Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Monday, September 22, 2003

Goodbye, Cruel World...
In the interim between the disconnection of my current internet connection (happened this morning) and the installment of the new one (within the next two weeks, hopefully), I'll be unhappily offline, and, therefore, not updating this blog. Will resume service in a fortnight or so!
Nikki bit in at 4:23 PM :: ::
Sunday, September 21, 2003

not the same old songs
Went karaoke-ing with Carl, Vin, El, Andrew, and Charles last night, and Charles sang! To those of you who don't know him, Charles is a self-proclaimed 'vampire orchid', who, aside from not eating, not drinking, and not breathing (Ask El!), also does not generally sing. So to have him voluntarily choose to belt out three or four songs was veritably the highlight of the evening.

Of course, there was a lot more fun had all around, particularly the duet version of 'Rock DJ' in El's trademark boy band tones and Andrew's rocker growl, Vin and El's literally breathless rendition of 'Goodbye', and Carl's always awesome vocal stylings. Much missed were Dean, Dino, and Tobie, since no one present was actually mad enough to attempt singing the random BeeGees song that popped up by mistake.

sorrow and glee
Earlier, we cruised Fully Booked, where I wandered around sadly clutching a couple of books I couldn't afford to buy: The Crimson and the White and The Food Taster. Poor junkie me, I just never have enough money to support my terrible book habit... Next time a client pays up, I'm heading straight for Rockwell.

I got to see my best girl friend, Jen, who coincidentally was also hanging out at Rockwell; after which my guys and I (including Camy, El's lovely lass) hung out in front of Monk's Dream to play a new game, Thingamajig. Out of four rounds, Camy won two and I won one, leaving the poor male-type creatures in the dust. Must be tough, having two heads and only one brain... :P

Post-Partum Digression: part 6 of an 11-part essay

The Fifth Month

Several inches of waistline expansion later, I was wandering around Megamall, wondering why retailers uniformly seemed to believe that pregnancy unhinged a woman’s mind, creating in her a mad passion for all garments ruffled, bowed and beribboned, not to mention (ugh) pink. Was I—a person who could count on her fingers the non-black items in her wardrobe—going to have to spend the next four months looking like someone’s wedding cake? I imagined a vast underground conspiracy to make all expectant mothers easily identifiable, possibly even with concentration camp-type serial numbers cunningly stitched into the lacework of our unsuspecting sailor collars.

What I was really doing, of course, was focusing on an external concern (however frivolous) in a vain attempt to ignore the suspiciously tender feelings I was beginning to harbor toward the tiny being that was just starting to make itself known inside of me.

The baby had started kicking.

I had been lying around in bed, remembering the days back when I could read on my belly, and bidding a fond farewell to my toes, which had just begun to disappear behind my expanding midsection mound. Then, without warning, I felt something—something kind of like indigestion, except not painful; like digging a knuckle into your skin, except on the inside; like a throbbing headache, except short-lived and in the stomach area. In other words, it was something not quite like anything I’d ever felt before.

I’d felt phantom kicks many times previously—little tummy twitches that, I’d thought, might have been the baby. I’d even started to worry about being some kind of emotional retard, because the sensations had so far failed to produce in me that rush of wonder, love, and pride that TV and movies had informed me were de rigeur when that particular milestone occurred.

“You’ll know it when you feel it,” my sister-in-law had told me, a statement which I then dismissed as just another Mommy Saying (more on these later). Now that it had happened, however, I knew it absolutely and unquestionably.

“The baby moved,” I whispered to Dean, feeling as absurdly smug as if this were some kind of death-defying feat I had achieved by myself.

“It did?!” he asked excitedly, and put his hand on my no-longer-quite-covered-by-pajama-tops belly. Naturally, the baby then chose to keep utterly still, leaving Dean straining to feel any kind of abdominal activity at all, and me wondering just how long I ought to wait before asking him to give up and stop blocking my view of my treasured toes.

Just as we were dropping off to sleep, however, the baby obligingly chose to move again, an infinitesimal nudge, probably to say, “Get your heavy hand off me, please, Father, I’m trying to sleep.”

