Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A cosmic coincidence

Hot within the heels of each other came two discoveries of cosmic proportions.

Yesterday, a mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum identified a hitherto-unknown mineral as kryptonite. And today, astronomers announced they have discovered a possibly habitable planet orbiting...a red star.

Now would be a good time to play some really cool John Williams music.

The newly discovered planet orbits the faint star Gliese 581, which is 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra. Temperatures on the planet hover between 0 and 40 degrees centigrade, and that means water could very well exist in liquid form. Where there's water, the possibility for life also exists.

The planet is said to have a radius 1.5 times that of earth. Assuming that its constitution is roughly the same as Earth's, its gravity would be 2.25 times that of ours. A bit too heavy for us, but strange visitors from this planet could easily, say, leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Kryptonite, on the other hand, was discovered in a mine in Serbia. Dr. Chris Stanley, the mineralogist tasked to study it, found that its composition was sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide, the same composition written on a case of rock containing kryptonite stolen by Lex Luther as depicted in Superman Returns.

The rock, unfortunately, is not green but white.

My blog is on TV!

Well, sort of....

A couple of folks have written to tell me that they saw this blog featured in GMA-7's i-Witness late last Monday night. Showing that night was Howie Severino's documentary, Bike-asyon sa Bohol.

To which I might add that these folks must've been extremely dedicated fans of the show becaue the blog address flashed fairly quickly on screen during the end credits.

Some background behind this: Howie posted a comment in my blog a couple of weeks ago asking about biking in Bohol. Apparently, my last jaunt for the previous summer, cycling around Panglao, caught his attention. And so we exchanged tips via blog comments.

And that's it, really. Bike-asyon sa Bohol was quite fun to watch. Howie covered areas I didn't, and so I have new routes to look forward to the next time I visit Bohol. The Barangay Biking (pronounced "bee-king") segment had me in stitches.

Speaking of which, I didn't know my biking posts would have their own audience. It seems some bikers also got inspired to visit Dumaguete because of my previous entries. Who knew?

Wow, I feel so....privileged. Snigger.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious = $25,000

Citizens of the self-proclaimed texting capital of the world will probably be green with envy at the good fortune of Morgan Pozgar of Claysburg, Pennsylvania. The 13-year old was crowned LG National Texting champion on Saturday and took home a $25,000 prize.

The feat: texting "Supercalifragilisticexpialidoucious! Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious. If you say it loud enough you'll always sound precocious." within a blazingly fast 15 seconds. That's roughly 10 characters per second!

Morgan probably gets this from good practice. She estimates that sends around 8,000 messages per month.

Siguro madami ang mai-inggit dito sa atin....

Monday, April 23, 2007

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

Well, that didn't take long.

Only midway into the election period, it seems that the ABS-CBN News Channel is already scraping the bottom of the barrel with its senatorial panel. In the line-up today: actor Cesar Montano, KBL bet Eduardo Orpilla, and failed putschist Antonio Trillanes.

It might as well have been called the ANC Comedy Hour.

Montano and Orpilla, it seems, live in some sort of Never Never Land.

Questioned as to how he would maintain the quality of education without raising tuition fees or commercializing school properties, Montano said:

"Doon ko gagamitin ang pork barrel ko. At saka...kukulitin ko ng kukulitin si Madame President."


But it seems that was a marginally better and far more realistic response than former police general Orpilla's. The KBL bet's response to everything -- and I mean EVERYTHING! -- hinged on the use of Marcos wealth.

Ah, yes, we live in the land of wishful thinking.

By far the most sensible of the three was Trillanes. The lieutenant at least had a position on the needs of the armed forces. He was also well-versed in the constitutional right to rebel, but I suppose that's because he has practical experience.

Trillanes, though, looked like a cat caught in the headlights. Every question would freeze him up and not until some coaxing from emcee Ricky Carandang would he go off in fits and starts.

I could almost see Ricky Carandang trying his darnedest best not to snicker.

Next: bring on Sultan Kiram!

Intimations of Mortality

Death was the overarching theme in that black, black week just past, and it's left me many things on which to ponder and reflect.

