Monday, November 19, 2007

Citizen Russ

And you thought it'll be super.

Not having to go to work. Waking up every morning (or afternoon) without worrying about running late for today's internals. No deadlines. No overtimes. No taglines to think about nor storylines to write.

At the back of your mind, you begin to chant Elmer Fudd's infamous lines... "no more classes, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks..." you may not be in school anymore but the thought of quitting your job begins to feel like a long, overdue vacation.

You're free at last. You have unchained yourself from the bondage of your cubicle. Or, as they call it in advertising, workstation. For the first time in years, you wander through Ayala Ave. without having to walk like a madman in order to beat the rush hour. You go to malls during office hours and park your car wherever you want.

You are, after all, unemployed. A freewheler. Answerable only to yourself and accountable to noone. You are an official bum.

You are having the grandest time of your life, until one day, you get sick. You succumb to an illness, one that raises your body temperature to 40 degrees celcius, day in and day out. Your fever never ceases. Your body starts to weaken and and you can't eat anything because they all taste like shit.

On the 3rd day, you ask to be rushed to the hospital. Fearing dengue but clueless nonetheless. The doctors run some tests. Then on the 4th day, concluded that you have Typhoid Fever. The nurses, upon admitting you at the hospital, ask you one simple question. One question that made you wish you weren't jobless.

"Do you have a health card?"

You bite your lips. Then you realize. You're unemployed. A freewheler. Answerable only to yourself and accountable to noone. You are, an official bum.

You rush yourself to recovery, knowing that each day you spend in the hospital is another dime taken off from the last of your savings. You have never worried about hospital bills all your life, except now.

You begin to understand that you are no longer privileged. You are no longer enjoying health benefits from your employer. You don't have one, remember?

It sucks. One day you're tip-toeing, enjoying the privileges of being free from the bondage of employment and the next day you're wishing that you don't have to worry about paying your hospital bills.

Finally, you accept the fact. It sucks to live without benefits. It sucks to be plain old, Citizen Russ.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

And so it can be told

I have managed to keep this to myself, my family and some very close friends for a long time and now I can finally let it out. I didn’t want to jinx it by telling everyone about it. Nor do I want to deal with the embarrassment just in case “it” didn’t push thru.

But “it” did.

And so it can be told.

My family (wife and kids) and I are moving to Australia. Finally. After almost 2 years of praying persistently, savings drained, and waiting in agony.

Yes, we waited. Almost impatiently and nearly losing hope. We waited as an acquaintance, who applied for immigration just a few months ahead of us was granted a Visa a full year ago. We waited as requests for documents and other requirements pile up one after the other. We waited for the medical results. We waited as our patience and resources slowly dwindled. We waited and wondered why our application was taking so long to get approved. And yet, when we received our visa grants two weeks ago, all we can say is “this soon?”

And so it can be told.

The Australian Immigration has given us a deadline. We have to be in Australia by end of November. Yes, this November. It took us a while to process the thought: we’re celebrating Christmas and New Year away from our parents, siblings, relatives and friends. We’re celebrating the holidays, for the first time, down under. “Be careful what you wish for”, so they say. “It might just come sooner than expected” must follow next. Now I wish it could've come later.

And so it can be told.

I can still remember when my Aunt (who sponsored us to Australia) went home to Manila for the first time after 12 years of residing in Melbourne. It was 8 years ago. I was already 2 years married then, and a father of a bouncing baby boy. Back then, my Aunt was already trying to convince me to apply for immigration. She said she’ll sponsor us and even though I didn’t graduate from college, we can still make it because of my wife’s professional skills as a banker. I politely declined her offer. My reason was simple. I would only go to foreign countries for vacation. And would only entertain the thought of leaving my family for work in, say, the US, if I can go back home to them every now and then. I heart NY after all and I have always dreamed of making it big in the big apple or to visit other foreign destinations like Rio, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Greece, or the United Kingdom. But to live in a foreign country and raise my children there? Thanks but no thanks. That was always been my position.

So what happened? People change. That’s what happened. We change as our beliefs and motivations change. We change as we grow old and realize that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist. We change as we expand our horizons or gain new experiences. We change for various reasons. For me though, the change wasn’t sudden. In fact it took me years to realize that it’s getting harder and harder to provide a good life for your family (especially for your children) in this country. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Philippines and I will always do but let’s face the facts. We are a third world country (we have always been and if things don’t turn around soon, we will always be). Our population is more than 90 million (it matters when you’re just a tiny speck on the world map). Our government officials are among the most corrupt in the world. We are a country known worldwide for red tape, graft and corruption, mail-order brides, poverty, impeachment trials, political scams, terrible traffic, grave pollution, and electing doofuses into public office. I have lived in this country for 31 years and for 31 years I have endured. But the time has come to think hard, really hard and consider plans for my children’s future. The fact that I live in Malabon, a place below sea level where it floods every time it rains hard (rising up to more than 6 feet! But that’s for another post), the fact that I travel almost 2 hours on the way to work and on the way home every single day due to traffic and pothole-ridden roads, and that poverty increases continually year after year, makes the change of heart even easier. After all, my wife and I are not getting any younger. Our kids are getting bigger and bigger and our place is sinking deeper and deeper.

