A Day with Berlin

In my senior high school year, as part of our shitty mandatory CAT program – lame version of ROTC – we were to conduct some sort of community service. Of course, at that time, we were pretty much living in One Tree Hill – so, lots of drama and heartaches and all that banal shit.

We ended up feeding children from the poorer sectors of our area. And for our safety reasons, the children were transported to the school, instead of us going to them. To say it was another bane in my life, would make me a liar, as that day made me realize how petty our problems can be.

So, like I said, we were living in One Tree Hill and the problems our gang faced: girl not accepting either love of two boys (Luke-Brooke-Peyton thing, but the genders all switched up), boy falling in love with his best friend (Luke-Haley somehow ending up in Jane by Design universe), some father issues (Fuck you Dan!!! Keith, noooooooo!), the upcoming prom night and of course, graduation.

As the children arrived, there was a moment of awkwardness from both sides. A stare down, utter silence, a rolling tumbleweed.  The kids, staring and probably thinking “Who the fuck are these guys?” And us, staring back, thinking, “Fuck, now what?”

So, after a couple of minutes of gentle dragging, and luring the children with small plastic toys for bait that are, hopefully lead free, we got them to warm up to us. The children were separated into groups, some listening to stories, others playing, others were raiding the big ass sack of toys. While everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, one particular boy, who didn’t even look like five – either he was four or three-years-old or malnourished – sat alone, looking down and on the verge of breaking into tears whenever anyone tried to approached him.

I had this knack with kids, and maybe it’s my degenerative immature and childish mind that probably somehow got me to get along with children. So anyway, the kid said his name is Berlin, and we played tag, hide-and-seek, and finally got him to play with the other children. Lunch came by, and as everyone ate, Berlin only finished 1/12 of his meal – I’m not kidding, and that’s like what, a half-spoon of rice? He closed the styrofoam and put it on his backpack.

“Why don’t you just finish that, and I’ll get you more to take home later,” I said.

Berlin shook his head, “Not for me. I’m taking this to my mom so she can eat too.”

He wasn’t the only one. Another kid approached me, and asked if it’s alright to not eat their food and just give it to their parents. A third asked me if they can take home two.

I don’t know what the story is. I cannot judge how these kids – hungry kids – could think of taking their food home so their parents can eat them later. Did the parents tell them that? Maybe, it’s a possibility, there’s a lot of twisted people in the world. But I’d rather look the other way, believing that these kids were more than aware of their situation, and learned to become adults when they’ve barely had six years in their life.

It simply, made me feel bad, and I looked around and saw the entire Tree Hill gang, and well, they looked shit and malnourished even moreso than the children that had zero in everything. It’s probably cheesy to say that in the end, it was the children who fed me, spiritually in some way and gave me a chance to get a better perspective in life.

So I don’t know, a guy tweeted quite recently how pissed he was because he dropped his BlackBerry, somehow made me feel sad for the dick. I mean, as a tech journalist I can honestly say BlackBerries are getting a bit too close to extinction *glares at Android and iOS products* – but still, it’s a material thing, and if you dropped it, it’s your own fucking fault, suck it up and shut up. I’ve also been hearing a lot of complaints from other people about things that aren’t really, well, big. I mean, I dropped my phone and busted its mic, so every time someone calls me, I have to plug in earphones with a mic to communite, but I’m not bitching about it (hopefully mentioning this doesn’t count), I just shrugged it off. Some people bitch how they don’t have money, basically because they’ve overspent on expensive food, clothes, and movies.

Sometimes I do think less is better – not just in writing stuff but in lifestyle, the less we have, the humbler we may become. I know that’s not always the case. But the ratio sure is badly tipped. I guess it is human nature to take things for granted.

I think about Berlin, the situation he’s in. It’s been seven years, he’s probably going to turn into a junkie soon if his lifestyle remains as it is, but he seems smart, and I hope he’ll make it through with some prayers and luck.

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Victorian = Steampunk?

I’ll jump straight to the point. I don’t like it when presented with a “Victorian-era style” people go, “Oh shit, same old business steampunk”.

It’s funny how I made this experimental novel proposal to the writing community. My first sentenced mentioned “Victorian-era clothes”, and everyone assumed it’s steampunk. I don’t really find their reactions detestable, many of them showed great interest in this weird idea. What annoys me, is many of them stopped reading at “Victorian-era clothes”, when I clearly said at the end that it doesn’t limit to that era, and will have several eras from both the old and new world.

Does the word “Victorian” in writing sci-fi/fantasy automatically triggers the eject button toward steampunk? Let’s take a look at Dave Grohl’s Jay Kristoff’s, Stormdancer. In fact, Mr. Kristoff has made a very interesting statement about steampunk right here.

