Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The film major code

It's interesting how a review of a local movie over at rom's smoking room could stir up such impassioned debate. Just goes to show how much Pinoys care about their movies (or their idols); they take it personally. No wonder movie stars make such powerful candidates during elections. Anyway, I wanted to comment but for some reason the network security features installed here prevent me from commenting on wordpress sites. I have since found a way to access the erstwhile blocked blogspot sites and comment in those pages (as long as they use blogger's built-in commenting page), but wordpress is a little tougher to crack.

Anyway, the usually unflappable rom was irked by a comment from a certain Arch D, which you could access in her page in its entirety, but anyway, Arch D said this:
I understand how the commercial viewer would not appreciate the storytelling of this movie. ...

By the way, not that I you wanted to know or I wanted to show, I am a Film major at UP Diliman. Just so you know what I am talking about.
Rom guts him. And I have to confess I felt no sympathy for the hapless Arch D, as for anyone else who insists on giving you their resumé in a blog comment, as if their words and reasoning alone werent enough to establish that they know (or dont know as the case may be) what theyre talking about.

The Film major, I suspect, is a different breed altogether. I remember being in a screening for a film by Marilou Diaz-Abaya whose working title was Moral 2 (title was changed for its commercial run to... I forget). So the Star Movies people screened a rough cut of the movie for us selected folk and there was a discussion afterwards. I suppose they were trying to find out how to market the movie. They asked for comments or questions and I raised my hand.

"Bakit laging may nagra-rally?," I asked. I felt the film had too many scenes in UP Diliman with rallies as the back-drop. It didnt make sense to me. (I was in the group that hadnt seen the Moral prequel.) A woman, a film major I gather, spoke and spoke pretty much like Arch D did: The symbolism is lost to the ordinary moviegoer, notice that at first Dina Bonnevie and Jericho Rosales wore black and that later they wore white which is symbolic of the blah-blah-uppity-blah. There. Film major puts ordinary moviegoer in his place: in the corner where he is to keep quiet and let the adults talk. I remember asking myself, Do directors really do this? Put codes in their movies that only the adept, the initiates --the Film majors -- can decipher? That's almost cool if it werent totally bollocks. I was about to say that for me the reason Dina and Jericho wore black or white was because of purely visual reasons, no codes, no hidden symbols. The rallyists were wearing black so Diaz-Abaya had them wear black; the rallyists were wearing white so Diaz-Abaya had them wear white. Superficial, ordinary moviegoer stuff like that. But the conversation was picked up by some university professor who lectured the room on commercialization, on the pandering and patronizing of the poor, etc.; scholarly stuff on the ills of society and the corrupting influence of local film. Then, having delivered his lecture, walks out, leaving the Star Movies people, and the room in general, dumbfounded. It took a while to get things going again. My participation after that was limited. I was too engrossed pondering the movies-with-coded-symbols-for-film-majors thesis. It was fascinating.

Too be fair, the film major chick probably realized how snobbish she was and remembering that she was from UP and was supposed to be kind to the Philistines, tried to make amends by smiling at me a lot. A friendly smile, not a condescending one. I made further comments after that to the effect that some scenes didnt make sense and that it could probably do better without the reference to the Moral prequel; add or delete scenes to establish that it wasnt a sequel, and whatnot. I think, since the general consensus of the ordinay moviegoer crowd in the screening was that the movie sucked, Star Movies would market it on the strength of it having been directed by Diaz-Abaya. Yeah that would work. When they asked if we knew nothing else about the movie except that it was directed by Diaz-Abaya, would we watch it, I said sure. Who of my generation didnt like Sic O'Clock News? That Rene Requiestas was hilarious.

Monday, May 19, 2008

2:28 pm

Three minutes of silence was observed throughout the whole of China for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. While we at the office bowed our heads, outside car horns blared and sirens wailed their mourning.

Let us also remember the dead in Burma. And those victims of that bank robbery in Laguna.

And Ahmad of BlogIraq, who was murdered in the Al-Mansour district of Baghdad.

Rest in peace, brothers and sisters.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

That's so gay.

California. You dont know what youre in for.
Same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday....

Given the historic, cultural, symbolic and constitutional significance of the concept of marriage, Chief Justice George wrote, the state cannot limit marriage to opposite-sex couples. The court left open the possibility that the Legislature could use another term to denote state-sanctioned unions so long as that term was used across the board for all couples.

