Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Antaria: Amalthea, Illustrated

It appears that the "Amalthea" fiction inspired an illustration, and a darn fine one at that.

From David:

Looks like David's vision of Thorngarde Keep's facade was right on the money. And I love the shading.

If you're interested in more of David's art, he's at http://kanal.deviantart.com . Yes, he's really good, in case you're one of the few people who haven't noticed.

I owe Faye Tan credit for the creation of Amalthea, by the way. If you're reading this, Faye, thank you very much.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Archie Method


The comics may seem corny to me now, yes, but I did get at least one valuable lesson from Archie.

A little background first: You'd think that, after thousands of stories spanning almost sixty years, the writers would eventually run out of plots for the comics.

Well, in a way, they do. Usually the changing times fuel quite a few plots (you couldn't write a story about Archie and the Internet back in 1957, for example), and lately they've created a few new characters (Sassy Thrasher, to name one), but every now and then the writers just get stumped. What happens then?

It turns out that they have a technique for when that happens. When a writer can't think up a story, he simply takes any two characters who don't normally hang out with each other - say, Veronica and Jughead - and puts them together. The unlikely association invariably churns up something from the depths of the imagination.

Admit it - the notion of Veronica and Jughead being involved in the same story is a curious idea. What would each of them have to do with the other? How does each of them react to the situation? How and why does Archie show up in the episode, if he ever does in the first place?

Questions that inspire answers that inspire questions that inspire answers.

Imagination has an odd habit of tying any two things together, I suppose. What results is usually some sort of creative plot handling. You can have a finite number of concepts, yes, but if you start working with combinations of those concepts, then the number of possibilities become well-nigh infinite.

Very, very nice method.

Very, very nice.


There are a few publications floating around that are essentially predecessors to hardcore reading; that is to say, these books induce people to read in copious amounts. My sister would probably testify that the Sweet Valley Twins series is one of these, but I'm inclined to point out the old Choose Your Own Adventure series, as well as the Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew books.

Of these publications, the Archie Comics series is probably the only one that spans the generational gap. I read them, my parents and elders read them, and chances are good that if I ever settle down and have a few kids, then they're going to be reading them as well. Nevertheless, although I believe that every reader out there is bound to have been enchanted by Archie comics at some point in their lives, the books do start to get corny if you read them for too long.

That's not a bad thing, though. In fact, that's the whole point. Archie comics (and its counterparts) get you fixated on a reading habit. It's a little like smoking in that, if you stop reading, you'll probably end up looking for something that can replace them. At the point where you think you've outgrown Dan DeCarlo, Edward Packard or Carolyn Keene, that's when you start exploring J.K. Rowling, Sidney Sheldon, or Judith McNaught. Take it a little farther, and you're in J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Crichton, and Danielle Steele territory.*

Admit it, everyone. You owe your reading habits to these books.

That is, even if they do seem corny now that you've grown up.

* Yes, Ankh-Morpork fans, Terry Pratchett's in there somewhere, too. It's just that he defies categorization for me. If all the authors in the world ran a circus together, then Pratchett would be the guy with the accordion and the monkey. Not that I have anything against accordions, mind you. I just say this because monkeys are creepy.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Heading Up

Yup, it took me this long to recover.

And to think I'm heading back to the gym tonight.


Moving on...

Finally, the local Oliver's Super Sandwiches has updated its reading material. Among the selections is an issue of Time Magazine whose main articles involve the rebirth of cultural Shanghai and the media partisanship of the recent US elections. Among the topics covered by the latter feature: The use of blogs as a means of political promotion and argument.

It appears that the notion of blogging has gotten a lot more respect as of late. The more popular blogs, I must point out, pull in thousands of readers. The writers of such blogs therefore usually find themselves in a position that influences a significant part of the Internet population. I wouldn't be surprised if I found that they devote good time and effort towards raising or maintaining the quality of their articles as a result.

In the end, we're all happy. The crowds get some quality articles to read, the writers get the attention they so sorely crave, and the general media gets an informal forum discussing current events and points of view.

It's odd, seeing how a concept that's little more than an online journal can be elevated into one of the great motivators for both personal opinion and social awareness.

But that's good, right?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

It Only Hurts When I Type

Still aching from my recent visit to the gym.

I haven't done any serious exercise in four years, so I suppose it stands to reason that I've accumulated a ton of flab, and that some of the unused muscle groups have atrophied in that period of time.

And to think that I've got three more months of this. I'd better look good when everything's over.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Cinderella Story

It was a veritable Cinderella story.

Young student and her mom travel from Manila to Brisbane for an international scholastic competition. Along the way, they get absolutely no support from the Philippine government, and they get robbed of their passports and money by a fellow Filipino. Despite facing these and other potentially overwhelming circumstances, she wins the competition over stronger opponents from more-developed countries, and returns home tired but happy.

Events like these aren't kept secret for long, of course. What little fanfare she receives eventually becomes a significant torrent of public attention. Readers across the nation celebrate her victory. Well-wishers send their congratulations. Representatives slam the government's indifference towards their ordeal.

Indeed, it was a veritable Cinderella story.

