Things have changed, again

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In 2004, I packed off my bags and moved to blogspot. My old one, at ayen.blogdrive.com, is still there. I'm too much of a packrat to take it down.

Things have changed again. I haven't been posting as often at blogger, owing to massive changes in writing schedules and venues that paid me for generating text.

I'd like to start again. Somewhere else.

Boulevard avenue will stay here. But subsequent thoughts, snippets, phrases, wails, and stories remembered in tranquility will be up on my new site -

ayenrivera.idlereads.com

hemingway

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What I've been doing, it seems, with blog theme after blog theme, and tweak after tweak, is skinning. The ads were the first to go. I'd like to re-read my blog, to remember my attempts at sustained moments of thought, remembrance, lucidity, or lack thereof. But page elements get in the way - the author profile right beside the first post, one column is to eager to list the post categories (as though a reader who just got here is going to pick from that), and the background is plain white - like tons of other blogs and sites out there. This is a reading blog - for crying out loud - the posts should be lined up like pictures on a menu, ready to entice.

The theme prior to this one was no less impressive - one column of off-white with grey and black serif fonts, of the faded typeset variety, - looking like a page from an old newspaper that got rain-soaked, forgotten, dried up in time, and rediscovered.

The theme, now, it's just white and grey on sheer black. Easy on the eye and no links list on a side column to subconsciously baggage you with. It's not polished, yet, as some pruning needs to be done. But I'm relieved with this. Like a gardener at the end of the day, finally having patted the earth, the seeds grounded firmly under.

The categories are way below, which you'll find after - not before - you've scanned the four entries on the parent page - this page. I clicked on fiction in English and spent hours getting back into the grove and the absurdity of my own writing. It's like finding an old shoebox and gasping at the old toys still tucked in, unfound until now.

But the shark tips got me chuckling. It's good to be back. This blog theme, by they way, is called Hemingway.

Omit needless words

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I write for other people. That's how I get paid, and the more I do it, the more it leans on me - like clothes you wear that tandem well, but you begin to tire of - that my sentences, they're long enough to try your patience. Just like that: a mouthful. Each and every time. Someone needs to clip his thoughts. Or take a lot more time clipping his sentences.

One column to rule them all

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Information Architecture, so the web wide world says, is the art of finding out what you want your site to do, and then keep doing that one thing and that one thing only.

Sheet of paper. One column. Prop your feet up. Sip that coffee. The world can fend for itself.

Cleaning the attic

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One Anne Rice biographer said of Rice as being in constant pychological evolution. It was written years before Rice converted to Catholicism, and that biographer would not have raised an eyebrow when, in recent years, Rice excommunicated herself from the Vatican corporation. She's not a Catholic anymore, in the same way a self-disciplined driver discontinues her membership from a motorists organization, but still adheres to the principles of defensive driving, taking care of your car, preparing for long trips, and being socially respectful to everyone on the road.

Rice, for as long as I've silently worshipped her vampire-lore-reinvigoration novel, "The Interview with the Vampire," had always been an atheist. What am I driving at? Blogging is a box I've kept stale for years now, not knowing what new items to throw in. I'm going to take this slow, and sift through my blog items (posts) of way back up to the latest, to see how depressing my online writing evolution has become, acting as my own detached biographer.

Climb every mountain

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I'm not Catholic, but it makes sense why the "Board of Directors" of that church would want to prevent the Philippine poor from having unrestricted access to pregnancy prevention programs. If, and these are "ifs," if the middle class, well-to-do, and educated Catholics tend to switch religions, or (practice their faith in private and) avoid giving abuloy to Catholic churches (or require their services - kasal, mass, blessing, etc.), then that's revenue loss right there. Bad for business.

Another "if" - if the consistent abuloy revenue comes from the poor (who multiply like rabbits because they're economically barred from access to contraceptives), then it makes sense to oppose moves (like the RH bill) that would stop the poor population from ballooning. As long as there are poor Catholics, the revenue continues.

Corporations, we have to remind ourselves of this, have to protect their mind share. Faith in business. Business in faith.

I will be hated for articulating the above, but it has to be said.

I'm home

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There's something nice and warm about donuts hiding deep down in a crumpled paper bag of love. Shove them down a plastic sando bag that survives the whims of an indifferent rain, and they won't be the same. Paper means risk - you could put the bag down on a damp table and the contents might drop through the tear. (If you soak us do we not go limp?) Hence the love. My wife bought us donuts last night - only two - there's only two of us. And I brought home the crumpled paper bag - I must have done most of the crumpling - and fixed us coffee while I wondered if the donuts got bored on the taxi ride home at 5 in the morning. The sun had not risen and our other cat (we have two) hadn't come yet when we divided the first donut - more of a cupcake, really - between us. What is it about the sound of crumpling paper bags that allure me? A gift that takes time to open up. The sound of something coming out - a surprise. The possibility that the donuts smashed against each other, with only me to blame, on the way home. Coffee, donuts, all that crumpling, and the hmm of this goes so well with coffee. Makes me feel loved, hugs me in a way that makes me say.... (read the title.)

basics

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"I never thought I'd be so happy as a cat."

- Mao, contract killer trapped in the body of a cat, to Hei, another contract killer, from Season 1 of "Darker Than Black."

undrying the spell

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You can't deny there are dry spells, droughts in a writer's life. I'm countering that. Here's something I'm working on.


Tangerine

I had to clench my eyes shut, like a fist, out of annoyance, close it long enough to see small white dots, disbelieving the film rolling from my right, and spreading around. I had to have been in a film. Or a dream. Unless streets could empty out rush hour crowds and turn pavements and buildings orange in a blink. A deep orange. I managed a small squint, a peek. Still orange. Still an empty street. Horns blowing and people elbowing to get ahead of you, the scent of car-jeep-bus-and-truck exhausts, the scene of after-work exhaustion, all suddenly not here.

I have an eye problem. That's one hypothesis among many. That explains why all is orange. Or I'm in another locale, swiftly removed from Ayala avenue on a six pm of a Friday night, and shot here, where there are no people, and, pinching my self, jumping up and down, to work up a sweat, slapping my cheek and offering the other, I don't seem to be waking up. I don't do drugs, I don't remember being drugged, maybe I am drugged.

I am hallucinating. Wide-eyed wonder! A traffic cop is adjusting his trousers to the sway of his belly, from across this street, grunting. Finally I hear sounds other than my breath, grunts, and foot falls. He hands me a ticket.

"Why?" His moustache moves. I've been standing still too long, everyone else had moved on, he said.

"Where's everyone else?" I ask, loudly, but I don't get an echo.

That's just it, he says. They've all moved on. And I shouldn't be here.

"Where's here?"

Where do you think?

"You trying to be funny, sir?"

No, 'where' do you think? That's where you are. And it's not right to stay there. I'm sorry but I'm going to have to take you for processing.

I pull away and run.

tightening the tale

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I have a week to soak in comments and firm up my short story, which I had expected the class to crease their foreheads about and accuse me: what the fuck is this? Somehow I pulled through. My head-game scare story scared them.

I'd love to get slapped with a shining grade in this PhD subject.

Here's how it starts out. Bright and sunny. Such a nice day. But there's a doppelganger in the house.

When Did I lose the Knife?
by Irwin Allen B. Rivera

I CAN TELL, WITHOUT opening my eyes, that chirping birds mean half past nine in the morning. Into my comforter I cocoon myself some more, into the small sea of softness and the scent of fabric conditioner. I want to drift off till noon, when the birds are gone and all that pervades me is the empty house, still as a pond in a retirement home, and just as quiet. It's the Christmas break anyway, and with December this cold, I find no motive to swim out of bed, and fall, voluntarily, on the wooden floor, with a thud that would send Jeff, my housemate, mumbling about me over breakfast in three words: oversleeping lazy bastard.

But the birds won't go away, and Jeff isn't here to annoy me. Neither is the reason why the birds, on a December morning with nothing, supposedly, to do, irk me. Inside my cocoon I cover my ears, willing the birds to vanish by reason of my not hearing them. 'Bullshit,' I hear Jeff say in my head, with the same venom he reserves for when I sometimes think out loud. Maybe he's right. I bolt up, suddenly, still hugging a bundle of my foamy blanket. The world, despite what my professor says, is still there, here, even when I don't want to hear it.

The same premise holds for small square yellow post-its on a tact-board above my study table, a sock-throw from my bed. Four large strikingly yellow ones scream in red ink: Paper on Personal identity for Professor Perez due in two days. 'Fuck it,' Jeff says again in my head. 'Just get it over with.'

I don't want to hear it, Jeff. Get out of my head. Take the world with you.

JEFF DID LEAVE, YESTERDAY. But I go through the motions anyway. I crawl to the other side of the bed, away from the morning light, closer to the small clock under the lampshade, fail to reach it, and fall on the floor with a thud, still cocooned in the comforter. Verified: it's only 9:35 am. Jeff would be done showering by now. The shuffling I would hear downstairs would be him in the kitchen. And if I open the bedroom door a crack, I'd hear the whish of something being fried, the scent of brewed coffee, and the complaint of some guy about me using his shampoo again. Some kids were raised well.

Except that when I thud on the floor, there is a humming nothingness in the house. And I suddenly find the chirping of the birds eerie. Slowly, I peel off the comforter, bundle it up and throw it on the bed. I open the bedroom door a crack and hear a squeak that must have been always there, unnoticed, by me. No shuffling and no scents of morning breakfast joy.

In my shorts, I descend the stairs a deserted man. Mrs. Adoring's pots hang unmoving in the kitchen. The stove is as clean as Jeff left it. I smell Domex on the kitchen tiles. And, inspecting the shower room, I can't find Jeff's shampoo.

