Sunday, December 24

Giant Squid Live!

A team of Japanese researchers had successfully filmed a live giant squid in the waters of Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo. The female squid measured 24ft. long and still not fully grown. The scientists, lead by Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum, said it was relatively small in terms of giant squid standards. "The longest on record is 60 feet," Kubodera said. (O di ba may kung beauty pageant ito ng mga giant squid di siya mananalo dahil bansot siya. Shyet.)

According to this report by the Associated Press, giant squid (genus Architeuthis) are the "world's largest invertebrates. Because they live in the depths of the ocean, they have long been wrapped in mystery and embellished in the folklore of sea monsters, appearing in ancient Greek myths." The giant squid is perhaps related to the myth of the Kraken, or the many-armed sea monster.

The Japanese team's video is said to be the first. There weren't too many sightings of these giant squid, although its existence is accepted in the scientific community. The researchers also said that the giant squid aren't really going to be extinct, just hard to document since they live really far from the sea surface. But this particular squid they got by following a sperm whale. The report from Washington Post also said that by finding an area where whales fed, he believed he could find the animals. He also said that, judging by the number of whales that feed on them, there may be many more giant squid than previously thought. Here's a photo of a sperm whale fighting off a giant squid:

The news of the squid's capture (and eventual death) brought back memories of reading Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." And since it really just had to be Japanese, it made me think of Godzilla or even Shaider. Or the Biomen. Anything with big monsters fighting robots or boys in huge flying mechanical parts.

You can also read more about giant squid sightings here.

Looking for Satrapi

After devouring Art Spiegelman's The Complete Maus (and previously Pekar's American Splendor), I find myself wanting to explore the comic book as autobiography. But just when I've finally decided to get the Marjane Satrapi books, Powerbooks and Fully Booked pulled them out of their shelves. Usually if it's just out of stock, they would ask you to leave your contact number in case they find a copy in another branch. But this time they told me the books are gone because they're not selling. So sad.

In case you know where I can find available copies of Persepolis, Embroideries and Chicken with Plums, please holler or leave a message here.

Wednesday, December 20

I Heart Naydah

Just in case you missed the show last Thursday, some people have already posted snippets from this year's Faculty Follies on YouTube.

Jovy Peregrino did a very awesome job as La Diva. Watch the opening here. He had several costume changes.

The Dean's office was the first to perform, with Galileo Galilee doing "Blue Jeans." By sheer cuteness, he won the year's search for KALkaibang Idol.

The department of Art Studies had a political allegory with Gloriyah singing "My Way."

"I Heart Naydah" 1, 2 is the Department of English's take on (sac)religious Abba and Shaider medley. This is your only chance to see department chair Dr. Naida Rivera singing songs by Abba, Dr. Consolacion Alaras dancing to the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps," and the junior faculty taking off and waving around their brassieres to the tune of the Pussy Cat Dolls' "Doncha." Some wiseass said that the performance should have won Best Portrayal of the Triumph of Women. Nyahaha.

In "Paris, that's hot" the Department of European Languages envisions what would happen to Paris Hilton should she get poor and start working in a call center. Prof. Erwin Bautista dons a blonde wig and four inch heels while sashaying to "Nothing in this world." Fun fun fun, and their call (center) girls can shake it like there's no tomorrow. They won the "Putogenic" award entitling them to a year's supply of puto. But I think they should win for Best Use of Office Equipment.

The Department of Filipino traces the rise and fall of Vina Te, a former porn star trying to stage a comeback. Vina Te was rumored to be actually a man and s/he tries to disprove it by singing Tuesday Vargas's "Di Ako Bakla."

The office of the college secretary had Rhicky Marthin. Ten years after swinging his hips to World Cup theme, he reprises this role amidst a stage full of young men.

The Department of Speech and Theater Arts represented the military with Rambeleena, an operatic diva. They won Best Production for their yards and yards of wavy cloth which covered the entire stage.

All in all, it was a fun (though tiring) experience. Both shows played to a full house, with lots of people sitting in the aisles and laughing their heads off. Our thanks to everyone who supported and helped us with the show, especially to Vlad who tirelessly directed, shot, edited and scored the video and Fairlycloudy, who did our fabulous makeup.

Today with Jolina and Marvin

Around noon, butch_lives messaged me he was having a jologs day. He ate lunch in SM North's food court and saw Jolina Magdangal.

Late in the afternoon, it was my turn to message him. I was having early dinner and I saw Marvin Agustin hanging out outside Sumo Sam, a restaurant he partly owns at the 6th floor of the Shangri-La Plaza Mall.

For some reason, I can't imagine Marvin Agustin prior to his button down shirt and slacks look. On the other hand, I know she cut her hair and now sports a "glam rock" look, but in my mind, Jolina will always be the girl with bangs and multi-colored hair. They seem to have a lot of fun together, and I suppose that rapport was what made "I Love NY" bearable, if not enjoyable for some people.

Too bad Jolina and Marvin weren't in the same place at the same time for a full 90s flashback.

Thursday, December 14

Faculty Follies 2006

It's been a very busy two weeks. I seem to be part of every committee there is at work. My latest undertaking is the College of Arts and Letters' annual Faculty Follies. This year, they've decided to do a Philippine Idol thing. It's interactive and people get to vote for their idols.

Our group represents the religious sector. Sor Naydah Piñacoolasa sings that the hills are alive with the sound of music, climbs hills, chases tractors, is chased by weird people and does cartwheels around the campus. See your favorite English teacher strip down to the barest essentials. For this, I'm still stitching beadwork on my costume and it's already past midnight.

Please watch the show later at 3pm and 6pm, Thursday, 14 December 2006, Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, Palma Hall in UP Diliman.

We'll be very happy if you'd all vote for us. Text "SOR" to 09196087838. Since we're doing so much work for this, we might as well win. We'll be very grumpy next year if we don't win.

PS. Two people from Team Angas have cameos in our video. That's another reason why you should go watch the show, and do vote for us. :)

Thursday, November 30

Don't call me Babe

And today's weird animal news: Boy eaten by herd of pigs.

This stuff is almost something out of a Guy Ritchie or some other heist movie. But it happened in India. Ganesh knows what else happens out there. I suppose I won't be munching on bacon real soon.

Monday, November 27

Identity through cuisine

I've been reading Fernando Zialcita's Authentic Though Not Exotic, a collection of essays about Filipino identity. I've had the book since summer--attended the launch and roundtable discussion and all--but it's only now that I found the time to read it. It's actually more like self-required reading, but anyway.

Zialcita's claim is that supposedly, many Filipinos are uneasy about the "authenticity" of their identity. Can we really be "authentically Asian" when we've had a lot of Spanish influence? Or are the "real Pinoys" those who had resisted colonialism? Or is the real Pinoy the ingenious lowland Christian Filipino who transformed the Western culture he received into something more palatable to his taste?

Those who are into post-colonial theory and all that blah will recognize this debate about identity except that Zialcita uses a different set of terminologies. It takes a while to get used to, but replace "syncretism" with "hybridity" and you get the drift. Also, he uses a lot of Arnold Toynbee, a name I haven't really heard since high school. But I like how he argues that there is no real Asia but a multiplicity of Asias and he uses cuisine to illustrate his arguments.

Anyway, I was a bit surprised to find the introductory essay serialized at the Inquirer website last week--around the same time I was reading the book. I suppose they're making like The Guardian now. So if you'd like to know more about how the only things we have in common with our Asian neighbors are sinigang and patis, and how we're all really bastards, i.e. tisoys, here's what the Inquirer has serialized so far:

1: "An Identity Under Question"
2: "A Demonized Influence"
3: "No Sense of Context"
4: "A Limited Menu of Binary Contrasts"
5: "Reductionist Interpretations"

And that's where my patience for linking ends. If you want to read more, you're on your own. But otherwise, this book was also previously discussed here.

Friday, November 24

Trash Princess

The Americans' strong fascination with Paris Hilton enabled the hotel heiress to turn herself into a brand that can be packaged, recognized and sold like toothpaste:
Why, if Paris says so much about us, do Americans—not just college professors and the commentariat but celebrity watchers and tabloid junkies—hate her so much? And why, if she is so offensive, is she so ubiquitous?
Replace "Paris Hilton" with "Kris Aquino" and we might have the same thing. Others might claim now that a boxer can bring people together, but I really suspect that Kris Aquino is the only thing which unites us Filipinos.

