Monday, February 18, 2008

What are You Afraid Of?

My apologies. I was busy reminiscing and playing activist last week I totally forgot my prompt. Here it is:

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Stuck on what to write? Here's a question for you: What are you afraid of?

You. Not your mother not your lola, not your boyfriend or your girlfriend. You.

It can be anything. Ghosts are what first comes to mind, but really, it can be anything from cockroaches to a dark path to the wash drying on the clothesline. The more mundane, the better. That's what you write about. The challenge is to make the reader feel your fear, no matter how irrational. You'll know you've succeeded when people start developing strange phobias, and the common denominator is your story.

Final 2007 Stoker Ballot

The Final 2007 Stoker Ballot has been announced! Totoo na itech, mga kafatid!

Final 2007 Stoker Ballot

Superior Achievement in a Novel

THE GUARDENER'S TALE by Bruce Boston (Sam’s Dot
HEART-SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill (William Morrow)
THE MISSING by Sarah Langan (Harper)
THE TERROR by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown)

Superior Achievement in a First Novel

HEART-SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill (William Morrow)
I WILL RISE by Michael Calvillo (Lachesis Publishing)
THE MEMORY TREE by John R. Little (Nocturne Press)
THE WITCH'S TRINITY by Erika Mailman (Crown)
THE HOLLOWER by Mary SanGiovanni (Leisure Books)

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction

(Five Strokes to Midnight)
Edelman (Postscripts)
GENERAL SLOCUM'S GOLD by Nicholas Kaufmann (Burning
Effigy Press)
THE TENTH MUSE by William Browning Spencer
AN APIARY OF WHITE BEES by Lee Thomas (Inferno)

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction

(Cemetery Dance #57)
LETTING GO by John Everson (Needles and Sins)
THE TEACHER by Paul G. Tremblay (Chizine)
CLOSET DREAMS by Lisa Tuttle (Postscripts #10)
(Defining Moments)

Superior Achievement in an Anthology

FIVE STROKES TO MIDNIGHT edited by Gary Braunbeck and
Hank Schwaeble (Haunted Pelican Press)
INFERNO edited by Ellen Datlow (Tor)
DARK DELICACIES 2: FEAR edited by Del Howison & Jeff
Gelb (Carroll & Graf/Avalon)
MIDNIGHT PREMIERE edited by Tom Piccirilli (Cemetery
Dance Publications)
AT EASE WITH THE DEAD edited by Barbara & Christopher
Roden (Ash-Tree Press)

Superior Achievement in a Collection

PROVERBS FOR MONSTERS by Michael A. Arnzen (Dark
Regions Press)
THE IMAGO SEQUENCE by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books)
OLD DEVIL MOON by Christopher Fowler (Serpent’s Tail)
5 STORIES by Peter Straub (Borderlands)
DEFINING MOMENTS by David Niall Wilson (Sarob Press)

Superior Achievement in Nonfiction

ENCYCLOPEDIA HORRIFICA by Joshua Gee (Scholastic)
POWERFUL REALLY DIED by Michael Largo (Harper)
THE CRYPTOPEDIA: A Dictionary of the Weird, Strange &
Downright Bizarre by Jonathan Maberry & David F.
Kramer (Citadel Press / Kensington)
STORYTELLERS UNPLUGGED by Joe Nassise and David Niall
Wilson (Storytellers Unplugged)

Superior Achievement in Poetry

(Space and Time)
HERESY by Charlee Jacob (Bedlam Press [Necro
Jacob & Marge Simon (Dark Regions Press)
PHANTASMAPEDIA by Mark McLaughlin (Dead Letter Press)
OSSUARY by JoSelle Vanderhooft (Sam’s Dot Publishing)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

PGS4 Out Soon

Kenneth Yu posted about the upcoming issue of the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, where yours truly is a contributor.

I had submitted a fantasy story, I know, I know, not my style but believe it or not, fantasy was what I started out with, and this is an example of my earlier work. I hope you get to read it and let me know what you think.

Rogue February 2008

Just saw the February 2008 issue of Rogue magazine, the one with KC Concepcion on the cover. Apparently, the issue is almost sold out, most probably because of the feature on photographer Shawn Yao, where she does yoga half-naked.

My article on my encounter with Neil Gaiman appears in this issue, accompanied by beautiful photographs taken by At Maculangan, who also photographed Cirio and Eddie.

UP Fair 2008

When Luis suggested that we attend the Sandwich S Marks the Spot album launch at the UP Fair, I was more than raring to go. It's been a while since I've attended a rock gig, almost a year, in fact, since my corpie job kept me from staying up late, even on weekends. “It's going to be like Mordor,” he texted, “Dress accordingly.”