But I still have that paper to write.

the sudden clue sleeps

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Ma'am Jing threw me a clue in class. I caught it in midair, like an afterthought. I shot my mind's hand up, absentmindedly, and cupped it. It's like when you're pushing your grocery cart down the isle, mentally squinting (what is it again that I need?) and you notice you've been holding something you picked up from the other isle: ahh! this is it! A clue. I hate my own writing, the clue said, because I listen for flight. For lyricism. Something I only mold in moments of downward plight. Or fleeting out-the-window gazes. Not a mood in the everyday. But if I hummed a metaphor and a rhythm for every articulation, I'm thinking I'd trip. Getting up, dusting my knees, I'd mumble and go for blunt and pedestrian. Like pulling out a branch from the mud, because I could shoo a stray dog away with it, just as I could with a sleek 9 iron golf club. The shame of the mundane! (When I read recent journals I etched in fatigue, I squirm at how wayward and pointless they sound.) 

To talk always in poetry. How else must I talk to myself so I'd listen? (Note to self: you're not even a poet.)

-----

A classmate, naturally I didn't ask for his name, because I thought I knew, and the way we talked, it's as if he knew that I knew, anyway, I've dropped hints in our talk that I'd show him my on going sudden novel. Sudden novel. I'm still reveling in the sound of that. Sudden. Novel. That's not a short story. It's got chapters. Maybe even an epilogue. A sequence of parts that long is not ordinarily sudden. It is not. But it is. Each chapter, composed of smaller scenes (episodes), are written like sudden fiction. Smallish, self-aware of a time limit, and they end in the moment following the moment they started. Put them all together and loop some scenes and symbols, and that's a sudden novel. But will it work? I'd have to put the chapters side by side and let another pair of ears listen to the short burst, for his mouth to sip the teaspoons of scenes. Since I'm inflicting this on him, I should know his name. 

-----

Turns out one of the short stories Ma'am Jing assigned is a chapter of a novel. Sly devil old woman. Fooled me into thinking we were into short short fiction (the other name of sudden fiction), not that I complained. If a chapter is that full and yet so short, how would the entire novel taste like? Anyway, what's important is that I skittered into class unprepared to talk about my assigned story. I could talk, yes, but it would have no shape. A chaos of rambles. Good thing she upped her chin in someone else's direction. The guillotine fell not on me. So I'm uploading my more refined, thought about, talk, to our eGroup, over the Christmas vacation. 

-----

One of the stories assigned is written like prose poetry. How can people write like that? (Translation: what the fuck? this is so great! i can't write like that even if i trained for a lifetime.) 

-----

One should stock up on sleep before running off, blinking silly, out of the house after a sudden toothbrush, so early in the morning. I had to catch the train to class two cities away. That's probably why I couldn't think straight about the story assigned to me. I had only read it twice, with no notes etched down. Just some confident private mumbles. But at the time those mumbles, my mumbles, about the story, seemed brilliant. Therefore I was brilliant. Sadly, no greatness survives when you articulate those mumbles. I hereby promise to sleep the night before. 

when the fog clears

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I'm not even sure I want a cake. But my wife insists, and I think she's right (I'd probably want something to see that sets the theme), so I'm hovering over images of nothing but chocolate in my head, and the memory of my not wanting something so sweet. Maybe something with some filling inside, something that, when I rub my eyes in the wee hours of dawn, when the refrigerator fog clears, pokes me awake (a discovery): hey there's a cake here--I'm digging in. Over and over. Because it's not so sweet. And there's some filling inside. The last thing you want is to keep seeing cake and keep being reminded there's cake and whose birthday cake is it again, and that oh, there's cake, you want some cake?

Ayokong maumay.

And please, no two candles stabbed into the cake spelling out my age. We almost always eventually have to pull them out of the cake. Because the cake won't fit in the ref with the candles jutting out. And we're sure we'd see the candles later, in the same drawer where we keep the kitchen stuff, like old knives, barbeque sticks, plastic forks and spoons, electrical tape, and an unused can opener. Someone but someone on someday will slide open that drawer and see a 3 and 2 with wicks burned long ago and holler, huy, birthday ni Yayen, eto o, look: proof.

But that's in the foreseeable future, far and away from here, which is now, and now is the time for a cake. My cake. Darling, you buy. You choose. You know me better than any other psycho with thinning hair.

I'm gonna go grab the cat and hose him in the bathroom. It's my birthday after all.

almost a week

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The thing about completely freelancing at home? Even after you've marked your work hours, your mind is never really away from it. I'm ronin. Again. But I don't even see it as work anymore. It's been six days since I quit my affiliate marketing manager post in Makati. Never felt better. Wish I quit earlier.

I'm just resting a bit before I go back to cleaning manuscripts to submit to clients whose names I can't be sure are even real. But they do pay. And they're polite in their emails. And they like my writing. if only I had the patience to copyedit for them for long hours. I don't have a proofreader's eyes. But I am retraining myself. I get paid extra for that. I just don't want to edit my own blog entries. That would be depressing.

Been cleaning up wedding jewellery articles for some British websites since this morning. This one article I migrained through, its title had nothing to do with the first paragraph, and the rest of the article had nothing to do with anything else preceding it. Wow.

This is who I am now.

a long overdue requiem

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My art historian former boss, the eternal-bachelor graphic artist, my funny-chubby managing editor, and even the short and nimble utility guy--the people in my previous writing life--showed off, to me and Anne, their posh new office, and that they could elbow me some room in it ("We could compress and give you space right here," said Denes the graphic guy, pointing over Yam the fun-chub managing ed, showing that the continuous desk held only three people, but could in fact take in four; and one could probably squeeze in between Denes' iMac and Yam's PC: good luck to me, Yam isn't exactly small). Anne and I were visiting.

My former boss, the director of now three culture-and-media-related offices in my acacia-tree populated Diliman alma mater (he used to command just one) was blunt as usual: "So, are you coming back?" I buried my "No" in an awkward laugh.

Anne had to get used, again, to the open-air and thick and fresh air of the campus. Makati fed us only thin air. We moved out of our apartment near UP last December, bringing our cat, taking with me few memories of a savored writing life I can't reclaim. I'm different now. But no one among the smiling faces in the new cozy office can tell.

It's like coming home for the holidays. You see your old room, smell the scents of childhood, touch the old trees, listen to the old people, taste Grandma's cooking, and be reminded of the singular fact that you don't live there anymore.

You watch the old Saturday morning cartoons and catch yourself silly, still enjoying them / and you catch yourself silly, amused that you enjoy them when they're rather lame. You're divided. It's like your holding the hand of a four-year old watching a TV show outside a store's display window. The little kid tugs at you, this won't take long, can we stay a bit longer? The taller you gives in, all right, just a bit, but we have to go later, I have important stuff to do. And you do.

I quit my alma mater's PR office almost two years ago, and I've been churning out copy under unrecommended writing conditions: under an old aircon that could have thudded on my head anytime (during nightshift in anonymous Ortigas building), during daytime in our previous apartment, where neighboring kids yelled at their mothers for yelling at them first, and now, as a species-of-marketing manager where I'm more of a spammer than writer. A pen for hire has seen better times.

One must makes the monies. One yearns to write again. One wants to look out the window and sigh. The kid tugs at you again, and you have to tell him, breaking his heart, but knowing that he'll live through this, because you did...

You can never come home again.

pam got the cat's tongue

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The cat is noisy. Pam talks to the cat. 

Pam: "Gusto mo ng pansin?"

Cat: "Meow."

Pam: "Ano tingin mo sa 'kin, kuhanan ng pagkain?"

Cat: "Meow."

Pam: "Maganda 'ko di ba?"

Silence. 

if you can write, then you can earn on the side

by | | 3 comments
Can you discuss your points on paper, research its background, its pros and cons, and then credibly advise answers? If you can, we have a writing gig for you.

We're a team of writers taking on SEO writing jobs. SEO is search engine optimization; it's a process that lets Google and Yahoo find websites easier, through the use of keywords. SEO writing, which is what we do, involves generating short, readable, researched, no-fluff essays--stuffed with keywords--for an online audience.

There is no byline. Can you handle that?

We write on just about anything--from solar power and sleep, to hormones and home decor, to web design and whale watching, to depression and dog potty training, to infidelity and investment marketing. As for research, the World Wide Web is our oyster.

Can you avoid fluff and juvenile blog phrases and buzz words?

We write only content relevant to the assigned topic and keywords. We can't be doing that if we're busy writing about ourselves and our angst and that there's so much life ahead of us. Oh please.

Can you steer clear of self-indulgent blogwriting?

Online reading is slower than reading on print. Also, our eyes tend to scan and jump from tempting phrase to annoying banner ad to intriguing picture. So we keep our readers interested using only what's available to us: words. We pace the content, we don't waste words, we don't mislead.

Can you sustain reader's interest, from the title to the first paragraph to the last word?

If your idea of essay writing is stiff and ponderous academic prose, or the opinionated angry newspaper column, you'll be wanting to change your ways. We can't even begin to think about starting to care about you and your navel. We do care about your writing skill, though. Enough to pay for it.

Can you rise above the juvenile need to copy online content?

Plagiarized content will not be paid for. If your articles snag a plagiarism hit on online plagiarism checkers, then you need to rewrite them. The longer this plagiarism reduction takes, the longer it takes for you get paid. Speaking of getting paid....

P80 per 400-550 word articles. P100 for 700-word articles. Writing tips will be provided when you pass the SEO test. Payment is via BPI, BDO and Pay Pal only.

Can you do this?

If you think you can, please email work.at.home.writing@gmail.com with the subject line: "Please send me the SEO test."

