Dean Alfar talks about “Six from Downtown”

Awesome author Dean Alfar took time out from his busy schedule to spend a Saturday morning chatting with me. The products are two episodes, first this one on his own fiction, and then a lengthy geek out session about Locke & Key (which I’ll be posting soon).

You can listen to Dean talk about “Six from Downtown” here at the podcast page. Feel free to stream, download, and share.

Dean is an engaging speaker, as anyone who has met him knows. And those who haven’t yet will want to after hearing his great ideas about writing, the fantastic, and attempts at capturing the Filipino urban experience. This is a fun half hour where I pick his brain about this great story which has won awards and been anthologised.

If you’re interested in the story or Dean’s other work, you can find his stuff on Amazon here.

You can also get the collection at Flipreads here.

Thanks for listening to the podcast. Please tell your friends if you liked it, and if you’d like to help me keep the lights on and keep this thing going, please feel free to click that donation button and leave however much you want.

Gerry Alanguilan and Eliza Victoria at the 3rd Readercon

The 3rd Filipino ReadeCon was held this Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Rizal Library in Ateneo. It was a great even celebrating readers and reading. I was fortunate enough to moderate one of the Writers as Readers panels.

Comics creator Gerry Alanguilan and writer Eliza Victoria talked about the books that they love. Afterwards the audience and I got to ask them some questions.

Give it a listen if you’re looking for reading recommendations, as these are in abundance through the talk. You’ll hear some great essential comics titles and a lot of horror novels and page turners.

You can listen to the podcast here.

You can visit Gerry Alanguilan’s blog here.

You can visit Eliza Victoria’s blog here.

Thanks for listening!

The Lumpen Culturati Podcast! Episode 1!

Starting from this post, the Lumpen Culturati blog transforms from the spot for the stuff I couldn’t have published in other places (and a sadly ignored blog for the last few months) into the companion blog for the new Lumpen Culturati podcast.

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts, and I love them all. But they have mostly been review podcasts and I am hoping to fill a niche by discussing work on a more analytical (one hopes) level. I am hoping to bring forward smart conversation about cultural content in all its various forms.

I’ve also been part of a few attempts at podcasting, as well as some radio work. What I’ve found is that logistics and getting people together (and my own problematic schedule) have made it difficult for me to maintain those things. Now, I’ve got a nifty podcast app and I will be tracking down one or two guests for each episode.

The episodes will have me interviewing someone about a specific text (or set of texts in the case of comic book series). We want to turn people onto stuff that they might not be into yet, we want to show love for things that we love, and we want to talk about them in a deeper manner that encourages further discourse.

For the first episode I talk to Prof. Mikey Atienza about “Sink” by Isabel Yap. In discussing the story we question aspects of Filipino science fiction, look at a story set in the future that gives us  a  glimpse at the Greenhills we once knew, and question our humanity as we look at a little robot kid.

You can listen to the episode on soundcloud here.

If you’re interested in the story, you can get The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction in print from the UP Press here.

If you want it in digital, it’s available at Flipreads here, or Amazon here. Or if you’re using other storefronts, I’m sure they will be available there too.

I hope you enjoy this first discussion, please listen and tell your friends.  Thanks everybody!

Fixing the Fixers

This is the start of a series of posts that I hope to write which will look at specific problems that we need to address. I support the general call to end corruption. But I find it a motherhood statement. When we say reforms, I think we should we can look at particular cases, see how these reflect larger social problems, and question how we might solve them.

We begin with the problem of fixers.

The thing is they aren’t fixing anything, are they? They really work to help perpetuate a culture of corruption. And as is the problem of many aspects of this culture of corruption, we accept that it as part of the system.

According to a cabbie, he had to pay P500 to get his papers processed. The cost should have been P300, but he had to pay a fixer P200. This was so that his papers would get processed within the day. Otherwise, they would keep pushing his paper back and it would take him two to three days to get the papers he needed. I will talk in a later post about our willingness to pay for expediting of government services. Here I just want to talk about the role of the fixer.

The fixer serves as middle man between the person trying to get government services and the government employee. So between client and service, there is this intermediary who serves to supposedly expedite papers. But what he actually does is forward the threat of your paper being set aside because it does not have someone backing it, making sure that attention is paid to it.

