Wednesday, December 12

Landscape by Google

While browsing the internet for more inane reads, I accidentally discovered that the Manila City Hall is shaped like a coffin with a cross when viewed from above. See for yourself here.

According to this page in the threads of Pinoy Tambayan: "The original Manila City Hall was a rambling structure made of Oregon pine. It sat on the same site as today’s structure and lasted till the late 1930s when an Antonio Toledo-designed structure replaced it."

Somebody else said that the architect responsible for the reconstruction wanted a memorial for those who perished during the Second World War, when the city hall was turned into a Japanese garrison and lots of people died, especially on the clock tower side.

There's also a testimonial to the place's haunted status. A bunch of guys on the night shift working on a project decided to go ghost-hunting, but they didn't even get to the 5th floor. One of the ghost hunters screamed, and while the building security knew they were there, the security people opted to wait for them in the first floor. They didn't want to go up because of the creepiness of the place.

I wish I knew this when I played GRO during our department's international conference a couple of weeks ago. I sat in the back of a van with some of the participants and I can tell you, my vocabulary level dropped to the level of 'Hey Joe, you wanna buy watch? Me love you long time." (I was apparently not alone. For some reason most of us younger instructors found ourselves using very basic sentence structures. We all wanted to tell our guests that usually we were engaging conversationalists, but our collective syntax short-circuited just then. I digress.) All I could say when we passed by City Hall was that it was built in the late 1930s, got bombed and rebuilt again. Not much help really.

But really, the things that you learn from Google. Just simply fascinating. I don't mind I spent a few minutes on the web for it.


Reading Anna Karenina in Africa

Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize acceptance speech takes a jab at the internet for its seduction of a whole generation with its many "inanities:" "[E]ven quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?"


Okay, I felt alluded to. But I think that comment was less about about dissing the internet, but more about how reading books and experiencing great literature really satisfies a hunger for knowledge. A huge part of her speech tells about the difficulties of getting books, what more a proper education, in Africa, where a book may cost one several months' wages. But still, people read books, a third of Anna Karenina at a time, like that young woman waiting for her ration of water in a store.

Buti pa nga yung babaeng iyon nakatapos ng 1/3 ng Anna Karenina, which I can't claim for myself. And I probably have more books than entire villages in Africa. I'm the downfall of the human race. Pero oks pa rin, kasi sabi ni Lessing there's a storyteller deep inside all of us.

Now if only that storyteller quits blogging and starts to work on her bloody thesis. Gah.


Monday, December 10

How to get yourself depressed. Not.

Here's something guaranteed to deliver a low blow to the your already down self-esteem: what other people accomplished when they were your age. Here's mine:

The Danish physicist Niels Bohr published his revolutionary theory of the atom.

French novelist George Sand published her first novel, Indiana.

Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof of Warsaw invented the artificial language Esperanto.

British physician Thomas Wakley began publishing The Lancet.

Jamaican reggae composer/performer Bob Marley recorded "I Shot the Sheriff."

Nuclear plant lab tech Karen Silkwood died in a car crash on her way to meet with a New York Times reporter and a union official to document her allegations about falsified quality control reports.

French naturalist Jean B. Lamarck coined the word biology to encompass the studies of botany and zoology.

Radio DJ Brent McCoy killed a mouse, seemingly by staring at it, in his living room.

College graduate and licensed therapist Katie moved back in with her parents to muck stalls on their farm and fold her dad's underwear, still warm from the dryer.

Now except for the last two, all the others are something I can't do and don't really care much about doing. I remember reading a similar list a few years ago, and became really sad that Orson Welles made Citizen Kane when he was 24 or something. Somebody else said that if you haven't done anything spectacular or world-changing by age 30, perhaps you never will. That gives me a few more years. Not that I'm counting on it. I'll probably look at this post by then and consider myself bonkers.


Monday, November 26

How to lose ten pounds

This girl complained of stomach pains and when the doctors opened her up, they found a ten pound hairball. It was a mass of black, curly hair, and measured 15 inches by 7 inches by 7 inches, the doctors said. Turns out she has a condition known as trichophagia, a compulsion to eat one's own hair.

Ten pounds is exactly the amount of weight I wish to shed, but not this way. Gah.

Thursday, November 22

Badger Sleep Balm

It's two in the morning, it's raining steadily and I'm still wide awake. This is perfect blanket weather, and it makes me wish that I should have checked this out at the mall before I went home the other day:

A dreamy night balm rich with precious oils to calm, encourage, cheer and relax poetic badgers and other restless wanderers. Just rub a little balm under nose, on lips, on temples or other pulse points. Or use the oil for after-bath moisturizing or soothing massage. The aroma does the work. Rosemary is the traditional herb for clear thinking, confidence, and memory. Bergamot is mentally uplifting. Ginger is strengthening and confidence-inducing. Balsam Fir is refreshing, like a walk in the woods. Lavender is the traditional sleep herb; fresh and relaxing. But Sleep Balm doesn't make you sleepy! It helps quiet your thoughts, then you fall asleep naturally.

My Sleepytime Tea hasn't been working well for me the last few weeks again. Even the supposedly "calming" body wash used to do the trick, but not right now. So while I was out with friends last weekend, we stayed almost the entire time in a coffee shop, talking and flipping through magazines. There was an article on how to sleep better and I saw this product there.

The Bedtime soap bar also seems interesting. Their website has a few testimonials from insomniacs and call me a sucker for advertising, but I would want to try this out. I distinctly remember seeing some Badger products in Rustans. I might not even wait for Christmas for this.

Kawaii in a box

I was looking at bento boxes when I saw this:

Here's the full description: "A great two-tiered bento set with bottom lid and chopsticks featuring Totoro from the wildly popular My Neighbor Totoro anime. This is a very well made sealing bento that will fit nicely into your bag or compartmentalized lifestyle because of its handy vertical arrangement. Includes elastic strap for keeping your sauces and surrounding stainables safe from leakage. Awwwwingly cute with two 3D Totoros on the front, and of course the effervescent soot sprites. Approximately 3 inches by 3.5 inches. Microwave safe!"

Three inches! $24 para sa lalagyan ng Dewberry ito.

But, no, kahit nagrereklamo sa kamahalan ang lola, may I look pa rin at the other products. Candidate sa usefulness ito:

Maliit pa rin at 5.5 by 3.5 inches. Para kang kumain ng second to the smallest sized index card.

Like, I totally dig this more understated one:

Might be the aluminum. At any rate, $18 is still a huge amount to pay for a lunch box. So this remains in my wants, but not necessarily needs list.

But while looking at that website, I came across something almost inexplicable:

It's not just oil blot paper, it's the Hello Kitty Oil Absorption Paper *Gem*:
Sanrio helps you maintain your peak and shiny cuteness with these Hello Kitty Oil Absorption Paper sheets -- because, after all, how can you be cute when your face is all oily? A popular Japanese health care product, Aburatori Gami (literally "Oil-Taking Paper"), are commonly sold in convenience stores. An essential cuteness care item. 50 sheets. Easily fits into any bag or purse for your convenience. This purchase is for the pack with an illustration of Kitty-chan with gems in the background.

Sa halagang $3, puwede mo nang punasan ang anumang mantikang inilabas sa mukha mo ng kinain mo. O di ba bongga? Kasi yan lang talaga ang rason na naisip ko kung bakit kasama yan sa webpage na puro lunch boxes. Feeling ko nga naligaw ito, dapat pang-Hello Kitty Hell siya.

Monday, November 19

My So-Called Influences

The question I dread the most in creative writing classes is that eventually you get asked, "So who were your influences?" I made a complete rat of myself last Saturday morning with such an earnest and rambling response. I totally forgot to list down My So-Called Life.

And oh, I read in an article that Alicia Silverstone almost played Angela Chase. That would have been totally wrong. I liked Alicia Silverstone, but My So-Called Life trumps Clueless any day in my book. People just want to murder Claire Danes now, but if there's one thing she got right, it's how to play an insecure and in love teenager from the mid-90s.

I mean, I can live in a deserted island without Gatsby and Great Expectations if I have in my possession the complete series DVD of My So-Called Life. Six discs, 19 episodes, 1110 minutes. With audio commentary on six episodes. Plus a behind the scenes docu, My So-Called Life Story. And Amazon is selling it for $49.99. Can you say Christmas wishlist? I can totally live without the previous DVD set with the lunch box, thank you. If there's one thing you'll buy for me on Amazon, this is it. Go now, go!

