Thursday, February 28, 2008

Itinerant Mendicant

I had a wonderfully written post that the wondrous magic of cookies and internet security basically removed from existence.

The gist of it was that I had to refuse a young lady's request for the last of my money. She wanted to use it to get wherever she needed to go: home, presumably. Shutters slammed down on whatever it was that showed her humanity and allowed her to acknowledge mine. I remember feeling hurt by this, as I did want to help.

Of course there were valid arguments against it. I'd had enough money to only get me partially home. I'd still have to walk the rest of the way. And considering everything I'm juggling these days, I was going to need every calorie I was bound to lose by walking.

I wrote -- before the website hiccuped and removed everything-- that I felt the odious feeling of being... tested.

I wrote before that I didn't like character tests, because you walked into them blindly, not knowing the rules that someone (a woman, an authority figure, God) has often arbitrarily [and cruelly] set. These tests are usually stacked against you: they are engineered so that you'd have to defy your own nature to beat them. Ultimately you almost invariably fail.

Of course, I also thought about how God must likely be feeling: being presented with our needs day in and day out with each request being a pass-fail test of His character.

I'm surprised he hasn't tired of the lot of us.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Miss the Carpet

The thing I miss the most about the old place of work (okay, one of the things) isn't just any single person or a group of people.

I miss the carpet. Really.

Because no matter how dirty and raggedy the thing becomes, I like lying down on it whenever (to quote so many Korean English students) "I get stress." We have a carpet at home and I like lying on it better than lying on a bed. I'm a tactile person, you see, and rubbing fingers or toes against a textured surface always settles me.

Carpets are great when you whisper secrets into them since they damp sound. They also absorb tears, so they're great for crying into as well. They can take your BS because they're always carrying your weight, with very little in the way of complaints.

I miss the carpet because of the way she always had my back.She was a warm refuge when the deluge of Korean or local voices clamoring for attention became too much to take. My carpet was my anchor.

Don't get me wrong, folks. I'm liking my new work environment, but there's nothing like a carpet to rest my back or practice waltzing on. I'm a disco guy, but this is one area where something else beats out all the vinyl in the world.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sedate EDSA

And I'm glad about this. I got to work with very little hassle or unneeded fanfare. I was also able to swing by the EDSA Shrine and pay my respects. I often used to do this but for purposes outside of nation building. The shrine was one of the many sacred places where I spilled more than the requisite tears.

None of that today, though. Even if thoughts other than nation building still managed to preoccupy me.

I really thought traffic would be so horrible and the trains would be congested-- visions of people hanging from the rafters and such. When none of that happened it was almost a letdown. Had I known I would not have to fight the crowds, I'd have brought more stuff!

It's still so cold that the chill seeps into the fingers, toes and between the shoulder blades. Meantime the skies seem to be clearing. I'm asking "What do these portend?"

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oh Dear

The ship's run aground and it's sinking
And this in the midst of your constant thinking
You're losing crew and you don't quite see it
Oh wait, the captain's oblivious,
so that makes two of you

They're jumping ship, or you're driving 'em away
And the goons and mooks you're taking in are just
Manning the bilge pumps and eating paste

It isn't easy when we have to swab the deck
or lean the ship windward and hoist our only sheet
and at the end of the day, we still kiss your naked feet.
I didn't mind-- your feet are lovely. besides,

for the longest time, I haven't gotten to kiss any

But the ship's run aground and it's sinking
(look there's a giant squid)
You're losing crew and you don't see why
Or maybe you finally do.
The captain's oblivious,
the solution is obvious!
and it takes just one of you

Better tell the captain--
he'll know what to do--
what's left of the crew's

got problems asking that of you?

Oh dear.

Oplan Zero Backlog

Oplan is a uniquely Filipino term. The cops and the military always have to call their little exercises "Operation Plans" or "Implementation Plans," hence the little sobriquets: Oplan Sagittarius and Implan Whatever.

