15 Golden Rules of Filmmaking

2016/08/06

 

1. A DIRECTOR MUST BE A PEOPLE PERSON • Ninety-five percent of your job is handling personnel. People who’ve never done it imagine that it’s some act, like painting a Picasso from a blank canvas, but it’s not like that. Directing is mostly about handling people’s egos, vulnerabilities and moods. It’s all about trying to bring everybody to a boil at the right moment. You’ve got to make sure everyone is in the same film. It sounds stupidly simple, like ‘Of course they’re in the same film!’ But you see films all the time where people are clearly not in the same film together.

2. HIRE TALENTED PEOPLE • Your main job as a director is to hire talented people and get the space right for them to work in. I have a lot of respect for actors when they’re performing, and I expect people to behave. I don’t want to see people reading newspapers behind the camera or whispering or anything like that.

3. LEARN TO TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS • Ideally, you make a film up as you go along. I don’t mean that you’re irresponsible and you’ve literally got no idea, but the ideal is that you’ve covered everything—every angle—so that you’re free to do it any of those ways. Even on low-budget films, you have financial responsibilities. Should you fuck it up, you can still fall back on one of those ways of doing it. You’ve got Plan A to go back to, even though you should always make it with Plan B if you can. That way keeps it fresh for the actors, and for you.

4. FILM HAPPENS IN THE MOMENT • What’s extraordinary about film is that you make it on the day, and then it’s like that forever more. On that day, the actor may have broken up with his wife the night before, so he’s inevitably going to read a scene differently. He’s going to be a different person.

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I come from theater, which is live and changes every night. I thought film was going to be the opposite of that, but it’s not. It changes every time you watch it: Different audiences, different places, different moods that you’re in. The thing is logically fixed, but it still changes all the time. You have to get your head around that.

5. IF YOUR LAST FILM WAS A SMASH HIT, DON’T PANIC • I had an obsession with the story of127 Hours, which pre-dated Slumdog Millionaire. But I know—because I’m not an idiot—that the only reason [the studio] allowed us to make it was because Slumdog made buckets of money for them and they felt an obligation of sorts. Not an obligation to let me do whatever I want, but you kind of get a free go on the merry-go-round.

6. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TELL STORIES ABOUT OTHER CULTURES • You can’t just hijack a culture for your story, but you can benefit from it. If you go into it with the right attitude, you can learn a lot about yourself, as well as about the potential of film in other cultures, which is something we tried to do with Slumdog Millionaire… Most films are still made in America, about Americans, and that’s fine. But things are changing and I think Slumdog was evidence of that. There will be more evidence as we go on.

7. USE YOUR POWER FOR GOOD • You have so much power as director that if you’re any good at all, you should be able to use that to the benefit of everyone. You have so much power to shape the movie the way you want it that, if you’re on form and you’ve done your prep right and you’re ready, you should be able to make a decent job of it with the other people.

8. DON’T HAVE AN EGO • Your working process—the way you treat people, your belief in people—will ultimately be reflected in the product itself. The means of production are just as important as what you produce. Not everyone believes that, but I do. I won’t stand for anyone being treated badly by anyone. I don’t like anyone shouting or abusing people or anything like that. You see people sometimes who are waiting for you to be like that, because they’ve had an experience like that in the past, but I’m not a believer in that. The texture of a film is affected very much by the honor with which you make it.

9. MAKE THE TEST SCREENING PROCESS WORK FOR YOU • Test screenings are tough. It makes you nervous, exposing the film, but they’re very important and I’ve learned a great deal from using them. Not so much from the whole process of cards and the discussions afterwards, but the live experience of sitting in an auditorium with an audience that doesn’t know much about the story you’re going to tell them—I find that so valuable. I’ve learned not so much to like it, but to value how important it is. I think you have to, really.

10. COME TO THE SET WITH A LOOK BOOK • I always have a bible of photographs, images by which I illustrate a film. I don’t mean strict storyboards, I just mean for inspiration for scenes, for images, for ideas, for characters, for costumes, even for props. These images can come from anywhere. They can come from obvious places like great photographers, or they can come from magazine advertisements—anywhere, really. I compile them into a book and I always have it with me and I show it to the actors, the crew, everybody!

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11. EVEN PERFECT FORMULAS DON’T ALWAYS WORK • As a director your job is to find the pulse of the film through the actors, which is partly linked to their talent and partly to their charisma. Charisma is a bit indefinable, thank God, or else it would be prescribed in the way that you chemically make a new painkiller. In the movies—and this leads to a lot of tragedy and heartache—you can sometimes have the most perfect formula and it still doesn’t work. That’s a reality that we are all victims of sometimes and benefit from at other times. But if you follow your own instincts and make a leap of faith, then you can at least be proud of the way you did it.

