Saturday, January 30, 2010

Shadow Moon

While we were busy settling in and getting into the rhythm of the new decade, its first cosmic spectacle unfolded two Fridays ago.

The BBC reports on the annular eclipse:

A solar eclipse that reduced the sun to a blazing ring surrounding a black disk has entered the record books as the longest annular eclipse for 1000 years.
The phenomenon which lasted eleven minutes and eight seconds, set a record that will not be beaten for another millennium.
An annular eclipse occurs when the moon only blocks the sun's middle therefore creating a ring, and could be seen across parts of Central Africa, the Maldives, southern India, northern Sri Lanka, parts of Burma and China.
Too bad that like Hulu, our own country wasn't allowed access to this wondrous celestial spectacle. As consolation, you can click on the link above for the beautiful, awe-inspiring - if slightly eerie - video.
In the meantime, enjoy these fantastic photographs culled from the AP, via MSN :

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Elevator

Photo from here. 

I was living in Syquia, where quite a number of old friends and acquaintances from my salad days also resided. Christiane was still my roommate and partner-in-crime, and Rafael, an old college classmate whom I didn't really like but was civil to, lived in the apartment across the hall.

Elsewhere in the building lived a motley crew of friends - designers, fellow advertising people, artists, writers. It was a good time to be alive; we were young, artsy, and ruled Malate with an arched brow and a snide smirk. And it was good to live in Syquia. Our lives were interesting, enviable. Lives full of promise, pride, and privilege.

And we knew it.

I was living on one of the middle floors and had been in Jojo's unit retrieving my cameras, which I had somehow left there from one of his previous wild and raucous parties. I went to the lobby and waited for the ancient elevator to arrive, too lazy to take the stairs down to my unit.

The heavy, creaking sound indicated that the venerable old elevator had finally arrived . Its doors opened and inside, I saw Richie - a photographer - a Brazilian girl I vaguely knew, her boyfriend-of-the-moment, and the old elevator man.

Before stepping in, there was a quick flash in my mind - no more than a nanosecond - that something was about to go terribly wrong. But I paid it no heed and absently got in, nodding to Richie as I did so.

No sooner had the doors closed when quick as a thought, the carriage immediately plummeted in a freefall. As in most life-threatening incidents, everything happened in slow motion, although in reality, everything was happening very, very quickly.

I hoped and waited that the carriage would suddenly come to an abrupt stop midway, jolting us with its immediacy, but no. We just kept on falling. Falling. Falling.

I remember the Brazilian girl with her mouth open in a terrified scream - only there was no sound. Richie was in front of me, huddled over, frozen in fear. I remember turning to the elevator man as I held on to the braces, asking if there was some way we could activate an emergency stop. He merely shook his head, tears in his eyes, and cried "No, no, no!"

It was then, with a sinking heart, that I knew we were going to die.

It felt like we were falling forever, and everything in the elevator was curiously white - the kind you'd think a soul sees when it ascends into the great hereafter.

I remember regretting not listening to that warning flash in my head earlier, that something was going to go terribly, terrifyingly wrong. And that because I didn't listen to my instincts, I was most certainly - along with my fellow passengers - going to die a horrible death.

I remember the feeling of utter helplessness, but there was no panicked desperation to somehow find a way out of the elevator. There was just a numb, pleading resignation. And the bitter agony of waiting for everything to be over.

I remember thinking that it was taking an awfully long time for us to hit the ground. Yet the freefall continued, all hope lost, but the gruesome end still nowhere in sight.

I remember that I heard myself uttering the last lines of Padre Nuestro, which I remembered as being especially tragic because I never prayed in Spanish except to mock my grandmothers. And among my panicked yet strangely-calm thoughts,  there was a cold realization that these were to be my final moments on earth. My last seconds of life, waiting for the inevitable.



Waiting for death.

Then I woke up.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Funny Or Die

Somebody once said "All humor is anarchic."

