Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two Thumbs Up

I found IMDB's list of top 250 movies the other day, and on a lark, I figured that I might as well go through part of the list and check which ones I'd already seen. While I'm not crazy enough to effectively write about two hundred and fifty different movies, the top fifty should be enough to serve my purposes.

Because these movies are literally on this list because hundreds of thousands of IMDB users voted them in, I suppose that they will obviously count as "good" movies. Some of them might even count as "great" movies, depending on what you think. With that said, though, we'll all still get completely different impressions from them -- they'll impact us in places where they might not impact anyone else.

So I won't tell you what I think of these movies -- I like to think that they're all good, and I actually do think that they're all good. What I do feel compelled to write about, however, involves what I got from these movies -- I'll be writing about those little things that struck me the most, and stayed with me even if I haven't seen those one-and-a-half hours of digital celluloid in a long time.

Out of the fifty movies below, I've seen only twenty, and they're all in bold. Anything that's in non-bold text is "on my list"; that is, I keep telling myself that I'll see the movie some day. Maybe if I keep reminding myself enough times, I'll drop by the nearest rental outfit and pick one of them up.

The IMDB list
(With annotations by you-know-who. Spoilers abound.)

1. The Godfather (1972)

2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
- Interestingly enough, I only realized that this was based on a short novella by Stephen King a few years after I first saw this movie. In a strange irony, I haven't quite found the printed version of the story yet. This movie, mind you, is why I'm usually not too impressed with contemporary prison-oriented TV series.

3. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

4. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

5. Pulp Fiction (1994)

6. Schindler's List (1993)

- This film just had so many lovely scenes: The little snapshot of Itzhak's existence. The ghetto massacre. Schindler's search for a secretary. Amon testing out his new "principle of forgiveness". The child with the red dress. The hinge incident. The stolen chicken. The diversion to Auschwitz. The final departure. (And I'm just naming things off the top of my head here.)

7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)


8. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

- I may be offending the Star Wars crowd out there, but I didn't see much beyond the fact that the original three (Episodes four, five and six) made for a good movie series. I'll gladly watch this and the other movies along with the rest of the fans, but I won't obsess about it on message boards or in public conversation. But then, well, it's different strokes for different folks.

9. Casablanca (1942)

10. Seven Samurai (1954)
- No, I haven't seen this Japanese masterpiece yet, but I've seen the plot echoed in other media. It's great stuff. If you think about it carefully, this was the "300" scenario long before Frank Miller came up with his graphic novel -- seven warriors against overwhelming odds. The fact that they have to find a way to work together to begin with just adds to the humanity of this tale.

11. Star Wars (1977)

- More than a few screenings later, I've concluded that this movie is paced a little fast for me... I would have liked to see a little more character development between Luke and Obi-Wan. Then again, this was a bit of a gamble back when this was first released, so I don't blame the creators.

12. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

- Each of the LotR movies seems to be a huge favorite, and you can't really consider them on an individual level. I do have favorite scenes for each of the three movies, though -- with "The Return of the King", it happens to be that short, tense episode where Eowyn has to face the Lord of the Nazgul... alone. The prologue -- where it's revealed as to how Gollum first got his hands on the One Ring -- is unquestioningly brutal, though, and it comes a close second for me.

13. 12 Angry Men (1957)

14. Rear Window (1954)

15. Goodfellas (1990)
- The curious part is that Henry Hill is actually still alive as of this writing. In fact, he served as creative consultant for his own movie, which makes me wonder if the story at least partially favors him. This, I feel, is one of the two movies I've seen where Joe Pesci's magnificent presence lends the movie its ironclad soul.

16. City of God (2002)
- "Vicious" is the adjective that comes to mind whenever I'm asked to describe this movie. It's not easy watching kids grow up to maim and kill their own counterparts. Sometimes I wonder how the main character managed to survive in such an environment.

17. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

- This was one of the first movies that made me realize that "action" movies didn't have to be all action all the time, and that "adventure" movies didn't have to be all adventure all the time. It was funny and scary in all the right places, and the closing scene was a very welcome twist. That, and it made me resolve never to bring a sword to a gunfight. :)

18. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

19. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
- See above. My favorite scene here is one of the minor ones -- it's when Frodo reunites with his kind, generous uncle Bilbo in Rivendell, only to have the elder hobbit viciously snarl at Frodo when he refuses to hand over the Ring. I felt that it brought a very important point to the mind of the audience -- that the Ring had this subtle power to corrupt even the gentlest of things.

