Thursday, December 25, 2003

Smokey Sings

Where I am, the air's already acrid with "the smell of cordite." I don't like it. As I transitioned from undernourished geeky kid to geeky college student to fat geeky adult, I found the smells of gunpowder less and less conducive to merrymaking. I happen to like breathing more now, and I'm considering celebrating New Year's in Los Banos, where the air should be more up to international pollution standards. It's a pipe dream, I know, what with all the stuff I have to deal with in the Metro Manila area and the Batangas wedding anniversary bash. But... Batangas, which is where I'm really going come the 27th, is more or less within striking distance of Los Banos. Maybe I can avoid the avalanche of relatives long enough to slip away to Los Banos unnoticed. We'll see what happens.
Doing a Maurice Arcache or a Dolly Ann Carvajal

I'm gonna try to keep myself from doing a Tim Yap, as I respect the sanctity of Elmer's wedding. I'm halfway there, since I've got no garish pics to display on this site. Suffice it to say that I was happy for the lucky stiff (Memer) and his blushing bride (Baby). I was happy seeing my old Fine Arts gang again; a bit disappointed because we were too many to seat at a single table.

Though running into my old workmates was inevitable, I had come to the church and the reception with my all-important pride tamped down. The wedding, in fact, was the best excuse to put it all aside and just enjoy the company. Y'see, even if the office gang had collectively become a yardstick against which to measure myself, they were always my friends first. I miss them so much, but respect requires so many kinds of abstinence.

I'm too complex for my own good.

What was startling about the reception was how vastly different Baby's and Elmer's respective crowds were. The Fine Arts crowd (Memer's) were cracking jokes every five minutes, and I got the distinct impression that Baby's more muted crowd was looking at us funny. Each group kept its peace, however: there was neither booze nor videoke to trigger the Filipino's native bloodlust.

When the reception ended, I hung out with "Righteous" Karl, Jolyn (Anggun's long lost sister) and "Pogi Boy" Ferlin. We were (with Sammy) part of Memer's non-comics inner circle back when Culture Crash was still called Culture Shock. We joked about having more weddings so we could get together more often. A wedding every month! Ha!

A good day that was. Memer and Baby, I wish you all the best! Be sure to bring the kiddies back for vacation! I still have to teach them the virtues of poker, alcohol and women!

Reader Poll

As of presstime, I have four loyal readers and at least one loyal detractor. If you've missed my previous reader survey announcement, you can still make my Christmas a little brighter by declaring that you read me. Click the comments link and leave your first name in the message dialog box.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Sison's Greetings

Let me wish those of you who believe in the sentiment, a merry Christmas.

I probably won't get the chance to do this come the 25th. Ditto for the days following that. These will be filled with the frayed nerves and stresses that come with housing, feeding, entertaining relatives and friends from the 'States.

My Minnesota-based aunt will be celebrating her silver wedding anniversary (she's married to a really wonderful guy), in a small but growing community in Batangas. ("Rural" is apparently the best way to describe the Filipino-- even those of us who are city-bred; even those of us who are based in the 'States.) She's naturally invited her friends as well as the other Minnesota-based members of Clan Lira to partake of the fun. And most of them will be planing in from the 25th all the way to New Year's Day...
Napakasakit, Kuya Eddie

Pastor Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord church, will be running for president. As of presstime, he is "99% sure" of it. No doubt, it's a "Christ-centered" government he's batting for, and those who know me know how much that prospect frightens me.

Pontifex Maximus, Carnifex Maximus
There are few distinctions between a "God-Centered" government and a totalitarian state.

"God-centered" governments tend to favor structure over innovation, universal conformity over even the most necessary ferment. These governments are hard to dialogue with, as they come to the negotiating table with the idea that they alone are right. Governments like this are just as concerned with statistics as their totalitarian counterparts. They add one more question to the pile that their own analysts, administrators and spin people have to answer, and that question is usually "How many people have we saved?" Yes: saved by making life horribly inconvenient if not impossible for apostates, heretics, atheists, gays, lesbians, women, and irreverent scholars, journalists and just about anyone who disagrees with "God-Centered Policy."

These governments tend to flourish (as all other governments do) when the populations they administer are small, homogenous, favorably disposed to them. For example, Vatican City. But what happens when the population is not small, nor homogenous, nor favorably disposed to the status quo? As an extreme case, you get the Taliban-run Afghanistan.

Paranoia and Propaganda
One glaring, shared characteristic of the "God-centered" government and the totalitarian state is this: given enough time, and a vocal and educated heterogenous population somewhat conscious of its rights, the emphasis of government policy moves farther and farther away from effective administration and moves closer and to the management of perceived internal and external threats.

Internal Dissent and External Influence
As all deviance and civil dissent, indeed all sin, arise from the possibility, the idea, of living a lifestyle or taking actions not approved by the ruling party (in this case, those who "speak for God"), the rulers of our "God-centered" government will be keen to police the very thoughts of the ruled. After all, ideas are threats. They don't care for the fact that in the desire to do things differently lie the seeds of invention, of change, of art, and maybe even humanity. They will want to have a stranglehold on education ("Let us put God back in the schools!" "We don't teach evolution here!"), denying it to some sectors (women in Taliban-run Afghanistan,for example) and giving a horribly slanted version of it (the jihad factories in Pakistan*) to others.

Contact with "Secular America/Europe/Japan, et cetera" will have to be regulated, lest those impious foreigners make too much headway disseminating their godless ideas among the ruled population. News will have to be censored. Films will have to be sanitized, as some topics of importance will become taboo. And the Internet will eventually have to go (owning an unregistered computer is a crime in SLORC**-run Myanmar).

Everybody Loses
When a government is too busy participating in witchhunts, (as totalitarian and "God-centered" governments are bound to be) it channels a ridiculously large amount of resources into its self-preservation mechanisms-- the army, the Iraqi Republican Guard, the KGB, the religious police, Hitler Youth, et cetera-- to the deteriment of agriculture, industry, education, culture, sports, social services, et cetera. The nation sinks deeper into fiscal, if not physical, hell and gets left behind by the rest of the world. Meanwhile the people close to the centers of power ride around in luxury cars...

Mayhaps a "Christ-centered" government will be kinder than its totalitarian cousins to its dissidents, its philosophers, homosexuals and conscientious objectors than, say, the Taliban. But give it time. Governments always find a way to inflict novel forms of repression where the more traditional forms (physical torture, for example) are shunned. People can find ways to skirt the spirit of the law (Mortal or Divine) while adhering to its letter.

*while Pakistan is not wholly a religion-run state, the mullahs enjoy a lot of clout. Hmmm. Much like the not-so-Catholic Republic of the Philippines with its religious power-blocs...

**SLORC= Strategic Law and Order Ruling Council.

Apparently, Elmer "Memer/IQ40/Hentai Lord ." Damaso is not married yet. He intends to wed his sweetheart a.ka. Baby, a.k.a. "Miaka" at a church somewhere. And all of this happens on Saturday. Today (actually, yesterday, as I'm uploading this on the following Sunday). Heard tell he was trying to find me-- I am reputed to be able to drop out of the social radar net with shocking ease-- as he couldn't be wed without me. (Sheesh! And I thought Baby was the bride.)

I didn't spend too much time (all of ten seconds!) struggling with my pride. Elmer has been a steadfast friend since we got to know each other in '95. Ergo, I'm going to the wedding. Added incentives-- some of the old gang is bound to be there. Like "Pogi Pie" Ferlin and the righteous Karl. I wonder if any more ghosts from my Fine Arts past will arrive to haunt the church... but that's just wishful thinking.


Once upon a time (1993?) in Los Banos, I was at the wedding of two friends of mine. They'd been seeing each other for some time, and as was expected even in those days, they regularly consummated their marriage even before it was held. Not that it's too bad a thing. I'm a believer in "sex because you love," but (call me a prude) I don't like the idea of playing with fire too much, too soon.

The girl, who I will hide behind the name, "Vi," documented her life, as I do, in a primitive blog-- a journal, for those readers who don't remember how to write in longhand. As expected, her mother found the book, and found it a real page-turner. She couldn't put it down. When she finally did, the Catholic reflexes kicked in, and she promptly demanded that the guy, who I will name "Ralph," marry her daughter. Which he did.

The couple sought me out, and found me (as always) through a messenger who knew my haunts when I was feeling antisocial. That's the trouble with living on University grounds in Los Banos-- everybody eventually gets to know everybody else. They made me best man.

I was reluctant at first, as there had been something between 'Vi and me before she started dating 'Ralph. But as I stood there, in the church, next to the couple, watching the fop sweat forming on the priest's brow-- he knew it was a shotgun wedding-- I couldn't help but think that I was where I was s'posed to be. So what if they had the odds stacked against them? So what if both sets of parents view the marriage as a convenient way out of social opprobrium? You go, girl! You go, guy! Stick it to universe-parsing society!

I've always been a fan of weddings, adventure and young love (and by "young" I do not mean "foolish") defying statistics.
My Father is Robert Smith!

Not really, but I do remember wanting to be him when I was a teenager. The Cure was all the rage here in the mid-to-late eighties. Well, at least, to goths like my younger self. I desperately wanted to have corpse-white skin, bad hair, a dark, romantic and commanding presence. Trouble was, I was Asian, geeky, hated makeup and was too timid to walk into a club full of goths-- waitaminute: there were no clubs filled with goths here back then! AT least, no clubs I was aware of.