Anyway, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company came up with their own OPLAN way back in the late eighties (I think). The monopoly had grown so bloated and inefficient that there was a long list of angry phoneless people waiting for some decent attention and relief. Oplan Zero Backlog was therefore launched by PLDT. The goal was to make sure everyone who had filled up the requisite forms and paid for them were actually getting the service they were due, i.e. an actual working phone.

I adopted my own OPLAN Zero Backlog several times in my collegiate and post-collegiate life. I had projects that were backlogged at those times, and I was determined to get them done. I'd even post a sign outside my door at the QC residence (back when I had a room) that borrowed heavily from the imagery of the OPLAN ZERO BACKLOG ads.

I'm feeling the need to start another O.Z.B., as I have at least two major projects that have demanded my attention since late last year, and my new job will require the same attention I gave my old one...

[digression begins]

...which was a lot.

Incidentally, this is what happens when your most effective knight returns from exile and you tell him in so many words that his sword's not needed, when oh sweet holy God, it is. You effectively hand him to another liege lord who'll likely pay him better. Consider that your knight would have worked for you for peanuts and the simple pleasure of your collective company.

Sorry, word vomit.

[digression ends]

As I was saying, I have other projects in the pipeline. I'll need to make room for them if I'm to have any decent amount of sleep within this year.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Sometimes I think of these as life's little jokes. Someone's found me on Skype again and she-- assuming that it is a she-- is looking for some attention of the kind I'm not needing to give. I'm wondering, what, do I fit some sort of stereotype?

Nothing telling on my profile... heck there's nothing on my profile. So maybe it's just another one of the flukes that make so common an appearance in my life. To be fair, the sender's profile picture's got a really nice....

The Stairwell Is My Friend

Because I'm living a sedentary lifestyle and I'm a-hankering for physical activity. The stairwell's good if you want to build wind, to strengthen your leg muscles and put a major strain on your back.

I miss feeling my heart beat so hard I'd thought it would physically burst. Well, I don't miss it all the time but the rush of blood is a pleasant experience. When it roars in your ears like a wave you feel you're alive. Distressed, usually, (one normally gets this when being chased by predators) but alive.

After wind, we'll work on power and reflexes.Considering how far I have to go I'll have to get creative with how I work with the stairwell.

I have time.

Paying the Piper

If it isn't poetic, it's not scientific. For every action, an equal and opposite reaction. Like a poem or a movie. Like life. Pick your metaphors: everyone pays the piper, or reaps what he sows. Sometimes you defer payment or fiddle with the crops so their production cycle changes but you... ah hell, you get the picture.

I've been afraid of the repo man for so long because he always takes what's dear to you. My whole life's been defined by trying to out-think the devil when he offers me a deal. Stave off the repo man. I've actually done it a few times-- I'm a lot more like Sisyphus than I thought, and damned if I'm not proud of that. But I'm seeing several repo men soon. To settle up.

It feels good.

And it feels... free

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Let Me Tell You a Secret

I'll tell you a secret.

Everyone's a designer.

It's just that many of us aren't good at it; aren't paid big money for it; or they don't consider what they're doing "design."

You plan a camping trip, that's design. Perhaps the art board isn't static because the art board is time. Perhaps the camping trip gets shot to hell for one of a million things we blame on Murphy. Nevertheless, you did the planning, you fiddled with the elements (angry kids, the broken RV, the road, etc.) and the camping trip still goes pffft.

Just means that for that one instance you were a lousy designer.

Happily opportunities to get it right are legion, and at least we can't really get fired for being a bad designer for a day regardless of how your bosses may feel. They can cut off your money because you did a lousy design job once too many, but you'll still be a designer.

Whose image are we made after in the first place?

They're Playing Our Song

As I type the Mass in support of Rodolfo Lozada on the La Salle Greenhills campus is breaking up peacefully. The difference is that they're... they're playing Bayan Ko.