Given the historic, cultural, symbolic and constitutional significance of the concept of marriage, Chief Justice George wrote, the state cannot limit marriage to opposite-sex couples. The court left open the possibility that the Legislature could use another term to denote state-sanctioned unions so long as that term was used across the board for all couples.
Forgetting for a moment that the court overruled the people's decision in a plebiscite in 2000, this ruling, if ratified by the people in another plebiscite, opens a can of worms. Notice: the ruling said that the state cannot limit marriage to opposite-sex couples. The court took away restrictions on a modifier 'opposite-sex'. There is then no reason for a subsequent court, other than whim, to restrict the definition of marriage to 'couples'. Polygamists should move to California. There would be no restrictions, again other than whim, to declare polygamy legal. Why stop there? There would be no legal impediment to somebody marrying their sister, their mother, their brother, their dad. Why should the State deny close relatives the right to marry each other?

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Well since Mr. Bisson doesnt seem to mind... Im posting it in it's entirety. Because it's one of those stories that really made me laugh out loud.

by Terry Bisson
(published in OMNI, April 1991)

"They're made out of meat."


"Meat. They're made out of meat."


"There's no doubt about it. We picked up several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."

"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"

"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."

"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."

"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."

"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."

"Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"

"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."

"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."

"No brain?"

"Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."

"So ... what does the thinking?"

"You're not understanding, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."

"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"

"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"

"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."

"Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."

"Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"

"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, swap ideas and information. The usual."

"We're supposed to talk to meat."

"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."

"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"

"Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."

"I thought you just told me they used radio."

"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."

"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"

"Officially or unofficially?"


"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."

"I was hoping you would say that."

"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"

"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"

"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they can only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."

"So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."

"That's it."

"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"

"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."

"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."

"And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."

"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"

"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."

"They always come around."

"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Scenes from the TV

Rubble. An entire town reduced to rubble.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao touring the disaster-struck areas, consoling victims, speaking with local officials, talking to survivors.

Buried bodies, some still alive. One scene was of what I assume to be a relative (or a rescuer) holding the hand of someone buried in the debris. Another was of a young man, his face and clothes full of dirt, holding up an I.V. bottle presumably stuck on the arm of another person buried below him.

Soldiers in green fatigues, rescue workers in orange uniforms, boarding huge cargo planes in orderly lines. I couldnt help noticing how clean they looked. Cots, tents, supplies, loaded onto trucks.

Long lines in cities (I assume it was Beijing as this was CCTV1) of people giving blood and giving money. A teenaged girl unloading what looked like her alkansiya -- a jar full of coins and small bills -- into a collection box.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On second thought

In a recent post, I contrasted the philosophy of Peter Singer with that of Hitler and the Eugenicists, commenting that Singer's philosophy is a kinder, gentler form of rational belief once one eliminates God and the concomitant belief about the dignity and worth of a human life that emanates from God's laws (made in his image and likeness, you are gods, and all that). I said Peter Singer's nice, touchy-feely, warm-and-tender, animals-are-people-too philosophy is to be preferred over Hitler's (and the eugenicists') philosophy that some races are inferior and it would be best for the Fatherland (or for the species) if man acts as agents of natural selection and simply prevent them from reproducing -- by sterilizing them in the case of the eugenicists, or by mass murder, in the case of Hitler. Not so fast:

I stumbled upon a blog that reports about Dinesh D'Souza's account of his debate with Peter Singer. He (D'Souza) writes:

Here are some choice Singer quotations on the subject which I get
from his books Rethinking Life and Death and Writings on an Ethical

On how mothers should be permitted to kill their offspring until the age of 28 days:
“My colleague Helga Kuhse and I suggest that a period of twenty-eight
days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as
having the same right to life as others.”

On why abortion is less morally significant than killing a rat:
“Rats are indisputably more aware of their surroundings, and more able
to respond in purposeful and complex ways to things they like or
dislike, than a fetus at ten or even thirty-two weeks gestation.”

On why pigs, chickens and fish have more rights to life than unborn humans:
“The calf, the pig, and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of
the fetus at any stage of pregnancy, while if we make the comparison
with a fetus of less than three months, a fish would show more signs of

On why infants aren’t normal human beings with rights to life and liberty:
“Characteristics like rationality, autonomy and self-consciousness…make
a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them,
therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings.”

He contends that God is dead and we should recognize ourselves as
Darwinian primates who enjoy no special status compared to the other
animals. In the animal kingdom, after all, parents sometimes kill and
even devour their offpsring. Singer argues that the West can learn from
the other cultures like the Kalahari where children are routinely
killed when they are unwanted, even when they are several years old.

