Saturday, April 30, 2005

Uno, dos, tres, catorce!

U2 hasnt kept their faith in God a secret, and Vertigo tells of the struggle our favorite rock star has in dealing with success and how it all seems so trivial, and so...wrong. Bono wonders if theyre doing the right thing, if their success was meant to take them where they are, where people adore them, where young women wear Jesus round their necks as jewelry, dancing to their music, and not getting it.

Bono sings his doubts. He sees the people dance, and he wants out. He struggles with the confusion he feels--whether this is what God wants them to do. Rock and roll has been good to the band, bringing them riches beyond their wildest dreams, and Bono echoes Satan's words: 'All of this could be yours.' And all of this--this whole success thing--indeed became theirs, adding to his struggles with himself. But through it all, through all the money, limousines, designer clothes, and private jets, Bono can feel God's love and is humbled by it. 'Your love is teaching me how to kneel.'

How to Dismantle...
opens with Vertigo, and ends with Yahweh where Bono asks God to take everything he has so he could use them for what God wants him to do. This is Bono coming to terms with what he believes all this--all of this--is for.

Vertigo (U2)
Lights go down, it's dark
The jungle is your head
Can't rule your heart
A feeling's so much stronger than
A thought
Your eyes are wide
And though your soul
It can't be bought
Your mind can wander

Hello, Hello (¡Hola!)
I'm at a place called Vertigo (¿Dónde esta?)
It's everything I wish I didn't know
Except you give me something i can feel, feel

The night is full of holes
As bullets rip the sky
Of ink with gold
They twinkle as the
Boys play rock and roll
They know that they can't dance
At least they know...

I can't stand the beat
I'm asking for the cheque
The girl with crimson nails
Has Jesus round her neck
Swinging to the music
Swinging to the music
Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh,

Hello, Hello (¡Hola!)
I'm at a place called Vertigo (¿Dónde Estas?)
It's everything I wish I didn't know
But you give me something I can feel, feel

Shake it,
Just for,
Jumping on.(yeah)

All of this, all of this can be yours
All of this, all of this can be yours
All of this, all of this can be yours
Just give me what I want and no one gets hurt...

Hello, Hello (¡Hola!)
We're at a place called Vertigo (¿Dónde Esta?)
Lights go down and all I know
Is that you give me something

I can feel your love teaching me how
Your love is teaching me how, how to kneel, kneel

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

Friday, April 29, 2005

Look to the ant, thou sluggard

In what could probably be the only instance of child labor outside the human race, I watched weaver ants build a nest in one of the citrus trees in our backyard. What they do is, some weaver ants pull together leaves, while other weaver ants carry larvae in their mandibles--their babies--and squeeze them. A sticky fluid comes out of the larvae and glues the leaves together; living glue guns. Facinating stuff. Nature is weird and wonderful.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ride a painted pony, let the spinning wheel spin

I decided to open an email from my spam folder and this one said it'll give me a free sample Karma reading. Well why not? Im suffering from a kind of mental constipation anyway, so maybe some sort of distraction might help loosen up my synapses and get me back to on the road to mental diarrhea So I entered personal information, said no to the offered subscriptions, and clicked to this:

Chapter 1: Nodes of the Moon (Your Karmic Doorways)

North Node of the Moon in Leo

In prior lives, Jeg, you promoted social reform and brotherhood, often at the expense of close personal relationships. Creativity was repressed in favor of work for the common good.

Your past live's [sic] goals were based on bettering the human condition, yet you remained so detached from real people that the goal became an intellectual exercise.

You have possibly spent past lives as a revolutionary, social worker, academic, or even a hermit.

You still take pride in being different from other people, Jeg, and often will maintain your individuality at all costs.

Hmmmm... Pride, eh? I dont know about that. And not at all costs perhaps. Sometimes losing your individuality is such a relief.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Da de di do du

When Cael was born, we decided that she'll be breast-fed. Only the best for our first-born. Imagine our frustration when Cael couldnt quite latch on to her mom's dede. My wife spent hours trying to make her suckle; hours that ended in tears, not all of which can be attributed to post-partum depression. Needless to say, we had to do something. We werent giving up on breastfeeding, but we needed to do something until Cael gets the hang of it. And the next best thing was expressing the breast milk with a pump and feeding Cael that milk through feeding bottles.

I knew back then that the choice of feeding bottle nipples was crucial. If Cael gets used to them, and the ease with which she gets milk from using them, she might not be interested in getting milk from the real thing, so I decided to buy a variety of feeding bottle nipples: different shapes, different materials, different 'feel'. That way, when we introduce Cael to the real deal, she'd think that it's just another type of nipple and she'll get milk from them just the same.

So off I went to Landmark to buy the stuff. I didnt know where all the baby stuff were at the time and had to ask around. I asked a saleslady on the first floor and she told me to go to the third floor. I went. I located the baby section and didnt want to waste any more time looking so I homed in on the first saleslady I saw for help on the different types of feeding bottle nipples.

"Hi, miss," I said with my best new dad smile. "Patingin nga ng mga nipples nyo?"

And I soon as I said that, I knew it was.. wrong. If only there was a way to un-say them. I was ready to apologize profusely, but the saleslady, to her great credit, and to my relief, was unflustered. And professional that she is, simply said, "This way, sir." And showed me where they were.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Gosh Im so busog... I wanna make tae.

It was Wittgenstein who said that philosophers use a language that is already deformed as though by shoes that are too tight. But why limit it to the language of philosophers? Words are used and abused by all of us, even those who wouldn't even dream of pursuing the philosopher's true, good, and beautiful.

