Thursday, August 30, 2007

Questioning Arthur Miller

I found this interesting article from The New York Times web site, entitled “A New Stage for Arthur Miller’s Most Private Drama of Fathers and Sons,” written by Jason Zinoman, which discusses certain things discovered about playwright Arthur Miller and how this affects his legacy.

The article is reprinted below, with some of my comments in italics.

It had been something of an open secret for years, but most people did not learn the story of Daniel Miller until last week, when Vanity Fair published an article called “Arthur Miller’s Missing Act.”

As described in Suzanna Andrews’s 5,000-word article, Arthur Miller, who died in February 2005, and his third wife, the photographer Inge Morath, had a son born with Down syndrome in 1966. Soon after, they made the painful decision to put the child, Miller’s youngest, in an institution for the mentally retarded before Miller essentially cut him out of his life.

Ms. Andrews describes in detail how Miller rarely, if ever, accompanied his wife on weekly visits to see Daniel, almost never mentioned him to shocked friends and didn’t mention him in his memoir, “Timebends.”

Now that’s creative nonfiction. We choose to remember what we want. We choose to tell what we want.

The picture that emerges is of a father in denial and a son who has moved on to live a happy life without him. “Miller excised a central character who didn’t fit the plot of his life as he wanted it,” Ms. Andrews writes.

I love the Ms. Andrews quote.

Reactions to this article, among those working in theater and on a flood of message boards and blogs, have been emotional, and they have raised questions about what effect, if any, this will have on this playwright’s legacy.

“Arthur Miller will be remembered for ‘Death of a Salesman,’ ‘The Crucible’ and ‘All My Sons,’ ” the veteran Broadway producer Emanuel Azenberg said. “All the rest is talk.”

It’s a subject that most people who knew Miller would rather not discuss. Edward Albee, who spoke movingly at his memorial, declined to comment. And David Richenthal, who produced three Miller revivals, did the same after saying, “I make no judgment.”

Other observers have been less forgiving. In a scathing post last week on the blog for the neoconservative Commentary magazine, James Kirchick suggests that this story “ought to damage permanently Miller’s reputation, if not as a writer, then as a humanitarian.”

What makes the revelation of Daniel so upsetting is how it juxtaposes Miller’s private decision with his public image, as one of the greatest American playwrights and the man who refused to name names before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and eloquently and loudly opposed the Vietnam War.

But it’s an image he “earned” through his public persona, and everyone affirmed it, so is it Miller’s fault?

For many of those who came of age in the middle of the last century a saintly glow hovers around Miller, whose plays have often examined questions of guilt and morality through the prism of family.

He was a hero of the left and a champion of the downtrodden. “Lincoln in horn rims” is what the critic Kenneth Tynan called him.

“Miller had been built up as a moral conscience,” said Martin Gottfried, whose 2004 biography, “Arthur Miller: His Life and Work,” is one of the only publications to mention Daniel. “But by the time of ‘After the Fall’ ” — in 1964 — “he was laboring under the weight of this godliness.”

It might be this reputation (and, of course, his celebrity) that makes Miller about the only playwright you can imagine being the subject of this kind of article in a national publication.

Writers like Miller and Gunter Grass, “who set themselves up as moralists and public scolds, are more vulnerable to criticism based on their own behavior,” wrote Morris Dickstein, who teaches English at the City of New York University Graduate Center, in an e-mail message this week. “But the truth is that very few great artists were admirable people. At heart they’re killers who’ll do anything to get the work done.”

Very good point, Mr. Dickstein.

Professor Dickstein cautions, however, against judging Miller too quickly. “How do we know what we would have done?” he asked. “The birth of a child with Down syndrome can be a tremendous trauma, to say nothing of a strain on a marriage.” And it was more common in the ’60s to institutionalize a child with Down syndrome than it is today.

Another good point, Mr. Dickstein.

One of the more controversial parts of the Vanity Fair article is its speculation on how Miller’s relationship with Daniel affected his writing. His most famous plays, including “Death of a Salesman” and “The Crucible,” were written at the beginning of his career in the late ’40s and ’50s, but his output slowed by the end of the next decade.


