Monday, December 26, 2005

Sad Story

Last year the world had to deal with a tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The relief effort is ongoing, but rebuilding the shattered lives may take more than just a lifetime.

That tsunami wiped slates clean all over the world. In my mind's eye I can see families rent apart or decimated.

But the sad story I am about to tell is not of this tsunami --- it's this small thing, when you look at it. But it's a life forever changed.

Last year my uncle introduced me to this nurse from one of the hospitals over here. She was a nice girl, really, and she did a whole lot for my boss while he was confined in their hospital for a few days. As I was just new to my job and my colleague had gone for vacation the pressure was mounting.

I was hoping that something may come out from my few phone calls and text messages. While I was normally a penny-pincher, I was willing to plunk down a month's worth of airtime on my mobile just to talk to her. And I actually did. Two months' worth, actually.

For some reason or other, we just didn't connect. I first saw her during my boss's confinement...and then later she admitted to my uncle she didn't like me because I was ...FAT.

Her words, not mine. Anyway, they're true. No mincing words about it.

For the longest time, I took my weight problems in stride and I accepted that some people would never be attracted to me because of it. What surprised and hurt me at the same time was that I didn't know that she would be THAT kind of person. I tried to forget about it, and eventually I forgot all about her. My uncle told me to try again, but then I said to myself and to him, why try? She has already dismissed whatever good points she may find when she chose form over substance.

Comes now he with the latest news: she found the boyfriend she apparently wanted. And now she is bearing within her, if she hasn't given birth by now, his child. The problem: he was already married. (Did she know? It does matter if she did or did not, but nevertheless...) The second problem: she lost her job. The third problem: I don't think he will support her through this situation.

When I heard the news, I didn't know whether to gloat or to commiserate. After all, I could have prevented something from happening had I persisted. But heck, my pride was hurt and I wanted to get back some measure of self-respect. She didn't want me! There are so many other people out there who would appreciate me for who I am.

On the other hand, I could have tried, and taken away with me the satisfaction that I did my best to let her know how I felt. Of course, I could have hurt myself even further had I taken some risks and still she chose some other guy.

It may be nothing in the tapestry of humanity, but this is a sad story which has impacted so strongly upon her universe. Another sad thing is that this kind of thing happens every day. Somewhere out there a girl struggling with her prospects is betrayed by the man to whom she gave her heart and with whom she shared her body. Somewhere out there some girl is a hapless thrall who has no control over her reproductive rights.

This girl's problem is not unique. Yet I can't help but feel sad. She made some wrong choices I wish I could have helped her avoid. (Yes, to my benefit, but I would like to believe that I am an honorable man and will do the right thing).

I can only pray for her and hope that she comes out a winner in the end.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Couch Potato

I watched four full movies during the weekend - a long lazy weekend for me, one that I haven't had for some time. The first was, "The Wedding Date," the next one was the Hollywood remake of "The Grudge," the third was "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," and the fourth was "Must Love Dogs."

Why should a guy like me indulge in chick flicks (yes, even the aforementioned "Smith" is a chick flick pumped up with a little testosterone - uhh, that brings up really unpleasant images)? Simple: in a place like Saudi Arabia, hiding the sensitive side just doesn't work. Besides, I'm sick and tired of bang-me-ups, except if there is an inkling of Strong Sexual Content. After all, I'm not feeding my brain and I'm not raising my IQ with those movies. Better look at them the way they really are.

For the first, I wasn't a fan of Debra Messing because I hardly saw "Will and Grace" on TV. I have been, she is one righteous babe! I don't regret missing "Will and Grace" but after I Googled her and realized that I had watched some of her work, it's remarkable I didn't remember her for her outstanding cameos in "A Walk in the Clouds" and "The Mothman Prophecies." Dermot Mulroney appears as her romantic interest. So-so guy, I guess it's the Southern accent and the designer body that stokes up the female attention. Matt McConaughey would have been a better fit, but I guess he wasn't available.