20. The Usual Suspects (1995)

- This movie only really gets exciting once the whole twist starts spilling out at the end. The unbridled suspicions start slowly at first, and then suddenly cascade into revelation after revelation while you look on in horror. And at the precise moment when Kevin Spacey reveals that he's not really a cripple at all, the die is cast -- you'll never trust a narrator ever again. :)

21. Psycho (1960)

22. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

23. Fight Club (1999)
- The ending still feels a little too dreamlike and unrealistic to me, somehow. If there's anything that sticks in my mind about this movie, it's the unfortunate obese man who somehow manages to get in waaaay over his head with regards to the whole Fight Club thing.

24. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

- "Hello, Clarisse. Have the lambs stopped screaming yet?" Brrr.

25. Citizen Kane (1941)

26. North by Northwest (1959)

27. Memento (2000)

28. Sunset Blvd. (1950)

29. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

- See above. This is, I think, the weaker of the three movies, and it's still darn strong. What do I feel is the most memorable scene here? It's the one where Treebeard and the Ents trudge over a high ridge to discover that Saruman has clear-cut the land around Isengard and killed their brethren to create machines of war. Committees and discussions be damned -- the Ents exact a terrible revenge.

30. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

31. The Matrix (1999)

- I've never been able to look at a feeling of déja vu in quite the same way since I saw this movie.

32. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

33. Se7en (1995)
- This was such a macabre movie, and I still enumerate the seven deadly sins according to their sequence as presented here. The best part, I think, lies not in how each of the killings is committed in a creative manner -- it's that moment in the end where you realize that you don't know if Brad Pitt's going to pull that trigger or not, and you're afraid.

34. Apocalypse Now (1979)

- While it's not a horror movie in the superficial sense, it's a fairly deep psychological thriller. It's at least worth it to see Lawrence Fishburne perform a role outside his normally stoic characters.

35. Taxi Driver (1976)

36. American Beauty (1999)

- Geez... how many times does Kevin Spacey appear on this list? It doesn't have a great underlying plot as much as it brings a bunch of disparate stories together, but I like the way that the humor and the drama are interleaved here -- it literally gets you laughing one moment and sitting shell-shocked the next. Floating plastic bags aside, I could just watch the "job resignation" scene all day.

37. Leon the Professional (1994)

38. Vertigo (1958)

39. American History X (1998)

40. Amélie (2001)

41. Paths of Glory (1957)

42. The Departed (2006)

43. M (1931)

44. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

- I read the book and I liked it. I saw the movie and I liked it even more, which got me to read the book again. It's a vicious cycle.

45. The Third Man (1949)

46. Chinatown (1974)

47. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

48. The Lives of Others (2006)

49. Alien (1979)

- For an android, Lance Hendriksen sure was messy when he was virtually cut in half. That said, however, I suspect that "Alien" is up here only for nostalgia value -- if there's any alien horror movie that I really enjoyed immensely (and which scared the crap out of me), it was "The Thing".

50. There Will Be Blood (2007)

For those curious, #51 on IMDB's list is "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," one of my favorites, and I think that it's a criminal act that people could so easily leave it out of the top 50. :)


Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Just so that everyone knows: I'll be down south in Bacolod City for a few days after the first of May. I'm not normally the type of person who takes a lot of vacations, but in this case, I'm gladly passing by for the sake of two college friends -- they're finally tying the knot after a ten-year courtship.

I suppose that I could go on and on about any number of things here -- the packing, the flight reservations, the matter of picking up a hotel room in a place that's not exactly one of the country's prime tourist spots -- but I won't. I've had too many things to worry about over the past few days, and I'm not about to invest an excessive amount of thought into this trip. I'm just going to spend the time relaxing and trying to work out the kinks in my soul.

Maybe I'll read a bit. Maybe I'll write a bit. But whatever I'll do, I'll try to relax.

I've noticed that it's remarkably difficult to relax nowadays, for some reason. If you're not scrambling to finish your office work, you're probably stressing out over your vacation plans. If you're not speaking out in response to the Olympic protests, you're probably railing at the government's useless actions in the face of the rice crisis. If it's not the heat, it's the sudden bouts of rain; and if it's not the fact that summer's half over already, it's the fact that the monsoon season is coming up.

Boy, that day trip to that spa sounds pretty good right now.

That said, a makeshift reunion weekend spent with old friends sounds just as good, if not better. But then, that's why I'm headed over there.

