Monthly Archives: June 2007

Digital disaster

PowerBook in Pittsburgh
(Original picture for my newspaper column, which was deleted after the editor in chief felt that it was “stepping” on the reader. Duh. Pic taken by Conchitina Cruz during a cold Pittsburgh winter.)

FOUR years ago, when I was laid off—the second time in my life, both of which happened in the US while living with my wife who was on a study grant—I decided to go against the grain, so to speak.
Instead of looking for a new, and perhaps even better job in the world’s largest economy, I did what any insane and recently unemployed Filipino living in Western Pennsylvania did: I bought myself a laptop, a PowerBook 2400C subnotebook, which I had been lusting for ever since a Macintosh fanatic showed me one six years earlier.

PowerBook in Lahore
(Picture taken in a hotel in Lahore, Pakistan. Really.)

Heady from the freedom that can only be the result of joblessness—a feeling that quickly passed when I told my wife about it (but all that came later)—I logged into my eBay.com account as soon as I came home. I then placed a bid on a suitably priced 2400c, monitored the auction’s progress for a few hours, and paid for the item via PayPal shortly after I won the bidding.
It was a pleasant sensation.
Here I was, a Filipino in Pittsburgh at the height of winter, drinking coffee in a warm apartment, relishing the mundane wonders of the electronic transaction; how a few mouse clicks and keyboard strokes translated into cash transfers, payment settlements, and eventually, package deliveries via the very efficient US postal system.

PowerBook in Bali
(PowerBook resting comfortably in a hotel bed in Bali, Indonesia)

While I had been deprived of the right to earn my keep early in the day, I nevertheless had the means to indulge in one of life’s greater pleasures: that of buying a nearly obsolete piece of electronic equipment and paying for it in US dollars, which was going to be in short supply anytime soon.
I had the occasion to look back on my past circumstances just recently because my PowerBook—the very same clunker which I got from a certain Mike Blank of Colorado when I was down and out in Pittsburgh—has finally kicked the digital bucket.
Initially, it just failed to proceed to boot up.
After punching the correct password, the field indicated that the shift key was pressed, even though the only things that rested on the keyboard was warm, foul-smelling air caused by the grunts of its frustrated owner. Since the shift key is not part of the said PowerBook’s complex, nine-character password— a feature enabled by yours truly—the computer refused to give me access.
Like most Macintosh users mystified by the strange behavior of wayward Apple computers, I felt that the foul-up took place because—pardon me for saying this—I cleaned the unit. (When things don’t work, non-technical people get superstitious.)
A few minutes before it went haywire, I had given the PowerBook—called Macliing Dulag, after a tribal leader—some heavy duty scrubbing, the first time I had done so in nearly a year.
Apparently, while bringing the laptop to its original shine, I must have disturbed the fragile symbiosis that existed between dust and diode within its sensitive innards.

PowerBook in Quezon City
(In an apartment in Quezon City, with a slightly temperamental feline named Minggoy)

Although this particular kind of PowerBook had its own set of quirks—including the famous Green Light of Death (GLOD), a phenomenon too complicated to explain here—I had been previously able to make the damn thing run, despite the odds.
Unfortunately, those days are now over.
I have thrown in the towel after trying every single trick in the book.
Besides taking out its batteries and leaving it unplugged for more than a week, I also have pressed its special reset button more than once. I have also coaxed and whispered to it, treating it like it was a living entity.
But to no avail.
Thanks to this digital disaster, I will no longer be able to access, let alone secure copies of all my notes, unfinished fiction, column pieces, news and feature articles, and writing projects for the past three years; a great loss to my many fans, the biggest of whom is myself.
Besides rainy days and Mondays, add dead PowerBooks to the list of things that get me down. And oh, include that obsolete law which prohibits alcohol during elections. It’s just plain stupid. But then again, that’s another story. I’m just ranting. Stupid fracking* computers can do that to you. Fortunately, I’ve got another 2400C.

PowerBook in Quezon City again
(Same Quezon City apartment, same PowerBook, same feline, feigning a slightly different outlook in life)

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FROM THE THIS JUST IN DEPT. Romel Bagares, or should I say, Attorney Romel Bagares, who’s in Europe for a study grant, sent me an email message, asking advice for a PowerBook Pismo G3 that’s been acting up. Whenever he types something down, it freezes. I sent him a short reply: Get a replacement. Possible suggestions: another Pismo G3 or if he has the money—the new Palm Foleo.