Indeed, what makes something funny? My Philo prof taught us that humor is triggered by absurdity - the dissonance between "what is" and "what should be." Which must be why I find pratfalls intrinsically and helplessly entertaining: because upright two-legged apes shouldn't fall. But they do, and often with hilarious results:

Okay, she wasn't really blind; just playing Helen Keller.

Now, just like the Janus Masks , there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy. Even though we I may laugh at events that cause actual physical injury to the subjects, it is the degree of injury - barring death, of course, which is seldom funny - plus the amount of time elapsed since the incident occurred that makes it fine to laugh at something. Case in point, below:

That's Canadian skater Jessica Dube, who got hit by her partner's ice skates during a competition in Colorado in 2007. She had to have surgery to her left cheek and nose, but suffered no broken bones and survived to skate another day.

That was so not funny.

But now that you know she's all right, and it being three years later, see how you feel about the same event - but this time set to music and sound effects:

You've heard about Gallows Humor, right? Basically, it's finding amusement even in the face of something most of humanity finds the most terrifying thing of all: death. Particularly, one's own.

In his 1927 essay Humour (Der Humour), Freud theorized about gallows humor:

"The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure."

Denial? Nah, that's a river in Egypt.

Puns aside, Oscar Wilde, that great gay hero, was a pundit to the end. Fallen from grace, destitute, and dying of cerebral meningitis in some dingy Parisian room plastered with what must have been hideously tacky decor, he is famously said to have remarked "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do."

And then he died.

I don't know if Wilde had specified it in his will, but even his headstone in Pere Lachaise speaks of a sense of humor :

According to Wiki :

"The modernist angel depicted as a relief on the tomb was originally complete with male genitals which were broken off and kept as a paperweight by a succession of cemetery keepers; their current whereabouts are unknown."

Hm - gallows humor and a dick joke, too!

Now, we find humor in movies that use death and funerals as take-off points. Case in point: Soxy Topacio's Ded Na Si Lolo, which I must confess I haven't had the pleasure of watching, so I don't know if it featured that Pinoy staple of horrifically-amusing goings-on at a funeral - like this incident in Romania :

I gasped, then I howled at that video because it reminded me of a TRUE incident that happened when we were laying my grandfather down to his final earthly resting place. After a very formal and somber ceremony, dear old gramps' coffin was being lowered into the ground, as the female members of my clan started sobbing softly (my histrionic grand-aunt was absent, thankfully.) At that precise moment, my cellphone beeped, and fool that I was, I actually looked at the message.

It was my best friend, who had texted this :

So, kumusta naman ang libing?
Successful ba?

Needless to say, I burst out laughing. Luckily, I was enough of an actor to quickly mask my guffaws to approximate something of a howling sob, thus escaping the ghoulish fate of being hurled into the pit by my glaring kinsmen to keep granddad company.

Of course, religion isn't spared from humor, although fanatics are often marked by their general humorlessness. Although they can sometimes be inadvertently laughable - like, oh, televangelists, Sarah Palin, and incompetent Nigerian bombers - I've never met an intentionally- funny zealot, except perhaps in The Naked Gun movies.

Perhaps the lack of a sense of humor has a correlation to the propensity to impose one's religious and/or political views on others, and judge them accordingly and, need it be said, harshly. Maybe Freud was on to something in his Relief Theory, where he stated that :

"there are powerful censors in the mind that form unconscious barriers to prevent us thinking about 'forbidden thoughts.' In this view, the laughable (ideally, a naughty joke) liberates the laugher from inhibitions about forbidden thoughts and feelings. The result is a discharge of nervous energy that distracts the inner censor from what is going on. Freud suggests that the release of this energy is a pleasurable experience as demonstrated by the good feeling that laughter provides."


"In his view, jokes happen when the conscious allows forbidden thoughts which society suppresses. The superego allows the ego to generate humor. A benevolent superego allows a light and comforting type of humor while a harsh superego creates a biting and sarcastic type of humor. A very harsh superego suppresses humor all together. Freud's humor theory was based on the dynamic among id, ego, and superego. The commanding superego will impede the ego to continue its pleasure-seeking from the id, or to momentarily adapt itself to  the demands of reality. Moreover Freud also contributes to the development of the relief theory of laughter in which he proposed that emotional energy is released by humor sense. 