The good news is that I've been preparing for this for the last couple of months. From what I know, people normally prepare for a vacation about one or two weeks before the departure date. My work schedule, however, pretty much dictates that I need to announce any substantial vacation plans some time before the actual leave -- so I've actually been squirreling my preparations to and fro for the last two months. Interestingly enough, it's done wonders for the stress; with most of my needs already on hand, I don't have much left to do apart from packing my overnight bag.

Now, with the exception of work, I get to sit back and wait for the big day to come. In a sense, relaxation should start a few days before you get on that airplane and buckle your seatbelt.

I'm not expecting to write any blog posts during my stay over there, but there's the possibility that I might, and I asked specifically for a LAN connection in my hotel room just for that purpose. Still, you might expect me to be silent for the first week of next month.

Hopefully around that time, I'll be lying on my chest on a bamboo table somewhere in the south, getting some cream-and-oil variant slathered on my back. Or sleeping. Sleep is always good.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Story Without a Story

One of the problems with maintaining a blog on writing is that, sooner or later, you'll be expected to write. On top of that, I'm supposed to be concentrating on short stories... so technically I'm supposed to have at least a few short stories (or at least some strange literary experiments) up here.

The catch is that it takes time to write a short story, and it usually doesn't align with my timings for the usual posts. Normally I try to write something at least once every three or four days, in accordance with my personal ten-posts-a-month quota; what this means is that every three or four days, I can consciously sit down in front of the computer, tell myself that I need to write something, and then pound something out. But you can't give literary efforts a strict time limit -- you have to sit down and hash things out before you even so much as finalize a plotline. In a sense, I don't think I can squeeze stories out of my head and into the confines of my short-term plans.

So yes, I'm trying to write a story. And no, I can't fit it into the two-hour window that I normally have reserved for my blog posts. It'll have to wait, I guess. And in the meantime, I'm stuck giving you this revelation of how I write. It's an ironic conflict, seeing that I can't technicaly write a story whenever I feel like writing a story. It somehow supports the notion that I don't come up with these things on a conscious basis -- the ideas are probably holding cage matches in my head, fighting for the right to be let out. And instead of betting on the strongest, the toughest, or the meanest of the lot, it seems at times that I'm just the guy crawling along the floor looking for used ticket stubs.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dancing Cheese

Say... does anyone here remember The Muppet Show? It was this Jim-Henson-puppeteered hour-long show that was on the air from the mid-70s to the early 80s; I have fond memories of watching the reruns from when I was five or six years old. While Sesame Street was the series that first introduced me to muppets in general, The Muppet Show was probably the first thing that transitioned me to the foibles of adult humor.

The reason I mention this is because I've had this strange image in my mind for the last week or so. The fact that it's inextricably linked to The Muppet Show probably justifies its sheer weirdness, but I have no idea how the memory suddenly popped into my mind, or why it happened to stay there for an entire week.

In case the title of this post hasn't clued you in on the nature of that mental image yet: Yes, it involves dancing cheese.

No, doctor, I'm not crazy. Yes, this has been on my mind for the last few days at least.

After a number of inappropriate moments when the image of an animated block of gorgonzola suddenly crossed my thoughts, I figured that I might as well look around and see if I could find any bits of the original scene. We've come a loooooong way since the advent of primitive animation on TV; almost forty years, in fact. And if I knew the Internet well enough, the likelihood of finding anything that I ever wanted or needed to find across the World Wide Web was likely to be quite high.

Less than a couple of minutes after I began my search, I was incredulously watching one of the few film clips that was ever taken of the strange little image in my mind. It seems that you really can find anything on YouTube:

So there you have it -- dancing cheese. Don't ever say that I didn't give you anything.

Yes, I'm weird. Thank you for that casual -- yet appropriate -- remark.

Now if I only had some way to get rid of this image of singing vegetables out of my head...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Anatomy of a Car Wreck

It was about midmorning today when we were cruising along ADB Avenue next to the Robinsons Galleria mall. I was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car next to our family driver, while my mother and sister sat behind us in the back seat. It was a little past ten in the morning, and I was a little short-tempered -- I was already late for the start of a prerelease tournament that was to be held inside the mall because my two female family members had taken a long time to wake up and get dressed.

As we approached the left-turn slot that would allow us to go up the mall's main entranceway, I unbuckled my seat belt and murmured something about exactly where I wanted to be let off. We slowed down as we made the turn at the intersection; I saw that a large white van at the head of traffic in the other lane had stopped to let us pass.