Truth be told, the incidents of last week hit close to home. In many ways, I feel lucky and relieved to have dodged the bullet. But I also feel sad that kindred spirits should have been felled in their prime.

If you think I mean the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, then you are partly correct. Deep down inside, I'm still an academic, and so I feel the kinship and the loss that students should be murdered so senselessly. And closer still: a friend is just finishing his graduate studies there, so it was with much trepidation that I received the news. Fortunately, he was not on campus at the time.

More besides: there was also US Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell, found murdered on a trail in Banaue. I have friends in the Peace Corps and the death of one of them was another shock. But with Julia I found another connection, albeit too late -- she also had a blog.

Reading her blog brings a lump to my throat. Her blog is zesty yet unpretentious, probably one that would have gone undiscovered were it not for the circumstances of her death. It's painful to think that the person that wrote it with such life should have moved on. No more words, no more stories, just a memory.

Quietly passing last week, without fanfare except in his circle of friends, was Ricky Sunico. Ricky died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 48. He was a beloved member of the New Worlds Alliance, that conglomeration of fantasy and sci-fi fans in the Philippines.

Unfortunately I never got to know Ricky very well. Being an occasional visitor to NWA gatherings, I felt much too shy to approach people I didn't already know. When I did see Ricky, the best I could do was smile my goofy smile. And that was that.

A sci-fi geek at 48 is a truly dedicated geek , one unswayed by the demands of convention. That, too, is the road that I'm following, and I feel sad at the loss of a fellow traveller. And so I mourn his passing.

By some coincidence, I finally watched "Solaris" yesterday. It was a slow but thoughtful film, not the usual sci-fi fare, significantly different from the book. I enjoyed it nonetheless, perhaps because of all the preceding circumstances. "Solaris" is, in a sense, about death and remembrance, and its recurring refrain comes from Dylan Thomas:

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Free Feisty Fawn CDs!

Originally posted in my Ubuntu Living blog.

Since Ubuntu has been so good to me, I want to pay the favor forward. I am proposing to give out free Feisty CDs for people in the Philippines who don't have quick access to broadband.

If you're from Davao or Dumaguete, drop me a note and I'll tell you when and where you can get your CD. Limit one per person or organization.

If you're from elsewhere in the provinces (excluding, of course, Manila and Cebu), leave your mailing address in the comment box below and I'll send you two CDs by courier. Since I'm nowhere near as moneyed as Mark Shuttleworth, I'll have to limit my offer to the first five (leaving only four as Dave Asuncion has already posted his request).

The CDs won't be anything fancy, most likely just purchased from CD-R King, hand-scrawled with felt-tip marker, and slipped into cheap envelopes. But they should work.

Last two conditions: (1) burn and redistribute to friends; and (2) buy me a beer when we meet.

Fair enough?

Mapping the Blogosphere

Discover Magazine has an interesting article on mapping the blogosphere, reporting on the work of Matthew Hurst. The map you see on the top left is the result of that mapping project. Bright spots represent sites with the highest number of links, the isolated islands represent more-or-less closed communities like Livejournal.

The article makes special mention of six groups: the ultra-popular blog sites, gadget hounds, isolated blog communities, socipolitical discourse, porn, and sports.

Read the article for full description of each.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Pet Street Gallery web site

Presenting my latest project: the Pet Street Gallery web site. Pet Street Gallery is my sister's pet accessories shop and I've been bugging her to get a web site. Well, guess who had to do it?

Seriously, it was both at my urging and my own initiative that I put the site together. It was a chance for me to exercise my Joomla chops on a moderately sized website, and this was a good candidate to work on.

As a learning exercise it turned out quite well. I handcoded the template for a little CSS practice, I got to use several additional Joomla components and modules, and I put in a lot of product photography and photoediting as well.

It was the first time in a long while since I've registered a domain. Cheapskate moi has been holding off on making any expenditures. But this was finally something worth spending on. I registered via Google -- a little more expensive than the usual, but considering the speed with which I was able to get everything together, it was a good decision.