Sunday, November 18

How to Win a National Book Award

According to New York Magazine, this is how you can win the Oscars of the publishing world in five easy steps:

1. Don't be a young debut novelist
2. Do Aim for World-Historical Significance
3. Don't Write Short Stories
4. Do Be a Literary Insider
5. Do Expand Your Demo(graphic)

I haven't read it yet, but this year's front runner and eventual winner is Denis Johnson for Tree of Smoke, a Vietnam War novel. Everyone expected him to win anyway, as he got 3 of the 5 easy steps. I had read a couple of his short stories anthologized in Best of collections, and Jesus' Son sounds interesting.

Thursday, November 15

Moore on Polanski

Tangentially related to the previous Ira Levin post, an unearthed article from the New York Times archive, from the Watching Movies With series. This one features Julianne Moore on Rosemary's Baby, as directed by Roman Polanski, and on how he balances horror from the mundane and comedy:

"Polanski keeps yanking us back and forth between cheerful and frightened. You keep getting these little dabs of comedy, all the way through. Ruth Gordon and the other neighbors are basically played for comic effect. That's how the horror is introduced in this movie, as comedy. It's never the dominant tone, but it's there. It's like in 'Macbeth,' you know? Somehow it makes the horror even more horrible."

Also from the same 2001 series, Woody Allen on Shane.

Wednesday, November 14

Ira Levin, R.I.P.

Ira Levin, author of Rosemary's Baby and Stepford Wives, passed away at 78. For some reason, I feel this more than Norman Mailer's passing. Admittedly, Mailer was more entertaining to watch, but I was bored to tears trying to read his work. Meanwhile, I read and watched most of Levin's works.

Levin himself was never really bothered that he wasn't considered a heavy weight literary novelist in his time. Some critics also confined his work to genre: "Combining elements of several genres — mystery, Gothic horror, science fiction and the techno-thriller — Mr. Levin’s novels conjured up a world full of quietly looming menace, in which anything could happen to anyone at any time. In short, the Ira Levin universe was a great deal like the real one, only more so: more starkly terrifying, more exquisitely mundane."

He did that quite effectively, I think. So much so that he was able to really infiltrate popular imagination. What he wasn't thrilled about was the upsurge of Satanism that seemed to occupy popular culture since Mia Farrow spawned the devil's son. But given that, I'd think he was amused that "Stepford" is now used as an adjective. At least I use it. He didn't ask me for any royalties though.

Tuesday, November 13

Ladlad 3 invitation

Ladlad 3 invitation
Originally uploaded by xkg
My creative nonfiction professor J. Neil Garcia just handed me an invite to the launch of the almost mythical third installation in the Ladlad series. Grabe. As in undergrad pa lang ako lagi nilang sinasabing lalabas na ang librong iyan.

Note the merman with wings on the book cover*. Neil says that if that cover isn't enough to lure people to the launch, he doesn't know what will. How about free food? Hahaha.

Anyway, Ladlad 3 book launch will be on 1 December 2007, 5 to 7pm, Bestsellers Ortigas, 4/F Robinsons Galleria.

*If you'd look closely at the envelope beside the invite, the writing says "Jessel and Friends," tapos may drawing ng heart. Parang "Lotlot and Friends" di ba? So 80s! Hahaha.

Sunday, November 11


William Shakespeare

If music be the kantogirl of love, play on.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Tuesday, November 6

The Mindset List

For the last ten years, Benoit College in Wisconsin hands out what they call "The Mindset List," which not only gives the faculty and staff a whiff of that mortal coil, but it also gives gives them an idea of the student body's perspective.

I think the list is a great indication of culture--the things we use everyday, material and very tangible, i.e., "You can always take the MRT to Makati to avoid traffic." Or, "It's hot/I'm bored, let's go to the mall." There's also how we organize ourselves into our own little tribes, i.e., "What's the need for a stamp when there's always e-mail? Or better yet, everyone is just a text away or I can always look them up in Friendster Facebook/Multiply/MySpace." One can also take into consideration the various ways we celebrate and amuse ourselves: "I don't like this guy's moustache, let's start a massive campaign to vote him off the show."

When I started teaching, Friendster was just starting and it was a hip new thing. I was only a few years ahead of my students, and I was able to pass myself off as one on the first day of class. Last March, the first bunch of kids I had in class graduated. They're about as old as the clothing brand Bench, born the year the first EDSA happened. But as you go along, it becomes more and more difficult to engage people. Cultural references during discussion just fly over their heads and you get eyes glazed with boredom and incomprehension. In a few days, I'll be off again to meet a bunch of kids for whom the Internet has always been there and music is something you download. The Eraserheads and the Apo Hiking Society only existed in tribute and best of albums. Water is something you buy in a bottle. Research means typing something up in the Google search bar.

I wonder how much different this is from the time I was in college, when Martial Law really was something you just read in history books. The divide between generations has always been there. It's not just a matter of technology becoming obsolete. Heck, I wrote my papers in a typewriter, complete with white correction fluid. I lived, my professors lived through it, albeit shaking his head with disappointment at some girls who thought that Les Miserables has always been on Broadway and Lea Salonga was in it and that The Little Prince was something that you could quote in a beauty contest. For that, he made us read the unabridged version by Victor Hugo AND suffer through an oral exam on Antoine L'Exupery. He must have known that we thought him an old fogey. And he was, anyway.

Sooner rather than later, you will become obsolete, a fossilized relic from another era. It's one thing to come inside the classroom armed with this bits of knowledge. But how will it help, really?

Sabi nga ni Captain Planet, knowing is just half the battle.

The other half siguro, you just drink na lang.

Sunday, November 4

The Old Blue

“Girl Meets Boy,” Ali Smith’s modern retelling of Ovid’s Iphis myth, appears in The Guardian. An excerpt:

“I had simply never found anyone so right. Sometimes this shocked me so much that I was unable to speak. Sometimes when I looked at her, I had to look away. Already she was like no one else to me. Already I was fearful she would go. I was used to people being snatched away. I was used to the changes that came out of the blue. The old blue, that is. The blue that belonged to the old spectrum.”


Bento #1 comes from

School's just about a shuteye away, and I've started thinking about what to eat for lunch in school. Just Bento seems to offer the perfect solution for me--to satisfy hunger, save a bit, AND lose weight. Maki clarifies that you don't need the pretty lacquered boxes from Japan to make yourself one: "Bento, or obento to use the honorific term, is a meal served in a box. Beyond that basic definition though, just about anything goes as to what kind of box or container is used, as well as what is put inside that box."

She also offers a handy tip how to choose the right lunch box, especially if you aim to watch what you eat: "Generally speaking, for a tightly packed Japanese-style bento, the number of milliliters (ml) that a box can hold corresponds roughly to the number of calories it holds. This is why so many Japanese bento boxes, in particular the cute ones with anime characters and things on them, are tiny - they’re meant to be used by kids and young girls on perpetual diets." Even your basic white plastic, non-leak container will do. Unless, of course, you're under 7 years old, it'll be wise to stay away from fancy bento boxes.

That said, I'm eyeing her Bento box #1, which has deep fried tofu with green onions and oyster sauce, a quail egg, and some blanched green beans and carrots. Simple and filling. Very pretty, too.

Saturday, October 20

Stein and social status

Joel Stein's essay in Time looks at online social networking. Nothing new, and there was a similar essay in Slate also a few weeks back that targets the same ground. But this time, Stein sort of stratifies the online networking sites. Your online networking tool says a lot about you. Stein claims that Friendster is mostly Asian, hi5 is Eurotrashy and Twitter is for geeks.

Twitter is for geeks? Since when? But then again, I follow a tech update site via Twitter, which then sends me updates at 2 freaking AM. Oh yeah, must be a geeky thing then.

Yun lang naman.

Friday, October 19


I knew it was just a matter of time: presenting the LOLification of T.S. Eliot:

april hates u, makes lilacs, u no can has. (1)
april in ur memoriez, making ur desire.
spring rain in ur dull rootzes.

Tepidmonkey points out that the LOLcat Wasteland sort of misses the point: "There’s just no point to this if there are no pictures of cats to look at. The lolcat pidgin isn’t that interesting in and of itself. Lolcats took off in the first place because everyone likes to pretend that their cat has thoughts and feelings and is trying to talk to them when they meow, and because everyone likes looking at pictures of cute kitties. But this text-only stuff? Do not want."

