Saturday, September 24, 2005

[Blog Entry] Bookstore Blessings

Bookstore Blessings

I don't know why but when I paid a visit to various bookstores this week, it seems that their new shipment just came in and I trying to sneak a peek at the various boxes they had scattered around.

Anyway, recently paid a visit to Fully Booked Rockwell and perhaps the biggest surprise that they actually have a map which tells you where the various sections are. *Gasp* Perhaps their shelving isn't so random anymore. But honestly, it's still not as conducive for a bookstore because their architecture is still bizarre, and there's a new section with stairs that leads to the autobiography section and a music section. At least it's better than the Cubao branch, where books are out of reach thanks to the really tall shelves, and I have to contact their staff to grab a ladder and reach for a book I'm interested in (what happened to casual browsing?).

Of course Neil Gaiman fans have something to rejoice, as Anansi Boys came in and it's priced at P1099.00. They have a special promo though that if you reserve the book and pay the full amount in advance, you get something from Neil (alas, my memory is poor, and I forgot whether it was a signed postcard or something). The bizarre thing though is that you don't get the book now, but on September 27 (or 28, again, my memory is faulty).

Fantasy fans have something to look forward to, as the new shipment of fantasy and science-fiction masterworks just came in. Still at a loss for Moorcock Elric books, but I did get some classics like Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, which is notable since it inspired D&D's alignment system, the Paladin class, and your fire-fearing regenerating trolls (sorry, Tolkien trolls turn to stone when exposed to sunlight).

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Friday, September 23, 2005

[Essay] The Fiction in Nonfiction
The Fiction in Nonfiction

There are people who show contempt for woks of fiction, and quickly quip that the only manuscripts they read are works of nonfiction, be it history books, newspapers, or books classified under the nonfiction section of the library. But as my media teachers, history professors, and writing mentors have taught me, we are all surrounded by works of fiction, although many are not readily aware of it. Most people look to nonfiction for truth: but truth is an already elusive concept in real life, how much more when it gets penned down by far from objective authors?

First and foremost, we must remember that books and publications are written by people. They are not divinely scribed by an omniscient deity, and thus are subject to bias. Even the most factual of documents are subject to this shortcoming. Take historical accounts. An old adage is that history is written by the victors. And it’s true. Not so long ago, Magellan was a hero to Filipinos, the man who discovered the Philippine Islands. Of course presently in that same island where one of the first battles between Spain and this archipelago was waged lies two graves: one honoring Magellan, the other Lapu-Lapu for fending off foreign conquerors. Magellan might be the hero for the West, but to history books in this country, Lapu-Lapu is not an ignorant savage but the first of many heroes who would rebel against Spain.

Sometimes, it’s not even the limitation of the writer but of the medium. Newspapers, for example, can only have one front page. As much as I want people to read everything that’s contained in the newspaper, a lot of people usually just focus on the front page. This is where the headlines are placed, but have you ever asked who gets to choose what gets splattered on in front? Similarly, the editors can’t report about everything that happens in the nation. Some news articles make its way to the inside pages, others buried or filed under “future use”. An editor could easily place an unwanted (but forced to publish) story somewhere in the middle of the broadsheet, consigning it to a subtle demise.

And since we’re talking about newspapers, nothing is as unforeseen as the present. They say hindsight is 20/20, and perhaps that is an advantage history books have over tabloids and broadsheets. I mean the dailies are forced to report about the present, and more often than not, we don’t have all the facts. We have conjectures, theories, and suspicions, and we try as best as we can to tie in all the facts. As much as our conclusions are true, they could also be wrong. History books, at least, have the benefit of sifting through the various discoveries. Even then, they are made obsolete with new discoveries of their respective field.

If that’s the case with history and with newspapers, how much more with other works of nonfiction? Again, many people have this misconception that just because a work is labeled as nonfiction that everything that needs to be written must be true. They forget that nonfiction is still literary, and thus subject to the same constraints of telling a story. When I read an account, a biography, or a report, I can’t always expect the writer to throw in everything that’s true. No, I expect to read about it in a cohesive and logical manner. That means lots of edited parts, and perhaps an embellishment here and there. In reading the exploits of an adventurer, for example, do I really need to know that the person went to the bathroom five times a day? At not if you’re trying to built up suspense and excitement. Similarly, when we blog about our day, we don’t always tell the tale chronological of events: we merely mention what is the most significant, what has the most impact. And sometimes, whether intentional or not, we tie them up with fictional interludes, or at least making it appear so.

Memory is also the most fragile of things, and most of us draw inspiration from remembered accounts, recalled events. When we finally get to write a work of nonfiction, they are far from perfectly accurate. Hallucinations, epiphanies, or faulty memory usually get in our way of telling a story as it is. And even then, other people would have witnessed the same event differently. People will have different truths, even if they arise from the same circumstances.

