Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Last night I wanted to do this thing I used to do when I couldn't sleep, which is pluck out a book from my shelf without looking, find a good part, and then try to sleep after reading a couple of these random excerpts. Anyway, the lucky winners of last night's attempt were Thomas Lux's New & Selected Poems and Alex Garland's The Coma. And I liked both excerpts enough, so I'll share them with you here.

From The Coma:

"A final thought occurs to me... It's the formulation I made while standing on top of the building opposite the bookstore: You wake, you die.

The reason is this. Everybody dreams. Everybody dreams, but nobody has ever managed to tell me what their dream was like. Not so that I really understood what they saw or felt. Every dream that anyone ever has is theirs alone and they never managed to share it. And they never managed to remember it either. Not truly or accurately. Not as it was. Our memories and our vocabularies aren't up to the job."

I picked up The Coma at the Edinburgh Int'l. Book Fair almost exactly a year ago. It had just come out, and we attended his talk and he let us interview him and he was really nice and I bought The Coma even though I wasn't planning to, just to get it signed. But it's a very good book. Kafkaesque, though I usually dislike that term. Very precise, with perfect accompanying illustrations from his father Nicholas. It's short, you can finish it in a couple of hours (I read it on the plane ride home, along with Frank Cottrell Boyce's Millions). Though he's only written 3 books, Garland's one of my favorite writers.

Thomas Lux:


You've seen them, these semi-urban birds
who live, not in, but on the edge of great cities.
No longer wild -- of the cornfield, or resting high
in rafters of deserted tobacco barns. They venture
to the borders, but will not cross, where city sends
its last tendrils out and park gives edge
to woods, where the first lawns
larger than billiard tables grow
each block a little larger
with the houses. These crows

like old and gnarly pines
to graze beneath, aloof, and to sit in. They are not
so bold as smart and seem to know that laws exist
against the discharge of shotguns upon them.
Old blue-black aristocrats, they prefer
to saunter, at midday, across lawns
of pine nuts abundant, the best spots
to steal what lesser birds hold dear.
Maybe this is why a groups of them is murder.
They are everywhere where they never used to be.

I hate to see it: a bird so crafty, so sure,
moving in where it's easier to eat
and they grow dim. What logic
sends them here and not so far away
only fieldhands know them? Maybe
they come to us, to live among us
so they can claim it as their choice -
which makes them proud and bright,
though does not cease their doom,
nor preserve their haughty, haunting cry.

I was in a bookstore in Boston in the summer of 2000 when I came upon this book. I'd never heard of him but took the book down and read several pieces; I liked them. But when I got to this poem, it was just weird. Neva and I had just gotten together around this point, and then I had to leave for vacation for a little under a month, to Boston AND New York, my first return to the US since 1990. So we were missing each other like crazy, and I had just emailed her a really long letter, which included a bit about being scared of the crows in Boston because they were huge and ink-black and would swoop down and try to take my ears off. She even turned my letter into a poem. So when I came across this poem, with its title, it was just too perfect, and I got a copy for me and for her. I didn't see any crows in New York, though.

And this last one is from Douglas Coupland's Eleanor Rigby, which I've just finished:

"Though I was swamped with homesickness, part of me was also enjoying a sense of inner freedom that I now know evaporates after about the age of twenty-five. It was a small joy finding an all-night gas station called Elf, maybe a few hundred yards around the corner from the hostel complex. The guys inside saw me coming from a long way away, and I could tell they were used to having girls from the hostel visit in desperation.

Okay, here's the reason we never told Mr. Burden about the gas station bathroom: its employees were the handsomest men any of us had ever seen, sculpted from gold, and with voices like songs. And there they were, in a gas station in the middle of nowhere, going to waste. They ought to have been perched on jagged lava cliffs having their hearts ripped out as sacrifices to the gods. On top of their physical blessings, these guys were charming and attentive-- in both a humanitarian way and a frisky way, even charming to me-- and... well... I'd never been flirted with before, nor has anybody flirted with me since.

They spoke their schoolboy English, with heavy Italian accents I'd always thought were a cliché: Hello-a young-a lady. Good eve-a-ning. All I could do was blush, and as I knew only Latin (B+) it was flummoxing to have to ask for a key, but obviously they knew what I needed, and handed it to me like a crystal champagne flute. I may have been desperate for that key, but I still dawdled; it was heaven. And best of all, the bathroom was spotless and even held a small bouquet of irises-plastic, but it's the thought that counts. When I returned to the hostel, Colleen was just waking up. I told her about the station, and she returned a half-hour later, aglow, saying how much she loved Europe. By the end of the night, all the other girls loved Europe too. We couldn't wait for daily sightseeing to be over so we could run to the Elf station. We were awful. Nature is awful."

