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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Saturday, December 31, 2005

entry arrow12:35 PM | A Pause Before the Year Ends

"Love don't make things nice. It ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die."

~ Nicholas Cage as Ronny Cammareri in Norman Jewison's wonderful Moonstruck (1987)



"There is a cure for homosexuality."

"What is it?"

"Fame."

~ Sarah Schulman, in her play Manic Flight Reaction



"New Year's eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights."

~ Hamilton Wright Mabie



"Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account."

~ Oscar Wilde



"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential."

~ Ellen Goodman

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

entry arrow7:32 AM | A Short Review of Mulawin

The best thing about Dominic Zapanta and Mark Reyes's Mulawin the Movie -- Regal Films and GMA Films's paint-by-numbers film adaptation of the television fantaserye favorite -- may be the fact that after watching the movie, you get a strange craving for chicken. Barbecued.

That said, all you can really do is spend the rest of the movie commenting on the trivialities, because those are the only things that will keep you entertained in this fowlish quagmire. Trivialities like the zombie-ish line-reading that mistakes itself for dialogue (take that, Bianca King!). Like the horrid special effects that will elicit more giggles than awe. Like the strangely immobile characterization of Eddie Gutierrez as Dakila. (What is he doing here ba?) Like how Angel Locsin as Alwina, fights like a chicken beheaded -- a kind of silly chicken dance that involves a lot of tiny tinikling jumps and a semblance of Darna movements. Like how Richard Gutierrez's make-up artist should really be given the Frankenstein's Monster Award for Horrid Foundation. Like how Sunshine Dizon, as Pirena from Engkantadia ... if she really must wear a midriff-baring costume, should really learn to spell C-R-U-N-C-H-E-S, or even simply, just G-Y-M. All that the wasted Dennis Trillo does is stalk the cast and look sad. And all that Richard as Aguiluz proves is that he has no range as an actor, and belongs sadly to the limited frame of TV's small screen.

To say that Mulawin is a bad movie borders on kindness. It is the very equivalent of cinematic bird flu.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

entry arrow5:36 PM | Things Change

"Chance is the fool's name for fate."
--Fred Astaire,
The Gay Divorcee

The fact that New Year's Day used to be celebrated on March 1 until the Gregorian reforms of 1582 (and for some countries, even as late as 1752) tells me all that I need to know about the protocols of celebrating the passing of the old year into the new: all things change, even the fixed dates of our rituals and celebrations. So how much more the vagaries we call our lives? But always, because we are such hopeful creatures, we pray for the better end of things. Nevertheless -- in our silent cautionary regard for the murk of the future -- we also prepare for what can prove to be the worst of our lives. This essay is really a short observation on how best to contemplate the changes we command for ourselves come the new year -- noting hopefully that this is not a list of damning resolutions, just wishes for the good end of circumstances.

Things change, and life is short. There goes your theme for the year, for every year.

How does that much-recycled witticism about the singular constancy of death, taxes, and the sheer changeability of our lives go again? I was thinking of that very same thing on the last week of December this year, while I was on a taxi navigating the turtle traffic from Ayala Mall to Lahug's I.T. Park where I was to meet Mark in Bo's Coffee Club. I had spent the day window-shopping and having rich conversation over lunch with a couple of writer-friends, and I was ready to pick up Mark for a late afternoon plan of watching Mulawin in SM City.

In the musty interior of the generic white cab with its generic velvet upholstery, I saw Cebu City's tall buildings and occasional roadside shanties in blurs and snapshots, and thought that there was much about the city that had remained constant for me, ever since my childhood.

I thought: How many Christmases and New Years have I spent here? I was only a kid of seven or nine when I first beheld Cebu's sparkling city lights and humming bustle, always a temptation for a small town boy like me. There was only Cebu's downtown to consider seriously then: what was hip and cosmopolitan was concentrated mostly around what was then a very posh Colon Street (if anyone now can believe that) and the many asphalt tributaries that fed into that commercial river. Uptown was Nowhere Land, and what was considered the epitome of extravagant holiday shopping was the mammoth opulence of White Gold in what was then the new blank wilderness of the reclamation area. I still recall the boyhood shivers of discovering a totally different world. I always associate this memory with the songs of Swing Out Sister, particularly "Break Out" which conveyed to me the appropriate soundtrack of those days when I was riding at the backseat of my brother Rocky's car, him at the wheels, and my mother beside him on the passenger seat asking him about that wonderful dimsum he took us out for dinner to just the other night. I remember the steamed rice as a concoction of utter sublimity -- something that still remains in the vestiges of my tastebud's memories. Smelling dimsum these days always provokes in me a rush of salivary delight.

