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.