Ms. Andrews gently weighs in on this issue, saying that Miller never wrote anything “approaching greatness” after Daniel was born. “One wonders if, in his relationship with Daniel, Miller was sitting on his greatest unwritten play.”

That’s a hard question to ask because you can’t answer it. But it’s intriguing.

But making conclusions about an artist’s career based on his personal life can be very tricky. Playwrights often do their greatest work early in their career, and you could say that one “Death of a Salesman” should be considered plenty for a lifetime.

Arthur Miller’s relationship with his family is a fascinating subject. (Daniel reportedly inherited, in a trust, a quarter of the estate.) But without Miller to help us, we can only understand so much. Profiles of artists can be a valuable, if crude, tool to understand a creative mind’s output. But even the best profiles only tell part of the story.


As for how this will affect our view of Miller, it may be somewhat academic. Younger audiences don’t necessarily think immediately of Marilyn Monroe when they see “After the Fall,” a play widely viewed as a thinly veiled portrait of Miller’s relationship with her, his second wife. And the next generation of theatergoers will almost certainly see “The Crucible” as something other than a metaphor for the anti-Communist blacklist.

The public life of this towering figure will increasingly fade from memory, but his plays — at least some of them — will not. “It may be an irony that Arthur Miller did this,” Mr. Gottfried said. “But it’s only a small part of who he is. There’s more to Tennessee Williams than being a dope addict, and there’s much more to Arthur Miller than this.”

If we’re talking about Miller’s place in history, we should not look further than the plays. The talk of his personal life—however intriguing—is glorified Boy-Abunda-type stuff and shouldn’t play into the judgment of his work.

Why does personal stuff and public persona always play into the legacy of someone whose greatness is supposed to be built upon his output?

Monday, August 27, 2007

August 2007 - In Search of Security

Get a copy now for only Php40!
Contact KATIPUNAN Magazine at

Martin Villanueva, Associate Editor

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Of Last Week

Monday. Kamukha ni Sheng ang kapatid niya. Kamukha ni Mia yung girl sa bar -- uy, siya pala yun!

Tuesday. Nikay studying in the lib? Martin studying?

Wednesday. Masarap pala yung sisig at tempura sa House of Bulalo. Masarap din yung Red Horse dun.

Thursday. Ate Jho sends pictures of her new baby girl (pamangkin number-something). I didn't even know she was pregnant.

Friday. There are people I know with the nerve to yell shit at me from the back of a trike. I have the nerve to accept another student's interview request.

Saturday. 5AM, just got home -- sadly, moments end. 10AM, just got to school -- obviously, sleepy.

Sunday. Young, siga gang members carry guns to the church in our village. A sleepy guard patrols around the parking area, carrying tons in his gut, his left shoe untied.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Birthday Ng Mga Kapatid ...

... ko sa sining mula sa Ateneo FA Program --
Happy Birthday, JPaul!
Happy Birthday, Gin!


In other news, click: Inquirer Youngblood: "Markers and realities" by Martin Villanueva

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Out Now!

KATIPUNAN August 2007: In Search of Security

Talk of an Act aimed at protecting Filipinos has got us thinking about the concept of security. At a time when villains come in many forms, and the ways one can fight back are as plenty as the excuses to run away, we wonder where things stand in a culture deadlocked at the crossroad of fear and defiance.

To define security is to say who one wants to protect, to shield, to keep safe -- himself, his family, his friends, his community, his people, a nation.

To define security is also to acknowledge who or what one wants to be protected from -- terror and suspicion, struggle and poverty, perception and doubts, indifference and indolence, boundaries and limits.

And to define security is to admit what one values most -- peace and privacy, truth and transcendence, creativity and inspiration, today and most especially tomorrow.

This August, KATIPUNAN explores the various ways security is defined -- in light of global terrorism, local oppression, the attacks of perception, the boxing by the mainstream, and the uncertainty of the future -- and how the different persons in society have worked to maintain their own individual and collective security, to protect what and who they hold most dear.

