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





Bibliography

Saturday, May 31, 2008

entry arrow8:09 PM | Cape Engaño



The great Erwin Castillo is blogging a new novel. Chapter 1 has just been posted.

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entry arrow2:48 AM | Binding Wor(l)ds Together



Filipino-American writer Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayoress now blogs. She also has a stirring essay titled "Becoming a Woman of Color" over at Sheila Bender's Writing It Real.

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entry arrow2:40 AM | 100



Palanca-winning playwright Chris Martinez (Welcome to IntelStar and Last Order sa Penguin, among other dramatic gems) now blogs, well, Multiplies. He wrote Chito Roño's Caregiver, starring Sharon Cuneta, now out in cinemas everywhere, and has directed a film for Cinemalaya, 100.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

entry arrow5:47 PM | The Making of Writing Art

"... I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use -- silence, exile, and cunning."

-- James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

"One of the things you notice is that when you switch on the television and a student has gone mad with a machine gun on a campus in America, it's always a writing student. The writing courses, particularly when they have the word 'creative' in them, are the new mental hospitals. But the people are very nice."

-- Hanif Kureishi

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entry arrow1:47 AM | Is There a Class Line Online?

When the Internet was new, we were beguiled by the promise of democracy it offered. "It will level everything," they said. Not so, it now seems. The class line proves significantly harder to cut. There's one kind of Internet for those with broadband or wifi straight to their Macs in the privacy of their bedrooms and offices, and there's another kind of Internet for those who frequent Manong Nat's Eezy Breezy Internet Cafe with its Pentium 2 PCs that come cheap at P10 per hour.

Case in point: some people I know are abandoning their Friendster accounts to transfer to Facebook, because Facebook, they say, is classier. Plus, in Facebook, you can poke each other and give each other li'l green patches. "Friendster is so baduy na," someone recently confessed to me, "so jologs, what with its inane usernames with asterisks and zeroes and apostrophes and what-not before their stupid names -- ****arlheneluvzdude! -- just to get a higher placement in the alphabetized order of friends! -- and everybody, including my aunt's maid, is there." Everybody, including people like mHariZa, a true-blue metlog as far as the hilarious Metlogs or Rurogs is concerned.



Meet mHariZa. Enjoy the sheer artistry of her profile picture. Her Friendster profile reads, in part:

Occupation: collage student
Movie: the ant
About Me: ahm.......about meeh!!!??? ATTITUDE? kind,suplada minsan.. pro most of da tym mabait meeeh..., makulit, lagi na nka-smyl ngaun... talented pa! i can dance. i can sing....i can fly basta ba my wings, eh...he!he!he! OUTLOOK? syempre maganda,noh! alangan nmn laitin k ang sarili koh...height koh? 5'3'' ASSET KOH? my legs sbi nila.... taken na meehh....... ...should i say yes!?

That's Friendster. Bow.

But for me, the day I decided Friendster had gone to the dogs was when I opened my account one day, and there, on the sides of my profile page, were pictures of Ruffa Gutierrez, Gretchen Barretto, Judy Ann Santos, and Claudine Barretto selling Pantene. It felt like an invasion into my private space. Yes, these social networking sites do need ads to survive, but that was so ... cheesy.

In other similar news, YugaTech claims that "the poor use Yahoo and the rich use Google." Go figure.

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entry arrow1:27 AM | Asians Are a H*o*r*n*y Lot



I hope this post doesn't trip my Google AdSense to PSAs, but this is interesting... According to Top Ten Reviews, the Philippines ranked no. 8 in worldwide p-o-r-n revenue in 2006. And the top three notorious contenders? In order: China, South Korea, and Japan, which cut such huge slices of the p-o-r-n-pie. So much for the alleged Asian hinhin when it comes to sexuality.

[via yugatech]

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entry arrow12:50 AM | Rain

By Don Paterson


I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one long thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold
on a rain-dark gutter, running gold
with the neon of a drugstore sign,
and I’d read into its blazing line:

forget the ink, the milk, the blood—
all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain’s own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters.


[from the new yorker]

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

entry arrow10:25 AM | Bamboo Cupping Rainwater



Filipino-American poet Sasha Pimentel Chacón now blogs. She is the author of the forthcoming book of poems Insides She Swallowed (West End Press, 2009), and is the poetry editor of BorderSenses. An Academy of American Poets Award winner, she was also a recent nominee for the Pushcart Prize.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

entry arrow8:48 PM | A Fashion Show in a Small City

Truth to tell, fashion shows in Dumaguete are usually a joke of microscopic proportions. They are, if we have to be honest about it, only a tad better than tawdry beauty pageants and tawdrier bikini shows. More often than not, they are dimly-lit and barely rehearsed affairs that string together a hodge-podge of ukay wear. The female models are often unfashionably short, and the male ones are often kargador-ic—the types who soon would go about town telling people with such delusional sincerity, “I’m a model.” The dresses themselves are often taken from the racks of second-rate boutiques around town whose idea of fashion is more Jolina Magdangal than Stella McCartney. Sometimes a local fashionista, eager to put on a show, would merely cut denims to shreds and call them “avant-garde streetwear,” giving a bad name to “avant-garde” and “streetwear.” When there are legitimate designs to show, the construction is mostly sadsack—as evidenced by the way Patis Tesoro once gagged upon one Buglasan event, a bevy of tastelessness in sinamay surrounding her. “Oh my God,” I remember her saying.

Truth to tell, the drawing power lies not in the clothes, but in the public display of the nubile bodies of models strutting on makeshift runways. If there’s one Dumagueteño tick that encapsulates our reason to attend these shows, it is the tendency to gawk and then to pretend to get bored. Photographer John Stevenson once asked me, “What’s the use of these shows? Nobody buys these clothes.” And if somebody wants to, where do they go? There are no fashion-forward ateliers in Dumaguete, only high-priced modistas more suited to making prom dresses and festival costumes made of walis-tingting. “Why are we here?” John asked again. I finally told him, “Because we’re bored out of our heads.”

Dumaguete, it might as well be said, is a fashion black hole. It’s understandable. We are a small town barely out of barriotic mindset, forever hedging our bets against the modernity that threatens to embrace us. Our minimalist uniform for every living day, given the nearness of things and the humidity of our existence, is a shirt, a pair of jeans or cargo shorts, and sandals or flipflops. Wearing Armani under the hot Dumaguete sun is out of the question, and your Manolo Blahniks will certainly splinter away in the lubak-lubak of our sidewalks and streets. “Baduy is in the blood,” someone once said to me, which is a bit harsh, but there you go.

It surprised me then that last May 23’s fashion show—at the eternally grimy and sad El Camino Blanco—was fashion at its most refined, at least as far as Dumaguete was concerned. Titled Burst, it was singularly a show that burst more than one thing, my low expectations most of all. Because it actually started right on the dot. Because the designs actually sizzled and impressed. Because it finally placed much-needed emphasis on the clothes. Because it was verily a show. Clocking in more than an hour, what we got were segments after segments of design, some of course more compelling than the others, but all of them brilliant in their own right. This was a far cry from the usual 15 minutes of catwalk we used to get in past shows, where the emphases were on skin, more skin, and scandalously low cleavage—never mind construction and silhouette.

