Monday, November 30, 2009

The P10,000 Question, of course, "Could I borrow P10,000?"

Lest you think otherwise, this is not chump change we're talking about. That's ten thousand in Philippine pesos, which makes it a little more than two hundred US dollars, and a good chunk of my post-tax salary. It's not the kind of amount that you can casually carry in your wallet, and I'm far more likely to talk to a bank manager about it than I am to have it processed by the local ATM.

And speaking of which, I was conveniently given this statement by my mother on a Friday night, when all the banks were likely to be closed for the long weekend. To make matters worse, I forgot to drop by a cash machine last Saturday, so I found myself stuck at home late Saturday night, wondering how I was going to come up with the money by nine the next morning.

The solution, of course, was to start scrounging. My pack-rat tendencies mean that I hoard the strangest things from time to time — money among them — and even if I couldn't come up with the entire amount, then I could at least provide a substantial contribution. Besides, wouldn't you be curious to see if you had ten thousand pesos stashed around the house somewhere?

So the first thing that I did was check my wallet. My miserly habits meant that I usually had about P1,500 in there — which turned out to be correct — so it was a start.

Then I checked my "emergency fund". Call me paranoid, but most of my money is tied up in various insubstantial venues: closed-investment accounts, savings accounts, antique teddy bear collections... but I figured that I wanted a failsafe in case I couldn't access these for any reason. Thus, I maintain a home-based "emergency fund" in a secure location, which means that it's a wad of bills stuffed into an old sock that's wire-threaded to the back of my CD cabinet.

Said "emergency fund" held only two thousand in dusty old bills. I made a mental note to increase the allocation in the future, then folded everything together. That was P3,500 so far.

Then I raided the envelope stash. This happens to be a mishmash of old form letters on my desk — bills, solicitations, bank reports — stuff that I get over the mail, and set aside after reading. There were two fortunate things about this stash: The first is that it includes the money and gift certificates that I receive from relatives over the past few months; The second is that I hadn't gotten around to my yearly cleanup yet.

Here, for example, was the two thousand and four hundred pesos that I got in a red envelope on my last birthday. Sitting in a different sealed package was the two hundred that I won during October's mooncake dice game. Then there was the neatly-folded stack of hundred-peso bills (all new) that I had left over from a previous vacation, and on top of that, there were also remnants of my fee from a earlier freelancing engagement.

When the dust cleared, I was at the P8,300 mark. I was a little surprised at that point; I'm clearly in the territory of bachelor living here.

Interestingly enough, I still had one more place to look: My slush file, hidden in the deepest recesses of my bookshelves. This was where I held my long-term storage, the stuff that I put away without the intention of opening up until it was needed. It contained sealed envelopes with some of my older story ideas (which is a great way to prove copyright claims, by the way), old calling cards, and memorabilia from bygone years... among other nastier things.

It apparently also contained stuff that I had completely forgotten about. One of the things I fished out, for example, was a bank check for an amount that I'm not at liberty to disclose here... which captured my brother's attention almost immediately:

Brother: "Why do you have a check in there?"

Sean: "I don't know. I haven't seen this stuff in years."

B: "Why is it for [insert significant amount here]?"

S: "I don't know. I don't even remember why I have it."

B: "Why is it dated December 2005?"

S: "Uhhh..."

Crazily enough, I scraped together another P1,600 from the slush file... along with a Starbucks gift certificate (valid until December 2002); a collection of ten-, five-, and two-peso bills; and half-a-dozen membership cards for commercial services that no longer exist.

That brought my grand total to a staggering P9,900... and I was only too happy to add another P100 from my wallet to bring it to the intended ten thousand. It is not, strictly speaking, the easiest way to get a quick shot of funds. Moreover, it doesn't speak very well about my hoardish tendencies, which probably got the last cleaning lady running away and screaming.

My mother was surprised that I had somehow come up with the money without an ATM in sight. She also mentioned that it wasn't an urgent need, that she could just pass by an ATM herself early the next morning, which gave me my regular dose of irony for the week.