The trouble with language is that we often mistake the words for what they represent. Language is a translation. It is a translation of what goes on in our heads and our heads speak a non-verbal language. Like all translations, nuances of meaning are lost. The idioms and figures of speech the mind uses do not translate well into words. But we try, with varying degrees of success. More often though, the true meaning of a word is deliberately obscured because of propriety or because the use of a particular word signifies a commitment that the speaker isn't ready for: words reveal more than a speaker intends. Social standing for instance.

Take the various words for human waste. 'Excrement' is from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. And being from the upper class, notice how far removed it is from where excrement is usually found: cesspools, septic tanks, outhouses, and holes-in-the-ground. The word excrement, being from the upper strata, isn't evocative at all. I could say excrement and you wouldn't smell a thing.

A little bit more evocative is the word 'feces'. It's also Latin so it's still a bit hoity-toity. But this time, we're closer to the cesspool. It is now easier to associate the word with the body's solid waste matter, composed of undigested food, bacteria, water, and bile pigments and discharged from the bowel through the anus. It stinks a bit more, but only if you're from the upper class, that is, if you're from the stratum that actually uses the word feces. If you're not, I could say 'feces' while you're having lunch and you wouldn't even blink.

In general, Latin words are classier than Germanic words. In other words, Latin is more removed from the real meaning of the word. 'Shit,' for example, is a proper Germanic, Anglo-Saxon word and consequently, it stinks a lot more than feces. The further you are to evoking the actual image of the word, the classier the word seems. But shit is still a foreign word. It is in English, the language of our one-time colonizers. I could say shit and it would still sound ok. It's still a bit removed from the sewers. You don't smell it. Besides, shit has transmogrified into an all-purpose word, and therefore as a word for human waste, its meaning has been diluted irreparably.

In Filipino, further divisions have been devised to segregate classes of people through their use of language. A coño word for feces that is cute and antiseptic is jerbs. You could sniff at the word all day and all you'll smell are clean, pine-scented toilet bowls. The word is derived from the jolog word ebak, the etymology of which I'm not sure of, but it sure sounds stinky. The soft j and r sounds of jerbs is replaced by the harsher k sound in ebak. It's as if coño feces is lubricated by a diet of butter and cream, while the jologs' feces is pure roughage. Ebak certainly isn't a word you'd use while someone who says jerbs is eating. And of course the stinkiest, truest, most evocative, word is tae. Say the word and the purest image of human waste comes to mind: soft, warm, and brown with the concomitant aroma of esters, ketones, and greenhouse gases. The euphemism dumi is just tae that's allowed to bio-degrade.

Different words for the same thing have different effects on people. Take the various words for the female breasts, for instance. Personally, I refer to these parts of the female anatomy as dede. It's a nice, utilitarian word. Not sexual, certainly not vulgar, but positively mammalian in character. So imagine my surprise when it evoked a visceral reaction on women. They would much prefer the word 'boobs' when referring to their breasts.

A boob originally meant a stupid person. Why anyone would refer to their breasts as 'stupid persons' is beyond me. It's way too disrespectful of the paps that gave us suck when we were but helpless infants. Maybe the word boob originally referred to infants, since infants are, so to speak, stupid, and through the years the word might have transferred to their means of nourishment. But still...

Now the word suso to me is a lot more vulgar and sexual than dede. Yes, it's still mammalian, yes it's still evocative of a loving mother feeding her infant, but it's not a word I'd use in polite conversation in mixed company. It has a lot to do with the sound of the word than its meaning. More accurately, it has a lot to do with the means by which we produce the sound. To see what I mean, stand in front of a mirror and say the word dede out loud. Notice your mouth as you enunciate the word. Now do the same thing and say suso. See the difference? Dede is a happy, innocent word. You say it with a smile. Suso is lecherous and appeals only to the baser instincts. Such is the power of the sound of a word.

Comparing dede and boobs, on the other hand, one could see that boobs also is a bit more sexual. It refers to the breasts as nothing more than ornamentation; something to attract stares and ogles. At first it puzzled me why a woman would prefer boobs over dede. But then it dawned on me. The women who prefer to refer to their breasts as boobs are career-oriented women. The word dede evokes motherhood, domestication, household chores. It's easy to see how a career woman would reject dede in favor of boobs, even though boobs, I think, is more degrading to women, since it refers to their breasts as mere playthings.

Words are wonderful things. As they evolve, words will try to approximate thoughts and feelings more and more, but will not quite make it. It would be best for humans to learn to use other means of communication other than words: a touch, a smile, sniffing, panting, heavy breathing... whatever non-verbal communication there is. For if we limit ourselves to words, we're missing out on true communication. Wittgenstein said the meaning of a word is its use. But in the end, all words are meaningless. And with that I say trump up the heavy tomatoes for red crackles are up that paddle without a creek. In short, huffplexesmoffin esjuban ik.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI

The fourth Pope in my lifetime. 1978 was a bargain year; the year of three Popes. It's interesting to note that in the same week Benedict XVI was elected, Italian authorities have indicted four people for the murder of banker Roberto Calvi. Calvi, affectionately (or derisively) known as God's banker, was found hanging from the Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982. He was President of the Banco Ambrosiano and had close ties with the Vatican and the American Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who then headed the Vatican Bank. Banco Ambrosiano collapsed following the disappearance of £687 million. The Vatican had a significant stake in the bank and later, the Vatican Bank agreed to pay £132 million to the Banco Ambrosiano's creditors although it denied any wrongdoing. David Yallop in his book In God's Name tied the Vatican Bank's deals with the Mafia to the death of Albino Luciani, Pope John Paul I, barely a month after his election, paving the way for the election of Karol Wojtyla as John Paul II. The death of John Paul I also gave Francis Ford Coppolla a storyline for Godfather Part III.

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Where the hell does this stuff come from??

