Toots his horn:

"Sometimes funny, sometimes dreadful, but at least
it's well-written all the time."
--Philippine Web Awards Fortnightly, April 20, 2005.


Across the Baltic Sea, or Just Tell It Like It is

(3:47 AM)

I overpaid for a stack of old magazines from a Binondo Media store in Glorietta. The guy marked down some magazines but I forgot to check them when I paid for it. I lost my 200.00 PHP discount.

Mute, Tricycle, Res, Metropolis, Metalsmith, and Adbusters. (And Gotham for my wife.) All cool magazines that I couldn't afford at newsstand price. I am reduced to this--scrounging around for scraps of good things to read. A small Christmas gift for myself.

Mute: Culture and Politics After the Net (18.00 USD, now 250.00 PHP) appealed to my pretensions and my nostalgia for a lost academic career. I now have to two issues in my collection.

I bought Tricycle: The Buddhist Review (7.50 USD, now 150.00 PHP) to see if the eightfold path can still resonate with me. I managed to borrow one years ago from an aunt--it had an amazing article about Brad Pitt's movie, Seven Years in Tibet.

I avoided Res Magazine (5.95 USD, now 199.00 PHP) every time I used to see it in the magazine racks. This one had me at "Drawn from life: the comics and animation issue". I even opened it before the others, reading it while I slurped down chop suey and cheap tofu (at Chowking).

Metropolis (5.95 USD, now 100.00 PHP) has been my constant companion. It lasted longer than the rest of the original barkada: Wired, Utne Reader, Ms, Sight & Sound, and Doubletake.

Metalsmith (7.50 USD, now 50.00 PHP) is one of those magazines that I buy once just to satisfy my curiosity.

Finally, Adbusters (7.95 USD, now 250.00) was my mentor years ago. Now, I buy it just to see where it's going.

As I go through the magazines, I am reminded how far I am from the life I imagined when I was in high school. I had always assumed that when I grow up and reach the age of my older brothers and cousins, I would live a different life. That I wouldn't be suffering through different jobs just to pay the rent. That I wouldn't be wishing I was earning minimum wage in the freezing weather of Canada.

In 1993, two magazines opened up my world: Wired and Utne Reader. Wired was then talking about computer music, digital typography, satellite phones, online schools, virtual reality, and the Internet. It stood out from the rest because of the neon stripes on the spine. Utne Reader was the reverse of Reader's Digest (like Superman and Braniac). It collected feature articles from the "alternative" magazines. Topics typically included environmentalism, activism, sustainability, feminism, intentional communities, and social change. All the ideas banned from everything I've read so far.

Since then, I've filled my head with all these ideas and possibilities and ambitions and daydreams. I could do this and do that. I convinced myself that there was a world beyond the Makati office building and the nine-to-six job. In 1995, I forced myself to sit through an interview for a corporate job (as an editor for Asian Sources). They asked me to come back for a written test, but I was horrified at the endless and orderly layout of office cubicles. I never went back.

My first real, paid job (200.00 PHP) was being part of a film crew, which led to an assistant film editor stint, which led to a salaried job as a video editor. I was still hoping to end up as a film director, but I burned out and retreated to grad school. After I recuperated, I taught Freshman English and took on writing jobs. I finally ended up with an offer to head up an online magazine, with very flexible hours.

Up until that point, everything was perfect because I was largely living in my head, shaping my own sand castles.

All throughout college, as a Lit major, I couldn't understand why everyone would be excited about job fairs. My friends who were business majors were mapping out their years after graduation. Two years of working at P&G, then MBA, then the ladder to unimaginable success. Unimaginable for me, that is. My world was so small, so conceited, so naive.

Poet, writer, artist, teacher--these were the vocations that I thought were clear in my head. Everyone I admired was one or more of those.

Meanwhile, all around me, everyone else was counting the years for law school, for MBAs, and choosing among job titles like trader, banker, and product manager.

Now I claim to be a web designer, a design manager. But when it comes down to it, I am a manager. A manager who knows things like web design, writing, editing, graphic design, and so on, and so forth.


Let's see that list again.

I console myself by fixing my resume, carefully detailing all the small, meager accomplishments that I claim to would-be employers. I did this, and that. I cover my eyes with the few creations that have come out of my career.

In the magazine Mute, Armin Medosch recounts his participation at the 12th International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA) as they take a three-day trip on an cruise liner. I find comfort in his indulgent questioning:

"What is this media arts scene about then? Are we going anywhere, or are we just drifting? Is there anyone still at the helm of this ship?"

I like the idea that others in the world are rather confused, like how I am.

I like to imagine that none of this is my fault, that I couldn't have done any more, that I shouldn't beat myself up on not being courageous enough.

Fear, perhaps, is the word I shouldn't be mentioning here.