It’s time. The prospect of migrating to a country offering bigger and better opportunities was more than just promising. The decision was a no-brainer. I’m not doing it for myself anymore. I’m doing it for my kids. We’re moving to Oz.

And so it can be told.

The Philippines. My residence for 31 years. My country. My home. I am still proud to be a Filipino. For despite all the cons I have listed above, there are still many pros. In fact too many to mention. We are still a beautiful country. For despite the massive pollution and maddening traffic in metropolitan areas, we are still home to the world’s most beautiful beaches, the most exotic animals and the most exhilarating tourist attractions. Despite crooked government officials, red tape and graft and corruption, in general, we are still good-natured people, full of good values, honest, and with good moral character. We are, after all, Asia’s bastion of Christianity, housing the most number of Catholics than any other country aside from Rome. Despite the prevalence of poverty and the decline of the quality of education, we are still the most hardworking and talented. We are the most fluent in English (the universal language) in Asia, proven by the current boom of the call center industry. You may not know it but chances are, when you’re calling the toll free number to report a lost credit card or request service for your gadget in the US, you are talking to a Filipino operator. Despite all the negatives, we still have Olympians, legendary athletes, talented artists and other prominent figures making waves around the world.

The Philippines. I may be leaving but my heart stays with you. I may soon be hopping with kangaroos and playing with koalas but I still think the Philippine eagle, our national animal rules. I am still proud to be a Filipino. I was then and I will always be.

And so it can be told.

In a few days from now, I will be landing in the land they call down under. I will be walking with the bushwalkers, bringing out the barbie for a Sunday grill or calling my friends “mates”. I will be migrating to Australia with my family in search for a new and brighter future. I will be starting life all over again. Writing new goals and wiping the slate clean. And with a heavy heart, I will be leaving you all, my friends, my family, my country.

My home.

And so it can be told.

I still have almost 2 months left, I know. But right now, allow me to tell you that I will miss you all.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blades Of "Gory"

No, this is not a typo of the title of Will Ferrell’s latest movie. Similar setting, but this one’s for real.

This is about a lesson I learned last Sunday. And like any other lessons in life, I learned it the hard and painful way. That is, to never, ever, imitate what you see in the movies.

Ok, I’m exaggerating. I never actually got to perform a half axle while ice skating with my family. But the damn movie’s the reason why I even thought of trying to ice skate in the first place. It was my first, and definitely the last.

To cut the long story short, I took my family to Mall of Asia (the biggest shopping mall in Asia) last Sunday (to my kids’ delight), a day after we saw “Blades of Glory” on DVD and decided to give ice skating a shot. How hard could it be? I have rollerbladed before, so I figured, it’s just a walk in the park.

A park in hell, that is! Darn skates just won’t keep steady! I found myself clinging on the tiny wall protrusion surrounding the rink, hanging on for dear life for the first 30 minutes! And when I finally mustered enough courage to let go and start actually “skating”, it happened. I slipped. On the way down, I heard, and felt my knees snapping like a broken twig. It happened so fast that I couldn’t even remember whether I twisted my leg, or hyper-extended it. All I can remember is that I fell hard on my lower back, my big, fat ass sitting on my right leg. And then, pain. Unimaginable, excruciating, mind-numbing pain. I let out a loud groan. Loud enough to catch everybody’s attention including a grandma wearing a hearing aid shopping for new lingerie on the 2nd floor of the mall. Skaters started to rush toward me. Among them, a pair of the mall's ice skating crew. I swear I could’ve known what the guys were thinking when they saw my condition - lying on ice, my right leg buried under my bum, contorted in a ghastly manner - I swear the words “Oh shit” were written all over their faces. Or maybe, "dude, you’re so screwed.”

To cut the long story shorter, rescue came and helped me get back on my feet, sans the skates of course. I realized that I have managed to get on the farthest corner of the rink by clinging on the wall for 30 minutes, which makes it even more difficult to walk back to dry land walking on ice with only my socks on. I couldn’t stand the cold for 5 minutes. I was afraid that my feet would get frostbite (I remember the butler in “Mr. Deed’s” quite vividly). And so I sat on ice again, murmuring the words “frostbite, frostbite” to the medic who rescued me. Soon they handed me a pair of slippers. On the way out, I felt my knee snap for the 3rd time. So I screamed again. What irked me was that the crew actually told me that I should just try to walk out of the rink because “it won’t look good” if they put me on a stretcher. If not for the unthinkable pain I was dealing with, I swear I could’ve told them, “I don’t care if I look like a fucking moron, or if my accident causes a commotion, just get me out of here fast! It’s fucking freezing cold, you asshole!” (pardon my French) but I didn’t. A few minutes after, I found myself on a wheelchair, sitting (while still grimacing in pain) in front of a guy wearing a white coat. Finally, a doctor! I was taken to Borough Medical Clinic on the 2nd floor, where I had my leg X-rayed. Unfortunately, I was told that the radiologist just went home, so the doctor (who is by the way not an Orthopedist) read my x-ray results. Then he told me that it “seems” I was fortunate enough not to have broken or fractured any bone, and that the swelling “might” be caused by torn ligaments and muscles. He then bandaged my knee and told me to put ice on it, go home and rest.

