Sunday, March 22, 2020

Resonance - A Short Story

How about a little reading and a little food for thought while most of the world is under lockdown or quarantine from the threat of covid-19? This is a story that I've had in my head since last year -- I just never had time to put it down into actual words until now. Of course, it's now been influenced by more recent events. 


Resonance

By lordcloudx

Aethernet Servers #writing: March 16, 2030
Jin:  Hi, anyone around?
Karen-chan: S’up, Jin? Usually don’t see you around these parts.
Jin: Hey, Karen! Uh… yeah. Just chilling and trying to gather my thoughts for a bit.
Karen-chan: Ready to write your next big hit?
Jin: Since when have I ever been a big hit?
Karen-chan: Hey, you’ve won over 20 Palanquin awards  for your stories in your time. Some of us are still struggling to win our first one.
Jin: Heh, you’ll get there eventually. Anyway, TBH, I was hoping there’d be more people around.
Erick is now online
Erick: Yo
Karen-chan: S’up
Jin: Hey
Erick: Whoa! Jin?
Jin: Yeah, yeah I know. I’m not often here blah! Blah! Sorry I don’t hang around with you guys more.
Erick: Ah c’mon. We understand what it’s like to be a prize-winning author.
Jin: Guys! that was over 2 decades ago. Now I’m just an old man clinging to the glory of the past. I haven’t even had a weekly best seller since forever.
Karen-chan: Whether it’s the past or the present, your writings never cease to amaze me.
Erick: I’ll second that… but tell us, Jin. Are you working on anything right now?
Jin: But anyway, this feels nostalgic. Just the three of us here. Feels like that time when we first started this channel and we were just a bunch of hopefuls.
Erick: Actually, I joined a bit later. Meg recruited me.
Jin: Oh yeah, Meg, whatever happened to her?
Karen-chan: It’s “they.” You have to respect Meg’s personal pronoun, you know.
Jin: Oh puh-lease. I don’t have to respect her right to murder the English language.
Xx00Meg00xx is now online
Erick: Speak of the devil.
Xx00Meg00xx:: Who’s a devil and why were you talking about me behind my back?
Karen-chan: Nah, nothing like that. I was just telling Jin here to respect your personal pronoun.
Xx00Meg00xx: And let me guess, he said something like: why would I respect her right to mutilate English?
Jin: Close enough.
Xx00Meg00xx: Figures. Anyway, what brings you around this here parts, stranger? How many months has it been since we last saw you here? Six? Eight?
Jin:  Actually it’s been a year and 4 months. I kept count. As for why I’m here, just chilling… ah well, actually now that there’s a lot more of us here, I did have something to say.
Xx00Meg00xx: So say?
Karen-chan: Listening…
Erick: We’re all ears – although technically, that’s incorrect, but “all eyes” sounds so wrong.
Jin: Well, let me start with this… why do you guys write?
Karen-chan: Um…
Erick: I could write an entire essay on that.
Xx00Meg00xx: Self-gratification
Jin: Yeah, figured as much. Anyway, the point is that we all have our own reasons for writing, right? Same is true for anything else – any creative endeavor or any kind of work or vocation, really. Like the best athletes in the world are always trying to outdo each other or like how an artist is always trying to improve upon his/her last piece.
Xx00Meg00xx: I like the jab at inclusivity there, but yeah go on.
Jin: So… I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all worthless. Like, no matter what kind of goals you set for yourself: win an award, become a PhD at something, become a world leader, be recognized as the world’s best author – it doesn’t really matter.
Karen-chan: Are you going through some kind of nihilistic phase right now?
Jin: Well, I’m not sure if I would label it as nihilism or if it’s just being pragmatic. Like, take for example someone we’ll call “Person A” who spends a lifetime perfecting a skill and then he becomes really good at this particular skill, becomes the best in the world… and then what happens?
Erick: What?
Jin: Some kid writes an AI from his basement that completely trashes Person A at whatever skill he thinks he’s perfected.
Xx00Meg00xx: Yeah, I’ve seen that happen with MOBA tournaments with cloud computing AI totally dominating the best pro teams.
Jin: Yes, exactly! And it doesn’t stop there… whatever you do in whatever field, someone or something will make you obsolete eventually or perhaps the world will change in a way that makes any achievements you make meaningless.
Karen-chan: I’m sorry, but that sounds really depressing
Xx00Meg00xx: Well, the very fact that we’re all a bunch of writers here is in fact a contradiction, if you think about it. Nothing that we do at all makes sense. It’s not going to help anyone, it’s not going to save the world and unless we get lucky like you, Jin, it’s not even going to result in any kind of ego boost.
Erick: Hey now, that side-comment was unnecessary, Meg
Jin: Actually, Meg is right. I completely agree.  I mean, whether I got my awards via earnest effort and skill plus some talent or completely by luck makes no difference. Some other author could have been chosen and gotten these awards in my place – and to me, to us, this other author might really suck at writing – but if the judges of the award-giving body thought that “this guy’s works are a masterpiece,” then this chosen author would be in my place right now. That’s exactly what I’m driving at.
Karen-chan: So, you don’t think your works are any good?
Jin: To be honest, a part of me still wants to believe that “I’m a really good writer,” but – and this is something that I’ve been pondering my whole life, the more I’ve seen of this world, the more I’ve come to understand that it’s not really the case of being a good writer or not.