So is truth truly as elusive as it seems, since we cannot even trust the written word? I believe in ideological truths. The small instances might not always be true, but the larger message is. When I read about a man driven by greed and selfishness, just because I read it in a book, be it fiction or nonfiction, does not mean such people do not exist in reality. They do. The same goes for other emotions, such as kindness, love, and suffering. Or sometimes it’s not the bigger picture that’s true. I might fabricate the most unbelievable conspiracy story, and while the theory might be fictional, the smaller instances in the narrative, such as corruption in government, the abuses people suffer, or the double-standard humans live with, is something readers are familiar with.

First and foremost, I think reading challengers readers to think. The easiest thing to do is to simply believe what other people have to say; to let others do the thinking for you. Some people hide under the cover of nonfiction, when the fact of the matter is, there is more truth in fiction that one could ever realize.

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[Blog Entry] Struggling, Pricing 101


There are times when it’s simply a struggle to write. I don’t mean staring at the computer monitor for hours, and all you end up with is a blank screen. It’s not even about how difficult it is to write, to find the perfect subsequent line to your poem or short story. What I’m talking about is something worse.

It’s apathy.

I have one of those days, when you wake up and you simply have nothing to say (or you do, but there’s simply no motivation for it). I have a couple of short stories I’m been meaning to finish (and in the case of one, to actually start), but the passion seems to drain out of me, and all I want to do is get on with work and perhaps read a book or two. It’s about wanting to blog, but you put it off, placing something else as your priority. It’s about having some free time to write, yet you don’t.

Perhaps the most horrible part is, you don’t care. I mean if you’re too busy to write, at least you anguish at how much more you could have written. Or if it’s the so-called writers block, you’ll manage to squeeze in a line or two before you eventually give up. In this case, there’s simply nothing. You don’t care. You remember you need to write, but you don’t. It’s as if you were never a writer in the first place.

Which is why I think writing daily is important. Whether you feel like it or not, you simply write, whether it’s a blog entry, a short story, an essay, or whatever fuels your muse. Of course I’m not saying that one should resort to only this, but writing regularly is nice habit to develop, irregardless of how you feel.

And besides, the only cure for apathy is to start feeling again, to start exploring once more. One can easily lose sight of your goals, but just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Pricing 101

One of the easiest (and perhaps most practiced habit in the Philippines) things to do is to complain about prices. Of course when you’re at the other end, you start realizing at how unjustified or invalid some of these claims are.

When I was working as a clerk at Comic Alley, I do have some annoying customers who constantly compare prices: I can get this or that stuff in Hong Kong or Japan for this and that price. What they fail to realize is that while that’s true, the fact of the matter is they’re not there. They’re here, in the Philippines. Many people think that just because a comic, for example, is selling for Y400, doesn’t mean that merchants in this country should sell it for Y400. What about paying for the store rent? The cost of shipping it all the way from said country to the Philippines? How about the salaries of sales people? Taxes? And perhaps more importantly, the profit?

When you buy clothes in a foreign country, the common person will think that just because the price tag says $100.00, it’s costing you $100.00. Perhaps what separates the canny entrepreneurs from the lay man is that the former realizes they’re paying more for it. There’s your plane ticket for example. Then there’s the money you spend on feeding yourself for the entire trip. Plus board and transportation expenses. The rate of exchange was never 1:1. Yet people in this country persist in believing it’s so.

I always hear statements like “I could get this for cheaper in Hong Kong.” Then why don’t you go and buy it there? Obviously, you don’t, and certainly not on a regular basis. Because it costs you lots of money. Tell me which is cheaper: purchasing an object with a markup of a few dollars, or purchasing an object without the markup, but having to pay for your plane ticket? See, it’s simple math.

Not that that’s the only factor. Why are the products of convenience stores more expensive than say, the supermarket? Because you’re paying for the convenience of it. Sure, I could walk ten minutes to the mall to buy a bar of chocolate, or I could cross the street, pay P5.00 more extra, and have my snack just like that. It’s not so much the item that’s being charged, but the service of making it convenient.

Most businesses will also have your regular set of expenditures, which can be rent, electricity, water, and employees. I’m not saying that all items on the market are fairly priced, but there is a reason why they cost that much, and why they aren’t being sold for less.

Of course when it comes to luxury items like designer clothing, the cost to manufacture it is significantly less, but you’re purchasing something else, whether it’s the prestige associated with the product, or perhaps the talents of the artists who worked on it. The costs aren’t always tangible, but rather ideas or emotions in people’s minds.

Perhaps what frustrates me the most is the fact that people will complain and complain, but in the end, will buy the product nonetheless. Do yourself and the salesman a favor: don’t complain. It only agitates both of you.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

[Blog Entry] Day Off, Wear and Tear, Test Subject, Brawl, Isn’t It Ironic?

