Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Grand Facebook Experiment: 1st Quarter Results

I’ve been on Facebook for four months now, and if you’ve known me for a while, well… Let’s just see what one of my high school friends had to say about that:

Ah yes. I remember saying once that I would NEVER join a social networking site. To me, it was all just superficial back then. These were the days of Friendster, and all that people were talking about was how many friends they had and how big their networks were. They’d add up people just so a number could somehow validate their popularity.

I didn’t need that. I was never one who cared to be popular. I preferred tightly-knit groups of real friends over swarms of acquaintances, and I was happy that way.

And then the years passed. People came and went. Friends suddenly became these transient beings who spent a portion of their lives with you and moved away. I found myself having less people to hang out with. I felt a little bit lonelier.

I later realized that part of what made me feel lonely was that I consistently felt left out of things. People I saw as friends would know things about each other that I wouldn’t. They’d be speaking of moments together that I was never a part of. Sure, that’s normal in every group, but this was waaaaay too much. I was out of place among my own friends. When I finally asked where these things happened and why I didn’t know of them, it was because it was all talked about online.

Still, I didn’t budge. As much as I wanted to stay in the loop, I wanted to do it on my own terms. I wanted to keep up with my friends by physically being with them. I tried, but I never really succeeded. People get a lot busier after college, and rarely have the time to go out for a few drinks. And so I drifted around, leaping at chances when friends would be free and drinking with them whenever I could.

That’s when I met Lauren. A bit of a romance played out, and we became an item. Shortly after, she became particularly insistent that I open a Facebook account, so that she and her friends could “tag me in peekchurs”. Being the absolute sap that I am, it took that one final romantic push to make me cave in. I opened up a Facebook account.

But not without a bit of a quirk behind it.

I like playing around with things. I like making strange little observations that bear little to no meaning in life, like how the aglets in my new black hoodie have nothing to close the tips off. I’m sorta weird and lame and nerdy that way. I decided that joining this “Facesbooks” was an opportunity to have some weird and lame and nerdy fun.

I proposed to myself an experiment: I wanted to know just how many of my friends would find my Facebook account if I never told them about its existence. There would be a few rules behind this:

   1. I must not tell anyone that I have a Facebook account. I can
       talk about Facebook, but I must never explicitly state that I’m on it. That
       way, people would really have to “find me”

   2. There must be only two exceptions to Rule 1 – two people very dear to
       my heart. That would be Lauren (for obviously sappy reasons) and
       Dodge(who’s been my friend since we wore matching short shorts in
       Kindergarten). And even so, I had to make Dodge go through a bunch of
       hoops and decipher a bunch of clues to discover me. It was fun. :P

   3. I must never add anyone of my own accord, no matter how tempting.

   4. I must not add friends that were suggested to me. I MUST be found by
       them personally.

   5. I must only accept the add requests of people I know. Sorry stranger-
       looking-for-an-online-friend, we can’t be Fezbook buddies.

And so, I set out on this mystical journey of mysticism. I opened with this remark:

Roughly five hours and oodles of tagging me in peekchurs later, the first real action on my wall:

A few days later, I decided to add to the fun. I decided to change my status to celebrate my findings, often with a little bit of my personality thrown into the mix:

And all this has been going on to this day. And so what have I learned from this little experiment?

• Those two really dear people to my heart are responsible for more than half of my friends finding me. I think’s it cute how excited they are to inform people of my existence. It’s heart-warming, really.

• Officemates will add you the moment they see you fiddling around with Facebook instead of working.

• I look ridiculous in pictures.

• I’ve been found by getting tagged in those ridiculous pictures.

• Old friends who never seem to reply to your text messages apparently prefer to do so online.

• People actually react to the random little thoughts you decide to post on your wall.

• There are two ways to lose friends on Facebook – if you act like a completely jerky moron (sorry) and if you’re my sister, who’s removed me TWICE.

• Some friends are too shy to add you on Facebook, despite knowing full well that you have an account.

Let me elaborate on that last one. I’ve got this friend that I was really close with in college. Heck, we even formed a psychic connection on the basketball court. He also opened a Facebook account just this year, and he’s the one I’ve been waiting for to add me.

