Thursday, January 19, 2006

[Blog Entry] One Track Mind

One Track Mind

Mainly in reference to anonymous blogger's blog in general. Not that casual readers should be bothered with it, since this is mostly deals with the comic industry (so you shouldn't really waste your time visiting it unless you're really interested, either at his views of the komik industry, or why it gets me so riled up).

Methodology-wise, it seems that the guy did his homework, stating sources left and right much like a term paper. Unfortunately, this is one reason why you shouldn't "academize" something. Just because you've read all the books doesn't mean you're an expert in something. Experience goes a long way. I mean I'm (relatively) well-read, but admittedly, that doesn't make me a great writer. And I'm sure there are people who have encyclopedic knowledge of biology, but that doesn't make them doctors either. And when I say experience, it doensn't necessarily mean creating comics yourself if you want to be knowledgeable in the comic industry (although it helps). It could mean associating with the comic creators themselves, actively monitoring the indie scene, talking to store owners, etc. And in the end, this is what anonymous blogger lacks.

Take, for example, his latest blog entry, How do you revive the Filipino Comics Industry? I don't even have to write an entire essay to counter some of his points or flaws. Somebody infinitely more experienced and wiser than me indirectly answered it in his blog: Gerry Alanguilan's How to get into comics today entry.

Back to being one-track minded, anonymous blogger sticks to his one single theory for success: big industry = mass market audience + quantity + cheap prices. It's a good formula really. But one that isn't universal. I mean look at mobile phones. They're not cheap, but somehow they manage to attract a big audience and sell a lot of units. Telecom rates follow that formula, which is why we have Pasaloads and other micropayment systems for cellphone credit. But look at other things, such as BMWs, coffee table books, lomo cameras, and other nonmainstream commodities. They're not mainstream, and don't always contain all (or any) of the elements in that formula, yet they succeed nonetheless. There are various formulas for success (although picking which is the right one FOR YOU is the difficult part).

As for luxury items, I think everyone needs luxury items. People just don't work, eat, and sleep. People need recreation, something to make them feel good. It could be something as simple as talking to a friend. Perhaps that's a reason why Fiipinos love to gossip. But luxury items also depend on who you are. I mean for the poverty-stricken, a bottle of pop cola might already be a luxury. For some richer, Hagendas ice cream. Heck, Filipinos, no matter what the income demographic, usually find ways of purchasing a cellphone and credit. The real problem isn't if people have the budget to spend for your luxury item (as long as it's within their means of course... I mean I don't think the DE class will start buying BMWs of Condos in Rockwell, for example, but they will manage to find the money to buy the lastest Nokia model) but persuading them to use their budget for your luxury item. You could be a food brand, a publication, a gaming company, whatever. I didn't learn that from any textbook, but from experience and my faculties of observation.

It's a sad state, because the guy has good intentions. He wants a healthier Pinoy comic industry. That's the same thing a lot of us want, especially the likes of Elbert Or, Dean Alfar, Gerry Alanguilan, and Budjette Tan. He wants a different approach to comics, one that isn't a rip off of America or Japan. The people I previously mentioned want that too. But the one thing they don't do is talk down on other people, making claims such as he's making. Anonymous blogger has blatant disrespect for a lot of the indie creators (which he's ignorant of) and simply blames comic creatores and the nation for the lack of a komik industry. Unlike him, the comic creators do put out comics, to make a change. And while the scene right now is nowhere as big as it was decades ago, I can be proud to say that we have people like Gerry Alanguilan and Arnold Arre and Dean Alfar. At the very least, they don't pretend to act knowledgeable and hide under a pseudonym; they publish, they create, and lay their name down on the line.

And you know what, I'm not an expert in comics (be it local or foreign). I don't profess to be one, especially in the local scene (if anything, I'd specialize more in manga). I just hang out and listen with people who are involved in the industry (it's nice to know that I learned something from them). Perhaps that's why I'm writing all of this (it's not like anonymous blogger is insulting fiction or SF or fantasy or whatever after all). Yet his lack of research is glaring. He insults PsiCom, blaming them for publishing only two locally-made comics? Apparently, he wasn't aware that they released Nikki Alfar's TXTMen back in 2003, and Cherry Blossom High a year or two ago, among other projects. And even in their foreign titles such as reprints of Justice League or Batman/Superman, one merely needs to browse through the pages that the comic doesn't contan just comics. There are articles about comics written there, and some of these writers are involved in the comic industry, such as Vin Simbulan and David Hontiveros. So even if a foreign title is selling, there's still cashflow among people in the local comic industry. And of course, there's the all-out disdain for comics not in print, such as web comics and the like.

For a guy who claims we should be more business-minded about comics and how we should do something to revive the industry, he's simply blathering. Again, check out Gerry's long entry on our local comic entrepreneurs. And as I said before, not everything is measured in profit. Some comic creators work with different formulas in mind, and that's not necessarily the wrong way of doing things.

And that, my friend, is my reply to your reply to charles. I've commented on your blog but they haven't been approved yet. And while your mission and vision is admirable, please, don't reduce people to statistics, don't make everything an academic exercise.

Read more!
[Blog Entry] The Dona Paz Tragedy

The Dona Paz Tragedy

I just got a text message from my boss mentioning one of the news items on today's paper (my boss has always been keener and a better reader/writer than me). It's on the front page, but it's innocuous enough: "Caltex cleard in Paz sinking."

