Saturday, November 22, 2008

Waxing Sergio

This is for the inspiration that Sergio Mendes gave to me when I hardly appreciated music. I am thankful my brother got hooked to Sergio just about the time I was starting to like music. To think I could have been influenced by Hagibis!

A perennial favorite, and always sums up my best thoughts when I'm in love with someone.

LIKE A LOVER
(Alan & Marilyn Bergman / Nelson Motta / Dorival Tostes Caymmi)
(Sergio Mendes & Brasilia '66)

Like a lover the morning sun
Slowly rises and kisses you awake
Your smile is soft and drowsy
As you let it play upon your face
Oh how I dream -
I might be like the morning sun to you
I might be like the morning sun to you

Like a lover the river wind
Sighs and ripples its fingers through your hair
Upon your cheek it lingers
Never having known a sweeter place
Oh how I dream -
I might be like the river wind to you
I might be like the river wind to you

How I envy a cup that knows your lips
Let it be me, my love
And a table that feels your fingertips
Let it be me, let me be your love
Bring an end to these endless days and nights
Without you

Like a lover the velvet moon
Shares your pillow and watches while you sleep
Its light arrives on tiptoe
Gently taking you in its embrace
Oh how I dream -
I might be like the velvet moon to you
I might be like the velvet moon to you

How I dream I might be like the morning sun
How I dream I might be like the river wind the river wind
How I dream how I dream I dream
I might be with you

Oh how I dream -
I might be like the river wind to you
I might be like the river wind to you

How I envy a cup that knows your lips
And a table that feels your fingertips
Let it be me, let me be your love
Bring an end to these endless days and nights
Without you

Like a lover the velvet moon
Shares your pillow and watches while you sleep
Its light arrives on tiptoe
Gently taking you in its embrace
Oh how I dream -
I might be like the velvet moon to you
I might be like the velvet moon to you

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Breathing Hope



This post is dedicated to all the folks that loomed large in my life and for reasons of distance and time, or perhaps the onset of death, have somehow been "forgotten" or submerged underneath all the muck and scree that litter my mind nowadays.

I haven't forgotten you at all, it's just, well, it's just I'd like things to be great when we see each other again. I believe we will, someday.

The biggest solace I get from having to live without most of my family and friends near me is that somewhere out there, the Divine is breathing hope into the world, sometimes like the sunrise in the picture (taken at Khobar Corniche, courtesy of one of my friends), or that I can poke some fun at myself occasionally for taking some things too seriously.

One lesson I learned from one of my friends from way back is that you can have all the drama in your life if you want, but then at times you have to switch it off to stay sane. The song doesn't exactly share that message, but I remember Bobby P and those days of youth when we had little more to think about but sing about our life's dramas and wish for more inspiration and challenges. Those are the days I would like to share, one day, with young people of my own.

For the days in Palawan at Holy Cross College, with Anna, Gina, Rommel, Janice, and Bobby P ... those few days of teaching (and learning from) our retreatants were my breath of hope that kept me going for a long, long time, the fumes of which have left a lingering fragrance which will stay with me for the rest of my life.

HINDI NA, AYOKO NA
(Regine Velasquez)

Noong iwanan mo 'ko
Hinihintay kong marinig mo lang ang
Tinig ko
Sa bawat tawag ng pangalan mong
Binihag ng bigat sa puso ko
Ngayon, ika'y naririto
At ang sabi mo'y, 'ika'y akin mula ngayon
Iwanan na sa limot ang noon,
O giliw ko, narito ako!'

Biglang ligaya ang naramdaman ng pusong
Kay tagal nang naghintay sa iyo
Ngunit ang dulot niyang sakit ay di malimot
Ipagpawalang-hanggan mo man
Bulong ng puso ko ay, 'hindi na, ayoko na'

Puso'y mas malakas sa isip ko
Tibok nito'y di patatalo

O kay ligaya ko sana ngayon nandirito't
Aking-akin na'ng pag-ibig mo
Ngunit darating ang panahong di ko malimot
Ipagliban mo na lang sa iba'ng pag-ibig mo
Pagka't ayoko na, ayoko na!

Ngunit ang dulot niyang sakit ay di malimot
Ipagpawalang hanggan mo man
Sigaw ng puso ko ay, 'Hindi na, ayoko na...'


My little prayer to get me through tough patches:

Father in Heaven, I know everything that has happened to me is because of what I've done and freely chosen. You have given me signs - the people and events in my life to show me what I must do. I can't ask you anything more than what you have given, but all I ask, for this time, is a breath of hope that will get me through this.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And Now You Have It...

Binay declares candidacy

It's hunting season again, fellas! Trot out the hare!

I hope we had learned something from the conduct of the US election, not because of the by-words and slogans used by the candidates, particularly Barack Obama, but by the way America encourages discipline among those with ambition. Secure enough grassroots support, slug it out in primaries before launching a national candidacy.

Some people may doubt the electoral college, but I believe it works wonders for voting.

The multiparty system doesn't work, it never has, and it foments division rather than creating genuine party-line differences. For the same reasons that the parliamentary system didn't work in the country, we should abandon this feature in our basic laws.

However, this should get interesting over the next few months as we will find out who is "oppositionist" or not as the forces will begin to re-align and coalesce for the 2010 elections. There are rumblings there won't be any elections (surely an opportunity on which some personalities close to the President would gladly latch), and so far, we haven't seen a candidate who has a value-proposition other than changing the occupant of the Palace. Hmmm... I will stay tuned.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Soggy

We just finished our first HR monthly meeting under our new manager last Wednesday (so we finally had our first shot as a group).

In the meeting, I realized that I had a really solid year. If only... well, if only I took care of myself better and laid off depressing thoughts... think Bill Clinton's presidency without Monica Lewinsky. Pristine ... a few bumps here and there, but not bad altogether, even though he did start his presidency with so many scandals hounding his public image...

Hmmm, come to think of it, the only thing I would like to share with Bill Clinton would be, "Successful with the ladies." Tsk tsk, torpe ka kasi, boy!

So the cycle of recriminations has to stop and I'd better give myself a break.

Life works - stop throwing wrenches into the gears just to make it exciting, buddy!

I stared down into the read-out of our home weighing scale and it read 260 pounds. Holy crap, holy marshmallow man, Batman! We've gotta do something!

It's a soggy day today, the kind of day where you would like to lie in your bed and laze forever... only to find out next day is not meant for the lazy.

Shoot, I'm hungry, I gotta eat (rubs stomach). Shawarma run, shawarma run!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

No Title to Peddle



This image is an homage to the late Michael Crichton, who passed away on Tuesday. I was a follower more of the movie adaptations of his books than the books themselves - having seen "The Andromeda Strain" (1971), "The Terminal Man" (1974), "Rising Sun" (1993) "Jurassic Park" (1993) "Disclosure" (1994) "Congo" (1995) "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" (1997) "Sphere" (1998), "The 13th Warrior" (1999), and "Timeline" (2003). I only read the Jurassic Park novels and "Eaters of the Dead" (the sourcebook for "The 13th Warrior"). Crichton is a master at making scientific conjecture very plausible to the reader, especially the ones who have illusions of understanding the science in the novels.

This image is also a reminder that much has to be done to end the dinosaur politics of old. The win of Barack Obama, I hope, will be the start of the mass extinction of the old kind of politics. On an aside, I kind of snickered when Madam Gloria tried to congratulate candidate Obama and he didn't give her the time of day - obviously, he gave more time to people he considered more important. She probably would have done better sending him a sweet SMS. Aren't we Filipinos champion texters of the world?

I do hope that President-elect Obama lives up to the hope (not the hype) that buoyed his electoral campaign, from the time he took on the Hillary Clinton juggernaut to roundly beating McCain.

For all the media coverage, this win appears like the ultimate anticlimax. It seems all the fears of a McCain uprising and Republican comeback were mere wisps of smoke. This was supposed to be a titanic struggle - a real nailbiter. It ended up like watching the Celtics wax the Lakers in that ho-hum six-game series last June. The anticipation built up nicely, but the elections were hardly competitive.

Still, throughout all the cheers of the crowd, and the attempts at introjection of the unscrupulous and the wily to give handshakes and pats on the back, only the true faithful understand how far the winner had to travel just to get to the battleground. Rooting for ignored or forgotten causes and hard-luck teams does have unexpected and over-the-top rewards - the unbelievable rush of euphoria being the first.

Here in the Middle East, the Arabs (at least the ones I meet) are roundly congratulating everyone on the Obama win. Nationalities from other countries are pretty much saying the same thing — the end of the Republican reign means a fresh start. Life, at least for one day, has suddenly become rosier, and the prospect of a better world isn’t all that hopeless.

