Monday, December 22, 2008


TYBS returns to its regular programming after a mountain-load of work that just had to be decimated.

To get us moving again please dig the video below of gorgeous, amazing, direct to your viscera Natalie Portman in an SNL short, rapping (yes, rapping) about what she does on a regular day. Trust me, you'll enjoy it. Fo' shizzle.

Oh, yeah, happy yuletide ; )

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Two of my minimalists came out recently in the Microhorror site edited by Neil Rosen. I think it's for the Hallowe'en ish `cause the rules said the word count shouldn't exceed 666 words. How wasak is that? Hehe ; ) Thanks Mr. Rosen!

Anyhoo here's the link to "The Phantasma". . .

. . .and "Lilith, The Unconsoled", part of the short novel Angelorio, which is in turn part of my forthcom ing second book of collected short novels.

In other news, an animation project I got signed on to earlier this year looks like it's all set for release. Basically this was made under CreaM Inc, a film company owned and run by Imee Marcos (yep, the senator), comissioned by the Badilla family to do a "superhero comics meets Nickelodeon's Totally Spies meets local lower mythology" with former supermodel Bessie Badilla and her children as protagonists in one of the coolest genre clashes ever.

This is an aswang caper, billed as an original Pinoy anime adventure, you won't soon forget.

I wrote the dialogues for this and basically acted as their, uhm, supernatural affairs consultant for the first two episodes. Since animation takes a gruelling several months to finish the product you see here, to look good as it does, was definitely done with much blood, sweat and sleepless nights by project director Mark Galvez and his legion of digital savants. In any case it looks way better than many of the recent animated movies made locally. Actually, it looks pretty amazing.

If you like it kindly support us by posting your comments on the Youtube thread. Now, dig this:



Monday, October 6, 2008


Because I'm in a fantasy metal phase right now and because I'm well and truly horrified at the amount of practice and work these guys must put in in order to perfectly burn the fretboard this way you must watch the Dragonforce video below. While I lean more to the neo-psychedelia repetition, grunge riffing and atmospheric minimalism school of axe thought (sometimes virtuoso wankery just depresses me), this still leaves me in total awe.

Hmmm, on the other hand the guy I bought a Line6 Ubermetal from told me Dragonforce's axemen are less than reliable live. Apprently because of the copious amounts of alcohol they consume to bolster their courage before a show. That may be but just for the shredding caliber, this is still an audacious way to compose and execute a song.

I mean, whoa.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Hey, it's been a while.

One of the best book series I remember reading was Thieves’ World edited by hubby and wife team Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey.

This is the series that made me like rogues and thieves so much that I almost exclusively played them as characters in D&D (yeah, inabutan ko pa D&D ni Gygax before we switched to AD&D, still can’t make heads or tails of fourth ed rules though). Lots of my rogue characters have since ascended to become gods of death and destruction but the memory of imagining their blades slip unawares into mighty foes still gets me nostalgic. Ah, Moreau Nightshade, praised be yer dark name.

Anyway, TW back then smacked to me of being the coolest thing since the Nintendo Family Computer -- which sat very close to sliced bread, mind. While I thought I was just easily impressed as a teen, it proves that the idea of TW still is a thing of beauty and groundbreaking magnificence in the genre up to now.

This is where I learned that fantasy need not be safe or peopled by goody two shoe knights and paladins for story balance. This is how I learned that fantasy and transgressive fiction could be comfortable bedmates while sharing illegal pharmaceuticals. In TW fantasy could be wasak AND cool.

TW is basically it’s twelve books with three books each per major plot arch set in the city of Sanctuary, with the more popular nickname of Thieves’ World or The Maze. As you can probably tell from its name it’s a pretty dangerous city. People get mugged and killed on a daily basis. The garbage collectors routinely gather dead bodies in the morning. Strength in arms or magic is the only assurance of safety – sometimes not even then).

Actually, it reminds me a lot of Metro Manila. Even now I imagine the Bazaar as Quiapo, the red light district as Malate and the Governor’s Palce as a more fortified Malcanang. Maybe only a third world country can accurately mimic Sanctuary’s squalor and eloquence?

It had four major selling points:

One, it was a shared-world series where a bunch of high caliber fantasy writers got together and played what-if with a cast of characters, a gamut of godly pantheons, city institutions, criminal organizations, territories, companies, police and military, guilds and whatever else it took to get a city like Sanctuary to actually run with the semblance of a royally mandated civil government. The fact that the authors shared characters and did what they wanted to with them (within editorial limits, of course) and the ensuing events becoming the basis of future books still smacks of major audacity to me.

Talk about editorial jurisdiction (No, you can’t do that because there ARE no sewers to speak of, dummy). Talk about fights among writers (Tell me you didn’t just say you’re going to kill my avatar warlord with a bread knife?!). Talk about the expansive potential, baby (A dozen heads are better than one). Of course, it probably helped immensely that the editors had degrees in medieval history and that the people who created the godly pantheons and the city also have apt backgrounds in religion, sociology and urban planning.

Two, the writers that they conscripted to write the stories of Sanctuary are some pretty heavy names in the field. Lemme see, they got John Brunner, CJ Cherry, Andre Offut, Diana Paxson, Janet Morris, Diane Duane and even Philip Jose Farmer to name a few. You can probably tell that the stories in the series are never of the average variety. Oh, did I say they got Philip Jose Farmer?

Three, they had the coolest characters and settings in the city. Any fantasy series that’s got a bar called The Vulgar Unicorn (oooh, phallic AND fantastique!), a cocksure thief named Hanse Shadowspawn, a nearly immortal warlord named Tempus Thales, an incestuous mercenary band called the Stepsons, a beautiful vampire witch called Ischade and a fecund war god called Vashanka has got loads of grit going for it. The fact that they made a RPG out of it means the setting and story canon was rich enough to take in all comers and fans.

Fourth was the art. Will you just look at the paintings by Gary Ruddell? That shit gets your imagination all aspark. I never thought basilisks could be that magnificent and terrible. I never thought magical combat could be as beautiful as a lightning storm. It seems that the painter also did work for lots of other sci-fi and fantasy books but has since turned to gallery work. Even his exhibit stuff is worthy of praise. Just check out the paintings “Litany Against Fear 1 and 2” below.

Wow. To think Asprin and Abbey created this way back in 1978. While they did complete the 12 books series now known as the Thieves’ World canon, they divorced by the mid-1980s and the whole thing fell apart like their marriage. In any case, after 2002 Lynn Abbey (who apparently got editorial proprietorship for TW after the divorce proceedings) decided to tie up loose strings with a novel to wipe the slate clean and then start with new anthologies containing new characters. There have also been a number of spin-off novels and a comics series since the end of the 12 original books.

I never got to collect all the 12 books but, re-reading the stories now, I find layers, subtleties and stuff I just plain overlooked as a teen hiding in plain sight. I’m now trying to find the rest of the books I missed to complete my collection. I now appreciate just how brave the editors were, just how much of genius the series is and how influential it is to me.

~ 30

Monday, July 28, 2008


Have you seen this documentary by celebrated photog David La Chapelle called RIZE?

It’s a stunning piece of cultural investigation that is at once comprehensive, visually impressive (on oh so many levels), establishes emotional rapport on both a micro-storytelling and character development and socio-political macro level and is just all around wasak na wasak.

The first time I watched it I was mesmerized, then, at the end, I was shaking in my chair, a blubbery mess of indignation and wrath, astounded at the execution and crescendo of the narrative that nigh attains an apotheosis of all that’s great about this verite medium. I mean, there was nary a voice-over through out the two-hours plus running time. How’s that for organic storytelling? Wish I had the time and enough funds to do something like this.

Anyway, RIZE chronicles how the aggressive hip-hop dance now known as Krumping (or Krunking) came out of Southern Central LA’s inner city streets (that’s “ghetto” for you, bub) that’s plagued by gangs, violence, drugs and a history of catastrophic riots (remember the response to the 1992 Rodney King beating?).