Day Off

I took a day off yesterday, and one would think you spend days off to rest, relax, and read books. Unfortunately when you work five and a half days a week, days off are spent to catch up on errands you should have done a long time ago.

The morning was spent with my optometrist, while the afternoon with my doctor. Evening was spent with my family, and I still don’t have a new bag.

Wear and Tear

When you live a life like mine, you get to appreciate branded stuff. Because more often than not, branded items, while expensive, are built to last.

Take for example my computer. After several years of purchasing generic components which die in two years, I bought an IBM three years ago. To this day, everything seems to be working fine (well, the non-generic parts that is).

Aside from my bag, another item that dies just as quickly are my shoes. I bought Rockport shoes for my graduation ball in 2000, and I still wear it to this very day (never mind the fact that it’s in its death throes, and won’t last me ‘til the end of the year).

My parents who usually buy me my bags wizened up. They bought a bag that has a lifetime warranty. And can carry 38 liters. Which is just as well, since when I weighed the contents of my bag when it broke, I was carrying 35 pounds worth of books and accessories (don’t ask).

Test Subject

There’s so many things wrong with my body that I can actually test the potency of what gets digested.

There’s my allergy to chocolate, for example. I suspect the more chocolaty something is, the faster the reaction. Think of me as the girl from Pattern Recognition. Except for chocolate.

On a more serious note, I’ve tested the effectiveness of my vitamins. I didn’t use to have regular bowel movements, but ever since I switched brands, I have soft stools which come out regularly. My senses are so keen that I can actually smell what I shit (lately, it smells of soya milk).

Of course I’m glad to report (to those who constantly tell me to eat more) that I’ve actually gained five pounds. It’s not a change of diet (since I’m still eating the same amounts), but rather a tweak in the vitamins I take, plus drinking soya milk (who would have thought 500 ml a day would gain me 5 pounds in two months?). That’s a big thing, considering I’ve been avoiding meat for the past two weeks.

In the meantime, my doctor recommends that I drink more milk. So I guess my new regiment will be milk, milk, and soya milk.


I was in the middle of an interview today at the outskirts of SM North, when the table beside us erupted into a real-life fist fight. So it was 1 pm, and the only thing people were high on was coffee. Then somebody tapped the back of one of the patrons, and after some quick eye contact, erupted into a fight. A punch here, a punch there, and then the challengers quickly ran away. One of the security guards caught one of them, who I think is suspected of theft.

Isn’t It Ironic?

Among the disastrous events that happened on Monday, when I went to the LRT station to purchase a ticket, I only had P11.50 in coins, when the ticket costs P12.00. All of this, while lugging around 35 pounds on a broken bag, and some cake. (Actually, I had exactly P12.00, but the machine wouldn’t accept my last two twenty-five centavo coins.)

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Monday, September 19, 2005

MTV Hanging Out with Neil Gaiman

Colby: Welcome to the coolest place to be on TV, this is Hanging Out on MTV. My name is Colby.

Claire: I'm Claire and it's Friday today and we have a very very special guest on our show, Mr. Neil Gaiman.

Crowd: -cheers-

Claire: So how are you? How do you find the ring?

Neil: The most wonderful. It's quite possibly the most enthusiastic place on the Earth. Turned up yesterday, suddenly like this, suddenly in a tent and three thousand people turned up. And would you believe the noise that three thousand enthusiastic Filipinos can make, that you might like.

Colby: That was actually my next question. You had quite a turnout yesterday, but what about some of the other things you'll be doing here?

Neil: Well, most of all I seem to be doing here is interviews and signing things for people and meeting people. And I've been fascinated by the Philippines for awhile, most of it is I get to go backstage in my website. This website of, and I was going backstage and noticing that everyday we'd get four or five, six thousand people from the Philippines coming in here. And I thought this is really cool! They're outnumbering the Germans. What's happening in the Philippines? So that was why I decided to come out.

Colby: You have a very good following here. As a matter of fact, we have a studio full of fans and we have Don over there and he's going to be asking questions pretty much all day long. So Don, what do we have?

Don: Yes, yes we are, we are. We're here with a bunch of fans, all right. Show your appreciation everybody.

Crowd: -cheers-

Don: All right. And then we're going to be asking Mr. Neil Gaiman some questions throughout the show but we're going to start things off with a video. Here's So Here We Are by Bloc Party. And party like the Bloc Party people!

Crowd: -cheers-


Don: Everybody you're hanging out with me Don, Claire, Colby over there, and of course, Mr. Neil Gaiman. How are you doing today sir?

Neil: I'm enjoying myself.

Don: Okay, so we got lots of your fans here right now, and they're going to ask us some questions for you, so let's go to Claire and Colby and see what you got.

Colby: Thank you very much Don and I'm here with Lala, right? And you have a question for Mr. Gaiman.

