Thursday, August 28, 2014

Where Have You Been?

Good question.

I've been keeping away from Facebook for the last couple of months because I wanted to get stuff done. This is another one of my Zero Backlog projects, which I indulge in on occasion. Long-time readers (yeah, all one of you) will remember that I'd be more or less antisocial until I'd finally crossed a batch of overdue projects off my to-do list.

I shouldn't even be blogging, but I've needed some release from the monotony of "work on project," "get stymied," "work on different project," "get annoyed by interruptions," "return to previous project," and "watch stuff on Youtube."

Digression: Yeah, I'm currently enamored of Xanadu-- which doesn't say good things about my age or musical taste. Then again, Kerry Butler is great at what she does (here, affectionately parodying Olivia Newton John), and she looks like Buffy and Darla, to boot. I'm... digging myself deeper, ain't I? Digression ends.
A good chunk of the stuff that's been coming out of late came out thanks to Zero Backlog. They've mostly been drafts that I'd started and had to abandon way back in 2012.

The point: I'm still neck-deep in Zero Backlog projects, even as new projects wind up in to-do queue. I don't know when I'll get back on Facebook, or if this compulsion to write will continue. I wish it would, though--  it's therapeutic, as long as I don't say reveal too much or say something stupid. Also: I've a lot of old drafts that need finishing.

Finally: my sister's getting married soon. Among other things I'll be doing for her: something I haven't done in a long time-- participate in a church ceremony.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Seriously, who the heck keeps giving me plus ones on Google? Not that I'm complaining, but my audience is typically small, random, and occasionally Ukranian (and that one most likely a search-bot or a proxy site). I don't have fans anymore, considering what little fame I had was just fame by association with Elmer, Jio, Melvin and James.


It's still something of a sore spot for me that there's no mention of me making the staff box in that particular Wikipedia entry, but I'm ill-inclined to start an "edit war" over something as small and petty as... I don't know...  a mention on someone's wiki page (or my place in local comics history). It's not a "big" thing but it feels kind of unfair that it isn't acknowledged. Then again, I'd wanted out of that outfit for personal reasons, and some people were probably glad to see me go.

Digression ends.  

As I was saying: no more fans, and barely two readers, at most.

I haven't been to (or won) a poetry contest since that last Love Out Loud in '03, or '04 maybe. I tied with Third Domingo, but like all my other endeavors, that poem was only good enough to get me an honorable mention that everyone forgot.

I can count the times I actually won something with the fingers of one hand, and each of these victories is something people would consider as "minor." Landing your first low-paying gig, or getting published somewhere no one reads (because the people behind the book were really running a mindless cash-grab), being some examples. Voice acting in an award-winning animated short that doesn't forward a career in voice acting, being another.

When all your life, you've been "fourth banana, or fifth banana," you start to develop a thick skin and a studied nonchalance that covers up the sore spot in your chest that you develop from only almost-winning at anything.

And the random plus ones? They feel a lot like "actually winning," even if they really fall under "almost winning" under the harsh light of objectivity, since these don't really change anything for me, beyond making me feel just a little better. Whoever you are, mister (or miss) plus-one-er, thanks. I do appreciate it. You may ultimately be someone using a Ukranian proxy, but I'll take what good I can get.

May I always do right by you.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dear Mork

Navel Gazing by Way of Moving Pictures

We used to have a this one teevee, a 'seventies cathode ray model, that was a fixture in the master's bedroom of the Quezon City house. When I was young, Mom and Pop would watch something-- usually the news on Channel 9, and other prime time fare.  On a particular night in '79, I had seen my first episode of Mork and Mindy, a show about an alien who was out of place on his own world (a planet of squares) and had been exiled to Earth to learn about the "crazy people" living there.

That was how I was introduced to the actor playing Mork: Robin Williams.

I no longer remember the context of that one scene. All I remember was Williams beginning sentences with "Nanu Nanu," talking a mile a minute, pulling gag after gag, seemingly out of thin air. I think my parents, like everyone else on the planet, ate up the performance. (That bit was probably my gateway into the wry, irreverent American humor that I'd tightly embrace by the time Airplane, Top Secret, and Bill Murray would show up on local movie screens circa the mid-'eighties.) It wouldn't be long before I'd see more from Williams, when he starred in Popeye alongside Shelly Duvall, in 1980, and Good Morning, Vietnam in 1987.   Dead Poets Society would hit the theaters in '89, but I didn't get to see it--and be thoroughly impressed  by it-- until the early 'nineties.

He was a distant, if comforting, figure for me.

And now he's, well... dead. And seemingly so, by suicide.

Never, Always

My brother tells me I should stop painting a situation with a very broad brush-- using words like "all," "always," and "never" because these words screw with communication. He's right: these words are great at communicating the strength of how I feel, and not why I feel strongly about what I'm talking about.  But I can't help wanting to use them in this case.  In contemplating Williams's death, I find myself falling back to using these words in questions and statements that only have partial applicability.

"Why is it always the artistic types that wind up killing themselves?"
"Is going out this way inevitable for people like WIlliams (and by extension, people like me?)"
"Are our lives always going to be marked by shambling from one personal crisis to another, clumsily working through each of these until one of them finally, successfully tests us to the breaking point? Are we never going to catch a break?"

The mind knows the rote answers to these questions: all of them are (a cautious) "No." The mind also knows that there is no such thing as certainty, and by extension, safety. And that bugs the living bejeezus out of me.

