Saturday, December 01, 2012

Lose Your Shirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Will Riot for Bad Movies (among other things)

No one is ultimately served by banning free speech. You do it for one group (for example Catholics who are riled up by an art exhibit), you have to do it for *all* groups--  Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Deists, Moonies, Satanists, Scientologists, Branch Davidians... If the government quashes critics of a certain religion because one religious group gets angry enough, then all the other groups can get to keep criticism away (all kinds of criticism, even the valid kind) by playing the same card.

At first glance, that might look appealing... until it's your group that gets shut down for giving what may be very valid criticism of another group. It's also a waste of effort, resources and tax money: what went to another crackdown due to religious raw nerves could have gone to a feeding program, or schools, or funds for nurses in the provinces.  

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad our local Muslims did not resort to pointless violence. It says a lot of good things about them and gives lie to the offensive stereotypes that some non-Muslims perpetuate. I just have trouble sleeping when something like this happens:

Yes, I'm talking about the film Innocence of Muslims, purportedly the cause of the protests (and violence) that's gripped the Muslim world in recent days. The two best terms I have to describe the brouhaha are: Comedy of Errors and For Want of Nail.

The court (or at least the MTRCB) could have simply looked at the movie for itself and condemned the half-assed clumsy depiction --and it is a half-assed clumsy depiction-- of Muslims therein, and then let it go. The grand irony is that the movie likely wouldn't have even been talked about (or heard of here) if Muslims overseas didn't overreact to it.

Yes, I'm painfully aware of what it feels like when your most cherished beliefs are insulted, and the Muslims are no strangers to having that happen to them (Especially local Muslims, some of whom have to pretend they're Catholics so they can get a decent shot at landing a job which would force them to violate their schedules of prayer and rest). That said, you can't keep lashing back at every insult that comes your way, regardless of size or scope, (or geographic distance) or else you'll waste your whole life playing whack-a-mole with enemies of the Prophet (SAW). Seriously, Dar al-Islam would be better served with roads, jobs, infrastructure and general prosperity, no? This game of whack-a-mole is a lot like Uncle Sam's wasteful game of whack-a-terrorist.

If the trailer is anything to go by, the movie is also an offense to cinema, not quite on par with Manos the Hands of Fate, but apparently close enough. No one, and I mean no one (or at least, no one sane), would ever take that movie as a serious depiction of Muslims.

I joke to my friends that some movies should be banned because they're godawfully bad, but I keep that at the level of jokes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I look at the stats for my blogs and I wonder just who the heck is reading me. I'm thankful for nearly any sort of exposure, now that I've become active again and actually started directing traffic to my Lit blog. Still, I can't help but feel a little concerned about what the heck it is I've been posting over the years.

It's an old concern, mind you. These days, the stuff you post can pretty much be the cyberspace equivalent Mark of Cain.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It is difficult to imagine that the soul does not exist when one faces the imminent intellectual and physical dissolution of someone you know and love. Something of him must persist past death, we insist, against the mess of misfiring neurons, familiar tics and random gross movements of the head, shoulders, eyes and major limbs.

They are moving my uncle back to his ward, to die.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

I don't know. I've been walking around without one since 2005. If you are determined, God, to keep me from my soul, then at least let me have the world. Surely there is room for that in your convoluted plan for me.   

(written in 2008)

Monday, August 06, 2012

Pet Peeve

You can't be human and not run into these, and you can't be a writer and not have to deal with several. Among my biggest peeves is the need to be current.

Writers will, sooner or later, have to interrupt their work for a myriad of reasons. If the delay is long, expect the topic to be stale by the time the writer returns to it. I've found that to be true even when writing about topics that aren't strictly current events.

The reason is that there is a currency to themes and topics, even if they are considered timeless and abstract. Good and evil, love, poverty, joy, loneliness, social unrest-- these timeless topics are often contingent on a season, a cycle, a fad, even the prevailing zeitgeist. People will write about love around February, about death around Halloween, about loneliness and shopper's fatigue around December. True, nothing stops the intrepid writer from writing out of season, but I have found that the writing is like rolling a heavy stone uphill the farther away the appropriate season is from the time you pick up the pen after your necessary delay.

It is cold comfort to blocked writers that many of them find themselves in such straits-- at least, I would imagine so. I would also imagine little comfort in the advice I would impart: keep striking the damn iron while it's hot. It's piss-poor advice that's easier said than done.


This image appears on the Facebook wall of one Tamie Mcculley. You can find the original here.

I'm ambivalent about this. I think the reason that illegals are seemingly coddled is because it's a concession to practicality. They're already there in ridiculously large numbers and god knows the authorities can't catch and deport them all. Besides, a good number of them want to be upstanding, tax-paying citizens, and actually turn out that way.  My cousin is a prime example.  

But it feels unfair when they make good and while everyone else is seemingly in the hole. Like they've been rewarded with your money for committing a crime. Worse, they're hired at rock-bottom rates because they cost less for employers to, well, employ (Never mind that the jobs they take are generally jobs naturals dislike: mostly manual labor). I get it. 

