Friday, December 28, 2007

Nomen est omen

The generation of Pinoys born in the last ten years have got to have the most original names of all generations of Filipinos ever since the Spanish came and gave us their names. I realized this one morning when watching Spongebob Squarepants. In the middle of the show, they have a feature called Spongebob's Birthday Bop where our favorite poriferan greets children celebrating their birthdays by posting their names on the screen, and I swear these are some of the most original names and combinations of names I have ever come across. A sample list (I have omitted the family names):

Drix Arnage
Christmay Joy
Lanz Camanse
Liv Clergy
Clyssaryll Nicolas
Hans Kirzen
Jurgen Riev
Yna Ginelle
Keneizah Elize
Mark Dharel
Zextlher Cian
Girome Daneniel
Napp Danelle and Napp Donelle (twins, I gather)

Vivienne Joyce, Elisha Carlisle, Mikaelle Dominique, Sharmaine Peachy, Yves Laurence, Emiliana Mishka, Micaelah May, Rie Miho, Justene, Grant Frederick, Aldous John Reynold, Liam Alwin, Samira Yani, Alyzza Trixia, Tsini, Juneau, John Bradley, Philline Candace, Yzavella Gwen, Chenly Anne, Phoemella Yvonne, Czerina Jo, Ethan James, Jayden, Ervin, Eryl, Jason Brent, Eihdren Joshua, Resplandor.

The names of people in my generation were the traditional Spanish or American names. In school it's more likely we had classmates with names like Pablo or Edgardo, or Stephen, or Paul, or Andrew. In fact probably the only unique name in the class was Carnilo, and even that sounded traditional. But today's parents--whoo! There seems to be a trend towards over-the-top names. It's as if parents want their kids to stand out, that by bequeathing them with names whose provenance is their own creativity, they somehow bestow upon their offspring some sense of being special. At least they hope so.

Kids' names today are vaguely American, vaguely French, vaguely British, Jewish, Arabic, exotic... and totally Pinoy, a lot of them with unnecessarily doubled letters, the preponderance of the letter Y as a vowel, the affinity for high scoring Scrabble letters like X, Z, K (Zexthler scores a 27; so does Alyzza), and the ubiquitous overworking of poor old letter H. Creative spelling also abounds, as in the reworking of the traditional Chloe into Chlouey, or Lebron James into Levron James (probably because Lebron gets an 8 in Scrabble, while Levron gets a 9).

A recent study shows that names may indeed influence a child's destiny. This was the view of the ancients as well. One wonders what sort of destiny their parents had in mind when they named them. The Chinese Filipinos in my generation gave their children stately names--Washington, Jefferson, Winston--no doubt because they wanted their children to excel. And there is something oddly mellifluous about the rhythm of a monosyllabic Chinese family name and a western 'regal' first name in combo. Plus they also have their Chinese names.

Our Chinese colleagues (Chinese Chinese) also get to give themselves Western names in addition to the Chinese names given them at birth. They do this in college if Im not mistaken, to prepare themselves for the world at large although I never understood the reason for this. Why can't they just use their Chinese names? Some opt for the usual, like Michelle, or James, or Peter, or Eric, and some can get creative: Amyly, Shmily. Some can get downright poetic: Friends, Golden, Four Fires, Dragon, Seaboy. One, for some reason, chose the name Oven. But like I sain, they chose these names for themselves. Our kids have names chosen for them. I wonder what it would be like growing up burdened with a name like Bien Alexandraye. I would be quite a name to live up to. But then again, if you have classmates named Charlz Francoise, Natasha Christelle, Vryle Zhane, or Semn Emmanuel, I suppose you'd blend right in and won't feel any pressure at all.

Im sure the Pinoy parents have their kids' best interests at heart when they named them such. They probably have dreams for them and their future and chose their names carefully with much pondering and discussion. Perhaps I am out of touch, but from where I sit, the only destiny I see with names like those are in show business or maybe in sales. Somehow I don't see myself voting for a President Denizel Jherein D. Calubaquib.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The mighty ducks


If youre in the area, you might want to check out the newly renovated Washington SyCip park (formerly Legazpi Park) in Legazpi Village. It has ducks running loose, delighting visitors, adults and children alike, for whom ducks running free are a novelty. I love ducks. I used to have a pet duck when I was a kid (Mallard, not the Beijing variety shown in the picture) and it followed me around wherever I went, having imprinted itself with me when it was still a duckling. I used to have two of them but one got squished when the ducklings followed me into a room that had a door that closed by itself. The other one went on to become an adult duck. One day my lola, who was a fantastic cook, said, "Ang laki na ng itik mo. Lutuin na natin." I said ok. She was yummy.

For the photo above, I crouched on the cobbled pathway and waited for the ducks to cross to the other side. They quickly got bored of the other side and I knew they were going to go back where they came from and I waited for them to go the other way, but my ancient Olympus XA2, like its owner, is showing signs of age and the shutter refused to fire and I missed them except for that one duck I caught in the photo below.