12. TAKE INSPIRATION WHERE YOU FIND IT • When we were promoting Slumdog Millionaire, we were kind of side-by-side with Darren Aronofsky, who was also with Fox Searchlight and was promoting The Wrestler. I watched it and it was really interesting; Darren just decided that he was going to follow this actor around, and it was wonderful. I thought, ‘I want to make a film like that. I want to see if I can make a film like that.’ It’s a film about one actor. It’s about the monolithic nature of film sometimes, you know? It’s about a dominant performance.

13. PUSH THE PRAM • I think you should always try to push things as far as you can, really. I call it “pushing the pram.” You know, like a stroller that you push a baby around in? I think you should always push the pram to the edge of the cliff—that’s what people go to the cinema for. This could apply to a romantic comedy; you push anything as far as it will stretch. I think that’s one of your duties as a director… You’ll only ever regret not doing that, not having pushed it. If you do your job well, you’ll be amazed at how far the audience will go with you. They’ll go a long, long way—they’ve already come a long way just to see your movie!

14. ALWAYS GIVE 100 PERCENT • You should be working at your absolute maximum, all the time. Whether you’re credited with stuff in the end doesn’t really matter. Focus on pushing yourself as much as you can. I tend not to write, but I love bouncing off of writing; I love having the writers write and then me bouncing off of it. I bounce off writers the same way I bounce off actors.

15. FIND YOUR OWN “ESQUE” • A lesson I learned from A Life Less Ordinary was about changing a tone—I’m not sure you can do that. We changed the tone to a kind of Capra-esque tone, and whenever you do anything more “esque,” you’re in trouble. That would be one of my rules: No “esques.” Don’t try to Coen-esque anything or Capra-esque anything or Tarkovsky-esque anything, because you’ll just get yourself in a lot of trouble. You have to find your own “esque” and then stick to it.

Martial Law’s Saving Grace: A Vibrant Music Scene

2016/08/01

Quick. Before Alzheimer’s sets in…

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With September 21 just around the corner, my mind automatically rewinds to the best deal we ever got from martial rule: a fabulous ‘live’ music scene in Manila – as if, to compensate for lost freedoms.

Night after night, you had the finest Pinoy musicians performing at a nearby club – you heard right, every club was nearby since the phrase ‘traffic jam’ didn’t exist then.

So off you’d go to Rino’s on Roxas Boulevard to catch Boy Camara & Afterbirth performing their Elton John set – Honky Tonk Cat, Take Me to the Pilot, My Song…

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Immediately followed by the red-hot Emil Mijares & Time Machine with Celeste Legaspi and Anthony Castelo on vocals.

One sure thing, you ALWAYS got your money’s worth since three or four other bands were on the same bill including Pink & Purple or Bits & Pieces rocking the ‘stay in’ night away with solid tunes from Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Jethro Tull and Yes.

If soul music was more your bag, it’s off to Flame (down the road) with resident band Andre Wilson and the Howlers doing a string of James Brown hits and an occasional Tower of Power ditty.

A little farther down the road, Eduardo’s beckons with the Sangkatutak Band featuring Richard Merk and Ivy Violan.

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For a bit of senti music, your destination can only be Wells Fargo… where the New Minstrels held court.

Over at Romulus, you can catch the Downbeats with the Juan dela Cruz triumvirate of Pepe Smith, Wally Gonzalez & Mike Hanopol.

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Or you can detour to Calesa Bar at the Hyatt where Bong Penera & Batucada transformed every night into samba night.

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A few steps down to the basement finds you at Circuit with the Hi Jacks and drummer Eddie Dizon doing their take on Chicago hits.

Your ‘pilgrimage’ wouldn’t be complete without dropping by Pension Pilipina in Ermita for a dose of Circus (wow, Boy Katindig… Walter Calinawan… Gerry Paraiso… Paco Gamboa… Rudy Lozano… Ray-an Fuentes… Basil Valdez… Richard Tann… Hajji Alejandro… Pat Castillo… Jacqui Magno… Ceres Jacinto… and two Fil-ams from SFO) who’ll make you drool with a heartstopping Earth, Wind & Fire set.