Today, though the commercial geography has altered, nothing much has changed in the way I still celebrate Christmas holidays in Cebu City: last week, I still found myself in the backseat of a car, albeit a taxi, but I had given the driver an old recording of Swing Out Sister favorites, cued on "Break Out." He found it a strange request, but I had begged of Christmas indulgence, and so I had my soundtrack in sync with memories. And yet... White Gold, of course, is now a burnt out shell, a ruin that has not risen to reclaim past glories. And there are other worthier shopping paradises that now dot the metropolis like a rash: the big malls, of course, which could bear no mention at all in this post. Things have remained the same, but how things have also changed.

All things change. I am older now; and perhaps I can also stake claim to becoming wiser. There are now different desires that go beyond dimsum -- laptops, iPods, digital cameras, sleeker cellphones, Blueberrys, faster Internet connection, the search for constancy in love's negotiations, the fervent hunts for the proverbial green grass at the other side of whatever fences....

It struck me, while I was getting out of that Cebu taxi and paying the indulgent driver the fare (plus tip), that the need -- and the want -- for change is one life force that keeps us alive. That while a significant part of all of us craves for a kind of constancy to tame the relentless inertia of life, its twin of also wanting change is what keeps us from becoming too complacent. It breaks us out -- like the Swing Out Sister song -- from the decay of sameness, from the boredom of knowing only the excruciatingly familiar. Because what has become routine and what has become the tired hallmarks of our lives so far is a kind of prison, a compromise of our childhood aspirations. If we look back to our more innocent days, when we were kids with such gigantic capacity for dreaming, we all wanted to be giant versions of our hopes. "I want to be an astronaut!" "I want to be the President of the Philippines!" "I want to be a movie star!" "I want to build the largest building in the world!" Even, "I want to be Superman!"

But adulthood ossifies us into accepting the false allures (and limitations) of pragmatism, of binding circumstances, of dream-killing abuses of all kinds. And soon we settle for whatever it is that we find ourselves becoming. Most times, it means surrendering most of our dreams.

Instinctively, we find ways of breaking out of that. We make New Year resolutions, for example, even if most of the time, the hold of adult habit and the all-too-human collapse to failure keep us from becoming what we wish to have for ourselves. And yet, we try. And try again. Despite my knowledge of own defeats in these attempts, I like the idea still of constantly trying, because it means I have not given up on myself, and because it means I am still capable of dreaming.

All things change, as they must. Come New Year, I will look forward to that first sunrise. I'll take a deep breath, and I'll....

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

entry arrow12:01 AM | For Kristyn, On Her Christmas Birthday

Dearest Grace... Because I love you and I miss you. Love, Will.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

entry arrow1:40 AM | On Holiday

I'm off to Cebu for the holidays. I won't be back till the New Year. Have fun, do the right thing under the mistletoe, and don't drink too much eggnog. Merry Christmas, everbody.

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entry arrow1:27 AM | Some Christmas

It takes a great while to notice it is already December in Dumaguete.

There are none of the usual markers of holiday celebrations: save for a gigantic Christmas tree made of parols in Quezon Park, there are no twinkling lights adorning sidewalk lamp posts, and no Mormon Tabernacle Choir cheer echoing through every strip of commercial space. There is only a half-hearted attempt by the City to spruce up the Boulevard in snatches of red and yellow lights; and none at all along Perdices Street, although there are the tiniest bits of red and green tinsels making do for holiday department store Christmas window dressing. Dr. Rico Absin still makes his usual Christmas extravaganza, turning his house into that requisite lights fest. And then there is not much else...

But we move on.

Of course, there are stirrings of plans for Christmas parties down the road -- but mostly they are faint calls, subject to the automatism of tradition. "God, Christmas is no longer the same," a friend of mine recently remarked. "This is Christmas, Recession-Style." He said that with a grin. I could only nod.

"Dear God. Remember when we used to complain that Christmas was becoming commercialized?" I said. "That it wasn't the real thing anymore underneath all those cosmetic snow flakes and exchange gifts and synthetic fir trees?"

Martin nodded. We were both drinking light softdrinks outside Mamia.

I continued: "Now, of course, there's less commercial trimmings. It's the economy. It's post-September 11 depression. It's our everyday shit. Yet suddenly I feel short-changed. Suddenly I feel I really need all those crap to feel Christmassy. I want all those shallow joys back. The keso de bola, the damned Christmas ham, the It's a Wonderful Life movie rerun. You know what I mean?"

Martin nodded. "We often just forget who really invented Christmas in the first place."

"Jesus H. Christ?"

"No, Coca-Cola."

"You're right."

Jolly old, fast Saint Nick. Red cheeks, red suit. A Coca-Cola/Norman Rockwell invention.

Maybe I'm just growing old and cynical.

Say this is so: The real meaning of Christmas comes in peso signs and high electric bills. The real meaning of Christmas is the mound of gifts (packaged beautifully in green and red foil, and expensive-looking bows) right under the plastic Christmas tree, or the way you've drowned the whole house in a sea of lights they compete with the stars. It is just how much your dining table can take overloaded with noche buena, or the fact that you've managed to rent When Harry Met Sally and Home Alone and It's a Wonderful Life from your favorite video store ahead of anyone else. Christmas is carols sung over videoke. Christmas is a Coca-Cola commercial, an open season for watusi, and noisy children banging a strange array of percussion instruments (somebody's kettle, for example) while doing a murdered rendition of "Jingle Bells."

