Should Exposure to and the Capacity to Create Art Lead to Living a Better Life?

This year has been a particularly conflicted one, with amazing high highs and saddening low lows. This is the time of year when people take stock of their years, take stock of their lives. They come up with a year-end report and make projections for what their life will be to come. I am in that kind of frame of mind, but I’ve found myself wrestling with certain ideas and questions and I guess rather than run over what I think I’ve been through in the year, I want to sort of think and ramble (unlike a lot of my past blogs, this one is turning out to be more focused and structured, and I guess it would be nice to have a kind of ramble-y, meandering piece that’s searching for meaning and understanding as it’s being written here) and just try and process some of those thoughts that are going on in my head. So please, if you take offense or feel strongly about certain things I say, go ahead and express yourselves, but understand that I am not trying to speak the truth or say anything definitive, but rather trying to think through things, and so contributions to the thinking are more than welcome, but coming out straight hating would just kind of kill the whole thing. And I’ve been through too much hating this year already.

That’s where we’ll start, with the hating. It’s what gets all this thinking going anyway, so might as well start there.  Read more of this post

An Atheist’s Christmas

I was asked to write something about Christmas, to be read on air, for our radio show, Quaddro Kantos. Here’s my essay on how this atheist views Christmas:

For many years I believed in a jolly fat white man who came from the sky and showered gifts upon me. Even when reality was strained, even though I lived in California and there were no chimneys through which he could pass with his giant bag of gifts, even when I had already caught my mother typing a “letter from Santa,” I held on doggedly to my belief because the world would become so much harder and harsher if I had to stop believing in Santa Clau

It was pretty much the same when I became an atheist. The weight of science, physics, logic, and the development of my own moral code and belief system based on my reading of various religious texts and search for meaning led to the most logical solution, and something that I could believe in, despite my years of Catholic school and what was what I once believed to be the fervent burning fire of faith in my heart. I believe, ultimately, in science, they physical laws of the universe, the improbability of life in the vastness of the cosmos, and the miracle that is man. And in the face of all this improbability, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our species, our planet, and the universe, to do amazing things.  Read more of this post

Pintakasi! Showing from Dec 17-21 at Robinson’s Galleria

I started working on a film a few years ago. The idea was for it to be hip-hop themed, for it to be animated, and for it to be kind of different and edgy and have a lot of new elements. After having made my contributions to the project, I left it behind (really, as a story consultant and as part of the writing team, there’s only so much you can do) and waited for the movie. A lot of really smart and creative people have made their contributions to the movie since then. And now it’s here. I am very excited to see it. This will be the second movie I’ve worked on to be produced, the first being Khavn dela Cruz’s Maynila sa Mga Pangil ng Dilim. Here’s the trailer:

The movie will be part of the Metro Manila Filmfest, in the New Wave category. Here’s the screening schedule:

December 18 | GALA | 6pm Regular Screening
December 19 | 3pm
December 20 | 9pm
December 21 | 11:30am
Robinson’s Galleria CINEMA 3

And here are the film credits:

2011 December 17 to 21 | Robinson’s Galleria

Inihahandog ng Creative Media of the Philippines
Mula sa Direksyon ni Lee Meily
Official Entry for Metro Manila Film Festival: New Wave Section

Erich Gonzales
JM De Guzman
John Wayne Sace
Boots Anson-Roa
William Martines
Giselle Sanchez
Hazel Ann Mendoza
Alwyn Uytingco
Alchris Galura
Jeremiah Carandang
Winryll Banaag

with Special Participation of Ces Quesada

Production Designer: Buboy Tagayon
Music & Sound: JM Diego
Editor: Danny Anonuevo
Director of Photography: Lee Meily & Larry Manda
Writers: Judith Albano | JM Diego | Carljoe Javier
Line Producer: Vilma Morales Bacani
Animation Director: Nelson Caliguia
Executive Producer: Imee Marcos

Please come and check it out. Feel free to repost and share.

About the Madrigal-Gonzalez Awards

On my birthday in 2009 I went to a book launch. I went to the author, copy of his book in my hand, and I congratulated him on his first book. I handed him the book for signing and as he signed I leaned over and talked in a hushed voice so that only we two could hear what I was saying, and told him, “I hate you Larry. I hate you so much right now.” He just looked up at me from his signing table and smiled as if asking why. I continued, “I hate you because you released your first book the same year as me, and on my birthday, and now i have no chance of winning the First Book award.”

He answered with a hearty laugh and a “Gago!” and we both laughed and I hugged him and congratulated him again on what is a beautiful and moving book, The Highest Hiding Place. And so, as I predicted, I sat on a panel and watched as Larry Ypil’s book won the award. I can’t tell you how happy I am for Larry, and how proud I am to be able to say that he is a friend, or that I know him, or that someone so brilliant has sat around and had beers with me.

Of course the other nominees were hitting it out of the park as well. Jose Marte Abueg, who had won the Centennial Literary Prize with his poetry collection Bird Lands, River Nights, and Other melancholies, sat next to me and explained how his collection was inspired by a picture depicting birds committing suicide. Clarissa Militante, whose novel Different Countries was long-listed for the Man Asian, explained the experiences that helped to bring order to her work. And though they were not there, Robin Lim and Larry Ypil had representatives. All in all it was flattering to just be sitting at the same table as these writers, and throughout, I was thinking, dude what am I doing here?