I guess this won't explain the chills running down my spine to my younger readers as I listen to it. That song's gotta be what-- twenty, thirty years old? Point is they were playing that song when the people had simply had enough of Marcos's repressive government. That bit of theme music helped rally millions of people around Cory Aquino. They were playing that song when the tanks were stopped by people lugging flowers and rosaries at Camps Crame and Aguinaldo.

Sure, Gramps, you're telling me, they're playing a song nobody really sings anymore. What's that gonna do?

In '86, dearest, it did plenty. The fact that they're playing it now means that we're that much closer to the tipping point.

Everyone please stay safe. Times of great bullsh!t are also times of great opportunity. I pray that whatever happens we don't squander ours.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The More or Less Manifesto


In honor of love month I'll be posting stuff as I count down to the 14th. It's hokey, it's corny, but you can look at it this way: it's better than nothing when you're somewhat creatively constipated. And if in case you are the mushy type, then maybe this might be what you need.

After All It's Done To You, Why?

The long procession of women whose names have now become horribly interchangeable; the long nights wasted writing poetry or making art when making money would have brought more respect, more favors. The ugly sensation of having to adjust over and over again to a new set of arms, new smells, new colors, over a period of months, your nerve endings perpetually raw and screaming for contact. To be told you are in some fundamental way inadequate and inconvenient. To walk nights in not-space while the world swirled happily around you.

After all this, why indeed? Why do I still believe in it?

Why do I simply refuse to take comfort in the arms of the usual misanthropy and cynicism that is expected of nerds who should not have been given a shot at inconveniencing the rest of us (i.e. existence)?

I've tried to answer this in my long and boring ruminations.

Actually as I write my hands are shaking. I'm in no mood for long boring ruminations so I'll give you the short form.

Beyond the sexual dimension and the expectations that go with it, there is no functional difference between the love between mates and the love between friends. Most human interaction fosters love. Eros works his insidious magic whenever any two human beings come together, to share a task, to share a space, to share a life. He doesn't always succeed but regardless of the tools he uses -- a common goal, a shared schedule, the fact that you're siblings, sex-- he works constantly to bring people together.

I am more sure of this than I am of God. Eros is in fact my one direct non-Biblical (therefore acceptable) proof (I'm sorry I proceed from a position of doubt) that God exists and gives a ding dong diddley about his idiot creations.

All your questions of worth and why cease to matter when love takes root. Love empowers, love ennobles, even when it wounds. As many times as I've seen love fail because of someone's inner weakness, ill fortune, or bonehead decisions, I have also seen it flourish and sustain because people chose to make it work.

This is the reason I still believe in it so badly despite the bullshit it's put me through.

This is who I am, and I know of no other way to be.

Happy Valentine's everyone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Don't Be


In honor of love month I'll be posting stuff as I count down to the 14th. It's hokey, it's corny, but you can look at it this way: it's better than nothing when you're somewhat creatively constipated. And if in case you are the mushy type, then maybe this might be what you need.

Or not.

I'll dispense with the metaphors as much as I can, just for today.

Don't Be My Friend

Because I can only count my normal friends with my fingers. If you want a simple, happy life uncomplicated by the burden of complex people then you seriously don't want to join my co-fraternity of misfits who include--

1. someone who has to put on an evil face over her pretty one, to make all the unpopular decisions, to take the brunt of everyone else's displeasure to shield her corporate bosses. She lives with the loss of friends who may never truly understand her. As much as she may want to be free to give her heart to someone, she is as married to her company as much as anyone else can be married to a partner.

2. someone who always has to take the moral high ground. You'd think he was the damned Pope the way he pontificates from his perch. But there's more to him than his near-unbending Chinese rigidity. I've seen his compassion. Part of his rigor comes from his desire to make the world a better place.

3. someone who takes principle so seriously that she'll puts too much stock in her word. It can't be broken, even under circumstances that scream "this is crazy." Even if her heart, the very core of her, screams against it. (No, dearest, this is not you).