I would like to say that I donned mithril and had use of Sting, but that's not true. Instead, I found myself in jeans, my Khao San Road t-shirt, and Salomon sneakers. It's been a while since I've worn rubber shoes, having lived the past year in my Havianas because I was too lazy. I couldn't believe how much I missed my Salomons. Wearing comfortable, lace-up shoes freed my mind from worrying about my footwear. I also decided to travel light, stuffing everything into my jeans pocket instead of using a bag. The effect was liberating. I felt like I had nothing to worry about, that I could do anything.

My 0-Encumbrance essentials are:
1.Money (More than enough, so that I would not need to withdraw)
3.Phone (I can do most anything with my MotoMing)
4.Lip Balm (I brought my Khiels)
5.Oil Blotting Sheets (Unfortunately, I didn't have the powdered kind)

We had dinner at the Middle Eastern restaurant near the UP swimming pool, then made our way to the Sunken Garden, where the fair was being held. We could hear the concert from afar – there was Hilera and Pedicab, two bands that I like.

We bought tickets then were herded like sheep through male and female entrances, our tickets torn, our bodies lightly frisked, before being allowed to duck under an overturned soccer goal post which signaled the entrance to the fair proper.

What we saw surprised us. The UP fairs we were used to had a few people standing near the stage watching the show, with a couple hundred groups sitting on the grass while everyone else weaved through the different booths or went for the rides. This year, almost everyone was watching the show. In fact, the crowd around the stage was so thick that they reached way, way back, taking up (what looked like) half the Sunken Garden, almost touching the food booths.

We heard the Itchyworms play as we walked around, examining how the booths had changed over the years. Now, t-shirt and a henna tattoo/ body piercing booths dominated the landscape, when they only had about one or two before. Also, small but popular restaurants like Tomatokick and Cow King made their presence felt via booths. There were also an inordiante number of shawarma stands, which was surprising because I had thought that the shawarma craze had died in the 90's.

Luis got a text telling us to head backstage, so we ambled over to the side of one of the stages (there were three stages, also a first, with one of them dedicated to Sandwich). Either we look like rock stars or we look older than the college crowd or Luis has become a bigger celebrity than he already is because no one gave us any trouble while we went backstage. The guards let us through without question while keeping students at bay. When we found the person who had texted him, she informed us that we were on the guest list at the backstage entrance, which means that we paid Php85 x 2 for nothing!

It was my first time backstage at a UP fair. The atmosphere was electric. There was an open bar that served vodka-infused cocktails. Musicians and their friends hung out, with a constant stream of people coming in and out of the area.

Ace of Bagetsofonik, one of he earlier performers, described the scene best. He said, “I'm glad you guys are here because this,” he said, indicating the crowd beyond the stage, “has never happened before.” He went on to describe the three stages, the way the crowd had slowly trickled in during the afternoon until they had become the mob that we saw in front of the stages.

We stayed backstage, hanging out with Ace and Jovan, listening to Sugarfree, The Dawn, Chicosci, Urbandub, and Sandwich's one hour set, which included songs from their new album, as well as old favorites. They even played my favorite Sandwich song, “Butterfly Carnival,” with Marc Abaya, their original frontman, as guest. I have always wanted to hear the song performed live, and now I have. A tiny part of me wished that I was in the mosh pit while the song was being performed, but I was content to stand where I was and sing along.

I saw Ronnie, who had been drinking since 4pm and who made me drink one of those flaming cocktails that were being served, a yummy, guava and grenadine-infused shot of vodka lit up with a torch so that you had to drink the whole thing through a straw. It was, I think, the reason I was slightly tipsy the whole night after. So Ronnie, it's all your fault, not that I mind. :) Ran into other people too – Denise, Zach, Erwin, Quark, Nina... it was one big party and to someone (ie. me) who hadn't been to a rock gig in so long, it was as if I had been let lose from a prison, returned to a world I thought I would have to leave behind but now, thankfully, I had found again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Shameless Self Promotion

Two more publications my byline appears in this month:

Homestyle (Feb 2008)

Wrote the cover story, writer and avant garde designer Cecille Zamora's wonderful glass house. Also did a piece on light sculptress Nina Laurel.

Filipinas (Feb 2008)

Wrote a piece on Fil-Am singer and all around nice guy Jay-R.

Boys are Stupid or It's Alive, It's Alive!

A college friend of mine, especially after a romance gone sour, is of the belief that Boys are stupid. Not a far cry from the David and Goliath Boys are Smelly t-shirts, but while the latter is cute (and more often than not, untrue), the latter does have a basis, if not reality, then in literature.

Part of my undergrad thesis involved explaining why the idea of the mad scientist is scary. The short version is this: The mad scientist, usually male, seeks to replicate the life-giving force of the fertile female via science.

Unable to accept that there's something a female can do that males can't (they've already claimed the Being Able To Pee Standing Up Award, they should be happy and let it go at that), and something so critical to the continuation of the human race, no less, he's decided to try his hand at it as well. This is where the theory branches out. If the scientist succeeds, the story is either fantasy or science fiction. If he fails, it's horror.