I tried explaining it in my own words and it came out as shit compared to how mister Kristoff has put it, so go ahead and check it out. It opens some perspective.

Anyway, hurrah for the new ideas, while Tunnel Crow Town has been shelved, again. The new project name is No Good and it’s my first, real attempt, to enter science-fiction. Actually, there are spaceships, alien monsters, and all that shit, but I’m labeling this as “Space Western Fantasy” and is mostly inspired by Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Borderlands, and The Good The Bad And The Ugly. It’s going to have a lot of weird shit, but nowhere near the bizarro genre.

No Good is on 100% production with all Foo Fighters songs shuffling in the laptop.

Innards of An Erratic Writer #3

I find it, fucking detestable, that I started getting scolded for writing weak articles. Well, not weak, the things I wrote for the broadsheet were pretty awesome. It wasn’t just, you know, done right – a bit too cheesy and all that. So I had to relearn a thing or two.

My ears bled for the entire day as the assistant editor lectured me about writing articles. And indeed, everything he said were things I used to live up to. Writing with simplicity. I know, it’s a coincidence the other day I’ve posted about horror writing and then this turned up. The irony of it.

This gave me an early opportunity to fix all my pending articles, finally seeing the shit I’ve made. Then that night I checked all my stories, saw all my flaws and fixed as much as possible before retiring. I know about that Itch going back every few minutes to start immediate rework on manuscripts, which is counterproductive. But my line of work calls for getting things done right and this pressures me to this counterproductive habit. My conclusion is to balance things out. If one would have a four-hour writing routine, the first hour should focus on editing yesterday’s work, and dedicate the remaining hours to write forward.

So there we have it, writing simply but solid, and all decorations should be done during rewrites.

In terms of writing progress. Nothing, but a few edits here and there. Although, I consider this as a writing vacation, maybe in a few more days I’ll be kicking and writing again, pushing things forward. I have, however, been worldbuilding. A lot. I’ve filled out a couple of notebooks already, with Bonsai having three whole notebooks just for itself, describing locations, history and mythology, monsters, combat arts, and stuff. Maybe add a fourth one too, just to ‘apply’ the integration of magic and science into it. I like to set up all the ground rules first so I wouldn’t have to worry about it while writing the actual story. Though I don’t normally do that, Bonsai, is quite ambitious.

I’ve also now established a solid climax and ending for Tunnel Crow Town, parts of it coming from a really fucked up, very surreal nightmare. I could still feel those tongues in my mouth, ugh, the things I could not un-feel, even when it’s conjured by my own subconscious.

Lastly, new characters and more scenes were mapped out for Scar City, gun fights, intense chase scenes, and selfish sacrifices. All of which are looking really good, and I really hope it’s good because it is and not coming from a biased point-of-view. So, yeah, whatever, we’ll see in the future.

Popping Eyeballs: Something about Horror Writing

So, some friends had asked me to check out their horror stories, which I did, grudgingly. And although many of them had some really good ideas, they fell flat without giving me the slightest flinch. Then, as I commented, they kept interrupting me but neither asked how to improve it nor what they did wrong. But instead, defended it without end.

The first thing that came to my mind was, “Dude, STFU, the work should speak for itself”. Then I thought, maybe I just missed the entire point – and I was sure I hadn’t. Just the same, I thought real hard before answering, trying to remember the horror stories that gave me a real scare.

Apparently, almost anything can give children scares. I remembered as I kid, watching Creepshow 2, the story about the four college kids stuck in a raft because of a black blob in the water. I couldn’t get off my bed for the entire morning, and I had to jump from my bed to the outside of my room, and even after, I ran without looking back. I also couldn’t put my feet down from the sofa, afraid that some black substance might creep out from underneath. In short, I was scared shit.

Another movie, a Filipino horror anthology, Shake, Rattle, & Roll IV (a very popular horror film series that continues every now and then), there was a scene in there with a shokoy (very small version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon), hiding inside a toilet. So, when this bitchy old lady sat there… well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Maybe that old lady deserved to die like that, but the thought of how she died was very disturbing. I couldn’t use the toilet for days after that. Of course, that was 15-18 years ago. All the horrors I see today have brains and intestines being flung here and there, and the best one I’ve seen in years was Woman in Black.

So, it’s because of this I see horror as two things. One that truly tries to scare you, and one that simply tries to shock you, so shocked you begin to develop some frightened symptoms. I believe splatterporn, delivers this shock valued horror.  Most of the stories I’ve written in the 3rd grade were splatterporn, maybe it was a reflection from my first horror film encounter, with a dick-shaped worm bursting out a man’s chest – and yes, Alien isn’t splatterporn, but that scene has left a significant scar somewhere in me to this day. This was followed by Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, and my horror crusade began from there.

From all those things, I’ve drawn my conclusion to what my friends had done wrong. Their brains were too fucking scattered.

