We run out of batteries for the right days

Typhoon Gorio made its way through Manila, made the mornings cold and wet.

Come noon, we are back to tropical heat, but with winds. I found a fallen nest near our house, but without any trace of bird activity (no eggs, no eggshell, no feathers). There are sheep nearby, with one of the lousiest wools I've seen, not the New Zealand kind of fluffy wool, not the stark-white variety. Lots of fallen branches, some of which are lined together by length, mother and son sawing wood, father lining them up, probably as kindling for tonight's supper. Then there are fruits smashed to the ground, then some seed-bearing trees, and the disheveled look of trees and electric posts and the erratic flight of birds, panicky, distressed. The storm becomes this comb scattering some pieces, only to be looked at the same afternoon, and disposed the morning after.

I didn't have the good kind of batteries to power up my camera. They cost too much.


From the bus stop I thought of doing the shortcut to the office, so I passed through SM Megamall. It's an excuse to breeze through Le Coeur de France. There I was, buying their buy-one take-one garlic bread. I always feel lightheaded after watching a film (that's why I've been disinterested with films for the past few years: it's either I fall asleep with any kind of film or end up having sex or making out with)--this time, it's from the last scene I found myself staring at before I got off the bus, where this nuclear submarine was lifted by Magneto aboard this stealth fighter with other mutants. I was so lightheaded I felt like I wasn't walking at all, that I made a beeline to the nearest ATM and fell in line behind two others.

The ATM was clearly malfunctioning, and the lady is trying to call the hotline through her smartphone. The two people ahead of me went off the line; I weighed my options and tried to ask the security guard.

So there I was, getting some cash on the ATM right besides National Bookstore, when there was this shriek coming straight from the nearby stalls selling soy products (Soy something) and nuts (House of Nuts). I thought it was just a friendly commotion, but the people involved where clearly not acquainted with each other: there was this man, quite good-looking (looks like 25 years old to me), probably waiting for his girlfriend; and there's this another man, around 19 years old, quite overweight, shrieking and clawing the good-looking man. All of us around the scene were frozen when the shrieking man went straight to the House of Nuts stall and grabbed the trinkets and the products on display.

The security guard popped out of nowhere, and responded by holding the hands of the shrieking man. Then a balding man, probably the father of the shrieking man, came into the scene and appeased the shrieking.

It's a good thing to notice that nobody dared to take videos to upload online.

After I withdrew cash I was very nervous, partly because of the incident, but mostly with the table in front of the bookstore, with the words SALE, white letters on red background. I found some familiar names on piles of Spanish and Arabic dictionaries, but what struck me the most is an Allen Ginsberg essay collection worth fifty pesos. What joy.

Then I went back to Le Coeur de France for a buy-one take-one cinnamon roll, for my wife.

On literature and the times

"I still maintain that the times get precisely the literature that they deserve, and that if the writing of this period is gloomy the gloom is not so much inherent in the literature as in the times."
- William Styron, from Letter to an Editor

On captions

Can you talk a bit about your China experience? 

Well, I don’t want to say anything. It’s as if you invite someone for dinner and serve wine in a decanter instead of the bottle with the label. People should guess if it’s a good wine. But no, they want to see the label. This is awful. That’s why there shouldn’t be any captions. People should just look. We should awaken our sensitivity. But people don’t. If it’s in a decanter, they won’t dare say it’s a good wine or it’s a bad wine because they haven’t seen the year. They don’t know which chateau. That’s what I resent. I think photographs should have no caption, just location and date. Date is important because things change.

- Henri Cartier-Bresson, from Living and Looking


  1. Can't get enough of this article by David Holthouse about twenty-something whites partying with shabu in Denver. The first sentence is well-crafted, and the fly-on-the-wall approach works well with this kind of journalism--detached but personal, to the point that Holthouse seemed like he melded his voice to the story, a narrator from some hidden surveillance camera. Just neat erasures of the author's presence.
  2. Aside from that, I'm reading Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49--an impossible book. Really tough to read during commutes, especially when there's a constant barrage of whole-page paragraphs, but absolutely well-written satire; and R.K. Narayan's Tales from Malgudi, a collection of short stories about this imagined town in India.
  3. There's this graffiti in Buendia written in cursive: humbly, it said. I swear to take a picture of it tomorrow.
  4. Just this week (Wednesday?) the rainy season started with thunderstorms. It so happened that one of our lampposts were struck by lightning. No kidding. Until now we don't have an Internet connection. (Hopefully the gods at PLDT would hear our plea, but I could foresee their customer service placating us with apologies: hundreds of electric poles have been struck by lampposts these past few days, etc.)
  5. Ashbery used this word in Flow Chart: chrysoprase. One beautiful word. Also, an inventory of various stones under the chalcedony category.

Coursera, etc.

Enlisting on courses such as The Modern and The Postmodern and The Fiction of Relationship are just one of the reasons why I signed up at Coursera. I've been wanting to get a Master's this year, but my wife initially said it would be too much to handle--what with a kid growing up and night shift work. (I disputed her claim and told her it would be better to take MA classes this year, else I won't get my momentum and would probably think twice next year until the urge dissipates. It's a long story, really.)