*frack or fracking is a term used and popularized by the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series. It’s not just the best sci-fi show on television, a review said, it’s the best show on television. Period. Take it from me, who prefers situation comedies to any of these sci-fi stuff. Boomer’s cute. Even though she’s a Cylon.

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The Producer

DVD pic CYE

EVERYBODY loves Raymond, everybody hates Chris, but no one knows exactly how to handle Larry.
Which is understandable.
After all, Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld and star of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm—a mockumentary about his life as a semi-retired TV producer—is an acquired taste.
So why even decide to spend half an hour watching a rich, self-loathing, white Jewish male kvetch his way through middle-age when other sitcoms can easily tickle funnybones with a lot less angst and effort?
Simple: Curb Your Enthusiasm—now into its sixth season—is worth it.
If Seinfeld took the traditional sitcom format to the edge—an award-winning episode, The Contest, deals with self-gratification without even mentioning the M word—Curb, which is shot without a script, pushes the envelope all the way.
With no less than David doing all the heavy lifting—conceptualizing, producing, acting, and editing—Curb has its misanthropic anti-hero lie about sexual molestation in group therapy, discuss his wife’s numb vagina with a Native American gardener named Wandering Bear, and suggest a name for a lesbian couple’s adopted Chinese child (“How about Tang… It’s not a name, it’s a juice.”).
But critically-acclaimed Curb is more than just provocative storytelling.
Although most episodes feature a story arc—in which widely disparate events at the beginning come together at the end, a concept David used to great effect at Seinfeld—the series also offers a similar Seinfeld-like inventiveness, a characteristic generally credited to the show’s executive producer.
After Seinfeld introduced “Yadda yadda yadda,” and “master of your domain,” among others, into popular culture, Curb refused to be outdone and volunteered its own samples. These include “a big bowl of wrong,” used by Jeff Greene, David’s manager, to describe his misadventures, and concepts like “the stop and chat,” a social convention which forces David to exchange pleasantries with people even though they have nothing to talk about.
Nothing ever seems sacred to David and, by extension to Curb.
True to his nature, the show’s executive producer has made fun of HBO’s slogan more than once.
“‘It’s not TV’? It’s TV. What do they think people are watching?” he says in the second season.
Besides providing top-notch, unconventional entertainment—at least to viewers who can wince while laughing—the series has also successfully crossed the line between television and theatrical reality.
In the fourth season, David is asked by no less than Mel Brooks, who appears as himself, to play one of two leads in the New York production of The Producers. Originally a 1968 movie of the same title, the Broadway show and its more recent movie adaptation, all produced by Brooks, centers on two con artists who intend to produce a flop so they can swindle their investors.
Except for Brooks and his wife, Anne Bancroft, no one knows that David was deliberately hired to fail.
Weary of The Producers’ commercial and critical success since it opened in 2001, Brooks and Bancroft—like the two leads in the musical—sought to end production to terminate the show’s tour across the continental US. “No more dirty beds in Pittsburgh,” Brooks tells his wife, as he toasts to their well-executed plan.
Little did they expect that David, playing Max Bialystock, would actually become the king of Broadway. After he flubs his lines during opening night, David does stand-up, cracks a joke about a Sikh’s turban, and becomes an instant hit with the audience, which includes Jerry Seinfeld.
As a result, the episode, which features David singing two songs from the The Producers, is transformed into a play within a play; the two separate realities of the mockumentary and the Broadway production intersecting in a cable TV show called Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, despite heavy involvement with tinseltown and the Great White Way, Curb has done the real world one good turn.
In 2004, unused footage from the fourth season’s The Carpool Lane was used to release a wrongfully accused man from prison. When David received this news, he said, “I tell people that I’ve now done one decent thing in my life, albeit inadvertently.” Spoken like a true master of his domain.

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An edited version of this piece came out in the June 4, 2007 issue of Personal Fortune, a magazine supplement of BusinessMirror. Mediocre photo taken with the Treo 650. Apologies for going overboard with the links.

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