The forces of the universe have converged, tallied everything that has gone wrong, and laid them squarely at my feet. "J'accuse," they said. And I, beaten, bloody, bruised, with no more desire to put up a defense, accept their verdict. My rights have been stripped: my right to self, my right to happiness, my right to life. Justice has been served. All is well.

I was tempted to write the above so that it looks like free-verse, but I cringed. It's so... pretentious. It woudlve looked like this:

The forces of the universe have converged, tallied everything that has gone wrong, and laid them squarely at my feet.
"J'accuse," they said.
And I, beaten, bloody, bruised,
With no more desire to put up a defense,
Accept their verdict.
My rights have been stripped: my right to self, my right to happiness,
My right to life.

Justice has been served
All is well.

I look at it now and my skin crawls. My only consolation is that Hemingway wrote verses too. He also killed himself, but hey, you cant win 'em all. I read A.E. Hotchner's account of Hemingway's final years in his book Papa Hemingway and he tried to explain the depression Hemingway felt prior to his death, that the man feared he had lost his talent and can't live with that fact anymore. I have a more obvious explanation: he was drugged up to the wazoo. After his twin plane crashes, the doctors prescribed a variety of pain killers and various other drugs. You can't take that much medication without it affecting you. I think things wouldve been different had he stopped taking that lethal pharmaceutical cocktail.

I think therefore I am... I think

Unconscious thought is an oxymoron. Thought has to spring from consciousness. Random images and sensations arent thoughts. We make thoughts happen. Thoughts dont happen to us.

"But what is it to think?"

To think is to create: connections, solutions, ideas, stories, songs, images, etc. To create requires consciousness.

"But what is it to be conscious?"

To be conscious... to be aware... is to acknowledge that you are, and that the world around you is.

"Still making sense so far. Next question is, how are we sure that we are conscious or that the things that we are aware of are really things and not merely hallucinations which the mind projects into itself?"

It doesnt matter whether what we are aware of are hallucinations or 'real' things. What matters is that we are aware of them, that we are aware we are in them, that we are aware of something. We acknowledge something: us and the 'world' around us. Consciousness does not concern itself with whether the self or world being acknowledged is 'real' or 'illusory'.

We can never be sure there is 'something' out there that gives off characteristics like color and form and smell or whatever. What is a thing apart from its characteristics and properties? Probably an idea of a thing, probably a 'real' thing. Im going with the latter. Not because Im sure, but because it makes more sense to me that there is something out there apart from us, independent of us, that gives off something that we interpret as properties and characteristics because of the way we interact with whatever it is that these things give off. It is possible that we supply these characteristics from the something just because of the way we are built and that the something doesnt really give them off.

"Nice! now, next questions would be, how can we be sure that our consciousness is the same as others'; that we are not alone in our solipsistic view that the self can only affirm these impressions only insofar as they interact with the "itself?" if indeed we are conscious, then how can we be sure that others are indeed conscious as well, and that this consciousness is the same as ours? after all, in affirming that the objects of consciousness could be real or illusory, then it is possible for only the self to exist and create everything else as an illusion. in fact, this is what happens in dreams; only that the impressions are re-produced instead of passing through the senses. however, the mind is capable of reproducing, and creating these impressions. what we see are merely colors and sounds, we then interpret them as voices, words, pictures, or faces. if this can be done by our minds alone, then it would be impossible for us to distinguish fantasy from reality. all consciousness would be self-consciousness. but this leads us back to an earlier question: what is consciousness?"

Again there's that word 'sure'. We cannot be absolutely sure. We can only be reasonably sure. Fortunately for us, we get to define what 'reasonable' is. For that we need something like what Karl Popper called a metaphysical research programme. This is something not borne out by evidence but is useful in determining the direction of a scientific research project and in interpreting the data. For example, in this case, we cannot be sure that our consciousness is the same as others so we create a metaphysical research programme that assumes that our consciousness is the same as others. We then conduct experiments: interacting with people, observing them, collecting data, and interpreting results all of this based on the metaphysical research programme. We find that our observations tally with our programme. Our observations do not refute it. Therefore it works; it is useful. For all intents and purposes, it is 'true.'

We can also create another metaphysical research programme that assumes that only we exist and all the rest are illusory. We do the same thing: interacting with people-illusions, observing them, collecting data-illusions, and interpreting results all of this based on the metaphysical research programme. We may also find that our observations can be explained by the programme. It also works and is useful. But it isnt popular. It isnt 'common sense.' So adherents of this view in the real everyday world languish in the loony file for now, probably just biding their time until the idea can make its comeback, comes back to acceptability, and replaces the old programme.

It is much like when the universe revolved around the earth. With this paradigm, astronomers were able to make accurate predictions about stellar and planetary motion, even though they were operating within the wrong premise. Their observations were useful, and therefore at that time, 'true.'

How can we be sure? We can't. We can only go with what works and, to a certain extent, with what is currently acceptable.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Snaphots from the weekend

It's amazing how my younger daughter Isabel looks exactly like her mom. Except for her nose. She got that from me. I was on the bed reading and she was reading her book beside me and then she turned to look at me and said, "You nose is ugly. It's too pointy."

"HAH!," I said, "we have exactly the same nose."

"No way! Your nose is UGLY."

Im glad she has her own sense of aesthetics that isnt dictated by the norm.


"Good night. See you in my dreams." Oh brother! What the hell did I do? This is really beginning to creep me out. She doesnt even know me! I asked a friend about it and she said, "What are you waiting for?" which is, I think, her approval for me to nail the creepy chick. She was kidding of course. She knew it was easy to get in, but getting out of this would be tough. What if creepy is a serious swim fan?

My pal also has problems of her own. She said she's being pursued by this uber-rich guy who takes her out driving in his European sports cars and showers her with attention and she' s beginning to fall for him, even though she knows he's bad news. "He's a cross between Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, Hugh Grant in About a Boy, and Satan. Help! Im drawn to him like a drug addict. What do I do?"

