Tuesday, March 29, 2005

kia hits the stands...

...this weekend!

From mastermind Marco Dimaano:

Starting on April 2, 2005, K.I.A. - Kai: Indomitable Assassin, will be available at Comic Quest Megamall. Buyers who purchase K.I.A. Vol. 1 will also get a copy
of Angel Ace Next (which is a prologue to the new title) absolutely free! (while supplies last)

K.I.A. is the new comic starring Kai, the sexy and dangerous rival/best friend of Angela Gale from of Angel Ace series. Meant as a stand-alone title, K.I.A. can be enjoyed by itself or alongside the Angel Ace storyline.

With no memory of her past and a new identity as the fearesome, seemingly undying assassin known as 'K', Kai must now try to survive as she is sent on mission after deadly mission by a ruthless new commander.

K.I.A. brings together a collection of well-known names in local Filipino comics and publishing, including Gerry Alanguilan, Wilson Tortosa, Arnold Arre, Taga-Ilog, Honoel Ibardolaza, Edgar Tadeo, Dean and Nikki Alfar, Elbert Or and more.

Look for K.I.A. on the comic rack this weekend!

Whoo-hoo! Nikki and I wrote a story each, so check the antho out!

diy advice column

Take your pick.

1. Move on. If you keep doubting the very point of your relationship – where it’s going, how it ought to be – then maybe it’s best to take a deep breath and cast cold iron on the fairy magic. See what’s left after hard scrutiny. If there’s a little something, consider if it is worth all your time and effort, all your unhappy moments. Decide if you still want to engage in the struggle of the everyday, because there is no magic everyday. And if you do decide to stay, accept what you have chosen, flaws and all.

2. Grow up. If you cannot take instructions, continue to question the rules and weep whenever your sense of self is questioned, then I suggest you take time and talk to your inner child. Stroke, cajole, persuade. Growing up is painful, and “for as you long as you live in my house, you must follow what I say” is a truism, no matter how unjust or painful. Learn to accept your situation. If it is untenable, then leave that house, take the step and be the adult that you are.

3. Take a breather. Sometimes, there’s just too much to do. Step back and ask for a little time to sort priorities, schedule your tasks and calm down. Everything still has to be done, yes, but sense can be made of the chaos.

4. Keep writing. Nothing comes out perfect and there is no such thing as an overnight sensation. You need to keep at it, whip yourself with words until your material speaks out. Keep trying even if what you initially produce for today or tomorrow or the next x years read like drivel. Write with the goal of improving and set benchmarks. And read more than you do now. Better to have tried than to give up at the first onset of rejection.

5. Do it for a better reason. You can never please him enough. You can never exceed his accomplishments on his terms. But you can certainly create your own thing, and work to raise that bar higher every time. We do not become our fathers, we just cannot. We need to overcome the anxiety of influence and undergo the process of becoming.

6. Come to terms with your limitations. So what if the best circumstances gave you is a high school education and you find yourself in the competitive job market? While a college degree is nice, it is NOT necessary to compete in the business environment - believe me. Take a look at your skill sets, at what you have to offer, at the talents and abilities you can improve upon and make them marketable. Find ways to improve.

7. Get over her. You screwed up and nothing you can do will get her back, especially in the light of her civil status. It is too easy to become bitter, rather trite and banal in fact. Pick yourself up and be glad you lived through yet another harrowing heartache.

8. Be selective. You cannot please everyone so choose the recipients of your efforts. Learn to thicken your skin and bestow your time and talent on the people that matter. It’s a judgment call but you can always change your mind.

9. Take a moment to determine exactly what or who is important to you. Not just for now but for the long term. Ask yourself if, in the process of making sacrifices for the future, you are losing out on the life you’re living now. Sometimes, we lose track of why we do what we do. If you’re doing all of this for someone, be careful of the lacuna that can grow when you’re too focused doing what’s right.

10. Apologize. Now. You know you're in the wrong, so stop acting like a petulant child and make amends before the situation escalates. The ashes of burnt pride taste insignificant compared to the bitterness of a lost friendship.