4. someone who routinely stabs men (metaphorically) in the chest, the likely latest one being me. It's a scorpion's nature to sting, but it's testament to how much she can care about another person that she took so long to do it. I've seen that caring side of her, and I've always believed in it. Even when I called her an idiot, and even when everyone else was calling me an idiot for loving her.

5. someone who partially equates self esteem with the bedchamber. I can't pretend to be able to fully help her with this dysfunction-- I don't have the training and I certainly cannot be the surrogate she needs. But I've seen her at her strongest-- self possessed, capable, loving, earning more in a day than I could in a month's honest work.

6. a father who's had to plumb the depths of sleaze to feed and clothe his kids. An artist/inventor who's had to apply his genius to morally problematic causes. Love takes people on strange pathays and his has been stranger than most.

Conventional wisdom dictates that I chuck them all, because they can supposedly drag me down, despite the things within them that I find worth loving, redeeming staying around for. I've said this before: we are all such broken toys.

You're asking why I'm airing this and every other bit of dirty linen hanging on clotheslines in my head, knowing as I do that it can and probably will sabotage any chance of our being friends (or of any Human Resources Department looking at me favorably, hahaa!). You see, I know humans like the back of my hand. I'm hoping that in your case I'm reading you wrong.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dark Places


In honor of love month I'll be posting stuff as I count down to the 14th. It's hokey, it's corny, but you can look at it this way: it's better than nothing when you're somewhat creatively constipated. And if in case you are the mushy type, then maybe this might be what you need.

The stuff will be mostly mine. If the piece isn't mine I'll say so. If you're going to copy and paste this at least please tell people I made it.

The places that I walk are often the same places everyone else inhabits. It's just that I seem to slip into a kind of parallel dimension where I can see everyone as they go about their business-- couples holding hands and contemplating each other, friends and officemates cheerfully making the first of their eager legs home. I could stand haloed in moonlight, or bathed in the artificial yellow of the city and they would never notice, never see me. That is, until I broke the spell, announced myself-- and then the party would be over for someone.

In the old days that would have been a welcome thing. Some of my talents lie somewhat in stealth, and there was a period in my life where I did make shadowing people and casing places a quasi-hobby. No, I had no assassin-wannabe aspirations but it was cool to play at being Batman, or eponymously, The Shadow.

None of that today, though.

Whenever I find myself slipping into that twilight subspace It's often against my will. I want to be seen, to be noticed, to interact. But I know humans like I know the back of my hand and the survival instinct takes over. The gates open, and I'm in, guts turned inside out and knees quivering in the bargain.

I become an unwilling member of the storied denizens of the night. I cruise with vampires and ghostly women dressed in white. Amorphous incorporeal things harrass me.

I follow people who swim in their spaces like so many happy fish. In my not-space I am hyper-aware of every nuance, every gesture. The little details more than anything really. Sense perception is diminished so that every other sense compensates for the loss of fidelity. From my not-space I observe in slow motion the fall of a woman's hair as she tosses her head from side to side, walking with her peculiar somewhat bow-legged gait. I observe a friendly kiss goodbye between her and a friend. A man and a woman: I notice the body language that atempts to hide the closeness that is already there, patent, for everyone with eyes, to gawk at.

From my not-space I know. And the knowledge brings bitter consolation.


I don't own this space. I only found it. The way was open to me when my heart first broke long ago.


I often find myself sharing it with vagrants, beggars, prostitutes and children selling flowers in the dead of the night. I know this because they can see me, as lost and sometimes as lonely as the rest of them. They reach out to me with arms covered in grime or sores, a pleading (or sometimes predatory) look in their eyes.

Comfort me. Need me. Feed me. Love me.

They take me back to realspace when they do this, as I suddenly have the power to banish them to not-space with their humanity savaged by just so much. It's hard, to acknowledge them as human beings and tell them I can't help them.

