Sunday, July 31

My So-Called Shopgirl's Life

Mediamelt updates us on the latest happenings in Steve Martin's fabulous career:
What happened / is happening to Steve Martin? One day he's all Parenthood, the next he's all Bringing Down the House. And let's not even mention the almost buried Pink Panther. Now he's all Shopgirl? An indie film, directed by a virtual nobody (yet), co-starring Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman, based on his own book of the same name, with shades of Murray-in-Rushmore-like potential? Wha?
Well, I say you can't blame the guy. There's even talk that Shopgirl is getting early Oscar buzz. Maybe he's on his Tom Hanks phase, like you know, every movie is an Oscar material now.

What bothers me though is the announcement that Claire Danes is in, like, the movie version of Shopgirl, which is like, you know, my favorite read from last year. Okay, I liked Claire Danes during his Angela Chase era, but that's long long gone. And paired with Jason Schwartzman of Rushmore, I can see a very Wes Anderson-esque. Then add this little write up in which the Shopgirl movie is described as "Steve Martin's Rushmore." I'm also afraid that maybe Steve Martin overdosed on Sofia Coppola and it'll the like Bubble Boy Lost in the LA Freeway. So should I be, like, really bothered, like, you know?

Fiction by Albert E. Martinez

Goatboy. Fiction by Albert E. Martinez from

Lookie here! Nerve features "Goatboy," a short story by Albert E. Martinez.

If you read the author write up at the end of the story, you'll know that it's not *that* Albert. Not the National Hero and Swain. Pero aliw lang. If only. Hehe.

Saturday, July 30

Talking Funny

A.O. Scott tells us that comedy is really just the many variations of one filthy joke told over and over again. The comedians try to outdo one another at telling the dirtiest, most extreme, most shocking and longest veresion.

Scott doesn't say what the joke is all about, except that the punchline is the title of the film, The Aristocrats, and that sometimes people have fainted at the end of the telling. The film itself is like a walk through comedy history, dissecting the same joke being told differently by generations and all sorts of comedians, including line drawned cartoon boys. The delivery and inflections change, but only this is assured: "The first is that what is funny cannot be explained, the second that it dies by repetition. Indeed, the more you hear the joke - and you hear it, in bits and pieces and all the way through, at least 60 or 70 times - the deeper you appreciate its peculiar fascination. And as various comedians reflect on its meaning and come to understand the codes and customs of that peculiar guild that makes a living by trying to make the rest of us laugh."

Friday, July 29

Hell is Having Stubborn Teeth

Just got home from a dental appointment. This time to take out the real culprit of all my troubles, a sorely impacted first molar. Dentist S had a hard time taking it out because she said I have unusually large teeth roots--or whatever it is you call them. She had to give me four doses of anesthesia (I think): two each of the t(r)opical pineapple tasting one and the mean injected one. Lotsa metal instruments. Dentist used something called a #45 and #44. They looked like pliers, but they might as well use a gun on me.

It hurt like hell. I think it took all of 15 or 20 minutes, but it still was hell to me. Gaping hole still bleeds even if I've changed gauze pads like 5 times already.

I am now descending the tenth circle. No amount of ice cream can cure this.

Wednesday, July 27

See Heath Run

Here's Heath Ledger on the set of the forthcoming Brokeback Mountain, based on the short story (and novel?) by Annie Proulx.

I am soooo waiting for this movie! And if you visited this site earlier in the day, you would have seen Heath Ledger in all his glory. But, alas, that's just due to some technical glitch. Now there's a star covering the goodies. But if you click the link, you will see what I'm talking about. Happy browsing!

Linkie points to the unspoiled yummyness of Heath Ledger. Honestly, the only piece of news that made me want to stand up, clap and shout, "Thank you, Lord! Ang swirti ku talaga!" ala Yummy G. Brokeback Mountain is part of my reading list for my creative writing class. I wonder if they'd appreciate something, er, as interactive as this? Hehe.

