Monthly Archives: April 2009

My attempt at self-preservation

Sometime in the past I’ve read something that triggered me to write: Writing is easy if you have something to say.

Then how can I possibly explain the fact that I have so much to say but words decline to be malleable for my own intent? I know for a fact that I’m never one to be concise about ideas, opinions or points of view and at risk of unmasking personal conceit I would confidently say that I always somehow manage to ply the accurate idiom for a selfish purpose. Language has been a submissive tool. I shape them into anything I want them to be. I command declaratives and they oblige, hesitantly, to satisfy my egotistical perversions.

Now they have adopted resilience. They have knocked over the flask of freedom sending shards darting in every direction. They have regained their power rendering me incompetent of one sensible train of thought. In the event that I seem to have coherent strings of thoughts they begin unraveling like ancestral pearls snapping, sending every bead towards hurried private departures. It is distressing to wonder how words have finally dodged my grasp leaving me fumbling for proper phrases. I cannot seem to articulate the waves of mixed emotions assailing me, plaguing the alternating currents of wakefulness and dreaming. Afternoons glide into evenings and evenings float towards midnights and their injuries are not appropriately mourned for they lack words to distinguish their woes.

It is convenient to shroud myself with an excuse. And I am aware I am capable of fabricating variants of them. Yet I’d choose honesty this time: I am cracked empty and the fractures let loose a stream of wordless sounds. This I am neither proud nor ashamed of admitting.

This is a testament that even in irredeemable jadedness I am still capable of being broken.

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Not my goddamn pork

Great. As if things could not get any worse on this planet. It’s April and it’s raining. No, it’s pouring. Climate change, they say. And now, we have pigs sneezing on people and giving them some sort of virus called Swine Flu. By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of it as it is all over the news.

The government, however, has reminded the people that our country is still safe from Swine Flu. “Still” being the operative word. But they’re being cautious towards those who get in the country. Obviously, it’s some serious shit when people have suddenly and quickly died from it all over the world. Just great, just in time for the summer barbeque cookouts that I love, in comes some asshole messing with my damn pork.

What asshole? That asshole in Mexico who had sex with a pig who started this shit. You know that’s how things always start, right? Just like HIV/AIDS, some African dude saw it fit to have sex with a monkey and hell, the rest is history. I mean, that’s what “they” said and that’s what I believe; later for all that man made germ warfare stuff. From the looks of it, they’re trying to say that it started or came out of Mexico. As if Mexicans needed any more bad press right now with their drugs, guns, undocumented migrant workers and such, now there’s this news.

Meanwhile, I am still eating pork.


Abyss

Can you quantify love? Is there a gauge to measure the intensity of passion?

I just can’t help but ask because today, lingering warmth from a few moonlights ago followed me around hallways, climbed my desk and soaked my screen like implicit storms bleeding with maudlin dialogues from ludicrous paperbacks, taunting me with imagined words that is to become. I don’t resent your intrusion, neither do I begrudge your disturbance of the peace that has been my dreamy friend: you are a welcomed distraction, a comfort, a certain fondness that declines explanations, definitions or justifications. My frowzy world, along with its manic pace and assorted idiosyncrasies, makes me long for something — some tenderness or perhaps an overdue favor not just for myself but to tenderness itself.

It seemed like a vaguely distant remembrance — a nearly forgotten sentiment for sometime now.

Thank you for coming along, for kindly leading me back into soft sensations that I have been abandoned from until the enduring moment you wrapped my misgivings, flaws, apathy and quiet resolve around lenient tenacity. Thank you for the tolerant times when you made me blink and see the gaps and differences between reason and abandon. It’s startling and remarkable like reclamation of long-displaced possessions from childhood’s treasured past.

We bartered fears. Looked at each other from sheltered distances, calculated the risks of involvement, made furtive lists in our minds on why we shouldn’t fall into each other’s clutches. We tried to save each other from ourselves, yet the acknowledgment of ardent fires wheedle us into subtle spaces unfamiliar in everyone’s maps but ours.

We traded hopes, ideals, dreams and at times, delusions. And in doing so opened ourselves into omnipresent possibilities of disappointments and afflictions.

We lingered for a while, like dreamers off to nowhere but the mellowness of the moment. You, ever burning; me, ever intangible. Yet, fenced by abolitions, refusals and admissions, it’s overwhelming the way we find a comfortable space between breathing and wishful thinking — a sphere where everything dissolves. Are we to be blamed? Are there excuses we haven’t exhausted yet?