Lala: Hai. Who are your favorite musicians growing up?

Neil: Growing up, let's see. David Bowie are really out there.

Crowd: -laughs-

Lala: Freak out!

Neil: And then I was feeling lucky in lots of ways ‘cause I was fifteen going on sixteen when punk caught on New England, so it was all sort of happening around me and at that point, it was the Damned and the Ends Ups and the Clash and the Pistols, and you know, for a fifteen year-old kid, sneaking in to the local pub to watch the Jam sound check. I was too young to get into the gig. But nobody noticed this kid sneaking at the back, and just sort of hanging out in the darkness [speaking too fast]… so growing up, everybody's going.

Colby: Thank you Lala, next question.

Claire: I'm here with Kitch and she has another question for you.

Kitch: Hi! If you were casting the Sandman movie, who would you get as Death and Dream?

Neil: If I could cast, anyone from, you know, if someone gave me a time machine and magic powers, I think I would probably cast the young Audrey Hepburn as Death because I think she'd be perfect. Unfortunately, I don't have magic powers or a time machine. Of currently living actors I think Johnny Depp would make an amazing Dream.

Colby: So I won't have a chance.

Neil: Not open.

Don: All righty then, I got a question for you now. We heard that you're really good friends with Tori Amos, right? How did you get to meet her exactly? What were the circumstances?

Neil: The year was, about 1991 and I was at the San Diego Comic Convention and I was signing, which is what I seem to do much of. And a guy on line gave me a cassette tape, which was a primitive form of music transmission in this day of discs and emails, and said that this was a friend of mine, she's sort of working on an album, she mentions you on a song, please don't sue her. She's a big fan of yours, and a fan member of the site. And I'm given a lot of cassettes, these days I get most CDs, and one single I'd carry and then never play them again because they'd be you know, some you know Norwegian death rock record company [too slurred] going oh, you've come down from the sky. Your sister Death because she's cute. So I put this on, and it's Tori and it was sort of a first draft of what was going to be the Little Earthquakes album and well, I listened to some stuff and I just thought it was amazing. And there was a phone number there, so I phoned her, and she happened to be in London while I was at London at the time and then we just became telephone phone pals. We'd throw each other off and talk through the small hours and I said you are going to be huge and this is going to be enormous and this is the trajectory of your career and in three to five years this was how it was going to work, and truth, I was right. She goes I was really really clever. Eventually I just, you know, watched the English Watch Press and actually call… I always know how they always treat the first album, second album and third albums. She goes don't anybody tell them that, that I wasn't her [couldn't understand]. And then she said, come and see me play. So I came and Tori Amos gave me a place called the Kennel Brusery in London. Her entire audience consisted of me, a driver from Melanie Mayfair, her publicist, and the owner of the brand suite and it's suddenly her birthday thing, it was five thousand a table, so she stopped halfway through the gig and say happy birthday to you and that was her act. Even today, you know no matter what Tori does, ten thousand people, it could be huge, well what do you think? I say a lot of it is good. Welcome to [couldn't understand].

Don: Is the key, the character Delirium, based on her?

Neil: I created Delirium before I met Tori. She was in, Delirium was in the comic. Having said that, when I met Tori, it was like, oh my God, I met you. (laughs) You know, this enormous sort of recognition. You know she's this sort of person who, once in like 1991 we bumped into each other in Minneapolis, sitting in a hotel, sitting on the floor eating old pizzas, 2 am off this, she looks up and says quickly, now we must jump up and down and up and down and run around and around. So we did. Not so bad.

Don: Wow, that's awesome. Anyways, we're going right on to this Tori Amos video, Sleeps with Butterflies, and we'll have more of Neil Gaiman after this.


Claire: Hey everyone you are still hanging out on MTV with me Claire, I'm here with Mr. Neil Gaiman.

Crowd: -cheers-

Claire: Colby and Don are over there with our studio audience fans.

Colby: I'm here with some fans, what's your name my girl?

Waya: Waya.

Colby: And you have a question for Mr. Neil Gaiman?

Waya: Yes I do. This is about your children's literature. I was just wondering how far and how dark do you think children's lit can go, do you set yourself some limitations?

Neil: I really don't. In the first place I think that children's literature is traditionally the darkest part of literature. Look at some of the stories even now. Hansel and Gretel. It's a story of two kids whose parents cannot feed them so they decide to abandon them in the woods, they take them out and raise them, and the kids are captured by a witch and plans to eat one of the children. Luckily they push the witch into the oven and kill her and return where fortunately their mother has died so they all live happily ever after. I mean you can't get much darker than that. You got cannibalism, so I think kids are very good at coping with the dark. I think that kids are actually better than adults at coping with the dark because it's like with a lighter persons. What's really weird is my nearest novel for adults, which is called Anansi Boys, is funny and it doesn't really have swearing, it doesn't have any sex, and it's just sort of kind of a nice book. And I finished that and that's really weird because I just finished that and I've started my next children's novel, which is called the Graveyard Book and so far the first four pages is the most scary thing I've ever written. With a serial killer walking around the house in the dark calling in the night threatening to kill the entire family, looking for the baby to finish them all off. I worked at it and found oh well, I like the story since they come and seems to be the next children's story.

