her sob story and the bartender made small talk.

This time, two brothers shared cigarettes with me, one who returned from Qatar a year ago. So we exchanged stories about working abroad and how things are here and how ultimately home is home - or not.

I thought I saw a couple of people I knew, but I didn't bother to get up. Wasn't in the mood, feeling like an balikbayan OFW awash in regret and lost opportunities.

What is it that makes home a home? The people? The security? The support structure? The familiarity?

After a few bottles, I walked to my home, where my wife and child slept on, undisturbed by my questions.

They are all my answers.
adventures in another world

Go and check out Manga Graphix and their upcoming comic book, Questers.

Some guy named Marco Dimaano is doing the art.

Go, Marc!

Thursday, May 08, 2003

vignette: finale

The coin toss decided matters and we began. We would be the first to perform in the final round. Our last rivals, the Dohnanyi twins, inscrutable in their matching feathered masks, bowed perfectly in unison and stepped away.

The audience around us faded into a blur of gowns and tuxes, their cheers and applause drowned by the swell of strings, the rearranged Bartók concerto we selected for our last dance; at first almost inaudible, ethereal luminescence, then suddenly everywhere - Midori and Kyung-Wha Chung dueling on violins, both long gone but as real as ghosts, savaging the strings, exorcising their sorrow through joyous craft, inviting our bodies to move.

I fought to fight my tears as András took my hand in his.

“Ready, my love?” he smiled the smallest of smiles.

“Yes.” I said, feeling the upswing of the tempo. “Now.”

I felt myself rise through the air, lifted by my husband’s strong arms, arching my back where his hand met my body, then spinning from the heights and back on the floor, where my feet moved to the texture of the music – angry, pained, aching from loss and unmet desire.

Our muscles moved in tandem, guided by rhythm, mirror images made exquisite by endless practice. We knew when to move, no longer thinking but simply moving, breathing, twisting and turning, embraced by the sound, caressed by the invisible.

At one point, we abandoned the choreography, moving like puppets whose strings are suddenly cut, reveling in the freedom of pure motion yet still bound by the omnipresent violins and the dead men that played them – circumscribing circles and patterns where none existed, using the floor and the air as our canvas, our bodies as brushes, our hearts’ palette for an abundance of colors.

And I was lost, lost in music and the dance and victory did not seem as important as it was before.

There was only motion.

And the man I loved.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

a marked improvement

Wednesday is new comic book day, and what was the first book I grabbed when I realized it was finally available?

Darna #2, of course.

I'd been wanting to see how the sophomore issue turns out, given my disappointment with the writing of the maiden issue.

After reading it I found that, with some exceptions ("And mute. And muter still. Save...for the whimper of puppies!"), the writing has shown a marked improvement. If this book continues on its upward road, then #3 should be an interesting read. It's no Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, but apples are apples, oranges are oranges.

Lan Medina's art is better than Ryan Orosco with less of the T&A (though there is still flesh aplenty, it is more contextualized than gratuitous), and feels "right" - very Filipino, very "ours". I enjoyed his art here as much I enjoyed it in Fables.

Production value is high (though I got double covers, I'm not complaining) and there was actually something to read.

But again, where is Sneak Peek?
but where is sneak peek?

I don't know exactly. I thought it would be released yesterday along with Darna #2.

I hope it gets released very soon. Or maybe it has been but not where I went.

I'm excited to see the final product in June, beyond Sneak Peek, as in the real deal with the four writers and the four artists, all women.

The top-notch writing talent is truly high caliber - consider the fact that you have authors like Cyan Abad-Juco (who, with her distinguished father, Gemino Abad, co-authored the acclaimed Father and Daughter: The Figures of Our Speech, and is a regular presence at the Palanca Awards), my wife Nikki Alfar (who has her share of published fiction, comics work, writing awards and stuff), Kristine Fonacier (whose poetry is just as engaging as her essays and feature writing), and Karen Kunawicz (whose sensibilities are finely articulated in her book, On The Verge, as well as other published articles).

