Saturday, August 30, 2003

Okay, Time to Break the Monotony

Makoto
MAKOTO: good; sincere
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Honoring the Dead

They're burying my grand uncle as I write. His bones are joining those of an older maternal relative in the Catholic cemetery that also holds fast the ashes and remains of Granddad (Domingo Lira), Gramma (Jacinta), and Lola Mameng (Carmen Macaraig). I cannot join Pop and my brother in paying respects to the old farmer. Wherever he's going, I wish him comfort and peace.

Belaboring the Living

With the humungous medical and funeral bills out of the way, the new problems the Dumuclay (Batangas), Manila, Quezon City and Minnesota branches of Clan Lira will inevitably revolve around what to do with-- this is so painfully Monty Python-- "huge tracts of land."

The question of what to do with the land that the old farmer has been living on and more or less cultivating (but not developing) is bound to be the next major flashpoint in the soap opera that is relationships within my clan. All it would take to start the fire would be, to my mind, the convenient deaths of a few more key players.

Simply put, it's a Malthusian nightmare: If the land stays idle, it will neither support the growing number of occupants nor generate any revenue for the families who legally own it. Undoing this gordian knot will force all parties to reexamine the very philosophies that govern their lives.

How important is profit? What is dependency? Can any of us afford to cling to a lifestyle that is as old as the land itself? Just how important is education, population control? Can any of us afford to cling to pride? Can we truly afford to reduce the world into haves and have-nots, profit-mongers and bleeding hearts...? How many of us can eschew familial responsibilities?

I am glad that people still on the slow journey to physical death have begun to talk about it, before the land issue devolves into useless internecine bickering.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Yessss!!!

I'm reclining on the plane as I write this, Japan's coastline a long time lost from sight. I am still warm from the glow of approval, form the heady wine that is one small dream come true. I've flown off my native islands and I'm seeing my cousins. Yes. In Minnesota. I am still reeling from the shock.

Never mind that I had to be frisked by burly (and maybe sexually starved) guards, had to remove my shoes, had to suffer little indignities I won't bother to mention, before boarding the plane. Never mind that the Arabs kept leering at me, that the Japanese and the Indians kept trying to make conversations I could not continue. I was halfway there already. I had one more hurdle to pass... customs...

customs...

customs...

I'm sh!tting you. I'm still here.

Bull Cookies

Add this to your store of experience, Dex.

The visa issuing officer was going to give it to me. I could feel it. Then she asked one question and I wound up being honest. That led to another question and I could suddenly feel the fop sweat forming on my brow: I was losing her. I realize now that one can't really depend on scripts that begin with, "She's gonna ask you this, you have to answer that, and back it up with the other," when confronted with these people. If you know your worth, you have to defend it --politely-- tooth and nail, using terms that make sense to these people.

That's the part that always galls. Before a consular officer, you are not a person; just a potential social and economic burden. I should be used to this by now: whether one can admit it to himself, one almost always treats people as objects, rates them according to their usefulness or harmfulness to the self.

One must always be both useful and harmful to everyone else. Useful, to be liked (Oh, he's such a dependable friend!); harmful, (But don't you dare abuse him!) to be feared.

Seeing the Sights

When I was part of the moderately long and sweltering visa application lines, I saw sights that historical revisionism should have wiped off the face of the Filipino psyche.

Here was an old woman who wished to visit her sister (who lived in America and therefore, had "made good"). The visa guy had asked her politely why she was to visit the 'States. She had launched into a plaintive spiel, half-bowing(!), hands almost raised in supplication, declaiming(!) begging, with an intonation, rhythm and accent that made me wince.

"...Before I leave this EARTH/
I want to SEE/
the LAND of paraDISE/..."

As she left with shoulders bowed, I had the impression that her application was also denied.

Dear Lady, I wanted to tell her, America had already made us their first exercise in the practice of empire-building sometime before World War I. They saved us from the Japs and we should be grateful. But we can't be THAT grateful. The America you knew in World War II is not the same America you're facing now. Riddled with its own internal problems, it's a giant thrashing about in a storm-tossed sea that is partly of its own making. I am afraid for the world of the waves it makes. It's still a great country, but so is yours. Be proud of who you are and where you come from.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Begging the Blogging Question

In the end, I'm writing for an audience. And while the act of writing like this is comforting, I am disturbed by my motivation. Because it is pathetic, really: I am writing for the same reason people scrawl on bathroom walls, etch letters in tree bark, or make frivolous sites that clutter up the web. I write to affirm my own existence.

Read me!=Look at me! Pity Me! Acknowledge Me! and I cannot divorce that from the image of a whiny two-year old starved for parental attention.

I have looked in the mirror and I don't like what I see. How does one with aspirations to Nietzschean superhumanity live with this, I wonder?

