Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Aaargh!

If I don't get a drink of water in the middle of the night, I get an attack of the achoos. And that's precisely what happened last night, because Mom scheduled me for a battery of blood tests today. When I woke up this morning, I was a miserable mass of mucus. It didn't help any that it took us a long while to get the blood tests done. Breakfast, of course, came last.

So there I was, waiting in line at the hospital, very lightheaded and very angry. I whipped out my newly-resurrected Palm Zire 31 and started sketching. Part of the resulting short is what you see here.

Software used was Diddlebug, which I've been I've loyal to since forever. I converted the images using didcon.

Not much to look at, but then I didn't feel like much today, either.

Stayed in bed. Productivity shot. Aaargh.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Latikman!


Inspired by Clair, with more apologies to Mars Ravelo. Pencilled, and colored in crayon.

Small Victories

What with my parents in Dumaguete this week, the days are packed with small reunions, business discussions, and planning. It's been a long day so I'll skip on the details and just recount the small victories today.

1) I finally made it to the Valencia municipal proper via Candau-ay! I started out at 6:00am today, and headed straight up. I hit the town at around 7:10am, which I think isn't too bad for a fellow in my condition. By the time I reached the peak, I could literally wring water from the chin strap of my helmet. And I came down just in time for a quick breakfast before opening the store.

2) My iPod is now working with Ubuntu. The iPod's been sitting on my desk, unopened, for the past two weeks or so. I think Dad was starting to feel bad I hadn't used it yet. So I installed gtkpod on my Thinkpad, fiddled around a bit, and finally managed to load Blondie on it. Hooray.

3) After several years of trying, I finally got my Mom to surf the Net! No amount of cajoling could get her to touch a browser, not even the promise of instantaneous communication via email. But now that the political debates are raging, I took advantage of my Mom's interest in the current events to introduce her to blogs, namely Manolo Quezon, Jove Francisco, and the ABS-CBN news site. So now she's getting along swimmingly, finally learning to manuever with a mouse. Yay!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Cadawinanon

Whee! Another previously undiscovered trail, with more tributary side roads.

This morning I started out on the road to Batinguel but took a detour where Dean, Alex, and I did our climb to Valencia two weeks ago. However, instead of following Dean's path, I just went straight on. Eventually, I found myself in Cadawinanon, after passing through yet another town.

Cadawinanon is less populated than the Candau-ay road that I've been riding. The grade is low, too, so it's quite an easy ascent.

I ended my trip at the entrance of the convent for the Sisters of Mt. Carmel.

However, I had to turn back because the clock was ticking and I had to open the store.

There's more road ahead, but that'll keep for next time.

Total estimated distance: 15 km.

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

A couple of weeks back, I had a flash of inspiration. After having written a fairly well-received article on the late Fr. Paul Chi, and because of close contact with some of the elder citizens of Dumaguete, I wondered if it wouldn't be a good idea to write a series on the history of the Chinese community in Dumaguete City.

The first order of the day was to determine if there were any such history already written, in which case I could use it as a secondary source if for some reason that I did want to pursue with the project at all. But after some inquiries it seems like the closest contender was a Dumaguete centennial souvenir written in 1989.

The most important issue, of course, was how to go about writing such a history. I am not a historian by training, I am not even on intimate terms with the histories and personalities of the local Chinese community. All that is leading me is some nebulous desire. I certainly needed some help in this area.

So this afternoon I paid the best candidate for consultant on the subject matter, Gilbert Uymatiao. I was quite impressed with Gilbert's eulogy for Fr. Chi some months ago in which he covered several core issues which I glossed over or totally missed out in my own history. I told Gilbert about the project, and his eyes simply lit up.

We sat down at his office and started going over the possibilities. Gilbert rattled off several names of people to interview, and he did so with such speed that I couldn't get any of it down. And to think that I only wanted to enlist his aid in creating an outline. It does look like I've bitten off more than I can chew on this little project.

Gilbert ticked off several interesting angles. One was the subethnic origins of the Chinese community. While majority of the Chinese in Dumaguete comes from Xiamen and the nearby highlands, there was also a Cantonese group and other folks who escape major categorization.

How did the Chinese manage to spread across Southeast Asia in the era preceding World War II? Gilbert made mention of the 13-port boat which travelled through Hong Kong, Viet Nam, Eastern Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and, of course, Manila. One point he raised was the relatively small number of Chinese in the Philippines as opposed to the Chinese in other countries. This owed to the strict immigration rules of the United States government in that time.

Really, Gilbert was on a roll. Other tidbits he dropped included trips to the cemetery to check the dates on the gravestones. On one visit, he said, he saw two people with identical dates of death. These two people were apparently killed by business rivals. One was a Chinese businessman, and the other was his loyal helper, done in under the guise of a robbery. Then there's the angle of Chinese participation in the resistance during the Japanese occupation.

Finally, Gilbert pointed me out to my own family history. Of my mother's family I am fairly familiar, but my father's side has always been a bit of a mystery. My Dad doesn't like talking about it, as I found out late this evening. It may have something to do with sordid tales of murder and other bits of skullduggery.

So really, there's a long road ahead of me on this project. It's a big project and my main fear is that I'll lose steam even before I get started. Ah, well, no recourse but to take this day by day.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Animation Exam

Rational Technology for August 28, 2005

On a lark, I took the qualifying exam for Foundation University-Entheos animation program last Saturday. I'm a pretty decent hand with a pen and pencil, or so I like to think. However, I don't think I'm cut out for a job as an animator simply because I lack the patience. Nevertheless, I took the exam to just to see what it was all about.


The Nobleman, one of the characters you'll meet in the exam

I must say it was by far the most enjoyable exam I took. I didn't have to study for it at all and it left a lot of room for creativity both in what I was drawing and in how I drew it. At the same time, I learned a couple of things about the art techniques of animators. Now don't knock it and say that it's only drawing and therefore it's easy. It requires a good eye, a steady hand, and a healty imagination.

By the time this story gets published, the last batch of hopefuls would have taken the final exam prior to the start of the program. However, in case Entheos changes its mind and decides to hold some more tryouts, here are some tips:

1) Practice, practice, practice. There's nothing like getting a feel of the pencil in your hand and the paper underneath to get you acclimated with task. Copy the simple cartoons that you see in comics. Witch and Monster Allergy are good sources of material.

2) Learn to trace well. The exam gives you model sheets, essentially a character as seen from four different angles. You will be asked to draw one of these profiles. Though the instructions did not specifically ask to trace the pictures, it didn't explicitly forbid it either. So...why make life difficult? But really, it's not just about tracing lines; it's also about knowing how to create variations in line thickness to give the figures more character.