Email was via Google Apps, again another decision I'm happy with. I tied our Gmail accounts to the petstreetgallery.com email addresses. Additional bonuses by way of the other Google applications.

Probably the really tiring bit was populating the site with data. I've come to believe that any engagement such as this -- with a reluctant customer -- requires some critical mass of content to get the customer enthused. It's worked to some degree: my sister now feels some ownership of the web site. But from here on, it's still an uphill battle, at least for the next two months.

Feel free to visit and register!

Challenge of the Super-Duper Friends

Following in the steps of Jib-jab is another political parody site, this time making use of a cartoon from my childhood. Challenge of the Super-Duper Friends makes use of the opening soundtrack of "Challenge of the Superfriends" but adds its own modern twist.

Well...you'll just have to view the cartoon.

Now here's a secret. This is actually an experiment in viral marketing by some friends of mine. The cartoon was done in the Philippines by IAS studios.

Don't care much for the politics of either side, but I must say it's fun to watch. And Condi Rice as Catwoman?! Holy Shades of Eartha Kitt, Batman!

Meowr!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mind of a Killer

As a final insult from beyond the grave, he points his pistol at you, as if ready to shoot. You stare down the barrel of the gun, transfixed. Behind them, hooded eyes with no remorse, no hesitation, not even desperation, only smug menace. This is how his 32 victims saw him, and this is how he wants you to see him. "It could have been you...."

But the killer is dead by his own hand, and this, after all, is just an image. He took it not long after he gunned down two young students, before a spree that took down dozens more. This hateful legacy to the world. He wants you to see it, he wants you to remember it.

Modern media carries it gleefully, his willing accomplice: via satellite, via fiber optics, via wireless. There's no escaping the image. It's on the Internet, it's on TV, it's in the papers. And though the intent is clear, the reasons behind it are not. It simply leaves us frightened and confused.

How could someone hate so much?

We can go through the laundry list of grievances: child abuse, parental pressure, social exclusion, etc. But none of it will fit except in his deluded mind. He wants us to see a martyr, but all we can see is a madman. He wants to show us he had no choice, but all we can see are the choices he failed to take.

He hated because simply because he chose to hate. His hate likely became the only source of self-worth. He magnified the slights, he piled up imagined wrongs, perhaps even invented new ones. He was his own persecuted hero on his own imagined journey.


In the face of the larger problems of the world, in the face of the smaller problems of the people around him, he chose to dwell only within himself. He was the center of his microscopic universe, a miniscule and insignificant god who could only look inward. In the end, he consumed himself.

When there was nothing left to consume inside, that hate consumed others.

And there, perhaps, we have the glimmer of an answer: he hated so much because he only chose to concern himself with himself. He was in hell before he even pulled the trigger.

It would have been better if he had merely killed himself, instead of snuffing the lives of so many others. Yet the end result, the intent, is the same. If he could have, he would have killed all of us. That is his final message, gun pointed at us. "I will kill you."

So the words of Chesterton ring true:

"Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world... The suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront... There is a meaning in burying the suicide apart. The man's crime is different from other crimes - for it makes even crimes impossible."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shooting rampage in US college

As I write this, my heart is pounding, my mouth is dry, and my hair is standing on end.

Thirty-three people dead in a shooting rampage in Virginia Tech. And that's where my friend and former student Roy Patrick Tan is taking up his post-graduate degree.

I was in a panic. No cellphone number, no landline, no instant messenger. I couldn't even remember his email address. So I did the only thing I could do: head over to his blog.

Thank goodness, he's safe. All Filipino students are also accounted for.

Regardless, I'm still a bundle of nerves. Scary.

How did I find out? CNN? No. BBC? No. TV? Haven't even turned it on yet. Answer: Slashdot.

And that's commentary on how the Net -- and blogs -- has changed our way of living. More on that when I'm not so as wired (no pun intended.)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Soldier Artist

BBC News carried an feature about US Marine artist Staff Sgt. Michael Fay (picture taken from BBC News web site). In this day of digital cameras and satellite uplinks, it's interesting to see an old tradition still carried out.

Throughout history, war, has also been the subject of art. War is a breeding ground for intense emotions which in turn find their way into the canvas. And it's different from photojournalism because it's filtered through the eyes of the artist.

