Sunday, December 25, 2005

A couple of updates on previous posts

Added info on the rhino postcard and replaced the link to the Alatriste teaser trailer (this one has perfect sound!):

Some info on the rhinoceros postcard

Alatriste trailer post

Saturday, December 24, 2005

So now, if the wee ones ask: "Is there really a Santa Claus?"

He is after all, a Western concoction fashioned to *cough* convince little boys and girls to behave, much like our local aswangs, tikbalangs and kapres, right? Uh huh.

Several hours ago, my wee 7-year-old nephew (also my godson) J had declared that he would stand watch by the window tonight so that he can meet Santa and claim his gift from the jolly old fellow himself. His parents had been considering revealing the awful truth about the man from the North Pole, but I argued that if they break the news to J it's as good as telling his 5-year-old brother O, too (J being worse than a desperate journalist eager to make his first scoop). 5 is too young an age to be disillusioned, is it not? But then they tell me that O, smart aleck that he is, already knows! Bah. Well that's no good reason to burst J's bubble either.

I no longer recall under what exact circumstances I had found out myself, but I do remember what an unpleasant wave of discovery it was, the whole Christmas myth crumbling down around me. What, no Santa???!!! No Santa, no reindeer, no sleigh, or elves or North Pole toy factory? I think I must have been 5 or 6 -- look at what it has done to me. Hahahaha. *cough*

Many years later I came upon this famous Frank P. Church editorial, published in The New York Sun in 1897. It has been a great comfort from then on. Maybe someday I will read this to J, perhaps when he no longer feels compelled to keep vigil, having noticed how the toys under the Christmas tree are always made in China, or how they seem so much like the ones they sell at Tiendesitas or SM, or how the wrapper resembles the ones Mommy bought a few days ago, or how strangely, even if he stays up until dawn of Christmas Day, there will be no sounds of bells, nor sleighs, nor reindeer, not a shadow of a Caucasian-looking fat man in a red suit with a white beard and pink cheeks, who will not have a chimney to climb anyway because we don't have chimneys in Manila, and why do they say he goes through the chimney anyway, that's plain stupid because how can he fit in any chimney with a belly like that???

But I digress. Here is the editorial *, nicked for your enjoyment:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

* More background information can be found here.

As I type this, nephew J is already fast asleep, having been unable to make it even past the midnight mass. Should he wake up between now and tomorrow morning, if he asks why Santa has not come, I have my answer ready: "Weeell, it's dangerous to drive a sleigh during the winter months, see, maybe he got a bit delayed..."

Ho ho ho!!! Merry Christmas, peeps!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

From my postcard collection

Konrad Gessner (Swiss, 1516-1575)
Hand-colored (watercolor) woodcut, 39 x 22.9 cm (15 3/8 x 9 in.), from:
Konrad Gessner,
Historiae animalium...
Liber 1: De quadrupedibus viviparis
, Zurich, 1551
The Getty Research Institute, 84-B13226

For centuries, Dürer's engraving above remained the only picture of the rhinoceros in Europe. Konrad Gessner, a Swiss natural historian, published a facsimile in his Historia Animalium, regarded to be the starting point of modern zoology.

Ernst Gombrich, in his book Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, used this engraving as an example of how artists, before the advent of photography, were necessarily, always influenced by existing schemas even while they strive to record the truth. He noted that "The familiar will always remain the likely starting point for the rendering of the unfamiliar." Even the Dutch artists, the realists who supposedly drew from life, were known to make mistakes. (There is, for instance, an existing late 16th-century depiction of a beached whale with ears!)

According to documentary evidence, the King of Portugal received the rhinoceros as a gift from an Indian sultan in 1515. He then intended to send the creature, named Ganda, to the Pope, but the ship was wrecked before it reached its destination. The spots on its skin were purportedly caused by dermatitis suffered from being confined at the bottom of the ship during the 10-month voyage. Gombrich contends that Dürer, in rendering the rhinoceros, relied on second hand information (a sketch and an account by a Moravian painter from Portugal), which was coloured by Dürer's own conception of the mythical dragon and its armoured body.

(Special thanks to the Contessa for sending me material on the subject matter. Supplemented with Google.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bringing on the fall photos

Er make that fall photo, because I've got only one right now. *toothy grin*

I was told that fall came late to Virginia this time around. The leaves started changing colors a few days before we arrived. Not a spectacular show compared to previous years, as there wasn't much of the pinks and the reds, but to someone like me who was seeing autumn for the first time, it was picture perfect.

Virginia Fall
Blue Ridge Parkway, 11/07/05

Saturday, December 17, 2005

So hey `ma, where are all the lanterns?

UP Lantern Parade
December 15, 2005

Came late, didn't get a good vantage point. Sunk in the mud walking across the amphitheater grounds. Didn't feel like taking out my trusty tripod (which, come to think of it, is actually well-suited to being stuck into the ground, but heck, I already had clumps of annoyingly wet earth on my standard issue work shoes, why inflict the same on my tripod?).

