Monthly Archives: April 2007

A big bowl of wrong

Larry David and Jeff Garlin (
PRIMETIME television hardly imitates life.
If it did, many males—especially those of my age and temperament—would be spending their carefree days and nights in the pursuit of scantily-clad starlets, hoping for wardrobe malfunctions.
Unfortunately, real life—such as we know it—involves working two jobs to make rent money, ensuring that the cat gets regular visits from the vet, and avoiding the nosy landlady who has expressly disallowed animals in her apartment.
In short, the life and times of a happily-married, submissive, and faithful Filipino male such as myself has none of the excitement and the drama found on soaps currently broadcast on television.
However, when my wife and I had an unpleasant experience at a mid-market Chinese restaurant, we found common cause to turn to television to exactly describe what we went through.
Our dining experience, to borrow a colorful phrase from award-winning cable television show Curb Your Enthusiasm, was “a big bowl of wrong.” The phrase was originally uttered by Jeff Garlin, (shown in the right of the picture from who plays the manager of Larry David, (on the picture’s left) Seinfeld co-creator, whose fictional life is what the show is all about.
Even before we entered the establishment—located at Gateway Mall in Quezon City—the arrangement and the decor gave us the impression that the restaurant was not your typical, inexpensive hole-in-the-wall which offered fly soup as a side dish.
While it was not an upscale restaurant, it nevertheless emphasized that it was neither fastfood establishment especially since we were made to wait before we were ushered to our tables. Which wasn’t any trouble at all until we realized that we were seated beside a gaggle of noisy, middle-aged women who applauded anytime any single one of them uttered a syllable.
In the meantime, the waitstaff was as responsive as government employees taking their daily two-hour lunch breaks. Whenever we tried to call their attention, in our vain attempt to inform them of our orders, they seemed to pretend that they were busy serving other customers.
To ease hunger and to ward off our growing impatience, we simply munched on the complimentary dish of kropeck crackers immediately made available after we were seated. Fortunately, before anyone took the last piece of kropeck, a waitress came by. Noticing that my wife and I had were both eyeing the last cracker, the waitress, gifted with tremendous powers of perception, asked us whether we had ordered already.
My wife, hungry and irritated, replied in the negative, especially when she found the last kropeck missing.
Her irritation was later compounded when she discovered that her order—a beef and wanton noodle soup—was far too salty for her taste. I didn’t doubt her culinary assessment one bit, knowing fully well that she eats everything—from adobo to kare-kare—with patis.
But since I needed to fill myself up, I nevertheless took generous bites of the pieces of beef and the noodles that came with my brisket noodle soup.
While it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t exactly the best noodle soup I ever had. After forking out P150++ for each dish, we were convinced that we were served two big bowls of wrong that night. And don’t even get me started on the matronas.


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Free Beer (for real)

From the Associated Press:

MADISON, Wisconsin—Beer lovers of Wisconsin, rejoice!

You’re a step closer to getting a free half-can of suds.

Both chambers of the Legislature unanimously gave key approval Tuesday to allow grocery and liquor stores to hand out beer samplesup to 6 ounces (170 grams) to a person of legal drinking age.

“It’s a good bill. It’s a Wisconsin bill. It’s a beer bill,” said Republican Rep. Scott Newcomer, one of the measure’s main sponsors.Current state law allows wineries to offer up to 6 ounces (170 grams) of free samples.

Sen. Pat Kreitlow, a Democrat from Chippewa Falls, home of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., is the bill’s main sponsor in the Senate. He said the measure would help brewers market a wider variety of specialty brands and compete with wine makers.Pete Marino, a spokesman for Miller Brewing Co., which has been pushing the bill, said brewers should have the same chance to get the public to taste their products as wine makers.

“It’s a great opportunity for them (consumers) to try the beers and figure out if they want to spend their hard-earned money to take the beer home with them,” Marino said.Miller and Leinenkugel are subsidiaries of SABMiller PLC.

Mike Fassbender, owner of Fuzzy’s Liquor in Sun Prairie, said he probably will stay away from samples. He might be held liable if he hands out samples and the consumer causes damage, he said.Final passage of the bill won’t come until next week at the earliest. Governor Jim Doyle then would have to sign it into law.