Monday, March 28, 2005

pirate booty

My hasty visit to Billy the Pirate (hasty because I dropped by in between running around booking yet another photo shoot in this seemingly endless cycle), netted a couple of old films I really liked plus a number of new ones I've yet to see - plus the stinkers that I picked up because, well, the packaging looked nice (believe me, it's hard to be discerning when confronted with hundreds of titles in a limited time frame).

Before my inevitable list of DVDs added to my small collection, I want to encourage everyone to watch The Motorcycle Diaries. Nikki and I enjoyed the film tremendously on a variety of levels. And knowing that I really do not review films, that's all you'll get from me (well, yes, I do review movies once in a blue moon, especially if they're abysmal, like, say, Daredevil).

Here's what I got:

Finding Neverland, directed by Marc Forster, 2004 - Maybe because I keep buying Sage anything Peter Pan-related, but actually because Nikki likes this guy. I liked him last in Tim Burton's Ed Wood (his presence in Pirates of the Caribbean was swamped by Keira Knightley, for me).

Cowboys & Angels, directed by David Gleeson, 2003 - I read about this somewhere.

The Last Emperor
, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, 1987 - Apart from the fact that my favorite musician, Ryuichi Sakamoto (along with David Byrne and Cong Su) did the music, I loved John Lone's sunglasses.

Stand by Me
, directed by Rob Reiner, 1986 - I have memories of seeing this film way back when it first showed, which would place it roughly along the entire People's Power Revolution timeline. If it didn't, it should - it would make better fiction.

Imperium: Augustus, directed by Roger Young, 2003 - When Flim and I get together, chances are we'll segue into our old Roman repartee, with him doing his atrocious English-faux-Roman accent. This film choice (which is actually a TV miniseries or something) is for him. Ave.

Les Choristes (The Chorus), directed by Christophe Barratier, 2004 - Seems like an interesting pedagogical film, pedigreed, award-winning and French at that.

The Inheritance, directed by Per Fly, 2003

Being Julia, directed by István Szabó, 2004 - Annette Benning (geez, I've had a crush on her since Mike Nichol's Regarding Henry) was nominated for an Oscar for her role in this film.

Riding the Bullet, directed by Mick Garris, 2004 - Stephen King books that are made into movies are, with one or two exceptions, horrible. But this is one that I haven't seen. In fact, since this was Steve's experiment with web content, I haven't even read it. So I'm actually excited about seeing this - because, yes, I am a big fan - but not as big as Nikki, who, at a certain point in her life, would buy his grocery list.

Luster, directed by Everett Lewis, 2002

Sunday, March 27, 2005

mary in the margins

As a result of peculiar religious upbringing (Catholic schools, Protestant years, Islamic plot twist), it is with great interest that I note the startling rise of recognition given the Virgin Mary by non-Catholics, specifically key Protestant groups such as the Methodists and Baptists in various places in the world but more so in the US.

The reason this is peculiar? In the Philippines, a very Catholic country, the Virgin is venerated and held in high esteem. She has all her titles including Queen of Heaven and Mother of God. The Filipinos recognize things like her bodily Assumption into Heaven and her unique role as Mediatrix - this allows her to plead on behalf of the poor sinners in her mode as Mother of Mercy (to Christ in his role as the stern judge). She's very very powerful, having innumerable devotees. Her "worship", in fact, is one of the many reasons there was a break from the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago.

The Protestants, in particular Martin Luther and later Calvin in some Swiss canton, urged a return to the bible as the sole authority to guide believers in terms of teachings - a definite reaction against practices like the selling of indulgences for sins not yet committed (to raise funds, of course).

At any rate, Mary was marginalized by the Protestants. She was devalued simply because of her growing importance to the Catholics. The Protestants, who favored Jesus above all, had no idols or statues of anyone else but the Son of God. Some of them removed even Jesus from the crucifix, leaving only the empty cross as their emblem of faith.

I grew up suspicious of Mary (in fact, I found Mary Magdalene infinitely more interesting) apart from her role in the Christmas Belen. It ruffled my Protestant feathers to even consider the existence of the Rosary - which, to me, was simply...blasphemous (I thought "Why pray to her when I can go direct?") - getting me into countless arguments with friends and teachers which were unwinnable by either side (I'd bring out my Bible or hurl verses from memory, because we Protestants take pride in knowing our stuff).