She did wonder where I got all the gift certificates, though. I mean, it's not as though they were just lying around the house or anything...

Friday, November 27, 2009

That Could Have Been You

That could have been you, seeing the flash of the muzzle and feeling the bullets puncturing your skin. That could have been you, staggering back and smelling the gunsmoke as it fights its way across your breath. That could have been you, your legs giving out from the sheer dead weight of your body. That could have been you, feeling the dull black pain as your face strikes the earth.

That could have been you, fighting every rising shred of remorse in your conscience as you follow your orders. That could have been you, signalling the men with the shovels to start their work. That could have been you, mopping your brow with a dirty piece of cloth before you throw it to the next person. That could have been you, scenting the air and wondering if anyone's going to know, if anyone's going to find out, if anyone's even watching you at the moment of your damnation.

That could have been you, sitting comfortably in the station without a care in the world. That could have been you, ignoring that cancer that festers in the region you call home. That could have been you, knowing that there were people who needed your protection against other people with guns and power and money. That could have been you, hearing the faint roar of gunfire in the distance for years upon years and doing absolutely nothing about it.

That could have been you, looking over the sea of corpses wrapped in clods of earth. That could have been you, identifying the bodies by features that were no longer there — a favorite t-shirt instead of a face, an ID card instead of a spoken greeting, a wedding ring instead of a smile. That could have been you, remembering how this one was a father to seven children, knowing that these four staffed a newspaper all by themselves. That could have been you, thinking of colleagues and friends, knowing that this had happened many times before and would almost certainly happen again.

That could have been you, sitting hundreds of miles away in the middle of the metropolis. That could have been you, trusting the other regions to handle themselves well enough despite the political controversy your party once generated. That could have been you, counting people as allies in exchange for a blind eye towards their engagements. That could have been you, gathering the remnants of your authority in closer and closer circles, praying that nothing happens to separate you before the year is out.

That could have been you, sequestering yourself in your majestic mansion, surrounded by relatives and close friends who you've groomed over the years. That could have been you, surrendering yourself with the knowledge that all the eyes of the world are upon your back, knowing that the killing hasn't finished yet, wondering if you or anyone else will hang as high as Haman before it's over. That could have been you, calling for your legal counsel, insisting with every sharp breath that you didn't do it, that you didn't give the orders, that it was a different group of people with no motive as obvious as yours.

That could have been you.

That could have been you.

That could have been you.




Never forget.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blue Period

It has recently struck me that most of the stuff I wear is blue.

I'm not sure why, really. It's possible that I've come up with a surplus of blue clothing in the last few years. It's also possible that blue happens to be one of the more neutral colors to wear to one's office, where I spend most of my waking life nowadays. Whatever the case, I seem to have more than my fair share of blue polo shirts, blue t-shirts, and even blue underwear.

Now, I have to admit that blue is my favorite color. In fact, I tend to pinpoint a specific shade of blue — some sort of darkish navy blue that I can somehow identify only on sight — although not an inch of it is ever reflected in my wardrobe. What's weird is that I remember liking red a lot as a ten-year-old kid, which automatically raised the question in my mind: How do we choose certain colors to be our favorites, anyway?

I remember that my brother likes yellow, for example. My sister has long staked out a claim on blue. My friends and associates, moreover, have chosen an eclectic bunch of shades over the years: purple, gray, maroon, white, tweed... and at the moment, it's making me wonder if there was any rhyme or reason to the choice. Heck, I'm particularly curious about tweed. Who chooses tweed as a favorite color, for goodness' sakes?

Having dipped certain fingers into the design industry, I'm fully aware that certain colors produce certain subtle impressions, and have certain associations. Red, for example, is an "attention" color — it implies passion and anxiety, and is used to get us to focus on a specific item. It's why stop signs are red, it's why fire engines are red, and it's why most lipsticks are red.

