Friday, May 22, 2009


Mark, editor and publisher at Outrate messaged me, seeking permission to re-post my insane review of Cris Pablo's Moreno. I hope this won't encourage people to poke their eyes with red-hot forks after they rent the DVD and watch it.

I told him that as a matter of habit i mock movies with glee but do try to encourage people to support the worthy ones. He replied thusly:

"Poking fun at lousy movies and encouraging people to see the good ones is what Outrate exists for!"

Check out Outrate! It's a relief to know someone shares this breed of neurosis!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Dog Daze

"Over a dog!" Jack Nicholson sobs in As Good As It Gets. "Over an ugly dog!"

I find myself becoming sympathetic to his obsessive-compulsive, mean-spirited character because as bibliophilic luck would have it a very thin book would send my insecurity into an all-time high. I was reading Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog and I was stunned.

This seemingly effortless book has visceral effect on me despite its breezy nature. Its comic innocence coats the unadorned profundity and general marvel that only a child-at-heart can truly grasp. Not exactly superior to the almost reverential regard I place on Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince and Jose Saramago’s Tale of The Unknown Island but Love That Dog sweeps me into the great, sweet pleasure of having discovered it. It’s nothing short of a gem.

It’s the unfussy but totally charismatic story of Jack, the little boy whose awakening towards the strange magnetism of writing poetry is gently nudge with positive encouragement by Miss Stretchberry, his teacher. The book (as previously noted) is digestible in one coffee break, written in an interesting way that would probably happen if you compound Anne Frank and E.E. Cummings into a less mischievous version of Calvin ( of Calvin & Hobbes). It has that hypnotic feel-good quality that warms over the jadedness of even hardcore cynics (present blogger included).

Take for instance the first entry:

September 13

I don’t want to
because boys
don’t write poetry.

Girls do.

Or his take on The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams:

September 17

I don’t understand
the poem about
the red wheelbarrow
and the white chickens
and why so much
depends upon

If that is a poem
about the red wheelbarrow
and the white chickens
then any words
can be a poem.

You’ve just got to


His almost-naïve wit is disarming. Take for instance his reaction to Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost:

October 17

What was up with
the snowy woods poem
you read today?

Why doesn’t the person just
keep going if he’s got
so many miles to go
before he sleeps?

And why do I have to tell more
about the blue car
splattered with mud
speeding down the road?

I don’t want to
write about that blue car
that had miles to go
before it slept,
so many miles to go
in such a hurry.

I was chuckling like a maniac when I read his understanding of The Pasture by Robert Frost:

January 10

I really really really
did NOT get
the pasture poem
you read today.

I mean:
somebody’s going out
to the pasture
to clean the spring
and to get
the tottery calf
while he’s out there
and he isn’t going
to be gone long
and he wants YOU
(who is YOU)
to come too.

I mean REALLY.

And you said that

Mr. Robert Frost
who wrote
about the pasture
as the one
who wrote about
those snowy woods
and the miles to go
before he sleeps—

I think Mr Robert Frost
has a little
on his

Kirkus Reviews called this compact treasure “A really special triumph” and I nod like a deranged woodpecker in absolute assent. This miniature tome defused my skepticism and I am wide eyed in amazement.

My ultimate, special triumph, is owning this book, courtesy of Booksale.

At forty five bucks it's practically a precious gift, if I ever see one!

= = =

A sampling of my recent Booksale loot:

01. The intelligent, compelling, lucid Kiss & Tell from the beautiful mind of Alain de Botton. Seventy five bucks.

02. The eloquent, tender and beguiling Floating In My Mother’s Palm by one of my favorite contemporary fiction authors, Ursula Hegi. Forty five bucks

03. The amply comical slash savage tragicomedy in Things We Do For Love by playwright/director/actor Alan Aykbourn. Twenty bucks.

Instead of paying my electricity bills I hoarded books which will make me the least favorite human being by Meralco inspectors, who will undoubtedly disconnect my power next week with mad glee.

I’ll be living in darkness but my mind will be glowing every time I put each volume down.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gallerina Doubts God And Other Tales Of Artistic Missteps

Deducting a title from dusty pillars of books fencing my bedside was something I was hell-bent of accomplishing these past few days. If you have been occasionally drifting here in my blog you'll, by now, be aware that I belong to that anomalous subspecies of human beings with narcotic impetus to hoard books, stack them like soon-to-be-forgotten bricks in one corner of the room to soak dust until boredom hits and the urge to read them become the only alternative to serial killing.