I’ve made it perfectly clear that I’m on Facebook without explicitly telling him. When he asked about one of our other friends, I told him that the friend seemed sad based on his FACEBOOK account. When he asked me about a certain event, I told him I found out about it through FACEBOOK. The man knows I’ve got an account.

When he opened his, one of the first things he did was ask me if I had one. HE ASKED ME IF I HAD ONE. So what did I tell him? This: “Um, whenever someone asks me that question, all I can say is ‘I can’t answer that question’.” It’s painfully obvious that he knows, but would rather have me tell him directly. Is it some sort of weird self-esteem thingy? Does he want to know if I consider him enough of a friend to add him? Dude, you’re one of my bestest college friends! JUST FRAKKING ADD ME ALREADY!!!

*huff huff*

And so the experiment continues. If you see this man...

...don’t tell him about this post.

At least not directly.

For the sake of, um, science.

Thank you.

Read on >

Friday, July 24, 2009

How Not Completely Growing Up Made Me a Better Adult

I’m pretty different from the person that I was back when I was a kid. Back then, I was one of the class shrimps, posing in front of pictures ‘cause I was the among the shortest. Now, I stand a little bit taller than the average Filipino. When I was younger, I had the straightest, most manageable head of hair, the envy of women and wannabe shampoo commercial models. Now, I shave off the tangled dead animal I pass off as hair. I was one of the school’s top students back when I was a kid. Now, I’m the poster boy for academic underachievement. Yessiree, the person I am now barely resembles the boy who used to wear my too-short shorts.

There’s one thing, though, that I’ve never matured from. And I’m glad I never did.

If you manage to hunt down my elementary school yearbook, you’ll find a bunch of prepubescent boys with quotes following their names. That was because we were asked to submit what we thought were mottos for our lives. While most kids dived into the quote books and dug out the sayings they most identified with (I’ll never understand those who picked “Time is Gold”. Really? That’s your motto in life?), I chose to go the pretentious route and make up my own quote. It just felt right to me if your motto in life was something you believed in because you lived it. Following what someone else thought was the right way of life just didn’t make sense to me – everyone is different, so why would someone else’s words characterize how you live?

And so I took some time to really reflect on what I felt would define my approach to life. This isn’t something a 12-year-old should be trying, but again, I was a pretentious little bugger. After much thought, I came up with something, and I pretty much fell in love with it. I’m not sure what the exact words are anymore, but it went something like this:

“Respect, trust, and love are things earned when they’re given.”

It’s a pretty naïve outlook towards life, if you think about it. What I was trying to say in those 10 simple words was that so long as you respect, trust, and love people, you’re going to be respected, trusted, and loved back. If you’re going to follow this advice in the sense that I meant all those years ago, you’ve got to do this unconditionally. To make it even more naïve, I also meant that you should follow this tidbit with all your heart.

Of course, I never realized back then that this was the kind of thinking that left someone open to abuse. How many people hold the utmost respect for others only to be bullied by them? How many people have given others their complete trust, only to be betrayed? How many people out there have loved someone fearlessly and dearly, only to find that love unreciprocated? It happens to everyone, and it just plain sucks when it does.

And yet, as I grew up, I found myself following my own advice, despite my increased maturity. I still approached people this way to the best of my ability, and it’s damaged me. I’ve been disrespected by people I’ve held in high regard more times than I’d care to remember. I’ve trusted a bunch of people with too many things, but I’ve had that trust broken again and again. Love? I’ve loved someone with all my heart, and she dumped me after three years.

But I stood by my motto. With my heart in overdrive, I’ve made myself vulnerable to all the emotional pain that I’ve endured so far. I should be jaded, but I’m not. Why the hell do I continue to follow the motto of a 12-year-old, then? Because despite all the hardships I’ve endured by exposing myself like that, I truly believe it works if you stick with it. It’s all a matter of how you look at it.