The Owen Wilson Effect

Slate writer fields a question that must have been brewing in people's minds ever since The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou turned out to be something from the Saturday Fun Machine: Was Owen Wilson the key to the Wes Anderson phenomenon?

I liked Anderson's movies, especially The Royal Tenenbaums. Anderson has what can be approximated as "voice" in literary fiction: All his movies have a distinct feel to them, "a coherent and distinct cinematic language and sensibility." Granted that this "cinematic language" translates to auteurs--Goddard, Truffaut, Renoir--everything with subtitles, everyone is a Promil Kid, and most notably, everyone gets to wear Lacoste and/or shiny new Adidas tracksuits. This precociousness--a kind of man-boy who refuses to grow up, a Smurf Boy who affects affectlessness but is actually sentimental--is what characterizes his movies. Together with the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer and bright eyed musician Conor Oberst, Wes Anderson has championed the new male infantilism in America and they probably have the mean age of eleven and a half.

In the last five or six years, Anderson has been successful with movies with this too-fragile-to-live attitude. But those movies, Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and Tenenbaums, have been co-written with Owen Wilson, that butterscotch haired and broken nosed guy who then occasionally starred in movies featuring Ben Stiller. If Anderson's references are always subtitled, Wilson knew and didn't bother to hide his middlebrow sensibilities.

This is more evident in the Criterion Collection DVD commentaries for Rushmore, wherein the film makers explain a group montage shot. Anderson offers that "There's a storybook feeling, something about trying to create these insular worlds in these movies. I don't know exactly why we're doing this, but …" He cannot put his finger to it, and then lets it float, shrugs his shoulders, "Wala lang." Then, cut to the classroom scene, where we hear Owen Wilson in the background. "In Bottle Rocket and Rushmore there's an innocence to the characters," Wilson says. "This scene feels very real in a movie that in a lot of places seems sort of dreamy. This scene has a cringe factor to it because the movie has an innocent feel and this sort of breaks through that. It makes you uncomfortable, which is appropriate because it has to puncture Max's make-believe world."

That sort of commentary isn't something people expect from Owen Wilson, who trades kicks and laughs with Jackie Chan or Vince Vaughn. The most silliest man who is also willing to get into the brawl as opposed to the bubble boy, multi-allergic affects of Mr. Anderson. But when his movie career took off, Wilson had less time to spend screenwriting. The Life Aquatic actually found Anderson with a new writing partner, Noah Baumbach. The result can best be described as "cinematic autism"--no offense to those actually afflicted by the condition--or in Filipino, "may sariling mundo."

Although nobody really knows just how much of the penning responsibilities belongs to Wilson or Anderson, it may be safe to assume that it was Owen Wilson who balanced the equation, who pulled Anderson back from the allure of Neverland. In the recent Wedding Crashers, there's one line there that was said to be 100% Wilson: "Scientists say we only use 10 percent of our brains, but I think we only use 10 percent of our hearts." You don't need subtitles for that.

Monday, July 25

The real state of the nation, according to Conrad de Quiros

This probably sums up everything about what's going on in this country.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Philippines, Conrad de Quiros on the real state of the Filipino nation.

Wala lang. Ang astig lang ni de Quiros. Sana nga naging totoo na. Pero ang kapal lang din talaga. Grabeh, wala akong masabi.

Great First Lines

Michael Berube points us to an effort by some people are putting together 100 Great First Lines from novels, a sort of counterpart to the American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Movies list. While this is decidedly American centered, it'll still be interesting to see which ones will make the cut. Here are some of the contenders:
Call me Ishmael.

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.

It was a pleasure to burn.
So far, they already have around 150 nominations. Can you guess where they're from?

Sunday, July 24

Slumming with Sig

This week, kantogirlblues is four.

While I still have no idea what to do with this blog anniversary, I looked at the archives and discovered an interesting post in that first week that somehow brings things to a full circle:
After the Pinoy short film screening at the Alliance Francaise, and having nothing better to do, I hung out with some friends at a house in Vito Cruz.

