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.