I had fantasies of being a vampire or werewolf. Acts like The Cure and shows like Forever Knight were pivotal in those same fantasies, paving the way for a novella and comic book I made in high school.

They were about a seemingly unstoppable (teenage) vampire whose nobility kept the bloodlust at bay by a hair's breadth; and a crazy (teenage) guy whose will was --literally-- indomitable. They hated each other with a passion and came to blows whenever they met. (Okay, Batman was an influence too.) Strangely, they always fought to a standstill just as dawn would break. Then they both had to flee-- one to escape a fiery second death, the other to nurse his broken body back to health.

It's a shame I lost the manuscript. The beginning --with the girl in the red dress and matching red Pontiac Fierro-- was bad and I don't miss it. It was the middle chapter that I was proud of. Our vampire, sick of his (un)life, stands over his own grave and patiently waits "to see the dawn." When it comes, we see him looking at the sun and marvelling at the color of the sky. He then watches, at peace now, his body slowly crumble to dust.

His story didn't end there: too bad for him, I was also influenced by The Uncanny X-Men.

Perhaps one day, I'll find the time to rewrite his story, though it's not that likely. Anne Rice overmined the genre (yes, with great work), and relegated future attempts at the vampire story into rough equivalents of... (eeeughhh!) Blade.
Bring on the Dancing...

Eliza Dushku, Boy Meets Girl, A-ha!, Erasure and Kon Kan
Am thinking about Eliza Dushku and how, well, hot she looked in several swimsuits in a movie I recently saw on cable.

Am also listening to some eighties music right now. Y'see, my girlfriend and I are firmly rooted in the eighties. Plus, she has a married older brother who avidly collects eighties memorabilla.

Music! I begin to see from where my first conflicts with my future offspring will begin. Note to self: overdose kids with eighties music (my old man did something similar to me) so we can listen to music in the house without arguing. But I'm digressing.

It's All About Plaster
Am listening to eighties music and thinking about Eliza Dushku partly as a reward for finding a filler for cracked plaster. The plaster surface coating one pillar, supporting the second floor of my house, has broken away in ugly chunks. Before any sacred wallpaper can be applied to said pillar with impunity, the resultant scab had to be treated, else said sacred wallpaper would look, well, profane. I didn't want to pay some construction guy to do the job, so in typical male fashion, I went about fixing the thing myself.

Air hardening clay, I found, was too brittle when it dried. It too, fell away in ugly chunks-- all of the three times I tried to use it. The process took away seven hours of my day. I found out too late that I needed some sort of mold to use plater of paris with. I'd already bought a kilo of the stuff when I remembered that my years of experience with plaster equalled zip. I had no idea how to make a mold for vertical scabs. It occured to my sister that maybe using Vulca-seal might be a good idea. But the audacious idea had occured to her when all the hardware stores were closed This was hour eight.

Eureka... sort of
Hour ten. I wound up using paper. Newsprint to fill the scab and more newsprint to smooth out the bumps. It did occur to me that I had a bucketful of glue handy for some instant papier mache. Away went the scab, and on went the sacred wallpaper. Looks like I got to use that college education after all. That and lot of dead horses.

Now back to listening to Boy Meets Girl and daybreaming about Eliza Dushku...

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

William Shatner's James T. Kirk.

If you love this man, and if you feel his cinematic death was undeserved, visit this site!

Monday, December 15, 2003

Kung Fu Story

"You don't respect me. You never did. I was never, to your eyes, good enough to join your school and meditate at this Temple," the Novice said to his four Masters. He pointed to the first-- "To you, I'm too poor to pay for your training. You only train me haphazardly to ease your own conscience." He turned to the second, and said "To you, my form is always bad. But I see you using it." The student turned to the third master, and said, "You, Third Master, you think I do not put enough effort in my work. But you don't know how much I bleed for this Temple." To the fourth, he said, "And you don't listen to me at all! Has it not occured to you that I may have something important to contribute?"

His masters looked on in stony silence at the impertinent Novice.

"I will leave this Temple," said the Novice. "You will not miss me and your life will go on. But we will meet again at a time and place of my choosing. And when we do, we will meet as equals."

The Novice picked up his pack. The finality of what he was about to do frightened him-- the Temple was all he knew. But he had too much pride to crawl back to his Masters and beg their indulgence. He looked at the road, contemplating this new, and undoubtedly long journey of... what? foolishness? desparation? discovery? He smiled. Leaning on his walking stick, he walked calmly out the Temple archway, never looking back.
Words for the Week Special (Part 1)

"What d'you call a person who speaks two languages? A bilingual. A person who speaks more languages? A multi-lingual. So what d'you call a person who speaks only one language? You call him an American."

English as We Know It
English, as we know it, is a funny language. It's funny in that there are always glaring exceptions to the rules that your teachers taught you. Rules that involve spelling, word and sentence construction, idioms, etc.

If "K" is vocalized with a cut-off exhalation of air (like a hard "C" sound), why, for example, is it not vocalized in the words knight or knife; why is it present in the name, Evel Kneivel? Why does "sew" not rhyme with "few", or "done" with "bone?" And while it's grammatically correct to say "Kane, I am. Help you, I will," why is it that only Yoda seems to speak that way? And isn't English the only language where "Hot" and "Cool" mean the same thing?

It's also funny in that while "whole populations" or "sizeable portions of whole populations" can speak it-- from Manila to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Mumbai to Tokyo to Seoul-- anyone plucked from these cities will still have difficulty making himself understood to the average American or Briton.

Often when the average non-Cebuano Filipino has to speak English, he makes an ass of himself (Just think of ex Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago). And I don't like it when that happens to a fellow Filipino regardless of his politics: when you make an ass of yourself, people respect you less and you still can't be properly understood. Call me a traitor to "Nationalism" but I am one of those wrongheaded people who believe that life on these islands would be easier if everyone really understood their English textbooks (and their lopsided contracts with America before they sign them!)

I will remind the gentle reader that Jose Rizal himself was an advocate of learning the language of the Colonizer (in his time it was Spanish, but all the history books agree that Rizal learned some form of English). It allowed the Native to confidently battle for his rights on the Colonizer's own turf, as an equal, because the Native can literally read the fine print on the Colonizer's IOUs. Don't believe me? Read your Noli and Fili.

English is a power language (like Latin or Greek in the days before the fall of Rome) because our elite and upper middle-class read, speak and write in it-- It slowly displaced Spanish in the fifties thanks to World War II. English is a power language because America and Britain use it to execute their foreign policies, which inevitably affect us anyway. Knowledge is power; remember that.

What saddens is that the only times the average non-Cebuano Filipinos seem to understand English is when they're watching Baywatch, anything from the Cartoon Network or Smallville. The same way that they can use the computer only if they're on Internet Relay Chat, playing Ragnarok or downloading porn and pirated movies from KaZaA (though that's best reserved for another installment of the Big Bodega).

So in the interest of not having any more of my countrymen look and sound like idiots when they defend their theses, or write their resumes, when they look for work at call centers or even when they're writing comics in English, Dex Words for the Week presents this guide to some of the more common English words and expressions problematic to the average Filipino...

PRONUNCIATION GUIDE (pr'n'nshiyaysh'n gide)

There Are Different Kinds of English
English is not homogenous in America. It's true even in the UK. Depending on where you live, your English can take on a New York twang, a Southern Drawl, a Californian surfer dude's weird lexicon. What keeps English comprehensible to America (aside from their Pop Culture) is the kind of English spoken by their mediapeople. As this English is also comprehensible to other English speakers worldwide, it's wise to invest a little time in getting comfy with it.

Long Vowels
One problem with the Filipino speaking English is that the range of vowel sounds he's used to making is very limited. Limited to the short vowels-- a' i' u' e' o'. (Yes, just like the Japanese). English as spoken by George Dubya demands the use of long vowels for certain words, and by long vowels, I mean vowels with an extended sound. Example? Say "Hi" like you were greeting a dear friend, and try to smile while you're at it.



Yep. Like that.

Drag is not pronounced the same as drug; Americans and other English speaking foreigners have trouble figuring out which of the above words we're using when we speak.

Another problem for the Filipino who wishes to speak English properly is that Filipino (or Tagalog, if you prefer) depends on sounds that are "not so rounded." Why is cussing in Filipino more effective than cussing in English, for example. Answer: we tend to use Filipino like it was a weak derivative of Klingon when we're mad. Put me under enough stress and I lose my nice accent so fast that I'm fit to join the lawyers in the Philippine Bar Association (Have you seen two local lawyers argue a case? Yes? My point exactly).

Filipinos have difficulty understanding speaking Americans also because these Americans tend to "slur" when they speak. "I'm an American" often sounds like "I'munAmerican." "Wait! Hold up!" sounds a lot like "Wait! Hol dup!" I don't know the exact corelation between the "roundness" of the American mediaperson accent and this tendency to conjoin words, or even if there is such a corelation. But the result of this, is that the English sounds more pleasant. The price we pay though, is our continually asking them to slow their rate of speech.

