Thursday, June 30, 2005

Snatch the Pebble From My Hand, Grasshopper

"Spinning Backfist!"

"Eight Shining Palms of Doom!"

"Black Crane Style Drunken Kinokuji Pressure Kick!"

There is probably little or no logic associated with making up names for imaginary martial arts moves, so I don't think I can accurately explain the urge. It's fun, though. :)

We get our "martial arts fix" in strange ways: The local channels used to have Kung Fu Theater serials that still occasionally appear in reruns. A number of independent schools teach martial arts classes to paying students. Virtually every fighting game in the arcades involves disciplined combat in some form or method. There is even an entire category of animé that is devoted to martial arts, serious or otherwise.

And if you're still skeptical about the degree to which the "chop-socky" has pervaded the public consciousness, I can always start naming movies: The Matrix. Kill Bill. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. House of Flying Daggers. Batman Begins. Daredevil. Elektra. Blade. Bulletproof Monk. Lethal Weapon 4. Perhaps even Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. Heck, we've been running into martial arts movies ever since somebody picked a fight with people like Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris on camera.

Even if we don't directly engage ourselves in the martial arts, we still reserve a sense of admiration for those who do. This is why kids emulate Dragonball Z's "KAMEHAMEHAAA!", why we have irresistible urges to kick offensive guys in the crotch, and why we still run into weird people who declare "Back off, man! I know karate!" when threatened.

As with all things that catch our fancy long enough for us to put a "cool" label on them, the martial arts have become something of an urban legend to many people. From the point of view of many non-fighters (including me, for that matter), these collective martial arts are all about the punches, the kicks, the "special moves", and the weird-sounding names that take longer to announce than to execute.

I remember God of Cookery, a cooking-and-martial-arts farcical comedy that had names like "Ten Thousand Buddhas Jumping Over Wall!" (Yes, the exclamation point at the end was important.) For that matter, the Deadlands: Doomtown collectible card game also had a kung-fu action called "Step Back to Ward Off Monkey" (which is an actual martial arts move, but it sounds like somebody just made it up, doesn't it?).

So would you blame me if I like making up names for imaginary martial arts moves?

"Supreme Lightning Heaven Flying Arrow Nine-Point Prodigious Strike!"

The longer ones seem to feel more satisfying to pull off, for some reason.

Aw, come on. You know you want to try it.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Turning the Worm

Eddie stared in the direction of the light. He could hardly see anymore.

Three years of struggle. Thousands upon thousands of lives spent and lost.

He had been so close.

Now he lay on a cold plate, much as he had done many years before. It had been a lifetime since he had hated. It had been a lifetime since he had killed. It had been a lifetime since he had last breathed words of anger and sedition against the filthy humans who dared to compromise his kind.

The granules of sugar felt warm against his skin, and they wove a sickeningly sweet smell against the warmth of the sunlight.

In a way, Eddie hated himself.

It wasn't for the last of his followers, their bodies now stacked like cordwood behind him. It wasn't for the humans who would finally take their retribution. It was for the fact that he had failed, he had failed, and he had so miserably and utterly failed that he could do nothing but despise his very existence.

There was a subtle shift in the patterns of the light, and with the last of his vision Eddie could see the soft metal spears of the dinner fork. One last image of dull gray metal, and then there was only the loathsome pressure as it stabbed into his skin.

"Die," Eddie said.

And then he was silent.


Back to a discussion on villains, then.

I first discussed the qualities of a good long-term villain in an earlier post. Since then, however, I've wondered about the points of writing villains well, as opposed to merely characterizing them.

It's been said that every story has a hero and a villain. It's even been theorized that the presence of a hero in a story must belie the presence of a villain in that same story, and vice-versa -- in a sense, that we can't have one without the other. All well and good, I suppose, but the problem I have with this line of thinking is that I can't really apply it to any story that has exactly one character.

Suppose that you have a story with only one character, then. Is that character a hero, or is that character a villain?

My guess is that we, as readers, tend to see the solitary character as a hero by default. The supporting cast of a story has two primary purposes: Its members add "color" to a story and prevent it from becoming monotonous, and its members serve as potential sources of conflict for the main character. Remove the supporting cast, and the other elements of the story must take the brunt of the work: The background and scenery have to be interesting enough to hold the reader's attention, and the atmosphere and events have to be significant enough to provide the conflict. Or something like that.

I figure that single-character stories turn into man-versus-nature or man-versus-circumstance scenarios as a result, and in those scenarios, the main character always comes out the hero. Robinson Crusoe was obviously a single-character story for the most part, and it's hard to argue against the fact that we tend to think of Crusoe as the protagonist of his tale.

What I'm getting at, then, is... would it then be possible to write a single-character story that features a villain? You'd almost certainly run into problems there, not the least of which would be the fact that your main character might be considered a hero by default.

Having a reader consider one of your best villains to contain admirable qualities is somehow not something that I would go for. Maybe in a different stage of writing evolution, I suppose, but not here. Not yet.

I think that hatred and contempt should earn their keep in this case. Even if a story features only a single character, that still doesn't change the fact that we're reading the story, and that we're judging the character appropriately. If we hate the character enough, then we would consider him a villain, regardless of how much of a hero the story may portray him in relation to his environment. (Don't get me started on anti-heroes, though. They muck up the math.)

In a sense, this is really where the villain's callous disregard for certain concerns would come into effect. Tearing down the moral attitude of a main character brings him lower in our opinion. After all, what would we have thought of Robinson Crusoe if he killed animals for sport, notched a scar on his left arm for every day he spent on the island, and burned trees just to look at the pretty red-and-orange colors?

I mean, we'd probably wonder if he even deserved to be rescued.

Hmmm. That's interesting... we would probably wonder if he deserved to be rescued, wouldn't we?

Now that I think about it, running on pure callous disregard might not be the best way to execute a "villain story" -- because it appears to rob us of our motivation to read. Man-versus-nature stories usually provide us with a story of man dealing with difficult odds, and we read those because of the standing hope that the main character will survive. Replace that main character with an arrogant snot who doesn't deserve anything good to begin with, and what motivation do we have left?

I would guess, then, that there is only a single reason as to why we should read single-villain stories: Insight.

Spotlighting a villain in a single-character story gives us a rare opportunity, I think. We get the chance to see what an antagonist does, what an antagonist says, and what an antagonist thinks in a situation where he's all by his lonesome self. In such a story, we actually let a villain move around, chew the scenery and act like he darn well wants because we want to find out what makes him tick. It's much like watching a tiger ravaging a piece of meat at the zoo.

There's your single-villain story right there, then. It's quite a piece of work, getting into his twisted mind and letting him do what he wants within the confines of his own tale. The best part, I think, is that each reader gets to see exactly why the villain happens to be the villain, all technically without the actual presence of a hero who was supposed to imply his very existence in the first place.

I wonder what Eddie would think about that.

Poor Eddie, for that matter. He did try his best to be a good villain, after all.

The suman and the hare
The suman in the marketplace
The suman and the tape

(More links coming up soon, I hope. Looks like most people don't find suman latik as tasty anymore.)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Moving Left, Moving Right

Stuff I did in one hour's worth of the 2005 Philippine Toys and Collectibles convention:

...Stood in the middle of a long line for the privilege of buying a fifty-peso ticket.

...Stepped into the gaping maw formed by massive crowds.

...Bought a copy of Jonas Diego's A Girl's Story from the man himself. Discussed the work's presentation and impact.

...Met Gerry Alanguilan. Talked about Star Trek: Enterprise. Noted that the networks probably won't resist putting another Trek series on the air eventually.

...Did the "What is it, boy? Timmy's in the well?" joke. I swear that that thing never gets old.

...Bought a copy of Oliver Palumbarit's Lexy, Nance and Argus: Sex, Gods, Rock & Roll. Wondered who recommended the book to me.

...Said hello to Camy. Met Elbert personally for the first time. Wondered whether or not he was really an amorphous liquid-metal construct sent from the future to kill me.