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Playboy Philippine edition?

Playboy bunny icon from

THE Philippine edition of Playboy magazine may soon hit the newsstands. Besides spurring further competition in an already tight market, the publication’s entry into the Philippines may alter the way Filipina models charge fees for photo shoots.
Industry insiders raised the possibility of Playboy producing a local edition after an editor of a local men’s magazine resigned this week. Seeking to confirm this information, Nothing in Particular sent a text message to the said editor but has yet to receive a reply as of this writing.
Speculation regarding Playboy’s foray into the local market was heightened because the said editor, before resigning, asked colleagues who among Filipino writers would be best suited to write for the publication should the magazine decide to release a Philippine edition.
According to a source, among those considered was Pete Lacaba, a multi-awarded writer who, in the late nineties, would have been the editor in chief of Penthouse Magazine’s Philippine edition had negotiations between a local publisher and Penthouse USA pushed through. Penthouse is a rival of Playboy Magazine. According to Wikipedia, Playboy Enterprises, a company created to manage the magazine of the same name recently acquired Clubjenna Inc., the company behind, the official website of adult entertainment actress, Jenna Jameson. With the acquisition, Playboy has become one of the United States largest producers of pornography, Wikipedia said.
Meanwhile, the same source said that Playboy’s local entry will change the way men’s magazine publishing is undertaken in the Philippines. Since the publication may pay for its models, especially those who agree to pose for its signature centerfold, local men’s magazines may be forced to enter into financial arrangements with models who make it to their covers.
Currently, models who are featured on the cover of any one of the two popular men’s magazines—both of which are local franchises of foreign publications—are not paid for their photo shoots since being featured in the magazine will boost their popularity further. Meanwhile, models who pose for the inside pages are paid a maximum of P2,500 (approximately $52) per shoot. The source did not give details regarding the publication date of Playboy’s local edition and the name of the cover model.


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My small family

Chingbee’s glamor shotC. and Minggoy on sofa in Pittsburgh

SHOWN are two photos of the members of my small family with whom I share a fairly spacious Quezon City apartment and a very happy home life, despite changing addresses in the UP village area for four times in three years. On the left is a glam shot of Conchitina R. Cruz, which was taken by fellow writer Ma. Socorro Villanueva, when both of them, together with a bunch of other writers recently went up to Baguio for the UP National Writers’ Workshop. Meanwhile, on the right is my wife and our feline son, Minggoy Basilio, on a sofa given to us by our American friends, Jess and Roya, when we lived in Pittsburgh. A gray and white British shorthair tomcat, Minggoy is older than us both, at least in cat years.
And it shows.
During the afternoons and the early evenings, our temperamental animal companion refuses to be touched or cuddled in any way. Unless his food bowl is empty. In which case, all bets are off.
But then again, I say this with utter fondness because coupled with my wife’s patience and uhm—Minggoy’s tolerance for his human father—life couldn’t be better for this drunken bum and a half who, in a few hours, will turn another year old.
To the wife and to the cat, I must say I love you both, even if one makes it a point to throw his poop outside the litter box and the other’s hair always clogs the bathroom drain.


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God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut

Young Vonnegut in NYCVonnegut in a 2004 Bethlehem, PA commencement speech
PICTURED are two photos of the late great American author Kurt Vonnegut Jr., taken from the Associated Press. The left shows the writer in New York City in 1979 while the right shows Vonnegut delivering the commencement address at Lehigh University’s 136th Commencement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in May 24, 2004.