Jin: People set standards all the time. Back in ancient times, the Egyptians had their own idea of what is beautiful, the Romans worshipped art – but if you look at the type of art they enjoyed back then through a contemporary individual’s eyes, could you honestly say to yourself that “this is beautiful,” without being somewhat pretentious in the back of your mind?
Jin: Standards and conventions change all the time. Sometimes in little ripples, but sometimes in giant tidal waves causing an entire paradigm shift, we’ve seen it happen throughout history time and again.
Erick: To add to this, we’ve seen it happen as recently as 2020 when people started valuing basic essentials and the little luxuries of life a little bit more after the great plague.
Xx00Meg00xx: True, beyond 2020, even I would like to believe the fires of hope had been rekindled in mankind.
Jin: And it all comes to nothing… if say, a far more advanced civilization comes tomorrow and wipes out all of humanity. Then they might study our literature, art, or any piece of information left behind by us and then they’d decide on what was beautiful and what was not about our civilization.
Karen-chan: It’s really sad to think of, but I can see your point, Jin.
Jin: Right? So that’s why I’ve come here to announce that my latest novel “Oceans of Blood” might be finished soon… and I’d like you all to read it. I’ll send you the manuscript here of course.
Erick: Wait, but doesn’t that totally contradict everything you said?
Xx00Meg00xx: Yeah, like you were so gung-ho about all this “everything is meaningless” nihilistic BS and then you go and announce your latest novel on us?
Jin: Well, it might seem contradictory, but it’s really not. You see, I’ve finished 21 of about 25 chapters but I wrote this story knowing that you guys might enjoy it. It’s one of the most selfish novels I’ve ever written in that I wrote it only because it’s a story that I might like to read and I know after having known you guys for decades that you would get some enjoyment out of reading it too… and there’s another thing. I’m sick.
Xx00Meg00xx: WHAT?
Erick: Dude… you can’t be serious, right.
Karen-chan: Oooh… I had an ominous feeling but nothing like this.
Jin: As I type into this chatroom I’m actually just battling to stay awake. I’ve been drifting in and out of consciousness for the last few weeks. The doctors told me some medical jargon, but basically it’s terminal and it will kill me eventually – it’s just a matter of when. I tell ya guys, it’s a weird feeling – being totally powerless to do anything against forces much greater than you. Like sometimes, I’d be going to the faucet to wash my face and then all of a sudden these water droplets, just the sound of them bouncing off the sink makes me all nauseous and they sound more like giant boulders bouncing on marbled flooring and the next thing you know I’m urinating blood all over the floor – then I’d find myself tucked back in bed, feeling dizzy. I don’t know how I’d gotten there, but it’s easy to deduce that someone must have found me and brought back there. I can’t even sleep in peace.
Jin: Whenever I try to sleep my mind starts thinking non-stop wandering from one incoherent topic to another. It’s like that Linklater film, “Waking Life” where one strange talk with a stranger just leads to another, you know?
Erick: Of course we’ll read your story bro.
Xx00Meg00xx: Same
Karen-chan: It’s the least we can do… and I’ve always enjoyed your stories.
Xx00Meg00xx: Yeah, we all do, Jin.
Jin: Thanks! That really means a lot to me. A lot more than these silly awards I used to receive.
Xx00Meg00xx: Better get back to writing then. You don’t have much time, right?
Jin: True… I think I’d better sign off and get back at it. Thanks, Meg. Also, one more thing: I lied about everything being meaningless. It’s not the awards, it’s not about satisfying myself, and it’s not about some higher altruistic purpose to help humanity and all that. I think I’ve finally figured out why I write… It’s the memories. The memories I have in this channel with you guys, the memories I’ve made writing my stories and my journey through my over 8 decades throughout life.
Jin: All the memories I’ve made over these years… how can I say they’re meaningless? How can I just throw them away? So… I won’t. I’ll allow these memories to overflow and roll down my cheeks – and immortalize them into the words that I write – I guess at the end of the day, I just want my writings to mean something to someone – and I couldn’t have picked a better audience than you guys.
Karen-chan: That… was so profound.
Xx00Meg00xx: Hold on, I’m taking a screenshot.
Erick: … I have no words, dude. Just no words at all.
Jin has left the chat
Aethernet Servers #writing: March 18, 2030
Jin: Anyone around?
Xx00Meg00xx: Hey buddy! We missed ya. How’s the novel going?
Jin: This is Jin’s sister. I regret to inform everyone that he passed away 3 days ago. I’m here to share this manuscript that he was writing. Fortunately he left me with some instructions since he knew he wasn’t going to live long. I don’t think he ever managed to complete it, but I’m honoring his wishes and sharing it with you – his friends. Please do with it as you please.
Xx00Meg00xx: OMG! My condolences for your loss.
Karen-chan: He was a great loss to the world.
Erick: Guys, we should pay a visit – and, we should do something like create an online shrine to archive his works – and of course, we should release his last manuscript to the world.
Xx00Meg00xx: He still has  a pretty active fanbase after all these years, I’m sure they would love that!
Jin: I leave it up to you guys, I’m sure Jin would have been happy with your decision either way.
These are the final archives of the human race, one day before Armageddon. 24 hours later, a comet that was supposed to pass just within 400 million miles off the planet, veered off course ending all of human civilization.
THE END