Staff Sgt. Fay is probably unique, though, because he actually fights alongside his unit. This gives him a somewhat unique perspective. Fay's work, as can be seen from his blog, seems to emphasize the weariness that war brings to the soul.

Other links related to Fay:
  • Fire and Ice, Michael Fay's blog
  • Marine Combat Artist keeps tradition alive, a feature article in CareerJournal
  • Combat Illustrator Draws on Marine Life, an extended profile on Fay
  • Artists to Soldiers, of which Fay is a member

    And check out this exhibit of art from World War I, sponsored by UNESCO on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the armistice.
  • Fellows for Dumaguete Writers Workshop 2007

    The list is out. Here are the Fellows for the Dumaguete Writers Workshop of 2007. The envelope, please, and drumroll....

    FELLOWS FOR POETRY
    K.Y. Sia-Valderia
    Kristian Abe Dalao
    Pancho Villanueva
    Jennelyn Tabora
    Sharleen Banson
    La Verne de la Cruz

    FELLOWS FOR FICTION
    Sasha Martinez
    Catherine Alpay
    Robert Jed Malayang
    Michelle Eve de Guzman
    Janina Rivera

    FELLOWS FOR CREATIVE NON-FICTION
    Primy Joy Cane
    Justine Megan Yu
    Martin Villanueva
    Jan Paulo Bastareche
    Mia Tijam

    List by way of Ian's blog.

    And if I may, the story of my own little contribution to this list. Krisette Valderia née Sia called me up two weeks ago on the last day of submission of applications. Was there any way to get her entries in on time?

    Hmmm, a hairy problem, if there ever was one, especially since I was in Davao. So I made a few phone calls to friends Dumaguete, forwarded her poems via email, and had them printed out and hand-delivered to the CAP Building. Problem solved!

    Congratulations all, and especially Krisette! Looking forward to seeing you and Herbs in the City of Gentle People.

    Friday, April 13, 2007

    Bon Voyage, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

    Kurt Vonnegut Jr., writer, teacher, and war veteran, died on April 11, 2007 in Manhattan, New York. He was 84 years old.

    I know the old gentleman, if only through his books. And so I am saddened.

    My first Vonnegut novel, picked up entirely by virtue of its markdown price, was Galapagos. I liked it so much I soon read Jailbird, its companion in the purchase. I found Vonnegut's work to be ironic, desperate, and sad. Much like the human condition, I suppose.

    Now a Vonnegut fan, I went on to two other books, Slaughterhouse Five and its sideways sequel Mother Night. Their influence resounds with me still. "Be careful what you pretend to be, because what you pretend to be is what you are."

    Vonnegut also appeared in the 80's comedy flick Back to School. Rodney Dangerfield Jr. hired him to ghostwrite an essay on his own book, which the unwitting professor angrily denounced: "That's not what he meant!"

    Just last February, I read Sirens of Titan, and though it was in many ways similar to Slaughterhouse Five, I still enjoyed it very much.

    And now, he's gone.

    I can say nothing more except:

    Poo-tee-weet!

    Picture from Harvard Square Library

    Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Doctor Who

    I confess I haven't really followed the Doctor Who mythos but my sister and I have just become new fans of the current series. We watched "The Shakespeare Code" episode this afternoon and it was a blast.

    David Tennant plays a charming and absent-minded Doctor -- excuse me, "The Doctor." Freema Agyeman on the other hand is a beautiful yet atypical heroine: she's neither supertough or whiny; instead, she has this wide-eyed look of wonder at all the adventures she's been accidentally thrust into.


    In "The Shakespeare Code," the duo travels to London in 1599. Three witches are looking to cause Major Trouble using the Bard as their unwitting agent. And, well, I guess you'll just have to watch it. it's too damn good for spoilers.

    Shakespeare, played by Dean Lennox Kelly, is equal parts rogue and genius. The character breaks the usual cliches about a person encountering time travellers from the future. Oops, I hope that's not saying too much.