Strangely enough the whole thing evolved from an upbeat, positive and decidedly comedic form of dance performed by party clowns known as, well, Clowning. I kid you not. Clowning was such a welcome alternative to gang banging and drug hustling that kids took to it with abandon. Eventually, the kids got bored and branched into their own style, naming it Krump.

If you’ve ever seen a Krump routine then you’ll see why having the muscular black physique is definitely an advantage in performing. The speed, aggression and fury of the dance reminds me of the But’oh (I think the Japanese call it the “dance of darkness”) and the film also posits that it bears resemblance to African tribal duels, ritual dancing and shamanic ceremonies that involve the community. But it is gaddam fast. There's even a caveat at the start that flashes: "The images in this film have not been sped up in any way."

Whatever. In RIZE you can see how it’s become not only the dance de jour but also an intrinsic form of spiritual communion as well as a way of life. This thing has saved them from selling cocaine. This thing has saved them from getting dragged into the Crips or the Bloods. That it's a lifesaver is an understatement when you contrast it against the background of gang-controlled neighborhoods.

While I saw this docu a second time with Tanya a month back I only thought to write about this now because, today, I saw L’il C (one of the docu’s characters) in a replay of So You Think You Can Dance? teaching one of the contestant pairs how to bust Krump moves. Krump has become such a phenomenon it's crawling out of the ghetto and getting legit. Well, I guess a variation of the Krump stripper dance being done by Beyonce was a sign.

That and a week ago the filtered water delivery guy (with offices next door, as in literally the next house) got shot in broad daylight by a guy on a bike a block from the shop. The shooter rode away clean. Plus, there have been long lines for the government discounted rice for weeks now. Plus, four days ago the street got woken up by the neighborhood tambays catching a thief in the act of burgling a house from a rooftop ingress. Yes, I live in the ghetto. No, the thief did not get caught but the tambays chased him away. It was 11PM.

“What we are is oppressed” says L’il C in one of the docu’s cutaways. Because oppression tastes the same in any language or country. Because you can taste the desperation in the air clear as fizz in a soda. Because a method of catharsis is a lifesaver whether it's horror or krump or heavy metal.

If you listen to the Youtube clip’s lyrics there are lines by Red Ronin that go: “You ever get so deep in poverty’s dirt the grid on your navigation won’t work?”

I remember eating nothing but fish balls for weeks in college because I couldn’t afford a decent rice meal `til my OFW mom sent us our monthly chunk of cash.

“What you know about rappin’ just to keep sane and selling coke or keep from killin’ you man?”

I remember writing scenes of violence and gore and darkness on a battered typewriter as a way out of the consuming hatred and loathing I felt at the world back then. See: I remember feeling horror at my own ability and total knowledge to say: yes, yes I could.

“I send a message to the distressed adolescent barely made it out of the hood on the wing of prayer and blessing.”

Watch the docu. We shall fucking rise.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Geddemit, it's finally here.

After much hoo haa and debate in hipster mags and geek publications (Wired, Wizard and Paste come to mind) about casting, directors, etc for the last few years, the WATCHMEN movie (incidentally, also directed by the guy who did 300) is going to be a reality in March 2009. And no, Doc Manhattan is not Brad Pitt. Sorry, girls.

If you haven't read the graphic novel by Alan Moore then do yourself a favor, stop reading this post and buy one. You know those idiotic stickers posted at artsy clubs swank or otherwise that say: "Around the corner a piece of art is going to change your life?" Well, stuff like WATCHMEN is what it's talking about. After reading it, you'll think: that's it, I'm never going to achieve something this Chinese puzzle-complex, this obsessively researched, this flawlessly executed and so mind-numbingly excellent. Makes you want to get a ton of cement blocks, tie `em to your legs and jump into Pasig. Mamumura mo talaga si Moore. Neil Gaiman ain't got nothing on this, bub. In fact, when Gaiman was starting out, he looked to Swamp Thing Moore to guide his direction and scope.

Sci-fi writer CJ Javier has mentioned that, in TIME Mag's 100 best books of all time, WATCHMEN is the only graphic novel the critics included. Forget Peter Parker, forget tin-can Tony Stark, forget flying mammal-obsessed Bruce Wayne -- this is how the superhero genre grew balls and gained grit, angst and transgressive glory.

Here, watch the geddem trailer (and tell me how to pronounce Rorschach). Thanks to Tanya for breaking the news to me and the original link:

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Clive Barker has been one of my heroes ever since I started writing dark fantasy and horror way back in the 1990s. Even if his recent works have suffered from alcohol and drug abuse he stands right up there with Peter Straub, Poppy Z. Brite, dear old HP Lovecraft, Black Sabbath and Ray Bradbury.

The short story where the upcoming movie below is based is one of his most powerful, allegorical and awe-inspiring -- though I much prefer the story "In the Hills, The Cities" from the same book.

In any case I hope Hollywood doesn't ruin this one like it did the Hellraiser sequels. I wait for this with bated breath. Mind the gap. Beware of the collector in the boxcar. Ladies and gents: welcome to the "Midnight Meat Train."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I find this new tech developed by Gibson totally fascinating. Tamad ka bang mag tono ng gitara mo? Have no fear the Gibson Robot Les Paul is here. Gusto mo ba ng Standard? Dropped D? Half Step Down? Open G? No problemo.

Watch this shit. While it’s not exactly cheating, and it’ll probably lower the barrier to entry of learning the darned instrument, it’s kinda scary. Next thing you know your guitar will play your solos for you.

Funny about the Fender allusion (and slight diss) on the Psycho ad.




Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Friends and comrades, please go check out FHM Erotica, Ladies Confession Special (Summit Publishing) and Tales of Enchantment and Fantasy (Milflores Publishing). Available at all major bookstores, magazine shops and wherever discerning smut is sold.

I have a story in both books, albeit the FHM antho is in magazine form and was privileged enough to head the literary content of the former -- what I did was ask a few writerly pervs and sickos to cross-pollinate their genre specialties with an erotica forefront for an extra spicy, extra sexually charged gathering of tales. The final output not only has our stories (and a short screenplay from Andrew Paredes) but also inserts of sexual confessions culled from past FHM issues, plus spreads of some of hottest babes you'll see, and know you can never have, this side of the world.

When I bought mine at Filbar's, the display copy on the rack actually had a piece of bond paper taped on the cover, obscuring the girl's chest down to her crotch. I guess the thing was too steamy to be displayed normally. That's always a good sign, eh?

Many thanks to Dr. Jing Hidalgo for accepting my weredog story for her collection. And mucho gratitude to FHM Phils Editors Alan M and Alan H for giving me and the writers the chance to put out an exquisitely sexy product that, I'm sure, is now being read by men and women all over the country for the, um, juicy narratives and used in private, truly special ways.

In an SMS discussion with one of the contributors he said: "I saw [the FHM Antho] being sold at a hardware store. I realize this gets me more readers than all the books I've been in put together." Wasak talaga. I do hope Summit greenlights more creative projects like this one.

You can check out tasty, very artsy sample fotos of the featured Erotica girls here:

And see a review of the Tales of Enchantment and Fantasy Anthology here:

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Art by John John Jesse
It’s a fact that every journalist or editor worth his salt will tell you: this town is full of shady publishing deals. Like magazines and books. Especially magazines. Making one of those things on the rack with the glossy pages and the perfect binding is way harder than making a monster.

I mean, Dr. Viktor Frankenstein only needed lightning, magazines require millions of pesos, an iron will and the ability to work around or withstand stupidity you can’t believe is possible in a race that invented the airplane and the condom. In the face of that, well, lightning is peanuts.

To make a monster: sew body parts, go mad in the process, add lightning. Voila! To make a magazine: get funding, assemble mag, go mad. No voila. Just errors. This system is non-operational.

I’ve lost count of the meetings, brainstormings and power lunches I’ve attended over the years for magazines that supposedly had solid funding, a great concept that balanced the commercial with the artistic and publishers willing to take risks. I’ve lost count of how many of them have never seen the light of the printing press.

