Tuesday, March 30, 2004

That all said, I'm sure there will be people who will find Voice of the Fire difficult and inaccessible. Myself, I spent the longest on the first, caveman chapter. So consider that a crucible: if you can get through the cave-speak chapter, you'll be able to handle the rest of the book (the next "difficult" chapter is perhaps the one narrated by the poet John Clare, which doesn't use punctuation of any kind).

And I'm also sure that people will finish the book and just not like it. But that's fine. I just want people to read the book, because at the very least, and especially for storytellers, you may not like the story, or the way it's told, but just the way it's told, and how Moore tries for something different, something new, should inspire any storyteller to further look into the elements and tools we have at our disposal. The basic one being language.

Some people won't get through that first chapter, which is too bad. But consider instead how Moore has forced us to embrace the logic and think like a caveman because he has limited the language available to us, thus curtailing communication by a few degrees. And if you start thinking of the possibilities and potential of manipulating language to control storytelling, or simply the transmission of ideas and feelings, then you've already gotten so much more out of Voice of the Fire than we get from hundreds of other, disposable novels.

The day after I wrote the Voice post, I got word from a friend that they'd finally arrived at Fully Booked. He even mentioned that there was a signed copy. So I went the next day, and there were 4 copies left, and all 5 signed copies had gone. Plus, the book that I did go there to get (can't afford Voice right now), Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, disappeared too. But I did find Ed Brubaker & Colin Wilson's Point Blank, which I'd been dying to read since I read the first volume of Sleeper. And it is very good, just as I expected. The art's a revelation; I don't recall seeing Colin Wilson's art before.

Anyway, if Fully Booked at Power Plant's too far from you, there are also copies at CCHQ in Katipunan, and Comic Quest at Megamall. Some branches of Bibliarch have it, as does Sketchbooks at Greenbelt 3. Or you can always order it online.


Here's a pimple of a dilemma: I'd like to buy this book of Philip K. Dick short stories I saw at Fully Booked. Not too expensive (considering their prices); it's a hardcover for around P500. The problem is, it's wrapped with this godawful Paycheck cover. It's one of those collections made in time to promote the movie. Which isn't necessarily so bad; the collection that coincided with Minority Report was excellent, and the first Dick I'd read, and the reason why I want this collection (Dick books are really hard to find here; I've only seen 'em at Fully Booked and Booktopia). But I've seen Paycheck, and it is SO BAD. I couldn't believe it. It's terrible. I couldn't get my head wrapped around the fact that it was directed by John Woo. The dialogue is terrible. It's cringe-inducing. Horrible villain lines, abominable "clever" one-liners (especially during supposedly suspenseful moments), really bad style in directing (especially transitions; I especially hate the title sequence). It didn't help that I hate Ben Affleck, but in this movie I hated everyone, even the performers I do like (Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman). And the plot they spun out of the short story... Egad. You don't even have to gain some distance from the film to begin spotting holes in the construction.



Check out Michel Gondry's music video for The Polyphonic Spree, from his own Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Man, I can't wait-- April 28 seems so far away...

Forgot to point you kids to this.

If you haven't seen them yet, the new McDonald's Happy Meals toys are Astroboy playsets. There are 4 total. The first one I got was the magnetic one; it's the only one that has Urania. I'm getting the X-Ray Astro next.

And did you know that surrealism is a contraction of "super-realism"? I just found out the other day.

Cory Doctorow, who is, I'm told, one of the modern SF writers to watch, allows all 3 of his books to be downloaded for free from his website. If I find the time I'd like to read them.

I've also been thinking of downloading Terence McKenna's lectures. Any thoughts? Suggestions where to begin?

Friday, March 26, 2004

I have finally, finally finished Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire. It really shouldn't have taken this long; it surprises me more than anyone. He's my favorite writer, after all, and this is his first, so far only, prose novel, and you would think (as I did) that it would be devoured immediately, in a day or 4.

But that would be doing the book a disservice, and yourself as well. It would be like spending hours to prepare a very complicated dessert and gobbling it all up in a single mouthful, without savoring the experience, without enjoying (or at least trying to enjoy) every ingredient, and the blending of flavors, and its texture, and maybe even its scent.