It's funny how most Filipinos fail to see the need for an overhaul --- ours is one of the few countries that actually wanted John McCain to win.

I would candidly say that my support for Obama was guarded even though his message and the image he presented were very powerful - as is my hopes are guarded over what his administration can do to turn things around.

It doesn't change however the slight tinge of delight his win brought, as if my belief in the inherent goodness of humanity has been somewhat validated. Just speaking for myself, of course, but looking at the jubilation all over the world, if in this way Barack Obama has already affected billions worldwide, just by being there, it's encouraging to see that there is hope for us human beings after all.

We can, if we so choose, live as if everything we believed mattered, and so everything we do in support of that belief matters.

(As my post title goes, there is nothing to peddle today, so I have no catchphrase in my title today as well.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Heavyweights



The HR Department. Two members not shown - the guy holding the camera, and one of our Recruitment guys who is now in the Philippines supporting a recruitment trip.

I am not talking about my relative size (as you can see the pudgy fellow in stripes and glasses standing to the left), but the way HR has impacted our company in the last few years.

Hope we can see more heavyweights in action in the future...

And by the way, loving the fact that Barack Obama will now take office as the 44th president of the United States of America.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sea Change

Hamilton is youngest F1 Champion

Iverson to Detroit for Billups, McDyess

Within today, the American electorate will elevate one man to the Presidency -- whether it will be war hero, former test pilot, and self-proclaimed maverick Sen. John McCain of Arizona, or former community organizer and neophyte Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

I believe a sea change will happen after this election, whomsoever wins. It's not a matter of politics, it's a matter of necessity.

There are issues greater than the American economy (significant as it is, but not at all world-ending); chief of them is achieving a new equilibrium in the world order. If America is to remain the chief arbiter of world events, it better get its house in order.

Meantime, there is a sea change in the world of sports - Lewis Hamilton is the youngest champion in Formula 1 history and the first one with African roots. I've always been a Ferrari fan, but they screwed up their own title chances this year. So Lewis won this year fair and square (he should have won last year, too, but last year he was the one who choked on his lead).

In the Association, Pistons president Joe Dumars shipped 20004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups along with starting power forward Antonio McDyess and reserve center Cheikh Samb to Denver for Allen Iverson, thus ending the era of the superstar-less team. So sad. I wish they would have succeeded again, but in the NBA, star value counts far more than it does for the other pro leagues in other sports.

While I'm rooting for Obama to win, as he is better-posed to do so than McCain, I'm more thrilled to see how both teams make adjustments. Detroit is prepared to take a step back now, so that its future will be secure, while Denver is struggling for a direction which only a true point guard can establish.

Here's to some sleepless nights waiting for the games...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Weeping Blossoms

Funeral Blues - W. H. Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


This was already popular before John Hannah recites it in "Four Weddings and a Funeral." Just a dark day.

I'm not about to apply the mood-buster. I will revel in this dark mood to support those who have lost most dear to them. Like flowers, grief is something we can freely partake; a state that we never run out of.

In time, it should blossom and we will find a source of joy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Worlds

There is a poignant line in the first ring of stories in "The Gunslinger" (first of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King) where Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, is forced to make a choice - whether to pursue the Man in Black, or to leave behind his young ward, Jake Chalmers, a boy transplanted from our reality to his world.

Jake says, "Go then, there are other worlds than these."
... and from there he plunges to his death.

El Día de los Muertos - the Mexican expression for the Day of the Dead - is a national holiday of celebration, of mirth, in Mexico. It has, somehow, crossed the Pacific with the galleons to the Philippines, where the animistic rites and Chinese traditions also have a high reverence for those who are past. One of the most common customs is the making of elaborate altars to welcome departed spirits home. Families go to cemeteries to fix up the graves of the departed, and oftentimes vigils are held.

Filipinos have an obsession for the dead, sometimes more so than for life. In death, slates are wiped clean, and fond memories, once embittered by too much pain or too little affection, come to surface once again. A person, once fallen and clasped by the Hand of Death, undergoes beatification and becomes a saint.

It isn't really like that with me, only...

Sometimes I dream of the what-could-have-beens, lives hidden within the possibilities that were left hanging when the dearly departed pass away. Or at other times, I think about the never-weres, but still more powerful are the potentialities of the what-should-have-beens --- the events of my life that should have been the correct course were it not for crucial missteps, careless mistakes, losing struggles to venality or convention, and most of all, glaring omissions.

Of course, there are truths which are but shouldn't be, because we could do better. Or that we should do better. I can't say much for the rest, but I know this world could be a brighter place if I smiled more, or if I gave much more of myself.

There are worlds, and there are worlds of possibility. For some, the possibilities have been too palpable, too reachable, only to be stymied in the end.

It would have been great had my father lived longer, if he had not driven himself to drink in the last few years of his life. But that, too, has its own worlds of possibility - if my brother hadn't suffered a mental meltdown that would eventually become the cross our family would bear - it's frustrating to think what kind of present we would have had. My brother had always been the good son, the helpful one, the supportive one. Just thinking of what he could have been - a successful architect, for one - is so painful it could make my heart stop.

I wonder how things would have turned out had I gone on to be a lawyer on the one hand or La Salle Brother on the other...

I stopped this post just right here. I received an e-mail advice that Marcial Soriano, co-founder of SHARE and one of my mentors and "big brothers" during my high school and university days, was murdered this morning by one of his domestics. Details are sketchy.

A part of me is saying I should mourn more --- but the shock, like the shock from losing a limb, is still paramount. There is the foreknowledge that our lives could end any time, but there is also the hoping (or the denial) that it wouldn't happen to me or to anyone I knew personally. This loss is devastating --- the only way I'm protecting myself is to think of this in abstract terms.

Of course I'm just fooling myself.

Last night I lit a candle for the souls of the departed in my life and prayed for them. There is the faith that these dearly departed have gone on to a better place, and that's just it, all I can go on is that faith.

There are more worlds than these, but this world in itself, with all its beauties (and mirrored in ugliness as well), can be so fleeting if one doesn't take the life one has in hand, and, in Thoreau's terms, suck the marrow out of it. Sometimes the road is hard, and wishing is so much easier. But we do walk this road, and death is waiting at one end. I believe something else awaits on the other side, but all I can do right now is live this life as best as I can, as much as I can.

It could end a lot sooner than I would like to believe.

Who'd Win in 'Pinas?

This is a cross-post, originally posted in Jessica Zafra's blog, in response to her question, "Who would receive the Filipino vote, Obama or McCain?"

My response, with a few additions ---

Obama will win the election in the Philippines. Obama is masa, McCain is snotty, rich, and most of all, old. Even if someone would say, “Ayoko sa negro” more would say, “Ayoko sa amoy-lupa!”

Obama is populist, a publicity-hogger, and he is far more entertaining on-screen than McCain. His minuses would be: he would lose the endorsement of the bishops, the businessmen (who love the O&O industry)., and probably a segment of the Fil-foreigns. Pinoys look more on the messenger than the message - look, we’ve lapped up Ronald Reagan and as a nation, could “forgive” Bill Clinton. Obama has macho value.

Obama also has more cash! Did you hear how much he spent on that infomercial that almost locked in all the major networks to broadcast his message? A guy who is willing to throw away that much money on his media campaign could probably, ehem, share the wealth a little to his poorer brown brothers.

I disagree with those who say the Pinoys would vote McCain because he is white. The American-based Pinoys, yes. The common Pinoys, who are looking for someone who poses more of a sympathetic figure, would go for Obama. I’ll mention one other thing here that will swing the race for Obama — going by the political yardstick, he would also win over the INC vote.

Obama wins the sportsmen, the tambays, the noontime-show crowd, the telenovela crowd, you name it. The guy can entertain.

On the other hand, he loses points among the semi-educated who pretend that they can see through his overspending, hyper-gimmicked, celebrity-filled campaign. And what it means to the kind of government he will have - more taxes, more welfare, etc. McCain is the smart vote daw. Yeah, they said that about Salonga too, and look what happened to him.

Joe Biden is a liability to Obama - he’s a traditional politician, he appears to be snobbish, run-of-the mill, someone who comes from a small state, and in most perceptions, a specialist who could only talk politics but can’t do much else. Those guys never win big-time elections (and Biden’s record in the primaries shows exactly that). Hillary would have been the slam-dunk choice (if we are talking Filipinos, of course.) Naturally, Obama wouldn’t pick Hillary - otherwise, he might end up just like JFK (knock on wood!).

Other thoughts … If we can split the ticket, Palin would win hands down. All she has to do is carry a tune, show some legs and cleavage, and sound somewhat intelligent and controversial at the same time. Look, we are still swallowing the dollop Miriam Santiago doles out. Palin is a reminder of the young GMA --- supporting a trapo, carrying some political capital, has some popular appeal... maybe she and GMA can be really, really, close. Scary.