Once again, congratulations to Larry (who gets a nice fat check along with the distinction), and to all the other finalists, whose amazing books are great additions to our literature. And now here’s what the judges had to say about And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth:

Filipino geekery’s foremost and most candid spokesman, Javier in this first book talks his head off about all the usual things geeks obsess over–girls’ panties, video games, computers, and what-have-yous–and reveals that there may be something to geek groupies’ fascination, after all. Certainly, Javier’s nonfiction pieces are pretty fascinating and interesting examples of the finest sort of memoir writing, but perhaps the biggest attraction of this book’s by-turns-glib-and-broody speaker is his unremitting self-awareness, which is enough–the reader ends up suspecting, by the end of this all-too-slim volume–to redeem not only veritable madmen, but self-confessed geeks as well.

Kindle fire and the issue of apps in the Philippines

I am writing this post with my kindle fire using the wordpress app that took quite some work to install. I will be writing a full review soon, in the meantime some notes.

I tried getting apps via the amazon app store. Worst thing for us out here in the third world, the app store does not work in our region. This is precisely the problem with us trying to access content in the supposedly while we say that digital bridges so many divides, content issues still exist. We are restricted from buying certain kinds of content if not locked out altogether.

I did manage to get apps onto the kindle by installing a file manager and the apps downloaded from 4shared. But the point is that we shouldn’t have to do that, and the target market of the fire, which isn’t the tech savvy crowd, will.probably have problems.

I do hope that amazon gives us access to the store soon (though content like music still hasn’t been made available in our region). In the meantime it is important for pinoys to know that while the kindle fire is a wonderful device, you won’t be able to maximize its potential at this point.

And now I have a Kindle Fire!

Ok, so my great excuse for acquiring these ebook readers is that I want to be at the cutting edge of the field of digital publishing, as an author and as a person working for a publishing house, so I have to know the hardware. Which, when you think about it is a pretty good excuse. But really, honestly, I just love playing around with new gadgets, seeing what I can do with them, and seeing how these technologies are developing. It’s pretty mind-blowing that the cost of the Kindle has dropped so much, and that tablets (with the iPad setting the pricing standard at $499 and other tablets actually coming in as more expensive) have become so surprisingly affordable in such a short time. Now you can pick up the Kindle Fire and the Nook Color for 199, with the Nook getting a nice hardware upgrade while retaining its form factor. (That’s the major selling point for me for the Nook. Sure its guts are powerful and all that, but what you notice immediately, and what is aesthetically pleasing, is there’s a nicely-designed and unique feel to it, while the Fire kind of just looks like a little BB Playbook).

So in the span of a year, I have owned and gone crazy over four ebook readers now. I started with a CDR King reader, which was so (seemingly) amazingly cheap at a shade under 4K. With its LCD screen and limited customizability, as well as lack of wifi and problems reading different formats, well, there were some real limitations to it. But if you wanted to read PDFs (and I did get to read quite a number on it) then it was a pretty reliable, if not so sturdy machine. After about two months of use, I gave it to my sister, who didn’t use it for another two months. Then when we tried turning it on, it just wouldn’t. Still, I suppose if it had been taken care of better, it would have been alright. And shelling out 4K for a reader at the time was a good deal, considering that the Kindle was selling in some stores here for as much as 2oK.

After that I picked up a Kindle 3, which was just a great product. I still miss reading on e-ink. And the battery life, oh the battery life. If you want something just for pure text reading, it’s an e-ink reader that you want.With the new Kindles going for just $99 I am expecting these to be a major seller this holiday season, abroad and hopefully even here in the Philippines.

Next I picked up a Nook Color for my birthday, supposedly. Again I found a wonderful excuse to get a new ebook reader. The Nook Color, as I already mentioned, boasts great design, a nice interface, and a good range of apps. Also, it made for a very good reading experience.

Now I know the issues with LCD/LED screens and the possibility of eye strain. But I’m a gamer who has gone for 8-12 straight gaming binges, so I’ve never had any problems reading on them myself. And while I love reading text on the e-ink displays, the full color displays allow me to read comic books and other colored content. So I think if you’re sticking with text, the cheaper, easier-on-the-eyes e-ink readers are great, but the tablets just offer so much that you can do. It’s worth the tradeoffs I think.

So now here we are with the Kindle Fire. And while I was worried about proprietary issues, getting books into it, and other things, it’s been working like a dream so far. I’ve read about wifi problems, as well as people having problems with the buttons on it, and i haven’t encountered those problems either. We will have to see as the week wears on, but thus far it’s a very happy early-christmas acquisition for me.

I hope that this extends not only to book geeks like me, but to the larger public. Who knows, maybe parents will give their kids e-ink readers to encourage them to read. And in a best-case scenario, people buy tablets to play Angry Birds, they get bored, and they wind up downloading some books and reading. I have no fear for the death of literature or books, only the greatest optimism that a new revolution in the way we read and experience books is so happily upon us.

The Adventures of Tintin (Review)

Every year brings about new developments in moviemaking technology, and so it’s almost a given that we will be astounded with some kind of visual effects extravaganza. Last year gave us Avatar, which was really Pocahontas with blue aliens. It was brilliant in action and its use of 3-D, but rather lackluster when it came to story.

Lackluster story is not something you would ever accuse The Adventures of Tintin books having. Nor this year’s film adaptation, which is surely this holiday season’s technological breakthrough. A visual feast that is powered by a compelling story and lovable characters, Tintin strings together memorable action set pieces that will be entertaining many generations of young viewers, just as the comics have done for decades.  Read more of this post