If you’re feeling extravagant and really want to impress a date, the only place to be seen in is at Third Eye (by the side of Luneta Hotel) with Philly group, Masters of Time, alternating with local rock band Red Fox. Almost every night, you’ll catch a glimpse of blaxploitation actress Pam Grier dancing the night away. A special treat for patrons was Sam Peak, sax player of Masters of Time (and future member of Philadelphia’s MFSB), jamming with Red Fox. Imagine the sound of the Stones/Hendrix punctuated and pummeled by an Afro-American sax player as big and menacing as Muhammad Ali.

Those were the golden days of Pinoy ‘live’ music when bands were diverse, daring, distinctive… long before the scene became boring and… turned comatose… to the tune of “Happy”.

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How to Create an Unforgettable Song

2016/07/30

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First, the most important thing.

Don’t buy a book on how to create an unforgettable song.

Chances are, majority of the authors of these books have never come close to creating the shadow of a hit tune (even a minor one) in their lives.

So no surprise, there isn’t a single “golden book” that skilled songwriters embrace as THE source of guidance and divine inspiration.

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In other endeavors, something akin to a “bible” exists.

Books on “positioning” or “how to advertise” – for example – for the advertising industry.

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And there’s Syd Field’s iconic books for screenwriters eager to be bestowed that elusive green light.

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But expert songwriting?

Zilch. Nada. Zero. Wala.

The best source of information on how to craft unforgettable songs?

People who have crafted unforgettable songs.

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Or musicmakers like me who attack the activity with amazing perseverance. (I have been writing songs since God wore short pants.)

With hundreds of hits and misses, I have learned that there are things you can do to minimize the misses.

I now propose to impart this knowledge to songwriters (veterans, as well as ‘would be’) who genuinely want to improve their craft.

If you learn something from my discourse… that’s great.

If you don’t… at least, you’ve been given a starting point to correct or improve any flawed theory.

The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away…

  1. A song is a 3-minute movie. It should have a beginning, a middle and an ending. And like all good movies, the story should be riveting.

If you write a song about waking up in the morning… taking breakfast… and watching TV, it may interest you. And you alone. Ho-hum.

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If you merely string nice rhymes together… but have a generic, wallpaper, worn-out topic… you’ll lose everyone’s attention faster than you can say “boring”.

Like all good movies, a song should be endowed with conflict – something that gets in the way of a character achieving something… whether it’s a guy much handsomer than you who’s getting all the attention of your ‘crush’… or a bully in school who’s tormenting you like crazy… or a girl who will only entertain suitors from La Salle.

In my song “Pers Lab”, the listener experiences the excruciating pain of a young woman who falls for a guy who doesn’t even know she existed.

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In this heart-wrenching song “Makita Ka Lang Muli”, listeners are slowly conditioned to sympathize with the main characters who are now ‘attached’ but desperately yearn to link up with someone new (or a loved one from the past, perhaps) who may have unintentionally ignited the proverbial flame: “Wala sa plano ko ang umibig sa iyo… may nauna na sa puso ko”.


Then the conflict is introduced: “Pero bakit ganito ang puso ko? Sinisigaw ang pangalan mo…”. Shades of ‘it’s complicated’.

So we learn that what we have has progressed beyond infatuation… it has grown into an obsession.

  1. The title of the song is the summation of the story. If crafted well, the title is the AUTOMATIC takeaway of the listener after hearing the song for the very first time.

To make sure this happens, I normally situate the title of the song in the chorus part. Something that can be repeated (but in moderation please). In this case, “Makita ka lang muli… makapiling ng sandali… ang laking saya ko… makita ka lang muli”.

Now that wasn’t annoying at all… but quickly summarized the “movie” and etched the title of the song in the listener’s mind.

Reserve the best and most memorable melody of your masterpiece for the title. You will be amply rewarded by people humming the song. In great numbers. “Bongga Ka, ‘day… Bongga Ka, ‘day… Sige lang… Sige lang… Itaas ang kilay”.

  1. Write the way you talk. Your song will seem more real, more sincere.

And be inventive.

Scratch the phrase “it’s never been done before” from your vocabulary. (Using “tagyawat” and “behh buti nga” in a song was never done before… but I took a little risk and it paid off… handsomely. I have since added “labatiba” to the list despite the mild protestations of a singer.)

Instead of merely saying “I can’t forget you” in our featured tune… I opted to declare: “Pangalan mo’y sa aking labi… magdamag binubulong – kahit ito’y mali”. So the “cannot- forget-you” part was established but the added dimension of a tinge of guilt was introduced as well. It makes for song characters that are more fragile, more human… more “like us”.