Thursday, November 23

American Englishes

I had to take a cab home tonight, and the cabbie had some really fierce views about Koreans and English. This mostly had to do with the accent that he found difficult to understand, and he claimed that he got at least one bunch of Korean passengers a day. But he noted that Filipinos chatted in loud (and I assume chirpy) English. "Pinoys speak real nice English. Especially those call center agents. You'd think they studied in America." I don't equate education with someone's ability to mimic an American accent, and especially on call center agents, but that's what the cabbie thinks. So there.

On the other hand, I found this quiz where you can figure out what sort of American English you speak--whether or not you have a call center training acquired accent.

Your Linguistic Profile:
60% General American English
25% Yankee
5% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern


Monday, November 20

Gen X, 16 years later

Sixteen years after its initial publication, Generation X grows up and hangs up the slacker ghost. Or as Christine Smallwood writes in the New York Observer, it is inevitable that the rebel becomes the very thing he despises:
Mr. Coupland was the anti-McInerney. He was the one who rebelled against the culture of consumption, who wrote about “real” things, authentic things, like girls in vintage dresses and finding yourself in the desert. He didn’t know about Bolivian marching nights in Manhattan or … whatever else it was that Mr. McInerney wrote about. Mr. Coupland is Canadian, after all: He liked nature and worried about the nuclear threat.
But now, Coupland sells Blackberries, hides in his own private island, all of which is kinda preppy. Perhaps your McJob can buy you nice things after all. In a weird turn of events, Kurt Cobain is now the highest earning dead celebrity, surpassing Elvis and Dr. Seuss. What's the sense of rebellion then?

Wednesday, November 15

On Beauty and Numbers

In an article for the Washington Post, David Von Drehle asserts that beauty might not really be in the eyes of the beholder, but more likely, it is something biologically hardwired in humans. There's something called The Golden Mean, a ratio of 1 is to 1.618 inches, or phi--that provides symmetry that is necessary to achieve beauty. This symmetry can be observed on Leonardo Da Vinci's sketch of a man with limbs extended, Michelangelo's David, the bust of Egyptian queen Nefertiti, in the architecture of human DNA, or even in those supermodels who grace the covers of magazines hawking beauty products. What's interesting is that beauty is somehow a mathematical progression, something actually quantifiable, when through the ages we've always believed that it is based on perception.

Jack En Poy Extreme

A bunch of us were thinking of holding an Extreme Jackenpoy (aka Rock Paper Scissors) Challenge for the office party next month. It must be the easiest game there is: "Players smack their fists into their palms and count to three before making one of three hand signals: a fist (rock), flat hand (paper) or two fingers (scissors). Paper covers rock, scissors cut paper and rock breaks scissors." The game's origins is pretty much contestable, but it is generally believed that the game has been played for centuries in Japan. Even Ian Fleming's James Bond was made to play it in a movie set in samurai country.

Anyway, our plan was each participant will have a Php50 entrance and will have once chance to play. Winner of each set will compete with other winners until there's only one. But apparently, this is already old hat as the World RPS Championships were held last weekend in Toronto. There was a C$10,000 prize and hundreds of national champions flew in for the event.

Tuesday, October 24

About Googling your mother and writing a biography in the digital age

More proof that perhaps it's a Google world after all: John Dickerson writes in Slate on the difficulties of writing a biography in the digital age. While you can cast your net wide and google the net for sources, combing through the details of what you find about your subject, especially if said subject was a parent, it becomes a balancing act between the roles of writer and child.

Thursday, October 19

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

If you consider yourself a well-read person, try to check out Listology's 1001 books you must read before you die. As far as I'm concerned, the only thing these so-called lists accomplish is to remind me that I'm pretty much a barbarian. It's like when the American Film Institute came up with their 100 Most Important (American) Films Ever. While I was familiar with most of the films in that list and at the time I averaged a hundred films watched annually, I found out I haven't even watched half of it. We're not even touching the New York Times list.

The same is true with the Thousand Books List. After I crossed out all the books I've read and my batting average is so low that the percentage of what I've read is but a single digit. And I'm supposed to be an English major who loved books. Shameful.

I found out interesting things though. The only comic book in that list was Alan Moore's Watchmen. Paulo Coehlo made the list twice--for Veronika Decides To Die and The Devil and Prym. The only Stephen King in the list is The Shining.

The list was arranged from the most recent (2000s) to pre-1700. Of the 69 books deemed important and published since the year 2000, I've only read two: Chuck Palahniuk's Choke and Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex which totally bowled me over and the only book I've read this year that I really, really, really loved. It was so great that after every other page I was probably muttering, "Shyet, ang galing niya" and yes, that's a totally unintellectual reaction.

Of the over 700 books from the 1900s, I read around 20 and I read most of them during college. There's Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan of the Apes, novels by Winterson, Kundera, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Philip K. Dick. Only 25% was required reading. The Catcher in the Rye and The Little Prince I had already read and would read on my own even if they weren't required in class. I was asked to read The Bluest Eye in the same course where Catcher was required. But Heart of Darkness was a different matter. I read the first page over and over again because my brain just rejected what my classmates dubbed as Joseph Conrad's "constipated" prose. But that's just half of the Joseph Conrad double bill--there's The Secret Sharer to contend with. What made things worse was that both texts had to be read using the post-colonial framework and our teacher was always asking, "And what's the political implication of that?" The only good thing about that experience was that we also got to watch Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Then again, maybe I'm just compensating for the trauma. I think some books need a certain frame of mind for you to finish them. Maybe if I gave Conrad another go and it wasn't required, things might have flowed more easily. It's more difficult if you had a week to read both pieces and Jane Austen.

Which brings us to the 1700s and the 1800s, where all the books I read can be classified into extremes. It's either the high adventure of the Robert Louis Stevenson and Daniel Defoe kind or the high drama of Dickens. Of course there's also Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott--little girl favorites really. The early sci-fi from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells made an appearance. There's also the adventures offered by Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift. The weird thing is that I read all these so-called classics in grade school, before the age of twelve, between forays in River Heights and Wonderland. It's either the school librarian thought highly of us kids. Or perhaps I disdained the Ewoks story collections and I hadn't discovered Sweet Valley Twins yet.

Before the 1700s, there's really just Aesop's Fables, and that I went through before grade school. My mom got me this book that came with a cassette tape with a man and a woman reading the fables. At the end of each reading was a lesson usually as simple as "save for a rainy day" or "do not be boastful." I really liked the one about the frog who got really puffed up and burst and the one with the fox going through a vineyard sourgraping. Hmmm...

If you view this list chronologically, I seem to be reading less and less, even with the 50 book list and conscious efforts to read more. In my head, I can hear my former professor's shrill admonision: "My god, you're all so culturally impoverished!" Then again, even if all I devoted my existence to reading and forget about the world and the assumption of a life, it'll take me a lifetime or more to read all these damn books we really should be reading. Feh.

Sunday, October 15

How to write a novel, natch

52 Projects gives us tips on how to write your own novel while you're on the clock. Especially helpful if you're a bundy puncher, but perhaps most difficult when you have to stand in front of classroom and can't hide in your office all the time.

November is supposedly novel writing month once again. Either I do that. I have until March to finish a class project, but I'm starting to think that this is really an impossible thing to do. Reading about other writers, like Jeffrey Eugenides, who finished a novel in about nine years, isn't helping me much. And his novel won the Pulitzer, too. Argh!

Another solution comes to mind: abandon this thing altogether. But that will mean I'll be thrown one class back into my long hopscotch game towards finishing my grad studies. Oh well.

Planet Google

The New Yorker has this amazing piece about the YouTube phenomenon, right after news got out that Google bought the video-sharing website.

Or, as this New York Times article suggests, are we all getting sucked into the Google worm hole?

Is this a sign of the apocalypse?

Sunday, October 8

Betty La Fea Worldwide

The television show "Ugly Betty" is getting raves from critics and viewers alike. America is rather late catching on to the Betty La Fea craze. I watched the original show dubbed in Filipino by actress Chin Chin Gutierrez around four years ago.

But apparently, the one currently showing in the States is not the original but rather an American remake. The lead is played by America Ferrera, who starred in HBO's "Real Women Have Curves," previously discussed here. Also in the series is Eric Mabius, who played swim coach Tim in The L-Word, and Vanessa Williams.

There's also a LiveJournal community that has also posted photos of the various Ugly Betties worldwide. Apparently, the trend now is not just dubbing an entire series but remaking it. In Russia, their version of the 80s show "Perfect Strangers" also just debuted. I wonder if the Philippines would soon follow suit. I also want to see whether they made adjustments to the script to adapt to the show importer's home culture.

