Behind the songs: Soundtrack to no purpose

Soundtrack to no purpose’ is a compilation of music I created over a span of 18 months, from 2013 to 2015. It’s now out on Spotify, and I hope you give it a listen, because we shot the cover abroad.

The 15 tracks are mostly two to three minutes long each, designed as background music to films, commercials, news clips, etc. The album contains the best musical ideas I had in my early 30s, and I’m so proud of it, almost as proud of my more symphonic and contrapuntal album ‘Paul’s purpose.’

  1. A different world – When I first came up with this, I just kept playing the riff over and over out of fun, in spite of a nagging suspicion it wasn’t original. The suspicion turned out to be false, but it does bear a resemblance, if played at double-speed, to a well-known power ballad. Can you guess which one?
  1. Waiting – This was one of many ideas I had over a period of a couple of days. I like the indie vibe, and it doesn’t vary very much throughout but doesn’t get old.
  1. A light – I came up with this melody 15 years ago, possibly during the time I was still capturing ideas on cassette. I made it into a song that I have since scrapped, but here it’s given a fresh take, being less waltzy than before. The title is part of the cheesy lyrics I came up with, that went, “A light shines for you.”
  1. Grim is good – I stole the title from a relative, who modified the ‘Wall Street’ (1987) quote. The music itself was one of maybe a dozen quite good ideas I came up with in a span of an hour.
  1. I would like to try – The original feel of the melody was of a tiny voice crying in the silence of the night. Recording it, I unwittingly turned it into somewhat of a blues tune.
  1. Endless – I had come up with the delay (echo-thingie) riff years back, in fact around the time that I had just discovered using the delay effect like The Edge. Putting a lead track was just meant to add variety to the piece, but now it sounds like new age legend Kitaro.
  1. Future – The main riff here was a variation to a more bluesy creation of mine the year before. The title is just perfect.
  1. Persecuted radical – I had just watched the film ‘Safety not guaranteed’ (2012) the night before, so when it came to entitling it, I thought of a description for the main character. I am normally wary of songs I make in the key of E Major, because they’re so easy to make, but this one was exceptional enough. This is the only time in the album that I strum the bass part.
  1. Hope – The main riff came from a 30-minute jam I had, the chords of which are based on a Mozart aria (technically a cavatina but I couldn’t tell the difference), ‘Pallid’ombre’ from ‘Mitridate, re di ponto,’ written in the composer’s early teens. I entitled my piece ‘Hope,’ and it does sound hopeful.
  1. Legend – I had just discovered the fun of using a volume pedal (that is, making volume rise as the note resonates) with a flange effect, you know, that smoking-hot jet sound employed by Eddie Van Halen and Karen Carpenter. I like the vagueness of the tune, hypnotic in its way.
  1. The dictator of dictators just bought ice cream – Who is the dictator of dictators? The consuming public. The main riff sounds a bit like the opening theme from ‘The X-files,’ and the heavy riff in the middle still kicks my ass.
  1. Great – This is the most straight-up ‘metal’ tune in the album. When I first made it up, it felt like I was stepping on worlds beneath me.
  1. Skipping like a kid – Still makes me feel like skipping like a kid.
  1. The bad is the worst of us – I like the sheer happiness of the song, which reminds me of something out of ‘90210.’
  1. Thank you – More ballady when I first came up with it 15 years ago, the additional effects make it a lot more upbeat. The slide could be done better, but it’s still not as bad as Duane Allman on ‘Layla.’

Perhaps this soundtrack album does have a purpose, to read alongside my books ‘Dumbest President Ever’ and ‘Be kind to puns.’ Enjoy!