When I wrote "Fragments of Memory" in 1990, I had Mary doing the usual Mary thing but showed my interest (again) in the other Mary (Magdalene). It was a very Protestant text and somehow won a Palanca Award that year. And yet, having read the Bible and researched books to write my play, I could not deny that she was an excellent and faithful believer (there is a reason the song is called the Magnificat), a good mother (when she freaked out when Jesus went missing at 12 plus her presence at his death) - in other words, a good person. My only true issue was the worship given her.

So I was, in a way, "anti-Mary" because of upbringing. So recently, when I read in Time that Protestant sects were (re)introducing Mary as part of their regular Sunday thing, I was awash with emotion. It felt wrong. Almost blasphemous.

Every religious movement's biggest foes are pluralism and secularism. It's as if the Catholic Church created a very clever way to get everyone back into the fold, where their prior ecumenical movements failed (I think I'll write a conspiracy short story wherein the Protestants get "singularized" by Marianism or Marianology or whatever it is really called).

Of course, I write all of this tongue-in-cheek. I no longer believe in exclusive faith - especially in faiths that are easy to condemn those who do not buy into them completely. I do not adhere to Catholicism's dogma and colorful saints (though they are wonderful to think and write about). I am tired of Protestantism's Bible-blinders and their veiled hypocrisy (though they honed my mind for debate). And I am terrified by the implications of Islam. Ultimately, faith should be personal, expressed through actions but never in need of spectacular celebration, pogroms, mass conversions or miraculous displays.

If tomorrow's Protestants say "Hail Mary" and are somehow comforted, then good for them. Our lives are short and often impossible to accept or understand. There will always be things that the secular world and its philosophies, logic and science will never be able to address, despite the protestations of endless intellectual, political and libertine minds. For as long as faith in its most profound, hopeful and comforting nature is relevant, there will be space for ideas like the Virgin Mary and her merciful understanding.

You can never marginalize what is true.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

reasons to come home

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Yes, always yes.

men in tights

In the meantime, a potentially ugly (as in seeing me in tights) movement has begun on Jonas' blog. He wants Vin and me to cosplay as Legolas (Vin) and Boromir (me) along with rest of the parodied cast of LOTR.

I fully support this thing not because I particularly relish the notion of emotionally scarring the poor people who will see my chicken legs wrapped in whatever, but because I myself would pay good money to have my poor best friend become the object of ridicule.

Yes, love mocks.

Go pledge your support and I'll take care of persuading the hapless Vin.

And while we're at it, let's get Gerry Alanguilan to do his best Gimli rendition!

(It's amazing what work-related stress does to the civilized mind, isn't it?)

blah blah

I went to the doctor's for a checkup yesterday but was summoned by a client while I waited for my turn. It's always a juggling act with me and what needs to be done, but it wasn't that big a deal since the reason I was at the hospital was not life-threatening. Or so I think. But then again, this little spot on the back of head has, in the span of time I've lived with it, become everything from skin allegy to skin cancer and everything I could imagine (Self-diagonsis is not healthy. Once, when I was young, when my throat hurt I tearfully told my mother not to be sad when I died by throat cancer). I abhor being in hospitals. It triggers my imaginary panthophobia which only throws fuel into the fire of my natural impatience. Or it evokes a deep sense of melancholy (the same way I feel when confronted with M.C. Escher "Italian Period" woodprints) which I can't help when faced with the undeniable evidence of senescence and helplessness.

At the office, I deal with the new crisis, and am struck by the utterly eristic and specious arguments that I am subjected to. One of the things I cannot stand is the tendency of some people to comport themselves like imbeciles when the chips are down, fleeing from accountability when it looks like they will be burned by consequences. If it's your mistake, deal with it.

And just like dominoes, the rest of the day goes into a death spiral, ending with the jaw-dropping news from photographer of one of my shoots that a day's worth of pictures are simply corrupted, gone, unviewable, ruined, impossible to see or manipulate. Which means a reshoot. With a subject who is not from Manila. Gah.