Below are some commonly mispronounced words...

bowl -Whether you mean the eating utensil or the act of hitting ten pins with a heavy wooden ball, the "ow" in bowl is pronounced as "oh", not as "ow" in "owl." It's BOHL, not BAUL.

brush -pronounce it as written-- "BRUSH". Not BRaSSS.

ceremony -it's pronounced SERremowny and not seREm'ni. Our government officials and teachers keep making this mistake, and I've tripped over this one more than once. (Thanks for correcting me, Ian!)

democracy -it's d'MOCKr'sy. The "O" sound is the same as in HAWK. Many's the time I've heard diMUkrasi to my great pain.

hamburger -is not "hamboorjer." Read it as is with an extended "a" sound: hamburger.

is -it's voiced as if it had a z. It's iz.

pizza -is always PEETza and not PITcha, despite the Parokya ni Edgar song.

please -it's PLEEEZ. It's not PLISS or, as is popular in SM's public address systems, PLEY-AHS.

primary -is two words said as one word: PRY + MARY, not PRY + MARIE.

speak -it's speeek, not isPIK. Extend your vowels here, else those round-eyed barabarians will never understand you!

teeth -remember that it's always TEETH. It's not TIT, TEET or TISS.

vowels are not bowels, even if fire and pyre are closely related. Mind your v, f and p.

Z -is zee, not zey, for the love of Pete! If you must use another pronunciation, use "Zed." (But I think this applies to Europe and Japan. Can anyone please confirm this?)

(to be concluded)
Bodega Bits

Dean Jorge Tylenol
He must've read my blog. Or someone must've pointed out his prior inability to get his point across to us dumb readers. I read his column today and I understood every word. Amazing!

They Got Saddam!
And about time too. This is not to say I am changing my stand about the war. I still think it was wrong. But if some good is ever going to be salvaged from this iniquity, it's partly in catching Saddam and putting him away for good. Yes, Dubya, you can crow now. But you still gotta fix Iraq. If only for the sake of the Iraqi people, I wish you the best of luck.

Head Hunt-- er, Head Count
I'd like to know just how many people are reading this. If you guys don't mind, couldja please click on the "comments" link below this post, and type yer first name in the popup dialog box? I'd appreciate it very much. Thanks.
C3 Canned

Dear Jesus,

I'm sorry because I will not be going to Mass today. I hope to be able to catch the tail end of the 2nd C3Con and maybe speak with some of my friends who may or may not show up. There are a million times when I've exhibited this weakness, probably a million more times when I've promised to make it up to you. Someday, I will.


Evil Dhex and His Ghay Shirt

When I took the MRT ride to the Megamall area, I was anxious. Not just because I was wearing what my sister teasingly referred to as a "faggy shirt" (think F4). What would I tell the friends who hadn't seen me in a year? How to properly answer the questions, "How have you been?" "What have you been doing?" I'd been to two previous anime/manga related conventions, and each time, I walked away eating my own bitterness. Would the third be the same?

I shouldn't have worried so much. I was, in secret agent movie parlance, "in and out" with a completed mission to boot.

Shurprise Ehntry
I was met at the ticket booth by an old acquaintance-- one of the hands at the JC Palabay Enterprises Incorporated compound (CCCom HQ). He insisted, over my protestations, that I need not pay to get into the venue. I'm glad that at least some people can remember me fondly.

Catching Uhp
I caught up with Mark Navarro, who had taken over my old job at CCCom. Mixed emotions when I found out he'd stumbled on my blog and told my ex-officemates and some of our common friends to read it. When I had started writing about Culture Crash, I did expect that word of it would find its way to my old officemates, but I still wasn't prepared to find out exactly when that would happen. Well, the cat's been out of the bag for a while now. I left because I was neither content nor solvent. Some of this was due to my own failings as an employee; some of this due to my own failings as a person; some of this due to what I felt-- rightly or wrongly-- was how my colleagues viewed me. Some of this was because one can't battle failing grades and naggers at the same time. I had entertained thoughts about returning to work after the first C3Con-- I was MIA in Singapore, Thesis Land and by my Granddad's deathbed at the time they were working on Issue 11-- but then I'd decided not to inflict myself on these people any more than I already had.

The Ohld Ghang
I was happy for Elmer (Cat's Trail, One Day Isang Diwa)-- married to the woman he loves and with his foot still in comics, apparently. And still surrounded by nubile chick fans. Memer talaga, kahit kailan, chickie killer. Taga-Ilog (Pasig, Kubori Kikiam) had found himself a better bucket to put over his head. It was made of aluminum too!-- Niiice. Sadly, I could not see JIO (Solstice Butterfly) at the gathering; would've been great to trade dumbass jokes with him again. Tiga-Kanal (Kubori Kikiam) was there too, and all he did was tease me about my muscles and how fat I'd become. James-- well, James (One Day Isang Diwa) had his mom with him, despite her apparent leg injury. No doubt she was proud of her son's visions come to pass.

Abby Tifio (D'Koi Junkie) was there too. I wish I'd traded more than simple pleasantries with her, but there's still a boatload of things I need to keep to my chest: where I've been, where I'm going, what I'm going to do. (Kinda pointless, since all the lurid deatils are to be found in my blog!!! But please allow me my own absurdities...)

Saw Diwa's Eva Guy, erstwhile contributor of articles to CCCom; didn't see Diwa. I'd expected to run into more of my old UP Fine Arts friends, but I didn't. I was very glad to see Fine Arts alumnus Poli Polidario and some of the people from UP AME though. Did not run into Sammy nor into Kervin-- too bad.

Lhocal Mhango
The funky Yonzon family was present as well, hawking the new, sexy streetsmart English-fluent Darna under the Mango Comics banner. I became acquainted with the Yonzons at (where else?) the UP College of Fine Arts, though I got to know exactly what ah, "shared history" we have when I attended the first Tagaytay Film, Broadcast and Creative Workshop a year or two ago (Buboy Yonzon was a big part of it).

Comhic Ghuest
It was fun, running into pals and Alamat/QuestVentures stalwarts, Marco Dimaano (Angel Ace) and Carlo Vergara (One Night in Purgatory, Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah), who also comented on my shirt. Upstart comic book artist Andrew "Buddha" Drilon was there too, snapping pictures. And I got to share a table with these guys and Red Robb-- oops, Comic Quest's own smiling Buddha, Vinnie Simbulan.

(Oh no. Name Dropping! I'm beginning to read like the society pages! Like... like... ARIEL URETA!!! SOMEBODY SHOOT ME NOW!!!)

It's amazing how nobody among the CCCom fans recognizes or remembers me. (It has been about a year. What did I expect?) And a good thing I didn't introduce myself too: I would've died in the middle of a handshake if someone were to ask me, "Evil Who?"

Thursday, December 11, 2003


People who tried to call me on my celphone will have been met with a recorded voice saying that my phone was off or that it was in some network-deprived locale. Fret not. It was neither lost nor stolen by some wide-eyed dyolog looking for a quick fix. My brother has been using said phone as his cel is on the blink. I'll have my evil phone back soon enough-- methinks in about a week.

If you wish to reach me, you can do so via email, or calling my home number.

The item below is not meant to spread malice or defame anyone's character. This is just a bowlderized presentation of "voting logic" as used by some members of my extended family. As this is partly a product of long hours talking at Quattro or some such bistro, take it with a grain of salt.

Cry "Uncle!"

It took about a month but my uncle has wrapped up his vacation in the Philippine Islands and is, as I type, planing back to Minnesota. He spent the month getting together with his old lawyer buddies, debating the Bible and playing golf, all the while chugging Danding Cojuangco's San Mig Brew. He won't be back 'til after 2004. Which is a good thing. Given the chance, he'd vote for Ronnie Poe. My younger cousin, Martin, will be following his pop home two days from now. Had he been a citizen, he'd have voted for someone else.


Ronnie Poe's decision to run has divided the country. On one side, the well-heeled and middle class closing ranks behind the non-Poe candiadate of their choice. On the other, the great unwashed and teeming unshod lining up to pledge their loyalty to Fernando "Ronnie" Poe Jr. My family itself is riven along voting lines.


My Pop, citing his great distrust of the politician-as-candidate, as well as various unsavory details about the same, is casting his vote for Ronnie Poe. Pop claims that Poe as politician is clean, and has more character than Erap. He's proven that he's his own man and will not be swayed by special interest pressure groups (insert anecdote re: how Poe and Erap faced down and defeated an armed gang of real-life extortionists preying on local movie stars sometime before Martial Law). "Poe," says Pop, "is running out of a sincere desire to help the country. Not like some politicians we know. He declared he was running because the (millions of poor) people asked him to." Here's the kicker-- Pop claims that given our current crop of candidates, we couldn't do any worse. I am eerily almost forced to concede the point.


My doctor cousin, Ferdinand (yes, he was named after Marcos), true to his market/voter classification is voting for Raul Roco. And if Poe and his advisers don't come up with a viable action plan to save the country, so will I. Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros supports Roco, mainly because he looks to be the cleanest of our dirty cast. He also bothers to take a stand where GMA is vacillating, spineless, and always waiting for the social weather station to greenlight her actions. Roco backed Judge "Hilarious" Davide when Danding "PacMan" Cojuangco, fearful of being convicted in the Supreme Court for screwing our coconut farmers, engineered a congress initiative to impeach the Chief Justice.

The problem with Roco though, is that he has a short fuse and a rep for being full of hot air-- "all talk," so to speak. He's also never gotten away from the stench of his old law firm. If memory serves... wasn't his old firm involved in some of "Andy" Lipin's, er, business?