Don: All right, well we got another question by another fan, what's your name?

Quark: I am Quark, hello sir. This is a funny MTV trick question but I hear your friend Stephen King has a rock band with Amy Tan and other writers so I was just wondering if you were to form a rock band with your writer friends or the artists who would comprise the band?

Neil: That's scary. I actually have, before I answer that I should actually say that I have actually sung—with—the Rock Bottom Remainders, which is Stephen King and Amy Tan and Dave Barry and those guys and I was standing, watching them in the Last Book Expo America in New York about three years ago, and I was in the audience going, well it went well for the old guys. That kind of thing going and suddenly Stephen King comes up to the microphone and says Neil Gaiman's in the audience, Neil, come on up and I say, oh. So I come up on stage and they hand me a Rock Bottom Remainder's Kazoo, and I play Kazoo, on their version of New Wave, and you have to be honest, you haven't played until you've played Kazoo on the Rock Bottom Remainder's. I knew my place in rock history was never assured. And if I were to form a band, it would be fellow writers and actually what I probably do is try and shoot and get writers like, you know, people like Steven Brust. Dave McKean is an amazing musician. I'd get all these guys who can actually play things. And then I'd just sit in a corner and play music.

Claire: Okay, well I have a question for you. How did you feel as a young writer when you wrote Don't Panic and meeting Douglas Adams and all of that?

Neil: Douglas Adams, it was really educational. And really cool. And enormous, getting to work with Douglas. I was very lucky. I got a phone call one day from a publisher saying we have the rights to do the book about Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Douglas has given his permission, but we don't have a writer. Our writers just went out on us. You've interviewed Douglas a couple of times for magazines, would you be interested in doing it? I went wow, this is a chance of a lifetime for a journalist, and I did. The best of it was just having access to Douglas and his files, and sitting and going through Douglas's filing cabinets, reading all drafts of things, reading his press files, going through the various different drafts of the Shadow script and stuff. It's amazing. And of course getting to know Douglas, who was hilarious. Hilarious and a very dry sort of tripping over things way. My favorite Douglas Adams moment, looking back on it, just because I felt like it qualified for me what kind of person Douglas was, there's a thing in Hitchhiker's about knowing where your towel is. Some kind of people know where their towel is, and these are people who know where their towel is. Which means that you're cool, you know what's going on. You have your towel and you go with them. And a lot of people today love to honor Douglas by saying to me, you know, Douglas, you up for a towel day every year, we carry our towels because Douglas was a free piece sort of who, who knew where his towel. I remember being a city in Douglas's office, going through the scripts through Shadow and whatever was going through during that day, and Douglas's stepmother was wandering around and she suddenly came downstairs and she says, where are the towels? Douglas was shouting, he's in the bath, and he doesn't have a towel in there. We were wandering around the house, they'd just move into this new house, hunting for the towels and I'll let you know. The whole point about Douglas was he was the kind of person who didn't know where his towel is, because they're the kind of person who notice that he went through the divide to those of us who know where the towels are, and those who don't.

Claire: Okay, that's very very cool. We'll have more with Mr. Gaiman later. We have a music video right now.


Colby: Welcome back to Hanging Out at MTV, we have a very special guest, Mr. Neil Gaiman here. And, we have an audience asking him some bright questions. If you look closely at the audience, there's another MTV VJ who claims to be sick, but heard that Mr. Gaiman was coming, and he got out of bed. So Claire, Don.

Claire: All right, it's me Don, that's VJ Jojo hanging out, looking sick, getting there. We have a friend here, Cathy, she works here by the way, and she has a question for you.

Cathy: What's the status on the Death movie?

Neil: The status on the Death movie is it all seems to be chugging ahead. It's now with New Line, remember with Warner because [can't understand] of Warner Bros. Time Warner and usually Warner accepts that once we finish it, they said it's great but it's a fifty million dollar movie and we don't make that. So then there's that nine months to figure out how to transfer it over to New Line, which is another Warner's branch, whether with a smaller office. I'm going to be directing, everybody likes the script, we've sort of begun casting it, and we blew up and we'll be shooting it early next year. I never know really honestly if things are going to happen and how long they're holding on. Those things that seem absolutely certain never happen, and then those things you've given up on five years ago, suddenly you wake up, and this year in January, the [can't understand, name] decided that what you wanted to make in 1997 script directing with Roger Ebert and they're off shooting it in September, so there's no prediction. But we're going to be shooting it next year.