3) Learn to draw figures in action poses. You will be asked to draw the characters from the model sheets in various poses: running, dancing, jumping, playing, etc. Ah, not as simple as tracing anymore, is it? This goes back to the first point about practice.

4) Learn to draw in perspective. You will be asked to draw indoor and outdoor scenes with perspective. It's good to know some of the basic principles such as one-point perspective, two-point perspective, and three-point perspective. You can pick these from any introductory book on architecture.

5) Bring your own drawing tools. Pencils, pens, erasers, rulers, and sharpeners. Whatever you're most comfortable with. The proctor will provide wood pencils, but really, that's about it. Furthermore, the standard red eraser on the opposite tip is messy and does not erase very well.

Above all, bring a sense of fun. As I said, this is one exam you don't really have to study for. Encourage your imagination, and let the lines flow.

The Art of the Shepherd-King

This is just a story that came to mind, inspired as it was by recent events. It has no bearing on real life, as if anyone should be foolish enough to think that. If it sounds suspiciously like something you know or hear of, it is no more than a coincidence.


The thunder of hoofbeats announced the early morning arrival of the four-horse express postal carriage direct from the frontier. Not unusually, the carriage was laden with mail and other goods. A bit more unusually, the carriage also bore a passenger. It meant that his business was very urgent indeed.

The carriage made an unscheduled stop at a stately capitol building and the passenger alit. His uniform marked him as a minor officer of the Azure Kingdom. The manner in which he wore it, which was to say, somewhat sloppily, marked him as a field operative. The officer jogged up the stairs of the headquarters, pausing just once to return the salutes of the guards.

Inside the bowels of the headquarters he navigated the maze of cubicles abuzz with activity, heading straight for the office of the High Lord of Strategic Relations. There was no secretary about, so the officer cleared his throat and rapped gently to catch the attention of the High Lord, who was contemplating a sheaf of papers on his desk.

"Ah, Lieutenant Gerald," High Lord Wilson said, looking up from his paperwork. "It's good that you've come. I trust you're familiar with the particulars? I was just reviewing the communication from this Baron Frederick."

"Yes, Lord Wilson," the Lieutenant said. "Only, there wasn't much to go on, really. His claims are fantastic, to be sure. And in fact it sounds too good to be true."

"Indeed," Lord Wilson said. "But if it's true, it could just be the weapon we need to break the stranglehold that the Kingdom of the Red Moon has on common magic. As you are the Azure Kingdom's recognized local expert on Red Moon's rival, the Society of the Free Onyx, I've called for you to look into the matter."

"I'm still doubtful, Lord Wilson," Lieutenant Gerald said, speaking freely. "Baron Frederick's claims sound suspiciously like the Vintner's Art within the Free Onyx Magic system. And though, the Vintner's Art works well enough with the simpler spells of Red Moon's Fenestral magics, it isn't perfect, you know."

"You'll have a chance to see for yourself, Lieutenant," the High Lord said avuncularly. "I have arranged for an appointment with Baron Frederick and his band of conjurers. He is expecting you. Here is his address."

Lieutenant Gerald received the scrap of paper, saluted the High Lord, and headed for the streets of the metropolis.


The Baron Frederick had christened his band the Celestial Locutors, claiming that they had been chosen to speak up to the heavens. The young lieutenant shrugged at such blatant self-promotion; he had encountered far too many false prophets in his time. That he was now travelling in the rougher parts of the city only served to confirm his suspicions. But of course, he could not refuse the High Lord's request, and so now he stood before an old building, neatly arrayed but one which had seen better days.

The lieutenant wondered at his own standing. He had been a veteran of the Doubtcome Wars, leading several guerilla campaigns for the Azure Kingdom. The Azure Kingdom, long entrenched in Heavy Metal Magic, found it hard to cope with the nimbler magics from Kingdom of the Red Moon and the Kingdom of the Sun. Thus his familiarity with the terrain and the new magics made him a valuable operative. But wars eventually end, and he struggled to define his new role in the new stalemate of high magic of Heavy Metal and the common Fenestral Magic. That was why he opted for an assignment in the frontier. And now, this assignment, which he felt was a complete waste of time.

He sought directions from the guard and was led to one of the rooms upon which bore the seal of the Celestial Locutors.

A tall stern gentleman introduced himself to the lieutenant as Baron Frederick. The Baron, it turned out, was from the northern regions. He appeared to want to impress on the young lieutenant his elevated stature. In that region, people from the North were usually held in high regard. The lieutenant took it all in politely.

"High Lord Wilson sent you?" the baron said, eyeing the lieutenant and looking none too impressed.
"Yes, sir," the lieutenant said. "To evaluate your new magic. It's standard procedure in the Azure Kingdom. I must warn you, though, that it can be a long process, the Azure Kingdom being what it is. I'll probably be the first of many scholars you'll have to speak with."

Baron Frederick harrumphed and shook his head. "Don't you realize, boy, that the Shepherd-King's Art of the Celestial Locutors will change the face of magic? Why, even now the minions of the Red Moon tremble at the possibility! The Oracles are keen on the project, don't you know? So too with the Band of the Owlet Packers!"

"Please, sir, may I see this Shepherd-King's Art?" said the young lieutenant. "That's really all I came here to do."

"My Chief Conjurer Henry is delayed," Baron Frederick said. "When he comes, the wonders of the Shepherd-King's Art shall be made clear!"

"Yes, sir, but it sounds so much like the Vintner's Art." Lieutenant Gerald said. "I was wondering...."

"Vintner's Art, nothing!" the baron said indignantly. "The Shepherd-King's Art can take any spell written for Red Moon's Fenestral Magic and cast it perfectly! Matched with Free Onyx Magic, it shall liberate the ignorant mass of humanity currently enslaved by Fenestral Magic!"

"I'll believe it when I see it," said the lieutenant, standing his ground.

Gritting his teeth, Baron Frederick led the lieutenant to a scrying glass polished according to the rules of Free Onyx Magic. He produced a scroll with scribbled writing from his sleeve and began to chant the incantations, which he did so haltingly.

"Ah, I think that's pronounced 'com-MEN-sum', sir," the lieutenant said helpfully.

"Don't interrupt," said the baron irritably.

The designs on the scrying glass looked impressive enough to the lieutenant, though he knew that underneath, it still operated on the principles of Free Onyx Magic. The baron cast some simple spells, written according to the rules of Fenestral Magic and which ordinarily would be incompatible with Free Onyx Magic. And the spells worked. Yet there was something to the Baron's ledgerdemain that made the whole casting very familiar and instantly recognizable.