My Color is PINGk

Assuming FPJ accepts his party's nomination, my youngest brother is voting for Ping "Mr. Clean" Lacson. He wants to vote for Roco, but he "knows" that only Ping might be able to challenge FPJ on the voting battleground. My brother reasons thusly: While GMA may not be averse to screwing with the ballot, she is so unpopular now that she'll never win. Roco is popular with the intellectual youth, the frustrated and underpaid educators and NGO's. But the great unshod outnumber them many times to one-- so he won't win. Ping, on the other hand, can lie with a straight face, can convince judges that he's innocent of charges of summary execution despite evidence to the contrary. If he decides to cheat, he won't be caught. He's also managed to cultivate a "tough on crime" image, and that'll score points with "the great frustrated unshod" as well as Ping's traditional Fil-Chinese constituency. Ping can't be that bad, says my brother: doesn't matter if the dark allegations that he operates his own drugs/kidnap cartel are true-- as long as he can, er, rub out the other syndicates. Better let the devil you know deal with the devils you don't, apparently. Besides, he did manage to spit-polish the image of the Philippine National Police.


My sister looked at this three ring circus and rolled her eyes the way females do when they think the males courting them aren't worth their time. She refuses to vote.

Monday, December 08, 2003

C3 Con

...should be coming up this month. (Don't take my word for it; I haven't done any thorough checking). Mangaphiles will flock to the Megamall (if it's still being held there) like it was Mecca. Should I show up and support the local comic book industry? Mayhaps. We'll see.
Dean Jorge Headache

There is always the columnist you love to hate. A co-trainee, Eric, doesn't like Jessica Zafra because "All she does is complain. But she makes money from it." My Dad doesn't like Rina Jimenez David because he can't "get" Ms David's feminism. My personal self-inflicted torment is reading Dean Jorge Bocobo. Bad enough that I usually don't like his politics. What makes reading him worse is that he forces his readers to kill off more brain cells trying to understand him, that they probably will wind up dumber for it. There's no doubt about the formidable intelligence that swims like a shark beneath his words. What galls is that the damn shark is too busy showing off like it was a dolphin. He writes with an arrogance and a self-importance that makes me wanna throttle him. It's a shame, really, since he does raise points worth pondering-- when he can be understood by minds as miniscule as mine.
Apple Sauce

You'll recall that "Apple-- not the name she uses" was my trainer. I don't quite understand why her opinion of me mattered, but it did. The few times we interacted outside the "classroom" was when I had to give notice that I was going to be late or skip a training phase. I felt like a suitor setting himself up for rejection (incidentally, not a role I'm unfamiliar with).

One adage that comes to mind is this-- "It's not what you say but how you say it." In the times I felt I had to be assertive, I wound up being aggressive. Or when I had to ask for something, I had to be submissive. Walking the middle road was always difficult, for me.

Some of my friends will, no doubt, be blaming my tendency to gravitate towards people who exhibit these qualities:
  • that she's pretty
  • speaks English in a way I can respect
  • exudes a presence that is felt immediately upon entering any room
Guys, she's that, but she's not a part of what was once my two-deity personal cosmos. She's not the girlfriend and neither is she the Muse.

Power Disparity

As a boy of nine years, I had a flash of insight, as I waited in line to ask for service at an office. It involved papers that my father needed to be processed. The person at the office was seated, relaxed, while the rest of us were standing, waiting to be have our requests heard. Some of us, to my mind, were refused, while some of us were heard. The process seemed to me, quite arbitrary. Here, in the office, was someone in a position of power. Power over your life. Naturally, those who were here to ask for something were in positions of considerably less power-- Otherwise, they wouldn't have to ask for anything from that seated official. If the official, I reasoned, were in a bad mood, your request would be denied however just, righteous or deserving. (If someone were sent to correct him, an ombudsman figure, he'd only be able to correct the irate official because he had more power.) And if that was normal parctice in a small government office, what more in offices all over the archipelago?

And so began my ambivalent relationship with power-- wishing to have more of it while literally hating the people who had it, especially power over me. (You could never catch me asking for directions in my teens-- that gave a stranger total power over your fate. He could give you the wrong directions, and send you into an alley swarming with robbers, for example.)

As I grew, I saw things that confirmed what had been developing as the dark part of my world-view. People in power loved to show it off, and were mightily displeased if you weren't impressed. It didn't matter that they were wrong, foolish or petty. What mattered was that they were bigger, had more money and that they could beat you up. You tended to be "cleaner" the higher you climbed. I thus learned the value of keeping a properly subservient face, so that any backlash from the people in power (who were always petty) wouldn't be aimed my way.

I learned that to "be responsible" was to be blamed for things you may not have control over. That people made you "leader" not out of any respect for you, but because you were convenient. They expected you to solve all their problems yourself, and if you failed, they heaped blame on you in spades. You were "leader" but they were like He-Man: they "had the power."

There were many later lessons, all gleaned from events that involved a little boy who thought he suddenly knew what the world was about. It's a shame that he had to look at later events, and people-- bosses, teachers, parents, cops et. al.-- through this prism. Had he realized early on that he was seeing only part of the big picture, it would have saved ME a lot of headaches.

What is power anyway? It's the ability to order your existence in the manner that you see fit. God is the ultimate egoist because he can afford to be. He's got all the power. Good for those of us who believe in him, he uses it in the interest of Creation.

What is power? It's at once the most satisfying, most childish answer to the often plaintive question: "Why are you doing this?"

Why indeed?

"Because I can."

I haven't done a blasted thing worth doing today. My cleaning of the PC and keyboard do not count, because I did it to ease my very guilty conscience.

I coulda painted today. I coulda followed up on that refund we were s'posed to be due from a certain household fixture place. I coulda spent the last coupla days outside excercising, but I hadda stay home and indulge in my sacred vice-- a long addictive computer strategy game. I swear, it's probably why I couldn't come up with quality schoolwork at quality speeds at certain critical and non-critical times. The old bromide about idle hands must be true. I'm not knocking the impulse to play here. It's essential despite all the declarations by the erudite to the contrary. Creatives couldn't function without it. But this is the yardstick-- how much, how badly does play interfere with your obligations to yourself and the rest of society. I believe I need a little rehab right now.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Par, Able

A cooling appliance is regulated by a thermostat. The thermostat is programmed to cut power to the cooling unit once the temperature reaches 68 degrees farenheit. Should the surrounding temperature exceed 76 degrees, the thermostat is also set to switch the cooling device back on. The idea, of course, is to have a mean temperature of plus or minus 72 degrees farenheit. There's an 8 degree range between 68 (cold) and 76 (hot) degrees in which the thermostat will "idle" before it decides to kick in. "Idling" takes five to ten minutes.

Let's say the device's owner, "Joe," is not happy with a temperature differential of 8 degrees. What if he wants to shorten the "idling" time? He fiddles with the thermostat so that the cooling unit is switched on at 73 degrees and powers down at 71. There's a smaller temperature differential (+1 or -1 degrees) and consequently a shorter wait before the thermostat kicks in.

But let's say Joe is a finicky noveau riche Filipino and he doesn't want to have to wait at all. He wants his room to always be at 72 degrees. So he sets the thermostat's "idling" time to zero. But he doesn't get the desired reults. As soon as his room temperature reaches the ideal 72 degrees, all hell breaks loose. Because both "hot" and "cold" are set at 72 degrees, the thermostat experiences a machine version of anxiety-- trying to switch the cooling unit on while simultaneously switching it off. Cooling unit blows a gasket and starts an electrical fire. Joe pays the price.

Parents and employers, remember this when you lay out policy for- or dish out orders to- your kids or your employees. We're your thermostat. If your "cooling unit" blows a gasket and starts an electrical fire, you have only yourselves to blame.
I Can Talk About It Now(conclusion)

The funny thing about sales is that people do it all the time, regardless of their jobs or their antipathy towards salesmen. When you convince a friend to watch "the Matrix: Revolutions" instead of "Uhawww" by dint of your reasoning and charm, you've made a sale. When you convince the non-practicing Catholics to join your non-denominational Christian fundamentalist group, by the power of your reasoning, your divinely inspired Bible-quoting (and yes, with divine assistance) you've made a sale.

Side note: Obviously, there is a subtle link between religion, economics and politics. People who claim otherwise can eat my shorts. I once tried to make this a topic for my fine arts thesis: "Advertise the Catholic Church." The commodity being sold to a resistant market being "Salvation/Peace of Mind, " the unit of exchange being not solely money, but obedience to designated Church Authority and mandatory attendance of church gatherings (services). The Mormons, the local Ecclesia of Christ and the 700 Club were advertising their respective churches with the same terms anyway, so there was a precedent. You won't be surprised that my adviser sorta laughed in my face.

Learning from Apple
One of the more telling things I picked up at call center telesales training was "Handling Objections." It's one of the more misunderstood and trying aspects of what Apple called "the Sales Cycle" --Introductions, Asking Probing Questions, Product or Service Presentation, Handling Objections and Closing.

Basically an "objection" is any concern or issue the customer may raise regarding whatever it is you're offering, be it a free magazine subscription or a "free" fancy satellite dish* that "can pick up Playboy Espa�ol." We were taught that objections were "normal" and "expected." That these were "temporary stops to a sale." We had to listen to the customer's concerns to properly address them. Sometimes, those concerns weren't even real, but just an atavistic rejection of the new and untried: better the lousy slimming product you know than the spanking new fruit fiber juice that claims better results.

The training manual notes that salespeople receive, on the average, three to five objections during a phone call. Implied is the idea that you've made a sale after you railroad your script past the fifth objection. I've always found this reminiscent of Goebbels, or at least of someone with an evil Skinnerian bent. But the existence of what Apple calls "unreal concerns" throws new light on the said training manual note and its implications. If you truly believe you can offer the person at the other end of the line something good, then in the name of helping him out, it becomes your solemn duty to get past objection five so you can get his atavistic rejection out of the way and better present your product or service.