I ask my barber if his schedule permits my intrusion (I want him to shave my head - my feeble symbolic action against the vicissitudes of fate) but it doesn't happen. Everyone has made appointments prior to the out-of-town demands of Holy Week.

But once home, all is well (well, after I made all the final late night phone calls required by my work). I am mauled by Sage in a pillow fight, ogled by my wife, and rejuvenated by the music of Kieran Goss, Jack Johnson, Ahmad Jamal, Bobby McFerrin and Étienne Mbappé.

So it all balances out.

Monday, March 21, 2005

vacation comics and films

Over the past few weeks, in anticipation of the time I'll be able to actually just read without guilt (because, most the time, I could be doing something else like managing the businesses or writing or listening to Sage tell me her incredible version of "Goldilocks"), I've picked up a small number of fat comics to devour, thanks to Comicquest, Powerbooks and Fully Booked. Some I've read before, others I picked up based on glowing reviews and word-of-mouth, but all deserve reading (or rereading):

Persepolis 2: The Story of A Return (Marjane Satrapi) - This nice hardcover continues the graphic memoirs began by the author in her previous volume, which dealt with her formative years in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. I like these kinds of comic books, where art is not the point, but rather contributes in a non-"Hey, Look At Me! I'm ART!" manner to the narrative. I enjoyed the first volume immensely and look forward to this one.

Epileptic (David B.) - Originally published in French, this book collects all six volumes of one man recounting his brother's plunge into epilepsy, set against the backdrop of family history. I barely mustered the willpower to stop reading an eighth of the way through. It's riveting and fascinating and well worth the price.

The New Teen Titans Archives Vol: 2 (Marv Wolfman & George Perez) - This volume really brings memories. One of the hooks of the series, the one that I swallowed completely, was an affection for mythology. One of the story arcs collected here has the Teen Titans battling the Titans of myth - and I was hooked forever to the power of comics. This also features the Doom Patrol which later led to their own series.

Ministry of Space (Warren Ellis) - Truly an impulse buy, helped by the fact that I generally like what Ellis does (like Orbiter and his run with Stormwatch/Authority).

There are several more at home, a nice mix of rock 'em - sock 'em spandex, painfully melancholic indie things, and Uncle Scrooge classics.

On the film-viewing side, unfazed by my friend Joey Alarilla's recent meditations on piracy, I visited Pirate Billy and took what I could, which turned out to be very meager fare (in terms of good film versus crass commercial shit). Which isn't too bad, really, since I told everyone that I could not stand the thought of yet another art film this season. No, I needed and wanted something mindless and I got mindless, though my nature betrayed me with more intelligent choices (all I wanted was a copy of Vin Diesel's Pacifier!). Anyway, here's the line-up for Holy Week viewing.

Virgin (directed by Deborah Kampmeier, 2003) - An "Agnes of God" set-up, but not in a nunnery. Supposedly good writing for the female characters, but we'll see.

Kinsey (directed by Bill Condon, 2004) - Liam Neeson and Laura Linney lead a cast composed of Chris O'Donnell, Peter Saarsgard, Timothy Hutton and more, in this biopic of the famed sex researcher.

Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries) (directed by Walter Salles, 2004) - Two young Argentinian men go on a roadtrip from Buenos Aires to Patagonia - one of them is Che Guevara (played by Gael García Bernal, last seen by me in Crimen del padre Amaro and Amores perros).

Deadline (directed by Katy Chevigny, 2004) - My documentary of choice tackles the issue of the death penalty. I know, I know. It is as far from light-hearted, mindless fare as you can go, but that's me. Mr. "It-must-mean-something". Ha ha.

As for the ones I got for pure zombie viewing, they include National Treasure (I can't believe I actually got something with my despised Nicolas Cage in it), After the Sunset (Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek) and a few more that my mind can't register.

Sage took a Barbie Fairytopia thingie over vintage Balto, Antz and Stuart Little (she refused to smile at Pirate Billy, who tried flirting with her).

flexing season

So you want to flex your literary muscles? No need to examine motives (believe it or not, there are those who agonize whether joining competitions and winning them "sullies" their names and puts into question the "purity" of their writing), just write some good stuff and be aware that two competitions are now open for subs, the 2005 Don Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature and the 2005 NCCA Writers Prize.