If you think you can't, that's ok. You're bound to have a friend who's both articulate in English, and who can sustain her thoughts on paper. Please pass this on to her.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you have time to surf, write testimonials, and blog about your day, then you have time to earn on the side.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yours truly,

Work@Home Team
work.at.home.writing@gmail.com

Iron Man

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It was a relief, finally, to watch a hero-origin movie whose actors, and the script they danced to, allowed you to forget the film's preposterous plot: a weapons-making billionaire builds a suit of armor and redeems himself through it. But with a solid cast and clever dialogue, and an action scene that relied (thank God) on Robert Downey Jr. fighting partially armored, and fumbling, we have a movie that trumps the origin stories of other hero movies (so far).

Though a Batman fan, I have gotten tired of the overly serious trauma-as-vigilante-catalyst angle. People get bullet-holed in front of their kids, we know that, we see it on YouTube, read about it in the papers. Statistically, at least one of those parentless kids is bound to be both smart and an heir. I'm just not so sure if he'd turn out to be dark as the Bat.

Similarly, I doubt if billionaire scientists will build weapons to suit themselves with, but "Iron Man" takes this premise without taking it too seriously, and that's the pure joy you get from watching Iron Man: you are never truly asked to push your threshold for disbelief. What is so morality-heavy about flying around with super weapons? 40-something Stark did. Stark's desire to redeem himself was really something thrown in for convenience, something you could forgive. Like trauma. He'll get over it. And that's ok, Tony is Tony.

Meanwhile you watch him fly and fumble and finally realize he actually likes his secretary.

(By the way, if you've seen the film, did you notice that there was always dialogue happening even in the midst of so much fighting? That's the beauty of the film. The CG was there for the polish, not as the backbone.)

Cheers.

you can't drag it with you all your life

by | | 2 comments
I used to have a room made for daydreaming. Mornings were a golden brown glow, six a.m. light dampened by thin bamboo drapes over windows. Windows left half-open, and through them cold air filled in, like a slow fog, nowhere to go, and so it stood still. I would pull my blanket up, covering me whole, through those cool golden mornings, cocooning myself deep in white, white laundered so many times Mother said she'd have to cut them in large squares, fold them into rags, and what good rags they'd be, she said. I said no.

It had, that blanket, so common a design you could walk into any public market, grab a blanket from any stall that sold them, choose the white with wide-apart blue stripes, and flowers here and there, and you'd have my blanket.

But not that blanket. That one, remembered too much. It knew of a time when windows where half-open, and one could cocoon oneself in one's dreams. All morning.

With no one saying no.

Long, even beats

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I'm exhaling loudly through my nose again. Slow, even long breaths, filling my lungs with air and helping not in the least. I'm that pissed. I'm trying, like I promised my therapist, to be aware of how I appear to other people. My dropped down shoulders rising to every inhale, my feet planted firmly and wide apart, my hands wanting to claw at something, my eyes in slits.

I blink and imagine wide open fields, like my therapist said, sunny all around, not a soul in sight. But the image in my head is a Gilbert from accounting choking into purple, the twin thumbs of mine digging into his adam's apple. But that's self-indulgent. I blink again and shake the scene out of my head.

Mark from marketing walks past me and I smile. He throws me a nod. I give back a shrug and that's the end of that. Socializing without words in corridors. Mark was probably sent to check up on me, how many veins on my skin-head skull is popping; he waits crack, as he administratively holds my section's new budget proposal hostage.

I've decided it's two-for-one month. Mark is joining Gilbert at the back of an anonymous van. The one I haven't used in a year. Because I thought this year would be a good one.

I exhale, relieved this time, the kind of exhale an pest exterminator gives out after examinining a house falling to termites. It'll take a lot of work but it can be done. It will, be done.

I walk to the end of the corridor smiling. Mike sees me again and his foreheard wrinkles up in a question. I throw him a nod and a smile. He's getting what's coming.

And oh am I coming. Am I coming.

disquiet

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He sits in front of me, from across the table, like a wax statue: his back straight, unmoving; his gnarled hands cupped over a walking stick pointed at the wooden floor. His eyes straight into mine. He doesn't need rigor mortis to lock his limbs in that pose. His pride will do him in, and as the first-born, I should inherit everything (but he has to die first).

But as the only de la Casta to be cut off (cast off?), I'd get nothing from the old man. Father closed his banks, shut down his factories, and shook other gnarled hands, for the last time, fifteen years ago. I was fifteen.

Business, I always thought, appeared in Alejandro's mind as a means to buy respect. To my two uncles, father's brothers, business legitimated loud nights drinking with the governors, the mayors, the head of police, and actors who brandish guns. Business was, to the other de la Castas, a given. A wallet to open up in public, to draw in envious eyes, to waste and wine.

So when Emerito and Pablo de la Casta stabbed their eldest brother, and left him for dead, mother's heart stopped, right here, on the spot Alejandro's walking stick points at. Like an epitaph.

Father stomps his stick once. It is enough. I raise my eyes, from the floor, to meet his. Is it settled, then? his eyes ask. Father is, always has been, too soft.

There is so much for which he should not forgive me. His brothers. My mother. And soon my own brothers.

Yet he is here. In the house he used to call his home, now my own.

I stare back a long time. Steel against unyielding wood. Steel doesn't blink, doesn't creak. Finally, Alejandro sighs, from across the table. He is amused that I am amused that he is amused.

The man who taught me to trust in others, but plan ahead anyway, leans on his walking stick, as he limps away. He knows that I know that I'd do it anyway. His coming here was his way of giving me a stiff hug. The kind gentlemen of old times gave their sons.

The door closes behind him and I am left alone in the house that raised me.

flatline

by | | 3 comments
Some days I hate my own words. They come off as lies. Even when they're true. This is why I've blogged nothing in months. I've quit a job I used to love. Took another in Ortigas. Left that and took another in Makati. I have all the memories right here. All the scenes, conflicts, drama, climaxes. Resolutions. How to weave them together. Not that I've been in the mood, in months, to do so. And there in lies why I haven't written anything, anything that amuses me, in months.

turning white

by | | 1 comments
"So, then. Where are the bodies?"

Burt didn't answer. He just stared at me, and blinked once, like I was too obscenely forward.

"The sooner I see it, the sooner people get paid," I sighed and looked away, making sure the sound of the word "paid" trailed off into the next room, through the open door behind me.

Burt grunted, turned on his right heel and crossed the blood-mapped carpet, avoiding the forensic tags, the deflated body bags, the white-coat lab guy zooming in and leaning into the blood work. We had all thought this private party would end up with tomorrow's headlines. Mafia boss gets laid. Gets done in. I followed Burt, skipping the darkened red on the already red carpet.

Martinique Berrangerie hung on his necktie, the slow pendulum swing of his body stilled by two more forensic kids, but in blue, not in lab coat white. Compared to them, Burt was near retirement, and I was at my peak, but already retired from the force. The lifeless, naked man with drooping eyelids, limp arms and sagging skin was my boss. Burt's, too. Unofficially, that is.

Berr's right hand's body was not in the room, making him a suspect, since the boss-man was last reported to have been guarded by him. Strangely, rumors had it that the chief accountant was here. That was not according to the boss-man's plan, as far as I knew it. But there was only one body here. No right man. No accountant. And until forensics disclose everything, the front story will be that a hired bitch-for-the-night turned out to be a hired killer as well.

'I was got paid," that was the right hand man's dictum, his rationale. I always found that funny, and as Burt murmured to a beat cop beside him, under the bathroom's door frame, I looked around for lipstick or blood scribbles: "I was got paid." No dice.

Anyway, I got him killed. The boss-man. Just as he arranged it. And I was here tonight, dodging badges, shaking hands with people who knew me and knew my work back as a detective, because Berrangerie arranged for a spectacle--his death--so his gay son could inherit the declining Crystal Meth business. Daddy copped out, got out, bailed out on his son. Never mind that. I was got paid.

I could feel Burt watching me watching him. Now let's see who's the better detective. A hundred bucks says that beat cop is going to cuff me, but not before Burt has theatrically declared to the cop-filled motel room, that they have reason to believe that I had something to do with all this.

I kept staring at the body. Burt grunted and as if on cue, I turned around. His mustache just twitched. He does that when he's happy. I cut off his speech and ask the whole room, "His prints," I point to the hanged man. "Do they match with the boss-man's?"

"That's not important right now," Burt yells a level louder than me.

"Really?" And a staring contest between a former detective and the Captain that mentored him ensues. I know what Burt was thinking. With the boss-man down, his illegitimate source of income, he could return to his pristine moral ways, and maybe even sleep at night. So he's pinning this on me, the cop who copped out.

"Let me save your sagging career, Burt, before you showcase all this to the cameras." At that, Burt, crossed his arms and exhales through his nose, blinks at me. His get-this-over-with pose.

"The $3,000.00 suit on the bed."

"What about it, cop-out?"

"It won't fit the hanged man."

More staring.

"But it will fit," I said slowly, thumbing in the direction of the corpse behind me, as through I was hitchhiking, "the beggar from fourth and Main."

I had never seen Burt turn that white, not in the ten years I solved cases for him.

Fast, fast fiction!