Recently, my band mate told me the term in the TV industry that’s the equivalent of this vanishing act: cancelled. Cue Krusty the Clown clutching his curly Jewish hairdo and stomping his tiny boots, “Cancelled! What do you mean cancelled?! I already bought five dozen pies” Yeah, cancelled. Succinct. To the point. Perfect as a pie in the face.

I say this because yet another publication in the works led me to believe that their dealings were honest and transparent, and that they sincerely wanted to make a different kind of glossy. Of course, I was wrong. After a month of meetings, they asked me to come in regularly (timed bundy clock hours, mind) without having seen a shadow of a contract or a peek at a terms of employment. Regular editorial management without a contract? Promises of a fat check at the end of the month without having signed a thing? No effing way.

While you can chalk it up to experience and say that it goes with the territory it still feels like falling for the wrong women. Somehow you can’t shake the feeling that, by this time, your instincts should be more sophisticated, professionalism in those you deal with equal to yours, and the notion of employees assessing the employer just as stringently as it is in the vice versa being a given.

You take pride in your ability to sniff out bullshit. You tell yourself that your sixth sense acts like a polygraph for detecting charming but hollow pitches, classic signs of deadendom by the second issue, increasing compromises to vision, field insurance and trust that finally lead to a reduction in the promised salary. You say to yourself: this will not happen again. Shame on me if they fool me again with their grifter methods, con men tricks and shylock fast talk. Like falling for the wrong women ad nauseam, I tell you.

In retrospect I should have been tipped off by the fact that my prospective boss didn’t say a word when I asked him which articles he wanted to write for the first issue. Guy, just because somebody gives you the position of editor doesn’t mean you ARE one. For one thing, it assumes you can write. And not just your own name either. But hindsight is always 20/20, so perhaps my glasses need a higher grade.

I don’t even blame the magazine people for trying to pull a fast one -- though they can shove their ideas right where the empty husk of their heads are – because it’s just in their nature to do so. Just because the world is not fair. Just because the Ari Golds of this world outnumber creatives.

What I feel most upset over is that I feel I should have detected this sooner. That it never should have gotten to the point that I felt complacent enough to hang everything on it and not have an immediate escape plan, a point of egress, a fall back option.

If I didn’t love these creatures of glossy tree bark, jumbled alphabet and pictures I would say no to any kind of magazine deal and go into pure porn. But I continually put myself out there because I love starting something from scratch and being version one point oh of something. The chance to make something “new” (or at least relatively fresh) is something I will not pass up, two-faced publishing people notwithstanding.

It’s like getting a try at Goliath. Bringing down the giant is the reward itself. Yet, the void lies in wait like a coiled predator on each and every writer’s, journalist’s and editor’s paper trail and the trick is to never break eye contact as you scribble away against its entropic force.

What’s the moral lesson? Once in a while, like the inevitably of a driver crashing his car, the good guys will fall in (and the hardy will come out with stories and scars) but there is a special hell reserved for the magazine trickster who promises ghostly contracts. A very special hell.

For young journalists dreaming of being the next Hunter S. Thompson and making the local equivalent of Rolling Stone, remember that HST blew his head off. You’ve been warned.

P.S. This essay ends the official Philippine Chronicle run of TYBS. This site is now a horror writer's blog.

~ 30


Photo by Max Yavno, “Unemployed”
The end of July (2007) marked the termination of my contract with the company I’d been running for the last seven months. For reasons I still can’t go into, the editorial arm of said company closed down.

Well, it was a good run. Still, when I signed the “Quit Claim” document there was a palpable weight lifted from my shoulders. Something I always feel when I cut ties with a full time job, something which I don’t sign up much for, having preferred the freelance trade for a good long while – I detest being tied down to a single corporate entity (without the pay off of prestige or enough monetary counterbalance), am very easily bored, plus I have a reflex loathing for authority.

So now, for the whole month, I am officially unemployed. In reprieve until the new full-timer kicks in by September.

This is old territory. The mental space of it is so familiar that the dull ache between my shoulder blades signals my body pulling out the red carpet to welcome back this state like an old-friend long unseen. I feel comfortable down to my bones; even after the rain-induced throat infection that had me on antibiotics for five days.

Throughout the years I’ve probably worked on hundreds of projects but have only signed up for five full-time jobs in all. It’s odd. I have to explain myself to potential full-time employers every time but the urge to move, especially if the three aforementioned pet peeves come to a header, becomes well nigh overpowering.

Having been raised in a family with Marxist-Leninist-Maoist leanings, I also had a natural distrust for doing work under corporations and other huge organizational entities that, for some reason or another, furthered the cause of the rat race. And that without a smidgen of advocacy or support for the usual pet causes that activists and their placards always waved at three-piece suited men in a strangely agitated manner.

Soon I’ll republish the essay that explains my whole coming of age in the Left, but now suffice it to say I grew up with professions that were either purely advocacy centered or function-obsessive. So the “real world” jobs of my NPA parents went along the lines of NGO worker, community organizer, environmentalist, anti-debt activist or other such cause-oriented job and the jobs of my aunts and uncles on the mother’s side were middle-class and salt of the earth that ranged from dentist, doctor, engineer or teacher.

Meaning the discussions at the dinner table ranged from the calm debate of “it’s not a real job if you don’t make something or do a concrete service for people” to the vehement “how can you take THAT job with the kind of slave wages they pay and the damage they do to the environment?” Though my grandfather was a lawyer there was nary an intellectual among them.

It was in early 2000 that it came to me. I was subconsciously trying to please both sides of this demand without actually losing my identity in my job choices. Psychologists will probably call this a moment of realization.

My friend explained it to me this way: I was a creative and imaginative person who’d be quite content just doing academe work (he probably meant teaching) or writing genre-specific books, but the twin pressures of the two sides – meaning working in a profession that actually made something or did something concrete (and not just a mental construct either) plus affecting social change or having social relevance – had me stumped and so a life of the mind frolicking in fantastic, made-up worlds and just flicking nuggets of dorky wisdom at students just to get by was out of the question.

Well, I didn’t have any inclinations towards the medical or dental professions, I couldn’t do math for shit hence crossing out any actuarial, architectural or engineering jobs and I certainly wasn’t going to just work exclusively in NGOs, wear drab, neo-hippie clothes, sleep in ratty house cum offices or go to demonstrations on a regular basis just to get beaten, firehosed or arrested. There’s got to be a better way to change the world than to tediously sacrifice your body day in and day out.

Journalism was a way out of this dilemma. Through it I could work on as many socially relevant assignments I wanted, still be creative and still be writing. That would be my public face. The actual art would be practiced in secret, like midnight witching rituals that included blood, grand gestures and corpses of small creatures. A life of the mind in two parts.

These days I still think of my journalism, essays, reportage, what-have-you as “Stuff I do for others.” Meaning, a profession. Meaning, I have no ego with them. Meaning, I am an employee at the end of the day when I write them and, like any other job, is subject to the demands and parameters of what the work entails.

The fiction is my private art, written to please nobody else but me. It first has to entertain me before it can even move out to being published, I rarely revise an old story just to fit a particular anthology. For story requests with specifics, I just make a new one. But still, my fiction is built to be read, with the thought that one day it’ll be fit to stand up, go out in the world and shake hands with other minds. But that is done to no one’s standards but my own.

The poetry and other little literary things aren’t even made with that in mind. They’re quite abstract and stay unread except for the rare request for a reading from friends I can’t refuse. When that happens, I usually pick the poem with the most flesh and strap on a guitar for a security blanket when I go on stage.

These confessional essays, that are the meat of the TYBS column (not counting the interviews, features and reviews), fall somewhere between the private and public areas. Like the songs I make for the bands I play for. What you read is a slightly caricaturish me, defined by the causal stuff produced when I move in real life, the unbeheld plot the Great Storyteller is arcing out as you read this.

This is what’s nice about being vagabond and unemployed. How you can just start someplace and end up completely elsewhere. I feel like Spider Jerusalem.

~ 30


Problem with filekeeping and such, I found the actual order of the music reviews. So read this first before TYBS 26. Apologies.