I say go and compete. Part of the writer's mentality should be that of an athlete. We need to strive, to race, to stumble or triumph - to run, run, run, leaving the paralyzing fear of failure behind. Leave the rarified atmosphere of your personal ivory towers for a while and get sweaty.

I posted the Palanca rules and entry forms a couple of months ago (so visit my archives and hopefully you find them). For the NCCA, Angelo has a complete post about it.

Friday, March 18, 2005

from a doting dad

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I simply adore my little girl. That's Sage, age 3, at one of my shoots (yes, that's one of the perks of being in charge of everything). She's smart and lovely, just like her mom.

We will have issues with suitors when she grows up.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

vignette: in silence

I heard about this teacher, this music teacher, in Belize or Peru or some other Latin American country (or at least the place where the event took place sounded like one of those places, the ones where butterflies, wings tipped in outrageous colors, trail like devoted puppies after those embroiled in a one-way love affair). This man loved his work but felt that his entire life was a failure to produce music that provoked rapture in all that heard it. His voice, always a source of embarrassment to him and those he taught, had all the musicality of splintering glass; a truth made more painful by the fact that he was otherwise pitch perfect. But against his lips, the flute acquired an altogether different aspect, lilting, rising, falling, persuading, leading his audience almost but not quite to the precipice of utter joy. Constantly, at the precise moment when the next note would transport his audience to an unearthly paradise, he would falter, reversing in mere moments the experience of delight and replacing it with a cacophony that could only rouse an exasperated sense of regret, enveloping those in his immediate vicinity with the fading echoes of his desperate longing.

One day, right after another truncated performance that ended in the manner all his performances did, this teacher walked out of the music room, in tears. His students followed him at a cautious distance down the corridors, past the classrooms where voices expounded on genes and peas, down the stairs past the glass-enclosed trophies that proudly attested to various students’ victories in volleyball, origami and spelling, and out into the pristine and uniform length grass of the quad. It was there that the teacher turned to the kids who followed him outside and said, “Fuck this”, followed a moment later with “And fuck you all.”

Witnesses claim that the whirlwind that engulfed him appeared out of nowhere. It came as an inverted cone, swirling with the tip on top, ten meters tall, colored mostly green and smelling strongly of crushed leaves. It just covered him, they said, like a cup in a shell game, then was simply not there the next moment. The fascinating thing about their observations, in fact the very last thing that everyone pointed out, was that the entire event took place in silence. There was none of the expected sounds associated with a whirlwind, even a completely supernatural one. It just came, upside down, covered him completely, and vanished, all in silence.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

no pics for now

For some silly reason, I've overextended my website's traffic allocation. This made the thing shut down and all the images I've placed there, including stuff for this blog, are temporarily unavailable. At least until the end of the month.

A situation which, of course, I could correct right now if I fork over more money which I am loathe to do. So until then, I will post no new images and we will just have to live with empty boxes with irritating little x's in them.

And maybe, just maybe, no one will ask me why my picture is half-framed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

after images

I've been feeling that my life is one relentless sequence of photo shoots, and am gratified to see that I have only one left to do - on Monday. This means that I get to return to the other business-related things I normally do (and actually hang out at the office again) and turn my divided attention to personal creative pursuits.

I've been toying with an interesting idea for a play's structure (nothing original, but definitely new to me) so I hope to be able to do a little something there. I've also been pestered by a notion for a short story concerning letters from the future (again, nothing incredibly new, but then, what is) and/or the entry of Juliet Capulet's house, festooned with unrequited love letters from the lovelorn throughout history, into the fossil record. I've also been juggling around the images of a turtle collector who learns to dance, a Filipino sailor on the Manila-Acapulco Galleon during Spanish Philippines, an astrophysicist who uses M Theory to pierce the membrane of dreams, and a scale-model map of the trajectories of a broken heart. Oh, and a soccer player who decides to be a woman. Heady stuff, all still ill-formed, just jostling around my head at this time.