In Search of Security: Cracking the Safeguards
By Angeli C. Alba and Carmina C. Reyes
An investigation of the law that is supposed to grant the nation a sense of security, and why some sectors believe this law and its goals to be two disparate things

Global Filipino Image
By Martin Villanueva and Trish Elamparo
What should Filipinos make of the headlines and reports in the international media which have led to the grim depiction of our country?

A New Ecosystem Emerges
By Al Agassiz D. Dela Torre
A look into the discovery that could possibly curb global warming

The Man Behind Chikka
By Al Agassiz D. Dela Torre
The business side of technology, a man and his Web company, and how they try to do things in service of families

Defying Definitions
By Xela Ann Marie Avilla and April Sescon
Veteran indie filmmakers Khavn dela Cruz and John Torres expound on the experience of the experimental film

Mainstream to Indie
By Xela Ann Marie Avilla
An Ateneo alumnus and ABS-CBN scriptwriter recounts her journey from writing commercial entertainment to directing her Cinemalaya entry Still Life

Remembering a River's Flow
By Michelle Bugante and Ma. Lourdes N. Colinares
A return to the waters where Rizal in his novels pours his grief over the oppression of the Filipino

Buy your copies now! 40php only :)
Contact KATIPUNAN Magazine at
Contact yours truly, the associate editor, at

Mental Exercise

Just think about the question below. I got it from a student presentation in one of my classes, and it seemed like I was the only one who noticed anything wrong.

"True or False: Does Manuel Quezon have Chinese blood?"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

With Travel On My Mind (And News Gone AWOL)

It's that time of the month where stories come rushing through my head like a jolt of caffeine and I'm scribbling potential leads to 12 stories or so, trying to make travel just as relevant (even more so) as news, making science just as interesting as a story about lovers, while pushing hard to get a cover for my favorite section, art.

I have notes scribbled on six pieces of scratch paper, the first for sermons that need to be given, the remaining five filled with everything from ideas to names of writers on the staff who best can fulfill a story's potential.

I look at the org's e-group and the past week has seen messages posted primarily by myself, beginning with egging on, continuing to slight cynicism, then to praise to those who have taken initiative.

If nothing changes, the next few messages will come across like middle fingers to a frontliner more concerned now with books and candles, to those who aren't asked to be down in the frontlines, rather asked simply to answer a question, to inform us of something we might need to know.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm perfectly fine having the "suits" out of our asses, allowing us out in the trenches to do our thing, to tell our stories.

But the "suits" (from the 'syana) do have roles to fulfill, and I'm hoping they don't neglect that, as it sure would be nice for them to be on our side when kudos are given, making all the shit we put up with somewhat worth it.

There's an arrogance that comes with the support of those under you, resulting from the confidence you've earned from them and which you try to instill in them as well.

Some who come into the situation simply had it all along, allowing you the comfort of excellence coming from at least one-fourth of what you oversee, allowing the two of you to actually enjoy the private ranting about others over a bottle or two after work.

Some come in raw, improving little by little, for which you like to claim some credit, however irritating the guiding gets with deadlines looming.

Some you recruit yourself and build a team around, thus creating another section that generally gives you peace of mind -- and that makes half of a whole worth putting up against anybody.

And there are those that give you glimpses of brilliance and flashes of blah, indicative of their being that head-scratching mix of determination and immaturity, at times a steadfast focus and too many times a focus gone AWOL.

And there's a bit of irony in that after it all, the two you perhaps trust the most are those who do completely different things and aren't technically under you but are the ones you come to know the most in times of professional stress, the two that don't sleep as long as you're awake as well, whose purpose really is to draw attention to you and your staff, to make you all look good.

And it's those two plus you that are itching the most right now, raring to get things started all over again, for all over again brings forth a promise of the potential of being perfect.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Birthday ni Nikay

Edboard meeting a few weeks ago. Discussing concerns for our August issue. Our cover story, with sound sources, good insight -- which makes me happy -- was missing the visual element.

Creative director Charz thinks of a way to work around the problem. Head photographer Nikay steps up.

"I took pictures of the rally in UP."

"We can use those," I suggest.

Charz turns to Nikay, "From those pics, do you have any art shots?"

Nikay retorts, "All my shots are art."