It's a concept I wish I'd thought of: 4 women - single woman, single mother, married with no kids, married with child.

Except that I'd do it all in prose and throw in a good dramatist (perhaps a widow - but it doesn't really matter, it's just a conceit).
sorry, little girl, but you're screwed

In the journal Demography, University of Washington economists Elaina Rose and Shelley Lundberg tell us that fathers of sons spent more money on their families and worked longer hours than fathers of girls.

"It may just be that parents feel more strongly that a boy needs a father around," Rose said in a statement, suggesting not only that men may value sons more, but that little girls are more likely to grow up poor. "Men probably see a biological son as their immortality," Rose added. "It's a little 'me'."

It's very distressing to find out that so many fathers apparently feel this way.

In my experience, it's also untrue. Many of the fathers of girls I know work as hard or harder than fathers with sons. In fact, it seems that the fathers of boys are more likely to slack off - because to them, in some regard, they have done their duty and perpetuated their family name (assuming their boy lives to adulthood, remains straight and produces offspring in a context that permits the passing of the surname). Family names, after all, are big here in the Philippines, as they are in countries of a similar socio-cultural bent.

The study also tells us that a single mother is 42 times more likely to marry the father of her son than she was to marry the father if the child was a girl.

The implication is that it is easier for single mothers to marry a man (even it is isn't the father of the boy) if she has a boy, and that little girls are simply screwed.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what got my goat this humid Wednesday morning.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

vignette: approaching catatonia

It's like you're on a highway at night and everything is dark, nothing can be seen except for the portion of road lit by your headlights.

And you're driving along, not knowing precisely where you're going, with the road being your only guide, your only proof that you're going somewhere.

If you quickly look at the rear view mirror, you'll see the same thing, except the road is receding and limned in red. If you look left or right, you see only darkness, the occasional impression of figures in motion, lost among the imagined trees.

There is only the road.

So you turn up the radio (you've run out of CDs) and hope for something to listen to, or perhaps some information on where you are, but the music that comes out fails to make an impression, fails to give information, and quickly becomes part of the background, humming its melodies quietly in the back seat.

And you drive. Because you think you're going somewhere (you have the car, it has gas; you have the road, and the road goes on). Because to stop in the dark in the middle of no(some)where would be crazy, irresponsible, unthinkable. And frightening. So it fails to be a true option in your head, though it's there, of course, but you won't stop - not unless there's a very good reason, not unless you have to.

And you drive. Because someone told you that every journey has its end. Or was it something you read? But then again, you remember someone else (who?) say that the whole point of a journey is the journey itself - not actually getting there. Which sounds really stupid, stupid. You want to stop driving - but not here, not now.

And you drive. Because, honestly, you know you have to. Everyone drives, everyone drives. And some(no)where is the comfort of a clean, well-lighted place, maybe a beer and a fresh pack of Marls, a bite to eat, a place to crash and rest before the next leg to where(when)ever.

But that's later, if you ever get there.

And that, of course, is the pleasant scenario, the one you keep right up there with the furry dice, the dog with the bobbing head and the little map that lost relevance a lifetime ago.

The more interesting scenario, the one you do not want to consider (but secretly think of while the rest of your mind is thinking about cold beer and the first sweet nicotine kiss of a longed-for cigarette) is this:

The road doesn't end.

Or this:

It does but in a place where empty houses line empty streets and only ghost voices whisper in the still air.

Or this:

Any time now, an accident will occur (a sudden animal, a fallen tree, a large rock, a stalled car - maybe even the exact model as yours) and you will lose control of the car - you fill in the blanks.

All that, every part of it, is exactly how I feel.
darna of tomorrow

Yes, here's the heroine of tomorrow, during her secret origin sequence.

Everyone starts out young, right?

Now that we have the headdress, all we need is the rest of the costume and a power stone from elsewhere.

girl power

Speaking of Darna, Mango Comics will be releasing their Sneak Peek ashcan today.

This sampler was supposed to be part of Free Comics Day, but you know how production can screw schedules up - better late than never.