Almost makes the selling profession sound noble, doesn't it?

I feel that the manual begins to contradict itself when it spouts lines about "the customer comes first" out of the left side of its mouth, and "your purpose is to make a sale" out of the right. But then that's probably just me. You can steer a woman customer from thoughts of suicide, provide her with companionship and witty conversation-- heck, you can even save the world-- but you'd still be behind quota if you didn't close the sale you were s'posed to be making.

We were admonished to remember our ABC-- "Always Be Closing."

I would be remiss if I did not inform my readers that I currently do NOT work for (call center I will not name). Towards the last day of training, the hounds of PAGCOR, PHILPOST and my own personal Harpies (Mom and her sister-- without whose, er, intercession I would not have been made aware of those job openings in the first place) turned their fetid breath in my direction and demanded I cease my "dallying" in my "low income play-at-having-a-real-job." Worse, typhoon Weng sank any chance of my going to Libis to finish my training: (call center I will not name) has a strict attendance policy. I have thus spent the last coupla weeks getting myself tested at various clinics, with my mother praying that I prove to be medically fit for a job at PAGCOR or at PHILPOST.

(So just when am I s'posed to be playing in the "big leagues," Ma? When it's a job you "recommend"? Mommy still knows best after 30 years, is that it? You're right. PAGCOR or PHILPOST will probably meet my financial needs and allow me the time to paint or do all sorts of "artisty things." But did it ever occur to you that my need for validation is just as big as my need for ready cash? If I cannot make money without your fingerprints on it, I am not a man. I am a mama's boy.

It galls me when people nag me with well-meaning unsolicited job advice. Or any advice for that matter. And it galls me even more when the advice is sound. If I should ask for your counsel, give it ONCE. Mayhaps twice. Then leave me the hell alone to think it over. If I rehash the dilemma, it's only so I can hear myself think. I don't care how long my decision-making takes, I just need to know that the decision is mine. Your nagging only makes me feel that you've made up my mind for me. And if you're proven right, please do not gloat in my face. I get murderous when people do that.)

To this date, I have told, through e-post, only one member of my training batch of my whereabouts and my sitch. Knowing the Filipino and his propensity for gossip, this should be enough to let the rest of them know-- enough for knowledge, though hardly adequate for apology. I'd lost the words best used for the direct, face-to-face conversation my having abandoned them required. They did make me batch leader after all.

At the end of the day, I will say this-- I've misjudged telemarketers and call center agents. They're not all evil and demented. The ones who annoy are just incompetent. And we victims, er, customers, aren't often a great incentive to be nice either. Given time, practice (hopefully not on us), better training with greater customer care emphasis and stiffer competition (from China?), mayhaps the telebusiness experience will be as painless and convenient as it was meant to be.

-*The "dish" itself is free. But you gotta subscribe to the sattelite tv service which costs you some 60-something dollars a month.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Words for the Week
Our theme this week is call center, so I'm gonna pull some terms from the (company I will not name) lexicon. Other call centers may share most of these terms.

calibration -n. regularly scheduled process by which QA members induce similarity. [What sounds good to QA Nelson may not sound good to QA Marco and QA Carl. It is their task to set a standard of "what sounds good" via discussion and consensus. In this way, QA ensures fair judgement regardless of which QA member gets on your case.]

complete -v. the act of making a sale; n. a closed (or completed) sale [Call center agents usually work with scripts. These scripts serve, as per QA approval, to facilitate the sales process with minimum fuss. A script is considered completed if a sale is made. You need a set number of completes to meet quota]

foosball -n. "tabletop football" [I believe this term is unique to (call center I will not name). The term is probably derived from an Adam Sandler movie.]

gatekeeper -n. in the scripts, he's the guy who answers the phone

QA -n. "Quality Assurance" [This department is concerned with the quality of the calls made and received by call center agents. It polices the phone lines, making sure that call center agents don't cuss or make personal outgoing calls. QA also takes upon itself a developmental role, when it monitors your calls and points out areas of improvement, whether it be accent, tone, speed, etc.]

quality -n. It's the measure of being able to get things done right the first time, every time. [QA takes this very seriously. As should everybody else, wherever he or she works.]

the floor -n. the usually enclosed, carpeted and restricted space in a call center containing all the paraphernalia of the modern vampire-- er, call center agent (e.g. computers and phones). [This is where the action is-- people sucker customers, meet and exceed quota, keep or lose their jobs here.]

TL -n. "Team Leader." [Call center agents are grouped into teams. The Team Leader's job is to make sure nobody on his team lags in the quantity and quality of the calls made.]

Saturday, November 22, 2003

I Can Talk About It Now(continued)

You may have run into the fellows who (aside from its detractors like me) give telesales a bad name.
These ...people, when they're out on "the floor" making calls, forget the one thing that makes phone service the convenient and painless exercise it was meant to be. And that one thing is basic phone etiquette, a.k.a. common sense.

Too often the call center agent --be he American, Hindi, Filipino or [coming soon] Mainland Chinese-- is one of several things: a nervous wreck, a sadistic intelligence agent or someone who just doesn't know enough about the stuff he wants to sell you. He is too busy thinking about his quota, too frazzled by the irate guy from the last call and just too clueless to be of any help to anyone. He forgets to put himself in his customer's shoes.

If you were to receive a call from a breathy Saddam Hussein ordering you to buy his last automatic rifle and a couple of hand grenades, payment made via your credit card plus passport and safe passage to Jordan, would you feel inclined to oblige him?

Hardly. Right?

Now if Saddam barking orders was replaced by someone who sounded friendly, intelligent, earnest and unfailingly polite... someone who knew uses for Iraqi automatic rifles and grenades other than for perforating Americans... someone who sounded like... ah, like... Optimus Prime! (alright, alright-- Hugh Jackman. Sheesh. You women are hard to please...)

Wouldn't you feel better about parting with your money for an automatic rifle and a coupla dud grenades you can polish, custom-detail and hang on your wall for you to be proud of and for all your friends to envy?

I'd say you'd answer with a cautious yes.

Salome Learns Her Common Sense
And so it went that I spent two weeks learning the basics of life indentured to the call center. In week one, I was taught how to "sound as if" I was "born in the 'States," as that place was where we serviced our clients. (It's tricky at best-- 'tis a horrible thing to hear the Filipino "spek his bran op In-glis."* Most trainees are taught how to help neutralize their often thick Filipino accent.) This is standard-- if we expect our American clients to understand what we say, we haveta speak the way they do or come up with a close enough approximation. We were told (and good advice it is, if you want to get in this business) to saturate our surroundings with all things American, especially the way American mediapeople speak. "Watch the FOX network. Just don't always buy what they say." And the best piece of advice-- stay far away from local telenovelas!

Trainees were taught how to properly wield their voices (hm, shades of Dune and Star Wars here) and how to project assertiveness, friendliness, enthusiasm over the phone. It's safe to say that if you "feel the love," you can easily make the other guy on the line feel it too. "Like begets Like," my trainer would always remind us.

In week two, we were taught the basics of "Telesaaaales!!!"**

(to be concluded)

*-This sitch is so bad that even some of the call center veterans don't speak the way they think we trainees should. I oughtta know. I had to listen to 'em. It's also worth noting here that my grade school English teachers were wrong on the pronunciation of the letter "Z" and in the accent, rhythm and intonation of spoken English, be it American or the King's English. "Z" really is pronounced as "Zee" and not "Zay." This is not to boast that I speak with an "American accent." I don't. The kind of English I cultivated allowed me to say "Pedro, please vacuum the floor" without "Pedro" sounding like "Pay-drow..." or "...please vacuum the floor" sounding like "...pleyahs bakyum da plor."
**-When I took photos, I had my fellow trainees say "telesales" instead of "cheese."

Friday, November 21, 2003

I Can Talk About It Now

Deal with the Devil
Resolved as I was to end my financial agony some months ago, I took the advice of a friend and applied for work at a call center. I had lurid visions of handing King Herod my head on a silver platter, after belly-dancing in a skimpy little... never mind. The gentle readers who know me personally will recall that I have an almost visceral aversion to advertising, telemarketing, law and industries of similarly evil repute.

I had told my interviewer, Aleth*, that I was tired of being stepped on, sold things I didn't need, and being made to wait my turn which--of course-- never came. As telemarketers were reputed to be the pushiest, most annoying pri�ks in the universe, I felt it was high time to learn assertiveness from the best. Aleth was amused, said someone from Human Resources would contact me if I passed her company's exams. I passed (as could any UP kickout) and Human Resources did call-- half a year later.

In the months before the fateful HR call, I had indentured myself as itinerant art teacher to Kids @ Play, sent e-resum�s to companies in Singapore, applied for jobs at PHILPOST (philatelic designer), PAGCOR (vault clerk) and Children's Hour ("rustle-me-up-a-presentation" guy). I worked part time ghost writing for my mother, as butler and research assistant for my girlfriend. I was also making calling cards, certifcates and resum�s for the interested, at cost. I became, in short, the busiest bum on God's green earth. When the first call came, I wasn't there to answer it: on 1st training day, I was in Los Banos, taking a friend to the nearest hospital, admonishing him to ease up on the coffee.