(Yahoo! Palakpak! Na-aliw yung gagong assoc editor sa sagot.)


Happy Birthday, 'Kay!

(Inom. Chowking after.)


Haiku for the birthday girl who tries to write captions as haikus:

caption at corner.
five-seven-five syllables.
caption as haiku.

(This is why I don't let people read my poetry.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On The Road Turns 50

Jack Kerouac's On the Road became an instant favorite of mine when I discovered it last year.
There's something romantic about the traveling hobo, drinking across the country with similarly, directionless, lost but free assholes.
But it's an aspect a relative stiff like me can't relate to -- at least not on a literal level.
If anything, it's that wanting to escape that I found most endearing, most relatable -- daring to just give it all up, and having the balls to glorify one's running away, one's denial.
It's the anti-coming-of-age, for that happy ending could never satisfy the intensity of honest but perhaps misdirected introspection -- not in this world, not in this lifetime.
From a writing standpoint, On the Road was equally rebellious.
Heavily-laden with prolonged passages of stream-of-consciousness -- "spontaneous prose" Kerouac called it -- it was the best defense of the sanctity of the first thought, which is always the most honest anyway.
My romance with the book is only a year old, but its romance with other readers around the world has now lasted 50 years.
Here's what The New York Times has to say about the book, its anniversary, and its continuing relevance.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Post-Press Times

News: Making Sense of Security

In case you missed RockEd Radio's discussion on it tonight, be assured of the fact that KATIPUNAN investigates the Human Security Act in the soon-to-be-released August issue.

The article, written by Aeli Alba and Mina Reyes, isn't as funny as Lourd De Veyra (sadly) nor does it feature comments from Karl Roy (unfortunately), but it's informative, insightful, and it'll be waiting for you to read it anytime without you having to worry about missing an 8PM radio program.

Among the names starring, co-starring, or making cameos in the pages of the issue: Mar Roxas, Jamby Madrigal, Juan Ponce Enrile, Randy David, GMA, MLQIII, JV Rufino, Marites Vitug, Gelo Suarez, Khavn, John Torres, Katski Flores, Ron Capinding, Jose Rizal, Boy Higad, Angel Aquino, and the gangsta rappers of Tondo.

KATIPUNAN August '07: In Search of Security -- coming soon. With (Memoir)izing in Filipino in observation of Buwan ng Wika.

Business / Art: Radioactive Cans, Microchipped Bottles

From "Product Packages Now Shout to Get Your Attention"
By Louise Story
The New York Times

In the last 100 years, Pepsi had changed the look of its can, and before that its bottles, only 10 times. This year alone, the soft-drink maker will switch designs every few weeks.

Kleenex, after 40 years of sticking with square and rectangular boxes, has started selling tissues in oval packages.

Coors Light bottles now have labels that turn blue when the beer is chilled to the right temperature. And Huggies’ Henry the Hippo hand soap bottles have a light that flashes for 20 seconds to show children how long they should wash their hands.

Consumer goods companies, which once saw packages largely as containers for shipping their products, are now using them more as 3-D ads to grab shoppers’ attention.

Evian is among the marketers using packaging to add a sense of luxury to ordinary products — its new “palace bottle” water, for example, is being sold in restaurants and hotels. The bottle has an elegant swanlike neck and sits on a small silver tray. Technology is also driving the changes — like the thermochromatic ink in the Coors label that changes the color of the label’s mountains with the temperature of the beer bottle.

And in the next few years, Pepsi drinkers may smell a sweet aroma that is sprayed out when they pop open Pepsi cans — such as a wild cherry scent misting from a Wild Cherry Pepsi can. Executives at the company have also considered cans that can spray a light water mist when they are opened, but they are unlikely to add that feature soon because of the cost, they say.

Some companies are studying technology to put a computer chip and tiny speaker inside a package. This idea might be particularly useful for big companies like Unilever that want to cross-promote their various brands. So a package of cheese could say “I go well with Triscuit crackers” when a shopper takes it off the shelf. As the costs of the chips come down, marketing executives said this and other technologies would appear more on shelves.