Majority of Sneak Peek features work from women creators - all of which can be seen in four color glory sometime in June. Mango Comics has teamed-up established women writers (fictionists, columnists, editors and poets) with women manga illustrators and the results provide an interesting range of concepts.

Nikki Alfar (The Lost, Ab Ovo, Snow As Blood, TXTMen) and Porcellus serve up Weird Sisters, a supernatural mystery-adventure with a dash of teen drama. I'm giddily proud of Nikki, of course. I like her concept - and all husbands should support their wives' endeavors, especially when it is as promising as this one.

Cyan Abad-Jugo (Father and Daughter: The Figures of Our Speech) and Laika's The Pencilcase Pixies' concept should be evident from the title alone.

Karen Kunawicz (On The Verge) and Mynne Sunrise is the creative team of Kali - a story about a young girl martial artist guided by the spirit of her dead grandmother (of course!).

Kristine Fonacier (MTV INK Editor-in-Chief and PULP music editor ) and Kitsuneko have put together The Arte Club (pronounced "ar-te") about a group of popular kids hurled into another dimension.

In an industry that is male-dominated, it is refreshing to see more work from our better halves.

(Ha! Bonus points for me from the wife then.)

Monday, May 05, 2003

a wish granted

Just moments before leaving the office to go home, the head of Artfarm Asia, the company next door, asked to speak to me.

He wanted to know if I had any spare copies of Ab Ovo I could give him, for him to give away in turn to the young animators they're teaching. I delightedly returned with a stack of them.

"All this time we've been neightbors, I didn't know that you were you," he said, pointing to the Kestrel Studios logo on the cover. "A lot of the kids we teach look up to the people who make local comics."

"Oh," I said, hiding my embarassment. "Well, I know a handful."

"Do you know the guy who made Zsa Zsa?"

"Of course! That's Carlo Vergara and he's right inside," I smiled. "I also know the guy who did Angel Ace, Marco Dimaano. And, of course, Arnold Arre. You've heard of Mythology Class?"

"Yes," he nodded. "Hey, would you be willing to speak one afternoon to the kids?"

"Oh, you'd want Carl for that. I'm a writer, not an artist."

"But that's why I'm asking you. Films needs great ideas and great ideas need great writing. And certainly we'd love to have Carlo talk about illustration - that's the other part of our discipline."

"I'd love to."

Amazing. The very same day that I wished I could have an opportunity to be relevant, it's granted.

Now to wish for an Everfull Purse.

help this html idiot

Can anyone tell me how to place images arranged top to bottom?

Like this:

Image 1
Image 2
Image 3

Because no matter how I use the paragraph or the linebreak tags, everything lines up horizontally.

Here's some of the stuff I'm working on strip-wise.

I was actually drawing over lunch with a client at a Vietnamese resto - she asked "Oh, so Nikki is pregnant again?"

To which I shook my head "Um, no. It's just a comic."

"Oh," she said smiling, "But I thought you were writing about your life."

"Sometimes, I do. And well, this is part of my life. Before Sage was born."

"It doesn't look funny," she observed, reading upside-down.

"I'm not sure it is." I said, wishing I had an eraser.

But I do remember how I found out my firstborn was on her way.

I was playing Baldur's Gate in our Hong Kong flat and Jaheira the Elven Druid was giving me a severe case of "burn the bitch".

"Husband, we have to talk," Nikki said, standing next to me.

And the rest is.. well, the rest of the story.

It's past 3AM and I'm still awake. It's impossible to sleep. The aircon is dead and the humidity is intense.

Just sitting here, typing away to relieve my frustration at not being able to doze off, I am already drenched in sweat. I have a towel beside me.

There was a time I preferred heat to cold. But now, as I make plans to go to the ref to rehydrate myself yet again, I'd kill for a winter blast.

It's hard to think because it's hard to breathe. Sweat drips into my eyes and I feel more trickling down my back. Gah.

I cannot write anything of value - everything goes back to the infernal reality of my situation.

If ever I do fall asleep, I;ll probably wake up dessicated, like vacuum-packed dried fish in a grocery store in Ghana.
notes from the ivory tower

I was so impressed when Carl told about how he spent part of his weekend, teaching the less fortunate children about art and beyond.