***

Hard-on for the 'States

We're at it again. Mom is, with my sullen permission, attempting to put me on a plane to the 'States, where she believes my "eyes will be opened" to the myriad opportunities that supposedly exist there for the well-meaning and hard-working.

The key-words are "sullen permission."

I've no polyanna illusions about America: it can no longer keep to the exhortations stencilled at the base of the Statue of Liberty: a gift, ironically, from the now-much derided (by Americans) French. Im also past the anti-colonial indoctrination of my rabidly pro-Filipino grade school training. I am aware of what the US Government did to further its own interests at the expense of developing democracies and third world states; imagining the World without a stabilizing, albeit imperfect democratic world power frightens the living bejeezus out of me.

These are hardly reasons to deny myself, in a fit of nationalistic pique, the chance at travelling across two oceans to see my cousins. Never let it be said too, that I kept my mother from discharging her maternal obligations, however misguided those efforts may be. I too, would like to see the museums in San Francisco, and my cousins in Minnesota.

Tear Factor

The last time I fenced with a US Visa Issuing Officer, I was armed with a script. He would ask for my name and "pertinent details." He would ask me for documents and I would surrender them. He would ask related questions and I would answer. That was how these things went, or so my mother sagely said.

The balding middle-aged black man with the fatherly moustache and demeanor did not follow the script. He rejected my visa application, saying that while he admired my determination to "find my own way in life," he could not give me a visa. I "did not meet the requirements," et cetera, et cetera.

That day, I cursed the names and progeny of every Filipino who slipped illegally into US territory. Because they had recklessly chased their dreams, I had lost my shot at mine.

I was going to Washington, I had said, to attend a poetry convention, and maybe win for myself twenty thousand US dollars at a poetry contest there: the big one. I was invited. They were gonna award me for my "poetic merit." After the convention was over, I'd go home, happy and content to relate my experiences to my grandkids.

I left hastily, before the tears (surprise, o nationalistic hypocrite!) could betray me to the world as another hopeful wannabe. It turned out that despite my anger, my fiery rhetoric, I really did want to see the sights, sniff the air, meet the people of the Filipino's Second Country. I had since childhood, steeled myself against the desire, repressed it because it was "never gonna happen to me." Then someone was cruel enough, I felt, to dangle that hope before me, tease me with possibility, only to snatch it away from me twenty-four years later.

As if that wasn't humiliation enough, my mother had to appeal. I was better able to take the eventual rejection.

Which Brings me to Tomorrow

How will I fare when I face the next visa issuing officer at the American Embassy?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Habitual Vegetation

To go by old blog entries, Ian and I may have the same problem. We find it so much easier to hibernate at home.

Spent the better part of two whole days in Pasay City just sleeping, cooking, eating and watching the boob tube.

I promised a friend I'd see her band perform, but like my Muse promising to attend a Powerpoets reading, I was able only to attend my friend's affair "in spirit." I am kicking myself for it-- opportunity cost/lost. I had gotten as far as getting dressed to leave. I didn't, and I am sorry, Bonsai.

Good things I did Despite the Wasted Time

  • dealt with week-old laundry

  • dealt with fungus colony in our trashbin

  • cleaned up-- the place looks slightly more liveable now

  • watched my favorite tv shows

  • slept like the dead


I shouldn't be alone in Pasay. The condo unit is so conducive to slumber. I find it all too easy top vegetate there.
Occasioned Epiphany

After spending a "whole summer" (meaning the months of June through August) in the Philippines, my cousin Ami has flown for home, specifically, the colder, less humid climes of Minnesota State. She has earned my most heartfelt congratulations for successfully completing a course (non-credit) in Philippine Studies. Having now a greater familiarity with her Filipino heritage, she can be as proud of it as I sometimes am on my best days.

I am also congratulating her for being open enough to experience a widening of her worldview. She "experienced God out of the box"-- meaning without scripture, pastor, community or even church building. Seeing God making Himself felt, sometimes subtly, sometimes overwhelmingly, through places and things not normally associated with Him, was a welcome experience (and may make the case for the Catholic claim regarding God as an omnipresent being-- she found God present on a bridge, in the wind, on a mountaintop, even in a strip bar). This gives me great hope for her, if she ever takes on the mantle of ministry full-time.

No doubt she is being prepared for what she loves and does best-- reaching out to people.

(I am wondering when was the last time God and I spoke that way.)
Words for the Week, or in this case, Geekspeak 101

These terms were made popular by E. Gary Gygax and the bright boys at TSR (long before the big buyout by Wizards of the Coast in the '90s), the people who brought you the Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying games.

Character
n. Joe (or Jo) Geek's alter-ego in these role playing games.

DM or GM
n. abbrev. "Dungeon Master" or "Game Master" respectively. Non-geeks know these terms under the umbrella word, referee.