Public Service Announcement: Notes on Manila Crime

Manila Police District acting director Senior Supt. Danilo Abarzosa identifies petty crime hot spots around Manila. Just so you know where to hold tight to your bags and mobile phones in case you find yourselves in these areas:

"R-10 Road, España Street from Morayta to Lacson, Pedro Gil Street from Osmeña Highway to Plaza Hugo, and on Taft Avenue from Vito Cruz to Lawton, Recto Avenue from Abad Santos to Del Pan, Quezon Boulevard to Quezon Bridge, and from Quezon Boulevard to Legarda (University Belt area)."

According to Abarzosa, criminals usually strike in these crime-prone areas from 4 p.m. to 12 midnight when workers and transients travel home from work. I can personaly attest that the long stretch of Pedro Gil from Malate all the way to Sta. Ana is really dangerous. I had a new backpack slashed and had my phone stolen, and later while on a jeep, some guy with a knife snatched my bag. Another passenger tried to give chase but was almost stabbed by the snatcher's posse so we let it go.

Thursday, October 5

Green Crayons

So somebody's been making googling me and the link lead me to a student blog. She was ranting and it wasn't really clear what it was about. Then she said something like this:

"I'm spinning around and I don't really have a point. But it's okay. It's not like I'm submitting this to (kantogirl) and she's not going to mark this with green crayons."

That's mostly it. Yes, I had this phase when I corrected papers using dermatographs--blue, green, orange, but never red. They're not really crayons. Better that than angry red ink. These days I just use pencils. Hey, at least I got off easy.

Unlike some other colleagues who got called names like bitch or fag, mostly because the kid got low grades in their subjects. The Bitch found out about this student blog entry about her on a really good day (like the night of a big literary award) and her husband googled her name and they found the blog. The supposed bitch is usually very nice and so she was surprised that somebody would call her names. She couldn't really remember the kid, but good thing because the blog had photos. When she ran into this kid in a busy hallway, she accosted him and said, "Would you like me to also blog about you?" Poor kid.

Meanwhile, the colleague who got called a fag wasn't offended at all. It's stating the obvious daw.

Anyway, it's paper checking season. Sooner or later, some disgruntled student would post something about a low grade they got in that subject and rant about it in their blogs. I'm pretty sure a bunch of kids are calling me a bitch somewhere. Let them. Then I'll do a google search later and do a Bitch/Fag combo. I'll stalk them right back. Or maybe I'll post excerpts from student papers this semester if I've got the time. Students aren't the only ones with blogs, you know. Hehehe.

Random Wisdom from Girl Goddess #9

I had probably done this before, but since I saw it off The Sandwich Maker's blog, might as well post it again:

1. Grab the nearest book
2. Open book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post text of sentence on your blog. Please include book and author along with these instructions.
5. No digging about for the "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! (I know you were thinking about it!) Just pick up whatever is closest.

My sentence is this:

"If there was going to be beauty she would have to make it herself."

That's from the story "The Canyon," found in Francesca Lia Block's Girl Goddess #9, which I just finished reading. The weirdest story in that collection was "Dragons in Manhattan." It's about a girl who runs away from her two moms, Izzy and Anastacia, to look for her father. One of the women is her birth mother, but the bizarre thing is that one of them turns out to be her father as well. When I got to that part, I was already going like, "You've got to be kidding me."

Anyway, I used to like reading Block when I was in college. She writes about kids talking to blue creatures from their closets because their mom just died, a groupie who followed and slept with rock stars, girls who know Cocteau and fall in love with boys because he can name all the rose varieties in the garden. All her characters have weird names like Lady Ivory or Tuck Budd or Pony and Pixie. Probably why I had characters named Ludovico. Weh. I wasn't able to read this book the first time it came out because it probably was too expensive at the time. But I got this particular book for 20 pesos in this small bookstore near Morato. Not bad.

Monday, October 2

Sad Bastards Wanted

Francey Russell longs for the nearly extinct sad bastards in American cinema: "Whatever happened to real men in cinema, and when?" She presents a screen history of the angry, sometimes inarticulate men typified by Nicholson and Brando (and even later, Patrick Swayze--yes, that one) and how these men have all but disappeared and replaced by Valium-popping guys like the one played by Zach Braff in Garden State.

Which then reminds me that you can get a copy of Rick Moody's novel Garden State --which doesn't really have anything to do with the Braff's film with the same title, I think--from the newly-opened Fully Booked in The Block in SM North. But sadly, you can also get from there a copy of Mitch Albom's new novel that basically tells you that you should live a full life. As if that's not bad enough, "For One More Day" sounds like a diva song title, the kind that will have revved up motorbikes, thunderclap and lightning incorporated in the song and goes "Oh, baby baby baby." Sure, it makes for great videoke entertainment really. But then again, who buys books for their potential videoke entertainment value? So you can console yourself about this last thought by sitting in their cafe and get warm. That cafe must be the only place above freezing in that area.

Wednesday, September 27

Second World Daw

I was checking the weather advisory over at classes in all levels including post-graduate are suspended tomorrow, lots of passengers stranded in the various sea ports, Taal is "acting up" like a brat. We're in for some blanket weather, I thought. Until I came across this report which totally bowled me over:

President Arroyo now claims that the Philippines is now "Second World."


All because this year the country's per capita income will supposedly reach 1,400 dollars. But wait, here's more:
[I]f we are able to continue the trajectory of (a) one percent decline in the poverty level, we can reach hopefully the First World status by the year 2020. If what has been happening during the early years of our administration, that the poverty level has been going down by one percentage point every year, that means that by 2015, we will be able to reduce our poverty level by one half to what it was in 2000.
I mean, sure, the peso's going strong and all that blah. But somehow, I'm really not convinced. Maybe I just lack school strong country spirit what can I say.

Saturday, July 15

Save the Last Bell Jar

The Independent reports that Hollywood actress Julia Stiles is involved in adapting Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar for the screen. She has found both a producer and a writer, and the first draft of the script will be ready next month.

Stiles has this to say about the project: "I'm trying to keep the book separate from Plath's biography," Stiles says. "That's one thing I really want to be careful of with the film version... I actually feel that it's a very triumphant story. I wouldn't want to lose her tenacity and spark. I think that will be as important to portray as her depression."

The Bell Jar isn't really Plath's best work, but it has a very huge following especially among adolescent girls--I think I have two copies of this somewhere around the house. Also, it's right up there with Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted in the Angry Young Girl canon. Christina Patterson acknowledges this: "How could such a book not appeal to young women grappling with their sexuality, their ambitions, their warring desires for security and freedom? Plath's gaze is ferocious and irresistible." It tries to concretize the turmoil of the girl's inner life.

Stiles was described in the article as the star of the Bourne series and the Omen remake--and that's the pinnacle, baby. Eversince she appeared in Shakespearean films, like O and Ten Things I Hate About You, she seemed to be under the impression that she was her generation's most gifted actor. They didn't even do close ups of her dancing in Save the Last Dance. The most interesting girl in Mona Lisa Smile was Maggie Gyllenhaal. Hell, when she fell to her death in that Omen movie, the people in the theater cheered. Cheered!

It's not that I have an ax to grind about Ms. Stiles, but I just can't see Julia Stiles as Esther Greenwood. I can't see how this movie will work--unless they can manage to squeeze in Angelina Jolie in there.

Tuesday, July 11

On Happiness

New York Magazine takes on the study of happiness. Harvard's most popular class is one on the positive psychology of happiness. It pushes the idea of self-help as one of the paths to a truly enjoyed smile. Seems like people now apparently need a guide on how to be happy.

Some of the more interesting bits of advice: don't go into law school (and I know some people who wouldn't be too thrilled by this), asking for other people's opinion is good, shop and then throw the receipts--all very sound, and we've heard this before.

And oh: Money can buy you happiness, and pursuing your personal dream may only make you miserable.

Something to think about, hey?

Sunday, June 25


Mansfield College in the University of Oxford is also sometimes called the "Kylie Minogue of colleges", being "small but well-formed". Mansfield has a population of about 200 students, and one of their more notable former students was Adam von Trott zu Solz, who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Since I read that, every time I think of Mansfield I automatically get this image in my head of Kylie in a sparkling short skirt, rising from a rotating CD player from the stage and wriggling to "I [just] can't get you out of my head." It's either that or Hitler dancing "Mein Kampf" ala Fergie of BEP. Persistent and disturbing ear worms, me bad.

Anyway, if things fall into place then I'll be in Mansfield for 4 days in September, for the Monsters 4 conference, which examines the myths and metaphors of enduring evil. I'm slated to present a paper on murderous Filipina maids. I'm not sure yet if the university gives out funds for this sort of thing. I still have to inquire about this tomorrow. I only have two weeks to find me proper funding and confirm my attendance.