  1. Disarm and charm.Marami na akong nahalikan… marami pang labing matitikman.” Be as unpredictable as possible… put twists and turns a’la Hitchcock in your song.

One of my unreleased songs talks about a young girl’s love for her much, much older boyfriend. Her litany goes, “I love you… kahit mas bagay ka sa mommy ko… isang mama ka na noong hindi pa ako tao… I love you… I love you… I love you PO”.

Just one two-lettered word spelled the difference between just another song… and a blazing ‘don’t-you-wish-you-wrote-that’ homerun.

  1. Putting the ‘loved one’ on a pedestal. This has got to be the easiest, most popular route to success in songwriting.

Most of the songs the world loves follow this path. For example: “Just the Way You are”, “You are the Sunshine of my Life”, “Ikaw ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko”, “My Cherie Amour”, “My Love”, “Thank You For Your Love”… and I can go on forever.

Your tune should never be shy about showering positive and glowing thoughts about the person the song is pertaining to.

The listener almost ALWAYS subliminally puts himself/herself in the place of the singer’s object of affection. So it’s a big turn on when the singer professes something as romantic as this: “mga mata’y ipipikit… didilat nang saglit… sasaya ng husto… makita ka lang muli”.

6 . If you ain’t got a good melody, you ain’t got a song.

Everything we’ve talked about so far are of no consequence… if your melody sucks. If you have a melody in mind, give it the third degree. Listen to it again and again and again – at least fifty times.

If you don’t get tired of listening to it… if you can whistle it effortlessly… if it gets better with every replay and minor tweaking… you have got a hit in your hands.

The best melodies are simple and heartwarming… but never sophomoric or moronic. Like most Beatle songs, they have the uncanny ability to haunt you in a good way.

Never force a complicated, hard-to-remember tune to become nice and likeable. It will never happen. Ever.

7 . Finally, be unhappy. Trash your initial drafts. Write and rewrite. Tune and retune your melody.

And practice, practice, practice.

A great songwriter never stops honing his skills and perfecting his craft.

Think of it this way: you want to be a champion driver like Schumacher… but you only drive on Sundays – when there’s no traffic. In your village.

That’s like putting a huge unmissable sign in front of your dreams.

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Birth of My Lumpia

2016/07/17

I know exactly when it started.

June 23, 2014.

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I was craving for the fresh lumpia I used to enjoy when I was in high school. A “garlic-smothered-must-have” fresh lumpia at a hole-in-the-wall stall in Quiapo… where I’d hang out while waiting for the next screening of a sexy movie at Palace theater – which would require me to present my fake cedula at the ticketing booth.

No cedula (to prove you’re 18 years old and above), no 3-second glimpse of a nipple on the screen – the allowed nudity in those puritanical days. Pre-YouPorn.

So I asked my office messenger to buy me the fresh lumpia offered by a nearby fastfood chain.

First bite… i hated it.

I wanted a savory treat – not dessert. The lumpia was sweet and bland and wrapped in some sissy crepe-like wrapper.

In my disappointment, I had my messenger drop everything he was doing and take the LRT to Quiapo to buy the real stuff.

The 2 1/2 hour wait was worth it.

The Quiapo fresh lumpia and its distinctive flavor exploded in my mouth… and heightened my resolve to never again entrust my cravings to any fastfood chain.

It also lit my desire to replicate the delicious experience for other people – in my own terms.

I went to my sister who has a Tesda-like test kitchen and explained my dilemma. (The same kitchen where she “invented” the now-famous Pepi Cubano.)

She felt my pain and promised to reverse-engineer the prized Quiapo lumpia.

She cautioned me however that my beloved lumpia had some ingredients that needed to be replaced because they spoil easily – as in,  an ingredient like papaya will make the lumpia less desirable after 4 hours only.

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Faster than you can say “panis”, 4000 times.

I said I trusted her explicitly and knew she would come up with something better.

Let the taste tests begin.

After the ingredients and formula were agreed upon, we had willing “respondents” take our informal taste tests.

People who never tasted that Quiapo fresh lumpia before.

People who hated fresh lumpia.

People who would eat anything that’s for free.

The formula kept changing… more of that, less of this… the months turned to years… but for me to agree to a “good enough” fresh lumpia was not good enough. The bar was raised to a level where our homegrown fresh lumpia had to be BETTER than the Quiapo peg.

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Then… success.

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On a bright sunny day in July, the lumpia gods looked kindly upon us.

We finally got everything right and had a winning product that can be eaten with gusto and will keep for at least 4 days.