The religiously-inclined screams: "Jesus! He is the reason for the season!" Thank you very much. Point very well taken. But without a hint of a Scroogey gripe, Christmas just isn't Christmas without a bit of the commercial in it. Those who bemoan the selling of a season to a plethora of food and expensive toys and holiday shopping sprees deny the basic human instinct to party. True, we can have meaningful celebrations without the mistletoe or snow or mountains of exchange gifts waiting for the light of Christmas dawn, but they sure do help make the season bright, no harm in that.

The one time, as a kid, I had a Christmas without the usual shiny tinsels, we ate a spare serving of chicken salad my brother Rey prepared and went to bed at 10 p.m. Sure, it was very nice and warm, and the family hugged and wished merriness to each other and prayed in a circle -- but we did pray that perhaps next year, Christmas would be a bit better, maybe with a ham or two. That night, I remember taking after Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis: I sat on our window sill and sang, in my 9 year-old voice, a wispy version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." It is a lovely song, but a sad song really, the sweet melody just mellows down the hopeful, expectant want expressed in the lyrics: "...Through the years, we all will be together / if the fates allow / Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow / So have yourself a merry little Christmas now." The operative word is "little." And with a dramatic pause, I wished upon my midnight star. Like Jimminy Cricket. But that's another story.

The season for the everyday Filipino is one extended reason to fiesta, right from the start of a Ber month, to Three Kings Day somewhere in the heart of January. We love Christmas because it gives us the perfect excuse to hide our everyday troubles under a makeshift Christmas tree. When I was twelve, we had a long-suffering labandera with a louse for a husband and a drunk for a mother-in-law. Her sadness were in her eyes, although her motor-mouth regaled with tall tales and funny gossip. Every night, she went home and took her beating, as if a hard day's labor wrestling with wet bedsheets and jeans weren't enough.

Yet, around Christmas, she'd drag us to her five-meter squared barong-barong and whip up for us something she called "hamburger cake." It was always burnt and tasted a bit funny, but it was her own version of Christmas fiesta, thank you very much.

The three greatest memories I have of Christmas are when my brother Rocky, then a salesman from a big pharmaceutical company, came home from Cebu with these plastic bags of new (and golden) 25 centavo coins, and proceeded to throw handful upon handful of coins to the air at the stroke of Christmas midnight. There was a happy melee, all of us on our knees scooping and searching for little yellow coins in every nook and cranny of the house.

I managed to gather about twenty pesos worth of coins (a small fortune in those times), and the day after that, we all went to Ever Theater to watch A Chorus Line. The movies were cheaper then, only seven pesos for a balcony seat.

Another memory is of 1994 when my brother Edwin bought me a CD-ROM drive I lusted after in front of DGTech's display window. The present was unexpected, and expensive, which made it extra-special. I mean, who'd want to spend P9,000 on somebody else unless you really like that person? My brother did. It's quad-speed is obsolete now, but then it was something else.

A third memory was in Japan in 1997. The northern hemisphere snow made sure I had my first dose of a White Christmas. The ear-mufflers nipped at my frozen ears, and I was shivering under five layers of clothing. But there it was in front of me, a concert of silver bells inside a candle-lit church decorated in holly and poinsettia. Later that night, a Finnish friend took me to party of six where we had hot apple cider and Nordic cookies in front of a fireplace. It was so Norman Rockwellian, I expected Santa Claus to drop anytime.

It is true, in many ways, that it is easy to overlook Christmas under the din of silver-dust glitz and the commercial panic of having lessening and lessening number of shopping days before The Day. Yet it is also true that when we all "grow up," the child in us withers, and our perception of Christmas wastes away in objectified rationality, compounded with adult worries that the holidays, in the first place, seek to do away.

We forget the simple joys of giving and receiving. We forget the thrill we use to get every time the radio plays a Vic Damone or a Mary Carpenter holiday tune. We forget the simple awe in watching lit up houses and Christmas trees. Maybe, we simply grow old, and we compensate wrongly by dismissing everything as commercial and trite. Presented with Christmas lights, we think of NORECO bills instead. Presented with a Bais City Christmas festival, we gasp about the budget instead.

One Christmas Sunday some years ago, Edwin and I traversed the city streets in his new car on the way to the Silliman Church for its Christmas cantata, and later, suddenly—in the middle of the SU Band playing "Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit," it hit me hard: Christmas was in the city, despite the absence of obvious signs. But I was just too busy trying to make myself busy to really take notice of the change in the landscape.