"There," the Baron said proudly. "Now do you believe?"

"Sir," Lieutenant Gerald said politely, "I do believe that all you've done is use the Vintner's Art. I wished to see the Shepherd-King's Art."

"Well!" said the Baron indignantly. "The Shepherd-King's Art is a complex piece of magic, you know. It takes many resources. Yes, many. We haven't completed it yet. I just used the Vintner's Art to demonstrate to you how the Shepherd-King's Art would work its enchantments. But believe me, the Shepherd-King's Art will be much more impressive."

"Baron Frederick," said Lieutenant Gerald, reigning in his temper. "The Azure Kingdom cannot commit any resources to the Celestial Locutors unless you can ably demonstrate the workings of your said magic."

Lieutenant Gerald continued to explain why the Celestial Locutors could not expect any support from the Azure Kingdom unless they had some semblance of readiness for the Shepherd-King's Art. Baron Frederick's tack was to alternated between promises of great things and the threats of the other kingdoms' access to the Celestial Locutor's magic arts. Lieutenant Gerald firmly held his ground.
At that point, Chief Conjurer Henry chose to make his timely appearance. Baron Frederick signalled to Henry, who produced a series of scrolls marked with boxes and lines.

"We are showing you the inner workings of the Shepherd-King's Art," said the Chief Conjurer conspiratorially. "Here, as you can see, the Shepherd-King's Art will take the bits of magic from Fenestrae and translate them into Free Onyx." Henry rambled on, but all Lieutenant Gerald could see were boxes.

"We have shown this to a High Magister of the Green University," said Baron Frederick, "and he was very impressed with it. He commended us on all our good work. He agrees that this will change the future of magic as we know it."

"Be that as it may, Baron," said Lieutenant Gerald, "the Azure Kingdom cannot work with blueprints. I know we might be missing out on a magnificent opportunity, as you say, but it still stands: we need to see the Shepherd-King's Art at work before we commit to anything.

"Furthermore, I see several obstacles to your proposal. The Kingdom of the Red Moon controls Fenestral Magic, adding new spells each season. How do you propose to keep track of these secret spells? Any one of these could break Shepherd-King's Art."

"Gnomes," said Baron Frederick plainly. "We shall have a lot of gnomes studying Fenestral Magic. These gnomes will translate the news spells as they appear."

"And are you not worried that the Kingdom of the Red Moon will dispatch their lawyers?" said the lieutenant, shuddering.

"Not at all. We are well within our rights."

Seeing that there was nothing further to be gained from the discussion, Lieutenant Gerald took his leave. "Unfortunately, Baron Frederick, there is nothing at the moment. Perhaps, in six months' time, when you have the Shepherd-King's Art ready, we can resume discussions. Good day."


Lieutenant Gerald was hard at work on a formal report for High Lord Wilson when the said High Lord came to his desk. "Well?" said the High Lord. "What transpired with the Celestial Locutors?"

Lieutenant Gerald gestured with a thumbs-down and made a raspberry. It was unbecoming of an officer of the Azure Kingdom, but it was the only way to describe how he felt. "They don't have working magic," he said, "all they have is a promise. And the charlatans had the temerity to disparage the Vintner's Art when that was what they used to demonstrate their so-called Shepherd-King's Art."

High Lord Wilson shrugged. "I'll take your word for it," he said. Just then, a messenger arrived, bearing a note for the High Lord. "Ah, a message from Baron Frederick."

"What does he say?" asked the Lieutenant.

The High Lord read the note. "He says he's sorely disappointed with your lack of understanding of the Shepherd-King's Art. And would I please send a real expert." The High Lord guffawed. "I shall take that under advisement. Pay him no mind, Gerald, we'll keep them at arm's length, like we always do."

Lieutenant Gerald handed his completed report to the High Lord. "Thank you very much, sir, and if you need me, I shall be at the frontier."

"Very good, Lieutenant. Carry on."

Just then, Lord Victor of the Azure Kingdom's Institute of Magic came bustling in. "Ah, High Lord Wilson, just the man I was looking for. Have you received this magnificent bit of news from Baron Frederick of the Celestial Locutors? I think it just may be the bit of magic we need to break the stalemate with Red Moon...."

Lieutenant Gerald slunk away, making good his escape from the bureaucratic insanity of the lords and the deceit of barons.

What if, he wondered, he just left all this behind and started a small apothecary in the frontier. Such musings filled his mind on the long trip back.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Random Encounters on a Tuesday Morning

Still acclimated to yesterday's early start, I woke up at 4:45am, lounged around, and finally decided to put my lazy butt on my bike and pedal around Dumaguete. Since I'm trying to space the strenuous activities, I opted for an easy ride around the city proper. I was done by 6:45 at which time I got breakfast.

A full hour before I open the store. I could go back home and start packing for my trip to Manila later this afternoon, but that would just put me in a rush. Instead, I head over to a nearby cafe and surf.

Here are things I found this morning:

1) The really cool activities around Silliman aren't posted on the big streamers. They're in the bulletin boards in campus. Oh, to be sure, there are useful announcements on the steel fences like the LaTeX seminar that I didn't get to attend last Saturday. Today, as I was biking around campus, I found a two-night seminar organized by the Physics Department. The seminar is in answer to rumors that The World Will Come To An End this August 27 when Mars comes very close to earth and will appear as large as the moon. The seminar involves lectures and skywatching, among other things. Too bad I can't be here.

For the truly curious, look here.

2) There's a Math exhibit in the Silliman Student Services building. It runs until August 29 so I'm in no danger of missing it. I might pass by later as time permits.

3) Hey, Manolo Quezon linked to my blog! This is in reference to the light-a-candle for truth post I made last week. I did have my suman that day, but, er, I forgot to light the candle. I'll make up for it as soon as I'm done here. But in other news, there was a truly hilarious incident at the EDSA Shrine as police planned to use a water cannon against seven members of the candle brigade.

Oh, and ANC anchor Ricky Carandang has a blog.

4) Finally, my Nethack art got featured in a Russian blog. I found it as I was trolling my Site Meter logs. I couldn't understand what Jan Iwan had written until I passed it through an online translation service. So to save you all the trouble:


Remarkable figures at the author turn out. Here for example absolutely charming NetHack Girls.


Spaceeba, Jan Iwan!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Suman


From an idea by Clair, with apologies to Mars Ravelo.

Yes, it's a little too early in the week but I'm going to Manila tomorrow and I don't know if I'll be able to log on this Wednesday.