Answering "The Call"
A second summons from HR was made. Thankfully I was there to receive it. PAGCOR and PHILPOST were also making come-hither noises, though. Then I, who had complained of being unemployable, was suddenly caught between three prospective bosses who wanted me. How was one to make further overtures to all three companies (so I could get the best deal) without having to agonize through schedule conflicts? There was only one of me to go around.

Fending off PAGCOR and PHILPOST, I proceeded to (corporation I will not name) to at least get away with (assertiveness) telesales training. Thus for the better part of two weeks and a half, I was sequestered in the high-rise bunkers of "little Makati," a.k.a. "Eastwood City" in Libis, Quezon City.

What Salome Learned After the Dance
Salome learned that freshly lopped-off human heads, especially if they belonged to holy men, are icky things that inspire the most godawful feelings of revulsion and remorse in someoneone who's been coached to ask for them from the local tyrant.

Meantime, Dex learned from trainer Apple** that conducting business on the telephone in itself, like most things, was not all bad. On the salesperson end, it saved the company money in clothing allowances and travel expenses for otherwise roving salespeople. It saved you time (as you didn't have to travel) and kept you in a warm (or cool, depending on your preference) safe place while you went about making your sale. A good telesales call is always convenient and pain-free.

On the customer end, it meant a convenient, rapid-response service that allowed a product manufacturer to meet the customer's needs and attend to his concerns at any time. The customer saved money and time because he generally didn't have to travel to ask questions, lodge a complaint, or offer recommendations. Company reps could be contacted and talked to after dialing some seven numbers.

Sadly, though, like so many human endeavors, the disparity between telebusiness-on-paper and telebusiness-in-the-real-world --nervous customer care specialists and dog-tired customers-- is glaring. According to Apple's almighty training manual-slash-powerpoint presentation, companies lose millions of customers because of lousy telephone service, every year.

Assuming my information is correct, U.S. lawmakers are currently debating legislation that bans telecenters from making outgoing business calls. The situation must really stink if Americans are threatening to bludgeon their own free-speech principles.

You may have run into the fellows who (aside from its detractors like me) give telesales a bad name--

  • the brusque and persistent salesperson

  • the inept and/or uncaring customer service rep

  • the slow-witted and slow-speaking

  • the fast-talking shoot-from-the-lip

  • "Mr. Spin"

  • the breather

  • the interrogation and psy-ops guy fresh from a stint in Iraq

  • the prank caller

These ...people, when they're out on "the floor" making calls, forget the one thing that makes phone service the convenient and painless exercise it was meant to be. And that's--

(to be concluded)

*"Aleth" -not her real name
**"Apple" -not the name she uses

Thursday, November 20, 2003

There's Something About Mary

I miss the nineteen eighties. No, I don't miss my being an undernourished scrawny kid who was picked on by jerks. I don't miss the lovely rule of Andy Lipin and Meldy, nor the bumbling of the then-newly formed Presidential Commission on Good Government or Cory's own Kamaganak Inc.. At least I was innocent then of the pompadoured evil that would be Erap. But I miss the music and the musical experimentation, the attention people actually paid to writing the lyrics of the songs.

Case in point, the lyrics to Mary's Prayer.

While they can get clumsy and remind one of struggling high school poetry--

"If you want the fruit to fall/ you have to give the tree a shake"
"And if you shake the tree too hard/ the bough is gonna break" (huh!?)

The rest of the song strikes a chord on several levels as these excerpts will show--

"I used to be so careless / as if I couldn't care less
Did I have to make mistakes/ when I was Mary's prayer?
Suddenly the heavens roared/ suddenly the rain came down
Suddenly was washed away/ the Mary that I knew"

"Blessed is the one who shares/ the power of your beauty Mary
Blessed is the millionaire/ who shares your wedding day
So when you find somebody you can keep/ think of me and celebrate
I made such a big mistake/ when I was Mary's prayer"

"So if I say 'Save me!', save me /Be the light in my eyes
And if I say ten Hail Marys/ leave the light on in heaven for me"

"Save me, save me /Be the light in my eyes
What I wouldn't give to be/ when I was Mary's prayer"

This guy (Danny Wilson) loved and worshipped his Mary. He wrote something moving and he wasn't even Sting or the duo of Everything But the Girl!
Dex Words for the Week

Comics n. a series of words and static pictorial images juxtaposed in sequential order, usually for the purpose of telling a story; n. also, when you think about it, a very fast movie
Culture -n. a people's way of life, including "material culture" --e.g. tools and decorative items
Crash -n., v. collision; n. the sound of such a collision

Club -n. a really big stick to beat people with; n. a clique, or exclusive group
Staff- n. a long rod or walking stick; n. in music, a notational matrix made to facilitate the transmission of musical data; n. a group of support people

Elmer -n. somene who does trees, particularly elms
Ilog -n. (Filipino/Tagalog) a river, notably the Pasig
James -n. (pl.) more than one Jim
Jon - n. a Jhon who was blessed to have parents who don't screw with their kids' names
Mark -n. a cut, puncture, stain, print or rubbing, usually associated with a significant meaning; v. to make such a cut, puncture, stain, print or rubbing

Culture Crash Comics- n. landmark cutting-edge Filipino comics anthology partially responsible for the post 1990's comic boom; n. also my old place of work
Culture Club n. short-lived 80's band that propelled singer Boy George to fame and a place in gay iconology; n. also, the proposed name for a CCCom fanclub (we used to joke about this over dinner) [error pointed out by Nelz. Thanks!]
Geekdom Come, Episode II (conclusion)

Ghyslain, then 15 years old, bespectacled and overweight, stepped into his Quebec school video room and taped himself fighting a mock-lightsaber battle with a golf ball retriever. His friends found the tape, uploaded the contents to KaZaA, and exposed this young man's moment of vulnerability to 15 million giggling Internet users.

"Are You Not Entertained?"
I must confess that I felt a most rabid curiosity when I read the intro blurbs on Ghyslain's cult site ( I also found myself asking myself a host of questions: His mug was plastered all over the Web? That was humiliating! (okay, it was hilarious too) What were his friends thinking? Fame and notoriety foisted on someone who just wanted a little time to indulge in what everyone was doing anyway--what was going to happen to this poor kid? Is George Lucas going to cast this kid in Episode III?

Of course, the most important question I wound up asking myself was, "Was this any of my business?" No. But then, could I keep myself away?

Curiosity and the need to experience a story-- introduction, setting, conflict, resolution-- is apparently inherent in the human animal; kinds of primal drive, like the ones for food and sex. When "Survivor" hit the airwaves it was precisely this need that was pandered to. Never mind that many of the hours on the island were filled with the expectedly monotonous-- feel hungry, starve, catch rats, cook 'em, bring down the nth coconut. As long as there were low points, highlights, little intrigues, stories in stories, served up to audiences like St. John's head on Salome's silver tray, all day, everyday.

Information is power, and apparently humans are a power-hungry lot. I don't blame humans too much for catering to this need. It's basic-- patterns of information, after all, are the means by which we organize our lives and routines, and give these some meaning (meaning-- another basic need!).

Information is also aparently entertainment. It's a rare individual who can resist, without difficulty, even the hint of juicy office/showbiz/political/barkada gossip. How far we go to meet this need, though, has been cause for concern for ages. The Great Religions have at one point or another condemned gossip as at the very least a waste of time better spent on loftier pursuits. Loose lips sink ships-- friendships, business relationships, political alliances, reputations have been destroyed by someone itching to know (or tell) who was banging whose wife. Where does one draw the line between pursuing a legitimate amount and type of information vs. beeing a peeping tom or a village hen? If there's a middle way between the extremes of being totally lost (therefore dumb of boring) and being an old hen (irredeemable gossip) or a paranoid raptor ("Minister of Information"), not enough people have found it.

The grand and laughable irony that confronts me is that my abilities, and those of my colleagues, lie in peddling information and coddling old hens.

Love Poems II

...My soul cries in the nightmare of my long night
Yet there is darkness while you are away. . .
Please return the sun into my life.

Reasons for NOT handing the poem fragment to your significant other and passing it off as your own, ESPECIALLY if your significant other is a student of history: 1) its author was one Ferdinand "Fred" (or "Andy") Marcos; and 2) he dedicated it to his wife, Imelda, sometime after his affair with one Dovie Beams was made very public, to Andy's great pain.

DEX NEXT: "I Can Talk About It Now" and (maybe) "The Nature of Nakedness"

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Sir, the Magazine's Free. And This'll Only Take a Second of Yer Time

Pacquiao Bests Mexican Champ--'nuff said. Congrats, Manny! Heil der Fatherland!

I See Dead People-- seen Kill Bill vol. 1., finally. It's everything they say it is. Hot damn! Though I do find the deadly-maniacal-warrior-in-a-school-uniform schtick, well, old (sorry, Marco!). This is my anime burnout speaking, and I've good reason to feel real burnt out.

Cry "Uncle!"-- Dad's big bro planed in from the 'States. He's an omen. I will have more relatives planing in than I can shake a stick at, come December. It galls that he arrived and I didn't know.

Scarce -- as in "make myself--" I've been feeling antisocial for the last three weeks. There's a reason but I feel that I can't talk about it until the issues I'm dealing with are resolved. When are these issues going to be resolved? why do I seem to have so many? I promise I'll keep you posted. The subscription is free.

