Brand managers on TV

“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







Another train ride

I dread the thought of being mercilessly hurled back to the daily grind, of being pathetically celebratory at every precious moment I am able to save for rest and for those short but sweet moments I spend with babe. But while I still have remaining time, a minutiae, to be happy about being a free man, I decided to might as well live the remaining time as if the next minute were to be the end of the world.

Though, I admit I miss running toward train doors about to close in on me, cursing inconsiderate people who simply stand and hum a tune at the right side of the escalator on a rush hour, rehearsing in my mind the lines I will deliver in front of my class, looking sweaty and disheveled at 7:30 am, and using a bunch of photocopies to wipe the perspiration on my forehead. There’s something about the morning rush that heightens all my sensory perceptions, except two. All these running and chasing after the wind imbue in me bionic eyes, ears, nose, while they blunt my taste buds and sense of touch. I am good at dodging people walking and running against my direction, I can hear hushed conversations full of intrigues between strangers, or smell the stink of fellow commuters, but my taste buds do not discriminate between bland and tasty and having been exposed to the very tight proximity of other people who are as rough and acrimonious as I, feeling the pain or discomfort, physical or otherwise, has been completely shut off from my system.

This afternoon, on my way to Katipunan, that comfortable train ride reminded me of the more exciting ones I’ve had and piqued my desires for more. I am looking forward to new experiences.

I am excited. Always.

I hope to employ irony, impeccably, in my blogging soon.

Negotiated infidelity

I just love the phrase and the cleverness of its construction that gives rise to multifarious nuances. This I got from an Australian woman who practices this with her boyfriend. They were featured in one of National Geographic’s Taboo series. Although it takes a pailful of yellow guts to be able to swallow a relational contract like this, it seemed to me quite plausible (and worth considering). Nevertheless, I, of course, do not see myself a participant in this very pragmatic if not out-rightly libertine view on sex and human relation.

Negotiated infidelity at its very core works something like this: Both man and woman in a romantic relationship (man-man, woman-woman are other possibilities) can have sex with other people so long as the either of them has full knowledge of the encounter and so long as there is no intimacy (i.e., (as defined by the Australian woman whose collagen-stuffed lips twitched while explaining this part) cuddling, spooning, and sleeping next to the third party participant). It has to be only just about sex and must not go farther than blissful orgasm.

I believe some would argue that the phrase is reeking with parallel irony, impossible in fact, that is, if we stick to the strictest definition of ‘fidelity’ (faithfulness and loyalty), but one cannot deny that the concept has merits worth looking-into. With an almost clinical explanation, the woman (apologies if I kept on repeating ‘the woman’, I did not get her name, not that I think she’s a lose woman therefore ought to be burned at the stake) said that monogamy is not natural for men. So instead of crying in the corner and blaming the world for her failed past relations, negotiated infidelity gave her a renewed outlook on life. Deeply satisfied, her boyfriend and she regularly invite people to their place to have sex with either of them. Her boyfriend reads book  in the living room while she’s being humped by a man she met in a bar a week before, or she polishes her toenails in the other room while her boyfriend and a bespectacled woman are on their way to seventh heaven (if such exists).

I love how the phrase sounds and the darkness it conjures while its meaning is rather too clear for the word to qualify as a legitimate euphemism.

I am looking for ways to answer a lot of questions that bother me these days, questions I do not know exactly what, much less phrase them articulately, and along came negotiated infidelity. Not that these questions have to do with matters concerning my sex life (or romantic life), though some of them have, what the idea taught me is that having our minds boxed in well-defined compartments can be brain-deadening. It’s a fresh perspective that came from a totally old reality ordinary people in a relationship confront.

Infidelity is taboo in a civilized society. It is taboo, I think, because it challenges the pair groups that have been the very foundation of human societies which are fundamentally based on monogamous heterosexual union. However, the world does not keep itself from changing. It constantly evolves into something completely unrecognizable to those who lived decades ago. I am not saying this is a better alternative to the constricting monogamy for I know man is capable of coming up with novel ideas that work without compromising his tightly-held values.

In the mean time, negotiated infidelity is sort of exciting and interesting.

The art of walking-out gracefully

Based on my extensive experience as a student way back in college, not so many professors can pull off a dramatic walk-out quite impeccably. Most of them either overdo the actual walk-out making it more comic than serious thereby missing the intent and losing the message, or nuance it too much (probably in the hopes of doing it ‘intellectually’) that students fail to perceive that their professor just did a walk-out.

A professor should neither exaggerate as most students nowadays are constantly exposed to things being blown out of their usual proportion, nor should he be too subtle as I have a lingering suspicion that most of students of our time have been wired by the contemporary world not to sense or feel sarcasm, irony, paradox, oxymoron, and other literary devices of similar category, a result of repeated non-use of their right parahippocampal gyrus, a part of the brain that is also absent among people suffering from Down’s Syndrome.

So walking-out must still be governed, as in life’s other aspects, by moderation because, trite as it may sound, treading in moderation still remains the order of the day.

But the question How is it properly done then? remains.

Last Friday, I orchestrated my first ever walkout from a class I teach in Ateneo.