Sometime ago, I have read somewhere that in order to master life and love, you must know when to hold fast and when to let go. We don’t need this insight to coach us. We have been battered, shattered, hurt. Conciously or unwittingly, we inflict the same things on other people, who, like us, are also chasing possibilities at happiness. Our respective lives are testaments of treading through life complete with all the raptures and the ills we harvested along the way. “There is no right or wrong way to fall in love,” I used to quote an uncelebrated philosopher. “You just feel it.” And there lies the danger — the danger of us abandoning ourselves beside inconvenient crossroads in pursuit of that desirable fire.

I tried retreating steps in safe distances where your spirit wouldn’t linger. But those empty spaces haunt me in your absence.

Have I mentioned the difficulty of finding the right substitutes for those three tired words to articulate how much I long for you to be a definition of closure in my wanderings? How a familiar smile racing across the bows of your lips to be the very meaning of permanence in my life?

Have I said yet that you are luminous and vulnerable?

That you are beautiful?

That you are precious?


My advice to my future children

Poster’s Note: The dweeb will veer away from cynicism. This will be a long read, but please do.

It will go something like this…

My first advice is not to give any advice, unless people ask for it. Even then, you may need to figure out whether they really want your advice or merely want you to agree with the (as is usually the case).

Obviously, my advice not to give advice is paradoxical. When, as will sometimes happen, you are caught in contradiction, you can always quote Walt Whitman (“Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / I am large, I contain multitudes”) or Emerson (“Foolish consistency is the hobglobin of little minds”). Where the rules are clear-cut, consistency is good; where they are not (which is most of the time), consistency may be the sign of a closed mind.

Cultivate openness of mind. It is a rare quality because most of us harbor inflexible biases without realizing that we do. You should, of course, develop  a set of values to guide your behavior, but you should be wary of inflicting your values on others (or expecting others to agree with you).

Tend to your own backyard; what other people grow in theirs is not your concern, unless their actions harm others. What others believe is their own business, even if it’s diametrically opposed to some of your own most cherished ideas. Besides, your ability to change other people is either highly limited or nonexistent.

This principle applies to religion as well as to morality. If you believe in a Higher Power, that Higher Power is your own, as is everyone else’s Higher Power. You have neither the obligation nor the right to proselytize. The best you can do is develop your own sense of spirituality, follow it with all the integrity you can muster, and let your example speak for itself.

Seek knowledge. Knowing stuff is good. Do this when you are young because your ability to absorb and, especially, to remember will deteriorate sooner than you expect. Recognize, too, that the power of intellect is limited. “Smart” doesn’t account for a whole lot, and it isn’t synonymous with “good” or “happy” or even “successful.”

Although book knowledge is useful and handy, what really mattes is what you learn from experience. Observe the world. As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

You may have noticed that children’s powers of observation are quite acute. One reason for this is that, to children, the world is literally wonderful — full of wonder. They see a lot because much of what they see is brand new. After a while, though, we start to take what was once wonderful for granted — changing sky, the seasons, the taste of food, the many sounds that we hear each day. We allow distractions that are not really worthy of our attention to divert us from “smelling the roses” as the cliche puts it. Try to recapture the sense of wonder whenever you can.

Develop the art of listening. Courtesy requires that you listen to what other people say, but you should go beyond this. By listening carefully, you can develop sensitivity to language and an understanding of how people think and feel. A sense of the magical power of words can benefit anyone, not just writers and editors. And one does not need to be a psychologist to understand the complex internal choreography of thought and feeling that underlie people’s words.

Listen also to the wordless world. Though the world of worlds may inform your intellect, that which cannot be expressed by words will inform your spirit. Give every form of music a hearing, especially the wordless music that expresses what words cannot, whether in the form of an inspired symphony or the sounds of the natural world. This kind of listening requires no intellectual understanding; it resonates within a part of us that is beyond intellect.

Try to at least start doing these things when you’re young. Resist the natural tendency of youth to live too much in the future, believing that the future is forever. While you cannot expect to be wise and young at the same time, you can avoid the fate of those of us who treat life as a three-act play, doze during the first two acts, and wake, when the play is nearly over, to discover that this is the only performance. We do not, as far as I know, have the chance to rerun our lives.