From Bloomberg:
Kurt Vonnegut, Author of ‘Slaughterhouse-Five,’ Dies

SAN FRANCISCO—Author Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comedy explored themes of war, autocracy and runaway technology, died last night in Manhattan. He was 84.
His death was reported by longtime friend Morgan Entrekin, according to the New York Times. Vonnegut had suffered brain injuries from a recent fall, the newspaper said.
“He’s the closest thing we’ve had to Voltaire,” said Tom Wolfe, whose first book had a blurb from Vonnegut. “It’s a sad day for the literary world.”
Vonnegut came to define the psyche of contemporary American literature with his novels, plays, essays and short fiction. His experience as a prisoner of war in the 1940s in Germany was the basis for “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which was published while the US waged war in Vietnam.
Vonnegut’s most famous books include “Cat’s Cradle,” “Breakfast of Champions” and Slaughterhouse, which is listed 18th on Modern Library’s list of 100 best novels.
“He is the representative writer of the post World War American,” said Donald E. Morse, a professor at the University of Debrecen, Hungary, and author of “The Novels of Kurt Vonnegut: Imagining Being an American.” “This is the person who recorded the effects of the Great Depression on people, World War II, Vietnam, drugs, you name it, he covered it in his fiction and he did it in a way that we had to pay attention to.”

Influenced Irving

Like Ernest Hemmingway or Walt Whitman, Vonnegut was a journalist before becoming a novelist, an experience that imbued his writing with simplicity and clarity sometimes sneered at by fussier authors or critics, Morse said.
The approach influenced many young writers during the 1960s, including John Irving, author of “The World According to Garp,” who was a student of Vonnegut’s in a writer’s workshop at the University of Iowa.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was born in Indianapolis on Nov. 11, 1922, to Kurt Sr. and Edith Vonnegut. He was the youngest of three children.

From the Associated Press:

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut, author of ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ and ‘Cat’s Cradle,’ dies at 84

NEW YORK—Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Cat’s Cradle,” has died. He was 84.
Vonnegut, who often marveled that he had lived so long despite his lifelong smoking habit, had suffered brain injuries after a fall at his Manhattan home weeks ago, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.
He died Wednesday.
The author of at least 19 novels, many of them best-sellers, as well as dozens of short stories, essays and plays, Vonnegut relished the role of a social critic. He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.
“I will say anything to be funny, often in the most horrible situations,” Vonnegut, whose watery, heavy-lidded eyes and unruly hair made him seem to be in existential pain, once told a gathering of psychiatrists.
A self-described religious skeptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his points of view. He also filled his novels with satirical commentary and even drawings that were only loosely connected to the plot. In “Slaughterhouse-Five,” he drew a headstone with the epitaph: “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”
But much in his life was traumatic, and left him in pain.
Despite his commercial success, Vonnegut battled depression throughout his life, and in 1984, he attempted suicide with pills and alcohol, joking later about how he botched the job.
His mother had succeeded in killing herself just before he left for Germany during World War II, where he was quickly taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge. He was being held in Dresden when Allied bombs created a firestorm that killed an estimated tens of thousands of people in the city.
“The firebombing of Dresden explains absolutely nothing about why I write what I write and am what I am,” Vonnegut wrote in “Fates Worse Than Death,” his 1991 autobiography of sorts.
But he spent 23 years struggling to write about the ordeal, which he survived by huddling with other POW’s inside an underground meat locker labeled slaughterhouse-five.
The novel, in which Pvt. Pilgrim is transported from Dresden by time-traveling aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, was published at the height of the Vietnam War, and solidified his reputation as an iconoclast.
“He was sort of like nobody else,” said Gore Vidal, who noted that he, Vonnegut and Norman Mailer were among the last writers around who served in World War II.
“He was imaginative; our generation of writers didn’t go in for imagination very much. Literary realism was the general style. Those of us who came out of the war in the 1940s made it sort of the official American prose, and it was often a bit on the dull side. Kurt was never dull.”
Vonnegut was born on Nov. 11, 1922, in Indianapolis, a “fourth-generation German-American religious skeptic Freethinker,” and studied chemistry at Cornell University before joining the Army.
When he returned, he reported for Chicago’s City News Bureau, then did public relations for General Electric, a job he loathed. He wrote his first novel, “Player Piano,” in 1951, followed by “The Sirens of Titan,” “Canary in a Cat House” and “Mother Night,” making ends meet by selling Saabs on Cape Cod.
Critics ignored him at first, then denigrated his deliberately bizarre stories and disjointed plots as haphazardly written science fiction. But his novels became cult classics, especially “Cat’s Cradle” in 1963, in which scientists create “ice-nine,” a crystal that turns water solid and destroys the earth.
Many of his novels were best-sellers. Some also were banned and burned for suspected obscenity. Vonnegut took on censorship as an active member of the PEN writers’ aid group and the American Civil Liberties Union. The American Humanist Association, which promotes individual freedom, rational thought and scientific skepticism, made him its honorary president.
His characters tended to be miserable anti-heroes with little control over their fate. Pilgrim was an ungainly, lonely goof. The hero of “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” was a sniveling, obese volunteer fireman.
Vonnegut said the villains in his books were never individuals, but culture, society and history, which he said were making a mess of the planet.
“We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard … and too damn cheap,” he once suggested carving into a wall on the Grand Canyon, as a message for flying-saucer creatures.
He retired from novel writing in his later years, but continued to publish short articles. He had a best-seller in 2005 with “A Man Without a Country,” a collection of his nonfiction, including jabs at the Bush administration (“upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography”) and the uncertain future of the planet.
He called the book’s success “a nice glass of champagne at the end of a life.”
In recent years, Vonnegut worked as a senior editor and columnist at “In These Times.” Editor Joel Bleifuss said he had been trying recently to get Vonnegut to write something more for the magazine, but was unsuccessful.
“He would just say he’s too old and that he had nothing more to say. He realized, I think, he was at the end of his life,” Bleifuss said.
Vonnegut, who had homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons in New York, adopted his sister’s three young children after she died. He also had three children of his own with his first wife, Ann Cox, and later adopted a daughter, Lily, with his second wife, the noted photographer Jill Krementz.
Vonnegut once said that of all the ways to die, he’d prefer to go out in an airplane crash on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. He often joked about the difficulties of old age.
“When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life; old age is more like a semicolon,” Vonnegut told The Associated Press in 2005.
“My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I’ll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children.”