Even so, “The baby moved!” Dean exclaimed, gazing at me with as much awe as if I were, indeed, bearing the Second Coming of the Christ Child. Heck, who could blame him? I felt like the Holy Mother myself. Notwithstanding the fact that pregnant women around the world had experienced this exact same thing since time immemorial, I felt as wondrous, loving, and proud as if I had just invented the light bulb. Or the telephone. Or at least that special glue they use on Post-Its.
Nikki bit in at 3:36 PM :: ::
Saturday, September 20, 2003

'Dogging' is either a "new sex craze" (according to the Shropshire Star) or an "ancient tradition of anonymous sexual fun" (in the words of Dr. Tuppy Owens of the Sexual Freedom Coalition). Primarily practiced in the U.K., dogging involves outdoor exhibition and/or voyeurism in car parks, wooded areas, and the like. The term originated in the early Seventies (making it neither new nor ancient, you'll notice) to describe men who would spy on couples having sex outdoors. Nowadays, couples not only encourage these 'doggers' to watch, but often perform for their enjoyment, and even invite them to join in.

Probably the phenomenon has become a craze because sites have popped up on the Internet explaining the 'etiquette of dogging', as well as where to find dogging locations all over the U.K. Some interesting etiquette examples include: "Please come prepared for safe sex", "Ascertain that particular spot is for you-- is it couples or gay action you're after?", and "Only join in if you're asked, or if you see the interior lights of the car flashing".

Meanwhile, health control authorities are cautioning that dogging may be responsible for a rise in sexually-transmitted diseases, while the much-debated Item 77 legislation threatens to make public sex illegal. (You mean it wasn't?) Me, I say let sleeping dogs lie... or whatever else they want to do.

Dino sent me this link, which really has nothing to do with anything important, but is nevertheless cool and somehow compelling. Check it out if you feel like tripping.

Post-Partum Digression: part 5 of an 11-part essay

The Fourth Month

Approximately 610 unsmoked cigarettes later, we were back at the hospital, my husband busy trying to sort out the administrative confusion caused by the misrouting of my ultrasound request from the doctor’s office to the lab. Somewhere along the way, the date of conception had gotten messed up so that it now seemed I had conceived while I was in Manila and Dean was away in Hong Kong. Aside from the fact that this implied that our baby just might be the Second Coming via Immaculate Conception, this also raised the question of whether I needed an abdominal ultrasound (which would only require moving a microphone-like probe around on the surface of my belly) or a transvaginal ultrasound (which would involve using a cylindrical probe to boldly go where only two men had previously gone before).

I ended up on my back in one of the ultrasound rooms as I watched the technician smear lubricant on something that looked, in size and shape, very much like a smooth, high-tech plastic tent peg. “This won’t hurt a bit,” the tech said soothingly, triggering still more flashbacks of losing my virginity.

“Can my husband come in?” I asked faintly, as she moved efficiently yet somehow menacingly towards the stirrups portion of the examining table, where my view was fortunately blocked by the skirt of my wear-it-while-you-still-can minidress.

“As long as it won’t bother you,” she answered, which struck me as mildly ridiculous. Listen, lady, I wanted to say, if it bothered me to have my husband looking at what you’re looking at now, I probably wouldn’t be in this room in the first place.

So Dean was summoned, which at least had the effect of making the proceedings seem somehow more appropriate. (Yes, I know I am a sick puppy.)

I lay there trying desperately to appear nonchalant in front of the technician, who probably performed such procedures every day, and likely didn’t give a damn what kind of look I had on my face. As a matter of fact, as soon as rod A had been inserted into slot B, no one in the room was paying any attention to me at all, focusing instead on the ultrasound monitor, which was angled (rather impolitely, I thought) just out of my field of vision.

Hey, you two! Remember me? I considered asking. You know, the one who’s being skewered here in the name of science?!

And then the baby jumped.

It was not much of a jump, in truth. Not even as impressive as the leaping arowana fish we had seen a few nights before on the Discovery channel. And since ultrasound images are, by nature, fuzzy, grainy hazes that only medical professionals can truly understand, all that could really be made out on screen was a flurry of motion, as one concentrated group of pixels suddenly twitched amid all the other pixels.