The DM or GM is the architect of the virtual world in which the players, through their characters, interact. Assisted by the core rules of his game, he is the final arbiter of what happens to whose character during gameplay.

Hit Points
n. pl. (also refered to as HP) units of structural integrity as applied primarily to (1) life forms and animated constructs, (2) vehicles, (3) buildings.

Animate and inanimate objects are assumed to have a set number of hit points, which vary depending on factors like general health (for the living) and sturdy construction (for the inanimate). Hit points are gained or lost depending on the kind of punishment one puts these objects through. The greater the punishment, the greater the hit point loss. If someone's hit points reach zero, it is the general consensus that that individual is dead.

Big, burly hardened serial rapist-killers generally have more hit points than the average scrawny geek. Bulldozers will have many times more hit points than either of them.


Player
n. Joe (or Jo) Geek, Roleplayer.

RPG
1. n. abbrev. Role Playing Game, improvisational theater with dice and paper
2. n. abbrev. rocket propelled grenade

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Remember 21 August 1983

For those who do not remember, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino bought the farm twenty years ago today. He advocated reform in government, most notably in the areas of human rights and social welfare. He was a major thorn in then-president Marcos' side, and would have replaced Marcos had he run for office. That was probably why Ninoy was offed. Maybe Marcos ordered it, or maybe his hatchetman, General Fabian Ver, wanted to do the old strongman a favor; the conspiracy theories are legion, but they are not germane to this entry.

On 21 August 1983, Ninoy walked from his plane, down the metal staircase, and got what counterstrike afficionados gleefuly refer to as a headshot, and was dead before he landed on Philippine tarmac with a sickening thud.

His death pissed off enough people-- I was there when a multitude stopped by historic Santo Domingo Church to pay their respects to Ninoy's remains-- to spark what was supposed to be a revolution, until it was hijacked by his own relatives, as well as Marcos leopards who suddenly changed their spots to pay obeisance to the new dispensation.

I'm glad Gloria had ordered flags to fly at half-mast today. The forgetful Filipino nation owes Ninoy that much at the very least.

...and Justice for All

Gallows Joke:
Challenge: Name five people who don't know the mastermind behind the Aquino slaying.
Response: The Agrava Fact-Finding Commission.



Another item on the Great Big Moral Bill is justice. Justice for Aquino and justice for the rest of us. Twenty years ago somebody shot him and there is still no public record of who it was that ordered him shot. That's a glaring stain on the already muddied records of our agencies of law enforcement.

People are still being evicted for no reason other than that they are "an eyesore." Elsewhere, people are still being allowed to squat on land that isn't rightfully theirs, are still being accorded protection because of the votes they represent.

Marcos hatchetmen and frontmen are still at large, and mostly safe from prosecution. We managed to get the Marcos loot, but we're still some ways off from handing a good sized portion of it to the people whose loved ones disappeared because they were a little too vocal about their dislike for the dead strongman or his policies.

Remember, O ye Forgetful! Rub your faces in it, and let's at least try not to run a democracy that way again.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Update: The Eternal job-Hunt

Those of you who want to write (meaning regularly contribute) articles for Culture Crash Comics are welcome to do so. They're looking for bright, eager and disciplined people like you! As usual, click on this orange link for your chance to help reshape local comics as we know it! Wanna learn more about Culture Crash? click on this link then. And do sign Theresa Dy Lising's guestbook while you're at it, as I got these links from her CCCom Translations website.

Excelsior!
Going Postal

My brother got the call from "the Post Office" two days ago. He forwarded me their message. I was to appear before these people and take another eligibility test designed to weed out the unworthy. While I did not like the timing, I felt I could beat the test. Apparently, it's all I've been doing lately-- passing out my resumes, filling application forms and taking one prospective employee test after another.

Well, I did mention in a previous post that I was wondering what exactly happened to my application at the Philippine Postal Corporation. Don't get me wrong-- I was happy they called. I just wish they'd moved the exam a coupla days after today.

Dog Days, Hard Day's Nights

Y'see, I was trying to avoid another one of my "Road to Hell" episodes, and having to psychically prep for another exam so laden with consequence was baggage I did not need to carry. "Road to Hell," by the by, is an apt euphemism, at least for me. It's what I call the downward spiral that commences the when, after a really bad dog day, you decide not to sleep to get something else done, while prepping for the morrow-- which promises, in the manner of all dog days, to be just as bad as the day before. Bad enough that it's too easy to nosedive into "Road to Hell": but two weeks of this and I can guarantee that I look like Gerry Alanguilan's main protagonist gone postal in Wasted.