Notes on Hee-Jin Kim’s ‘Eihei Dōgen: Mystical realist’

Title: Eihei Dōgen: Mystical realist
Author: Hee-Jin Kim
Download this article: .pdf (94 kB), .ePub (28 kB), .mobi (86 kB)

hee-jin-kim-dogenI was first drawn to philosophy through the Eastern religions, but I spent the better part of the past two decades oriented towards ‘Western’ concepts designed to pin down some Truth that is out there. In the past year, my focus has shifted to realizations in the moment, incommunicable as they may be. Studying Dōgen complements this change, and this book’s author, Hee-Jin Kim, seems to grasp the 12th-century monk’s approach, and the various Zen schools throughout history, very well. The following quotes are Kim’s, except for those in single quotes as well, which are Dōgen’s.

Human nature is most fruitfully understood in terms of animal symbolicum and homo ludens. Religion is intimately related to mythmaking and playful activities—thus, it is nonintellectual, nonutilitarian, and nonethical at its core.
– Page 10, Location 756-758 (Amazon Kindle edition)

‘Those who regard mundane activity as an obstacle to the Buddha-dharma know only that there is no Buddha-dharma in the mundane life; they do not yet know that there is no mundane life in the Buddha-dharma.’
– Page 42, Location 1514-1515

[T]he matter of supreme importance in religion was not abstract doctrines and theories, but rather lived experience and activity, which was crystallized in zazen-only.
– Page 61, Location 1968-1969

[T]he authenticity or inauthenticity of practice, that is, of activity—rather than the superiority or inferiority of doctrine, or the profundity or shallowness of teaching—was the sine qua non of Buddhist truth.
– Page 75, Location 2320-2322

[T]he motif of realization, rather than that of transcendence, was the key motivating force in Dōgen’s thought about language and symbols, as in other aspects of his philosophy.
– Page 84, Location 2567-2568

[T]he nonduality of illusion and reality[.]
– Page 92, Location 2770

[T]he activity of philosophizing, like any other expressive activity, was restated in the context of our total participation in the self-creative process of Buddha-nature.
– Page 99, Location 2943-2945

The permanence of mind or soul independent of the perishability of body [i]s an illusion.
– Page 102, Location 3004-3005
This is especially interesting, considering most people’s concept of religion as a matter of immortality, of something beyond what we know as biological life. The quote helps in understanding ‘mystical realist’ in the title.

‘Marrow is not deepest, skin is not shallowest.’ To put it differently, Dōgen was concerned not with how and why all existence was as it was, but simply with the fact that all existence existed in thusness—he found Buddha-nature in this fact.
– Page 131, Location 3769-3771

Being and becoming [a]re not two separate metaphysical realities but one and the same in the process of impermanence.
– Page 142, Location 4038-4039

The toughest thing for me to swallow was Dōgen’s concept of time. At the point of reading there is no past and future, only present, my initial reaction was, “What crap is this?” But if we are to consider our actual lives by the moment, we grasp his meaning, or rather his state of mind, better.

[E]ach realized now constitutes a unique whole of actuality.
– Page 158, Location 4441

‘[T]he times of ancient and modern do not pile up, nor do they line up[.]’
– Page 161, Location 4510

But for all the seeming metaphysical wizardry at work, Dōgen was very much concerned with the moral and social.

‘Praise the virtuous, and have compassion for the wicked. As you take delight in affectionate words, they will gradually flourish; then even those loving words which were hitherto unknown and unperceived will show themselves.’
– Page 209, Location 5663-5665

[U]ltimately one confessed, repented, and was forgiven in the nondual purity of self and Buddha.
– Page 216, Location 5837-5838

For more notes on books I’ve read, visit
Buy Hee-Jin Kim’s ‘Eihei Dōgen: Mystical realist’ on Amazon, here.
This article is guided by the fair-use doctrine, and is for the purpose of critiquing and educating.

Notes on Nassim Taleb’s ‘Antifragile’

Title: Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder
Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Download this article: .pdf (92 kB), .ePub (27 kB), .mobi (85 kB)

nassim-taleb-antifragileI might as well confess from the start that I’ve only read Book IV (of VII) of ‘Antifragile’ in full. The fourth book’s critique of academia was my primary interest in reading Taleb, and is compelling enough to discuss on its own.