I would say Palin would even have better chances to win the election than Obama, if they went head-to-head in the Philippines. Golly, that would be a natural disaster.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Something to Look Forward to...

Sample Chapter: A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

I just hope this book will be worth the wait. Good thing I haven't been reading A Song of Ice and Fire as long as other fans have; otherwise I'd be pulling out my hairs by now.

Witness - Robert Jordan passed away before the last book of The Eye of the World series was released. And I was starting to hate the series by the release of the eighth book (and continued grotesquely in the next two volumes). Book 11 was a recovery, but I don't know if the writer the estate hired to finish A Memory of Light would be able to match Jordan's effort.

Keeping the fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pop Quiz!

Something I haven't done in quite a while...



You Will Die at Age 79



You're pretty average when it comes to how you live...

And how you'll die as well.






You Are Emerald Green



Deep and mysterious, it often seems like no one truly gets you.

Inside, you are very emotional and moody - though you don't let it show.

People usually have a strong reaction to you... profound love or deep hate.

But you can even get those who hate you to come around. There's something naturally harmonious about you.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

13,155

SWEET BABY JAMES
(James Taylor)

There is a young cowboy, he lives on the range
His horse and his cattle are his only companions
He works in the saddle and he sleeps in the canyons
Waiting for summer, his pastures to change

And as the moon rises he sits by his fire
Thinking about women and glasses of beer
And closing his eyes as the doggies retire
He sings out a song which is soft but it's clear
As if maybe someone could hear

Goodnight you moonlight ladies
Rockabye sweet baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
Won't you let me go down in my dreams
And rockabye sweet baby James

Now the first of December was covered with snow
And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Lord, the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go

There's a song that they sing when they take to the highway
A song that they sing when they take to the sea
A song that they sing of their home in the sky
Maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep
But singing works just fine for me

So...goodnight you moonlight ladies
Rockabye sweet baby James
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose
Won't you let me go down in my dreams
And rockabye sweet baby James

Well, this isn't about the number of days since this song was released, but it does come close.

It isn't the monthly salary I first drew when I realized that I was really, really, really a bad employee (I made somewhat more, but as it goes with salaries, they are never enough...)

On the fact of it, in the scale of things, the number is less likely to be remembered because it isn't even a prime number (13,155 is divisible by 3 and 5).

As of today, these are the number of days that I have been living. We keep on thinking about the fortunes that we are about to make, but this is a treasure that may not just add up, no matter how we try --- the finite value of our lives.

For some who have much in this world - it just shows that no matter how much your estimated worth increases, there isn't much to add to your life, especially if you're throwing it away following your career.

For others who have much, much less - while it can be said that time is the great equalizer, it all makes the good times more precious than they seem to be.

For those like me, it's a gritty reminder about the sacrifices we have to make, though it's not much of a sacrifice when I can fill my world with just about any diversion I can afford. Still, the clock is ticking on the time I should be spending on parenting, the meter is on and it keeps on piling a value I can never recoup or ever pay for.

The timer is on and there is no answer for me but to accept the circumstances into which I have put myself. And to accept and value the self that is the result of these circumstances. In time, time that I may never seem to have, the road I tread will show me that which I seek ---

So for the while, I will rock myself to sleep and please, please, don't let me go down in my dreams.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

No Restitution


Teehankee goes free

I didn't follow this case when it hit the papers --- at that time sensational crimes of passion were rather du jour and the Hultman-Chapman slaying, however tawdry it was, was, well, little more than a soap opera.

The whole affair, given the slam-dunk guilty verdict, lacked the machina, the driving force that would make people go up in arms.  It was rich people killing rich people --- and despite the tabloid material, the motive provided showed the victims as more venal, less tragic figures than those of bad melodrama.

But still.  Whether or not she had a death wish, or put herself at risk by associating herself with her eventual murderer, Maureen Hultman did not deserve to be gunned down while begging for her life, a sacrifice to irrational jealousy and uncontrolled pride.

Now this - I can point out to many of the symptoms of the moral bankruptcy of the current administration of the Philippines, but this, this pardon and release takes the cake.  See, I don't believe in the death penalty, but neither am I a believer in forgiveness without restitution.

They couldn't even put him in jail for the number of years his victims lived on this earth, the lives he stole away.  And for what?  So that the President wins a few points from the press?  So that political debts can be paid?

Of course, not everything revolves around politics or the need to please political barons.  Maybe there is justice, maybe there are glorious epiphanies spinning left and right around the person of a freed man.  Maybe he has been transformed.

There are loopholes in the system, loopholes that can be twisted to the advantage of the learned and the sly, and most importantly, the rich.  The system could have stopped it.  But it didn't.

The bigger question it, could it, with a moral bank account so bereft even 20 bailouts won't even make a dent?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Overheard

It's late in the evening on this my nth birthday. As I sit back and relax, knowing nothing will come about with moping, I'm just glad that there is still some fun to be had in this life.

Scene 1

One of my colleagues went on his morning jog during the long Ramadan Eid holiday and since he was out of the exercise habit for the past few months, he was literally out of gas by the time he was back in downtown Khobar (he lives some blocks away from the city center). A Saudi in a swanky sedan stops by before him and asks him where the Rahmaniyah mall is. Since the fellow asked nicely, he found nothing amiss and even offered to get in the car and lead the way.

(Now, getting into a stranger's car in Saudi Arabia is a major no-no, especially if the driver is a Saudi or Pakistani, as even heterosexual men are not guaranteed immunity from sexual assault.)

By the time they got to the mall, the driver fielded another question, a specific corner somewhere off 1st street. As soon as they round the street to that corner, my colleague spotted an overtly homosexual Filipino waiting there. Before he could show his dismay at the turn of events, he pressed the proverbial panic button and asked to be let down.

We couldn't help ribbing him about helping to pimp a fellow Filipino.


Scene 2

Three of us buddies had nowhere to go during the long Eid break so we went on a joyride along the causeway to Bahrain. At least there was some sightseeing to be done, and we could while away the time pretending we were not in the Middle East.

Well, we did land in some other part of Asia - the Indian subcontinent. The causeway checkpoint area was literally choked with Bangladeshis --- with a smattering of some Arabs and (if any) a few Filipino families. It was a disaster. Had I known this, I would have thought of going to Halfmoon Beach.

The second part of this story is very much like the first --- after the longest time to find a parking space (I even fell asleep during this wait), we got out and went to the Kudu outlet (Mickey D's was full to almost bursting). I was ordering for the three of us when I felt a hand brush against my left butt cheek. I first thought that someone would make a play for my wallet --- but this someone had other ideas, apparently.

Beside me was a disheveled Saudi who had obviously too many drinks or had too many puffs of shisha. He ordered a bottle of mineral water, (which was only SR2 at the place), and made an obvious hand gesture pertaining to sex on the counter. I was too dumbfounded to even get angry. (Oh, the horror of it all! HAHAHAHAHA!) While paying the bill, he flipped through his wad of bills (mostly fifties, the cheapskate!) as if I would bite on his line. I really wanted to pull out my wallet and show him my wad of two-hundreds, but that would be pushing it. Eventually the schmuck saw he had no opening and gave up.

I gotta stop wearing these form-fitting shirts, but I just can't --- I've gained 20 pounds in the last three months! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Scene 3

This story is from an earlier incident within the month of Ramadan. I was late for the practice of our kids' concert, and I flagged down a cab to get to our headquarters. As per my custom, I sat in the front seat, and I knew from the beginning I was in for a rough (if short) ride.

Some Pakistanis and Indians take pride in their potency by NOT taking showers regularly. In this driver's case, he must have been at it for at least a month. The blast of musk from him was like a vibranium shield. WHACK! --- the odor from him came wave after wave. He smelled like the inside seam of my underwear after a horribly sweaty day. He WAS the lining of my underwear with the way he smelled.

The bad thing was that we were held up a few minutes by traffic and only good manners (and a really hot afternoon) prevented me from opening the window. Speaking of underwear...the only way I could bring myself to tolerate the smell was by pretending that the smell permeating throughout the cab was from one, hot, steaming female sex organ.

(Sub-tangent point: their theory has been proven! Not taking showers = getting people to think about sex! HAHAHAHAHAHA!)

I was so grateful I got off the cab I even thought of giving the driver a tip. Those seven-odd minutes were among the longest in my life.

I wonder if I'll remember the guy the next time I'll have sex (yuck!).


Scene 4

Some memory of India - rain had come and some portions of the new airport road in Pune had puddles in them. I watched a fellow brush his teeth, rinse his toothbrush in the puddle water, and brush his teeth again. And oh, one of his kids was taking a crap out on that same street.