Sure, people disrespect other people. And yes, some individuals are just undeserving of respect. It’s the hardest thing to do, to find respect for those who show a complete lack of regard for you. I myself haven’t really followed this completely. But when I do, I find that the respect doesn’t necessarily have to come from those people. If you still find the ability to respect those you should despise, you find a newfound respect for yourself. You’ve just made yourself the bigger man. And honestly, self-respect is a vastly-underrated virtue. What’s so great about it is that not only do you end up liking yourself more as a person, but people will see that in you and respect you for that.

Trust is the same. The good thing about trust is that it’s got a reflective nature – show people that you trust them, and they have reason to trust you. Not only that, but acting in a trustworthy fashion helps you trust yourself. It shouldn’t matter if your trust is broken; you’re someone people can trust, and that’s something to be proud of.

Last, but definitely not the least (especially to a sap like me), is love. Of the three things I mentioned in that quote, this is the one that leaves you open to the worst pain. I’m a fucking romantic. I believe the only love worth feeling is when you completely give yourself into the emotion, and so I know how wonderful it can feel to love someone with everything you are. I also know how soul-crushing it can feel when the person you give your overflowing heart to takes it for granted.

That’s the thing about love, though – you really just have to put yourself out there. You can’t expect to be loved if you don’t love someone. And if you want it to be of any real value, you’ve got to love with everything you can muster. You’re going to get your heart broken, yes, and you’re going to set yourself up for more. But when you find that someone who doesn’t break your heart, and who loves you back, it’s just… overwhelming. Love, when reciprocated, is happiness; throw-yourself-into-it love that’s reciprocated is bliss, and that’s the kind of love you want to earn.

I don’t really care if people think I’m just being idealistic. I don't care if this is a poorly-written testimony to my naïveté. I don't even care if this all makes sense or not. I’m blissful right now.

That's right - this is all a thousand-word declaration that I'M IN LOVE!!! BAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I HAVE WASTED YOUR TIME WITH MY RANDOM SAPPERY!!!


My 12-year-old self's motto is awesome.

Read on >

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Stay Down, Steve Rogers

Zombies are cool. There’s nothing the walking dead can’t add any spice to. Boring movie? Toss a few zombies in for laughs and gore galore! Tired of watching grass grow? Break out a copy of Plants vs. Zombies and defend your Lawn of the Dead! Feel like having a team-building activity? Try surviving Left 4 Dead’s zombie apocalypse in multiplayer. Heck, even things like haikus and literary classics become a lot more fun when you inject a little Romero into them.

It’s a fantastic thing, then, that we live an age where mainstream comics have learned the value of zombification. You don’t need to resort to lesser-known titles (to the mainstream, at least) like The Walking Dead and Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse to get your daily dose of death. Marvel’s been whipping out Marvel Zombies books left and right, while DC’s making our favorite form of worm food the main focus of this year’s major company-wide crossover event, The Blackest Night (which is fucking AWESOME!!!). Yessiree, it’s a great time to rise from the grave.

Except for you, Steve Rogers.

I absolutely detest the fact that Marvel has decided to bring Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, back to life in the Captain America: Reborn event. Sure, I suppose it’s inevitable with such an iconic character, but seriously – why can’t he just stay dead? Out of all the superhero deaths I’ve read, his meant the most. Superman died fighting Doomsday, a creature without rhyme or reason. The Flash, Jean Grey, and a host of other heroes died in an effort to save the Earth/universe/all of existence. Hell, we’ve had heroes die to cancer.

But Steve Rogers? His death had much more purpose than being a glorified act of fictional martyrdom. His death came about as a repercussion of Marvel’s Civil War, an examination of the shitstorm that’s bound to happen when egotistical superpowers believe that their actions are for the good of the entire world.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a crash course: A superhero adventure went awry and ended up in a massive explosion that killed over 600 innocent civilians. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, became head of pretty much the world’s most powerful security agency. Working hand in hand with the US government, he helped enforce the Superhuman Registration Act, a method for the government to regulate and police the activities of all superhumans by mandating that they register their secret identities.

More than a few superheroes balked at this idea. This was, after all, a gigantic violation of their rights. Stark, however, was adamant about enforcing the Act, and rallied pro-Registration heroes to his side. He then began to pursue and imprison the superhumans who were fighting for their right to ensure the safety of their loved ones.