Also a very good book. Coupland's novels have been maturing alongside the author himself, and it kind of gives you a warm glow. That same empathy is there, but now it's tempered by an almost paternal feeling. In the same novel he can make you feel like this world is hopeless and later on convince you it's worth saving.


So. Muzak's been downloaded 28 times and only about 6 of you have mentioned downloading it, let alone whether you liked it or not. Tsk tsk. Did no one read that part of the post? I was trying to gauge if I should do it again. Maybe you didn't like the songs? That's alright. Or are there just a couple of lurkers who don't wish to reveal themselves?


A bad trailer for Aeon Flux. Makes it look like the female equivalent of Equilibrium.

Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha. I haven't read the book, but I thought this was set in Japan? How come it's all Chinese actresses? The only Japanese people I recognize are Ken Watanabe & Koji Yakusho, who is probably most famous now for his collaborations with Kiyoshi Kurosawa, but who I first saw in the original Shall We Dance? Of course, this is all moot because it's written by Akiva Goldsman. Another famous novel (in addition to The Da Vinci Code) given the Kiss of Death. Just listen to the sparkling dialogue.

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote.

A different trailer for Thumbsucker.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

RARR!!! (RA Rivera Retrospective)

Sorry for the late notice, but if you see this in time please go to the RA Rivera retrospective tonight (Monday) at Magnet Katipunan. I think it starts at 9 and a good time will be had by all. :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

At 6 minutes after midnight I grabbed Neva's phone and showed it to her; the front where you can see the time in the corner. The wallpaper of the phone is her making a face. She looks at the phone and makes the face she had on in the wallpaper. "No," I say, suppressing a laugh, "look at the time." She looks. "Oh, it's midnight. Did you want to watch Conan?"

After laughing for a good while, I say "Greet me, bitch!"

And this is my girlfriend… !


Instead I have a gift for you. Go here and click the "Free" button at the bottom, follow the instructions, and you will get a folder of music. It's 28MB, so be warned. It has 5 songs of no major significance; they are not about birthdays and are not clues to my state of mind these past few weeks or anything emo-shitty like that. They are simply songs I have been playing often this month.

The songs are:
* Regina Spektor's "Ode to Divorce" - this is not the song that made me want to listen to her album (that would be "Us") but it is the first track and is damn good. If you like Fiona Apple you may like her. Then again you might not. If you look her up on the Intarweb she is under the "anti-folk" genre. What the fuck is anti-folk? I swear they're just making 'em up these days.
* Aqueduct's "The Suggestion Box" - probably my most-played song this year after Bloc Party's "So Here We Are." It's so fucking addicting. I play it in the morning and when I go to sleep. I sing it in the shower and scream it in the car. It makes perfect sense that this guy opened for Mates of State. I can't believe Ylai's already listening to stuff like this. When I was a freshman in high school it was what, Smashing Pumpkins? "Indie" wasn't even a popular term then, it was still "alternative." This is from I Sold Gold, another Great Album of 2005. Seriously, almost every track is fried gold. And the songs have great names, like "Growing Up With GNR" & "Frantic (Roman Polanski version)"
* Nouvelle Vague's "Friday Night, Saturday Morning" - not so much addicting as it is hypnotic; it's good background music while you're working at the computer. It's the kind of song for a montage scene where the main character's making a mess of their life (getting drunk and into fights) and just hitting bottom after their main love interest has dumped them/cheated on them.
* The Cribs' "Another Number" - this and the last song bring THE ROCK. Just a great little pop song with great hooks and under 3 minutes. Let's see you do that, Coldplay.
* Sleater-Kinney's "Jumpers" - big and rich like a slice of cake you thought you could finish but is more than you bargained for and is probably bad for your health when you think about it but damn it, it tastes so fucking good. Chocolate!

I was going to put Pavement's "We Dance" which is also terrific and is, in my opinion, one of the most romantic things that any man has ever written (but then again I'm weird like that), but I left it in the car CD player. Just download it yourselves or something. I've been listening to Wowee Zowee again and damn is it a timeless album.

My only request is that if you download the songs, you mention who you are in the comments. And then after you've heard the songs, let me know what you think. That is a fair trade, is it not? And go ahead and share the link if you like. Oh, and the file will disappear if it hasn't been accessed in 30 days. Whenever someone downloads it the timer's reset. I think.

And don't forget to hug and kiss the next Ramon you see.


If I could meet and speak to my 15- and 20-year-old selves I could tell them some useful things but then after listening to me speak and finding out more things about me they would probably gang up and beat the crap out of me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I was disappointed with DCFC's Plans. That's the problem sometimes with high expectations. Maybe it didn't help that I was finishing a book in bed while listening to it. But I think I only looked up at tracks 4 & 9, and then it was done. It's a bit flat, has very little of THE ROCK that I miss. It's not terrible, but it doesn't really leave much of an impression. I don't know. I should give it a few more listens, maybe I'll like it better.