That said, it still shouldn't have taken this long. I'm talking months. I first mentioned it on this blog on November 12. The short answer is there were long breaks between some of the chapters. Maybe it was the density of the stories; there are ideas contained therein that would infuse hundreds of books in the hands of weaker writers. Partly it was circumstances like work, and distractions like other books, other media; the demands of a social life on life support. The breaks were easy to slip into because each chapter is self-contained; has a different narrator.

But today, finally, I finished it.

And it is marvelous. It is mind-blowing. And too many other adjectives.

There are few delights better than having a work of art not only meet your expectations, but surpass and, AND, do them one better. Or several better, as the case is here. The last chapter of Voice is The Manhattan Project. It is the atom bomb. Similar in impact to my experience with the last chapter of Moore's From Hell, where Jack the Ripper floats through time to witness what he hath wrought upon the world, and history, and consciousness; humanity.

In the last chapter of Voice of the Fire, Moore himself is the narrator. He is the last host of his fiction, which is steeped in research and fact. One of the points he gets at is how the novel, the book, the fiction, which he has been working on for 5 years at that point, has finally, ultimately, consumed him as well: its creator, its author. Another point is how themes emerge, in retrospect: decapitated heads, black dogs, fire (of course), music, etc. Yet another is how things work themselves out, peculiarly: the book's characters sometimes dabble in magic, and in the 5 years that Moore has been working on the book he himself has become a magician (not in the illusionist sense but in the magick, magus sense). So his perspective, that of a magician wrapping up a book of magic that took 5 years to complete, is different from the perspective he began with, 5 years ago, writing about caveboys who are suddenly orphaned. Which surprises Moore, and probably further reinforces his belief in magic.

Maybe I should let him describe it himself, which he does in the last chapter:

"It's about the vital message that the stiff lips of decapitated men still shape; the testament of black and spectral dogs written in piss across our bad dreams. It's about raising the dead to tell us what they know. It is a bridge, a crossing-point, a worn spot in the curtain between our world and the underworld, between the mortar and the myth, fact and fiction, a threadbare gauze no thicker than a page. It's about the powerful glossolalia of witches and their magical revision of the texts we live in. None of this is speakable."


"Some chapters back, the notion of a shaman with the town tattooed upon his skin, its boundaries and snaking river-coils become a part of him so that he might in turn become the town, a magic of association with the object bound up in the lines that represent it: lines of dye or lines of text, it makes no difference. The impulse is identical, to bind the site in word or symbol. Dog and fire and world's end, men and women lamed or headless, monument and mound. This is our lexicon, a lurid alphabet to frame the incantation; conjure the world lost and populace invisible. Reset the fractured skeleton of legend, desperate necromancy raising up the rotted buildings to parade and speak, filled with the voices of the resurrected dead. Our myths are pale and ill. This is a saucer, full of blood, set down to nourish them."

It's impossible for me to fully convey the impact of this work, if you have not read the book. But there are phrases in the last chapter, like "This is a fiction, not a lie." and "The author types the words 'the author types the words.'" that just open doors and windows in your consciousness, letting starlight and fresh air in. I feel like they should be accompanied with sound effects: the awesome finality of a last jigsaw puzzle piece fitting into place, or the sound of tumblers falling in sequence as a lock is irrevocably undone.

The last chapter is basically Moore walking through the town he loves, pondering the almost-conscious work the book has become, and he writes: "This final chapter is the thing. Committed to a present-day first-person narrative, there seems no other option save a personal appearance, which in turn demands a strictly documentary approach: it wouldn't do to simply make things up." But you realize: every preceding chapter is made up, albeit based on fact, and those very words that purport to convince us that this chapter is faithfully accurate, are part of a chapter, the last of a book, that proudly claims to be a novel. A fiction. The power and potential of fabulation is there, don't you see? Making things up, so to speak, can be as powerful as anything. Transcending the very word "powerful" and whatever we imagine that to be. As if our imaginations could ever be restrained by such a base word. This realization, this superexpanding mushroom cloud of dawning, engulfs everything in its path.