Needless to say, this caused a lot of infighting among the superhero community. The act was heavily debated, to the point that the whole thing was an enormous gray area. Still, lines were drawn, and a superhero civil war broke out. On the pro-Registration side was Tony Stark. On the anti-Registration side, none other than Marvel’s very own sentinel of liberty – Captain America, the World War II hero who was a living, breathing representation of the country that now wanted to deprive him of his rights. One plot twist after another soon followed, and the battle was eventually taken to the streets.

The fighting had caused heavy damage to the city, and it didn’t take long for Steve Rogers to realize that innocent lives were being endangered. Being the Boy Scout that he was, he called for a ceasefire and turned himself in. He gave himself up because he knew that all this squabbling was going to end up killing innocents.

And so Steve Rogers was brought to trial. As he was leaving the courthouse, he was shot by a sniper and was killed in the chaos that quickly ensued.

His death never resolved anything, fittingly enough. In a rare moment of comic realism, the two factions never got together and gave each other hugs. They never kissed and made up. All his passing gave the world was a brief reprieve from its own selfish clusterfucks, a moment of silence for the only hero who chose to act like one throughout this entire ordeal.

The events of Civil War drew many comparisons to today’s superpowers and their self-proclaimed duty to police the world. They wage wars over political ideals, never backing down because of their fervent beliefs of what’s right for the world. Yet, in the wake of these superior forces, innocents are dying. Is policing the world really worth destroying it? Steve Rogers said a soft, solemn “No,” and he paid for it with his life.

Steve Rogers died because he believed there had to be a better way of resolving things. To the very end, he was making a statement: that he, a super-soldier, a human being genetically modified to be an instrument of war, saw beyond the political ideologies that ran rampant in a messed-up world and realized that it wasn’t worth it; not when it’s destroying everything they sought to protect in the first place.

And now Marvel wants to ruin all that by bringing him back to life? Give a (fictional) man his piece, will ya? We all know that when he comes back to life, the death will be a footnote to his existence. It’s happened with EVERYONE. I mean, who cares that Superman ever died these days? Who? No one; and the same will happen with good old Mr. Rogers. Sigh.

End tree-hugging hippie fanboy rant here. Thank you.

Read on >

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Axl Rose Helped Me Find a Girlfriend

One of the great things of what I’m doing for a living is that writing inane prattle like this actually helps me on the job. They say that if you want to get started on writing, go do some writing. I’ve found this advice to be incredibly useful, especially to get my mojo flowing. Now that I’ve appeared to hit a bit of work-writer’s block, it’s time to write whatever it is that’s on my mind.

And that, my dear friends, is where our title comes in.

I honestly believe that Axl Rose, legendary frontman of ONE OF THE GREATEST BANDS EVER, helped me get into the relationship I’m currently in. We never met, I never emailed him for tips on dating (which, I imagine, would begin with “Step 1: Get her drunk."), nor did I win Lauren’s heart by serenading her with my rendition of “Paradise City”. No, this is way more unnecessarily convoluted than that.

I grew up listening to Guns n’ Roses, among many others. Back when my mind was still a musical tabula rasa, my older brother and his same-age cousin were raving all about them. They played them constantly on their cassette players (this was before those CD-doohickeys rendered them obsolete). Even though our parents frowned upon the band for their occasional use of colorful language, there was no stopping them. GNR was the pure, liberating power of rock and roll. Understandably, then, they became my early childhood definition of AWESOME.

As I got a little bit older, I’d learn that a few of my GNR favorite songs were “revivals” – our early term for covers – of popular songs from those mysterious years that came before I was born. “What is this blasphemy?” I thought to myself. Surely nothing this fantabulous existed when dull, boring, non-GNR-loving adults were young. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be so dull, boring and – worst of all – non-GNR-loving.

It stung to be proven wrong. My brother had made a mixtape for our road trips, and I was quite shocked to hear my dad singing along to “Live and Let Die”. He explained to us that it was remake of a popular song by some dude named Paul McCartney (Who the hell?) and a band called Wings (NOT Guns n’ Roses). I then went on to learn that “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” was another revival (Bob Dylan). This got me curious – what other songs out there were based on old music?