Sometimes, the view from the ivory tower is so high that it is easy to lose track of details that matter.

Relevance matters. Helping out matters. Moving beyond ideas and ideals and actually doing something matters.

Economics aside, it falls it us, the privileged to do something. Is it arrogance? I don't think so if your agenda is pure - to return a little something, to help someone become something better, to give hope.

If you put yourself in the position of the under-privileged (and you can easily become one of them - the wheel turns as it turns for me now), you will see the value of a stranger offering concrete help, useful advice and a booster shot of spirit.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

tugging at the heartstrings

Just came back from Jason's blog and tears welled up in my eyes, old softy that I secretly am.

There's nothing in the world like love.

And he's right. The partnership model in a relationship is miles above the competition.
reminder to self

Mother's Day is on May 11, a Sunday. Make sure to take Sage's advice and get lilies for her mom. And something special.
language of critique

One of the things we talked about last night, as Vin tried to get us to help him finish his too-too large banana sundae at Chili's, was criticism in comic books (the other one, which I hope someone else writes about, was the application of the Japanese studio art system to the Filipino comics context). Almost everyone at the table, except me, advocated the necessity of a language of critique devoted exclusively to the needs and modes of the comic book.

I feel that there is nothing in comic books (as an "art" form) that truly differentiates it from other existing art forms (art and literature) that it cannot be critiqued using the language and theories developed over the years for the purpose of discourse for those other art forms. I recognize that the fact that devotees of McCloud (whose work is hailed as a seminal contribution to comic criticism), in their love for the medium, have thought of the need for a critical language for comic books. But really, to me, there is no such need, even if they bring to the table the hoary argument of "sequential" art.

At its core, a comic book is a story. It is a story that is communicated through visuals (though sometimes there is no art just words, or no words, just art, or a combination of the two states, if you want to be pilosopo). The heart of the comic is the script (and yes, let us discount, for the sake of simplicity, the cases where there is no script), a set of words written down with the purpose of telling a story. Therefore all pertinent elements of literary criticism (especially from the disciplines I attempt to work in - plays and fiction) can and do come into play. Everything from the formalism, structuralism, post-modernism, marxism, every other -ism can be and are used to analyze and deconstruct the text - because the comic book is a text. Currently, what is considered "serious" comic book criticism and discourse, like the essays from The Comics Journal or Ninth Art, is couched in the discourse of lit crit - for obvious reasons.

But what about the art? Certainly, the entire history of art criticism has something to offer. I know much much less about this though, and concede that in my limited understanding of art criticism I could be mistaken. But advocates like McCloud seem to imply that words are unnecessary (his approach is almost purely visual).

But the comic book is a text. People who read it are called "readers". You read a comic book.

Name drop whatever title you like and it has been and can be analyzed in the language of literary criticism - because some of the best comic books are literature. So you have stuff like Maus, Watchmen, and (insert your pet indie vignette-slice of life, heartbreaking work of staggering genius in stark black and white). And how are these texts analyzed? As I mentioned earlier, things from the toolkit of lit crit are used. From the simple evaluation of plot, charactertization and dialogue, to application of "the author is dead", semiotics and Xanaduism, to the theories of analysis based on concepts like Erwartungshorizont (horizon of expectation), Leitmotiv (leading motif), narrative theory and pataphysics (the metaphysics of nonsense). The entire timespan of human thought devoted to the love and search of deeper understanding of literature, certainly, will suffice.

But comics are a new "art" form, you say. Photography did not come into its own as a form until many years after its invention.

True. But what is the basis of critiquing photography as art? Is it so so special, universes removed from painting that it does not share a common language? Is the critical faculty that is engaged when you look at a photograph different from the one you use to look at a painting? In comics, a lousy story is a lousy story. It will not be saved by virtue of its being in pamplet format in (ahem) "sequential" art.