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Very Short Stories for Harried Readers, an anthology of very short fiction (edited by Vince Groyon) where I have one story tucked in, is now available at UP Press (inside Balay Kalinaw, UP Diliman) for only P290.00. By the end of the week, it will hit the shelves of National Bookstore and Powerbooks. To my friends, former classmates, online lurkers, and fellow bloggers, if you have any good memories of me in you, you are to going to sigh, be happy for me, and buy the book. :D


Here's the blurb on the back cover:
In these hectic times, who has the time to read? Fortunately for us, the short short story, sometimes called “sudden fiction” or “flash fiction”, is here. In one to three pages these stories render complete, complex and engaging worlds. They can be read in only a few minutes, but those minutes may linger in the reader’s mind forever.

ahhh... kids

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true story, overheard ko sa jeep, from a gradeschooler: "saya ng pasko namin last year. kumain kame ng aso. dami naming tira. bigay ko dapat kay brownie kaso di ko mahanap..."

i miss my friends

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Camille is behind me. I am pulling her through the maze that is my Mother's house. I breathe in fabric softener as I wave aside hung shirts, blankets, and emerge in the sala. Mother's eyes meet mine and I stop, I pull Camille from behind, to my front, and she blinks under a spotlight. My classmate, Mother. But Mother is not new to this, her eyes swing back to the flowered curtain she is mending. I don't, her averted eyes say, have to meet every scrawny kid you drag back home. I tug at Camille to follow and the elevator shudders, like it suddenly remembered something, and opens into my room. My classcard is taped on the floor-to-ceiling mirror. 'Ok, we're ready!' I yell, and Camille yeheys with me, jumping up and down like a ten year old. I am jumping, too. Now I can enroll. Someone is hollering from behind us. I stop and stare at my classcard, all eight and a half inches by eleven inches of it. The paper is brownish-yellow, like my original birth certificate, and I see, highlighted in neon green, my grade in Charlson Ong's fiction class: 2.0. Dammit! I stop jumping, and I notice that whoever was hollering was saying exactly that. Dos. My grade. My bad. I turn around and see Siege on top of the Faculty Center, his hair dishelved by the wind, his legs in an upturned V, his arms crossed on his chest, like a lazy I-told-you-so pose. A photographer leans close and frames him, digitally. I wave my aging classcard at him and Camille resumes jumping up and down, waving at Siege, too. Siege says, 'Para,' and I suddenly remember my grade. Dammit. 'You know,' Abi says in the Ikot jeep I suddenly find myself in, 'I've screenplayed this.' She hands the manong driver a shining ten peso coin, and the driver rows faster, ignoring the other passengers outside, all floating in the debris of a flooded UP after an anonymous storm. 'You just have to say two lines, one to your Mother, and another to Camille.' At that I wish I had stopped Abi from giving the manong ten bucks. Because Camille is still in my room jumping up and down. And Siege is still on the faculty center rooftop, posing, still hollering 'Para!'. I jump out of the Ikot jeep. Airborne, I can hear Abi screaming, 'Don't do it, Dude!' And I wonder, before I hit the cold water, if my bond paper-sized classcard is waterproof.

the soaps that bind

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Blabber this, blabber that. What is a jobless one to do these days? He watches soap.

I am loving the new season of Grey's anatomy. The cast has trimmed down. Addison moved to L.A., in her own spin off series. Burke left Seattle Grace, and the actor behind him was fired from the show. He could still get back. This Cristina angst arc is not that final in tone. Negotiations could open up and get Burke back. Not that I care, except that Derek compared to Burke paints Derek to be the sensitive type, and our attention is diverted into comparing the parallel couples' lives in the show: the Meredith-Derek/ Cristina-Preston tandems. But let the record show that I like Izzy. Must be the hair. :D

Oh, and Meredith is having guilt problems with her half-sister, who will probably find out later that Meredith is part of those who sort of misdiagnosed her Dad's second wife. The only child, as Meredith calls herself now, is having a crash course in past tense sibling rivalry ("We don't have the same dad. Mine left me when I was five years old. Does that sound like your dad to you?" she asked her half-sister.). She is also keeping an arm's length relationship with Derek, because Cristina didn't get her happy ending, so how could she end up wit hers? Right? So Meredith and Derek are now having S and M. Sex and Mockery.

House. I am having trouble downloading episode two season four of House, where the old crew of Chase, Cameron, and Foreman is shown as getting on with their lives; and House is forked between admitting he missed them and wanting to not need them again. Good way to bring novelty into the series. Good scriptwriters, these two shows have: Grey's and House. Hmmm. Reminds me, House said in one episode, "So, you think Grey's anatomy was wrong?" He was alluding to both that medical book, Gray's Anatomy, and the series, "Grey's Anatomy." Nice one there. I am waiting for Grey's to poke f[p]un at House. Meredith could welcome her interns into her home, and exclaim, "Welcome to the house of Grey!" Oh I miss Cameron's moral naiveté, and the indignant looks she swings at her boss. Lovely. She has an eight-year old for a boss who can't admit to himself that he, too, has a romantic (in the chivalrous sense) motive for saving (not all, but) some patients. Download House. Download House. That's my mantra for today.

Har har. By tomorrow it will have been a full week since I quit my nightshift web content writer job at Ortigas. Been sleeping at nights now. I am eating more and sleeping more and I feel slow and bloated even though I am still pencil-thin. Day schedule living allows more time to eat, and more time to dawdle. I am cleaning the house while I stuff more paragraphs into short stories I am sending to some contest whose deadline ends when this month ends. Actually, I think I can only send one. By working on two I increase my chances of, during the writing, feeling which I want to devote time to.

One story is set in an abbey, a la Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose," and that abbey's secret is the cause of the dwindling population of the surrounding fishing villages in a pre-World War I Germany. Lots of misty, cold mornings. Lots of pitch black nights. I wish I could speak German, or write just a few lines. I'd like to invest more in building a tense atmosphere, so I'm slowing down the narrative. And I'm rereading Eco's novel, to get a layout of that Abbey, how one shivers after waking up hours before the rise of the sun, so I could render how helpless the townsfolk feel when a winged figure swoops down to snatch their babies. Could the abbey be hiding a monster in their midst?

The other story follows three days in the life of a Philosophy major during the final week of one semester of his life. He is reviewing for his exams. His roommate is preparing to go back to his home town for the sem break, having finished his exams early. Left alone in an old boarding house in a quiet, semi deserted street, our Philosophy major finds himself talking to his roommate again, who, he remembers seeing walking out the door. So who is he talking to?

Hah. Better get back to cleaning the house. Stuffing paragraphs. And overfeeding the cats. I really shouldn't eat this much food. My wife is back to her cooking since moving to day sched as well, and we suddenly find ourselves having too much food. Of course, for my cats, there is no such thing as too much.

short of proof

by | | 3 comments
During summer vacation back in second grade, my cousins and I had this routine of running all over Grandma's house, shrieking as we pushed the kitchen screen door open, shoving the maid aside, scaring the cats away, jumping over our wash lady's pyramid of laundry, and rushing back indoors, to begin the cycle once more.

By lunch time, our monstrous appetites could only be appeased by Grandma's cooking, particularly her sinigang na baboy sa sampaloc. We would heave rice on our plates and fish out the long green chili from the soup bowl and crush it in our small bowl filled with patis—this as we recounted how many times Loloy tripped on his own toes, if Yeeyee's dress got snagged again on the Aratiles trees lining up the looban pathway, and how many times I bit my own tongue while talking loud and fast as we ran.

Rest after lunch meant a ceasefire on shrieking, running, and teasing each other. After that we bathed, and went through the obligatory rub of prickly heat powder on our necks and napes and backs. And like sleepy penguins, we would hobble inevitably to the bamboo papag in Grandma's garden, that open space between her room and Yeeyee's mother's sewing shop. The afternoon sleepy trance would take over, and we would doze off in the garden, which remained cool despite whatever slant the afternoon sun took.

After one such long morning of running and a grand lunch of Grandmother's cooking, I found myself staring at the snoring faces of my cousins. I wanted to wake them up, and remind them not to sleep right after a hearty meal, because that would give you nightmares, but I was fast sinking into sleep myself.

I remember waking up, still dazed, but I managed to stagger to the covered drain near the pathway, to pee. Our wash lady waved to me from the other end of the pathway, which stretched four rooms beginning with Grandma's, and ended in an open-air wash area. A breeze must have lifted the white bed sheets and shirts, sending them sideways, tugging at the clotheslines. A wall, whose cemented bricks were greened by moss, enclosed the pathway's right as the room windows did on the left. I waved back to the sheets, waved back to our wash lady.

The lights had not been turned on, as they usually were by nightfall. I rubbed my sleepy eyes, looked back, and saw my cousins snoring into the pillows they hugged on the papag. At the wash area, white sheets and shirts still swayed to a cold, whispering evening wind. I shivered as I worked with my shorts. Moonlight had magnified the concrete pathway into pale gray, darkened the moss wall to an ominous hue, and made the flowing white sheets emit a strange and humming white brilliance.

Rubbing my eyes with my right hand, and holding my shorts down with the other, I peed. Then, the wash lady waved at me again, all the way from the wash area. I smiled back, taking my hand away from my eyes to wave back weakly. All that sinigang must have made me slow and dizzy.

The wash lady stood up and stared at me.

I had never seen her hair that long, her dress that white. I had never seen her walk without moving her legs. She was never that pale. That was not our wash lady.

Quick shallow breaths fogged out of my mouth. I couldn't feel my legs.

She was halfway across the pathway, past two rooms, and I shut my eyes because I could see hers: they had no whites in them. And I saw why she didn't move her legs: under her long dress protruded none.

Loloy's name managed to whimper its way out of my dry throat. I pounded on the mossed wall, hoping the sound would get someone's attention.

I opened my eyes again. Her translucent dress from another era barely moved as she hovered, just one room away from me, on legs that weren't there.

I pounded and pounded. If only palms slamming on concrete made the same sound they did on plywood.

I could still pee but nothing wanted to come out. I leaned on the wall and pushed against it, hard, sending me flat on my back and coughing thin, cold air when I hit the ground.