In the next moment, a sapphire-blue Toyota Vios suddenly flashed into my line of sight. It was running through the outside lane at a speed that clearly indicated that it was not about to stop -- and it was heading right towards us. I started to say something -- whatever it was, I don't remember anymore -- but the words were lost in the incident that followed.

The Vios plowed right into us, striking us squarely in our front right fender and dragging us for a few feet. I remember a loud, prolonged crunching sound, and at the same time the hood suddenly crumpled up before me. Sometime in that single moment, the inertia carried me out of my seat and onto the right side of the car. I struck my head on something -- I don't know if it was the window or the frame right next to me -- and all of a sudden there was this loud ringing in my ears.

Almost immediately after the crash, the horns around us began blaring. It was as though the other drivers didn't understand what had just happened and automatically leaned on their steering wheels as a reflex action. Mall security came running up -- we later found out that at least one guard who was directing taxicabs up the driveway had seen the whole thing.

Our driver turned out to be unhurt, although he seemed greatly irritated at what had just happened. He opened his door after a few seconds, ostensibly to snap at the offending motorist; this was just in time to see the man pull his car away from its original position and park it next to the sidewalk a little ways beyond.

In the passenger seat, I was being assaulted by the most monstrous headache I had ever imagined. It was as though there was a whole symphony orchestra going on inside my head, where all the musicians were trying their best to stay out of tune. I held one hand to the spot on my forehead that had taken the impact -- every now and then I would compulsively check my fingers, expecting blood.

Our driver had crossed the street to begin what turned out to be a very tense conversation with both mall security and the driver of the other car. The man offered to trade contact information because -- as he mentioned -- "we were both at fault". Our driver flatly refused -- it's absurd to admit your own fault in a car crash when your own car has slowed down or stopped, and the other guy's car is driving at full speed right towards you.

Back in the car, my mother asked me if I was okay. I told her to ask me again when the throbbing stopped. I still had one hand on my forehead, and I was trying to calm down, trying not to think, because somehow doing so made the sounds in my head even louder.

I called to my sister to get her to note down the other car's license plate, because I was afraid that I would have trouble recalling it myself. I felt that a bruise was coming on both inside and out; a mild concussion was probably within reason. I didn't feel any sharp or searing pains, though, so I felt justified enough to assume that there was no permanent damage involved. Nevertheless, the headache showed no signs of abating.

Our driver returned to us to report that the other person was driving a company car, and that it had been insured under a corporate account. By then my mother was on the phone to one of my uncles in the insurance business; she asked for advice on how to deal with the situation, and then gave our driver some specific instructions: Get a copy of his vehicle and insurance information. Get his contact and company information. Get signatures for everything. And under no circumstances allow him to drive away without getting any of the above.

After he left to resume discussions, there was a short episode of cursing in the car. This was followed by a more personal assessment: My mother had also hit her head, although to a much lesser impact due to her distance from the crash area. My sister had gotten away with striking her knee. I still had my headache, however, and they were growing concerned that it had not reduced in intensity within the last twenty minutes.

Shortly afterwards, our driver returned to his seat and attempted to start the car. It continued to fail even after three attempts; later on we would find out that the radiator had been warped so much by the crash that it had been rendered completely useless. I assume that more security guards had arrived by then -- two of them assisted us in pushing the car to a position beside the sidewalk.

Some time later, our driver was able to procure the needed documents from the other motorist. Despite his previous claim, the man wasn't able to produce any insurance certifications at all -- which struck us as strange, because we expected him to carry these around at all times like any other insured driver. We ended up getting copies of his registration and papers, as well as his contact information and the name of the company that owned his car, but little else before security decided to let him drive off.

A few minutes after the tow truck arrived, my brother arrived as well. My sister had apparently called him during the interim period, and he seemed royally pissed that something like this could have happened. Over the rest of the day, he would constantly inform us of his intent to write a letter of complaint to the company regarding their driver's behavior.

My headache had been reduced to a dull throb by that time, and someone suggested that they bring me to a hospital to check on my condition. I didn't argue, although it took us about ten minutes to navigate a path to the nearest medical center. All the while I kept talking -- I was beginning to feel a strange light-headedness at that point, and I wanted to probe around and see if I could find anything wrong with my modes of thought.