In the end we vanish into our not-space, becoming observers of a world that would rather forget us.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Somebody get me this book. Please.

I found it on Amazon.

On the author's website:

"DON'T LET THE PRESIDENT HAVE THE LAST LAUGH! Danielle Crittenden's hilarious collection of imaginary online correspondence between the POTUS and his "buddy list" is now available in a dead tree edition by Simon Spotlight Entertainment. You'll find THE PRESIDENT'S SECRET IMs at Amazon and bookstores across the country."

Online, George "Dubya" is kickass43. He spends a lot of time on his computer talking everything from US foreign policy to his situation at home with the world's bigshots. Including ben16 (Pope Benedict XVI) and sxybritguy10 (Tony Blair). Hilarious fun.

Bill Clinton, true to form, is ladeezman42.

Postscript to a F....

We've dismantled the Diliman shop. Part of the gradual tying of loose ends that has characterized my activities in the last quarter of last year. I saw the results of Project Yearbook and amazingly they came out well. Someone at the press managed to convince my clients that it was a boneheaded idea to change formats from letter-sized to legal-sized pages when the original layout (painstakingly done in blood and sweat by yours truly) had presupposed an 8.5x11 inches page size. The laid out pages looked good in spite of the start-stop horrors my client had me inflict on the poor project. I'm almost tempted to regret not adding my name to it.


Now, as the last of these infernal strings are tied up nice and neat, I can look forward to the activities that will mark my ... moving on (words so easy to dish out when you address the apparent source of your inconvenience) other more profitable ventures.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ecce Homo


In honor of love month I'll be posting stuff as I count down to the 14th. It's hokey, it's corny, but you can look at it this way: it's better than nothing when you're somewhat creatively constipated. And if in case you are the mushy type, then maybe this might be what you need.

If you're going to copy and paste this at least please tell people I wrote it.

Ecce Homo

If you proceed from a position of faith, then "knowing your own worth" is a good enough basis of a healthy self esteem. The problem arises when you attempt to be totally objective about what you are worth. You must proceed from a position of distrust. You cannot trust your own assessment of worth until--

a) there is a standard to measure it against; and
b) you meet, or better yet, surpass those standards.

Sometimes I don't know what's worse.

The first makes you delusional; complacent, if serene, until you meet someone or something better, faster, stronger than you. Especially something that threatens to make you obsolete.

The second will never let you sleep.You are constantly and ruthlessly examining yourself for flaws and consistently finding them. There must be no question about your place in the Universe, your utility to your society and fellow man. Else, why do you even exist?

Quo Vadis, Veritas?

In a world where everyone can theoretically do what you do, think what you think, earn what you earn or more-- in a world where you are, in short, replaceable as employee, father, husband, lover, son-- in a world like that you have no real place.

God himself does not provide comfort within his abstract love of humanity, at least initially-- if he loves everyone equally then there is absolutely no difference between you and the depraved rapist who should be given the chair. You can't even trust the healing afforded by an abiding faith in the Christ-- how can you really truly tell if it's not another delusion? Another lie, another social palliative applied like band-aid to distract you from attempting to truly answer the questions of "What is my worth? Why am I here?"

The relentless search for the truth of your worth demands that you do not accept palliatives.

Those who take this second path path will most likely come to the same initial conclusions I have. That there is no meaning; that you exist to die; that your worth is a transient thing, dependent solely on chance and whether or not you picked the right skills and credentials and connections and bible study groups in your formative years.

Ecce Eros, Veritas; Ecce Homo

Absurdly enough, it's simple, naked love that answers the ontological and teleological questions of worth and meaning, by rendering those questions meaningless. Not the abstract love of a distant Watchmaker who "loves everyone equally." It's the love a Creator expresses personally through human agents-- friends, parents, someone you can share a well-lit bench with. Ridiculous as it sounds, the human psyche is apparently built that way.

I've thus come to accept that some palliatives are necessary if you still want to be a part of the human race. Acting out of faith is after all better, less stressful, than acting out of doubt.

