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.



Sunday, January 06, 2013

Love Is...

So I saw Tishie's Australia photos and thought to myself, "Finally, you're home." And it's true: there she is smiling like I've rarely seen her smile, cheek pressed against her husband's. And the guy looks like a million bucks to boot.

As happy as I was to see Tishie looking that way, I couldn't help but feel raw, cut open by all the old griefs that I'd thought time, illness, alcohol and a skeptic's rationality would have buried under a mountain of forgetfulness. No, Tishie and I were never an item. As a designated "granddaughter," she was off limits and I preferred it that way. It's just that what they have is something I'll probably never truly get. Not if I still want to make something of myself. Not if I expect a partner to stay with me in spite of herself, when time, poverty  and familiarity drive away whatever affection she may feel, like so many dead leaves kicked about by the wind.

Of course, I could let it all go, allow myself the luxury of courtship again. Enjoy flirting. Enjoy sex. Commit to someone. But what would be the point?

Love Is...

I know what love is. And it's not what everyone else thinks.

It's not God. It's not the feelings, actions and brain states resulting from the machinations of fate or a capricious winged love-genie, even if how love acts can be aptly described that way.

It is the emergent thing arising out of our evolution-driven identification of "other" with "self"; our equally evolution-driven need to breed; and the varying ways by which we internalize, express, project and intellectualize the feelings, transactions and brain states that come with these inexorable drives. For all its power, beauty and complexity, it is nothing more.

When we love, we are simply raped by a natural compulsion. We perceive its power, and being the pattern-seeking, meaning-hungry creatures that we are, we project upon love its shapes, its textures, its smells, its features, its complexity.  "Love" is what blossoms between husbands and wives and it blossoms with equivalent force and alacrity between  husbands and mistresses. As each person is different, each will contribute to the experience of love with his own sights, his flavors, his memories.

"Love" is the same force that keeps women in the rural areas trapped in a cycle of  pregnancy and regret. Every generation hosting mothers who "fell in love" and got themselves pregnant before they could finish school, learn to fly or otherwise fulfil their personal dreams-- before they knew any better. The same mothers promise themselves that they'd vicariously fulfil these dreams when their daughters finish school, learn to fly, or otherwise fulfil their own.    

"Love" is what keeps someone hoping, against all sanity, in spite of the accretion of years and distance, that someone else will fondly remember long walks to the bus stop, stolen kisses in a parking lot and nonsensical stories on "their" bench.   

When lovers are lucky, or truly committed, Love is beautiful and it works and we don't care how. We want everyone else to be this happy. When lovers are neither lucky nor truly committed, it's ugly and it can scar you for life.    

Love is dangerous for the person seeking self-actualization.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Lose Your Shirt

Yes that's Maja Salvador, currently starring in a soap opera with Kim Chiu and currently still the face  most associated with Coby, best known to me (until recently) for various makes of portable DVD players that the pirates of our many flea markets make use of, to test DVDs for potential buyers.

Perhaps it's this image that had the executives of Coby saying at every opportunity that they were a US company and their devices were meticulously built to meet both US FCC and UK standards of quality. Then again that could just be my bias talking, and considering the range of gadgets (tablets and pads) the bright boys at Coby displayed, my bias should shut up. Also: Maja Salvador, who looks a damned sight better in real life than in her promotional pictures for Coby.

When I originally began to write this blog post, I'd wanted to crow. I'd been somewhat attached to a teevee show that people (photographers, students, models, gadget buffs) actually bothered to watch, never mind that the pay (at least, my pay) was likely going to be in smiles and  rainbows until we got ourselves some heavy (and regular) sponsors who weren't going to gyp us with cheap X-deals.

(An x-deal in and of itself isn't a bad thing. At its heart, it's an eXchange of products or services. It's great if the  parties involved are cash-strapped and the products, discounts or services exchanged are of enough value to stand in for cash. Often, it's a great way to get value and lowered costs. It works well for gadget shows, but it can't always be the go-to policy all the time. My feelings toward X-deals is an old hangup from my days in comics. In 2000, we were always worried about how and when we were going to come out with the next issue, considering that money was always only trickling in, despite our loyal and sizeable fanbase.)  

Yes, yes, I'd indentured myself to someone else's Camelot again sometime in May of this year. But back to why I'd wanted to crow. Business in my shop was winding down, but at least I was part of something bigger than myself again, a cause I could appreciate. I was seeing new places and meeting new people-- people whose needs I could conceivably service one day. I was borderline broke, but life was looking good.         