To be fair, I havent read any of those books that D'Souza is quoting from. But as they are a matter of public record, I would have to assume the quotes are accurate. And that Singer's philosophy isnt so touchy-feely after all. But still, eminently rational, once you eliminate the source of the worth of a human life.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The attraction of power

In his column in the Inquirer, Defending God, Conrado De Quiros hits upon an idea inadvertently already attributed to him:
But now that they mention running Tony Meloto for president in 2010,
why in God's name didn't I think of that? That is brilliant. I myself
have not been in election mode simply because I've never bought the
idea we'll have one in 2010-unless we remove the usurper first. But
granting we do, yes, by all means count me in, Meloto for President!
You can't have a better candidate, one who has head and heart, a wealth
of insight and a well of compassion. The only problem is that unlike
the leaders of CFC-FFL who will grab at any chance to aggrandize
themselves, Meloto will probably decline it.
And therein lies the problem of government, why it is one of the most pernicious institutions ever invented by man. We have invested it with too much power and would not hesitate to give it more because of our misguided belief that it is the solution to our problems. The problem is this: Power is more attractive to the evil man than it is to the good man. An evil man will actively seek it, a good man will shun it. Good men (and women) who are thrust into positions of power do so reluctantly, and would give it up as soon as they can. Evil men (and women) seek it, chase after it, and cling to it if allowed to do so by the people whom they govern; would cling to it if they could get away with it. And if they couldnt, would see to it that their ilk, their cronies, their relatives, their friends, their coterie of evil, would continue in their stead. We are more likely to have a bad government than a good one.

To quote Ronald Reagan, government isnt the solution to our problems. Government is the problem.

Update: Manuel L. Quezon III, quotes Confucius on good government, an increasingly oxymoronic premise in my opinion, and yet as his illustrious grandfather recognized, the preference of the the overwhelming majority: The Filipino prefers good government over self-government.
"Tzü Kung asked for a definition of good government. The Master replied: It consists in providing enough food to eat, in keeping enough soldiers to guard the State, and in winning the confidence of the people. And if one of these three things had to be sacrificed, which should go first? The Master replied: Sacrifice the soldiers. And if of the two remaining things one had to be sacrificed, which should it be? The master said: Let it be the food. From the beginning, men have always had to die. But without the confidence of the people no government can stand at all."

Friday, May 09, 2008

The other blog

It's called A Blog About Nothing and is a group blog maintained by some comic book reviewer from Brooklyn who goes by the handle grifter, with contributions from yours truly, and a couple of other expat blokes. We used to work in the same company, and used to terrorize quiz nights in the old Blarney Stone/ O'Reilly's in Palanca street.

The blog is several orders of magnitude more popular than this one based on the number of hits, because its often irreverent, prurient, and politically incorrect content often turn up in Google searches. But most of all it's just a lot of fun. That's how we were when we were together IRL and that's what we try to recapture in that blog.

Not for the faint of heart most of the time, but we try to keep it classy. Although most of the time we fail.

Ramdam nila ang asenso

I have to say things are going quite well for our colleagues in the head office, and for the city of Nanjing as a whole. I was last here about three years ago, and back then most of our colleagues, the ones who didnt commute, came to work on their bicycles. But now, those who used to come on bikes now come on motorbikes or electric bikes; those who used to come on motorbikes now come in cars. Before the only cars on the parking lot were those of the head honchoes. Now the office parking lot is occupied by employee's cars.

And as for the city itself, if the construction boom that has been going on here for the past five years isnt enough of an indication, there is the rather ubiquitous lack of bicycles on the roads. Whereas as recently as three years ago, the bike still ruled the bike lanes, the roads now belong to cars. The bicycle lanes are almost deserted. And this is quite depressing to me as the Nanjingites seem to have fallen into the dangerous consumption patterns of the West, a consumption pattern we Pinoys recognize as the ideal, as the standard to aspire to, the car being the obvious symbol that youre on your way to economic bliss. I had hopes that the Nanjingites would follow the Dutch at least in their choice of mode of transportation. The Dutch -- no Third World country that's for sure -- havent given up on their bicycles. In Utrecht everyday one sees people in business suits biking to and from work. The parking spaces for bikes were always full. And in Amsterdam I was floored by a multi-level parking space, three-stories high I think, filled to overflowing with bicycles. In Amsterdam now, and in Nanjing then, if you were to be in a road mishap, it would most likely involve a bicycle. Alas, those days are over in this city. "The City of All Around Opening Up" as a sign on a bus said.

But who knows? Maybe one day the now-affluent Nanjingites would rediscover their Confucian - Buddhist traits and give up going after the Western consumption patterns that has so seduced the rest of us and ravaged this planet.