Text is text. Granted, one of the unique elements of a comic book is the fact that (traditionally) it engages the reader simultaneously through words and art - like film. Which is the weak point of my argument, because film did develop its own criticism - based on the history of the dramatic (theatrical) form that stretches back to the Greeks (classically) and the script (also drama, also Greek), from the literary modes.

So what is my problem? If I can accept film, why can't I accept the comic book? And isn't it, oh, odd, that I, a self-publisher of comics, do not want to hold hands with you and help uplift the form we love? Why can't I accept the fact that comic books are unique?

Apart from the silly answer that holding hands in the time of SARS is risky, I believe in the primacy of the story, the script, in the context of a text. Yes, this means that art does not play a vital role to my enjoyment of a well-written comic book - which is why I can appreciate much of the indie output which focuses more on the content, the human observations, rather than trying to appeal to eye-candy level comic art. Which is why Image comics sucks. In the context of a text as a text, I see no need to baby the comic book medium. Let it sink or swim on its own merits, gauged by the principles of literature.

It's like my thing with genre trappings. Someone holds up a fantasy or scifi story for me to read. I read it, don't like it and explain why. The other person says, "but it's wonderful in the context of a scifi story". Um, no. It has to be a good story, period. Swim with the big boys and do not hide behind form or genre.

An interesting point in one of the essays I read (thanks Carl) presupposes the dominance of the word over the art - the writer over the artist. It is reversed in film criticism where the focus is on the director (auteur theory) - no one knows (or seems to care) about who wrote the film, it is more important to know who directed it or who starred in it.

Are we to adopt this approach to comic book critique?

On the other hand, you can just say, "but comics are just entertainment, nothing more; you're taking this too seriously."

In which case, I'm talking to wrong person.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

marco v 2.0

Marco has created a new blog to detail progress on his comics work, including, but not limited to, the high-flying adventures of Angel Ace. Check out Lone Wolf & Cherub for more goodness than you can swing a fist at (whatever that means).

Oh, and since, like me and Jason, he has a picture too, he's now christened Marco: Bluish-Grey.

Hmm. I see a trend developing here. I'm this close to creating a porno blog - seriously. I like the idea of "Suck My Blog" but I think it already exists. So maybe "NakakaliBlog" or somesuch.

We'll see. ; )
huzzah! comics!

Free Comic Book Day for me started way past midnight, thanks to Vin (when your best friend owns a comic store, you have to pinch yourself at times and marvel at the kindness of the powers of the universe). Nikki and I came home with a very thick pile of stuff to read.

You may ask, if the point of Free Comic Book Day is to get new readers to read comics, why do I (already a comic buyer) get them? Easy.

1. It's free comics - how can you resist? Anyone who loves the medium will happily accept anything.

2. I wanted the small press comics - I knew that creators like James Kochalka and Jay Stephens and many others would have stuff unread by me for the taking.

3. I wanted to see what else was going on - if they weren't free, I probably wouldn't read or buy the stuff I wasn't familiar with.

And as a comic fan, I am influenced by sampling. I do buy new stuff.

Now among the gross and drivel (Landis, Kissing Chaos) there are gems including:

Peanutbutter & Jeremy by James Kochalka (Alternative Comics) - See? It was lovely, in as much as a crow wanting french (um, freedom?) fries is lovely.

Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things by Ted Naifeh (Oni Press) - Twisted marchen sensibilities that captured both Nikki and myself. We're ordering the book.

Oddballz by Lewis Trondheim (NBM) - Frantic sci-fi meditation.

Jetcat by Jay Stephens (Oni Press) - Fun superhero revisited.

Skinwalker by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir (Oni Press) - Very engaging investigative book with excellent characterization. I'll pick up the trade.

The end result? Two happy comic book lovers wanting to buy more comics. And make them.

Many, many, many thanks to Vin.

one from manila

And local creators weren't unrepresented.

The Comic Collective, creators of the lovely Grafic, thanks to the effort of a handful of industrious souls, came up with OST (Original Story Theatre), a heartfelt xeroxed (I know I swore to use the term "photocopied" but WTF) anthology from the likes of Elbert Or (Sansinukob: Philippine Graphic Histories ) and Andrew Drilon (Subwhere).