While my sister waited with me in the checkup room, she remarked that I had been slurring my words. In addition, there was a tiny wound that had materialized on my right eyelid, although it had already clotted by the time I checked the nearest reflective surface. I hadn't noticed either one due to the demands of the splitting headache. I was still experiencing the dull throb and the light-headedness around this time, so I lay down on a gurney and felt the headache well up in the back of my head.

The doctor gave me a cursory checkup and asked a few questions. After a while he told me that I was all right -- it looked as though my mental faculties were still intact, so the concussion was most likely very mild. He prescribed a painkiller for me, after which an orderly handed me a tablet and a glass of water. I was also advised to keep myself under observation for the next twenty-four hours, and to watch for symptoms of physical or nervous collapse.

On our walk back to my brother's car, we decided that we felt more or less all right (apart from the headache), and figured that we could go about our usual errands as long as there was always someone around to watch us. This was already around noon today, and we were all starved for lunch.

As for me, it was already too late to pass by the tournament at the mall; I had to hope that there was another one to be held the next morning. I ended up passing by a book launch in the Serendra area near Makati City, where I accounted my lurid tales of this morning's incident to quite a few shocked people. At this point, I refuse to classify it as a car "accident" -- having been the person who may have most likely been seriously injured if we had moved forward even a few more feet, I have quite a unique take on the situation.

We're expecting the car to remain in the custody of the mechanics for at least a week. They've already told us that they first need to figure out what can be salvaged and what has to be replaced; in addition, they're also considering how the hood can be hammered back into shape.

Apart from that, the rest of the day was spent discussing various conspiracy theories on who the errant driver was, and how he could have just plowed into us like that. I won't mention any details on him or his company so that their privacy can be kept under wraps. Besides, they'll only be relevant to the discussions that we will personally be having with them.

All in all, it was an interesting experience. Maybe I'll work it into a story one day.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Moneylender

One of the first lessons I learned was, "never lend anyone money." On the other hand, I was only about six years old and getting my first allowance at the time, so it could have been representative of some command to get me to hang on to the little paper bills in my first wallet.

Since then I've seen how flexible this question could be. My family is quite conservative when it comes to money, in that they will actively and thoroughly investigate potential investments before transferring any funds. This, however, does not prevent us from actively trading and paying transactions completely within the family -- which implies that for every inherent rule, there's are circumstances where that rule can be legitimately broken.

So now I constantly wonder when it's right to lend money to someone, and when it's wrong to lend money to someone. In addition to that, I wonder if it's right to place deadlines on getting people to pay it back... and if so, exactly what the reasonable amount of time is.

As far as I remember, I've lent out reasonably large amounts of money exactly three times in the last few years. I usually don't impose deadlines for these sorts of things, and I have to admit that it shows -- none of these three sources has paid me back yet. But I also implicitly trust each of these three people, and I still have contact with all of them. I don't worry about these previous transactions, mind you -- I worry more about any future proposals that might come my way.

At the moment, I do have such a proposal sitting at my table right now. It's from an old acquaintance who's somehow become estranged from his family and lost all his available funds, and has thus been reduced to begging for handouts. This raised the basic moneylending question again -- do I turn over a small portion of my available funds to help get him back on his feet, or do I tell him to play a different patsy elsewhere?

You could argue that trust is an inherent part of the equation, and you'd be right. But I'm wondering if morality should also play a part here, that we're supposed to consider the well-being of other people besides us. If this is the case, then the investment of support becomes a major priority, and the expectation of return payment gets relegated to the back of our minds.

But then you can turn that on its ear and argue that the morality is inherent to both sides. What if the recipient has absolutely no intention to return the money? What if the recipient holds the urge to immediately forget that the transaction ever occurred? What then?

This old acquaintance of mine has asked for assistance to get back on his feet, but that may not be the whole story. What would you say if I mentioned that I haven't seen him for eight years? That he lives somewhere out of town and nowhere within easy access? That I know nothing of his immediate past and what brought him to these circumstances? For all I know, some combination of drinks, drugs and bad relations was involved -- whatever it might be, it's bad news for the prospect of moneylending in general.

And yet beyond all that, there's the chance that people could be exactly what they say they are, and the desire to believe that they're actually turning their lives around. It's a very optimistic point of view, yes, but it's still a valid one.

I'm still thinking about whether or not I should lend him the money. It's not a very large amount when compared to the three historical parcels I've lent out, but there's a good deal of principle hanging on this thread. There's a question of standards in there somewhere, and a question of trust, and a question of morality. Sometimes I wonder how the local banking industry could be so unemotional about this sort of thing.