I was not blind; I had once looked -- many, many days ago -- at the lights slowly draping Dumaguete. I had looked from inside a rushing tricycle, or from behind the windows of Scooby's Silliman Branch commiserating over work. But that Sunday night, music filled the caverns of SU Church, and I felt the first stirrings despite the sea of empty faces from the congregation. Christmas is personal. It starts from within. And dammit, you celebrate it no matter what.

On the way home, the car radio blared out Jose Mari Chan in his Christmas best, warbling about girls and boys selling lanterns in the streets. Despite everything, there it was: a soft feeling of home.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

entry arrow4:06 PM | The Secret Lives of Butterflies

[I should have posted this a long time ago...]

The grand narrative one ultimately gets, while viewing the artworks and reading the literary pieces that make up "Kabakaba Ba Ka?", may be this: What can life be like for the butterfly before and after the fact of the cocoon?

Blossoming metaphors abound in this Cebuano paean to difference. Contemplating on that story of metamorphosis -- which pushes further the archetype of living in and out of "the closet" -- one also gets the impression that a nuanced gay and lesbian sensibility, as represented in the works of local artists and writers, have finally come of age in the heart of Southern Philippines.

The eclectic exhibit is foremost a collection of "stories" from the lives of young men and women who just happen to be gay. This, in a time when so much about what Filipinos think of sexuality have indeed changed, and yet so much has also remained the same. Between the cultural phenomena of parlor queens to Ladlad to Roderick Paulate in drag to Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, what else is there to examine about the gay reality of the Philippines?

It turns out, plenty. The rest of the country -- that region Manila people invariably call "probinsya" -- has yet to map out its peculiar sexual landscape. "Kabakaba" very well seems to be the answer to that lack. Beyond that, the exhibit can also be seen as an exercise in posing a challenge about forging together a potent identity which does not exactly sit well in the relatively conservative atmosphere of the world outside of Manila.

The exhibit's title in Cebuano asks the viewer, "Are you a butterfly?" -- engaging anyone to weigh this comparison between metamorphosis and the "coming out" experience of gay men and women. It is also a play on the Tagalog question, "Kakaba ka ba?" which invites consideration of the works as testaments to the bravado of the artists, whose participation indeed marks them, hopefully for the better.

In the long run, this is an exhibit that people will talk about from now on as the thing "that got the ball rolling."

"Kabakaba Ba Ka?" features the works of some of Cebu's -- and Davao's and Dumaguete's -- young artists and writers, among them L. Lacambra Ypil, Russ Ligtas, Ian Rosales Casocot, John Bengan, Ronald Villavelez, Zara Smith, Anna Carla Gonzalez, Ella Melendez, Mitzi Sabanal, Liyo DeNorte, Louise de la Cruz, Clee Andro Villasor, Hali Marmol, Angelica Cabais, Sunshyn Alerre, Chastity Manuel, and Shem Garcia -- all of whom readily answered the call of artist-poet James Iain Neish to band together, to "come out" in a groundbreaking exhibit, and to present the world with a view of local gay life not exactly visible to the ordinary Visayan.

Davao-based fictionist John Bengan writes of the experience: "'Kabakaba Ba Ka?' [poses] a question for an audience which has yet to learn about the diversity of the queer population and sample gay pride. Imagining a sense of community among gay people in the city, 'Kabakaba Ba Ka?' reveals the presence of gay artists, their varied concerns and understanding of the queer persona, allowing the subject dimension from a first person perspective."

That perspective is what distinguishes "Kabakaba" from the common run of art exhibits in Cebu City, which are mostly shows by students, feminists, activists with a social realist grind, or middle-aged men who take biblical verses as titles for portraits, landscapes, and still-life's. This may be the first time that Metro Cebu has gathered together queer artists to address gay topics and issues in an exhibit.

What we see in "Kabakaba" are illuminating depictions of Southern gay life all drawn from the personal lives of the artists themselves, relating their own gay experience to illuminate -- but at the same proposing that these are individual stories not meant to speak for the entire gay community of Cebu, or Davao, or Dumaguete. Bengan writes that "each artist asserts, 'this is my story,' and leaves it at that," with the hope that what is realized is that a gay man or woman's life is really no different from anyone else's.

"What we want to say in this exhibit is that, whether you're gay or straight, all of us share a common humanity despite the varieties of lives," says James Iain Neish.

That variety in the stories of gay lives takes spotlight in the form of dances by Russ Ligtas and Liyo DeNorte, as well as poems and short prose works by Bengan, Casocot, Villavelez, and Gonzalez who offers a Bisaya poem "Rape," inspired by a protest poem written by a lesbian friend, and Ypil who comes up with a clever, and funny, poem in Cebuano titled "Bayot."

Beyond words and performances, the paintings, sculptures, and photographs also detail the nuances of queer lives. Sometimes that can mean what is socially serious -- as in the mask metaphors in Mitzi Sabanal's works, and the mixed media cacophony of Ligtas's paintings. In "Thrown," for example, Ligtas presents the queer body naked and vulnerable to what society "throws" at him, that what may be left finally is a heart exposed and teetering on disconnection.