It is a curious piece of work, holding to the theme of "grafic stories from and inspired by the Muses" and you get a range of writing in terms of quality. I enjoyed Drilon's continiung exploration into metatext (though I'd like to know if he writes anything else apart from this mode or the similarly thought-out Germinator), but physically recoiled from Gabriella Lee's restatement of Neil Gaiman's Calliope (it is tragic to see something in an anthology about muse-al inspiration so uninspired). The fact that it was a fiction piece exposed itself to critical analysis and it is easily the book's lowest point.

But still, I continue to admire the write-it, illustrate-it, produce-it mindset of these people.

It was enough to get me thinking (again) about what what we (the supposedly "established" writers and artists) are doing - not in terms of a pissing contest, but in terms of what can or should we be doing, agenda-wise.

printed on recycled electrons

Jason completes his blog makeover by changing domains and finally moving it to his own. His blog can now be found here. Update your links.

And I think my friend will forgive me if I tease him a little. I was delighted by the fact that his picture appears on his blog now, and together we present the following statement, for whatever it's worth: Jason: Blue, Dean:Violet.

Happy Anniversary to him and Cams.
yes, but dare i draw?

Among the numerous topics the gang discussed last night (including an almost eternal conversation about fanfic - right or wrong), we decided to come up with an impromptu project. Too early to reveal details, but it will involve the usual suspects and should be fast tracked for release.

Anyway, the upshot is I've decided to go out on a limb and illustrate my story myself. I know. It's going to be horrible, but if I restrict myself to drawing lines, circles and the occassional challenging triangle, it shouldn't look that bad. Sage could probably beat me in an art contest, but I hope it won't end up looking like crap. Of course, since Carl and Marco will be represented as well, I will suffer by direct comparison. Sigh. But still. For once I'd like to try doing it myself.

You know what's really odd?

I'm excited about the prospect of finally writing, "illustrating" and lettering my own stuff. Sounds cool. Very indie.

When I got home, I looked at the barest of tools I have: my mind, a doubting hand and my usual surfeit of arrogance.

I'm doomed.

So naturally, I hurled myself into sketching, trying to remember the advice Carl gave me, and have come up with at least one approach. What amuses me is that suddenly my writing has to conform to the humbleness of my drawing. Write about simple things shown in a simple way. The story, after all, should be able to take care of itself.

So I'm stoked. I really am. It won't look great, but I can call it mine - like the ingrown toenail I'm hesistantly nurturing.

Friday, May 02, 2003


I took my entire nuclear family (Nikki, Sage, Diovine and Len) out to the Galleria for some grocery shopping.

Sage, in her oh-so-adorable summer dress, insisted on walking around the mall in her new shoes. It was amazing because she did her best to keep up with the adults while trying to see everything that could be seen, at the same time.

We had merienda at Dunkin Donuts where Nikki told her how to use a straw through action and words. Her first try saw the grape juice climb halfaway up the straw. Her second was an immediate success and a big surprise for her. She then proceeded to try to drink everything using the straw. Incredible, I tell you.

So of course we got her a new straw-topped glass as a reward for her new thing.

All these little things that she does melt my heart - the spinning, the attempted singing, the bouncy-bouncing, the listening to music.

But really, the day I'm longing for is when I can have a conversation with her.

I want to know what she thinks about everything.
vignette: vacuum

I came home from university to find her at the door, bags packed, waiting to say goodbye.

"What's going on? Where are you going?" I asked, but I already knew the answers.

"I wanted to give you my keys. There's some chicken in the microwave, just make yourself some rice," she said, handing me her keyring.

"Please don't go."

She looked at me with her black black eyes and everything I loved about her was reflected in that instant, in the measure of her gaze. I knew that I had lost it all.

"Don't. Don't cry, Jon. Please." She kissed me on the cheek and held my face in her hands.

"But why? Tell me why," I asked her. My entire body felt like it wasn't my own. It was too heavy, too solid, too real to be real in that unreality where the world existed but was of no moment.



