Thursday, October 23, 2008

Up Dharma Now

It's here! It's here! Well, almost. Up Dharma Down's second album launch is nigh. Here are the official details:

Friday, October 24, 2008, 8:00 PM
Hexagon Lounge, RCBC Plaza
Ayala Avenue corner Buendia Avenue
Makati City, Philippines

P150 entrance with drink
P500 entrance with drink + Limited Edition CD + Documentary DVD

(Map here.)

Here's what I wrote in last Saturday's edition of Luis Listens:

"They’re young, they write fantastic songs, and they have a unique sound, drawing from rock, neo-soul, and various sub-genres of electronic music. There are those who see them as the saviors of Pinoy rock, and while that would be overstating the matter (and putting undue pressure on the band), I can see their point -- it’s not hard to imagine them making an unprecedented impact, not just here, but overseas. No less than the frontman of one of my favorite foreign acts, Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile, is a fan of theirs; in fact he called them his favorite group, and said that they make "beautiful, victorious, elegant, muscular music," which is high praise indeed, especially considering the source.

"The launch of Up Dharma Down’s second album, Bipolar is this October 24, around 8 p.m. at the Hexagon Lounge, 4th floor of the RCBC Plaza. When I first heard some of the new tracks performed live earlier this year, my feeling was that they had pushed the excellent songwriting on their debut Fragmented both ways: they were writing even more appealing, more accessible stuff, and they were also doing more challenging, more experimental material. Hearing some of the new tracks in advance seems to bear this out. It should be quite the album."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Iron Ani

Ani de Leon is the first Pinay (and first registered Filipino citizen) to do the world-famous Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. I think that's awesome. Congrats Ani! :D

Read all about it here!

How To Be Cooler

Read the whole thing here. I'm a hamsterpunk!

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Why I Blog" by Andrew Sullivan

"You end up writing about yourself, since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world. And in this sense, the historic form closest to blogs is the diary. But with this difference: a diary is almost always a private matter. Its raw honesty, its dedication to marking life as it happens and remembering life as it was, makes it a terrestrial log. A few diaries are meant to be read by others, of course, just as correspondence could be -- but usually posthumously, or as a way to compile facts for a more considered autobiographical rendering. But a blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before."
"Even the most careful and self-aware blogger will reveal more about himself than he wants to in a few unguarded sentences and publish them before he has the sense to hit Delete. The wise panic that can paralyze a writer -- the fear that he will be exposed, undone, humiliated -- is not available to a blogger. You can’t have blogger’s block. You have to express yourself now, while your emotions roil, while your temper flares, while your humor lasts. You can try to hide yourself from real scrutiny, and the exposure it demands, but it’s hard. And that’s what makes blogging as a form stand out: it is rich in personality. The faux intimacy of the Web experience, the closeness of the e-mail and the instant message, seeps through. You feel as if you know bloggers as they go through their lives, experience the same things you are experiencing, and share the moment. When readers of my blog bump into me in person, they invariably address me as Andrew. Print readers don’t do that. It’s Mr. Sullivan to them."
"Reason is not the only fuel in the tank. In a world where no distinction is made between good traffic and bad traffic, and where emotion often rules, some will always raise their voice to dominate the conversation; others will pander shamelessly to their readers’ prejudices; others will start online brawls for the fun of it. Sensationalism, dirt, and the ease of formulaic talking points always beckon."

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mapping Invisible Cities

This Friday evening, October 17, I'll be going to the opening of the photo exhibit Mapping Invisible Cities, at the 3/F Shangri-La Plaza, 6 PM. "The upcoming exhibition brings together the works of young photographers from six cities: Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Hanoi and Jakarta. The photographers earlier took part in workshops conducted by celebrated photographer Peter Bialobrzeski."

The photographers from Manila are: Catherine L.Quiogue, Che Katigbak, Cristina Sevilla, Dennis S. Rito, Estan Cabigas, Kidlat De Guia, Maria Virginia Cruz, and Tammy David. Yup, Kids and my Kuya Che were two of the workshoppers/photographers. :) The exhibit has already been shown in Indonesia and Singapore and has finally come to our city. For more details go here and here!

Kidlat's pix for this show eventually became the jumping-off point for his amazing solo exhibit, Sleeping White Elephants. Aside from Kidlat's and Kuya Che's work, I was particularly impressed by the pictures of Tammy David, who took an all-too-familiar subject -- beauty pageants -- and managed to capture images both surprising and affecting.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Stranger Fiction

All this talk online about Speculative Fiction has reminded me of the class I used to teach in UP Diliman: Creative Writing 111. Now, CW 111, or Fiction 2 as it is sometimes known, has always focused on writing stories outside of the usual realist tradition: when I took it under Butch Dalisay in the mid-90s, we studied stories by Eric Gamalinda, Donald Barthelme and Joy Dayrit, among others. When I taught it in 2004, I put Aimee Bender, Paul Auster and Cyan Abad-Jugo on my syllabus (Cyan herself was kind enough to drop by the class when we were discussing her story).

