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An old photo

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I found this from one of the posts I wrote five years ago. I wonder what happened to this guy. He gained some weight, obviously. But he looked so much sure about the world then.

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Brand managers on TV

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“You need to come to our store and experience our product,” says a Bose brand manager.

“We are in the cutting edge of sound technology, and we give our clients the chance to customize their music experience,” he enthusiastically adds as he holds his company’s latest product in front of the camera, touching what seems to be an application icon but which he refers to as a “product” (among the many products in a singular device he is holding).

He drops the word ‘experience’ once every two sentences.

“Here at Magnum, we give our customers the pleasure to indulge,” says the brand manager.

Looking straight at the camera without any sign of flinching, he adds, “We have 250,000 possible combinations of our Magnum bar with eighteen different toppings that will blow your mind away.”

His plaid shirt is framed by his khaki coat and unusually subdued pink tie. The young brand manager is almost my age.

Without any hint of irony in his voice, says, “My personal favorite is Magnum with potato chips and chili flakes. It’s so different.”

Then his spiel fades out with, “We also have an intense offering of comfort food,” as the background house music cross fades.

“From September 1 to 30, we will be online 24/7. And aside from being online we will be available in fiiiiiiive malls all over the country,” an autoloan bank manager says.

“It’s so easy; it’s crazy. Avail of our ridiculous price.”

Brand managers being interviewed on television are intense. After the salesman of encyclopedia so common before Wikipedia gobbled whole their market, brand managers spewing their spiels on TV are the third most irritating people one will meet in his lifetime.

They come almost too close to those who audition for artista searches on TV.

These brand managers are a bunch of driven and ambitious young men and women who’ve completely convinced themselves of the superiority, durability, benefits, and the seeming indispensability of goods they’re describing in glowing terms. A sense of the ridiculous has altogether abandoned them. It is, after all, like any forms of employment. Job requirements often force us in doing things we would otherwise not do if only we were given a better option. And for that I am sympathetic.

Perhaps they only need to learn some lessons on irony.

Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' Sponsored by Internet Sales Company

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Memoirs

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I began reading this book three nights ago, but because of papers of my students that I needed to check and lectures I had to prepare, the pages have been mercilessly dogeared.

I have not acquired the more civilized approach of using a book marker.

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Manhattan, when I was young is a memoir written by Mary Cantwell. It’s a working girl’s recollection of New York City in the 1950s and early 60s. I have not much love for this city. Aside from my bitter memory of eating at a Burger King in Hoboken after losing my pair of Rayban Wayfarer in Times Square, New York reminds me of a once great city on its way to gradual decline.

But her life story, I’ve been much engrossed. The New York City of her time was full of promise.

I think that memoirs have to be like this: the writer has to be constantly self-deprecating and completely honest. I suppose honesty has direct proportionality to the degree one tramples on herself in every page until nothing is left but an agglutinated version of one’s bloody self. This honesty will require much from her, including shaming herself, betraying herself, if only to be completely sincere. Readers love characters who are witty but sad, perceptive but sad, accomplished but world weary and sad. 

The talk about memory and the many theories surrounding it, well, they can wait. 

 

 

 

On watching Her

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It’s one of the saddest movies we’ve watched together. We were constantly looking at each other the whole time, giving the other a funny smirk, because of the absurdity of the scenes and the lines. They were absurd not because they’re improbable but because they’re all too possible. We vowed not to live long enough to see that day coming. I am meant for the run-of-the-mill kind of romance.

But Her seems oh too real. It’s set in the future, but it’s a future that’s not very far away from now. With the collapse of the more visceral type relationships, it’s not not easy to imagine myself one day falling in love with that OS-controlled sonorous voice emanating from an earpiece who learns from my every input.

It’s chilling. Yes. But it’s at the same time dripping with melancholia.

Thanks for the books!

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They arrived from Belgium today.

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Friends from a long time ago

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We all are a member of some sort of groups on Facebook whose members are people we have not seen for ten years or more. Aside from the occasional informally organized reunions that take place once every two years during the Christmas season, we ‘ve never truly caught up with most of these people because we’ve already moved and treaded on with our own individual journeys. Holding on to the past will simply slow down our ply forward.