    In any case, there are plenty of Shakespearean references all throughout, such as the Globe Theater, the Sonnets, and the most famous lines from Shakespeare's plays.

    Easily the best lines are: "I don't care what you call that, I know that's a DNA replication unit", "...what if I step on a butterfly?" and "...political correctness gone mad..." Ahem, just watch it.

    And, yes, Harry Potter fans: watch out for the JK Rowling references.

    Watch it! Watch it!

    (PS: anyone have the first two seasons?)

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    When blogging becomes a 'privilege'

    Expanded from its previous form.

    When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you about the speaker's attitude to that object. -- C.S. Lewis

    “Perhaps it does not mean what you think it means?” --Inigo Montoya


    When Yuga said that "blogging is a privilege," I can quite understand what he meant. He was using the word "privilege" in a loose sense, perhaps as a term of praise for what he perceives to be an elite class.

    But that is not its only meaning. And therein lies the problem.

    In logic, it would be called a fallacy of equivocation. How and why? Because in the course of his statement, the word "privilege" is ultimately used in more than one sense.

    Privilege, in its original sense, is a legal concept. Its etymology can be traced to "private law", that is, "a special right or immunity granted by a government to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis."

    But all throughout his arguments, Yuga uses "privilege" to mean "economically advantaged." But "right" on the other hand, is understood in the sense of a legal or moral entitlement. And so we end up with a confusing proposition. Economic capacity on one hand, and a legal framework on the other.

    If Yuga meant "blogging is only for those who can afford it" -- then there would have been little argument. Of course! It's no longer a matter of right or privilege but justice: in order to avail of a service, you pay for it. Not blogging per se, but all the other services that make it possible.

    If Yuga meant "blogging is only for those who have time to write" -- then we start spinning around a tautology. In effect, it's saying, "writing is only for those who have time to write." It's just plain silly.

    If Yuga meant "blogging is only for the rich and the middle class; it is not for the poor" -- well, now here is where I would have beef with him. I'm fairly certain many others would, too.

    Why spend all this time and effort dissecting a seemingly innocuous statement? Because, in the first place, it's wrong in so many ways. Because, as "the country's most popular blogger", what Yuga says has weight...and he should know better. But mainly because, when you introduce the idea of blogging-as-privilege, it opens the doors for the legal interpretation...and that's something that's truly dangerous.

    What happens when you apply the concept of "privilege" to blogging?

    In Malaysia, ministers are in a fresh attack on bloggers:

    Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin said bloggers should not be exempt from the same controls as the mainstream media.... Zainuddin also supported a proposal by deputy communications minister Shaziman Abu Mansor, who on Wednesday suggested bloggers be registered.


    In China, the government wants to tighten control over blogging:

    The Chinese Government already goes to great lengths in censoring what their bloggers publish, with bloggers currently subject to three layers of censorship...initial software generated/imposed censorship based on prohibited words, a second layer performed by a special team of censorship editors who read all blogs posts and delete offensive content that the software missed, and a third layer which in controlled by internet police officers....


    When an esteemed entity like the government deigns to give you the legal permission to publish your blog, that is "privilege." Truly.

    Property and Propriety

    DAVAO--My mother was indignant. "Those two tried to steal our chairs," she huffed. "Those two?" I confirmed, pointing to two well-dressed girls nearby. They stood calm and oblivious, intent only on the platform where the choir of children sat. The two cool miscreants couldn't have been more than twelve years old.

    So there we were on a pleasant Easter morning, attending our first ever Pagsugat. The crowd at the parking lot of Victoria Plaza was huge, about 3,000-strong. The whole neighborhood -- and then some -- had turned up for this traditional celebration. Following the advice of veterans, we brought our own stools.

    While I was off taking photos and while Mom was stretching her legs, the two girls espied our empty seats. They sat down, not bothering to ask whose the chairs were. My mother thought to let them rest a while so she let them be. Then, Mom's attention flicked away momentarily. When she turned back, those two girls were already walking away, chairs hanging behind them. "Hey! Those are ours!" Mom snarled, and with that she promptly retrieved our furniture.