...Met up with Freddy Tan of Neutral Grounds. Accepted an offer to run the July 2 L5R tournament.

...Watched two cute goth girls walk around and look at stuff. (That's not to say that the people I hung out with weren't cute, of course. Especially Jonas. He looked so nice in his shorts.)

...Explained the history of the HarperPrism Magic: the Gathering novels to a random passer-by. Sold him one. (Yeah, I'm that good. Fear my mad skillz, baby.)

...Absorbed about sixteen of Cathy's punches in the right shoulder. Did I mention that she's competing in the Slimmers World Olympic Events? Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.

...Explained to Jonas why a number of our mutual acquaintances weren't around. Fate does some strange things sometimes.

...Used my trademarked expression of woeful disdain for a convenient photograph.

...Marvelled at the number of casual acquaintances I had: Francis. Ronan. Giselle. Ariel.

...Noted the number of casual acquaintances I met: Jerald. Raipo. Benedict.

...Found out what Cathy was planning to make for her next cosplay. Wondered exactly how she was going to pull it off.

...Stepped into the gaping maw formed by massive crowds again. Realized that I am such a sucker for punishment sometimes.

...Stared at Siklab Publications' strangely-animated character roster.

...Noted sheer number of bootleg animated movies on sale. Hoped that the Video Regulatory Board wouldn't drop by.

...Wondered at the number of people carrying old copies of Seeker magazine. I thought it was dead already, honest.

...Misheard conversation; Thought that Carlo Vergara worked for a "game magazine" when it was really a "gay magazine".

...Remembered David. Doubted as to whether or not he would be around.

...Met up with Lei. Thanked her for the nice argument. Expressed optimism towards having other arguments in the future.

And that's it. If think you can do better than that, then you're welcome to drop by the next one. :)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Death of the Idea

Fate seems to be conspiring against my posts again. (That's good news for Blogger, who'll be happy to know that it's not their fault this time.) Last night was of the dark and stormy persuasion, you see, and a power failure conveniently interrupted my newest post around the six-hundred-word mark.

Not that it bothered me then; Blogger's autosave feature probably saved my first draft. So when the second power failure hit -- right when I had opened the editing window once again -- I had to invent some new swearwords to describe the experience.

At the moment, I'm trying to decide whether such a situation would be more problematic for spontaneous posts, or for outlined posts. Every time I lose a spontaneous post, I obviously have no notes with which to reconstruct it. But on the other hand, every time I lose an outlined post, I can never get myself to write it again because I feel that I've already said what I wanted to say. It's much like repeating a joke to somebody who didn't hear it the first time.

Maybe I just don't like losing posts, period.

Up till I ran into Clair and JM in Powerbooks this afternoon, I was considering an in-depth discussion on the politics of picking one's nose. In my haste to find topics of conversation, though, I seemed to have let that one loose. Now I can't write about it anymore.

That's not to say that I don't think people will read an essay about picking one's nose; I figure that readers are inevitably drawn to unexpected topics, and nose-shoveling certainly qualifies in that regard. By giving the topic away too early, though, I lost the initial impact that would have motivated me to write the post to begin with.

I hear that a lot of ideas die like that. There is actually a common writer's standard that states that one should never give away an idea before its execution. Doing so would affect its initial impact, which is really what a revolutionary concept needs to fuel its way into the world.

In short, pop a balloon and you get an immediate reaction; Watch the air squeal out of a small hole, and you get a very, very boring two minutes.

Then again, who would want to read a blog post on the art of nose-picking, anyway? Aside from the morbidly curious, of course.

Or maybe everyone out there is of the morbidly curious persuasion. That could be why you read blogs, to begin with.

Now, if only this post could just get past the publishing stage...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Vanity, Thy Name is... Me

I've known that the 2005 Philippine Blog Awards were accepting nominations for a while now, but the prospect of visiting their site only came about after a quick peek at Anton's blog. (He's been nominated already, folks. Applause, please.)

I came upon a very sparse web site, heavy on the gray-whites and gray-blacks. Their About Us area didn't give me any information other than what was already obvious, which left me wondering who these people were and what they wanted with all these blogs. A strange image of short, big-eyed, gray-skinned aliens popped into my head, and in the corners of my mind they were reading our online works, analyzing the logic of human thought and prose that was present within.

At least that scenario gave me a better impression than the Philippine Webby Awards, which really needs a bit of an overhaul when it comes to stylistic and cognitive judgement. But I run the risk of lapsing into worthless commentary if I talk about that, so we'll just move on, shall we?

I found their submission form quite easily, although I grimaced at some of the more glaring grammatical errors. Didn't these people check the text, at least? But before I could begin my mental tirade, that was when it hit me -- I could nominate my own blog! I figured I could stand a good chance against some of the other nominees, so why couldn't I just put up my site for consideration?

Vanity, that's why. Pride happens to be one of the seven deadly sins, after all.

For a moment, I considered the moral dilemma of placing my own nomination. On the one hand, I don't like the prospect of tooting my own horn; I would rather find ways to improve until I hit a point where people can't help but take notice. On the other hand, there was the possibility of fame, fortune and perhaps a boatload of loose women if I only had the guts to take the first step.

To heck with it. I punched in my entry, and gleefully hit the "Submit" button.

The screen went blank. What in Hitchcock's name...?

I reloaded the page and went exploring a bit. Nothing seemed wrong; The connection was still there. The browser seemed to be working fine... except that it looked like my entry hadn't been submitted.

I figured that the best thing to do was to dump an experimental subject into the entry form first. So I grabbed the address to Dominique Cimafranca's blog, wrote up a short description, and jammed it into the submission form. If the stupid thing was going to lose another of my submissions, then it wasn't going to lose the one pertaining to my blog. My personal writing was too valuable to waste.

This one submitted just fine. I scratched my head.

It was just as well, though. At least I knew it was working. I filled in the entry for my site again and hit "Submit".

The screen cleared. I cursed.

Maybe the site decided to blacklist me for some reason. Maybe there was something wrong with the browser. Maybe the computer just didn't like me.

I grabbed the next nearest guinea pig on hand and started typing it in. Clair Ching's blog. Yeah. That was a winner. And a good test subject.

It submitted fine, just as Dominique's had before it. Aaarrgh! What did Clair Ching have that I didn't? Well, sure, she had a bigger fanbase and a dog named Panda, but still...

Oh, wait... maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was trying to enter my subliminal codes warning others of the impending alien invasion? Maybe the grays were looking at my blog right then, shaking their collective heads at the tenacity of the insignificant human who was crawling before them. If that was the case, then perhaps it was best that I look like an innocent subject to them first.

I handed in the entry. It submitted just fine.

I considered trying another test subject, but I finally decided that Jonas Diego gets too many visitors as it is. Somebody's probably going to nominate him, sooner or later.

And so I just sat there, inspecting every nook and cranny of the Awards site, wondering why they didn't just give the award to The Sassy Lawyer and write everything else off. Who was going to do the judging? Was there really a package of fame, fortune and boatload of loose women that awaited the winner? What were the gray aliens' real plans for our doomed little planet?

Then I noticed that somebody had left a bottle of pickles in the fridge. Pickles! I love pickles!

Fortunately (munch), I hadn't (munch) shut off the computer (munch munch) yet. And that (munch) is why I'm writing (munch munch) this entry (munch) right now. (Munch munch munch)

Darn stupid aliens.

Monday, June 20, 2005


As a writer, I've been around the block. I built a reputation on science fiction and whimsical writing back in high school, progressed to suspense and speculative fiction around my college years, and am now running on fantasy literature and metaphorical drama.

Throughout those fourteen years, however, I've discovered that the Mystery genre is a specific Achilles' heel of mine. I've tried penning more than a few short stories along that line, but I almost always never seem to finish them. The ones that I do actually finish don't sit well with me, and the few people who get to sneak them out of my private files haven't been holding back in their criticism either.

All in all, I find it strangely appropriate that the Mystery genre remains a mystery to me.