I’ve recently received notification on Facebook about a photo taken more than eleven years ago of the Delta platoon of my high school CAT program. It was a very old photo taken by our high school’s official photographer scanned for the sole purpose of being uploaded on Facebook. For throwback Thursday said one of the hash tags.

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I was not in the picture but was tagged by one of the private cadets on the photo who’s a classmate. He is now working in the Middle East. He’s a family man. His profile picture on Facebook is that of his beautiful daughter, smiling innocently at the camera. Had I taken a similar path as this classmate, I would’ve already had a child of my own, and my Facebook page would be less a celebration of  the self than about my child.

I was my high school CAT corps commander. The conversation about the photo revolved on an incident that happened one Friday afternoon more than eleven years ago. It’s a funny banter about a control freak corps commander who found them hiding in one of the classrooms of first year students, foiling their effort to evade the unforgiving 4pm brigade formation under the still scathing afternoon sun. Of course they never forgot to mention the number of push-up they had to perform as punishment for their act.

I joined the happy exchange. My tone was that of a nostalgic old man looking back with a satisfied smile at a past long gone.

Versions of the story varied a little; some people I couldn’t recall to be there had sworn they were. Our memories being less stable than the ground we tread on shake uncontrollably most of the time. Every time we retrieve data stored in the mildewy recesses of our minds we struggle to recall. But we always allow for so much leeway, for some inconsistencies in details, for contradictions because this is how memory works. We invent, recreate, imagine. However, we seldom care. The past is for all of us to define.

But what bothers me more than the many versions of that incident is the apparent feeling of distance. My participation in the conversation on the page felt forced. My fakeness was so palpable I was ashamed of myself. The language they used, the slang from eleven years ago which they still pepper their sentences with sounded dated. Nothing changed it seemed to most of us.

That classmate who posted the photo said I was furiously shouting at them that afternoon. I was very mad, he wrote.

I laughed. How could I be so passionate about something that my memory has failed to store?

This is what eleven years does to all of us.

Morning rush

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Contrary to what most people say about early morning rush, it does not have only one version. Its depiction in popular culture: a man or a woman with a venti tumbler of brewed coffee in tow and a leather sling bag coiled around his or her neck running or brisk walking to work is, like what I said, only one of the many possible permutations of this ugly phrase.

I am yet to see a version of a guy teaching Literature. It must be like this,

He wakes up at five in the morning, languishes in his bed for the next 30 minutes checking his Facebook, emails, a couple of international news site, then a national news site. He then comes up with a dreary opinion about where the world is heading. Feeling a little morose because the real seems to be heading nowhere, he clambers out of his bed and on to the kitchen to make some coffee. While waiting for it percolate,

He snatches a book from a nearby shelf, reads a chapter or spends several minutes sitting on the toilet bowl hoping to finish a short story right at the same moment the reason he is seated on a toilet bowl is successfully concluded.

It’s six o’clock. He goes out to the balcony to take a glimpse of the rising sun turning the sky tangerine by the seconds until it bursts into a bright lemony hue. Then it’s just the dreaded blue.

He goes to the corner of his unit, drops like a log and executes with perfection 50 push-up reps. He stands up, catches his breath, and again drops like a log, this time with less attention to form, does 30 push-up reps.

He then rushes to pick a nice pen from among his more than 50 different pens stacked neatly somewhere close to his working table. He grabs a clean sheet of paper and begins writing down his thoughts. He imagines himself being in class, trying a little too hard to make himself believable before a group of students who seems unconvinced.

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It’s seven. The caffeine in his first cup proves insufficient, so he pours another cupful. Minutes after, his heart is on an overdrive. He can hardly think because the beating of his heart drowns whatever thought his brain is attempting to articulate. He writes organic, paralysis, invisibility, dichotomy, anathema, archetypal, and scribbles notes around the circled name of the protagonist.

At 7:30, he races to the shower, takes a quick bath, dries himself up, wears a shirt in muted color and pattern which is de riguer among professors of Literature, takes it off, and eventually decides on wearing a tight red shirt.

At eight, he appears all set.