But then, as with all Cinderella stories, the clock finally struck midnight.

Last week, Faye San Juan and her mother admitted that the entire story was untrue. There was no victory. There was no scholastic competition. There was no trip to Brisbane, and there was no person who stole their documents and money. The only thing that was true was that there was no government support - and naturally, that was because the contest and its representation did not exist.

Why would they do such a thing? Why would they lie to a public that revels in any success of the Philippines against the rest of the world?

"We lied because no one loved us," they said.

Many reasons told in a long litany of sobs. Faye's father leaving them for another woman, and the depression that followed. They felt they had to do something that got peoples' attention. They felt that they had to do something that would get back at him for what he did.

So they made up a story. A Cinderella story. A story where dreams came true, even for a little while.



I don't presume to pass judgement on them, and I'll be damned if I do so right now. I'm neither judge, jury, executioner, nor handsome Prince Charming. I'm just a writer.

Earlier today, alongside the news of the hoax, I received word that the Ateneo de Manila University team just bagged second place in the recently-concluded ACM ICTC Regionals.

I had a bit of a personal stake in this, as did a lot of other Computer Science alumni. The department asked us for donations that would send the team to the contest, after all. And, up until the dying moments of the contest, it was almost certain that we were going to come home empty-handed.

So why am I not happy that we won?

Because it was a long shot. It was one of the longest of long shots. It was a story where the underdog won. It was a story where the seeming losers became winners.

In other words, it was an almost perfect Cinderella story.

Sitting in the darkness in front of a glowing monitor, I wonder how much I really know about everything.

Who was on the team that took second place? I don't know.

What does ACM ICTC stand for? I don't know.

What was the contest about? I don't know.


I don't know anything about them. I don't know anything about what they did, and I don't know anything about how they won.

All I know is that they won second place, and that it was the unlikeliest of victories.

All I knew was that Faye San Juan won an international scholastic competition, and that it was against overwhelming odds.

How can I trust what they tell me now?

All I can think of now are the Cinderella stories... the ones where the dreams come true, right up until the clock strikes midnight, and the last glass slipper falls.

With all this in mind, I offer my congratulations and best wishes to the Ateneo team. I marvel at their achievement, and I smile when I tell people the good news.

I only wish that I can be more sincere about it.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Vonnegut-Dangerfield Scenario

One of my favorite anecdotes involves American novelist Kurt Vonnegut and American stand-up comic Rodney Dangerfield. It outlines one of the first lessons I learned about writing and literary criticism, and it came from a very unexpected source.

You see, Rodney Dangerfield once starred in this 1980s movie called "Back to School". There, he played Thornton Melon, a grown-up rich kid who decides to return to college in order to get the degree that he missed the first time he was there. Early on in the movie, Thornton thinks that, just because he's rich, he can breeze through everything with minimal effort.

Assigned to write a paper on Kurt Vonnegut, Thornton takes the easy way out and hires Kurt Vonnegut himself to write the paper.

The next thing we know, Thornton's teacher is handing back the paper, and it's got a huge "F" scribbled in the margin. "Whoever wrote this paper," she declares to a surprised Thornton, "knew absolutely nothing about Kurt Vonnegut."


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

One More Flip of the Coin

Oh, irony, irony, irony.

After extolling the virtues of extensive preparation for writing a short story (namely, six installments of "The Writing Process"), I plan out and write one in less than 30 minutes and get rave reviews from a little circle of novice writers.

I'd be happy right now if it weren't for the fact that I'm puzzled as to what went right. A hastily-written short story isn't supposed to be all that good, especially when I'm the one writing it.

Add to that the fact that I was supposed to write a sex scene into the short story (something that I've never done before), and I find myself really wondering about what went right.

Short story follows. Post your comments if you will. I need them.





"You all right?"


Long silence. Soft movement.

"We don't do it much anymore, do we?"



Sharp breath. "Why not?"

"I don't know. Are you seeing someone else?"

"No. Are you seeing someone else?"

Gentle probing. "Not really."

Fast breaths.

"You didn't... say no."

"I didn't?"

"You said, 'not really'."

Lips to neck. Skin against skin. "Yeah. So."

"So what?"

"So... I asked her already."

Stop. Pregnant pause.


Slow motion. "Yeah. Seriously."

"She said yes?"

"She said yes."

"Oh, God."


Long silence.

"I, ah..."


Thought. Glance into each others' eyes.

"Oh, God."

"Yeah, well..."

"God. I... I... I think..."


"It's not... the same. Not... anymore."

Rustle of cloth.

"Look, I'm sorry."

Rumpled shirt against naked breasts. "Don't be."

"It's just that, you know..."


Hands through sleeves.

"I... I don't know."

Gentle smile. "It was fun while it lasted."


Forlorn expression. Hand caresses the cheek.

"I won't forget."

Long sigh. "Yeah."



Frozen. Shoes half-picked up. "No."


"It'll never work."

Head nods. Understanding smile.

Lightest of kisses.

"I'll be seeing you."


"Maybe in our dreams."


Light from the open door. Slender form silhouetted in light and shadow.

