Sunday, January 31, 2010

Deep in my Mind

In my Business Mirror column for Monday February 1, I wrote about how the movie Brian's Song was my first ever sports movie (it was also shown on television). I remember that I watched it in my parent's room and I felt rather sad because it was about Chicago Bears' running back Brian Piccolo who succumbed at the age of 26 to cancer. During a commercial break, the trailer for the movie The Deep (we had the novel at home by Peter Benchley) was shown and the one thing I will never forget was seeing Jacqueline Bisset underwater in a wet t-shirt with nothing under. I guess my breathing changed because my mom switched the channel real quick. Too late. The image had ingrained itself in my mind. Hahaha!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

iPad launch

Why is Steve Jobs doing this to me?

An Open Letter to Steve Jobs

Dear Steve Jobs:

Apple just posted its highest ever profits for first quarter sales. That’s $16.8 billion in revenue. I can’t even begin to count to that number. Nevertheless, congratulations.

I’d like to tell you that I am one of those who contributed to that mindboggling amount.

In that first quarter alone, I purchased an iPod Nano, iPod Touch, and a Macbook Pro. And that’s not counting the accessories I got at the Apple Store. One of my favorite brands is Giordano and it has been for years. Last year, I didn’t buy a single thing from Giordano. Not even a crew shirt. I saved it all for your Apple stuff.

I must have purchased every single version of the iPod that I have my own iPod showroom at home.

If it’s too much to ask, I implore you not to make any more iPods. They’re already fine as they are. If I need anything more, then what can my Macbook Pro not supply? And it’s not like these items are cheap.

The Apple iPad is making my head spin already. If I get that too, then there goes my budget for a vacation this year.

Nowadays, an Apple a year keeps not only the doctor away but all other purchases as well. Time was picking apples meant going to an orchard, now it means going to an Apple Store.

Maybe the environmental footprint saves some bucks and trees but I don’t even have a fraction of your wealth. For hardworking joes like me, Apple products are a luxury.

The iPod is fine as it is. I think that last thing that we need is a new design for an iPod. Maybe with your genius, you can find a cure for the common cold or cancer. I’m that much of a believer in your genius.

But please… hold off for the moment on iPods.


Your loyal customer,

Rick Olivares

P.S. By the way, If you have any openings, I’d love to work for you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another Inconvenient Truth

Another Inconvenient Truth

By Rick Olivares

I think that you have the attention span of a glass of water!

Okay, now that I have your attention, I can safely assume that you read my opening line.

Just some food for thought here…

When I was working in advertising as a copy writer, there was a clash of schools of thought in the ads we did: the life’s too short to ready body copy, and leave no blank spaces and fill it up with copy. The former is the Western way of using imagery and snazzy one-liners to reel in the target audience while the latter was the so-called Binondo way of advertising.

So let me get this straight, if a picture is worth a thousand words then why is hard for people today to express themselves, think coherently, or even write well-thought out pieces?

The Philippine Daily Inquirer is said to be the top-selling newspaper in the country. But what exactly is its circulation? A 150,000 copies a day?

We’re a nation of 82 million (the ADB claims we’ve already hit the century mark in the millions) and only 150,000 supposedly have access to it? Even if you add up the dozens of other broadsheets and tabloids then you scrape just a little over a million.

So where do people get their news? Television, radio, the internet, texting (God forbid).

And did you know that 93% of all elementary students come from public schools with libraries that carry material that is several decades old?

No wonder our country is so backward. We’re still living in the past.

As a writer, I owe much to reading books.

In fact, writing, for me, was a result of an accident. As a youngster, I was obsessed with art and sports. My first ever published work was for the Ateneo Grade School publication, The Eaglet, and it is something that I didn’t even pen. My best friend added my name to the credits and so my name got printed. I do have a copy of it.

In fourth year high school, I crammed one time for an essay and when I got it back it had been marked it red ink with an “F.” There was a note attached to it that said, “See the Prefect of Discipline.” Puzzled, I asked her why and she told me that there was no way that someone my age could write something like that and I must have plagiarized it. I told her that I only wrote it some 10 minutes before class and that if she verified the veracity of what I wrote she would find out that nothing was factual. I had completely fabricated everything. She changed my grade to an “A+” and I never let her forget that.

That was when I had inkling that I could write some.

Nowadays, because of writing I get a ton of assignments and opportunities and one of the most frequently asked questions of me is, “where did I learn to write like that?”