Don: We have another fan with another question. What's your name?

Gianne: Gianne.

Don: All right, what's your question?

Gianne: Who among your works [can't understand what she's saying]?

Neil: Oh, all of them! The joy of being a writer is if you're going to write to convince some characters and you're going to make them interesting, you're going to make people like them, good or bad, you're gonna have to find that little bit of you that's them, to like them. And whether it's a character like the Corinthian who's a gay serial killer who eats them and eats people's eyes, none of which, oddly enough, I actually am (laughs), but he has some losses, a lot of losses, we have some affinity there. Or you know, Coraline's evil other mother, who points to this sort of blubber and eats black beetles. And it's I go, I'm not very good at it but you can find those parts of you that treats love as possessions, treats love as ownership. And then you go okay, I can take all of that, and put that into that character. In the new novel Anansi Boys, probably my favorite villain ever, which is a cricket agent named Graham Coates, just because he's everything, everything I would hate about myself if I ever became a cricket agent. And he speaks in cliché's, and he's quite possibly the most irritating character I've ever written. So that.

Colby: Good stuff, good stuff. We're gonna have more with Mr. Gaiman when we return. And now another video…


Colby: Hi, you're still haing out at MTV, with special guest Mr. Neil Gaiman, a.k.a. the Dream King. I had to throw it in, I had to throw it. We are running out of time Clare.

Clare: Yeah I know. But before we go, we have small questions and if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions ,please check out the address on your screen, write to it, and you can email us at, and do not forget to check out our blog. Back to you Don.

Don: All right, so for our last final questions, we have, what's your name sir?

Carlo: Carlo.

Don: All right, what is your question?

Carlo: When did you first realize you were famous and how did you deal with it?

Clare: Well… (laughs)

Neil: That would definitely have been yesterday. [Crowd laughs] It's that point where you draw three thousand people, chanting and asking you to take their, it's like this incredibly cheerful, happy Nuremberg rally and you go oh my God, I'm famous. And I haven't, I have no idea how I'm going to deal with it. I'm just going to have to cope.

Don: All right, and with our very very last question, goes to?

Erwin: Erwin.

Don: Erwin, what's your question?

Erwin: Well I write a column for the Philippine Star and I asked readers, all four of them, to send in questions for you. And the best question was, what was the scariest story you ever heard when you were young?

Neil: The scariest story I ever heard when I was young, probably, I would have been about eleven years old, and it was just an urban legend about a couple making out in the road, and the guy with the hook, but what was great about it was the way it was told to me, was by somebody who had also been told by a friend of a friend, and it had a location and he said that it had occurred, definitely because everybody knew about this. In the really really dark street that I had to walk home everyday to get home from school. There was this one street which like was deep, deep, deep, with rock walls and no street lights. Every winter, you're walking there in the dark, and I knew that guy, with his hook, was waiting for me.

Colby: Well, we are out of time. One last round of applause. [Applause]

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[Essay] Humanity’s Constant Struggle

Humanity’s Constant Struggle

There’s this one statement which I often hear, usually in the context of a break-up: “I won’t change for anyone except myself.” Now that strikes me as arrogance, as if change was something to be avoided, or something we can control.

What is change? Is it good or bad? In theory, it could be either one, or sometimes, both. Yet within each human being is a desire to remain as is, to resist change, even if it’s for the better. It’s a perfectly natural tendency. When there is a lack of change, there are no surprises. Everything goes as predicted, and it’s easy to succumb to complacency and comfort. Unfortunately, this also breeds stagnation, and we stop growing, stop evolving into a better person. Change might be the logical choice, but fear of the unknown usually gets the better of us. “Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t know” is an obvious cliché that results from this mentality.

In reality, change is inevitable. Even the most ardent of resistors will change. Time will age us, cause us to develop new habits, or alter old ones. Yet it is possible to slow down its progress. In that, the most adamant succeed. Change over the physical body, we have little control of. Change over our minds, we have considerable power over. Not total control, mind you, but nonetheless a considerable sum. Take for example the story of Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz. At the hands of his foreign captors, he was asked to renounce his faith in God. No matter what form of coercion they employed, no matter what form of torture they practiced, he did not relent. Lorenzo Ruiz died a Christian. Did they succeed in battering his body? Yes. Were they successful in changing his belief and perspective? No. Yet even if St. Lorenzo Ruiz survived that ordeal and was set free, there would have been a part of his mind that would have been changed. It might have been the trauma of being tortured, or perhaps the shock at seeing his companions suffer. His faith in God might have remained, but there are other aspects of his mind that could have been altered, irregardless of whether he’s conscious of it or not.