Turns out that two of my favorite songs at the time, Ugly Kid Joe’s “Cats in the Cradle” and Mr. Big’s “Wild World”, were written by the same man: Cat Stevens. I was young and all, but I knew from the lyrics of those songs that whoever this Cat person was, he was a good writer. And so I decided to give the originals a listen. I fell in love with them immediately.

Since then, I’ve been sampling the many tastes that retro music had to offer. I tripped out to Jimmy Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and worshipped Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”. I felt the pains of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and marched off in righteous indignation to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. I even grew an appreciation for Elton John’s music from long before The Lion King made him relevant to my generation. No matter how good the songs were, though, I always had a soft spot for Cat Stevens and his genuine, folksy sound.

Fast-forward fifteen years later, and I’m a socially-inept 22 year-old virgin. I had just met this amazing girl named Lauren, but since I absolutely lack any serious game, my expectations are low. In one of our early dates, I ask her my fallback, hey-I’m-cool-enough-to-carry-a-conversation question – “What music do you listen to?”. She mentions, among other things, folksy music, the kind you find among certain Indie bands and dead 70s artists.

Folk? From the 70s? My inner douche was bumping my fist and proclaiming “SCORE!” at the top of his lungs. I knew right then and there that, aside from liking zombies, this unbelievably amazing girl and I would have a lot more in common.

It’d be a few more months and a sappy trip to La Union before it would occur to me to let her listen to some Cat Stevens. By then, we were blissfully in love, and discovered oodles of things we had in common. Sure, these things would have naturally come about in the course of our relationship, but music is a big thing to me. One of my most ideal romantic moments involves rocking out to the same music together and singing your lungs out to one of your favorite songs. The potential to do that with Lauren gave me a lot more confidence in a relationship with her. The rest is cheesy, mushy history.

And so, by great leaps in logic, that is how Axl Rose helped me get into my current state of happiness. For those of you who don’t want to put up with the length of my ramblings, here they are in flowchart form:

Axl Rose is the vocalist of Guns n’ Roses → GNR is AWESOME → GNR did covers → I got curious about covers → Learned about Cat Stevens → Learned to appreciate old music and 70s folk → Met Lauren → Learned Lauren likes folk → Gained confidence → ♥

Ah rambling… You bring out the incoherent sap in me.

And now, back to work.

Read on >

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Eulogy for a Stranger

It’s logically absurd, mourning for someone you didn’t know. Why shed a tear for a person, who by all accounts, lived in a world that was impossible for you to reach? You never met this person, never shook his hand, never spoke to him. All you’ve ever seen of him were pictures and videos, dots of colored ink and pixels that could never really quite capture his true presence. Why should you care about him and his passing, if you didn’t know the guy?

That’s just the thing. Michael Jackson was there since the day I was born, a global phenomenon before I breathed my first breath. I grew up knowing him as a universal constant, his music and moves assaulting my senses before I could even register what they meant. He was one of those things that my generation was just born accustomed to. For as long as I can remember, I felt his presence in the world around me.

He was always there. When I would visit my cousin’s house as a kid, we’d crowd around the television to watch the video for “Leave Me Alone”. When I got my first Walkman, I permanently damaged my hearing by blasting “Bad” through my earphones. When we’d have our weekly family mini-reunions on Sundays, we’d play our newly-purchased “Dangerous” CDs on my aunt’s sound system.

I grew up trying to master the Moonwalk, and celebrated when I figured out how to spin like him. I was enthralled by the video for “Black or White”, which provided the extra thrill of starring Macaulay Culkin. It was just so damn amazing to watch him take on another global phenom, Michael Jordan, in the video for “Jam”. I often daydreamed about what it would be like to live in Neverland, with all my childhood idols, and the rides, and Bubbles the Chimp.