Designers Athena Tandoc, Marie Nueva, Karl Sutterlin, Nikki Teves,
Josip Tumapa, and Carla Bondoc


Nikki Teves, an up-and-coming 21-year-old local designer now studying fashion marketing at the prestigious LaSalle College International, conceptualized the show, and it was only right that she opened the event with a burst of summer wear—in this case, pastel-colored swimwear for the women, with an almost dainty emphasis on fabric flow, Grecian-inspiration, and low cut. The result was a classy version of the old one-piece bikini, at once provocative and conservative—an unexpected combination. The men, on the other hand, donned various stylings of kimono tops in floral print over very short, and very skimpy, white shorts.


Local designer Josip Tumapa followed suit with strapless ballgowns with an abundance of flounce, all of which were reminiscent of rich and silken tapestry, and with differing silhouettes a little too scattered for comfort, diffusing the thread that should connect the collection: one was a high-waisted burst of a purple flower, and another one was an exercise in velvet drapery pulled into place by a well-centered brooch. Not exactly original, and the color and fabric choices are not exactly adventurous—but this is the best collection for women I have seen Josip put out so far. It is with the men that the collection falters a little bit. It forced them to don silken corsets, fedoras, and Ugg boots together with an assortment of pants in different fabrics (ripped jeans, among them) and prints. The result is a mishmash that never really came together.


Manila Clothing’s Carla Bondoc came out with only a short segment—something altogether devoted to skinny jeans with her brand of difference: all of them come in various colors, from yellow to purple, from turquoise to hot pink, from green to red to royal blue, from mint to fuschia, from teal to white, gray, and black, from orange to mustard. Matter-of-fact ready-to-wear-denim, for the teenager on the go. Half-Norwegian designer Marie Nueva, on the other hand, basically did variations of the cocktail dresses that ranged from A-line to ballgown, from mermaid to tiered, but the defining thread seemed to be the soft hues of her prints—flowers for the most part—offset by shimmery see-through that lent the clothes a certain unexpected elegance.


The audaciously colorful clothes of 17-year-old half-German designer, model, and club deejay Karl Sutterlin were a little bit harder to describe, except that they reveled in a sexiness and a certain looseness of concept and wearability—sporty but not exactly, simple but not entirely. “My clothes are a bit weird, I’m not sure if they’re wearable on the street,” he once admitted to Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Bianca Consunji. In that interview, he cited the American flag as inspiration for his clothes: “I chose blue, white and red as the main colors of my collection,” he said. “I wanted to feature very strong colors for the summer.”


Athena Colico-Tandoc’s collection, which ended the show, was easily the most polished of the lot. Each ensemble she created seemed tailored to a degree of perfection, all of them a good explanation why construction is key to the making of beautiful clothes. The well-thought out details—the placement of the patterns, the beadwork, the cut—are astonishingly controlled, and while the influences are varied (one sees a little bit of Chanel, of Halston, of De la Renta, even of Versace), they don’t come apart as a collection. What tied the collection together were the bold uses of over-the-top prints (golden birds or gigantic blooms set in black), gold and silver trimmings, and a Pan-Asian sensibility that reminded one of Japanese and Chinese tapestries, but distilled to a sense of high fashion.


It was a well-attended event, a highlight of Dumaguete’s new Kabulakan Festival, and the attendance of some of Negros’s elite attested to that. It wasn’t entirely a perfect show: the venue was not exactly conducive to such an event, and there were a few unfortunate hecklers in the audience (ang baduy naman…), and the young hosts, save for the minimal efforts of Manila saxophonist Michael Young, were abysmally bad. There was absolutely no eye contact nor rapport with the audience, there was a little confusion in the traffic of segments, nobody could actually hear what they were trying to say, and one was almost tempted to shout, “Speak up, and speak to the microphone!” Then again, as one of the organizers told me right after, one can’t have everything.

Still, it was a great show, and for once, you could actually say Dumaguete was no fashion black hole.


Model Mark Xander Fabillar with Karl Sutterlin and Josip Tumapa

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entry arrow9:23 AM | Sydney Pollack, 73

Sometimes, working in Hollywood (and playing by its rules) is not exactly the Faustian bargain we'd like to believe it is. Consider the body of work of the great Sydney Pollack. He was one of those studio directors who had an independent spirit, and knew exactly how to make good cinema even out of the most frothy of projects. Consider the brutal dance marathon of They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, with Jane Fonda as an angry dancer finding solace in desperate times. Or the espionage thriller Three Days of the Condor, with Robert Redford finding himself in Hitchcockian territory. Or the epic sweep of Out of Africa, with Meryl Streep and Redford finding love at odds in Isak Dinesen's memories of the Dark Continent. (He won the Oscar for Best Director for that film.) Or the comedic genius of Tootsie, with Dustin Hoffman as an actor finding out how to be a real man by becoming a woman. Or the thrilling tautness of The Firm, with Tom Cruise as a greenhorn lawyer finding corruption and murder entangled with the law. There was also the critical debacle of The Way We Were, with Barbra Streisand and Redford as lovers from opposite temperaments, which still made a killing at the box office despite hostile reviews -- and remains, inexplicably, as one of the best-remembered romantic movies of all time. (Must be the theme song?) Which just goes to say that most of the things Pollack touched turned to gold. Usually that happened with projects he produced, including Bright Lights, Big City, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Presumed Innocent, Dead Again, Leaving Normal, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Flesh and Bone, Sense and Sensibility, Sliding Doors, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Iris, Heaven, The Quiet American, Cold Mountain, Breaking and Entering, Michael Clayton, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Leatherheads, and Recount, which is now garnering much praise as an HBO original movie. Some upcoming projects include Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret and Stephen Daldry's The Reader. His choices of material -- whether to produce or direct -- reveal an intelligent and very literary streak, which makes almost atypical of Hollywood types. I enjoyed him as an actor as well, and his surprising turns as an agent in Tootsie, as an amoral lawyer in Michael Clayton, as a husband questioning marriage in Husbands and Wives, and as a surprised doctor in Death Becomes Her were inspired, and put him in the ranks of Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen as directors who have their own gravity as actors. I loved even what critics consider his misfires. Like Havana, and most especially Sabrina, his glorious (if critically-assailed) 1995 remake of the Billy Wilder classic. It updates the upstairs-downstairs Cinderella story with a sleekness and oomph that most critics (perhaps blindsided by the remake angle) just did not see when it came out. Too bad. But all in all, at 73, Pollack knew he had made a mostly positive impact on Hollywood.

