Thursday, June 29, 2006

Matisyahu (Live at Stubb's)

Nothing like listening to Matisyahu in the morning to get you in the groove (not to mention a prayerful mood).
‏שִֽׁירוּ־לֹ֖ו שִׁ֣יר חָדָ֑שׁ הֵיטִ֥יבוּ נַ֝גֵּ֗ן בִּתְרוּעָֽה
Psa 33:3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

(That is, Rap like you mean it and dont forget the face-melting guitar solo, duuu-u-uuude.)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Let's make sipa the ball. Now na!

Another blow for Philippine football as the USA crashes out of the World Cup, losing to Ghana 2-1. Ive always maintained that a good showing by the Yanks would make us 'mental colonists' embrace the game, since it'll boost US soccer, what with our let's-make-gaya-the-Yanks mentality. But, alas, a sucky performance by the Yanks means we'll have to wait til 2010 to finally shake off basketball and embrace football (and sepak takraw) like we're supposed to. (Try watching a Pinoy basketball game on TV right after watching an NBA game and youll pretty much react the same way I do--"Who are these slow-moving dwarves? Do they have lead weights in their shorts? Are they ill?--til you realize theyre making millions of pesos a year playing that way and youll know deep in your heart something is wrong with the world; that we're caught in a colonial time-warp, hanging on to the glory days when centers were 6-feet tall.)

It was important for the Americans to score first, and score early to demoralize the Ghanans. That didnt happen. Claudio Reyna hung on to the ball too long near their own goal and it was swiftly snatched away from him by 20-yr old Haminu Dramani who only had Kasey Keller to beat. 1-0 Ghana. Clint Dempsey equalized a few minutes later from a superb pass from DaMarcus Beasley, but in stoppage time, the German referee made a stupid call, awarding a penalty to Ghana for... an Oscar winning flop.

In the second half, the Yanks squandered numerous chances, and Landon Donovan was all but non-existent. What the hell was he doing there? Brian McBride was working his ass off up front, but Donovan for the most part just looked overwhelmed. He had a chance to redeem himself late in the second half when he took a free kick in a dangerous position, just outside the penalty area, which he promtly sent sailing away beyond the reach of even King Kong had he been playing. In 2002, top European clubs were interested in him. Now, he'll be lucky to book a place in the women's league.

2-1 Ghana, USA crashes out, and my hopes for a boost for Philippine football along with them. We'll have four more years of those slow-moving dwarves getting TV coverage, and four more years of being thrashed in football by teams like Cambodia and Myanmar.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Uno, Dos, Tres! Allez, allez, allez!

Howie Severino bats for football. Who wouldve thunk that a Pinoy still holds the FC Barcelona club record for most goals scored?

Alas, the only way the Pinoys are ever going to embrace the beautiful game is if the Americans embrace it. And the Americans will embrace it if they do well in this World Cup (prospects right now: between slim and subatomic). If only for the fact that Pinoys are frustrated Yanks (much to our detriment), I am praying that the Yanks make it past the group stage, because it'll give such a big boost to American football, and inevitably because of kuya worship, to its 'little brown brother,' Philippine football.

We need a grassroots-level introduction of the game to the kids. It's not as hard as it looks. In almost every remote barangay is a basketball court. Place a goal on each end of that court, you already roughly have a five-on-five futsal court. You can also get football back in the public school curriculum via futsal and sipa (sepak takraw), which is supposed to be our national sport; a national sport that probably nobody has ever seen played, ever.

Philippine basketball is a joke. The fact that corporations still pay megabucks to put up leagues and pay megabuck salaries baffles me no end, what with a better product easily available on TV (the NBA). Pour that kind of corporate support for football, and maybe... Nah, forget the World Cup for now, pour that kind of support for football, and maybe we can beat Vietnam. Really, it isnt corporate sponsorship that can get us qualified for the World Cup, but a genuine love of the game. Cultivate that and we've taken the first step.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Progenies viperarum!