Numerous metaphors have been used to describe life. Among them is the metaphor of life as a batlle. Try not to think of life in these terms because, if you regard life as a struggle, it will become one, and you will have little joy. It is far better to think of life as a journey in which difficulties are hills to climb. The hills are there for a reason (even if you don’t know what that reason is), and the sense of satisfaction after climbing the hill is almost always worth the effort.

But perhaps, the best metaphor is that of life as a river. If you let the current carry you, you will be far better off than if you try to swim against it. This does not mean that it is an effortless ride; some parts of the river will be hazardous, requiring great skill to navigate safely. You will need to learn when to ask someone else to help with the paddling and when to stop paddling altogether.

Finally, and possibly most important, you should take time to see the humor in it all. The world is a funny place, and funniest of all are the creatures who walk about upright on two legs, believing that they run the place. You should not take it too seriously, and that includes what I have written here.


Self-execration

Now and again, I would froze on my tracks and ponder the earth-convulsing question: why am I such a glutton for sadness? I’d say bitter, prophetically self-fulfilling chronic pain, but that sounds more pathetic than whiney, not to mention overly melodramatic and whenever I do it my own eyeballs would roll back like ping pong balls careening towards the gutter.

But I can’t help it.

I would wonder all the same. Sometimes, I’d flatter myself into thinking I am capable of giving myself and not overprocess things. Then I’d burst into spastically violent bursts of laughter knowing full well that I am a prime wuss in the self-loving department. If there is someone who hates myself to bits, it would be the same snot looking back at me whenever I face the mirror.

Take for instance this germinating feeling. I began noticing its tendrils sprouting from the loose ends of my impressionable, easily-excitable mind. Then the savage in me would viciously nip them before they even branch out like vines towards the object of such fondess.

Internal assassination. Wimphood in its full glory. What can I say, my primordial genes are hotwired towards self-abortion.

One of these days, I’d finally grow up. Meantime, I’d look at the mirror and wink at self-hatred sneering back at me.


Would you?

Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is bizarre and brilliant at the same time, a rather strange and tenderly resonant film which I believe can only be achieved by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, the man behind Being John Malkovich.

While I find Being John Malkovich quite astonishing, its oddity and strangeness — the probe in the interior of the mind — was not rationalized, but it works perfectly fine in Eternal Sunshine. It might be gleaned from the previews of the film that it would be a bouncy, beamish comedy yet again, but truly, it is a tender movie about love and romance. This is, for me, Jim Carrey’s best performance to date, and may open the eyes of his punters who have only imagined him as Ace Ventura and the eccentric Dick for his entire career. No snippy quotes, outrageous humor or bizarre antics in Eternal Sunshine, but just sheer brilliance — a true, realistic, three-dimensional character named Joel Barish, who plans to have memories of his lover Clementine erased by a company called Lacuna, after discovering that she, Clementine herself, has had the similar procedure performed only a week before. Dr. Howard Mierzwiak, the owner of Lacuna, briefly informed Joel that the procedure, although technically brain damage, is just at par with a heavy night of drinking.

The entire deletion of memories is quite fascinating. All items relating to the person you want to be erased from your brain are assembled together, and the technicians at Lacuna would then “map” an outline of your memories which are supposedly interrelated. Although it is quite remotely possible that such procedure could have been actually performed, and the explanation behind it is simply bull, we just don’t care anymore because the whole process serves as a backdrop for a deeper meaning: If you could forget about past romances or events, would you really want to? And if so, would you be willing to sacrifice all the good memories at the expense of erasing the bad ones?

The conclusion that Eternal Sunshine wants to arrive at is as honest as it can be. During the procedure, Joel’s subconscious realizes that it doesn’t  want to let go of its memories of Clementine, and so begins a strange labyrinth of fragmented memories, constantly changing surroundings, and mental materializations of Clementine. The movie is like a very bizarre dream, and you shout and try to get their attention but they don’t seem to notice.

There is a very profound message in Eternal Sunshine, and it is arguably Kaufman’s deepest film to date. Love and romance and memories of both have rarely been examined as thought-provokingly and tenderly as they are in this film. There are many small intricacies in this movie, surely picked up on more thoroughly repeated viewings, and the entire construction of the movie is completely enthralling and brilliant.