It's hard being a bum surrounded by other bums: Instead of just lying about and ignoring pangs of hunger in favor of dozing off or staring at that cable movie you've seen a zillion times, you are forced to take into consideration other people's growling stomachs. You have to ask if they want to eat breakfast at 2pm.

In the mid-90s, the preferred pickup line for guys used to be "I'm in a band." Around 1998-99, this evolved into: "Hey, I have a website." In the first few years of the new millenium, it's now "I am a short filmmaker."
The house in question is Sig's, and together with him, my friend Carlyn, and batchmate Job, we thought of ideas for a scriptwriting contest whose deadline was looming like four days later. In between cooking extra spicey mackerel stew and sinangag, I pitched to them my idea about a girl working in a paging company, and while my Cinderella act did not win anything, it still felt like an accomplishment at the time. To actually finish something.

Fast forward to 2005 and that last statement about film is still true. Of course, it can now be modified as "I am an indie filmmaker." I watched Sig's Cinemalaya entry Lasponggols last Friday night at the UP Film Institute. It played to a full house. I got my ticket at the booth, lined up, learned that my friends won't be able to make it. I saw Sig amidst the crowd, waved, walked up to him and offered my congratulations. Then the gates were opened and I susddenly found myself being ushered in early along with our workshop master Ricky Lee. Groupie pa rin pala ako hanggang ngayon. Hehehe. I don't mind though.

The first few minutes of the film featured various teasers, all along the line of "Pasisikatin kita." We were told the film was two and a half hours long, and Sir Ricky joked, "Kaya naman pala two and a half hours."

But it was all worth it. I'll offer my airhead comment here: The film was funny and I liked it! Since both Lasponggols and Pinoy/Blonde featured Epy Quizon and had characters who were either film buffs or worked in the movie industry, I can't help but compare them. P/B was witty and glossy and fun, but Paolo offers that what P/B doesn't have you can find it in Lasponggols. The movie had a heart larger than the man who made it.

There's this scene in Lasponggols wherein the village idiot guy tells the audience that an indie film isn't complete without a time lapse. If I could do a blog time lapse, it would definitely carry that moment of me and friends hanging around that house, of Sig literally pushing back mounds of cassettes, cds, books, magazines, sheets of paper with his hands to reveal some floor space, sitting around and me wearing his really oversized red Coca-Cola shirt, drawing that little la ronde of characters, cooking on an unfamiliar stove and crushing red chili. I'm still not an indie filmmaker, but this one will do.

Congrats, Direk Sig. I still owe you that Coke shirt. :)

Ian McEwan on a Sunday Morning

The Morning News's Robert Birbaum talks with Ian McEwan, author of Atonement and recently of Saturday. McEwan tells us that fiction is education, in the sense that when you write a novel, you "set yourself on a journey of investigation of our condition, where we stand at this particular time in history" or any time in history.

We've come to a point that there are now many Englishes and writing novels has become like a badge for growing up. Everyone can write a novel, but there aren't enough people to ead it.

Ah yes. Bring on the onslaught. But at the same time, he also warns us about cultural chauvinism:
[T]here is a view—and I used to believe in it in my late teens and early 20s—if you weren’t familiar with the canon and if you didn’t live by literature, you weren’t fully human. You weren’t all there. But we all know full well that most people don’t read novels at all and they are perfectly capable of rich sentient lives in which they make moral decisions. So we must be careful of a kind of arrogance about literary culture. That it’s the only way or only form.
There's also music, television, EDSA billboards, and maybe even fishball (stand) philosophies. If being human is defined by a knowledge of the literary canon alone, what does that make me then? A pop cultural Frankenstein's bride?

Saturday, July 23

Get Rich Slowly!

I've just about had it with books with really silly (and boring) titles like The 7 Highly Effective People (You Meet in Heaven) Who Moved Daddy's Cheese. These all somewhat agree on how financial independence is achieved. Foldedspace says that "financial independence occurs when your investment income meets or exceeds your monthly expenses. Financial independence is linked to psychological freedom." What I don't get though is why we need many books like these when you can say it in like 200 words or less.