This is the first time I shot with Neopan black & white film. Neopan is great, with blacks really black. Ive decided to use black & white film exclusively with the XA2, and shoot color snaps with my digital camera.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A skewering

From the comments section of Jessica Zafra's blog is this link from the Atlantic Monthly, 2001, of critic B.R. Myers's article, A Reader's Manifesto, in which he...barbecues...what is today considered 'literary prose'.
Everything written in self-conscious, writerly prose, on the other
hand, is now considered to be "literary fiction"—not necessarily good
literary fiction, mind you, but always worthier of respectful attention
than even the best-written thriller or romance. It is these works that
receive full-page critiques, often one in the Sunday book-review
section and another in the same newspaper during the week. It is these
works, and these works only, that make the annual short lists of award
committees. The "literary" writer need not be an intellectual one.
Jeering at status-conscious consumers, bandying about words like
"ontological" and "nominalism," chanting Red River hokum as if
it were from a lost book of the Old Testament: this is what passes for
profundity in novels these days. Even the most obvious triteness is
acceptable, provided it comes with a postmodern wink.
I suppose it is the unfair treatment of 'genre' fiction that has spurred Filipino writers like Dean Alfar to try to 'elevate' science fiction, magical realism, crime, horror, etc. to the level of the 'literary'. My opinion has always been that these so-called genres are in no need of elevation, that they should stand quite proudly on their own, that they dont need to prove themselves to the snobs. And if Myers's article is correct, the snobs arent wearing any clothes except for a pair of soiled knickers. Read the whole thing. It's quite entertainingly snarky.

Ive always been wary of the 'literary' style. I blogged once that when trying to write a story, and it begins to sound literary in any way, if there is a hint of the poetic in it, or--heaven forbid--art, I kill the sentence. Perhaps I should leave those sentences alone, but it's just not in me. I once wrote in a comment to Resty Odon's blog that if ever--IF ever--I get lucky enough to get published, I would like the readers to think, "What a great story" instead of "What a great writer." The literary style is just too self-absorbed, too "Look at me! Look at me!" for my taste. I just want to disappear as an author.

In blogging about reading Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown I once wrote:
I picked up Shalimar the Clown. And it was everything I expected:
Rushdie at the top of his game. His words flow like liquid poetry. The
narrative just takes you along paths of Rushdie's choosing. He's
erudite, he's funny. Usually, I just go along for the ride, but this
time something was amiss. The rhythm was growing repetitive. It wasnt a
Bollywood musical number anymore. It was a drone. I was drowning in a
sea of metaphors. It was an explosion of figures of speech. Im fine
with figures of speech. In fact I used a couple in this very paragraph.
But to be deluged in it, to be overwhelmed with poetic narrative gone
berserk... I went, For the love of God, Salman. Will you just get on
with telling me what happened?
...and I blamed myself, that something was somehow wrong with me for not liking it, instead of blaming Mr. Rushdie for sucking. Such is the power of the literary. If you dont get it, youre a Philistine unworthy of even handling a second hand copy of the work in Booksale. In the article, Myers recounts that even Oprah isnt immune.
At the 1999 National Book Awards ceremony Oprah Winfrey told of calling
Toni Morrison to say that she had had to puzzle over many of the
latter's sentences. According to Oprah, Morrison's reply was "That, my
dear, is called reading." Sorry, my dear Toni, but it's actually called
bad writing. Great prose isn't always easy, but it's always lucid; no
one of Oprah's intelligence ever had to wonder what Joseph Conrad was
trying to say in a particular sentence. This didn't stop the talk-show host
from quoting her friend's words with approval.
Blek! I daresay no one of my intelligence should ever have to say, "Would you please get on with your damn story?"

(By the way, Banzai Cat did send me a copy of his winning entry to Fully Book's Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards 2 and I found it absolutely delightful. If youre good, Grifter, youll get the book as a Christmas gift next year.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Im gon' deck the halls with your &^%$#! ass!!

(Rant warning.)

Update 10 December. The Pope says the same thing. High five, Benny!

Christmas is starting to piss me off. Enough of the countdowns already. TV and radio are trying to beat out some enthusiasm for the holidays, but it's just not working. People only get even more depressed and stressed. And those tacky Christmas songs? For the love of... I even heard some local artist singing carols bossa-nova style. The last straw was when I heard that stupid Papaya song interspersed with Christmas greetings. It's enough to make me want to shoot someone.

If there would be a referendum on whether we should abolish the Christmas holidays, I would vote Yes. Twice. Maybe not the holiday part, but the Christmas part. Call it an end-of-year treat for workers or some other. Secularize it. That's what the constitution mandates anyway; separation of Church and State. I feel the hoopla is just insulting to Christians who believe theyre celebrating their Lord's birthday that it's turned into one big marketing event. Companies are even mandated by law to equip their workers with enough cash to consume various frivolous items via the bonus and thirteenth-month pay. Other national holidays of a religious nature such as Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Eid al-Fitr, and All Saints' Day arent abused like this and are treated with the proper reverence. (Although the Holy Week holidays are starting to lose their meaning, too, becoming just opportunities to go partying at the beach or facsimiles of the beach in some tacky establishment that serves alcohol. We could secularize it too. Call it Worker's Summer Week Off.)

And what could be tackier than plastic Christmas trees in this tropical country? I even saw one that spews polystyrene snow! It didnt even have a warning label for households with children. What does that have to do with Jesus' birthday? I could let the fact that he probably wasnt even born in December slide but Christmas trees? It's a druidic symbol for crying out loud. Deck the Halls is a druidic song about the Saturnalia where they burn a log to help the Sun god along as its days wane. And besides, 'Don we now our gay apparel' has a totally different meaning now in the 21st century. And that Carol of the Bells song reminds me so much of the theme music from The Exorcist. I bet that's not a coincidence.

I say Enough!