I had a whole paper about this but to make it short, men should not tamper with what only God (or gods, depending on what you believe in) can do. It's by playing creator that man wreaks havoc on himself.

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Realism vs. Genre (and Film vs. Literature) in the Philippines

A long flashback that I promise is related to the really short main post in the last paragraph:

The biggest problem I had when defending my MA thesis, proving that there were elements of horror in some of the canonical short fiction of our National Artists, was my film background. The panelists felt that my using film theory as part of my defense for a comparative literature thesis was wrong because they were separate mediums. Whatever. Part of my defense included a definition of what is horror. I said that it went beyond vampires and zombies, and sometimes didn't even have to be supernatural at all. My example for this was The Passion of the Christ, whose screenplay, I said, had been nominated for a Stoker Award.

One of the panel responded, rather heatedly, I remember, that “I shouldn't use film awards as basis for a thesis on literature.” It took all my self-control to tell this professor with a Ph.D. that the Stoker was *not* a film award. Another panelist wasn't sure what I had written about, so she spent the whole session nitpicking about my not following proper documentation, spacing, etc.

There were only two people in the room who knew what I was talking about. One was my thesis adviser, a lovely gentleman who not only encouraged me to pursue the topic of my choice, even though I had already been warned against it by a previous professor because genre was not academic enough, but also made sure that I finished my thesis, even if it meant barring me from going on Holy Week vacation. The other was a panelist who, for some reason, totally got what I was trying to say. Maybe she actually read my work. Hah! These two people understood that cinema and literature are intertwined, and that horror cannot be separated from “real life.” I don't know why the others didn't.

Here's the thing – the theories I used, even the way my thesis was structured, would have been old hat in any university outside this country. It would have been shot down because it was unimaginative, not because it wasn't academic.

Mixing film and literature certainly wasn't a problem in my undergrad thesis, where my adviser, a noted cultural expert and a man so brilliant I had to wear sunglasses whenever met with him (he also had his own secret fan club, of which I was a member – Hi, Sir!) seemed surprised that a. my writing was not intelligible (“You can write!” he said, shocked and surprised, after I had given him one of my short stories to read) and b. That I should choose to do a written thesis instead of making a film like everyone else. It got to the point where he'd admit to not reading the drafts and chapters I'd submit because, he said, “Ikaw naman, eh” (It's you, anyway). He liked that a thesis on film theory should include references to literature. Or if he didn't, at least I didn't get any flack for it.

I'm lucky to have had such incredible luck with my thesis advisers. It's very encouraging to know that not everyone in the academe is a stuffy old bag who refuses to change with the times. It's sad that many university professors here still think of genre as beneath them. As if realism was the only accepted mode of writing. But in a country where you have stories of alleged manananggal attacks on the evening news, what constitutes “realism”? Could this be an argument that the Philippines is incapable of spawning a tradition in horror literature because, by virtue of our culture, anything supernatural would automatically qualify as “realism”? I is befuddled.

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What Kind of Guitar God are You?

Sanya Smith sent me the what Kind of Rock God are You quiz over Facebook. She's right. It *is* eerily accurate.

My results:

Traditional Rock God

You are the Guitar God of Hard rock, Rock&Roll, Psychedelic Rock and Glam Rock. You give your audience a hell of a time by pure, undiluted riffs and traditional soloes. Your fans are most likely Slash, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, and Brian May fans. Your choice of weapon is usually a Gibson Sg, Les Paul, or a Fender Strat. People might criticize you for your repetitivenes or simpleness, but there is no doubt you are truly rocking in your heart that is unchallengeable.

Now if only I knew how to play guitar...

RIP Roy Scheider

Rest in Peace, Mr. Scheider. You will be missed.

Jaws' Actor Scheider Dies at 75
Sunday February 10 11:16 PM ET
Roy Scheider, a two-time Oscar nominee best known for his role as a police chief in the blockbuster movie "Jaws," died Sunday. He was 75.
Scheider died at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital in Little Rock, hospital spokesman David Robinson said. The hospital did not release a cause of death.
Read more.

Fr. Ari Speaks Up on Apostol Remark

Uber-cool Fil-Chi priest Fr. Ari had some words to say on Apostol's racist remark. Needless to say, he was nicer about it than he should have been. But then, he *is* a priest.

Latent Racism

For several years now, the widespread celebration of the Chinese New
Year has illustrated the nation's acceptance of the Chinese-Filipino
or Chinoy community as an integral and significant part of Philippine
society. Last week, however, during the week of the Chinese New Year,
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol reacted to the Senate
testimony of Rodolfo Lozada, Jr., by calling him a "crying lady." He
is also quoted as saying, in reference to Lozada, "They say he's a
Chinese from the province. Bagay sa iyo i-deport ka. Magulo ka dito
(You should be deported because you're troublesome)."