I found this at It ain't mine and I don't mean to gain anything by putting it up here. But do check it out if you feel any genuine or perverse interest in Kill Bill's Ms. Kuriyama.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Dear Leng

A million years ago (this was 1988) while I was a geeky kid hooked on Robotech, I met Honey. But she wasn't Honey then, she was alternately "Dana Sterling" or "Rook Bartley." We did not work out back then, me (alternately "Zor Prime" and "Rand") being too focused on establishing a domicile for Honey's liking. I grieved and I moped for over a year before I met a new girl, who I will just refer to as "Leng." Coming as she did at a crucially low time of my life, I was hit by the Florence Nightingale bug and fell very hard for her.

Trivia: we didn't work out either.

Simply put, today is Leng's birthday. With this entry I gratefully acknowledge the lessons she taught me, as well as the changes her coming into my life forced me to undergo.

Happy Birthday, Leng. I hope you have a happy life.
New Words for the Week

human from "humus" (soil) n. any primate classified under the scientific name homo sapiens sapiens; adj. having traits or qualities associated with homo sapiens sapiens, also morally or physically frail ("I'm only human!"); adj. beloved of God, also n. the perfect jumping point to Buddha-hood.

Humanities n., pl. the collective name for the areas of study that concern themselves with the things we think, make or do that make us uniquely human.

humiliate also from "humus" v. to mortify, to ridicule, to put to shame-- also roughly "to put someone's face 'in the dirt'" or "reduce someone to the level of soil."

Geekdom Come, Episode I See it to believe it. I'll let the website do the explaining here...

"The Star Wars Kid is a 15-year-old from Quebec known only as Ghyslain -- his parents are keeping his last name secret to protect his identity. Back in November 2002, Ghyslain was goofing off at a school video studio and recorded himself fighting a mock battle with a golf ball retriever lightsaber. Over two minutes, the video shows the lone, overweight teenager twirling his mock lightsaber ever faster while making his own accompanying sound effects.

"Yes, we've all had our dorky, private moments, but this poor kid is living the nightmare of having his private dorkiness projected across the world to giggling Web users. His friends found the tape, and uploaded it to KaZaA as a joke on April 19. Within two weeks, someone had added full Star Wars special effects and sound effects to the tape. Currently, new clone videos are being created at the rate of 1 per day!"

The upshot of all the unexpected fame is that people were so touched by Ghyslain's, er, performance, that they launched a signature campaign to get George Lucas to cast this kid in Episode III. I just hope that the people who make money from Star Wars Kid's episode of escapism-- there's actually a Star Wars Kid STORE-- are doing this with his consent and really sending Ghyslain some of the profits. Hell, I actually hope this kid does wind up with even a bit part in Episode III.

Flashing Society the Dirty Finger

Okay. Dexter's gonna segue into another one of his "This event disturbs me" spiels.

Well, yeah.

I got a kick out of seeing him flail about with his golf ball retrie-- er, lightsaber. But while I'm laughing my head off on one level, another part of me (living and breathing on a decidedly higher moral plane) is wondering just what exactly I am laughing at.

The youth was picked on and publicly humiliated when his friends made off with his video and posted it on KaZaa. But unlike the usual subjects of my scorn and derision, Ghyslain was not the Overcompensating Unworthy, actively seeking acclaim to justify his existence to himself. He wasn't a Hypocrite or Social Climber, milking his brief "stint" in cinema for more than it was worth. Neither was he what one film director called a Moral Terrorist, lacking the very basic human ability to walk in another man's shoes. He did not deserve the scorn that is present in much of the laughter I reserve for "people."

(to be concluded)

Monday, November 03, 2003

Little Goals

As soon as I can financially walk again, I'm reviving my moribund bank account before it joins my six previous dead bank accounts. I am buying a new computer with what my friends and Honey call "The Works." I'll then pay for decent webspace so I can put up lewd pictures and anything else I might want. I will glorify my personal fame whore while cavorting in the nude with my "geisha." I will make mad love to my muse and pay obeisance to my Christian Deity for allowing me a little taste of the prosperity he is alleged to shower upon his faithful (non-Catholic) flock.

A year from that date, I will move out of my house, to quiet the spirits that bedevil my Dad, my Mom and Me. In two years I will have quit my day job to get another that's not as stressful. In two more years I will have begun paying (or at least filling the bank account) for my new house. All the while I shall grow as a visual artist and writer into a Power Unto Myself.

This is wishful thinking right now, but my heart, my loins and my belly burns for this nevertheless. Please wish me well on another new journey.
I'm lifting a Marco Dimaano review wholesale here. Under it, I'm affixing my reaction.

"The Scariest Thing I've Seen So Far...

"Atlas Publications' CHARM. Simply the most hideous excuse for a local comic yet released. It's so bad, it's not even funny. It's SAD.

"Usually when we see a new comic, we are giddy as schoolkids. Yep, we laugh at any mistakes and unintentional funnies, but in the end we give what is due, and if the art and story are cool, we'll support it to no end. I'd want a copy to add to my library of local comic releases.

"But CHARM...

"My gosh, I won't even give it the dignity of being called CRAP.

"I don't even want to keep a copy, even for posterity. I don't want it in my room.

"This is base, tasteless, utterly grotesque and putrid garbage, and it makes it all the more horrid that it comes from Atlas (but then, I expect little from these people, despite ATX being a respectable release).

"Why do I say this?

"CHARM is a WITCH rip-off. Blatant rip-off. You have a team of witch girls with various powers. The art style is obviously copying the Witch style. Just take away ANY sense of personality, style or charisma. Just take carbon paper, give to a talentless hack and there you have it. The designs are a disturbing combination of pa-sexy anime and the Witch style.

"Now, if CHARM was just copying the Witch style, it wouldn't warrant this outburst from me.

"But the thing is, there's more.

"The writing, the very concept of the story, is tasteless and OBSCENE. The very origin of the girls, and the way it is treated and revealed, is sick and I really am amazed that any sane publisher or editor would even consider this for Young Girls.

"Details? Well, suffice to say it involves women being IMPREGNATED by severed fingerss and then being burst open, dissolves, eaten by ants, etc. Add to this TOTALLY EMOTIONLESS and ridiculous writing and NO COMMAND WHATSOEVER OF ENGLISH GRAMMAR SKILLS just adds to simply what I see as the most loathsome local release I've seen yet. This is a bloody, stinking smear on the medium.


"If I met the artist and writer, I would tell them to their face their work is an INSULT to the medium and I am amazed they let their names be credited in this trash. Whoever okayed this for publication should be FIRED. If I am given a copy of this book, I'd use it to wipe DOG SHIT off the ground.

"Want to see it for yourself? Get ready for a laugh and then the urge to bathe later.



I saw it too. I've always maintained that if one allowed greed to primarily motivate the creation of a book-- and that's how it looked from where I stood reading the thing-- the end-product would be, er, pulp. Not too much offense meant to the artists who had to draw this stuff; management (ever on the hunt for profit) probably gave them very little leeway in creativity.

I remeber my first aborted stint in a WWF-inspired series. (I was neither Evil nor Dhex back then) I could not, for the life of me, churn out a credible story starring, of all things, a Bret Hart clone. The job went to someone else, naturally (ergo the birth of SHADEZ). I wound up collaborating on with a friend on, well, a Yokozuna clone. We'd like to think we at least wrote him decently. But then, someone's bound to contest that.

Evil Dex

Friday, October 31, 2003

So Just How Old Are You?

My inner child is sixteen years old today

My inner child is sixteen years old!

Life's not fair! It's never been fair, but while
adults might just accept that, I know
something's gotta change. And it's gonna
change, just as soon as I become an adult and
get some power of my own.

How Old is Your Inner Child?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Letter to Some of the Old Gang
(This post was edited 31 October 2003 at 12:30 pm)

Dear Karl, Ferlin, Duff, Doj, et. al.

My drawings look like sh!t. This is a consequence of not getting in enough practice. I haven't been drawing, really drawing, since I quit CCCom; I was hardly drawing even back then. You should know that, like you, I am going contractual and corporate. No, it's not a concession to the great gods of practicality. Please don't think of it that way. If you did, I'd never live it down. But as a friend of two-plus years told me, every artist has a day job. The girlfriend joins him in his chorus, assuring me that bothering poor busy Americans with offers of product catalogues of stuff they might not really need, is just a means to an end.

Hell, it may even be a nationalistic endeavor.

The new Filipino hero does not need to die for his country, or slave away as a domestic helper in a foreign land-- he can just hire himself out to a call center and get paid by foreigners (indirectly) in the safety of Inang Pilipinas. We can belatedly show the whole world what a world-class people we are. Ever ready to serve. Or in my case, ever ready to smother them with product catalogues. Hey, the global economy will not grow if products don't move, right? Er, right?

I mean, look at you-- you're heroes too! Bill Gates pays you guys through a chain comprised of companies subcontracted by subsidiaries of Microsoft. Never mind that Bill owns whatever your creativity cooks up while you're working for people who're working for Bill. Those are still DOLLARS pouring into the local economy!

Okay, enough of the wisecracking. I'm sorry guys. It really looks like I'm putting a bad spin on our collective work experience. Let it be on record that I am saying don't really object to our country's seeming place the mutating global service industry. As a people, we're filling a real need out there. And we should be proud, count ourselves lucky we even have jobs (or in my case, the prospect of employment).

I just wanted to get a rise out of you, on the off-chance you stumble onto my blog. Force you to write me, because I miss you buggers. It's been too long since we shared a goddamn beer, or even a good game of of D&D.

Write back or otherwise contact me when you can. Please?

Lotsa love,

Evil Dhex

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Moving Day, Conclusion

"I'm right, you're wrong.
And from that simple fact
are derived all the rights I have
that you conversely don't."