Recent additions to the Great Albums of 2005 so far include Mary Timony's Ex Hex, Bloc Party's Silent Alarm Remixed (admittedly based on bias) & Sigur Ros's Takk. Takk was a surprise: less somber, more alive, with more experimentation with instruments and arrangements. Hurrah.

I also really like Snoop Dogg's R'nG, and am considering listening to the new Ludacris next (though everyone says his last album was better). Almost had Julia convinced I was now hip-hop when she got in my car and Gift of Gab was playing.


I recently finished God of War on PS2, which I think is the best game I've played in a while. The graphics and movement are just terrific, and the blood/gore/violence/heaving breasts didn't hurt. Great ideas abound, particularly for stages (at one point you are killed and sent to hell, and you have to fight your way out! Outrageously fun) and scenarios (stuff towards the end, which I won't spoil for Quark's benefit).

I also recently finished the race portion of Burnout 3, the game that came closest to convincing me to get a PS2. Actually, it was just this morning that I finished, after 2 grueling Grand Prixs that were 4 races each. I finished at a little past 3AM. It was very rewarding, but super damn difficult. I was cursing like a sailor, punching the floors, scaring Neva and Mittens.

Still, I'm glad I'm still nowhere near the level of obsession some players have (even among people I know). And then there's this poor bastard, who keeled over dead (heart failure at the age of 28!?) after playing video games for 50 hours straight. At least he finished his game.


I didn't realize it had been over a month since I last updated. Wow. Where does the time go?

Someone got to this blog by looking up information on Ma'am Beni's poetry reading last night, but the search words he/she used were "Benilda Santos Conspiracy." I henceforth submit that The Benilda Santos Conspiracy is a great band name.

Check out Michel Gondry's video (20MB) for Michael Andrews's cover of "Mad World." This is old, but I only saw it recently and it's awesome. As usual, for Gondry.

Is this serious? I hope so. It would be so interesting if he actually won. And in this crazy world, who knows…

Goldie answered a survey and this brought a smile to my face:
1. get prosecuted for something that is 100 percent driven by truth and my beliefs yet wrongs society at the time then get praised for it after"

Check out The Onion's Michael Bay article. (or should that be Michael Bay's Onion article?)


Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

A new trailer for Fernando Mereilles's The Constant Gardener

Anand Tucker's Shopgirl. This is especially of note for me, because it's his first film since 1998's Hilary & Jackie (which I LOVE). One of the things I actually asked Frank Cottrell Boyce (who wrote Hilary) when I got to interview him in Scotland last year was why Tucker hadn't done a film since then and he replied that unfortunately every project he was developing didn't push through for one reason or another, so I'm glad to see him back. This is the adaptation of Steve Martin's novel, by the way, adapted by Martin himself and starring him as the elderly gentleman whose love interest (the shopgirl in question) is twentysomething Claire Danes. Shouldn't Woody Allen have directed this? Don't mind my snark, it's actually a good trailer, with great music up until DCFC's "The Sound of Settling" kicks in (not that I don't like that song, it's just that everything before it was good and unknown to me, and a known song kicking in can sometimes deflate things). Maybe I should read the book first.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Okay! I will answer the clamor (actually just 2 people) for new posts! But! This is not the Neil Gaiman Weekend post. It will be done when it gets done, and will actually go up on my LJ and not here, as I feel it belongs there. Hopefully the wait will have been worth it, because it looks to be the longest post I've ever written (which isn't actually any indicator of it being any good; I'm just saying). And this may actually be the first time I've mentioned that I have an LJ on this blog.

So instead I will write some stuff about books and movies.

August is the bibliophile's favorite month of the year here in Manila, because Powerbooks is on its annual sale, where almost everything is 20% off, and the Bookfair is at the end of the month (check the remember! box on the left for details).

I recently got a chance to check out the Powerbooks sale, and got some stuff I really wanted. I've been cutting back on my spending since around mid-March, so I'm actually quite proud that I've only bought 3 things: Douglas Coupland's Eleanor Rigby, Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted, and Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys (because it was at 30% off!). See, ma? No comics! (Not yet.) I'm a Coupland fan and have read all his novels so Eleanor Rigby was a no-brainer. In fact it was a nice surprise because I didn't even know that he'd written it until I saw it on the shelves a month or so ago. I thought his next book was the sequel to Microserfs (which I anticipate mightily). Ditto for Chuck Palahniuk; even his non-fiction books I have. And Haunted contains Guts, the notorious short story that caused either fainting/vomiting in almost 75% of all stops on his last book tour when he read it out loud. I am eyeing several other books, though, like Bruce Wagner's Force Majeure and Brad Meltzer's The Zero Game, but I'm waiting until the end of the month to make my decision. Ditto on the comics. But if you go, I heartily recommend the following off the top of my head: Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy is, I think, at 30% off. Among the graphic novels, Birth of a Nation by Aaron McGruder, Reginald Hudlin, and Kyle Baker; the Catwoman TPBs of Ed Brubaker, and David B.'s Epileptic, which is in the autobiography section.

