Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Thursday, September 29, 2005

Stand by You

Okay, I don’t mean to diss the no-doubt-perfectly-nice fella who posted the phrase on my tagboard; but what is this thing with people constantly prefacing or ending their comments—whether written or spoken—with the mantra “wala lang”? What does it mean?

Awright, technically I know what it means. (Even I am not that ignorant of my native tongue.) But what do we mean by it? (… is what I mean. You know what I mean.) Are we trying to say, “Hey, look, I’m sorta saying this, but not really”? Is it some sort of Wizard of Oz invocation: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”?

It just reminds me of my former pet peeve phrases, “Not for anything, ha…” and “In fairness…” While I certainly applaud the pursuit of fairness as an ideal, I don’t think that that’s really what these phrases are meant to accomplish. I think they are intended to serve as disclaimers.

Now, I understand that disclaimers have their place and their purpose. (Heck, I have one on this very blog—I even started this post out with one!) Perhaps we just don’t want to offend anyone, or we’re afraid of being misconstrued. But how have we become so habitually unable to just come out and say whatever it is we have to say? Why do we feel the need to metaphorically post a warning that says, in effect, “Yeah, okay, I’m saying this, but it’s not because I mean it or mean anything by it or intend you to actually infer meaning from it”?

This probably sounds funny coming from me—I’m the person who goes around literally slapping her friends’ wrists for saying the N word instead of the word “black”—but come on, people! Refraining from verbal bigotry is one thing, attaching escape clauses to a simple greeting or personal anecdote is another—and to me, really quite troubling—matter entirely.

When did we become so afraid to stand up and mean what we say?

And when are we gonna get our balls back?
Nikki bit in at 2:11 AM :: ::
Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Lola Ging and the Crispa Redmanizers

(part 4 of a 5-part short story)

Like Tony, the twins, too, were victims of a vehicular mishap. They had decided to conduct a pulse-pounding bicycle race across the flat roof of our house (“And when did you acquire the delusion that you were circus performers?!” my mother demanded of them at the hospital) and ended up pedaling their way to the local emergency room. Charlie had broken his good right arm and Manny, his left leg. These had snapped in such an alarmingly innovative way that the doctors warned my apoplectic parents that the boys might never recover the full use of their afflicted limbs.

“Good, it serves you right!” our mother yelled at them, and promptly burst into disconsolate tears. Lola Ging, of course, did not weep, but instead set to work the following Monday, once my parents had left the house for their respective workplaces. She summoned the helpers to fetch the twisted remains of my brothers’ traitorous conveyances, from which she scraped the dirt on the tires, picked up from the surface of our all-too-slippery rooftop. This she blended with holy water that she had sent me to wheedle out of our befuddled but obliging neighborhood priest, creating a muddy concoction that she then smeared on the twins’ casts (over much protest from them, in stereo) and her own aging but sturdy limbs. Since the culpable dirt was now blessed, she explained, she would compel it to perform atonement by transferring some of the health from her arms and legs to those of the twins.

After many weeks of this sacred spa treatment (coupled with a cleansing ritual involving a solution of mundane water and bleach just before my parents came home each day), Charlie and Manny recovered completely from their respective injuries, neither significantly worse for wear. But I was not the only one who noticed that, on rainy days thereafter, Lola would sometimes walk with a barely-perceptible limp, and gingerly flex her right arm when she thought no one was looking. She attributed this behavior to increasing age and worsening arthritis whenever the subject was broached.

Lola Ging was indeed getting older. She had taken to dyeing her hair a light-absorbing shade of absolute black; and I suspected that she would always be indignantly disappointed that the Crispa Redmanizers had ceased to exist as a team when their sponsor company had folded—while their long-time bitter rivals, Toyota, continued to survive and thrive.

As for me, never quite as intrepid or accident-prone as my siblings, Lola helped me in a quite different way. I was getting older, too—at fifteen, my adolescent angst manifested in a vague but urgent sense of desperation for a boyfriend or at least some semblance of a notion of what I was going to do with the rest of my life. So Lola Ging taught me to cook—her way, broiling meat and baking pastry with the fire of multi-purpose pagan/shaman/Christian religious conviction.

Lola,” I said to her, dragged unwillingly into the kitchen after a lifetime of being unable to so much as fry bacon, “this is the 20th century, you know. If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then he’s not the man for me.”

“To make perfect crepes the way your mommy likes them,” she dictated, blithely ignoring me, “you must keep the batter in the pan for no longer than one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be. Then you put it in the plate; add too much cream and mangoes; and shake on very, very little confectioner’s sugar. Then you are finished and your soul is saved from Purgatory at the same time.”