High points of the movie --- none really, except for the odd voyeuristic moments with Mr. Mulroney. Debra is "hot", but only as the complete package (her character is a bit shallow and self-absorbed, but heck, would I notice?), because her specific parts wouldn't match up well with the products of cosmetic surgery. The story is lame, in the sense that "Pretty Woman" is lame --- where do we find enlightened hookers these days? Not that I would know where to look.

Verdict --- A safe choice if you have time to waste. Also, if you want to talk shop with your girlfriends. Not a good movie for guys, except if they happen to be fans of Debra Messing. Or of Alicia Silverstone, since she is virtually a redhead version of Alicia.

I started on the Smiths but instead worked up my appetite for "The Grudge." Chills and thrills for this movie, but since I watched "Ju-on" the remake falls a step back even though they brought the original director back to do the Hollywood version. Still good though, though some of the horrors were predictable. But then, I've seen "The Eye," "The Ring" and a host of similar works, so nothing much to report. Sarah Michelle Gellar looks OLD. They shouldn't have cast her as a nursing student. Too much of a stretch of the imagination. The Japanese actors were a credit to the production.

High points of the movie --- All the thrill portions, but they come few and far between, and the use of the face is very predictable. The device loses its capacity to scare you midway through the movie.

Verdict --- Thumbs up if you want your date to cuddle up to you. Not good for a first date. Great for vacationers during Holy Week or Halloween holidays. Ruins the Christmas spirit, so drop it when seeing it with family. And oh, it's a cool movie to watch with your buddies.

Now we get to "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." Downright disappointing. Angelina Jolie is her usual luscious self, but there is not enough tension to show a genuine animosity. The characters are too likeable and flat. It's not their fault, really. It's just the design of the movie. On the other hand, there are not enough brain-numbing, rock 'em-sock 'em, blow-me-up scenes in the movie to qualify it as a testosterone flick. Brad is his usual bland, blase self, so chicks digging him wouldn't have trouble finding opportunities to drool (alas, not enough of Angelina to go by...).

High points of the movie --- The fight scenes between the leads. However, offense to the ladies, but the Angelina character is just a bit too resilient to be plausible. That, or Brad Pitt's character fights like a wuss. Well, I've never been much into his style, anyhow. The scenes with them cooperating just look too choreographed. Stylish, but not enough sizzle.

Verdict --- A mediocre offering for typical dates. Great if you are a fan of either, or of both. Good enough to watch with your steady, but not enjoyable fare for husband and wife. Single women may like the independent streak of Jane Smith, but true married women wouldn't buy her lack of perception over her husband's true persona. As for John Smith, if I had a trophy wife, I'd knock her up pronto so that I will tie her down to me ASAP. Yup, he is a wuss.

Finally, "Must Love Dogs." Ever since "The Outsiders" (one of the first movies I ever watched on video) I was really into Diane Lane. Despite her lack of quality movies for the rest of the '80s, I believed that she would get to the top eventually, though belatedly, when she really whipped up a storm in "Unfaithful." Something about prodigality always get winners. John Cusack is like a proto-male (in my terms), though he is actually 6'4", white, American, and miles away ahead in the looks department. In "Say Anything," he defined one generation coming of age (high school to college) and in "High Fidelity" and "Grosse Pointe Blank" he typified a man coming to grips with the important things in life.

And oh, he gave girls the shaft (as in arrows of love) in "Serendipity" though I know it was a bit of a dumb movie, if I weren't so in love with Kate Beckinsale.

Yeah, I wish I could be like John Cusack. Only not in this movie. If I weren't a fan of his, his character in this movie was that of a total LOSER. Not the loveable loser in "High Fidelity" but just a loser, period. I mean, even such a total dork like Dermot Mulroney's character could trump him in charming the lady into bed (Yes, I got positively sick of watching Dermot Mulroney getting the girl this weekend).

But oh, Diane, Diane. Such a delectable neurotic...