So somebody was game enough to suggest that perhaps this photo can accompany the text.

But all in all, I found it amusing, and I'm assuming this isn't just an English major thing. It was rather interesting to follow the ensuing comments in the Mefi post as LOLcat grammar was applied to other literary works. But anyhow, consider Proust:

I made you a madeleine.

But I eated it.

There were two Basho haikus, here and here.
Somebody took a stab at Jabberwocky, the Tiger.

But my favorite is William CatLOLs Williams:

OH HAI i saved you a plums, but i eated it,sry

via the always amusing

Sunday, October 14

From My Girl to Soldier's Bride


Because Markmomukhamo insists I'm a fan, might as well. Here's your unsolicited My Girl news of the week/month/year/decade/millenium: Anna Chlumsky is engaged!

She's slated to marry soldier Shaun So, who served in Afghanistan. Since she is Catholic and her fiance is Chinese, the ceremony will be a mixture of both: "My church, Chinese reception." There won't be any bride "kidnapping," but will most likely have a tea ceremony. Both their fathers are chefs and have restaurants, the reception will most likely have a little of both.

The article says there's no chance of Macaulay Culkin attending his erstwhile co-star's wedding, since she doesn't "have his address."

In the weirdest of universal coincidences, when I was reading the papers the other day, I also saw this bit wherein Macaulay Culkin's girlfriend who was on That 70s Show, claimed that Mac is a homebody and is a "terrific cook."

Now I can't be bothered to look up a link for that, so go figure.



When I was first studying drama and screenwriting, Harold Pinter's play (and then movie version) Betrayal has been mentioned again and again as an excellent exercise in crafting memory. And in those heady undergrad days, memory was something unreliable. And it's therefore interesting to see how our own memories get twisted by our own brains.

Aside from memory, structure was also one of the biggest virtues of this piece. If a story unfolds a certain way, there must be a valid reason for it, and not just playing out a technique for technique's sake. Again, this is something that is chalked up to memory as well.

Betrayal tells its story backwards. A man and a woman had an affair. But instead of showing us its genesis first, it shows us the aftermath: the woman and her husband are separating, their marriage irreparable; and the woman's affair with the husband's best friend, which ended years ago, wasn't the only indiscretion in this failed marriage--the husband had his own.

The play was written in the late '70s, and by reading the wiki on Harold Pinter, one is informed that his affair with Lady Antonio Fraser informed him in the writing of this play. But that's beside the point. Affairs in general are frowned upon, whatever time and space one occupies. The topic of marital infidelity is also something that's been written about; and surely, the way the story unfolds is not that novel. Although a number of the sites I read did say that the structure was what made it interesting. We've seen lots of affair stories, and they all tend to be generic at some point. But what saves this is that by telling the story backwards, one gets a sense not just of the effect of the affair on those involved, but how people deliberately leave out things, twist details.

After reading, one gets the idea that Jerry is the one who feels the loss largely. Since the play ends with the time he and Emma first get that stab at intimacy, we are left with a picture of an adoring Jerry. He seems to love Emma more. He tortures himself with trying to place the memory of throwing Emma's little girl in the kitchen--was it his kitchen or theirs? Ultimately, these little details give us the bigger picture.

It's been a long time since playwriting or screenwriting class, and I suppose the excitement over this structure has waned a bit for me. I was expecting something flashy, I suppose. But the play is solid in its structure, very spare, but the richness of the quality of the memories of the characters was something worth following.

This is a real quick read--probably took me over an hour. I got my copy of Betrayal (Book #18) from Booksale for Php70. Not bad on its own, but as part of a P300 splurge on a single afternoon it did help burn a pretty hole in my pocket.

Birthday Stories

Here's a weird one: I first saw and browsed Murakami's Birthday Stories in a bookstore in a strange city on my first trip abroad on my birthday a couple of years ago. That day, I think I only read Murakami's contribution to this feast, "Birthday Girl." It's only now that I read the rest of the stories in the collection. Again, after a weird coincidence: I was cleaning out my shelves in the office and this book dropped on my lap, as though from heaven. I don't remember buying it. But after some asking around, the riddle has been solved. Although I suspect I would have been happier if the book really was mine, a sign of the universe's weird sense of humor.

It's difficult to pick which story is my favorite, because there are several. Russell Banks' "The Moor" has a middle aged man walks inside a bar for a drink with the guys and sees an old lady who looked quite familiar. The woman was celebrating her eightieth. On the way out, one of his chaps joke, "An old girlfriend?" The truth isn't that far.

Old ladies seem to be recurring characters in this collection. There's the woman i n Daniel Lyon's "The Birthday Cake," who didn't want to give out her weekly supply of cake to a young mother who was too busy to buy her little girl a cake. The old mother in Ethan Canin's "Angel of Mercy, Angel of Wrath" called her son in another city to tell him that some birds got in her apartment. She never reminded him, and yet waited for him to remember that it was her birthday. Then there's the three old ladies who attended a little boy's birthday party; one of them told the story of "The Emperor Who Had No Skin."

There were at least two stories which hinted at gayness. In William Trevor's "Timothy's Birthday," a young man sends out the sully youth he now lives with in his place for a birthday lunch with this parents. In Claire Keegan's "Close to the Water's Edge," a nineteen year old Harvard student goes to the fancy Florida digs of her mother's millionaire second husband.

Then there's Raymond Carver's heartwrenching "The Bath" (otherwise known as "A Small, Good Thing" in other editions), where a little boy gets hit by a car and goes on coma on his birthday. And while his parents stand guard over him, a furious baker calls and calls their house for the uncollected birthday cake.

Taken together, the stories almost prove that there's no such thing as a "happy birthday." Although they're not entirely pessimistic either. The world may be a bit bleak, and happiness is fleeting and hard to come by, but it does, and when it does make an appearance, you want to hold on to it as hard as you can.

Got to read Birthday Stories (Book #17) for free: Thanks goes to (1) Kinokuniya Bookstore in Bangkok, and (2) to Booboochichang who apparently left this book in my cluttered shelf some time ago.

Sunday, September 30

Dead Man On Campus

I caught Dead Man on Campus on TV yesterday. I didn't even know the title of the movie until a few minutes ago. Of the actors, the only one I recognized was Alyson Hannigan of Buffy and band camp fame. It wasn't even a big role--as this movie came out in 1998, a year before band camp made her famous. Here, she was the best friend of the lead actor's love interest. And oh, her hair got burned.

A cursory check with the movie's credits in the International Movie Database revealed that the slacker roommate Cooper was played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, teen pinup from Saved By The Bell, and Josh, the nice boy gone bad, was played by Tom Everett Scott, of the one hit wonder film That Thing You Do.

As far as plot is concerned, this one doesn't have much. Here's the barebones summary from Imdb: "Two college roommates go out and party, resulting in bad grades. They learn of the "if your roommate dies, you get an A" clause, and decide to find someone who is "on the verge" so to speak to move in with them."

Their candidates included a geeky boy who thinks everyone is conspiring against him and a frat boy with a death wish. But my favorite is the British rock star wannabe whom turned out to be a poseur on all counts. "You can't be suicidal if you're into show tunes!" And he was a high school cheerleader too.

The film was billed as "the best college movie since Animal House." Call me geeky, but I personally think another college movie as more qualified. But then again, that's just me.

But forget the plot unoriginality, perhaps the best part of the movie was its opening sequence with its ingenious use of animation, SAT score sheets, human anatomy drawings, etc. In fact, the web site Forget the Film, Watch the Titles tells us to do just that. I missed the first two minutes, so here it is, courtesty of the good folks in YouTube:

Tuesday, September 25

The Great F. Scott

I've been reading a lot of F. Scott Fitzgerald lately. On my desk at home and in school I have Flappers and Philosophers, his first collection of short stories, This Side of Paradise, his first novel, and Malcolm Cowley's A Second Flowering, which is about the "works and days of the Lost Generation."

I've also just finished The Diamond as Big as The Ritz and other stories. (Book # 16) The title story has John T. Unger, who vacations with his a classmate. Percy Washington's family is obscenely rich, and for three generations, his family protects their secret enclave. Trouble begins when John falls in love with Percy's younger sister Kismine. Paradise doesn't last long. Soon enough he discovers what happens to young men who fall in love with young women whose family owns a diamond as big as the Ritz.