I remember staring perplexedly at the stove, trying to determine how to convert this culinary catechism to the seconds or minutes commonly used by the other 98% of the global population. Ancient or not, Lola Ging could have been the world champion at Rapid Rosary Recitation, if they had ever held the Olympics at the Vatican. It was almost dizzying, listening to her intone the mysteries at velocities approaching Mach 1: “HAIL-Mary-fool-of-grace-the-Lord-is-WITH-you-blessed-are-you-among-WEEMEN-and-blessed-is-the-fruit-of-your-womb-JEESSOUS…”

I was more than old enough by then to wonder if the Blessed Virgin—who was not, as it turned out, a god herself and therefore not omnipotent—could possibly understand what Lola was saying. Certainly there were times when I had trouble myself; it had only been during my confirmation ceremony a few years earlier that I had learned that the Act of Contrition did not, in fact, go: “Oh, my God, I am partly sorry for having offended thee” or “Oh my God, I am hardly sorry for having offended thee.” This resolved a rather troubling issue for me, as I had always considered it rather a disrespectful way to petition my Creator for forgiveness.

But I could not argue that Lola Ging certainly had more experience with such matters than I did, nor with the fact that she had evidently discerned and effectively alleviated my then-growing confusion as to the eventual direction of my life. It was over the course of our curiously Catholic cooking sessions that I discovered, with some astonishment, that I wanted to become a chef. That was how my own personal, rather sedate road to Damascus ended up leading me to London after high school, studying at Le Cordon Bleu to pursue my divinely-revealed dream.

And that was why I wasn’t there when Lola Ging died peacefully in her sleep in our once-shared bedroom, at the admittedly ripe age of ninety-four years and seven months old.

(to be concluded...?)

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Nikki bit in at 11:37 PM :: ::
Friday, September 23, 2005

Love in Small Degrees

Every morning, regardless of the current state of our perennially-insufficient cigarette supply, Dean makes sure to leave me at least one stick for when I wake up (groggy and nicotine-starved, usually well after he’s left the house). You probably have to be a smoker to truly appreciate that this is love.

Love, actually--to quote Hugh Grant from that sappy movie of the same name--is all around us. Hollywood (Didja see how I snuck that contrast/reinforcement technique in?) has conditioned us to only acknowledge love in the form of Grand Gestures--the humongous bouquets of flowers, the impassioned balcony speeches in the pouring rain, the surprise gown-and-jewelry combo ala Pretty Woman. And so we--poor, credulous saps--believe that if it ain't high drama, enormous expense, button-bustin' lust, and an ESP-level "connection", then maybe it isn't love. Or at least not love "as it should be".

Look: there's passion, there's lust, there's like, and there's love. Once in a while, these will actually all come together at the same time, and there you have a True Hollywood Moment. Now presumably it is possible to have a romantic life chock-full of Hollywood Moments--I figure Elizabeth Taylor managed to do it; she just needed nine or ten different guys to get it done. Folks, in real-life, lasting love is not a matter of Hollywood Moments and special occasions like Valentine's Day--it's about every day, in little ways.


1. cigarette The fact is, I stay home with our daughter and helper at our condo while Dean goes out to do his regular juggling act with his assorted companies. I could therefore be expected to wait a few lousy minutes while said helper goes downstairs to buy me a pack of Marlboros; instead, my husband sometimes foregoes a morning smoke himself so that I can have one. And I've never thanked him for it, and I really should. (I try to make it a point to thank him for the little things as well as the big ones--taking me out to dinner, holding my chair, that kind of thing.)

2. chicken Dean adores Kentucky Fried Chicken, to the point where I once got heartily sick of the stuff. (I think he has some fantasy about me in a tub of gravy, but that's not what we're talking about.) However, I do like chicken skin as much as any sane human being who comprehends that it is very nearly the whole point of fried chicken. But on the occasions when I actually agree to have KFC for a meal, I make it a point to give him a hearty swathe of my chicken skin--because I may like the stuff, but he loves it. (Possibly he would give it a gown and jewels if he thought it would appreciate that...) He, on the other hand, thinks that pizza is "not real food", but will occasionally propose that we order some in, simply because he knows I could happily eat pizza for days on end.

3. chair There is really only one comfortable chair in Vin's comic shop, and it is somehow inexplicably understood that Dean and I get automatic dibs whenever we drop by to visit (summarily displacing Vin himself, which probably proves that he is more loving than all the rest of us combined). Who gets there first gets the chair, usually--but Dean will give it up to me if my back hurts, and I will give it up to him if I know he's had a bad or tiring day.