Almost, the Shrine

Today I took another stab at the Filipino-Japanese Friendship Shrine in the hills of Valencia. The trip was wholly unplanned as I had expected to be biking up to the town proper instead as per Dean Sinco's invitation last night. Unfortunately, he cancelled just as I was about to step out of the house at 5:15am. All dressed down and no place to go.... What's a bum to do?

I headed out anyway and took my usual route along the Batinguel-Candau-ay highway. I can now claim some credit for building up enough stamina to ride up this road without reducing myself to a panting heap. Well, stamina plus some new-found wisdom to travel a few gears above first, a trick I picked up from Dean and Alex Pal.

Before long I found myself at Purok Iba, proudly proclaiming itself to be the gateway to the Shrine. In finer print, just below the announcement: 1200m above sea level, 5km. inward. Once more I tackled the road ahead. After all, how far could 5 km. be?

Quite far, apparently. The rocky path wasn't really the problem as it soon gave way to sections of cemented road. The problem was the steep ascent, with grades of as much as 40 degrees in some areas. Maybe someday when my muscles are better developed and my gut is significantly reduced, I will be able to pedal all the way upwards. Today, discretion over valor. Wisely I stepped off my bike and pushed it upwards.

Despite the hardship, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the view. For the most part, I was travelling along the spine of the mountain so either side of me tapered down into steep valleys with fantastic greenery. In the distance were lined the tops of rows and rows of coconut trees, giving me some indication of how high I had gone. At one point of the journey I saw dozens of dragonflies overhead, something I rarely see in the lowlands.

Several times I asked the locals if the shrine was still far ahead. Uncharacteristically, they all answered in the positive. It's a truism of countryside travel that the answer the yokels give is always, "just five minutes more." Then again, the residents didn't qualify as yokels.

On the way up, I met several kids in school uniforms heading in the opposite direction. Some high schoolers, some grade schoolers. I marvelled that they should manage the daily trek to and from school in the lowlands. Apparently, that was nothing as I also came across small schoolchildren travelling in the same direction I was. It turned out that there was a public school further on.

On and on I trudged, myriad thoughts swirling in my mind. Part of me thought that I was travelling through fairyland. In fact, wasn't I? Once again, this was undiscovered country, vastly different from my usual surroundings. Yes, there were houses but they were built of bamboo, and they were few and far between. What if I ended in the unknown, lost forever to the real world? What if the kids I met along the way were really imps lulling me into a sense of the familiar as I got sucked into the elven kingdom?

But of course, I'm just imagining things. Travelling alone sometimes does that to a person.

Each time I spied a bend I would half expect to bump into the shrine. But no, it was always further on. Before long, I was already winded. I made my way as far as the public school where a dozen imps lounged around waiting for classes to start. I wanted to ask them if there wasn't an announcement of a holiday today but decided against it. Better if I weren't blamed for spreading the wrong information.

I asked a young lady waiting near the day care what time it was. "Close to seven...thirty," she said. Gadzooks! If I went on any further I would be late to open the store. With much regret, I wheeled the bike around and started the ride home.

Now, if the ascent was tiring, the descent was hairy. Trudging up forty degree inclines meant speeding down the same. It wouldn't have been a problem if I was travelling down a straight highway but these were winding paths, oftentimes with rocky section, with several small pedestrians coming my way. Suffice to say, I kept a tight grip on my brakes for most of the way, cutting loose only when the grades weren't so steep.

It was on the trip back that I realized how far I had travelled since I started in the morning. It took me another half-hour to get to the store, and thankfully that left me another half-hour before opening time. All in all, I estimate around eight or nine kilometers, with three of those comprising the steep sections.

And still the Shrine stands there, unconquered by me.

Someday, someday.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Nethack Girls

Whoa, I'm on a roll! I actually like how these sketches turned out. Maybe it's because My Girlfriend(tm) requested it that I put extra care into putting it together.

Friday, August 19, 2005

And even more Nethack characters

Nethack is becoming a real inspiration for my attempts at art. Funny, coming from a game that's text based and represents people with a @.


My attempt at a priestess. Oooh, check those abs.


A monk.


And the monk, yet again. He's about to lay the smackdown on a goblin.

Rational Technology: Bicycle Factoids

Last week's piece on bicycles elicited favorable responses for which I am very grateful. Thanks to all those who took the time to write, both on my blog and to The Metro Post. I do hope more people venture into cycling, even if only as a weekend hobby. I've found that there's so much more to appreciate about Dumaguete from where one sits on the saddle.

Partly encouraged by the feedback and partly driven by curiosity, I decided to check the Internet for resources on bicycles. The amount of material I turned up was overwhelming. There are many more people out there, it turns out, who are as passionate with cycling as they are with computers. Here's a sampler of history, culture, and trivia on the subject.

The origin of the bicycle is somewhat muddled by a fictional account propagated by a 19th century historian. Current findings, however, point to German Baron Karl von Drais and Scotsman Kirkpatrick MacMillan as the main contributors to the modern bicycle. In 1816, Baron von Drais invented what he called the Draisine. It was essentially a pushbike, powered by the rider pushing his feet against the ground to move forward. MacMillan later added a treadle drive mechanism in 1840 which enabled the rider to lift his feet off the ground while driving the rear wheel.

In 1855, a 14-year old Ernest Michaux from France took the idea of a handcrank from a grinding wheel and created the foot pedal. The result was the velocipede, forerunners of today's modern bikes. Unlike modern bikes, the pedals were attached to the front wheel. By 1870, sophisticated metal velocipedes were in production in Europe and the United States. The velocipede eventually gave way to the Ordinary, otherwise known as the penny-farthing. The Ordinary is distinctive for its huge front wheel and small rear wheel.

Despite its popularity, the Ordinary was quite dangerous. The rider was seated up high and was thus prone to falling. In 1885, American bicycle manufacturer J.K. Starley introduced the chain and the rear-wheel drive in a new design that was called the dwarf safety, or the safety bicycle. The safety bicycle is the first recognizable modern bicycle. Later on, Starley adopted the double triangle diamond-frame that is standard in most bicycles today.

The 1890s, the Golden Age of Bicycles, ushered in several new developments in comfort and safety. In 1888, Scotsman John Boyd Dunlop introduced the pneumatic tire, which soon became universal. Dunlop's name lives on today as a recognized brand in automobile tires and other rubber products. Other developments in this period included the rear freewheel which enabled riders to coast without the pedals spinning out of control. Brakes and shift gears also appeared on bicycles.