Russ Ligtas's Thrown

Sometimes those nuances can mean what is simply homoerotic -- as in the photographs of Villasor, who essays in a series called Anonymen, the tension and carnal strangeness of bodies in search of intimacy. In "Tension, Irony," for example, the play of blue jeans and white light on the brown half-naked bodies of Villasor's subjects captures exactly the trepidation in these encounters. That we don't see any of the subjects' faces also implies the identities as being that of the rest of us.


Clee Andro Villasor's Tension, Irony

This haphazard quest for connection is taken further in Neish's series of scratched photographs, detailing ordinary public places suddenly rendered private in the flush of acts unbridled with desire. The ordinary corridors of "In the Archway," receiving rooms of "In the Lobby," and skylines of "On the Rooftop" become home for the need to connect, in careful etchings rendered as if like phantoms, it makes you ask if all of these remain a fantasia for those who long for such embraces.


James Iain Neish's In the Archway

"Art," F. Sionil Jose once famously wrote, "does not develop in a vacuum; the first artist is responsible not just to his art but to society as well." In "Kabakaba," art may be said to have served that function of commenting, and illuminating, on queer lives.

James Neish says of the exhibit: "People saw it happen, people will remember it happened, and this will be a beginning of something: queer voices speaking about queer things fearlessly. It was a completely positive and blissful experience. I wish I could've taken it all in. For me, the biggest pay-off was seeing the faces of my fellow queer people light up when they looked at the pieces. Larry [Ypil] said that 'art and the truth won,' and the thing that scares and thrills me most is that I can't deny that he might actually be right."

"Kabakaba Ba Ka?" opened to much local acclaim last October 26 at Kahayag Cafe in Cebu City. The exhibit will run through December 2005 in Mooon Cafe at 42 Emilio Osmena Street, in Guadalupe, Cebu City, and then in January 2006 at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas Cebu College, at the Little Gallery in Gorordo Avenue, Lahug, Cebu City.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

entry arrow9:01 PM | That Voice

Bubu bought me this for Christmas...



Here is Carly Simon -- that lovely sultry-voiced goddess -- singing standards like there was no tomorrow. The lilting sounds of Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers's "Where or When" dance through my small apartment, filling every inch of it. And I am very happy.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

entry arrow10:40 AM | Salanga Writers Prize 2006

Oh. My. God. What great news to wake up to! From The Coffee Goddess's blog: "For the 2006 PBBY-Salanga Prize, the Philippine Board on Books for Young People awards honorable mention to three authors: Ian Rosales Casocot ("Rosario and Her Stories"), J. Dennis Teodosio ("Tonyong Turo"), and Marielle Nadal ("Can You See?"). No grand prize was awarded this year. The three winners shall be awarded cash and certificates from the National Library and the Cultural Center of the Philippines at the National Children's Book Day (NCBD) celebration in July 2006 to be held at the CCP. Aside from being multi-awarded and well-published, Casocot maintains a website on Filipino writings and literary criticism. Like Casocot, Teodosio has also bagged many awards for his writing, including those for Best Screenplay at the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. Marielle Nadal, on the other hand, is a graphic artist by profession and works full-time at a foundation."

Wow. Congratulations to Marielle! And to dear Dennis who was my chikamate and roommate in the Iligan National Writers Workshop in 2001. Truth to tell, I don't think I can ever call myself a true-blue children's story writer -- not in the same rank as Augie Rivera or Rene Villanueva or Carla Pacis or Nikki Alfar or the wonderful members of KUTING -- because the genre is sooooooo hard to write despite common conceptions, and gives me the greatest sense of apprehension. It is the one type of fiction I sweat blood over. And yet, the attractions are endless (because of the challenge, I guess). And now this. Wow.

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entry arrow9:22 AM | The 27th Month and the 2nd Year

My best friend Kristyn and her husband Justin are celebrating their second anniversary today -- exactly the same day that Mark and I are celebrating our twenty-seventh month. Talk about parallel lives.



Wowee to both of us!

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Monday, December 12, 2005

entry arrow3:08 AM | Some Manila Highlights

I finally got around to uploading the pictures I took from Manila. (Yes, Ginny.) Of course, I will be writing more about the UBOD book launch and the Writers Night in a day or so, but until then, here are some pictures...



With a shorter-haired Mikael Co, Kit Kwe, Anna Sanchez, Ken Ishikawa, and Ginny Mata after the book launch at the CCP Main Lobby



With Alfonso Dacanay, Luis Joaquin Katigbak, and Astrid Tobias during Writers Night at the Hardin ng mga Diwata in U.P. Diliman


I look ... uhm, very abundant. Damn. More pictures in my Buzznet account.

And here are some more...

Pictures from the Siglo: Passion and Philippine Speculative Fiction launches in Dean's blog. More pictures from Writers Night in Ginny's blog, and in Kit's phlog. A good group picture from the UBOD launch and some good ones from Dean's event in Alfonso's blog. I wish I had pictures from Rica Bolipata Santos's book launch. Even then, can you say book-launch crazy December?

