Sunday, July 30, 2006


I woke up the other day and saw how Internet Explorer fucks up what's otherwise a beautiful thing called the Skirmisher. It was morning, and I had planned many other things: I was supposedly gunning down nasty Eastern Europeans on the PS2 game Black, retesting if my old coffee brewer would still work so that I could enjoy a rare treat of genuine caffeine, doing profound things like standing in a corner and gazing at the wall and writing down what strange things I was seeing on the same wall. And scratching what itched.

But I saw how the Skirmisher was exploding so I had no choice but to sit down and press the kind of red button I only press on certain doomsdays: the button labelled, "Fuck Abstrakt; load Tarski."

"Abstrakt" was the blog template I had been using for the past two months. I was smitten by its charms the first time I saw it. And like what one would do with one’s great love, I looked the other way whenever I’d see something I didn’t like; things like Php files that looked like patchwork, and the weird things its three columns sometimes did whenever I tried to implement what I thought would have been a cool idea. But the other day, I saw how ugly it was, and how patchy it had become. So I said to it in a who-gives-a-shit voice, “Frankly, my damn, I don’t dear a give.”

If you’d look at the Skirmisher now, it’s dressed up in the Emperor’s new clothes, whose creators say was inspired by 20th century logician Alfred Tarski (the Skirmish of Dark and Light’s theme was called Kubrick; fancy names, I admit, but who wouldn’t like dropping them?)

I had been keeping the Tarski template files in the bowels of my hard drive exactly for such an event. And I was just too eager to use it when the time came. Although it was relatively a breeze to install and customize, doing the whole shebang snatched two days of my very important life away from the empty things I love. And now, it’s sitting there like it never ever required some blood sacrifice. If it were a person, I would at least snap a rubber band on its nose to appease myself.

But now that the blog’s complete and running once again, Black beckons. How happily and childishly I answer the call.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Beginnings and Endings

There are books that for me are so terrific I just couldn’t find the courage to finish reading them. I don’t know, maybe it’s out of some absurd respect for what I think are great things. Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, for example. Or Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. You can quiz me about how it began, how the characters faced their individual extinctions, how they rubbed the little happiness they had with their little fingers. But I won’t be able to tell you how it all ends. I have no idea. I have suspicions, and mostly I make it up, sometimes to avoid embarrassment.

Some years ago, when I was in the first few chapters of reading Stephen King’s Hearts in Atlantis, I immediately knew this would be one of those books. I’d guard how many remaining pages I was left to read, and then I’d tack a sort of mental Post-It note in my head. When I chat with somebody about one of these no-ending books, I invent the endings. I make it wild enough to be exciting, but believable enough not to arouse suspicion.

I walk the earth with a head full of books that have no endings. At the end of the day, I console myself with an absurd pride; it’s not easy, after all, to have the self-discipline to divorce oneself from a page-turner. It takes immense will, like the kind of focus you need to bend spoons and forks and the Philippine Constitution.

Sometimes, I find myself wondering: what if one day or morning, at a café or somewhere on EDSA, I meet somebody who knows all the endings, but no beginnings? Somebody whose head is full of last chapters?

I’m pretty sure such a meeting would be like the hotdog meeting a donut. Or John meeting Yoko. The Red Sea parting in half. Or a story that finally finds its own reason to be read completely.

I have no idea if this makes sense. But one thing is for sure.

If I meet this amazing person one day in the far future, I will tell her:

Don’t you, oh don’t you goddamn tell me the motherfucking ending.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"White Light"

My short story, "White Light," appears live on Amazon Shorts for 14 days. If you're somewhat of a writer and have been looking for a good, growing online writing community, join Gather. And while you're at it, why not visit the "White Light" page and rate it. If you do, I'll send you Bogart, my carrier pigeon, strapped with a Thank You note and a strand of the Manny Pacquiao armpit hair I've been trying to sell (quite unsuccessully) on eBay.

Seriously, don't listen to my blather and please just rate it.

I wrote it one warm, brownout evening while we all sat in the shadows. I was trying to read Stephen King's On Writing on my PDA and when I gazed up to look at the candlelight, the seed for the story struck me: What if story ideas were specks of light fluttering like fireflies in the darkness, that any writer could pluck and, instantly, there's a powerful story in his head and all he needed to do is write it down without having to think it up. Easy.

I admit what motivated me to write it was laziness. I'm more of a slacker than a writer; the truth is, although I love telling stories, I hate writing them down in a coherent, disciplined, consistent manner. In the same way I hate classrooms and studying under a professor (see Exhibit A of my chronic folly in "Out of Place") in a coherent, scheduled, consistent manner. Maybe I haven't found my voice, yet, and maybe I won't. So you can imagine how seductive it would be for me to just go into a room filled with white specks of light/story ideas, "pluck" them out of thin air, and exclaim Voila! like what those fake Italian chefs do in tomato sauce commercials.

So visit my story's page on Gather and please rate it. I'm feeling saucy today I think I'll even give you my sister's puppy.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Dead Things and Empty Spaces

I was speaking with a girl some weeks ago, and the conversation made a turn toward teenage angst and suicide. The girl was young and had many personal issues; she’s one of those who had the habit of being sad and hopeless all the time, which was crazy because she had much going for her and she was pretty.

After a while, the girl asked me, “If you don’t believe in God and life is absurd and meaningless, why go on living? Doesn’t it depress you?”

This was a line of questioning that was always tricky. So I did what Jesus Christ would do: I told her a “parable.”

Two things, I said.

First, read my old blog post called, “Existential Song.” It’s basically a mishmash of all things Albert Camus and his jolly philosopher friends, but I made some of my points there.

Second, listen to this quite long drivel.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Manny Pacquiao Show

I’m not really a faithful follower of boxing, but I think Manny Pacquiao is the only boxer I’ve seen wearing a jersey so completely smothered with the logos of half a dozen sponsors.

The jersey was screaming: Motolite! McDonalds! No Fear! More exclamations!!! Now!!!

And with a shining bling, too, dangling from his neck.

Wow. If only I could wear things like that. He reminded me of Formula 1, or an old Wayne’s World joke. Or a dressed-up jeepney.

Yesterday’s match was also a marketer’s greasy wet dream: it should be included in the annals of target marketing. Where else in the world can you see this phenomenon: Manny Pacquiao is the personality in his very own show’s slew of advertisements. You have this globally famous boxing match, and in the gaps, the star boxer is also in almost all the TV ads, endorsing to death things like painkiller, canned fish, sport socks, Magic Sing, beer and liquor, a foreign fastfood, vinegar, ice cream.

That McDonalds TV ad?: Pa-pa-ra-Pacquiao, love ko ‘to!

Pure genius.

The Notebook

Image “I have to take a dump,” Jessie whispered.

“What? You mean, now?”

Jessie winced; I saw desperation in his eyes. It made me shiver. It made me mutter to myself, Oh, shit, indeed.

This was in third grade. Our teacher, who was heavy with child and terribly cranky, was introducing a new math concept that required us to work with strange symbols. I was straining to understand the whole thing when Jessie, who sat beside me, tapped me with an icy hand and winced and said he really, really had to shit.

“What did you eat?” I was trying to keep my voice down, hiding my embarrassment over this shitty conversation. “Why now? Couldn’t it wait till the next decade?”

Jessie tried to speak, but he suddenly stood up with that strange gait as if he had a small animal coming out of his butt. He went to our teacher, whispered something, then off he went. He walked out the door like a duck in pain.