Heck, I'm not sure there even was a parade. And uh, didn't see that many lanterns actually. In any case, it was fun being there among the crowd as the various creations of some colleges were presented (I hear the bird masks by the College of Fine Arts were fantastic but alas, I didn't get to see them), and the fireworks display was fabulous. Walking around campus offered lots of photo opps, too.

More pics in my Filphoto gallery (scroll down to find album). Don't hold your breath, though. I was lazy, shame on me.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Zooming in on El Capitan

Upon my friend Jim's query, I rummaged through my files to check if I have a closer view of El Capitan. There is indeed that tad of overexposed section at the right side of the pic I posted earlier. But it really did come with the zero-degree story, so it's special to me.

In any case, I found another El Capitan pic, this one's much closer. I believe this was from the Bridalveil Fall vista. (I mean I was on the way to hike towards Bridalveil and then turned to the other side to see the capitan.) Still with the G2.

Yo no soy marinero.

* Image crossposted at my Filphoto gallery.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pero es muy frio, mi capitan! (Or, Of Hot & Cold Capitans)

Yosemite National Park, California. Having woken up early to catch the sunrise at Tunnel View, where we giggled through the cold while shooting pics, the brothers and I were on the way back to the lodge when we spotted an irresistible vista point somewhere in the valley. We excitedly got out and promptly clicked away, shivering. No wonder, the temp, we learned as we got back in the van a mere few minutes later, was zero snot-freezing degrees Celsius!

El Capitan, purported to be the largest exposed granite monolith on earth, stood before us grand and imposing against a moderately blue sky (I used a polarizer, if you must know). What can I say, the heart soared but the bones creaked. The will to endure the cold was strong but alas, the fingers got numb. I crouched low, little worm that El Capitan made me feel, and took this with my humble G2. (For larger, view here.)

And speaking of capitans, the first Alatriste trailer is out! (Yeah, this is the sort of random freewheeling train of thought you'll have to suffer through from time to time, hee). El Capitan Alatriste, Spanish ex-soldier and hired mercenary circa 17th-century Spain, is Arturo Perez Reverte's (Club Dumas, The Fencing Master) most popular creation. Directed by Agustin Diaz Yanes, the movie is an almost entirely Spanish production. Almost, because the lead is not a Spanish actor, but Viggo Mortensen (why else would I be talking about this, ehehe). Viggo is fluent in Spanish (among several other languages), but he has had to learn to speak 17th-century Castilian for this movie. Swashbuckling epic, folks, my kind of movie, yayy!!!

For more information on the Alatriste series, go here. The English translation of the first installment was recently released, check it out here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The future of punishment in schools

For my geek & techie friends out there, he he he.

`Tis the Season for "Best of" Lists

Right. Uh huh, uh huh. I know, I know, some of you have been wondering, just when will this blog degenerate into shameless fangirlish raving? *cough* Well, begging your pardon, at least this is the New York Magazine, `yah? *cough*

Clickie here and check out the year's best in movies, tv, books, theater, etc. and ooh lookit that huh, who's on top of the New Yorkers of the Year/Cultural Elite of 2005? The cultural elite is said to be "a Pan-cultural list of awards celebrating the best of the arts this year... the actors and architects and bands and directors and writers and gallerists and painters and producers who’ve shone brightest in the city’s artistic firmament in 2005... who may show the culture the way in the future. "

I wouldn't go so far as to say that A History of Violence is the best movie of the year (am a sucker for fantasy epics for one thing, but no, I'm not suggesting Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire is this year's best, and I haven't seen Memoirs of a Geisha, which i hear, sadly, is one of the most disappointing, we shall see), but Cronenberg as best director, yeah, and Viggo as best actor, heck yeah!

Speaking of lists, what's with People magazine? How on earth can you publish this picture and list him as #4 sexiest man alive? #4??? Baah, humbug!

*ahem* Right. Looney imogen out.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The view from the windshield

Rather than sit on my bum and wail how I couldn't get out and take pictures properly, I clicked, clicked and clicked.

Plying the route electrique.
San Francisco, 11/20/05

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Still on the egocentrism argument

Fawlen's comment reminds me what a hare-brained first post that was, beginning a potentially contestable statement and leaving it hanging. So let me continue. When I posited that blogging is basically a self-centered enterprise, don't mistake that for a negative judgment on the whole blogging population. Fellow bloggers, I am not necessarily saying that you are all self-centered and are bad bad people. Uh uh. I'm just saying it as it is. One blogs primarily for oneself, does one not?