High points of the movie --- I just enjoyed watching Diane Lane. The freaking copy was like, uh, really bad (you could see silhouettes of the people in the cinema!). Aside from that, there wasn't even a high point with the dogs. I mean, the only siginficant part with any dog was during the last part, and even then, the dog was just a set piece, some imperfect deus ex machina. Stockard Channing, Christopher Plummer, and Elizabeth Perkins were great foils. Liz in particular is my favorite, dating from "About Last Night."

Verdict --- It's a loveable loser, if only for Diane Lane and her interchanges with her family and friends. I gather it's a better read. If so, maybe some ladies will get some more value for their money should they buy the book. And young Julie Gonzalo is up-and-coming. She should get more screen time.


So I was. By the way, I was able to sneak in "Polar Express" on satellite TV in the wee hours of Friday morning. Great Christmas fare. Typical, but good only for the kids. I'd throw in "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" had I finished the movie, but our satellite signal got scrambled in the middle of the darned film. Shame.

It would be a long time until I get an opportunity to vegetate in front of a screen, so this weekend was a welcome relief.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Two quotes from Albert Einstein, progenitor of the theory of relativity:

"Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men."

"The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life. "

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Try my Kung Fu?

Your Seduction Style: Sweet Talker

Your seduction technique can be summed up with "CHARM."
You know that if you have the chance to talk to someone... Well, you won't be talking for long! ;-)
You're great at telling potential lovers what they want to hear.
Partially, because you're a great reflective listener and good at complementing.
The other part of your formula? Focusing your conversation completely on the other person.

Your "sweet talking" ways have taken you far in romance - and in life.
You can finesse your way through any difficult situation, with a smile on your face.
Speeding tickets, job interviews... bring it on! You truly live a *charmed life*

Arms of Love

Just to say thanks for all the blessings I have received this year, I am posting Amy Grant's "Arms of Love."

I'm pretty deflated that I won't be spending Christmas back home. Not because of anything else, but Christmas is the best time to reconnect with all the people you've missed during the entire year. As to the trappings of Christmas, those are the things I can do without.

There is just this gaping hole in the middle of my chest that keeps on asking, "Will I ever be that someone in whose arms some girl would want to be?"

Insh'Allah. Insh'Allah.

Lord, I'm really glad you're here.
I hope you feel the same
When you see all my fears
And how I failed . . .
I fall sometimes.

It's hard to walk in shifting sand.
I miss the rock and find
I've nowhere left to stand.
I start to cry . . .
Lord, please help me.

Raise my hands
So you can build me up
Hold me close
Hold me tighter.

I have found a place
Where I can hide . . .
It's safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who's held
Throughout a storm
You keep me warm
In your arms of love.

Storms will come and storms will go
I wonder just how many
Storms it takes
Until I finally know . . .
You're here always.

Even when
My skies are far from gray
I can stay
Teach me to stay there . . .

In the place I found
Where I can hide . . .
It's safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who's held
Throughout a storm
You keep me warm
In your arms of love.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Way of Self-Awareness

Chapter 33 of the Tao Te Ching reads:

Self-Knowledge & Self-Mastery

Intelligent people know others.
Enlightened people know themselves.

You can conquer others with power,
But it takes true strength to conquer yourself.

Ambitious people force their will on others,
But content people are already wealthy.

Prudent people will abide.

People unconquered by the idea of death will live long.
People who live according to their means last long.

I remain intrigued by the quote "We have conquered outer space, but not inner space," meaning we have achieved technological but not psychological maturity.

Self-mastery is the key to the development of inner peace, and with inner peace as the means, outer peace is the end.

31 Things

I'm a bit lazy to write something new, so I'll answer a few dumb questions.