One last look before the light goes out.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004


n. Outlying darkness.

From the Late Latin ob- ("in front"), from the Latin ob- ("dusk"); and the Latin -tenebrae ("darkness").

Thought Process

Been trolling around quite a few blogs on the Net lately (Work? What's that?), and I've noticed quite a few things.

First off, I have no idea what the word "troll" (the verb) means. I use it under a context that implies aimless wandering, but I suspect that it has a more negative meaning associated with the use of the term "troll" in internet chatrooms and discussion forums.

Interestingly enough, "Deck the Halls" has a single line that goes "Troll the ancient Yuletide carol", so maybe it has something to do with singing? I'm not really sure about that.

I know I have a slight reputation either for using words in the wrong context, or for making up words entirely from scratch, so it's definitely not beyond me to use "troll" in an incorrect manner. I'd look it up, only I'm a little lazy at the moment.

Second, most of the blogs I've read recently seem to be full of angst. Admittedly, it's difficult for me to define angst, but for the moment I can tell you that it's a pent-up emotional response to unexpressed rage, despair, or simply life in general. You generally know it when you see it.

I would say that blogs are therapeutic in this way if it weren't for the fact that I'm not exactly sure if it's healthy to release angst. I'm sure that it's definitely not healthy for any of the listeners, though - too much exposure to angst will have you questioning your own life and happiness.

Come to think of it, writing one's thoughts down might not be the best thing to do when one is feeling particularly angsty. Sooner or later - presumably once you've recovered - you're bound to read them again, and when that happens... bam, you're full of angst again. Better to write them down on paper and then burn the paper.

I'm not feeling lazy anymore, so I guess I'll look up "troll" now.



...I guess I was right on both sides. It legitimately means both "to sing loudly" and "to move around".

It appears that, if you go around making up new meanings for words, you're probably going to get something correct sooner or later.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Antaria: Profile: Gallos

Gallos, Grandmaster of the Masquers

Gallos is only the third person to wear the mantle of the Masquer Grandmaster, and is perhaps the most mysterious of all influential personages in Antaria.

As with all Masquer Grandmasters, he was secretly chosen for the position by his predecessor, the ineffectual Hyde Pathwarden. Upon Pathwarden's death, the Masquer Court of Truth and Lies was surprised by the arrival of an unknown young man claiming the leader's legacy.

Gallos wore a mask then... he continues wearing masks even now, almost twenty years after his ascension. Some claim that he wears them for days at a time; No one has claimed to know what his face looks like underneath.

Despite the mystery surrounding Gallos and his masks, none can dispute the fact that he is one of the greater leaders of contemporary times. A veritable storehouse of secrets lies at his disposal, brought to him by a network of spies and information-gatherers. Gallos does not merely hold massive amounts of influence; He knows when to use it, where to use it, and exactly how much of it to use. Gallos is well aware that the stability of the continent depends on a balance of internal politics, and is not above reprimanding even Masquers who play their games in too rough a fashion.

The Masquers themselves may be illusionists and deceivers, but Gallos's political arsenal goes far beyond mere secrets and lies. He may be quite literally the most dangerous man on the continent.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Antaria: The Masquers

The Masquers are the youngest of the mage classes in Antaria. Their domain lies in illusion and deception, and many an unsuspecting, unfortunate person has found themselves the focus of their complex plots. While the Masquers would normally be reviled for such doings, however, they have found a fine niche in Antarian society by offering their services to those willing to accept them.

Illusion, after all, exists to fool the common observer... and what better use for the Masquer magics than to enhance beauty? As a result, the vast majority of handsome nobles and attactive heiresses owe much to the illusionists. In addition, deception has its own uses... because of their mastery of face and feature, the Masquers have the ability to infiltrate virtually every house, every palace, and every guild in Antaria.

The Masquers have consequently amassed large amounts of inside knowledge in such a small amount of time, and adding to this are the many favors they carry with most or all of the high-ranked personages who care to keep up their appearances. Few trust them for their deception, and yet many come to them for their wanton needs. It is an irony that the Masquers revel in.

Deep inside the Masquers' private courts, falsehood is only part of the great game that they play. Despite their skill with illusion, the one other thing that the Masquers truly understand is how to shatter resolve and part the veils... for they find the true self to be delicious indeed.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Disclaimer: November 2004

Another month, another disclaimer. This is kind of fun, in a way. You get to cut loose and come up with the most creative threats you can manage. In a way, it's like the Bush-Kerry debates. :)

This site chronicles the concepts, musings and wastebasket rakings of Sean Uy. All items here are entirely original except where noted. By reading through this weblog, you agree not to claim any items from this site as yours. In return, Sean agrees to give credit where credit is due, and to remove any offensive or derogatory content from the site upon submission of valid argument via e-mail.

If you are found to believe otherwise, you get to meet my lawyer. Believe me, you don't want to meet my lawyer. Your lawyer may wear glasses and have a nice briefcase, but my lawyer is bald, sounds a lot like Mike Myers, and only just recently made a clone of himself, which he shall call... ... ...Mini-Me.