Read The New York Times obituary here. Roger Ebert writes about him here. A.O. Scott gives a very thoughtful appraisal in The New York Times. And Entertainment Weekly has a slide show of his body of work.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

entry arrow3:37 PM | Naming My Demons

What is despair, except a quiet secret knowledge that you can do nothing. It is a relentless, unmoving flailing against an unforeseen enemy—yourself, deep in the paralysis that embraces you. You have no idea what keeps you here, in this wretched place of such common sadness, only that you know it is there, and you have no power over it. Despair is a name I give my demons: they sleep with me, and they wake me every single morning, and they embrace me, and in their depraved arms, I sleep like a baby lulled into sweet drowning.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

entry arrow7:46 PM | Hoping for Some Film Renaissance

There's some good news coming from Cannes, after all. And no, Serbis didn't even make one dent in the final awarding, despite all our hopes for a Gina Pareño showing for Best Actress. (That honor went to Brazilian actress Sandra Corveloni in Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas’s Linha de Passe. Benicio del Toro was Best Actor for Steven Soderbergh's four-hour Che, and Turkish Nuri helmer Bilge Ceylan was Best Director for Three Monkeys. Other winners included Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne who won Best Screenplay Le Silence de Lorna. The Palme d'Or went to The Class, which was directed by Laurent Cantet. The Grand Prix went to Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah, and the Jury Prize went to Paolo Sorrentino’s Il Divo. Full report here.)

In one of the last reports from Cannes, Deborah Cole of Agence France-Presse gives a painful parting shot: "And as in every year, there were a few howlers that left audiences baffled about their selection, including Serbis, a Filipino picture set in a porn cinema, and French drama Frontier of Dawn which Variety magazine called 'a risible slice of pretentious hokum.'" That story can be read here.

So, what's the good news? The Echo, Yam Laranas' remake of his very own Sigaw, just got good initial notices from the Cannes Film Market. You can read about it from Yam's own blog, here. And here's the teaser poster, with Jesse Bradford in Richard Gutierrez's old role.



We have so many up-and-coming young directors who will definitely make their mark on world cinema pretty soon. One can almost smell that possibility coming. Yam Laranas is perhaps already leading the way, following in the heels of Jeffrey Jeturian, who has been consistent in making very personal cinema. And there's Auraeus Solito, Adolfo Alix Jr., Jade Castro, Jun Lana, Jim Libiran, Mark Meilly, and, of course, Dante Mendoza, who will definitely make better movies after the debacle that is Serbis. My only wish is that the immediate generation of directors that preceded this one -- Chito Roño, Olivia Lamasan, Joyce Bernal, Jose Javier Reyes, and Joel Lamangan -- can learn a thing or two about the passion of these young directors, enough to prod them beyond their comfort zones in glossy Star Cinema or GMA Films or Regal Films productions. (Lamangan, especially, who's probably the most inept in terms of cinematic language. He can learn a thing or two about mise en scène from Alix and Solito, for example.) And what of even older generations like Mike de Leon, Peque Gallaga, Laurice Guillen, Mario O'Hara, Kidlat Tahimik, and Marilou Diaz-Abaya? Here's wishing them some kind of resurrection. And what of Lav Diaz? He may be very good, but really, who has seen any of his films?

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Friday, May 23, 2008

entry arrow5:17 PM | The Look of Being Punched in the Stomach

Although I have seen the YouTube clip of the announcement itself, I have never really seen the last 30 minutes of American Idol's 2-hour finale for real. There were appointments to keep. Last night, for example, I had to go to the last poetry reading for the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop over at Kitty Taniguchi's Mariyah Gallery -- although I purposely made myself late by 1 and a half hours. But eventually I had to go, and right before Carrie Underwood sang, too. Couldn't even see the midnight replay, because I went out drinking with the poet Lito Zulueta. We've promised ourselves coffee or a late-night drink forever, since 2005, and could never keep the date (last year, when he arrived in Dumaguete to panel for the last week of the workshop, I had to go to India, and on and on, just like that...). And today, I couldn't see the noontime replay because I had to keep my lunch date with fictionist Bing Sitoy. What can I say, writerly commitments galore.

But I've seen the jubilation in Kansas City when David Cook was announced as the new Idol. I've always wondered though: whatever happens in that other city where the losing candidate comes from? Imagine the stadium-full of people. Imagine the heightened expectation for a win. Imagine the shock of the letdown. I could never imagine it.

Until I saw how exactly that goes in this video...



Like what the newscaster says, like being punched in the stomach all at the same time.

And now, I have to go to Hayahay, for the Fellow's Night, and their graduation...

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

entry arrow6:43 PM | Raves Daw

Raves? Where did PEP's Bibsy Carballo get her "raves" for Serbis? Come on, being proud for our country is one thing, but peddling falsehood to save face is quite another. This is why we don't grow -- there's too much patting ourselves and each other on the back, even when unwarranted.

Le film francaise is charting the reception of the films in Cannes. Compare the critical mass on Serbis alongside the other films, and see if it got raves. [Click to enlarge.]



Cahiers Cinema, the most-respected film magazine in the world, considers the film as a kind of "madness," and four major critics gave it the biggest snub of all: a pas du tout, meaning "not at all." That's a rave?

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entry arrow5:05 PM | The Eye in the Sky

Finally, Dumaguete gets the Google Earth treatment! For the longest time, my city was a merely pixelized blur when you scan the globe -- but since May 13, Google has updated their data with many new and updated satellite imagery for the Philippines. Here's a shot of Dumaguete...



... and that's where I live. (It's both exciting and disturbing all at the same time.) No street level view yet, but that would be scary. Don't want anybody catching me in strange get-up.

[via vaes9]

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entry arrow11:03 AM | There is Justice in the AI World! (And Some Grumbling Against Pinoy Idol)

Totally did not expect this. The Word Nerd (Simon's term) won by 12 million votes! Naiyak ako when I saw the video -- first time an AI finale moved me. I liked Cook's story: you go accompany your brother for much-needed moral support to audition for the world's biggest talent show, and then you end up winning the title yourself. Nice. This story felt warmer than the story of an ambitious father pushing a very young son to fulfill his own unrealized ambitions. But I hated the final showdown last night. I must admit the little guy really went for the win with a wonderful set of songs last night, but still it was all predictable fluff. It was a performance that was guaranteed easy-listening, but like all simple sugars, it's not really good for your health. I must also admit that David Cook kinda held back -- but he did go to the hospital for hypertension and anxiety earlier (so like me), and wouldn't you go anxious when the judges practically try to slaughter you because they so obviously want Mickey Mouse to win? The judges tried so hard to hand American Idol victory to David Archuleta. It got me so incensed. But take this reality, Randy, Paula, and Simon! David Cook wins American Idol over Gaspy! Oh, my God! I so love being proved wrong this time. Gaspy can finally go home and finish puberty. I can almost imagine Gaspy saying demurely, "That was not pretty at all. Daddy! I want to go home." Take that, Archtards!

.
.
.

Whew.
Now that I've taken the bile out of my system, I'd like to wish everybody World Peace.

Thus ends this season. But like what The Coffee Goddess declares in her blog, "I promise, I will never watch American Idol. No more. Nada. Ayoko na. Enough said." Ako rin. Ayoko na. Parang it's something to outgrow na.