So here it is. Foldedspace spills the beans on how to get rich slowly. Boingboing even offers a much snarkier summary:
Mantra #1: "If it's on your ass, it's not an asset." If you can wear it, it's not an investment. Also, something is riding your ass (such as a high house payment), it's not an asset.

Mantra #2: "Is this a need or a want?" This is a question Kris has been trying to get me to ask myself for years.

Mantra #3: "Sweat the small stuff." Do worry about the small expenses; they add up.

Mantra #4: "Cash is better than credit." There is almost no reason to carry a credit card.

Mantra #5: "Keep it simple." With money, avoid anything that seems complicated. If you don't understand it, avoid it. You'll probably lose money.

Mantra #6: "Priorities lead to prosperity." Determine what's important to you, and pursue that with your time and money.

Mantra #7: "Enough is enough." Don't overconsume. Recognize when you have fulfilled your needs and your wants.

Man takes on horse; horse wins

And now for some more fiend-of-the-week news: Seattle man dies after sustaining injuries while having sex with a horse.
I don't know what's up with the people in Washington state. What gets me though is this: "But because investigators found chickens, goats and sheep on the property, they are looking into whether animal cruelty — which is a crime — was committed by having sex with these smaller, weaker animals."

What would be interesting though is to know whether or not we have the statistics examining that sort of crime here in the Philippines. We don't seem to have a trend pushing sex with livestock in the Philippines, but we do have occasional farm animal deaths with suspected bestiality thrown into the picture.

Nude Sims?

Anti-gaming activist Jack Thompson claims that there are cheat codes out there in the net that turns Sims 2 into a virtual pedophile's heaven.

Sims 2 is a "life simulator." When sims take a bath or change clothes, what players see in their screens is a blur. But Thompason claims that the game contains, given the right code, "full frontal nudity, including nipples, penises, labia, and pubic hair" is accessible to everyone, everywhere. Although Electronic Arts counters that if you take out the blur all you'll get is "Ken and Barbie mannequinesque smooth body." Thompson still insists that "[t]he sex and the nudity are in the game. That's the point. The blur is an admission that even the 'Ken and Barbie' features should not be displayed. The blur can be disarmed."

Hmm. I don't know about you, but I'd want to check it out for myself. Not that I'm into nude sim porn. That's just eww.

Sunday, July 17

Goodnight to the sun

This must be musty news for some people out there, since the dateline for this piece was nearly two weeks ago. But anyway, am dusting my fangirl shoes for this:

Barbie Leaves the Cradle.

There are no words. Just lotsa gossip--that the girl left the band to "pursue more evangelism for her church." (Wtf, right? That's like Elvis getting drafted. Anyhow, prayer warriors please don't flame me.) Then there's the management issue: Ms. Almalbis will now be handled by the same team who does Kitchie Nadal. Kitchie Nadal, who was in Mojofly, which was the spinoff band with Ricci Gurango, who was with Barbie in Hungry Young Poets. What a weird musical daisy chain.

Pero Kitchie Nadal? Wah! Don't ever ever tell me.

Wala lang, nalungkot lang ako. I'm not jumping up and down with the thought that they're still coming up with a "best of" album. Or that I actually missed their last gig. (Potah sa Makati naman kasi. Makati is a bad word for me now.)

Anyhow, here's a toast to whatever's left:

Barbie Almalbis live at the Fete de la Musique, El Pueblo, Ortigas, Pasig City, 18 June 2005. This is the last time she'd perform with the band. Almalbis has left the cradle to pursue a solo career and, uh, do more evangelism for her church.

UPDATE: "Alas who sings/ for the Cradle now / Barbie Almalbis is gone" is a line from a poem which I think was written well before the disbandment. The Inquirer also carries the news, and I thought I learned about it really late. And oh, here's a linkie for that Close Up commercial that I mistook for the Tropicana jingle. Get it before it disappears. Okay, over and out.