To cut the long story even shorter, the day after I got the accident, I woke up with excruciating (I’m beginning to lose words describing how painful it was – by the way, it still is) pain and even more swelling on my right leg. Then I remembered the doctor (who is not an Orthopedist) telling me to have it checked by an Ortho. He also said that an MRI would help determine what ligaments were torn and what to do next.

That same day, I called up Medicard (my health card provider) and asked a referral for an Ortho near my place. They then told me that since the injury is still fresh, I can go straight to the ER and have urgent treatment. So I went to St. Luke’s Hospital where 3 certified Orthopedists (finally!) assessed my condition. They took numerous (7) x-rays of my injured leg in various positions. Afterwhich, one of them showed me one of the x-rays and explained what really happened to my knee. Now, I may not be a doctor but it doesn’t take one to conclude that my right knee is a mess based on the x-ray he showed me. He said I have patellar subluxation – a condition where my patella or knee cap is dislocated from its groove and because the ligaments supporting it are torn, hence the painful snapping sensation everytime I try to move. Damn you, Dr. Not An Orthopedist! Just when I thought it’s just a torn ligament, now a busted knee cap playing merry go round on my leg? No fair! To prove his point, he asked me to lie down and straighten my injured leg. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel anything. Then he asked me to bend it slowly. I did. And then it snapped again. At this point, I have learned to control the volume of my groan depending on where I am and who I’m with at the moment. And since I’m in a room full of sick patients, macho doctors and cute nurses, I tried hard to muffle my scream. In my mind though, I was cursing.

“That’s it”, the Ortho said. It’s definitely dislocated. Bloody hell, doc. isn’t it what the x-rays are for?

And so, it happened. My Blades of Glory moment has turned into a “Gory” event. Right now, I’m wearing an immobilizer, a leg splint-type of device made of neoprene, Velcro straps and heavy metal sheets. The purpose of which, is to keep my leg straight at all times, since the Ortho described my dislocated patella as “very unstable”. He also told me that I have to wear it, and rest my leg for at least a month. The moment I got home, however, I took it off because it was very uncomfortable (imagine walking, sitting, lying on bed, riding on the car, and taking a tricycle ride with your right leg fully extended). But I was wrong. The moment I finally unfastened the last Velcro, my knee snapped again. By then I was already in the living room so I turned the groan on full volume. Doc was right. Always on it is.

Beware, the Immobilizer!

Today, six days after my accident happened, my knees are still swollen. It doesn't always hurt anymore, but it does get bitchy every morning. I am scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday and I still can’t make a schedule with my Physical Therapist because of the swelling. My new Ortho said that after the MRI results are revealed, we will then be able to know if my knee needs surgery.

I hope not. But then again, every time I look at the heavy, itchy, uncomfortable immobilizer tightly fastened on my knee, I’m thinking I’d rather go under the knife than spend one month with this monstrous device wrapped around my walker. Not to mention that I have to walk around using a cane. Come to think of it, it’s quite cool playing Dr. House. You can get grumpy and stubborn and people will give way. You are after all, disabled.

Whoever said the famous lines “stick and stones may break my bones” obviously forgot to include the word “ice”. At the end of the day, I can only blame one person for my ordeal.

Damn you, Will Ferrell!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Return

No deed humbles a man better than falling down on his knees.

I recently found wisdom in this. And truth.

I have always blamed work for being too busy to update my blog. I always complained about not having enough time to do the things I want to do, like playing with my kids, taking photography classes, or writing a new post. I have juggled work and personal life and dropped the ball so many times that I thought I should call it quits with Bloggerville.

Until it happened. I fell. Hard. On my knees. Literally.

I had an accident where I dislocated my knee cap (I will write the details on my next post). The doctors said I need at least a month of bed rest. Lying down. Doing nothing but rest my injured leg for it to heal completely.

Now I have all the time in the world to write.

I am humbled.

I hope the blogging community welcomes me back with open arms.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Finally, after almost two weeks of sorting through 700+ digital images, I can now post my Bangkok photos. I really have no time to write a long post though, so I’m going to make this short and sweet.