Saturday, February 29, 2020

My Digital Art Process (2): Visual Novel Style Nagi

Here's something a little bit more advanced. I make lots of solid blocks of color and then erase with a big soft brush to get this effect. Also, lots of small bits of white.

And of course, here's the finished product.

The Long Walk From Villa To San Agustin (Revisited)

Back in 2018, I tried walking from my house to San Agustin while taking a few pitstops along the way. It was quite an enlightening and mostly rewarding experience.

Iloilo's Esplanade Footwalk is Beautiful...

Now that our car has been under repair for almost three months, I had a reason to try this again and I actually thought it would be more pleasant this time around with the newly constructed Esplanades 3-4 that I could use to get to JD and straight to San Agustin without having to deal with the perils of the endlessly reckless and disrespectful drivers of Iloilo City... and boy was I wrong.

Therefore, I'm not going to talk about the walk in detail this time around. Instead, I'd like to use this opportunity to point out a very severe problem with Iloilo City -- specifically, the footwalks/sidewalks or lack thereof from Villa to Molo, Iloilo.

What I noticed was that somewhere where Villa transitions to Molo, there is a total lack of walking space for pedestrians along the sides of the road. Because of the constant road widening projects across the entire city, the roads have eaten up what miniscule sidewalks there were in the first place.