Before I answer that, let me just say that all the opportunities and accolades that have come my way are flattering. And I must say that there are many more others out there who are better than I am and who I look up to. Nevertheless, I am most grateful.

Back to the question -- the answer to that is the sum of several factors. The first of which is advertising that completely changed my verbose and highbrow style to something more with a hook that reels the reader in. The second is because of a myriad of experiences that I am able to communicate and translate to my topics. And the last one is simply because of reading.

And reading has a lot to do with my skill. My father thought that I read too many comic books as a kid and that I needed to expand my horizons. So he forced me to read the newspaper and he would give me pop quizzes at home to check if I was I was in tune with the day’s reports.

I must admit that I hated it and my dad plummeted in the Father of the Year polls. When I didn’t understand something I read, his reply was, “look it up in the dictionary or encyclopedia.” That was his way of teaching me to be resourceful. It was something I didn’t understand then but today, I thank him for that because it has really helped in my mania for research and detail.

Nowadays, resourcefulness is wikipedia and googling things and cutting and pasting them with re-writes here and there. One Ateneo professor told me that their way of checking if reports were plagiarized was to paste it and google it.

Ah, the price of progress.

I also read Reader’s Digest and took the Word Power tests with all the seriousness of a school exam. After a while, my parents didn’t need to prod, threaten, or bribe me to read.

The first ever books that I purchased were using the money that was given to me after my graduation from grade school. In the blissful summer between elementary and secondary school, I purchased JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (the 60th anniversary of their publication). They collectively cost PhP 75 then and that was quite a princely sum. But it was money well spent and it did much to expand my horizons. Tolkien’s masterpiece was my gateway to new world. Soon, I began buying books as much as I did vinyl records since music was a huge passion.

From comic books to newspapers to hardbound novels to advertising and design collections, reading has become a staple of my life. I devoured books and I saw it change my way of thinking, the way I wrote, and my thought process.

Today reading is still an indelible part of my life. I read everything from biographies to sports to science fiction to design to fiction and non-fiction. When I learned about the influences and inspirations of certain writers, I checked them out and that took me into different genres further widening my tastes and knowledge.

Whenever I travel, I always make it a point to visit the local bookstores. In fact, I can spend hours inside a bookstore and not get bored. It was comedian Jerry Seinfeld who once said that bookstores and books were proof that man today was still thinking and I wholeheartedly agree.

New York Times’ columnist George Vescey once told me that the day of the newspaper disappearing from the newstands is fast approaching because of the convenience of the internet. That might be true of newspapers but for books, although there was the same initial apprehension, it has not proven to be true. In fact, it is still thriving.

While reading, I always make it a point to jot down interesting passages for future reference and after sometime, I re-read the books because I understand things more after the second serving. It’s like a movie, you’re initially dazzled by everything and tend to miss out some of the subtle nuances but the second serving makes you more aware of a lot of other things that go on.

I’d say that reading is the most inexpensive ticket to visit foreign lands, meet new people, and experience the unknown. I only used to read about the New York Yankees and Yankee Stadium and later in my life, I had the chance to live in New York and cheer for my favorite sports team. Bill Carter’s book, Fools Rush In that recounted his experiences in war-torn Bosnia and it greatly helped in the end of the war. Through my writing, my own corner of the world, I try to change things and the way people think rather than look at the big picture because it will drive me only to frustration. Reading the late David Halberstam’s books taught me how to look at the world around us and how they influence events that happen or people who are a product of the times. Nick Hornby and Marc Spitz I read because they understood the awkwardness of growing up in the manner of a JD Salinger. I identified because they always found a way to infuse their love of music into their writings.

To this day, those Filipino literature stories I read as a grade school student have left an indelible imprint in my mind’s eye: Manuel Arguilla’s How My Brother Leon Brought Home A Wife, Rogelio Sikat’s Impeng Negro, and NVM Gonzalez’ The Bamboo Dancers among many others. In recent years, I have sought to add the grade school reading books to my collection and for my children to read.

Books have a life of their own and can come away impacting people and the way they think and view things.

It has been said that the New York Times is several ounces of paper yet has the power to change the world. That is the power of the printed word and the effect of reading.

In this day of digital technology that has further limited attention spans of the young, it is always good to get people to pick up an actual newspaper or book and to read it. The traditional way of getting people to read is still the best method. The Department of Education says that of the 82 million plus Filipinos living today, there are over 11 million who are illiterate. That’s 13.1% of the population. Of the remainder, there’s another whopping number that doesn’t finish school.