Later Freud returned his attention to humor noting that not everyone is capable of formulating humor."

Then again, zealots and fanatics DO have minds that are closed as tightly as a fist, which isn't good for anything but knocking things down.

And speaking of knockdowns, I present to you a remix of that Pope-Tackling affair just late last year. For the record, I didn't find the incident hilarious - at first. But once it was established that The Ratz was fine and that the Empire was still solidly in his clutches hands, well, all bets were off.

Thus, see His Holiness and his biggest fan tussling to the music of that glorious internet sensation Keyboard Cat :

What does one's sense of humor say about one's self? I suppose it indicates one's view of the world, one's take on life. I think the human condition is generally ridiculous, and choose to laugh at its many and varied absurdities. Others may opt for a different route, and rail bitterly at life's slings and arrows.

Whatever tickles your fancy, fellas.

In his Incongruity Theory, Kant weighs in on the role of incongruity in humor :

"In everything that is to excite a lively laugh there must be something absurd (in which the understanding, therefore, can find no satisfaction). Laughter is an affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing."

Basically, we're supposed to find it funny when an expectation (a strained one, no less) comes to nothing. Which should be something we keep in mind the next time we expect lovers to make us happy. 

Buuuutttttttt I digress...

Since humor is based on cognitive shifts triggered by surprise deviations from expected patterns of reality, I suppose my own warped sense of it means that I actually have a very realistic view of life in general, and enough fortitude to laugh when it confounds my expectations. Or ironically, do I laugh because life delivers the absurdities I've learned to expect from it?

Then again, maybe I'm just a sick, sick boy.

All I know is if you didn't at the very least titter at one of the videos above, we can't be real friends.

Which, I guess, is how it should be. But hey, that's life. For me, it's often a toss-up between being an Ingmar Bergman film and a Tex Avery cartoon.

You can focus on the tragic:

Or see the comic in things :

Me, I'll take life as a cartoon any day - pratfalls, falling anvils, rocket-powered coyotes and all.

Aaaaannnddddd one more for the road:

Oh, and before you slap me - yes, I'm 12.

And when life slaps you - slap back.

Slap it silly.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Dancing Baby

On my last night in BKK, I took a leisurely stroll before dinner and some last-minute shopping.

While it is a progressive country, Thailand also has its fair share of beggars and assorted mendicants. Maybe I should say "supplicants", for that seems to be their preferred posture when they beg for small mercies from passersby.

Anyway, I was on the skywalk to MBK when I chanced upon this sight:

It was a little girl, probably not much older than 3 or 4. She was dancing up a storm as an older girl - her sister, perhaps? - played a tune on some kind of Thai flute.

My initial reaction was of delight. "Aw, isn't that adorb! Look at that chubby little girl dance in her two-piece!" She instantly reminded me of a more famous Dancing Baby:

And dance she did, with nary a care in the world, it seemed. She looked like she was genuinely having the time of her life flailing her chubby arms about and twirling heedlessly out-of-sync with the music.

Then she saw me. And after snapping my pics, I got a good look at her.

The Coke can and makeshift rose on her head made her look like a little Lady Gaga wannabe, but upon closer inspection, I realized something: this was a child whose baby tits were literally hanging out of her top.

And then introspection set in. Dancing Baby Girl was dancing for her supper, out in the street, in a makeshift two-piece ensemble and a tin can on her head.

How long before she would dance for her supper in a fuller two-piece in Patpong?

But then she made the  wai - that Thai gesture with hands clasped together at the chest. A gesture of respect and reverence, and also a common one to say thank you or apologize.

She then resumed dancing gleefully, unmindful of the world and lost in her own groove.

I gave them all my coins and walked away, lost in a groove of my own.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Heeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny!!!

If you ever thought figure-skating was...well...GAY, meet its sparkling Ice Queen:

Imagine Bobby Trendy on ice skates instead of clunky heels and you have Johnny Weir. Who's Johnny, you say? Johnny Weir's the living incarnation of Jon Heder's ambiguously gay character on Blades of Glory, except Weir is full-on fierce flaming fagalicious flamboyancy. And more importantly - he's for REAL.