All these packaging makeovers may make trips to the grocery stores more entertaining. Or the result could be confusion, if not downright annoyance.

Sports: Reunited, It Don't Feel So Good

Years before Wade, back when Kobe was still in high school, Shaq's partner outside the paint was one Penny Hardaway.

This was before some coach decided it best to move the 6'7" point guard to the 2, forcing him to be a scorer, before the knees buckled and the weight increased, back when he and a puppet lookalike rivaled "nice guy" Grant Hill as the most visible NBA stars in TV commercials.

Shaq and Penny had a few decent runs in Orlando, the peak being their being swept in the '95 Finals by Houston. But then they split up.

Shaq went on to LA, won three rings with Kobe, then to Miami for another ring with Wade. Penny faded to obscurity, part of teams we'd be hard-pressed to remember -- Phoenix (pre-Nash), New York (post-Ewing), and back to Orlando (albeit for five days).

Well, 36-year-old Penny signed with Miami this week, reuniting him with Shaq who The New York Times reported was unavailable for comments. I guess stars rarely say anything about elderly additions to the bench.

Health / Paranoia: I Got It From My HP

"I don't feel too good."

"You get enought sleep?"

"Not really. I'm running on two hours."

"Where'd you go drinking this time?"

"No, wasn't drinking."

"What was on TV?"

"Cable's busted."

"So what were you doing?"

"Finishing the first draft of my thesis -- 73 pages."

"Oh, so you're stressed."

"Not really."

"Then why you sick?"

"I don't know. Must've got it from my printer."

"Is Your Printer Making You Sick?"
By Coco Masters

A recent Australian study will have you thinking twice about waiting for those printouts — not for the sake of the paper, but for your health. In the small study, published in the Aug. 1 issue of Environmental Science and Technology, researchers found that nearly 30% of the 62 printers they tested — including laser printers from Canon, HP, Toshiba and Ricoh — emitted high levels of ultrafine toner particles, which were potentially as hazardous as cigarette smoke. In one Brisbane office, the authors found, the concentration of particulate matter per square inch was five times higher during working hours than nonworking hours, and about 3.5 times higher inside than outside, where a freeway ran 130 yards from the building.

Birthday ni Pards

Blast from the past...

(Happier times, really.

Seems like ages ago.)

Happy birthday, Japs.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Birthday ni Banzon

Out of the blue, while the sun outside mocked the cancellation of classes, a text from Sheng:

"Ayan, sa 20 pa raw
makakapag-Magnet ang
mga tao. Makakapag-ipon
pa tayo ng pang-entrance,

I reply:

"fishing for birthday
greeting ba 'to? hahaha.
happy birthday, pre!:)"

Ang bastos ko. Sorry, Sheng.

Happy birthday talaga, 'pre.

I'm reminded of that one time, in that place, where there was Coke, and rhum, and the lights were off for some reason, but there was a night light, and there was Coke, and rhum, and the girl from La Salle was drunk on the top bunk, and we couldn't stop laughing, because, because, and there was Coke, and rhum, and estringent, and a guy on the other bunk, the curtain as his blanket, and we couldn't stop laughing, and, and -- shit memories. Fuck it.

(Damn. Mababaw ang pinagsamahan natin, 'pre. Hahaha.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Creative Nonfic Tidbit of the Day

A personal essay is written about a persona's losing a friend. The friend just disappears, and the persona doesn't look for him, doesn't fight for him.

A comment is made about the end being anti-climactic, how we (or the person making the comment) is disappointed at the persona for not chasing the lost friend.

A professor comments, "Isn't it interesting how if we judge the piece as a story, it's somewhat of a let-down in the end?"

He continues, "Perhaps it speaks of how the expectations from a narrative in nonfic is less, as long as the demand for significant insight is met."

A student replies, "It could be thought of in that way, that the expectations from a narrative in nonfic is less than that in fiction.

"But maybe in general, and especially in the case of this particular essay, it's because the dramatics of chasing after someone never really happens.

"Maybe it's just more real to have these people disappear. And for you to not do anything."

The professor responds, "Sabagay. That's why they call it fiction. Make believe. It never happens."