Apostol's comments are not only ad hominem, they also show that
despite the perceived acceptance of the Chinoys in Philippine society,
old racist tags are still very much around. Apostol should realize
that he will only get as far as Bicol if he's going to have Lozada
deported. This episode demonstrates what Chinoys have often lamented,
that when their financial help is needed, the government and other
bodies are quick to acknowledge their unique place in the Philippines.
But the moment Chinoys need help or try to break free of economic
stereotypes, as in the case of Lozada, a Chinese mestizo (and proud of
it!) who is trying to set things aright in his life, then the old
prejudices emerge once again.

Apostol is not the first public official to utter a racial slur
against the Chinese during an emotional outburst. Whether he
apologizes or not, perhaps it will be a worthy Lenten exercise for all
of us to examine the latent racism that we may still harbor within our
selves--against other Filipinos, and against those who are different
from us in any way.

Fr. Ari C. Dy, SJ
Director, Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies
Ateneo de Manila University

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Intsik Ako, 'Tangina Mo

Pardon my French. I don't usually swear but the amount of ignorance in this armpit-of-the-world nation can really get to me sometimes. It's amazing how prejudiced and ignorant people can be. I mean, you sort of expect this from people who have not had the benefit of education but when it's government officials making stupid, bigoted, racially hurtful statements on TV, well, you can't help but cuss.

This has to do with the ongoing ZTE scandal, whose alleged stories of bribery and corruption goes up to the first gentleman himself.

Back story: one of the guys in the deal, Jun Lozada, had been missing for a while. Rumor was that he had returned to the country after fleeing, but could not be located. He resurfaced after a while, saying that he had been abducted at the airport my four men who might have been military (he wasn't sure but they did have military haircuts). They were going to take him to Dasmarinas, Cavite (apparently a popular salvage victim dumping ground, according to my sister, who studied medicine there), except that at the last minute, his captors got a phone call telling them to turn back, as the media clamor for Lozada had reached fever pitch.

I don't watch the news, so I get all my information second hand (guiltyguilty). So I was enjoying a peaceful Sunday in church when I got this message from a Fil-Chi friend. It had been texted to him by Star columnist Ricky Lo.

It said: “When Jun Lozada said in is press conference, crying out of his sincerity that he's a “probinsyanong intsik” (provincial Chinese – intisik is a derogatory term for Filipino-Chinese) and at the Senate hearing that he is a son of poor Chinese migrants who wants this country to be a better country, SERGIO APOSTOL, a cabinet secretary of GMA, insulted him of being a crying lady & INTSIK that should be DEPORTED back to China. Hadn't APOSTOL knew that we the Filipino-Chinese contributed a lot for the growt of this country? I am proud to be a FILIPINO but I can't bear to be INSULTED of my CHINESE heritage because I am PROUD of it. I'd rather be called INTSIK than become the likes of APOSTOL, GONZALES, PUNO, ARROYO et al who runs this GOVT like a mafia. PANINDIGAN natin ang ating LAHI & be PROUD of it!”

I forwarded the text to an aunt, who is also a member of Kaisa, who said, “I agree! Tessy (Ang See) has responded to Apostol. Came out in the news last night (Ch 7). Karma-karma lang yan, pamangkin.” (loosely translated: He'll get his karma soon, my niece)

I answered: “Sana masagasaan siya ng trak na may ari na intsik.” (I hope he gets run over by a Filipino-Chinese owned truck)

She answered: 'Sana nga. Intsik din naman si FG kaya ipadeport din siya.”

I'm glad that I have at least one aunt who's up to date on the news, and who has a sense of humor, too.

Of course, one of mu friends said: “As for Apostol “instik” comment...well Lozada isn't even tsinoy...why did say that in the first place?”

To which I said, “You have to admit that it was a great way to shift the spotlight to Apostol.”

Hence, the rant.

Seriously, I don't understand why there is so much prejudice against the Chinese. Actually, I do. Before the Spanish came, there was extensive trade and diplomatic relations between China and the Philippines. There's an historical account of a Sultan who settled in China, and of Chinese men who settled with the aetas in Benguet, as well as archaeological evidence like pottery, etc. From historical accounts, it seemed that, to make a long story short, everything went well. And then the Spanish came.