"Because it's time for me to go."

I watched her walk away, down the hall to the elevator. I wanted to run after her, to beg, to plead, to try everything, say anything, but the unwelcome gravity of the situation was too strong, too compunded, to fight, to struggle against. Instead I watched her turn to me one last time as the elevator announced its arrival, watched her vanish behind its familiar metal doors, watched the ghost of her last smile disperse like the illusion that it was, and stared down numbly at the keyring in my hand.

And I cannot help but think of things like gravity and inertia because I cannot understand everything that happened - I am left only with the learning in my head, my beloved astronomy. I am flooded with thoughts of particles in motion in a void; black holes suspended in infinite black space and of the loneliness of their existence - invisible, powerful, devouring, in solitude; of stars that suddenly flare and supernova, brilliant, burning, echoing light for millions of years, and of worlds that spin unaware that the source of their light is long dead, long gone, a corpse-light.

And I think of my place in all this absurd rumination, of her place in my world. And I recall some insipid maxim about how, to the world, she was just one person - but to me, she was the world; some doggerel that should be comforting but is ultimately meaningless, because words, like sound, cannot exist in the vacuum I am floating in.

Thursday, May 01, 2003


Oddly enough, my mind's radio kept playing self-affirming songs, particularly Christina Aguilera's Beautiful (and boy, she does need to sing it to herself - but I do like her voice). Then later, noticing my feeble attempts to sing a song I didn't know the lyrics to, Nikki offered what we both thought was a Robbie Williams ditty that she didn't know the title of (" were meant to be the way you are exactly..." - which, in my analysis, is fatalistic rather than uplifting (turns out it's Stay The Same by Joey McIntyre - thanks Vin) . Later, U2 came in with Struck In A Moment and this morning, George Martin's Freedom 90. (I've even asked requested Carl to sing Beautiful when it becomes available at the videoke).

Despite the fact that I giggle compulsively when certain songs come up (the ones that are too preciously feel-good-about-yourself), I recognize the value of something self-affirming that you can sing to yourself - because we all need that once in a while.

We are all beautiful. Well, most of us are. In some way.
love in the time of melancholy

As a younger man, thanks to the corruptive influence of unrealistic films and badly imagined books, I believed in love as a set of ideals. As I entered and left relationships here and there, I would attempt to apply the ideal to the context of what I had and always, always fail.

Because love in real life is not ideal - because you and your beloved are not ideal.

Vin, Nikki and I spoke about love as it pertained to him, and I was utterly stupefied when, unbidden, the words we've been telling him about this came from his lips. I've known Vin for years and as best friends there are many intimacies we share. But one of the most confounding things for me was the fundamental difference in our outlook in life. He held to what I (pejoratively) called "The Happy World" wherein everything would be all right, and all things worked for good, resolved themselves due to sheer hope, and every dog had his day. I lived in "Deterministic World", a different place, where unnecessary conflict and stress could be selectively dealt with, where one did not wait to move until someone else moved, and where happiness is a matter of determining what it is and it isn't and creating it - but never in a cynical way, because the world was full of wonder (like a daughter that bounces on your chest at 6 in the morning).

I learned last night that even in Happy World things did go wrong and that its inhabitants were empowered after all - to determine their happiness and self-worth where relationships were concerned. Epiphanies did not occur vicariously, but through the course of experience.

(An aside: I'm one of the worst people to ask relationship advice from. Ultimately I'll ask "If you are aware of your circumstances, why not change them?" Not because I have no empathy, but because impatience with silliness is one of my character traits. And silliness is something we can exert control over.)

Given my acceptance of the unalterable fact that life is short and precious, I'd rather squeeze what I can in terms of delight and accomplishment out of what I'm given and with the circumstances I accept. There is no time for something that both saddens and eats away time. Better to laugh and create something that can shine, however briefly, before the curtain falls and I exeunt, stage right.

This means doing something I like (workwise), creating something of worth (artwise) and being with someone who believes in me and in how I think (relationshipwise).

Overstated simplicity, yes, but think about it.