By the way, due to the network security features installed here, I can't reply to comments. I can read them via email, so, yes the canals are near the Confucius temple. And I prefer the apartment. I can't cook in the hotel and laundry rates are ridiculous. :-D We have better apartments now, too. Not like the one we used to stay in near the palengke. We now have rather posh apartments in Nanjing.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The slope, it slips!

In a rather longish Easter post on my blog, which I suppose grifter didnt get to the end of because it didnt have pictures, I said that
Without God there is no reason to believe we have these rights [life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and all that]. Without God our rights are no different from the rights of a chicken. Indeed that’s the whole philosophy of Peter Singer and PETA. It is the only rational thing to believe in if one denies the existence of the source of our rights.
That is a perfectly rational position to take. There is no reason to believe that humans are in any way special, and it is certainly more humane, pardon the pun, than the other rational belief (yes I did argue that this belief is rational) that some humans are inferior and therefore do not have the same rights as a superior race, in the same way that humans, being superior to animals, can slaughter them without guilt, which is the philosophy of Hitler and the Eugenicists. But why limit yourself to animals? Plants are living creatures too, are they not? Not to worry:
Plants deserve respect, a group of Swiss experts said Monday, arguing that killing them arbitrarily was morally wrong -- except when it comes to saving humans or maybe picking petals off a daisy.

In a report on "the dignity of the creature in the plant world," the federal Ethics Committee on non-human Gene Technology condemned the decapitation of flowers without reason, among other sins.
Next, after broccoli get the right to vote, we will then move on to protecting the rights of protozoa.

[Note: Im cross-posting this to my blog too since I cant figure out where this belongs. It's insane enough to belong in Nothing, but then it has something to do with what I wrote in Verisimilitude.]

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Bloggers vs. Traditional Journalists

My take: Whodahell cares?

1) Traditional journalists see bloggers (Im not including those who are just publishing an online diary here, although technically they have a blog and are therefore bloggers) as an unruly bunch of barbarians running roughshod on journalistic standards and what-not. Yes, they are that.

2) Bloggers see traditional journalists as insecure little cry-babies who feel threatened that their monopoly in shaping public opinion, whether in politics, fashion, or what TV station is better, is at an end. Yes, they are that.

Get over it. Let's move on.

If you want a more serious discussion on the so-called debate (blek), check out Manuel L. Quezon III here and here, and the links therein, and Philippine Commentary's smackdown here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Attention your head

When alone in the hotel I turn on the TV and start clicking the remote like crazy. It's an almost automatic and rather futile exercise but I can't help it. The reason behind the mindless clicking is that Im hoping that by some miracle, I'll finally understand what theyre saying, or at least land on someone speaking something I understand -- a phrase, a word, anything. They do have an English-language news channel and every Tuesday night, the movie channel shows an English language movie, but I clamor for more. (Some of the stuff on the English language news channel reminds me of those government ads, paid for by taxpayer money, proclaiming, "Ramdam ko ang asenso.") There's one channel that regularly shows foreign language movies all day, really bad ones, but beggars can't be choosers. On second thought, yeah I can be choosy. If the movie's exceedingly bad, I turn on the TV's Tetris mode and play. (I now have the official high score of all the residents of Room 208; the top three scores in fact.) The thing that struck me the most about going back to Nanjing after a 3-year absence, aside from the ubiquitous Pinoy brand Oishi in the supermarkets, is the presence of Filipino movies on Chinese television. Dubbed in Chinese of course. These are mostly 80s and 90s era action movies. So far, Ive seen a Ronnie Ricketts movie and a Zoren Legazpi movie. It's remarkable how similar they are to the Hong Kong action movies of the same era, stylized choreographed deaths and all.

But you can't fault the food in this place. Even if the hole-in-the-wall restaurants dont look all that inviting, they sure can cook. (If youre fussy about your food, try no to look at the chef -- he'll almost always look dingy, if not outright unhygienic.) I especially like the fried mushrooms. I dont know how they do it but it has the taste and texture of chicharon. The bagnet kind from Ilocos. My officemate has what everyone calls the 'magic book', a notebook with popular dishes written in Chinese, given to us by our Nanjing officemates three years ago. It is passed on from employee to employee; everyone who'll be assigned here for any length of time. When I first came here, we didnt have that book and didnt even think of getting the Chinese colleagues to write something like that for us. We were having too much fun walking into restaurants not knowing how to order. What we'd do is look at other tables and ask the waitress to bring us whatever the people at other tables were having. Sometimes she'd go over to the other table, point, and say 'Chi ge?' And we would walk over and say, 'Yes' to the utter amusement (or perplexity) of the eating patron. Now isnt that more fun than having a magic book?