When Mr. Chito Tagaysay of the AHON Foundation and Filway Marketing Inc. asked me if I could help out in promoting their mission and partnership with NGO’s that work for the education of our impoverished masses, I readily said yes. I’ve always believed that education aside from sports, is the great equalizer. And reading plays a huge part in education and in the young’s formative years. Their undertaking is by no means easy but nothing in life is.

And so I wrote this essay on the importance of reading with the hope that you will do your part in promoting its importance. If you’d like to take it a step further, if it’s not too much, maybe you’d like to help out the AHON Foundation. They along with millions of other Filipinos could sure use it.

Thank you very much and keep reading.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What's your VICE?

Vice TV. The best piece of alternative reporting since Al Jazeera. This is where I will go get my news now. I discovered this through CNN ironically and they offered props to this alt news bureau.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sketches of Inspiration. Messages of Hope.

Sketches of Inspiration. Messages of Hope.

Vico Cham: Proud to be Autistic

by rick olivares

Problems or adversity are said to be challenges or tests. And we mortals are supposed to sift through the clutter for messages. Of course that’s easier said than done.

And in the midst of the divination, comes the epiphany.

Catherine Cham is an architect and she deals with the precise and tangible. But she also knows that there are things that are an article of faith.

Such is her son, Vico who was born autistic. Her husband, Vico Sr., also an architect was working in Hong Kong. But for their family to brave through marriage’s trials and raising Vico, they both agreed it was best to stay together in Manila.

Catherine and her husband didn’t look at Vico’s autism as a handicap. In many ways, it was a blessing. He made the family much closer and he had inherited their genes for design. Vico would grab pieces of paper, once even a blueprint for a project the father was working on, and draw on them. It didn’t take long for the parents to recognize the genius in them. “What’s a blueprint compared to a son’s loving work of art?” enthused Catherine at the memory.

Since that first foray into art using the blueprint, Vico has not looked back. “He has quite a talent for it,” beamed Bunny Joaquin, his proud teacher at the SHINE Sped (Special Education) Center, who has been by his side for several years now.

“It was while gathering Vico’s paintings and hand sketches that I received God’s message and it was loud and clear – ‘I have given you My gift through Vico. Use it so others may know me.’”

“It’s a blessing for us; not a curse,” smiled the father.

The Chams began to collate the artwork and would cut up the sketches into bookmarks with biblical passages at the back for reflection. And today, Vico has his first ever one-man exhibit from at the main lobby of SM Marikina from January 17-24 as part of the mall’s SM Cares program and in celebration of National Autism Week.

Vico arrives at the mall every day to draw sketches of people that are converted into bookmarks. On display are his paintings of MTV VJs, pop stars Miley Cyrus and Pink, Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, American Idol David Archuleta, and a host of others.

Through his talent, he is also converting believers and students.

His uncle, Atty. Sedfrey Candelaria, the Assistant Dean for the Ateneo Law School, invited him to be a speaker in a Children’s Rights Class at the Rockwell campus that was an eye opener for the students. One student decided to specialize in cases for special children.

Vico immortalized the session with a sketch of the class (that they purchased) much to their amazement. “He touches the lives of a lot of people,” added Joaquin who places her hands on Vico as he drew a sketched me for a bookmark.

At the back of every piece of work is an original smiley with a simple but loaded statement – “Proud to be autistic.”


I bought a painting of MTV VJ Iya as illustrated by Vico. There were a lot of other great stuff but a lot of folks beat me to it. Still it's not a bad buy.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What every best Stormtrooper is wearing

"This is not for rebel scum." -- Grand Moff Tarkin.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The iPod Killed the Compact Disc Star

Remember that song by the Buggles -- "Video Killed the Radio Star"? Well, the iPod and digital music sure killed the music industry. While some may balk at the cumbersome CD booklets, I love them and still do. While digital music players are lighter and infinitely more portable, they have a tendency to be less personal. But I love them no less and swear by my iPod Touch. Steve Jobs, you the man!

My bands of the decade (not in order): Sevendust, Red Hot Chili Peppers, My Favorite, the Strokes, U2, Coldplay, Sigur Ros, Ryan Adams, Killswitch Engage, Snow Patrol, the Shins, Death Cab for Cutie, Interpol, Mastodon, Bloc Party, Placebo, Dave Matthews Band, British Sea Power, New Order, Incubus, Ivy, the Killers, Paramore, the Mars Volta, Up Dharma Down, Reel Big Fish, Rivermaya