    On the whole, the incident was minor. Once the shock had worn off, it was cause for much bemusement. But it was food for thought. One one hand, we might simply ascribe it to mischief; on the other, it could be yet another distinction where Philippine societal lines are drawn.

    I'm not sure if the Pagsugat wasn't entirely related to the mode of thinking of the two would-be thieves. Not the Pagsugat as a religious event, certainly, but rather the Pagsugat as another typically large Filipino community gathering. When you get 3,000 people together at 3:00AM, it bespeaks not only devotion but a festive mindset.

    Whence comes this way of thinking? We Filipinos, especially in the rural and rurban areas, live within a large community cluster. It's an extended family of neighbors and friends. Hence a pre-dawn event like the Pagsugat gets very large numbers. It is, after all, another community celebration.

    But when you have such a large extended community in close daily proximity, some property becomes communal. Just as within a family, many things might be held as common property, so too, might some things be regarded within an extended community. Sharing then becomes the primary virtue; failure to share results in much ill-will.

    This is not to say that Filipino communities abide mostly by communal property rules. But it does lead one to wonder if, living within such a large network, the concept of personal property rights not might end up a little weaker in some members.

    Might this also have something to do with the comparatively high incidence of petty theft within said communities? After all, if the concept of property rights is weak, then surely theft constitutes merely a very minor transgression? Theft is, after all, not merely about the opportunity, after all, it's also about the ethics -- or lack thereof.

    This is not to say, either, that these kinds of Filipino communities are fundamentally damaged. They provide a backbone of social stability and enduring relationships; in fact, they have many good things to offer. But we must be cognizant of the deficiencies that they might foster, arresting them early in the younger members before they become ingrained bad habits.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Reductio ad absurdum

    Paraphrasing Yuga's comments on blogging as a privilege and not a right:

    Yes, writing is a privilege. It is not for everybody. It is only for those who have pen and paper. It is only for those who have enough time on their hands. It is only for those who have something to write or say.

    So, don’t be surprised to learn that the demographics of writers are the ones who can pay for pen and ink and paper in their homes and offices or even that goose quill or fountain pen. Don’t be surprised that these writers are the ones who have enough time to write and read instead of worrying about their eight-to-five jobs (or worse, look for a job)....


    Wow. With this sort of thinking, could a Charles Dickens or Jose Rizal or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Anne Frank ever emerge?

    Monday, April 09, 2007

    Battlestar Galactica jumped the shark

    Warning: Recent posts have been a bit too heavy so I've decided to turn fanboy mode on. Major spoilers ahead.

    An odd title, if there ever was one, but if you follow TV nowadays, you know what I mean. "Jumping the shark" is another way of saying "the show, once great, now sucks." And yes, you heard me right, "Battlestar Galactica" just sucks right now.

    The first season of BSG didn't quite grab me the way it did my other friends, but I got hooked somewhere in the second season. Then I started looking forward to every new episode as it came out. Like many, I was blown away by the second-season cliffhanger.

    And now the third season has just come to a close, I should be all amped up. Instead, I'm just bored. And that leads me to ask: when did BSG become so sucky?

    By all rights, the third season ender revelations OUGHT to be exciting: Starbuck dying; Starbuck coming back from the dead; gasp! Starbuck a cylon?! Earth, their destination, finally within reach! The Final Five cylons revealed...and two of them are Tigh and Tirol!

    Ho-hum.

    If you're a die-hard BSG fan, I'm sorry. It's just the way I feel. Just because BSG started out as a great series doesn't mean I have to continue liking it. In fact, the reason I stuck with it for so long was because it had a great start. I felt obligated, dammit!

    Then, somewhere in between episodes 15 and 17, I realized that BSG had jumped the shark.

    So when did this happen? Was it the "The Woman King" episode, which dealt with the racist doctor murdering patients? Was it "Dirty Hands" which dealt with labor disputes within the fleet? These were pretty weak episodes. They did little for character development, they didn't really move the story arc forward.

    In a pinch, I would say that my troubles with BSG started with "A Measure of Salvation," when Helo actively sabotages the plan to eliminate the Cylons. Like, huh? Dude, it's the future of the human race that's at stake! Why are you balking?!