I didn’t even see it myself. But I did see my husband’s face as he saw it, and as I watched him watching, his features going suddenly gooey, the thought struck me that my best friend and lover was going to become a daddy.

Then the logical second epiphany hit, as if for the first time: I was going to be a mommy. I would have fainted, but I wasn’t quite sure how one segued from feigned nonchalance to unconsciousness.
Nikki bit in at 3:30 PM :: ::
Friday, September 19, 2003

useless knowledge
I used to think you had to cover your nose when you sneezed to prevent spreading germs, and also to avoid utterly grossing out everyone around you. Ha! Shows how much I knew.

According to folklore, you have to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze, because otherwise your soul might escape! What's more, the devil can enter your body when you sneeze, in which case you need someone else to say "God bless you" in order to drive the devil away.

When you sneeze is important, as well:

"If you sneeze on a Monday, you sneeze for danger.
Sneeze on a Tuesday, kiss a stranger.
Sneeze on a Wednesday, sneeze for a letter;
Sneeze on a Thursday, something better.
Sneeze on a Friday, sneeze for sorrow.
Sneeze on a Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow.
Sneeze on a Sunday, and the devil will have domination over you all week."

So the good part is, theoretically, if you have a cold on Sunday, you can't be held responsible for your actions over the next seven days... Who knew that sneezing was so demonically perilous?!

bibliophilia: Abhorsen
Abhorsen is the third book in a trilogy by Garth Nix, set mostly in the dweomer-rich Old Kingdom, where Charter Magic is set against the corrupted powers of Free Magic, and the Abhorsen is responsible for sending the spirits of restless Dead beyond the Ninth Gate. I'm glad I picked this book up, despite my disappointment with the second one. Where the first novel, Sabriel, was engaging with its entertaining premise and rich depictions of character and setting, I felt that the middle story, Lirael, left something to be desired in terms of plot. Thankfully, this third piece proved to be as enjoyable as the first, and forms a satisfactory conclusion to the trilogy. I wouldn't recommend it to my demanding reader of a husband, but I'll definitely be revisiting it sometime when the local bookstore shelves yet again run dry.

Post-Partum Digression: part 4 of an 11-part essay

The Third Month

Four weeks and no morning sickness to speak of later, I was reading on the Internet how I only had 20 days or so left in which I might safely take RU-some-bunch-of-numbers-or-another, the revolutionary abortion pill. I was pretending to explore all the available options, but the truth was that my staunch pro-choice stand was turning out to be more of a stance than a stand. Apparently, while I had gone around all my adult life loudly proclaiming every woman’s right to choose what she would do with her own body, this did not actually apply in real life once the woman and body in question were me and mine. I couldn’t even blame this hypocrisy on my husband’s pro-life leanings, since he’d already told me that the final choice was mine and that he would stand behind me no matter what. No, it was my stomach that was turning and churning at the very idea of abortion. It was undeniable: I was, in fact, a polemical poseur.

Besides, an insidious voice in the back of my mind had started whispering, how bad could it be? I was already at the tail end of the supposedly physically wrenching first trimester, and I was feeling just peachy keen. And would it really mean the end of the world to produce the potentially perfect fruit of the practically perfect union between me and my perfectly perfect husband? It wasn’t as if I was some silly unwed teenager who didn’t even know the art of erotically unrolling a condom. Not to mention the fact that we had evidently managed to beat absurd odds by actually getting pregnant on the Pill while dozens of people around the world sweated and struggled to conceive a child—surely that was some kind of sign, wasn’t it? What’s more, continued the insidious voice, look how much plumper and perkier your boobs have become… and isn’t your hair just fabulous?

Quiet, Insidious Voice, I ordered. Don’t you remember that I am a feminist? Don’t you know that big breasts and big hair are just a male stereotype of feminine beauty? Don’t you recall that women have not only the ability, but the responsibility to be so much more than mere baby factories?

Insidious Voice conferred with my equally traitorous body and produced a resonant burp by way of reply.

I looked back at my computer monitor and found that, by a mysterious search engine mishap, I had arrived at a website called "You will experience increased flatulence throughout your pregnancy," it told me. "This is only to be expected, given that the little life inside you is taking up much of the space inside your stomach area."