If, like me, you are on a budget, allow me to point you in the direction of some cool stuff available for free online, including whole books! It ain't called Mindfuel for nothin'! (actually yes, it is)

Rosemary Mosco's 55 Words are a series of microfictions, each composed of only (can you guess?) 55 words. 365 Tomorrows presents a new ultra-short story every single day, and most, if not all, are science fiction (hence the tomorrows).

Of course, my main introduction to short shorts was Richard Kadrey's Viperwire nanotales on Infinite Matrix. They're all still there, but his new novel Blind Shrike is available for free download, as is his previous novel Metrophage. Then there is Cory Doctorow, who has made all of his novels available online for free download on his website. That's 3 books, one of which is brand spanking new!

Finally we have Joey Comeau, who I first came across through his A Softer World, who is pre-selling copies of his first novel Lockpick Pornography. Basically the whole thing is up online if you would like to read it before ordering it, but the hard copy will have more material (the online chapters are, I imagine, an earlier draft of the finished novel) and come signed, with a bonus zine to boot. I'd actually like to order it myself, as I haven't read any of Mr. Comeau's stuff yet that I haven't liked (and he wrote a story I would actually like to read out loud), but fucking Paypal still aren't allowing us Noypis to sign up for their "service." Who's got Paypal? It's cheap! Only $10. It would make a great gift for poor booklovers whose birthday is in August, wouldn't it? Wait, did I say gift? I meant I would pay you back. Probably.

I almost cried today while reading the new 100 Bullets volume, The Hard Way. It's a series that I love but it's usually smart and dark and violent and wily and just gangbusters, but then out of the blue comes these real emotional moments that just take you by surprise. Anyway, good shit, and still utterly unpredictable. Definitely one of the best comics series being published today. This, a few days after finishing the latest Y The Last Man volume, Ring of Truth, which is also fucking fantastic, with the usual terrific cliffhangers but more character and plot development and filled with terrific moments that make you gasp and stop reading for a few seconds because your heart might burst. So, 2 of the best comics series being published today.

Have you heard of the Singapore Writers' Festival? It's from Aug. 26 - Sep. 4. Colleen Doran is a Guest of Honor, and Ho Che Anderson will be there as well. Also, SF writers Bruce Sterling & Cory Doctorow.



So the trailer of James McTeigue's adaptation of V For Vendetta is out, and it makes me feel slimy. In my lack of shit-giving I did not realize that it also stars Stephen Rea and John Hurt. Oh well. The lines "This is exactly what he wants." "What?" "Chaos." actually made me groan. There you have a pretty good example of changing the message of the original series. So everyone, please read the book before you see the movie. Which reminds me: Gio finally returned my copy after taking 7 years to read it. Who wants to borrow it next? Just be quick about it!

Also! Rich Johnston reviews the V For Vendetta script here. "Are you, like, a crazy person?" indeed!

The trailer for Ingmar Bergman's Saraband is horrible. I mean, art films have a tough enough time of it, but this trailer does nothing for the film. Almost put me to sleep.

Of films I know nothing about, Junebug, Green Street, and The Chumscrubber look interesting.

Richard Linklater's Bad News Bears remake, with Billy Bob Thornton apparently reprising his acting from Bad Santa.

Joss Whedon's Serenity has a new trailer, better than the first one.

Liev Schreiber's directorial debut is the adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated (shot by Matthew Libatique).

Marc Forster's Stay has me curious (Forster's carving out an interesting career for himself; none of his projects are alike).

Tony Scott's Domino gets a better trailer. Marketing this may be tricky since the woman it's based on was recently found dead.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin with Steve Carell has an unrated trailer that you must see.

Sam Mendes's Jarhead looks good.

Gus Van Sant's latest, Last Days (supposedly "sort of" inspired by the last days of Kurt Cobain, the same way Elephant was inspired by Columbine)

Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist gets a full trailer.

Mike Mills's Thumbsucker finally looks like it's going to get released.

Michael Haneke's latest, Cache; alas, the trailer's not translated, but it looks fantastic and fucked up.

Andrew Niccol's Lord Of War, which I pray is better than Simone (it looks promising).

Jim Jarmusch's latest film, Broken Flowers

And a Japanese trailer for Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown.

!!! Benilda Santos is going to read some of her poetry next Tuesday, Aug. 16, @ Conspiracy. 7 PM. Go if you can!