[thanks to jun and mich for the heads-up]

P.S. There is a reason why I'm more excited about American Idol than Pinoy Idol currently showing in GMA. It's not colonial mentality, silly. But watching Pinoy Idol is like watching a Frankensteinish hybrid of Wish Ko Lang + Wowowee + Ang Bagong Kampeon. Vince de Jesus calls it a shameless romanticizing of poverty in what should be a singing show. I agree. I remember this singing contest in ABS-CBN from a few years back, Search for a Star in a Million. That horrible, horrible singer from Bohol, Jerome Sala, won the title hands down with his woeful tale: in one crucial episode, he broke down in tears admitting he only had one pair of underwear to wear. (And by the way, what's with the Mau Marcelo snub, GMA? Kapuso daw, heartless pala.)

[via gibbs cadiz]

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entry arrow1:23 AM | A Work in Progress

I've been really sick almost the entire first half of May. Didn't get out of the house much, couldn't find my cellphone [it might as well be lost], slept most of the time, watched TV almost all day, blogged a little too much (just to keep my consciousness running) -- and only now do I feel a little better. So I feel utterly useless and depressive right now, because I hate not being active. Here's a project to call it a good month before it's too late. See, I'm very bad at some things. Like emailing. (I hate emailing.) But I've decided, right now, that it's never too late to change. Thus, I'm presenting to you this working list of backlogged things, which I hope to accomplish before the summer grinds to a halt. Here's wishing me luck.

(√) Clean the house.
(√) Do some much-needed shopping.
(√) Answer back Friendster messages, 73 in all, lagging almost a year.
(√) Answer back Facebook messages, 14 in all, lagging almost a month.
(√) Manage barely used Hotmail accounts. (One unanswered email comes from 2005!)
(_) Working through my Gmail backlog. This will take at least two days, hehehe.

[more coming...]

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

entry arrow11:57 PM | Is Serbis Really That Bad?

I want to give Brillante Mendoza's film the benefit of doubt until I see it, but the reviews coming in from Cannes are really, really horrible.



Here are the latest reviews. Kino-Zeit, a German paper, declares it has no chance for the Palme d'Or. Spiegel's Lars-Olav Beier calls it exploitative. And Kim Voynar, blogging for Cinematical, walked out of the theater, utterly disgusted. Best to put in everything, verbatim:

The other night, James and I walked out of our first film at Cannes, Brilliante Mendoza's Serbis. Actually, this is the first time I've ever walked out before the end of a film at a festival; generally, I feel it's my job to watch films here, the good, the bad and the ugly, and so I sit through them, however wretched they may be. But not this time. It's too bad, really, because Serbis is the first Filipino film to ever play in competition in Cannes and I was hoping to like it, but ... ugh.

The film opens with a scene of total gratuitous nudity -- a young Filipino girl, just out of the shower, preening in front of a mirror and practicing saying "I love you" in what she thinks is a sexy way. And that scene would have been just fine like that, without the voyeuristic panning down to breasts and pubic hair. I'm not a prude by any stretch, I have no problem with nudity and sex in films if it serves an actual purpose, but watching that scene all I could think of was, well, there's a shot that exists only to please the guys who have the hots for young, naked Asian girls. Which for me, just made it feel exploitive.

The film is set in a family-run adult theater with a little cafe at the bottom that's open to the street, and the ambient noise in the first 15 or so minutes of the film was so loud and disconcerting that I almost walked out then. I was seriously getting crowd anxiety just from the level of noise. I get that it's supposed to set the place, but when it's so overwhelming that you can't appreciate what dialog there is -- even with subtitles -- it's just too much.

From there we're treated to a graphic oral sex scene between a man and a male prostitute that would be more appropriate for a gay porn film, and another graphic sex scene between a young man and woman that looked pretty darn real. Why? I guess because those are the things Mendoza felt were important to show us about those people.

Mendoza likes to follow people around in their natural setting, and that's pretty much what he does in this film; unfortunately, it's just not that interesting, because he doesn't give us enough about any of the characters to make us care about why we should want to spend 90 minutes or so of our lives watching them.

It's supposed to be, I guess, about the various relationships: the family matriarch is suing her husband for bigamy and wants him to go to jail, while her children want to see their father acquitted so as not to have his out-of-wedlock offspring legally recognized; the older daughter is trapped in a loveless relationship with her husband, who she married only because she was pregnant; the younger daughter wants to emulate the transitive prostitutes; the nephew, who has a boil on his ass, has gotten his girlfriend pregnant, adding to the family's poverty. And so on. It should have (and probably could have) been interesting, but it just wasn't.

The end of it for me and James was a disgustingly graphic scene of the nephew popping the boil on his ass with a coke bottle. I'm sure it was supposed to be metaphorical, but it was just gross, and that was enough for us.

Yay.

Here's that opening sequence...



Telepolis' Rüdiger Suchsland gives it some positive notice, but still calls Serbis a pornographic movie. Ouch.

In the meantime, here's an ABS-CBN News story about how the film got made.

[related posts here and here]

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entry arrow10:16 PM | The Ides of May

It is a little too easy to believe, these past few days, that evil lurks everywhere.

A cyclone hits Myanmar, and its military government inexplicably drags its foot with regards receiving international aid, even as thousands of its people—survivors of the devastation—slowly fade away with hunger and thirst. Help, hostaged by a ruthless regime, is not coming. “We haven’t eaten for days,” says a Burmese man, his emaciated face on TV the profile of a dying people. Why?

Bank robbers commander an RCBC branch, and inexplicably proceed to kill all the bank employees, execution-style, a bullet to each of their heads. {Be warned: the pictures in the link are graphic and brutal.] They were only ordinary people who woke up that morning to go to work, but ended up in puddles of their own blood. Why?

A typhoon ravages western Luzon, and wreaks havoc. My friend, the poet and Inquirer reporter Frank Cimatu, writes of being witness to one small devastation:

Helpless. Helpless. The mother had been crying all night even as the storm was wailing. Her 36-year-old son was pinned down by a mango tree in San Fabian, Pangasinan, Saturday night. Sunday morning and still her son was there. How can her neighbors not feel anything enough not to ease that pain? The neighbors wouldn’t touch him, talking about their own problems.

I told this to a friend later over a cup of coffee, this is not how we Filipinos act. Let’s say there was no hope: his spine was broken; but we don’t leave our dead there. He said something about the ‘culture of poverty,’ of thinking only of our own puny needs in this time indeed of need. Thinking it was not us who was pinned down.

It was a tiring day. I had no energy left to argue. The storm took something we thought we can keep even if our houses were destroyed and our clothes ripped away. We thought we had each other.

Why?

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entry arrow6:05 PM | 'American Idol' Just Jumped the Shark*

A boxing face-off to begin the whole thing? Lame. Corny. Utterly baduy.

The only nice thing about the finale was the surprise appearance of Ruben Studdard doing his cover version of "Celebrate Me Home," the lovely replacement song that now serenades kicked-out Idols. I forgot how great this man's vocals was. It still is. Hear this...