Along with these innovations came the social changes. Bicycle clubs flourished in Europe and North America. These clubs were instrumental in advocating for improved road networks. Women's fashion also changed along with the bicycle. Bloomers, more suitable for biking than restrictive corsets, became popular. Indirectly this contributed to women's emancipation in the Western nations. Bicycles also helped reduce inner city population pressures as it gave workers more mobility to commute between suburb and factory.

Today the country most associated with bicycles is China, and rightly so. Worldwide, there are estimated to be 1.7 billion bicycles, and a third of them are in China. China also accounts for 60% of all bikes manufactured. But remember that bicycles were a foreign invention and so were viewed with suspicion when they were first introduced in the late 1800s. Bicycle manufacture in China did not begin until the 1930s. The industry grew rapidly, though, and soon matched its European counterparts. Bicycles really took off after the 1949 Communist takeover. For various reasons, including ideological ones, the new Chinese government encouraged citizens to use bicycles. The industry also received preferential treatment in steel rations, and was pivotal in China's entry to other industries.

Bicycles leading to more advanced industries is a template that has been repeated several times in history. The quest to build a better bike led to advanced metalworking techniques, which later enabled skilled metalworkers and mechanics to develop the components used in early automobiles and aircraft. J. K. Starley's company became the Rover Cycle Company Ltd. in the late 1890s, and then the Rover auto maker. The Morris Motor Company and Skoda also began in the bicycle business, as did Henry Ford. And let's not forget: the airplane was invented by bicycle repairmen.

The most efficient animal on earth in terms of weight transported over distance for energy expended is a human on a bicycle. According to Bill Strickland, a prominent cyclist: "Converting calories into gas, a bicyclist gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon. A person pedaling a bike uses energy more efficiently than a gazelle or an eagle. And a triangle-frame bicycle can easily carry ten times its own weight-a capacity no automobile, airplane or bridge can match."

Finally, some quotable quotes:

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. -- Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills


Since the bicycle makes little demand on material or energy resources, contributes little to pollution, makes a positive contribution to health and causes little death or injury, it can be regarded as the most benevolent of machines. -- Stuart S. Wilson


When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking. -- Arthur Conan Doyle, in an 1896 article for Scientific American


I want to ride my bicycle. -- Freddy Mercury

Happy trails!

Resources:
  • Wikipedia
  • Imperial Tours
  • Pages of Neups
  • Thursday, August 18, 2005

    Rejection / Selection

    On the T9 dictionary that's universal on the 12-button keypad of cellphones, 735328466 spells both "rejection" and "selection." It's a little antithetical coincidence that I discovered today. Ordinarily it would be an amusing curiosity that wouldn't really mean anything at all. But it's reflective of two unexpected events that happened today and, well, one shouldn't let these coincidences pass by unremarked.

    First, on rejection, which is really how I got started on this thread. I was sending Sean Uy an SMS message about a message that was popped into my mailbox today. It was a note from Dean Alfar. Apparently, my submission to his planned anthology of speculative fiction didn't quite make the cut. His letter in full:


    Thank you for your submission. I'm sorry to say that I am passing on the story. While "Runeworld" had much merit, especially both the main conceit and the characterization, I found the ending weak and rather apt. I do commend you on the way you wrote it - I liked your prose.

    I hope that you continue to write though and not let this get you down. There will be many other opportunities for gifted writers like you.


    Strange as it may seem, I'm actually quite happy to receive this rejection notice. Oh, I'm sure I would have been equally happy if my entry were to make its way into the collection, but I know I would be happy in a different way. I'm happy because this is my first real rejection slip, and we all know that writers must accumulate a fair amount of these before they can be called real writers. I'm happy because someone has read through my work and taken the time to point out its strengths and weaknesses. I'm happy because, shallow as it may seem, it validates my existence as a writer.

    It's much better than being ignored altogether, which is how I felt with my other submissions. It's quite frustrating when the editors or judges don't tell you why you didn't make the cut. None of them have even bothered to let me know that they received the submission. But that's professionalism in literature for you.

    I realize that I have many unexpressed misgivings about the local literary community, and this little incident has actually given it a focal point. As an unpublished and struggling (in a literary, not financial, sense) writer, the local literary community has the feel of an old boys' club. It seems to me that you not only have to write in a certain way, but you have to act in a certain way and speak in a certain way and think in a certain way and associate with people in a certain way. Without the proper social connections, it's nigh impossible to get any serious critique of your work let alone get published. And without any serious and objective criticism, it's equally impossible to improve your craft as writer.

    For an untutored writer like me, that feedback is essential. Writing is a hard craft. Some days I really do feel like an idiot savant. I have an image of what I want to write but it just doesn't come out the way I want it to when I set fingers to keyboard. The mental disconnect between what I want to express and how I actually express it is very frustrating. Ah, really, so many more years and so many more words to go.

    So in a way, I'm glad I took on some other means to make a living. Because I can't make a living as a writer. Because I know I'm not good enough as a writer. Not yet anyway. And really, maybe not in the Philippines.

    Then again, not too many writers can claim to have made $800 per article printed. Which I have. Of course, it wasn't artsy-fartsy stuff. Yes, I'm sourgraping.

    On the flip side, selection. Today I got a call from a headhunter about a possible job with a multinational company. The call came from out of the blue. I did not apply. I did not even leave my number. These were people I had never heard of.

    So yes, that was a bit flattering.

    I don't have the job yet, of course. There's still a long interview process ahead, but it's comforting to know that if I set my mind to it there's something that I'm good at that's there for the taking.

    On the other hand, now that the possibility of returning to corporate life is looming, I'm beginning to wonder: do I want to? Deep down inside, I know I have something good right here in Dumaguete. It's not glamorous, it's not prestigious, it's not financially rewarding. But I'm happy here. And there's the promise of building something that's my own.

    Ah, questions, questions. I'll cross the bridge when I get there.

    In the meantime, another Nethack picture.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    Another Nethack pair


    More sketches from my favorite game, this time around with my favorite character, the Tourist, and Sacha's favorite character, the Wizard.

    Rough Trails to Valencia...Whee!

    That I should find a new trail to bike on is both a joy and a sorrow. A joy, because there's the thrill of discovering something new. A sorrow, because, alas, the roads of Dumaguete are not infinite. There's one less to discover. Nevertheless, I'm not one to pass up the opportunity.

    Such was the case this morning when I went up to Valencia with Dean Sinco and Alex Pal. We entered through Batinguel but took a detour not too long after. From then on, it was rough trail for most of the way. Just what mountain bikes were made for, really. We passed through cornfields, grazing land, and coconut groves, all the while going up and up. The paths were not as steep as the main highway but there were several lengths were they were narrow. Quite a thrill.