I am between jobs but that has not stopped me from being ridiculously busy. I swear, I am the busiest bum in the universe. Things are set in motion in my name (mostly by my concerned parents) and I don't know a thing about them until they come 'round to bite me in the butt. They start rolling the snowball but I have to catch the resulting avalanche of paperwork, "public appearances," legwork, follow-ups and exercises in legal flapjack. Meanwhile, I feel increasingly ...inept, as if my life were (again!) no longer my own. Mea culpa: I let 'em walk all over me. Doesn't help that the standard Dex plan is usually "no plan."

I Got Yer "Plan" Right Here, Ya Little #$#%!!!

As soon as I get employed and the money comes rolling in, I am moving out of the QC house for good. I will fortify my temporary Pasay residence. I will paint. I will fatten my scared cash cow at the local bank. I will buy myself my own computer and that blue RAV 4 I've been dreaming about. And it begins as soon as I can shuffle my ass into an office.

Pray for me. I know I am.

Please?

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Boatrace

Again, that Strip of Roxas by the Sea

It was a mistake to liquefy my brain with a long and rousing game of Super Robot Wars Flash last Friday night. Morning surprised me with motor skill impairments and the beginnings of a head-cold. Getting up, I limped to breakfast; slogging through that, I promptly returned to bed. I was able to leave the house for my one o'clock appointment at twelve-thirty.

My plan involved leaving at eleven-thirty and getting on a jeep bound for Padre Faura. Upon reaching my stop, I was to leisurely stroll along that strip of Roxas Boulevard until I hit the Manila Yacht Club. There, I was to greet my friends, by then rendered slack-jawed by my on-the-dot arrival.

Didn't happen: I was late, though I was by no means the last to arrive. Call it luck, call it fate, call it God: The other key people were late as well, arriving at the yacht club like falling snow-- one slow, drifting flake at a time.

"Arrrgh Matey, Who Might Ye Be?"

When we arrived, the ten of us were introduced.

Mang Rufino was an experienced seaman, older than us by decades. Dado had two years of sailing and racing boats under his belt. Two friends of Eline's could handle rigging with competence.
Cap'n Ron owned the boat, was a friend since college.
Eline, Jo, Franco and yours truly had been on Cap'n Ron's boat before, and had helped him with some minor ship's duties-- 'course, Franco and Dex were adepts at clinging to the boat in rough waters.

We took the launch and promptly boarded YASDIP (fancy way to say "Cap'n Ron's Yacht").

Late for the Race

Cap'n Ron began briefing us as he gunned the engine and steered YASDIP to her place on the starting line. Someone had to help hoist the sail; someone had to crank the winches; someone had to move from one side of the boat to the other and help distribute the weight. Someone had to stand partially in the boat's inner compartment to help hand out provisions; everyone had to duck when Cap'n Ron yelled "Get ready to tack!" Then--

All talk stopped for a couple of seconds when we saw that the other boats had left the starting line!

Tack! You're It

Cap'n Ron and YASDIP's motley crew labored to catch the wind properly. I took my place on the port side, as useful dead weight near the bow (front). I was warned to keep away from the bow, as a smaller sail --I forget what it's called-- was drawn up there. Its swinging could cause someone to get snarled in canvas or rigging, or it could (worst case scenario) get someone thrown overboard. Eline and I sat with Jo, who was already sucumbing to a sea-induced queasiness in the pit of her stomach.

Oh yeah, we nearly collided with the starting buoy.

We tamped down all hope of winning the race and concentrated on having fun. Well, I know I did. Evereyone save Mang Rufino was trading jokes, nibbling on something or talking shop. I had to cut my conversations short several times when Cap'n Ron yelled "Prepare to tack!"

This is how I understand the dynamics of "tacking."

Disclaimer: Make note, I am no navy man. While I feel that what I've picked up from Cap'n Ron is reasonably accurate, it's also likely that what I am about to say may be equivalent to me talking through my ass.

You almost never get wind blowing from directly behind your sailboat. Often, you have to adjust the position of the sails to catch the wind, thereby allowing the boat to slog through the water. You do this by pulling on ropes with hands and winches, and holding those ropes in place with locks and a special spool. One of the ropes (I think) is the tack. It's connected to the boom underneath the main sail.

The main sail is a glorified flag; the mast is its flagpole. The boom is a bonus, like an extra arm running horizontally from the lower end of the mast-flagpole, ensuring that the sail-flag is unfurled and ready to use. You want to expose as much of the main sail as you can to the wind, so you have to swing the sail with the tack from one side of the boat to the other until that sail fills with moving air. The danger in absent-minded tacking is that there is a real chance that you can kayo your crewmates with the boom, or accidentally knock them into the drink. I shit you not. The kind of wind needed to fill the main sail is powerful enough to give the boom more than an extra kick when it swings. You hear anything that sounds like "tack," you duck.

