Saturday, January 14, 2006

Return from Holiday

It's not exactly the end of my holiday yet but I chose to go to work today. I'm no longer interested staying at home, have to do something constructive. ;) Must be a sign of getting old.

I'm pleased to announce that three young people whom I have close contact with won prizes at a regional competition built around the life and works of Jose Rizal. Kudos to their parents and mentors, and of course, the kids themselves did most of the work. I am just glad to have been a supporting character in the show.

I guess my last posts seem to be maudlin in nature but that is not necessarily the barometer of my mood, should there be any such thing. I'm rather a predictable bore when I get fixated on a particular subject and I rather run the subject to death just to show the depth and breadth of my knowledge/experience. I am not asking for a medal, anyhow. My friend says that I shouldn't wax sentimental about it. Anyhow, I must have beaten this subject to a pulpy mess, so it should be another three months before I write about it again.

In other news, my boss was the subject of a hate e-mail campaign, the nature of which I will not dignify with a description, but I'm glad his response shows that he is still in good spirits. He has earned more of my respect over the past two weeks. I'm glad he's my boss, regardless of the present circumstances.

Reminds me of this exchange in Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead," where two of the principals interact. Ellsworth Toohey, demagogue and newspaper columnist spearheads a character assassination on Howard Roark, architect and hero of the novel. In one telling moment where Toohey seems to have marshalled public opinion against Roark, he asks, "So what do you think of me now?"

Roark answers, simply: "But I don't think of you." Kick-ass statement. Toohey lined up to be his enemy, but Roark simply ignored him.

Of course, I'll be right behind my boss if he decides to open a can of whoop-ass. There are days when your enemy has enough bees working for him to rout your lion. Best to stamp him out while it is early.

I visited Bahrain over the holiday and while it has been my third visit, I am familiar enough with the small country to see what it has to offer.

Bahrain was a protectorate of Britain until 1971, and has been in the American orbit since the late 80's. It was the first Gulf country to be dependent on oil revenue, but since it has depleted its reserves, it has also been the first to diversify its economy. A significant portion of its trade and investment has been with Saudi Arabia, but in practice Bahrain has been a more open society. The opening of the King Fahd Causeway in 1986, linking Bahrain to the Arabian mainland, has pointed this out even more so.

In Bahrain, one can procure pork and alchohol (still controlled, but you can buy as you want and need) and consume them openly. Musical entertainment is also something you hardly see on our side.

So I wouldn't have to elaborate that Bahrain can be enjoyable. It can get monotonous with repetition but right now it still works for me. However, it doesn't help that I don't have my own transportation and must rely on the kindness of others for me to enjoy. The relative openness of Bahraini society brings into perspective the foundations on which the Saudi culture is built. I am not fond of the Western ways myself, but I am sure that Saudi ways must change in order for them to learn what to preserve.

The only things I got which were on sale at the Seef Mall were books. (So predictable! Not even shoes or jeans!) The Filipina counter girl was attempting to flirt with me (it isn't her fault, I can be quite charming at times, if I wanted to), but I just didn't bite. I would have wanted to get with the female lead singer of the Exodus band (another Filipina), but there wasn't enough time. I felt some kind of connection with her or maybe she was just intrigued. I sure was. I don't know much, but I do know if the music sounds right. Their band rocks, by the way. It's not the best I have seen (I have seen others, individually or as a group, with far more talent), but they are GOOD. Worth the price of the trip, at the very least.

Alas, we had people to bring home who had just arrived from the Philippines and it was getting quite late. The travails of not having your own land transportation --- there will be other opportunities, of course.

To close the chapter on my previous posts, I have two disparate experiences - watching "The Girl Next Door" featuring Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert, and reading "The War of the Flowers" by Tad Williams.

The first is a total rip-off of "Risky Business" with elements of John Hughes' work. Redeeming qualities: Elisha Cuthbert and Sung Hi Lee, though the latter has really gotten OLD. Should be right considering she's supposed to be a porn star. Elisha was WHOA!... when did this happen? Actually, I knew she had something going when I first watched her in "Love Actually" since I missed the first season of "24." (I only finished the first two seasons through the re-runs while in Saudi Arabia). Emile Hirsch was believable (he was only eighteen when they started shooting, while Elisha was 21) - man, I can actually see images of my high school self in him. Should have known a girl like Elisha Cuthbert at that age... though my two brothers might have made the move to meet her before I did - they always did believe they were pretty boys.

The second is a stand-alone fantasy along the lines of "Thomas Covenant," "Apprentice Adept" and similar works of fantasy where our known universe interacts with a magical one. Wait, "Flight of Dragons" remains my favorite. The lead character is a loveable loser, but one who has been tempered by loss and pain. The author has interesting theories on the nature of magic and the development of the human psyche (as emerging from the magic world), but of course he already walks familiar roads trod on by other writers. His characterizations are strong enough, but there is one device in his book that would be great to learn - how to write a "hole" in a story. There is the expected environmental/sociological critique of our current world (what's new?) and an amazing parody of the events of 9/11, though the author claims his idea pre-dated the events.

What do these two things tell me?

Well, however we do want to go about it, love is not about fantasy but neither should we allow it NOT to be fantastical. (Scratches head --- duh? did that actually make sense?). Or, love is not about romance novels all the time, but one should never settle in relationships for pragmatic reasons. There should always be magic, or for many, the magic is all about creating those moments even along well-traveled highways. "Boredom" in relationships is not about the passage of time, but the passage of priorities. Priority should be given to taking care of what's been there.

I could have manufactured a better ending, but this is where my holiday musings end.

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