4. child Every night, I read Sage a series (anywhere from two to five) of bedtime stories, and every week or so, my own mother calls me long-distance from the States. I usually enjoy the former and dread the latter--although I know in my head that calling to caution me on all the Woes of the World is my mother's way of expressing her love. When I'm chasing a deadline or just need time not to be someone's child or mommy, however, Dean somehow manages to sense this in time to step in and take over for me. In the case of the phone call, this is not just love; it's fekkin' heroism.

5. cleansing The main reason I do all my copywriting from home is that I like being able to work in my jammies. Left to my own devices, I'd probably take my daily bath just before I sleep. Since I live with my husband and love him, however, I try to be freshly bathed, fragrant, pretty, and preferably slightly damp just as he arrives from work. I religiously bathe again just before bed and slather the ol' moisturizer on for generally the same reason: I want him to always wake up and come home to someone pretty (well, aside from Sage, who needs no such rituals). Not because I'm trying to "keep him from straying", but just because I think it's the least he deserves, really. On his part, he lies to me agreeably and pretends to see a huge difference whenever I indicate particular satisfaction with the current brand of moisturizer, lipstick, or what-have-you.

See? Love is made of moments, and they don't always need to be big ones. Grand Gestures are often premeditated and intricately orchestrated--and don't we just love them precisely because of that?--but it's the small moments that you know are real moments.

Very few people actually live in Hollywood, you know. And even fewer of them live in love for long.
Nikki bit in at 2:39 PM :: ::
Thursday, September 22, 2005


Once again, it's time to congratulate the winners of the Annual Stella Awards. The Stellas are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck, who spilled coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonald's. That case inspired the Stella Awards for the most frivolous successful lawsuits in the United States.

7th Place
Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after she broke her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running amok inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering that the misbehaving tyke was Ms. Robertson's son.

6th place
19-year-old Carl Truman of Los Angeles, California won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently did not notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal the hubcaps.

5th place
Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania was leaving a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up since the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He could not reenter the house because the door connecting the house and garage had locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation and Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found and a large bag of dry dog food. He sued the homeowners' insurance company, claiming the situation had caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed, to the tune of $500,000.

4th place
Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next-door neighbor's dog. The beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. The award was less than what was sought because the jury felt the dog might have been a little provoked at the time, as Mr. Williams, who had climbed over the fence into the yard, was shooting the beagle repeatedly with a pellet gun.

3rd place
A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania $113,500, after she slipped on some soda & broke her tailbone. The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

2nd place
Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a night club in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out two of her front teeth. This occurred while Ms. Walton was trying to crawl through the window in the ladies room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses.

1st place
This year's winner was Mr. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mr. Grazinski had purchased a brand new Winnebago motor home. On his trip home from a football game, having driven onto the freeway, he set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go into the back and make himself a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed, and then overturned. Mr. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not advising him, via the owner's manual, that he actually could not do this. The jury awarded him $1,750,000 plus a new Winnebago motor home. The company changed their manuals on the basis of this suit just in case there were any other complete morons buying their recreation vehicles.
Thanks go out to my adored stepfather for providing this amusing information while I'm busy chasing copywriting deadlines like a cat on a hot tin roof. (I know it's Streetcar where Stanley yells, "Stella!", but you get my point, right?)
Nikki bit in at 2:58 AM :: ::
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Work for Peanuts!

I'm actually referring to that guy over at the Peanut Gallery blog. Dean says:
Kestrel IMC, my integrated marketing communications company, is in the process of hiring designers. Our client list includes Levi's, Dockers, Level Up! Games, Purefoods, Globe, San Miguel, Tagaytay Highlands, SM, and more.

We're looking for smart, talented people who have great visual and design sensibilities, who can use the standard suite of design programs (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc), and are willing to try their hand at a variety of projects.

Slots available: Junior Designer, Senior Designer. What does that mean? Well, in simple terms--little experience, very experienced.

Interested people can email me for details/schedule a portfolio review at this address:
Don't worry, he won't really pay you peanuts. I can tell you objectively he happens to be a great boss--unless you happen to be his wife, in which case he will occasionally cajole you into doing projects for the price of dinner.

But there are no openings for the "wife" position at the present time.
Nikki bit in at 1:59 PM :: ::

Lola Ging and the Crispa Redmanizers

(part 3 of a 5-part short story)

Although my own blind faith in Lola’s inviolability lessened predictably over the years, I was still willing to afford her the benefit of the doubt throughout my adolescence, given the implausible yet overwhelming wealth of repeatedly-occurring supporting evidence.