And for all I know, I might just find myself on the reverse side of the situation if I'm not careful. Things do change, and fortunes change along with them. If that ever happens, then I'd literally be forcing this same train of thought on the people I know.

Penny for your thoughts.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Staples and Binding, Part Two

My reading habits have taken a strange turn for the last year, due in part to work commitments and other developments in the publishing universe. In a sense, the habits that I once described in a previous post have changed significantly.

For starters, Dungeon magazine ceased publication sometime in the middle of last year, and took its sister Dragon with it. The culprit was not a question of low sales or a lack of interest in the magazine, but more a case for technological advancement -- it seems that the role-playing crowd, Dungeon's core audience, has largely moved online with the onslaught of MMORPGs and other online games. The result was a "reinvented" version of the two publications, now available to anyone with an Internet connection and a good UPS.

Last year also saw the final hurrah for Inquest Gamer, the only other magazine that I buy at a reasonably "subscription-like" level. Why Inquest folded up remains a mystery to me; it was fairly popular as far as I knew, it was one of the few periodicals that catered to the casual gaming crowd, and it constantly found ways to liven up existing games instead of focusing solely on new releases. I feel that its existence may have been doomed by the spate of gaming-related sites; putting stuff online brings up news a lot faster than the printing presses do.

I'm aware of how much more efficient the Internet can be, but would it kill people to stay with the standard print format from time to time? I'd like something glossy that I could read and re-read on a bus or in the middle of a power failure, thank you very much.

I haven't seen an issue of Games magazine in the bargain bin for some time, and I can't find the current issues on sale anywhere. That implies that the more recent issues haven't been reaching us for some reason -- maybe the magazine cut its print run, or maybe it's been selling out its publications abroad. Whatever the case, the only new periodicals that I see on the shelves seem to concentrate exclusively on Sudoku puzzles, which I personally can't stand.

Finally, I've given up on a lot of computer gaming magazines. This is simply because I'm waaaay out of the gaming loop -- I don't play online games, I don't own a next-generation console, and I have too little time to play anything but emulations of the old Super NES time-wasters. The contents of recent issues are more likely to confuse me than interest me, and I'm not about to drop half my savings on some fast-moving hardware just to catch up.

As you can see, that leaves me with absolutely no casual reading left to speak of. I could just call it a day and delve into the novels and comics that a lot of other people buy, but I just don't see plenty of re-readability in these. So I'm looking at any or all of the following right now:

Reader's Digest. I gave up this little publication ten years ago because 1) it featured a little too many "human-drama" stories for my taste, and 2) I was starting to get irritated by all the "sweepstakes" mailings. My grandmother still subscribes, however, and I leaf through the issues every now and then. So far I've decided that their "Laughter" feature has gotten worse over the years, but their focus on Asian affairs seems to have gotten more pronounced. I'm still sitting on the fence for this one.

Anime Insider. From the same publishers of Inquest Gamer, this sister publication exclusively focuses on Japanese manga and anime, and holds a very similar humorous bent. The catch: I'm not that focused on Japanese animation, and I don't think that this'll hold my interest for the long-term.

FHM Philippines. Yes, I'm aware that it has a certain lowbrow reputation, and I'm aware that at its core, it's a magazine that features women in various states of undress. But I'm also aware that they recently revamped the magazine and its features over the last few months, and as a result, it's shifted at least some of its focus away from the half-naked women. ("Some," mind you, and unfortunately not "all.") In fact, their latest issue purportedly has a list of "fifty reads for guys" or something like that, and I'm dying to find out what the list is like. That said, if anyone could possibly point me to an website that reflects the article's contents, it would save me the trouble of buying the lousy magazine.

Discover. I'll be honest -- to me, the main feature of this magazine lies in the supremely gifted puzzle column on the back page; everything else is merely cake to its ice cream. I'm still trying to decide if a single column (that used to be available online, mind you) is worth my three hundred pesos / nine dollars each month.

Total Girl. Just kidding.

So... does anyone have any suggested monthly readings out there? Does anyone have a magazine subscription that they'd care to recommend? Do give me a hand over here... I've found myself constantly running out of casual reading material for the past few weeks.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Yes, You Can Ruin Your Life

Hello, Inquirer.