The Spanish looked down on the Chinese, who believed in hard work and were willing to take on the lowest jobs to earn a living. They were barbers, snack vendors, store owners. The Spanish massacred them herded them into walled cities, regulated their way of life. In short, they looked down on them. And somehow, this way of thinking got passed on to the Filipinos, who still think like this up to this day. I' not saying all Filipinos are prejudiced against the Chinese, but I am saying that there are still a lot of people who are. For one, it's an easy thing to fall on. Intsik. Intsik beho. Sure, laugh at the guy in the wifebeater who lives above his hardware store who speaks Tagalog funny. It's easy. Sure, look down on the race that has traded with yours for centuries. It's easy to say that the Chinese have become rich off Filipino land and resources and thus should be hated. What most people forget is that these people became rich by WORKING HARD (a term a lot of people are allergic to) for it. Hello! People migrate because they are poor. Lucio Tan wasn't the son of a millionaire. He worked his way up to Taipan-hood. And let's not forget that he supports charities and has one himself, as do a lot of Fil-Chi businessmen.

Instead, most people have embraced the way of their conquerors, wanting to be like the people who sailed in, taking their crops and raping their women and sending their men to forced labor camps and promoting a culture where work is looked down on and the people who make the most money while doing the least amount of work are looked up to. I have nothing against the Spanish. Some of the coolest people are know are of Spanish descent. But I do have something against the Spanish who were alive in those 400 years we were under their rule. In fact, if I had a time machine, I would want to go back to when Magellan landed so that I could kick his country-raping ass. Uunahan ko si Lapu-Lapu, hehe.

This prejudice against the Chinese isn't just seen on TV and heard on the streets. Try registering a business in the DTI or SEC. One of the requirements is that if you have a foreign-sounding name, you have to show proof of your citizenship. What the f**k is that??! The Chinese were here even before the Spanish imposed their family names on the Filipinos, a**h*les. My grandfather was part of the guerrillas during the Japanese war. He helped save this stupid f***ing country and I have to show proof of my f***ing citizenship???!!! If I happen to forget my passport, will I be required to slit my wrist to prove that I have Filipino blood even if my last name says I don't? Besides, the Chinese have been in this country for so long I bet even the “purest” Filipino family tree has some Chinese blood running through its veins. We're that good, baby.

And what's with Chinese New Year not being a holiday? The Philippines too good to celebrate the start of the lunar year? If I recall, everyone, not just the Chinese, celebrated the last one. Not that we need another holiday. This country is so full of holidays that we might as well not work.

I guess part of the reason that the Chinese are still treated so badly is because they themselves condone it. The Chinese have always wanted to blend in. They don't like confrontations. They don't like to call attention to themselves. They don't like violence. All they want to do is earn a living. It seems that the only way to get respect in this country is to take things by force. The Spanish and Americans conquered the Philippines and are still being revered as gods here. The Muslim extremists stated bombing cities and generally making a fuss, so now Ramadan is a national holiday. So if the Chinese want to be taken seriously, they should band together and do something. I don't know, pull out all local investments or something. Threaten to feng shui the country so that it attracts bad luck instead of good. Maybe then they'll get the respect they deserve.

Like Ricky Lo says, I'd rather be called Intsik than be a stupid, ignorant, boorish, uncouth idiot who relies on stereotypes and cannot see the value of the people in front of him. So I'm saying this, and I'm saying it proudly: Intsik ako, 'tangina mo!

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One day, Sergio f***ing Apostol, you or one of your loved ones is going to get run over by a ten-wheeler truck. And it's going to be owned by me.

Anatomy of a Filipino Children's Party, Take 2

Remember my earlier post about a typical Filipino children's party? I managed to go to another one, one that is also 'typical,' but is light years away than the first one I attended. The funny thing about this most recent one is that the adults had fun, too.

I was invited to attend the to-tseh (first birthday celebration) of my college friend's daughter. You know you're old when friends start inviting you to their babies' birthdays. I used to be invited to children's parties as a friend of the celebrant. Now, I get invited as a friend of the celebrant's parents. Ay-yah!

This was one of the best children's parties I have ever attended, and that includes the one's I've been to in my youth. The clubhouse it was held in was done up in a festive, Strawberry Shortcake luau theme, with the celebrant dressed in a tiny blue grass skirt to match. Her mother, my friend, was lovely, clad in asymmetrical Hawaiian-inspired dress that matched her daughter's. If you looked at her, you wouldn't think she had given birth. That seems to be the trend nowadays. All my friends who have babies are thinner than I am. Makes me think this baby thing might be worth trying, after all.

Aside from a separate buffet for children and adults, the party had a Starbucks station, where they served frappes, a Chef Tony's gourmet popcorn station, a nachos station, a chocolate fountain, a nachos station, and an ice cream station that mixed the frozen fruit of your choice with soft-served ice cream and serves the whole thing on a Champola wafer cone. I wouldn't mind having a party like that, and I'm thirty!

The kids had their own tables situated near a small stage decorated with styrofoam stand-ups of the Strawberry Shortcake gang in beach wear. When I got to the party, the kids were being entertained by an acrobat, who was busy piling boards and cups onto a small ball, where he later balanced himself and started to juggle. This was later followed by games, and then a magic act, where the magician made his assistant levitate. I have never seen this done in a children's party magic act. Sure, you can sort of figure out how it's done (it wasn't David Copperfield, after all), but to a child, it would have been... magic.