Before we go any further, we have to define ‘antifragile.’ To Taleb, a word like ‘resilient’ just does not do, not connoting the particular traits he wants to convey. It’s not enough that one is able to withstand adversity, but to benefit precisely from it.
The fragile is the package that would be at best unharmed, the robust would be at best and at worst unharmed. And the opposite of fragile is therefore what is at worst unharmed.
– Location 721-722 (Amazon Kindle edition)

Book IV is entitled ‘Optionality, technology, and the intelligence of antifragility.’ It examines the gap between intellect and action. Expertise in a certain field may not be located where most believe.

[Y]our work and ideas, whether in politics, the arts, or other domains, are antifragile if, instead of having one hundred percent of the people finding your mission acceptable or mildly commendable, you are better off having a high percentage of people disliking you and your message (even intensely), combined with a low percentage of extremely loyal and enthusiastic supporters.
– Location 3214-3215

[Y]our assessment doesn’t need to be made beforehand, only after the outcome.
– Location 3336

[I]n the long run, happy errors bring gains, unhappy errors bring losses.
– Location 3260

[E]conomics is not a science…
– Location 3746
I take issue with this, because it conflates science with practical application. Economics involves far more variables than reproducible experiments in physics, but involves exact principles no less. A difference in number of variables shouldn’t be a basis for being classified scientific, but rather merely determines the limitation of the methods used to ascertain ‘truths.’
Economics may lack value in predicting precise timing of, say, market crashes, but even then, such events, when they do happen, are understood just as thoroughly as a predicted astronomical phenomenon. The trick here is to distinguish between those fitting their logical inconsistencies to facts, and those who grasp facts in a logical manner.

‘Real men don’t use sheets’…
Location 3857-3858

[S]tudying the chemical composition of ingredients will make you neither a better cook nor a more expert taster—it might even make you worse at both.
– Location 4087-4088

Taleb’s ‘Extremistan’ pertains to situations involving sudden, consequential changes, as opposed to moderate fluctuations in ‘Mediocristan’:
‘[M]ost companies’ in Extremistan make no profit—the rare event dominates, and a small number of companies generate all the shekels.
– Location 4176-4177

[W]hat is picked up in the classroom stays largely in the classroom. Worse even, the classroom can bring some detectable harm…
– Location 4261-4262

Avoidance of boredom is the only worthy mode of action.
– Location 4340-4341
I don’t quite agree with this statement. Considering what many, myself included, are accustomed to from their upbringing, there is a need to increase resistance to boredom. Otherwise, there are certainly many points to be missed that more disciplined habit-forming allows, at the risk of finding some aspects ritualistic in the interim.

‘Rational’ Socrates is contrasted with Taleb’s practical ‘Fat Tony’:
What Socrates is seeking relentlessly are definitions of the essential nature of the thing concerned rather than descriptions of the properties by means of which we can recognize them.
– Location 4470-4471

We are guided not so much by rational considerations but things arrived at via often non-conscious trial.
[T]he probability (hence True/False) does not work in the real world; it is the payoff that matters.
– Location 4596

[S]ystems without top-down controls would specialize progressively, slowly, and over a long time, through trial and error, get the right amount of specialization—not through some bureaucrat using a model… [S]ystems make small errors, design makes large ones.
– Location 7795-7797

For more notes on books I’ve read, visit
Buy Nassim Taleb’s ‘Antifragile’ on Amazon, here.
This article is guided by the fair-use doctrine, and is for the purpose of critiquing and educating.

Notes on Shep Gordon’s ‘They call me Supermensch’

Title: They call me Supermensch: A backstage pass to the amazing worlds of film, food, and rock’n’roll
Author: Shep Gordon
Download this article: .pdf (155 kB), .ePub (73 kB), .mobi (165 kB)

Just about the best firsthand account on Hollywood history you’ll read. If you found Mike Myers’ documentary ‘Supermensch’ (available on Netflix) funny and entertaining, you’ll love the book from Shep Gordon himself. He covers a lot more ground here.