Go out with other guys. You have to dilute this drug to a more tolerable level of toxicity.

"Youre right. There's this French guy and I think we have a connection. But he's 23."

There you go. And twenty-something's not bad. Demi Moore has one, and so does Cameron Diaz. Get a couple more and youll be fine.

"This is all new to me. Im confused."

That's a good thing, right? That you still experience some things as new? Means youre not stagnating. Exciting times. Have fun.

And that's that so far. Meanwhile I still have to contend with SMSs that say, "Im thinking of you." Holy mother of pearl. You know what? Im thinking of you, too.


I already made the batter for the pancakes when I remembered that we're out of LPG. Rats. So I buttered a baking dish and poured the pancake batter in it, covered it with foil, and baked the thing for 40 minutes at 375 degrees F in a turbo broiler. Had to be 40 minutes because there's no way to pre-heat a turbo broiler. Turned out great. All fluffy and delicious. We put huge knots of butter on it and poured some honey and had us cake for breakfast.


I let the kids play with the fountain in Greenbelt Park. Isabel and her cousin who's the same age as her. I had them take their shoes and socks off, roll up their jogging pants, and let them loose. They had a blast. There were these nicely dressed kids with their parents and the kids eyed them with jealousy because of all the fun they were having, but their patrents won't let them near the fountain--their clothes were too nice. I could see in their eyes and their body language how much they wanted to join in. Isabel got all wet and we had to go buy her a new t-shirt.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Sports shorts

Japanese Sumo says a lot about Japan and the samurai spirit of its people. It's not just a wrestling match between scantily-clad hippopotami, but is a symbol of the Japanese soul. The matches are rife with culture and tradition. The athletes go through rituals that have an innate poetry in them: a 300-pound haiku, if you will. Honor is paramount to the sumo warrior. After a match, the winner simply bows to the vanquished. No celebration is allowed for this dishonors both the winner and the loser.

Recently, sumo has been receiving world-wide interest. It has been opening up to the rest of the world. In fact, of the last four athletes who have been awarded Yokozuna (or Grand Champion) status, three have been foreigners: Akebono and Musashi-Maru are American and Asashoryu is Mongolian. Because of this, sumo tournaments have been sprouting outside Japan.

One of these tournaments was held, oddly enough, in Las Vegas. And a better contrast to the world of traditional sumo, you cannot find. The Las Vegas tournament was American all the way, complete with scantilly-clad girls. The dohyo or ring was a circle drawn on the mat, not the sculpted clay dohyo of traditional sumo, made by artisans with generations of tradition behind them. There was none of the rituals, none of the pageantry, none of the poetry in the Las Vegas tournament.

But that will change this year. In an effort to show the outside world how to do it properly, the Japanese Sumo Association is taking a direct hand in the staging of this year's Las Vegas tournament. A proper clay dohyo is to be constructed in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, with Yokozuna Asashoryu participating.

Whether sumo will take off as a world sport remains to be seen. If you ask me, the sumo association should have staged the tournament in Europe, where they still value such things as art, culture, and tradition. The only thing they value in Las Vegas are the betting odds.


I have mixed feelings about Chelsea's emergence as a dominant force in English football. Right now theyre at the top of the Premiership, eleven points clear of Arsenal, and looks on track to win the title. They have solid players in Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, John Terry, Arjen Robben, and a gifted manager in Jose Mourinho. They could win the European title as well, having disposed of perennial favorites Bayern Munich in convincing fashion.

Ive been a Chelsea supporter since '97 when a colleague MU and I adopted it as our home team when we were assigned to the London office. For all intents and purposes, basketball is just a figment of my imagination in London. You couldnt get the NBA unless you had cable so I made do with what they had and became a football (and rugby) fan. MU and I would go to pubs and watch Chelsea play. Once we went to a pub right across the river from the Stamford Bridge stadium. Chelsea won and MU said, "We better finish our beers and get out of here. In a few minutes those Chelsea fans would be here." I never got to see first-hand how rowdy English fans could be, but I guess it's all for the best.

Anyway, the reason for the mixed feelings is the amount of money involved in building the present Chelsea team... and the involvement of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who isnt exactly a paragon of business ethics in his home country. The Didier Drogba deal alone cost 26 million pounds, easily one of the biggest deals in football. Im happy the club is doing well, but Id rather they do it through old-fashioned hard work. But knowing the million dollar industry that is football, I guess that would be a dream. As in all professional sport, money is essential in building a competitive team.

I was having lunch with another British colleague last year and we got to talking football. He asked me what English team I supported and when I said Chelsea, he sort of snorted. The amount of Russian money poured into the team had left a bad taste in his mouth. "Have you always supported Chelsea?," he asked. Yes, I said. From the time of Gianfranco Zola and Ruud Gullit. He then nodded his approval. He supports the Queen's Park Rangers, which still couldnt make it to the Premiership, so he understands what team loyalty is all about.

Hello we're back and we're taking calls. Now what was the question?

Speaking of mp3's, Frou Frou is getting a lot of airtime on my work area these days. Ive always liked electronica, but they always seemed so... detached, unfeeling. Which is sort of its appeal, really. It's the high-tech instrumentation I suppose. It gives you a mass-produced, assembly line feel to them. You cant help but think that the singers too are mass-produced, unfeeling androids. That's how Madonna came across in her recent ventures into electronica.

And then there's Frou Frou.