When Coby had its launch at Mango Tree at the Fort some months ago, I was my usual combination of traits: sleep-deprived, cash-strapped, hopeful, happy, and on assignment. I'd brought my own tripod and was raring to get in some practice with my own Panasonic and one of the CGTV Canons. Granted, the assignment had changed so that videographer Dex had become superfluous.  Despite the situation, I was in good spirits: a job was a job and my superfluous presence still had to count for something to the people who'd eventually pay me. I'd signed up, after all, because I believed in the show. I'd do it again if time reversed itself and I'd be faced with the choice of being even tangentially part of it.

It's been standard practice to give away Camera Geek TV merchandise to the people who help out the show: sponsors, models, spokespeople, executives. I was at least paid in real currency (thank you, Jama!) for the shirts I'd made for CGTV. For this one event, though, I hadn't made any. I did bring along one of my old black CGTV shirts, in case I'd have to be seen in front of someone else's camera. (You gotta keep pushing the brand, after all.) Imagine my surprise when I found out we ran out of CGTV gear to give away.

I'd wanted to crow because Maja Salvador wrapped the shirt-- my shirt-- around her waist when she posed for photos with the CGTV staff. Photo below is courtesy of Fluffy Peña and Fluxus Studio, and the idiotic smile on my face is courtesy of my feelings of nervous ambivalence.

I was more than happy to give up my shirt to Ms Salvador. She's a bankable actress and a lovely individual who, like Emma Stone, can put anything on and make it look good, unless she's being asked to do robotic poses for the Coby ads. Digression: I learned that day that I'm still a guy, so that pretty much reassured me that I'm still human. It also explains half the ambivalence I was feeling. The other half can be explained thusly: I wished I'd made a newer batch of shirts so that she'd have something that was more worthy of her status as spokesmodel and friend of the show. As happy as I was that my shirt had found its way into her hands, I'd have been much happier if  it was newer and packaged accordingly.

I was also thinking of other things while awkwardly posing for this photo and trying not to show that my academic interest in MS Salvador had become a schoolboy crush-- feminisim, the objectification of women, ethics. 

Trust Dex to throw a wet blanket on most other people's wet dreams.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance

It was in late 2007 when I first encountered the Youtube debates between creationists and science advocates that facilitated my exodus from my former faith. It was a slow and painful thing, part of number of significant concurrent experiences that took the axe to the pillars of my ideas about life and the human condition.    

Prior to that, I'd been a weird flavor of Christian. Like so many of the weary, the lazy, and the cautious, I considered myself "spiritual." I held loosely to tenets of Catholicism that could be reconciled with the teachings of other faiths. If Godhead was allowing the existence of so many expressions of spirituality, I'd felt it was only right that I learn from as many of them that I could. Like a textbook syncretist, I took from those other faiths what made sense, what conformed to science and what appealed to my personal biases and leanings.    

While this isn't the venue to discuss just what exactly happened on my journey to non-belief, I am bringing up something that touches on it.

Today, I'm still a member of a Facebook group that grew out of the popular Taga UP Diliman Ka Kung... ("You're from U.P. Diliman If...") an online venue for University of the Philippines alumni looking to reconnect with the old alma mater. I share this particular Facebook sub-group, a "Seekers Forum,"  with my friend Sam, who is himself  a weird flavor of Christian, clinging to the tenets of Baptist Protestant Christianity that could be reconciled with other faiths, science and things that made sense to him and appealed to his biases and leanings.

This is a group that believes practically in all the weird hippie stuff that I swore off-- like the power of crystals, supernatural visitations, the Secret, among others-- when I decided to live my life without looking over my shoulder for spiritual boogeymen and waiting for them to okay or veto my every move and then to make the decision known through vague signs that can be host to a multitude of interpretations (Few people   know how liberating and how scary that is.).  

Seriously, what's a rationalist doing in a group of people who believe so fervently in so much new age silliness? I've been forced to ask myself that, even as I'm co-designing their shirts-- my shirts, now, because I'm still a member in good standing and I have little reason to want to leave the group. These are good people, whose ideas are worth  exploring, whose voices are worth listening to, even if I don't always agree with them. Say what you will about hippies being "rudderless," but I've seen fewer people who are into acceptance and support  as much as these people are and people like me need as much support as they can get.  (And mind you, these people are far from rudderless).

Finally, it's not silly... at least, all that new age silliness is not silly to the friends and peers who live by this stuff. You can't naively go to the marketplace, get on a soapbox, and yell into the milling crowd that everything they think they know is wrong.  I've been forced off the silliness (and belief in any personal god) by reason, discussion and evidence, and the journey to skepticism itself was painful, unwelcome and deeply personal. I could not have come to where I am if people were antagonistically yelling truth to my face. Someone put the idea out there, where I could find it, backed it up, and let me make up my own mind.

I suppose the journey of others will be like that as well and I can't make it for them.