Wonderful.


Such is life --- I've never known how good I've had it until I see someone scraping his life from somewhere around the bottom of the barrel. I just peeked into the bunghole and ehem, I guess I'm happy with my lot, for now.

Happy birthday!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Just Another One of Those Days



RUBY TUESDAY
(The Rolling Stones)

She would never say where she came from
Yesterday don't matter if it's gone
While the sun is bright
Or in the darkest night
No one knows
She comes and goes

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you change with every new day
Still I'm gonna miss you...

Don't question why she needs to be so free
She'll tell you its the only way to be
She just can't be chained
To a life where nothing's gained
And nothing's lost
At such a cost

There's no time to lose, I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you will lose your mind.
Ain't life unkind?

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you change with every new day
Still I'm gonna miss you...

(Note: What with the demise of our free connection in the flat, am left to have later posts with earlier post dates.  Cannot be helped, unless I pay!)

The smiles are wide, and the blast of the stage lights blaze a warm glow into the photographs as the performers and their families pose for the camera.

The fathers buckle down to work in dismantling the set - thankful for the lack of necessity to do more than usual as another community group volunteers to take down our decorations since they would re-use our set-up.

I peer into the eyes of the newly-initiated, suffused with an inner light of both relief and triumph.  Relief that the fears did not come true.  Triumph at having gone through what they have done.  They are an object lesson in the challenges of life ---that the living is all about NOW.  I hope time and consequence will not dim the light that is within them.

These children are truly the light of the world precisely because they are young and have the power of dreams in them. There is always the seed of darkness --- doubt and anger and self-loathing --- doing nothing perpetuates all of these. But it does take energy and effort for us to bring forth light. The Stones do talk of this thing - catch your dreams before they slip away.

Confucius says, "The object of the superior man is truth." Truth is, I was somewhat awed by the effort of the kids in performing for this concert. No ifs, and no buts. If I had to do this all over again, I would of course want to do better. But as it is, I am happy with what they have accomplished.

I am, however, disappointed at the level which this performance connects with me.

I am tired, awfully tired of doing this. It breaks my heart to say so, but I am burdened with the realization that I am struggling to find meaning with what I am doing in this organization. This isn't necessarily a bad thing --- what's done is done and the past, while meaningful, is conveniently, well, past.

I love the kids. I always will, and part of me breaks when the times pass and we must move on. Perhaps I will learn, in time, to heal myself. Maybe if I have my own kids.

Maybe.

Now, after all the storm and thunder of the grand presentation, it turns out to be just another one of those days.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Princely

Eid Mubarak!

In keeping with the season, I'm posting a hodgepodge of statements derived from Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince, though some passages are paraphrased in order to make it more substantial in Filipino. It was intended to be delivered before an audience for a Closed-Eye Process.

Alam ninyo, kay tagal ko nang gusto kayong kausapin. Siguro sa ngayon hindi pa ninyo ako kilala. Hindi naman mahalaga talaga ang aking pagkatao, pero baka magtaka naman kayo at sino naman ang kumakausap sa inyo. Tawagin na lang ninyo akong Munting Prinsipe, pero hindi naman dahil sa maliit ako ngunit sa dahilang naghahari ako sa napakaliit na planeta sa kalawakan. Minsan, napadpad ako dito sa inyong mundo. Marami akong nakilala at nakita, at marami rin akong nalaman ukol sa inyo, mga tao. Sana, hayaan ninyo akong magkuwento. Kaunting panahon lang, kaunting oras ng iyong pakikinig.

Siguro, sasabihin ninyo, sino ba itong nanghihimasok sa amin? Ganyan na nga ang gusto kong ipaliwanag sa inyo. Minsan kasi, napansin kong napakatigas ng ulo ng tao, kahit wala siyang kaalaman, nagmamalinis at nagmamarunong. Ngunit, sa katotohanan, hindi naiintindihan ng tao ang tunay na kahulugan ng kay raming bagay. Masyadong nakatuon sa mga pigura at sa mga numero. Tingnan mo lang kapag sinabi mong mayroon kang nakitang bahay na napakaganda at may malawak na hardin at malinis na pader kung paniniwalaan ka o bibigyan ng pansin. Ngunit kung sasabihin mong nakakita ka ng bahay na nagkakahalagang limang milyong piso, aba'y sasang-ayon sila sa sinabi mo't tatanungin ka pang, "Nasaan ang bahay na iyon?"

Ganoon din sa tao. Hindi naitatanong kung mabait at tapat ang iyong kaibigan, at kung malinis ang kanyang pagkatao, ngunit ang itatanong sa iyo kung pang-ilan siya sa pamilya, sino ang kanyang pamilya, kung saan siya nanggaling at kung ano ang kanyang trabaho. Kung ibibigay mo ang kasagutan nais nilang marinig, hindi na sila magtatanong.

Maraming nang nakalimutan ang tao dito sa mundo. Isa na dito ang bisa ng pagsasama. Ito ang mga tipong nagsasaad ng mabuting pakikitungo at pakikisama ng tao sa kanyang kapwa. Ang isa pa ay ang ritwal at rito, na siyang tumatawag at humahalina sa tao upang pagtibayin ang kanilang pagsasama. May ritwal tayo tulad ng pakikinig, ng pagsasalita nang may paggalang sa iba, at nang pakikiramdam sa pangangailangan ng iba. Wala tayong matatamo kung wala tayong kusang makisama sa iba. Ngunit, wala ring halaga ang ritwal kung pagmamalasakit ay kulang. Walang halaga ang buhay kung walang tunay na pagmamahal.

Kaya naman siguro hindi na nakikialam ang tao sa isa't isa, nag-iisip ang karamihan na masyado silang importante. Siguro, ang akala ng tao ay napakahalaga nila dito sa mundo, kesyo malaking lugar ang nagagamit ng bawat isa. Sa totoo lang, mapagsasama-sama natin ang anim na bilyong tao sa isang napakalaking plasa sa kahit anumang malaking siyudad. Kung tatayo lamang ang lahat, magkakasya ang lahat ng tao sa lugar na mayroon sukat na 30 milya pahaba at 40 milya palapad. Magkakasya ang buong sangkatauhan sa isang maliit na pulo sa gitna ng dagat Pasipiko.

O, e ano ngayon? E ano nga kung sa totoo lang ang tunay nating halaga ay nakasalalay din minsan sa ibang tao. E ano nga rin na kinakailangan din natin ang iba? Maaari nating tulungan ang isa't isa, hindi ba? Paano? Simple, makinig tayo. Bigyan natin ng kahalagahan ang bawat isa. Amuin natin ang isa't isa. Mapapaamo natin ang isang tao sa atin sa pagiging maaalahanin, sa pagiging maunawain, sa pagiging mapagmahal, hindi dahil mayroon tayong makukuha sa kanya, ngunit dahil siya ay taong may halaga tulad natin.

Ang mga bagay na napaamo ng isang tao, ang mga bagay na binibigyan niya ng halaga, ang siya lamang niyang nauunawaang tunay. Ngunit palaging gahol sa oras ang tao para umunawa ng kahit anuman. Binibili na kasing yari na ang mga bagay sa mga tindahan. Pero hindi ka naman makabibili ng pagkakaibigan at pagmamahal sa anumang tindahan sa buong mundo, kaya nagkukulang na ang mga tao sa tunay na kaibigan. Kung naghahanap ka ng kaibigan, paamuin mo ako. Paamuin ninyo ang isa't-isa sa inyo. Narito na kayo lahat, mga taong nangangailangan at nagtataglay ng tunay na pag-ibig.

Sa paggamit ng puso't pakiramadam mo lamang makikita ang tunay na halaga ng isang bagay, sapagkat ang mga pinakamahalagang bagay ay hindi mababatid ng ating paningin. Sabihin nating maihahambing mo ang isang tao sa isang rosas, na mahina at madaling masaktan, na kailangan ng maasikasong pangangalaga. Paamuin mo ang isang rosas. Mahalin mo ito. Ikaw ay may tungkulin sa lahat ng bagay na iyong napaamo. Sapagkat napaamo mo ang isang rosas, ikaw ay may tungkulin para sa kapakanan nito.

At sabihin din nating namumunga lamang ang rosas na ito sa isang sulok ng kalawakan, at dahil mahal mo talaga ang rosas na iyon, sapat na siguro sa iyo ang pagmasdan lamang ang mga bituin sa kalangitan. Sasabihin mo sa iyong sarili, "Naroroon ang aking bulaklak sa kalawakan..." Ngunit, kung nakain ng isang tupa ang bulaklak, anong mangyayari sa iyo? Hindi ba maglalaho ang liwanag ng lahat ng bituin para sa iyo? Ganito rin ang halaga ng iyong pag-ibig para sa iba. Maganda, ngunit dapat nating alagaan.