I Labia Sabado

Marby's take on that old Jollibee jingle kept ringing in my ears all weekend. But here's the lyrics:

Ilang tulog na lang,
Jollibee nanaman
Ang araw lulubog
Bukas mabubusog

Sa Chicken Joy manok
At Yum Burger bilog

I Love You Sabado,
Pati na rin Linggo
Hintay ka lang Jollibee
Andyan nako

Panlasang Pilipino
The official Jollibee website doesn't carry info on past ad campaigns, so I had to make do with lyrics taken from online forums. I've been trolling the net for an mp3, but no such luck. In my opinion, this jingle is one of the more enduring of its kind, back from the day that Jollibee was establishing itself as *the* food service company to beat this side of the Pacific.

Proof of success: "I Love You Sabado" was even used as the movie title for a Janno Gibbs-Mikee Cojuangco vehicle. The film itself wasn't really special. If I remember correctly, Janno's character had some sort of musical ambition and he had a band, and it had Tony Mabesa playing Saint Peter. One reviewer even calls the movie as Janno Gibb's best performance ever. It also carries the dubious distinction of having Rufa Mae Quinto's early appearances in celluloid, pre-Booba.

Also, while trying to dig out information, I came across Mon's blog, which has some fascinating tidbits about Jollibee:

1. They churn out around 500,000 hamburgers a day.

2. They import all their beef from Australia and their warehouse people walk around in winter jackets and pants, they look like they're going skiing! The frozen blocks of beef pass through a metal detector before they're ground up. I asked why they did that, they said aside from the fact that it's BFAD policy, they sometimes find knives in the beef. Weird. They also check the finished frozen patties for metal... interesting... Or is it just me and my weird fascination with factories and assembly lines?

3. They bake their own bread at a rate of 24,000 buns an hour in this giant room with a cooling line conveyor belt that goes round and round. What I found amazing was the fact that they had very few workers, almost everything's automated.

4. Their spaghetti sauce line is amazing, they cook it in giant vats and transport it chilled in 2kilogram bags. For chilling and freezing (burger patties), they use a great big "spiral freezer" which can zap a pattie solid in a matter of minutes.

5. They develop at least 5 new menu items a year, their newest are the sotanghon soup, meat pies and the new fruit salad variant of their ice craze line.
Okay, that's enough about Jollibee for this weekend.

Sunday, July 10

Hay Na Kuh!

Was reading last week's Sunday Inquirer and this article's definitely got the funniest description of the director Peque Gallaga hands down:

"Remember, this is the guy who had the audacity to explode Kuh Ledesma's head, years before anyone really wanted to."

Wahahahaha! Peace out to all you Kuh Ledesma fans out there.

How to Save the O.C.

I haven't seen The O.C. in a long, long time, but Merlin's list just killed me.
Here ya go:
How to Save the O.C.
1. have Ryan start punching preppies at parties again
2. more Julie Cooper in fuzzy track suits
3. new haircuts for everybody
4. bring back Jimmy Cooper
5. keep not having Oliver on I still think you can do an "unofficial Pinoy version" of the show (if it hasn't been made or been yanked off the air yet) and they should give the Ryan role to Sherwin Ordoñez.

Saturday, July 9

Wannabe teachers who blog need not apply

I found this really curious case about an American faculty search committee who disdains on applicants who blog. Is this like the new career requirement now--"Bloggers need not apply?"

What troubles the Ole Vanguards is that blogging seems like airing your laundry for everyone to see. Here's an excerpt:
A candidate's blog is more accessible to the search committee than most forms of scholarly output. It can be hard to lay your hands on an obscure journal or book chapter, but the applicant's blog comes up on any computer. Several members of our search committee found the sheer volume of blog entries daunting enough to quit after reading a few. Others persisted into what turned out, in some cases, to be the dank, dark depths of the blogger's tormented soul; in other cases, the far limits of techno-geekdom; and in one case, a cat better off left in the bag.