When my eldest brother Tony turned eighteen at last and claimed his driver’s license at the earliest possible opportunity, Lola insisted that his first trip should be to the grocery store, where she claimed that she had to pick up several inestimably crucial household items. This in itself was highly unusual, as Lola Ging usually went to the grocery only on the first of each month, commandeering a veritable fleet of household helpers in order to amass the preferred foods, supplies, and cleaning materials needed to sustain a home of eight family members and sundry. On this occasion, in contrast, not only did she unaccountably run out of Tide detergent in the very middle of the month, she averred that she required no assistance whatsoever to pick up the multitude of things that were so sorely needed from South Supermarket.

Regardless, Tony was so exhilarated at the chance to demonstrate his new skill and privilege that he instantly agreed; indeed, he drove several times around the block instead of simply parking to wait for Lola to emerge from the store with the predictable assortment of bags and bag boys. The pair of them had traveled nearly three-quarters of the way back home when, quite without fanfare, orange-yellow flames erupted from underneath the hood of our once-trusty family station wagon.

With admirable speed and presence of mind, Tony immediately stepped on the brakes; shouted, “Lola, get out of the car!”; and ran for his barely-begun life—only to turn around, several meters away, and discover that Lola Ging was still seated placidly in the passenger’s seat, rolling her latest rosary between her fingers with maddeningly methodical calm. Gathering all his resolve, courage, and sense of familial love and duty, Tony gritted his teeth and turned back with the intent of dragging our recalcitrant grand-aunt out of the potentially-explosive vehicle.

As soon had he taken hold of her obstinate arm, however, the offending hood of the inflammable car promptly blew off and catapulted through the air, landing with an ominous thump in the precise spot where Tony had been standing just seconds prior, thinking himself out of harm’s way. “Lola!” Tony scolded her later, still exasperated although neither of them had been so much as scratched. “Why didn’t you get out when I told you? You could have been killed!”

“I knew that God would watch over me,” Lola told him, completely unperturbed. “So I stayed still to remind Him to take care of you also, because it is sin verguenza to address the Lord while running about like a chicken.”

My second-eldest brother Gene was the wild one in the family. In fact, he had taught himself to drive at the age of twelve, and only we kids and Lola Ging knew that he would sometimes switch seats with the family driver and drive us all home at the end of school days. By the time he was in his senior year of high school, he drank, smoked, habitually cut classes, and had so many girlfriends at the same time that the inner door of his closet was covered with graffiti charts of whom he had dated, how often, and whether or not he had already professed to love them.

It was therefore a great surprise to everyone when Gene suddenly opted to take college at the Philippine Military Academy—voluntarily shaving his head, donning the PMA uniform, and subjecting himself to the myriad hardships of cadet life in the far-off Baguio campus. “Excuse me, cadet,” Lola Ging said, when we were finally permitted to visit; tapping the shoulder of a random sunburned, emaciated, and bald young man in uniform. “I am looking for Cadet Eugene Arambulo.”

Lola, it’s me,” said Gene, smiling with mingled amusement and fondness.

Dios por dios, Eugene, what has happened to you?!” Lola cried out in horror, and proceeded to stuff him with fattening lugaw the instant she managed to get a moment with him in private.

With the exception of Lola Ging, we were all surprised still further when Gene simply disappeared from campus towards the end of his freshman year. Even Lola was mystified as to his whereabouts—although, unlike my panic-stricken mother, she was certain that Gene was fine and simply up to no good, as usual. “Once a rascal, always a rascal,” she pronounced direly; and took one of his old t-shirts, lit it with a votive candle purloined from our parish church, and proceeded to burn it in our bedroom.

Our shared bedroom was truly an outlandish place of worship—festooned with posters of floppy-haired, come-hither teen idols on one side, and dominated by a massive altar overpopulated with saints, dried everlasting flowers, and dewy-eyed Santo Niños on the other. On the best of days, it was not the most spacious of chambers; and on that evening I awoke from sleep on the verge of imminent asphyxiation from smoke inhalation. Teary-eyed, I stumbled across the room to throw the door open, and accidentally bumped my hip against my little bookshelf, knocking one of my old school yearbooks to the floor.

The book fell open—by what certainly seemed like sheer happenstance—to my brother Gene’s sophomore class photo; and Lola peered at the book through the smoke, nodded sagely, and said with a sniff, “For once, at least, he has gone to the library of his own choosing.” And it turned out that he had in fact been hiding in the ceiling of the PMA library, living on packets of crackers and Cow Label dried beef until he had judged that the search for him had died down enough to allow him to truly effect his escape. (“I guess I’m just not the military type after all,” Gene decided later; for a change, he was the only one surprised by this revelation.)