Been to Bangkok for our 10th year wedding anniversary. Stayed at the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, the tallest hotel in Thailand (88 stories). Got upgraded from deluxe room to junior suite = fantastic view. Toured most of Bangkok’s temples. Saw many Buddhas in various shapes and forms. Took a lovely night cruise in the Chao Praya river. Even more fantastic view! Food was unforgettable. Rummaged for cheap bargains at countless day bazaars and night markets. Watched a live “show!” Visited the snake farm where I almost got jumped on by a copperhead. Took a day trip on boat to see more temples. Went to the Grand Palace where our trip was cut short due to the Princess’ arrival. Picture of the King plastered everywhere from huge streamers to coins. Rode a “tuktuk”, Bangkok’s version of a tricycle. Dinner at the Suan Lum night bazaar, got a complete, mouth-watering meal for just 50 baht (About one dollar)! Went barhopping and enjoyed Bangkok’s nightlife. Went to a spa, had a relaxing Thai massage. Did a city tour, saw the big-ass reclining Buddha (about 50 meters long and 15 meters high!) Spent our last night looking at Bangkok’s skyline on the hotel’s revolving 78th floor. Drank cocktails at the bar on the 75th floor. Again, fantastic view! Had our last buffet breakfast. Checked out. Headed to the newly-constructed Suvarnabhumi (pronounced as Sawana-boom) airport. Took the plane ride home.

Here are some of the photos. Click on the images if you want a larger view:

From exotic food, cheap clothes and fake watches, to enormous Buddhas and beautiful temples, Bangkok, the so-called “Land of Smiles”, did not disappoint. In fact, there’s just too many to do, so many sites to visit and so many items to shop for that’s enough to disconnect you from the real world and make you feel like a King for a day. Or, like in our case, for 3 nights and 4 days.

As the song goes, “One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster”. Yup, this one-hit wonder of a jet-setter has been, to coin a phrase, Bangkoked. And I won’t mind doing it again.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sir Russkal

Don't ask why, but I have recently subscribed to for a free daily tarot reading delivered to my email.

It's been a week and I admit I haven't really taken the time to read my readings since my automatic response to spam mail is to delete it.

I have seen today's reading though, and it was curiously pretty accurate of the situation I am currently in.

Here is my tarot reading:

The Knight of Swords card suggests that my power today lies in change. I am quick, sharp, and ready for assertive, revolutionary or affirmative action. I overcome obstacles or resolve conflict by getting right to the point, cutting to the chase or confronting challenges head on -- even if this means going against the grain. My communication, style or expectation is on the cutting edge and relies on reason, design, the latest craze or facts. It is my honor to protect and defend my perception of truth. I measure twice and cut once. I am empowered by expectation or duty and my virtue is commitment to the greater good.

Yeah baby, I'm your knight in shining armor.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thumbs Up!

My heartfelt thanks to

Critique My Blog for the wonderful review of The Midnight Oil.

It gives me great pride that a lot of people are enjoying my posts, especially the ones about my country, the Philippines, considering that we're just a tiny speck in the world map.

Click here if you want to know what Critique My Blog has to say about this blog.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Don't blame the camera

"Where's the video record button?"

My wife asked, desperately, as she tried to make sense of the buttons beside the huge LCD.

"Wait, I'll read the manual" was my quick reply. Quick, and stupid.

How would I know that a digital SLR doesn't capture video? How would I know its difference from point-and-shoot digicams? It was my first SLR, let alone a digital one.

The camera in question is my new Nikon D-40. A gift I bought for myself for my 31st birthday. As soon as we accepted the fact that it doesn't do video, we took it for a test shoot. The result? Marvelous. This may not be the most sophisticated machine in its class, but for a guy who started with Polaroids and good-as-disposable instamatics, it's a breakthrough.

Here are some samples I took on our recent trip to the beach. Remember, me no professional. Me just likey to shoot. If you think the photos are crap, don't blame the camera. Blame the frustrated photographer:

Splendid. On my standards, at least.

I still haven't read the manual. I still don't know how aperture, light metering or ISO works and how to configure the settings manually. I'm taking my time. Right now, I'm loving my new toy.

Yet another reason to blog more frequently.

Yet another reason to view the world differently.

Monday, March 26, 2007

This time, it's personal

Enough excuses about work. Frankly, it’s getting old.

Every year, my wife and I anticipate the coming of March with both excitement and trepidation. Excitement, since we both celebrate our birthdays this month (15 and 16 – yes, our birthdays are just one day apart, yes, we were born on the same year, and yes, you missed it) and apprehension because of the same reason – we’re turning a year old, not to mention the cost of treating two sets of friends and relatives on the same day can be overwhelming.

It has its ups and downs, having (almost) the same birthday as your spouse. It was cute when you start dating, learning about it for the first time, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe our birthdays are just one day apart! We must be soul mates!” For which she replies, “Oh my gosh!” and then you realize that when you’re married, your “soul mate” will always steal your thunder the morning after. And all the gifts, cakes, and party leftovers are not yours to hold and treasure anymore. I’m guessing you already know who was born when.