Often, those of us playing the role of ballast have to quickly move to the other side of the sailboat immediately after Cap'n Ron yells "Prepare to tack!" or "Tacking!" When the sail catches wind and swings from one side to the other, the boat often responds by leaning, since it is being pushed at the top by the wind (the sail). Leaning is behavior conducive to capsizing. Boys and girls playing ballast have to move to the opposite side of the boat to redistribute the weight, and keep the leaning from becoming critical. On YASDIP, the exercise is akin to skittering, cockroach-like, on the roof of the boat. Remember: the boat is rocking, threatening to throw you off and the boom could move any second-- you have to move or you're literally sunk.

After several rounds of skittering and clambering and, yes, oozing from either side of YASDIP, Eline and Jo retreated to the safety of the stern (remember your Star Trek? that's the back of the boat).

Rough Waters

It's no picnic, hanging onto the boat for dear life while bathing in the historic waters of Manila Bay. When the boat leaned too far to one side or pitched too far forward we got more than salt spray in our faces. For every nine square feet of water we traversed, I saw floating debris. Yes. Manila's trash. Centuries of accumulated waste making their way from homes, marketplaces, hospitals, pipes, from sludgy esteros, from ships, to be diluted, broken down, mixed in the bay. By the time YASDIP neared the second buoy some of us were already covered in particulate trash suspended in seawater.

It was no picnic but I was laughing at the green-brown water, laughing when the bow dipped so far so as to drench me, laughing when the bow rode up a swelling wave. I restrained myself from shouting a challenge to the sea, "Izzat all you got? Sink me! Sink. Meeeeee!!!!!" A part of me knew that such a primal, elemental presence should be accorded the proper respect. Still, it hardly occured to me that it was an effort just to stay where I was. I was having far too much fun.

Can a boat surf? The question was raised and answered in an instant. I saw it when we rode several sympathetic waves. The boat pitched up and lurched forward with such speed that it should have frightened. But I was too busy marvelling at the idea of a surfing boat, too busy looking at the foam and the play of white bubble-clouds underneath the wave's surface.

Finding Nemo

"Where's the Boy?"
"What?"
"Can you see the Yellow Boy?"
"Cap'n I don't expect to see a yellow kid floating on the water--"
"Bu-oy! Buoy!-- Route Marker!"
"Oh! Sorry!"

That's not how it happened, but we did have difficulty finding the second and third buoys. We did have a course map (a soggy one) and a GPS device, but we still had to go 'round the blasted things if we were to finish the race properly. We had help-- we followed the other racing boats and narrowed the search area. It's amazing (though not surprising) that Mang Rufino's eyes are so damn sharp. He spotted the second and third buoys before I could.

"Tack!"
"Oh crap, not again!"
"You gotta move quickly, Dex. You can't wait for the boom to swing over your head before you make for the other side. Misplaced weight means leaning too early or too late. It can mean more drag for the boat. In any race, it'll cost you time."

Wise words. I did my best to follow them.

Dark Clouds

Well into the race, some of the other boats had decided to quit. We had water beneath us but the water above us was threatening to pour. Cap'n Ron said he was going to finish the race. We all agreed. Miguel jokingly noted that we really didn't have a choice: for a yacht this small, the Captain had full control of the wheel.

"It's a lot like life," I said to Jo. "Or college. You're racing to to some endpoint you can't really see. You can start out bad, but you never know what'll happen next. The only real choice you have is going forward." --or something to that effect. Mind you, I was euphoric, coulda said anything. I coulda gotten away with appending a suitably trite hippie caveat: "It's not the destination, maaaan. It's the jourrrneyyy."

After we turned round the third buoy, the heavens lashed out at us. We were drenched (again!). the waters were rougher now, but we were "on the home stretch," to borrow Pop's horse-racing parlance. I had moved aft (to the stern), and was seated near the Captain and the drenched women. Lightning flashed, struck water (maybe) somewhere nearby. I reflexively let go of the metal handle near the wheel. I realized there were no places for me to hide from the lightning, save (maybe) belowdecks: it would strike where it will. Like God. Like Fate. Like Life.

Finishing

A few kilometers to the finish line, the race committee boat anchored near the Yacht Club, the rain had lost most of its strength. We were losing wind and were mostly coasting along on sympathetic waves, inertia and sheer dumb luck. We made a few minor corrections and we picked up speed. We passed the racing comission boat, and ended the race in triumph. We couldn't possibly have made first place, but we felt like champions because we made it to the finish line. As a joke to honor the occasion, I waved, a mock-Miss Universe, to a non-existent crowd: "We're ahll winnahs!" The guys yukked it up.

I would choke on my food an hour later, as we, showered and dressed in spare clothing, ate pancit canton and sandwiches at team YASDIP's table at the Club. We didn't excpect it-- what with the other teams quitting, our getting unexpected help from the rough waters, the masterful maneuvering of the veterans in the crew--

But we won. We won and I'll never forget it. And I'm definitely sailing again.