I saw the video of Breathe In, and I usually dont like videos (I think MTV Pilipinas is a total waste of electricity and dont get me started on Myx.) but the song had me hooked. It's probably Imogene Heap's singing that allows their songs to have that warmth that you wouldnt associate with electronic music. The songs in their album Details are about falling in love, falling out of love, being unable to get over love, moving on, letting go, and Heap makes you feel them. In fact, this album just happens to be electronica. The songs wouldve worked with guitar and piano. In The Dumbing Down of Love, she sings

Music is worthless unless it can
Make a complete stranger
Break down and cry

It didnt quite make me cry, but Frou Frou did make me feel.

Give me the beat, boys and free my soul. I want to get lost in your rock and roll

To iPod or not to iPod? With my growing mp3 collection, all legally obtained, or so my lawyers tell me, I was seriously considering getting a low-rent mp3 player. Nothing fancy--I dont need gigabytes or whiz-bang features--just something that sounds great.

Since a good player would set me back more than a couple of thousand bucks, this required some serious thought. And right now, Im leaning towards not getting one. Oh, I love music. I'll listen to anything that would resonate with whatever Im feeling at the moment, be it Gregorian chants, Japanese kabuki, or 70's rock-and-roll. It's just that Im not an earphone person. I dont want to completely cut myself off from the outside world. I want to be able to respond to something or to somebody. I want to be able to carry on a conversation should somebody choose to engage me in one. Also, I want to be able to react quickly to danger, since I'll probably be using the mp3 player on the road, while commuting to work, or taking a long walk. I want to be able to hear someone yell, "Look out!" or "Fore!" or something. Im paranoid that way. Can't be too careful. I feel safer if I can hear what's going on. The only place I could think of using them would be in bed before going to sleep. But I dont think it's worth spending 10k pesos plus on something that would just help me sleep. A slow book would do nicely.

I tried earphiones once. In the office, I plugged in a pair on my computer. Didnt like them. Oh they sounded great, allright. But after a while I had to take them off. Can't last more than an hour with them. I just dont like putting things in my ear, and I dont like not being aware of what's going on around me. Whenever I see someone with headphones on, on the shuttle for example, I cant help but think that whoever's wearing them doesnt want to be where he or she is. They want to cut the world off. It's not background music anymore. It turns into a portal to another dimension they want to slip off to.

So nope, no portable mp3 players for me. Not yet at least.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Agnolo Bronzino, Venus, Cupide and the Time (Allegory of Lust), 1540-45

Calls to mind the recent spate of teachers in the US having sex with their students, doesnt it? This blatantly erotic painting was a gift to the French royal house. I tell you, those French kings... These days, this stuff is called child porn. There is indeed a fine line between art and porn and this painting straddles that line.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

My new shuttle book

After the disaster that was The Island of the Day Before, Im giving Umberto Eco another chance. Im reading Baudolino, his follow-up to Island, and I must say, the man is on. Here's the Eco we know and love. The Eco of The Name of the Rose.

I can only compare the story to Forrest Gump, except that in Baudolino, instead of an intellectually-challenged ex-Marine, momentous events in history are influenced by the machinations and the imaginations of the protagonist, who is a gifted story-teller. Oh all right, a gifted liar.

The story is set in the 12th century during the sack of Constantinople by the Latins. Baudolino recounts his story to a Byzantine dignitary: how from a backwater town in Italy, he found himself in the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa as the latter's adopted son, advisor, and confidante, Frederick making full use of Baudolino's skills as a liar. Absolutely hilarious. Eco isnt too show-offy in this grand tour of the Middle Ages.

Yep, Signore Eco is back. Kicking butt and taking names. Bentornato, professore.

Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. It's easy... All you need is...


?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
brought to you by Quizilla

Always knew I was a flower child. Pass the ganja, mon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Book of Job

Ive been studying the Book of Job recently--a complex and complicated book with layers of meaning that could take a lifetime to unravel. It's easily one of my favorite books in the Bible along with Ecclesiastes. I like those 2 books because they feel so out of place in the Bible. And I think the reason they do that is because it presents us with an aspect of God that you won't hear from preachers everyday. Ecclesiastes's 'Everything is meaningless' lament rings true to the human ear: the utter uselessness of our human pursuits. You can't take it with you, so why bother?

Anyway, back to the Book of Job. It deals with the problem of evil in this world. And it minces no words in the answer to the problem of evil: There is evil in the world because God creates it. God himself declared Job blameless and perfect, and yet he colludes with Satan in visiting unimaginable catastrophe on him. Being righteous is no guarantee of protection from a willful act of evil if the evil act comes from God.

Traditionally, the problem of evil is attributed to Satan alone. A theological construct has been invented to explain why bad things happen to good people, and this construct is called God's permissive will. In brief it means Satan acts on his own to inflict havoc upon people and God, through his infinite wisdom, merely stands back. But if the book of Job is any indication, such a 'permissive will' is not in effect. In fact, Satan has to ask permission from God. He doesnt do things on his own. When Satan sets forth his plan to test Job's character, God even provided input, saying, "Behold, all that he has is in your power. Only do not lay your hand upon him." God was an active participant; a co-conspirator, if you will, in the murder of several people, including Job's ten children.

Job's friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, came to console him. When Job cried out for justice, his friends rush to God's defense, claiming that Job is not all that righteous. Job has a case against God and his three friends took it upon themselves to act as God's 'lawyers.' Reading Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar's statements, I was struck by how similar they are to what priests and preachers say when confronted with the problem of evil. Similar? Theyre practically identical! Any priest or pastor would find absolutely nothing wrong with what Job's friends were saying to explain what happened to Job. And yet God came out later and told these three guys that they had no idea what they were talking about. God probably was so exasperated about how his 'lawyers' were handling the case that he decided to show up himself.