Otherwise, I will have to either forfeit my slot, or find other ways to fund the trip. Like perhaps look for a fairy godmother or patrol Quezon Avenue on certain nights.

But I really, really do want to go. Dominus Illuminatio Mea indeed.

The Last Days of the Yantok Boyz

The Inquirer reports that some 200 faculty and students protested about the presence of the Marines in the Diliman campus:
The [militant group Anakbayan] said it had received a report that the Marines would replace the Special Security Brigade in charge of maintaining “peace and order” inside the campus. An active military presence in the UP portrays a twisted definition of “campus security,” it added.
The Special Security Brigade is usually seen patroling the academic oval, quietly in their black and orange vests, but with a big stick. I first noticed the Marines during the registration period, and mostly around the AS parking lot and steps. I thought they were there to beef up the security and guard the tuition money bins or something.

So does this report mean that the Marines are staying on? Will there be no more Yantok Boyz in the hood? Can someone clear this up?

Wednesday, June 21

Page Pimps

The page pimps along AS Walk sure know how to hook their customers.

"Hey, you collect Garland, right?"

I'm usually famished after my classes and I just stepped out to get myself some lunch. But one of the guys recognized me from last week's transactions, which ended with him counting bills and me holding two Jhumpa Lahiris and "The Coma." He flagged me down a few steps away from the canteen.

"Yeah." I suspiciously eyed him.

"We have 'The Tesseract,'" he said and showed me a paperback--smaller than all my other Garlands.

"I read that na years ago. Hardbound pa."

"It's a different edition. 180 lang."

I bit my tongue just in time before I could say that I just borrowed a friend's copy while we were on a road trip. Instead I said, "The other stall also has a Garland and Lahiris, too. And the new Palahniuk."

"Really. Which one?"

"'Stranger than Fiction.'"

"But we have 'Haunted.' 500 lang."

"Mahal." I raised my arm to check an imaginary watch. "Got to eat."

"Sige, we'll keep an eye out for a paperback then."


There goes next week's lunch money. Nyar. Seriously, I need to cut down on buying books again. I have books that haven't even seen the outside of their neat plastic covers and shrink wraps.

YouTube and anthropology

Paul Lloyd Sargent explains how YouTube not only democratized internet usage but also put the 'sub' back in subculture: "[T]he broadcast of web-based blogs has replaced the narrow niche of the photocopied ‘zine [and further, that what was once “subculture” has simply become “culture”], passively and/or aggressively, we’ve become de Certeau’s “very ordinary culture” of subversives engaged in “economic diversion”, stealing company time (and bandwidth) when we think no one is looking."

Friday, June 16

Super Seventies

While I was hunting down the links for the previous posts, I found the Super Seventies webpage, which is about, well, songs from the super seventies.

Years ago, there was this quiz or maybe it was a site that gave you the top of the pops list from the week when you were born. If I could pick a year from the seventies, the last entry for the page seems like a pretty good selection.

I mean, look at this list:
1. "My Sharona" - The Knack
2. "Le Freak" - Chic
3. "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" - Rod Stewart
4. "Bad Girls" - Donna Summer
5. "YMCA" - Village People
6. "Reunited" - Peaches and Herb
7. "Ring My Bell" - Anita Ward
8. "I Will Survive" - Gloria Gaynor
9. "Too Much Heaven" - Bee Gees
10. "Hot Stuff" - Donna Summer

I'm not a Bee Gees fan so I don't know that particular song, and "Reunited" isn't particularly swinging. But the rest of it? The Knack and Donna Summer and the Village People and Gloria Gaynor. Oh yeah, it's oh so disco.

Lux Lisbon, You're So Disco: The Virgin Suicides Musical

Well, not exactly. But that's what I'd call this playlist which runs a little more than an hour. The excerpt from the Jeffrey Eugenides novel recreated the musical dialogue the Lisbon girls had over the phone with the neighborhood boys.

This virtual mixtape contains 11 pop songs from the 70s, including James Taylor's "You've Got A Friend," The Beatles' "Dear Prudence," Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Bread's "Make It With You"--I did say the list was sappy "nostalgia-inducing."

The playlist also has that anthem for angry young girls, "At Seventeen." I first heard this song when I was like twelve or thirteen, and felt real heavy, or to quote one of the Lisbon girls, I felt like saying, "Obviously, you've never been a thirteen year old girl." Anyway, here's what Janis Ian has to say about the song:
"I think 'At Seventeen' is a good song. It does what a good song should do, which is strike a nerve, communicate to any age group, cross class and cultural boundaries. The problem with protest stuff like 'Society's Child' is that I was singing to people who felt the same way I did. I wasn't changing anybody, or making any difference to the people. I think 'At Seventeen' may make some difference to some kid in junior high. A lot of people seemed to relate to it, anyway."
I didn't really catch all the words then, and years later, during one videoke session, another writer girl and I chose the song and when it played, it struck everyone's nerves. That was the first time I realized it was a damn sad song. Definitely not the one to shush out after Gloria Gaynor and Abba's "Dancing Queen."

But anyway, the playlist is really awesome. Makes you feel like you were actually eavesdropping on the Lisbon girls and the boys who adored them mightily.

Monday, June 12


Randy David has this interesting bit on what makes artists "national":
[T]he artists the State celebrates are not necessarily the people’s own choices. Indeed, rare would be the national artist who, by his or her work, articulates the nation’s experience and self-understanding and, at the same time, touches the lives of ordinary people.

The reasons for this may be traced to the lack of fit between the nation conjured by the State and the collective identity of the people it hoped to represent. The wider the gap between the two, the larger would be the discrepancy between the nation’s symbols and the people’s heroes. Every sovereign state seeks to narrow this gap—in many instances, without much success.
Now this is particularly intriguing: "the nation conjured by the state," like it was pulled out of a top hat, and voila! Pilipinas. Apparently, the Pilipinas that some 82 million people have in mind is not the same Pilipinas that the state has in mind. How this came to be is something that we all have to consider.

My once Imaginary/Invisible Roommate recently cleaned her side of the office and I've noticed that among her stack of books, sandwiched between Desire of Ages and a volume on igneous rocks, is something about imagining communities.

Benedict Anderson writes in his book that what brings people together is not just a common flag, or suffering the same traffic and semi-regular revolutions in EDSA, but something we all imagined we share. He writes: "Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings." It's actually strong enough to make you want to kill for your country, literally "ang mamatay ng dahil sa 'yo."

On a ligher scale, it's rooting for Manny Pacquiao beat somebody who brought in a professional pop artist to sing their national anthem and not squawk for the whole world to hear. For that brief moment, I'm sure that a lot of people were glued to the screens and cheered. And I'm willing to wager that more Filipinos know who Manny Pacquiao is than any of the Natinal Artists declared this year. Except perhaps for Fernando Poe Jr.

Much has been made of the mythical qualities of FPJ. In an FPJ movie, people wait for that moment when FPJ throws his rapid machine gun punches and end that barrage with a cymbal-strike on the villain's temples. It's a reassuring experience, a moment you have come to expect in every FPJ movie. He will rise and fight back. The underdog who finally musters enough courage to strike back and fight for all the little people.

But of course, in the last elections, much has also been made that the voting population might confuse the image with the man himself. There might be some truth in it: the PCIJ came out with this documentary about how most of the politicians who ran a successful presidential campaign knew how to play out an image and get the votes.

In the same way that you could never show FPJ lose in a movie or else all hell would break loose. In certain parts of the country, people pelted the cinema screens with tomatoes and slippers when their hero lost, or much worse died at the end of the movie. There was so much discontent that the producers allegedly shot an alternate ending. So even if FPJ died, there was this insert of how he ascended to the heavens while riding his horse and smiling over everything there was here on earth. That was the only way to placate the angry lot who thought they lost their hero.

Now here's the thing: FPJ has been declared National Artist, the great divide between high and pop art notwithstanding. Randy David writes: "FPJ is both a national artist and a people’s artist. He did not become great because the movie critics or the culturati liked his films. He became great because ordinary Filipinos went to his movies and were changed by them."

When people out there think of "art," with or without the "national" attached, it's usually high art. The "nation," how it is imagined by certain quarters, is supposedly different from what the people think it is. We haven't even solved what "nation" is, but the National Artist citation brings to the front and center what "culture," with the appended problemation term "national," is.

Randy David insists that the problem with this entire nation thing is that "the elite hijacked Filipino nationalism and stripped it of its social content. They became so obsessed with quickly taking over the reins of government that they did not see much value in creating a strong national identity among the people. They rushed headlong into the project of modernity, even as they paid lip service to a national culture, and promoted rapid Westernization in the end."