In this mindset, Rightness ceases to be the lamp by which to guide your actions. It becomes a tool, a means to an end. The end is always power. Crush your enemies because you are "right." Grab these material benefits because they "naturally" belong to you or your marginalized ethnic group. You've been given that license by God-- you are "right," and God himself champions your "rightness."

The Buddhists have a neat phrase that best encapsulates the concept. to carry this mental baggage around is "to stink of righteousness." This is also partly what they mean when they say that even trying to attract "good" karma to yourself is ultimately self-defeating and delusional.

It's a mental malady and it turns otherwise right-thinking reasonable people into Osama Bin Laden and George Dubya. "We've been wronged and we're going to get even. Damn anything that stands in our way." Indeed.

Baguio by Way of Mindoro

I was writing about annoyed bill collectors, naggers and viragos previously. How the did I wind up tackling ethics?

Love Poems I

Whatever you do, do not send this poem fragment to your significant other, especially if she is a student of history. Can anyone tell me why?

...My soul cries in the nightmare of my long night
Yet there is darkness while you are away. . .
Please return the sun into my life.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Let's See Just What You Know About Goth

Try this quiz. I passed.

A True Goth Quiz
brought to you by Quizilla
Moving Day

Am currently searching for something to paint today. Not having a good time of it though. My mind keeps wandering back to that woman. Bill collector? Landlady? Person of Indeterminate Importance?

She sent her lackeys three days ago to collect on Honey's unpaid "water" bills-- bills Honey "inherited" from the previous owner of her new unit, a relative. Honey spoke with our Person of Indeterminate Imortance (PII) and borrowed her ledger, duly making copies of the ledger entries referrring to our little bill-- some P2000. What we could not understand was why the water meter seemingly kept itself running when there was no one living in the unit since last year, when Honey's relations moved out.

There was talk of other unpaid dues besides water, plus interest-- all incurred by previous occupants when they were still around-- that have accrued over the course of the last year. Honey figured she'd get the details down on paper and pay for what she could, to stave off the buck-passing that was bound to occur. She'd confront her relative about the housing unit's magical accounting later.

Our PII then left us to our devices-- a trip to Pasay to collect more of our outgoing stuff. We returned the following morning to be warmly-- no, brusquely-- greeted with inquiries as to the location of the Important Ledger.

And There's the Rub

Honey had slipped the ledger into the grillwork in front of the window the evening we left for Pasay, figuring that the Nice Irritable Lady with Sooo Much to Do and Little Time for Fools would be back later in the evening, to pick it up. Even if we would not be on hand to greet her, she'd be able to pluck the ledger from the grillwork and everyone would be happy. Or so Honey thought.

Pass Me the Blame, Please.

I'd like to think that I was tired at the time. Honey had, after all, dragged me to Baguio and back on what almost became a goddamned fool's errand. I went to Rock & Register with her because she was bone tired but had to show up anyway. I picked up after the bands and the concertgers to facilitate a speedy wrap-up. I stayed by her as she partied at Music 21 (though I will admit, I enjoyed that) so she'd not have to burn out alone. I brought her to Cavite. It would only be natural, I'd like to think, that neither she nor I would have thought that leaving the ledger in the grillwork was probably a mondo bonehead idea. I know I was too tired to notice Honey slipping the ledger there in the first place.

As of presstime, Honey may still be searching for the building sanitation & maintenace man, who may have taken the ledger away. The night we left, we'd put empty bottles in plastic bags outside, right under the window (and the ledger), preparatory to selling them to the first person who expressed interest. The morning our PII waxed brusque, terse and "don't-fuck-with-me," our bottle bags had been moved to the other side of the airy corridor. I am too upset to properly paint because I cannot, at this point, help her with her search-- and this won't sit well with our PII, who will be back with her virago's tirade. And maybe even a righteous huffing declaration of "Hala! Sumama ka sa Presinto!" (loosley, "Ha! We're going to take this up with the Police!")

"Don't Pitch the Bitch"

I love women. Those who know me will attest to that. But I cannot abide by naggers and viragos. You've made up your mind to do something (or not to) and they'll be on your case 'til the day you die. And there is absolutely nothing you can do to shut them up. You can read your NLP manual 'til your eyes fall out, you can even practice your NLP with some proficiency. But when they get started pushing your buttons, you are at their mercy.

You can't even go Alpha Male on them. You're not supposed to. You simply can't hit them-- and I believe hitting a woman is wrong, even if she is a nagger-- despite the fact that hitting them may actually be the simplest, most satisfying, most elegant way to shut them up. (Yes, gentles all: everyone has his puerile, immature maladroit side.) You go up against a nagger and it's no win, unless you elect not to fight-- and she may not even let you take that option.

Worse Things

There are worse extant things than nagging women, of course. And high among these things is a mind-set that puts a premium on uncompromising moral ascendancy. "I am right. You are wrong. Because of this, you do not have rights. You cannot possibly have anything important to say. You will do what I want because I am right. Those are the rules."

to be concluded...

Sunday, October 26, 2003

The Other Otaku Tourist

I seem to be making up for all the time I kept myself from travelling (months!) After a week in Baguio, I was back in Manila, snapping away at concertgoers with Honey's digicam, some eight-plus hours after i got off the bus.

Dateline Roxas Blvd., Manila
'Twas a rock concert of course, Rock & Register, set up by concerned groups to encourage the apathetic and politically powerless youth to register for the 2004 elections and vote for someone. I arrived with Honey to catch the tail end, around 22:00+. We missed Gary Granada's appearance and exhortations of pinkish patriotism: a shame.

Much to my chagrin, I wound up picking up some of the garbage the bands, staff hands and concertgoers generated that night: all in the name of going home to a warm bed. See, I figured, the faster the concert wrapped up, the sooner I could sleep. Alas, that was not to be.

Dateline Malate, Manila
Honey rustled up her sister, her concert-organizing NGO friends and yours truly, and half-dragged us to a Malate branch of Music 21, the official hangout of Carver Carl and Master Tobie. We burned up the rest of the post-midnight, pre-dawn morning, "wassailing and carousing" to songs we'd never be caught dead "wassailing and carousing" to in public.

Dateline Kawit, Cavite
06:15. Groggy and slightly drunk, smelling of smoke and last night's pasta and chips, I accompanied Honey to her condo, and tried to persuade her not to rendezvous with her officemates. They'd be bound for Cavite in less than twenty minutes! I managed to persuade her to stay and rest a bit. She could "go to Cavite's Island Cove resort later," I'd said, "I could accompany you. I know the way."

And this is where I am, right now, writing this blog on bits of paper-- hotel leaflets and flyers.

Contrary to public perception, I am not having fun. I'm sleep deprived, I've yet to bathe, and I'm killing time, waiting for Honey, while my wallet is leaking like it was a damn sieve. I've seen the Hotel (nice ambience) and the Cafeteria (great, if expensive, hotel food). I've been to the Fishing Village (not my thing, but great if you want the quiet), the gym and the bowling alley; the swimming pools and the mini-golf course. I am waiting on the off-chance that Honey decides she's too tired to continue schmoozing with her officemates; I might have to take her home.


Honey usually doesn't party-hearty like this. But she pled this excuse: she was promoted yesterday-- highest pay grade for her type of work.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Quick Bytes from Sammytown

Lunch with Sam
I did get to see Sammy in Sammytown (Baguio). We did lunch--Sammy, Honey and I-- at a small pizza place called Pizza Volante. Wonderful ambience considering it was once the lower lobby of a movie theater. We scarfed down a wonderful pesto pizza too-- wonderful, considering that the greens on the pizza looked like moss. But don't be fooled, gentles all: it was to die for.

Survey Says...
Honey and I left Baguio at 1:30 a.m. today. We spent the previous day finally distributing those heavy survey forms and waiting for our respondents to give them back. We gave 'em a cinderella deadline. Methinks a good chunk of them made good use of their time answering and giving back the forms. I read a few: serious youth with serious answers. Gives me hope for der Fatherland. Honey is generally satisfied, never mind that we did not hit the 200-respondent target: it was a good run for a pilot study.

I found out that you never really run out of cabs to get around in, in Baguio, especially if your point of origin is along Session Road. I found out that the taxi drivers always give you exact change. They're not as grumpy nor are they as dysfunctional as their Manila counterparts.

Get your hungry belly to Sizzling Plate the first chance you get. That is, if you're neither Hindu or vegan. They just serve the best Sacred Cow. If you feel like pasta, feel free to stop by Pizza Volante. Remember the moss-like pesto pizza! And if you're dying to max the credit card and schmooze with the culturati, there's always the Cafe by the Ruins.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

I Have A Weakness for-- (Blonds & Hybrids III)

Daniela Amavia.

Okayokayokay! She's not blond. But I'm sure this globe trotting actress has gotta have some blood in her that ain't just Greek. Not that it really matters. Ran into her as "Alia" in the teevee miniseries adaptation of Frank Herbert's Children of Dune. Pundits scream lousy acting, but I believe she played Alia well, especially in the scenes expounding on Alia's increasing love affair with power.

She's also appeared on Felicity and a few other television shows and movies I've never heard of (mainly 'cause I ain't from Europe). According to her official site, aptly placed at, she's auditioning for new roles as of presstime. Oh yeah, guys-- she also advises me (and everyone who runs into her site's main page) to "be yourself."

Note to self: must finally get my own webspace so I can post all the damn pics I want.