It’s not enough that I’ve been revealed as a poseur, I thought. I have become a pod person.
Nikki bit in at 4:23 PM :: ::
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

learning to speak
Day by day, my 19-month-old daughter Sage is expanding her vocabulary. Today, the word was 'yucky'.

She was sitting next to me at the dining table sipping some juice. She's very proud of her ability to drink from a cup like a grownup, but this time she dribbled a bit down her chin. I wiped her off with a napkin, saying, "We have to wipe that off, so you're not all sticky and yucky."

She looked at me delightedly and repeated, "Yucky!" She thereafter went wandering around the house pointing out objects that she considered yucky: the trash cans, crumpled-up tissue paper (which she crumpled herself), that sort of thing. "Yucky! Yucky! Yucky!" she crowed.

Later, when her nanny collected her for her daily excursion to the playroom, she amiably allowed herself to be picked up, looked her nanny straight in the face, and pronounced, "Yucky!"

Good thing it wasn't her grandma...

bibliophilia: The Scar
My theory is, writer China Mieville is one of those people teetering this way and that over the famously fine line that divides genius and insanity. There were times when I hated this book; and there were times when I couldn't put it down, it was so good. I guess that's appropriate since The Scar is one of those new-fangled 'interstitial' books, in this case blurring the lines between fantasy and science fiction. It's about the press-ganged citizens of a floating pirate city, and what happens when the rulers of the city set out to take control of a huge (and hugely dangerous) source of power, a literal wound in reality.

There are some startlingly arresting ideas here (although my writer husband will tell you, disdainfully, that ideas are a dime a dozen). There's also some really good prose, although now and then, I found myself wishing the writer would just shut up with the description and get on with the damned plot. I can't say much for its characterization, but then the lead character is supposed to be one cold dame, so maybe that explains her lack of immediacy. But that sounds suspiciously like a cop-out to me... I probably won't be shelling out 400+ pesos for another Mieville book, but I don't regret buying this one. A good read, if not, alas, destined for the 'favorites' section of the bookshelf.

Post-Partum Digression: part 3 of an 11-part essay

The Second Month

One week and untold amounts of stress later, we were sitting together in a doctor's waiting room, trying to look as if we were at least marginally less ignorant than we were. "They're going to have to kill a rabbit," Dean whispered to me.

"They are not," I hissed back. In any case, at the time, the fate of some unknown rabbit, however cute and fluffy, was far less important to me than the potential imminent hijacking of my body for the ostensible purpose of species survival. I looked from my purse to the office door and contemplated one last cigarette before I knew for sure whether or not my half-pack-a-day habit was suffocating more than just me and my immediate circle of intimates.

"Mrs. Alfar, Mr. Alfar," the receptionist beamed. "The results of your test are ready." Dean stood up right away, so I had no real choice but to drop my cigs and lighter back into my purse and go in with him to see the doctor.

"I want to reassure you," the doctor said, "that while a positive response means you are definitely pregnant, a negative one might only mean it's too early to tell. You can always come back in two weeks, and we'll check again."

I looked closely at her to make sure that she was still speaking English. Was she actually saying that a negative response still didn't mean I was in the clear? That I might have to come back and cause another Bunny Murder, only to find out I really am knocked up anyway?!

"Fortunately, it looks like we don't have to worry about that," she continued, looking at the papers in her hand. Then she smiled widely at us. "Congratulations!"

All I could think was that I should have had that last damned cigarette after all.
Nikki bit in at 10:44 PM :: ::
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

turning Japanese
I really don't think so. Here's what happened: the Japan Foundation contacted me on the basis of some of my comics work, as part of their quest to recruit people for their symposium on Asian Women Cartoonists. I tried to tell them I was not an artist-- being, in fact, graphically crippled-- but they said (and I quote) "Its okay if... only writer." (Gee, thanks a LOT, Japanese Foundation!)

So this morning, Dean and I taxi'd over to the Japan Foundation office in Makati, where we sat around for two hours listening to why it's our responsibility to produce and promote manga "for the children", before finally finding out that they were, in fact, looking for Asian Women Cartoonists to join their symposium, and had no real use for a couple of writers, one of them profoundly male, even.