I think what the movie ultimately asks us after its long, emotional journey, is would we want our own memories erased? And if so, what would the consequences be? And are we brave and bold enough to endure these? Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a beautiful film, eloquently voiced by Gondry, firmly constructed and rooted in an eerie nightmare-ish fantasy land where anything is possible.


Mellowville

Sacred excretion I’m morphing into a mellow wuss!

Let me explain. Musically, I’m genetically hot-wired to have instantaneous and lethally allergic reaction towards mellow stuff. Barry Manilow makes my intestines twist like pretzels in the hands of a unabomber. I cannot listen to ABBA without channeling Hannibal Lecter. On accidental occasions when I am trapped in a situation — i.e. a dentist’s waiting room — where it’s inevitable (and tragically inescapable) to hear mellow love songs I double over with pain while desperately shaking off the mental image of a construction drill boring on my molars.

So it came as a disturbing shock that — this is painful to admit — I am beginning to be seduced towards the dark side by listening to (aiie!) The Carpenters! Non-stop! For two effing days!

Listen. I flatter myself with a persistent (if not misguided) belief that insofar as musical taste is concerned I belong to the listening elite. My 3000+ (and counting) personal CD library boasts of brilliant stuff from varied genres excluding country music (depressing!) and, you got it, mellow music (wimpy! whiny! wussy!). I have cultivated a tremendous fascination with subpop and British indie music of late and mellow is the last adjective you’d associate with them.

So why this regression towards Mellowville?!? Why in bleep’s sake am I flirting with disaster, with humiliation, with shame?!! I might as well be dead!

Okay, this is where the melodrama kicks in and you are welcome to punch me in the face but don’t ever think I haven’t done so gazillion times already.

Sade, Barry White, Mike Francis, Marvin Gaye — demigods who deserve their own postage stamps may be mistaken by a few amateurs to be (ugh! the word!) mellow. When that happens I’d glower to the fumbling fool and lecture him/her on the gaping difference between mellow and brilliance. The aforementioned artists are NOT mellow! They are tender, soft, in a sensual, soulful way! Never (oh, i just so love typing this fucking word!) mellow! There’s the freaking difference!

So I’m quite going ballistic over this new addiction with The Carpenters! How on this graying earth did it happen? By accident of course. I am not directly responsible and that doesn’t seem to lessen the crime!

Someone fiddled with my iPod and loaded fifteen songs by The Carpenters! It maybe someone who hated my guts, a disgruntled underling, or someone plain rotten enough or evil to the spleen who knew of my total pain over music like The Carpenters.

Instead of cringing or starting running and flinging myself out of the window I froze on my tracks and like a Scientology initiate on trance allowed the sickening songs creep on my brains and take over my entire mind! You know that movie The Body Snatchers? Same concept.

First I winced. Then two songs down the row I assumed the IQ of a possessed zombie. My eyes glazed over and I’m staring blankly at the antiseptic flourescent lamp. Concisely, I’m a goner.

Now let me justify my insane affliction.

The Carpenters, whether you like it or not, (and I am writing this in shocked/awed disbelief) are undeniable alchemists of sadness. Their melodies are mawkish beyond belief, but the lyrics sting like ten thousand hornets on a vengeance spree. They hit you like avalanche of anvils and you are buried under the weight of sweet yearnings, pinings, half-wishes and that thing you can’t seem to brush off the back of your head: the profound and wistful understanding that essentially love is the root cause of self-inflicted human misery. That no matter how the lovely folks at Hallmark Cards try to sugarcoat it in pastels eventually you’ll find yourself spending saturday evenings watching reruns or playing solitaire. Consider the ironic lyrics that go: “The Boy/Girl who is driving me crazy is going away” and you’ll know. I defy anyone who is incapable of getting a date to listen to ‘Goodbye To Love’ and not see his/her future flash before his/her eyes like malevolent scenes from a really dreary one-cast movie. Or, after a horrific, messy breakup you are confronted with lines that go: “Don’t you remember you told me you loved me baby/You said you’d be coming back this way again baby/” and the universe forbids you to go berserk and start demolishing your ex’s living quarters with a dynamite-loaded bulldozer.

If I sound homicidal it’s not because of my shameless descent into the pit of pathetic mellowness. I’m just reassuring myself that even if I listen to The Carpenters I am still capable of detonating an atomic warhead in the bathroom of anyone who’ll mock me.

And that’s neither an empty threat or an invitation for provocation.