From Towleroad :

"It's more exciting to walk in a fashion show or portray Jesus than it is to sit at home learning how to play the piano or skating to 'The Nutcracker'...The risks I'm taking are natural to me. I didn't go to BlackBook and say, 'I want to pose in heels.' I said I'd do it because it's fun for me. It wasn't like I went in and said, 'Oh my God, I want heels. I want fur. I want glitter. I want to be made up totally like Amanda Lepore (the self-proclaimed No. 1 transsexual in the world).' ... I think the pictures are very interesting. They're not gaudy. They're not campy. They're just me modeling clothes."

Do take time to read Weir's fantastic interview on ESPN , where, among other things, he gamely discusses what it's like to be the maverick of men's figure skating and how he felt when he donned "a swan-inspired costume, with glittery, featherlike designs across the chest, crisscrossed strapping over one arm and a single red glove he called Camille" while competing at the 2006 Olympics at Torino.

And yay! Now he's gonna have his own reality show!

And here's the Queen of The Ice in action, footloose and fanciful. A fountain of flaky fantasy flinging fabulousness all over creation while flying, sliding, and gliding to "Poker Face":

And lest you think Weir is all flash but no substance, he just made the U.S. Olympics team.

Now that's fab.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seasons Change

One of the things I love most about countries with temperate climates is the changing of the seasons. In the tropics, we have but two.

I love autumn most of all, when the leaves change in dramatic bursts of color. A last hurrah before they fall, signifying the transition to the silence of white winter.

I've noticed a shift in the tone of quite a number of blogs that I follow. So many people seem to be entering a season of heartbreak and heartache. At least two have shuttered their blogs - hopefully just a temporary retreat, while they lick their wounds in private and hibernate in peace.

After the Fall enters the Winter of our discontent. All this has happened before, and all this will happen again. 

'Tis but the changing of the seasons.

The summer knows. The summer's wise.
She sees the doubts within your eyes.

Everything has its season. Everything has its time.
Show me a reason and I'll soon show you a rhyme.

We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.
But the wine and the song, like the seasons, have all gone

         When autumn sheds the leaves the trees are bare
When you're not here it doesn't feel the same.

The falling leaves drift by the window. The autumn leaves of red and gold.
I see your lips, the summer kisses. The sun-burned hands I used to hold.

Like a sturdy tree that's seen a thousand seasons, I've to shed my leaves in winter to grow them back in spring.
To welcome life again. To welcome you.

We tell ourselves another season.We turn away and find the reason.
But love decides how things must be. And love is stronger far than we.

Almost mockingly, the sign at the end of the road says "Happy."
Who's to say it will not be so when Spring returns?
But in the meantime

If you’ve learned
Your lesson well
There’s little more
For her to tell
One last caress
It’s time to dress
For fall...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Oh, Snaps Part 2

Just a few random pictures.

Street scene.

Still life.

Concrete and greens.

Strange chair.

House of the spirits.

Eerie snowmen.

Kawaii, kawaii!

Objet d'art.

The boys outside my window.

Monsters, Inc.

Kawaii Five Oh!

Paris of the East

My wet dream.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Suite Dreams Are Made Of These

I seldom remember my dreams. Maybe that's because sleep is just a brief respite from consciousness for me. I lay down and black out, then wake up and fight the day's battles all over again.

I remember my bad dreams, though. I had a couple in Bangkok.

I dreamt I lent my editor my little convertible for a spin, and he promptly crashed it into the rear of another just like it. Only it was colored blue. The same royal blue color of that other 2-door number I was thinking of buying last year. Anyway, in the dream, I remember thinking "Well, isn't that nice" while facepalming myself. I'd just gotten my sedan - which IRL had suffered a fate similar to what I had in the dream - out of the casa last December, and now it's the little car's turn. Why the hell not?

Then I woke up.