That, I suppose, only makes it all the more opportune for me to give it another try. I've had a number of observations regarding the genre in the meantime, and I think that I've got a solid enough foundation for another story.

With that said and done, I might as well put down what I have on mysteries to begin with. Hopefully the more established writers may be able to correct me on these assumptions, or maybe I'll simply be able to complete the story and then return to these original observations to see what went right and what went wrong.

1. Edible Length
The first mystery I ever wrote was for my high school publication (or failing that, our annual literary magazine), and got a prompt rejection notice from both entities. The reason? Overly tedious length. The finished product was twenty-three pages long, an incredible achievement in our days of short attention spans.

This really illustrates a fundamental problem with mysteries. Mysteries are a literal compilation of analyses. They have to present the following, all in a single story:

A. The crime itself
B. The circumstances surrounding the crime (i.e. observational and forensic evidence)
C. The discussion of circumstances (i.e. forensic analysis)
D. The enumeration of suspects
E. The introduction and character development per suspect (enough for us to see them as suspects, I suppose)
F. The investigation and its developments
G. The step-by-step revelations
H. The payoff (i.e. resolution)

Stuffing all this into a single piece of writing would obviously defy its classification as a "short" story. Add to that the fact that one needs to build in some personal background events that may or may not have anything to do with the mystery itself, and things get even more complicated. At a glance, there are simply too many elements to work in.

I must point out, however, that the show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation does not only manage to pull all this off within a one-hour timeslot, but somehow manages to present two or even three cases as well. Because the show focuses on the investigators more than it focuses on its cases, though, I must admit that it does leave out the D and E elements, and sometimes even A.

My current option (apart from bluntly keeping the story from exceeding a given length) is to serialize things somehow. Splitting up the tale into three or four parts, for example, should be able to contain the length problem and provide for better cliffhangers and a more significant payoff. The problem with serialization is that I'd have to work from a distinct outline and carry enough patience and interest to see the whole thing through.

2. No Noirspeak
If you're wondering what Noirspeak is, it's the brilliant, almost hypnotic use of language that we read in pulp detective thrillers. Here's an example:

I had been stalking the bluebottle fly for five minutes, waiting for him to sit down. He didn't want to sit down. He just wanted to do wing-overs and sing the prologue to Pagliacci. I had the fly swatter poised in midair and I was all set. There was a patch of bright sunlight on the corner of the desk and I knew that sooner or later that was where he was going to light. But when he did, I didn't even see him at first. The buzzing stopped and there he was. And then the phone rang.
- Raymond Chandler, The Little Sister

I think that this short passage should give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Noirspeak, you see, has the ability to compress an entire scene description (features, background, atmosphere, and so forth) into single paragraphs, and takes us inside the speaker's mind as an added bonus. It tends to be heavy on the analogy, and inevitably crosses into deadpan humor at all the right moments. Noirspeak is close to an integral part of any detective thriller story.

To put it bluntly, I'm terrible with Noirspeak.

Yet that hasn't stopped me from bringing my clichéd mangling of detective language to pen and paper in the last fourteen years.

In hindsight, detective thrillers don't comprise the whole of mystery literature. You don't always have to set a noir atmosphere with a hard-boiled protagonist, after all. Because of this and my earlier hackneyed efforts at the language, I plan to cut out the Noirspeak entirely for my current efforts. If Lillian Jackson Braun can do it, I suppose that I can, too.

3. Modern Methods
Unfortunately for the classic detective, it's not quite the 1950s anymore. The police no longer simply turn up a dead body and wonder what to do with it; They've got fingerprint databases, DNA evidence, and ballistics testing that they can use to figure out the killer's identity.

So, in a world with these kinds of advancements, where should a mystery story's protagonist stand? Private detectives themselves comprise a dying profession. And not many characters outside the police would find themselves in positions where they can get their hands on key evidence.

The protagonist's profession would have to be somehow more subtle, I think. Maybe an overly curious mortician who gets his customer base from the nearby police station. Maybe a prosecuting attorney who figures that he can get more from his own personal investigations than the local law enforcement can. Maybe a janitor who has a remarkable penchant for cases that his bosses can't find out about. There's plenty of fodder there, just as long as the final product makes sure to take this new-fangled modern scenario into account.

4. Baggage Handling
For that matter, mystery fiction has a lot of history trailing behind it. The genre literally dates back to Edgar Allan Poe and the 19th century, and has Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie attached even if we don't get to such "luminaries" as Humphrey Bogart and Perry Mason. Too many people have left their mark on mystery, which makes the contemporary writer's job much, much more difficult.

I think that most readers nowadays have a certain view of mystery fiction: The local police can never get all their facts straight. The woman who walks in the door always has legs "up to here." The crime scene always houses epithelials that can be made to match the perpetrator. Heck, there's always a loophole in a suspect's story that kids like Encyclopedia Brown can always find.

To be optimistic, all this baggage means that there's plenty of room for innovation. The problem involves how to catch everything and come out with something brand spanking new. It's difficult to confound peoples' expectations of "another Sam Spade" or "another CSI", and any similar opinion raised against the final story will imply that it may be a failure in terms of this innovation.

But there you have it, ladies and gentlemen -- some initial observations regarding the genre before I pull up the lapels of my trenchcoat, doff my fedora and go walking in the rain. I suppose that no one ever said that writing was easy.

Additional insights, of course, will be well appreciated at this point. Eventually, though, I'll have to go it alone; in a sleazy, overweight city where the bars are open till noon and where a fistful of bills in the right places can get a man all the friends he wants. It may be a quiet city, but under the cover of darkness God shuts his eyes and grants every man, woman and child absolution for all the sins in the world.

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Resurrection of Dame Elemen

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

If you have no idea what this is all about, this previous blog post might explain things a little.

Images are the property of Blizzard Entertainment, and are used here for the purpose of satire only. The author of this piece is willing to negotiate regarding any issues that Blizzard may raise regarding this work. Don't sue me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

...And Demons, Too!

Hey-hey, it's Wednesday again.

Let's not mince words, shall we? Wednesday has become a regular ritual as of late:

Yes, it's the obligatory suman latik post once again - a testament to the power of making vaguely readable posts out of the most mundane topics.

The Suman Latik webring appears to have grown significantly since Clair and Kel's original joke. At the moment, there are now at least a dozen individuals committed to making suman latik palatable for their readers.

However, writing about suman latik in the face of a dozen other bloggers isn't easy. With numbers like that, the odds are high that any two writers will coincidentially come up with the same concept and execution. And believe me, there's nothing more irritating to a writer than having one's readership diluted by a totally independent yet remarkably similar work.

I suppose that the Suman Latik writers shouldn't really be blamed if they have to reach far for ideas. I mean, I've incorporated suman latik into treatises on webcomics, literary villains, and those funny little slogans printed on t-shirts. Fact was, prior to this little piece of writing, I was considering a short discussion on the link between suman latik and Chinese superstition.

Yes, there's a clear, although unsteady, link there. You see, a lot of superstitious practices in Chinese culture involve the process of driving evil spirits away. That's why the Chinese ascribe pseudo-religious traditions to things like fireworks, wind chimes and cremation, after all.

The Chinese do worry about supernatural forces beyond mere evil spirits, though. You still had to contend with strange Chinese demons of all shapes and sizes, although fortunately, their habits were about as strange as the evil spirits'.

So what do Chinese demons have to do with suman latik? Well, Chinese demons were feared along the level of vampires and werewolves in Western superstition, and in a similar vein, there were certain items or measures that were anathema to each. Vampires had sunlight and the stake-in-the-heart routine. Werewolves had silver bullets.

Chinese demons, on the other hand, had rice. Not that they didn't like rice, mind you. Chinese demons liked rice about as much as the average Chinese. The distinction, however, lay in the fact that demons were very meticulous creatures who couldn't stand to waste a single grain.