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The formula was a no-brainer:

  1. the right healthy ingredients (Baguio beans, tofu, cabbage, shrimps, bean sprouts, peanuts, lettuce and lots of garlic) – no papaya
  2. wrapped minutes before it is handed to the “consumer” to assure freshness
  3. endowed with a brand name full of imagery “Chinita Fresh Lumpia” – not fastfood, not quite Chinese
  4. a reasonable price tag (introductory P75/per extremely satisfactory piece)
  5. an endearing slogan “Isang kagat, ikaw limot pangalan mo…”

Since its introduction a few days ago, Chinita Fresh Lumpia has triggered a frenzy-like rush among fresh lumpia lovers  to check out if it is the right stuff.

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The verdict is still on deliberation mode and YOU can be part of the jury.

Just call 0977-7234315 for your Chinita Fresh Lumpia fix. You can pick up your orders at our Cocina or have it delivered (within Makati only).

Just make sure you have a post-it sticker (with your name on it) on your forehead while you enjoy your Chinita.

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Insurance.

Just in case you forget your name.

 

5 Priceless Lessons Ad People can learn from DU30

2016/07/10

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Be singleminded. Focus on the most meaningful concern of the audience and “own” it. Since Day 1 of his campaign, DU30 has centered his messages on illegal drugs – how he hates the menace and the culprits causing the problem. And how he intends to lick it.

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Be unpredictable: go counterflow. Dazzle by doing the least expected.

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Be the “real thing”. Your audience can spot a fake kilometers away.

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Be arresting. Snatch people’s attention and make it worthwhile for them to keep listening.

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Be fearless. You have very limited opportunities to make a dent, an impression – kidnap each opportunity.

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Starts rolling on July 15…

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Not Just… Another Story

2016/07/10

We kept hearing rave reviews about this new resto that’s 5 minutes from our house.

So close on Daanghari that it held the promise of relief from dining at the traffic-choked area of Commerce Avenue in Alabang and eliminated the need to zip down to millennial-infested BGC.

But when we went to Another Story’s opening night, it was filled to the rafters and they couldn’t make room for me and my dinner date – even if we were willing to happily go through a 2-hour wait.

Three weeks later, we got lucky.

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One of two entrances to Another Story

Hard to faithfully describe the place: it feels like Disneyland with all the bright lights but has touches of a Martin Scorsese mafia movie.

One cursory casing of the joint will convince you that the well-traveled owner must have picked up trinkets and ideas in all her stops around the world.

The look of Another Story is mind-boggling and obviously the product of a left-minded, artistic entrepreneur who is a closet interior decorator.

You be the judge.

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Every body has a story to tell – the owner tells hers at the foyer

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Still figuring out how much the airlines levied for all these treasures

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Roomy and classy ambience

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Must have taken ages to decide what to put and what not to

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Chairs with uncoordinated colors – like Bibeth Orteza’s shoeses

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Quotes plaster the whole place – corny at first, but addictive

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As you are taken to your seat, the route is filled with temptations

Famished and excited for more surprises ahead, we gave our orders.

Caesar’s salad to share. Tribeca clam chowder to share. Prawns thermidor with black rice for my date. And a simple (or, should I say sinful) eggs benedict for me.

Did the food do justice to the gorgeous interiors?

You bet. We were so busy wolfing down our orders that we forgot to take the customary food shots.

But not to worry.

We took a shot of one of the best parts of the meal.

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Salted caramel cheesecake with the texture of leche flan

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The final touch – the delicious house coffee served with passion

It was a perfect meal and it didn’t cost us an arm and a leg.

More than just another restaurant, Another Story is a destination… a place to feel good and reward one’s self for working much too hard.

My only beef is… not with Another Story.

It’s with the way the restroom of Manny Villar’s Evia Lifestyle Center is constructed… the toilet floor is one inch lower than the level of the mall. So as you enter thinking  of the great meal you’ve just had, you’re in for a rude jolt.

But… that’s another story.

ANOTHER STORY is on the Second Floor, Evia Lifestyle Center, Daang Hari Road, Almanza, Las Piñas City

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It’s rolling on July 15…

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Kitakits na lang, Serr!

2016/06/24
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Ilang tulog na lang at balik na sa pagiging ordinaryong mamamayan si Pres Benigno Aquino III.
 
Matagal na niyang pinakahihintay ito.
 
Sa totoo lang, ayaw naman niya talagang maging pangulo… pero alam n’yo naman ang “tadhana” – pag nakialam sa takbo ng buhay, siya ang nasusunod.
 