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Thesis Essay Para Sa Mga Tamad

Why this form?

Creative nonfic ba ang ibig sabihin mo? Balikan ko ang isang pseudo-debate between Sasha and I earlier this year...

"And what is it that you do?"

"I write stories."

"Isn't nonfiction a story told, only the stuff really happened?"

"Where's the creativity in that? We create our own world…"

"Where's the courage in that? Hiding behind imaginative worlds…"

"Who says we're hiding?"

"All work—fiction included—is biographical."

"Are you saying that the story about the girl who runs away to fight monsters is a true story?"

"Are you saying that the sense of inadequacy consuming that girl, making her run away from an abusive home to fight the only thing that exists that's more frightening than her family isn't true?"


"How conceited of you to only write about yourself!"

"How plastic of you to do so and hide it behind make-believe!"

"That's not being plastic…that's creativity."

"If I wasn't creative, why would anyone in this godforsaken world even give a damn about a 21-year-old of a fuck?"




"Me too."

"Then what do you have to say about poets?"

"They're all talented motherfuckers."

What have you done with this form?

Fooled judges into giving me some award.

Who are your writing Gods?

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. (Sabay-sabay ang lahat: "ULUL!!!")

Side story: Sir Larry asked for a list of my favorite authors and books. Upon glancing over the names, he commented, "You're such a guy." He would later say that he's been reading a lot of lesbian writers lately.

What are some issues you have encountered?

Wala-sa-mood syndrome.

How did you respond?

Gumagawa ng mood. (Labo!)

What are some of your themes?

Silences. The relevance of them. The meanings of them.

Noises. The bullshit by them. The insincerity behind them.

What is your advocacy?

World peace. (Is there such thing as a cliche joke?)

Why do you write?

Malay ko. Pa-cool lang siguro ako.

**I reassure my thesis adviser, thesis class teacher, and the Ateneo CW program that I'm taking my thesis seriously. Just getting in the mood with this. I guess.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Of the 13th Ateneo-Heights Writers Workshop

(1) Congrats to the fellows: Zoe Dulay (CW represent!), Marie La Vina (English co-staffer; Duma, UP, and now Heights--Wasak!), Tim Villarica (English staff veteran returns to writing), Jason Tabinas (Filipino staff, IYAS alum), Anne Calma (Filipino staff, cheerleader turned poet turned cheerleader turned fictionist), and Kat Alvarez (managing editor, nag-creative nonfic!).

Sorry, I only know coursemates and fellow old Heightsers. But congrats as well to the others.

(2) Congrats to workshop director at (ehem) matalik kong kaibigan Audrey Trinidad. Sorry wasn't able to deliver certain promises. But it was a success anyway, right? (How'd you find the write-up?)

(3) Congrats to editor in chief at kapatid ko sa sining mula sa Ateneo FA dep JPaul Marasigan. May boses pala 'to! Hahaha. (Oo, kumanta si bossing!)

(4) Thanks to April and Nikay for getting lost in Lagro with me and chipping in for the P260 cab ride. Thanks to Drew for driving us back to Katipunan on Monday.

(5) Arrived on Sunday, the last day of workshop proper, just in time to see Ma'am Beni Santos and Sir Larry have a mini debate (using their different sensibilities) about Marie's poem, which serves as the inspiration behind the form of this enumerated blog entry.

(6) Note to fellows' night organizers Fidelis (English editor) and Francis (special projects manager): It's hard to organize a poetry reading kung walang ilaw. Candles can only do so much.

(7) Fellows and Heightsers spent the last night drinking in dorm rooms, the last ones awake finally calling it a night at 4AM. A familiar concept. (Pero mas malaki yung rooms sa Occi.)

(8) Someone gave me a bottle of red wine. I didn't have anything to open it with. That was the workshop's horror story.

(9) The last night was the only night they drank. (Together now minotaurs: "Ano?!")

(10) I asked Zoe yesterday how she felt a couple of days after the workshop. She said that she misses everyone.

"But it was only four days," I said.

"Yeah, but all we did was hang out with each other."

Nagiisip ako. May naalaala.

"Try three weeks."