In the face of the coming abolition of the death penalty, The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCED), in keeping with their mission toward "discipling of our nation where Jesus Christ is the only Savior and Lord," has issued a statement opposing the proposed move. "We uphold the principle of life for life. The punishment must fit the crime. The penalty must be commensurate to the gravity of the offense."

However, in an earlier statement, the PCED's Savior and Lord had this to say: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." And in another instance, in defense of one accused of a capital offense, he said to the implementing authorities, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." (The accused was granted a stay of execution.)

No word yet as to how the members of the PCED will resolve this apparent ambiguity between their leader's personal statements and the PCED's official stand supporting the death penalty.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Life is good

An ingredient in beer has been recently found to help prevent prostate cancer. Xanthohumol, a compound in hops, the flower responsible for beer's bouquet, inhibits a protein in the cells of the prostate gland from turning on a switch that turns a cell cancerous. However, xanthohumol occurs in hops in such small quantities that at present, you have to drink about 17 beers a day to get any benefit. And you know what that does to your liver.

But not to worry, a separate study has found that coffee can protect your liver against cirrhosis. "People drinking one cup of coffee per day were, on average, 20% less likely to develop alcoholic cirrhosis. For people drinking two or three cups the reduction was 40%, and for those drinking four or more cups of coffee a day the reduction in risk was 80%."

I ask you, does life get any better than that? I predict that the next scientific breakthrough will involve nicotine and world peace.

Why not the Aussies? Oi!

Appearing in only their second World Cup and the first since 1974, the Socceroos look like theyre doomed in Group F, what with Brazil, Japan, and Croatia in there with them. Like the Yanks, football isnt even on the top of the average Aussie's sports list, trounced by Aussie Rules Football, Rugby, and Cricket. They also call it soccer, 'saw-kah,' like the Yanks, to differentiate it from football, in this case, the Aussie Rules kind. But their amazing 3-1 victory over Japan has forced people to take a second look. A lot of their players have extensive experience in competitive football, having played for top-level clubs in Europe. Their coach is Guus Hiddink, who guided South Korea to the semis in 2004. And they play hard-ass football. In fact, I think these players would feel right at home on a rugby pitch as they would in a soccer field. Their physical, rugged style may be just what's needed to rattle the superstar-laden Brazilian team. (I'm not saying they can beat them. Im saying they can rattle them just enough and earn some goals that would help them make it past the group stages.)

As an Asian, I suppose I should be rooting for an Asian team and it looks like the South Koreans have the best chance, but I dont like the Koreans for dumping all their telenovelas here.

(Both Brazil and Australia wear yellow and green uniforms. How do they decide which team gets to wear the yellow-jersey-green-shorts combo? Coin toss?)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Standin in line to see the show tonight and there's a light on

I may have developed an addiction over the past few weeks--an addiction to chili peppers. It all started when the labuyo plants (we have four or five of them) in front of the house erupted in an orgy of bright red fruit, and I noticed a little old lady from I-dont-know-where merrily picking them and placing them in a small plastic bag which was already helf-full. "The birds are just eating them, I might as well pick them," she apologized when I looked questioningly at her one morning on my way home from the bakery. I wouldnt have minded her picking the fruit up, especially if she was right and that they were all just going to the birds. I just thought it was rather rude that she didnt ask anybody for permission first. And she was trampling on some of the other plants, especially on the lemon grass. "Ok. Just make sure to leave some for us. And please dont step on the tanglad."

The old lady did leave some for us. The green ones. These soon ripened after a few days and soon there were more chili peppers than I could ever use. I placed some of the them in a bilao and dried them on the roof. And the chili plants just kept on giving. To make them dry faster, I thought I'd freeze them overnight first before drying them. The freezing process makes the water in the pods expand and bust through the cell wall and this made them easier to dry. I was right. I ran some of the dried pods through a grinder and soon I had a jar full of chili pepper flakes which I then sprinkled on everything I ate. I sprinkled them on steamed rice, on fish, on eggs, adobo, pasta. I even placed a dried pod in my hot chocolate, Aztec style. Soon I moved on from dried chili to fresh chili.