The pertinent question for bloggers is simply, Why? What is the purpose of broadcasting one's unfiltered thoughts to the whole wired world? It's not hard to imagine legitimate, constructive applications for such a forum. But it's also not hard to find examples of the worst kinds of uses.
So why indeed would a blogger blog? Lotsa answers, but what seems to disturb Ivan Tribble, a "humanities professor in a small, 'liberal' arts college in the Midwest" (and the Midwest is full of people spacey with estrogen, as one writer put it), the most is that most blogs tend to become electronic versions of laundry washing in public, global, international.

He also commits some really gross misconceptions, the foremost of which is equating blogging with serious academic publications. Thus, "it's a publishing medium with no vetting process, no review board, and no editor. The author is the sole judge of what constitutes publishable material, and the medium allows for instantaneous distribution. After wrapping up a juicy rant at 3 a.m., it only takes a few clicks to put it into global circulation."

I love blogging, but I know most academics wouldn't blur the distinction with personal desktop online publishing and getting published in those "peer evaluated journals." For an academic who surely knows his logical arguments, his reasons are just out of this world.

Also disturbing is their fact verification process--they Google you, the applicant. They search for your blog, other people's blog who have referred to you once, twice, and you are judged according to your online presence.

Got quibbles with that too, but what interests me is whether the same principle would soon apply to employment searches in our part of the world. If memory serves me right, I think I even put my blog's URL in my resume (a silly thing, really), although I don't think the Ole Vanguards in our particular search committee found that useful. But I remember sort of blogging (in a vague way--no proper nouns) about my beauty pageant like experience that was the faculty search. If that panel imposed a restriction like that given in the article, I would have thought twice about teaching.

But here we are, trudging along.

Friday, July 8

Friday, I'm just manic

So many things have happened while I was down with the flu and couldn't read papers or watch a lot of tv.

Gloria Arroyo has a special message which basically says, "Weh, you can't make me."

Erap will take on the presidency if--I don't even want to think about this.

London's calling for an SOS, but our embassy says all Pinoys are safe there.

"Retro/old," according to my students, now takes the form of movies like She's All That. But whoa, that Rachel Leigh Cook was hottt pala.

But the first thing on my mind is:

May pasok ba?

My mother is saying government schools don't because of some rally about a wake hike. But I can't find any circulars on that and my classes start in about an hour and I'm still heady on meds and am wearing pajamas. I just want to go back to bed, and then wake me when it's over.

What to do, what to do.

Thursday, July 7

The curious sex lives of penguins and crabs

Some time back, there was a huge ruckus when the officials of a German zoo realized that three of their six penguin pairs were actually homosexual. The guys were getting it on together, mating, building nests, even went to the extent of adopting stones as though they were eggs ready to hatch--but no babies. It was only upon close investigation that they realized the guys were ignoring the girl penguins.

Their solution? Import female Swedish penguins. You know, to introduce variety. The funny thing was, the guys ignored them girls. I felt bad for Charley, Left-Arrow, Diagonal Line and Six-Point. Rejection sucks. But it's not their fault anymore, it's the zoo officials' fault anymore.

So now there's this book that recently came out that tries to, uh, remedy the situation. Just so the penguins don't feel bad, you know. The children's book ">"Tango Makes Three" tells the kids that it's okay if your family's a bit different. Meanwhile, this particular story was inspired by the gay penguin pairs in Central Park. I don't know why, but it seems like there are a lot of gay male penguins in New York. Feh.

And oh yeah, while running some weeks back with Yummy, I told him about this weird bisexual crab the fishermen found in Cheasapeake Bay. To prove it's really bi--or "bilateral gynandromorph" if you want to be more specific--one claw is red and the other is blue. They named the crab after the talk show host Jerry Springer.

Yummy says that this is the sort of news I dig. Yey, weird animal porn!

Wednesday, July 6

Red lipstick is bad for you

Well, because Shiela Jeffreys says so. The Guardian's Julie Bindel talks to Jeffreys, the "Andrea Dworkin of the UK," on her new book Beauty and Misogyny which traces the history of the beauty industry and how it has perpetuated the oppression of women through the endless pursuit of beauty.