Every chapter offers a crazy anecdote involving some icon from showbiz and popular music. To think that he mentions dating Sharon Stone for years, almost as an afterthought. You’ll also find that Shep had a big hand in the rise of celebrity chefs in the 21st century.

It seems that Shep was made to name-drop a good deal, giving the appearance of excluding ‘the little people’ who undoubtedly had a big hand in the success stories he tells. I believe though that the stories would hold even if he withheld real names.

Before becoming renowned as Alice Cooper’s manager, he learned of his ability to create hype, in promoting a fabricated visit of fabricated Middle-Eastern royalty to his university:
No one checked us on our facts – including the part where we’d said that Marchantia was ‘an island in Arabia.’
– Page 42, Location 741-742 (Amazon Kindle version)

Early in his career, Shep found out the following principle:
‘[G]uilt by association.’ If you want to be famous, get next to somebody who already is famous.
– Page 70, Location 1157-1158

On Salvador Dali. Read the book to find out what scissors and honey have to do with it:
The Dali didn’t seem to make art only when he was painting or sculpting; he seemed to make his entire life, every minute of it, every word and gesture, art. That was the point of the scissors and honey. It was a living Dali painting.
– Page 114, Location 1770-1771

A credo that Shep has lived by:
Don’t get mad. Accomplish your goal.
– Page 137, Location 2080-2081

[G]uests, not customers.
-Page 157, Location 2363-2364
That is, treat customers that way.

[S]eeding a little compassion and kindness every chance you get creates an abundance of happiness for all.
– Page 164, Location 2465

For more notes on books I’ve read, visit
Buy Shep Gordon’s ‘They call me Supermensch’ on Amazon, here.
This article is guided by the fair-use doctrine, and is for the purpose of critiquing and educating.

Read one book a week – or pretend to

I constantly buy books, but have only recently managed to finish them on a regular basis. Prior to the past couple of months, I would either get bored of what I’m reading, or realize the book was not quite what I expected. Often, I had only wanted to read whatever book for the sake of having accomplished reading it.

The last reason is particularly true when it comes to ‘the classics,’ you know, the must-reads that you must read just because others say they’re so great. That was largely the reason I took up reading Arthur C. Clarke’s short stories, and I was able to finish three of four collections, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I love some of his stuff, and his ideas, but the long space journeys just have no appeal to me. His characters seem to be intentionally dull mouthpieces of his science know-how.

Anyhow, to give me further incentive to read and finish what I’m reading, I’m challenging myself to complete them in a week. Hopefully, treating it like a job will make me think, “This isn’t that great, but isn’t a bad job!”

What’s in it for you?

Lucky for you, I’ll be highlighting stuff in the books that appeals to or resonates with me, and share them with you here. And you can pretend to have read it, ready on-hand with quotes to impress your friends. You’ll never appear more well-versed on an assortment of topics, at least the topics that I enjoy.

This is somewhat similar to the concept of Blinkist, the app that provides chapter-by-chapter summaries of numerous books, except I’m providing more of my personal opinion, complete with blind spots and glossed-over ideas, much like any casual reader goes through books. You don’t want to be more than a casual reader; that’s just dorky.

Come visit my site every Monday for your supply of new readings, in .pdf, .mobi, and .ePub. Like my Facebook page so I could remind you.

Paul’s creepy obsession with Bach’s ‘Kyrie eleison’

In my story ‘God at last,’ from the ‘Weirdica’ collection, C.Q. Daq is hounded by his unquenchable passion for the ‘Kyrie eleison’ from Bach’s B minor mass, BWV 232. The way he handles such an ordeal has great implications on the future of music and civilization.