The good people at SONY-BMG Music Entertainment Phils were kind enough to hand over some of their latest releases for review a few weeks back. They’re great listening fare for this confused rainy season, during Tikbalang weather -- those times when it pours buckets but the sun still shines like high noon.

Popular folklore says that when this happens, two half-man and half-horse creatures of our lower mythology are tying the knot. It seems these days a lot of Tikbalangs are getting married. Here’s the soundtrack to that matrimony. Mazel tov.


Gloc-9 is the hip-hop moniker of Aris Pollisco, the fastest rapper in the country. Once, they tried to measure his speed and he clocked in at 130 words in 35 seconds. Eat your heart out Bone Thugs `n’ Harmony.

His faster-than-Dawn of the Dead-zombies tongue notwithstanding, Aris makes excellent songs depicting the grit and glam of life. Emphasis on the grit, though. On his songs are people you’d likely know, the situations they get into familiar and the more sordid results of their exploits the fodder for next morning’s headlines.

On this, his third album, Aris extols his gospel of rap that’s testament to how strange daily life can be, reality at point blank range. On “Diploma,” truth slices like a fine boning knife. His vision is as unflinching as a seer gazing into a future filled with war, pestilence, famine and a ray of hope. The kind of salvation you can only attain by a tacit revision of all the shit you learned in school. We don’t need no education.

You’ve probably heard carrier single “Lando” by now, where Francis M lends his voice and a veritable who’s who of the hip-hop community appear in the music video. It’s a formula pop-rap song (think Eminem’s “Stan”) but its narrative of poverty, love and misfortune is executed with finesse.

“B.I.” is probably as close as Gloc-9 will get to something with overt themes of “the Game.” Still, this song about an overly aggressive, barely legal girl, is more cautionary than macho posturing. “Demo Tape” is meant to be an interlude but this tale of a young man trying to make it as an independent musician still comes across as hilarious and scathing.

There are some low points here, too. The Lovi Poe collaboration “Lov na Lov” is pure pop drivel. Its declaration of fairy tale romance sticks out in an album full of grit and street gospel. The Eraserhead’s revival song “Torpedo” has decent vocals from Kiko Machine’s JP Cuison, but the arrangement is lukewarm at best.

Still, these duds can’t take away the energy and raw strength of Diploma. The best among them is “Lapis at Papel” where Gloc-9 has outdone himself with its swagger and intensity. There are more shades of Eminem here as he enacts a vicious self-interview even as he combines the best of what he does: fearless confession with excellent words per minute execution.


BRMC are known for their brand of garage, folk revival, blues clarion, heartland rock and religion-inspired lyrics wrapped in a pop package that recalls the best of The Doors, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Rolling Stones and a host of 70s space rock bands.

This album has almost been universally detested by critics who see it as a fluke in the otherwise grand and bombastic discography of the Club. True, expectations ran high after their acclaimed third album Howl, and there are undoubtedly bad tracks on this one ("Berlin" is a head scratching, trying hard rip-off of Bolan with the horrid chorus "Suicide's easy/ What happened to the revolution?" And songs like 666 “Conducer” or “Killing the Light” are pathetic attempts at gravitas), but we must not gloss over the better tracks that the trio have made here.

“Weapon of Choice” is a tasty, slow burn track that recalls the folk rock of Jesus and Mary Chain. Derivative, but enormously tasty. If paying homage to your heroes comes with this much swagger and attitude then rock needs more of it.

“All You Do Is Talk” is a touching funereal track that conjures up images of city life in time lapse: the lights of a traffic jam on a busy highway at night; the detritus of newspapers, leaves and dust in empty, early morning streets; children playing in the park; a beautiful woman sitting on a sill, whisking herself with water from a glass as the heat wave makes the air shimmer; the argument and brag of young men walking down the street. All this filtered through the lens of post-break up shock. Somehow, all this seems to make the protagonist in the song glad to be alive, still.

“American X” is sleek, pounding and psychedelic – like a stealth fighter hijacked by Led Zeppelin devotees. This must be the album’s equivalent of “Love Burns.” Though highly reminiscent of new wave, it is without pretension, posturing or agenda. Worth the price of all the other duds on this album, this song reminds you that rock and roll still works, is still one of the bastions of modern music. You can feel that groove in your marrow and Peter Hayes’ singing can hurt your senses.

At three good tracks compared to 10 poor ones this seems like a bad deal, but the album, when listened to in full, makes a kind of macro sense. The same kind that makes you not eat the marshmallow in front of you. That scenario where the guy who left promised you two, if he comes back and you’ve kept your side of the bargain. Just give it time.

Though awkward in places and sometimes stuttering like a Bowie number, Baby 81 will reward the patient listener with a revelation as precious as those gained on the open road, on top of a powerful, jet-black Harley.

~ 30

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Here's some comixy, digitally enhanced art I made from old photoshoots with friends with pretentiously indulgent mini narratives told via panels. Thanks to the models Karen S ("Sometimes We Fall Into the Void") and Tanya T ("The Spinning Girl"). Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


This entry of TYBS probably won’t be of interest to those who aren’t guitarists. Though it does give a “behind the scenes” look into how musicians achieve the cornucopia of sounds you hear live or on record. I’ll try to be clear without being long winded but, for guitarists, one of the huge parts of playing is the ability to modify your sound.

These are what pedals are for. From the chunka chunka riffing made by distortion, the expanding or undulating sounds achieved by modulation or the thickening effects that come with delays, effects pedals are like tools for making sonic punctuations or just conveying a mood.

They’re also called stompboxes or stomps for no other reason than they resemble little candy-colored metal boxes with knobs, they’re lined up on the floor in front of the player and, to activate, you press your foot down on them.

I only know one guitarists who doesn’t have them. But it’s more than a fair bet that every band you have a CD of that has a guitar player in it uses pedals. Yes, even Hale, even Parokya ni Edgar. Heck, I’ve even seen Stella Ruiz plug into an Acoustic Simulator and sing “What If God Was One of Us?”

In a day or so I’m going to be trading two stomps -- a Digitech DF7 Distortion Factory and an X-Series Turbo Flange -- for a BOSS ME-50 Multi-Effects Unit. These aforementioned two units were my first forays into buying pedals. They were both second hand. They were great. I had hours of fun, made several songs and sonic sketches with them. Plus they were really nice to look at in the morning, like nubile teenage girls in pastel skirts.

Since each of them performs just one thing, their operation is idiot proof. Well, for the most part. I used to carry these little scraps of paper per effect with my personal circular notations for knob settings. My girl called them “kodigos.” I would pull them out at gigs whenever the song changed. It was a bit embarrassing but until I memorized them I didn’t want to risk the bad sound from wrongly turned knobs.

Eventually I expanded my pedal chain until they got to be six units long. In any case, I’m trading these two for the ME-50 (22 distortions? Yipee!) exactly because my chain is too long. Any guitarist will tell you that single pieces of stomps are great for playing around with, but are a pain in the neck when setting up in a live situation. My six pedals chain takes up a minimum of three to five minutes to set up, fiddle around with and adjust enough to fit the venue and the amp they have. Breaking it down is an even bigger pain. Especially if the next band in line is breathing down your neck.

The ME-50 will radically reduce this agony and the distress of hauling these little babies to a gig (I’ll just have to bring the ME-50 and a wah). That, and I’ll still retain the knob-based kalikot factor of the original stomps. I hate sifting through digital menus, see.

I’m all excited to get it and get some fiddling around done. With this acquisition only four of my single stomps will remain. Here’s a description of what they do and how I use them.

A cabinet of rectified Mesa/Boogie amplifiers is probably one of the most sought after and in your face tones for distorted guitar. To achieve it though you have to pile these amps onto one another until they’re the size of several refrigerators. A power chord through such a stack can only be described as visceral.

The Zombie is like a mini-me version of this set up that channels the rectified sound without you having to be Billy Howerdel or Tony Iommi with an Egyptian ransom of slave/roadies to build the stack for you. I’m still not sure what “rectified” means but you’ll know it when you hear it. You can feel it in your guts with some pressure on your heart, palpable and redolent of brawn.