Speaking of birthdays, 2 weeks ago, my wife and I found ourselves willingly participating in an unforgettable and life-altering endeavor. We helped a couple as they go through their IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) procedure. Having tried to conceive for almost 5 years now, the couple is considering this their last shot. Procedures like this can be very costly, mentally and physically taxing, after all. I would not divulge any more details because it’s a sensitive topic. And I don’t want to offend anyone by posting it in this blog, my wife, included. Let’s just say we found ourselves helping an acquaintance in need, and found new friends in return. The couple, who flew in from abroad were sweet and kind souls. They were giving, generous and very thoughtful, despite the fact that the husband, an American, is a stranger in Philippine soil. Unexpectedly, he was warm, soft-spoken and very friendly. And my wife and I tried our best to show them the world-renowned Filipino hospitality. We exchanged views over French cuisine, chatted till the wee hours of the morning about advertising, culture, religion, almost about everything including George W. Bush. And up to now, it still amazes me, how two perfect strangers, of two completely unidentical races can connect on a spiritual, emotional and intellectual level. It’s baffling, really, when you think about it, how everyone and everything in the world is connected.

Unfortunately, the procedure didn’t go as everyone expected. Sadly, the couple went home, bereft of success. Our newfound friends are heartbroken and my wife and I can’t do anything about it. Except pray that they don’t lose hope, and pray that somehow soon, they get what they always wanted.

Like I said, enough excuses about work. Work is such a petty thing compared to all the things that we, people, are often neglecting. There are birthdays, for instance. Triumphs and failures. Friends and relatives. A glass of Pinot Noir and medium-well Fillet Mignon. Conversations over ice-cold beer and a pack of smokes. Gifts to open, cakes to eat and friends to treat. Places to go to and food to eat. Sickness and health. Weddings and anniversaries.

And this is where I end this post. Speaking of anniversaries, I have to search for a travel agency. My wife and I are celebrating our 10th year wedding anniversary on April 19, in Bangkok, Thailand.

My first trip out of the country.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Too Fast, Too Fearful

Have you ever thought, one day in your life that you are, or things are, moving too fast? Beating deadlines, chasing promotion, climbing the corporate ladder, marrying or just plain moving in with someone. Chances are, all of us have been, once, twice, or countless times in our lives, guilty of hurrying. It’s an endless race, like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner.

I am. And while I did remind myself and everyone who reads this blog to stop and smell the roses and enjoy the silence some time ago, I have never truly steered away from the race track. How could I? I eat deadlines for breakfast. I have too. Otherwise, I won’t be able to serve anything for breakfast at all.

And that is why, when my PC crashed almost a month ago, I was devastated. It felt like a part of me crashed too, and like a writer without a pen and paper on his hand, I felt disabled. I had many fears. True, we will probably never run out of pens and papers but in this day and age, who needs them when you have computers?

My biggest fear was losing important data. Years of moments captured on photos and videos from my trusty digital camera, 4,000+ songs diligently ripped, labeled and categorized, business files, sidelines, personal files – all important files – gone. Vanished. Kaput.

And while I was unscrewing the last screw in my CPU trying to find out what went wrong, it hits me. I may not be able to do many things for a long time. And that includes playing video games, downloading torrents, doing sidelines, surfing the net and updating my blog – my midnight routine. You may say that I can do those things in the office, but I don’t. I am a night owl (obviously) and my PC is what keeps me company when everyone else is in deep slumbers.

But that was over. My PC has been up and running 3 weeks ago. I’ve lost some files*, but was able to retrieve some from my spare hard drive, DVD backups and iPod. Nonetheless, I spent almost a week trying to restore it all. The question now is what took me so long to write a new post? I don’t exactly know the answer, but I believe it has something to do with this post’s title. I got too fast, too fearful.

I was moving too fast that when my PC broke down, all of a sudden, I have nothing to do during midnights. Everything came to a complete halt. At first, I dug out my old PS2 games and started playing again. I got bored sooner than I expected. I watched DVDs that I already saw. I read magazines, books, scribbled down poems, and struggled to write a script for a short film, all just to keep my brain and hands from being idle. But then, just like before, silence prevailed. Once again, I was captured by the serenity of my own thoughts, and it’s telling me not to rush. It’s telling me to enjoy the lull. However, it is also the same reason why I became fearful.

Not being able to update for almost a month now, I feared that I cannot write an interesting post anymore. I feared that no one will give a damn to visit and check if I have finally updated. Most importantly, I feared that I was beginning to like not being able to post. It’s new to me, the feeling of suddenly spending midnights without thinking of the next topic that I should write about. Not worrying who to visit next and whose comment I should reply to. Not spending hours just to write, search and download photos to make my latest post interesting for visitors.