The seemingly easy solution is just to get rid of the fixers. But then I wind up thinking about how these fixers are actually part of an underground economy. Obviously this underground economy is detrimental to our society. You have these people tampering with the proper flow of the delivery of government services. You have to spend more than you should to receive those services. And you have transactions happening that are outside of proper procedures, so these people have income that is not taxed. (well of course not, the work itself is illegal.)

Think though, what do these people do? They have been entrenched in the system of government services since, well, most of us can remember. What are we supposed to do with them?

I did a study once on underground economies. I was surprised that one of the women who I interviewed, who was selling toys and similar items on the Philcoa underpass, was a college graduate. She said she earned more sitting there all day selling than she did when she was working an office job. So it could be more financially rewarding to work in an underground economy.

We have to consider that these fixers have families, and there is a major disruption that could occur with their abrupt removal. So even before the total dissolution of this system is attempted, we should have a clear plan of what to do so that engaging in this system becomes unattractive.

I figure, and I could be wrong, that what the fixer does is essentially run papers back and forth. They serve as our lobbyists in line, and what they do is cut in and jump ahead of the line for us (god I hate people who cut in line).

What we see here, and the reason why they can offer the services that they do, is that there is a scare resource. This resource is the attention of the government worker who has to process the papers. You have to pay the fixer, and the fixer in turn has to grab the government worker’s attention (also with money), so that you can get the attention of the government worker, which you are supposed to have in the first place because you have paid for those services with your taxes and the processing fees.

So the limited resources that allows for this system is the attention of the government official. So if we could increase that, then we could better address this problem. Then why not put the fixers to work also processing papers? Put them behind those desks and utilize that manpower to process those papers.

I know that these people are unqualified to process papers at the moment.

And I know that the fixers probably aren’t properly trained to do this processing. But they know the systems of the government institutions they are working with. What if we trained them to process papers?

Can you imagine how many more papers would be processed if you got all those fixers and employed them and put them to the task of helping to provide government service, rather than condoning the practice and letting them subvert the system of service delivery?

Proper training, proper employment, more efficient government service because you have taken that chunk of the underground economy and found a way to refocus it. You don’t just remove or dismantle. These people aren’t a cancer. But they are enabled by the cancer of corruption. Provided with the proper training and systems, they could be assets to our system of services.

Shooting First: A New Year’s Resolution

When I used to play basketball regularly, I was a terrible shooter. I could make maybe 5% of 3s, if I ever tried to shoot any. My medium range shot was iffy. Though I did have an okay inside game and was pretty spot on for lay-ups. But this limited shooting ability had me develop my passing game. I was never going to be a spot up shooter, nor was I going to blaze past people with crossovers. I could handle the ball and dish to the right players, set picks, and maybe find myself spots on the floor.

I enjoyed the thrill of the assist, of zipping a bounce pass between defenders, of hitting a cutter in stride for a lay-up, of drawing defenders and then kicking to the man spotting up in the corner. Ball movement, unselfish play, getting everyone involved, that’s what I played for.

And as a pass first player, defenders were a lot looser on me. They were not expecting me to take shots. Since they knew I preferred to flip the ball to a teammate, or to pass up a shot, they thought they did not need to defend me. Which meant that once I saw them slacking off, then I would drive into the lane, surprising them with an open lay-up they were not expecting. Or finding a spot I could make a shot from while they were off double teaming a better shooter. It’s always easier to sink a shot when you’re all by your lonesome.

I get to thinking about this kind of mentality now that I am thinking about how I plan to spend the coming year. I realize that I have largely tried to adopt this pass first mentality with a lot of work that I’ve done. As an editor, I’ve always chosen to assign big stories to my writers, rather than taking them myself. I’ve always been reluctant to step up and take responsibility for things. Rather than do something myself, I will pull a team together and distribute tasks. Only when I’ve got no other choice, only when no one else is open and I am, do I like to take the shot.

Which is well and good I guess in certain situations. But the thing is, this year looks like I will be doing some things which do not allow for me to pass off. Which will necessitate my stepping up and taking the shot. To use an easily recognizable basketball reference (and not to compare my talent level in any way to these two, because really, that would be insane), I have to shift from being a playmaking Lebron, and turn into a take-over-the-game Kobe. I have reached a point in my career where I have to elevate, have to escalate what I do. It’s time for me to step up.