Eyes squeezed shut I covered my face with my arms, as though bracing for a blow.
Nothing happened. I opened one eye to squint: she was gone.

I crawled to the papag as fast as I could, not trusting the wash lady's disappearance, expecting a bony hand on my nape any moment. I pulled the pillow from Loloy's tight embrace, annoying him awake. He sat up, grabbed the pillow from me and hit me with it.

May momo, Loloy,” I whispered, not wanting to turn around.

Ano?” he said.

Then it left us. The cold air was gone. My breath had ceased to mist when I exhaled. My voice was back. I could move my legs again. Moonlight was simply moonlight once more. I turned around to face a familiar but dimly-lit pathway.

Ano sabi mo, Kuya?” Yeeyee asked. She was awake, too.

And I was going to tell them what I saw, what almost got me. But all I had to show were my mossed hands and my wet shorts.

I never told them.

you tube

by | | 3 comments
The Bomb Squad, a section of the more responsive Special Weapons and Tactics division of the Metropolitan Police, filed a report that was read out loud 23 August 2007, during a Senate hearing attended by hundreds, on how come only two senators were left alive after all twenty four of them attended the engagement party of the President's daughter.

"The two Senators [a former starlet and a former basketball player] went to one of the farthest and thickest-walled areas of the President's mansion," the Bomb Squad leader began. He said it haltingly into the microphone of the hot but fully air-conditioned hall. His dark blue uniform clung to him in the heat, and he wiped his forehead with a hanky.

The Vice President, from behind and at the center of the half-moon table across the same kind of table where the bomb squad leader sat, asked the policeman to explain in detail this area, this area found to be far from the center of the explosion, an explosion that killed the invited captains of industry, Tim Yap, and some other irritating news anchors and columnists (who can't write anyway) whom no one will miss.

"It was the private bathroom of the President, Mr. Vice President." Murmurs of disbelief from the audience and members of the press filled the hall. The VP leaned back for effect, looked away, took in the moment. The murmurs died down and he leaned close to the mic.

"Perhaps they relieved themselves at the same time." Hoots and laughter from all around. The VP is smiling with the audience. This is his moment. He who casts the first gloat wins.

"Yes, Sir," the policeman said, "one can imagine the lovely Senator sitting on the toilet while the former coach relieves himself standing up, in full view of the other."

"You trying to be funny, Captain?"

"No, Sir. The expensive facilities in the comfort room allow only that explanation, assuming you use the term 'relieve themselves' to mean simultaneous urination."

"Are you offering another explanation?"

"No, Sir. Forensics found traces of semen. Semen is not usually funny, Sir." Tears of joy filled the media members' eyes; they could not stop themselves--they stomped the floor they stood on, threw knowing looks at each other, and yelled and clapped at the wit of this policeman. Screw the alleged sanctity of a Senate hearing. Most of the Senate is dead. The remaining two are elsewhere. And no one in the room hardly remembered that so many people are dead. [The President and her daughter, sadly, were late to their own party, and therefore survived.]

"Where were such traces found?"

"The bathroom, Sir."

Woohoo! -- a photographer yelled and the audience followed with more hoots.

"Quiet, quiet!" the VP yelled. When the murmurs and jeers died down, he asked, "Are you saying that you can place the two senators at the bathroom at the time of the bomb explosion?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Definitively?"

"Yes, Sir."

"But the semen traces could have been left there by someone else."

"That is correct, Sir."

"So how can you be sure the semen came from, err, one of the senators?"

At this, the policeman leaned back, looked away slowly, sighed, and went back to the mic. "You have to understand, Sir, that my team was barred from examining the crime scene. We were only allowed unrestricted access to the surrounding area, which we examined. Evidence we thought was related to finding the culprits we were ordered to turn over to the Office of the President."

"Yes, of course. We all want to get to the truth."

"And what materials we found to be unrelated to the manhunt for the culprit we brought back to headquarters and merely filed."

"Yes, it's your procedure, I've been briefed. Go on."

"And that our computers sometimes crash, and so we uploaded some materials to the Internet."

"That's unorthodox, but I guess given our cost-cutting measures, that can't be helped."

"Sir, perhaps this is not the venue to discuss these things..."

"Nonsense! Tell us, tell us all here, tell us the truth. Hold nothing back."

Slowly, the captain spoke. "Sir, we have, ahm, security camera foot--" But he was never able to finish his sentence. The audience ooooooh'd in unison, drowned the voices of the police and the VP, and started chanting, "Scandal, Scandal!"

The media suddenly jumped over the cordon separating them from the rest of the inquiry; they jammed their recorders and mics into the captain's face. Camera lights and lens focused on the one who would let out a bomb. Where is the footage? Where is the footage?

The captain's lips could be seen making out two distinct words.

hard-boiled friendster fiction

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I still haven't thanked Siege enough for that hard-boiled fiction style Friendster testimonial that he wrote me:
"I need you," the blonde stranger said, casually cascading herself over the mahogany chair in front of Ayen Rivera, P.I.,'s oakwood desk. "To find my husband."

Detective Rivera traced the stranger's length, from the toes of her red stilettos, up her alabaster pair of legs (of the long variety), across her generous bosom, finally settling on her sharp, heavily made-up face. If not for his parole conditions, he would have humped her right there.

"Husbands," Ayen said. Coolly, like he didn't need the business. "Are hard to find when they don't wanna get found."

The blonde stood up to her full height, her wavy tresses rippling around her head in elegant bounce. It reminded Ayen of someone's head, one he held underwater for a couple of seconds longer than normally considered safe.

"Well, then, Mr. Rivera, I suppose this would make it easier," she said, tossing over a bundle wrapped in a paper bag held together by a couple of rubber bands.

Detective Rivera considered the bundle sitting on top of his desk. He leaned back farther, weighing the object, weighing the woman, weighing the job. A hundred grand, easy, he thought.

"I want you to find him alive," the woman said. Her voice was steady, but the trembling of her blonde tresses betrayed her. "But I want to find him dead."

Detective Rivera sighed. All in a day's work, he thought, reaching for the bundle. Some days, he wished he was a writer in some alternative world. He read of quantum theory once, as a child, and had heard of the possibility of alternate realities existing side by side the one that he knew. There are stories, Detective Rivera thought, that needs telling. He watched the woman light a fag.
I had "testified" earlier for Siege. Read it here.

Siege, thanks for this. :D

of the pickiest kind

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Nice to know that people out there, friends, they know who they are--all right, their names are Camille and Jea--are still writing. (So much for blind items.) Point is I'm relieved to hear from them, and to get to read their stuff; just so I could tell myself that my writing job is no excuse to freeze up my own tilted-world essaying and sudden fiction writing.

Camille sent me her re-envisioned short story, an earlier study of which she submitted to her fiction class, under Butch Dalisay. Her class must have scooped up her story like a handful of sand, and squeezed hard; later, they unclenched their hands to see what's left. I did my own squeezing: I emailed Camille my comments. She wanted it brutal and honest. Brutally honest. Good girl. That's the writing workshop spirit.

First person point of view narrative. Manipulative mother-protagonist. Work in progress, but the neurotic character of the mom and her world view is the twin allure ("is" because the two are properly one). That's my "unputdownable" back-of-the-book synopsis of Camille's story, which doesn't tell much, really. We like to keep things mysterious around here. Tends to keep the publishers guessing. (Har har.)

Jea is going through her pickiest-kind blogging phase again. Her current blog is the umpteenth reincarnation of her ADHD'd brain. That's Aversion to Dim-Hwitted Doodling. (I just made that up. But that explains things.) She has had so many blogs, which she edits and edits--resizing header text and margins now, changing titles and labels later, and finally settling on a backdrop color that doesn't redirect your eyes from the life-stuff on the webpage. In at least one previous blog, she told of her terrible tales of teaching tupid tudents. She has picked up on that theme in her current blog. Lucky me. I love those posts. A handful of sneers.

One should take lessons from these two. Camille and Jea, who both happen to be teachers.

Writing is a neurosis.

Of the pickiest kind.

the idle villager

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I always have this impression that Ricci is constantly harassed by her teaching schedule. She told me once that you need some free time to imagine consequences, so you can write. Her use of the second person (you) is really some underlying "her" trying to tell herself, and me, about the need to rise to the surface and breathe. Her use of 'consequences' intrigues me. If you live on a weekly basis, there's that dual anxiety: you might not be hitting deadlines; your life is nothing but deadlines.

If you are always in the thick of things, life things, work that foots the bills, there's not much mental space and time to space out so you can write. A writer needs some amount of idleness to remain sane.