  1. Your horoscope sign? Libra
  2. Single or taken? Single
  3. In love? Always
  4. Have you ever been seriously hurt by the person you loved? Yes, they're the only ones who could, anyway.
  5. What would be your reason if you turned suicidal? I haven’t gotten there yet.
  6. Is suicide really killing yourself? Du-uh, no? (what a dumb question!)
  7. Country or classic? Classics.
  8. Prefer cute/idiot or smart/ugly? Cute/idiot. Pambalanse.
  9. Are you in a stable relationship with your bf/gf? What relationship?
  10. You’d expect a text message usually from: Orgmates from SPA, my family
  11. Have a best friend that is in the opposite gender? Yes
  12. What do you like doing when you’re depressed? Park myself in front of a TV set and watch videos.
  13. Cheerful or boring? Cheerful. Hmmm, aloof, but cheerful.
  14. Describe a perfect date? Let me tell you when I have one … and it doesn’t necessarily have to have sex in it (always wishing though).
  15. Ever wondered why nobody knows why the sky is blue? No.
  16. Ever been hurt by love? Yes.
  17. Will you ever make the same mistake again? Maybe not.
  18. Ever hated anyone like hell??? No.
  19. What will you do when a person breaks up with you after one day? If we’re married, probably go amok. Otherwise, nothing (what a relief!).
  20. Give one word that best describes what you’re feeling now? Bored
  21. Do you believe in yourself? Uh, no? What a question!
  22. Ever physically hurt yourself?? Yes
  23. Ever verbally hurt yourself? Yes
  24. Motto in life? Get paid, and get laid! But seriously, I don't have one, but the one I most often quote is "Whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well."
  25. What is your purpose in life? Aha! It remains a mystery. I just live life as best as I can.
  26. Have you ever had feelings about a friend from the opposite gender? All the time! Now if you ask about the same gender, I'd say "why do you ask?"
  27. If yes, what did you do? If it persists, I consult my doctor! But seriously, if the feeling can no longer be controlled and I must confess, I would.
  28. Are fame and money the most important things in your life? No. Money sounds good, though.
  29. Do you make any movements or sounds when you’re sleeping? Yes.
  30. Are you difficult to wake up? Mostly, no.
  31. How often do you sleep? Only once a day if I can manage it. Sleeping at the desk is fun to do, but a no-no.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Pain of Knowing

"How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be
When there’s no help in truth!"

--- The prophet Teiresias, "Oedipus Rex" by Sophocles

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Throw out the L-sign...


I think.

In earlier days, the L-sign was for "Laban!" (Fight) and signified the Yellow Movement of the political opposition to the Marcoses. Of recent vintage to Filipinos is the L-sign as used by Americans, which meant LOSERS. Or, as Jim Carrey puts it . . . LA-HOOOOO-ZERS!

Just for these times, let's think of being winners for our own sake, not because of any political agenda or ideology to prove. Winning for the sake of excellence is the best card Filipinos can lay on the table, be it abroad or back home.

There are just too many mental L-signs still hung over people's heads.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Valuing Truth

The high minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think.
- Aristotle –

Yes, but...
  • The lie is sometimes more palatable than the truth.
  • Self-delusion is often the only handhold left for sanity.
  • "Truth" is a plastic thing compared to the permanence of hypocrisy.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

What's in a Name?

I used to have fun that I had an original nickname. At least among the circle of people I knew. People who had my name had "Joey," "Joe," "Jojo" or even "Pepe" but few actually had "Otep." It is part of our family apocrypha that I was the one who invented my nickname, because when I was a toddler I couldn't pronounce my own name. Or so the story went.

It quickly lost originality because one of my cousins nicknamed one of her sons Otep too. Ah, nothing beats the original, I say.

In grade school, I hated the sound of my nickname so much that I decided to go with "Joseph" full-time even though most of my classmates called me "Angelo." On the one hand, my 10-year old mind could only process that using "Joseph" would save me from being teased with a "cutesy-baby" kind of nickname (mix that with being a nerd, and you'll understand why). On the other, my name patches on my uniform had "J. Angelo" and surely, calling someone two names is like giving him a rapper nickname though rap wasn't the in thing then.