Threading the whole program together was this great host who had the ability to entertain the kids *and* the adults at the same time. He was really funny. He didn't talk down to the kids in that half-yelling, very condescending “O ano mga bata?” kind of way that used to drive me up the wall, even as a child. He talked to them as if they were people, using words that a lot of people didn't think kids would understand (but really, they do).

He knew how to NOT make a kid feel embarrassed, like when he asked the kids to come up on stage and showcase their talents, and this one little boy came up but refused to do anything. The host said, “I know what your talent is! Your talent is looking cute!” and he gave the boy a prize.

He also knew how to make kids feel good. To two tweens who wanted to sing but couldn't think of a song, he said, “You should sing songs from High School Musical because you're already in high school.”

And lastly, he had a sense of humor of someone who thinks on his feet and doesn't have to rely on a part script. To a child who needed coaxing on what to sing, he said, “(singing) Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again. (to the boy) Why don't we sing that cheerful song?”

Of course, the kids themselves were sources of unlimited amusement. Apparently, all parties now include a portion where guests get to tell everyone what they wish for the celebrant. One girl wished the one-year old birthday celebrant would get “a nice cellphone,” while the other wished the celebrant “a pony.” I almost fell out of my chair laughing because the girls were totally, totally sincere.

Another thing that all parties seem to have nowadays is an overly-loud psudeo-electronica, brain-melting soundtrack. Thankfully, the ones they played at this party was a bit more upscale, so I didn't have to sit through a barrage of the Papaya Song and other similarly dubious “hits.” Also, there were no cheesy mascots (I never understood how some kids think that those things are real) and certainly no children who wanted to grow up to dance half-naked on TV. This children's party seemed to erase all the pain and trauma I've accumulated over the years of attending lackluster, condescending parties, and I hope to attend more like it in the future.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Dan Rhodes Reading

Attended the Dan Rhodes reading at Fully Booked with Luis. Dan was really fun and entertaining, and garnered a lot of instant fans with his readings of stories from Anthropology. He also read from Gold, his latest novel, which had already sold out before he arrived. It was his first reading in Manila, but not his first time here. His wife and (really adorable) baby were present at the reading. He brought Luis a copy of Word magazine, which Luis loved because it's one of the best music mags out there and you can't find it in this country. I tried to record some of the readings on my phone but can't post them until I've found a converter.

Friday, February 08, 2008

On the Phone with History

I did a short phone interview with director Cirio Santiago today (I wasn't able to catch him at the photoshoot with Mr. Romero). It's amazing how, in just a five minute conversation with this man, I learned more about the Philippines during the American era than I did in four years of high school.

He and Eddie Romero were pioneers, even though the Philippines was too insular to notice. They thought that the local film industry was too stifling, and that there were creative opportunities available elsewhere, if they knew where to find it.

I was very fascinated by Mr. Santiago's approach to moviemaking, which he tackles from an economic point of view. I was also saddened by his statement that the movies that he really wanted to make were ones that the (Filipino) public would not want to watch. It drove home how, even after more than a century of freedom, most of us still live our lives in accordance to what we think would appeal to our colonizers. I have friends who will not read, listen or watch anything that was not a best seller, blockbuster hit or platinum-charting, and who let their in-the-loop friends dictate their tastes. It's sort of like that. Mr. Santiago mentioned something to the effect of “I'm not well known in this town.” But with Hollywood filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Jonathan Demme (and this is the important part) telling Filipinos about Mr. Santiago's influence on their filmmaking, maybe that might change.

Shameless Self-Promotion, 2008!

I haven't done one of these in a while, so I the list may not be complete:

January-February 2008

Entrepreneur (Jan 2008)
Interviewed the President of the FMW Group, a group of companies who, among other things, is dedicated to helping Overseas Filipino Workers ease back into Philippine life. This particular interview is about their real estate venture.

Masigasig (Jan 2008)
Interviewed director Quark Henares about Blow Up Babies, the photography studio he co-owns. Quark had some really funny answers. Too bad they were cut out.

Burn (Jan-Feb 2008)
Interviewed Kyla and Jaime Scott on their new albums. I think I also reviewed some CDs, though I can't remember what they are.

Homestyle (Jan-Feb 2008)
Wrote about a young professional couple's oh so lovely I want to live there house.

Tulay (Feb 5, 2008)
It being the Valentines issue, I wrote about a matchmaker, a Chinese engagement planner, and a real-life “artful” wedding proposal. Guys, take notes!

The Ultimate Frankenstein

Just finished reading The Ultimate Frankenstein, edited by Byron Priess for ibooks. It's filled with works from established authors such as Brian Aldiss, Charles de Lint, F. Paul Wilson, with a foreword by Isaac Asimov. As the title gives away, all of the short stories dealt with the concept of bringing life back to the stitched-up dead.