I do not, claim any expertise about horror writing, I’m nowhere near King, Straub, Barker, or Ketchum, I don’t think I’m even half as good as other amateur horror writers out there. But based on all books I’ve read, the single, important thing in horror writing, is the simplicity. There is very little time to become florid in style, the writing has to be concise. Because you are trying to frighten your reader, the action must enter the their minds as quickly as possible without them trying to decipher what the heck is happening.

Let’s take a quick look into King’s ‘Salems Lot, the part where he describes the “sucking sounds”, sure, it sounds very informal, you might even dispel the tension, thinking about a certain bed-time activity (fuck it, it does sound the same). But I believe it gets the job done by sending chills, like a kid drinking his favorite soda from a straw, and there’s nothing left in the cup but ice, you know what it sounds, and you mirror that into something as a vampire sucking your neck, then that’s one creepy shit. It’s all about the atmosphere of using simple, everyday things, and turn them into something macabre and twisted. The more concise the writing, the less noise there is, thus, you get this immediate sense that it’s too quiet, and whatever action the characters do is so freaking loud you wish you could shut them up, because whatever’s out there, would certainly hear you.

Now, my friends asked, so what makes something horror? Simple, it’s a story about people in horrifying situations. It doesn’t always have be about monsters and ghosts, horror stories can be about people vs people. Example, a woman was abducted by three men. But, this might put it under thriller. What makes it horror, is what the men might or might not do to the woman. Her rescue/escape is irrelevant until later, it’s the situation she’s in, is what matters.

The second most significant thing in horror writing, as I’ve noticed, is the exploration of the unknown. A little bit of spoilers from Brian Keene’s awesome zombie novel, The Rising, teases us about why the dead are getting back to their feet. A certain line was spoken about how there came the undead, and how many they were. You will want to ask more but you can’t, so you’re left in the dark, trying to feel your way into comprehension, and when you found it – BAM, here comes insanity. This is where implied horrors occur. Let’s check out the movie, Salt, in the beginning we see Angelina Jolie, obviously tortured, I believe we were shown of her getting beaten – and obviously, I doubt that’s the only thing that has happened. All sorts of torture could have happened to her and we don’t know it, and we are left with our imaginations. Another example, in the video game, Xenosaga Episode III, the game was so violent it was censored in US release. The little girl, held something on the foot of the bed where her recently butchered mother was. This part was censored out and you don’t really know what that girl is holding – me and some people I know, all thought it was a heart, or a brain, or something found inside your body – turns out it’s just blood. Last example, Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi, need I say specifically what? … Fine. Jabba the Hut and Princess Leia. Exactly what the fuck did that giant worm do to her? Kept her as a pet, humiliated her to all the guest? Sure, seems the thing Jabba would do, exactly what kind of humiliation? Was Jabba into interracial kinkiness? Shit, maybe. Or does he enjoy watching others do the work for him? We will never know. As in, never.

UPDATE. Revenge of The Jedi is the original title for Return of The Jedi.

Point is, our minds are pretty fucked up and we assume the worst of the worst. We have that “need” to know exactly what happened, but we won’t be able to grasp it  no matter how hard we try. So, in response, we imagine the worst, hoping the outcome wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. It’s only fucked up that we’ll never know for real.

I didn’t mean for this post to be this long. A thousand apologies. If you’ve made it this far, you’re awesome – I doubt anyone will anyway haha. So, to sum things up: horror needs to be written in a concise form, it can be disturbing or thought-provoking in some way, it doesn’t always have to have monsters, ghosts or unstoppable slashers – it just really needs a horrifying situation, and of course, make the unknown as badass as you can.

I’m actually open for discussion about this. So, yeah, bring it, I’ll just be chilling out here while listening to Rolling Stone’s Paint It Black.

Of Actors and Politicians

In the morning news, there was a USA election poll, showing that 77% Filipinos wanted Obama to win. I myself, root for him, and I think it’s pretty BS to blame a lot of things on him. He pretty much ended the war, so unless there is some secret conspiracy here, I think that he did a dandy job. But who am I, anyway? I know little of politics and these sort of silly comments get me into trouble, so I’ll shut up about it now.

… But relating to it, the news did show some Tweets about the election. And one of them said something about, USA having disciplined voters than Filipinos – primary targeting Filipinos who want Obama to win. Though that may be insulting to Filipinos, I thought the guy pretty much nailed it.

Filipino elections always have famous actors and actresses running, and as some might know, Manny Pacquiao is a congressman. Some stick to it, some continue to show up in TV shows, movies, and, box. Now, my point isn’t about them, it’s about the masses. In a news broadcast during one of the previous campaigns, the anchor interviewed a virgin voter, on who they will vote, and he said, translated from Tagalog, “Just the actors”, when asked why, “Because they are easier to remember.” One girl, who to vote for the first time, said the same, except, “Because they’re the ones I know.”