I'm starting to ditch some side jobs so I can sleep more, so I can be idler, so I can write. If you're routinely pressed by the four cubicle-walls of work, you're hemmed-in soul tends to whine, pant, and give up.

jump

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And so, Hinus Long, strained out of his wits, took up Jenny the bitch's dare, and walked towards the open third floor window. The rain-grey half-empty parking lot would be waiting below. Hinus shoved Marky to one side: get out of the way ass-boss, Hinus hissed as he took long, quick strides towards the light. The studio room where he churned out web articles dimmed in the coming evening's yellow light. Cost-cutting memos ordered them to cut the air conditioner, the fluorescent lights, the free coffee--so only the humpback thin lamppost outside illuminated the studio. Yellow was in Hinus' eyes as he broke into a run. Fuck you bitch if I live you die with the ass-boss, he yelled as he gained momentum. Other web writers and graphics people stood up from their hobbitty cubicles to gape at the spectacle. Rebellion is the man, Sharky whispered, adjusting his necktie (and screw this dress code, he added). Sharky knew Hinus asked for a raise and got visually middle-fingered in return. The ass-boss' secretary bitch drilled the final hole: you're not getting a raise, Hinus; take a running jump. Maybe I will, Jenny, he said and walked away, and now Hinus was in the zone, the open canvass of the window coming closer, closer--somebody stop him, screamed the bitch, because someone had to say that, but the room moved not one finger as Hinus jumped and stretched in midair and slammed into the wall below the window. Stunned, no one moved. Finally, Jenny's high heels clak clak clakked to the lying unconscious Hinus. What were you thinking? the bitch said. Ommigod. Jumping without your glasses, you near-sighted idiot.

the end of (week)days

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The thing about being sick the whole week and with the fever and colds pouring down on the weekend is that you get to watch a lot of movies. We've got DSL at home. With my wife doing the laundry this weekend, and with her homey comfort food for me (tom-yang soup, did I spell that right? and my fave, lemon-butter sauced shrimps), I got to relax. Never mind the quality of the movies I saw. I downloaded and watched Shinobi (a teen love story with ninjas), Disturbia (a popcorn movie with that impossibly thin-slim girl), The Simpsons Movie (just a quality handcam version, no DVD-rips yet, lots of laughs, nostalgia, and datedness--I felt so 1990), Mr. Brooks (I just love psycho-killer films, Kevin Costner was amazing, just be sure to mentally block out the subplot with Demi Moore in it, because she adds nothing to the story), and I got to watch again The Prestige (the see-again-and-again mind job, nuff said). I'm downloading Oceans 13 and the Perfect Stranger as I write this. Mindless movie watching is fun. A perfect antithesis to a week-long writing job.

I am waiting for the last installment of the Bourne trilogy, with Matt Damon in it. Hmmm. The latest Harry Potter film wasn't worth seeing a movie house at all. Radcliffe is not easy in his own skin. Hermione is getting prettier and prettier in every film. I never liked the HP books that much anyway. As Jessica Zafra pointed out in her blog, just what is at stake here? How bad could it be if he who could not be named even though some people routinely get away with it and this routine is getting old I mean come on people wins?

Crap. It's Monday tomorrow.

snow every fifteen minutes

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There is a cat meowing from outside my bedroom window, its snout pressed on the opaque glass, one front paw on the ledge, the other thumping the glass, like its was knocking on a neighbor's screendoor. Lemme in, lemme in. I can make out a blurred pink nose on white but dirty fur--maybe canines--when that small mouth opens to tease my cats to come out. Come out, come out and have my first born, it howls in a pitch so high and so familiar to me. Rawwwrrrnnggg. 

I own three female cats. I also own waterguns of varying effective ranges and milliliter capacities, a slighshot, a pellet gun, two pairs of throwing knives I bought but could never have the heart to use. The most evil thing I did to the rooftop tomcats of my neighborhood was to leave them a full plate of Aling Lisa's pancit bihon, cooked on her birthday and half a bilao sent to my door. She's my landlady. The tomcats are hers. The tomcats never touched the plate I left on the tongue of galvanized iron right outside my bedroom window. I picked it off the roof the evening before I went to sleep, to throw it down a large garbage bag in my kitchen. When my groomed, cultured, domesticated cats saw the plate and sniffed the scent of that pancit, they properly looked away, without a single meow. 

But now I'm swinging my legs, sitting on a table I had just cleared of readings. What to do with this howling in heat cat. There are days when Snow, the tomcat tapping my window, prowled the rooftops looking as clean as cotton. I always thought Aling Lisa routinely caught the small tiger and used an industrial strength vacuum cleaner on it. And there are days when Snow looked like he slept in a ten-wheeler trucks muffler. I want to kill that cat. But Aling Lisa would kill me. I am annoyed. I am running out of options.  

I'm still working on this...

that's one mean dream

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I am probably a junkie of some kind. Addicted to something. Some kind of high. Achievement. A witty conversation. A finished, polished essay or short fiction. The chance to sneer at someone while demonstrating my acumen. Shit like that. Had a dream and in that dream my job was dulling my wits, diluting my charm. But the job in that dream paid the bills, so technically I was killing myself to foot the bills. Slow death for a chance to enjoy a shortened life. There's a moral to this somewhere. I just have to find it and wrap around my boss' neck, tie the other end to his desk, and push him out the window. Whoa! That's a high right there. Good times. Good times. I want my next fix to be at least this good. That is one mean dream.

transformers

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Three reasons for seeing this film. To hear Optimus Prime's concerned-general's voice. To see how many people are killed in the urban war of the robots. To find out how the Autobots triumph in the end (it's always like that anyway). Haaay. What did you expect anyway?

I liked it. Or at least the comedy and the action didn't leave room enough to yawn and wonder where all this is going. Cars, trucks, planes, tanks will ee-ah-ah-uh-uh into giant robots and pummel each other with fists, buildings, and energy blasts. You knew all that when you saw the movie posters and the trailers. I really went in the theater without my whining brain, because I wanted to be a kid again and just lose myself in CG action.

Thankfully, the explosions and bent-metal noise and the epic-size city-wide destruction, and the simple plot didn't water down the prospect of seeing, well, Transformers talk and do stuff.

The geek-turned-hero gets the girl angle is cute. I love the part where the parents are proud to see a gorgeous girl in their son's bedroom. There's even a slap stick moment when the bigger-than-a-house Prime hides from the parents.

So Megatron is after the Cube so he can build more Decepticons, and Prime is after it to destroy it, but in the end Prime says they can't rebuild their home because the Cube is gone, or at least only a memento-sized chunk is left; leading me to ask why he wanted it destroyed in the first place?

Yep. That's my whining brain kicking in. Complaints now follow. Like how the Autobots said that Autobots stood for something like automated something or other robots. I had waited till the end of the film to hear a Decepticon or two explain what deception stood for (deceptive emoticons?). Never mind.

And then there's that part when Prime says, "Autobots, roll out." But then they are in biped mode so instead of rolling out, they hop to it. Bad CG acting? or bad script? Never mind.

(Oh yeah. They said "More than meets the eye" three times. I was waiting for that.)

As you will have noticed, Bumblebee is not a cute yellow Beetle but a slick yellow Camaro. It's not the same, but it's now awful, too. Let it go. His first scene in the film had him beside an old Beetle, maybe making us hope that Volkswagen had agreed at the last minute to license their car for the film. Not.

Now for the obituaries. They killed Jazz; they killed the Porsche. In exchange, they killed the tank, the helicopter gunship, the CD player, the police car, and threw Megatron back into the cold abyss. The scorpion thing burrowed and escaped. The fighter plane lived, too. And yes the Nokia thing also died.

And because the Autobots have nowhere to go, they are now Earth's mightiest boarders. Let's wait for the sequel.

curse that book

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I got hold of a spell book with some curses in them. Thirty bucks from a gnarled old lady with a humpback. Her makeshift rack on the street bend near my apartment had small boxes full of them old books. Like she was moving, and that afternoon of my day off was her rummage sale day. Curses, huh? I almost ran back home, my long hair getting dishelved by the wind. Smells like it was going to rain. Dead leaves all around falling like confetti, like one big sudden autumn. I don't remember our street having so many old trees. Never mind that. How many people do I hate. Wonder if I have to buy candles? Hope this book doesn't make me yell Latin at the turn of twelve, and in front of a mirror at that. Har har. I fumble for my keys.

Dog-eared and with some pages torn off, the pages remain thick, like it absorbed all the sweat and dead bugs of the last half century. I've seen dead books like these in my school's library, in the section the nuns told us not to visit. Of course I snuck in there whenever I could. I always thought the nuns hid porn up that attic, and not the History of the Holocaust with so many nude pictures of dead Jews. Or several copies of Salman Rushdie's' Satanic Verses, which was a good story, really. I even found some autographed copies of Bertrand Russell's Why I am not a Christian. A nun or two long ago must have been a vehement secret fan of the atomic era enlightenment period. Never mind that. I slid out of my shoes, unzipped my skirt, got out of my blouse and bra, and walked barefoot to the kitchen in my undies, holding the book with two hands. Naked offering here I come. I hope there was one. I pulled up a chair to examine my find.

It should smell ancient, like it belonged to a previous world, but it doesn't. I sniffed it, the way I sniff newly bought books from Powerbooks and National Bookstore. Smells of disuse, this book, but not age. I opened it and flipped the pages, hoping to see a bookmark or a dead rose or bugs or a sheaf of small paper, maybe a sepia picture. Nothing. What kind of paper did they use here? The pages are coarse, rough on some parts, but the handwriting is legible--longhand from a time when notes revealed the soul. The words were carefully chosen. The strokes are elegant. That's what I thought. The spine is hand-sewn. Lovingly. I'm beginning to like this book. I grabbed my cell and text'd Angela--she lives next door. "Come over here now. Get a load of this." A knock on the door. I grab a bathroom towel and cover myself up. If my landlord, that maniac Mang Ramon down the hall, could see my like this, he'd mention marriage again. For the third time.

"There had better be a single man inside, or you're dead!" Angela yelled after banging at the door, and again more banging, louder this time. Knocks aren't enough for this woman. I let her in, long loose shirt with no shorts underneath and all. I know so. That's how we dress after school hours. Like sluts within reach. Ah the freedom. Long skirts and tight blouses in a private school within earshot of nowhere. If a woman lusted in a forest but there was no man around, does it matter? Never mind that.

I showed the pages to my co-teacher/ neighbor / best friend without telling her what the book was about and she said she didn't know I could read German. I yanked the book away from her and looked at a particular page.

"That is not German," I said, pointing to one line of script.

"Really?" Angela said while tugging at my towel. "Say it out loud, that line."