But here's what the rest of Iloilo City's sidewalks look like (Molo-Villa area)

Furthermore, the tiny, one-foot sidewalks (in places where they do exist) also aren't even elevated off the road to separate the pedestrian from the highway. Most of the time, the sidewalk is just plain dirt -- and plagued by blatantly illegally parked vehicles, people who've turned these sidewalks into their personal gardens in front of their homes and cracks along the areas where a cemented, paved footwalk does exist.

If these pictures, don't convince you, then fear not -- I have a long video illustrating the problem.


It doesn't take an expert and it doesn't need any peer-reviewed research paper to show you that these sidewalks (or lack thereof) are simply not safe for people. Let's fix this, Iloilo. We can do so much better.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Video of My Digital Art Process

I finally have a PC that's at least powerful enough to video capture while I work without lagging. (It's actually not very powerful, but it gets the job done.)

I've recorded another video where I use a more painterly art style for digital art -- and that's coming up soon.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Dis-Enchanted About Enchanted Kingdom (1/12/2020)

I really wish this could have been just another travel blog, but it's not -- as you will find out.

I personally HAD some very fond memories about Enchanted Kingdom, a theme park located in Santa Rosa Laguna, Philippines, which is accessible via a 40-minute bus or car ride from Manila. We first set foot there when I was just in grade school and a second time when I was in High School (technically, it would be Jr. High nowadays.) 

My favorite attraction had always been the Rialto rumble seat/movie ride and hanging out at the arcade. Unfortunately, I am not here today to reminisce about those... more pristine times.

Last January 12, 2020 would mark my third trip to Enchanted Kingdom together with my sister and her family. The trip was especially for my 11 year-old niece from Canada, who had actually been through her fair share of theme parks including a few Disneylands and Universal Studios. Still, she doesn't discriminate and enjoys thrilling rides anyway -- and EK had quite a few to offer.

We booked a grabcar ride (our answer to UBER) to get there, but we had to use the booth at the hotel because there were no six-seater cars available via the Phone app.

When we arrived at about 1:00 AM, something immediately felt off for me. I was a bit lightheaded and I'd concluded that it might be due to the searing heat or that it might be from high blood pressure. 

I was fine during the bumper car ride. (I let my niece drive and we didn't really get anywhere. Also, her mom bumped into us several times on purpose lol).

She wanted to ride a small roller coaster as well. I wasn't feeling quite up to it, so I skipped that ride.

Also, some kids from a local high school overheard my sister talking to us in English and started mocking her for it in typical non-confrontational Pinoy style. My mother saw this and well... my sister wouldn't stand up for it and took pics of them and got up close and personal right in their faces. The kids were like shoulder level next to her and about chest level next to me. Still, the one who actually initiated the heckling stood his ground and looked like he was ready to "put em up."

I just took a bladed stance with my hands down and nonchalant -- ready to put a kid in a hospital if he tried anything funny. Eventually, one of them walked off... and then returned to the same spot again with four other friends around the same size as him. (Really, kid? Bring your whole class next time.)


With that said, it seems the group was just there to bail him out and give him an excuse to move away. They went on their way and we went on ours with no actual confrontation.

Unfortunately, as the day wore on, I felt more and more nauseous to the point that I was on the verge of throwing up just as we were lining up for the Rialto.

I chose to back out of the ride and my sister suggested that I eat some ice cream. We went into an ice cream parlor within the theme park and waited for my niece and her dad to finish the Rialto ride and join up with us in there. Inside, my mother started massaging my head and I immediately started feeling better. This is when she asked me to take off my socks so she could massage my feet -- when I discovered that my socks were all wet. I felt better almost instantly after taking them off.

After this, we wanted to try out the go-karts, but you actually had to pay extra to use those -- we thought that was a total rip-off and decided to go for the Rio Grande Rapids ride instead. I forgot to mention this, but the lines for the rides were super long on that day. 

When it was our turn, we found the ride to be pretty enjoyable, except there was some kind of muck that was piling up and getting into our clothes and hair. After the ride, we were informed by some people who were there too that it was due to the ashfall, Mt. Taal, an active Philippine volcano that was just an island away had erupted mildly.