I know what I'm worth. But I'll sleep better if key people can bring themselves to remember it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

True to Form

I got shanghaied into playing a bit part in a webcast. The same way I regularly got shangahied into playing creepy old geezers, or creepy young dudes in plays and video productions.

At least I'm acting again...

Requiem for Porky

I'll say I never saw it coming. Though considering how my government's been jumping at every sound, I should have. I really feel sorry for him. I saw the news footage and ex House Speaker and former GMA Ally Jose de Venecia looks like-- dare I say it? --crap.

But I guess what goes around comes around. Jose de Venecia was the consummate political wheeler and dealer. The baron of brokers and the king of compromise. And I will admit that I hated this guy for his continuing efforts to reanimate the rotting corpse of charter change long after ex-President Fidel Ramos had given it up for, well, dead. There were other reasons that involved keeping Arroyo super-glued to the presidential chair long after she should have been impeached.

Now that he's been fired on account of his son's feud with the First Gentleman, he's opened up the metaphorical bathroom to let the stink out, calling for a "moral revolution." Conrado de Quiros is right when he says that de Venecia is the last person you'd expect such calls from; that if de Venecia did something right, it's that he just proved how little the current administration values loyalty and the people it claims to serve.

Rina Jimenez David writes that we may see in the fall of the wheeler-n'-dealer, the possible rise of a statesman. My knee-jerk reaction is to be skeptical-- I know humans enough that if you give them the opportunity to do something stupid, enough of them will. You can yell your head off about how they're running the planet or their relationships into the ground, and all they'll see is a locust-lunching wild man man clad in camel hair (you) with nothing to offer them but sound and drama.

But the Universe is full of surprises and just when you think something's graven in stone, something shifts... So maybe there's redemption for Porky yet.

The clouds massing outside the Fandom Cafe where I'm writing this now, the "defrocking" of Porky himself and the resurrection of the ZTE issue -- these I take as proof that whatever it is that's keeping this magic-realist country interesting is at it again.

I'm smelling a change in the air. I'm praying all of us can meet it with courage, equanimity, resilience, resourcefulness, and-- as this is Kafkaed after all--


Sunday, February 03, 2008


Well I'm back to being a commuter and it feels... different. I'm going to miss the mobility afforded by a motor vehicle. It made a lot of things easier and more complicated at the same time. Of course I know this situation is only temporary. As soon as new money comes in and I'm clear of a few more finacial obligations I'm getting my license renewed. There will be more money to use for making the lives of the people I care about a little easier. Aaaaaand I'm gonna get my blue RAV 4 yet.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I am Salmon

And I used to be such a tuna guy. Wait, I still am.

There's something more appealing to me about the color, texture, consistency of maguro (tuna) sashimi than the salmon variety. The best tuna and salmon sashimi melt in your mouth, releasing unique flavors ably complemented by the right amount of wasabi and soy sauce. The difference is that--

a) Salmon doesn't have tuna's somewhat iron-bloody aftertaste (the taste of salmon sashimi can be described as somewhat sweet, creamy); and
b) Salmon melts in the mouth better

Given a choice, I'd always go for tuna, even if only for reasons of price and availability. Tuna can pretty much be found swimming our oceans without making a salmon's trips to fresh water streams for purposes of spawning. And cheap tuna can be just that-- cheap. Salmon is more prized, therefore harder to find or get to, and therefore more expensive.

But you're asking Why am I Salmon? Reasons exist beyond a pun on the movie I am Sam (good movie starring Sean Penn, do check it out. Incidentally the pun was also a conscious choice).

As I'm a creature of metaphor, nuance, meme and pop culture references, you can be sure that this post is not simply about fish.

A salmon's life is apparently more complex than his tuna counterpart: he's born in a fresh water river or stream, migrates to a big ocean and then feels an irresistible desire to return to the stream of his birth.

I am Sam. And I am Salmon.