Various trivia from Nothing in Particular:

WHILE studying in the United States, multi-awarded Filipino writer Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. lost an autographed book by Vonnegut; a loss which he has never gotten over to this day.

WHILE on a US journalism grant, publisher Ibarra C. Gutierrez, then an editor for BusinessDay, which is now BusinessWorld, had dinner with Vonnegut, together with another Irish journalist who had previously put him up to it. During the meal, Vonnegut asked Gutierrez whether he already had children.
“Yes,” Gutierrez said.
“Then you can die now,” came Vonnegut’s reply.

First Vonnegut book that I read: Bluebeard in 1989, while on the way to Baguio City. While the author is popular for “Cat’s Cradle” and “Slaughterhouse Five,” I think his best work by far is Sirens of Titan, which was recently reissued by a London publisher and a copy of which I bought in a bookstore located inside an Ortigas area mall. This entry, I guess, is my way of paying tribute to the author whose works I read the most. Except for about five titles—including Palm Sunday, Timequake, and a few others—I think I have read everything the man has ever written, from Slaughterhouse Five to Galapagos, from Deadeye Dick to Jailbird (which is also a particularly good read).

Goodbye, Mr. Vonnegut. 😦


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How to get to Taby’s

Map to Taby’s

This is a public service announcement, especially for individuals intending to get directions to Taby’s, a cozy bar and grille in Sikatuna Village, where my friends and I hang out, usually Thursday nights.The map above the fold shows the route to Taby’s from Philcoa.

Those taking public transportation should alight at Philcoa and take the first tricycle available to 154-A Maginhawa, the bar’s exact address, which is just a block away from the BayanTel office.

Meanwhile, those driving their own cars or taking cabs should make a right on the first street (which is Masaya) upon reaching Commonwealth Avenue, turn left on the first corner (which is already the other end of Maginhawa) and drive all the way a block or two after hitting the BayanTel office.

The map below the fold shows the route to Taby’s from EDSA.

Those driving their own cars or taking cabs should make a right on Kamias and turn left on Anonas, which is the street between Jollibee and McDonald’s. You should then turn right on the first corner and look for 154-A on your right side.

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Keep them coming

Cover pic of April personal fortune page of fan letter

THE picture on the left shows the latest issue of Personal Fortune, one of the magazines published by BusinessMirror. Meanwhile, the picture on the right shows why self-indulgent individuals such as myself continue to work the keyboard. Thanks Lisa Bruan for bothering to send email. Keep them coming!


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