"Although at times unnerving, this was always the intention, this erasing of a line dividing the incontrovertible from the invented. History, unendingly revised and reinterpreted, is seen upon examination as merely a different class of fiction; becomes hazardous if viewed as having any innate truth beyond this. Still, it is a fiction that we must inhabit. Lacking any territory that is not subjective, we can only live upon the map. All that remains in question is whose map we choose, whether we live within the world's insistent texts or else replace them with a stronger language of our own." All of history is a fiction. Keep tugging at that thread, ride that train of thought and you'll arrive at the conclusion that all of it: reality, myth, history, religion, fiction, even lies-- they're all just stories. But I mean this in no reductive way; rather, it's quite the opposite: it may be the most expansive connecting thread there is. Gain some distance from it, and what emerges is: the potential power of effective storytelling is unlimited.

I implore you: if you are a writer, or fancy yourself a writer, or harbor the faintest glimmer of a dream that you will one day tell a story, and shelter that glimmer seriously-- read this book. If you love stories with a passion, read this book. At the very least, you'll get great stories, but I tell you there is so much more to fall in love with: the language, the range of styles, the fossilized terms and phrases, the imagery, the characters...

I started writing this simply because I loved the book, but it has unintentionally grown into something else that is almost unsettling. I finished writing this at 5 AM. The book is THAT GOOD.


Voice of the Fire is a novel by Alan Moore. It was recently published in a new edition by Top Shelf in the US, in hardcover, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman and 13 color plates by Jose Villarrubia. Book design by Chip Kidd. It was first published in 1996, in paperback and only available in the UK, by Victor Gollancz and Indigo, but these editions are now out of print.

Thanks to Erwin Romulo for lending me his copy. I now have to save up, buy my own, and read it again.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A number of Japanese films have come to my attention lately, and it's both exciting and frustrating; the former because I love films, the latter because I don't know how to find these ones, and will likely not see them in a theater (a shame because the visuals are stunning), and hopefully won't have to shell out a lot of money just to see 'em.

Anyway, here's Devil-Man, based on the manga of Go Nagai, which I've heard about since high school but have never actually read. Then there's God Diva, which, as I watched, struck me with its familiar-looking characters until I realized they were from Frenchman Enki Bilal's The Nikopol Trilogy. And then, at the end of the trailer, the credit "An Enki Bilal film." I didn't know he even had an interest in film, let alone went off and directed one based one of his best-known works. But in Japan? Well, I can't really say if it's an adaptation of Nikopol, because that's the only Bilal book I've read; I'm not sure if he's used the characters Nikopol, Horus, et al. elsewhere... Steamboy, which if I recall correctly, is the first Katsuhiro Otomo film in 18 YEARS-- his last being the seminal Akira. Some of the characters look similar to those in Akira, and the story looks to be along the lines of Metropolis, which Otomo wrote for Rintaro to direct. Appleseed, based on the Masamune Shirow manga (which I also haven't read; anyone want to lend it to me?), probably impressed me most with its sheer action bravura. Jaw-dropping shoot-outs and fight scenes, and that's just the trailer. Finally, there's Gusher No Binds Me (gotta love that title), which I know nothing about, but the trailer looks cool, with some very intriguing visuals (I especially like the way the soldiers in white move like they have insects inside their suits).

This, along with Kazuaki Kiriya's Casshern, based on an old anime series, has got me wondering if we aren't seeing a new kind of sci-fi wave from Japan. SF concepts, stunning visuals and impressive production value-- hopefully the scripts and storytelling and acting are all equally good.