Friday, August 15, 2003

HASH(0x8766a34)
obsessive compulsive

Which Personality Disorder Do You Have?
brought to you by Quizilla

The Functions of Online Quizzes

1. they relieve boredom
2. they give you insights about yourself
3. they give you insights about other people
4. they validate or invalidate your self-concept (and therefore, your existence)
5. they validate or invalidate your concept of others (and therefore, your existence in relation to theirs)
6. they break the monotony on the layout of your previously all-text blog
Art Withdrawal

I haven't written or drawn anything of worth since God only knows. Been too busy with the other, more practical aspects of my life. What I haven't quite internalized yet, is that if I am to exercise being an artist, I should consider writing and drawing as, yes, practical aspects of my life. It took a nocturnal encounter on a train with my friend Bren to make me remember this. And it's true: you cannot expect to make apple juice out of the lemmons that God has seen fit to hand you on a pain-filled, joyful silver platter.

Then again, I can always plead the excuse that I live and breathe in an environment, where the slightest movement of the arms results in my elbows rubbing on someone else's "important" face. Fact of life, but I am so tired whining about it. I'll stop. I promise.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Trying on the new look. I got tired of having to kick myself (metaphorically) over that big gray space on the right side of the old blog format. There was nothing I could put there--not text, not pictures, nothing-- without embarrassing myself. The new format boasts cleaner coding and should be easier for me to debug in case I decide to modify or rewrite it. (Kinda like the Constitution).

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Bodega on-Line Update

Today I am securing for myself a (free, sadly) web address. Been meaning to do this since 1995, but something always pushed the project into the back-burner: the advent of frames, and HTML 4+, the advent of Java, the advent of Flash, ASP and PSP. Each new advancement cut the legs out from under my website project, which was always based on the last newly-obsolete web-building tool/language. My knowledge of each of these had to come in annoying snippets, as I scrambled to learn the nuances of each new web thang.

You can imagine my pain.

Taking the advice of one kickass cartoon cook named Fei, I shall return to the basics-- that is, the clunky HTML everyone is laughing at now. (Funny, it seems to work well for Nate Piekos...) I'll worry about learning Flash (there are many people willing to teach me; our schedules just won't allow it yet) after I put up my Home Bodega.

See you soon.
Words for the Week


escrow

n. Money, property, a deed, or a bond put into the custody of a third party for delivery to a grantee only after the fulfillment of the conditions specified.

putsch

n. A sudden attempt by a group to overthrow a government.

sequester

v. 1. To cause to withdraw into seclusion.
2. To remove or set apart; segregate.
3. In Law:
a)To take temporary possession of (property) as security against legal claims.
b)To requisition and confiscate (enemy property).


Man, it's 1986 all over again.
Gospel

I woke up this morniong feeling cranky, having been shaken out of a dream which involved me(?) battling demons in the night and falling from a considerable height: six, maybe ten storeys. I was to leave the house for Eastwood City, to meet with friends and deal with work and other impending concerns. I decided against leaving in haste. I feel I should let you know now, if you don't know already (I got most of this from the Inquirer)--

RP GETS HOLD OF MARCOS LOOT!
$683M can't be touched till victims paid

(Click links for full article)

Finally. Swiss authorities have approved the return to the Philippine Government of the wealth Ferdie and Meldy stashed away in Switzerland's previously impenetrable banks. I thought I'd never live to see this day dawn. Money's not in our lawful hands yet-- having already been put in the "escrow account of the PNB" and invested in other banks overseas with the "AA Ratings from Standard and Poor's" that none of our banks have (AA's meaning Murphy's Law doesn't apply to the investment). The big bucks won't be moved until the local law compensating Marcos's victims of human rights violations is passed.

Do we celebrate? Yes. Cautiously.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Heady Stuff

Some of the honey the family has in storage is beginning to ferment. I could tell by the smell. Had I been fifteen years younger I would have been excited about having real mead in the house, even if the amount of it was miniscule. After all, mead was right up there with ambrosia as the Gatorade of Gods and Heroes. Sadly, I could also tell by the resultant smell that mead really does taste like piss.

Whatever You Do, Stay Away From...

Tanduay Rhum (any variant)
Lousy smell, aftertaste that is reminiscent of really old Christmas fruitcake.
Maria Clara Sangria
When warm, it reeks like rhum. If you must have it, serve it real cold.
Red Horse Beer
There's a reason why they call it Red Horse.
Ginebra GSM
Marketing ploy. I can smell it a mile away. Probably still the same Marca Demonyo wrapped up in ice-blue celphone-weilding Gen-X/Y savvy.
Mule Piss
My friend Rey Reyes (God rest his soul) swore on the efficacy of this concoction to give you a blinding migraine. I have not tried it; I do not wish to try it. Composition: lots of gin + lots of beer. (Yes, my roleplaying friends-- I talk like a dwarf, but drink like an elf.)
Bars that serve you stiff drinks in miniscule amounts for ridiculously high prices
Don't pay attention to the midriff-baring women, they are succubi. Do not indulge them when they ask you if you'd like another shot of _____. Even as you lose yourself in the delights of bosom and bellybutton, they are busy ripping your money out of your wallet.