Westernization isn't necessarily bad, as long as it does not efface what or who we really are. We still have to figure these things out, in the same way that the controversy about who and what the National Artist is supposed to be may be endless. But was FPJ declared National Artist because the "nation" finally decided that it should not be alienated from its people, or was it done to smoothen out ruffled feathers?

The way it is now, Culture--capitalized, never in the lower case--is high culture, not pop. It is "Ugoy ng Duyan," not "Tulog Na." It is the highly stylized ballet Darna, not the barely-clad Angel Locsin who is torn between prioritizing public responsibility over her hectic lovelife. It is the 5 hour marathon about a murder abroad and not the laugh out loud comedy about single motherhood spiked with the essential Ate Vi compendium of cinematic dialogue. It is the strategically lit painting about dead gladiators and not the repro used in public phone cards. Culture happens in the CCP, not Broadway Centrum. But can't we have a nation that wears a barong with lawlaw jeans and "Havanas" at the same time?

Happy Independence Day everyone.

Thursday, June 8

Hell is 20

You Are 20 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Okay, so I'm back in the hell that is being 20 years old. And I find this rather odd, but another online quiz told me I should be a musician. But if I insist on being a writer, then I should be in film.

Rockstar or writer? Which life path is best for a 7? Hmmm..

At 20, I can still be anything, yes?

Monday, June 5

Top 30 Travel Books

World Hum posted their Top 30 Travel Books of all time.

I haven't read any of the books included, except for parts of Pico Iyer's Video Night in Kathmandu at #8. According to Rolf Potts, the books greatest strength is "Iyer’s refusal to draw prim moral conclusions as Western popular culture bumps up against the traditions of the East. Instead, he casts things in terms of a tenuous romance." Rolf Potts and Postmodern Tourism interview Iyer here and here.

But I'm reading his Global Soul, which is about how today's transport system and technology is making demarcation lines disappear. Of course, that is if you've got the means to be everywhere, whenever. But anyway, I've yet to finish it so I reserve my comments until after.

I'm also currently reading--very very slowly--Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia, which did not make the list. Instead, they've included his Songlines, which I also haven't read yet. Nick Clapson's Spike Magazine essay "In Search of the Miraculous" says that Patagonia was probably "his driest," but that Chatwin makes "curious observations with nuggets of historical information which manages to make this more than an account of a physical journey, and that, to me, is the essence of good travel writing."

Well, if you're into travel narratives, World Hum's list is an interesting foray for beginners.

Thursday, June 1


Top three reasons to go to Brazil:

3. It's World Cup season. You love bright yellow and green.
2. Fernando de Mereilles' Cidade de Deus was set there. Unless you're into Terry Gilliam. "An empty desk is an efficient desk," bah.
1. It's different down there.

Anong sinabi ng Wow! Philippines di ba?

For tamadita and saturatedtextmachine.

Sunday, May 28

Jodie Foster Loses Herself

The thought of Natalie Portman gangsta rapping was cute, but what if Jodie Foster gangsta raps like Eminem? I like Eminem, but Jodie Foster losing herself? Scary thought, ei?

Here's the YouTube description of the vid: "At the UPenn's 250th Commencement Jodie Foster, the guest speaker, quotes Eminem from his song "Lose Yourself" with a message for the graduates."


100% Perfect Girl

One Sugar Dream made a black and white comic based on Haruki Murakami's short story "On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning."

If you wanna spread some love and have Y1800 to spare--that's Y1000 for the comic plus Y800 for the shipping--please hurl it in one direction. You can order online and pay via Paypal.

Then I will heart you forever, or until they come out with a comic for "The Second Bakery Attack" or whichever comes first. Promise.

Friday, May 26

Bollywood Calling

The Observer notes that call centers have become part of the cultural mainstream. It has also "become symbol for the rapid change India is going through," a picture of a nation caught between two eras.

There are around 350,000 workers in this industry, most of them young and college educated. Working in a call center assures one of a higher than minimum wage salary, and is often seen as glamorous, but "for sheer monotony, few office environments can beat the deadening tedium of the call centre, where workers spend long shifts repeating pre-scripted phrases to faceless customers."

Nevertheless, the call center serves as the backdrop for novels, soap operas, and film. Makarand Paranjape of the Jawaharlal Nehru University explains this phenomenon: "Literature is just catching up with social trends - and now we're seeing an attempt to eroticise the industry, an attempt to make it a culturally exciting place, hip and cool. Of course it's a bit of a fantasy: there is nothing glamorous about call centres; they are dehumanising, decultured places."

The Indians have expressed their grief at this situation clearly enough. Varun (or Victor), the lead character in "One Night @ The Call Centre" says: "My friends, I am angry. Because every day I see some of the world's strongest and smartest people in my country. I see all this potential, yet it is all getting wasted. An entire generation up all night, providing crutches for the white morons to run their lives."

I'm not sure about the exact figures, but I think we also have more or less the same number of young people who work in call centers. People see outsourcing as a sunshine industry, nevermind that our young and brilliant people are doing a mind-numbing job. People get paid, they get to speak in an American accent. What more can you ask for, right?

I wonder how long it'll be before we get a film, novel or tv show that uses the call center as a major backdrop. Yeah, there was that Bea Alonzo-John Lloyd movie where Bea is supposed to be a call center agent, but Now That I Have You never really used that in the story except as a minor detail. There was also Keka where Katya Santos' character also worked in a call center. I suppose that's how she got to kill people without anyone noticing. Hehe.

So I guess this means the call center thing is still one huge open field. Makes me think of revising an old work set in the dark ages when people still carried pagers and it was a cool, cool thing to own. Weh.

Thursday, May 25

Les fantômes d'Escolta

In case you're interested, there's going to be a documentary on Philippine Cinema made by the French showing on TV5 Monde (please check your local cable listings.) It's supposed to air this at 16h57 (or 4:57pm, whatever) and part of the Cannes 2006 specials.

From what I can gather, the piece deals with stuff we already know: that Pinoy cinema is dead, killed by exorbitant taxes and old habits. It traces the rise and fall of the film industry in the Philippines. At the start of the 80s, studios in Manila and Cebu produced as many as 200 films annually, but today they make less than 50. The film industry in the Philippines was once one of the more prolific in the world, next only to Hollywood and Bollywood.

But the rise of piracy and DVDs only seemed to announce the end. And with the death of the country's most celebrated actor Fernando Poe, Jr. in December 2004, Renaud Fessaguet examines the state of film in the archipelago. Is it dying or dead? The crisis continues, but on the other hand, it seems to permit the inclusion of new talents, independent productions and daring new stories.

Now, you will have to excuse my really rusty French. I might have misunderstood the entire thing so in case I got things wrong, I'm posting the forwarded information about the documentary below:
"Les fantômes d'Escolta" – Réalisateur : Renaud Fessaguet - 2005 – 52 min (France)

Le cinéma philippin se meurt, écrasé par des taxes exorbitantes, de trop vieilles habitudes et un enfermement provincial devenu fatal.

Jusqu'au début des années 80 pourtant, les studios de Manille et de Cebu produisaient plus de 200 films par an, aujourd'hui ils en sortent moins de 50. L'industrie cinématographique de l'archipel était l'une des plus prolifiques du monde, après la Californie et Bollywood.

Puis vinrent le piratage et le DVD, implacables virus qui en annonçaient la fin. A l'occasion de la disparition du plus célèbre des acteurs philippins, Ferdinand Poe Jr., en décembre 2004, Renaud Fessaguet se penche sur le cinéma de l'archipel. Moribond, mort ? La crise traversée semble au contraire permettre l'éclosion de nouveaux talents, de producteurs indépendants et de scénarios audacieux.

Le 24 mai 2006 à 16h57 sur TV5 Monde.

Wednesday, May 24

Weird This Day

Photo swiped from the Inquirer

Days like this, when elsewhere seems like an interesting option, I have to remind myself why I'm still here.

Dan Rhodes' Top Ten

Dan Rhodes provides us with his literary top 10.

He likes Chekov (#1), Flannery O'Connor (#10), and thinks that everyone in school deserves to know how we are being systematically hoodwinked (#2). This last one is a staple in my research paper writing classes.

And because I was googling like mad, click here are more excerpts--Face, Lost, Herself, Mold--from his book Anthropology. My favorite from that collection was the last story "Words" and that one where the girl was named Tadhana.


Tuesday, May 23


My blog is worth $12,419.88.
How much is your blog worth?

Not that I care much, or that I'll ever cash in on that twelve grand.