I actually got this one delivered to my door through local gear distribution MGD Inc. ( and their delivery system, barring mishaps, is right on the money. I started with digital distortion and the analog sound that the Zombie makes leaves that completely in dust. If digital distortion is iced candy then the analog Zombie is a Haagen Dazs.

Trust me, you’ll feel like a steel god with one of these at your feet. The tag line even reads: “You will swear your sound gets right up and walks out of your cabinet!” It’s not very subtle (though at some of the lowest settings it can achieve a fairly okay overdrive sound) so I use it for those theatrical macabre moments, mayhem crescendos, trippy noise and just straight up havoc.

Delays are all about repetition and as such enables a guitarist to seem to have a twin playing alongside or just achieve a general spacey quality especially when used in conjunction with distortion. You can play with delay pedals all day long and be a happy camper. I did. Twice.

It’s like guitar ganja depending on how you use it and, boy, are there dozens of ways. Even Perry Farrel and Dave Navarro (vocalist and guitarist respectively for now defunct Jane’s Addiction) said in one interview that they used delays pedals so differently when they first formed that they had fights about it.

The Wasabi Delay, while not the most accurate stomp when it comes to the precision of its knobs, is likely one of the warmest sounding units out there. Surfing around the local gear sites I found a pic of Manuel Legarda (Wolfgang) with one of these at his feet. Hmmm, at least I bought it before I saw the pic.

Though the reverse function is close to useless with a horrid, audible ticking, this stomp has a calming, soothing effect on clean that makes me feel like I’m back in Puerto Princesa staring out at a sea with the waves coming in for high tide. On distortion it just sings with a very feminine spirit.

I usually use it to convey everything from arctic desolation, harmonics that sound like ticking clocks, the sound of dripping water, wind-shorn landscapes, muted or sharp footsteps, the straight up doubling that adds grandness to octave riffs and echolalia that brings a sustained creepiness or mystery to otherwise bland riffs.

This is a pretty cheap equalizer but dependable enough. Boston Engineering is a pedal manufacturer under Behringer that make affordable, reverse-engineered counterparts of expensive BOSS pedals.

How expensive? I bought this for P1400. A real BOSS equalizer would cost me around P4000 plus. It’s almost the same though: six sliders per frequency band, like you see in the graphic equalizer of any media player on your PC.

Anyway, equalizers are used to further shape the sound coming out of your wah and distortion (along with a volume control for boost). Sliding the bands this way or that can net you some nifty, genre-specific feels. I remember them in visual metaphors: a lopsided smiley face for modern metal, a spiked heartbeat for shimmering but sharp chord voicings and a wave crest for in-your-face bridges and solos.

If you play guitar, you must play wah. So a few months back I plopped for this unit after thorough net research, testing a few brands (Morleys suck, the BOSS PW-10 is as complicated as an Inspector Gadget erm gadget) and pestering my friend Junji (Lerma, the uber cool guitarist for The Radioactive Sago Project and Trip M) on SMS.

This is the second item I got shipped from MGD and the unit was totally without flaws. It was heavy, too. But if it’s built to take Zakk Wylde’s biker boot then I’m sure I won’t have to worry about it breaking before I do. It’s also the only stomp I own with no knobs on it.

While I tried to use it on my own I soon suspected that I was missing out on a lot of techniques so, after an intense lesson with Junji, I quickly expanded on the ways of Wah Fu. Aside from its usual and prominent use in porn film soundtracks this wah is very throaty when combined with distortion. It’s got a voice that would probably not be far from a banshee or a mechanical roar that sounds very close to a mythical beast like the Devil of the Pine Barrens.

I found that this one really doesn’t go just cry wah (though it CAN do that with the right timing and technique) but mostly adds sustain that approximates a note all but hanging forever in the air. That and a very evil low end that sounds somewhere between a horde of very big, very angry locusts and a ravishing siren who, when she opens her mouth, bears the voice of a tsunami.

If I could fire off pinch harmonics as fast as Wylde does I’m sure I could make this thing scream like Holocaust prisoners but for now I am content with the amount of “I sound better than I actually am” stuff I’m getting out of it.

This is the only pedal I haven’t used live yet -- mostly because I’m still enjoying it at home and want to get a real feel for it. But am confident that this wah can actually replace some of the modulation I’m using in a few songs just for the swelling, rise and fall factor. Now it becomes more than just interesting.

~ 30


Here’s the final part of our reviews of CDs from SONY-BMG Music Entertainment. With a mix of electronica and emo-type indie rock it’s perfect for this July’s first salvo of storms. Heat up some hot chocolate or tea with honey, put these on and you’ll have a great time indoors.

Soundboy Rock

I’m a big fan of albums. I mean albums that hold together and cohere, rising like a good piece of cake. While Soundboy Rock is about as cohesive as an 80s Madonna fashion victim, it still floats despite the things it’s burdened with.

Groove Armada are the duo of London partyheads Tom Findlay and Andy Cato who were formed in the mid 1990s. They formed their own club with the same name so they could spin the tunes they wanted and make people dance. Soon enough they got their own songs going and released a couple of singles, then albums. Then these albums attained notoriety so much so that Fatboy Slim remixed “I See You Baby.”

Groove Armada have since accumulated a decent following. Not as sizeable as Underworld, Chemical Brothers or Faithless but they nonetheless have their faithful. Rightly so, too. See, GA are dancefloor architects who have honed their craft to a fine degree, which is why Soundboy Rock may seem like a package of very eclectic goodies top those used to GA’s focused records. It’s the kind of holiday fruitbasket us media types get when companies don’t have decent PR people (you know, the container that comes with bananas, melons, chocnuts and even a huge can of Sustagen).

From the soursweet to the totally saccharine this album opens in jungle territory with MC Stush doing tribalistic rap vocals on “Get Down.” From there we quickly go through a host of top shelf collaborators like The Rakes’ frontman Alan Donohoe (doing a Gallagher Brothers cameo on the melancholy “See What You Get”), former Pinay Sugababe Mutya Buena (tripping out on the bluesy, hip-hop dancefloor mover “Song 4 Mutya”) and Simian Mobile Disco’s Simon Lord (on the bleeptastic house number “The Things That We Could Share”). It’s like a glorified party turned jam session with a revolving door of musical celebrities.

As challenging as this listen is, the diversity does the whole album good, like a theme park with delights to offer every age group or musical perversion. The tastiest among them are the atmospheric, flutteringly elegant “Paris” and the chillest-of-them-all track “From the Rooftops.” The sonic equivalent of the catnip, it’s clear, is what GA excel at.

How to Save a Life

The Fray have gained their fame by getting on guilty pleasure TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. Their brand of emo-leaning indie rock with art geek sensibilities and a healthy dose of REM soulfulness fits right into the boob tube soundtrack format.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But bands like The Fray are a dime a dozen, or literally dozens who come out of the woodwork every two to three years or so, get amazingly huge major label push and rise like a wayward kid’s balloon escaping into the atmosphere, never to be seen again.

True their singles “Over My Head (Cable Car)” and the horridly overplayed “How to Save a Life” have glimpses of latent energy and celestial insight, but none of the gravitas or subtlety that could make them a Keane, a Live or perhaps a footstool to the mighty REM.

The good stuff only comes in by the 11th track “Little House” where a misery laden calliope riff on piano conjures up family secrets, dark corners of the home and acts of atrocity that inflict both physical and mental anguish. There’s still too much roundabout and beating the bush going on here for any clear attempt at solid songwriting but at least this song and “Trust Me” prove there’s more to The Fray than just balladeers posturing as indie rockers. “Trust Me” even has the most unpretentious lyrics on the whole album: “We’re only taking turns/ Holding this world.”

The mess and iteration of post break-ups, confused love, suicides or attempts at, loads resulting in depression, boy meets girl and loses her or vice versa gets banal and pathetic halfway through the album. The added VCD (which has two music videos, a “making of the video,” three stripped/acoustic performances and two short documentaries on band history and life on the road) is totally unnecessary. I can’t count how many times I fast forwarded it and I still zonked out. Bad, bad, bad.