There are two ways to change: voluntarily, or involuntarily. The latter is perceived as undesirable, sometimes even evil. For example, when a hurricane hits your home and transforms your life into a pauper, we see that as a curse. Or perhaps when a girlfriend or boyfriend asks you to change this certain quality of yours, we still consider it an involuntary change because it did not stem from our own initiative. Compare that to a person who suddenly decides he or she wants to change for the better. It might be a realization that he or she should live a healthy life, hence exercising daily from that point on. But is such a dichotomy valid, that voluntarily change is always good, and involuntary change bad?

In truth, it all boils down to two factors: foresight and pride. If a man suddenly wins the lottery, does he curse the fates for giving him such an unexpected windfall? Foresight tells him that it’s a good thing, so he takes pleasure in such an occasion, even if the circumstances behind it was involuntary. But human foresight is not infinite, and a few years later, the same man might find himself living a lonely and horrible life, thanks to the familial squabbles such riches brought him. Or take a detrimental occasion, such as losing your job. One immediately thinks that it’s a bad thing, that getting fired is far from an auspicious circumstance. You might curse your employer and fellow employees when that happens, but a few years later, look back at it and think that it’s the best thing that ever happened to you, especially when a bigger company hires you for your now-available expertise, or paves the way for you to start your own business. In either scenario, we lacked the foresight to recognize if it’s a good or a bad thing, and simply assume the immediate repercussions.

But what about pride? Well, some people take comfort that their decisions are voluntary, whether it reaps rewards or ruin. As much as we decide to do what’s good and right, we also decide to do things that are detrimental not only to ourselves but to our society as well. For example, our vices are our own choices, whether it’s drinking or smoking. I could easy think one day that hey, I should start smoking. And this perpetuates until the end of my life. Health-wise, it’s not the smartest thing to do, but we condone such a habit because it was ours to begin with. Compare that to our parents or doctor ordering us to eat our vegetables. While eating vegetables is a healthy option, we resent doing so, not just because of the taste, but the fact that doing so wasn’t our decision or that someone else was compelling us. This kind of mentality is magnified when a part of us changes due to someone we have a dark past with. It might be a former employer, a previous lover, a relative we’ve quarreled with, or a friend turned nemesis. For example, when living with your girlfriend, you might have had to give up a bad habit like smoking, or learned a new skill like cooking. When you break up with her, there’s a desire to rebel, as if to assert your own individuality, or to scorn the other person. You start smoking again, especially when you encounter your ex, or perhaps you never turn on the stove again, for it brings back too many memories. In this case, we reverted to our old selves due to a conscious choice that traces its roots to pride.

Of course I’m not saying that as long as the end-results are good, it shouldn’t matter whether the cause was voluntary or involuntary. People can typically be classified under one of two categories: those who act, and those who react. The latter are more likely to respond to involuntary change. When unpleasant circumstances hit them, that’s the only time they grow. That’s not to say that’s entirely bad: some reactive people, when encountering a disaster, might be so determined that they turn a disadvantage into an advantage. When a typhoon hits their home, he or she rebuilds the entire city. The other type of person builds things out of their own initiative: they don’t wait for favorable conditions, but instead start working now. They change irregardless of the current circumstance.

People usually fall somewhere between the two: I don’t think I’ve met anyone who’s purely voluntary. Unfortunately, meeting someone who’s perpetually involuntary is a possibility. Perhaps the problem with being involuntary is the fact that you wait for an external stimulus for you to change. You might be good at coping with crisis, but if it never arrives, then you’ll never grow as well. Of course a voluntary person can learn a thing or two from the involuntary person as well. Conditions, after all, are dynamic and ever-changing. One needs to adapt to the situation if one were to succeed, and in the endeavors that a voluntary person will start, those types of encounters cannot be avoided.

A voluntary person, however, has one important quality that needs to be respected. He or she has pride. And make no mistake, while pride can get in the way of getting the job done, pride is what gives us our dignity and our humanity. Do I really want to live a life where everything I accomplish or do is dictated by someone else? Voluntary people change because it is their decision to do so, but taken to the extreme, are the types that will claim “I will change for no one except myself”. Hence healthy doses of being voluntary and involuntary is needed. A person will grow, sometimes by their own choices, and sometimes by uncontrolled events.

Change is honestly a difficult concept to embrace. If you observe most people’s lives, growth is usually achieved when adversity is encountered. And I don’t think I’ve met anyone who asks for problems. Even the most voluntary of people, who for example might start up their own business, will not look forward to the trials he or she will face. They merely see it as a hurdle to overcome, to be avoided if possible. Yet difficulties cause us to grow, to evolve, to become better people. Perhaps the only thing that can console us during such times is our mentality. The question we should ask isn’t “why me?” but rather “what can I learn from this, and how can I grow from it?”. It’s easier said than done, but growth usually comes with a steep price.