But of course, Gaspy will win, forever cementing American Idol's growing reputation of championing ho-hum music and complete irrelevance. (Jordin Sparks and Fantasia Barrino, anyone?) But let's bring out the boxing gloves so to speak, hehehe. Gaspy has great vocals, yes -- but he plain irritates me with his cutesy, which was endearing in the beginning but stomach-churning months later. If he demurely says "This is a pretty song" one more time, I'll get diabetes. Cook, meanwhile, is original, 'nuff said. But alas, Gaspy seems to bring out a Zac Efron vibe, which is totally in sync with the jologs spirit of the thousands of pedophilic gay men, hormonal matronas, and screaming tweeners who keep the whole charade afloat.

Discuss.

* What does that mean ba?

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entry arrow5:40 PM | The Nine Muses



Poet Ralph Semino Galan now blogs.

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entry arrow12:54 AM | Third World Fashion Hits Cannes

Film is a visual spectacle. Festivals are even more so. And when you're talking about Cannes, especially for the red carpet in the Croisette, baby, you gotta dress up to the nines. So, of course, spectacle like the one below -- with Chinese actress Gong Li, Indian actress Aishwarya Rai and French model Laetitia Casta epitomizing the glamor and the international-ness of the whole thing -- is de rigeur.



And then I saw, from the festival website, these red carpet shots of the whole Serbis crew in Cannes, in full view of French paparazzi. [Click to enlarge.] And my initial reaction was: What the--? Minus the jackets, you could almost ask yourself, Are they going to Quiapo, or something?





[Photos: AFP]

In fairness, Gina Pareño looks regal. But what's with Jaclyn Jose's hideous suit, and even more hideous metallic blue eyeshadow? And Mercedes Cabral, wearing what looks suspiciously like sneakers, looks about ready to hit Divisoria. Sure, the film's another showcase of Third-World misery, but must we dress Third-World, too? Where were our local designers when we really needed them? Which was a pity, I thought. I once heard that when the young Hilda Koronel went to Cannes many years ago, she created a sensation.

And so, I breathed a sigh of relief when I searched further and found there were other red carpet photos that showed them in Patis Tesoro. At least.



[Photos: Christian Hartmann for Reuters]

Where are the grand dames of Pareño and Jose though? The only online photo I could get of them was this.

In other news:
Amiens International Film Festival director Jean Pierre Garcia says both Pareño and Jose are strong contenders for the Best Actress prize, says Inquirer article. Well, let's see, and here's hoping. (My bet's on Gina.) Read further down the article, and voila, it's the "standing room" quote I knew would appear somewhere in local coverage! If you don't know what I'm talking about, read this.

Related post: Serbis gets slaughtered in reviews, here.

An update: Commenter Toti Porte says: "You can not blame the cast of Serbis if they are wearing a third world fashions, they came straight from Amsterdam and transfered to Nice Airport, and went to the photocall without changing their clothes. Even Mercedes Cabral has no time to chage his sneaker, since their luggage still un-open since they will be late for the presscon. Mercedes Cabral, Bing Lao, Ferdie Lapus and Jacklyn Jose almost made it photo finishes." Point well taken, and I apologize. But I still can't get over Jaclyn Jose's metallic blue eyeshadow.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

entry arrow6:11 PM | Short Time at Room 180

Many, many months ago, I told Dean that his play, "Short Time" -- which won the Palanca back in 1991 -- would make for a good short film, and timely, too, considering the glut of independent movies with homosexual themes out there. He told me somebody's been trying for months now to adapt it for the screen -- but they keep losing the actors who all keep chickening out because of the demands of the roles, which include a lot of same sex friction. One former matinee idol displayed interest, but chickened out. Another very current matinee idol wanted to do it, but was advised to give up the role, or else all those gay rumors would be, umm, "confirmed."

But the film's finally out. Retitled Room 180, it has been adapted to the screen by the multi-talented Augie Rivera (best-known around town as a children's author) and directed by Rico Gutierrez. It stars Earl Ignacio, Andoy Ranay, and Francis Makil.

A screening is scheduled on May 26, 7PM at Mogwai Cafe (#62 & 63 Cubao Expo) near Ali Mall.

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entry arrow5:29 PM | Get the Ear of an American Literary Agent

From CANVAS:

CANVAS, as part of its mission, strives to open new opportunities for Filipino writers in the global market. CANVAS is therefore very proud to announce that we have tied up with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, one of the top agencies in the United States to launch the CANVAS Story Writing for Young Children Competition (target readership: 4-6 years old).

We will be putting up a modest cash prize for the winner, but what should pique the interest of writers here is that Kelly Sonnack, Literary Agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency will review and provide feedback on the top five stories selected by CANVAS.

While there is no guarantee of anything beyond their look and review, it is notoriously difficult to even get stories considered for representation, much less publication, in the US.

We regard this as a huge, difficult-to-overstate, no-lose, possible-foot- in-the-door opportunity for writers to be introduced and hopefully represented by a literary agency that can help bring Filipino stories not just in the US, but to the worldwide market. We therefore highly encourage all Filipino writers to participate.

We will issue the official rules on Monday next week. Watch out for it!

[more info in looking for juan de la cruz]

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entry arrow11:56 AM | Xerex Xaviera Lives On

Everybody secretly misses the rambunctious tales of Xerex Xaviera from Abante Tonite.

But here's some scarlet consolation. It's finally out, FHM Erotica: Ladies Confessions Special Volume 2. (I don't remember Volume 1, but then again, let's just say I'm not the type who buys FHM, if you know what I mean.) You can't read this on the bus, or in the office, but it's worth the P195 cover price...



... if only because there are stories in there by some of the best young writers we have: Marguerite Alcarazen de Leon, Karl R. De Mesa, Joseph Nacino, Carljoe Javier, Anna Felicia Sanchez-Ishikawa, Lourd Ernest De Veyra, Andrew Paredes, Ramil Digal Gulle, and Norman Wilwayco. That's four Palanca winners doing slow, exquisitely breathless writing.

Why is there a sudden resurgence of erotica these days? I remember a workshop where an esteemed older writer walked out of a session, because she deemed the story under consideration as being way too pornographic. (Okay, I admit it, that story was mine.) Have we reached a turning point in our literary efforts, and unshackled literary prudery? Butch Dalisay used to say, in lamentation: "There's no sex in Philippine literature." Is that changing?

Of course, we had the Ladlad series (volumes 1, 2, and 3 all edited by J. Neil C. Garcia and Danton Remoto), Forbidden Fruit: Women Write the Erotic (edited by Tina Cuyugan), and Eros Pinoy: An Anthology Of Contemporary Erotica in Philippine Art and Poetry (edited by Virgilio Aviado, Ben Cabrera, and Alfred Yuson) from waaaaaaaay back, and many of the works in those anthologies certainly bordered on blushing bedroom antics, but they were rare publishing efforts that were more literary than your typical Penthouse Forum confessions. (I'm talking about the need for one-handed reading.)

Aside from Xerex, the only unabashed outlet for Pinoy sexual reading seemed to be the so-called bomba komiks of long ago.