At first, they burned my mouth, but I wanted to see how far I could push it. I added more and more chili to my food and fought through the pain until I found myself inured to it. It still makes me sweat but I can eat a whole labuyo pod now without discomfort... as long as they stay on my tongue first. If the chili makes its way to my throat without my salivary glands working on them first, they still burn. Once youve gotten over the heat, you can taste the fresh fruit taste, and it's delicious. Every meal is now accompanied by five or six fresh chilis, chopped fine, with olive or canola oil.

Here's what Ive learned:

1) Contrary to popular belief, chili doesnt cause hemorrhoids. Ive had hemorrhoids before, way before I started eating copious amounts of chili, and eating chili didnt aggravate this pre-exisitng condition. Although it is easy to imagine the capsaicin (the active ingredient in chili--the one causing the burn) making a hemorrhoid more painful. At the start of my culinary fling with chili, the burn coming in was matched by the burn going out. But as my body got used to the capsaicin, the burn subsided. That includes the burn in my butt when I poop.

2) Chili isnt all about heat. It's rich in vitamins A and C, the B vitamins, and the minerals potassium, magnesium, and iron. Recently, capsaicin has been found to make prostate cancer cells commit suicide.

3) There has been a debate on what species the siling labuyo belongs to. Yes, botanists and chili geeks do debate these things. There are those who say that it's subspecies of Capsicum frutescens (relative of the Tabasco chili) and there are those who say that it's a subspecies of Capsicum chinensis (relative of the habanero chili). But a more recent contender is the Capsicum annuum chili (relative of the jalapeno and serrano chilis), albeit one of the more fiery members of that species, with strengths up to 100,000 Scoville units. (Scoville units are measure of the chili's heat.) Although at one time, the Guinness people listed siling labuyo as the hottest chili on earth (since corrected), the champion is the Habanero chili which can get up to 600,000 Scoville units... and still climbing as botanists develop even more lethal strains. I think we Pinoys use siling labuyo as a generic term for these three species of chili. Since it's not really a major part of our diet, our ancestors didnt see the need to differentiate them. Hence anything that looks like a small, hot, red chili is siling labuyo no matter what species it is. (We also did this to the maya, erstwhile national bird. We call 2 species of bird maya: Passer montanus and Lonchura malacca.) The chili in front of our house most likely belongs to the Capsicum annuum species. Its flowers look like serrano flowers.

4) The chili labeled as siling labuyo in supermarkets isnt. It's probably a Capsicum frutescens imported from Taiwan. Theyre longer and redder, like the ones in the picture above. And hardier since they have to survive the trip... and theyre not as hot. Theyre probably cayenne peppers.

5) The so-called 'chili high' is probably caused by the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers. The heat of a chili is not a 'taste' like sweet, sour, bitter, etc., but is a sensation caused by capsaicin's effect on pain receptors. The body reacts by releasing endorphins and endorphins are chemically quite similar to morphine. It could explain the addiction. For the record, I hardly ever notice a perceptible 'high' after a meal with chili. But what do I know? I dotn know what a high feels like.

There's a reason why these plants developed capsaicin, one of which probably is to keep mammals away, and since Im a mammal, I would do well to listen. Birds arent affected by capsaicin. In fact, birds are a very efficient seed propagation vector for these savvy plants. There have been conflicting studies on the part capsaicin plays in the development of stomach cancers. Some studies say they cause it, while others say they prevent it. Most likely, different people react differently depending on their own personal genetic code. Eventually, I may have to cut back. But not yet.

Photo from Used without permission. (

Addendum 06 June 2006: Here's a useful site for aspiring chili-heads.