    But the more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to say that the downward spiral began as far back as the "Occupation" arc. Oh, sure, Adama's daring rescue was so thrillingly kick-ass. But that was the high point, the exception in an otherwise dark and dismal story.

    "Occupation" played out as an allegory of the present Iraqi situation. Suddenly our heroes were thrust into the roles of terrorists and suicide bombers. Shocking? Absolutely! And that was why it made for compelling viewing...at first.

    Then, when the shock effect wore off, I realized that, well, I had been played. No one likes the feeling.

    Ultimately, it doesn't matter where I stand on Iraq. The writers used their program as a vehicle for their political views. Fine, that's their prerogative. What matters is if they did it well. And in my opinion, they didn't.

    At the end of the "Occupation" arc, we're essentially back to where we started: with the ragtag human fleet on the run from the Cylons. Oh, there were some small changes: the Pegasus disintegrated in a blaze of glory, Starbuck in shock, Tigh more ornery than ever, and kangaroo courts all around -- which is simply more fodder for liberal political theory. Did it move the story forward? Very little.

    Just about the only interesting twist was the Cylons getting Baltar. That could have been done in any number of alternative ways. That at least led to the marginally promising "Eye of Jupiter" arc.

    But even "Eye of Jupiter", which moved to the story forward, muddled things up again. We get caught up in Cylon theology, which is just about the most confusing incarnation of New Age mumbo jumbo in recent memory. So by the time we get to The Final Five, I'm already saying, "Big deal."

    "They have a plan...." is BSG's ominous warning, referring to the Cylons. But just what IS the plan now? After three seasons, I still don't know and I'm even more confused. Do the Cylons even know what they're doing?

    Really, the main driver in BSG's storyline is the Cylon plot. That's how we started the story. The plot should have been simple: annihilation of the human race. And in the face of overwhelming odds, the humans react desperately, always clinging to one more hope, whether through their prophecies or through military ingenuity.

    It's when BSG follows this philosophy that it works; and when it deviates, it simply falls flat. And this third season, it really, really fell flat.

    What a terrible waste!

    Sunday, April 08, 2007

    Pagsugat

    Today I solved a long-standing personal mystery: why were there so few people who attended the regular Easter masses at church.

    And the answer: they all attended the Pagsugat.

    Pagsugat, a Visayan word, means Meeting. Its Tagalog equivalent is Sugatan. It's a long-standing Filipino Easter tradition whereby the Risen Christ meets His Mother.

    Oh, I know, it's not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. But wouldn't it stand to reason that the very first person Jesus Christ would appear to after His resurrection would be His Beloved Mother? It's just so very human.

    The local Pagsugat started out at 3:30AM from the parish grounds. There were two processions, one accompanying the image of the Risen Christ, the other with the Blessed Virgin Mary. They took different routes around the barangay. The meeting point would be at Victoria Plaza.

    Mom and I arrived at the site at around 3:45AM. Already there was a huge gathering. All in all, I estimated around at least 2,000 people, young and old alike. It seemed like the entire neighborhood was there for the event.

    Other Pagsugat celebrations would have a child, dressed as an angel, hoisted up on a wire to lift up the veil from the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It's a cute touch, but the church community decided to eschew such acrobatics in favor of a choir.



    The choir, composed of kids in angel regalia, were high up on two platforms. At 4:00AM, they were already singing in anticipation of the actual meeting. The images came in, brought on the shoulders of devotees.

    At around 4:30AM, the Mass started. T'was an open-air Mass on the parking lot. Ordinarily, I don't like having the celebration outside church, but this was a great exception.

    Now, lest you think this was such a holy event, here's a real mood spoiler: Possibly the only incident to mar this Christian celebration happened when two kids tried to sneak away with our chairs. Since the event was outdoors, it was wise to bring our own chairs, which we did. While I was away taking photos, my Mom stood up to stretch her legs. Two young girls sat on our chairs. Mom didn't shoo them away, thinking they just needed a bit of rest.

    Then Mom turned away momentarily, and when she looked back, the two girls were already walking away with the chairs. Mom snarled (ah, that's where I got that trait) and grabbed our furniture. Said shameless girls just pretended like nothing happened.