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entry arrow2:00 AM | What Harold Pinter Said

Art, Truth and Politics

In his video-taped Nobel (Prize for Literature) acceptance speech, Harold Pinter excoriated a 'brutal, scornful and ruthless' United States. This is the full text of his address.

In 1958 I wrote the following:

'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.'

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is 'What have you done with the scissors?' The first line of Old Times is 'Dark.'

In each case I had no further information.

In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn't give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

'Dark' I took to be a description of someone's hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C.

In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), 'Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don't you buy a dog? You're a dog cook. Honest. You think you're cooking for a lot of dogs.' So since B calls A 'Dad' it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn't know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

'Dark.' A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. 'Fat or thin?' the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

It's a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even halluc inatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author's position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can't dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man's buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

In my play The Birthday Party I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

Mountain Language pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only 20 minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

Ashes to Ashes, on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows, reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others.

But as they died, she must die too.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States' actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued - or beaten to death - the same thing - and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s. The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: 'Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.'

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. 'Father,' he said, 'let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.' There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: 'But in this case "innocent people" were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?'

Seitz was imperturbable. 'I don't agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,' he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: 'The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.'

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren't perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about 'a tapestry of lies' which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a 'totalitarian dungeon'. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. 'Democracy' had prevailed.

But this 'policy' was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days - conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally - a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism,
demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort - all other justifications having failed to justify themselves - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, 'I'm Explaining a Few Things':

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you will ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets! *

Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda's poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'. That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don't quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity - the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons - is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force - yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection - unless you lie - in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called 'Death'.

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror - for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us - the dignity of man.


* Extract from "I'm Explaining a Few Things" translated by Nathaniel Tarn, from Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems, published by Jonathan Cape, London 1970. Used by permission of The Random House Group Limited.

Copyright 2005 The Nobel Foundation

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

entry arrow2:17 PM | Christmas Blues and Other Bitchy Stuff

1.

This must be why I don't feel the Christmas spirit yet, hehehe.

[via mlq3]

2.

Celine Lopez rants about Kitty Go's social expose of a novel, When the Chic Hits the Fan, in her Philippine Star column. Meow! Which really just makes us all want to rush out and buy the book even more.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

entry arrow5:27 PM | Annoying the Kitten

Someone posted sa chatterbox...

[annoyed kitten]: futureshock is so NOT your book, sands and coral yun. remember that. please lang.
I replied...

[ian]: hay, bahala ka annoyed kitten, i-annoy kita to the max. [futureshock] was MY conception, it was MY work, i edited the whole thing, [and] nobody except ceres [pioquinto] helped me. so bahala ka na sa world mo. ahahaha!

[ian]: ceres just told me to use sands [and coral] for the funding, with [the blessing of librarian lorna yso -- who holds the funds -- and with the] president's approval. [futureshock was conceived from the very beginning as a book, and it happened to be] the only s&c that was nominated for a national book award, so pikat na lang nimo. so unless you have anything else to say, kiss my ass.
by the way...

annoyed kitten's IP address is 202.133.209

so, konting IP tracking lang, and this is what i came up with:

IP address: 202.133.209
Hostname: Not available
ISP: Internet Service Provider
Davao City, Philippines
Country: Philippines

inetnum: 202.133.192.0 - 202.133.223.255
netname: DCTECH-MICRO-SERVICES
descr: Internet Service Provider
descr: Davao City, Philippines
country: PH
admin-c: EA70-AP
tech-c: RB111-AP
mnt-by: APNIC-HM
mnt-lower: MAINT-PH-DCTECH
status: ALLOCATED PORTABLE
remarks: -+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
remarks: This object can only be modified by APNIC hostmaster
remarks: If you wish to modify this object details please
remarks: send email to hostmaster@apnic.net with your organisation
remarks: account name in the subject line.
remarks: -+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
changed: hm-changed@apnic.net 20031027
changed: hm-changed@apnic.net 20041122
source: APNIC

person: Eugene Alfante
nic-hdl: EA70-AP
e-mail: ealfante@dctech.com.ph
address: Ponciano Reyes Street, Davao City
phone: +63-917-7006623
fax-no: +63-82-2212382
country: PH
changed: ealfante@dctech.com.ph 20041117
mnt-by: MAINT-NEW
source: APNIC

person: Ryan Bentulan
nic-hdl: RB111-AP
e-mail: rbentulan@dctech.com.ph
address: Dctech Micro Services Inc.
address: Dctech Bldg
address: Ponciano Reyes St.
address: Davao City 8000
phone: +63 82 2212380
fax-no: +63 82 2212382
country: PH
changed: cdolera@yahoo.com 20021222
mnt-by: MAINT-NEW
source: APNIC

Someone from Davao hates my guts, and frankly I don't care. Being a detractor is such a pathetic, stupid enterprise. If you think I'm bragging too much about FutureShock, I have bragging rights naman. I sweated blood on that thing, alone, and here you are telling me to back off? Start meowing somewhere else, Annoyed Kitten.