    We reached Valencia at around 7am, an hour after we began. Alex and Dean had coffee at their usual hangout. I had tsokolate. No suman but the puto was close enough.

    Then down we came. We didn't take the highway as I expected, instead going through more rough trails going downhill. I took a spill in one of the wooded areas but I managed to jump off with just a soiled shin. I'm okay.

    No, I'm more than okay. I'm ecstatic!

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Two from Nethack

    A little dry for inspiration, I finally turned to my favorite game for some practice illustrations.


    This barbarian looks squat because he's only six heads high. I was aiming for a cartoony effect, but didn't quite achieve it. Still, it should be useful as a future reference on what not to do. Brush pen and technical pen.


    Now, I'm actually much happier with how this Quantum Mechanic. I wanted to come out with something Kirby-esque, and I think I cam close to that with the Mole Man-type glasses. Technical pen.

    My Favorite Trail

    The road going up to Valencia by way of Batinguel is fast becoming my favorite trail. I've gone up its gently sloping climb twice before, never quite reaching the goal, and today I made another attempt with results no different. Either I'd run out of time or I'd run out of breath. No matter. It gives me something to work towards. It doesn't matter if I have to tackle that road every day, but by golly, I will get fit and I will make it all the way up!

    Where I ended up today was halfway up the trail leading to the Filipino-Japanese Friendship Shrine. From the mouth of Purok Iba, it would have been just another five kilometers. However, the road was far too rocky and my watch was warning me that it was about time to open the store. So I turned back, but with a promise to make it there soon.

    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Word Freak

    Every time I drop by the humungous National Bookstore in Cubao, I always leave with one or two purchases. This particular branch, which doubles as a warehouse of sorts, is chock full of books at bargain prices. The selection is good, albeit none too organized. The prices are somewhat higher than in Book Sale but at least they're not pre-owned, if not altogether new.

    Image from Powell's

    My visit last week netted me Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble by Stefan Fatsis, a writer for the Wall Street Journal. Fatsis took a year off from work to explore the strange and mysterious world of competitive Scrabble, in the process unleashing his own latent mania for the game. It's a fascinating book that deals with everything about the game, from its invention in the Depression by Alfred Butts to the present day owners of the game to the associations which run the tournaments. One interesting tidbit: Scrabble is actually owned by two companies, Hasbro in North America, and Mattel outside of North America.

    The centerpiece of the book, though, are the eccentric characters who have dedicated their lives to -- nay, whose lives are defined by -- the board game that is Scrabble. Fatsis introduces us to many of them: an out-of-work pill-popping comedian, a perpetually angry man with pan-African ambitions, a gruff Viet Nam veteran, a deliberately homeless vagabond, a Texan entrepreneur, among others. These are the types of characters who are so in to the game that they spend all their time playing word games, developing strategies, and devising mnemonics. Some of them have gone as far as to memorize the entire Scrabble dictionaries. These are the people whom Fatsis has chosen as his guide to the world of Scrabble, and vicariously, they become ours as well.

    In the world of competitive Scrabble, the words themselves are the rules. Meaning is irrelevant. What's important are the sequence of letters which correspond to the arrangements in the officially-recognized Scrabble dictionaries. Mr. Fatsis outlines some of the mnemonic tools some of the top players use to remember the 100,000+ words. In all honesty, the dedication that some of the players put into the game is frightening.

    Overall, Fatsis is an excellent guide because early on he's moved from reporter to participant. Starting out with a rating of 1200, he made it his goal to get a 1700, or expert, rating, something he achieved in a little over a year. Fatsis draws you in with some intense play-by-play of critical games he's seen or played himself. His descriptions of the last few games he plays is truly nail-biting.

    And the Philippines gets a passing mention. One passage which got me runs thus:

    "I'm rooming with G.I. Joel in Melbourne. Since arriving a couple of days earlier, Joel has been suffering from his usual range of maladies.... Except for playing in two warmup tournaments and taking a trip to the zoo with a Filipino player on whom he has a crush, Joel has scarcely left the hotel."

    Apparently, we had a team participate in the 1999 World Championships from whence the passage was taken. So that leads me to ask: how come I didn't know about the Scrabble society earlier on? Must look it up.

    All told, a fascinating read.

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    On the Saddle

    Rational Technology for August 14, 2005

    Arguably my best purchase ever since I moved back to Dumaguete on a more permanent basis was a twenty-one speed mountain bike. I bought it as a means of exercise but it's become much more than that. In the past few months it's become my primary means of mobility within the city. It's also become my travelling partner to the little nooks and crannies of Dumaguete that I normally wouldn't have considered visiting.

    Except on days when it's raining heavily, I average two five-kilometer trips from our house in Piapi to Lee Plaza and back. With gasoline prices rising almost every other week, I'm certain I've saved quite a lot in fuel prices over the past few months. And believe it or not, it takes almost as much time to travel from Piapi to the city center on a car or tricycle as it does on a bicycle. Rush hour can snarl you up in traffic, even when you're on a motorcycle, but a bicycle has far greater flexibility in navigating the tight spaces between vehicles.

    There's a whole different perspective from a bicycle, too. I've gone on the alternate routes to Sibulan by way of the coconut groves of Motong, and trips up to Valencia through Batinguel and Candau-ay. For those looking for more leisurely rides, there's always the Piapi highway and the Dumaguete boulevard. These are routes that I wouldn't have discovered if I hadn't taken my bicycle. Travelling on a bike, you get to appreciate the natural beauty that abounds in Dumaguete. So, too, do you see the promise of the countryside that is yet to be fulfilled.

    I'm surprised that not too many Dumaguetenos are taking to the bicycle, choosing instead motorcycles, tricycles, and even cars as their primary mode of transport. Dumaguete is an ideal city for biking, what with the newly paved roads and the shady acacia-lined avenues. Most locations within the city are quite accessible by foot, and a bicycle can make those trips faster. Bicycles, too, can be almost as fast as tricycles, if you consider the usual entanglements and detours that those have to make.

    If there aren't more cyclists, perhaps we can trace it to an aversion to biking in the heat or in the mud. Both reasons might be valid, but I might ask if they aren't worth the little sacrifice every now and then. The heat really isn't all that bad, what with the outspread arms of the acacia trees and the cool breeze blowing in from the sea. And mud can be a little fun, just so long as you remember to bring a change of clothes. Then again, cycling really just isn't for finicky socialites.

    A more valid concern might be safety. Cyclists are on the lowest tier of the traffic totem pole, and oftentimes there's no contest in a competition against the hundreds of other tricycles plying the streets. Seeing as how Filipinos drive, the burden of responsibility of safety is really on the rider. Thus, the usual precautions: give way, wear adequate protection, especially a helmet, and keep eyes and ears open at all times.