This led to the practice of medieval Chinese peasants carrying around a small amount of rice in their pockets whenever they went out alone in the evening. In the event that they suddenly found themselves being chased by a demon, they would just have to pull out the rice and scatter it along the side of the path. The Chinese demon, finicky as he was, would be forced to stop and count each and every lost grain, allowing the fortunate peasant to reach home safely.

Suman latik enters into the picture once you realize that it's a dish made out of boiled rice grains. What, then, would theoretically happen if you threw away a piece of suman instead of the handful of rice grains the demon had to count? Would the demon end up taking the little piece of suman apart, grain by grain? Would it pop the sticky food into its mouth for a taste? Would it simply count "one", and then proceed to eat you?

As you can see, those suman latik topics can't all be gems. But that should really stand as an example of how far we suman latik writers can reach.

I know that I've got a lot more of these ideas in my rejected pile: Suman latik and green cheese. Suman latik and the 1995 Salvatore Ferragamo collection. Suman latik and the Book of Revelations in the Bible. I'm personally thankful that I haven't found these things interesting enough to post. They're non-self-sufficient ideas and nothing more.

Now, writing about writing about suman latik... that's a topic that could go on for about six hundred words or so.

Amazing how far a single joke can get. I could almost swear that the joke's now on us.

Speaking of which, what happens if the piece of suman you throw to a Chinese demon is still encased in its banana-leaf wrapper? Would the demon stop to unwrap it? Would it scrabble at it, counting each and every fold of the leaf before proceeding to disassemble the rice grains within? Would it simply count "one", and then proceed to eat you?

Personally, I get the funny feeling that it's the latter. Chinese demons are notoriously good at math, I hear.

Not Jonas
Not Clair
Not Iris
Not the Captain
Not Dean
Not Elias
Not Dominique
Not Kel
Not Banzai Cat
Not Jac
Not Sky
Not the Geekette
Not Anton
Not Kat

Monday, June 13, 2005

Fiction: Body Parts

Wednesday already. Christ.

A week since she left him.

How long had it been since he had last gone to work? Five days? Six? Ten? God, the boss was going to mouth off. Not that he really cared, though.

There was a bloody spot under his right armpit. He dabbed at it in front of the full-length mirror.

It was bleeding, all right. God, he was bleeding like a stuck pig.

He fiddled around the medicine cabinet for a few minutes. She was the one who organized everything, even the stuff that he didn't want organized at all. Times like these, he missed her.

No he didn't. She was a bitch. A real bitch.

Bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch, he thought, as he bit off one end of the bandages wrapped around his shoulder.


He spent Thursday morning watching TV. Cookie Monster was on Sesame Street, singing that cookies were a "sometimes food". Mr. Rogers was asking him to be his neighbor, even though he knew, everybody knew, that Mr. Rogers was dead and gone.

He wondered what she was doing, and then snapped his attention back to the TV again. Bitch, he thought.

The wound under his right armpit hadn't stopped bleeding yet. He was going to have to make a run to the store soon. It wasn't as though the bandages were going to last forever.

God, alcohol. He tried alcohol, and all it did was leave him twitching and crying because of the pain. Whatever the wound was, it was wide, and it had a mind of its own.

He had spoiled three shirts already. They were now piled up in the corner, waiting for somebody to bring them down to the laundromat. She used to be the one to do it, until she gave him all that shit about picking up on his own. That was maybe a month ago.

God, and now his left armpit was starting to bleed, too.


He woke up at noon on a Friday, and he found himself curled up on the floor. Fetal position. He used to sleep with his limbs outstretched, splayed spread-eagle on top of his bedsheets. Of course, after yesterday's nap, he couldn't sleep on the blood-soaked sheets anymore.

He was running out of bandages. Damn, damn, damn. It was all the bitch's fault.

No, it was all his fault. She was the one making all the runs to the store.

God, he wasn't going to go anywhere in this condition. His legs were bleeding at the shins, and he didn't know why.

He checked his right arm in the mirror. The wound there had lengthened somehow, and it now encircled the skin from the armpit to the shoulder and back. And everything was still bleeding.

Damn it. He didn't have enough bandages for this. Not anymore.


The arm was already gone come Saturday morning. He didn't know if it had come off during his sleep, or if he had somehow jarred it loose upon waking up.

He left the arm sitting on the floor, pink and healthy and sitting in a small pool of blood. Maybe the bandages were the only thing that kept it on? Something in the back of his mind told him that he needed to call the hospital, but he knew that he hadn't paid the phone bills in three months.

The landlady was downstairs. Maybe he could call her?

No way. He wasn't going to let her see him like this.

It was all that bitch's fault.

If she could only see him now. He laughed a silent laugh, his tongue lolling along the dryness of his lips.

The wound along his left arm had encircled his shoulder. It was only a matter of time before that came loose as well.

It was all that bitch's fault.

He missed her.


Sunday. Sunday used to be their day. Sunday used to be the day when they would just lie in bed and fuck till noon or one or two or three or whenever they felt like it.

He nudged both arms into the corner, pushing their bloody stumps into the pile of shirts. There was going to be hell at the laundromat if he ever made it there.

His legs were bleeding, and it was hard to step around the apartment without being able to balance himself with his hands. He wanted to pee, and he wanted to pee badly, but he wasn't sure whether or not it -- yes, it -- would come off into the toilet.

So he sat there, staring at the blank TV screen. He pushed at one or two of the remote's buttons with his toes but couldn't quite get it turned on. Bitch, he thought.

Soon his attention turned back to the mirror. After a while, he thought it was lots better than the TV, if he liked looking at armless freaks.

He laughed.


He awoke Monday lying flat on his back. He didn't get much sleep once the legs had come off in the middle of the night, around two-thirtyish when he used to come home drunk and stoned out of his mind.

He remembered her crying, and he remembered her throwing things at him.

He wanted to call her a bitch again, but somehow he couldn't find the strength to do so.

The TV was staring at him. The mirror was staring at him. The apartment was staring at him.

He wondered if maybe she was staring at him. She always did, from the day they met to the moment they left.

She, he thought.


By Tuesday morning, he was just a head. Just a forlorn, solitary head.

He shifted a little.

He could see the rest of his body from here: The emaciated torso, which was still taking breaths and growling its hunger at him. The still legs, which swayed back and forth in a rhythm that he didn't remember. The quiet arms, which sat silently in their place among the dirty, bloody clothes.

He blinked once or twice, and then tried a whistle. The whistle died in the air once his neck realized that half its windpipe was gone.

He contented himself by staring at the mirror. He could see nothing there but the top of his hair, which she used to ruffle every night in bed as she stared at him half-asleep.

He leaned, and let his cranium topple to the floor. He rolled a half-roll, coming to a stop as the shape of his nose wouldn't let him go any further.

Now he was staring at the wooden paneling, or at least what was left of it after all the blood had soaked through. He wondered how much he had lost.

He wondered how many bandages he had left.

He wondered -- again -- how much he had lost.

He closed his eyes.

God, he missed her.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Armchair Man

After ten months of blogging, I look back and see that the vast majority of my posts are focused on the aspects of writing. I write about writing, yes, which isn't really surprising once one realizes that most people blog about blogging to begin with.

Oddly enough, Marcelle appears to be curious about my reading habits for some reason. I suppose that this does make sense, though -- if there's anything I've noticed about all writers, it's that reading habits tend to be formative for them. One writes because one reads.

That said, I'm actually not much of a reader. I avoid most popular novels, and don't bother reading a lot of others for fear of affecting my repertoire (this is, at the very least, the reason I give myself). Perhaps I'm just lazy, or stingy, or both.

I get the feeling that I'm more of a web-and-magazine person. I can eviscerate a magazine in less than half an hour nowadays, and my Internet reading list is so extensive that sometimes I wonder how I find the time for work. For that matter, I look at art in the same way that I look at collections of prose, and I gravitate to good art about as much as I gravitate to good writing.

That's not to say that I don't read at all, though. I'm just saying that my reading habits may be radically different from the usual writer's.