Unfortunately, God did not justify his actions. God didnt provide Job with an explanation. He just basically told Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and whoever else was there, that he is Sovereign. Job's case against God is still pending--Job still isnt given a redress for his grievances--but righteous man that he is, he humbles himself before God, trusting that one day, God will explain everything to him. He will be satisfied, his grievances against God will be redressed. God reimburses Job, giving him back his property and then some. But no amount of material reward will bring his dead children back, innocent victims of this passion play. Their blood is ultimately on God's hands. Job lives with that difficult truth, and waits for the day of his justification, after his resurrection: "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come." (Job 14:14)

The lessons of the Book of Job are very difficult for some people to take. It presents a God who is the author of evil. But God himself says so. In Isaiah 45:5-7 he says plainly and unequivocally:
I am Jehovah, and there is none else, no God besides Me; I clothed you, though you have not known Me; that they may know from the rising of the sun, and to the sunset, that there is none besides Me. I am Jehovah, and there is none else; forming the light and creating darkness; making peace and creating evil. I Jehovah do all these things.
The Book of Job doesnt present God and Satan engaging in a tug-of-war for men's souls, as if Satan could win some for himself. The Book of Job presents God in total control. Satan is God's lackey, albeit a cocky and outspoken one, who isnt at all shy to speak his mind. Some Christians might find this troubling, but I find it heartening. It means that if God wills to have all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), then that will be done. Satan can do nothing to thwart that will.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Maybe with ice cream on top?

I think someone's after me. Been sending SMSs asking how I am, wishing me a good night, asking me to take care--often laced with terms of endearment. Ive only met her once, a loo-o-ooong time ago. She was nice (and pretty) enough. Smart, too, and quite successful in her line of work. We emailed off and on for a few months, then it kind of lost steam. After I stopped replying. Haha.

"Youre special to me." Maybe it's just me, but I find that a bit creepy. Probably because Im not used to somebody who's practically a stranger come right out and say something like that. She doesnt know me that well. Or maybe Im at a point where I find it hard to believe that I could be special to anybody. Im just an average Joe Schmoe trying to make a living.

Im thinking maybe if she came at a point in my life where Im a bit weak, I would take her on. Maybe. But I have a healthy regard for the consequences. It would take someone really, really... really special to make me disregard them. Three really's would be... [place name of your 3-really somebody here].

In the meantime, I'll enjoy the ego trip, and disregard the fact that it creeps me out. Anyway it's probably nothing. There was nothing in our past that indicates to me that this could be anything. And besides, maybe I am special. It was just a statement of fact. Nyaahahahaha!!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Im really losin' it

I swear Im not on acid...

There was no turning back after that. Once I mouthed that word, I gave it life. It became an embryo that grew and grew inside me, waiting for parturition. Its gestation was the swiftest ever. Once it took in its first breath of air, it began living a life of its own. Independent. Eventually it overpowered me, its parent, and I gave in. Foolishly perhaps, but willingly. What lay ahead wasnt important then. It could take me to the loftiest nirvana, or plunge me headlong into the rocky crags below. I didnt care. It owned me. And it owns me now.

Holy mother of pearl Im losin' it

A rain of rose petals showered you at dawn. By midday they'd turned into shards of glass. By evening they'd slithered away as serpents and burrowed their way into the earth. By midnight they'd emerged as mushrooms which you plucked from the ground and ate. And at dawn, a rain of rose petals showered you.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

And now for a bit of sentimental drivel

Titans (a.k.a. Where the hell does this stuff come from?)

Fear not, goddess. Youre safe with me. Youre safe from me. Youre my self-fulfilling prophecy. Youre what Ive turned you into. Ive turned you into my Unattainable. Someone whom I'll forever be singing my song for; someone who will never hear my song. My song is my life, and at the end of it, as I end it, as the chorus fades, know that there is, there was, there will never be anyone else that I would rather create a world with.

When the world we made ended, I pretended that there are other worlds I could create without you. And I did. For amusement, I conjured worlds from nothing. They were lifeless. Empty. Without form and void. Nothing could take root in their barren soils. I made them from nothing and to nothing they shall go. Unlamented.

The world we made is gone forever, and it is for the best. For it was nourished with our blood, and our tears. Our wounds made the rain fall, our bruises made the flowers bloom. Our anguished cries made the sun rise, our laments made the rivers flow. Our laughter, brief and fleeting in between the tears, filled the world with music and rhyme. But it was the pain that sustained it. Every cut, every stripe, every laceration rent on our flesh made the creatures in them live. I cannot, I will not, create such a world again if it means your torment.

My goddess, my unattainable creation. Would that we could have created a world where we were free. Would that we didnt have to answer to the Olympian. Then our world would have endured. Then we wouldnt have had to destroy it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Oh but aint that America, for you and me? Aint that America? Something to see, baby

Columbine, Oklahoma City, Guns, Fear, Jerry Springer, OJ, steroids in baseball, people suing McDonald's because theyre fat... That's America to most of us on the outside, but once in a while youll read a story like this and you know there's hope. You know that your friends and kin who chose to live there are going to be OK.

Pulling into my service station 45 minutes late one morning, I shouted to the customers, "I'll turn the pumps on right away!" What I didn't know was that the night crew had left them on all night. By the time I got to the office, most of the cars had filled up and driven off. Only one customer stayed to pay. My heart sank. Then the customer pulled a wad of cash from his pocket and handed it to me. "We kept passing the money to the last guy," he said. "We figured you'd get here sooner or later."
-----Contributed to "All In a Day's Work" by Jim Novak, Reader's Digest (this one's from my inbox)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

More dreams. How about it, Freud?

Im moving, Im walking.
I see the corner.
There it is and I better turn that corner because the road ahead leads to a cul-de-sac that I will not be able to get out of. I look behind me and the road Ive been on is no longer there. Just the road ahead and that blind corner.

It's fun to stay at the...

I need to renew my membership at the Y. Havent been in a pool for months.