Now, aside from the FHM issue, we have an upcoming anthology of losing-our-virginity stories and poems edited by Katrina Tuvera, Conchitina Cruz, and Edgar Samar. Some of the stories in Rogue have an erotic bent, especially the last one by Nikki Alfar. And Bing Sitoy, Sarge Lacuesta (who just did a piece for the maiden, ehem, issue of Playboy Philippines), and I have just began writing erotica for a possible anthology of three, to be finished sometime soon. Bing, of course, has been writing erotica for a Danish magazine for some time now, and she tells me "it pays very, very well."

Somebody should collect those Xerex Xaviera columns (15 years of unrivaled perversions!), and make them into a book. Instant bestseller 'yun.

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entry arrow11:42 AM | Standing Ovation

Sometimes, reading the PR on some local films that make it to international film festivals, we get breathless accounts of how this film or that got a 5-minute applause, or better still, a standing ovation. Lest they spin this and tell you later on that despite all the negative criticism, Serbis got an S.O. in Cannes, here's Roger Ebert giving us the inside deal:

[A]ny Cannes veteran would tell you [that a standing ovation means] nothing. Every film gets a standing ovation at the black-tie evening premiere at Cannes, unless it is so bad it transcends awfulness.

There are really two premieres at Cannes: The press screening at 8:30 a.m., and the black-tie, or "official," screening in the evening. Both fill the vast, 3,500-seat Lumiere auditorium. The morning offers a tough audience: Critics, festival programmers, people who have may have seen hundreds of other movies in this room. They are free with their boos, and if a movie doesn't work for them have been known to shout at the screen on their way out.

The black-tie screening, on the other hand, includes many people who have a financial motive for wanting a film to succeed: The worldwide distributors and exhibitors, their guests, and lots of Riviera locals. Or they may have been given tickets and are thrilled to be there. ("I recognized the woman sitting next to me from my hotel," Rex Red told me one year. "It was my maid.") In some cases, they may simply think it's good manners to cheer movie stars who flew all the way to Cannes. Then too, the stars are seated in the front row of the balcony. Everybody below stands up after the movie, turns around, and sees them bathed in spotlights. The Standing O creates itself.

Yes, dear. It is unfortunate, but Brillante Mendoza's Serbis, our first film since Lino Brocka's Kapit sa Patalim to compete in the festival, got slaughtered. I hope that when Dante comes home, he will have learned from the experience, and make a great movie.

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entry arrow1:44 AM | Reading and Blogging Amado Hernandez's Mga Ibong Mandaragit

This is absolutely my last post on this issue.

But this item tickled me. In response to the whole online controversy surrounding Mga Ibong Mandaragit (read here, here, and here), some very enlightened people are actually taking the opportunity to blog their attempt at reading the classic tome. They write: "Mga Ibong Mandaragit is a novel written by Amado V. Hernandez, and is currently (or has ever since been) the bane of third year high school students in the Philippines. We are inspired to get a copy of the novel, and to join the students in their quest to understand Hernandez’ creation. In the coming weeks, we will post on this site our understanding of each chapter of Mga Ibong Mandaragit, and we invite you to participate in this journey of discovery." So far, they've read through Chapter 1.

Good luck, guys, and have fun!

UPDATE: Libay Linsangan-Cantor on the issue in the The Manila Times.

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entry arrow12:59 AM | High-Brow, Low-Brow, and All That B.S.

Exie Abola gives the last say on the issue of "elitist/difficult literature," first started here, compiling reactions from a great cross-section of blogosphere. Ichi Batacan's comment is enlightening: "[There is] so much fear of 'elitism' in this country, when there should be a far, far greater fear of backwardness and parochialism and mediocrity. So much in our national life and culture encourages us, forces us, calls on us to settle for so much less than the best in ourselves, to aim for not even the barest minimum in our aspirations. It makes me ferociously angry too."

It makes me angry, too.

Connie Veneracion actually has a rejoinder to the whole issue, from which she has been kinda silent since the whole thing broke out. She tries to hold on to her old argument, and cites two things to aid her: (1) her daughter reading manga, and (2) her own experience beholding Dali's The Persistence of Memory. She begins with: "Encourage your kids to read... and never tell them that the only things worth reading are those labeled by the high-brows as profound." It's a battle-cry, all right.

Later in her blog post, she refines her thesis to this: "When academics insist that there are stringent standards on what constitutes literature, they set limitations on all of us. They stifle creativity and growth. They put our minds in cages" [emphasis mine].

Which gets me thinking: isn't she guilty of the same thing she admonishes? By holding a particular standard [hers] as the most apt to read literature by [get rid of Shakespeare and Joyce! Too difficult! From now on we only read Slamdunk!], she proceeded to ridicule a literary work long considered great, albeit "difficult" to those who don't do their homework. The standard, as far as she is concerned is (1) simplicity, and (2) evocativeness. 'Yun lang. As far as I'm concerned, her incompetency to read the work at hand is her limitation, and her wayward battle-cry is the new cage.

I can imagine a typical scene with her child, based on what she has just posted: "Don't read that book, hija. That's a Dostoevsky. It's considered a classic by all those high-brow critics, so it must be bad. It's not an easy read talaga -- you will have to consult the dictionary a thousand times, trust me on that -- punyeta naman 'tong Fyodor na 'to. Sino ba sya? And a real work of art does not need a specific set of rules to make it beautiful and understandable. Walang rules-rules! Forget form! Forget style! It simply has to evoke. Tingnan mo 'tong napakamurang Pinoy na romance paperback na binili ko sa newsstand -- title: Kung ang Langit ang Iiyak, Ang Lupa ang Tatawa -- evocative! Art sya!"

I just hope she doesn't compare me to poor Miss Santibañez, an old teacher of hers. I happen to teach comics in my literature classes, too, and can't be accused of being too "high-brow."

High-brow. Low-brow. A plague on all those silly labels. Utter b.s.! What an old, stupid argument! I thought the whole cultural war with regards that was settled in the 1980s. Aren't we living in the post-post-modern times now? And now here comes Sassy Lawyer thinking it's all new. Gah.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

entry arrow1:24 PM | Cannes Critics View 'Serbis' -- Mostly Panned It. Correction: Slaughtered It. Ouch.

[with updates]

Oh. My. God. Is Brillante Mendoza's Serbis this year's The Brown Bunny? (Vincent Gallo's notorious film -- which had Oscar-nominated actress Chloe Sevigny explicitly giving the actor/director a blow job -- was called the worst film ever presented in the Cannes Film Festival.)

Sunday marked the official screening of Mendoza's film, which is in competition for the Palme d'Or in the Cannes Film Festival. The notices are in, and they are largely mixed (which is to say, it was largely ravaged)...



A.O. Scott begins his New York Times article with it, and then calls it a "rambunctious, noisy" film.