Total number of books owned:
Too many to count, actually. I was an avid reader of young adult fiction back in high school, although my collective instincts have notably decreased since then; I now only buy books that I think are worth keeping. Counting novels, nonfiction and the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure collection, I'd say that I have somewhere in the area of two hundred or so. Most of them I've read at least twice, and would probably read again if given the time.

The last book I bought:
Alderac Entertainment's Secrets of the Dragon. This is actually a sourcebook for the Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game (L5R RPG), and my purchase is somewhat ironic because although I do like L5R, I don't play tabletop RPGs very often. What's attractive about L5R RPG sourcebooks, however, is that they describe some very interesting settings as opposed to just giving you a bunch of numbers and stats. That's why I buy and read them.

Otherwise, my most recent paperback purchase was Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay. I'm a huge Terry Pratchett fan, although his books are pretty expensive over here. It's been a while since I bought Feet of Clay, to be honest; I've received a number of books over the past five months as presents in one way or another, and I've been reading those.

That said, there's this nice creative puzzle collection over at Powerbooks that I really want to get my hands on. The problem is that it'll set me back about P800.

The last book I read:
I reread my old books all the time, so I'm going to stretch back a little and guess that the last new book I read was Terry Pratchett's Night Watch. This was a very nice book, in that it deviated from Pratchett's normal satiric style and showed people that he could do a revolutionary drama just as well.

I constantly look up new reading sources over the Internet, however, and that's what keeps me going. My latest fixation there is Scott Kurtz's PVP comic strip, although I'm not reading it in book format.

Five books that mean a lot to me that I really liked:
The Phantom Tollbooth
(Norton Juster) - If I had the power to do so, I'd make sure that every person on earth would read this book. It takes the themes of knowledge and wisdom, and looks at them from a simple, fantastical point of view -- in a story that's simple enough for children to read but mature enough for adults to understand. Plus, readers get to learn what a Dodecahedron looks like, how a single "but" can destroy an entire fortress, and exactly what happens when one eats his own words.
To Kill a Mockingbird
(Harper Lee) - I first met this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel back in freshman year of high school, and a decade has done nothing to diminish the profound respect I have for its story. To Kill a Mockingbird discusses a single principled lawyer's fight against racism in a small Alabama town, only it tells everything from the point of view of that lawyer's young daughter. And as she grows up telling her story, so do we develop our take on the tense situation.
(Terry Pratchett) - I'd be amiss if I left Pratchett out of this list, and Pyramids beat out Moving Pictures and The Thief of Time because it has a more logical storyline. Pratchett gives the theocentric culture of ancient Egypt (mummies and all) his usual humorous spin, and so when the real, serious truth of his story hits you, it leaves your mouth wide open in astonishment. I want to be able to read this entire novel to an audience one day, just to see their reaction.
My Uncle Oswald (Roald Dahl) - Dahl is widely known for his children's stories, so I find it more than a little strange that I have one of his adult books on this list. This, however is about as adult as you can get in a novel: A young college student discovers what is literally the most powerful aphrodisiac in the world (consuming more than the requisite dose might actually kill you with exhaustion!), and hatches an insidious scheme that somehow involves the most famous individuals of the mid-20th century.
Leading with My Chin (Jay Leno) - It's a celebrity autobiography, but it's a celebrity autobiography that gives us a look into the not-so-glamorous side of Hollywood comedy. Leading with My Chin brings us from childhood pranks to failed performances, to weird experiences with celebrity agents, to getting robbed on the way home from work, to a contemporary tenure on The Tonight Show. If it doesn't get you laughing at things, it'll have you reflecting on things; It'll most likely have you doing both.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Stop Looking at My Chest

T-shirt slogans are probably one of the greater ironies of life. How on earth a guy can read the text on the front of a woman's shirt without getting either a slap (or at least, a very withering look) is beyond me.

That's why slogans like "Stop looking at my chest" are so amusing, I think. We go through all that effort to perform some discreet casual reading, just to be reminded of exactly what kind of awkwardness we're wading through. It gets the obvious laugh response out of us.

Personally, I'd like to have a shirt made that reads "Stop looking at MY chest". That would be about enough for five seconds of funny, I think.

T-shirts like these illustrate single-line humor: the ability to make people laugh by compressing the entire joke into a few words of text. This actually seems somewhat common among shirts with slogans. There was this old one, for instance:

I'm with stupid.

Before it closed down, the WB Store used to have a line of shirts that ran on this precept. They would have the picture of one of their characters on the front of each shirt, followed by an appropriate quotation. In fact, I still have a shirt that goes:

(Marvin the Martian)
You're making me angry. Very, very angry.

Shirt slogans come with a ready reference - if you happen to be reading the shirt, then you can safely assume that the person wearing it is obviously present. Any slogan that can accurately reflect its wearer can therefore be immediately funny:

For a toddler:


For a fat man:


For any male person from the college years onwards:


Personally, though, the image of a 90-year-old man wearing a "Stud Muffin" t-shirt feels a lot funnier. And scarier, in a way. *Shudders*

The best one-liner that I've ever seen on a t-shirt, however, was the simple:


If you don't get it, throw in a comment and I'll explain it to you. That's how the joke's supposed to work, after all.

T-shirt slogans are, essentially, gold mines for spontaneous comedy. I once mused out loud that it might be funny to have a t-shirt that reads as follows:


...Is that so much to ask?

Not only would it stun people with the question as to whether it was funny or not, but it would raise the possibility of them dropping by this blog to investigate. Genius!

The two-line setup, however, appears to be somewhat uncommon in t-shirts. The main problem with it, I think, is that a viewer stands a good chance of reading either the front or the back slogan, but not necessarily both. Nevertheless, one can come up with more than a few good lines in this way.

Take my wife, please.

No, really! Please! I'll give you a hundred bucks to take her away!

Single-line shirts are far more common, however, which is a bit of a shame. I kind of like situations that involve both a setup and a punchline.

What I really never see nowadays, however, are the picture-and-line setups. These are the shirts that (usually) have a picture in the front, and a punchline in the back.

I think that the old "Got Milk?" ads had a line of shirts at some point in time. These tended to be fairly simple - they just had the image of a celebrity or famous figure in front sporting a milk mustache, and the line "Got Milk?" printed on the back. Interestingly enough, the "Got Milk?" promotion was so popular that you could recognize the shirt for what it was no matter what side you were looking at.

The real danger with this setup, however, is that there are a lot of shirts that have a picture in front and nothing else. The "Got Milk?" line was popular enough to overcome this, but if anything, t-shirts that use this setup really need a provocative image in front -- something that gets you asking questions:

Now, if you had this image on the front of a shirt, what could you possibly place on the back once you've gotten a viewer's attention? A direct definition would obviously make it clearer to non-Filipino readers, but wouldn't be necessarily funny:

Suman (soo-män): A dish of sticky rice, usually wrapped in banana leaves.

Another possible solution would be to refer to peoples' knowledge that the image in front is a widely-liked Filipino delicacy:

You are getting hungry. Very, very hungry.


Hungry? Eat suman!


Ang sarap ng suman latik! What say you, Dean?

Yet another approach would involve the total logical disconnect. This refers to a concept that a reader cannot immediately relate to the image at hand, and the idea of fusing the two simply triggers a laugh response:

I am NOT a phallic symbol!


The suman shall inherit the earth.

Or even the simple but telling phrase:

Eat me.

A final alternative, of course, would be to simply use the image in order to plug an existing venue, service or organization. For that matter, it could just as easily note:

Proud member of the Suman Latik web ring

Lady Sakura
The Captain
Idiot Savant
Kel Bell
Banzai Cat
The Woman in Red
The Geekette

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


After a particularly evil power surge last Saturday evening, our three-year old modem finally keeled over and died. This was definitely a very remarkable event in a household of three Internet users and one unlimited-usage account. The cries and lamentations started not five minutes after we found it the next morning:

"What do you mean, the modem's busted?"

"I can't connect. Did you forget to pay the Internet bill again?"