Atat na atat siguro si PNoy na mabalikan ang matagal na niya’ng nami-miss.
 
Andyan ang Astro-Vision sa Megamall, ang kaniyang paboritong tambayan pag naghahanap ng bagong video game o DVD.
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Medyo bad trip lang na ngayong hindi na siya presidente: kailangang siya’y pumila na rin – hindi na niya maiiwasan ang patpat ng banana-Q inspection ng sikyu pag pasok sa mall.
 
Kailangang magpaikot-ikot na siya sa paghanap ng parking space sa mall.
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Okay lang siguro ito pagka’t alam naman nating mahilig magpaharurot ng kotse si PNoy.
 
Libre na rin si PNoy na gumimik gabi-gabi at makinig sa mga banda. Problema lang, pag pinakanta siya sa stage… kailangang mag-ensayo ng bagong kanta pagka’t ang paborito niyang “Estudyante Blues” ay likha ni Ka Freddie Aguilar na ngayo’y maka-DU30 na.
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May kantang akma sa kaniya lalo na ngayong maraming miyembro ng Partidong Liberal ay bumalimbing at nagtutungo sa partidio ni DU30. Ang awit ay “Saan Na Nga Bang Barkada?”, nilikha ni Jim Paredes, isang ka-dilaw.
 
At kailangang pag-aralan niya ang kanta na walang harmony o chu-chu-wah pagka’t ang mga dating sumisegunda sa kaniya sa pag-awit – si Ogie at si Noel – ay mahirap na hagilapin ngayong wala nang gig na maaasahan.
 
Kailangang tigilan mo na rin ang paninigarilyo. Pagbabawal yan sa maraming lugar ni President-elect Duterte – lalo na sa loob ng eroplano kung saang bawal na bawal ang masamang usok.
 
Konting suggestion, pre. Tutal may konting oras pa. Maglabas ka na ng executive order: wag mo nang ipagbawal ang paggamit ng wang-wang.
 
Ikaw rin ang mahihirapan pag naipit sa trapik. Sigurado namang may mga frienship na natitira si Gen Purisima sa PNP na pagbibigiyan ka at mag-aasign ng hagad escort para sa iyo.
 
At huling pabilin: maghanap ka na ng tunay na magmamahal sa iyo. Mamahalin ka hindi porket ikaw ay dating pangulo. Mamahalin ka hindi porket may kaunting kayamanan kang natabi. 
 
Ngunit mamahalin ka kahit… kapatid mo si Kris.
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 Hula who. Ang isang matagumpay na negosyante at ang isang nanalong kandidato ay may parehong-parehong tipo pagdating sa kanilang Prince Charming: kailangan ay matangkad, medyo mestisuhin, at hindi pa naka-usli ang tiyan.
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Huling hirit. Hangang hanga kami sa artistang si Sunshine Dizon. Diumano ay nagloko ang mister niya at pumatol sa iba. Pero ang sobrang sakit na naramdaman niya sa pagtataksil ay hindi nilihim na lang… nilabas at binahagi ni Sunshine ang kaniyang hinanakit sa social media at may kasama bang pangako/banta sa mister “No Annulment”.
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Talentless? What to do.

2016/06/21

by Josh Spilker

What If You Have No Talent?

Here are your options.

credit: stewart lamb cromar from the noun project

If you’re like me, you are a talentless hack. You have little to no talent.

(If you’re NOT a talentless hack and do have talent, skip to the end).

Nothing seems to come easy when other people seem to fly by. You can’t quite do the things you want to do in the way you want to them. You try and nothing seems to work. You thought you wanted to do something one day, only to realize the next day that you didn’t.

You know how to fail. A lot.

If that sounds like you, here are your options:

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1. Give Up.

You are a talentless hack so you should give up.

This is a pretty good option, especially in the short run. Giving up feels so good. (I prefer giving up to quitting, because quitting I think is more strategic or something.) But for real giving up? That means turning in a whole new direction. That means not looking back. I mean, I thought I was going to be a lawyer once. But I gave that up (though sometimes it rears its ugly head every now and then). I’m not on the path to be a lawyer. I’ve never applied to any law schools. I’m (fairly certain…I think?) not going to be a lawyer.

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2. Admit That You Have No Talent

You are a talentless hack, and you need to admit that you have no talent.

Go ahead and do that. I’ll wait…

..

.

Now breathe.

Did you feel that? That’s sweet release. The pressure is off. You’ve admitted it.