(to be continued next Tuesday)

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Nikki bit in at 1:38 PM :: ::
Friday, September 16, 2005

The Engrish Languish

The current task that takes up about twelve hours of my day every day is translating an upcoming Korean-made computer game from "Engrish" to English. It's mind-numbing work, although replete with moments of disbelieving hilarity that, sadly, I cannot share with y'all due to the terms of our implicit non-disclosure agreement. As I snicker at the Koreanovela-class original text, however, I realize that I am, sadly, throwing stones in a glass house--i.e., the Philippines.

If I were more the litigious type, I should really sue our entire country for the obnoxious amount I am forced to spend on facial moisturizer--because I go around Metro Manila wincing all the time, assaulted by the preponderance of wholesale linguistic abuse glaringly displayed via an assortment of public media.

Some of the more offensive specimens--

on a billboard along Buendia:
"Watch every exciting details unfolds!"
K8 and me am so exciteds by these!

outside a bank in Pasig:
"This promises are protected by a security systems."
It's nice that we can feel secure about their promises, but what about the premises?

on a shop sign in Manila:
"We repaired hardwares, appliances, keys, and all kind of luck."
It's too bad that they've apparently stopped doing repair work, because my luck could sure use an overhaul from time to time.

Yes, I know that I am a language snob--in fact, I embrace it; and yesterday, I absolutely proved it.

This guy came up to me as I was walking down the street. Now normally, I do not entertain people coming up to me for a handout--not since the lady in the Podium parking lot who asked me for financial help to go home to Paranaque with her children, and was still there three weeks later! So I was all set to breeze past this reasonably-dressed but suspiciously swarthy guy, when he said, "Excuse me, may I please trouble you for some assistance?"

He then proceeded to explain, in perfect English, that he had travelled from Bulacan to visit a friend at the nearby Jollibee building, only to discover that the friend no longer worked there and no one knew how she might be contacted. To make matters worse, my guy claimed, his wallet and cell phone had been subsequently stolen. "Please understand," he said, "I'm mortified at having to do this, but I don't know how else I'm going to get home."

Believe me, I know that this was very probably the same scam enacted earlier by the Paranaque lady with the appealingly pitiful children, only more genteelly executed. But what can I say? In Popeye's words, I yam what I yam--and to me, the delight of encountering good grammar in the most unexpected of situations is worth a lousy hundred bucks.

And on the slim chance that it was, in fact, sincere, then I hope you got home safe and sound, my admirably oratorical acquaintance.
And as I bemoan the grammatical paucity of my beloved home, I am comfortingly reminded that Manila has its wonders as well as its woes. Check out my friend Carlos's blog--or better yet, try one of his "performance tours"--to see our city in a new, yet ancient light. Dean and I plan to go as soon as the battle with Engrish permits.
Nikki bit in at 2:44 PM :: ::
Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Lola Ging and the Crispa Redmanizers

(part 2 of a 5-part short story)

She was not actually my grandmother—rather, she was a distant cousin of my mother’s late mother, and had come to help my parents out when my mother had unexpectedly given birth to twins, resulting in a household graced or cursed with no less than four rambunctious boys under the age of five. The principal of the school in which Lola then worked had strenuously objected to her abrupt midterm departure, but my mother was her favorite not-quite-niece and Lola Ging would not be dissuaded. She had not been particularly concerned over the administrator’s “You’ll-never-work-in-this-town-again” wrath, since she and her sister had inherited a flourishing tobacco plantation in their home province, and could thus actually live in perfect comfort without pulling in a salary. (Which Lola Den-den did, unless you counted running mah jong games out of her lanai six nights a week.)

Not long after the twins’ surprising birth, however, some uncouth rebel soldiers expanded their territory to quite impolitely include Lola Ging’s ancestral lands. Abruptly bereft of both home and income, Lola nevertheless offered to move in with her sister once acceptable yayas had been secured for all the boys, but of course my parents would not hear of it. So by the time I was conceived (once again surprising my over-amorous parents, but utterly delighting Lola: “We will have a full team!” she cried), she had firmly established herself as the family authority on all matters spiritual, logistical, and dietary.

When the five of us kids had exams at school, we were forbidden to eat eggs in any form, as the Holy Spirit had pointed out to her that the oval shape of eggs, when taken into our bodies, would naturally result in a test score of zero across the board. She tyrannically decreed that our beds were never to be arranged pointing toward our bedroom doors, since this would provide a clear path that was certain to be followed by the insatiable Angel of Death, who apparently would have liked nothing better than to populate paradise with the pure souls of more-or-less innocent children. And she sternly compelled me to eat every last spoonful of rice on my plate, as neglecting a single grain would be a sinful excess that might just induce God to punish me by forcing me to endure my next life as a chicken—pathetically scratching at the ground for any stray bit of rice thoughtlessly discarded by wastrel girls like me.