    But then again, wouldn't it be nice if the city actually allocated bicycle lanes for the exclusive use of cyclists? Wouldn't that encourage more people to use their bikes? Just a thought.

    If you're looking for a good bicycle in Dumaguete City, check out Sanco Bicycle Center. Department stores like Super Lee Plaza also offer a selection of bicycles.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005

    Spread the Light, Banish the Darkness

    From Manolo Quezon's blog. Echoing the pundit, if you agree with this message, please post in your blog or email to friends.

    An invitation.
    SPREAD THE LIGHT. BANISH THE DARKNESS
    August 20, 2005 at exactly 6:00 pm.



    When an ordinary citizen steals, would an “I am sorry” be enough? When an ordinary citizen lies, would an “I am sorry” be enough? When an ordinary citizen cheats, would an “I am sorry” be enough?

    Ask yourself: If you are an employee and your employer catches you cheating, lying and stealing — will an “I am sorry” be sufficient or a “lapse of judgment” be accepted? Or would you stand to lose your job?

    What is our country coming to if we hold ordinary Filipinos to higher and stricter standards than we hold the highest official of the land?

    This is not to say that the President of the Philippines is guilty of all that she is being accused of. It is only to say two different standards of rules - one for the powerful and one for the powerless — cannot exist if ours is to be a truly democratic and pluralistic society.

    This is not the country we want. And so perhaps it is time we do something about it.

    If you believe, as we do, that it is time for ordinary Filipinos to stand up and be counted in the fight for TRUTH — as well as for Transparency, for Responsibility, for Unity, for Trust and for Hope — then join us in a simple demonstration of our collective sentiments.

    On August 20, Saturday, at exactly 6pm, take a few moments to light a candle in demonstration of our collective effort to take this country back from all who have not been true to it and to all of us ordinary citizens - and to be the first step in bringing about the light that will banish the darkness that hovers over our land!

    Spread the light. Banish the darkness. August 20, 2005 at exactly 6:00pm.


    CITIZENS FOR TRUTH
    Transparency. Responsibility. Unity. Trust. Hope.


    I'll be lighting a candle with my suman.

    Friday, August 05, 2005

    Capital Youth Chamber Orchestra

    I caught the matinee performance of the Capital Youth Chamber Orchestra today at the Luce Auditorium in Silliman. The performers were quite young, mostly middle school students. But some of them had been playing for six to seven years.

    They played selections from various eras: Baroque, Romantic, Modern, and International. A bit of jazz and some folk music. Quite a pleasure, really.

    The group was composed of two-and-a-half first violins, two-and-a-half second violins, two violas, a cello, and a bass.

    Two hours worth of soothing chamber music. All for the low price of P50.

    Who says there's nothing going on in Dumaguete?

    Rational Technology: Behind the Numbers

    Some months back, I asked a high-ranking executive of a call center why they were vacillating on plans to set up a large site in Dumaguete. In several categories, the city already enjoyed good marks. In all earnestness, he told me that the city doesn't have a large enough pool of people.

    To fill up a 1,000-seat call center working two-and-a-half shifts, the company would need to hire 2,500 agents. To get the 2,500 agents, at their hiring rate of 10 percent, they would need to interview 25,000 applicants. Finally, factoring an attrition rate of 5 percent per month, this means that they need an additional 1,500 agents selected from a pool of 15,000 applicants. That's why, he said, the prospects for a site the size we normally see in Manila or Cebu is still further off in the future.

    In light of this discussion, I find it strangely ironic that we are being sold the panic of the prospect of 200,000 Dumaguete citizens in the next twenty years.

    Now don't get me wrong. I'm don't hold call centers as an absolute in the future of Dumaguete City. It's something worthwhile aiming for, to be sure, and given our limitations, something that will need to grow organically. Perhaps there might be a better vision, or perhaps not. Neither am I saying that there will be no attendant problems when the population hits 200,000 citizens two decades from now. What I am saying is that it's a complex issue that needs to be thought out well, foreseeing both the problems and the benefits.

    The editorial cartoon of this paper beautifully summarizes the alarmist thinking that results from oversimplification. In it, we have two dozen people overloading a single motorcycle, each one wanting to go to a different destination. Below it, the caption: "Dumaguete City 2025 A.D., Population: 210,000." Tell me, what's wrong this picture?

    First is the assumption that in the year 2025 the number of tricycles will be more or less the same as they are now. This, I think, is quite improbable. Second is the assumption that in 2025 the mode of transportation will still be tricycles. In themselves, tricycles are inefficient means of public transport and will probably need to be changed. Third is the assumption that in 2025 the destinations will still be the same, that all 210,000 will continue to be served by the same establishments in the same locations.

    Yes, it's only a cartoon, but it belies the oversimplification that plagues arguments for population control: foresee a future with a doubled population, but hold all other factors constant.

    If we place ourselves twenty years ago, when Dumaguete's population was half of what it is now, would we have imagined that the existing infrastructure would be sufficient to support the population that it does now? But look, within that time we've expanded and adapted with new facilities, new businesses, and new innovations. Could we have done better? Oh, absolutely! But I sincerely doubt if keeping the population steady at 50,000 would have improved our lot significantly. We've moved forward from the economic contributions of each one of us; if we could have done better, it would have to be because of better choices, better cooperation, and more daring.

    By 2025, our population may be double what it is now. It's part of the growth of a growing economy. It will grow because the people of Dumaguete will want to have children. It will grow because Filipinos from neighboring cities will look for opportunities in Dumaguete. It will grow because more of our friends like the Chinese, the Koreans, and the Persians will fall in love with Dumaguete and decide to move here. It will grow because our friends the Chinese, the Koreans, and the Persians, will fall in love and have little Chinese, little Koreans, and little Persians; in other words, they will have little Dumaguetenos.

    Growth is an inevitable part of our future. It doesn't have to be a bad thing. Let's think of ways so that it isn't.

    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    Black Knight

    Neo got a new toy from a cereal box and challenged me to draw it for him. So here it is. This also served as practice with the brush pen that Jonas recommended. More practice needed, but I am getting the hang of it!

    Wednesday, August 03, 2005

    Vignette: Turnabout

    This is a work of fiction. I'm trying my hand out at what I think is a neglected area of Philippine literature: crime fiction. The story is complete, running at 3,900+ words. I'm submitting it to an anthology. If it gets published, good. If not, oh well....