Holy Week also allows me a couple of days to return to various manuscripts I've put on hold (actually, perhaps only on Easter Sunday because the group has decided to spend the Holy Days - from Thursday to Black Saturday - over at Tagaytay again, like last year, only this time, Sage is coming along): the plays "Interstitial" and "Working Title: Found", plus an odd number of stillborn short stories and vignettes. I somehow also plan to edit for possible publication my novel "Salamanca" and a short story derived from it, "Gaudencio & Jacinta". And maybe, just maybe, write a couple of comic book scripts, including one for my best friend's anthology due late this year (for someone who has sworn off comics this year, I seem to be helplessly, deliriously trapped into making them).

Ambitious, yes, given the time, but hell, I've been existing on an absurd timeframe anyway for the past several weeks, so I know I can produce a few somethings under duress.

It's all like an odd reaction, stemming from the fact that I've been creatively bereft for practically the entire first quarter of this year. Any published work that comes out was done last year (a comic book story in Marco Dimaano's "KIA", a short story in Sarge Lacuesta's "Latitudes", another bit of grafiction whenever the ill-starred "Siglo: Passion" gets published, and hopefully, most hopefully, a bit of speculative fiction in the next Ratbastards anthology).

I don't regret all the business-type work I've had to do these past three months. Apart from paying the bills, the money generated provides for a stable future for my little nuclear family and permits the occassional lapse into indulgence (I surprised Nikki with a copy of her beloved childhood book "The Borrible Trilogy" by Michael de Larrabeiti and completed, for myself, all five volumes of Bill Willingham's "Fables"). But I do need to write, sometimes for no other reason than to keep a degree of sanity or to persuade myself that I am still able to actually do so. Writers must keep writing, even if it occurs in painful little spurts interrupted by tracks of seemingly geological time (by which, as you know, things like the formation of diamonds are measured).

I also plan to read. A lot. A small pile of books has been gathering dust in our home, and really, writers need to read. A lot. Pick a reason, any reason: for pleasure, for research, for ideas, for inspiration, for release, for conceit, to keep abreast of things, whatever. I have fiction and non-fiction (and this season I'm more excited about the non-fiction) to bite into.

Plus, I've received a number of stories and plays from other writers requesting critiques, comments and observations and I fully intend to reply to all. I am, by no means, the best writer around or the best resource person to ask, but if I can somehow help a fellow writer along, I will attempt to do so - if it is within my means. This will take the most time, though, so I ask everyone who sent me something to be patient, and to prod me with a gentle email reminder a few weeks from now.

So, lots to do, lots to do. I feel invigorated already.

Monday, March 14, 2005

why you write

Writers, it is said, write for one of the following reasons:

For themselves (and while I would instinctively label it "masturbatory", this mode does imply a somewhat "purer" form of writing, if you subscribe to such notions in this post-post-post modern age);

For a specific audience (and therefore, purpose or agenda); and

To Change The World (caps mine, because of the implied gravitas of that phrase).

In the first mode, it is tempting to simplify it as having authors who simply write what they want, damn the audience. If it finds an audience, then good. If not, then the audience of one (the author) is enough.

In the second mode, one could create an umbrella that includes writing with a specific target audience, articulating an agenda with the goal of converting a number of readers, and writing for a specific purpose (say, writing crime noir for purpose of selling crime noir books and thus making money).

In the third mode, we have people whose world-changing agenda is (obviously) paramount and believe that they can, in fact, change the world with words.

None of the three are absolute, and certainly one can argue about degrees of subscription to a particular mode (or even a mix of modes). And certainly, anybody can posit more reasons to write. But for me, these three elegantly cover what needs to be covered in terms of answering the question "Why do I write?".

I am not in possession of writerly abilities (or even the specific notion) of changing the world. I leave that to better men. I ended the self-possessed position of writing purely to masturbate a long time ago (though, like masturbation, it is not a bad thing, really). I locate myself in the second mode, writing for an audience (which includes myself) with a definite agenda, with determinable goals and reasons I am able to (somewhat) articulate.

Great literature is filled with examples of all three modes (and literature is not only about fiction of various lengths, poetry, and drama but also includes non-fiction works, essays, speeches, comic books, blogs, newspaper editorials, articles, publications, documentaries, scripts, tracks and other written material that provoke thought, entertain, anger, affect change - positive or otherwise- in manifold degrees on manifold matters, or simply communicate ideas - not only about the much-vaunted "human condition" but also about science, economics, politics, etc.) and that's the wonderful thing about the written word.