You can’t pass off in the classroom. You can distribute the discussion, you can involve the whole class in activities and that whole thing. But when it comes time for lectures, for presentations, there’s no passing off. You are the teacher, no matter what you do, you have to control the classroom and the activity therein. That sounds like mostly playmaker work, but when the moment comes to step up and take over, I cannot be reluctant to launch into lectures when they are needed.

And in writing, well, there is no one to pass off to. I have been struggling with this. I keep wondering if the lack in one’s writing is indicative of the lack of one’s moral fortitude. I think of whether it displays the wanting qualities of one’s character. Or if one can write through those things, in the same way that, when the fourth quarter’s winding down and the other team’s in the lead, you can push everything out of your mind, can push out all of the messes that you’ve made in your life, all the bad decisions and wrong turns, and you can just focus on that moment, take over, and at least in that one aspect, overcome and win the game.

I hope that, for all the mistakes and failures and limitations that I observe so acutely in myself, and which help to inform and enrich my writing, that I can similarly get through all that and finish the work and get it out there.

I plan to work on more films this year. I am dreaming of directing my first feature. I am deathly scared that it will be shit. I want to pass off. I do not want to be responsible, for I would be responsible for a failure if I mess it up. If it’s crap, then I will have wasted the time and efforts of everyone who will work on it. But I have already passed off. I’ve already allowed other people to attempt to execute my vision. It’s time that I did this, time that I stepped up and took the shot.

I have been teaching myself that failure is important. I have launched into a lot of bad writing, some of it I was able to stop, some of it got out into the world. But each failure teaches us something.

Similarly, I have to get used to the idea that we have to take shots. We have to miss shots. We have to work our way out of shooting slumps. Again I use Kobe Bryant as a model here. Sometimes he has terrible shooting nights. But he keeps shooting even when the shots aren’t going down. He shoots until he finds his rhythm. It’s a simple thing to understand, you can’t find your rhythm if you aren’t taking the shot.

I will say it again for my own benefit, so that I can take heart and hold onto the idea: You can’t find your  rhythm if you aren’t taking shots.

I have to accept that once I do this, once I adopt the shoot first policy, then I will be expecting other people to feed me the ball, to pass it to me. It’s on me to make it. I have to accept that there will be off nights, nights when shots don’t go down. But unlike the depressive person that I have been, the one that wallows in shit and flays himself for each aspect of failure, I have to accept that there will be missed shots, that there will be off nights. I have to move on from the last shot, move on from the last night, move on from the last failure, and be ready to take the shot the next time that I get a pass. And not only that, but I have to learn how to create my shot. I have to learn to understand my skills and abilities better so that I can execute, create, move, score.

Allowing for off nights, this means that there will be big nights too that offset it. Those nights when it feels like everything is going down, it’s all flowing, and I can do no wrong. When this happens, I have to ride that crest and keep shooting. It won’t happen every night, but once I start shooting first, there is a chance that I might have that magical 81 point game, or those consistent 40 point performances. The only way to get better is to step up, to take risks.

2013 gimme the ball. It’s on me.


reaching a point where i have to take a shot. and i have to keep shooting

2012 in Review: Writing

So I think after this year, I can sort of take a rest. Not a long one mind you, but maybe I’ve earned the right to not demand so much of myself. I know that sounds close to the verge of resting on one’s laurels, but I don’t imagine that’s what I would be doing. After having released at least one book a year since 2009, I do think that maybe I can take a year off and just focus on revisions and other things.

Okay, no, that’s bullshit. Read more of this post

Working Through 2012

With the apocalypse seemingly averted, and our lives going on as usual and as expected, I’ve found the impulse to take stock of things. I am in an in-between age where I am past my physical prime, but also find that I am not yet so old as to have a right to nostalgia and to looking back and grumbling about one’s youth.

So I guess a project, in the form of a series of blog entries, will be to consider where I am and how I’m doing after 30-some years of walking the earth. I plan to do this over the course of the next few days. Read more of this post