Monday, May 22

William Boyd's short history of the short story

William Boyd provides us a quick taxonomy of the short story. He tells us that the modern short story as we know it now is mostly an American device which blossomed with the arrival of mass produced magazines and papers, and at its height in the 1920s, writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald received as much as $4k for a single story published in the Saturday Evening Post.

But although short fiction is an American enterprise, it was Chekov who revolutionized the narrative:
“By abandoning the manipulated beginning-middle-and-end plot, by refusing to judge his characters, by not striving for a climax or seeking neat narrative resolution, Chekhov made his stories appear agonisingly, almost unbearably lifelike.”
So almost everyone writing short fiction owes something to Chekov. But if you do not subscribe to the singularity of effect that characterizes the Chekovian variety of short fiction, then you must be following the event-plot tradition, which according to Boyd, refers to the “style of plotted story that flourished pre-Chekhov—before his example of the formless story became pre-eminent.”

But since the 1950s, writers have attempted to deviate from the Chekovian form. There’s the “suppressed narrative” which can be seen in the works by Borges, Nabokov, and Calvino. There’s also the mini-novel story which attempts to compress within a few pages what the novel does in a few hundred.
Then there’s that weird creature which Boyd calls the biographical story:
...a catch-all term to include stories that flirt with the factual or masquerade as non-fiction. Often the impedimenta of the non-fiction book is utilised (footnotes, authorial asides, illustrations, quotations, font changes, statistics, textual gimmickry).
Proponents of this style include Dave Eggers, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Safran Foer. Also, “the biographical story also includes stories that introduce real people into fiction or write fictive episodes of real lives.” This new incarnation of the short story seems to be the only logical development of living in a world saturated by “advertising media, the documentary, journalism, and 24-hour rolling news, to colonise some of that territory, to invade the world of the real and, as a cannibal will devour the brain of his enemy to make him stronger, to make fiction all the more powerful by blurring the line between hard facts and the invented.”

This collision between reality and fictional reality seems to be unifying theme of contemporary literature (and that also extends to film). It’s the question that everyone asks of his or herself: “Why am I here? Is this really happening? How did I ever get here?”

Saturday, May 20

Barbie Rocks the Big Dome Concert Playlist

Just got back from the Araneta. The concert was supposed to start at 8pm, but front act Salamin actually came onstage at around 9pm, and Rocksteddy did 5 or 6 songs--enough to make you think you went to the wrong event.

But once you look at the stage, there's really no mistaking that this must be the Barbie concert. They really played up the girlishness of the whole thing, complete with a dollhouse set, a flully pale pink debutante gown and like 3 costume changes. And oh, there was also a revelation involved. What that is, the clue is in the playlist. Detailed comments sometime this weekend.

Meanwhile, here's the playlist:

1. Tomorrow (debutante gown ripped off)
2. Torpe feat. Teddy of Rocksteddy, formerly known as Andres Bulate ("Lagi mo na lang akong dinededma")
3. Tabing Ilog
4. High feat. Ney of 6cyclemind
5. Himig Natin by Teddy and Ney (costume change)
6. Salamat by Teddy, Ney and Barbie
7. Overdrive
8. Just a Smile
9. True Colors
10. Time After Time
11. Limang Dipang Tao
12. Bulong by Kitchie Nadal (costume change)
13. Majika by Kitchie
14. Firewoman by Kitchie on vocals/guitar, Barbie on piano
15. Same Ground by Kitchie and Barbie
16. Untitled Engagement Song
17. Dahilan
18. Parading
19. You Learn feat. Mrs. Almalbis
20. Sweet Child of Mine
21. Living on a Prayer
22. I'm the one who wants to be with you
23. Summer Day
24. Encore: Goodnyt (Remixed with Twinkle, Twinkle, Tomorrow and some praise song)
25. 012**

**I think this was the real last song of the night, but I could be wrong.

Thursday, May 18

Retro Loco

TV Cream has the very best of TV themes from shows you grew up with. I loved the talking car in Knight Rider. When the "Bilog Ang Mundo" campaign came out, I swear that's the Knight Rider theme thrown into the mix.

He-Man recently outed. "By the power of Gayskull"? Didn't Joey de Leon do this way way back, as in, "She-Man: Mistress of the Universe?"

Joey de Leon as She-Man

The International Hero website traces She-Man's history:
Pando is a blacksmith who dreams of becoming a superhero. One day his dream is granted by a gay hermit Gayskull, who transforms him into a hero, so that he can rescue kidnapped Barrio children from the evil Skeleton. However because of Gayskull's sexuality, his spell turns Pando into She-Man, a gay superhero who rides a butterfly into battle.
It's a He-Man and Panday satire--doesn't that kick ass? And this is way before Zaturnnah and the giant palakang kokak.

You can also look at the She-Man movie synopsis here.

Wednesday, May 17

The Universal Library Project

If the library of Alexandria once held all the written knowledge of its time, then Google wants to digitize the books and share them online. The Universal Library is a project that aims to ensure that no book is an island:
When books are digitized, reading becomes a community activity. Bookmarks can be shared with fellow readers. Marginalia can be broadcast. Bibliographies swapped. You might get an alert that your friend Carl has annotated a favorite book of yours. A moment later, his links are yours. In a curious way, the universal library becomes one very, very, very large single text: the world's only book.
This is just one example of how search engines like Google are transforming our culture. Web pages are essentially powered by links and tags, which the article's author Kevin Kelly named as two of the greatest innovations to have come out of the web. Links and tags embody what the web is all about--the power of relationships, the common people indexing and classifying information for others just like them. Folksonomy, Thomas Vander Wal calls it.

This is information democratized. It's a good thing, if this Universal Library is ever finished. Though Google has good intentions (and perhaps there'll be profit from this, who knows), the battle for copyright ownership has also started. Only 15% of all books belong to the public domain, and the rest are copyrighted and would thus demand royalties if you place them in a searchable index accessible to all. What will be really sad is if this Universal Library will turn out to be empty, if no one will agree to put virtual copies of their books out there, for the modistas of Maguindanao and the scraggly kids of Uzbekistan.

Sunday, May 14


Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, authors of Freakonomics, attempt to explain why there are more elite soccer players born in the earlier months of the year. It really doesn't have anything to do with certain astrological signs being more adept at the sport, but had more to do with the concept of "deliberate practice:"
Deliberate practice is more than simply repeating a task — playing a C-minor scale 100 times, for instance, or hitting tennis serves until your shoulder pops out of its socket. Rather, it involves setting specific goals, obtaining immediate feedback and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.
Translated into layman's terms, deliberate practice is that cliche that our parents used to tell us: Practice makes perfect. This is collaborated by Anders Ericsson's findings in the "Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance," which asserts that that good performance in a field didn't really have anything to do with talent, but with the hours poured in dedicated practice.

Ericsson is part of a loose coation of scholars who form the Expert Performance Movement, whose primary goal is to attempt to answer an important and seemingly primordial question: When someone is very good at a given thing, what is it that actually makes him good? They've studied expert performers in a wide variety of pursuits, including sports, surgery, scrabble, violin playing, writing, stock picking, playing darts.

Their findings don't necessarily mean that everyone is made equal. There are individuals who are more adept in certain things, like say, Manny Pacquiao's ability to throw a punch. Without ever stepping in a boxing ring, he could probably still throw a mean one. But he became the Manny Pacquiao that we know precisely because of the hours deliberate practice in the gym.

Now if only we convince ourselves to do the things that we really have to do. But avoiding practice is much more fun than actually practicing, isn't it?

Saturday, May 13

Best of, Shmest of

The New York Times went around and sent letters to "a couple of hundred prominent writers, crtics, editors and other literary sages" and asked them what they thought was "the single best work of American fiction in the last 25 years." A.O. Scott acknowledges that the question "invites..a scrutiny of assumptions and categories":
"What do we mean, in an era of cultural and economic globalization, by 'American'? Or, in the age of James Frey, reality television and W.M.D.'s, what do we mean by 'fiction'? And if we know what American fiction is, then what do we mean by 'best'?"
The resulting list wasn't really that interesting to me. For one, the list by dominated by men--Philip Roth, John Updike and Don DeLillo with several novels each. Sure, the top pick was Toni Morrison's Beloved, but I've come to connect her with Oprah, which leads us to Dr. Phil, and it's a short way down from there.

Except for Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and Carver's Where I'm Calling From, I don't think I was even enticed by all the others in the list. Perhaps American fiction isn't really where the action is. Where are the fun books? When will Tyra Banks create her own book club?

Friday, May 12

Kaufman vs Ball

The WGA celebrates the greatest achievements in film writing by releasing their list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays.

The top 10 includes two Godfathers and Casablanca, which I never really get to finish. But Citizen Kane, Annie Hall, and Chinatown are there, staples of film and writing classes. The list really reads like all the other "best of, ever" lists, except this one, those included were picked by the writers themselves.