One thing which surprised me upon reading Fitzgerald again is not that his stories are mostly long. 20 pages is a bare minimum, which is good for me: my grad fiction class requirement is 40 pages! 40! I have 30 to go. It's that his stories contain chapters instead of the transitions that I've gotten used to in most contemporary fiction.

But what I particularly like about Fitzgerald is that most of the conflict in his stories come from what Malcolm Cowley calls the "Romance of Money." Fitzgerald was never really an out and out Marxist. But the conflict between classes was palpable because they were presented in unbearably real (and often traumatic) situations. He was part of that generation of writers born between 1895 to 1900 and came of age in the Twenties, the Jazz Age, when money, lots of it, could be earned, easily.

His young men on the make work in advertising, business, stocks, entertainment. Success was measured not by what you own, but how big an annual salary you got. These young men partied with and fell in love with debutantes, and to their simple request, "W Y B M A D I I T Y?*" the answer was always yes, why yes!

But the thing was, earned money will never be in the same league with old money. New money flowed, yes, but old money was as solid as a house in West Egg, and those living across could only yearn fitfully for that green light blinking at the dock.

There's also a lot of Fitzgerald floating about in the web. The Guardian has a series on great interviews of the 20th century. Michel Mok's interview presents Fitzgerald a few days after his 40th birthday and four years before his death, as a man "consumed with fear that his name will never be in lights again."

This is the Fitzgerald after the crack-up, echoed in his stories "An Alcoholic Case" and "The Lost Decade," where the protagonist was a weird sort of Rip Van Winkle. He had slept through most of the 1930s in an alcoholic haze. His time has passed and he didn't know how to live in this world anymore.

According to a foreword by Jay McInerney, most people have dismissed the interview as "a hatchet job," but while it was "unseemly," it's also "not unfair." He even says that there's a poignancy to it that Fitzgerald agreed to contribute to his own "depantsing":

What possessed him, you can't help wondering, to expose himself this way? It's as if he has determined to be a representative figure once again, even at the expense of humiliating himself, to reaffirm his significance as a generational totem by portraying himself as an exemplary victim of its faults. What makes this document even more poignant, almost unbearably so, is that Fitzgerald seems to have undervalued the literary achievement that would one day resurrect his reputation, even as it would always remain intertwined with the tragic myth of his life.

*Will You Buy Me A Drink If I Tell You?

Sunday, September 9

Hello Moto: You Suck

I've been a Nokia girl all my life, and almost all my phones suffered the same end: stolen or death by drowning. But I figured, maybe a change wouldn't be so bad. So I got myself a new mobile recently, a Motorola w375.

Here's a YouTube video demonstrating the w375's "capabilities."

I liked the orange one, but it's out of stock. I got a shiny black phone. The first thing I noticed about this new phone was that it made me a slower texter. The keypad takes forever to react, and is prone to moving on to the next letter so I had to be really careful keying things in. There's something to be said about Nokia's very friendly GUI.

Then the battery gives up way too fast for a brand new phone. The w375 is dead after a day and a half. I thought that perhaps I didn't really fully charge it the first time. But hey, no worries. The manual said I could charge it by charging it to a PC via the mini-USB cable. Great.

Until the day I finally had to do just that. I'm far away from home, unexpectedly, and although I carry a big bag, a phone charger isn't in it. But hey, I have DSL, nyahaha. I can look up the phone's manual and charge it via PC. Harharhar.

But the phone doesn't display the "charging" icon and it's asking for a driver. I check the website and says that all drivers should be in the installation package and that the phone's software is already up to date.

Still no go.

Then I check users' forums and find out that I'm. Not. Alone. Read mostly unsatisfied customer comments here.

It turns out that Motorola did not include a set of drivers for the w375. How nifty is that huh?

Hay naku, had I known I would have just bought another Nokia phone and not this one which boasts a camera--crappy and an alternative USB storage device--all 100kb of it.

Hello, Motorola, if you're reading this, it's the first and last time I'm buying a phone from you.

Thursday, August 23

Disappearing Acts

In the September issue of Vanity Fair, Susanna Andrews writes about Arthur Miller's Missing Act: "For all the public drama of Arthur Miller's career—his celebrated plays (including Death of a Salesman and The Crucible), his marriage to Marilyn Monroe, his social activism—one character was absent: the Down-syndrome child he deleted from his life."


Wednesday, August 22

Bread Talk

It was such a busy day after the rather long weekend and I was looking forward to enjoying a little reward to myself: a bun of Berries and Cream from Bread Talk.

So imagine my surprise (and slight disappointment) when it turned out to be mostly strawberry stuffing and no cream. Nyar. Although in fairness, nag-uumapaw lang siya sa strawberries ha. Pero nyar pa rin.

Bread Talk is supposed to be the Krispy Kremes of Singapore. Only that for the last few years, their designer breads had also conquered the Philippines. There are lines all the time whenever I pass by a branch, and at one time I was trying to enjoy my cup of coffee when a swarm literally descended on the Gateway branch, the same crowd I was avoiding at the mall. It turned out that Carmina Villaroel of QTV's Day Off was trying her hand at baking bread.

But really, why call the store Bread Talk? Someone said the owner wanted the people to talk about the bread. But in my head, I imagine that this is the wicked sort of pick up lines that bakers use. Somewhere along the lines of:
Hey baby, you've got some really hot buns.
You won't forget my baguette.
The filling just won't go away.
Don't let me stuff you.
Nyar, BreadTalk, look at what you made me do. What happened to the tagline, "We Make Your Day"? But pretty nifty, noh?

Sunday, August 19

First Love, Last Rites

If you're after a fun, enjoyable and light long weekend reading, then this book is not for you. Then again, this depends on how you define "fun" and "enjoyable." But definitely, First Love, Last Rites, the first collection of short stories by Ian McEwan, is not light weekend reading, however you look at it. This book succeeded in disturbing me, but in a good way.

I couldn't finish the stories in one go. It was too painful to read. The same with the other stories. There's a man who was raised as an eternal two year old by his mother, and then she meets a man and decides her little boy has to grow up, now. There's the man who supposedly saw a little girl before she fell off the ridge. Butterflies were never so disturbing.

The last story in the collection, "Disguises," is the source of my unease. A stage actress retires to take care of her nephew when her sister dies. Away from the stage, she brings her penchant for dressing up to the everyday routine she shares with ten year old Henry, who suspects that not all kids have to wear little soldier's uniforms to dinner with their parents. But he wears whatever it is he finds on his bed every afternoon, for he does like the stage--they have this tiny theater made from a fruit boxes and peopled with cardboard cutouts. It wasn't until he makes a friend out of new seatmate Linda that dressing up disturbs him. Or it could be that he got disturbed after he got drunk on his first taste of wine while dressed in a wig and girl's clothes. If that can't make you doubt your aunt's parenting techniques, then what will?

Here's some unsolicited McEwan trivia, according to The Guardian: He wrote the "unsuccessful" film The Good Son (Joseph Ruben, 1993), "about a sociopathic child, intended to reverse Macaulay Culkin's goody-goody image." As for "unsuccessful," again that's arguable. It's the most interesting Mac film in my book, as it departs from his painfully cute roles. It's right up McEwan's alley, I must say, at least based on this early collection of stories.

Still a tangentially related trivia: According to the Wikipedia page, there were previous attempts to film The Good Son had been shelved for various reasons. At one point, the role of Henry had even been awarded to Jesse Bradford, who now stars in the Hollywood remakes of My Sassy Girl and The Echo. Iza Calzado reprises the same role she had in Sigaw.

Anyway, got my copy of First Love, Last Rites (Book #15) in that book stall along AS Walk for Php180. Took me over a month to finish it, considering that it's a very slim volume (125 pages) and contains eight stories. But again, as I've said, this isn't light weekend reading.

DIY Sunday

In an age of convenience, people tend to just walk inside a store and buy stuff. That's what 7-11 is for, and I really don't mind NOT doing my own laundry, but Simply Thrifty emphasizes that all this convenience is "expensive and making people lazy."

So she presents 100 Things you can make yourself which includes hair conditioner. There's one kind where you can combine rosemary and olive oil, but you can also you mayonnaise to deep condition your hair. The site warns its readers to use "real" mayonnaise and not salad dressing, as this will only dry your hair. So no Mayo Magic then.