One can't escape the fact, though, that the 'States were founded by immigrants. More than the rabid brand of White Evangelical Christianity that beats its chest proclaiming dominion over everyone and everything, the country's defining trait is that it at least pays lip service to the idea that "If you have a dream, if you want it and work hard and honestly enough for it, you'll see it come true." I see this trait in immigrants (legal or not) who want to better their lives with their own hands and be part of what's still good about America. 

A concession I will make to the people who feel threatened by the perennial influx of warm non-white bodies  into their respective States is this: something still has to be done about keeping the borders secure. America isn't primarily a charity, and any country that remains porous can find itself overwhelmed by the large numbers of people that it must sort through, to keep out those who cannot contribute to the growth and economy of its citizens. Controls must be in place to make sure that the immigrants you get are all legal.

I can't pretend to have a solution that would readily satisfy Ms Mcculley and people like her-- likely regular people in an economic pinch, who are worried about jobs for their children and the dilution of their culture.
Nevertheless, I wish her country well.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's the Deal with Comics?

This was a blog post that should have come out a long time ago.

My friend Tobie shared this article on Google plus: What Do You REALLY Know About Comics? The Great Debate. The gist is this: Joe Mulvey attempts to spread the love of comics by asking people to try them out. He meets and interviews someone who is not a fan and who is determined not to give comics a try.  

Joe Mulvey begins by noting--

" Ok. Well, honestly, comic books and comic book properties are a pretty big resource in other types of media right now. Millions of people are willing to see the movies, watch the TV shows or play the games but they don’t seem willing to give the actual books a chance. Which is why I’m doing this..."

His respondent then says--

"I get your point and I’m sure you have your opinions on it, but if comics are this great resource for entertainment and everyones making comics into something else, why is it that I’ve heard of or seen the other things but not even heard of the books? You get my point? How good can they really be?"
I'll go to a dark place and pull out some probable reasons why people are content to watch movies based on comics and not read comics themselves. 

Have you seen the fans? 

The stereotype is that these are awkward and socially inept people who you would not want dating your sister. While some may be intelligent, good looking and personable, you know that a majority of them will never be rich or worth thinking of in terms of companionship because they're always going to be "still kids" in all the wrong ways that count. 

Their preoccupation with perceived "kids' fare"--with comics-- prevents them from thinking about (or actively meeting) real-world necessities: a steady supply of clean potable water and good food, a well maintained place to live that's never short of electricity or air conditioning, taxes, someone with whom you can share your genes and the products of that little eugenics project that we call family. As complicated as Clark Kent's life is in comics or comic book movies, the regular Joe's involvement with it ends as soon as the credits roll.  But not so for the fan who primarily reads comics. He's in the books and he never wants to leave. To read comics means to be associated with people who indulge in-, and encourage that kind of autism. 

Then there's the perceived deficiency of comics as a medium in itself. 

As the bastard child of Prose and Painting, it attempts --and fails-- to do the jobs of both. This is likely because of the technology available in the early twentieth century. 

You could have gorgeous technicolor photographs in your "serious" books and magazines, but why didn't we have that kind of quality in the funny books? Thousands of colors available for simulation in print and we're stuck with just fourWhere, beyond the alliterative appeal of names like Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Lex Luthor, were the lyrical lines that moved you, that made you swoon? Is it the fault of the non-fan if he hasn't looked hard enough for the works of Gaiman, Miller, Claremont or Nocenti?

People looking for subtlety won't find it in a medium whose colors are traditionally garish, whose characters are traditionally 2-D stereotypes in longjohns we'll never wear on our most drunken day, and whose most iconic lines often run along the lines of-- 
"Stop, Fiend! You'll never escape the claws... of Justice!"
Movies can be said to be fare for a lazy audience, and the non-fan is lazy. He wants to be shown, and pictures that don't move don't cut it. And how does one pronounce such SFX  treasures as "FRAKSHHZHHHGTTT"? So much better to see the action and hear the sound in the safety and comfort of an air-conditioned theater.

Compare the cost (on these Islands) of a compilation of Watchmen vs. the cost of watching the movie adaptation in theaters or even the cost of the DVD. 

Remember that the non-fan doesn't know there's a wealth of head-splitting background information that helps build up the story in the comics. Remember that the non-fan has work, has kids, and has neither time nor inclination to really try something "new." Given the choice between the Watchmen compilation and  the Watchmen DVD, which would he pick? If he could buy a copy of FHM with the money he'd save buying the DVD, then trust me, he'll buy the DVD. If I wasn't such a fanboy, that's exactly what I'd do.

Now all this isn't to say that comics hasn't evolved from its pulpy, four-color roots, or that you can't write good non-costumed-hero stories in them. Japan is home to a plethora of comic book titles spanning all sorts of genres from medieval and historical fantasy, to action, to romance, to sports, to science fiction, to erotica and tentacle porn. A lot of it is probably pap, but works like Ghost in the Shell  or Battle Angel Alita stand out for depth, or for the quality art. If the popularity of Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah with local adults is anything to go by, there's a lot that comics still have to offer us, and non-fans --regardless of their reasons-- are missing out.