Ngunit huwag na huwag ninyong kalimutan ang inyong tungkulin sa inyong sarili, at baka maabala kayo ng tuluyan sa iba. Sapagkat sa huli, ikaw lamang ang makapagsasabi na ika'y mayroong nagawa. Samakatwid, titimbangin mo ang iyong sariling iyong pagkatao, ang iyong halaga. Ang gawin ito ay ang napakahirap para sa marami. Mas mabigat na pasanin ang husgaan ang sarili kaysa na ang magbigay ng pasya ukol sa iba. Kung karapat-dapat ang sukat mo sa iyong sarili, malaki na ang nagawa mo.

E di saan tayo ngayon tutungo? Kayo ang bahala, kayo naman ang may kapangyarihang humubog sa inyong kinabukasan. Wari ang aking mga salita ay munting paalala lamang, tulad ng aking pangalan. Pansinin ninyo ang inyong kapaligiran, pansinin ninyo ang inyong mga sarili. Mabuksan sana ang inyong mga puso sa pagmamahal. Pakinggan natin ang taginting ng mundo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cinematic Escape

"Don't be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends."
--- Richard Bach, "Illusions"

I finally completed watching the entire season of "Death Note" (Kuro-Hana)and it re-kindled my love for a lot of things Japanese.  Shikata ga nai, it can't be helped.  This fact has no relation to the rest of this post.  I just had to say it; that's all. The aforementioned quote is apropos as more change comes into my life - even though I am somewhat insulated from it, as I am living here in Saudi Arabia.   Every phone call, every meeting, every e-mail is proof positive that life offers a short time for us, and exacts a heavy price.  The best way, then, to pay for it, is to be in the moment NOW.

Which reminds me, I just have to share my thoughts on a movie I saw on the plane from Mumbai to Bahrain last month on my way back from my India trip..  This is U ME AUR HUM  (You Me & Us), directed by Ajay Devgan, topbilling himself and his wife, Kajol.

I don't know to which film this movie pays homage --- there's certainly enough fodder from movies like "The Notebook" or "50 First Dates", but somehow there's something about the movie that takes an unexpected turn which made it more memorable than either. That is, if you do like some amount of melodrama. Please read on if you do.

The first half is rather talky, and the pace was quite slow (and of course, I was on the plane, de-stressing over my travel), so I didn't pay attention to much of the dancing-musical numbers. The premise is rather simple --- a young man makes a half-serious wager with his father over how well the latter can pick up a woman. So the son chooses a middle-aged woman from a table somewhere across the restaurant and this is where the father tries to score some points.

Enter the story of Ajay and Priya. Ajay, a twenty-something psychiatrist, meets Priya, a cocktail waitress working on a cruise ship, and is promptly bowled over. With the help of his friends, Ajay woos Priya. Naturally, the girl gives him the cold shoulder. The lovestruck idiot, however, breaks into her room, reads her diary (more like a scrapbook of her hopes and dreams), and using this privileged information, gets the inside track on her heart. In saccharine fashion, Ajay is guilt-stricken and 'fesses up, and she drops him quicker than you can say "cliche!"

Somehow, they get married and this is where the fun begins... well, she doesn't get disfigured and we have to watch some Florence Nightingale tale, but it's something along the lines of the two earlier movies --- and something that tests the limits of their love. The story in itself is rather homespun, but it does have an unusual receptivity to the supporting characters, and has a much more layered take on the way men and women fall in, and out of love. Of course, the central tenet is the responsibility people take as regards the people whom they love --- do we love because we feel better about the person, or that the person needs our love?

The best moods of the movie are the dark ones --- though sometimes the visuals are rather contrived, and while there is some attempt at levity, including a misplaced music number (danced with incredible zest by Kajol, and awfully treacly at that) in the middle of the heavier dramatic sequences, the serious stuff in the movie works best.

Some of the scenes are real heartbreakers --- as someone who has a close relative dealing with mental illness can truly attest --- which again puts into focus what we value out of our relationships. How many mainstream romantic movies have you seen where the hero confesses that he’s pushed away the woman he loves because she was a millstone around his neck?

Like "The Notebook," this movie succeeds in taking the conventional themes of the genre and gives it additional texture. One warning though --- those people who have no patience for dialogue shouldn't watch it. And oh, of course, get one with good subtitles.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Backtrack

I'm posting an old song from my high school days - a song which we used almost exclusively for recollections/retreats. It's a singer's song, as well, which makes it one of my favorites --- it is both a devotion and a means for catharsis.

It's my proverbial flower for the people who perished in the events leading up to, during, and after 9/11. It isn't much, but I do hope the Lord watches over them just as He is watching over you and me.

And in the meantime, for those whom we love, let us pray that we have the strength to watch over them the best way we can.

WE ARE THE REASON
(David Meece)

As little children we would dream on Christmas morn
Of all the gifts and toys we knew we'd find
But we never realized a baby born one blessed night
Gave us the greatest gift of our life

We were the reason that He gave His life
We were the reason that He suffered and died
To a world that was lost He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live

As the years went by we learned more about gifts
And giving of ourselves and what that means
On a dark and cloudy day a man hung dying in the rain
Because of love, because of love
And...

We were the reason that He gave His life
We were the reason that He suffered and died
To a world that was lost He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live

I finally found the reason for living
It's in giving every part of my heart to Him
In all that I do, every word that I say
I'll be giving my all just for him, for Him

And we are the reason that He gave His life
We are the reason that He suffered and died
To a world that was lost He gave all He could give
To show us the reason to live
He is my reason to live. . .

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Unforgettable Song Trip

Since we are not exactly in a cultural oasis, once upon a while we get an idea of how we are deprived of the things others take for granted back home. Take, for instance, the Judd Apatow production "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" written and starring newcomer Jason Segel and directed by Nicholas Stoller.

Now, it's not Shakespeare, or Scorsese, but the movie doesn't pretend to be. In fact, it's such a straightforward tale that guys can easily relate to it. It's actually a romance tale told from the male perspective. Cool!

Jason Segel should have a career somewhere in comedy, judging from this movie. He still has potential to be like Randy Newman. His songwriting is clever, the lyrics are spot-on. In "Inside of You," sung by the character Aldous Snow (played by Russell Brand), the double meanigs are really funny, and the song is very easy to follow. I've been singing it for quite some time, pushing the Ting Tings aside (and besides, I won't be stuck singing a girl's song forever).

INSIDE OF YOU
(Jason Segel, Peter Salett, Lyle Workman)
(Russell Brand - "Forgetting Sarah Marshall")

Oh these ancient skies
I've had these wandering eyes
but you took me by surprise
when you let me inside of you
Inside of you

Inside of you
There's got to be
Some part of me
Inside of you

Inside of you, I could cross this desert plain
Inside of you, I can hear you scream my name
Inside of you, while the stars unfold
I've crossed me heart and I've crossed the world
And I need you here and I need to be
Inside of you

Now the flowers bloom
I feel you creep into my room
And if this should be our tune
I'll die here inside of you

And the world explodes
I've never been down this road
Teach me how to glow
While I'm moving
Inside of you

Inside of you, the restless find their dreams
Inside of you, this king has found his queen
Inside of you, all the stars unfold
I've crossed me heart and I've crossed the world
And I need you here and I need to be
Inside of you

Inside of you
Bay blue
So say it's you
To thoughts untrue
Who I woo
It's you I woo

Through and through
And through and through
There's so much more than just a screw
Inside of you

And I was blizzard blind
Felt like I've lost me mind
But you've treated me so kind
I don't know what to do.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Pooped-Up from Pune

It's been two days since I've arrived from Pune where I spent six days on business trip.

Do I have anything to report? Do I?

Pune is about 160 kilometers southeast of megalopolis that is called Mumbai. Unlike my first trip to India where I read up everything I could about Madras, I had sufficient work-related worries to keep me from preparing for the trip. Besides, from my previous experience in Chennai, any attempt at going for some nightlife would prove to be either disappointing or unsavory (I'd choose the former over the latter, but sometimes just for the heck of it...).

The Pune airport is still very much provincial. It at once reminds me of Cagayan de Oro, another industrial city nestled in hilly/mountainous terrain. The temperature is likewise comparable to CDO.

That's where all comparisons cease.

Historical Pune is all over the place - dating from the rule of the Marathi overlords who held sway over this area until Westerners came onto the scene. Sadly, I didn't have all the time to visit the sites and the work much too much to allow for sightseeing --- I would rather have curled up on my bed, doing some reading or following on the Democratic National Convention (side note: what a broadside Barack Obama's team fired that night. You've got to give it to the Democrats - the candidate they chose has moxie.)