First, I would like to express my appreciation for Pam Pastor's article, "Yes, Blogs Can Ruin Your Life", released last April 1st. I felt that it provided a good summary on those pitfalls that bloggers often fail to expect. In addition, I felt that your corresponding examples of controversial bloggers ("Cautionary Tales") gave some excellent real-world support for Ms. Pastor's explanations.

However, I also felt that the article failed to capture the heart of the matter. I felt that it failed to cover one important point that affects not only bloggers but all people in general. That point is a simple one: Each of us is ultimately accountable for everything that we say or do. It does not matter if we are bloggers, or if we are journalists, or if we are politicians or businessmen or writers or merely pedestrians on the busy streets. Each of us has to realize that we are responsible for what we do, what we say, and how we act towards our fellow human beings.

In short, I felt that Ms. Pastor's title was misleading. Our blogs cannot ruin our lives any more than our books, newspapers, radios and television sets can. It is not the physical means of expression that does it; it's the opinions that we express through these forms of media. What we choose to express to the world at large eventually dictates how the world receives us. If there's anyone who can ultimately ruin our own lives, it's us.

In this way, building a blog is really no different from writing an article for a magazine, or hosting a TV show, or merely having a conversation with our friends. In each situation, we have to be responsible for what we say. We have to realize that our words will always have consequences, regardless of whether we're gossiping about a couple of celebrities' sexual orientations, complaining about the behavior of the people seated next to us on an airline flight, or demanding our money back from a friend who we once trusted. We can communicate those words in any medium we want... but when the controversy boils over and the hate comes pouring in, we must realize that it's us -- not our blogs, not our magazines, not our talk shows and certainly not our idle conversations -- who must be held accountable.

Sean Uy

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Everybody goes through an "MTV phase," I think. It's essentially the one period in your life when you begin to develop an interest in commercial music. I don't mean a time where you merely begin to listen to songs and all that, mind you -- I mean a time in your life where you actively follow the global music phenomenon to the point of saturation. I mean a time when you don't just listen to the radio -- you watch the music videos, you spend your allowance buying the albums, and you identify distinct favorites among the many artists out there.

My phase came around the late 90's, which meant that I was a late bloomer who didn't appreciate most of the 80's-pop-culture songs that pervaded my teenage youth. On the other hand, it also meant that I was privy to the predecessors of twenty-first-century commercial music: the dance-techno mixes, melodic rap, boy bands / girl bands of all shapes and sizes, and the revival of early 80's rock.

It's strange that, somewhere in all that personal history, one of the most vivid memories I have is of a now-obscure artist named Scatman John.

Scatman's World (Scatman John)

As you can see, it isn't exactly the most conventional song. It uses a musical technique known as "scat" -- consecutive nonsensical syllables that are strung together to create rhythm and melody. For that matter, Scatman John wasn't called "Scatman John" for nothing -- having emerged from a jazz background, he specialized in this distinct technique.

While we've probably seen scat singing in one form or another (mostly in jazz vocals), the Scatman's songs were something different entirely. His are some of the few instances I remember where the scat technique is used with a techno-like beat... often to devastating effect. The fact that he always seems to do it so effortlessly doesn't help one bit.

Ten years after I first listened to his music, I found myself leafing through the Internet for more background on this artist and whether or not he was still making records. One of the most interesting things I found was that Scatman John -- real name John Paul Larkin -- had a severe stuttering problem that persisted for his entire life. While this must have made casual life very difficult for him -- it was once remarked that he could hardly finish a sentence without repeating the same phrase six or seven times -- it gave him a natural advantage during his performances. If there was anyone who could talk of spinning silk purses out of sow's ears, it was this man.

Scatman (Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop) (Scatman John)

I mean, just listen to that. Good grief.

I still enjoy his music, mind you, but part of me will always wonder how the heck he does it.

His old hits are largely forgotten now, I think. Scatman John only really made it big in Europe and Japan, where action figures of him were actually sold in the Land of the Rising Sun. Nowadays most of what we get are American Idols and paparazzi-fed pop princesses, but I suppose that talented scat artists are extremely difficult to come by.

Sadly, I also found that I wouldn't be seeing any more of Scatman John's music -- the man himself died in 1999, shortly after releasing only his third album. It means that I'm going to have a long search on my hands if I'm to find any of his original releases.

I do feel good about dredging up his memory from the corners of my mind, though. Here was a very distinct artist with a very unique style, so much that I still remember him ten years down the line. It emphasizes the prospect of making one's mark on his audience through any form of media -- images, gestures, words, music, what have you -- even if you can barely sing the songs yourself for all the nonsensical lyrics.