Some favorite movies which are included in the list: Thelma & Louise, Manhattan, Apocalypse Now, Jerry Maguire, Back to the Future, Taxi Driver, When Harry Met Sally, and The Graduate. And oh, Sylvester Stallone got in.

But Charlie Kaufman trumps Alan Ball (American Beauty, #38, also a favorite) by having three of his finest works in: Adaptation (#77), Being John Malkovich (#74), and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind comes in at #24.


Friday, May 5

Boredom is counterrevolutionary has an excellent collection of the posters which appeared around France in May 1968. The poster above depicts the police--les frics--as the enemy.

Elsewhere, you can also look at graffiti from the same era. This post's title is but one of many from the walls outside the University of Nanterre in France in May 1968. I also like the one that says "I'm a Groucho Marxist."

Wednesday, May 3

Which bad book are you?

take the WHAT BAD BOOK ARE YOU test.

Fucker, I can't even stand Tolkien!

I'm so sorry Tolkien fans, but I really do think that there's a certain frame of mind and window of time required when reading something like this. That window, for me, was between the ages of 9 and 12. But at the time, I was preoccupied with reading orphans in Industrial age London and hairless white apes who didn't know they actually had a fortune waiting for them. I really tried to read Tolkien later in life, but I couldn't get past page 1.

I also couldn't get past the first paragraph of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, but I managed to finish it. Yes, he of the constipated prose. But I had different motivations then and managed to plow through it in three or four months. It was required reading and our teacher was a rather small woman who frequently asked questions like "What is the political implication of that?" and we had to relate everything we read with postcolonial theory. She also liked sleeveless blouses--she had very toned arms and looked like she lifted entire pyramids as part of the cooling down routine of her workout.

Anyway, Tolkien! I would have even taken Beowulf. (Read it in hypertext here!) While Beowulf may arguably be viewed as the precursor of the action movie hero--the one-man army, like Rambo or The Terminator, that sort of thing--it also convinced me that I'm not meant for morning classes, specifically those held between 7 and 10 am. My brain just refuses to cooperate. But I was an English major, and I seriously needed to get the Eng21 class to complete the series. Eng21 was mostly about really old English lit, in Middle English, lots of Chaucer, Piers Plowman, Samuel Pepys (wtf, right?) and yeah, Beowulf. I had that class at maybe 7am, and halfway through the term, I would have to forego The Canterbury Tales to keep my sanity.

Dropping the class still did not excuse me from Beowulf etc. When I finally took the class again, it was in the afternoon, I think, but I soon found out that it really didn't matter who was handling the class or the time of day it was being discussed.

These days I usually run into my former Eng21 professor while in the girls' room, brushing my teeth. She would also be brushing her teeth and we would nod and smile at each other, bubbles in my mouth and all. Sometimes I get the urge to tell her, Really, it wasn't you, it was Piers Plowman.

Monday, May 1

Manufacturing Reality TV

The Morning News has an ongoing and very interesting series on manufacturing reality television. This is big news if as a viewer, you think reality tv is largely unscripted. But instead Keith Hollihan discovers the rigid engineering involved in crafting a reality tv show--from how contestants are chosen, the battery of tests they undergo, to formulating an interesting mix of people who would give good primetime drama. And according to their findings:
"the most compelling viewing comes when people with different yet recognizable personalities evolve over time in relation to those around them while dealing with competition and trying circumstances—crisis meeting characters to create drama. While reality TV may not be Shakespeare, it’s at its best when viewers are drawn in by the contestants’ personalities and become invested in what will happen to them."
On any given RTV show, there's like three psychologists who work hard to profile you. This is all in the name of prevention. It's okay to be crazy if you're "crazy fun" but not if you're "homicidal crazy." This is all in the name of prevention, one that dates back to 1997, when one of the early rejects of the Swedish show Experiment Robinson, of which Survivor is but a licensed American incarnation, hurled himself in front of an oncoming train.

The supposed "authenticity" of reality tv shows, especially those by producer Mark Burnett, has been likened to the 1971 experiment by Philip Zimbardo, where he put 21 "normal" college students in a mock prison and they could choose whether to be inmate or guard. But the Stanford Prison Experiment, cited as a "landmark psychological study of the human response to captivity," was "stopped after only six days because the abuse and trauma generated by the situation got out of hand so quickly."

Everyone likes the rawness of reality tv, but not too real as to see splatters of blood on the couch.

Thursday, April 27

Slayage Verbage

Slayage, the International Online Journal of Buffy Studies(!*), pointed me to the Buffy Studies Bibliography, where I discovered this essay about how Willow, the middle Scooby child, is somehow not all grown up yet. (I wonder if this really explains everything post-Tara, including Kennedy--but that's another matter). Here's a paragraph from the essay from Jes Battis about Willow as Hybrid/Hero:
Like all serial shows, Buffy relies upon the concept of sameness. Unlike most serials, it constantly calls this sameness into question, challenging its own programmed structure as a media vehicle that must obey certain popular themes—it may obey them, but not transparently, and not without visual and narrative resistance. Umberto Eco’s description of the serial as a constant narrative that gives the illusion of change, and within which “the secondary characters must give the impression that [their] new story is different from the preceding ones, while in fact the narrative scheme does not change" (Eco, Limits 86), is both applicable to and resisted by Buffy. Repetition gives a show emotional currency with its audience, for by rehashing the same scenarios, it “consoles us (the consumer), because it rewards our ability to foresee: we are happy because we discover our own ability to guess what will happen” (86). And in this sense Buffy conforms to Eco’s model, for every season presents us with the same core group of characters (Buffy, Willow and Xander) who are visited by alternating supporters (Anya, Oz, Riley) detractors (Adam, Glory, and most recently the First Evil) and ambivalent characters like Spike, who straddle the line between protagonist/antagonist in ways that continually disrupt the audience’s perceptions.
I'm a movie and film geek. I'm also a regular school geek, but not like that. I mean it's one thing to enjoy watching Buffy and turn it into something more, uh, academic. But this almost convinces me about Barako Cafe's observation that the academe breeds bad writing. Here's more:
Extra-textual ramifications aside, it is Tara’s death that fragments Willow’s already-compromised identity beyond repair, causing her to become wholly subsumed and embodied by magic. At first her goal is simple—kill Warren, who is directly responsible for the shooting, and also his friends Jonathan and Andrew, who are guilty by association. But after her first kill—a gruesome act of disembodiment, in which Warren is actually flayed—Willow’s plans grow more abstract. While supposedly pursuing Andrew and Jonathan, she spends most of her time challenging and subverting her surrogate family—the Scoobies—by excavating their fears and undermining their accomplishments. (6019; 21; 22). Willow does not need magic to do this. Magic gives her the voice, the confidence, but it is through ordinary speech acts that she violates and tears down her friends. This psychic battle culminates in a physical one with Giles—whom she accuses of being "under the delusion that you [are] still relevant here"—wherein she brings him close to death, and extracts the magical power that he has ‘borrowed’ from a Coven; the power allegedly meant to contain her (Buffy 6022). This confrontation will ironically be recast as a teacher/student relationship in Lessons (7001), as Giles attempts to teach Willow focus and control over her power. The rhetoric that he employs, however, is merely a positive, slightly Gaian spin on what Willow has already enunciated: "I am the magic." Giles can never truly teach her what this ambivalent relationship means, how it must be maintained, or how it will transform her.
And the paragraphs I cited are more or less "tame" and still easily understood. What more the real hardcore subject-position-the-other-

*Notice how I like using "!" a lot these days. Haha.

Peaking at 10

In this photo, Anna Chlumsky has a very eerie resemblance to the 1995 Alanis Morissette. Don't you think?

Earlier this year, Macaulay Culkin came out with a semi-autobiographical book. Now his "My Girl" co-star Anna Chlumsky writes about the difficulty of "making it" after age 10:
I had been given a big wide glimpse of what VH1 tells you “making it” is. But in order to realize what my version of “making it” would be, I’d need to purge theirs. By the end of high school, it had grown painful to want something so bad and seem to get so little in return for my efforts. I could barely look myself in the zit-magnifying mirror, let alone tackle an entire industry that thought I wasn’t good enough.
Success at a young age not only gives you a taste of grandeur and attention that you forever strive to duplicate, but it also gives you that precious sense that you can achieve absolutely anything. The trick is to learn how to let the past drive you to your next, bigger, and better peak. I know it will be a harder road than ever before. It’ll be something more akin to the vigorous path trod by the Vaudevillians than to the lucky break I got at age 10.
So Anna Chlumsky quit her job editing sci-fi stories (!) to follow The Great White Way. We wish her well.

