Saturday, November 24, 2007

In the Realm of Dreaming

Okay, first of all, I'd like to say that in the first draft of this post, I was at 1,300 words when I decided it was getting too long and I started over to condense it.

As Filipino book readers, we rarely ever get a chance to see or meet our favorite foreign authors. So it was a joy to find out that Neil Gaiman is having an event at El Centro, Subic Bay. There was going to be a book reading, Q&A, and book signing. Awesome.

It was a 9 AM event (morning, not so awesome). We were told that the drive to Subic is about 2 to 3 hours long. That meant that we had to leave about four hours before the event, you know, allocating for time to get lost like we always do. Estimated time of departure, 5 AM. The problem with that is that Friday night, I got back home from the office around midnight, five hours before we have to leave. When I got home, I ate dinner, planned the trip, and looked at updates on the approaching typhoon. When I looked at the clock again, it was already 3:30 AM. We have to leave in 90 minutes. Sleeping and then getting back up in an hour is just going to make me feel miserable. So I decided to stay up.

By the time we left, it was already 20 hours since I last slept. I was tired. We got to Subic Bay with no problems. We got there an hour early. It had been announced that only the first 100 people would be guaranteed to get a book signed. I didn't expect to be part of that hundred as the last time Neil was here, several people had started lining up four to five hours before the actual event. But when we got there, we were told that we were in the first hundred. Great! I guess the fact that it was a paid event and it was in Subic made it inaccessible to a lot of his fans. We later found out that some people had actually started lining up at 12:30 am. I'm pretty sure those are the Sandman fans.

They started letting people in. Two huge guys in blood red shirts with 'Security' printed on it were patting down everyone. They had a bomb sniffing dog there too. When we got in, they tagged us with stickers on our chest. We were labeled Mrs. 85 and Mr. 86. Yey! As part of the tickets, we also got a signed copy of the Beowulf Script Book written by Neil Gaiman himself and Roger Avary. I also purchased a hardbound copy of Interworld for Neil to sign. We were then ushered to our designated seats. Very organized. After a few minutes, a guy comes up to the stage and says, "Hi, I'm a gay man but not the Gaiman you came here to see". The crowd gives a polite laugh. He then proceeds to tell us that if we wanted a dedication on our book, we should write it down on a Post-It together with our name. Then, right when I was thinking people could take advantage of that, someone raised their hand and asked, "You mean he'll write anything we want?" The guy said yes, and only instructed people to be brief. Wow, I thought. Lots of damage can be done with a brief signed message.

1. *blank* gets everything when I die.
2. I have sold my
soul to *blank*
3. I disinherit all my kids a
nd adopt *blank*
4. I stole all my stories from *blank*
5. *blank* is th
e Forgotten God in American Gods.
6. *blank*'s break-up with Delight turned her into Delirium.

Imagine all those ending with Neil's signature.

So, Neil comes up on stage to loud applause. He starts the event with an introduction to the book he was currently writing, The Graveyard Book, and reads us the first chapter. The only problem during the reading was that I was really tired. There were a couple of times that I nodded off for a second or two. I hope he didn't see me. It wasn't that I was bored. It was a situation where the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Anyway, I loved what I heard and I'm looking forward to picking up a copy. Transcript of the talk and a recording of the reading can be found here (courtesy of Charles Tan).

I think the bit he wanted to do most was address the audience. This is the second time that Neil has come to the Philippines. The first time was two years ago, through the efforts of Fully Booked (So thank you Fully Booked. You guys are pricey but you have a great selection). After that last visit, he felt that there was a lot of talent here in the Philippines that needed an outlet to showcase their work. So he initiated talks with Fully Booked and organized a graphic novel and writing contest. So there was a contest and there are already winners. One of the reasons for him coming here was to launch the book containing the works of the winners from the last competition and to judge the entries for this year's event. This makes me admire the man more. He's giving a lot of his time to nurture Filipino artists and give them a shot at making a career out of their passion.