Some of the stories dealt with Mary Shelley's monster himself, while others used Dr. Frankenstein's mad science and ran with it. The results are, as one would expect form such a brilliant pool of writers, imaginative, evocative, and sometimes fun.

Some of my favorite stories in the series are:

Fortitude - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
A teleplay about a futuristic mad scientist and the elderly lady monster he keeps alive in his lab.

Monsters of the Midway – Mike Resnick
Mad science meets football meets sports rules meets Stephen Hawking's brain. I had lots of fun with this one.

Chui Chai – S.P. Somtow
Erotic and tragic, this story of an American yuppie and the Thai prostitute he falls in love in hearkens back to the dark, messed-up, AIDS-scared early 90's. This is my favorite story in the anthology. But then, Somtow is one of my favorite writers.

I, Monster – Loren D. Estleman
What starts out as a conventional Frankenstein's-monster-gone-into-the-modern-world takes on a humorous, modern twist in the last two pages. The twit may seem too abrupt for others, but I was pretty tickled by it.

Last Call for the Sons of Shock – David J. Schow
I've always loved Schow's wordplay, and this story is no different. This tale guest stars Count Dracula, remade as a drug lord and the wolf man, who is currently enjoying a career n professional wrestling. Frankenstein's monster isn't left out of the cool job department, as he's become a bartender. This is the opposite of “I, Monster,” as it starts out fun but ends on a poignant note.

The Last Supper and a Falafel to Go – George Alec Effinger
Humorously written, this dark comedy had me saying “Kawawa naman!” the whole time. It's hard to be funny and affecting but Effinger manages just that in this story. “Last Supper” made me glad to live in a 3rd world country where documents can sometimes be not so important.

Happy Chinese New Year!

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Kong Hee Fat Choi! Kiong Hee Hwat Chai! Sin Nien Kwai Le! Sin Nee Kwai Lok! Happy Chinese New Year! Let's usher in the year of the Earth Rat!

According to Chinese Horoscope Masters, this year is filled with opportunity and money, good things, good things. As my friend texted, (you can practically hear the Chinese accent in the message “Year of Earth Rat filled with good luck. Money come from God.”

It's only in the Chinese Zodiac where a rat is considered a “good” animal. Everywhere else, from movies to literature to history, the rat has been treated with (well deserved) hate and disgust.

Rats rarely get to be the star of movies. Oftentimes, they're part of the background, used to denote a place that's dark and filthy and not fit for humans, like the sewers or a tomb, for example.

When they are part of the main cast, they are often misunderstood creatures who side with misunderstood men. The most well-known examples of these are, of course, Ben (whose theme song takes us back to a time when Michael Jackson wasn't just young and cute, he was also black), and more recently, Willard, a remake of the 1971 movie that started it all.

If not, they're part of a rat mob, out to destroy humans. I remember watching such a movie with my cousins in my childhood. I can't remember the name of the movie, only that there were rats, and lots of them. This was your usual B-movie, filled with hormonal teenagers (who all looked like they were in their 30's. Hey, I was six. Everyone looks old when you're six.), idiotic adults, and as many rodents as could possibly fill the screen. I only remember one scene from that movie, a scene that disturbed me then and still disturbs me now. One of the teenagers was going to sleep in a sleeping bag, and for some reason, even though she was in the middle of a killer rat-infested town, she decided to do this naked. What happened was cinematically inevitable. She died in the most gruesomely disturbing way possible in her condition. Rats can gnaw through cloth easy, so guess where they went in, and guess where they came out. I don't know what the name of the movie was.

Nowadays, rats are getting an image makeover, the most recent enterprise of which is Ratatouille, the disturbing Pixar animation that did not sit well with me because one, Linguini, the main character had no redeeming qualities whatsoever (he was just a vehicle for Remy the Rat's culinary aspirations) and two, a kitchen full of rats is just wrong, even if they all washed their paws. Writer Troy Patterson lightly analyzes rats in pop culture in his review of the above movie.

He writes:

“There's a whole book for some crazy person to write about rodents in pop culture, with one chapter devoted to Alvin and the Chipmunks and another analyzing the werebeavers depicted in both Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon and Pamela Anderson's Stripperella.”

Let's admit it: to most people, rats are scary, be it a lone rodent munching on the crumbs on your kitchen floor to the flood of rats that take over your house, your town, your kitchen. But there's a certain kind of rat whose gross out factor far outweighs that of the ordinary rattus rattus. It's something we're not familiar with in the Philippines, but have sometimes encountered in books and stories, usually of European origin. I'm talking about the Rat King.

Wikepedia describes the Rat King as thus:

“Rat kings are cryptozoological phenomena said to arise when a number of rats become intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with blood, dirt, and excrement. The animals consequently grow together while joined at the tails, which are often broken. The phenomenon is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of instances have been reported.”