We are taught that the human brain is designed to handle new experiences with either anticipation or apprehension. Oddly, I began to feel both. I was excited that finally, I don’t have to depend on my PC when my insomnia kicks in, but I was also fearful that this is not what I want to happen.

For almost a month, I was in limbo. But not anymore. I know the answer now. Like I said, it’s been more than 3 weeks since my PC was restored. I could’ve written a new post during those days but I didn’t. I could’ve visited your blog, or simply post a comment. But I didn’t. Instead, I used those days, actually midnights, to ask myself, “Do I really want to do this?” And if the answer is yes, I have to make sure that this time around, I’ll know when to stop. What I learned in this experience is that there is nothing wrong in moving too fast. You just have to know when to stop. That way, you won’t have to fear if you come face to face with a wall. Don’t be the Coyote. Be the Road Runner. Run as fast as hell but stop when you need to.

So will I set foot on the race track again? I think the answer is pretty obvious.

I am back. Hopefully now, I’m neither too fast, nor too fearful.

* I also lost the bookmarks in my Internet browser, so if I haven’t been to your blog, that means I can’t find a way to reach you. Please leave a comment so I can visit you again. Thanks.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The (M)Adman Diaries Part III: Crazy Creatives

The following story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously… Ok, this is already the third of the installment. You know how it goes.

Dear Diary,

So it’s been 10 days, huh? I’m guessing this is probably the longest time I’ve lagged on my posts (I’m too lazy to check). Anyway, the migraine’s back. Yes it is. And it’s a lot more awful than MC Hammer’s comeback restyling himself as a gangsta rapper.

So where are we? Oh yes, we’re on a witch hunt, trying to figure out who among the people I work with has triggered my migraine the most. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are a lot of possible reasons for this, like my chronic insomnia (if there is such a thing), or my balding neighbor’s miserable attempts at aping Garth Brooks on karaoke. (Don’t break my head, my achy-breaky head. I just don’t think you understand… Who-wee!) But if you think about it, I’ve been an insomniac all my life and yet I never had migraine until I entered the world of advertising. So go figure.

I just think it makes perfect sense. These are the people I spend the whole day (and night) working with. And for those who are unfamiliar with the experience, think of it as going to work with the cast of Seinfeld. A typical client would be like George. Mean, neurotic and slow-witted. Elaine, however, would make a great Account Executive. She has, after all, an IQ of 151, and is often referred to by Jerry as “The queen of confrontation”.

And so it goes. I’m already done with clients and AEs. And now, I am down to one department. It has to be done. In the interest of being fair (and due to my colleagues’ constant nagging), I have to do Creatives. No stone should be left unturned in this witch hunt.

Who are we in Seinfeld, you ask?

Most people (including the clients and AEs) would agree that the creative department is surrounded by witty, eccentric and crazy people. Think Kramer and multiply that by 30.

But that’s too stereotypical, hence the reason why I’d like to think of myself as Jerry. The 'only sane man' in the stage. The figure who is "able to observe the chaos around him but not always be a part of it.” Yeah, yeah. I’m being safe. But this is my blog so bite me.

On with the show, err, post. Below are some unforgettable verbatims I have collected in my 6 years of experience working as an advertising creative.

A conversation between a Creative Director and an Art Director regarding a client revision request:

CD: "You need to add a line on the cover of the invite that says how to open it"

AD: "Huh? But it’s a tri-fold.... How do they not know how to open it?"

CD: "The client can’t figure out how to open it. Just add ‘open here, moron’"

Same project. AD asks the Copywriter to revise the copy based on the client’s inputs:

AD: "Client wants it to be simple. One word. But it has to convey everything in the brief."

Copywriter: "Oh, they must want those secret magic words that mean four things at once. Tell me man, do I look like J.K. Rowling?”

A Creative Director briefing a Production Designer regarding a sample of the casts’ costumes:

CD: "I don't like the colors, violet and black don't work together"

Designer: (Scans the CD from head to toe) "But you're wearing them!”

The same Creative Director, calling his Copywriter in the middle of a presentation after going on vacation leave for 2 weeks:

“I call you because I’m watching the ads with the client and I’ve just realized I don’t understand them either.”

Here’s more:

"I need awards! get me awards! If you don't get me awards, otherwise I will make sure you get fired before I do."
- an incompetent CD yelling at his team after being told by the management that he hasn’t won a single award in 5 years during his evaluation..

"Why not fold this up until it has sharp corners and shove it up your stupid college bum."
- the same CD criticizing the work of a nervous intern. The intern turned out to be an award-winning Art Director in a multi-national agency 4 years after.

"Listen to me people! I don't want any of you in here working on All Saints Day."
- An Executive Creative Director, thinking he's being generous.