That reincarnation was hardly a tenet of Roman Catholic doctrine bothered neither Lola nor me one iota. She was convinced that her peculiar blend of folk remedies, superstitious dread, and pseudo-Christian dogma was precisely what the Lord Jesus had intended when He set His omniscient hand upon St. Peter and declared him the rock of His Church. “We are Christ’s followers,” she said repeatedly. “He can walk on water just to show off; why should we not also exercise faith to make our lives better?”

(to be continued next Tuesday!)

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Nikki bit in at 2:12 AM :: ::
Monday, September 12, 2005


I can only assume that y'all killed my virtual fighting fish by overfeeding it, as I haven't seen the poor thing on my monitor in a couple of weeks now. I would not have thought a pixel piscene could perish from obesity, but there ya go, you learn something new every day, yeah?

So I'm replacing the unfortunately deceased Petty the Pet (Oh, the tragedy!) with my new WeatherPixie, which I call a "WeatherNixie" because she sort of looks like me. But of course we can't really call her a nixie because we all know that a nixie is a kind of water sprite, and obviously she's not a water sprite because she's all bipedal and oh, look, here I go obsessing on my folkloric details again and you really don't give a good goddamn, do you?

Anyway, WeatherNixie will tell you all sorts of details you don't really care about--like wind speed, air pressure, and so on--as well as the most important thing you need to know about Manila weather, i.e., what to wear. (Her clothes and background change depending on the local climate.) Sure, you call me shallow now, but when you're wearing boots in the pouring rain and sneering at all the unfortunates caught outdoors in flip-flops, you will thank me and WeatherNixie for saving your toesies from floodwater filth.

Also, I've joined the crusade against spam. Do visit the Spam Poison website and pick up one of their nifty links that help foil those schmucks who insistently offer us ungrammatically-touted larger penises, inheritances from unknown South African relatives, spurious stocks, larcenous loans, and more copious ejaculations. Honestly, I may not have a penis, but I really feel my balls are quite big enough as is.

Though, you know, if they told me the fighting fish had left me an inheritance, I might look into it...
Nikki bit in at 2:57 PM :: ::
Saturday, September 10, 2005

Viewing Pleasure

Yes, viewing Jay-R is a pleasure all on its own (Ain't it, though, ladies?), but really, I'm not just talking about him. I'm smugly telling you that Dean and I got to watch Footloose: the Musical today, courtesy of my very generous friend Oliver, who was kind enough to reserve us a couple of tickets for the press showing.

Now I had of course seen singer/dancer Jay-R before now (most notably in those ubiquitous Sun Cellular ads), but although I found him good-looking, I honestly didn't get what all the fuss was about till now.

The man can move. When you see him live, dancing with this somehow seamless harmony of energy and fluidity, you suddenly have an understanding of what masculine grace is all about. And he makes it look not just effortless, but completely natural, as if when he gets out of bed every morning he just has to do a little quick-step or he'd never make it to the bathroom any other way.

And he can sing. And he can actually act. And he just has this presence, this ineffable charisma and sheer likeability. Which is why I've officially gone from, "Okay, he's kinda cute, but how many times are they gonna show that ad?" to "Ooohh, Sun Cellular, let's watch!"

Ahem. Aside from Jay-R (Gasp! You mean there were other people in the cast?!), Audie Gemora, as the sorta-villain Reverend Moore, was terrific as he has always been; but Agot Isidro also surprised me with her quiet grace and strength as the reverend's wife (even managing to overcome the fact that she is clearly too young for the part). She actually drove me to tears, although mostly that was because I was so clearly envisioning myself in the same position 12 years or so in the future, trying vainly to mediate between my feuding husband and daughter.

A couple of the new songs in the play (as opposed to the movie version) were pretty cool, like the duet by the two mothers and the kickass "biblical" rap. But others just didn't mesh as well with the original soundtrack, seeming too Broadway in contrast with the overall rock sound. I also thought the stage direction was a touch messy, and both the choreography and the leading lady could have kicked it up a notch.

These things aside, though, I thought Footloose was a blast, and highly recommend it if you've a taste for musical theater.

If you're more of a cinema type, then you totally must see The Brothers Grimm, which Dean and I watched and loved last yesterday afternoon. To describe the plot would be a bit of a disservice, I feel, so let's just say it's one of the best movies I've seen all year--superb casting, acting, writing, styling, the works. Matt Damon continues to belie his cherubic looks with his admirable thespian restraint, and Heath Ledger was so good in his nebbishy role (as opposed to his macho performance in A Knight's Tale) that Dean refused to believe it was him until the ending credits rolled. Of course, you may know that I'm a fairy tale-lovin' nutcase, but even those with less of an obsession with folklore ought to enjoy this as a wholly-satisfying fantasy-adventure flick.