Jeffreys takes a look at how cosmetics have been used to alter appearance for thousands of years, sometimes exclusively by prostitutes and others deemed disreputable, other times as a political gesture. The suffragettes fought for the right to look and dress as they saw fit, some wearing red lipstick as a symbol of feminine defiance. After the second world war, a shortage of men meant that women tried hard to look as attractive as possible in the hope of getting a husband, and make-up became, Jeffreys argues, "a requirement that women could not escape, rather than a sign of liberation."

She even eschews how women now "do not want their behaviour 'policed by feminism', but wish to enjoy sex with men, wear make-up, and dress in short skirts and high heels without feeling they are betraying feminism." For her, the battle is not just political but also personal. She stopped dyeing her hair a certain shade, cut it, and then decided to become a lesbian as a political stance.

But Jeffreys has always been viewed as an extreme feminist, such that even pornographers have even named a sex toy after her: The Sheila: A Spinster's Best Friend.

Now that's really hardcore.

Sunday, July 3

The absence of urban literature

Now if the Philippines has a surplus of buangst literature, the Chinese are suffering from the opposite: the lack of urban themes in their writing.

Chinese critics have noted that their literature is still majorly influenced by agrarian themes and their writers are more familiar with rural subjects, making them unable to portray the delicacies of urban living. The reason for all these, some say, is that Chinese cities had undergone major changes in the last two decades.

The Xinhua newspaper reported:
Critic Li Jingze asserted that both theorists and writers should rethink their limited literary thinking. Writers born after the late 1970s were grappling with complicated urban experiences, whereas critics had no idea what they were talking about or why, said Li.

[D]epictions of the lives of doctors or lawyers should be much more complex and insightful regarding contemporary life than continual depictions of farmers, and should also require more dedicated research. (Highlights mine) However, most mainstream Chinese writers and critics, coming from the countryside themselves, still focused themselves on rural subjects despite the fact that the urban experience had become a major element of China's contemporary culture.
If the Pinoy writers are fixated on buangst writing, then the Chinese seem to be overdosing on their rural lit, forever mining the glorious Mao era and forgetting that it's all about the shopping malls now. And given that their writers are just about my age but they're all writing about farmers, that's just like, whoa. (Excuse the airhead, I just woke up, no coffee yet.) What struck me most about that article is their dedication to research. I was reminded of this Time magazine article about how rural Chinese also see their cities as a place paved with gold. The Time writers followed this teenage girl, from pagluwas sa probinsya to life in the big city and back to the villages again. I swear, it's just like our own people.

So maybe we should do as the Chinese and let's take to writing rural fiction for a while, and let the Chinese do as we do. Maybe make all those who want to be writers enroll in a creative writing program. Hee.


In fiction class, my professor lamented about the proliferation of "buangst" stories--a trend wherein the characters, most of them writers and/or creative writing majors, go crazy ("mabuang") after treating the readers to several pages of usually urban or quarter-life induced angst and usually ends with a death (their own, self-induced) or deaths (others, Columbine style).

After dismissing those as unsubstantial fare, the challenge now is to go back to (here we go now) "our roots." Which means reading up on local myths and legends, the neglected epics that nobody really reads unless forced by their CW/Lit teacher, preferably in a language other than Tagalog. This is where we can get our material, she says, so we will produce something that will up the ante of writing and improve our reading culture.

I appreciate the challenge and all, although I'm becoming more and more aware that I have been digging my own grave in this class. (This is what happens to students who write about Sharon and Gabby in a Ph.D. level course.) So I guess this means I'll have to forget writing about elephants appearing in the middle in Edsa (lookie here, a Murakami anti-thesis!), getting stabbed in a jeepney holdup (ooh, see blood spurting from jugular!), and gazing into Courtney Cox's asshole (wala lang).

It'll be back to local culture for me. If push comes to shove and I don't get to finish my research project and don't have enough material, I'll write me another artista story to complete my "Pinoy Loveteams from the '80s" series. Then my professor will be so disappointed and go completely buangst on me. Haha. Wala lang.