We line up for the book signing. After maybe half an hour, the wife and I are close to our turn. I run everything down in my mind. Camera, check. Books, check. Post-it, check. Then, I stand beside him. He says 'hello', takes the Post-It to read my name and then pauses. I had written down 'Echu'. He doesn't know how to pronounce it. He shakes it off, and starts writing down my name on the book and the dedication. I had written down 'Finish things.' He writes it down as 'Echu! Finish things!' and signs it. So now I had a mandate from Neil Gaiman to finish what I'm writing. What I had asked him to write came from the talk he gave before the signing. He tells us that aspiring writers often ask him what advice he can give them. His response is 'Write'. I understand what he means. A lot of people say they dream of being a writer but don't actually work on it. Write. No one is going to come up to you and give you a contract out of the blue. Write, send it in and try again. Okay, what if I already am writing? His response to that is "Finish it." Right. Guilty as charged. I have tried to write before, had ideas for a story, but haven't seen them through. Only a couple of pages have ever gone down to paper. So that's what I asked him to write as a dedication. After signing it, he hands the book back to me and I said 'Thank you Neil', very casually that I surprised myself. And he said, "You're very welcome". Then I got a picture taken with him. Lovely.

We get down from the stage, and sit down. Done. We look over our books. Show each other what he had written down. Now, we begin to feel the weight of the day and what we had to do to get back home. Too much. Let's get something to eat first. We had lunch in Jollibee. We were in Subic Bay and we had lunch in Jollibee. People go up here for weekend retreats and we eat at Jollibee. Why would we do that? Well, we were already too tired to make a decision where to eat or look for a good place. So we just went with our default place. Yes I know, we're not ten year olds, but hey, what can say, I love their chicken and palabok. After lunch, we looked at each other. We're in Subic. People come up here for weekend getaways. They have duty free shops. Nah, let's just go home.

Driving home was terrible. At this point, I haven't had sleep for almost thirty hours and I had three hours of driving to look forward to. Doubted if we could make it back. Discussed staying. Too expensive, can't afford it. We decide to push on. Started driving back, but I was struggling to stay awake. Micro slept a couple of times. It was getting too dangerous. An hour and a half into it, we stopped at gas station. I napped for ten minutes. I felt better, but still terrible. We start again. Doing better this time, I stopped nodding off and just felt like hell. Sped through the highway at an average of hundred miles an hour (which is the legal speed limit). I'm guessing though, my speedometer is broken. Twelve hours after we left for Subic, we were back home.

After 100 miles of driving, 36 hours with no sleep, and 6 hours on the wheel, I was exhausted and brain functions were minimal. But still, I was grateful for the day.

Right. So the second draft wasn't short either. Hey, can't say I didn't try.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Missus Chronicles #1: The Blind Milkshake

The missus was cleaning out the closet under our stairs. That's where we keep old shoes, boxes, dead bodies, and other miscellaneous things we don't often use in the house. When I got home, the missus told me that I had several pairs of old shoes we should just get rid of.
missus: Let's just give them away. The only problem is that we don't know anyone who has feet as big as yours.

me: We could have a yard sale. I already have a jingle in mind. It goes like this:

My shoes bring all the boys to the yard.
And they're like, bigger than yours
Damn right, bigger than yours
I can fit you but I would have to charge.
I start laughing, she isn't.
me: What? You don't know Milkshake?
She gives me a blank look.
missus: Milkshake?

me: Never mind.
She resumes her rant.
missus: I had a hell of a time moving out all your shoes. They're heavy as hell. I never really appreciated why people ask you to take off your shoes when you get on a weighing scale until now. Ordinary people would have to take off a couple of pounds for their clothes and shoes when they get on a scale. You would probably have to take off half a dozen pounds.

me: Quit it. Besides, now that you mention it, it's probably the only heavy lifting I ever do.
I was playing around with a fancy pen someone gave me while we were having this conversation. I liked the way it felt as I used it to write. I have awful penmanship. I was writing down random things trying my best to write nicely. I wrote down the following:

Roses are red, violets are blue,
if you were reading this, and didn't know any better
you'd think I was blue.
The missus looks over my shoulder, read what I was writing down. She takes my pen from me, crosses out the word 'blue' and replaces it with the word 'blind'. She laughs hysterically.

*sigh* Some people run and hide from their bullies. I apparently married mine.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Serving the Engine

So, it's really been awhile since I wrote a full blog post. This is the longest dry spell yet. It feels like the last couple of months just blurred by me. *puff* Two months.