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entry arrow4:29 PM | Why You Won't Be Hearing From Me For Three Days

It has been a long day. Woke up too early, at 3 a.m., because I was worried about my meeting in Manila, and I still had no idea how to get funding for the trip. A trip to Manila is always a wallet-breaking affair. I couldn't sleep. Buti na lang, by the time the sun came up, the Vice President for Academic Affairs of Silliman University texted me that I should go -- and it was through her office that I finally got the much-needed moolah. I hurriedly made a proposal letter addressed to the VP, then dashed off to an intimate breakfast party of three at Chicco's with birthday girl Marge Udarbe and Bing Valbuena, then went back home around nine o'clock, then canvassed through the yellow pages and came up with a budget for air fare and accommodations, then printed the whole thing out, then met with the VP for approval of the budget, then rushed to Silliman's Business and Finance Office, then followed the complex paper trail there, and then finally, when I came out for air around lunchtime, I had a check in my hand. I rushed to the bank -- and managed to cash the check before noon was over. The moral of the story: be friends with even the shyest of secretaries in any bureaucracy, because you can always count on them to help you out, nicely, in times of great hurry. I'm proud of these women at the VPAA Office and the B/F: they are the most helpful lot.

So: I'm finally leaving for Manila very early tomorrow morning, for that important meeting, for the UBOD book launching at the CCP, and hopefully for Writers Night in U.P. the following day. It's work and fun combined -- and I really feel the need to have this brief break from Dumaguete life. Good news, too: I'll finally be able to get hold of my P5,000 gift certificate from National Bookstore. Can you say book shopping spree?

Wish me bon voyage. And for my Manila writer-friends, see you very soon.

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entry arrow5:45 AM | Where's the Humor in Pinoy Lit?

An excerpt from Butch Dalisay's blog:

I've often remarked on this strange feature of our literary landscape, so far removed from our everyday reality as a people: the crushing humorlessness of much of our literature. We are a laughing, smiling people; we laugh even in the worst of times and the most perilous of moments as a nervous reaction and as a coping mechanism. We have had great comedians like Dolphy and comic heroes like Juan Tamad -- dunces, tricksters, kind-hearted rogues, characters who survive by their wits no matter what. But when we write novels, it's as if we were confessing to a priest or preaching from the pulpit instead of confiding in one another; our words suddenly acquire a numbing solemnity, a high seriousness that may yet be Jose Rizal's most enduring and yet also most paralyzing legacy to his successors.

I remain convinced that fresh comic insights -- instead of belabored iterations of the sadness we already know -- are the key to the revitalization of our literature, and that comic sufferance, not tragic suffering, may yet be the best nexus between Philippine literature and politics.

May be why Bob Ong's books are quite popular. And who can forget the funny stories of Alejandro Roces?

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entry arrow6:49 PM | What Madonna Does

For music's sake, just click here.

[via mlq3]

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entry arrow4:30 PM | Rubble

Strictly for the Dumagueteno who's far away from home...

A few weeks ago, around noon time, a fire broke out from one of the little shops that lined Locsin Street, gutting Po's Marketing -- what used to be Hassaram's -- LuPega Building, and other shops in the area. Nobody was surprised. Given the haphazard arrangement of the buildings, and the fire-friendly nature of their materials, it had to happen sooner or later.








Dumaguete is like the phoenix, in some ways. For new things to take root in this slow city, a fire must first break out and raze everything to the ground. Consider the old public market... Consider Matiao Building... Consider Main Theater... Consider Ricky's and Times Mercantile... Consider all of that, and here's hoping for better buildings in that area.

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entry arrow2:41 PM | Ubod, Finally

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts
National Committee on Literary Arts

cordially invites you to the launching of

UBOD

New Authors Series

6 December 2005

6:00 p.m.
CCP Main Lobby
Cultural Center of the Philippines
Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City


This is it. After three long years, my first collection of stories, titled Old Movies and Other Stories, is finally being launched, together with the works of Gabriela Lee, Anna Sanchez Ishikawa, Naya Valdellon, Sid Gomez Hildawa, and other writer-friends. I don't think I can be there, however. Sigh. Budget constraints talaga. My first book is out, and I'm not even there for the launch, makasapot. (Well, second really, if you count FutureShock Prose.) Oh, well. It's still this coming Tuesday, though. I'm still praying for a most fortunate windfall. Gad, going to Manila is always a major dent in the wallet.

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entry arrow11:58 AM | Ha. Makasapot. Sunday Pa Gyud.

1.

Singer Christian Bautista on AIDS prevention: "The best way to avoid getting AIDS is to have sex only after marriage."