A walk-out should first and foremost be triggered by a reasonable stimulus/i–it can be noise, high ambient temperature and high humidity, the students’ unruly behavior (to understate matters), an LCD projector that fails to show any image other than a mocking blue screen or a major technical malfunction, or a combination of several of these.

I must emphasize that redundant warnings should have also been issued, or that all possible means to manage the situation must have already been exhausted, only then can a walk-out be done or justified. If not, students will view this as the professor’s hubris, his arbitrariness, and a mere manifestation of his immaturity (something that he should have already outgrown upon being recruited to teach in a university, and a reputable one at that).

After repeated warnings, a few second of silence is needed to gain enough buffer time, but this is merely used to buy enough time or to establish a quiet but heavy atmosphere. Here, the professor makes a crucial decision whether to calmly gather his things and leave unceremoniously or to throw his ammunition of bloody expletives at the void before him that separates him from the rest of the class before he leaves unceremoniously. Although, expletives, are inelegant even if used sparingly in most of the instances, some teachers I know way back my student days in UP can exclaim vulgarities with precision, accuracy and undeniable class notwithstanding the drama.

Most, however, fell flat and flop. But whatever path the professor takes is bound to define him forever in his students’ minds.

Finally, the climax, the walking-out itself, should be done with surgical speed. Any delay is unforgivable; sauntering is a sign of indecisiveness. The professor should do it with a lightning speed without having to look like he’s in a hurry or running. It should have an effect like he’s never been there at all, that he was an apparition.

I’d suggest this be done not at all or only if very necessary. The effects of walking out are found in the extreme ends of the spectrum. Either he’ll get what he wants, if done with dignity, or he’ll lose everything, if done sloppily, to say the least.

On elegance

Seated in the end-most seat at the back part of the auditorium of Insituto Cervantes in Manila, I had a clearer, albeit the small cinema in the Instituto was unlighted as in all other self-respecting cinemas, glimpses of people who were seated in front of me. I went there earlier, catching a 5:30 pm LRT1 ride from Gil Puyat to United Nations amid a heavy afternoon downpour.

On Wednesday of last week, I got hold of an announcement, printed in the Business Mirror, on the Spanish Embassy’s annual El Dia Espanol (Day of the Spanish Language). Piqued by the activities lined up by the Instituto, I braved the impending rain which later fell into an itinerant early monsoon rainfall. I arrived at the Instituto soaked and a bit disorientated because of drippings from umbrellas of other less careful commuters and the usual slaughter house-like scene inside these crammed coaches.

The perceived very intellectual atmosphere in the Instituto, several meters away from the UN Avenue train station, gave me a warm welcoming.

Several groups of Filipinos, mostly students and young professionals and some tourist-looking Caucasians were conversing with each other in Spanish and English and occasional Tagalog in a small cafe a few steps from the metal-detecting machine. I do not speak Spanish neither do I understand the language, which is just too bad.

At first, I thought the place was reeking with heat coming from the usual European (specifically Parisian) coffee shop debates on semiotic, critique of post-structuralism or the discussion on metaphor and the primacy of irony over other devices in chapter 4 of Aristotle’s Poetics. Overhearing their small chit-chats, my impressions fell flat on their faces and mine, and the supposed intellectual atmosphere collapsed into heaps of commonplace subjects of small talks. The topics of their discussion were of unlofty kind, mostly mundane concerns about the heralding of a new brand of politics that comes with the election of Mr. Aquino to the highest seat in the land, the recovery of the national economy vis-a-vis the ‘rigged’ figures proudly claimed by the Arroyo administration, the sorry state of Philippine education system, and some students from, I gathered, St Benilde, who were exchanging banalities about the rigor and excitement of their college life.

I sipped my coffee fast and escaped immediately from the very heavy atmosphere in the lobby. I ran to the small auditorium and chose the most isolated location because I wanted to enjoy my movie, Galatasaray – Depor. I half suspected it was going to be in Spanish (of course!) and that subtitles, if there were any, would be in Spanish. I was right.

I trusted that motion picture is an art of universal value that transcends cultural boundaries. And that for somebody who studied and teaches communication, my education prepared me to tackle kinesics head on, understanding the story based on the actions, the varying tones of the characters’ voices in delivering their lines, and the subtleties of their interactions. Or so I thought.

Until a group of people, the same group I tried to escape from in the cafeteria came in and joined in communal experience of film-viewing. One of them, the most brazen, blurted “Ay, walang English subtitles.” I do not see why people in this country have the penchant of stating, and stating out loud, what is obvious.

But the fact that these people have the audacity to advertise their stupidity like a badge of honor is even more horrifying.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people, whom I assume to be impeccably conversant in Spanish, made it sure that people like me who understand no Spanish word except pronto, puerta, or puta knew where to locate ourselves in the greater scheme of things. These people who have studied Spanish, the younger, over-eager undergraduate, especially, who were part of that group in question, laughed twice as hard and as loudly as one would normally laugh when faced with a funny scene or line in the film.

Their stylized way of laughing signified the void that separates the Spanish literate and the non-literate, which was fine with me. They were more than willing to announce their extensive knowledge of the Spanish language, complete with understanding of the subtle idioms and irony.

But this is an act that leaves a bad aftertaste. It’s inelegant.