I don't think I've enjoyed a "buddy movie" this much since Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Which was about Shakespeare. Which--sigh--demonstrates yet again what a nerd I truly am.
Did you know...?
The first time I ever saw Dean (prior to actually meeting him) was in a play. He played an old guy marked for death in a Repertory Philippines production of Arsenic and Old Lace. He was all covered in wrinkle-makeup at the time, so how was I to know that one day I would find him hotter than Jay-R? (Hey, my husband can sing, dance, act, and write, ya know!)
Nikki bit in at 7:02 PM :: ::
Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Around the Blogosphere

Cathy's new blog design is up! Cathy is my "ringmate" (pretty sure that's not actually a word) from the Slinging Ink writers' webring, and she's actually had this layout in her head for some time; she just didn't know how to implement it. So she emailed Your Friendly Neighborhood Me, and voila! Here's a brand-new blog design I'd probably never have come up with myself (because pink as a primary part of the color scheme wouldn't occur to me), but it came out pretty nifty: feminine, elegant, breezy. I'd actually been wanting to do a blog basically defined by typography for some time, and Cathy provided the perfect opportunity to try it. She also paid me, like, two minutes after I told her I was done, and was thoroughly a gem to work with in every way. Thanks, Cathy!

I've added a couple of blogs to my links list, having managed to track down two of the new friends Dean and I made at the Palanca awards. Alvin shared our table (and lots of laughs) that evening, while we bonded with Lilit over cigarettes and my envious admiration of his kickass coat. In particular, you must read Lilit's post, "Tagalog Unleashed", which is like a love song of sorts to the Filipino language, and which really makes me wish I could both speak and understand it better. To me, it's just words, sometimes even just syllables I have to struggle to make sense of--to him, it's music:
Kumikinang, kumukuti-kutitap, bumubusi-busilak" Shining, glittering cacophony of phonetics. How lovely the Filipino language can be. Every consonant and a generous usage of vowels make the language have an inherent meter, melody, and most of all, audio-visual imagery. Think "sumasagitsit" or "kumakalansing" or "lumalangitngit". No amount of sound effect can capture these audal references successfully communicated with a word.

Imagine spherical objects like "betlog" or "itlog," ending your mouth formation and tongue movement with a solid circular thud. Titillate with syllables to make copulation more vulgar and graphic. Your mouth should churn out "kumakantot," "kinakasta" or add another dimension of opportunism by saying "kinakana."

Emphasize with repetition, then you have the lilting effect of "nagmumuni-muni", or for trying to say intermittent to describe the rain... then it's "manaka-naka"... as if the rains have invited the frogs to come out with that word.
Is that cool or what? And isn't it tragic that I understood barely half of the words he was exalting? Even so (and despite the fact that--ugh--frogs are mentioned), you should read the whole post here.

Over at Slap Happy, Anton is celebrating his blog's first-year anniversary. If you visit my blog looking for a laugh, then drop by Anton's to say congratulations, then stick around for a chortle or two.

And lastly but mostly, Vin has put out an open call for his dragon anthology. Vin is a multi-awarded writer/editor/publisher who is, somewhat perplexingly, also one of the nicest guys in the known universe; so if you'd like to throw your hat in the draconic ring (I will, assuming I can find the time...), check out the brief here. (Making puppy eyes at him may help your chances of acceptance; heck, it always works when I want a discount on comic books!)
Nikki bit in at 2:06 PM :: ::
Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Lola Ging and the Crispa Redmanizers

(part 1 of a 5-part short story)

During the basketball season when I was young, Lola Ging would ritually invoke divine intervention on behalf of the Crispa Redmanizers. This was a lengthy process which required the assemblage of certain arcane paraphernalia: her hand-high stack of well-thumbed Spanish novena pamphlets; the current favored rosary out of her vast international collection; and two identical used butter cookie tins, one of which was improbably always brim-full with ivory-colored watermelon seeds for mid-game mastication, and the other of which was used as a receptacle for discarded seed shells. She was a masterful multi-tasker, and could watch TV in rapt concentration without once stumbling in her muttered devotions or reaching by mistake into the wrong cookie tin.

On those PBA game nights, she would ensconce herself on the living room sofa in front of the television, while I read or did homework or otherwise occupied myself at her feet. I was in grade school then, which meant that my homework did not require the same soul-devouring intensity that my high school-aged brothers were obliged to focus on their own assignments, under the watchful eyes of our suspicious parents.