"Fine. Stop yanking my towel away."

I cleared my throat: "When you have foreseen the gestures yourself, the soul-itch clings to the reader." Angela smiled that smile she throws at preschoolers who thought they had outsmarted their teacher.

"Ah-huh." She nods and thumbs her cell, then aims it on a page of the book in my hand. She shows me the digital image while feeling my forehead with her free hand.

"I'm not sick, Angela. See here those words are... German." I flick her hand from my forehead and stare at the page, and then stare at the phone's colored monitor again. "But I know what it says, I can read it here--"

"Read the thing on my cell, not the book."

"I can't."

"What is this book about anyway?"

"Curses."

"It has nothing written on the cover. How do you know?"

"I... I.. I just know. The old lady must have told me it was a book on curses."

"What old lady?"

"Down the bend, near the bakery."

"I got home after you did. I heard you lock your door. I passed by the same bend. There was no lady there."

"But... but...," I flipped the pages and I could read them, I really could. Or at least I didn't feel like I didn't know what the lines of script meant. I felt at home with this.

Angela walked up to me and extended her hand, asking for the open book. The book suddenly closed itself shut, and I jumped back, startled, dropping it on the wooded floor. My single old maniac landlord that evening must have had the time of his life pacifying two mestiza's barely clothed. We screamed as we ran for the door. We screamed as we ran down the hall. Along the way I dropped my towel.

---------------------------

I'm still working on this...

only a dead mole is a good mole

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The Presidential Security Guard closest to the woman with a mole ignored the immediate screams and angry flashes of cameras around him. Not one of the three PSG's cordoning the tiny woman was able to break her fall. She had taken six steps after descending the low stairs coming out of the hotel's entrance when a thud was heard. It was not a bullet's sound, but that of her small torso hitting pavement.

The PSG leader's screams as he ran to the immediately thick crowd could be heard crisply over the clicks of cameras and oooohs of reporters who had leaned in and over the body, shielding it like an umbrella, effectively blocking, in the few seconds after the President's head blew up like a watermelon, the PSG's line of vision. No one had managed to approximate where the bullet came from. Orders to secure the area were heard.

The media wasted no time serializing the authorities' efforts to catch a phantom who was not a hero. No one seriously wanted the President dead. No one cared enough to take the needed steps to kill her. But then everyone knew that no one wanted her alive either. It was not relief that people watching the live feed from the Oakwood's front entrance felt. The tiny woman was not a dictator in the terrifying sense that Marcos had been. It was not victory that the Opposition party, who were at the scene, felt when the mob of reporters and bystanders rushed to lean in and crowd around the President's pavement. Because now, the Opposition would need someone else to negotiate with.

It might have been a scene where a pedestrian got run over by a bus on a boring afternoon. Except that this one pedestrian annoyed the nation. Had she been a celebrity, the people may have panicked, yelled for someone to call an ambulance. But no, the crowd continued to stare at the torso without a head. It was a scene no one wanted to ruin by calling for help, or showing signs of wanting to help. She's dead? Hindi nga. Tomorrow is another day.

kemmon, talk to me

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So, I say, talking to you, who obviously went here to read something. How do you, I begin, looking away, sighing, and glancing back at you before I look down; how do you recharge your fount? You know--regain the life, the enthusiasm, the wonder, the itch, the secret giggle, whatever. 

You lean back on your chair and sigh. You're about to confess uselessness in a mumble but I stop you with a raised palm.  

Say you're all worn out from thinking through a project--not just thinking of--thinking through: you came up with it, it was promising, you pulled off two-thirds, you're half-dead, and it's not yet perfect, but your boss wants more, ahh, refinements...and there is another project slated after this one. What do you do? So you won't get fired, so you'd keep the image of a go-getter creative. 

You're not answering. 

I don't need stares. 

I need ideas. 

I'm drying up here. 

bottles of beer on the wall

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Saw Ricci go online a while ago. I immediately waved a hand. Told her I wasn't enrolled in the program [creative writing program], for a year now, come to think of it. So much raket writing that I haven't been able to breathe. Ricci is not enrolled, too; she told me. "Life and all that," she said. I miss our alcohol chatting sessions. We used to meet online and, beer with me and wine with her, we'd chat away on and about just whatever avenue of such we fancy.

When the alcohol sets in we'd notice we'd miss hitting the right keys, and the drinks take their revenge on our spelling. Too many exclamation marks. Laugh out louds. She loves poetry. I like the absurd. She'd post a link to an online sound file of a Neruda poetry reading. I'd touché with, maybe some tall tales I'd been practicing when I'm alone.

Sometimes I wonder if she and I tiptoe on the same soft soil.

Next time, she said, inuman na talaga.

Yeah. That's my cue: I'd definitely have to get back to the program.

moody, schmoody

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I think I did. I think I told my wife that, at the rate I'm coughing out articles for my night job, I won't be able to write decent shit by the end of the year. Yeah. I think I did. I was whining then. I am whining now. The small window for working on and turning in those bursts of paragraphs, about four to five per article, and fifteen a night, has led me to devise ways of staying awake, and of talking care of that which allows me to write decent stuff--my mood.

Saw this study in some psychology website, a site filled with advice on just about anything; anyway, the study said that one has a finite fount for working on something, and then when the fount is empty shit comes out. Non-quality work. If you look at a donkey in the face, that's not it; you have turn the donkey around and look at its ass, that's the work I produce when I am not in the mood. So I sleep. Eat heaps of chocolate cookies. Drink Mountain Dew and coffee. Read blogs of people I don't know. Follow threads of stories I started to write and then dropped, due to emotional exhaustion. And I recount small victories in my writing life.

Like last week, just this Friday. I turned in six sudden fiction--500 to 700 words--to this upcoming flash fiction anthology. I am hoping that at least one of those I sent will make it. The deadline has since been moved to July 15, I think, and if I find strength by that time, I might polish a rough story and turn that in as well.

So, where were we? My mood. It's a constant battle to stay in the mood to be amused, to be whimsical, to be playful. Because the moment work becomes sour to the feel, it's definitely work. And I don't like to work. I like to be playful, and get paid for it. Good thing this job allows me room to write those small bursts of paragraphs with some wit. At least while my mood lasts.

Sleeping, of course, is part of the job. How else does one recharge the fount?

This, by the way, is just a blog, not a psychology website. There is no Freud, no dreams, no self-realization, no emotions to untangle. Just whining.

same shark, different day

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Abalone diver Muriel Sanguinnia felt his chest squeezed in the dark. His left shouldered punctured and pinned between serrated teeth, his calm never left him. The shark spasmed and released--in a split-second--Muriel's 32-year old body, so as to better haul him in, to snugly fit his torso inside the Great White's mouth.

Muriel's chest heaved, quickly drew in more air from his respirator, and saw in a blink the corrals dimly lit by what noon sunlight was prismed underwater. He was just picking up abalone; he was just doing his job, picking off the undersea ecology to sell that rare delicacy to Pauly's Beached Up Front Restaurant near the shoreline. He knew, and he had no gripes about it, that the Great White snapping its jaws at his shoulders was doing its job.

Another spasm and a great deal more pain. His respirator's line flung out, and he lost feeling in his left shoulder. Can't reach for his knife sheath on his right leg. Some ribs broken. His years of diving told him he had maybe fifteen seconds more to live, assuming the shark forgot to chew and just let him wriggle in its mouth.

Right arm can still move. Gills. Feel for them outside the mouth. Nothing. Blacking out. Grab up, further up. A ball of jelly. Membrane. Dig in, claw it up, squeeze hard. Muriel felt the tunnel he was inside shake a bit, and then flung him out. Corrals, schools of small fish, bubble rising from... his respirator. He grabbed it and inhaled, scissoring to spin himself in the clear blue sea murked by blood that was his own, to see where the shark was.

There. Gliding in a circle with him as the center. Can't feel left shoulder, left arm won't move. There's my spear gun snagged on the sandy bottom. Grab it, scissor to spin, face the shark... where's the... was that a shrug? Do sharks shrug?

A second later and Muriel kicked against the sandy bottom and ascended calmly above water. Limping to shore, he leaned on a surfer who came to help. Murmurs from the thick crowd. Crashing waves behind him. His right hand tight on his spear gun.

What happened? Fred, the life guard asked. Muriel's diving suit was punctured, but the suit's dark color hid the shark bites. To all appearances, he just staggered in pain from a dislocated shoulder, except that he was bleeding.

Oh, you know, Fred. Once a month, on a quiet Thursday, he said.

Muriel sat down on the sand and Fred helped him take his diving suit off. The life guard saw the bite punctures on Muriel's hairy torso. Fred reckoned from size of the arc of teeth, it was the same one.

Can't be that many Great Whites who just want to gobble you up whole, ey, Murry?

Muriel grunted.

So why don't you ever spear him, do him in, end the misery? Fred said, signaling to the surfer to get help.

He looses interest after spitting me out.

Hmmm. Gills or eye?

Eye, this time. If I kill him, someone less forgiving might take over.

Right, right.

Same shark, different day.

film review: next

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Chris (Nicolas Cage) can see and hear and feel events two minutes into the future, but only if it involves him. He makes a living as a magician in Las Vegas, pretending to trick his audience that he can read minds; something that preps up the common sleight of hand tricks he does on stage. To augment his living, his gambles in calculated proportions--gambles against slot machines and on card tables, preferring to win small so as not to be noticed. Until the night the casino security notices his conservative but consistent winning streak.