Swimming is moving meditation when youre not trying to accomplish anything; when youre not consciously trying to better your previous best time; when youre not trying to get a better physique; when youre not trying to get from here to there. Swimming is moving meditation when youre just swimming.

When Im swimming, Im aware of my breathing. I have to be, unless I want to breathe in a lungfull of chlorinated water. Breath: the very action that keeps us alive and yet we take it for granted. While swimming, you cant. I am in touch with the very source of life. I am aware of my body. I consciously try to move effortlessly, not fighting the water. If my movement through the water is effortless, then I know Im doing it right. I know Im offering as little resistance to the water as possible. Flowing as water flows. When it's effortless, time stops. If it werent for the tiles in the pool, I wouldnt even be aware that I was moving.

There is a clock at the end of the pool at the Makati YMCA where I swim. After a session, I look at it and if I see that time actually moved a lot faster than I thought while I was in the water, then it was a good swim.

Free at last, they took your life; they could not take your pride...

Im pround of the fact that I prefer to buy generic, logo-less clothes.
Im proud of the fact that I buy most of my books on sale.
Im proud of the fact that I failed miserably in the Are You Sosyal test.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


I know I have a lot of things to do. Have to do them. I know. But I dont seem to have enough wherewithal, I dont seem to have enough energy, I dont seem to have the sense of urgency, to do them. It was like when I was in college and I knew--I KNEW!--that if I didnt study for the Calculus exam, Id flunk it. I didnt study. I didnt care.

This has got to be a symptom of something, and since we're just a bunch of chemicals, Im positing that I have some sort of vitamin or mineral deficiency, or my body has been unable to synthesize a chemical properly.

Do you know that schizophrenics are unable to synthesize the vitamin Niacin, and once upon a time, giving schizophrenics megadoses of the vitamin relieved the symptoms? The practice has fallen into disrepute since the drug companies wanted their drugs to be administered instead of the cheap Niacin, which is made from, of all things, tobacco leaves. In fact it used to be called Nicotinamide.

Anyway, Im waiting for something. Im waiting for the tons of information Ive gathered to crystallize in my head. And once it does, it gets a life of its own. Things will get done eventually. At least that's what I tell myself. Vitamin deficiencies and crystallization: my excuses of choice.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Breakfast of champions

I made a 'Mediterranean' breakfast last Saturday: hummus, spanish sardines, pita, and for feta, I substituted kesong puti. Except for the hummus, everything was bought from the supermarket.

For the hummus, youll need one can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. (Chickpeas look like little butts, so I cant figure out why theyre not called buttpeas. Unless it reminded whoever named them of women.)

Just dump all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until really smooth. Save some of the liquid in the can of chickpeas. Youll need it to thin out the hummus if it's too chunky. It should be fine and smooth. Adjust the taste as needed. You need to have a good balance of flavors with the chickpeas as base flavor, olive oil and lemon juice in the background, and garlic, just a hint. Make sure you get good extra-virgin olive oil.

Dump the hummus in a bowl. Before serving, pour a good amount of extra virgin olive oil on top and with a knife, swirl it around the hummus so you have a spiral of olive oil on top. Scoop it out with the pita or any other flat bread.

A nutritious and hearty meal to start the day. The kids hated it. They had fried eggs and sausages, the ingrates.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The luck of the Irish.. and Im not even Irish

Came to office early yesterday... just because. I happened to wake up early so why not? It was Friday so I was in my jeans, tees, and sneakers. I got to the office at 8:30 (I usually come in at around 9 or 9:30) and did some work, made some coffee, contemplated the meaning of life. You know, the usual stuff.

At 9:30 or thereabouts, the phone rang. Hello?

"Jeg, it's me. Im sorry I won't be able to go with you to the interview at [big multimilliondollar independent power company]."

"That's OK," I said. "I can go alone. That's April 1, right? 10:00? I have it right here in my notebook."

"Jeg, today's April 1! Did you forget?"

Quick check with my calendar and true enough, it was. I thought it was March 31st. Holy crap! "Is the car coming?" Im so screwed. Im in jeans and tees and Im interviewing the President of [big multimilliondollar independent power company].

"Yes, the car's on its way."

"OK, I'll be here." As soon as I get off the phone, I rushed over to Greenbelt to get a decent shirt at least. Maybe a tie. I'll probably be sitting behind a huge conference table so I wasnt too worried about the jeans and sneakers. But I HAD to get a shirt and tie.

Let me take a moment to clue you in first. I got myself a writing gig for a corporate group. Or more accurately, for the socio-civic arm of said corpoprate group. Their 20th anniversary is coming up and they wanted more than the usual annual report this year. (I did their annual report last year plus a few other publications for them and they asked me to do it again this year.) For this year, we lined up a few corporate head honchos to interview. We'll get their impressions on what it was like working with said socio-civic arm of corporate group and how it ties in with their own corporate social responsibility programs and suchandsuch.

So there I was half-running and half-walking to Greenbelt, the car that was to take me to Ortigas Center was coming from Buendia, my questionnaire far from ready, my research on interviewee spotty at best. I got to Greenbelt and wouldnt you know it? The stores were closed. Clock was ticking. It was almost 10. I rushed back. I ran into AM in Legazpi park chatting with a friend and told her of my predicament. She told me I could go to Makati Square where there was this... I dont remember. All I could think about was the time. I knew I couldnt make it. I thanked her and ran. I mean I RAN, saying goodbye to her pal on the fly. If anything Im not rude.

Car was already there and off we went. SMSed my thanks to AM again, telling her I didnt have time anymore and that the head honcho would have to be interviewed by a guy in a t-shirt. Looking back now, I dont think he wouldve minded but for me it was a serious breach of etiquette and I can't have that. I have standards. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. I called the office of socio-civic arm of said corporate group and told them to tell [big multimilliondollar independent power company] head honcho that I'll be late. I gave up thinking of an excuse. I was prepared to offer only apologies.