    Andrew Ong, age 23, abducted in Ortigas on May 16, 2003. Andrew had just come from his doctor's appointment when two men went up to him and whisked him into a waiting Honda Civic. There wasn't any struggle. There usually never is.

    If it hadn't been for the doctor's receptionist, who was stepping out for a smoke just at that moment, the crime would have gone unreported. The perps would have made the right calls and the right threats. A bit of bargaining here and there, and then the exchange. Money changes hands. End of story and very hush-hush.

    As it happened, I was on the beat and caught the report as it was going into the blotter. My good pal Rey, the watch sergeant, let me in on the story. Without a formal complaint, I really didn't have a story. Rey got in touch with Andrew's parents while I hung at his elbow, pen in hand.

    Andrew's folks, as expected, were uncooperative. They knew the drill. Handle it within the community. Raise the money. Arrange the exchange. End of story. No publicity. Very hush-hush. I hung on anyway in hopes of a story.

    Either Andrew Ong miraculously reappeared, a little worse for wear, with a good cover story on the alleged abduction, in which case there was no story. Or Andrew's body would turn up in some dark grassy field. Story. Or the deal would go sour and PAOCTF would get called in. Gang bang shootout. Big story. I don't want to sound callous, but hey, I was a beat reporter. It should come as no surprise what ending I was hoping for.

    If anyone is interested in the complete story, feel free to email me.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    The Wasted Opportunity that is Darna

    A scene in a recent episode of Darna summed up everything that was wrong with the TV series: our heroine, battered by the combined might of her enemies, takes refuge in her grandmother's house. She's lying in bed, bruised and bloodied, though still in costume. Her nemesis, Valentina, shows up at her grandma's doorstep, demanding that they give up Darna. The household insists that Darna isn't there, so Valentina storms up to the bedroom where she finds...nothing. Darna's little helpers, the Wonder Twin wannabees, conveniently turn Darna and themselves invisible. Frustrated, Valentina storms out of the house, shaking a fist at poor grandma and promising to come back.

    What the f---?

    When they announced Darna last year, I was very excited about the show. Yes, I know, it's a very bakya preoccupation, but like it or not, Darna is part of Philippine pop culture heritage. D It's also part of my childhood, having watched the Darna movies starring a younger Vilma Santos. I wanted to see what magic GMA could do on a superhero, having learned lessons from the short-lived Pintados, the more recent success of Mulawin, and the trial balloon sent by their competitors with Krystala.

    When they announced that Angel Locsin was going to play the title character, I found even more reasons to want to like it. GMA had everything going in their favor: a popular eye-candy for the lead, an established mythos, a track record with fantasy settings, an eager fan base. And the fools botched it. Botched it bad.

    I gave up watching Darna after its second week on the air. Overlooking the crude graphics, the first half-hour promised a good start with the invasion of the planet of the space amazons. If only they could have extended the conflict over a week to build up the tension. Instead, they quickly segue into a small village in rural Philippines where the young Narda and family is introduced. Fair enough. This is her show after all.

    But what happens next? Quickly the show devolves into staple Philippine melodrama. Narda's family is being evicted from their farm over the protests of their landlord's son who is Narda's friend. The family takes refuge with their wealthy relatives, the family of nemesis-to-be Valentina, where they are treated like servants. Boo hoo hoo! No, I'm not crying over their plight, I'm crying for the death of a few of my brain cells. I quickly bade Darna goodbye.

    Several months later I rediscover the show not because of its rave reviews but because Darna usually comes right after the cleverly-written Medabots over on Cartoon Network. I decide to give it another shot.

    I was hoping time would improve the show and give the writers the chance to find their legs. Some things improved: they got rid of the love pentangle subplot, they de-emphasized her job at the fish market and as a janitress at Valentina's modeling agency, and they stepped up the internal conflict between her lives as Darna and Narda. Some things took a turn for the worse: the introduction of the Wonder Twins, for instance.

    So just why is Darna so bad? Is it the special effects? Maybe, but given limited budgets and time, that's easy enough to overlook. We can live with bad special effects and just chalk them up to a willing suspension of disbelief. Is it the acting? Maybe, but again, this is a fantasy show, and bad acting is forgiveable, even encouraged, to give it that comic book feel. Oh, if the younger actresses only knew how to overact! But if you want to know why I think the show is so bad, reread my summary of the scene from last week's show.

    Poor scriptwriting, that's what. Damn poor scriptwriting.

    Never mind the flimsy excuse that Valentina has for loathing Darna. Is it asking too much for Valentina to act like a vicious supervillain? Why bother going up to Darna's house? Just blast the whole house to bits, for crying out loud! Better yet, blast the whole neighborhood, and have a good laugh while you're at it! Instead, we have the Snake Queen stomp into a house like a wronged housewife seeking a confrontation with her husband's mistress. Imagine that: a quarrel of cosmic proportions, reduced to a domestic disturbance, with the antagonist leaving in a huff.

    It's sad because the show's concept was obviously on to something that had not been done in Philippine superhero-dom before: the conflict between a superhero's public and private personas. How it affects the people around him or her. So many exciting stories could have been written around this theme, interspersed with some slam-bang action. It's a shame it was never fully developed.

    The show could have added to the Darna canon. This is the first real update of the character in over a decade. They took a step in the right direction with the more varied cast of colorful villains. Couldn't they have broadened the supporting cast of heroes as well? Instead we only get weepy relatives and the Wonder Twins.

    Most essentially, the show forgets that it is the hero who moves the story forward. For all her super powers, Darna is a wallflower who doesn't know what she wants and meanders from one situation to another, whether it's trouble on a cosmic scale or trouble on a personal scale. Darna has no quest. Darna simply reacts. Everybody else has an agenda: Braguda wants the magic stone; Valentina wants revenge; The Old Woman wants to keep the stone from Braguda. But not Darna. Darna has no overarching moral or emotional investment in doing the things that she does. Darna is a wimp.

    Contrast this with the motivations of the lineup of more established heroes. Spider-Man is driven by the guilt of his inaction which cost him his uncle. The Batman is driven by a desire to never let crime take the life of an innocent. Superman, despite his god-like powers, is driven by the small-town values ingrained in him by his adoptive parents. Wonder Woman, the closest analog to Darna, is driven to uphold the Amazon warrior code in the world of Man. What about Darna? What drives her?

    Darna's scriptwriters obviously don't know how to do superheroes. I say: move the franchise somewhere else while it can still be saved.

    As it stands, not even Angel Locsin's twin stars are enough to keep the show shining.


    Clark Kent
    Barbara Gordon
    Peter Parker
    Selina Kyle