Our factory is several kilometers away from the city proper, far enough to be zoned into an industrial area. The head office was somewhere in the suburbs as well, apart from Pune central which is built along the banks of the Mula-Mutha rivers (known for its diverse flora and fauna - hmmm... I wonder how these can survive in industrial goop).

It is said that Pune people are among the best in terms of technical education because of the many schools built within the city area. The military has its National Defence Academy here (which I saw only from a distance) while there are a number of government and private educational institutions based in the city as well (I saw only one, Symbiosis University).

I distinctly asked for a guest house instead of staying at a hotel - a hotel has too many distractions, and besides from being expensive, would not offer too much added value - at least to me. The place they selected was an upscale housing development located near our office which reminds me a lot of developments in Singapore or Hong Kong but the flats are much bigger (similar to standard Arabic configurations) and the buildings are not as tall. My only (and biggest) gripe with the place was that there was no Internet connection in the evenings, which annoyed me to no end. I therefore had to track but my Dammam work and my current work in India at the same time.

My colleague and I would have breakfast in the guest house (which came free) while lunches were at the office. Now there's an experience - personally I have nothing against Indian food. It's just that --- well, sometimes, you just don't know what you're eating. To be fair, the food at the office, which was vegetarian, was tasty and they served plentiful amounts. The tea boys were always around to offer you hot tea or coffee and the office environment, at least by Dammam standards, was palatial, Epicurean even.

(That shows how much we could do to liven up our work environment.)

I'd leave out the rest of my stay (ummm, confidentiality, confidentiality!) but I would say that the visit was not altogether satisfying (some things were left unresolved) but I left with a feeling of optimism (excellent potential for growth within India for our company).

I thoroughly hate Indian airports. I mean it, yes, thoroughly. If traveling in the Philippines is bad, in India it is worse. In some cases, I am told, it is more expensive to travel from one point in India to another than it is to travel from Saudi Arabia to Mumbai. The availability of air connections is a problem, and the trains or buses don't offer the same level of convenience.

It took me three hours just to check in my bag through two x-ray machines, get myself frisked several times, all the while pushing away people who always wanted to get one place up (some idiot even used the airport police as his alibi, ano ka, ulol? Lokohin mo lelong mong mabaho!)

On the flight back I was touched by the discipline of my fellow passenger (German or Austrian by his first name, Christoph) who took copious notes of his travels (in long hand, no less). I wish I had the energy or the desire to do the same again, at least during that trip. But I was tired. Dead-tired.

I also missed that wonderful flight attendant who made my Dammam to Mumbai flight memorable. I don't know your name, miss, but you've got one more admirer, at least.

The worst part was that we were at least thirty minutes late landing in Bahrain and my connecting flight to Dammam only had a forty-five minute window. The immigration desk was a half-nightmare, and I literally did myself two Roadrunner cartoons running from one end of the airport to the other (How did they add so many gates in just the four months since I last traveled here? And the new gates didn't have tubes, so the bus it is for you...)

I was dripping with sweat and had no semblance of poise when I got to the bus --- but at least I ran into one of my colleagues coming from vacation back home and we had a blast. One of the highlights of this trip was the smarmy way one of our kababayans was sidling up to him during the bus ride. I guess she was already doing that to him during the trip, only he never noticed ... it would have been great had she been the bomb, but of course, ehem, 'wag na lang, manahimik na lang ako, hehe.

So now I'm back. Ramadan has just started --- one whole month of lovable craziness. Ramadan Kareem!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Passing Through Mumbai

I am posting from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, as I wait for the announcement to board my flight to Pune. I'm a few hours short of sleep, since going by Dammam time I am still safely in my bed right now.

The flight coming here was uneventful, the only excitement I got was that my buddy missed the turn going to departures at the Dammam airport and we had to take the scenic route. Travel to Bahrain was a bit light, so I didn't have to jostle other people like I did when I traveled to Chennai. The flight to Mumbai was even less crowded, and I even had the pleasure of chatting it up with one of the cabin crew who was a Filipina. We would have probably chatted longer but her co-workers noticed her noticing me. It's really nice to chat with someone from back home on these travels. She even gave me a 1.5 liter bottle of water as her parting gift since she knew I had a four-hour layover in Mumbai.

Such is the kindness of strangers. I didn't even get her name. Maybe I'll meet her again on the flight back. One can only wish.

Seeing Mumbai from the top, as she awakens in the sunrise ,one is oddly reminded of Manila. While India is an emerging economic powerhouse and Mumbai transforming itself into a global metropolis, the signs are all there of the struggle these people have undergone and are undergoing. Going by shuttle from the international terminal (work still ongoing) to the domestic one (work completed), I watched a parade of shanties along the perimeter of the airport complex.

Much like Manila, Mumbai is a study in contrasts --- burgeoning wealth is trumpeted all over but the hardships of poverty, of overcrowding, of past cruelties sound out a dissonant note. Within this metropolis and its environs more people live and work and eat and love and play than in the entirety of Saudi Arabia.

I know it's not right for me to judge --- the Indian people have their own particular challenges to face in the transformation of their society. Even so, the path of this wealth so flagrantly displayed has been paved with so many poor people trodden underfoot.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Culinary Experiments, 1

I've turned to a little cooking the past few days since I am getting bored of buying too much cooked food. Last night, some of the boys "ambushed" my place (naturally, I invited them) and since I didn't have a lot of time to prepare, I had to make do with the ingredients I had in the house.

Here's my recipe for "INSTANT CARBONARA":

Ingredients

1 kg spaghetti noodles
3 cans tuna flakes in sunflower oil (185g can)
1 big can evaporated milk
250g fresh button mushrooms (or canned if none, drained)
1 medium-sized red bell pepper, diced
1 medium sized green bell pepper, diced
1 large bulb garlic, or at least eight cloves, crushed and diced
1 medium-sized white onion, diced
200g chicken hotdog, sliced into strips
2 tbsps sunflower margarine
Cooking oil
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste, sugar (optional)
Two cheese slices or grated cheese (parmesan cheese preferred)
One egg, slightly beaten

Pasta preparation

The normal ratio for water to pasta is 4 liters to 500 grams, but you can get away with 2:1 if you manage things correctly. For this recipe, I went with 2:1, and added a tablespoon of salt and two tablespoons of oil.

Bring the water to a vigorous boil (together with the salt/oil) before adding all of the pasta that can reasonably fit in the pan. Make sure of all the pasta is submerged and then stir to make sure nothing sticks together. After about 10-12 minutes (max of 15 depending on the brand), remove from heat and drain the pasta through a colander. Wash the pasta quickly with tap water, and then add a little margarine or butter and stir through the cooked noodles. (For this recipe, I put in a little Italian seasoning with the noodles while stirring in the butter).

Sauce preparation

Start your pan on medium heat before putting in the margarine. As soon as it bubbles, saute the garlic lightly before putting in the onions. Cook then to a light brown color before putting in the tuna. You can use Spanish-style tuna if you want extra spice but having plain flavor is better so that you can season to your desired taste. Mix well before adding the bell pepper and the mushrooms. If you are using canned mushrooms, cook the bell peppers well before adding. Add about half a glass of water to the sauce, cover and let simmer for five to seven minutes.

After simmering, add the hotdog strips and the evaporated milk together. If I had a choice I would have had boiled chicken breast instead of the hotdogs, but this is what I had to work with. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and sugar.

Before removing from heat, stir in the egg and cheese.

Serves 6-8.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fiddling at the Desk

One of the Damocles' swords in my line of work is that one can get inured to the sums of money being haggled for by employees, being given by managers, and general expectations of raises. One apt comparison would be that of obstetric surgeons who get to look at the birth cavity every single day it deadens their compulsion for sex (or at least breeds some strange or perverted sex behaviors. But I digress...)

Talking about money doesn't mean I have to earn less of it, or appreciate it less. But it ticks me off why some people in our organization have an obsession to make more so much that they follow up on a daily basis (Don't these people have any work to do?) . . .

It also makes me think what exactly is my worth to this organization. Hmm . . . time for some heavy thought. Maybe later.

A fit song would be the solo from "Fiddler on the Roof" featuring the lead character Tevye. I've seen only one version of course, that featuring Chaim Topol and directed by Norman Jewison. And it's a song I could sing too.

If I Were a Rich Man
(Music: Jerry Bock, Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick, Book: Joseph Stein)


Spoken
"Dear God, you made many, many poor people.
I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be poor.
But it's no great honor either!
So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?"

Sung
If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.