More soon.

Friday, March 11, 2005

waking up in tears

Just before I got to see Janay give one last expression of shock and fear as only her countenance can muster as she realized that she was not in the Top 12 of American Idol (which I, like Rickey, greet with intense mixed emotions), one of clients called and turned 3 weeks of work upside down - we have to start from scratch with an impossible schedule, as usual.

By the time I went to sleep, I was just to tired to be upset and just zonked out. I woke up at 4AM in tears.

I dreamt that Jack, my mother-in-law's kind and wonderful companion, died. I was hit full force with the power of the dream's reality. For around an hour I was crying silently in bed, thinking about how I was going to wake up Nikki and tell her. The heaviness crushed me into inaction and I fell asleep later, but my heart was aching when I woke up again this morning.

I know it was all a dream, but also know that there is something my subconscious is telling me or preparing me me for. Jack has a form of blood cancer, which was the primary reason we visited him in US late last year. I love this man and am disheartened by the though of him passing away.

The clearing house of my brain is no doubt dealing with my work-related stress, but the analogy or metaphor it chose to prep me up for dealing with a rebooted project truly leaves a lot to be desired.

I've also been thinking about how easily the heart is persuaded. But grief and loss - not my cup of tea.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

janay and work

I don't know if you're keeping tabs with American Idol, but my most reviled contestant is still there. I can only hope that she goes...tonight!

AI is one of my few diversions during this incredibly busy season. I am out of the office most of the time, doing shoots and stuff for a number of clients. See, the first quarter is Annual Report Season, which means that all of corporate clients are in a rush to get theirs out. We won all the bids we entered plus got an extra unexpected pair of Annual Report projects - which goes a long way towards explaining why I'm so busy.

For our retail clients, the first quarter is also rather toxic, workwise. New product cycles, releases and launches require new campaigns, websites and various collaterals like print ads, brochures and such.

I'm handling 10 concurrent projects, running around like a headless chicken, juggling my schedule and that of other people - suppliers, photographers, stylists, make-up artists, designers, talents, agents, webfolk, foodies, printers and more.

I just finished the first part of a shoot in Caloocan yesterday, but need to return tomorrow morning to conduct a sunrise shot. Yes, just one shot. Then on Sunday, for another client, I have a shoot with the intent of creating the illusion of Baguio. Then on Monday, for the big mall client, I'm shooting Henry Sy and his family with a lovely photographer - the first woman photog I've worked with. Sometime during next week, I need to fit in a product shoot and a lifestyle shoot.

So yes, I'm feeling a bit fatigued (I'm fighting what I think to be flu symptoms), which is why escapist things like American Idol serve to rejuvenate me. Especially when I am induced to feel so strongly about a particular contestant. Like Janay. Who simply has to go.

In a way I'll miss her when she's gone, because good TV is about building an imaginary relationship between viewer and the object of viewing. I love to abominate her. But really, she has to go.

You should see my face when she sings.

Go, Janay, go!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

reading and writing

I've been invited to speak at several high schools in Davao in Mindanao (the cool thing is the trip will be all expenses paid - flight, hotel, etc.) about reading and writing. Though I sadly have no time at the moment to raise the banner for what are obviously two of the most important things in my life, I am gratified to know that there are people who feel the same way.

Reading opens doors into the thoughts of other people, into the worlds they have created. It exposes us to experiences that we ourselves may not be able to articulate and allows us to share in repeated experiences of the banal or wonder or horror. Words can illuminate or anger us, provoke hunger or satisfy. When we read the works of other people, it becomes obvious that we are not alone.

Writing forces us to deal with our own ideas, to learn precision and the complexities (or simplicities) of articulating agenda. In the void of existence (even in the midst of a crowd of other people), we can make noise, bang our drums and say the equivalent of "Listen to me!". We can teach or entertain, express what we believe to be art or weave beautiful lies to fashion worlds that at last make sense (or no sense at all). It allows us the exquisite small power of creation.