Maggie Lee, in the Hollywood Reporter, says the film "contains elements of soap opera from popular Philippine cinema and TV, but without any of the froth and lather. Unspooling at an almost real-time pace, with a narrative that is all foreplay and no conventional climax, the film won't win any commercial converts to the Philippine new wave," but gives great notices to Gina Pareno, "who is a towering presence, who puts fire and tears into her multiple roles -- as a wife clenching the bitterness of abandonment, an aggrieved mother feeling betrayed by her children's divided loyalty to their father and the pillar that holds together the tottering family business."

Howard Feinstein, in Screen Daily, says Mendoza "has taken a giant step in the wrong direction, even if [Masahista]'s numbing stasis has been supplanted by an unpleasant, ADD-like dynamism." He continues: "Serbis has little social value, except for the backdrop of economic hardship that is endemic in the Philippines..." and that "if you are looking for The Last Picture Show, search elsewhere." Ouch. This is a harsh critique, given the fact that Feinstein champions Mendoza's previous films.

Jay Weissberg, in Variety, says that Mendoza's "latest opus that revels in shock value... While employing a far wider range of hues and less jiggly lensing than last year’s Slingshot, pic is mostly composed of handheld shots endlessly following characters as they move from floor to floor in a matter-of-fact voyeurism that can feel overly calculated. Mendoza appears to have jettisoned his early faith in his audience’s intelligence, continually reinforcing signs (“No Loitering,” cheaply lurid soft-core posters) with unnecessary close-ups, and gimmicky final shot adds nothing. Most scenes are practically drowning in noise as the cacophony of the streets continuously invades the cinema’s public and private areas."

Former Premiere.com critic Glenn Kenney, in Some Came Running, writes: "Boy, Angeles City in the Philippines sure is frickin' noisy, at least if the new film from director Brillante Mendoza is to be believed... In the course of a day and early evening in the place, we're treated to such sights as a disgustingly backed-up bathroom, a detailed look at what appears to be a painful but effective treatment for a boil on the butt, and a wild goat chase. What we learn about the family itself, though, is pretty slim. As an environmental experience, Serbis has a peculiar voyeuristic draw, and that noisy soundtrack turns into a drone that has a near-trance effect. The hypnotic tedium of a life lived in underdevelopment and sensory overload and most likely oppressive humidity is, finally, effectively evoked. Beyond that, the viewer is out of luck."

This has always been my main critique of local films. The often relentless barrage of noise. Most Filipino films are quite talky and noisy, and the haphazard editing of some can cause cinematic vertigo. An older friend once told me that perhaps this is a perfect reflection of our culture, and I agree -- to a point. Because it is perfectly possible to have a "noisy" society, and create quiet elegance in art. Case in point: Scent of Green Papaya. The Vietnam War looms in the background of this film by Anh Hung Tran, but by God, it is such a quiet, beautiful film.

Le Monde's Thomas Sotinel gives it one-star, and writes: "C'est chaotique, à l'image des stratégies de survie de cette famille au bord de l'implosion. Alors que la grand-mère tente d'obtenir l'incarcération de son mari pour adultère, elle s'agace de la nature de l'activité qu'elle abrite dans son cinéma, sans faire le moindre effort pour y mettre un terme. Car, dans ce pays catholique en diable, le sexe est le seul commerce qui permette de survivre." Ouch.

And this, from Reuter's Kurt Honeycutt, the unkindest cut of all: "Finally, what would a Cannes Competition be without a head-scratcher? So far that would be Brillante Mendoza's Service from the Philippines. A 90-minute wallow in frighteningly bad sound and camerawork, nonacting, relentless degradation and sex, the film seems to be here for one reason -- to give the festival its annual jolt of graphic oral sex." Ouch!

There's an updated chart somewhere that tracks the critical reaction to all the films in competition, and so far, Serbis gets the lowest score.

What can Filipino cinema learn from this? Enough sex! Enough exotification of our poverty! Buy better sound equipment! Hire editors who know how to edit! And learn how to tell a story cinematically!

UPDATE:

Finally, one good review of Serbis! Or, at least it doesn't slaughter it. Here's Le Journal du Dimanche's Yannick Vely: "Pour son caractère cru et sans tabou, avec de nombreuses scènes de sexe, le film suscitera peut-être le scandale sur la Croisette. Il serait dommage, pourtant, de passer à côté de ce portrait de famille, réalisé en douze jours par un surdoué de l'écriture cinématographique. Comme Arnaud Desplechin dans Un Conte de Noël, l'auteur de John John, présenté à la Quinzaine des Réalisateurs la saison dernière, impressionne par sa faculté à tisser immédiatement des liens entre les différents personnages, à saisir les non-dits, à donner corps aux récits entrecroisés qui circulent sans cesse à l'écran, comme le petit enfant à bicyclette. Brillante Mendoza capte avec tendresse ce petit univers en mouvement perpétuel, ces petits services rendues, qu'ils soient sexuels ou autres. L'image est choc mais le propos jamais glauque, jamais sensationnel dans le mauvais sens du terme, bien au contraire. "Family", le nom symbolique du cinéma pornographique, est un havre de paix pour âmes en peine, une halte nécessaire pour reprendre son souffle avant d'affronter la rue."

Roughly translated [and truncated -- my French not very good]: "Because of its rawness and without taboo (it has many sex scenes), the film will spark perhaps a scandal on the Croisette... It would be unfortunate, however, to ignore this filmed portrait of a family, which was done in twelve days by a gifted writer/director... who has an ability to immediately forge links between various characters, to seize the unspoken, to give substance to the intersecting stories that circulate constantly on the screen, like the small child on a bicycle... Brillante Mendoza lovingly captures this small universe in perpetual motion, these small services rendered, whether sexual or otherwise... It is never sensational in the wrong sense; quite the contrary. 'Family,' the symbolic name of the porno film theater, is a haven of peace for souls in pain, who pause to breathe before facing the street."

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

entry arrow10:58 PM | Carlos Bulosan's The Soldier



The late great Carlos Bulosan has a short story -- "The Soldier" -- over at the Weekend edition of The Manila Times. The story comes from Selected Works and Letters (1982), edited by Epifanio San Juan Jr. and Ninotchka Rosca.

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entry arrow11:20 AM | 2008 Romeo Forbes Contest Winners

From CANVAS:

[We are] very pleased to announce that Ms. Eline Santos has won the 2008 Romeo Forbes Children's Storywriting Competition for her story, "Doll Eyes," [based on a painting by Joy Mallari]. We ended up with a very strong set of entries in the final round, but in the end the judges -- singer/actress Lea Salonga, Tin-Aw Art Gallery owner Dawn Atienza, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Head of the Graduate Studies Office of UP's College of Arts and Letters Jose Wendell Capili -- were unanimous.



You can read the winning story and the finalists by clicking on the following links...

Doll Eyes by Eline Santos

The Search for Magic by Raissa Rivera

Ang Dyip ni Mang Tomas ni Genaro R. Gojo Cruz

The First Jeepney by Agay Llanera

Alay sa Huling Babae sa Bayan ng Suna ni Michael Frianeza

Father Damian's Amazing Carabao by Becky Bravo

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entry arrow11:15 AM | U.P. Writers Club Blog



The U.P. Writers Club, established in 1927, now has a blog. And a Multiply site.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

entry arrow10:21 PM | What Can I Say About Rogue?