I'd build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen,
Right in the middle of the town.
A fine tin roof with real wooden floors below.
There would be one long staircase just going up,
And one even longer coming down,
And one more leading nowhere, just for show.

I'd fill my yard with chicks and turkeys and geese and ducks
For the town to see and hear.
Squawking just as noisily as they can.
And each loud "cheep" and "swaqwk" and "honk" and "quack"
Would land like a trumpet on the ear,
As if to say "Here lives a wealthy man."

If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.

I see my wife, my Golde, looking like a rich man's wife
With a proper double-chin.
Supervising meals to her heart's delight.
I see her putting on airs and strutting like a peacock.
Oy, what a happy mood she's in.
Screaming at the servants, day and night.

The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like Solomon the Wise.
"If you please, Reb Tevye..."
"Pardon me, Reb Tevye..."
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi's eyes!
And it won't make one bit of difference if i answer right or wrong.
When you're rich, they think you really know!

If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.

If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
Lord who made the lion and the lamb,
You decreed I should be what I am.
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan?
If I were a wealthy man.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

"They Call Me Stacey!"

Watch "That's Not My Name" on YouTube - I'm looking for a copy that will allow me to embed in it my blog post, but this one doesn't allow it.

A little taste of punk and indie pop, and somewhat of a throwback to the days of Toni Basil and "Mickey" (a trite song, but something guaranteed to get you twiddling your fingers at least) - I just discovered the Ting Tings just a while back.

Now, I'm not into my music critic mode so I'll allow myself a few indulgences here. The Ting Tings' sound has elements of old and new, with a lot of cheekiness thrown in. They're DIY-ers with loads of big ideas, but not too over-produced so their songs come out fresh instead of manufactured from the hit-making factories of the music industry.

Maybe they'll be forgotten in a few years, but this particular hook will always wake up old memories somewhere, sometime.

In Search of the Green

Following the Euro

Just an interesting thing to nitpick on --- basketball players crossing over to Europe instead of the other way around.

Signs of the times --- Americans are used to smirk over their dominance in the game that they created, but they have not won a world-class basketball competition since the 2000 Sydney Olympics. They were a poor sixth at the World Basketball Championship in 2002 (which earned Paul Pierce and Baron Davis their "selfish" labels), third at the Olympics in 2004 (a team with a bickering Larry Brown underplaying his best young stars), and again third at the Worlds in 2006 (a better-prepared team but without an alpha dog).

It's not the end yet of American basketball --- the players that have left, while almost-stars in their own right, are not the players that the leagues heavily pushes and covets, and that seven of these nine players were formerly based in Europe already. And who knows, with an established pecking order and more commitment to hustle on defense, the 2008 Olympics may just be a stroll in the park for the U.S. team.

But the stage has been set that basketball is more of a global product and talent from all places can, with the proper coaching and opportunities, rise to the top. With economic power now swaying East to Europe and further East to China, Russia and India, the Americans can no longer pay top dollar anymore.

It's also a sign of the hard times the dollar has taken in the changing global economy. In search of the green denied to them, people will always seek better places where they feel more wanted.

Now imagine if LeBron and Kobe were to move...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Waning Days

Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn dies at 89 - Yahoo! News

I have to admit it --- I was once enamored with the concept of Communism and investing in the people's welfare.

I still believe we have to invest in the people's welfare, but at the risk of being called a revisionist and sell-out, I believe that Communism is not the answer.

People are created equal in that they represent one number in a statistical chain. Otherwise, they are fundamentally different. Treating them the same way in a mass-produced environment only means one course: stultification and death of individual initiative. We have to realize there is no egalitarian utopia, if so we must acknolwedge that only equality of opportunity is the one thing we can provide.

I read Solzhenitsyn's works when I was very impressionable (I was 12 and had nothing to do since I hated physical activity) and today his account of Stalinist repression remains imprinted on my mind. While his rise to world fame had more to do with Khruschev doing a demolition job against his predecessor Stalin, there is no doubt that he communicated an elemental truth about the human spirit: it cannot be broken by the environment around it, but only by the person who holds it.

However, much like the heroes who struggled against dictatorship, his aura was more powerful only in opposition to repression. This is a maxim that revolutionaries must heed --- the dialectic must be preserved in order to have a stronger whole. In other words, there are no true victories and resolutions, only true passions.

These are waning days indeed, of the glories and the infamies of the 20th century. The generation that waged two wars to define the right of all peoples to self-determination is now exiting the world stage. And now, we their pampered successors, weaned on cheap drugs, television, free love, and a sense of entitlement, have much to do to make this world a better place.

The Baby Boomers had their chance and squandered it. I hope Gen X doesn't make the same mistake.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Day 213: Total Eclipse (of the Heart)

Total Solar Eclipse in Mongolia

No, I'm not developing a sudden fascination with all things related to space. It is rather unfortunate that this particular eclipse's penumbra is further north - it would have just have driven some of the orthodoxy over here bonkers just because a regular astronomical occurrence would blot out the daylight for a few hours.

I did post about Saturn once, but outer space, for all its charms, has ceased to fascinate me as much as inner space.

Congratulations to me for finishing July in one piece and coming off with a prolific (for me, at least) number of posts up to now. I find the fifteen or so minutes I use to post these tidbits help me to decompress my brain and focus more easily on the tasks I have at hand. I'm still way behind with so many of my assignments but it just isn't as bad as it should feel --- my work still hasn't approached Sisyphean proportions, and there are ways to keep things on an even keel. There's the magic word: delegate!

This is Day 213 of this year. It has been one of the fastest years in my life --- even with all of my dramas, things just haven't managed to slow down.

Yesterday, one of my buddies here punched his ticket for a well-deserved (and oft-delayed) vacation back home. I hope he comes back (I have every reason to believe that he will, but still...), else he will just about help sink me into the debt trap. It would have been nice if his management had realized his disenchantment earlier and sent him home as soon his vacation was due. The man left home just as his wife was about to deliver his first child and they couldn't give him a break? Incidentally, that baby turns two in a few months. Almost two years. I'm glad, just for the burden of separation, that I am not in his shoes.

For the heart that yearns for the time of reunion is the heart that is in the darkness of an eclipse, seeking the light but still suffering in the dark.

In many ways I wish I were, too. Tomorrow is my youngest nephew's first birthday. I left him off this space when he was born --- the memories of leaving Manila were still fresh at that time --- but since my last time back home, I knew that it would be impossible not to miss him. He is not my child, but he is special to me not only because he lives under the same roof as I do (back home), but because of the special circumstances surrounding his coming-to-be. They say that the child most special to you is the one that needs you the most.

Now that I am in the age of parenthood (though not a parent myself), I believe this to be true. The special ones are the ones who keep on stumbling but keep on getting up, the ones who hurt you more because they don't seem to return your love, the ones over whom you spend sleepless nights, the ones who have the label "No Return on Investment" but on whom you keep pouring your love.

I am privileged to be in the position of giving to my family. Sure, it gets to be a drag sometimes, but I am thankful that I am in this position. I expand, and the heart of provenance expands with me, because hard as it is for me to learn, generosity does not come because you have much, but that you have given your all and still feel it is not enough. I didn't ask for this, but am blessed to have been served this life.

Seven months gone and just two off after my last jaunt back home. My heart can't wait to be home --- in fact, it always IS there. These are the days when one wishes burdens are lighter, but in some way, thankful that they are there. Like racing cars needing downforce, we do much better with some amount of responsibility. We stay true to ourselves and find ourselves more deeply rooted in our lives.

I've been lacking in some inspiration and this insight cannot come at a more opportune time. And there is, of course, the possibility of meeting someone out there. I haven't thrown in the towel yet, and while so many would say I don't deserve it, someone in this world has a place in her heart where I can find solace and bountiful silence, home for all intents and purposes, wherever we may be, with the light of love that eclipses all loneliness and hurt.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spinning Hypocrisies

Doha Development Round talks collapse

After seven years of moving forward and then back-tracking, what began as a sense of euphoria now just ended us as an obscenity ended quickly in the night. Or, if you prefer less melodrama, so many high hopes have been defeated by the realities of world trade.

The Doha declaration said rather boldly:
International trade can play a major role in the promotion of economic development and the alleviation of poverty. We recognize the need for all our peoples to benefit from the increased opportunities and welfare gains that the multilateral trading system generates. The majority of WTO Members are developing countries. We seek to place their needs and interests at the heart of the Work Programme adopted in this Declaration.
Stripped of all its drama, essentially what has happened is that all this rush for "free trade" fails to admit that trade isn't really free. Not while there's a stamp on our products that says "Made in ..."