There is no other piece I could have written about with such hyperbole and exaggeration without sounding insincere. Music has played such a big role in my life, and a few years ago, at age 32, I had figured Mozart was the pinnacle of art (Symphonies 38, 39, and operas ‘The magic flute’ and ‘Don Giovanni’). Little did I know that the ‘Kyrie’ – which I had heard many times but never really listened to, except maybe in the form it took in Symphony X’s ‘Smoke and mirrors’ – would be such a significant part of my life the closer I reached to Mozart’s dying age.

Eight months ago, I began learning the bass line from the ‘Kyrie,’ and it soon became the most rewarding experience I had learning any music. And then this October, I began tinkering with the main theme on guitar, after having been thrilled seeing Andras Schiff playing it on the piano. I wasn’t really thinking of learning the entire thing. If I was, I probably wouldn’t have gone so far with it. In hindsight, it helped to not know if it was even possible.

By a week later, I had a general idea of how to play the entire thing, made so much easier by my prior knowledge of the bass line. Another two weeks and I felt confident enough to put on YouTube a very nervous rendition.

My justification for putting online an imperfect take that lacks soul and conviction is that I don’t consider myself a guitarist who does classical anyway. My priority was providing the world with the first guitar transcription of such an essential piece. Someday, when its fits me like an old glove, I’ll upload a better, more worthy version.

I’m also featuring it on Spotify. Because it’s on audio, I was able to retouch it a good deal, using 18 minutes worth of takes for the 10-minute piece.

It feels like one of my biggest accomplishments.

‘God at last,’ my story in homage to the ‘Kyrie eleison,’ can be found in ‘Be kind to puns: 23 tales of Weirdica.’

Don’t use Facebook ads unless you know what you’re doing

I sure don’t.

Since publishing my books a couple Excited facebook girlof months ago, I’ve been racking my brains to find an appreciative readership. Thanks to error after irrevocable error, I’ve been learning what not to do in the future. One of these things is throwing money at Facebook.

I should have known better. Years ago, I’d spent on Facebook ads in order to draw people to my music site, but all I was left with was a bunch of Likes of photos I’d uploaded. Almost zero redirects or listens/views.

In 2016, I figured Facebook algorithms or whatever you call them had improved, and that it was easier to reach an intended demographic. But alas, as much as I tried to narrow down the people who would see the posts I paid to promote, the effort was for naught.

If you’re reading this as a follower of the Paul’s Purpose Facebook page, you’re probably one of those bozos who Likes practically everything that passes your News Feed, and the friends you’ve made are quite annoyed with the habit. Probably.

Now if you did enjoy the stories (“What stories? He writes stories?”) or my music even, then you’re one of very few individuals, and I thank you. As much of a cash drain my ad campaigns have been so far, I’m glad to have found a couple of people interested in my crap, and who could probably find it a little funny that I’m going off on people who Liked my Facebook page for whatever reason.

The Philippines as a story setting

Stephen King has Maine. Dean Koontz has California. Writers tend to favor locations and cultures they’re familiar with, even if they mask this by invented names. For me, I have the Philippines. My stories are usually set in the Manila region, which makes it easy to visualize the goings-on of my plots, and I hope this makes the events clearer to the reader.

The Philippines is a strange mix of East and West, in terms of language, values, diets, and many other things. Most Filipinos have a grasp of English, which may explain why so many Filipinos are capable of working abroad in whatever capacity.

I can imagine that for foreigners, there is a uniqueness to the Philippine experience, both positive and negative. To me, it’s simply home. I have many frustrations about the way people think, and this often makes me feel like an alien. But then, I have a lot in common that I take for granted, most especially the language. I still wouldn’t know how to translate the word ‘naman’ in a way that justifies its meaning in Filipinos’ minds. When talking to people from elsewhere, I have to hold my tongue in order not to add ‘naman’ at the end of every other sentence.

And the curses. ‘Fuck’ and ‘shit’ just don’t compare.

While it’s not my intention to do so, I do hope that readers from other countries do appreciate the local flavor I inject into my stories.

My story ‘God and Milia’ is a good example of my use of Filipino expressions. The four-parter is found in Dumbest President Ever: 23 tales of Politica (Amazon link).