If change is such a primal force and humans claim to possess free will, is it possible to choose not to change? The very act of choosing not to change already alters us, because previously, we did not have that sort of mindset. But philosophical babblings aside, does our inability to resist change limit our free will? Actually, there is a way to resist change, and many people take this recourse. When adversity strikes them, they give up instead of adapting to the situation. It’s called suicide. Disregarding the metaphysical and the afterlife, death has a certain finality. A corpse can’t change his or her views: it’s already locked in place at the time of death. Your body can rot and decay but your mind ceases to change. When the Japanese executed St. Lorenzo Ruiz, did they continue to abuse the corpse? Probably not, because you can’t convert a dead man. His faith and belief had already been established. They could have killed Ruiz’s family, city, and nation, but that means nothing to a dead man, and would not convert him to their beliefs. In death, our body undergoes one last transformation, and then everything else ceases. Perhaps the last act of someone who commits suicide is not to be free from this world, but rather to be free from change and the circumstances that cause it.

If death is the opposite of change, what does that tell us about life? It’s easy to perceive people, places, beliefs, and ideologies as static entities, when in reality, the only thing constant about them is that they are in a state of flux.

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[Blog Entry] Stagnant Reading Habits, Money, Bag Death

Stagnant Reading Habits

When I go to the bookstore these days (even if I don’t have any money), I’m surprised by the fact that I wander the fiction section more often. Normally, I’d just linger around the fantasy/science-fiction bookshelf (even if that bookshelf happens to be extremely wide in the case of Fully Booked Rockwell) and perhaps pass by the children’s section (since fantasy novels tend to stray over there as well). Now, my reading tastes are miraculously expanding, but time remains my nemesis, as there is so much to do, and so little time to read.


One quality I admire in the Chinese is the fact that they’re not afraid of giving money as gifts (the three occasions for giving gifts are birthdays, Christmas, and the New Year).

Honestly, in Western and Filipino culture, there seems to be this taboo of giving money as presents. Perhaps it’s the idea that you’re “buying” or bribing the person. Honestly though, if I wanted to bribe someone, I don’t need money to do it. It could easily be food or favors. For the Chinese though, giving money as a gift is natural. Just make sure they’re sealed in red envelopes.

The thing that I find ironic is that while most Filipinos shy away from giving money as presents, they have no such compulsion when giving gift certificates. I mean one of the reasons why people give gifts is so that the amount spent is not known (hence the practice of tearing out price tags). That’s not the case with gift certificates though. There’s a blaring “500 pesos” or “1000 pesos” indicated on them, and most likely, you spent the same amount of cash to purchase them.

Honestly, unless you got those gift certificates at a discount (or they were gifts to you as well), I’m sure some people would appreciate the cash instead. I mean cash is more flexible (you actually get change for spending in smaller denominations) and they can be used nearly everywhere. Give me real money over Mickey Mouse money any day.

But bookstore gift checks will always be appreciated.

Bag Death

Barely a month old, my new bag effectively died when its strap snapped earlier today. Not that I’m attached to this new bag, especially considering it doesn’t have a zipper and instead has an open hood, making my items easy prey to the weather (and the occasional thief).

Of course I don’t blame the bag for getting ruined. To be fair, I was lugging around something that was effectively more than a third of my body weight (which isn’t much, but still). Me carrying such heavy weights, I was praying that Murphy’s law wouldn’t apply. Unfortunately, only the fact that it didn’t rain was answered.

The bag strap snapped as I was walking from Katipunan, and when I got to the MRT station, there was a line long enough to rival Neil Gaiman’s book signings. At that point, I would have taken a cab if I had the spare cash, so I opted to take the bus instead (the reason why I avoid public transportation is because when I ask for the price of the ride, they usually answer me in Spanish-Filipino, and I can’t count in Spanish-Filipino). The ride was smooth, until we arrived at the usual choke point (namely the Ortigas intersection where La Salle, EDSA, and Robinsons Galleria collide). Heavy luggage in tow, I got off, and walked to various malls to make deliveries.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

[Blog Entry] Internet Woes, Bookstore Trip

Internet Woes

Alas, work has carried me far away from the office’s broadband connection, and my modem at home is plagued by grounded phone lines. If I have any Internet backlog, now you know why.

Bookstore Trip

I’ve been meaning to make my monthly pilgrimage to various bookstores, but have not yet found the time (or the budget) to do so.

To ease my loneliness, I paid a visit to the nearby Fully Booked branch, which was in the middle of unloading its new stocks. There were several books that caught my interest, but I’m reduced to window shopping.

There were two books that piqued my interest. One is for fans of Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. A spin-off, Lyra’s Oxford, was on the shelves of the children’s section. The other is perhaps less literary, but reminds me of my days reading Choose Your Own Adventure books. This time, it’s the Survivor series of books, which as you might have guessed, follows the same pattern as Choose Your Own Adventure, except well, you get to be the Survivor champion and follows the same locales as the hit TV-reality series.

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