Instead, I was left in the ostensible care of Lola Ging—but even she could only divide her attention so many ways among so many tasks. More often than not, I found myself with ample time and opportunity to take otherwise-unconscionable liberties, such as eating powdered milk straight out of the Klim can, with a spoon and the untrammeled glee of having successfully achieved the forbidden. (In our house, it was generally agreed that cookies came in “tins”, whereas all powdered substances, from milk to Tang, were in “cans”. Don’t ask me why.)

I was always careful to be very quiet when thus flagrantly flouting the laws of our land, though the reality was that I could probably have gotten away with a great deal more. Lola’s eyes would be glued to the televised hardcourt; her ears, presumably, were heeding the sonorous tones of the announcer while simultaneously engaged in spirited dialogue with God. As far as I could tell, their conversations were conducted in a polyglot admixture of English, Ibanag, a smattering of her faulty Tagalog, and robust Spanish cursing. “Diablo, Diablo, Diablo!” Lola would cry out suddenly, startling me; and for years I remained convinced that this Spanish word for “devil” literally meant “Look, Lord, the ball has been stolen!” since that was generally what was occurring onscreen at these times.

Lola maintained that her intermediary intercession was invariably efficacious, despite the fact that the Redmanizers seemed to lose nearly as often as they won. She explained this to me once (after I had applied my brilliant strategy of standing on two phone books to replace the incriminating can of Klim on its just-out-of-reach shelf). “They win because of the power of prayer,” Lola said pedantically—she had once been a Spanish teacher at an all-girls school, and retained a certain style of elocution. “But sometimes they lose, because they are stupid.”

“If they’re so stupid,” I asked pertly, in my most smart-alecky manner, “then how come Crispa is still your favorite?”

Lola looked at me as if my pre-teen I.Q. had precipitously plummeted down to the calumnied Redmanizer levels. “They are my team,” she said simply.

(to be continued next Tuesday)

Check out the rest of the posse!

Nikki bit in at 12:08 AM :: ::
Friday, September 02, 2005

Gods and Mothers

So last night was the official awarding ceremony for the Palancas, at which

Butch. Dalisay. Congratulated. Me.

Personally and everything, by which I mean "not as an aside when he was really engaged in conversation with Dean." Lemme 'splain the unmitigated glee precipitated by this occurrence:

There is a table at the annual Palanca awards which, over the years, Dean and I have come to refer to as "Olympus"--because Butch sits there along with Krip Yuson, Cirilo Bautista, the Hidalgos, and other deities of the local literary pantheon. The actual placement of the table changes from year to year, but the composition of its members rarely alters. And while no actual strictures have ever been explicitly or implicitly made known, only certain blessed people approach Olympus with impunity. Dean is one of them; I am not, because among the assembled gods, I only really know Ma'am Jing Hidalgo, who was my favorite Comp Lit teacher in college back in the years of prehistory.

So when Butch wandered out into the smokers' ghetto and came over directly to speak to me, I swear to God I felt like Daphne, bedazzled in the presence of Apollo himself, come down from the mount to walk the earth among us mere mortals. Luckily, I did not run away from him and get turned into a laurel tree because, y'know, getting transformed into botany would have really put a damper on my Palanca night. Instead, I think I managed to carry on a reasonable conversation--without even squealing, "Ohmigod, Killing Time in a Warm Place is one of the four Filipino novels I've actually managed to finish reading! You rock!"

See? I'm really not as cool 'n' composed as y'all go around thinking I am. I just act like it.

Things I Got to Do on Palanca Night for the First Time in Umpteen Years of Attending:

1. Talk to Butch out of a classroom and in the absence of Dean (who was busy schmoozing elsewhere at the time).

2. Sign the attendance folder for winners instead the guest book for (you guessed it) guests. Yay!

3. Get an approving nod from Ma'am Jing, who has been gently chiding me thusly for years: "Congratulations on Dean's win. When's it your turn? You once had such potential..."

4. Wear the little red "winner" ribbon--Dean is such a veteran that his fell off during the course of the night and he didn't notice, whereas I was conscious of the precious piece of cardboard stuck to my dress the whole time.

And of course I got to go up on stage and receive my certificate. Ms. Palanca-Quirino, the judges, and the redoubtable Ms. Babes (without whom, I remain convinced, the entire Palanca hoohah would simply cease to function) kept trying to get me to take my check and turn around the face the cameras. But I knew perfectly well that if I did not first shake everyone's hand and thank them for the honor, such a lapse in manners would somehow immediately be discerned by my mother all the way across the globe in Florida, with the result that I would end the evening on the phone, listening to a lecture on the responsibilities owed to the world by persons of good breeding.

Yeah, you laugh, but you don't know my mother.
Nikki bit in at 5:03 PM :: ::
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