We decided to call it a day after that and leave the place to get back to our hotel in Manila and prepare for a meeting with my aunt at SM Megamall. Unfortunately, when we were outside the park grounds, we soon realized that no Grab Cars/Taxis were taking any bookings nearby. Also, all the buses were going to provinces outside of Manila.

We were out of the theme park by 6:00 PM. They made an announcement that it would close at 6:30. Having no means of transportation away from the place, we were forced to call for help from my aunt. She informed us that she'd booked a taxi and was on the way over to help.

As the sky grew darker and darker on that day, we soon realized that this was a real crisis and were in real danger of being stranded in this place. Reports via internet sources showed the true extent of the ashfall and we were experiencing it first-hand. It was like the sky was spraying brownish-black powder everywhere. Our only shelter were the small tents in the waiting area of Enchanted Kingdom with a few seats and tables. Not really sufficient when the wind was blowing ashes every which way. The ash would get on our skin, into our clothes and our bags and personal belongings. 

All around us, people were doing there best to take shelter from the ashes, but they were better off than us because they had friends and family come to fetch them -- we were still waiting. 

We also saw that inside of EK, the employees were each messaging people via phone to come and pick them up. People were leaving the park in droves as we sat there helplessly waiting for rescue. The amusing part is that many individuals there were just casually walking through the ashfall and treating it as though it was rain.

At some point, a security guard came by and started asking people with cars and motorcycles  who were there to fetch their friends and family for their parking tickets. Many had to fumble around because they'd forgotten all about their parking tickets in the middle of the crisis. Apparently, to the authorities of Enchanted Kingdom, parking tickets are still important even though the entire area was literally getting covered with volcanic ash.

By 8:30 PM, we were definitely the only ones left in the park except for the guards on duty. My niece was just playing with her phone  to pass the time while the adults (that's us) kept occupied trying to shield the ashes with an umbrella and using the comfort rooms every now and then to wash off the ashes from our skin and faces. It was getting so bad, that you could see the ash flying through the air and into your eyes.

In any case, the guards and other employees still on duty had it much better than us. We were almost fully exposed to the ashes while the EK employees were inside their little glass enclosed buildings all nice and snug while waiting for rescue. Also, they had EK-issued raincoats to protect themselves and of course, they couldn't be bothered to invite us inside the buildings because the park was closed and protocol and security is of UTMOST importance in a crisis.


After all, we had already paid our entrance fees and exited the park. It's not like we were Enchanted Kingdom's responsibility at this point. Thanks, EK!

Oh, and there was one person still selling pies amidst all the ash flying all around us. There was one group on a table right behind us who actually had dinner (from plastic pouches that they'd brought along) before leaving in their car.

My aunt finally arrived at 9:00 PM in the taxi. There were five of us (seven including my aunt and the taxi driver) so we had to squeeze into a five-seater Toyota Vios.

The long drive took us until midnight to get to our hotel since the car could only move at up to 50 kph it seems. The driver claimed it was overloaded, which it was, but I suspect it's also because he had no idea how to use the clutch and accelerator together in first gear in a manual vehicle. I could tell from the way the car was coughing and lurching forward every time he had to switch to first gear.

There was almost zero visibility the whole time because of the thickness of the ashes. It was like driving through brownish, black smoke and we were the slowest vehicle on the road to the point that ordinary jeepneys also rushing to escape the ashfall were overtaking us left and right.

We had to refuel once and unbelievably, there were still people at the Jollibee, Max's and KFC that we passed by -- ordering and casually enjoying their meals inside the premises -- with ash flying all around outside.

Still, we did get to our destination eventually... no thanks to Enchanted Kingdom and its conscientious staff.

Of course, some may argue that when you go to Enchanted Kingdom, you are expected to have a car or some other means of transportation ready for when you exit because it's a "far-flung location," and to these people I say: "thank you for your victim-blaming ways. Society thanks you."