And this is very sad, to be honest. Political education isn’t imposed as it should be for voters – no seminars on the achievements and credentials of who these people running have. Well, maybe there is, but not as viral as needed, or maybe the voters just don’t give a fuck. Not giving a damn plus hard life, leads them to just sell out their votes.

Then there are the non-voters, who claim that, their tiny vote, is just one vote, and wouldn’t make a difference. The problem is, which I’m willing to bet, at least 20,000 think the same thing. 20K is a huge fucking deal, obviously.

On one of the previous presidential campaign, there was a famous action star, who became the president, and resigned after the masses started to cause havoc after learning his illegal deeds. After a couple of years, he was released from house arrest, and just for kicks, he campaigned for the election. And guess what, he was number two. As far as I know, the current president had no intention to run, but was convinced by a friend he should do it. Meaning, if no one had convinced him, then, one of the biggest events in Philippine history would have been on vain, if the former president had become one again.

It’s utter bullshit.

Anyway, I’m done with my little rant, and I’m not sure what to tag in here. So, yeah, Two Doors Cinema Club, anyone?

Sigaw

It’s that time of the month, when days will be rampant of monsters, ghouls, and strippers, trick or treating in the night while Catholics try to subdue all the bad juju. Of course, we don’t do that here in the Philippines, at least, teens and adults don’t, well, depends on what kind of trick or treat’n… but anyway, for no clear reason besides it’s that scary month of the year, I’ll do a film review. A horror film review. A very successful Filipino horror film that was, butchered, into a bad US remake entitled, The Echo.

You might have heard of it, you might have seen it, and coming from a Filipino film hater, I assure you, without bias, the original version is so much better.

The original’s title, Sigaw, translates into English as “Shout”, although in certain cases, can be interpreted as “Scream”. Cases such as this, “Sige, sumigaw ka ng tulong“, interpreting it as, “Go on, call/shout/scream/cry for help”, which is the main concept of the entire film.

The story, much like the international version, is about a young man named Marvin, who for some damn reason, moves into a too cheap and very creepy apartment. This is quite common for Filipinos, especially those who are just starting out, because even the slightest decent apartment is still too expensive, and the pay is really that bad. But, I believe, no one, in their right mind, would move into a place like this – unless they are really trying to save money, but even so, people would prefer to find roommates in a slightly expensive apartment instead.

Anyway, the decrepit apartment with the dark, empty hallways that gives you the impression you’re the only one living in that entire building, the wife-beating cop, and the little girl running around here and there, is the perfect combination of a really creepy ghost story. The closet thing I can relate this film is, the toned down version of “The Grudge” meets “Dark Water” (both versions).

The limited cast allows further emphasis on creating an eerie atmosphere, geared for starting spooky moments. Although many of these instances you’ll react over sound reflexes, a little scuffling here, a little noise there, some running over there, sudden knocks, and things suddenly appearing, easily shrugged off. The latter part of the film however has some really WTF moments that could have you screaming “Oh shit!” and/or “Hurry up!”, it could be either in a good or bad way, personally, it was good, so it’s best to have a girl with you – preferably one who scares easily, so she clings into your arm, or give you a reason to hide under her skirt. Some of my friends couldn’t use the… uh, too spoilery. Then again, that specific scene I’m talking about mirrors a certain ’80s sci-fi horror, about a kid being friends with an alien that kills the townspeople, sad to say I can’t remember the title.

I’ve noticed in many ghost films. It’s either a) the ghost is so fucking pissed, she (often it’s a she) kills everybody that comes her way, or b) is asking for help but does so is a really scary way that no one really understands them at the very last moment. In here though, you know who the ghosts are, and they are genuinely asking for help, though their appearance shifts back and forth from looking normal to what they became – nothing too fancy, just blood here and there.

Filipino acting can be defined into three words: melodramatic or overacting. This one is somewhere between, leaning toward melodramatic a bit, especially Marvin and his girlfriend, Pinky. The ghosts however, were very impressive, they weren’t all face value, but displayed remarkable acting skills that you can actually believe, unlike all the new stars of today.

I have seen a lot of Filipino films and many are without question, despicable to the point even a horror film monger, would tear out their eyes for watching something so terrible, it should have been outright banned or considered a crime to see it. But this one, is actually pretty good, so if you have some Filipino friends, maybe you can ask them for some translation – or maybe there are English dubs out there as the film was distributed to other Asian countries as well.

Anyhow, to wrap this up, just wanna say, so much love for YouTube, checking out My Chemical Romance’s Conventional Weapons: Boy Division, Tomorrow’s Money, and The World Is Ugly