I suppose this is the curse of all child actors. The difficulty of convincing people that hey, you're all grown up. I wonder what it's like for LA Lopez. The iodized salt did him in.

Sunday, April 23

Real Women Have Curves

Real Women Have Curves is about Ana, who recently turned eighteen, and is the daughter of first generation Latin immigrants. While she’s managed to finish high school at an elite Beverly Hills institution, her mother has signed her up for a bleak summer working at her sister’s garment factory, where they put together beautiful clothes they’ll never be able to afford once it hits the stores. Ana refuses to believe that this is going to be her life, and takes on her English teacher’s offer to help her get into college at Columbia University. She has also sneaking out to dates with Jimmy, who happens to be white, but also steadfastly says that no, Ana’s not fat, but beautiful. This little romance is a little bit too textbook progressive feminist: Ana slips into a drugstore to buy a cigar for her abuelo, then asks for condoms; she goes home with Jimmy and tells him, it’s okay, she’s ready, and later, without hint of remorse and wailing, they say goodbye because they’re going off to college. The day after Ana sleeps with Jimmy, her mother sees her examining herself in the mirror. Immediately, they have this huge argument. Here is Old World vs New World: Ana’s feistiness and refusal to be contained in her mother’s ideas of how a (Latina) woman should behave, the mother hindering her own daughter’s education because she wants to preserve the family. Surprisingly, it is the father who finally convinces the mother to let Ana go. On the day Ana was to leave for New York, the mother did not see her off. Nevertheless, when we next see Ana emerging from the subway station, she has a smile on her face, and we know that everything’s going to be okay.

The movie reminds me somehow of Spanglish, which I finally got to see video. The same device was used as bookends: of a Latina girl gaining admission to an elite college. In Spanglish, it was the contents of the girl’s application essay that we hear: how her mother did everything she could to give her the good life in this new land. Again, it was a tug of war, surrending a few things from the Old World to acquire more acceptance into this New World. Both stories featured a mother-daughter relationship. In Spanglish, the pair leaned on the slim and exotic side, and it was the American daughter who waged a war with the bulge.
The females in Real Women are as real as you can go. There’s a scene where the heat in the factory lead the women to take off their clothes, displaying girdles and granny panties, cellulite and stress marks. The daughter in Spanglish was played out as an innocent fawn, and her mother was also more yielding, gifted with this mysterious way of understanding even without words—a quality that their counterparts in Real Women Have Curves sort of lack. It was forever skirting the danger of having characters you wouldn’t really like: too harsh, too passive, too loud, too curvy. It’s interesting to note that when the filmmakers put out a casting call for girls who are either “fat” or “overweight.” Most of the girls who came to audition didn’t have too much meat on their bones, and yet believed they should lose weight. America Ferrera, who finally got the part, delivered a quite remarkable debut performance. Her Ana knew what she wanted and would do everything to get there. She was walking a very thin line. Nevertheless, it just goes with the unapologetic stance it has taken from the start. Real Women Have Curves. Either you deal with it or not.

The heat is on

Got marooned at home and in front of the television yesterday. Watched some Veronica Mars, where I had an America’s Next Top Model sighting. Or at least, I think that was Naima Mora playing a cameo as the teacher Miss Dumas (or "Dumbass" as one kid said) in the bus.

On that note, let me whine a bit because I missed the season finale of Top Model and Project Runway because I was marooned in an island. And I just read that Janice Dickinson, the world's first supermodel, started her own agency. Aren't you scared yet?

Anyway, I spent most of Saturday indisposed and/or vegetating. Will write about movies I saw this week, if I still have time. Busy week coming up.

Tuesday, April 18


If you're not doing anything, you might want to check out The 2nd Philippine Blogging Summit today, 18 April. It'll be held at the UP College of Law (Malcolm Hall) from 9am to 5pm.

I missed last year's summit because there were things to do. This year, there are still things to do. But I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be able to drop by. There are several panels I want to check out. Now if only I can be in several places all at once.

Monday, April 17

Imagine me and you and me

I was reading a report about this year's Cinema One entries which apparently include something that reminds me of this movie and something that reminds me of this blog post.


Sunday, April 9

Advisory for the Wholly Weak

xkg wishes to inform everyone that there will be no updates in this blog for the next two weeks. She's spent the last three weeks checking papers and tallying grades, and the past year working nonstop. She's decided to throw in the towel in her backpack and maroon herself in an island--at least for the next week.

This is also her vain attempt to rest while trying to finish her own school requirements and other projects. She's going to read this and this. At the very last minute, she ran out to the record store and got this. She still doesn't have sunblock, but what the hey.

She's also hoping that history won't repeat itself. Have a nice vacation everyone!

Wednesday, April 5

On the Question of Filipino Identity

Managed to attend a roundtable discussion on Filipino Identity at the Instituto Cervantes. I had to squeeze it in between footspa and paper checking and literally had to squeeze through shelves and a huge crowd. There was no round table and there were lots of people and they had to bring in more chairs to accommodate everyone.

I was also lucky enough to arrive at the venue on time. The footspa took longer than expected and I had to leave before I could have a pedi, but I managed to get a cab in under 20 minutes and sailed through Manila, turned right at Quirino Avenue, rounded the corner to Plaza Dilao, another right at UN Avenue, right turn to Taft and another right turn to Kalaw. All this in ten minutes, yey! (And yes, I realize this makes me sound like a ditz and an airhead, but anyway.)

The anthropologist Fernando Zialcita presented his book "Authentic Although Not Exotic," which was actually a collection of essays on Filipino Identity. The flyer advertised "the historian Ambeth Ocampo" as part of the panel, but in the end, the participants included Zialcita, Isagani Cruz and "the journalist Jessica Zafra," who came "underdressed" in a Darna t-shirt.

The panel was to address the huge question: What makes us Filipino? There's also the question of culture, of the tangible things that somehow make up our sense of selves. He clarified certain myths, like that of the Barong Tagalog, and of how in that huge conference in the 90s (was it the APEC conference?), there was this photo op wherein all the Asian leaders wore a barong and the Bangkok Post said it was a bad signifier, as the barong was "a slave shirt." This "barong-is-a-slave-shirt" myth was somehow popular as some "natives" were asked about why the fiber used for the barong was translucent, these said locals replied, "So they can check if you have a weapon hidden underneath. They also claimed that there was a law passed by the cortes in Spain that the indios not only had to be "x-rayed" for concealed weapons, but they also had to wear their shirts untucked, which was like an insult in those times. Zialcita disproved this notion, saying that Asians--like the Chinese and Indian people, tended to wear their shirts loose and untucked. He also added that the piña cloth was actually an innovation. Pineapples were imported from Mexico and the Pinoys thought, hey, we can turn this into really nice fiber. So the barong as we know it is really not Spanish in origin, but a mixture of ideas welded into one.

Which leads us to the next point: Pinoy culture is not handed down from the Spanish, and it's also not the "tribal" thing that some people insist we go back to. Pinoy culture is actually mestiso culture. (I hope I got this right.) A lot of people think that when you say "mestiso," it means "half-breed," as in half-Spanish, half-indio, or half-Chinese, or half-whatever. (We're not even bringing in that "half-Filipino, half-Filipina" definition. Hehe.) Which in turn makes people think that what we have is actually a "bastardized" culture, and hence we shouldn't be proud of it, or let's go back to that "pure" culture we had before the Spanish came.

Zialcita again points out that there no such thing as pure anymore. Mestiso actually means "mixed" or "from different origins." A fusion, really. So there's no point in trying to eradicate the culture that we know now, the dominant "Tagalog low land Catholic" way of living, because what the others are yearning for, that "pure" pre-Spanish, alibata-writing, and datu-headed, near-river-dwelling way of living is now lost. You can't efface 300 years.

This is where my Charlie Kaufman theory of understanding culture comes in. See, the people who want to revert to the nativist claim, the pure pre-Spanish way of living are like the people who go to Lacuna Inc and have their memories erased. But I don't think it's going to be effective. What happened is already indelible. We will still cook adobo with vinegar and soy sauce, nothing like the Latinate adobado. I don't think people will want to revert to the alibata. While it might look cool as a henna tattoo on your arm, try using it on all your documents or have the street names and everything converted to it. It'll be like effacing your entire life and relearning it, and then discover that what you just wrote in alibata script is "D2 na me."

More on this when I have time, after more checking, laundry drying and trying to catch my ride to the highlands. And yeah, muchos gracias to saturatedtextmachine for twisting my arm to go the lecture.