Blogs were a fairly widespread phenomenon by then, and one of the first things I asked my class (after "Am I in the right room?") was if they all had internet access. When they answered in the affirmative, I created a group blog instead of assigning the usual reading journals. This way everyone could read everyone else's reactions, and there would be more give-and-take, more discussion.

I was happy to learn that it's still up. (In fact, there was even a somewhat recent entry dated September 4, the first in four years -- possibly posted accidentally.)

Here's the first post, my intro to the class:

Hello, all. This is our CW 111 blog. I am your supposed teacher, Mr. Luis Katigbak.

According to the course description from the English Department, CW 111 teaches one how to write "experimental fiction," and involves forms such as magical realism, metafiction, and 'sudden' fiction. Rather than refer to the material as "experimental" -- which somehow conjures notions of unreadable prose, of soulless demonstrations of technique -- I will call it, simply, "stranger fiction," a term vague and evocative enough to encompass Auster and Atwood, Barth and Barthelme, Gamalinda and Garcia-Marquez, Murakami and McCormack.

Stranger than the mainstream, stranger than the CW 110 stuff, these are stories that contain entire worlds, that are told in mobius strips and phone conversations, stories where a businessman can befriend a giant talking frog. The idea is to explore the possibilities embodied in stranger fiction, to learn that no subject matter is too ambitious or unusual, that no technique is off-limits, as long as the writer knows what he or she is doing. It is also hoped that we will develop a sense of when certain techniques are appropriate or unnecessary, and that we learn that "stranger" doesn't mean "easier" -- that there are stories written this way because there was no other way to adequately tell them, and not because it's a hassle to write "realistic."

Welcome aboard!

Clicking through the archives reminded me once again of how lucky I was to get a class full of great students. Lines like "Paul Auster is wicked" and "Dan Rhodes seems to be addicted to biatches" would leap out at me and make me laugh all over again. I had fun reading through the reactions to Bender's "The Rememberer" and John Cheever's "The Enormous Radio," among other stories, as well as witnessing someone quote Eddie Vedder to illumnate Banana Yoshimoto and Martin Heidegger to react to Jonathan Carroll.

I gave my students a lot of writing exercises to do. One of them is recorded in this blog, in the early July 2004 archive. It was called "Impossible Objects." Basically I asked each of my students to come up with a real, mundane setting and an unreal, impossible object, and then write them down on pieces of paper. (We had just finished discussing "The Enormous Radio" in class.) We jumbled them up and reassigned them randomly so that each student had a setting and object to work with. Then I asked them to write the end of a story involving those two factors. The results were on the whole well-written, often highly amusing and occasionally even touching.

Gabby's, for example: "For my mundane environment, I got a posh bathroom, the ones usually found in five-star hotels. For my strange object, I got a headband that answers all questions that come to mind anytime it's worn." The result is here.

And then there's Kurt. "The impossible object I got: a spinning wheel that creates smoke and tells the future. The mundane place: Seattle's Best Coffee, Katipunan Avenue." Click here for the full post, but allow me to quote the very beginning: "The two friends hobbled out of the coffee shop, one supported by a crutch, the other dragging his twisted, bandaged right leg. They had it with trying to be superheroes. Finally, after everything that happened, reality sank in on them: the future was not for them to change." Fun stuff. (Kurt, where are you, and are you still writing fiction?)

I may teach again someday. I had a good experience with my students. And besides, I got a kick out of being called "Mr. K."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Book Clubbed

Last Monday was fun. Attended the NBDB Book Club discussion of my first collection of short stories, Happy Endings. Answered questions and dispensed writing advice and ate pancit. Thanks to everyone who went --

Thanks to all the Book Club and National Book Development Board people, especially Andrea, and Dianne!

Thanks as well to erudite Erwin Romulo and marvelous Mookie Katigbak! (Pictured here stabbing her iced tea with a fork.)

And of course, terrific Tara Sering, and Yvette my love! :D

Hard to believe my first collection of fiction came out almost eight years ago. (That second collection is way overdue.) Am happy that people who read it now seem to feel that it hasn't dated much, except perhaps for a few stray references to PC XTs and pre-millennial fever. And am very happy that people still respond to its tales of messed-up love, bicycles passing in the night, and postcards from other worlds.

PS. Watch Rakista tonight (Thursday, Oct. 2) at 7 PM on TV5! It's the special Eraserheads episode, he he. :)