The Philippines was never truly a nation of readers. We believe in education, yes, but only as a means to rise higher in society in terms of better jobs and economic standing. Only a small number truly read because they love to read. We are nation for whom the term "literacy" is purely one-dimesional.

There are even fewer writers. And the advent of SMS (or texting via mobile phones) has already taken horrible steps towards obliterating the beauty of eloquence. Majority of the people in the Philippines (the so-called "texting capital" of the world) favor convenience over syntax, grammar or the expansion of vocabulary. It can be argued that this all part of the evolution of language, of communication, true. But when it spills over into the arena of artistic expression, it is a different story (think of it in the context of food: certainly we could just boil everything or just drink water, if the argument is reduction, simplicity or "sticking to the core experience of eating").

Part of writing, beyond great ideas and epiphanic dew, is love and respect for language itself.

Monday, March 07, 2005

top 10 reasons i love comics

And here they are, in reverse order:

10. Adrian Tomine - In his books like Sleepwalk, we are treated to slice of life vignettes that, like life, do not necessarily offer closure, explanations or rationality. If we measure the success of the comic book form by the truths about the human condition that, like good literature, it can show us, then Tomine is one of the best creators around.

9. Matt Wagner's Grendel - From Hunter Rose to the nameless Grendels of the future, Wagner creates a sprawling story that is both epic and personal, tackling various issues along the way and always with a certain flair. The different art styles allow a different experience each time a new story cycle begins. Grendel is simply compelling in terms of characterization and design.

8. Gary Larson's The Far Side - In one panel, Larson is able to flip us over to the side of hilarity, showing us how things work behind the scenes or precisely what animals talk about when we are out of earshot. His ability to expose our foibles makes his work timeless.

7. JSA - The Justice Society of America is a group of World War II heroes whose exploits amazed and enthralled me in my youth. Nowadays, under the guidance of writer Geoff Johns, the JSA has been retooled to be relevant to today's sensibilities without giving up its Old World charm.

6. Alan Moore's Miracleman - When I first read Marvelman (the original British name of the same character, based on Captain Marvel) in Warrior magazine, my brains were shocked by the obvious intelligence invested by the writer in his work. Miracleman's story arc brought wonder and horror and set the standard. Moore later went on to write Swamp Thing and a host of other (mostly) good stuff - but he has never been as good as this. Not even Watchmen.

5. Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol - Morrison's run on Doom Patrol was ahead of its time, with his mad and infectious ideas that demanded reading and rereading. His core cast included Crazy Jane, a woman with a multiple personality disorder, with each personality manifesting unique abilities; and Robotman, the straight man in all the strangeness; and a host of throwaway characters that one could imagine springing fully formed from his balding head. Morrison also wrote the excellent Animal Man and We3 (but is also sadly responsible for the crap that is The Filth, JLA and several duds).

4. Mike Mignola's Hellboy - Mignola's writing and artwork on his creation is moody and textured with shadows. His series of stories about an average-type Joe who just happens to be a kickass hellspawn is the basis for the recent mediocre film. But if you read the source material, you will find a world of folklore and monsters rubbing elbows with disembodied Nazi heads that long for world domination.

3. The Legion of Superheroes - I really love superhero team books and nothing boasts a cast larger than the Legion. From the innocence of the Silver Age to the grittiness of the Giffen era, the Legion series will always have stories to tell, from multiple perspectives. Sometimes shiny, sometimes dark, there will always be a place for the Legion in this fanboy's heart.

2. Neil Gaiman's Sandman - Beautiful and strange, Gaiman shows us wonder in a handful of dust. Everything else is obvious. I started Sandman with issue one and lasted until the sad end, and every month I wished I could write like Gaiman. When I met him in Seattle, the series was over, but I told him how it affected me. From him, I learned that fantasy can be as complex, dense and as sophisticated as realist fiction, for as long as there is an emotional core.

1. James Robinson's Starman - My #1 comic book is the story of a reluctant hero who comes to terms with the burden of the legacy he needs to uphold. Good and solid storytelling from an author whose love for the past is achingly poignant and made manifest in his obvious respect for the heroes of the Golden Age.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

one day at the shoots