Because of the positive feedback, she then came up with 100 more other things you can make yourself.

Of that later list, I was curious about how to make mulled wine and margaritas, as well as how to make your own moleskine-like-notebook (3.5 x 5.5 x .5 in) using substance 20 bond paper -- the type you use in your copier and printer, and how to build your own pc. Attempt the last two things only if you're confident of your reflex skills.

I was reminded of when I was little and my mother was suddenly interested in making her own vinegar. So she took home loads of pineapple skin and packed the juice and pulp into huge glass jars which she stored in all the kitchen cupboards and even under the sink. Weeks and months later we had way too much vinegar than we could use, but I remember that they were tangy and tasted better than any vinegar we ever had.

And we're not even talking about her make your own pickled singkamas, sibuyas or peppers phase.

Saturday, August 18


I like caturdays

and then there's the caturday that never ends

This last one is from Ape Lad, who clai ms that his grandpa came out with the very first Laugh Out Cat cartoons, featuring Meowlin Kitteh.

If you throw $50 his way, he'll draw you a "critter, creature or varmint," of your choice and send you (or your friend) the original color artwork on a postcard sent (in an envelope).

*hint hint*

Thursday, August 16

More Thrilla in Cebu

Almost a month after their Thriller video captured the web by storm, the inmates in Cebu are said to be practicing their next dance routine, "Together in Electric Dreams," which will be unveiled in two weeks in YouTube.

It's going to be a big production: They hired a choreographer, and prison security director Byron F. Garcia says this new dance video will be his birhtday gift to the current governor of Cebu, Gwendolyn Garcia, who also happens to be his sister.

I was initially excited by the news, until I realized they're doing Phil Oakley, not Debbie Gibson. I'm seeing a pattern here: Garcia clearly likes his 80s music, but only those sung by guys. When will the Correctional women put out their video of "Electric Youth"?

Wednesday, August 15

That bag, c'est moi

Look what I found:

It's a Parcel tote bag, which I got with tags and all in the ukay store which sheltered me from the rain earlier tonight. Actually, that's not the exact bag I got. Mine is a deeper purple, with black straps and yellow vines and flowers, and the bottom is a sort of dark burnished gold. I trawled through the Loop website (Nice, but flash heavy) and couldn't find the exact same bag. But you can look here to see the ruching detail not quite obvious in the above photo. Alternative Outfitters, which calls the bag "vegan and cruelty-free," also has a detailed description:
A Parcel classic silhouette made of ultra chic satin nylon in supple iridescent shades has zippers every which way but loose and adorable unique Parcel printed straps. The ruched side detail on the exterior pocket brings to mind French knickers and memories of no knickers!!! Headphone grommets keep your iPod, Nano, MP3 headphones from getting tangled so you can listen to your tunes effortlessly.
Truth be told, I was there because all the other convenience stores couldn't give me change or the stuff I needed to really buy. But it's a blessing in the sky in disguise. It's a happy happy find for Php150. Of course, not necessarily healthy from a personal finance point of view. But I found lotsa bags in that second ukay store than the one I first went to, in which I previously found a Tintin tote. This isn't their lucky day I suppose.

Anyway, it was a fun find, and it's not everyday that I find a bag that's made (seemingly) just for me.

Wednesday, August 8

Going Green

Nick Kindelsperger and Blake Royer of The Paupered Chef in an article in The Washington Post point us to a very familiar scene:
Cooking for one can be a frustratingly wasteful adventure, as we've both figured out the hard way. Even settled down with respective girlfriends after cooking-solo singlehood, we still find ourselves with the problem of herbs. One moment we're tossing heaps of beautiful fresh basil on pasta, and the next the refrigerator drawer (that alleged "crisper") has a large bag of unappetizing blackened slosh, which goes into the trash. Not only is it wasteful, but restocking the fridge every time a recipe calls for a teaspoon of parsley is expensive.
Rebecca Blood points us to several solutions. There's the bouquet method, where you plunk the bunch of basil in a glass with water, in room temperature and away from direct sunlight. The stems will later grow roots, and will probably last from a few days to weeks, given the proper conditions.

Another technique is what Mental Masala calls pseudo-hydroponics
which involves your basil, a glass or vase, and a plastic bag with holes in it:
When you bring your basil home, trim the stems with a clipper, remove the rubber band or twist tie, and place the bunch in a glass or vase. Add a few inches of water to cover the base of the stems. Then take a plastic bag and cut a few holes in it (the fresh shiitake mushrooms I buy come in a bag with holes pre-made, so I often re-use them for this purpose). Place a plastic bag over the basil leaves and place the assembly in a well-lit location, but out of the direct sunlight. Check the water level daily and add more as needed. If all goes well roots will start sprouting from the basil.
Here's a photo of how it looks like:

Now all I need is a really healthy bunch of basil. I think I've been watching way too much of Jamie At Home.

Sunday, July 29

Commuter Reading

Every day, I commute an hour to an hour and a half each way. It would have been nice to be able to really read something while in transit, unfortunately, I shift modes of transportation quite often. The longest ride I take is a 14 minute train ride, with perhaps a nine minute wait thrown in. Not exactly the best situation for reading.

MJ Iles, in this essay in The Guardian, agrees that commuter reading only allows you to "snatch at literature": "Though I see other people doing it, I don't think this is the way to read books. Only if I didn't care about a novel - only if I considered it not worth appreciating - would I subject it to such a reading process."

Iles suggests "episodic novels," which are "oddly out of favour nowadays." Short stories would be ideal, if only if they weren't the wrong length--it's either too short that a page is all you have, or too long that you have to stand aside and finish reading it while on the escalator, or hold up the line at the turnstiles. Poetry's also possible, but since I ride early in the morning and my caffeine buzz is still not there, I don't even want to try it.

It's really quite the dilemma, unless you're perfectly happy listening to the radio. Or as Iles suggest, do Sudoku. But since I'm not numbers oriented myself, I might just close my eyes and maybe catch some more shuteye.


FlyLady gives us 5 tips on how to declutter:
Your home is filled with clutter of all shapes and sizes. This is why you are unable to keep it clean. You have too much STUFF. All we ask is that you set a timer and spend 15 minutes a day decluttering. That's it. Anyone can do anything for only 15 minutes, even if you have to break it down into 5 minutes segments. What do you have to lose (besides clutter LOL!)?
This is something that I really need to do. My place is a fire trap. Five minutes a day for 27 days doesn't sound too bad--unless I forget all about it by like, day 5?

Sunday, July 22

Nom de porn

Did a classmate make your high school life suck a lot? Had a falling out with a friend? Then be a porn star and use HER name instead of yours.

You might get sued in the process, but at least you're not the one getting weird IMs from lecherous former batch mates.


1,500 inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center do Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Jail director Byron Garcia believes that music is good for the inmates' well-being, so he had them too YMCA, Radio Gaga and Hail Holy Queen.

Adam Jasper for Viceland magazine has this to say about prisons in the Philippines, at least as run by Byron Garcia: "Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center is different. It is a brand new prison built on the American model, with fingerprint scanners, closed-circuit TV, and orange uniforms. It’s run by Byron F. Garcia, and because he thinks it’s a jewel of a facility, he took me on a tour and let me photograph whatever I wanted."

Seems like this is what you do when bored and have plenty of play/inmates.

Meanwhile, this makes me think really hard about that urban legend which claims that civil servants only have half a brain.

Okay, this is not helping me get any sleep.


Saturday, July 21

Bedtime Teas

I'm down to the last bag of my caffeine free herbal teas, which help me sleep nights. What I'm sipping right now is the last of my Sleepytime tea, a blend of chamomile, spearmint, lemon grass, tilia flowers, blackberry leaves, orange blossoms, hawthorn berries, and rosebuds.

According to the website, this warm cup "creates a lullaby of tender flavor to soothe your senses. This 100% natural, gentle cup of hot tea lets you curl up under a quilt of flavor and quiet the tensions of your world."

The other day, I also drank the last of my Noche, which promises me "happy nights" through its blend of melissa, orange blossoms, chamomile, linden blossom and fennel seeds. It's a different blend from the one above, but a staple of these calming teas seem to be orange blossoms and chamomile. I bought Noche from one of the Spanish booths in the big international tiangge last Christmas. So unless I find a supplier here, I might have to wait for my "happy nights" in the next bazaar.