The next night's dream was a little more disturbing. I dreamt that my brother had died. But it was very casual - just one of those things I made a mental note of while I was engrossed with work. And then in the dream, I finally got around to asking my mom when the burial would be. Then I realized I had already missed it because I was working.

And then I sobbed and sobbed in the dream.

I haven't sobbed in real life for a long time.

Strange dreams. I wonder if they mean anything.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Get Your Roxxxy Off

Well, it was bound to happen.

Every tech geek's wet dream is now a sad, saaaadddd reality. Meet Roxxxy - the world's first sex robot:

" I Heart Roxxxy" with her maker.

Roxxxy made her world debut at the recent AVN Adult Expo in - where else - Las Vegas. According to the MSN  story:

"She can't vacuum, she can't cook but she can do almost anything else if you know what I mean," TrueCompanion's Douglas Hines said while introducing AFP to Roxxxy.

"She's a companion. She has a personality. She hears you. She listens to you. She speaks. She feels your touch. She goes to sleep. We are trying to replicate a personality of a person."

Roxxxy stands five feet, seven inches tall, weighs 120 pounds, "has a full C cup and is ready for action," according to Hines, who was an artificial intelligence engineer at Bell Labs before starting TrueCompanion.

The anatomically-correct robot has an articulated skeleton that can move like a person but can't walk or independently move its limbs.

Robotic movement is built into "the three inputs" and a mechanical heart that powers a liquid cooling system.

Roxxxy comes with five personalities. Wild Wendy is outgoing and adventurous, while Frigid Farrah is reserved and shy.There is a young naive personality along with a Mature Martha that Hines described as having a "matriarchal kind of caring." S & M Susan is geared for more adventurous types.

Aspiring partners can customize Roxxxy features, including race, hair color and breast size." 

Annnndddd we have video! Watch if you dare:

I dunno. That video was sadder than Bambi's mother getting shot and even more tragic than Edsa Dos. Also, interesting how the Press Play button in the vid falls squarely on her crotch. Press. Play.

At any rate, in case you have a troublesome boyfriend, or just luck out in the cruising game:

"A male sex robot named "Rocky" is in development."

Wonder what the makers of RealDoll have to say about this. Their Male RealDolls offer a plethora of customizable options similar to what the makers of Roxxxy are offering, even down to the optional pubic hair.

Welcome to the future, gentlemen! Remember Gigolo Joe from A.I.?

You've cum a long way, baby!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Oh, Snaps!

Hello again, Bangkok.

First visit for the new decade.

Sawasdee khrup.

From Suvarnabhumi, we went straight to the post house and finished around midnight.

Post-midnight check-in, with a small surprise at the hotel. They put me in a junior suite instead of my usual room on the 13th floor (aka The Smokers' Ghetto.)

"I took the suite life..."

Lotsa space. Too bad I had no one to share it with.

"..and never knew I'd be..."

Then again, I'm used to empty spaces.

" ...bitter from the suite."

Anyway, the next morning, I discovered that apparently, it's still Christmas in Bangkok.

Blue Christmas.

Now, while I love me some holiday cheer, I've always found it a little odd that a Buddhist country such as Thailand would celebrate Christmas.

I bet she's wondering, too.

Then again, perhaps it's nothing more than a festive commercial holiday.

Tropical snowflakes.

Anyway, any reason to cheer must be good enough, as LG's smileys might say.

"Life's good, you whining fucks."

The circus was apparently in town, too.

"Freaks! Get your freaks right here, folks!"

Mascot gamely poses for this pap.

The Talented Mr. Fox.

And so do a couple of mimes making balloon animals.

Balloon boys.

No elephants, though, alas. For they were banned from the city about a couple of years back. Sad. I'll never forget ambling absently through Patpong before looking up just in time to avoid literally walking into a parked pachyderm on the sidewalk.

Holiday cheer wasn't for everyone, though.

Clean slates need work.

Mr. P seems to be above it all.

"Bah, humbug!"

Still, maybe we shouldn't over-think things.

"Brain half yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

And with that...

"Let's have a grape old time!"