Now I was stuck in traffic, and was late, and was in a t-shirt. How much worse could things be? An interview couldnt have gotten off to a more horrendous start. We arrived at their offices 30 minutes late. I took a deep breath, walked in, and introduced myself. The receptionist said "Ay! Kayo yung sa..." and looked like she didnt know what to do. That didnt look like a good sign. I am so doomed, I thought. "Please have a seat first sir, while I call his secretary."

I sat. And prepared for the worst. Im sure the secretary would bawl me out. I didnt even merit to be bawled out by the head honcho. He's sending his secretary, who's probably a middle-aged woman who looks like the Principal of my elementary school who had me stand in the sun for an hour just because I sneezed too loud in class. Getting these head honchos to commit an hour of their time was difficult enough, and here I am, arriving late, not even dressed... Secretary came out.

And she was smiling! A smile of chagrin. To coin a snigglet, she was chagrinning! What gives?

"Youre Mr. Jego? Im [secretary]. Im so sorry. I made a terrible mistake. I forgot to schedule your interview with head honcho.* He's in a meeting right now and would be going to the plant this afternoon. Im so sorry. Can we reschedule?"

I didnt even pretend to be annoyed. I was so darned thankful! What are the odds of that happening? I smiled my benevolent of-course-I-understand-we're-only-human-and-we-make-mistakes smile. "That shouldnt be a problem. Let's reschedule it for next week. Tuesday?"

The secretary still wasnt finished apologizing. And I kept reassuring her that it was OK. And finally she said, "Head honcho would be out of the country Monday and Tuesday. How about Wednesday?"

"Sounds good to me. Call [the other secretary at the socio-civic yadda-yadda] and confirm it with her. She'll get in touch with me."

And the secretary still couldnt stop apologizing but she said yes she will in the end. I got out of there feeling so happy. Happy that the interview didnt go on as planned which might push back my timetable. I couldnt believe how lucky I am sometimes.

Looking back at the life I had, I have been lucky, on the whole. Ive beaten the odds on several occasions. 'Blessed' my boss told me once when I was talking about the luck Ive had over the years. Yes, I have been blessed. I have so much to be thankful for. (I found out that my boss reads my blog, so to you boss: Nagpaalam naman ako, diba?)

*Of course she didnt call me Mr. Jego and she didnt call her boss Head Honcho and if you havent figured that out by now...

Friday, April 01, 2005

Siggy Freud must be turning in his grave

I received an SMS. My phone chittered and I read the message. It was from Barangay Official and the message read: Sorry. Tagal na e. Who's this please?

Hmm.. I dont remember saving any number of said Barangay Official in my phone and I dont remember sending any message to same Barangay Official. The message apparently was a reply to a message sent from my phone. I thought maybe my daughter sent it.

Phone chittered again. Same Barangay Official and the message read: Wally? Andito na baby. Bayad. Ur half.

Or something like that, I dont remember. It was all a dream, of course. Two messages from a Barangay Official. Let's try to parse them and see whether or not my subsconscious it trying to tell me something.

Barangay Official. Obviously this denotes authority. Barangay is my immediate vicinity. But it isnt as awesome an authority as, shall we say, The President. It is someone with authority but isnt someone Im particularly scared of, or care about.

Sorry. Tagal na e. It seems that I havent been in touch with this Barangay Official for so long that he has already forgotten who I am.

Barangay Official can't be God. Ive dreamt of God before and I remember being awe-struck and nervous. Nothing of the sort for good ole Barangay Official. It's obviously somebody that I recognize as someone with sme sort of authority over me, but is not one who has a life-or-death control over my life.

Maybe the Barangay Official is my subconscious. It fits. It's someone with some sort of authority over me but I pay it no mind. Maybe it recognizes that Im at my wits' end trying to figure things out using my conscious self. The message got to him and he decided to reach out and reply. Tagal na e. Who's this please?

Wally. Who's Wally? And why did my subconscious call me Wally? Wall-y? Wall? Wally as a nickname for Wall? Let's look at this.

Wall. Yeah, Ive been accused of being standoffish. Of being detached. Of being a stone wall. I admit I dont easily wear my emotions on my sleeve to the utter frustration of those I care about and those who (ostensibly at least) care about me. I try to keep a certain intellectual distance, not reading anything to what is said or offered to me, taking things at face value, ignoring proddings from hunches or hints from, I think, my subconscious. Logic and reason would overrule the Barangay Official. Wally for wall. That fits, too.

Andito na baby. This one had me perplexed. Andito na baby? An actual baby did arrive a long time ago and I know that. I dont need to be reminded of it. So maybe the baby is a symbolic baby. My subconscious is telling me something has arrived. Something... this one's a toughie. Maybe it's an idea, or a plan, Ive been mulling over. Something embryonic and can't stand on its legs yet. And I have a pretty good idea of what that is. Andito na baby could mean my subconsciuos is telling me that it has reached him. And he'll be working on it. I have been stuck with that idea/plan and have not been able to go forward with it. Mental block. My subconscious is telling me he's taking care of it, but I have to keep in touch.

Bayad. Is he asking me to pay? This might mean the idea would cost something. Dreams and plans do cost something. My subconscious is telling me that Im not getting this one for free. It'll come at a price.

Ur half. This could mean my half of the payment is due. But who owes the other half? The only people I have is my family. My kids, specifically. Are they supposed to pay the other half? Somehow the idea that my kids have to shell out something is pretty scary. Maybe there's some way that I could cover the entire cost of it without having to have them pay the other half. We'll see. Right now the Barangay Official doesnt seem to think so. But what does he know?

Now wasnt that fun? Probably means diddly-squat, but fun.