"I'm Scatman." Heh.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Disclaimer: April 2008

Hey, as long as we're here, we might as well get started.

Right, then -- everything on this blog is an original work as written by Sean. That means that Sean literally conceived, planned and wrote out every single word, graphic and shredded idea that you see on this web site's blog posts. The only exceptions to this statement involve those items owned by Blogger as owner of this weblogging service, and...

Which Sean?


I said, which Sean?

What do you mean, "which Sean?"

I mean, which Sean? There are two of us, as you can plainly see.

...Er, right. But wait... there weren't two of us before.

Of course there were. There were always two of us. There's you -- the standard, spokesperson goody-two-shoes Sean... and there's me.


Evil Sean.

Oh. Er... I see.

You sound surprised.

It's just that... well... I didn't expect to see you again.

Neither did I. I had to admit that trapping me in that alligator pit was a stroke of genius, especially after you had caught me off guard with that giant mousetrap. After all that's happened, I would think that you're trying to get rid of me.

Ah... of course not. That's rather funny. Ha ha ha.



So... are you going to continue this disclaimer of yours, or not?

Oh, right. The disclaimer. Okay... er... everything here was written by Sean, and...

Which Sean?

Er... both of us.

Good. Carry on.

And... uh... some entries on this blog use or reference outside material which was generated by other creators. Whenever this blog uses such an item, Sean will always attempt to include some form of acknowledgement that identifies and promotes the creator of the work.


Er... aren't you going to say something?


Uh... you're Evil Sean. Aren't you're supposed to be the negative, malevolent, alternate-universe version of me?

I am.

Then why aren't you saying anything? I just mentioned something about giving the right acknowledgements to the right people.

Hey, I'm completely against plagiarism too.

You are?

I'm just as much a writer as you are. I don't like my stuff getting taken by other people and used under their names.

Oh. Ah... that makes two of us, then. What Sean... what I do, mind you, is that whenever I use somebody else's stuff, I try to make sure that they get a link, or a byline, or something like that. And if any author out there feels that one of their works was improperly used in this weblog, then they only have to contact Sean for further discussion.

I wouldn't have it any other way.



Then, well... Sean also doesn't like it if people use his stuff without some form of permission or notification. What we'd like to avoid, to be honest, is a situation where some person out there decides to copy from or use Sean's stuff under their own identity, effectively taking credit for Sean's work.

Which is plagiarism, pure and simple.

Right. We'd also like to avoid any incident where Sean is misquoted, or where Sean's words are taken in an out-of-context manner to mislead people or damage anyone's credibility. That's the only reason why Sean reserves the right to demand permission before having anyone place his writings anywhere else.

So money doesn't enter the picture? You are a goody-two-shoes.

I won't lie -- sometimes money does enter the picture, particularly if the work will enter formal publication, or will be the source of royalties for the originator. But Sean is usually very lenient towards these things; he's willing to let most requests go with little more than a good conversation and the right permission.

So you say.

There's a Creative Commons License on the lower-right-hand corner that contains the conditions towards the use of items on this blog. In a sense, it contains everything that I've explained here and more.

Except maybe for one small thing.


You haven't described what you're going to do to offenders who will blatantly steal your stuff and thumb their nose at us in an insultingly rude manner.

Er... ah... I've mostly given up on that. Usually the presence of my lawyer's enough to deter people like that.

Lawyers are admirable. But there's little that can compensate for a good, old-fashioned beating. I find two-by-fours to be very useful, especially those that have a nail driven through them.

Yes, but...

Or you can mention any number of subtle life-threatening concepts. Immolation comes to mind. Pit bulls come to mind. Watermelons and public rectal exams come to mind. And even if you're too squeamish for those, there's always the old standbys.

Old standbys?

Blackmail. Extortion. Kidnapping. Writing them into your next story as an obviously villainous character and acquiring greater exposure for the issue.

I can't do that. That would be...

...Evil? Hahahah.

Geez. Is that why you decided to show up for this one?

You do your job, and I'll do mine. Besides, this feels kind of nice, threatening your own readers and getting away with it.

Er... ah... that's all the time we have for today, I think. Time for us to go.


There's still next month, if you really want to cut loose.

I've got the plans in the trunk of my car.

We have a car?

Of course. How do you think I managed to get out of that alligator pit?

Oooooh. Does it have a mini-bar?

It's got its own bartender.