It was one of the most boring experiences of my recent life, and I was on the verge of attacking someone for dragging me out of bed at the crack of nine for nothing more than not-very-good green tea, except that I was afraid they might have a mecha hidden in the basement or something.

Yay, me!
I've finished my script for the secret project 100 that I'm working on with some of my guys. Hopefully, my editors will give it the go signal. (I am married to one of them, but so far he has proven generally immune to nepotism or even bribes of sexual favors. What is this world coming to?!)

Post-Partum Digression: part 2 of an 11-part essay

The First Month

It was with some surprise, then, that I looked one day at my calendar and noticed that it was just about time for me to go out and buy a new batch of birth control pills. Being a person naturally disposed to orderliness, it was my habit to note down in my Filofax the exact date when I should buy more pills so I could start taking them again on the fifth day of my period, as indicated.

Except that, based on empirical evidence, it was not anywhere near the fifth day of my period. In fact, my monthly visitor, usually as regular as an American postman (‘Neither snow, nor rain, nor…’), was conspicuously absent from my proverbial doorstep.

Ehh, big deal, I figured. Regular or not, a girl doesn’t go through eleven years of, well, ‘practicing’ without experiencing the occasional false alarm. I’d give it a week, I decided. Two weeks, tops, then I’d worry.

Three weeks of denial later, I was sitting in our bathroom, waiting for results from the two home pregnancy tests I’d picked up at the local pharmacy. Out of the plethora of kits available, I’d chosen one made in the States and one from France, reasoning that while the Americans were generally advanced scientifically, the French, on the other hand, could be relied upon to know all about matters pertaining to the sexual. Therefore between the two, I imagined, I would be able to arrive at a reliable consensus.

So I dutifully held each test in turn under my urine stream (surprisingly not as easy as it sounds), and waited for either two pink lines (indicating a negative response for both kits) or two blue ones (indicating Time to Freak Husband Out). Instead I got a typically Gallic response from the French kit—a purple smudge, which I could only interpret to mean comme ci, comme ca. The U.S. result, however, was much less blasé: an unequivocal sapphire blue line.

Reason enough, I decided, to Freak Husband Out. “We need to talk,” I told him. He was then playing Diablo II on our PC in the living room.

“Okay, just a sec,” Dean said, and, pausing his game, turned to give me his full attention.

I couldn’t think of a single gentle way to do it. “It’s possible that we may be pregnant,” I announced bluntly, holding out the test results.

He stared at me for a long while, then opened his mouth. Closed it. Stumbled up from his chair, fumbled for a cigarette, lit it.

“Jesus Christ,” he said finally. “Jesus Christ. I thought you were going to give me advice on how to beat Diablo.”
Nikki bit in at 10:35 PM :: ::
Monday, September 15, 2003

a change in Destiny

Naturally, now that my husband has told lousy service provider Destiny Cable to cut off our Internet connection, said connection has miraculously improved. So I'm online again... for as long as it lasts.

poor composition

I attended Carl's lecture on comics paneling and composition last Saturday, and was horrified! Not that the lecture was bad-- it was terrific-- but at the stunning revelation that I've been a very irresponsible comics scriptwriter all this time. I go around dictating splash pages when they're not really needed, and close-ups whenever I happen to feel like it. Well, who knew there had to be a reason? (Well, probably y'all did... you could've said something!) Visual flow is not one of my strong points, but that's no excuse. I will do better from now on.

yes, that is an essay below, and not a novel segment
What can I say? Still swamped with projects, so I'm publishing this essay I found lying around my files instead. Hopefully it will have the desired placebo effect...

Post-Partum Digression: an essay in eleven parts

The year 2001 B.C. (Before Conception)

We had gotten to the point where we’d started telling people that my husband Dean was sterile.

This was completely untrue (as manifested by my mountain of drugstore receipts for contraceptives), but it was the only surefire way of shutting up the ever-expanding circle of well-meaning but increasingly impudent friends and acquaintances who seemed to feel it their God-given duty to convince us to have a child. “You’ve been married forever,” they would say. “Wala pa ba kayong balak?” ("Don't you have any plans?")