Since we've been doing research as far back as 1986, the Dona Paz tragedy is fresh in our minds, and we know its significance. In December 21, 1987, the Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker. A few explosions later, the casualty rate was somewhere at an estimated 2000~3000. Just to show at how awful that tragedy was, the Titani's death toll was somewhere at 1500+.

Law suits were filed, reparations were arranged, and here we are in 2006. And if you're wondering on how time or media affects perception, note that in the present news article, no mention of the casualty rate was mentioned, merely that Caltex was cleared of the charges of some long forgotten tragedy.

Read more!
[Essay] White Collar Workers, RPGs, and The Road Not Taken

White Collar Workers, RPGs, and The Road Not Taken

If truth be told, I probably would have been a better computer programmer than a fiction writer had I chosen to pursue such a degree. While I'm not the best-gifted student in computer class, I did manage to do well on my own. And for a Creative Writing student, my grades in Math and Science were higher than my other subjects.

As far as careers go, I'm one of the boring types, the kind that manages to survive working in an 8 hour job, sitting down doing repetitive stuff. I actually enjoy doing the same things over and over again, from photocopying to scanning to typing (my secret is that I always think that there's a better, more efficient way of doing things, and that I'll achieve that the next time around). Unfortunately, it does not extend to transcribing interviews. =)

In retrospect, the taint of a white-collar worker was evident when I was a kid. There's actually a test you can give your kids to know if they're built for this kind of stuff. Give them an RPG and note how they play it. In your typical Squaresoft (before it was Square-Enix) RPG, people who finish the game typically do it in one of two ways. One is to finish the game as quick as possible, so that they can enjoy the story more. Levelling up and finding items is kept to a minimum. These guys aren't your minimum-wage employees. The ones you're looking for are the people who have the patience to level up their character before fighting the main boss. They'll have the best items that can be bought because of all the monsters they killed in order to get gold. Yes, I enjoyed the story as much as any other person, but I also wanted to defeat my computer opponents without using too much in-game resources, and the best way to do this was to spend loads and loads of hours killing monsters, leveling up and gaining gold in the process.

Of course these days, you have to work with a slightly different formula. Most MMORPGs tend to focus more on the leveling up rather than story (quests are designed to give players the illusion that there's some story involved), not necessarily because that's what the designers intended, but because it's kind of difficult to create an online game with a perpetual-story engine, and one that affects millions of players (saving the princess becomes less unique when there's thousands of you... and then you ask yourself, what's next?). So the creative-types feel the temptation of using bots (computer scripts/programs designed to take over your character, usually to level them up without heavy supervision in the case of MMORPGs) with their characters. To the white collar-oriented people, some of them might be baffled at this phenomena, since they'll claim that the point of playing MMORPG is to have fun, and where's the fun when it's a computer that's playing the game for you.

But MMORPGs aren't as rigid as a video game, where the only option you have is to kill, level up, get rich, and rest (repeat). It's a place for dialogue, for making a fashion statement (in terms of character equipment, items, design, and other accessories), for interacting with other players, or acting as a surrogate parent to virtual and/or real characters. The learning curve of leveling up is merely a means rather than an end.

Nonetheless, the methodical, persistent, and simply patient ones are most likely to enjoy the leveling-up system of RPGs and MMORPGs.

As for me, I'm a Humanist at heart, and while I do believe genetics and environment do play a role in molding your persona, you determine who you are by your choices. I may not have been born the most creative or talented individual in the world, but that doesn't stop me from writing (sadly, sickness will).

Read more!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

[Blog Entry] Out of Synch

Out of Synch

It's been really a bad week for me as my fever disrupted my momentum for the past two weeks.

For one thing, I haven't been exercising as it's bad for my recovery.

The other thing that hurts is that I missed the deadline for the Dragon Anthology as I realized last night that my draft for unfinished story simply doesn't work in terms of language, and I would need time to polish it (like a week). Back to the drawing board... (along with my hopes)

(Sorry but no short story guerilla writing at work... office is pretty busy nowadays, so writing has to be done at home.)

Oh. And I just woke up. When I would have been up an hour or two earlier last week.

Read more!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

[Blog Entry] Hallucinations


I never thought I’d get to experience hallucinations but I was never known for my infallibility.

Caught a fever last night and here I am at home, skipping work to recover. 12 hours of sleep didn’t net me some rest, and all it gave me were these restless and strange dreams that rival the nightmares during my call center stint.

During this entire time, I felt my body rebelling at the foreign bodies that had entered my body. Now what most people probably don’t realize is that sweating when you have a fever is somewhat of a good sign: it’s your body’s last-ditch effort to repel whatever made you sick through perspiration. Unfortunately I don’t have that luxury as my body temperature always seems to operate on –10 degrees, that is, whatever the temperature is, subtract ten from that. So despite me being locked up in my room with all the windows closed and neither the fan or the air conditioning on, I still wasn’t sweating. I was actually cold the entire time despite me clinging to my blanket. (It is for the same reason that despite twenty minutes of heavy jogging in the morning sun, I still don’t sweat.)

A last ditch effort of my body was through vomiting, which unfortunately left me severely weakened. So here I am, struggling against dizziness and a lack of strength, albeit feeling significantly better.

Read more!