Liz (Jessica Biel) is a part-time teacher in an Indian reservation. Chris could only see two minutes into the future, until his reach extended so that he saw her walking into a diner at a precise time every morning, on an uncertain day. He has been waiting for her to come into that diner ever since. The day it happened, Chris "projected" various scenarios, several two minute shows, until he hit one wherein he buys into woman's sympathies. The next morning, waking up in her arms in a motel, he found out that any future occurrences involving her in his life magnified his clairvoyance. Projecting probably some two hours into the future, without leaving her embrace, he realized he made a mistake in his attempt to help the FBI track a nuclear bomb explosion before it happened. In that two hour projection, though Jessica survived and most of the terrorists killed, the bomb still went off.

Next is a film that plays on the premise of a what-if that I love. Guy has powers, wants a normal life, uses it to earn a depressed but hedonistic life, he thought he was ok until a girl came into the picture. It could use some more character development, but then the pace would be affected, and the pace is either two minutes or two hours into the future--tic tock. Chris' voice over narration plays with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: the thing about seeing into the future is that once you peek, it changes, because you peeked.

Asteeg sya. I loved it. I am so mababaw. I should be complaining of not enough narrative devices used and so on, but I liked the action and the premise. So Hollywoodishly simple, but not so gross as to be stereotypical. Just good enough for pop corn and small talk, not epic enough to be debated over lunch. (Never a bad thing for an action movie with a cool premise to explore to end quickly.)

Agent Ferris (Julianne Moore) is the FBI agent who gets wind of Chris' statistically improbable reasoning behind his actions, and has somehow channeled FBI resources to tracking down a magician. Never mind how she got clearance for that. Whatever saves democratic America, one guesses, be it a two-minute fortune teller, or a web slinger. Geeze.

But back to the film. Never mind the incessant talks about do you believe in destiny crap, it only lasts for a few minutes. And then you get to see Chris saving his SWAT-uniformed FBI crew while guiding them through sniper fire and booby traps. Cool.

He can see into the future enough to be mud hole and dirty puddle filthy rich and he chooses to have a normal life, awwww, nobility complex anyone? And promises his girl he'll be back once he helps out in a thing about a bomb.

The ending is the sad part, not because they all got killed. The entire action and chase sequences involving the search for the bomb are all Chris' two hour projection--God that's a spoiler, I have seen one and half hours into the future, towards the end of the film. Sue me.

Anyway, I think the film failed to build some tension into what Chris' voice over had been hinting at since the beginning. The moment you see the future, you are compelled to act on that vision, thereby changing the course of events. This means the scenario wherein the bomb went off anyway, could still happen. The reason he was not able to see a possible future involving his finding the bomb was because he was not able to physically tie himself up with any event involving any physical proximity to the bomb. Now, that is a mouthful. Watch the film and see if you can get my meaning.

If you don't like the film, you can at least talk it over it with me.

Oh yeah, on a side note, Nicolas Cage is taking on slow action movies in his aging years. I think maybe he's seen the future.

world enough and time

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So, this post isn't for everyone.

Carljoe, my classmate and fellow felon in the racket writing life, is stamping his blog with thoughts and such about an addiction from which those who tried it never really quit: Magic: the Gathering (MTG). You need disposable income to play it--you need to buy the cards. You need time to burn on it--you will lose sleep trying to assemble the best card deck to beat other people's card decks. Like kids building large robots to fight against other kids who build their own large robots. Only here, winning the game between two card players takes on so many forms, and losing also does not "just" happen. MTG is like chess, only you get to choose the pieces and how to win; and in tournaments, you get to see people pilot their own created decks, with different ways to win, pit those decks against other created decks. God this is so hard to explain.

Which raises the question, why am I trying so hard to explain this? Because I like the game, too, and I played tournaments for which I couldn't win--the cards were hastily acquired and the decks just-then assembled, the play testing group were my fellow friends who had jobs, and little time to spare. My kind are reduced to casual players, those who follow the game from time to time, lose track of it, rejoin, and talk about the old days, get hooked up again, and then remember they have bills to pay and lives to live.

If one had world enough and time, world enough and time. I'd play Goblins! Weeee!

Owen Turtenwald

4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Wasteland
4 Rishadan Port
4 Mountain
3 Taiga
23 land

2 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Goblin Matron
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Ringleader
2 Tin Street Hooligan
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
33 creatures

4 Aether Vial
04 other spells

4 Pyrokinesis
4 Tormod's Crypt
2 Krosan Grip
2 Pyroblast
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Goblin King
1 Tranquil Domain
15 Sideboard Cards

Ah, Goblins. The deck above got as far as runner up to the recently concluded Grand Prix Columbus, where the format was Legacy, my favorite--because you could play your pet decks and stick in almost every card in existence. The deck that topped the tournament could win from turn 0 to turn 3, with no disruptions, that is--I'm not going to explain that as I am not a fan of that deck, efficient as it may be--and Goblins beat some decks just like that, before losing to the same deck it beat in the semifinals. Ah well.

I had always loved aggressive creature decks--even though my first complete deck was Stasis-- but had always hated the empty-hand and your non-survival from mediocre draws. Ah hell.

But back to Goblins. The deck above surprised me by its use of four copies of Gempalm Incinerator and four copies of Rishadan Port. The usual deck lists only include two Gempalms. If you draw Port and Wasteland on your opening hand and you have no Aether Vial, you cannot cast anything; which is why I had been thinking of using only two copies of Port.

Owen, the guy who piloted the Goblin deck to second place, won his games even after mulliganing to four or five cards. His solution was aggressive and smart mulliganing. The four copies of Gempalm also helped in the dual creature removal and cantrip function. This guy Owen has playtested a lot. Something I probably can't do, since my Legacy buddies are all sucked in by their jobs.

A Goblin deck combines aggressive combat damage from creatures with the interaction other Goblin abilities in the deck provide--like card advantage (Goblin Ringleader), creature removal (Gempalm Incinerator, Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Sharpshooter), creature finding (Goblin Matron), creature pump (Goblin King), direct damage (Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Sharpshooter), artifact destruction (Tin Street Hooligan), and combat damage multiplying (Goblin Piledriver).

It's a nepotism deck. If you're not a Goblin, you can't be part of the club. Unless you're a deck thinner (fetch land), mana disruptor (Wasteland and Rishadan Port), and artifact trickster (Aether Vial smuggles in creatures into play by cheating casting costs).

Did I mention that I love this deck?

So, Carljoe, man. World enough and time. If you blink, forget to think, settle with a mediocre draw, or cite other excuses raw, you'll see red all over. I'm a Goblin, too.

stoopid third installment: spiderman 3

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It was an origin movie that set the bar for comics-to-film standards. I was talking about the first Spiderman film. Peter Parker was having problems and the first, and also the second film, was all about that: the basic and effective plot of how a character can change. Adolescent coping were both themes in the first two installments, and a theme many can touch-base with. Even without powers, we've all gone through such growing up doubts as Peter did. And even if Peter had powers, he was still human like us: confused, pulled by his desires, forced to make mature decisions.

I have no idea what was mature in Spiderman 3. Peter was there, Aunt May, Mary Jane, and some villains. The absurd but tough, harsh but funny Manhattan ambiance was gone. Take out the Spidey costume and the Spidey tunes and the whole thing would be a Christopher Reeves-Superman movie. New York loves Spidey, right. J. Jonah Jameson has been reduced to an obligatory counterpoint (although his first scene I found funny), and Peter, with the scriptwriter paying no attention to how time works in this universe has "mastered" his life: top of his class (how can he attend classes and study with a near-fulltime vigilante job?), has a police scanner in his room (how does he choose which to respond to?), and seems to be able to make his rent payments on his photographer job alone (something he was barely able to do in Spiderman 2).

For a fulltime photographer, he doesn't seem to be carrying his camera in most scenes. But these are the small things.

The real problem is that there is no plot to talk about. Hence, nothing to hurl a deep character against. Doctor Octopus in contrast was allotted time and dialogue and definitive scenes, enough to make you connect with him, and somewhat hate and later forgive and respect. Can you say that to any of the buffoons Parker fought against in this film?

And so we come to the subproblem. Character development. Forget about the fight scenes in the end. If you give Harry Osborne and Parker a wand each, it would be a Harry Potter movie. Promise.

So first action scene, with Harry and Parker fighting, seemed impressive at first, but only because I had thought it was a seed for complication: Parker was fighting and shooting web and swinging--in his civilian outfit. A witness with a camphone could record it and sell it to the Daily Bugle. Wonder of wonders. It didn't happen.

Oh yeah. Character development. While Spiderman 2 took time to explain Doc Oc's mechanical arms, like how it worked and how it served to be Doc Oc's character flaw (other than pride that is), Spiderman 3 explained nothing about the alien symbiote and how a man can be merged with sand and afterwards become conscious and be able to control the sand.

Giving a sample of the symbiote to Dr. Connor, Parker's Physics teacher doesn't count. Like Connor said himself, he's not a biologist. Plus the scenes where her explains the symbiote's characteristics seen forced. Forget about the Sandman. When he got mixed with water, he adapted and became Mudman, and later on Swampwater man, and when he dried up he was back to being his sand self. Please.

Spiderman 3 tried the formula that brought the downfall of the Batman enterprise (the one with Michael Keaton in it): more villains, less of a story, more fight scenes, lousy dialogue, and mood forced by a musical score.

The cheapest thing by far is Parker's voice over in the beginning and end; cheap in that instead of telling the story through scenes, the scriptwriters chose to sum it up in words.

Over two hours, this film, and so many parts can be deleted, like Parker's dancing acts, and even Mary Jane's scenes.

Oh crap. This movie botched it up. The story will always hold the film together, but instead we get action scenes and bad dialogue. I should not have gone to the theaters to see this. I had not wanted to believe the reviews. But there it is.

A bad script killed the spider.