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.
Erratum

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.

Weddings

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.

Ready?

"Hiiii."

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.

"Roundness"
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).

"Slurring"
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.

Dexter


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!!!)

Fhinally...
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

Anounthmunt

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.

Poe-larized

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.

Poe-litics

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.

Roco-co

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.

Dedma

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."
Remission

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."

Conclusion
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.

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