Sometimes I eat kiwi fruit, which is also effective, but dependent on (a) whether there's some available in the supermarket, or (b) if I actually have enough money to buy them fruits. There was one time that the only kind available was the "golden" one. The usual kiwi is brown and has furry skin. But golden kiwis are less furry and inside it's yellow. Chinabelles also more expensive. Kiwis of any kind are expensive. Gah.

I'm crossing my fingers that when I go the supermarket tomorrow, I'll find either one of these teas, or maybe some kiwi. If desperate, I might resort to the Sandman teas, but if I remember correctly, I didn't have much success with that particular brand.

Saturday, July 14

Get this party started

Dame Shirley Bassey gets the party started.

At 70 years old and with a new studio album, she definitely rocks it better than Pink. The opening scroll reminds me of Madonna c. Bedtime Stories and Immaculate Collection, but better.

It's such a shame that I only discovered Shirley Bassey last year I think, when some friends and I were hanging out in this cafe along the Riverbanks and they were playing this album. The boldest one asked the waiters what it was, he borrowed the CD and promptly ripped it off and copied it to his hard drive. But it's all for a good cause.


Sunday, July 1

Cat Roundup

New research indicates that cats probably domesticated themselves. Why? Because they have no opposable thumbs. Domestic cats may be genetically traced from five wild cats. They were either lured into domesticated by the mice in ancient people's grain storage places or they mated with domesticated cats. All this happened downwards of 160,000 years ago, although some people argue it's most likely 12,000 years ago .

You can read The Washington Post's David Brown's interview with Carlos Driscoll from the University of Oxford here.

Sunday, June 24

Death by cuteness

Think about this: what would you do if your wife loved Hello Kitty to death? Of course, she also wants to share this with you. Wake up and have coffee in your Hello Kitty mug, eat your Hello Kitty toast.

There's nothing wrong with too much Sanrio devotion. She took the Hello Kitty Psychology test and scored better than you. She insists you're evil. You protest. You look at the mirror. You have no mouth and you must scream.

Welcome to Hello Kitty Hell.

Sibling science

New research finds that firstborns gain higher I.Q. than later born siblings. It’s not so much biology—that later gestations affect the development of babies—but more of family dynamics. Generally, first time parents devote more time to their child, thus giving her better chances of developing intellectually, among other things. However, studies also show that firstborns are often more cautious with decision making, while children born later than their siblings tend to think more out of the box.

Now couple this with previous findings that twins tend to be slower than their singleton siblings—this time, biological factors like shorter gestation periods, which account for more premature twin births, do count more than social influences --- and my entire family is now scientifically mapped out.

I never really considered swapping birth orders with my siblings--I really do like my Evil Ate privileges--especially since now science reveals that I might have gotten the longer end of the stick by accident.

Monday, June 18

Today, the University of the Philippines turns 99, and it's the start of a year long countdown to the centennial.

You can join the day's celebrations here.

There's going to be a grand concert later tonight featuring Nanette Inventor, Candy Pangilinan and other UP performers.

I hear there's also going to be a rally pro testing the higher tuition. You can also join that i f that's your thing.

Or you can watch Oble in his latest movie. Kidding.

Saturday, June 16

Bringing on the apocalypse

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer never quite rose to my expectations, and that was already zero to low in the first place. Still sucked nevertheless.

The opening credits reminded me of the Spider-Man movie. There wasn't really a story, and you keep wishing the promised apocalypse would arrive so we could all go home. Oh sure, they tried to humanize superheroes, threw in wedding anxiety, the desire to be 'normal' and have the ability to raise a 'normal' family, but it's all been done and better. Even a recent TV viewing of The Incredibles was more exciting that this movie.

The movie had spectacular special effects--it succeeded to make Jessica Alba terribly unattractive. In general, at least for me, smarts trumps good looks, but Mr. Fantastic doesn't really generate an iota of attraction. Invisible Woman and the Human Torch actually had more chemistry romantically; if they breached the line of incestuous relationships, that would have made for a better story.

My favorite scene was just before the botched wedding: a bouncer stops this old man from entering the premises and asks for his name. "I'm Stan Lee, check the list," the old man says. But the bouncer still throws him out. "That's probably the high point of the entire movie," The Girl says. We laughed, albeit uneasily.

It turned out that she was right.

Friday, June 15

Science on romance, mating and lying

10 Zen Monkeys presents the scientific laws of romance. Without this, the romantic comedy screenwriters will have no job--or so he claims.

How women pick their mate (certain limitations apply, of course): Girls pick guys who resemble their fathers; guys often pick women who remind them of their mothers.

How to spot a liar: Make them tell their story backwards.

Thursday, June 14

Wedding, with accordion

A Yay, Internet moment: a craigslist wedding featuring LiveJournal*, and the Accordion Guy playing some Fatboy Slim.

I’m seriously having an LSS attack here and I’m supposed to be in bed, early class tomorrow. Will never listen to “Praise You” in the same way again. Blame Canada, nyar.

*“LiveJournal--it’s not just for writing about cutting yourself or hiring people to off your mom anymore!”

Wednesday, June 13

Regine's Girls

Watched the Regine Velasquez-Piolo Pascual movie Paano Kita Iibigin last weekend. It was the last full show on a Sunday night, so that might explain why there weren't too many people inside the theater.

When I took a look around, most of the viewers were females and a handful of gay guys. That's reason enough to think that these people were there to see Papa Piolo.

But I have a feeling they weren't too happy about the movie because (1) it was very predictable; (2) Piolo is merely repeating himself because he already played the same role in Nine Mornings; and (3) Regine's, uhm, perkiness, played major roles and should have been billed as part of the cast.

The unbearable distraction caused by Regine going bra-less has crept into the movie dialogue. There was this scene where Liwayway, the over the top resort cook played by Eugene Domingo, stopped Regine from confronting Piolo. She said something like, "Hoy, maghunos dili ka. Wag kang manugod kasi wala kang bra." I don't know whether that was part of the script but it's more likely an adlib.

The mystery of Her Royal Perkiness occupied the thoughts of the movie viewers. Why is she distracting us? We offered ourselves answers: (a) They were in a hurry to get to the resort, and as the vacation was offered while they were on the way to the airport, it's possible that the wardrobe Regine had on hand did not include provisions for bras; (b) Regine is old enough to do such things; (c) she's never read the manual on how to properly show off one's girls; or (d) She's Regine *freaking* Velasquez, and if she felt like showing off her girls, she has every right to do so because she's (repeat after me) Regine *freaking* Velasquez.

Monday, June 11

Library Hours

The Library Thing must be every geek's dream widget. With it, you can catalogue your books online. So far, I've uploaded nearly a hundred of my books. Mostly, these books are the ones piled beside my desk and perhaps read in the last couple of years.

Check out the meager contents of my library here. Or you can just check out the sidebar for random book covers.

Bah, I'm sleepy and there's a wall full of books to go.

Sunday, June 10

A Natural History of the Senses

A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman,PhP 200, AS Walk

The Amazon source page indicates that A Natural History of the Senses (Book #14) cites 91 books, and in turn it is cited by 403 others. Not bad for a book that's been around for a little over 15 years.In my very first creative writing class, our professor, a Jesuit in the making who loved floral shirts, forced us listen to Everything But the Girl's "Didn't Know I Was Looking For Love," loads of post-Police and pre-tantric sex Sting, Madonna reading a poem by Pablo Neruda, and one time, dolphin sounds. Among all the things he introduced us to, the one that stayed the most with me was reading excerpts of Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses.

I kept the pages on the history of kissing and synesthesia that he gave us. Last year, I saw a copy of the book in one of the table sales by student orgs lining up the AS Walk. The pages were already yellowing and it was rather dog-eared, but since I haven't seen it anywhere else (or too expensive everywhere else) I got it for PhP200.

Ackerman accompanied me through many lunches and afternoons spent in my office in between classes. One reviewer commented that the book isn't made for cover to cover reading, and I must agree. But only because I believe this is a book that must be savored, sensually experienced over time. There's really not too much history in the book per se--it's science or nature writing really. But the botto line is that you get to learn a lot of things. For example, that musk, a key ingredient in perfume, was discovered up in the mountains by lonely goatherds who had nothing else to do but observe that a red jelly-like substance forms on sheep's genitalia. Or was it a goat? That by choosing to wear a scent, what we really are declaring is that we are ripe with pheromones and we want to mate. "Do you think I'm more shaggable when I smell like grapefruit and oranges or when I smell like a tennis player?" Of course, one never asks the sales person this over the counter. This all happens deep in our bones and veins, at the tips of our neurons and synapses, a kind of shared unspeakable memory.