Even the lyrics would rival a Corgan song, and vocalist Slade doesn’t have half the sonic brilliance to pull off these Hallmark worthy gems, as on “Look After You”: “If I don’t say this now I will surely break/ As I’m leaving the one I want to take/ Forgive the urgency but hurry up and wait/ My heart has started to separate.” Geez, is there even a girl alive in the 21st century who falls for this atrociously rhyming shtick?

~ 30


TYBS #26
Here are more new releases from SONY-BMG Music Entertainment for days when the weather turns into that weird inclement of sunny and drizzling.

The Boy With No Name

Travis was one of the things I couldn’t understand when slacker pop got into vogue. Their sound smacked of the “I’m so white and middle class it’s hard to keep myself from whining about the bad stuff.” Case in point: “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” That seemed like a big waste of sonic time and contrary to the whole point of rock. Travis just seemed to make catastrophes seem like farces rather than tragedy.

Still, The Boy With No Name has some startlingly tasty tracks that puts them above the usual indie droll of Athlete, Low and other sentimental rockers. This album is as doozy and introspective as an after dinner moment on the rooftop with the dusk just coming down. Truffles anyone?

The provincial gothic of “3 Times and You Lose” with its melancholy riffing and understated vocals is a despondently folkish surprise that comes across as wholly unaffected. And then the lyrics hit you and somehow you’re in paranoiac Radiohead territory, albeit done with a country vibe.

Just check out: “The little people had very little left to say/ Their words had all been shortened/ It didn’t really seem important/ And I had a feeling you were very far away/ But then a little voice inside me said: `You’ll never get away from here’.” Gloomy, yes, but precise.

“Big Chair” is a sound trip that rolls and crests without ever climaxing. The bits of electronic drum pads and the piano weaving in and out like a ghost in the woods is perfect for the kind of masterplan subtlety Travis excel at, even if they do it with such sappy passion -- like geeks pining for the homecoming queen they know they can never have.

Don’t go to sleep as you quickly go through “Eyes Wide Open” and on through “Colder” as Travis never kicks up the pace beyond a dripping faucet. Still it all makes a kind of heart-on-my-sleeve sense when “New Amsterdam” comes in. Titled after the old name of New York, this song is a paean to the artsy and the passion of a city that coaxes such conflicting reactions.

The Boy With No Name isn’t an album to be listened to in one sitting (unless you’re going through post break-up) but taken in light sips. A couple of tracks for tonight and several for the next, other wise it’ll be too much sap. Over that period it’ll be more memorable and will conjure up other memories like some Proustian madeleine best taken with alcohol or very slow sex.

Because of the Times

The catchy southern rock of the Followill family takes a turn to the obscure with their third release. Sometimes insolent, sometimes griping but always with an exciting point of view delivered in garage punk flair, Because of the Times is part manifesto of fear and declaration of readiness to combat that paralysis.

The gloomy, atmospheric “On Call” spits out emotion and melody like a rattler on downers. With the majestic blues driver guitar doing overtime it’s something to play during moments of moody menace. Add to that the serial killer allusions of “Trunk” and you’ve got a recipe for a very interesting album.

The grit and twang on “McFearless” and “Black Thumbnail” are excellent Southern rock numbers. Though short on hooks they make up for it with a rollicking melody that’s easy to nod to. The rest are either jangly, ragged-at-the-edges pop songs or fusions of Allman Brothers with Alan Parsons, a bit of Creedence Clearwater Revival thrown in and mixed with Lynrd Skynrd plus a healthy dollop of 21st century jadedness.

Nevermind the challenging listens that are “Fans” or the “The Runner” with their seemingly drawn out or foreshortened rhythms. They’re most certainly experiments in form. The best of them has got to be “Ragoo” with its maxim-worthy encapsulation of music as a medium of personal gospel: “Here’s to the kids out there smoking on the streets/ They’re way too young but I’m way too old to preach/ They know it all but they still ain’t seen the truth/ Just play my song and I will show it all to you.” Bittersweet, that.

With this one the brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared along with cousin Matthew have crafted the next step of their evolution with just enough balance of rawness and polish. Here’s to Nashville rock.

~ 30


. . .Has now been published as part of an FHM erotica anthology. Available at news sellers, bookstores and magazine stands within the week. Check it out there along with other juicy and uber intellectually stimulating stories from ginormously gifted, cutting edge authors like Anna Sanchez, Carl Joe Javier, Norman Wilwayco, Marguerite De Leon, Joey Nacino, Lourd De Veyra and Ramil Digal Gulle. I dunno what the title is but it's a kick ass antho full of grit, glory and, uh well, sex.

Now back to our regular programming. Wasaaak.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


TYBS#21 (MAY 2007)
Here’s another short short that got lost in editorial limbo. This case is worse than most because MANUAL, the men’s magazine where this story was supposed to come out in, had already commissioned the illustration and I had already been advised of a possible publication date.

Just goes to show you can never be too sure. It doesn’t come out `til it comes out.

I’ve probably been watching too much of The Sopranos lately but people reneging on their word just makes me want to do an assault on their office with a baseball bat and see how their polished glass tables measure up against my aluminum friend. Then we’ll get a real answer out of these debauched socialites who think journalism means gift bags and envelopes with cash.

In any case this story is an excerpt from the short novel “Faith in Poison.” It’s part of my upcoming second book (a collection of four novellas) News of the Shaman. Coming soon. I hope you watch out for it.

Meanwhile, here’s a middle finger to the glossy that commissioned this piece (the artist adds his own “up yours” as well), jerked us around and never put it out or paid for it. Getting a venue for publication, here in TYBS, is still a means of empowerment and cherished autonomy. Enjoy the story.

* * *
Mutha Load

At times I call up friends that I haven’t seen in a while but have bumped into recently. Rico is one of them. I call and ask him if he’d like to have a beer, catch up, whatever.

“Um, yeah. S’okay.” Rico says with his scratchy voice, “but I got to take a bath first. Why don’t you come over here and hang out so you don’t have to wait?”

Fortunately we both lived just a few blocks from each other but we never knew `til we met each other purely by accident the other day. I didn’t know he still lived at his parents’ old house.

Rico takes baths that stretch up to two hours long depending on his mood. But I say yes since it’s just a trike ride away.

Once there, I’m greeted by the maid who’s about to go home for the weekend. Rico, his frizzy, curly hair standing up in deformed spikes, tells me to wait, make myself comfortable. That everything is pretty much still where it was since elementary. Then he goes off to shower.

I must say that Rico’s house is a veritable three floor mansion and has rooms furnished like a five star hotel. Him and me go way back to primary school. We used to watch a lot of dirty movies in his bedroom and, in high school, smoke pot and cigarettes.

One thing Rico has as well is a gorgeous mother, the real MILF/Stacey’s mom kind. She’s still young, having had Rico and his sister when she was barely out of her teens. I remember she had incredible light brown skin, a handsome face that radiated freshness and the biggest tits off a Filipina I’d ever seen that wasn’t in the movies. Rico’s father was a big shot stock broker who was often on business trips abroad.

One time, we had to use the Playstation (God knows what his parents play, simplified Dance Revolution?) in his parents’ room and I had to sit on this chair where his mother’s bra and shorts had been left hanging.

I somehow found a section of that day’s newspaper to cover my upper body. Then I let Rico engross himself in beating the hell out of the other racers in Jet Moto. This precaution up, I started sniffing the inside of the cups and, I tell you, I had enough fuel for erotic fantasies to last me a decade. The scent left on those D-cups were part honey and part sea spray. Still jack off to it from time to time, the memory losing only the details but none of its essence.

I kept smelling it for the next half hour, pretending to be engrossed with an article about some new hemp that was undetectable to tests. That was until Rico finished the damn game and we had to go down and eat.

That day I cursed Shakey’s delivery for being so fast.