“Guys, I’ve been told that some of you are avoiding work. I’m really disappointed. Please be reminded that in order for us to get our bonuses, we have to make an effort this quarter.”
- Same ECD, sent via text message while he was on vacation at a beach

Yet again, the same ECD doesn't show up for a client presentation, leaving his CD and a junior writer to present a major campaign:

CLIENT: "Where’s your ECD? Shouldn’t he be here?"

CD: "He can’t make it, he's out on an unbreakable out of agency commitment."

CLIENT: "Huh?"

Junior Copywriter: (Butts in) "Don't tell anyone, he's playing golf with his brother."

Talk about juniors:

"You don’t get it! It’s not what I have in mind!”

“Hey, I just followed your script!”

“Oh yeah? Then why did you make it a cartoon?"
A junior Copywriter after an Art Director shows him his storyboard.

Two designers on a phone conversation discussing a client's logo in Photoshop. Guess which one is the junior:

"This logo isn’t the right size."

"Well, I have the file open in Photoshop and the dimensions are correct."

"That can’t be right. I’m measuring it and it’s about 1/8. Too small."

"How are you measuring it?"

"I’m holding my ruler up to the monitor."

A junior artist, after spending 6 hours on one storyboard, was confronted by the Art Director:

“Hey man, what’s taking you so long?”

“This is hard. I want to make the thought bubbles as realistic as possible.”

The same junior artist, asking a senior designer about a logo:

"Uhmm… sorry to disturb you man, I’m quite new here. This being my first job and all… So… uhm… tell me… what does the Red Cross logo look like?"

A junior copywriter, sitting in for his first radio ad recording, tells the sound engineer:

"Can you tweak the sound effects further? I want it to sound like a brick hitting a parachute."

The same copywriter, asking his art director about the copy he wrote in the layout:

“Whoa! Dude, I didn’t know you write Spanish!”
- The layout is a draft with Lorem Ipsum placeholder text

How about the oldies:

"Yeah, just make something fresh and new. Something like the Beach Boys."
- Creative Director briefing a sound designer for a jingle.

"I need you to find a blonde model…. Hmm…someone like that Carmen Diaz."
- Same Creative Director to a Talent Caster

"We are zigging when the rest of the market is zagging..."
- An Associate
Creative Director in the middle of his speech for a client presentation.

"Well Lisa, after all this time you know how we work."

"Jim, my name is Susan."
- Creative Director to long time client

"I like it. It makes me want to come. I mean, to the event! It makes me want to come to the event!"
- A late fifty-something Executive Creative Director to a twenty-something AE, reviewing an invite to an event a day after flyers of the “anti-sexual harassment law” was passed in the office.

"She’s a great writer but she needs to figure out which is more important to her: this account or her sister’s wedding."
- Executive Creative Director / Agency Owner discussing the evaluation of one of his writers

"What project? I didn’t hear about that project. Two weeks ago? Oh, it was in my email? Kaya naman pala (That’s why). I don’t read my emails eh.”
- Art Director to Account Executive

AD: "Make it look like Prada... lots of young, bright, pastel colors!”

Designer: (Thinking about it for a moment) “Uhm… Don’t you mean Benetton?”

CD: “No, Prada! Don’t you watch Queer Eye?
- The AD has often denied rumors that he is gay.

Copywriter: "The voice-overs for the videos in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian are all good, but the voices are all different! Can't we have all them done by the same guy?"

Producer: "And who do you want to do them? C-3PO?"

And other hilarious boo-boos:

"What we give you is what you get."
- Print Producer to a disgruntled Client

“Can’t you make that dog smile? Don’t you have a smile filter on this expensive machine?”
- Ex-creative Agency President and Owner

“And now… the ice cake!”
- Same owner during a pitch, meaning ´icing on the cake’

"We need something that has never been done before. Find out how everybody else did it - and do that."
- Creative Director who wanted a promotion

"Can you make the design 17% better?"
- Creative Director giving comments to his Art Director

"So you have two breaks on your bike! Whats the other one for?"
Receptionist, flirting with a hunky Copywriter.

“Can you ask the announcer to produce a whispering scream?”
- Creative Director, during the recording of a radio spot

“I just thought of an original idea I saw in Thailand.”
- Executive Creative Director

“Brief? Why should I read the brief? Creativity comes from here!”
- Creative Director, pointing at his intestines

“It’s actually a dog… (snickers)… and he’s got this funny bark… (snickers)… no, actually it’s a bitch… you know, like a female dog… (snickers)… and she goes… (snickers) Woof! Woof! (Bursts into uncontrollable laughter)

- An Art Director explaining a storyboard to a client during a late night presentation. Turns out, he just came from a party and he’s smoked 3 joints. Yup, he’s stoned.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The (M)Adman Diaries Part II: Overzealous AEs

The following story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, yada-yada-yakity-yak…

… the verbatims are all REAL, though.

Dear Diary,

I’m sorry it took me this long to follow up on my last entry. My migraine is gone. Thanks to my friend, and her wonderful, wonderful drug called “Exedrin”. I just took one pill and it hit me like an anvil.