Williams was probably among the most well-adjusted people on the planet, considering his age and experience, his surviving and beating cocaine addiction and alcoholism. Me, I'm hardly stable, and I've been so scarred by my own crises that I'm actually very afraid of living. That others-- whose lives are admittedly fraught with formidable difficulty-- would dismiss my experiences as a male equivalent of "vapors" is both insulting and chilling.      

See, this is what I'm trying to do with this piece of writing, Mork: I'm trying to write myself into some form of comforting resolution. At least, a resolution that doesn't involve Super-Parent figures who will take my troubles on themselves. I may actually need one right now, but, shocker-- there's never been really good reason to think these exist.

"We are condemned to be free." 

There is no comfort. There is only Sisyphus and that stupid wheel. I will have to push it up the hill again, knowing that my hands will slip and the cursed thing will roll back down if it doesn't crush me first.

At least there's one less person contemptuously, condescendingly telling me to "Suck it up. Be a man."  Sadly, the one guy to do that here is me. Shazbot!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tech Thoughts

While responding to a friend's post, my thoughts took me to some places I hadn't visited since early college. I like thinking about where and how we push tech and where and how it pushes us. I've always loved the fiction and speculative writing that tackle the implications of, say, networked brains, quantum computing and simulated humanity.

That said, I'm also kind of a Luddite.

Well, I'm as close as you can get to being one in this day and age. It took me a decade before I got a cell phone and I insisted on keeping the clunky, analog cancer brick for as long as I could, because it had secondary and tertiary uses as a blunt force weapon and paperweight. I'm not afraid of using Google Maps, but I will "case" a place myself, familiarizing myself with landmarks and points of egress days before before formally visiting it. I sometimes act like I've never heard of flash drives, uploading to the cloud, or special phone apps, because I'd rather have something more tangible in my hands than a collection of ones and zeroes that disappear when I stand too close to a magnet or when I'm forced to bake, on a bus with broken air-conditioning, with my precious electronics in heavy EDSA traffic.  

I insist on twentieth century solutions to twenty-first century problems, partly because I don't quite trust the tech. Dexter's number one rule is that tech breaks and breaks at all the inconvenient opportunities. Obviously, I'm the product of my times. I used to jump-start a primitive hard drive with a hammer and a nail. I was always frustrated when the sun depolarized the iron in my Opus(!!!!) floppy disks, robbing me of shared games and hours of really dumb basic code I wrote myself.

Is it because I live here that I always assume that the tech will always be secondhand, borrowed and somewhat faulty, or will fail completely or will always have near-nonexistent support? And what will this mean for me, if I take up a job that requires chronicling new tech as it trundles off the assembly line?

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Dear Ms Minegishi

Minami-san. May I call you Minami-san? First, please pardon my writing to you in English. It's been more than five years since my last Japanese Language Proficiency Test and there hasn't really been any reason or opportunity for me to speak or write in Japanese-- well, not since I had to communicate with a salesman in Akihabara in 2005.

Yes, it's about that video. You had shaved your head, apologized to your fans and begged, through tears, to be allowed to stay in AKB48. Normally, this isn't something I would comment on. I leave it to my friends (who are big big fans) to talk among themselves about every little AKB48 rumor, news tidbit, clothing item and photo op.  I can't stay silent for this, though. Not today.

I'm not a fan, but I respect the hours you and your group put into your work. I've done a bit of theater, I've done some singing, and I've done ham acting in my day. While I'll never ever be as popular as you (because I'm a male 40-year-old who may soon qualify for membership in  OJS48), I do have some idea of how tiring and stressful your life might be. You're trying constantly to please the fans and to please your producers and to turn out a good performance every time, all the time. I get that.

I also understand how your image of being single and available is an important asset to your profession. John Lennon's first marriage was something his managers hid from the world when the Beatles began to gain popularity. I also understand the more pragmatic reasons for keeping that image intact with a dating ban (no surprise pregnancies). I understand how being in a group like AKB48 is a unique opportunity; that it has given you lots of exposure, lots of friends (because you really can't work with the same people all the time and not become friends with some of them) and lots of money. I understand how being caught on camera leaving your boyfriend's apartment might be detrimental to that image and your work...

'kedo, you have a life.   

You're a young woman who is as deserving of love and fun and mistakes as is anyone else your age. Also,  while being a part of AKB48 is a uniquely intense and  lucrative experience, you can't be doing this forever. One of the problems I've always noticed about the entertainment industry in your country is the very short shelf life of your idols and idol-singers. Your country's obsession with all things kawaii (cute) is deadly to people who are no longer kawaii-- which is what idol singers become after they pass a certain age. 

As entertainers-- no, as human beings-- you and your hard-working groupmates deserve better treatment.

You should not have abased yourself as much as you did when you made that apology video. Apologize for breaking a rule--sure. But shave your head? It seems to me that your managers can --if they wanted to-- simply fire and replace you with another girl from somewhere else without batting an eyelash. That's a kind of employer-employee relationship I won't want to stay in for very long. I would not be shaving my head for these guys.

If the group's that important to you, then by all means, stay with the group. But remember that sooner or later you'll want to be doing different things-- like maybe getting married or going solo. You've got to decide for yourself how much commitment you want to give this group, and for how long you'll be doing this. If your managers decide to simply remove you, AKB48 will probably continue without you. You've got to have the ability to survive without AKB48, if and when the time comes that you want to leave.     

Again, I'm not really a fan, but I am concerned. You've got the rest of your life ahead of you, and you should be able to enjoy it.