High school came and like some teenagers I got caught up in a wave of nationalist fever. "Joseph" sounded colonial, American, and worst of all, I gain nothing special from it.

Also, some misinformed folks (not their fault, really) started calling me "Mark Joseph" after that character actor who made a small splash in Philippine cinema after graduating from X-rated movies. Ah, those were the days. My personal favorite though was being called "Tam Babauta" after another obscure skin-flick actor. The catch there was, "Tam" is short for "Hippopo-TAM-us."

So, by my junior year in high school I had reverted to being "Otep." There you would see who and when I met my friends. The ones who know me the longest or the best (my family and closest friends) have their secret name for me (I'll let you know if you try hard enough). The ones who call me "Otep" vary from their vintage, whether late high-school, college, or during my volunteer days. The ones who call me "Joseph" are the ones who have been with me in school the longest. Most of them are not comfortable calling me "Otep" but repetition does build a habit.

Of course my professional alias has always been "Joseph" though folks here in KSA call me "Jo" (good enough, but at times it still makes me cringe), but at other times I was also called "Jell-O." One boss called me "Satan," but that's a story for another day.

Then there's this heavy-metal lesbian and her eponymous band who share my nickname.

I heard only two tracks from Otep's "Sevas Tra" and the rocking is good. There is Otep Shamaya, the vocalist, Scotty CH on guitar, Doug Pellerin bangs the drums, and bassist eViL j. Great rock names. Please note though that Otep is an anagram of "poet," and that's how she arrived at her nickname. Funny thing though, I did have illusions of being a poet once.

Still, death metal is death metal. Too much aggression, noise, heart-thumpers. Such adrenaline may be great for an occasional high but you'd end up deaf listening to that stuff. I haven't heard anything from "House of Secrets" which was released in 2003, but I look forward to it (NOT!).

The band itself of course is into self-promotion, and one good thing for them is that they remain on edge with their music, something which deserts good musicians when they achieve fame, such as the Black Eyed Peas or Evanescence. Fame can kill perspective. Well, I can always go back to Slayer or Korn, two of Otep's influences.

A Google search yields "Overseas Territories Environment Programme" or "Ongoing Training and Evaluation Program." Then there's Omnium Technique D'Etude Et De Precontainte, which is a company specializing in pre-cast concrete for the construction industry.

And back to full circle, as the Otep of here and now is working with a company that is into all the construction-related trades. Cool.

So what's in a name? More than just a word. More than just the letters. There is history waiting to be told.

(I had wanted to post this on my Friendster blog --- more personal --- but the darned thing just has so many glitches! *&%##$%! So now here it lands.)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Guide to Blogging (Something I Should Heed)

I pulled this out from the online version of the New York Times (July 24, 2005) and I was only able to verify it after a few months:

Write All About It (at Your Own Risk) By MATT VILLANO

Q. You've embraced the daily catharsis of blogging, but given the recent spate of blog-sparked workplace controversies, you're worried that posts about work may jeopardize your job. How can you pontificate about your career in a manner that doesn't end with an unemployment check?
A. The safest way to approach blogging about work may be not to do it at all, said Nancy Flynn, executive director of the ePolicy Institute, a training and consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio. "Blogging is such a subjective form of expression," Ms. Flynn said. "What you think is a silly little comment could get broadcast into cyberspace, hurt the wrong person's feelings and put you at risk of reprimand or something worse."

Q. What types of work-related posts should you avoid?
A. Nobody likes to be criticized in public, especially corporations that rely on customer support. Ms. Flynn said that bloggers should steer clear of attacks, both implicit and direct, on their employers, as well as personal diatribes about co-workers. Corporate confidentiality policies may also prohibit employees from blogging about news announcements or topics like products under development or marketing strategies. Ms. Flynn added that to avoid accusations of insider trading, bloggers from public companies should also refrain from posting anything the Securities and Exchange Commission could equate with forward-looking financial statements.