I've been buying every single issue of Rogue since it debuted a few months ago...



... and so, what can I finally say about this magazine that bills itself as...



... a compendium of "lifestyles on the edge"?



It's consistently great! Unlike most of the other local magazines of its kind, it does not leave me wishing I did not shell out P180 for lousy photos and even lousier articles. The feature articles are intelligent and provocative. Their annual portfolios are artfully conceived. The art direction is groundbreaking and fresh. And it is one of only a few Filipino lifestyle magazines that actually publish fiction by local writers, counting among its contributors Jose Dalisay Jr., Luis Joaquin Katigbak, Yvette Tan, and Nikki Alfar.

Go buy this month's issue, and keep subscribing.

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entry arrow2:09 PM | Moon River

A magnificent clip from Blake Edwards' adaptation of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's. Audrey Hepburn singing "Moon River" in her Manhattan balcony. Gorgeous song, gorgeous story, gorgeous stars, gorgeous setting...



One perfect reason why I love old movies. This is lightning in a bottle, and it can never happen again, unfortunately. Can you imagine Megan Fox as Holly Golightly? No way.

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entry arrow12:15 AM | No Pinoy Takers of Frank O'Connor Prize

Just stumbled on this in Bookslut: The Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, established only in 2005, is an annual award of 35,000 euros -- which makes it the world's richest prize for the short story form. The award goes to the author of the book judged to be the best collection of stories published in English for the first time anywhere in the world in the twelve months between September of one year and August of the next. Publishers, authors, or agents may enter eligible works of short fiction. Past winners include Yiyun Li, Haruki Murakami, and Miranda July.

This year, there are five long-listed authors from Ireland, fourteen from Britain, four from Australia, four from New Zealand, eight from the U.S., and one each from Canada, Singapore, Taiwan, and Nigeria.

Big question: No Filipino authors in the bunch? Not one Filipino author or publisher thought of joining this contest, even given the fact that we churn out a lot of short story collections every year? Sayang naman.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

entry arrow11:45 PM | "Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define"

Just before Valentine’s Day this year, The New York Times' Sunday Styles section asked college students from all over America to "tell the plain truth about what love is like for them." They got more than 1,200 essays by deadline, and none of them about red roses and white tablecloths. (Well, there were three.) They've published the winning essay, by Marguerite Fields, now, and it is one brilliant personal piece. It is funny, witty, and sad -- and damning, too, about the way we love now. Read it.

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entry arrow10:53 AM | Some Things

1.

I've been really sick for the past week. Blogging helps, sometimes.

2.



I was watching this Chris Ware video from This American Life, and it perfectly encapsulates one moment from a play I've been trying to write for the past year: how our memory sometimes tricks us into remembering something we never even experienced in the first place.

[link via bookslut]

3.

Hell, what do I know. It's David vs. David, after all. Ehehehe. Vote for Cook! Gaspy has to go. Seriously.

4.

What is with Austria? My fantasies of it have always consisted of Mozart, Strauss, grand palaces, and The Sound of Music. But now, it's all Arthur Schnitzler (author of the novella Traumnovelle, the basis for Eyes Wide Shut), Elfriede Jelinek (Nobel Prize winner for such harrowing work as The Piano Teacher), Michael Haneke, underground captivity, and incest and more underground captivity. And now this. There seems to be an Austrian race to debase humanity in print, in film, and in real life. What's up with that?

What's strange: I'm actually planning to be in Austria to work and maybe study within the next eight years.

5.

Charles Tan on so-called "vegetable fiction" -- the best of the latest comments so far on the brewing issue on philistinism in reading "difficult" literature.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

entry arrow10:49 AM | Two New Books

Two new books from two fast-emerging Filipino writers to hit American publishing...



Poet and fictionist Marisa de los Santos' Belong to Me, a follow-up to her bestselling first novel Love Walked In (which Sarah Jessica Parker optioned), is currently #20 in the New York Times Bestseller List, probably a first for a Filipino writer. About the book from the HarperCollins website:

Everyone has secrets. Some we keep to protect ourselves, others we keep to protect those we love.

A devoted city dweller, Cornelia Brown surprised no one more than herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to leave urban life behind and head for an idyllic suburb. Though she knows she and her beloved husband, Teo, have made the right move, she approaches her new life with trepidation and struggles to forge friendships in her new home. Cornelia's mettle is quickly tested by judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt. Perfectly manicured, impeccably dressed, and possessing impossible standards, Piper is the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she would find in suburbia. A saving grace soon appears in the form of Lake. Over a shared love of literature and old movies, Cornelia develops an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman who has also recently arrived in town, ostensibly to send her perceptive and brilliant son, Dev, to a school for the gifted.

Marisa de los Santos's literary talents shine in the complex interactions she creates between these three women. She deftly explores the life-altering roller coaster of emotions Piper faces as she cares for two households, her own and that of her cancer-stricken best friend, Elizabeth. Skillfully, de los Santos creates an enigmatic and beguiling character in Lake, who draws Cornelia closer even as she harbors a shocking secret. And from the first page until the exhilarating conclusion, de los Santos engages readers with Cornelia, who, while trying to adapt to her new surroundings, must remain true to herself. As their individual stories unfold, the women become entangled in a web of trust, betrayal, love, and loss that challenges them in ways they never imagined, and that ultimately teaches them what it means for one human being to belong to another.

Buy the book from Amazon here. Marisa is currently profiled in The Philadelphia Inquirer (link via Pine for Pine). Read an early work by her in Nerve.com.




Palanca Hall-of-Famer Luisa Igloria's Juan Luna’ s Revolver is winner of the 2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry. About the book from the University of Notre Dame Press website:

The poems in Juan Luna’ s Revolver both address history and attempt to transcend it through their exploration of the complexity of diaspora. Attending to the legacy of colonial and postcolonial encounters, Luisa A. Igloria has crafted poems that create links of sympathetic human understanding, even as they revisit difficult histories and pose necessary questions about place, power, displacement, nostalgia, beauty, and human resilience in conditions of alienation and duress.

Igloria traces journeys made by Filipinos in the global diaspora that began since the encounter with European and American colonial power. Her poems allude to historical figures such as the Filipino painter Juan Luna and the novelist and national hero José Rizal, as well as the eleven hundred indigenous Filipinos brought to serve as live exhibits in the 1904 Missouri World’s Fair. The image of the revolver fired by Juan Luna reverberates throughout the collection, raising to high relief how separation and exile have shaped concepts of identity, nationality, and possibility.

Suffused with gorgeous imagery and nuanced emotion, Igloria’s poetry achieves an intimacy fostered by gem-like phrases set within a politically-charged context speaking both to the personal and the collective.

Buy the book from Amazon here. Cervena Barva Press profiles Luisa here. Read another profile by The Sword Review here.

Who says Filipino writers are not world-class?

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