Rational explanations proved fruitless. Financial concerns, emotional unreadiness, and just plain selfishness on our part were all brushed aside as insufficient—if not downright inconsequential—reasons. Particularly memorable was this spectacular bit of illogic one woman offered my husband: “Matangkad ka naman, maganda ang asawa mo,” she told him. “Ano pang hinihintay niyo?” ("You're tall, your wife is pretty, what are you waiting for?")

And as we reached the midpoint in our sixth year of wedded—albeit childless—bliss, the comedians among our pundits picked up a new refrain: “Are you guys sure you know what you’re doing?”

Well, we do practice, I would tell them, with a straight face. We practice allll the time…
Nikki bit in at 5:35 PM :: ::
Sunday, September 14, 2003

My Destiny sucks.

I feel awful that I haven't updated in forever, but my internet connection has gone lunatic (available only from about 2 to 2:05 in the wee hours of the morning), and the nearby net cafe is an experience roughly analogous to at least the fifth circle of hell. I am writing in it this minute; and the imps of online gaming-- in collaboration with the succubi of singles chatting-- are relentlessly annihilating my very soul with their clueless cacophony...

So. Dean and I are planning to rectify the situation by ditching our pathetic service provider Destiny Cable, and switching to something that works. Till then, though, I'll just have to suffer the shame and despair of being unconnected in a digital age. (whimper, whimper, whine, whine... snarl)

But I'll be back. One of these weeks. So I'll seeya then.
Nikki bit in at 4:44 PM :: ::
Wednesday, September 03, 2003


Okay, my comment script is working again. Sorry to everyone who posted comments, and were unable to see them for the longest time, and therefore felt obliged to post the same comments over and over and over again…

Geez. And here I thought my readership had somehow grown exponentially overnight! :P

Sorry, Rickey!

And anyone else who may seriously be following my novel-in-progress. I know it’s been several days since the last installment, but there are a few other projects that have cropped up—with more immediate deadlines, meaning I have to deal with them first. But I promise at least one new segment this week.

cinema purgatorio

Well, actually, Pirates of the Caribbean wasn’t that bad. ‘Course, it wasn’t that good, either, despite the valiant attempts of Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightly to make sense of an altogether too-busy script. At least the attractive cast made it fun to look at… I suppose I should have known better than to watch a movie based on an amusement park ride.

Probably because of the box-office success of Pirates, the next Disney offering is slated to be The Haunted Mansion, again based on a popular Disneyland attraction. What’s next, The Tiki-Tiki Room?
Nikki bit in at 1:11 PM :: ::
Monday, September 01, 2003

Dean's pentad at the Pen

My husband and I are going to the Manila Peninsula tonight, where he'll be receiving his fifth Palanca award. (Isn't he terribly talented? And good-looking, to boot!) I used to think these affairs were something like the Oscars, where awardees would be allotted some time to talk about their writing and thank the people who have helped them in some way (especially devoted wives), but no such luck. It's actually kind of like a graduation, where you go up on stage, get your certificate, shake hands with the appropriate people, and sit back down. But the food is generally good, plus I get to watch some of the creme de la creme of Philippine literati being humble (because there's always somebody who has more awards than you do!).

Hopefully, we'll run into fellow Comic Quest hanger-outer (and two-time Palanca veteran and judge) Ruey de Vera, and meet comics buddy Honoel Ibardaloza, who'll be picking up his own Palanca #2. We've never actually met Honoel in person, but possibly some weird psychic connection will allow us to find each other somehow.
Nikki bit in at 3:21 PM :: ::
Double-click a word on this page to learn what it means.
                surf                 email



Philippine Sites




creative commons

Contrary to what the disclaimer says, you can ask me to design or revamp your blog, but there is a small associated fee.

This site is prettiest if you set your monitor resolution to 1024 by 768... but I won't hold it against you if you don't. Honest.


illustration by El

Nikki Alfar is really not as sexy as El's illustration would have you believe... but she doesn't mind if you think of her that way.
My Photo
Location: Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines

class act/guttersnipe. tomboy/girly-girl. serious writer/comics hack. wife & mom/tart & tease. obssessive-compulsive/laid-back. sweetheart/bitch. all that.

shelf life

books, beauty, buzz

weather nixie


Who Links Here