Two of my favorite authors use the Rat King either literally or figuratively in their novels. There's China Mieville's King Rat, his drum 'n' bass, jungle-fueled pied piper-inspired first novel, and Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, a book aimed at younger readers about a cat, together with his rat friends, who have a really good scam going.

On the horror front, rats, as well as other creatures like spiders, bees, rabbits, and most recently, sheep can (sometimes) be effective vehicles of fear when there are a lot of them, and if they're ready to kill. I realize that this is more often used as a cinematic convention than a literary one, but it's still an idea you can play with.

Here's to a year of joy, prosperity, and lots of ideas for us all!

I Can Has Starstruck

Got to interview National Artist Eddie Romero for a magazine yesterday. I was so starstruck I was falling all over myself, stuttering and misplacing things. Thankfully, he was really nice and jolly about everything. He was fun to talk to and had humorous things to say.


It's rare that I make people watch movies with me. It's usually people asking me to watch movies with them. And of the few times I've asked (cajoled, threatened, prodded) people to watch a film with me, only two of those movies have been Filipino. One was Pare Ko, the Gwapings starrer that was supposed to be the Bagets of the 90's and Romero's Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon?, which starred a very cute, very young, very innocent-looking Cristopher de Leon and Gloria Diaz, who portrayed the ultimate Filipino dream girl with her sensual yet unnerving mix of sexual eroticism paired with a face so angelic she could give Maria Clara a run for her money. Maui and Katya have nothing on her.

Thinking about it, Ganito is sort of like Forrest Gump, with provincial innocence replacing mental illness and self-discovery instead of death by AIDS. And Ganito came first. And as much as I love Tom Hanks (who is not bad looking), Christopher de Leon is much, much easier on the eyes. What I would have given to be a young lass when he still looked like that and I could call him fafa. I'd feel dirty calling him that now, and somehow, calling an elder crush tito is Just Wrong. Imagine this: Tito Sean. Tito Patrick. Tito Pierce. Eeeew.

Nowadays, Romero is known for his numerous B-movies that have influenced some of today's most popular filmmakers, one of which is Quentin Tarantino. This, I think, is a legacy just as important as his “serious” films, except that most of the Philippines think that genre has no place in history or culture.

So. Starstruck me. Amused him. I'm so overwhelmed I'm starting to speak lolcat. I can has interview! I can has picture! I can has memories! Whee!

Monday, February 04, 2008

It's Alive! It's Alive!

I'm back on line! Finally, after weeks, of not having access to the net, I've finally managed to go online. It's been hard, as I've had to frequent net cafes. Thank goodness I have my phone, which I use to send e-mail during emergencies.

So. What have I been up to lately? Trying to read as much of the Stoker entires that are up for nomination. I've gone through a few good ones. My only hope is that I read them all fast enough so that I don't miss the nomiations altogether. ;P

I've also been going to a lot of weddings. Last year, it was a lot of engagement parties, so it stands to follow that this year, it would be weddings. Last Saturday was Lianne's wedding (Lianne was a gorgeous bride!) and yesterday, I had to attend Mico's (I can't beleive he's as old as my younger brother!) with my mom. Yesterday's wedding was especially interesting because I had to sit at a table with titos and titas that I hadn't seen since high school. Nobody did the "My, how you've grown!" spiel (okay, one of them did), but -- and here's the interesting thing -- they *all* treated me like an adult. I have never had this happen tome before. It certainly wouldn't have happened with Chinese elders. Of course, the difference is that the titos and titas I sat down with weren't the ones whose kids I hung out with growing up -- those uncles and aunts still see me as a child, but that's okay because sometimes, it's great to still be seen as one, especially if you're my age.

Another interesting thing about last night's wedding was the amoutn of information I was privy to, some of them things that no parent will talk about in front of their children.

From my mom, I learned that unlike a Catholic church, a Protestant one will not chanrge you for a wedding. A great reason to switch religions, if I ever heard one. We are ready to welcome you into the fold.

From a tita, I got excellent advice on planning a wedding -- make sure that your wedding gown is easy to move in. All the beads and embriodery in the world will not mask the fact that you're stumbling the way to the altar; and also, when choosing food for the event, pick at least one that will really, really stand out, so that even if the rest of your menu is just 'good,' your guests will remember that one 'great' dish.

From a tito,I learned something even more interesting -- when eloping, be sure to have a good driver (one who knows the ins and outs and sidestreets of the city) and -- this is the important bit -- after the both of you are in the car, make sure you drop by the local Barangay office and have the girl sign a waiver that she went with the guy of her own volition, so that the guy can't be charged with kidnapping. Nobody's thought of that before!

So. Protestant church, a comfortable gown, or for cheapskates, elopement. Adults really are interesting creatures.