Anyway, I never got the chance to do that again on account that I never really got back into their house. See, they had a big family dispute. Turned out, Rico’s dad was cheating on mom. This was before he died of avian influenza. I remember he looked like some emaciated, undead aswang in his coffin. Horrible.

I suppose I should have said sorry to poor Rico. Fantasizing about my buddy’s mom doesn’t help friendship any. But he doesn’t know it and lack of that knowledge keeps him (and me) from harm.

Well I’m here now. Rico’s still in the shower and mom can’t be anywhere over 40 (or thereabouts – she was in her late twenties when I pulled that stunt). I want to find out if my luck will hold since, with the maid gone, there’s nobody else in the house. My fantasy mom, I’ve been told, is off in Hong Kong shopping her ass off.

I go to where I remember the main bedroom is and find it unlocked. The room’s smaller and more feminine now, more geared to a single person. I spot some clothes on a chair, but there’s only a shirt and jeans.

Unfortunately, the clothes cabinet is locked. I rummage in the drawers and find the old, worn Kama Sutra book his dad kept in the library along with a mother lode of Hustler and Shaved on the bottom of a mahogany desk.

Me and Rico read them in secret whenever we could. What Rico didn’t know was that, when we were leafing through the sex manual, I imagined his mom and me in the myriad contortions detailed therein. I close the drawer and shrug. This wasn’t what I came for.

I open the door to the bathroom and bingo! It’s a black bra hanging on the laundry hook behind the door with a bonus: lacy, translucent undies, almost see-through. Those maybe-I’ll–get-lucky kind you find in any woman’s wardrobe. I grab them both and step back out, tossing both garments onto the bed.

I pick up the bra first and sniff. Still the same old Rico’s mom scent: equal parts sweet honey, salty sea and a faint trace of sweaty musk. I realize I’ve gone to sit on the bed with the panties on my lap. That I’m clutching the bra to my nose. My head is swimming like a cyanide-bonked fish. After I don’t know how long I drop the bra, pick up the undies and inhale deeply.

I am on my knees in an instant, my strength buckling under the strong feminine odor. Riding the sensation I find that Rico’s mom has lost none of her touch on me. What I previously mistook for sweat is stronger here, the musk aggressive, delivering a kick to my synapses, filling my jeans to bursting. Painful and splendid.

There’s a bit of spotty, whitish discharge in the middle, no more than a few centimeters long but quite visible on the material. I lick it. It tastes salty, viscous but languid as it goes down my throat.

I hear the shower turned off and Rico walking back to his room. I take a last sniff and put the bra back on the hook behind the bathroom door. I fold the panties neatly and stuff it in my back pocket. I turn off the lights and gently close the door as my hard-on dwindles.

Illustration by Nelz Yumul aka Dark Bulb (

Monday, January 7, 2008


TYBS # 20 (APRIL 2007)
I picked up a guitar again in 2004, after a hiatus of several years, in an effort to revitalize myself from the trauma of a particularly long relationship -- the break-up of which was no less scathing either.

It was a cheap classical guitar that probably cost no more than Php2, 000 and, in retrospect, I probably should have detected that it wasn’t intonated and that the frets buzzed in places. While my guitar buying skills have since improved, back then I just wanted something with six strings that would play.

At about the same time I enrolled in a basic drum class, having entertained rockstar thoughts of pounding the skins for a long time. I finished the course with my sense of groove improved but my coordination and drumming still dismal. My pathetic attempts at rolls, diddles, paradiddles and syncopation were met with howls of protest from our dogs. Okay, so practice at home was a bummer.

I contended myself with improving my guitar skills and was satisfied to see that I was getting better, bit by bit. I was content learning songs and just singing to myself. I never once thought I’d actually be able to play in a band.

In 2006 I got work at the marketing arm of a major TV network and got to hang out once again with an old friend, multi-awarded writer and all around rogue Iwa Wilwayco. Iwa also played bass for avante-punk band The Brockas. It was he who suggested we form a band. I was going to be the drummer; despite my protests, despite my protestations that my skills were totally basic.

I’d tried it out with another set of friends previously, also as a three-piece, and results were so dreadful that the bassist never wanted to jam with us again. Still, Iwa can be pretty convincing when he wants to so I agreed. We tried it out with the same guitarist and it was still appalling. A few weeks later we tried it out with another guitarist, our officemate Oji.

Here’s the twist: Oji and I arrived early at the practice studio and decided to noodle around while we waited. Then we decided to switch instruments just for fun. He at the drums, me with his guitar. Oji, it turns out, after a few quick runs and blazing hits, was a pretty amazing drummer. So we decided to stay in our positions until Iwa arrived.

That jam felt like we weren’t thinking, or thinking effortlessly. What poured out of us unthinking sounded very much like punk rock. It was undemanding, fierce and immensely enjoyable.

“Punk is musical freedom. It’s saying, doing and playing what you want,” said Kurt Cobain in his Journals. So we decided to be a punk band. Due to our busy schedules we couldn’t do another practice session. But a month later we got our first gig.

Okay, so I still didn’t have my own guitar. No worries, our drummer would lend me his axe. In 2003, at an interview with Radioactive Sago, frontman Lourd De Veyra asked me: ‘Why aren’t you in a band?” I quickly answered: “Because I have real bad stage fright.” Hmmm, hot to deal with my paralysis in front of a crowd at my first live performance? Our bassist squeezed my shoulder. He’d help me through it. He had just the thing, he said. No worries.

I wanted to say, whoa, wait wait, can we slow things down? This hobby is turning out to be more than I bargained for. And I knew that from my bedroom to the stage (albeit a very small and cozy stage) was the distance of light years.

Several days after the show, this is what I wrote in my journal. Forgive the gut-spilling sentimentality:

“I can only remember my first gig, the first time I played live, in fragments. The reflection of cymbals on translucent glass, the concrete sidewalk, the bemused and confused expression on Tanya’s face, the humid air and the texture of drizzle at my shoulders.

“We were at a gallery called Pablo at Cubao’s Marikina Shoe Expo. The event was the opening of a one-man exhibit by our drummer’s friend. His art combined the techno, the erotic and the grotesque. Hours previous to this our bassist had helped soothe my colossal stage fright by giving me a pep talk and infusing me with tons of, ehem, medicinal herbs.

“Afterwards, I was half-stoned and half-agitated, light years better than nervous. We had no singer that night but, at the last moment, Iwa’s bandmate from The Brockas, Earl, showed up to help us with synths, sound design and just general noise.

“I remember feeling an elation -- unexplainable, exhilarating and undeniable -- welling up from somewhere in my gut. I could only ride it. The chemicals and the decision not to let the crowd get to me had an incredibly freeing effect, especially on my playing.

“The Jesus Mafia’s sound was raw, forceful and awkward in places. It was also full of energy and barely contained mayhem with just a hint of pretentious avante-gardeism (thanks to Earl’s earsplitting feedback).

“Though I had strapped on a borrowed guitar, the effects box sounded like a mess of peas rattling inside a tin can and I couldn’t hear myself half the time, I think that first gig was, for me, what Zen disciples called the experience of `a koan unfolding in your mind.’

“I couldn’t believe I was a part of such a product. I could barely believe I was making it. When the last chord sounded and the crowd clapped I understood why the electric church espoused its brand of enlightenment as matchless. Such unrivalled shamanic ecstasy.”

The distance from the bedroom to the stage turned out closer than I thought. I loved the fact that music is now so expansive and vast that even making controlled noise is welcome and even valued as a sign of aural vision. Thank you, Sonic Youth. Thank you, Velvet Underground.

I am thankful that despite the drama and the personality skirmishes that seem to come with the territory, the musical scene appears to be a generally congenial and friendly one (not the industry, though).

What was once just a means to therapy for me has led to my overcoming stage fright, learning to function in a musical unit, enjoyed trying to make songs, converging with bandmates at shared musical influences and generally just gaining a whole new field of creative space. Music is an immediate medium, writing, on the other hand, flourishes in the aftermath of comprehension.