Q. What about seemingly harmless musings?
A. Posts about everyday issues like cubicle cohabitation or communal office refrigerators should not cause much trouble. Sometimes, however, it does not matter what you write - the mere act of opening up could cost you a job. In January, Mark Jen started a programming job at Google - which, by the way, provides services through its Web site that enable anyone to produce a blog. Mr. Jen, 22, used a personal blog to chronicle his first week for family and friends. He wrote about the company cafeteria, employee orientation and after-hours get-togethers. When his supervisors learned of the posts, he said, they asked him to remove posts that made them uncomfortable. He said he complied but was fired two days later. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on his situation, but confirmed that he was no longer employed there. "I didn't intend to cause trouble," said Mr. Jen, who now works at Plaxo, a software company in Mountain View, Calif. "But because I was more transparent to the outsider than any of my co-workers, I stuck out like a sore thumb and the company didn't like it." Although many Google employees have blogs, most are anonymous, he said.

Q. What about blogging anonymously?
A. If your employer can prove that you wrote critical posts, it may be able to dismiss you. Heather Armstrong, a graphic designer who created the blog, learned this the hard way. In February 2002, while employed at a private software company in Los Angeles, Ms. Armstrong complained colorfully about everything from her boss to obnoxious co-workers. Though she never revealed the name of her employer, a reader figured out where she worked and sent an e-mail message about Ms. Armstrong's rants to company executives. Ms. Armstrong, who now lives in Salt Lake City, was fired immediately. "I thought that since my blog was my personal Web space, I could say whatever I wanted," she said recently.

Q. Are there any advantages to writing about work on your personal blog?
A. From a psychological perspective, blogging about professional life can be a constructive way to vent after a frustrating work experience, said Alexander C. Halavais, professor of communication at the State University of New York at Buffalo. And Mike Masnick, chief executive of Techdirt, a technology and business news blog based in Belmont, Calif., said employees whose blogs defend their employers against criticism could help counter negative news media attention. "Individual blog entries about a company can humanize it, instead of making it seem like a monolithic organization," he said. He added that positive posts could be a recruitment tool for a company's human resources department.

Q. What if you don't use your blog to discuss work?
A. Keeping work issues off your personal blog does not mean that your employer won't hold the blog against you. "It doesn't matter if you blog about skydiving or pornography," said Daniel M. Klein, a partner at the Atlanta law firm Buckley & Klein. "If your employer feels the blog makes you a poor representative of their corporate values, the executives have the freedom to disassociate themselves from you." Laws prevent employers from acting against employees on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, age, religion or disability - and, in some places, sexual orientation. Many workers have few other protections, employment lawyers said.

Q. How can you find out your company's stance on blogging?
A. A joint study released in May by the ePolicy Institute and the American Management Association in New York indicated that 25 percent of 526 organizations surveyed had policies on blogging, and Ms. Flynn of the institute said that number had since increased. If you're not sure whether your employer has a policy, it may be prudent to ask first and blog later.


"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." - George Orwell

Especially if the problem is one's face.

Getting Through the Week

I spent the weekend in the doldrums. It was literally the long pause before the plunge. Very busy week this week. Sana everything would turn out o.k. I hate it when there are problems back home that I couldn't take part in fixing. That's something I have to live with for as long as I am here in KSA.

My "feel-good" piece for this week was inspired by watching "50 First Dates" with Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Rob Schneider and Sean Astin - slim and trim after "Lord of the Rings." Bad movie, passable soundtrack. Here's the best one of them, sung by the Beach Boys ----

Wouldn't It Be Nice
Brian Wilson & Tony Asher

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn't have to wait so long
And wouldn't it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong
You know its gonna make it that much better
When we can say goodnight and stay together

Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up
In the morning when the day is new
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through
The happy times together we've been spending
I wish that every kiss was never ending...
Wouldn't it be nice?

Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray... it might come true
Baby, then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do...
We could be married and then we'd be happy,
Wouldn't it be nice?
You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But let's talk about it...
Wouldn't it be nice?