This blog is turning out to be like the journals that I used to have. If you flipped through it, you would see in the first few page that I had entries once a week, then it would drop to once a month, then there would be gaps of years between entries. The only difference is that it's harder to misplace this blog. Of course, I'm also more discrete in the things I choose to write. Before the missus and I were married, I once caught her secretly reading my journal. The first thing she did was flip through it and look for entries I wrote about her. It's a good thing that I did write about her. Also a good thing that they leaned towards the positive side. Otherwise, we might never have been married. I might have ended up with Angelina Jolie and that would have been unfortunate. I don't think I could have handled the glitz and glamour. What? Well yeah, I'm probably more likely to get adopted than married by her. But that's the good thing about hypotheticals, reality is an adjustable parameter.

Back on track, serving the engine. What is it about, well, it an effort to get myself to post more often. It's a source for ideas. The search engine. I noticed that this blog is getting hits from people looking for stuff completely unrelated to anything I have written. By the way, if you ever want to be given credibility in any professional field, never use the word "stuff". Anyway, I digress. For example, can you guess what's the top search term for this blog? I get hits from Google and Yahoo everyday from this search results. It's "I love you like a fat kid loves cake".

Weird. I used it as a post title once on this entry. But I don't think people were looking for posts about pastries. So this is what Serving the Engine is about. Let's see if we can give these guys what they're looking for. Here's a link to the first in the series:

Serving The Engine #1: I Love You Like A Fat Kid Loves Cake

This is the second series that I'm putting into this blog. The first one was Cerebral Flatulence. This will be random stuff. Sometimes weird things pop into my head, brain farts, if you will. Don't worry, there are no voices there telling me to kill everyone. Just weird senseless mundane stuff. Sometimes they become full on blog posts, but most of the time I can't make anything of them. So the Cerebral Flatulence will be quickies. Postings a couple of sentences long. Just an outlet for me to "release" that mind gas. Hopefully these things will create more frequent postings. Bring on the rain.

Serving The Engine #1: I Love You Like A Fat Kid Loves Cake

What is Serving the Engine?

Okay, so you're here and you're looking for "I love you like a fat kid loves cake" or something like that. Well you're not alone. As of today, more than 60% of you who come through from Google to this blog was searching for that term. It's due to this post that you're getting here and it probably has nothing to do with what you're looking for. Well, just so that you would not have wasted your time coming to this blog, I'm going to try and help you out.

Okay, so what ARE you looking for? My first guess is that you heard it somewhere and you're wondering where it came from. That was at least the case for myself. I thought it was funny. I first heard it from Fiddy's "21 Questions". Here's an excerpt of the song:

How deep is our bond if that's all it takes for you to be gone?
And always remember girl we make mistakes, to make it up I do whatever it
I love you like a fat kid love cake
You know my style I say anything to make you smile
(link to full lyrics)

You can check out the video on YouTube at this link. But the next question is, did he come up with it? The term has an entry in the Urban Dictionary. It cites "21 Questions" as a song having the phrase and also says that it is 'popular in the Chicago area to say to someone you adore'. I don't know how true that is, as the Urban Dictionary is probably even less reliable than Wikipedia. But let's assume it is true; The entry is none specific on whether or not it's popular in the Chicago area because of Fiddy's song or if he picked it up there. It's probably worth mentioning that Fiddy isn't from Chicago, he's from New York. My searches didn't turn up anything else on who coined the phrase or where it came from, so not much help there.

Now some searches are more specific. Like "picture of fat kid loves cake". Well, let's try to help these people too. I just hope that this isn't some kind of twisted fetish. Well, first there is this T-shirt at The shirt has a kid, a cake, the phrase, but a little lean on the fat. So here's an image I picked up from Stroller Derby accompanied by an article entitled Kids Gain Weight Over Summer Vacation. It's got the healthy kid, a cake, but not much eating. To make up for the eating, here's is a picture of several women devouring cake. And just for good measure, I threw in a picture of a kid post cake disaster. So, that's that. We have served the engine and hopefully helped some people.

If you have something to add or correct, please leave a comment. I'll credit you and update this post.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Cerebral Flatulence #1: Grease

My hair gets greasy at the end of the day. I don't put anything on it. I should go on a diet. I'm getting so fat grease is oozing out of my scalp.