"Maybe it's the plug. Check and see if the plug is loose." And so forth.

About an hour later, we finally accepted the fact that the overworked modem was irretrievably kaput, and relegated ourselves to an entire day of cold turkey. (A season's worth of CSI on DVD helped us immensely, though.)

The problem with computer hardware is that its very lifecycle almost certainly involves a lose-lose scenario for me. If I get a component that works perfectly, I have to go through all the trouble of installing it and checking to see if its operation somehow poses a danger to life and limb. If I'm unlucky and get something that conks out after a few uses, I have to spend an entire day complaining to the salesman and getting it replaced, after which I still have to install it.

Frankly, hardware doesn't like me, and I don't like hardware. The hatred is mutual.

Adding to the agony of finding a new modem was the canvassing process. If you've ever bought a computer, then you know what I'm talking about -- you can't just waltz into the first place you see and expect to buy your stuff there. You literally have to slog through multiple dealers and retailers, ask them if they carry the component you're looking for, try to see what the difference is between all the available models, and compare all the prices you can find.

And, since anyone only really buys new hardware every two or three years or so, you can never get a good recommendation on what model to buy. Do you plop down your month's salary on an expensive hunk of junk, or lay down a pittance for what might be an even bigger shard of rusting metal? I wasn't able to find anyone who was selling anything similar to our old 3Com modem, and I had to make a quick pick between a money-burning US Robotics model and a weird-looking made-in-China DLink unit. (I took the latter, and ended up lugging it all the way back to the office.)

While the more progressive versions of Windows have made the hardware installation process much easier for the layman, there was still the matter of plugging in the new modem through a maze of wires and outlets. The region behind our PC is a tangle of frayed cables, superheated transformers, and dust motes. Trying to trace the origins and terminals for each component there was like looking for Dr. Livingstone in the middle of the Amazonian jungle.

After I crawled my way out of said jungle, I finally reached for the modem and flicked the "On" switch. No result.

I turned it off and then turned it on again. Still nothing.

Oh, wait. I reached for the plug, yanked it out, reversed the poles, and stuck it back in again. This time it worked just fine. Stupid plug.

It took me a few minutes of fiddling with the system setup before I had the new modem purring like a kitten. By that time, though, I was dirty, tired, and a little frustrated at the effort. That, and I still had to clean up.

We gave the old modem a nice little send-off in the backyard garden. Or not.

In reality, we just stuffed it into the back of a closet along with the old components we've had conk out on us over the years. I've never understood why we haven't sold any of them, or why we haven't thrown any of them out yet. All that I do know, however, is that I could almost swear that I could hear them laughing as I closed the door.

Eulogy: Teodoro Benigno

Much as I'd like to refer to him as "Teddy" Benigno, I'm sad to say that I didn't know the man personally. Many of the eulogies I expect to write, in fact, are for people I don't know personally. But I think that Mr. Benigno gave us more than a few words throughout his life, and I think that he deserves more a few words from us in return.

Teodoro Benigno was a journalist.

Yes, that's all: Teodoro Benigno was a journalist.

How else can I sum it up? He wrote articles for various publications. He got a little biased at times (which would be normal for any journalist). He saw what it was like to work for the government. He realized that the bureaucracy really didn't hold a candle to the power of the written word. He formed educated opinions. He stood by them whenever the pundits were knocking at his door. He took them back whenever he realized that he had made mistakes.

Come to think of it, that would all make for a much better summary: Teodoro Benigno was a writer.

Mr. Benigno had this odd ability, this fantastic power to put things in metaphorical perspective. He went for the touchy analogies. He struggled to use only the most perfect verbs. He knew when to start and stop the paragraphs of varying lengths. His sentences gave us images that made us laugh and think, and perhaps look very closely at what he was talking about.

Even his column had a very appropriate title: "Here's the Score".


Some people write short fiction, and some people write novelettes. Some people write romantic drama, and some people write cyberpunk fantasy. Some people write technical manuals, and some people write anarchist speeches.

Mr. Benigno just wrote,and somewhere in that writing was the universe as only he could put it, using words that only he himself could carefully choose. He knew perfectly well that opinion was opinion, that it could not be traded away in the face of intimidation, yet could still be recanted in the realization of personal error. He was just simply marvelous when it came to telling you what he thought of things.

My mother actually ran into him once, and it was in the most unlikely of places. I think it was a couple of years ago, sometime in the waning months of the year, at the all-you-can-eat buffet in Saisaki (a large Japanese restaurant in Makati City). She even caught him with one of their garish orange plates in hand.

"Mr. Benigno?" she asked him.

"Yes?" he answered.

"I read your column," she told him.

"Oh?" he asked.

"Every time I see it," she told him.

And with that (if my mother can be believed), he simply smiled and said, "Oh, thank you!"

I always thought it was funny, somehow, seeing what he thought about himself at that precise moment.

That writer is gone now, though. And the many, many things that he saw fit to opine about still remain.

Maybe Mr. Benigno himself is now wondering why we haven't started writing about them yet.

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Based on word from three of my subscribed mailing lists (as well as the chorused rumors of hundreds of fans), Neil Gaiman's dropping by the Philippines for a few days. The most recent schedule I've received appears to set his itinerary as follows:

July 9 - Rockwell area
July 10 - Greenhills
July 11 - Gateway

Generally, Gaiman's also supposed to be appearing in various branches of Fully Booked's bookstores throughout these three days. Autograph- and dedication- signing will most certainly be involved.

You must forgive my looking at all this from a very clinical point of view; I regret to say that I'm not a fan of Neil Gaiman, despite the fact that a lot of readers see him as one of the greater writers of our time. I read his works every now and then, but I neither actively seek his books in stores, nor do I build up a collection of his writings. I'm just not a Neil Gaiman man, to tell the truth.

I think I first met Neil Gaiman through the Sandman series of books, which, while profound, didn't quite leave me with an accomplished sense of story. Perhaps there was something about them that I couldn't understand, some particular aspect that every other reader but me knew how to experience.

Over the years, however, Gaiman's name popped up in various news articles I read, most of them dealing with comics or graphic novels. A good friend was nice enough to lend me a copy of Good Omens, Gaiman's collaboration with Terry Pratchett, and I liked the book. Some years later, after finding my own copy of Good Omens, I found that Neil Gaiman had written another novel (the much-marketed American Gods), and I pulled a copy of that, too.

American Gods, unfortunately, left me feeling unfulfilled. It gave me a good impression of international mythology and its devices, but it didn't quite fit the sense of story and development that I usually look for. The fact that it had what I felt was an odd climax and ending didn't help me very much, either.

I've been recommended Stardust and Coraline since then, and I've mulled picking up a copy of one or the other, but the honest truth is that I've got better fish to fry. I'm a puzzlist, I'm a Terry Pratchett reader, I'm an experimental writer, and I think that there are simply too many other books I want to pick up that -- I feel certain -- are of good quality or better. Neil Gaiman simply, sadly, doesn't command a high priority on my list.

And the net result is that I find this very odd, because so many people seem to be enjoying Neil Gaiman's works while I can't.

So, while the great Gaiman gets mobbed by thousands of fans during his three-day stay, I'm probably going to be at home watching TV. Or perhaps I'll be in the bookstores themselves, browsing the new releases and estimating the length of the lines. Or perhaps I'll be at the nearest Internet Cafe, blogging about how I can't seem to understand Neil Gaiman or his works.

Then again, I've done that already. But I suppose that it wouldn't hurt to continue trying to understand why.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Twenty Questions (The Interview Game)

There's a little Interview Game going around, and because "five questions" doesn't sound as good as the more common "twenty questions" expression, I've mixed up four different peoples' questions here. You're welcome to visit their respective blogs by clicking on their respective queries.

Oh, wait... you don't know how The Interview Game goes? There's an explanation at the end...