I have since learned to use an electric guitar and a few pedals to boot. I now play in two bands, the punk band Jesus Mafia and the metaltronica band Tabloid Lite. I have no expectation, hopes or ambitions with my music or these bands except that we get to play together whether live or in a studio. Though I would prefer to play live when possible – it’s just more exhilarating, as if every gig is a minor crisis situation you must learn to thrive in.

As I write this my new electric guitar (a black PRS Tremonti SE) is about five days old. I have named her Loviatar. I have since put up my old electric guitar (a fire red RJ imitation of an SG `61 Reissue) for sale. Her name was Siva.

Tomorrow Tabloid Lite will have its second band practice. I would like to see how Loviatar fares with an actual stack of amps. I would love to see what kind of music we produce. Here’s to the sound and fury. Here’s to thrills of the electric church.


TYBS #19 (APRIL 2007)
Here’s another minimalist that never saw the light of day. Probably because some short short anthologies only wanted a popular monster in their genre rosters, and horror was the least of these that they could abide.

The monster in this story, however, is prominent enough in Bicolano and Bisaya lower mythology. Some say the madres and padres are a kind of restless ghost, so transfigured by rage and violent death that their limbs become long and their faces grotesque. While some say they are products of horrid pacts with demons. That becoming a mockery of undeath is the price the hosts of Hell enact when the frail mortal sorcerer, having run out of possessions both material and bodily, bets the last chip in his stack and loses (i.e. his soul).

A month back my Managing Editor (who hails from Bicol) was telling me about an encounter she had as a child with an uncannily tall and long gentleman wearing a huge buri hat with a jerky, almost shuddering way of moving, as if his body was being pulled by strings. He had a rictus face, as if he had eaten something sour, and this expression never changed. The tall man didn’t do anything except turn around, walk into the forest and disappear to a filmic fade before he could reach the tree line. Sounds like a phantasma to me.

Whatever the phantasmas are – whether madre (female) or padre (male) – your best bet when meeting one is to hide or run like hell. I hope you enjoy the story.

* * *
The Phantasma

She was tall, androgynous and the ceramic Saint Francis I carried was inverted in her cat-slit eyes. I could see her clearly, towering over the crowd, amid the press lining our plaza that Good Friday. The tight collar of her dress framed her swan neck, was draped across her collarbone.

She could have easily been one of those emaciated, bag of bones people so frequently shown in the fourth world documentaries that even her clothes could not hide it. With virulent strains of avian influenza making the rounds her fevered visage, pursed lips and the swaying, bobbing motion of her head like silent coughs mimicked the afflicted.

Only once before had I seen one of the madres. That night I had played hooky with a girl I was courting and a few more minutes of gratification had overcome the fear of a beating, the terror of the shadowed trails. I ran home with the sky running duskward far too quickly.

A few more steps around a corner and I would have run into her. I pressed my back against a wall and risked a glance round the bend.

Her gait was half-stumbling and half-dainty, her hair undisturbed by the breeze. Her hands clutched at the air like brushing away cobwebs. She wore a wistful, far-away look and the distress in her mouth made me want to ask her what was wrong. Through the translucence of her diaphanous, white dress her nipples were embossed like pencil erasers. There was only the scruff of her feet against loose stones. She made no other sound.

They haunted the streets and small roads leading to interior villages when they’re deserted, the windows boarded and the garlic bulbs hanging above the crosses chalked on doorways. Father had warned me not to block their way if I chanced them like this, on one of their walks.

“You must not meet the phantasma, be it madre or padre, or try to pass it by,” my father had advised, screaming into my ear. “Stay on the roadside, boy! Stay out of its sight and it will do you no harm!” He whacked me once on the shin with his cane so the lesson would sink in.

So I scampered behind a balete, crouching, trying not to piss as she shambled by. Just inches away, her head brushed the low branches as she strode forward on impossibly long limbs. When she vanished before turning the next corner I dropped my knuckles from my mouth and wiped my tears on my sleeve. Thank you for the caning, father.

Yet now there was no other option but to pass her by as the procession advanced. I could not shake her gaze. In those green, reptilian eyes I was the bearer of an inverted icon in an equally distorted parade.

In that distortion, the statue’s bald head tucked under my chin, I looked like a page torn off some tantric manual. The suffering Christ beside me was also upside down mirroring a warped orgy with the four girls who guided the miniature carroza. Their figures cavorted as they strained on the upward slope.

She did not step into my path. She did not reach out to drag me into one of the empty alleys. Instead she blinked. And blinking, her eyes went back to a dull sienna as if some nictating membrane had merely disguised the human within her.

With the unblinking stare broken the rush of the crowd came back to me and with it the shouts, the claps and the brass as the band started playing the backdrop for the Golgotha’s reenactment.

Over my shoulder I saw her put on a pair of sunglasses then walk away into a narrow street.
* Photo by Chad Michael Ward (


TYBS#17 and 18 (MARCH 2007)
The artist known as Dark Bulb is a visionary. He’s also one sick SOB. Trust me. When you see his work you’ll see shades of Dave McKean (The Sandman, Cages), Chad Michael Ward (The Pain Box, various CD covers) and Ashley Wood (Metal Gear Solid) plus an unrivaled infusion of what he calls the techno-erotic.

On art that is half-drawn and half-manipulated by the PC, beautiful women cavort with massive robots, skull-headed fairies sit in thinker poses and meditate on eternity, vampires, mecha and cyborgs frolic in the same playground of pop culture and imagined world that Dark Bulb has created. It’s like Philip K. Dick meets Heavy Metal at an AVN porn shoot.

Sometimes whimsical, often morbid and always sexual, techno-erotic is no doubt an apt term. You can tell I like this kind of art. Maybe that’s why I’ve bought four of his pieces, two of them commissioned. That’s my initiation into buying art.

Dark Bulb is the artistic moniker of Nelz Yumul. An art director at a major TV network who’s been making a name for himself with the kind of images that strikes you like a match in a dark room, or the kind of revelation Neo had upon finding out he was inside the Matrix. Laid-back, phlegmatic and cacklingly jovial, Nelz recently opened a solo exhibit at the newly opened F*Art Gallery.

Titled Twilight Concoctions and Other Delights Nelz says that “Half of the work here is new. The new stuff is playful and exultant. This is thematically dreamy, not just dark.”

Influenced heavily by music, movies and comics (“I like the indie presses more than the mainstream comics like Superman and Batman,” says Nelz. “I like Kitchen Sink, Vertigo, Onie Press. Also world manga and the works of Paul Pope.”) the works on this exhibit run the span from mildly fantastic to unsettlingly disturbing.

“I’m not very detail oriented,” exclaims Nelz, adding that he uses a combination of Photoshop, traditional drawing and Painter to give his stuff texture and life. “I’m more on the overall effect getting across. If the work conveys my message accurately enough then I stop.”

He points to a painting where swans and stars frame little children wearing headphones; his paean to the pleasures of listening to music. “Like if I want this to convey music as being dreamy and listening to it like a heavenly activity then I think about it for a day and then work on it the next day when the image comes in. I work very fast. I can do an average of five paintings per day.”

With such a severe work ethic it’s a wonder he can even shoot the nubile girls he has on his art. Then I find out that most of them are taken from the Net. “Most of the girls I use are from the Net and they’re usually 70s and 50s models. I like the idea of the old girls being natural and glamorous. No alterations, nothing fake. I find them very pretty.”

The problem of poses and getting figures accurately though is solved by using the most readily available model around: himself. “I’m the cheapest model, too. I just take pictures of myself and then manipulate them. Though I would very much like to get something going with nude models if there are women out there who’d be interested to pose?”

To be immortalized in a world of metal and flesh is a great cause. Any women out there willing to shed their clothes and be lit by the Dark Bulb? Just look at the pictures here and send me a letter if you’re interested ( I’ll get in touch with Nelz for you. Also check out Nelz’s art on-line:

Twilight Concoctions runs `til the middle of April 2007. The F*Art Gallery is located at K-1 cor K-D streets Kamuning Road, QC. And is open from Mondays to Saturdays.