He was inescapable. MTV constantly played documentaries covering his life. Local shows like Eat Bulaga! and Lunch Date usually had celebrities covering his earlier hits. My favorite Mad Magazine digests were piled with jokes about him and parodies of his music, often playing on the fact that his pearly-white complexion used to be that of a black man (which, of course, I never fully understood until much later). Even in videogames, my earliest addiction, he made his presence felt with “Moonwalker”.

My brother told me the secret of the gravity-defying lean in the music video for “Smooth Criminal”, a fact I shared with some of my earliest friends. At one of our programs in Kindergarten, my class performed “Heal the World” in sign language, when wearing white gloves was the coolest thing ever. On the way home from school, I’d listen to “Will You Be There” on the Discman given to me by my uncle from Thailand, whom I had met for the first time.

When the first child molestation charges were filed against him, I was stunned. I vehemently denied the claims despite the alleged evidence. There was no way such an awesome person could do such a heinous act. To my young mind, it was impossible.

As I turned 10, the molestation became a non-issue when word came around that the Philippines was going to be a stop on his HIStory world tour. The man was coming HERE. I had seen MC Hammer, I watched the then-WWF live performances with great excitement, but nothing at all compared to sheer anticipation of the icon’s visit to our tiny nation.

We ended up watching it from a distance, high up in one of the buildings surrounding the stage. The place itself was bare, my parents were enviously down on the concert grounds, and my 7-11 hotdog had gone stale, but I didn’t give a hoot about any of that. There he was, Michael Jackson himself, strutting like no tomorrow and performing his hits like the phenomenon he was. It didn’t matter to me that he looked like an ant on the stage from that distance – I was in the same area as the greatest entertainer of my generation. Nothing, not a single thing, could’ve been better.

I watched as his career hit its twilight. From being portrayed as an eccentric genius, the man became a freak show, the butt of too many jokes. I admit I was swept by the fray and joked along. I consoled myself in the fact that no matter what kind of a weirdo he seemed to be, there was no questioning his talent.

As he got less and less airplay, I wondered if he would ever be the same. Sure, artists come and go, but this was THE artist. He was the measure by which I compared all other artists. His genius continued to influence artists born generations after him, and rightfully so. You can imagine my delight, then, when he tried to ignite a comeback with “Invincible”. When the video for “You Rock My World” debuted, I was overjoyed to see him back in form, sporting an outfit reminiscent of the one he wore for “Smooth Criminal”. Sure he was a bit slower, but the man could still move. My childhood idol was back.

Or so I thought. Controversy bombarded him in the Baby over the Balcony incident, the Bashir Interview, the second allegation of sexual abuse, and his own bizaare behavior during the court proceedings. The freak show, unfortunately, had never left. Despite all this, I had always hoped that once things blew over, he’d find his way back to the top and take his rightful place as the King of Pop.

The comeback never happened. He passed away before he could even start it.

More than a week has passed since that tragic day, and it’s only now that I speak my mind about it. I had reacted when he died, saying that the passing of the legend took a part of my childhood away with him, but I never fully expressed how I felt. His death never really sunk in until the memorial service ended with that empty spotlight on the stage.

And so, finally, I truly mourn the loss of Michael Jackson. Even though I never really met the guy, he has been so prevalent in my life that a tiny part of myself feels like I knew him. He has been there my entire life, a constant I took for granted until his last days on Earth. The man we’ve always loved, and at times hated, ever since we could remember, is gone.

Despite what others may say, we knew him. We knew him through his music and his lyrics. He spoke to us about love, life, and what they meant to him. He shared with us his ideals of devotion and romance, of peace and understanding, and of the childlike innocence he so strongly valued. He opened his heart to us about the pains of his life, lashing out in frustration at those who wanted a piece of him, and then later begging us to love and understand him. Despite the secrecy with which he guarded his life, despite his eccentric reclusion, he was always reaching out to us, telling the world who he was, what he’s been through, and what he’s felt.

We may never know him as his family did, or as his closest friends did. We may never know what he was like behind the disguises, surgical masks, and umbrellas. We may never meet the person he was off-stage. But we knew him through his music, enough to realize how much of a loss his passing was. To those of us who listened – really listened – we knew him.

Read on >