A Natural History of the Senses is best read in spurts and stretches. Often I told myself I'd just finish one little bit, just this piece about perfume. Ackerman's language has a lusciousness to it, or as one reviewer said, it's all about "the heady succulence of life." I can only experience and live with too much headiness or succulence. It's perhaps why it took me several months to finish this. I also admire her ability to include the self in topics like a shuttle launch, or leaves turning red in the fall, or the pursuit of butterflies and glaciers. Some reviewers tag Ackerman as a little self-absorbed because of this. I don't mind it at all.

On Their Own

This is rather old hat, but here's an Unsolicited Manang Lea Nugget for this week (with Monique Wilson figuring in somewhere):
The competition for a role in Miss Saigon was fierce. All those who auditioned chose their respective song carefully in order to increase their chance of bagging the lead role in the year’s most anticipated musical. And the competition was really so fierce that even friends like Lea and Monique kept their audition song a secret from each other.

As witnesses distinctly remember, Lea arrived at her audition for Miss Saigon dressed casually without any trace of facial make-up. Then there was silence in the audition room. And in her trademark crystal clear and crisp singing voice, Lea Salonga started singing her audition song.

Lea Salonga sang “On My Own” during her audition for Miss Saigon.

During the same Miss Saigon audition, Monique Wilson also came dressed casually with nary a trace of facial make-up. Then there was silence in the audition room. And in her trademark penetrating and heart-wrenching singing voice, Monique Wilson started singing her audition song.

Monique Wilson sang “On My Own” during her audition for Miss Saigon.

Yes, Lea Salonga and Monique Wilson sang the same song for their Miss Saigon audition.

And neither of them knew that the other will sing the same song.
This story was swiped from Untold Pinoy Stories. Although if you're a Manang Lea/Miss Saigon fan, you probably know all this already. I don't really know what Monique Wilson is up to these days. Also, I was under the impression that she was older than Manang Lea, manang-ness notwithstanding.

It's weird because just this morning, I saw the Hapee toothpaste commercial featuring Manang Lea. She doesn't advertise herself as "Mrs. Saigon" or Eponine or Fantine, but she now likes to be called "Mrs. Chien, mother ni Nicole." When I first heard what she named her daughter, I just said, "Who would name her kid 'Beverly'?"

Thursday, June 7

Walking Through

Book13, Screenwriters' Masterclass: Screenwriters Talk About Their Greatest Movies, edited by Kevin Conroy Scott, Faber and Faber, 2005, PhP199, Powerbooks

Screenwriters' Masterclass (Book #13) doesn't tell you how to write a screenplay, how to chop the story into three acts, or how to sell your spec script to Hollywood. There are many books which do that out in the market. They cost a lot and after reading a couple of these, they all begin to sound the same. But in the end, you throw out the books and whatever they're saying out the window.

What those guides don't tell you is how the writer actually grapples with the ideas in his head, that how stories are conceived and written is different for each story and for each writer. How in the end, no matter how much you study dramatic structure and you can quote fifty different definitions of what a plot point is, In the end, it's still you and the computer (or the pen and paper, whatever) and how your gut feel guides you in telling the story.

What Kevin Conroy Scott did was he put together nineteen screenwriters and asked them to talk about their movies. The lineup of writers and movies is more contemporary than classical, art house/indie favorites are pitted against genre/pop. Think Amores Perros/Requiem for a Dream vs Out of Sight/Die Another Day. The European sensibility is represented by Francois Ozon (Under the Sand) and Lukas Moodyson (Together); the Latin Americans are accounted for. It's through that out of nineteen writers, only one woman made the cut (Lisa Chodolenko/High Art) and there are no Asians.

But when it comes to the writing, everyone is united by the process. Conroy Scott's favorite question seems to be, "Can you walk me through your writing process?" There's someone who favors typing out his script, others insist on a 5-page quota for the day and spend the rest of the day doing other things. Paul Laverty insists on doing research and living with his intended subjects. He hung out a lot with the Mexicans and Guatemalans who cleaned houses in LA and whose stories eventually became the seed for "Bread and Roses."

The actual writing may take six months to six years. What's also remarkable was that at one point almost all the writers hit a phase where they sit up, stop and ask themselves, "What the hell am I doing?" That's when Scott pops his next favorite question, "What do you do with self-doubt?" This is apparently inevitable. You try to ignore it, you forge on and write and hopefully a solution presents itself later on.

Scott's film school education manifests itself when he starts quoting a lot of theory and Ingmar Bergman and follows that up with "So do you agree with that?" At one point, Scott quoted Bergman as saying that Lukas Moodyson is "a young master" of Swedish cinema. I suppose whenever people think of Swedish cinema, Bergman is the first thing that comes to mind. But Moodyson probably surprised Scott by saying that Bergman never really became popular in Sweden. While the National Film Institute of Sweden sends Bergman all the movies made that year for him to screen in his private home theater, the young Swedes just make their movies and pretty much shrug their shoulders to Bergman's pronouncements.

Most of the writers view themselves as "accidents." When asked whether literature or the arts played a huge role in their childhoods, most would say, yes, the family encouraged them. Or that there were lots of books in the house. Or you get someone like Moodyson who just wanted to listen to loud music and didn't like reading. His view of writing is that he's pretty much like a human Ouija board. The story is out there, he's just the medium.

Then you get a lawyer like Paul Laverty, who was supposed to become a priest but quit when he saw the cute Italian girls in Rome. Then he got sent to Nicaragua and saw what was happening. He wrote something about that experience, and when the film was finished, he brought the film reels back to the village which inspired the story. Laverty emphasizes a grassroots approach to filmmaking. He does say that "you can't copy a screenplay from life. But in many ways we've touched their experience and we've gained a great deal of insight from their lives through them. So it's a matter of respect, and in a strange sort of way it's a way of thanking and recognizing that they are the authors of the piece."

I liked the emphasis that writers placed on research--unless you are Moodyson. But also, the book gives you a great rare glimpse into how writers basically squirm around until the story's out there. Then you're free until the hell that is revision begins. More revisions if the film is connected with major stars and big studios.

This is a great book if you want more than just a guide on how to write a script. Most of the writers interviewed didn't even know what a script looked like. They got hold of the legendary Syd Field book, read sample scripts, then chucked everything out the window and wrote.

Also, this was a great buy for me. I've been eyeing this book for such a long time in Powerbooks but it was just so expensive. The acid-free paper edition retails for PhP1,300+. My copy was originally going for P995 but I got it on sale and only paid for PhP199. Not bad, not bad at all.

Screenwriters' Masterclass: Screenwriters Talk About Their Greatest Movies. Edited by Kevin Conroy Scott. Faber and Faber, 2005.

Wednesday, June 6

Is that a computer in your pocket

Or are you just happy to see me?

Intel and Asus teamed up for Eee PC, a 7-inch ultraportable that will retail for $199. It's got connectivity, a webcam, 512MB of RAM and a 4, 8 or 16GB flash drive for speedy, reliable storage.

And did I mention that it costs less than $200? It's the size of a paperback and costs the same as a really basic digital camera.

The downside is the really low battery life: 2-3 hours tops. But for really basic computing, this is already a good deal, I think.

Read more about it here, here and here.


Monday, June 4

Status Anxiety

Status Anxiety

Book12,Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton, Hardbound, php90, Glorietta sale

It’s the one affliction that is universally acknowledged—the fear that one is really a “loser” or a “nobody.” Alain de Botton takes this idea and explores why anxiousness over one’s place in society has been more pronounced in modern societies. He neatly sums it up early in the book:
That status anxiety possesses an exceptional capacity to inspire sorrow.

That the hunger for status, like all appetites, can have its uses: spurring us to do justice to our talents, encouraging excellence, restraining us from harmful eccentricities and cementing members of a society around a common value system. But, like all appetites, its excesses can also kill.

The most profitable way of addressing the condition may be to attempt to understand and to speak of it."
People in the medieval ages didn’t fuss over status as much. In those days, if you were born a farmer, you will most likely die a farmer. There’s no chance to cross over and be a priest or to found a little fiefdom. Everything’s been fixed for you. And anyway, when you die, God has promised you a garden of unearthly delights.