If I remember correctly, blue is a "serene" color. It's used to denote a sense of coolness and relaxation, and usually gets associated with the elements of air and water. Blue just puts us at ease, more often than not. I obviously agree with this sentiment, although I still wonder if this connotation explains my attraction to blue, or if I'm only holding onto this as a convenient excuse.

That said, there's still the matter of different shades for a single color. Red and pink lie around the same area of the spectrum, for example, but modern society has ascribed different roles to those two. I would imagine that dark blue and light blue are distinct enough from each other to have different connotations as well, although that's where my knowledge runs out.

The jury, however, remains undecided on the difference in impression between, say, Navy Blue and Prussian Blue. The question of significance between, say, Scarlet, Vermilion, Rose, Blood Red and Fuchsia is probably enough to drive graphic artists to madness. And that doesn't even cover the debate between Ebony, Midnight, Raven Black, Mummy Black, and Soot.

Then again, my tendency could simply mean that I just happen to like blue. Whether or not that denotes serenity in some way is probably outside the bounds of opinion — maybe I just like the way it looks.

Besides, my closet doors are painted blue as well. For that matter, so are my venetian blinds, my wallpaper, my bedsheets... heck, something's got to match my underwear, after all.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Disclaimer: November 2009

I've been doing these disclaimers for a long time now, and the legalese is always a common element. If you've been skipping out on these monthly posts, you'll know that I outline the following bases each time. Now is no exception:

1. I conceptualized and wrote everything on this blog, with the sole exceptions given in #2.

2. Some of the items on this blog were acquired from external sources, either as the material with which I create my posts, or as the references with which I write. These items are always acknowledged, and provided with a link where possible.

3. Anyone who feels that I've used something that they own without acknowledgment is welcome to contact me for discussion. Assuming that the material is truly theirs, I'm prepared to accede to their demands as long as they are within reason.

4. I don't like plagiarists, who I define as people who take others' works with the intent of claiming these as their own. People who manipulate this work in a harmful or out-of-context manner fall under the same classification. I discourage this activity, particularly when it comes to my own stuff.

5. Apart from any monthly disclaimers that I have, this blog is part of the terms and conditions set forth by the Creative Commons license, which is at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar on my main blog site.

There's usually a threat of grievous physical, psychological or legal harm involved, but not always.

I've noticed that it's a little difficult to come up with a brand-new disclaimer post every month, and I think that that's because I like putting little spins on the silly things. I don't want to simply repeat a single post as the first item of every month, so I try to work them into short posts. The only things that should bore people, or turn them off from reading these like any other entry, are the titles — and I find myself wishing that I don't have to call them "Disclaimer" all the time.

Normally I have three different approaches with regards to creating disclaimer posts:

1. Graphics — If one picture is worth a thousand words, then my personal volume must be substantial. The primary benefit of using graphics is that they will immediately catch peoples' attention, despite the stodgy legalese. The fact that I have a few Photoshop skills means that I can put these together by myself... which is fortunate when you realize that these things usually take a couple of hours.

2. Text Styling — This covers the various text formats, layouts, genres and so forth. It's the most common approach that I use, simply because tapping away at a keyboard happens to be my forté. Sometimes I'll incorporate the legalese into a short story, sometimes I'll try a line or two of poetry, and sometimes I'll just try putting it up like one of Letterman's top ten lists.

3. Straight Play — And sometimes, if I don't have much time to come up with a post, I'll just play it straight. These are probably the most boring of the disclaimer posts that I write, but they do act as a bit of a refresher. I'll emphasize the fact that these don't necessarily mean that I don't have any idea for a post. Instead, they simply mean that I'm in a hurry at the time.

I don't think that I've really run out of ideas for a disclaimer post yet, so you're still likely to get these from me in the future. Whether that's good news or bad news depends on which side of the fence you're sitting on.

Then again, I'm assuming that we're all bloggers ourselves, and that we're capable of coming up with our own content. There are millions of words out there, after all... wouldn't you like to see what interesting combinations you can come up with? :)