1. What is the greatest motivation for you to write?
In this world, there exist some pieces of art that bring their viewers or listeners so closely to emotional attachment that they cannot help but accede to the creator's demands. Some movies are so funny that they make you laugh out loud. Some symphonies are so sorrowful that they make you weep in sadness. Some writings are so strong that they make you scream in rage or fear.

I want to bring the reader to that threshold. I want to make them laugh, or cry, or rage, or fear, all based on the power of a mere set of words. I want to believe that the power of the imagination is so strong that it can take people inside themselves and see not only what I wish them to see, but to feel also what they believe they must feel. I want to prove that words are not just a means of expression, but a complex reality that we may all transcend.

2. If you would be in a reality TV show, what would it be?
Ugh. I like the concept of reality TV, but I hate the shows themselves. Any person in a reality TV show nowadays would forever be pandering to the whims of some deranged TV executive, which would be enough motivation for me to go out and strangle them all. That said, I'd like to be in any of the reality TV shows out there - just as long as I get to be the Host. :)

3. You receive a phone call in the wee hours of the morning from someone who claims to be your son – calling from the future. Do you entertain the call (it's long distance, overseas and charged to you)?
If my son would be anything like me, then he wouldn't be calling home unless it were really important. That said, no son-o'-mine would interrupt my beauty sleep if he knew what was good for him. I give him five minutes to tell me what he wants before I put down the receiver.

4. You're sitting in a park minding your own business. A golden retriever comes around, jumps on the bench and starts talking to you. He tells you he's God, and says that the latest pope is a bad idea. What do you do?
I'd ask him why he thinks Benedict XVI is a bad idea, and keep the conversation going. Maybe he's God, and maybe he's not, but for the moment all that I'd be interested in would be what he's like when we're actually talking to each other.

Alternatively, I could also just quip "Dude, you're naked," but then if he were really God, he'd probably just hit me with a lightning bolt or something. :)

5. The world ends in exactly one year. Aliens come and offer to save a very small amount of human knowledge. What 5 professions (i.e. hairdresser, policeman, violinist, etc.) would we offer to them to remember humanity by?
A combat medic, a militant imam, a comic book writer, an adult film 'actress' and a corporate spy. Each of those five professions illustrates the oxymoron that is mankind perfectly: A melding of destruction and preservation, peace and war, art and prose, attraction and disgust, ethics and disloyalty. Hopefully, they'd send the message that we were a confused bunch.

6. If this universe were to end tomorrow, and you were given the chance to enter a fictional universe from movies, TV, or literature, which one would you choose?
All fictional universes exist to tell stories, and as such they all have their non-fantastic trappings and ordinate dangers. I'd rather not end up mapping out unfamiliar risks in highly unfamiliar territory, so that eliminates a lot of universes right off the bat. (Getting myself paralyzed by Hogwarts' basilisk, having my soul eaten by an idle Kyoso no Oni, or losing my mind to the Arasaka Corporation doesn't have any appeal to it at all.)

That said, the "Next Generation" universe of Star Trek seems like a close enough fit to ours that I wouldn't mind being transplanted into it. It would be almost exactly like this world, only with more aliens and more technology. Just get me away from one of those starships, don't make me wear one of those red uniforms, and I'll be fine.

7. What three things would you bring with you to this alternate universe?
A piece of original comic art (whether the artist is known or otherwise), because it would continually emphasize the beauty of imagination to me. A pencil, because I'd still feel the need to doodle everywhere I go. A toothbrush, because when anybody asks me why I brought a toothbrush, I'd like to be able to say, "Because everybody always brings a toothbrush whever they go".

8. Special welcome dinner on this alternate universe, and you have a free hand to invite up to four guests, real or fictional. Who would they be?
Let's see... Zephram Cochrane, who would be a familiar figure in that universe; he'd bring some entertainment to the table without being too out-of-place. Jennifer Love Hewitt, because she'd start conversations (especially among the males in the room). Jimmy Kimmel, because he's a remarkably funny person without necessarily realizing it, and because he'd immediately want to talk to Jennifer Love Hewitt. Senator Mar Roxas, because he'd bring a bit of sanity to the table without being offended by the weird crowd.

Actually, any combination of four disparate personalities would work for me. I just name these four right now because they're all floating around my mind for some reason.

9. What line of work would you be doing in this alternate universe?
I'd probably be an information services administrator, i.e. a librarian. Not much work there, since the machines probably handle all the classification and procurement, and you get to read as much as you darn well want. Now if only those stupid Borgs wouldn't keep trying to hack into the systems...

10. You're working on a big, important project closely with a team. After several months, you're finishing the project, giving handshakes and approval, and when all the stress is done, out of glee and with no warning whatsoever, your cute female teammate suddenly grabs you by the neck and gives you a full kiss with everyone in sight. What do you do and what would you be thinking?
I'd grab her by the small of her back and sweep her off her feet, continuing the kiss in a position low to the floor. I don't get into these situations often, so I might as well enjoy them while they last. :)

What I'd be thinking? "Damn, I'd better work on projects like these more often."

11. Given the situation that you are in Baguio, you have a stalker and you are with a girl you really like, what would you do in order to deal with the stalker discreetly and still make sure that your girl (let's assume that she is your date ;) and also assume that the stalker has got it really bad for you - it's a scary kind of stalking now) won't get worried.
Easy. I simply wouldn't tell the girl that I had a stalker. Unless I had reason to fear that my stalker would be threatening her directly, telling her about the situation would simply worry her regardless of anything. As for the stalker, I wouldn't let him/her know where we were to begin with, and I simply wouldn't answer any calls as to my whereabouts. (Which would make the date much easier for me, too.)

12. What is the one film you really liked but no one else seems to appreciate (damn the bastards!)?
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. This was probably the deviant's deviant in terms of movies; I mean, it's an animated muscial done in claymation, intended for the adult crowd! Ironically, because of its extremely far-out elements, it never gets the attention it really deserves - people tend to dismiss it off-hand as merely a "weird creation" without seeing the beauty behind the mask.

13. As a student, what was the best prank that you executed?

I was a quiet, serious student, which means that I wasn't a prankster-type person. In fact, I still don't think I'm a prankster-type person. I probably can't plan a good joke to save my life. I think that I've been moderately successful at whatever I've been able to execute so far because I can spin whole yarns out of pure cloth, if you get what I mean.

14. Given the choice, would you rather have pure ampalaya or durian juice for the rest of your life?
Durian. Personally, I don't mind the smell of durian (jackfruit). It's the ampalaya that I just can't stand. I could almost swear that placing a huge chunk of the healthy nutrients in a horrible-tasting package is Nature's way of laughing at us.

15. Has anyone ever asked you to be a DJ?
A couple of baristas at Starbucks once asked me if I was a DJ. I told them that I wasn't one, but I'll probably fire off an on-air hello to them if I ever get the chance. :)

16. In the animal kingdom, the males are more attractive than the females. You wake up as an animal. What are you and what makes you irresistible?
Technically, it's all a question of the pheromones. On the average, male creatures secrete more pheromones because of a need to attract potential mates. That said, I'd wake up as an elephant. It's just too easy to be fascinated with elephants for their ponderousness, their silence, their mysterious rituals, and their incredible memory. Plus, they get these cool tusks.

17. What's the immediate, grossest way you'd like to experience your death?
Easy. If I were to die in an immediate, gory manner, I'd like to be decapitated. I would imagine that I'd feel absolutely no pain at any point during the procedure, I'd run through a very quick death, and I'd still have enough time to realize "Gee, I've just been decapitated. Cool." in my last moments.

18. You end up by a sea of red blood in a beach somewhere, and everyone in the whole world is dead. You see a coconut tree in the distance. Is it a mirage?
*Squints*... It's got Santa Claus, Benito Mussolini, and the members of Aerosmith all waving at me from between its branches. It's a mirage, all right.