Huh? Walang logic 'to. How is that exactly prevention? What if when you marry a virgin, but your playboy of a husband infects you? This closeted guy -- karon pa ko ka realize nga overrated ni sya -- should just go back to cooing barely-believable sweet-nothings to Rachel Go.

[Correct answer: vigilant condom use.]

For other AIDS-related nonsense from the mouths of clueless musicians, click here.

2.

Oh, God. Not another generational essay.

3.

Something is terribly wrong with the Philippine Daily Inquirer website staff. Someone should wake them up and put them to task updating their links and stories.

4.

How to beat being a has-been of an actor. Sell your soul and lick Bush's ass. Or turn preachy. (The last one has a website that asks you whether you are of his faith or not. When you say you aren't -- hullo, you get the Ten Commandments.)

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entry arrow3:08 PM | Cute's Dirty Secret

Oh, my, God. What a horrid, horrid toy! I mean, how can they make something so vulgar like this ... this ... evil ... thing?


This is possibly the most offensive toy ever made. Why? This will tell you why. (And that's why we happen to love it, too, hehehe.) And for more Japanese toy weirdness, click here.

[via nerve scanner]

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entry arrow2:29 PM | A Subject That Has No Place in the Academe Daw, According to an Opus Dei Member

This is a letter published in the 30 November 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, damning the teaching of a subject on sexuality and gender being taught by Dr. Marjorie Go Sinco-Holmes, Dr. Michael Tan, among others, in the University of the Philippines:
It is sad to recount how the norms of ethics and morality have slowly declined in our society; and sadder still that the academe is where this downturn has become most prevalent, undermining the culture of academic excellence.

The University of the Philippines is the premiere state university, the bastion of academic excellence in the country. Yet what goes on in the academe betrays its very reputation.

More than fraternity rumbles and radical student activism, the university's greatest threat is perhaps the lack of moral mooring and ethical standards in the subjects it offers. This is worse as it directly undermines academic tradition by allowing vulgarity and frivolity to interfere with high-standard learning.

For instance, what could one learn from a subject on gender and sexuality (which is under the course title Social Science 3), where a certain sexy star is a guest lecturer, or where sensitive issues on sex and human sexuality are discussed without the least consideration on human refinement, sensitivity and respect?

More than being a great insult to the "iskolar ng bayan" [nation's scholars], who are the country's cream of the crop, this mirrors the urgency to reevaluate the curriculum of the university lest it loses grip on its responsibility in molding the country's future leaders.

The academe should clearly examine what it teaches its students and make sure it imparts quality education that feeds the intellect of the country's best minds, not matters that are boorish and trivial or that do not deserve a single corner in a respectable institution of higher learning.

ANDREW P. AGUNOD JR.
Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology
College of Science
University of the Philippines,
Diliman, Quezon City

Naturally, this caused a furor, especially among U.P. students. Because, really, taga-U.P. ba 'tong si Andrew? I have a feeling he will be more at home at, say, St. Paul University Dumaguete. Or a seminary. But while I subscribe to the idea that opinions like these are part-and-parcel of academic life, where ideas should collide and ferment, I still will not hesitate to say, "What a crock, Mr. Agunod."

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entry arrow11:23 AM | Significant Others

Mark was just here, to spend his two-day leave from the sleep-deprivation experiment he calls his job. It used to be a weekend leave, but contact centers have a universe of their own, with constantly changing schedules and shifts. Naturally, I was glad there were no classes this week in Silliman -- the campus is busy flexing its muscles for the annual intramurals -- and so there was ample time to do nothing else but just reacquianting our senses with each other's presence. Like all long-time romances, it didn't take more than a second: it's just a wonder how one falls into the remembered rhythms, and the nuances of each other's ticks. The one thing that is our saving grace, given the fact that we are perfect opposites of each other, is the fact that we have never misstepped with regards reading the other perfectly; when we are together, we also take care of each other well. We've traveled a lot. Remember the maxim that one can measure one's bonds with others with a three-day bus trip? We've done more than that, and we always come out having so much fun. Which is to say that the past three days with Mark have been wonderful. We watched Brillante Mendoza's Masahista and Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle -- two odd films to watch together back-to-back. We ate ice cream. We shopped for shirts and jeans. We ate burgers. He cleaned his dog's pen while I went off to get cold water for the dog. (Yes.) We raided the temporary trade fair in front of City Hall, and we brisked-walked through the city. We wanted to see the fake mermaid at the perya, but got there too late. Yesterday, when he boarded the outrigger boat for the short ride back to Cebu, I swore there was no getting used to the goodbyes. On the ride home from Sibulan town to Dumaguete, I told myself that this was how I'm going to remember many of my days to come. I find it immensely amusing and strange how devotion can claim us to doing things, like send-offs and the longing for next week's leave. Sometimes I cannot believe it's been more than two years since I've met Mark. Two years, and counting. That has got to say for something.

I miss you, bubu.

[On that note, give Dean and Nikki your congratulations. Ten years! Incredible.]

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