I’ll tell it to you straight: some people have more talent than you.

They are…

Smarter.

Funnier.

Prettier.

Faster.

We could get jealous and loathe ourselves for all the ways we lack…or we could admit it and go on.

Even your heroes struggled and had day jobs (probably). Very few people just arrive (those are the prodigies…and are annoying).

And the OTHER truth is that you may not make it. What really is going to happen is that “making it” won’t seem like you thought it would.

Especially when you see how much talent other people have and then how you stack up. So what if you’re not the funniest comedian? The most eloquent writer? The most stunning artist? So what do you next?

Give up? (Go back to #1) or…

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3. Keep “It” As Your Hobby

You are a talentless hack, and you should keep “it” as your hobby.

“It” is something you can watch and follow and not necessarily make money from. And that’s okay. If you are talentless (like me), keeping a hobby is fine. There doesn’t have to be good and bad in the equation. Actually, discerning between good and bad messes up the equation. Why does it have to be either? Why can’t it just be?

Judging yourself that way steals the joy from the hobby, from the…dare I say…passion.

So maybe some of your hobbies are just meant to stay like that. Maybe if you’re talentless, your passion is just supposed to stay a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re not failing. You’re a person with an interest. That’s important.

A word on making your hobby into your job

Ah, yes. But we live in an incredible age (don’t we?) that we’re still figuring out. Can’t you just feel the technology in the air?

Possibility.

Wonder.

And then wondering — what if…if only…maybe I could…

Look at SUCH here AND SUCH over there. They’re making money from their hobby. Maybe you could.

BUT…that’s a different talent. Did you catch that? Much of the legwork to make your hobby make money takes a different talent. It takes some business acumen. A little marketing know-how. Some networking and entrepreneurship.

You may be actually be more talented at the hobby than SUCH AND SUCH, but maybe they’re more talented at the marketing and the money and the business.

Whoa.

And here’s something else that us talentless hacks hate: they may have more than one talent. ACK. That means you have to give up (go back to #1!) or…

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4. Work Harder

You are a talentless hack, and you must work harder.

Oh boy. This is the part I’m not good at. It will be harder for people like you and me since we are talentless hacks. And it’s doubly unfair since some people have not one, but two or three more talents than us.

You could work harder. And maybe you’ll do a little better than you would have if you didn’t work harder, but will you crush it? Probably not. Otherwise, you’d be a prodigy. And I don’t think we can all be prodigies.

So here’s another option that many people don’t tell you about…

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5. …Don’t Work Harder

You are a talentless hack, and you don’t need to work harder.

What if you don’t work harder? Is that the end of the world?

No. Did you know at a certain level practice doesn’t even matter anymore? That the 10,000 hours rule helps you get better but not all the way better.Check it out here.

You could still pursue something you’re interested in and not be the best at it. There are plenty of doctors around who are awesome but not the best of the best of the best. Lots of business owners who are not Unicorn Kings. And they have a pretty nice life. Not quadra-billionaires (is that a word?), but living and enjoying things.

You could make a living from your interest in art and design without showcasing in MOMA or at the Whitney. You could make some money copywriting and not be published in the New York Times. You could code without trying to launch your own app or start a business. It’s totally fine, because you’ve learned to…

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6. Develop A Skill

You are a talentless hack, and you need to develop a skill.

People will hire you even if you’re a talentless hack, because you have a skill. Sometimes that skill will be in something you wish you were more talented in or it could be something completely unrelated.

For example, I can’t play basketball professionally. I’m short and can’t shoot. But I love basketball. I could’ve maybe just maybe worked for a team as a business analyst or something. I guess I still could. That’s an example of part of an interest (basketball) corresponding to a skill I picked up (business analyst).

Sometimes our interests and skills correspond, sometimes they don’t.

I’m sure there are some people who are passionate about teaching. Other people realize it was a skill and they decided to pick it up because they were generally interested in it.

Many times our skills precede passion. The professional smart person Cal Newport even said this:

“…we should begin by systematically developing rare and valuable skills. Once we’ve caught the attention of the marketplace, we can then use these skills as leverage to direct our career toward the general lifestyle traits that resonate with us.”

(BTW, he said something similar here too).

Sometimes people are TALENTED in something they’re not that passionate about. Those people are super annoying if you are passionate about something they’re talented in. But then they often lack the skills to make it happen. They decide to not work hard and get by on talent alone. Which is also super annoying.

Does any of this make sense?

If not, go back to #1.