Discussion about one’s place in society inadvertently means that you go back to Marxism, but de Botton argues that yes, people are worried about money, but more importantly, people are concerned with the attention and respect one gets from the goods which declare that you have money. So you see, this is really about getting the love and respect from other people.

He also offers other solutions to this anxiety: seek refuge in art, philosophy, religion, bohemia. But ultimately, I don’t think you can even pause to consider bohemia when you’re more worried about where to get the next meal.

So ruminations about your place in society must at least mean you have the time (and some money) to purchase this book and give you a glimpse of salvation. Good for me, because I got this book for P90 (hardbound! First edition!) in one of those sales in the mall. I previously read Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel. It's not quite literary theory or philosophy. One of the reviews in Amazon called de Botton's works as "literary self-help." At any rate, if you're not into philosophy or theory or ruminations, then maybe this book is not for you. But if you're fine with ruminations, Status Anxiety is a good read, quite informative as de Botton excels in distilling ideas from philosophical and critical texts and applies them to current concerns.

Wednesday, May 30

Miss U

Claringski and I had this running commentary via SMS yesterday while watching the Miss Universe pageant. But I'm too drained to think my own thoughts so will just post parts of her entry and make annotations. Like this:
I finally had my fondest wish fulfilled, seeing a candidate slip and land flat on her bum during the evening gown competition. I was always curious how one would react if that happened. U.S.A. recovered marvelously, giving the crowd a wide smile two seconds after she picked herself up. In return, the audience booed. I don’t understand Mexicans.
Yeah, I don't understand why they had to boo Ms. USA. They're probably upset because their candidate didn't get into the Top 5. Magtigil nga sila. Tama na ngang umabot sa Top 15 at 10. Pero kung pati Top 5, OA na yun.

I don't really watch it religiously like she does. Miss U is like the Oscars for me--I can only remember 1992 onwards. I don't know why. Anyway, in 1992, Ms. Namibia won and her name was Michelle something, I think. There was a year that Ms. USA won. She was a lawyer, she's from Hawaii and she's called Keulani Lee or something. That year they introduced changes to the pageant presentation because there was this huge screen at the back of the stage that projected huge pictures of the candidates in gowns and swimsuits.

Now they got rid of the vital stats and the judge's scores which used to appear as sidebar, so there's really no way of knowing who got top scores. Now the average scores appear on the upper right hand corner of the TV screen--no highlights, no scrolls--so you always miss it. I also miss this:
I still wish they’d bring back that tradition of having the finalists parade in their evening gowns with little girls serenading them with You Are My Star. When I was a kid I knew that if I wasn’t meant to be a Ms. U candidate, I’d be fine being one of the girls who’d hand a rose to one of the delegates as she passes by in her long gown.
Wala na ngang little sister chuvalu, they also had the big idea to make the girls pose like porn girls. This year's Top 15 pa naman had their fair share of East European and Asian countries. Tapos animal print pa ang bathing suit, with matching long beady necklaces. Ano ba yun,parang FHM shoot.

Another thing: wala na rin yung panel na gumagawa ng mga side comments. Parang last year yata yun that they got one of the queer eye guys as commentary. Anyway, I think Miss Japan is cute naman, although di ko feel yung evening gown niya. Mas gusto ko yung gown ni Miss Japan last year. If she did win to compensate for last year's loss, keri lang. Miss Korea could have sailed away with the crown but that answer was just one big wtf. It's also the first time there was a bald girl--si Ms. Tanzania. Although sabi ni Claringski, token black girl daw. Honga.

Naisip ko lang, I don't usually post about things like watching the Miss Universe pageant. Does that mean I'm some kind of bading din? Hmm...

Tuesday, May 22

Fiction Writer's Handbook

Fiction Writer's Handbook, the Burnetts, Php75 Booksale bin.

The Fiction Writer's Handbook (Book #11) was written by the editors of Story, Whit and Hallie Burnett. Story's editors were very proud of the talents they discovered, which included Norman Mailer, who wrote the preface, and the very young J.D. Salinger, who wrote a kind of salute to Whit Burnett, who happened to be his writing teacher at Columbia. You can read his essay here.

Whit Burnett intended to write his handbook for fiction writers, but he died before he could finish it, although he did leave behind some notes. So his widow and co-editor at Story stepped up and did the job for all of us. If you're looking for a book to guide you step by step into writing short stories, this may not be the book for you. If there's one thing I'm sure of about the writers of this book, it's that they're very proud of their magazine and the talents and stories they produced. Works which appeared in the magazine were quoted often, and not all of the works or the authors are recognizable to today's reader.

The tone tends to be a bit self-aggrandizing and dated. But what's interesting though is that it somehow makes true its promise--that this is a fiction handbook, and true enough, all its forms like the short story, novel and novella are taken into consideration. It doesn't discriminate against the novella as a half-breed, too long for a traditional short story and too short for the novel. The writers remind us that the best fiction writers, including Henry James, wrote some of their best works in that form.

Chapters tend to be short and reading this book wouldn't make a fiction writer out of you. The book has 224+ pages, it was manageable enough to read and I finished the book in two weekends. I got the first edition with a green cover, not like the reissue pictured above. Found my copy in a Booksale bin for Php75, so not bad at all. Made me miss Stephen King though.

Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, Php200 from NBS 4th floor bins

Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation is my Book#10. It took me around 3 years to finish: it sat on my shelf for over 2 years after I bought it maybe 2 or 3 Christmases ago. It gathered dust and I only pulled it out of the book pile because I needed to check some facts a kid in my class used in her paper. Sadly, I never found the quotes she used, which was bad for her because it means her documentation was shot.

Anyway, I continued reading it even after checking season. Reading it should have stopped me from eating fast food. After all, Schlosser did convince me that fast food empires are evil. But no, I found myself craving for more burgers and fries. I guess this means I need to stand firmly and refuse the fries, even if it's dipped in ketchup. But who can ever say no to ketchup?

Tuesday, May 8

Weddings and Beheadings

With a title like that, how can you be wrong? Apparently, very. The 1,000 word story was going to be read on the radio as part of a National Short Story writing competition. The story is set in Iraq and tells of a film-maker who is forced at gunpoint to film the beheading of terrorists’ victims. But then, it was found to be too violent, too visceral so it was left out.

Now Hanif Kureishi is crying out, "Censorship!" The organizers think he's just sour because he was shut out and denied a crack at the hefty prize money.

I say read "Weddings and Beheadings" (or as PDF) and decide if it really is "brutal, insensitive and not illuminating."


Friday, May 4

How to ace exams

Rosencrans Baldwin tells you what how to ace or enjoy exams. Really, the key to this is to switch to selling real estate. And I like the use the flash cards tip. Now why didn't I think of that before?

Middle-aged Spidey

Manohla Dargis confirms my earlier post that Spider-Man 3 really has more peaks and valleys than the two previous movies. But I think it's mostly valleys.

I like the part where Tobey Maguire is told "to stop relying on those great big peepers of his: simply widening your eyes to attract attention does not cut it when you’re over 30." Boyishness has its appeal, and Tobey's friend Leonardo diCaprio was still doing the naughty boy act when he did Catch Me If You Can. But then he also made Gangs of New York and now he's all beefy and, uhm, manly.

Anyway, read Dargis' review here.

Bakit bad trip ang magtapos

So a couple of weeks ago, I found myself attending the College of Arts and Letters graduation. Except that I didn't really sit with the members of the faculty because I lent someone my sablay and I was wearing shorts and I didn't really feel like sitting under the sun.

But I was there because I wanted to hear Bencab's speech.
Anong ginagawa ng estudyante sa eskwelahan? Pupunta ng klase. Tapos? Pupunta sa susunod na klase. Tapos? Magtatanghalian. Tapos? Pupunta ulit sa isa pang klase. Tapos? Pupunta sa huling klase. Tapos? Tapos, araw ng pagtatapos.

Graduation. Araw ng pagtatapos. Sino ba ang nagtatapos? Kayo. Ano ba ang natatapos? Kayo rin. Tapos ang maliligayang araw n’yo.
In Comm 3, they tell us that the good speech must be brief but must also pack a punch. The introduction to Bencab was longer than the speech itself. Hell, Bencab's speech was better than the valedictory address. But never mind that one. You can download Bencab's speech here.