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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Simply Surreal

Yes it’s a very real possibility that he might win. 
But you know, it would have been nice to have a leader that would make us proud. To have a statesman – a statesman who knows how to deal with world leaders and win us friends in other countries –  lead us. Someone who could make us want to shout out to the world, “Yes this person leads us. This person embodies our aspirations, our ideals as a people.”
It would have been nice to have someone who could bring out the best in us, and teach us compassion and empathy. Someone who could be an inspiration to our youth. Someone who could balance the budget, who could straighten out our fucked up, labyrinthine tax and banking laws, and improve our abysmal educational system. Someone who could get to the root causes of criminality, to actually do something about them and not just slaughter petty criminals and call it justice.
That would have been nice, you know?
It would have been funny, but these people would affect the lives of millions of people.
It troubles me.
It also troubles me that a lot of people seem willing and eager to embrace Martial Law, and welcome curfews! Simply surreal. Tell me it ain’t true.
But I suppose we will survive this. 

To quote Samwise Gamgee:
“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
That there's some good in this world, Mister Frodo, and it's worth fighting for.”

You know what’s tragic, though? That the country has no “the way it was.” We’ve always been a basket case.

And now we have come to this. Our history has paved the way for the rise to power of somebody like Duterte.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Being "Bayot"

Is “bayot” an insult? I’m wondering because last night I heard Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte on TV saying this in reaction to Mar Roxas’ expression of disbelief to his (Duterte’s) incredible claim that he could eradicate criminality in the first six months of his presidency, if and when he gets elected.
The way he said it, his body language, the tone, his facial expression – all convey his meaning, that bayot (gay) is something so hateful and disgusting that he reserves that judgment to those who dare question the pronouncements of Emperor Digong. Well, to be fair, that is probably his most benevolent method of answering his critics. I suspect he has far more “creative” methods of silencing them.
I can just hear his followers saying, “Buti nga bayot lang e. Dapat sa iyo pinapatay.” (You should be thankful you're just being called bayot. You should have been killed.) And they’re right. They will inform you this, with unholy glee and righteous anger, with blazing, fanatic eyes and hands gesticulating wildly (or maybe pounding furiously on the keyboard), while pointing out that Davao is heaven on earth. After all, Duterte’s critics are - to hear those people drunk on Duterte-flavored Kool Aid describe them – stupid, ignorant, uneducated criminals, and deserve to be raped and murdered, including their families (I wish I were joking).  
And another thing – is that man capable of answering criticisms without resorting to insults and veiled and not-so-veiled threats? You know, I seriously doubt it. After years of being THE Optimus Maximus of Davao, it probably hadn’t occurred to him that others might be right, and he – dare I say it? – might be wrong.
He still hasn’t given an unequivocal answer though, on how he would rid the country of criminality within six months. That would be a feat for the ages. I get that political promises are a synonym for excrement (bovine, human, and whatnot) but this promise is so laughably far-fetched and prodigiously absurd, that it deserves to be in a class of its own.

We all have a sneaking suspicion of what he is up to, and it is troubling that his followers are okay with it. They welcome it, in fact. You could hear their collective panties dropping when Emperor Digong announced that he would bring back curfew – that endearing facet of Martial Law.
Is the Philippines this broken that we welcome people like this self-styled demigod to hold the highest office in the land?

Yes, I fear it has come to this.    

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Adjective Order

Adjective Order is one of those obscure English grammar rules that nobody told us about in college. A summary on how it works:
Look at these two squares.

How would you describe the objects? The image on the left you’d probably describe as a big, red square, because that’s what it is, right? Now, what if you describe it as red, big square? Does that sound right to you? It sounds quite a bit off, doesn’t it?
It’s because there is a specific order of describing things that for some reason English speakers have established as the proper way.
When you are describing a noun using two or more adjectives, the adjectives are usually in a particular order. Opinions come first, e.g. gorgeous, ugly, etc., before factual ones.  
There are several levels of order. The Cambridge Dictionaries Online lists ten:

Order                relating to                     examples

1                        opinion                         unusual, lovely, beautiful
2                        size                               big, small, tall
3                        physical quality            thin, rough, untidy
4                        shape                            round, square, rectangular
5                        age                                young, old, youthful
6                        color                             blue, red, pink
7                        origin                            Dutch, Japanese, Turkish
8                        material                         metal, wood, plastic
9                        type                               general-purpose, four-sided, U-shaped
10                      purpose                          cleaning, hammering, cooking


She was wearing a beautiful new red dress.
The countertop has ten small round plastic bottles.
He bought some interesting Russian iron ornaments at the flea market.
She is selling her beat-up 10-year-old German car.
It happened during a miserable scorching afternoon.\

An obscure rule, but I think the majority of us follow this unconsciously without realizing that there is actually such a rule.  
Protip: Just remember OpShACOM (Opinion, Shape, Age, Color, Origin, Material)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Looking Back

It’s so strange to see someone watching herself dance 75 years ago. The image of a 102-year-old woman juxtaposed with her youthful, beautiful, and vital self is unsettling, and makes you think thoughts that you often ignore.    

You could see through her eyes that she’s reliving it—she can hear the music and feel its rhythm, feel her feet as they strike the floor, feel the adrenaline rush of doing what she likes best and doing it good.
Someone once said not to fear growing old, because it is a privilege denied to many. That’s true, of course, but there are moments when one feels that growing old is the saddest thing that happens to us.
She’s remembering it all. It’s all in her head still. She was beautiful, she was lithe, and she was a really great dancer.
I guess that’s what our most precious possessions are—our memories. We are still 12 or 16 or 21 inside.

We’ll all grow old and die someday, but we pretend that we are immortal. We’ll see our loved ones grow old and die, or they’ll see us grow old and die, and everyone will suffer devastating loses that are too much for anybody to bear.
You’d think that that is enough for us to treat each other with compassion and love, but no. We go out of our way to be cruel and be simply mean to others, just because we can. We join clubs to be exclusive, then form a clique within that club to be even moreexclusive.
We have different religions that claims to spread love and peace, but the opposite is happening. We discriminate, or we simply kill people, who don’t worship the same gods we do. It’s a scary world out there, and the various religions with all their promises did not make the world a safer place for the billions of people out there.
At the end of the day, we are reduced to our memories of what we once were. So goddamn it, let’s all make memories that we can look back on, memories that can make us smile and say to ourselves, “Damn, I was an awesome, badass mofo.”

Didn’t mean to be so morbid, but as I said, this video of Miss Alice Barker made me think of things that we often ignore.

Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist — a master — and that is what Auguste Rodin was — can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is… and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be…. and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart…. no matter what the merciless hours have done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn't matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired — but it does to them. Look at her!

Jubal Harshaw, Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

Friday, April 3, 2015

There's Just No Easy Way

“How do you say, in polite English, ‘Punta muna ako sa kubeta; taeng-tae na ako!’  (I have to go the toilet; I’m about to shit myself!)?”
In a (Philippine) website that deals mostly in computer parts and peripherals, there was this thread about English grammar. Presumably, the thread starter (commonly referred to in internet forums as the TS), who was one of the regulars of the aforementioned site, has trouble expressing himself in grammatically correct English. As the site is quite popular, and the site members come from diverse backgrounds, many contributed to that thread, and competently answered the TS’ and other posters’ questions regarding English grammar. The “English” thread, suffice it to say, was one of the site’s most active threads.
Anyway, the question quoted above was just one of many. I stumbled across it one afternoon a few months ago. It appeared that the poster works for a firm run by Americans. During one particularly unforgettable meeting with his American supervisors, he found himself in a predicament that necessitated the above-quoted question.