You don’t have to be passionate about something to be talented at it. And you shouldn’t always pursue your passion because you might not be talented in it.

It’s okay, you’ll survive if your “passion” stays as a hobby.

It’s okay, you’ll survive if your “passion” become something you can monetize slightly but not be the best at.

It’s okay, you can find and/or develop a skill that you don’t mind. That will give you some freedom (hopefully!) later on.

What if you’re NOT a talentless hack?

I’m sure you’ll figure something out.

Gonna miss the best meme topic ever

2016/06/20

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5 Possible Scientific Explanations for Déjà Vu

2016/05/30

By: Almie Rose@APOCALYPSTICK

 

Have you ever had Déjà vu, the feeling that you’ve experienced what you’re currently feeling, before?

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Jokes aside, Déjà vu (which means “already seen” in French) is a phenomenon that approximately two-thirds of the population has experienced. And no one knows exactly why, though science has provided us with a few theories. Here are 5 of them.

1. Drugs

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But we’re not talking about an acid trip. One study, posted in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, found that a 39-year-old male experienced severe déjà vu after taking a combination of amantadine and phenylpropanolamine when being treated for the flu. Aside from the influenza, he was an otherwise healthy man. Once he stopped taking the medications, so did the intense déjà vu feelings, the study reported.

2. Your brain is taking a “short cut.”

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This theory, written about in Psychology Today, posits that your brain is trying to help you out when you’re in a new situation by taking a “short cut” right to your long-term memory. They describe it as a “fleeting malfunction” between your long and short-term circuits in your brain.

It’s like when your phone autocorrects something to a word you frequently use, except you didn’t actually want to use that word.

Scorpion Dagger texting autocorrect eh?

When your brain skips straight to storing things in long-term memory, that’s when you get the feeling of already doing something or already being somewhere before.

3. Your dreams are creeping into your waking life.

Psychology Today points out that many people feel a sense of familiarity in dreams, even in unfamiliar situations and surroundings. For example, you know that coworker who comes up to you and says something like, “Man, I had the weirdest dream last night, I was hanging out with Tom Cruise, but it didn’t look at all like Tom Cruise, but somehow I knew it was Tom Cruise, and we were at my uncle’s new house, but I haven’t even been to my uncle’s new house, but somehow, I knew it was my uncle’s house, and…” and you’re just like,

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on the inside? Anyway, it’s that dreamlike feeling of familiarity that also lends itself to the feelings we have when we have déjà vu.

4. Your rhinal cortex is acting up.

The hell’s a rhinal cortex? It’s an area in your brain that’s sort of associated with memory. Some scientists refer to it as the “gatekeeper of the declarative memory system.” Its main function is to detect familiarity in your surroundings. The theory that links rhinal cortex with déjà vu is that when you experience déjà vu, the part of your brain that accesses memory, the hippocampus, isn’t activated, but the rhinal cortex is. Why? We don’t know. But it would explain why we feel something is familiar without actually having a full-fledged memory of it.

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Because no one really knows when someone is going to get déjà vu, it makes studying it a little unpredictable. But scientists found that those with epilepsy experienced déjà vu right before they had seizures, which made epileptics good déjà vu subjects in studies. In one such study, researchers were able to induce déjà vu in their subjects through the rhinal cortex and not through the hippocampus.

5. We’re in a parallel universe.

whoa

Well, sort of. In a video for Big Think — titled “What Is Déjà Vu?” — theoretical physicist Michio Kaku talked about how déjà vu is most likely a form of memory glitch, but says it raises the question, “Is it ever possible, on any scale, to perhaps flip between different universes? And the answer there is actually rather unclear. We physicists believe, for example, that there is really a multiverse that exists even within inside our living room.”

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He brought up an example by Steven Weinberg, theoretical physicist and Noble Prize winner, of listening to a certain radio station, like BBC radio, in your living room. The radio is tuned into a certain frequency. But there are other frequencies in your living room like Radio Cuba, Top 40 rock stations, Radio Moscow — but the radio is only tuned into BBC radio. And that’s comparative to quantum physics.

“We consist of atoms,” Dr. Kaku explains. “Our atoms vibrate. But they no longer vibrate in unison with other universes. So in other words, déjà vu is probably simply a fragment of our brain eliciting memories and fragments of previous situations. However, in quantum physics, they really are in some sense parallel universes surrounding us. The problem is, we can’t enter them… We’re no longer vibrating in unison with them.”

We’re just not tuned into the frequency, but we know it’s around us. Physicists believe that could be another source of déjà vu.

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