And if you want some more, how about a short film? The Cat With Hands. Nice, creepy stuff.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Steven Grant recommended the following programs in his Permanent Damage column, and I thought some of you might find them useful. Neva's already using both of them, and I will be as soon as I'm done downloading 'em. But I'll let him explain:

"Some more useful software for PC users:

Antivirus problems are a necessity these days, but it turns out there's no need to spring for a commercial program like Norton or McAfee anymore. I've tried several free antivirus programs over the years, but there've been problems with all of them. They lock up computers, or they never update their definitions (so you're always vulnerable to newer viruses and trojans) or they used up too many resources and slow down system performance. (Not that commercial antivirus programs are free of all these complaints either.) Enter Avast! Antivirus. It's from a Czech company, but I've been using it on two significantly different computers for a couple weeks now, and it's been practically invisible. It has a lot of really nice features. It's an easy install and doesn't take a ton of disk space. It uses negligible system resources. It automatically updates when you go online, and notifies you so you can see what's been changed if you're so inclined. And it's absolutely free, for non-commercial use. You have to re-register every fourteen months, but what the hey. So far I haven't had a bit of trouble with it, and I don't think I've ever said that about anti-virus software before.

I think I've mentioned this before, but if you want a smaller, more flexible browser alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer (and I don't count the equally bloated Netscape or the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time Opera or Mozilla), check out MyIE2, which hooks into the underlying web access software Microsoft built into Windows. It runs smaller and tighter, again nowhere near the resource hog IE is, and it has more cool features, like automatically opening a new window when you click to a new page (great for cross-referencing things), and lets you build groups so you can open many webpages with one click, which can save a lot of time. It's also a 711k download instead of the, what is it now, 16 megs?, IE demands. I used MyIE for a long time, and MyIE2 is the improved new version. I've been using it for several months. It's a great little program. You may still need IE on your system - I had it on mine before I switched to MyIE, so I don't know - but you'll never have to use it again."

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Here's one of those things I forgot about. Last Saturday I had these horrible nightmares. I rarely remember my dreams so I was a bit shaken up about it. I was dead tired from Friday because I had work and then the Incubus gig.

In the first dream, someone very close to me had died. And in my dream, I had stopped functioning. I was inconsolable, I couldn't leave the house, couldn't eat, sleep, didn't want to be awake because just being awake was too painful. Everything was just horrible. Towards the end, though, I realized that my bedroom in the dream was NOT my bedroom. That, and a vague feeling that this pain was just too much to bear, made me realize, while IN the dream, that I MUST be dreaming. So I woke up.

And the first thing I did was call Neva. I wanted to tell her about the dream, just to be able to tell someone, and hear someone's voice in return. So I called her, and as I was telling the story, I was still so shaken by it that I was still crying, and my voice was trembling.

And then I woke up. For real this time. I had woken from a dream into another dream, I realized, and for some reason it felt worse, like I had been tricked, cheated, into thinking that things were okay but it was just a joke. Another reminder that I'm powerless in this situation. It was a horrible feeling, that powerlessness, feeling that I was in the thrall of whatever horrible thing was next, and I was still crying. It felt so frustrating and just WRONG. At the time I felt like I was being played with. I actually pinched myself to make sure I was awake. My pillowcase was wet from tears I had shed in my sleep. And I remembered Neva was in Anilao diving with her family.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Isn't it funny how you sometimes wonder what you're going to blog about next, but when you're finally sitting at your computer you can't remember a thing? And then when you're done with the computer, maybe outside the house already, things suddenly come back to you. There should be a word for that. Something like the French expression "l'esprit d'escalier," the "wit of the staircase," where you think of a witty retort a few seconds too late, as you're already on the way out of the room.

Anyway, the Incubus concert sucked. The sound was terrible, and the band-- they don't really move, you know? Brandon stays in one area (the center, the part with a spotlight), the Tom Morello-looking bassist stays slightly to the left, the drummer's at extreme left, and Kyle Baker-looking DJ is at the extreme right, and Zack De La Rocha-looking guitarist is between Brandon and DJ. Granted, I went not as a fan. But as I said, I don't have an active dislike of them. And to be honest, and objective, it was an opportunity for the band to turn me into a fan, so to speak. Maybe they have some kickass songs that don't get released on radio. But no. Halfway through the concert we were discussing where to eat next, and we didn't even need to raise our voices. Also, the band was so far away (and we were in the P950 section; I shudder to think what the farther section saw [or rather, didn't see]), we couldn't even see their faces clearly or their fingers playing their instruments. That might've played a part in my not really enjoying the gig; people I've spoken to who were much, much closer said they loved it, and the sound was good where they were (see Mich's post). But they're fans of the band's music. And the band's singer's chest.