He apparently never forgot the helplessness and despair he felt when the first “rumblings” of trouble started deep inside his bowels, and discovering to his horror that he couldn’t just very well blurt out “Sandali, taeng-tae na ako!” to the white faces around him in the conference table. He had to think of a way to let his needs known in a tactful and polite way—and in English, to boot. Ultimately, he managed to avoid being embarrassed—that is, he avoided soiling himself—through sheer will, I suppose.
Determined to never again experience the horror and helplessness he felt in such a situation, he posted his question in the “English” thread of the site mentioned above. Just in case he needed to extricate himself again, no doubt.
One poster suggested this one: “Please excuse me; I have to go the comfort room.” However, other posters pointed out, correctly, that Americans are not familiar with the term “comfort room,” as used by Filipinos to refer to toilet. “Toilet” would be the most obvious word, and was suggested instead, along with other words that bordered on being flowery (to convey politeness, presumably) and all saying the same thing, i. e., going to the toilet.
I posted my observation that a person, in such a situation, has more things to worry about than grammar; that he still managed to concern himself about what words to use while in such a dire predicament is a testament to his, well, sphincter control.
Others would just probably bolt for the door.
Besides, other people in the room would already have an inkling of what was going on, as such a condition is usually betrayed by malodorous emanations.  Bolting for the door then would be perfectly reasonable. Embarrassing, sure, but the alternative is horrifying.
My toes curl at the thought of me suffering that unhappy fate.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

From Cross-stitching to Explosions

Misis Djyli is the username of a young housewife who, for the past few months, had been uploading her cross-stitching projects on YouTube. It’s her hobby, and clearly she loves it—you can hear the happiness in her voice as she presents her cross-stitches. I am not an expert on cross-stitching, but hers look beautiful, at least according to the few comments on her YouTube channel.  
Here's one of her earliest uploads:

Almost nobody watches her cross-stitching videos, but it didn’t seem to bother her—she just kept making and uploading them.  
Her latest video, however, has currently over a million views, and it does not show her cross-stitching. It shows her town being bombed, and her normally happy voice is gone.  She is crying and sounds very afraid on the video, and you can hear a baby crying in the background. The woman, you see, lives in Ukraine. She lives in a town called Kramatorsk, and the town was recently attacked by Russians (or perhaps ethnic Russians who call themselves Russian freedom fighters) using bombs or maybe rockets.

It’s kind of shocking to see two sides of this person—in her old videos, she sounds cheerful and pleased with her cross-stitches,  and in her latest, she’s terrified, and crying.  She’s so afraid for her child. This is a stark contrast from her old videos, where she sounds calm and perfectly content, and then this—a normal, average person being affected by war. She must feel so helpless.

For sure, the coming days for her and her family will be tough. I hope they make it through the hard times, and Misis Djyili can make another video of her cross-stitches.

I don’t understand a word of what she is saying, but I hope to hear her normal voice again. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Warning: Spoiler Alert

I was watching that “I see dead people” movie years ago when this so-called friend called me up and asked me what I was doing. I said I’m watching this movie with Bruce Willis in it, and there's this kid who sees dead people.
He said, “Oh yeah. Saw that. Bruce Willis is the ghost.” Then he laughed. I played it cool, but I was seething. I thought of Cthulhu and considered summoning him. 
I don’t remember what he said afterwards, what he called me up for, or even what we talked about, but every time I see him (which is about once or twice a year, thank heavens) I imagine him being gnawed on by a good-sized rancor.
I remembered this incident because I just finished reading “Fight Club,” Chuck Palahniuk’s novel. Nobody called me up to spoil anything for me, but I did see this shirt on some website:

This shirt is diabolical
I was only on the first few pages of the book when I saw this, so the whole time I was reading, this was flashing on my head, like a neon sign: Tyler Durden is not real Tyler Durden is not real. Over and over.
Didn’t matter, though—I had a good time reading the book. Still, it would have been quite an experience had I not known that bit about Tyler Durden.
I've read years ago George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and I could have revealed massive spoilers to my friends when the TV series came out. But I didn't (pats myself on the back). I'm awesome that way.
Unlike my good-only-as-rancor-food former friend, who, had he been a book reader, would not have hesitated to call up (or text) every one he knows and tell them about Ned Stark or about The Red Wedding. Thank god the only thing he reads are labels on cheap gin bottles. 

Spoilers like these probably won’t affect the price of rice in the Philippines, but for someone like me who still feels galactically pissed off at that TV executive who cancelled Firefly, it can be infuriating. These little things can all add up. 
And they all comeback to bug you at three in the morning.

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