Always remember: "If ye be wanting a shastishfying dhrink, jusss find yershelf a tavern th' sherves the good shtuff in cope- cope- copious amountsh. At leasht there ye can pass out on the floor."
Geekifying Again. Apologies.

Clan Toreador
Toreador--
Of all clans, Toreador are the vampires most
connected to the mortal world. While other
vampires view the kine as pawns or simple
sustenance, Toreador glide gracefully and
effortlessly through the society of the
Canaille, sampling the delights of each age as
a gourmand savors rare delicacies.

Vampires want you... which ones hunt you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Let's see... The Toreador want me, but the Ventrue got to me first. Hmmm. Good stuff. May actually help me with my roleplaying.
Updates: The Eternal Job-hunt

I called up the people I will be working for over the next few months. Turns out I passed the exams I took last week. According to the female voice on the other end of the line, my training begins next month (apparently the nature of my job is that specialized). This is good. I have so many things to fix, and that means I'll have the rest of August for them.

PHILPOST hasn't called me regarding my place in its ranks. I'll give 'em another week, before I call them up.

Culture Crash is looking for an artist for One Day Isang Diwa, one of their widely-read titles. Natch, you gotta draw with the feel of Elmer Damaso (a.k.a. IQ40) and have some of his speed. I know: it's a tall order. But if you can hack it, then you're welcome to click on this link and get your chance to help reshape comics.

Note: Sure, the ad says you can use your own style, but I do recommend "enrolling" at the "Elmer Damaso School of Fine Arts" to score big points with the Boss (a.k.a. Jescie James L. Palabay).

Excelsior!

Monday, August 04, 2003

This Can't Be Right Either

Appealing to my geek-boy true self, I took another test. (Apologies to readers who aren't into roleplaying games!)

Vent
Your from clan Ventrue -
Old-fashioned and tradition-bound, the Ventrue are
sophisticated and genteel. They believe in good
taste above all else and work hard to make
their lives comfortable. They are most
frequently the leaders in the Camarilla, and
are cautious, honorable, social and elegant
Kindred.

What Vampire the Masquerade clan are you from?
brought to you by Quizilla

I so wanted to be Toreador.

A Word About the Ubiquitous RPG

Vampire the Masquerade, by the by, is a role playing game. It has little to do with actual vampires, physical (like the one your granddad says he grappled with so long ago) or psychic (like the power-tripping mid-level sub-boss at the office). Often such games involve geeks like me and my friends pretending we were vampires, wizards, swashbuckling swordsmen, while mouthing corny dialogue, chucking dice and scribbling on sheets of paper. The exercise is akin to improvisational theater. The hammy-acting dialogue, the dice-chucking and sheet-scribbling provide a standardized means of interacting with the imaginary world we move about in. In sum, role playing games, like Vampire, are just another exercise in escapism. Like basketball, ogling girls or watching Meteor Garden.

Sidebar: Just because we geeks have codified role playing and enshrined it in our games, it doesn't mean that role playing games per se are the exclusive purview of the geek. Ask your kids. Ask your local dominatrix.

Why, you ask? Why do we geeks do indulge in such weirdness? Well many of can't play physical sports or chase girls the way you jocks can: you jocks never want us on your teams. You never want us for anything. Except when you need someone to do your homework for you.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Panic

I was with the girlfriend this morning, walking along the rehabilitated stretch of Roxas Boulevard from Pedro Gil to the Manila Yacht Club. We were walking towards what was hoped to be a decent breakfast "by the Bay," to use the words of Manila Mayor Atienza. To his credit, he's done a wonderful thing rehabilitating the area. You can bring your family or your best gal/guy to this place, have a proper meal and enjoy the clean tiles, the eateries, the jogging, the view and even the fish. Side note: wish I was there when Atienza was promoting the strip with the able help of the Sexbomb Girls.

At the eatery nearest her car, (Adriatico by the Bay, I think) we talked about this and that over tapsilog and coffee, paid the bill and left for buko juice in front of the Philippine Navy edifice. We were commenting favorably on the aged attendants of the strip's comfort room when she realized we'd left her umbrella back at Adriatico by the Bay. She said she'd wait while I ran back to pick it up.