These talks, at least for this so-called Development Round, have been going on for seven years, and every now and then something-or-other brings up a "challenge" to the viability of these talks. The melodrama about "last chances" is dragging out even longer than your average soap opera. The biggest joke on all of these talks that even as multilateralism has been represented through the 153-member World Trade Organization, countries are racing to ink bilateral trade agreements that either negate or render the WTO useless.

The truth is, business and trade still spin some hypocrisies, whether in the guise of free trade or smaller government. " Despite all the platitudes, no one has gone far enough.

As long as the spirit of nationalism and "people's welfare" take precedence, there will be no such thing as free --- and therefore no such thing as fair --- trade. The European Union, the U.S. and Canada have basically made life harder for foreign famrmers to complete by granting hefty subsidies --- billions of dollars' (or euros') worth. Likewise, the standards for the entry of foreign food products, the insistence on a archaic intellectual property system, and some other non-tariff barriers have all made it impossible for imports to survive in their marketplace.

It's the same old neocolonial line --- open your countries so we can sell to you, but let's take a raincheck on whether you can sell to us. They would rather protect the welfare of a few millions of their own famers than allow the rest of the farmers of the world have better lives. So it comes at no surprise that developed countries keep on pushing to accelerate the reduction of tariffs for manufactured goods while doing little (or nothing) in removing subsidies on farm products or allowing the freedom of movement of natural persons.

Subsidies have made the export of farm products from the developed to the developing countries an exercise in dumping, and the only chip that developing countries have --- cheap labor --- is continually disregarded. There is no reason why well-trained lawyers, doctors, engineers, and other professionals shouldn't find work anywhere in the world so long as they are competent to do the work. And this doesn't mind finding a veteran banker frying donuts at a supermarket after getting his immigrant visa, or encountering a seasoned health professional hauling vegetables from the truck to the local green grocer.

These talks are all hot air to perpetuate the system of domination of the old order. Free trade and minimal government are grand maxims, but its barrels must be able to point to the right way. It is no wonder that the emerging economies of the world --- Brazil, India, China, the African states and the Tigers of Southeast Asia --- have done ther best to sandbag the progress of tariff reduction. Because in doing so, they protect their own producers and industrialists (most likely their own local hegemonists and oligarchs) squeeze out maximum profits.

Where does that leave the ordinary consumer? In dire straits indeed.

The language of the Declaration would lead one to believe that there is a new hope for the world - especially since the talks came at the heels of the disruptions in Seattle and what's more, the fateful events of 9/11. It's all a grand notion --- the altruism of rich countries helping poor countries to grow. But in the running of affairs, be it in business or government, would reveal that there is no such thing. As mentioned by one columnist:

No one wants to be completely unilateral; if they did, we wouldn’t need these talks at all. What kind of altruist expects something in return?
So what use language then? Ah, there's the rub --- it ensures negotiators and diplomats are firmly ensconced in their lofty positions, that lobbyists will continue to curry favor, that the barons of business and the leaders of government keep on doing their waltz. Meantime, it's business as usual at the top.

As for the rest of the bottom of the pyramid, we warm up to the platitudes (alas for hope) while our stomachs remain empty.

Cool Goings-On



Great movie spoof - ripping off everybody like Wesley Snipes/Woody Harrelson (mainly), Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor and to some degree, Arnold Schwarzenegger/Danny de Vito.

And if you don't even know Baron and Steve from their NBA reps, Steve does a really goofy Michael Jackson impersonation.

Wonder how the real movie would turn out.

(Edit: Looks like the verdict on the real movie starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly shows that satire, at least in its intentions, is always way cooler than the real thing.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Insult to Injury

Los Angeles bans new fast food joints in poor areas

Now that ain't right.

Obese people have the right to kill themselves - if such a thing can be countenanced - just to enjoy food. What else can we have in this cruel, unforgiving, lonely (sniff! sniff!) world?

Take away the health care, take away the dole, squeeze people out of the job market, kick them out of their low-paying jobs, charge more taxes . . . but don't away their right to eat what they want, when they want, however they want.

Or - if they really care - the government can subsidize healthier groceries and stores. But take away the right to eat all that greasy food? Hell, no!

We want our burgers!
We want our fries!
We want our milkshakes!
We want our pies!

We want our pizzas!
We want our beer!
We want our chicken wings!
More fat? No fear!

Playing the Real

My friend has actually convinced one of her acquaintances to read my blog so that the latter can have an idea who I am. And yes, it's an attempt to set the two of us up.

As I write this, I've actually been suckering myself into coming up with a killer blog post --- coming up with draft titles such as "Elemental" or pulling out some of the (pig) Latin I had managed to scrounge up during all of these years of reading, or - better yet - of mastering the art of the Internet search engine.

Oh yes, I wanted to impress. In this day and age where "metrosexual" has become the vogue term instead of "faggy" some form of intellectual wattage does count. Or at least until such arts of mental prestidigitation have opened the door for men to wangle their way into women's hearts (read: lying!) and thus seal the deal. Then a guy can throw all culture and the high principles, settle into a routine of fast moves and near date-rapes, and if he stays charming until this point, scores, literally, before moving on and leaving the poor girl in emotional shambles and self-loathing.

(You see, I've done this before!)

(No, it was done to me!)

(Another double-take: now you're pulling everybody's leg)

(Smug feeling - at least it keeps them reading! LOL!)

But I've been in this relationship business as a player or a bystander too long that it's nearly impossible to quantify or qualify what gets people into a relationship and what keeps them there. (Or in HR terms, to attract, retain, and motivate, hehe. Ugh!)

One school of thought says that all form of intellect is flushed down the toilet when the paragon of a girl's dreams makes his appearance --- whether you are a fan of Vin Diesel, Marilyn Manson (on the edge), David Duchovny, Edward Norton (semi-geeky), Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt (pretty boys), or Sean Connery (old guys, father figure). Or whatever combo you can come up with, from Brandon Routh to Benicio del Toro or George Clooney. Even, God forbid, Keanu Reeves!

The other school of thought says that sweeping the girl off her feet is all well and good, but it won't do much if you don't have much fuel in the tank to keep her engaged -- whether it's sex, good times, or most importantly, MONEY, or some combination of two or all.

Still another school of thought says that there's a science to all of this, so there are rules and principles and all kinds of self-motivational regalia. Better yet to call this science more of a business so that all these "experts" can fleece our money from us.

Finally, those among us who are still believers say that it won't work until Destiny or Providence (take your pick) --- simply the Hand of God for most --- gets involved.

Or take the nihilist view and you can say love doesn't matter, we are just driven by animal instinct. Propagate until we die.

Me? Honestly I don't know. While I don't have a plethora of opportunities, much less choices, there's one thing I do know --- I can't fake it.

I can't fake being geeky or perverse or sentimental or kooky or child-like or profound or absent-minded or creative or lazy or inconsistent.

I can't fake being fickle in my infatuations, but I can't fake being loyal or true when I do fall in love. Every line and every scar of those times --- yes, I keep them in my heart still. I am free of them, but they do leave their marks . . .

I can't fake treating a girl-for-rent the same way I would a "potential" girl of my dreams, not because they are of the same quality, but because it isn't me to treat a woman in a cavalier fashion. Yet there's another side to this --- I could, just like that, be as cruel as I can be kind.

Call it programming. Call it whatever.

Oh, yes I'm impossible. But that's how I play, even if this whole love thing isn't a game. I'm down on the canvas, struggling against the ten-count, and still I try to get up. If it's worth it, taking a beating can't be all that bad.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Randomize My Hits

I am taking this meme from my friend Nikki’s blog. Something I haven't done lately - which is to jack some other person's ideas.

In high school, I never thought about joining a band or forming a band, but later on when I found out I could write saccharine stuff (find one example in the blog - here) I had some aspirations to form a vocal group.

(Deep sigh)

This seemed fun, so I hope you would follow along...

1. Go here.
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2. Go here.
The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3. Go here.
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4. Go here.
The first ten links you end up in (minus the .coms) are your 10 song titles.

Here are my results:

Name of Band: 1927 Grand Prix Season

Album Title: An Adventure in Forgiveness

Album Cover: Click here.

Song Titles:

Il Manifesto
Absis Minas
Massachusetts Conservation - the title is not so exact, so I pulled out the sense of the site.
Screaming Bloody Mess
Meyer Web
VHPA Museum
Morat
HPR Online
Default Milk
Ningyoushi


And since I had to re-click because I got the same link twice:

Il Manifesto (reprise)

The band name isn't so hot, but I have to say the album title is pretty cool, as is the album cover. The titles of the songs are a bit anti-establishment, especially "Il Manifesto" and "Screaming Bloody Mess" while the rest are rather unconventional as well. "Default Milk" is particularly amusing.

Hmmm... this album seems to be as eccentric as I am, hehe.