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.

Thursday, May 3

Spider-Man 3

The greatest battle is within..the story.

I decided to spend Labor Day watching Spider-Man 3. Really, it took me the entire day and well into the next one. Months before the opening, all the posters were accompanied by notes saying that you can reserve seats for the opening day. Why would I do that? Especially if the schedule online says that 4 of 5 theaters were showing the same movie.

I got to the mall at 2pm. There were kids everywhere. Lots of little boys wearing Spidey costumes and shirts. Had lunch, then checked the ticket counter. "All screenings are sold out," the ticket girl said. Finally, after much haggling, we got a really late screening at 10pm. That means we had 8 hours to (a) go home, sleep, do whatever; or (b) stay in the mall, loiter, do whatever. We chose (b), except that the "do whatever" part meant I had to be physically chained to a corner table and write down my grad class requirement.

When the waiting finally ended, I couldn't wait to get to our seats, which were on the very last row, almost near the projector. You could see everyone. There weren't too many kids by then.

Here's what I think of the movie I waited 8 hours for:

1. There's hair-raising dialogue like, "I'm not a bad person, just someone with lots of bad luck"? It doesn't help that he turned to petty crime because his daughter was sick. Hello, Robin Padilla/Bong Revilla/Lito Lapid/Roi Vinzons, isdatchoo?

2. MJ gets hostaged again. They must have ran out of plot points or maybe it's in Kirsten Dunst's contract.

3. You know there's something wrong if you start fidgeting a quarter through the movie. It's 2.5 hours long, I waited 8 hours for it. I should reconsider going to movies on the opening day.

4. After a very spectacular chase through New York's really damn tight alleys, Harry Osborn knocks his head against the wall. Guess what happens when he wakes up?

5. Which leads me to swear that screen credits aside, considering all the plot points, character motivation and dialogue, this must have been written by Filipinos.

The Spider-Man movies used such familiar storylines: boy meets girl, boy meets spider and is turned into superhero, boy loses girl because he opts to be hero first, boy chooses not to be a hero anymore, boy finds foe in his boy best friend because his friend's dad liked him better.

I realize that they have to tie up a lot of loose ends in this third movie, and you still get a lot of familiar plots here: the small time crook who feels he's been handed a lot more crap by the universe, the love triangle, the revenge angle, career jealousies between couples, etc.

It's a dangerously thin line between tragedy and travesty, but somehow the two previous movies were able to toe the line and come up with a believable hero. When Peter Parker started sashaying to Fever, they lost me. "Are we still watching Spider-Man and not Firehouse Dog?" Now there are talks of a fourth installment, but that doesn't excite me anymore.