I was going to take Wizard's advice and buy Imatrex but I forgot the name when I went to our pharmacist...

“Miss, do you have Ime--- Imi --- Imu --- (running out of vowels) Imo ---


She blurted out, loud enough so everybody in the room would know that I have diarrhea. I was gone faster than she can say LBM.

I hate it when they do that. I remember when I was still in college and I’d go to the drugstore to buy me some “protection”. I’d sneak into an empty void from a sea of sweaty customers, patiently waiting for a pharmacist to notice me and take my order. I never waved my hand to call their attention. I just waited. (Hey, I was only a student then, and I happen to be in a very conservative country, where talking about premature sex in public always raise an eyebrow or two. Ironically so since single parenthood statistics are going through the roof.) And when finally one of them pharmacist approaches, I make sure I whisper clearly, yet very discreetly, what I want to purchase. Almost always, the pharmacist would yell back to make sure they heard me right.


“ANONG FLAVOR?” (What Flavor?)

I shriveled in embarrassment and slowly retracted my footsteps. Could you imagine my grandma buying vaginal wash from the same pharmacist? Or my grandpa buying a box of Viagra?

Anyway, like I was saying, I finally got rid of that pesky menace called migraine. However, I have yet to find out the source. Who triggered my migraine and what did he or she do, better yet say that made me dizzy and nauseous?

I was done listing some unforgettable conversations with clients. I, however, felt that I have to give them the benefit of the doubt. What about our own? The same people who inhabit the place I work? Why not? I spend more time with them than I do with my clients.

Hmm… the witch hunt continues.

Could be it be our Account Executives?

Don’t get me wrong, Diary, AEs are such wonderful colleagues. They are, most of the time, very efficient, hardworking and resourceful. (I really have to say this because Blair Mitch, Gorgeous Noelle, and Celine - God forbid, she's a futsal player - might kick me in the balls). No, seriously, they're great AEs. And I have worked with a lot of good ones too. Some of them even carry a powerful, yet rare weapon in their arsenal – Beauty & Brains. However, in advertising as well as in life, there are some bad apples.

Take this AE, for instance:

AE: “I can’t see the website from my laptop, all I see is numbers.”

AD (Art Director): “What kind of numbers?”

AE: “I think it’s one of those HTML codes.”

AD: “Have you tried connecting to the Internet?”

AE: (Defensive) “You think I'm stupid? You think I don’t know that I need to connect to the internet before I can access the website??”

AD: “So, you’re connected. Can you read the message from the browser?”

AE: “What browser?”

AD: “Internet Explorer. Or Mozilla Firefox. The one you use to open a webpage!”

AE: “I’m using Microsoft Word…”

How ‘bout these guys:

“Wow, your web banner design looks great! Let’s print a copy to present to the client. Make sure it’s animated!”

“Woohoo! Guys! Good news! The client has agreed to shoot on a bigger budget! We have HIV!”
- Account Director, announcing that a TV spot would be filmed in HD (High Definition) Video.

“What a coincidence! I have the same sticker in my computer at home!”
(Account Executive to a copywriter, pointing at the newly-installed CPU in his desk. The sticker reads: Intel Inside)

“Please, I need the design for a circular sticker. Measures: 20 x 40 centimeters.”
(Agency, Account Executive)

“We need your help. According to what I understood from the client, we have to put subtitles on the radio spots. Is that doable?”

What about the AEs who have Arithmophobia (fear of numbers)?

AE: “Can you print the logo and send it to me?”

AD: “Sure thing. What size?”

AE: “As big as you can so we can use it for other assignments.”

AD: “8 X 10?”

AE: “Hmm… how about… 70 meters?”

Another incident:

AE: “If we do the poster 40 centimeters wide and the height in proportion, will it look awful?”

Media: “No, it would still be in proportion.”

AE: “OK. What if do it in 20 centimeters wide and the height in proportion?”

And yet another:

AD: “How do I layout the copy?”

AD: “Hmmm... just make it centered... to the left.”

These two however, deserve special honors:

AD #1:

AD: “We can’t use this painting for the print ad.”

AE: “Why not? We have money. We can buy the rights!”

AD: “Wha—you don’t understand! This painting is…”

AE: (Feeling smug) “Nonsense! I will contact the artist now! What’s his name?"

AD: (Nonchalant) "Vincent Van Gogh"

Silence. The AD waits for the Ae’s reaction. Instead, she picks up a notepad and writes.

AD: "Ok, I will call him now and get his approval."

AD #2 (during a pre-production for a print ad):

AD: “Ok. About this photo. Are we going to buy a royalty-free image from the web, or are we going to use a talent and shoot?”
- The photo in question is that of a Dinosaur.

(Next post: The (M)Adman Diaries Part III: Crazy Creatives)