19. The names of most medicines available at the drugstore are decidedly unsexy. Give me marketable and recallable names for a) asthma , b) male impotence, and c) constipation.
That's because most pharmacists aren't marketers - they have this irritating habit of naming medicines after the chemicals or generic brands used to create them. In order for medicines to be marketable, they would have to have names appropriate for their uses yet still sound like pharmaceutical products so that they can't be mistaken for consumer goods:

"Asthmalax" sounds okay, for the moment. This would establish a clear link to the medical condition, for one. Seeing that some asthma medicines have to be taken every day, the name should really be able to roll off the tongue easily, much like "aspirin". ("Asthma" is difficult to pronounce, though.)

Male Impotence
I'm sold on the name "Viagra" already; as I understand, it's based on Romanic word origins that refer to "life". It's short and easy to pronounce as well; I don't think there are any other suggestions that can really top "Viagra".

You literally need something that spells "relief" here, seeing that you can't really describe the other aspects of this condition. "Relievo" is too corny, though, and besides, the word already exists in a totally different context. "Reletamine" is closer, as the name should really sound smoother and more calm. "Relietamine", perhaps? You really want a calming tone here...

20. What is one thing that you want to people to remember about you?
Heck, I'd be happy if people just remember me, period. :)

So... how does The Interview Game work?

1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying “interview me.”
2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person’s will be different.
3. You will update your journal/blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

If you post your answers in your blog, send me a message so that I can look you up. If you don't have a blog, then you're welcome to post your answers here.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Panda, Panda Panda (a.k.a. The Panda Post)

Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda. Panda panda. Panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda, panda, panda - panda panda panda panda panda panda. (Panda.) Panda panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda.

Panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda... panda panda. Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda. Panda, panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda! (Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda.)

Panda panda, panda panda panda panda; Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda. Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda, panda, panda panda panda panda. Panda panda - panda panda panda panda panda - panda panda panda panda panda panda.

(Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda. Panda panda panda panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda... panda panda panda.)

Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda. Panda panda panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda panda "Panda" panda panda panda panda panda. "Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda! Panda panda panda panda panda..."

Panda panda panda panda panda panda? Panda panda panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda. Panda panda, panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda. Panda panda panda panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda panda panda; panda panda, panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda. Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda.

Panda panda panda (Panda panda panda) panda panda panda panda panda panda panda (Panda, panda, panda, panda...) panda.

Panda panda panda panda panda. Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda panda, panda panda panda panda - panda panda panda panda panda panda panda. Panda panda panda panda panda panda panda Murph.

Panda, panda panda panda panda panda. Panda panda!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Scum and Villainy

Let's cut to the chase, shall we? I like villains.

That's not to say that I tolerate villainy, mind you, but I like villains.

I mean, every reader in the world has some idea of a person they'd love to hate (personally or otherwise), and it is these qualities that are inevitably expressed in the villains that they read. One might even say that readers transfer these hateable qualities onto their villains - so in a way, creating new villains is a little like guessing what people love to hate in other people.

I like villains, yes.

Of course, the tricky part lies in creating a long-term villain. Our beliefs and opinions are likely to change with time, which means that all the hateable characters we had at one point in life probably turned out to be not-so-hateable when we grew up and moved on. (I mean, come on - all that Gargamel really wanted was to see if he could turn six Smurfs into gold. And maybe to eat, of course. He was probably just misunderstood.)

Comics, paperback novels and movie franchises are our usual sources for long-term villains nowadays. Some of the characters that these forms of media originally introduced have pervaded public consciousness to the point that they are recognized as representations of villainy: Lex Luthor. Voldemort. Darth Vader. To us, these characters are so hateable that even if they turned goody-goody all of a sudden, we'd be immediately suspicious of their intentions.

The trouble is that comics, paperback novels and movie franchises can just as easily introduce anti-hero characters in their search for more creative personalities. At times, the anti-heroics are taken to such an extreme that it's difficult to tell the protagonist from the antagonist. Anyone seen Sin City, for instance?

So what makes a good long-term villain? The obvious conclusion would be that they would have to be hateable for a sustainable period of time. But what would make them hateable for such an extended period? How could they capture our attention for that long? And what would make them distinct from all the anti-hero archetypes running around?

Let's take a theoretical villain and analyze how he or she would fare in the aspects of long-term villainy. Along the way, I might as well toss in the aspects that I feel best embody a villain in this respect:

That's Eddie sitting on the plate. He's a piece of suman latik, a known Filipino food item made from glutinous rice, enjoyed as a midday snack or as a dessert for the most part.

Earlier on, Eddie realized that his lot in life was small and insignificant, and that he and his fellows were destined only for a fate that involved getting ground into base nutrients by the very humans who created them. Eddie, however, felt helpless to go against this destiny... until the human who took the first slice out of him proceeded to choke to death on glutionous rice blockage.

Eddie's path became clear: if he and his suman brethren could do the same to each and every human who dared to consume them, then they would not only gain the modicum of respect that they so sorely deserved, but they could also depopulate an entire country - perhaps even the entire world - of their human oppressors.

So now Eddie and his suman proletariat (a group that grows larger with every stockpile they liberate) sneak onto peoples' plates, waiting for the right moments when their unsuspecting targets begin a meal, before leaping down their throats until they choke to death. Eddie has been responsible for the death of hundreds at the 2002 World Suman Jamboree, has personally taken out investigators who have come too close to discovering his existence, and still leads his group with an interminable drive towards his next victims.


So what might make Eddie a possible long-term villain? I would guess the following:

1. Plausible Motivation
Eddie's narrow lot in life is good reason for him to be pissed off. It gives him a clear drive and motivation to carry out his plans for the length of a story. Not only that, mind you, but it gives him a "before" and an "after": His current moves have logical bases, and they have intended consequences.

I must note that any motivation used for villainous purposes may not necessarily be logical, as long as the villain himself sincerely believes in it. We may find it difficult to conceive of suman latik running the world, but if Eddie can dream of such a thing, then that's his game. It might even be possible to put together a villain with no clear motivation whatsoever, as long as he turns out to be homicidally insane as a result.

2. Large-Scale Planning
Eddie doesn't stop at just one human. He rests when all the offensive humans have literally choked on his foul wrath. Good villains think big, and initiate their plans with the appropriate amount of resources, ideals and charisma. Because large-scale plans take longer than usual to execute, villains who undertake them are usually able to last for the long term.

3. Subtlety
If you're a piece of suman latik, how much more subtle could you possibly get?

On the other hand, subtlety isn't just about sitting around and looking unassuming; Subtlety is about carrying out one's plans under everyones' noses. Any villain with a grand engine of a scheme that probably won't be taken very well by the general public will need to move in the shadows (or in plain sight) in order to bring such a plan to fruition. Eddie depends on the relative innocence of his suman army to make things work - and that's about as subtle as you can get.

4. Callous Disregard
When you're a large-scale villain, there have to be some things that you just don't care about. Your plans, after all, would have to take immediate precedence.

It is only the true villain that takes this type of prioritization to such a level that he would give away all those moral or ethical standards we hold dear. Eddie would be willing to sacrifice the members of his army in order to potentially kill every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. Other villains could just as easily be fine with wanton destruction, or bloody revolution, or what have you. What matters most to a long-term villain is their ultimate goal; Everything else should eventually finish a far second.

5. Intimidation
...And this is why Eddie ultimately doesn't make much of a long-term villain.

Villains are supposed to be intimidating. While this kind of stature may be sourced from their drive, their organization, their subtlety or their immorality, it borrows a good deal from their stance and intensity as well. Good long-term villains are supposed to be able to look the part, after all. Besides, what good is it being a villain if you can't scare the crap out of anybody?

Eddie, unfortunately, doesn't have that luxury. You'd sooner laugh at him than you would lie in paralyzed fear of him. (Actually, you'd sooner baste him in latik sauce and eat him, but that's besides the point.)

I figure that this list of qualities is by no means complete, but it should serve our purposes for this point in time. If anything, it should hopefully explain - to a certain extent - why we can stand in awe and admiration of certain examples of villainy, yet fail to understand exactly why some others are as evil as other people make them out to be.

Don't you just love the characters that we are all made to hate? :)

El Capitan