So far, so good. Coursera is one of those--if not the only MOOCs (Massive Online Open Course)--which has lots of course offerings to choose from, Humanities included. The reading list relies on Project Gutenburg and Amazon (only optional, but tempting).

In an 1966 New Yorker profile by Calvin Tomkins, In The Outlaw Area, Buckminster Fuller--the man behind geodesic domes among tons of other inventions--published a book, Education Automation, the essence of which is this:
"Everybody will be going back to school periodically (...) [b]ut, of course, the university itself won't be anything like what it is now. We'll get rid of all the teachers who are just holding on to their jobs in order to eat--all the deadwood, which is the biggest problem in a university anyhow. The deadwood will get fellowships to study or work on their own, and TV will come in to take over most of the actual teaching. There will be a large technical staff making documentary movies (...) with tools like individually selected and articulated two-way TV that will permit any student anywhere in the world to select from a vast stockpile of documentaries on any subject and watch it over his own TV set at home. And the great teachers won't have to spend their time delivering the same lectures over and over, because they'll put them on film. The teachers and scholars will be free to spend their time developing more and more knowledge about man's whole experience--past, present and future."
Replace the TV with computers and Coursera is all about this vision.

With the current course I'm enrolled in, The Fiction of Relationship (Brown University) do offer discounts on a handful of their reading list items by entering promo keywords, but I really hope they could develop a system where people from the third-world countries could get these books for free. Only, for them, it would probably be another name for piracy.

Memorial Day

Yesterday was Memorial day and our office was supposed to celebrate U.S. Holidays. My boss, based in Dallas, Texas, e-mailed us that he has decided to move the holiday to July 5th, right after the July 4th (Independence Day) holiday, for a four-day weekend. The four of us in the office shrugged. We knew we couldn't do about it, but we bickered at the decision.

Last year, I booked a flight from New York to San Francisco the morning of the Memorial Day. My sisters knew the flights would be wide open. It was my first time to experience going home all by myself, and the oil spill at the Gulf Coast, aired on the in-flight TV screens, soothed me. I looked down from the plane window and saw the Rocky Mountains. Nothing much but just white-and-gray marbling. Upon spotting vivid beta-carotene farms (not sure if they really are those farms, but they looked line one), I reached San Francisco and stayed with my aunt for a day. The next day, after having too much trouble with overweight baggage, I was bound for Manila.

"It's been a year," my sister e-mailed. Time flies fast, she said, and she said she wanted to say hi to Perry (my eight-month old son). In less than a year I got married, had a son, found a night-shift job in Ortigas. 

Also attached in her e-mail is a recipe of alfajores for my wife to bake: it's really good, she said. It's basically shortbread cookies with dulce de leche filling. My sisters were very glad they've had it first in this Cuban restaurant they frequented in Hoboken, La Isla. I ate their Cuban steak there once, and finished everything on the plate, and went home with a bad case of impacho.

So I went to work last night. By the time we arrived at work we knew we won't be doing that much. The memorial weekend is one of the big holidays, next to Thanksgiving, and there should be minimal paperwork. My boss joked that all he ever wanted last night was for us to see his necktie. "It's the American flag," he said. 

As expected, we had minimal tasks, and all of us were finished by 3 AM. I suggested that we should go get something to drink and wait for 6AM. All of us were scared to be mugged, so we paid for the taxi. We chipped in some money for two mucho Red Horse bottles. By 6 AM we were eating at this tapsilugan near UST where the atchara looked bleached. (Maceda?)

By 7AM I reached Lawton, and I was very nervous. It looked very dilapidated, from the Park and Ride building with its retro typography down to the tunnel with the yellowing tiles and the leaks from what seemed like toilets overhead. I was trying to find the stop for the Pacita-bound buses, where I was residing with my in-laws for a couple of days. I've asked fatigued jeepney drivers and manangs who looked like they've been living in Lawton for decades (one was even cooking breakfast with a stove on one of the bus stops) and they all led me to different stops, until I spotted a Green Star bus and chased it. There, I started having chills. It's most likely caused by the beer.

I arrived at my in-law's house and went straight to the bedroom to get some sleep. I knew my wife would understand, and she did. I rarely drink, since I always read or perform my daddy duties during my spare time.

My chills were getting worse, and at twelve noon I had to vomit on the toilet bowl.

Worse, I miscalculated the trajectory and cleaned the mess. I knew my in-laws would be downright displeased with my drinking on a Monday night (who does that, anyway?), so I told my wife not to tell it to anybody. Of course I won't, she said.

I didn't go to work that night. My wife and I are thinking if it's food poisoning from the tapsilog I had for breakfast, or if it's just hangover left untreated, or a bad case of dehydration. The only thing I know is that it's similar with the stomach flu I had (with the chills and that squeezing feeling in the bones), sans the fever.