Let me put it this way: why does one blog? To express herself, to update her family and friends about goings-on in her life (whether truthful or fictional), to promote oneself or one's profession, to meet new people, mayhap to stumble upon one's soulmate *barf*, to make a statement, to develop one's writing skills, or personality *cough*, to "talk aloud to no one in particular", as fawlen says, or to tell the world, or a random glazy-eyed creature out there sitting in front of a monitor in a dingy room who stumbles upon any number of odd publicly-listed blogs, "Pssst, I blog therefore I'm alive! Notice me!". So. Blogging is essentially an attempt at self-perpetuation. The very fact of self makes all this egocentric. It's sort of a circular thing, imo - there's nothing to contest.

Let's not ascribe any noble intentions here, the bottomline is, I don't blog for you guys, I blog for me! Which sounds kinda looney, but if you think about it, why do you bother to e-mail friends? Sure, because they want you to tell them what's going on. And why would you want to do that? Because you want them to know about you. It's still about you, see? Which, I reiterate, is not necessarily bad. Just as long as you don't spend hours reading through your own blog, marvelling at how interesting you are. If you do that, plus comment on your own blog using your other web personas, well brother, it might be a good idea to get out a bit more.

How I ended up in David Mack's Kabuki

Okay, not me exactly ehehe. First off, for those of you asking "David who?". David Mack is a graphic novel writer and artist. Perhaps not as huge as Neil Gaiman (and those who don't know who Gaiman is, just google him), but he's well on his way, imo. What's so amazing about David's major ouevre, the Kabuki series, is that he does the writing and the art. And what do you know, it doesn't suck! Not only does it not suck, it soars!!! It's a very good example of how the marriage of graphics and text can be very powerful in telling a story. There's nothing like it out there.

So your next question is: what (or more appropriately, who) the heck is Kabuki? Kabuki is an operative of The Noh, a secret organization that polices the balance between organized crime and politics in present-day Japan. It's not your typical action-packed story populated by impossibly buxom women. The heroine is a flawed creature, forever scarred by a painful personal history that has left the mark "Kabuki" inscribed on her face. The series, begun by the author as a thesis in college, delves into issues of identity and being. It touches on culture, history, psychology, philosophy, science. It's a fictional story that talks about universal truths (aren't those the best stories around?). All this sounds quite lame if you truly knew what I'm talking about.

Anyway, in the last completed 9-story arc (Kabuki: The Metamorphosis), Kabuki escapes The Noh and her past, aided by Akemi, with whom she has been in contact solely through surreptitiously delivered origami letters.

In Kabuki: The Alchemy, Kabuki begins her new life under a new identity. In #5, having settled in her new home somewhere in America, she continues to correspond with Akemi, who by the end of Metamorphosis, had infiltrated The Noh. The art, as always, is fabulously rich. (Preview here.) Collaged into the pages are envelopes from around the world. One of them is from Manila. Guess who sent it in?

Here's a closer look:

Hmmm. Strange how things come together. I didn't know the post office had butterfly stamps at that time. Enclosed with the letter were copies of 2 Kabuki-related poems I wrote some time ago -- both mention butterflies (since they were recurring images in Metamorphosis which appealed to me very strongly: the butterfly as transformation, ephemeral creature, beautiful yet frail miracle).

Fully Booked has been talking about bringing David over for some time now, even before they got Neil Gaiman. The Mackster announced it himself months before. I pointedly asked FB owner Mr. Daez if they still intended to push through with it and he said yes. Wonder when that will happen? Hmm.

For more information on David Mack and Kabuki, check out the link in the slowly improving sidebar, folks. (Ladies, you might want to check what David Mack looks like, he's sorta hunky. *ahem* ;-) )

Thursday, December 08, 2005

To blog or not to blog

To blog or not to blog, well, certainly that is no longer the question, though it has been for some time now.

Here's a completely anal thought: what if I set up a blog each with Blogger, Typepad, Wordpress, and Phlog? I actually thought of doing that, having had a swell time deciding on which to use. And then again I thought the better of it (which is to say I realized shortly afterwards that Typepad and Wordpress would cost me and Phlog, well, it may prove to be a bit limited for my purposes in the future). Anyway, enough with the boring blogsite details.

Let's be frank, shall we? Blogging is an essentially egocentric venture. Why else would anyone publish anything online if she did not think anyone else would want to check out her stuff? (For purposes of economy and style, and because I feel like it, I shall be using the feminine to represent both genders. Anyone who asks will be answered with a quip and a sigh.) Where was I? Oh, blogging as egocentric. Self-expression is in itself self-centered. I wouldn't still be writing this third paragraph if I didn't think you would still be reading up to this point, right? Right. I shall leave it at that, because I've got things to do, I can't blog away all day, for crying out loud !!! (That's me trying to convince myself, `ya.) Maybe I'll pick up on this next time. If there will be a next time, maybe next time will be in Typepad, tee hee.

I'm still trying to learn how to customize, so in the meantime please bear with me (like don't mind those links in the sidebar, I'll get to that later)... Now let's see, how will a photo look like on this template... Ah. Not bad, huh. This was not taken by me, but by my brother A. Still haven't found how to format the caption properly ;-)

Yohemme'ti Fall