Disappointingly, there was no riot. They had the foresight to have not just barriers between sections, but entire LANES where marshals and bouncers could walk. So double fencing. And security guards were walking among the crowd. One guy trying to incite people to rush the fence was pulled out of the crowd and savagely beaten by 3 bouncers. I didn't see this, though. Shucks.

It would've been dreadful if I weren't with friends. We pretty much entertained each other.


I developed my first roll using my Ultimate Quad Cam and the pics're lovely. The usual failed experiments abound, but I love those, too. Neva will scan some of them and I'll put 'em up when I've found a photo host I like.


Apparently the project with the life-saving beverage might still be on. Though we still have no clue what to do. I hope it pushes through, though. I could use the money. Some of the rejected plots from the first pitch I'm still happy enough with to use them in other ventures, non-advertising-wise.


And here: read Susannah Breslin's My American, My Bukkake Too. I like it, though it's not perfect. If you see me in person, there are a few other things I know of worse than Bukkake. Ask me. There are a couple other interesting webcomics up on Artbomb, too. Like Lauren McCubbin's Harvest Gypsy, and Andi Watson's Sunblock, and D'Israeli's Biting The Hand That Fed Me. All short, and good, and displaying a nice range of stories.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

We're watching Incubus tomorrow. I'm not really a fan; never owned (or listened) to an album. All I know is their videos and songs released on radio. But they're probably the first decent international rock act to perform here since-- who? The Cranberries? Rage Against the Machine? Which I saw in freshman college, I think, so you can guess how long ago THAT was. I can name less than 5 songs of Incubus, but that doesn't mean I have a particular dislike for them. They do have this video, though, that's a little too close to Radiohead's "Just" for my taste. I'm not sure which song it is, unfortunately; I think it's "Warning."

I'm mostly going because I'll be with friends, and it should be a good time, and because there should be a riot and violence and beatings the likes of which I haven't seen since Rage Against the Machine. Yeah.


Weird and frightening news for today is Best Actress Charlize Theron's next project, a live-action adaptation of Peter Chung's Aeon Flux, to be directed by Girlfight's Karyn Kusama. Uh, first of all, why adapt it, and why live-action? And why isn't Chung directing it himself? I mean, I haven't seen Girlfight, so maybe Kusama's got the chops, but to go from an indie boxing drama to a (probably) big-budget action thriller? And Chung's the creator, and directed the episodes; he knows it inside out. I remember when Aeon Flux first came out, and anime wasn't a household word yet. It really opened my eyes and broke boundaries as far as storytelling went, in my opinion. One of the only two posters I have in my room is Aeon Flux. This project I shall watch with slight unease.

And apparently whiskey helps a headache every now and then. Thank you, Baileys.

ALSO: Please recommend a picture hosting site that allows remote linking. If possible, mention why you like it, things I should know before signing up, other details (storage capacity), etc. Thank yew. :)

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I have an appalling lack of clothes. No one knows this better than Neva; she sees me most, after all. So she got me some clothes for last Sunday, and some nice ones, at that. I have no knack for these things; it's a good thing she does. The first few paychecks from work went to getting more clothes, since I didn't have that many button-down polo shirts to begin with, and my slacks had dwindled down to around 3. I still need to buy shoes. The 3 sneakers I still wear have been with me forever. My Simples I bought in 2001, for around 10 bucks. I checked the website to see how much it really is; $60.


If you're curious about Wonder Woman, this article sheds more light on her origin and status as an icon than my post ever could, and also reveals some things that took even me by surprise, like creator Marston's sexual proclivities, which now explains all the bondage I mentioned.

Check out Acme Filmworks, whose roster of directors includes Peter Chung (Aeon Flux), Bill Plympton (various MTV ads), John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy), Michael Dudok de Wit ("Father & Daughter"), and Wendy Tilby & Amanda Forbis ("When The Day Breaks").

And if you would like to see what the Philippines looks like from a satellite, click here and here.