Recent hoarding spree includes copies of A.A. Gill’s The Angry Island, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Roddy Doyle’s Oh Play That Thing and the title I devoured in one sitting, Danielle Ganek’s Lulu Meets God And Doubts Him.

Lulu is a glossy, stylish, smart, brisk, (often hilariously) wry send up to Manhattan’s nutty Art Scene, populated by snooty “gallerinas” (bratty, gorgeous gallery assistants), dubious but high-powered art dealers, ravenous collectors and egotistical artists who fuel the psychosis of Art Lust.

It’s a challenge to put it down. You’re immediately siphoned into the riotous circus of characters nonchalantly trading greed, ambition, power, fame and fortune, making you wonder whether there is a special cell in hell allocated to people who would declare, say, a bucket of brittle cow dung high concept magnum opus. There were no cow dung in the book of course, and I write this in hyperbolic sense, but personally having once worked in a gallery of a museum (and having been exposed to the kind of personalities lucidly described in the book) it is not far from being the neighborhood of really happening.

Tucked in the middle of the debauched tale are ponderings that will ring true regardless whether one is working in the creative industry or not. The sardonic protagonist, an atypical gallerina who cultivates a hidden path to being a bonafide painter herself, mulls over while attempting a self portrait:

There’s something in my eyes when I look at them in the mirror, what is that? Not doubt. More like insecurity. I want to convey an expression of what’s it like to be twenty-eight, knowing you’re a grown up but wondering what you’re supposed to be when you grow up. I want to capture what it looks like when you start to realize you have to let go of your dreams.

She robbed many of us of our very own familiar sentiments.

~ ~ ~

While we are dipping in the subject of art books allow me to take this sudden/short-lived vacation from being a complete zit and urge you to check out Preview Magazine’s stunning book of collaboration titled Preview Art.

I am not the target audience of the fashion/style rag nor am I an ardent follower of their monthly lunacy but I am very much impressed by what they have accomplished with this project.

Preview Art explores the intersection of avant-garde fashion and contemporary art in one spectacular compendium. The Philippines’ progressive crop of multitalented artists convenes alongside inventive local fashion designers, documented through cutting edge styling, art direction and photography.

This Fashion+Art concept is not exclusively original to Preview as we have throughout the years looked at groundbreaking efforts at Visionaire, Spoon, Self Service, Tank, Wad even Paper and i-D magazines. Even locally-published bi-annual Imagine magazine pushes the boundaries in this variety of exploration.

Nevertheless this is a creditable, worthwhile endeavor for Preview Magazine as it coincides with the publication of their one hundred fiftieth editions. Instead of producing self-congratulatory circle jerks for their accomplishments (through reprinting their best past works) they refused to regurgitate their archives and did the most inspired thing: publishing a striking volume that surveys the visionary practitioners in the artistic disciplines, highlighting the most innovative, conceptual approaches. The cutting edge soft-bound effort divulges a sort of foretaste to where Philippine Creative Psyche is heading when encouraged. That is a very smart thing to do.

Noticeable nonetheless is Preview Art’s “The Usual Suspects” decisions. The (majority, if not all of) designers, stylists, photographer/s and artists featured are already big names or semi-established brand names in the scene. Don't get me wrong; I admire many of those names and their works. If I may register a slight regret, this project could have been a very impactful, landmark platform to catapult obscure but prodigiously gifted, or serve as a pool for brilliant undiscovered or emerging creative individuals into prominence, or at least in the appreciative radar of the mainstream. This could have been a good route if Preview wishes to assert its claim as THE progressive seer—THE Forward Thinker among local style rags.

Regardless of this minor lapse nothing can alter the fact that Preview Art accomplished a striking momentum in curating works into a tome of distinctive voices. Through its high styled-high art convergence we get a refreshing glimpse: That Pinoy creativity is not only thriving, it is throbbing with dynamism and excitement.

Well done Preview Magazine! For your birthday I wish you’d be a maverick and abolish “Black Is Back” in your coverlines!

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