No doubt, the old couple eating at our former table probably thought the long-haired visage reaching a hand into their personal space was that of a thief and cutthroat. They did not give chase because they probably realized that the umbrella they did not notice before was not theirs. I did not have the time for the debunking of stereotypes; If I ever see that old couple again, I will apologize only for startling them.

I reached the spot where Honey was supposed to wait for me. I found to my great dismay that she wasn't there. I walked to the Navy building-- no girlfriend. I returned to her waiting spot-- still no girlfriend. I tried reaching her via my dyolog (Nokia) celphone and got only endless ringing. After walking what felt like miles retracing my steps thrice, I was angry and very frightened for her.

A sample of my SMS messages sent when I was beginning to panic:

TAKE YOUR BLOODY PHONE OFF SILENT MODE AND TELL ME WHERE THE HELL YOU ARE. NANGALING NA AKO SA NAVY. NASAAN KA?

WHERE ARE YOU? ARE YOU ALRIGHT? IPAPA-APB NA KITA IF YOU DO NOT RESPOND

I found her near her car, felt the wash of an angry relief. Her phone was wrapped up in so much leather she probably could not hear it. It had died on her when she tried to reach me. I hugged her close to me.

I now know the full extent of the little hells my parents went through when I was young, self-absorbed touring liability.
The Childhood Family Hangouts

My childhood memories are suffused with images of many family excursions, all happening on glorious Sunday mornings. We'd pile into the family car, and Pop would drive us to his destinations of choice.

1. We'd wind up along Ongpin, in the Manila Chinatown. We would frequent a restaurant there--la Manoza, I think it was called-- and feast (like aswang) on fried liver and greens in a thick, highly caramelized starch-based sauce. Side note: I'm an idiot for not remembering the name of the dish; I'm an even bigger idiot for not acquiring the recipe! If we had the time, after liver-lunch, we'd visit the Manila Zoo and get on the boats. No splashing about though-- the water reeked of petrol-based machine excrement.

2. We'd be in Cubao, at the Fiesta Carnival at the Araneta Center, which was the place to be in, before the populace was subject to the siren call of the super-Mall. We'd eat our American junkfood and sample all the rides my parents could afford. Local actress Nora Aunor, still big in those days, had pranced about in a clown suit with cutesy little children for one of her movie-musicals-- the name escapes me; otherwise I'd provide a link. During Christmas break, we'd be at the C.O.D., where scenes from the Nativity would play out, with mechanized puppets, large as life above the shop's entrance. I'm told that show still exists today.

3. If we did not feel like Ongpin or Cubao, we'd be at the Parks and Wildlife along Quezon Avenue, where we'd gawk at the animals and get injured trying the monkeybars and those big, big slides. I rememeber wanting to lose myself among the trees and the picnicking families. I also sustained a back injury there after trying a really dumbass-- really male-- stunt with the slide. I couldn't walk without wincing, couldn't run at all for the pain; upshot was my posture improved for the three whole days I nursed my back.

4. We would go to the Hotel Danara, next to the Camelot Hotel (whose much-touted Dungeon Bar was the playground of local missing-in-action singer and actress, Lilet), for a swim. We had to run to the car to eat though, as the guards were ordered to sniff for "contraband"-- packed lunches. I learned how to swim at Danara, much to the relief of my mom. She did not like Pop's method-- step one: attach flotation device to child's arms; step two: throw child in the middle of a Batangas lake.

Childhood's End

I feel sad that we don't frequent these places as much as we used to. And apparently, my family was not the only one who quit going to them.

I look at these places now, a full twenty years later, and see signs of decrepitude. Hardly anyone I know in the middle-class brackets have been to the Manila Zoo since 1983. When I stopped by the Parks and Wildlife in 1994, it was on academic --Philippine Institutions 100-- business: some branch of the National Historical Institute in the vicinity of the park! Cubao is now the inspiration for my sleazy jokes, what with seedy places with names like Kulasisi(Mistress), Bang-Bang Ali I and II, Gagamba(Spider)-- formerly Golden Gagamba-- and Halimuyak(Fragrance). Nobody in my circle of friends has admitted to buying anything from C.O.D., or Farmer's Plaza, or even Farmer's Market.

It bothers me that we have left those old haunts behind for the airconditioning, the crowds, the high prices, the pretentions, the high-strung monotony of the superMall.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Simply Jessie Update

Sorry; I ran out of proper headings. Fixing blog hungry work. But incidentally, the song is still one I listen to whenever the sappy radio station plays it.

Took my exam. Feel uneasy, but I think I passed. As per request from one of my blogger friends I'm adding three email links here. Those of you who wish to contact me for business know where to click; likewise for those who wish to comment on the contents of my blog. My hotmail address has been with me since 1995-- I've been using it for business and personal correspondence-- so I've posted it here.

Thanks to the people who've posted comments on my previous posts.