Tag Archives: blah

The blog is back!

It’s been a while since my last blog update. Up till May, I was publishing notes on books I’d read. The trouble is, I’ve been relying on audiobooks since March, so there’s less note-taking involved.

I’m looking to blog more, not just about specific books but things that usually eat me up inside for lack of expression, involving current events. So, please check this space out regularly once more.

About ‘Ballads with balls’

bwbI’m very happy, after a very devoted week of production, to put out ‘Ballads with balls,’ an all-ballad album whose concept originated from Marty Friedman saying in interviews that he could easily and would like to someday make such an album. I ‘borrowed’ that idea, and calling to mind past works of mine, put things down on record, with bass and drums to make it official.

It’s impossible to put into words a wordless activity such as melody, but it’s fun nonetheless to refer to associations I make in the process of musicmaking. So that’s all my ado before getting right to it:

Snow globe – Much of ‘Ballads with balls’ was inspired, title-wise, by decades-old movies. ‘Snow globe’ came from the 1940 movie ‘All this, and Heaven too,’ in a line said by Charles Boyer to Bette Davis. I like to think that the music, which I first devised in December 2010, gives a sense, as in the movie, of the rest of the world being “obliterated” from the present moment between humans.

Certainly richer – The title is from a line in Alfred Hitchcock’s early-color feature ‘Rope.’ I particularly like the melodies, created November 2010, where I unleash my unabashed love of Japanese-style music.

Courage here, too – This comes from a Tennessee Williams poem read in the play/movie ‘The night of the iguana.’ The rhythm has several influences, ranging from Dave Matthews to Alex Lifeson to Chris DeGarmo. This piece, when I played it in November 2010, signaled the start of a very motivated, prolific half year of improvisations.

First night – I’d recorded a couple of versions of the music contained here, separately in January 2012 and May 2014, and so you get a main part at a slow, even tempo, and a short, quicker coda, which reminds me of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m on fire.’

Time in vain – I’ve had the basic idea for this as early as December 2000, and then I made a more complex version in November 2010. I don’t know what the title means really, but it sounds emo.

The pure of heart – An ode to Melanie Hamilton from ‘Gone with the wind,’ as portrayed by now-centenarian Olivia De Havilland. Written in February 2011. It was around this time that I put into practice a simple device to spur melodic creativity:  play a limited number of notes, and let the whole piece revolve around this pattern. That’s what I do here, with the notes D-E-F#-G played in succession.

Eyes closed, ears closer – The simple reason this is entitled ‘Eyes closed’ is that my eyes were closed when I first made this in June 2003. This first version was done without a pick, the difference of which I attribute the flow of ideas here. The ‘ears closer’ in the title was an afterthought in tribute to Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The godfather.’

Thrilled content – First composed in May 2011, but the phrase ‘thrilled but content’ is how I tried to capture a feeling I had in 2006.

Crutches – In September 2003, three months after ‘Eyes closed’ where I created something good without a pick, I tried going pickless again, hoping that doing so wouldn’t “become a crutch.”

All around – Originally created after the first version of ‘Crutches’ and another piece, within the same fifteen-minute period or so, in September 2003. In the first two notes, I hear the words ‘Good night…’ so it strikes me as a lullaby.

Men playing gods – Title from the 1932 movie ‘The man who played God,’ whose plot by now I’ve forgotten after having seen it in January 2011. I like how the piece is somewhat happy but carrying sadness.

White twilight – I might have gotten the words ‘white twilight’ from a book I opened randomly to find a title, or it might have just come to my head. The earlier versions I’ve made of this contained MIDI piano, whose melodies I did on the guitar instead this time around. Written October 2003, free from associations of twilight with vampire-werewolf love triangles.

Grin reaping – A dumb pun used on an early and rare display of me navigating through various key changes with little effort, in June 2006.

Valentine’s Day – Entitled so because it was first made up on Valentine’s Day 2011. The title seems much cooler since the melodies sound so heartbroken, are wrenching even.

Thin girl – First entitled pertaining to the wife of ‘The thin man,’ Nora Charles, played by Myrna Loy, I figured a simpler title would be better, so I got ‘Thin Girl’ from what Gary Cooper calls Audrey Hepburn in ‘Love in the afternoon.’ Written July 2011.

The bullfighter’s solitude – I don’t particularly like Hemingway, except maybe for his description of bullfights and boxing. I hadn’t even read ‘The sun also rises’ at this point in November 2010, but I had just seen the movie, starring among others Errol Flynn and Ava Gardner. The first time I played this was very solemn, from the simple strumming of the chords, to the delicate laying out of the tune, which starts off vaguely like Marty Friedman’s version of ‘Thais.’

‘Westworld’ and the breakdown of the critical mind

I just finished watching ‘Westworld,’ which I found okay, but a letdown overall. My primary incentive to watch was its reference to Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind, which has inspired my storytelling, but the theory wasn’t really dealt with in any substantial way.

I’m ready to move on with my life, but I did notice some articles already discussing ‘Westworld’ in relation to Jaynes. One is particularly wanting, from Thrillist, by a Matt Patches.

On Amazon.

The article shows poor comprehension of bicameral theory. It’s like the author breezed through it, full of preconceptions, basing his article on maybe Book One (of three), and it shows in the language he uses to summarize what Jaynes supposedly said.

Patches confuses the advent of consciousness with a scientific revolution or a golden age of reason, rather than, as Jaynes depicts, a lamentation and yearning for the voices no longer heard. Conscious man in 500 B.C. was not questioning the ontological reality of God, or seeing divinity in terms of mere instinct – not that reducing God to material descriptions makes for science, as Patches implies. It would be foolish to think modern humanity has achieved the self-awareness Patches claims Jaynes claimed that post-Iliad man has.

For the sake of sounding clever, or maybe dumbing things down, Patches writes that the left hemisphere dictated “Jump” and the right asked “How high?” He meant the right as dictator and the left as follower, and leaving that basic error aside, Jaynes would explain that the right hemispheric god’s voice also gave the specifics; there was no conscious self to introspect on the height of one’s jump.


Jaynes clearly doesn’t present Homer as “major evidence” of his theory, but illustrates the importance of language in understanding mentalities. If there is “major evidence” in Jaynes’ book at all, it would have to be with regards to bicameralism explaining the behavior and neurology of schizophrenics and children who claim to have imaginary friends. But Patches probably didn’t get that far into the book (To be fair, it is 120,000 words long).

There’s a quote in the article from a certain Ed Block – it’s actually Ned, according to Wikipedia, which goes to show the depth of research Patches plunged himself into – a criticism that Jaynes himself dealt with in the later edition of his book, that consciousness may have existed prior to ‘The odyssey’ but it itself was not referred to earlier on, to which Jaynes makes a good point, that the concept of consciousness and consciousness itself are the same thing, in the same way talking about baseball came with baseball. And Jaynes, much like Chomsky, whom Patches refers to as a critic of Jaynes’ theory, explains consciousness in terms of the development of language, as I believe Chomsky would. There is just no weight to the claim that the bicameral mind is a matter “beyond scientific evidence.”

That bicameral theory is fruitful to science fiction is no argument against it. If Arthur C. Clarke, and Philip K. Dick for that matter, are indications, science fiction serves as a prelude to a shift in paradigms, in this case in favor of Jaynes.

When all is said and done, I’m glad Patches raised the issue at all.

Of course, by critiquing Patches’ critique, I’m opening myself to others doing the same to me. Here are my notes on Jaynes’ book, which has been a big influence on the last 18 months of my life.

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!

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).