    Por diyos por santo! Wala'y ulaw! Mga kawatan gyud!

    Saturday, April 07, 2007

    Blowout

    The Way of the Cross ended at around 6:30AM, and it was already light. I took a quick light breakfast and brought my bike out, intending to ride all the way to Damosa. The next event wouldn't be till 3:00PM so I figured I had enough time for some Good Friday mischief, just like last year.

    Alas, it wasn't meant to be: a flat tire waylaid my plans somewhere in Bajada.

    I had actually gotten as far as the Buhangin juncture. I missed a turnoff somewhere and got along farther than I expected. Not an easy task, considering I'm very much out of shape. When I did decide to turn back, I took a couple more wrong turns and ended up on the Bajada highway.

    Fair enough, at least I knew the way. Then my cellphone rang. Ugh! Some friendly tech support for a Ubuntu newbie pal. I took the call anyway, fired off some sage advice, and when I was just about to pedal off again, I noticed the bike was feeling sluggish.

    Front tire was okay. Rear tire, utterly completely totally deflated.

    Gas station nearby, thank goodness. But...their shop was closed! And the compressor was off!

    I trudged back, passing several roadside vulcanizing shops. All closed. But what did I expect? It was Good Friday, after all.

    By the time I got to a car shop that was kind enough to give me air, I was close to home already. Newly pumped with air, I tried to ride the rest of the way home. Still no good. The tire gave out again. @#%&!

    So I got home at 8:30AM, some two hours after I started. I told my Mom and my sister about my little misadventure, about where I had to turn back. Apparently, I did a five kilometer walk pushing my bike. Not quite the mischief I intended, instead it was more of a mishap. But nothing too serious.

    An Early Morning Procession

    Good Friday was my very own Shutdown Day. As my Holy Week sacrifice, I resolved not to turn on my desktop, my laptop, or even my Wii.

    Instead, I started my day with the Sacred Heart Parish's Way of the Cross. As you'll see from the pictures, not a bad turnout for a community event at 4:30 in the morning.

    Our Via Dolorosa took us around the neighborhood. Starting from the church grounds, we made our way through A. Loyola, then through Dacudao, all the way to Victoria Plaza, before starting to wend our way back.

    As it was still dark, torches borne by altar boys and escorts lit the way, augmented by candles from many of the parishioners. T'was a somewhat eerie sight, about four hundred of us marching so early in the morning. Barangay tanods and a small police detail accompanied us all the way through, diverting what little traffic there was and generally providing us with security.


    Young and old alike were in the group. And as with most Filipino church activities, the mood was still somewhat festive, though a little more subdued than usual, in view of the season.

    The whole journey ended some two hours after it began, and by then it was already light.

    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    What have you been smoking, Madame?

    ...and can I have some of it?

    Oh, I know, we're in the middle of Holy Week and all. We should be charitable, meditative, and nice. But when someone guarantees an "economic miracle", well, you just have to wonder if they're high.

    However, if you want a slightly more religious bent -- and we are still in the Lenten season -- here's a relevant passage:

    Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me."

    Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'"


    In other news, T-Bill rates are down again. Sigh.

    My New Ride

    I bought a new mountain bike last Monday, a nice little number with an Italian-made alloy frame. It's quite light and came at a very nice mid-range price (hint: under P13,000.00)

    I suppose it was inevitable. I was feeling miserable from being away from a bike.

    Davao doesn't have as many nice trails close by as Dumaguete does, and the main roads are almost always full of traffic. But since I'm just regaining my strength, the roads that I do have are sufficient for now. What's important is I'm back on the saddle.

    Maybe I'll go on a longer jaunt this Holy Week weekend. Whee!

    Tuesday, April 03, 2007

    Easter People

    On an intellectual level, we Filipinos are probably among the most pessimistic in the world. We wallow in bad news, we have low regard for our leaders, we seriously doubt the future of our country, and our good days have always been old. Everyone else seems better off, hence the overwhelming desire to pack our bags and head off for greener pastures.

    On an emotional level, we Filipinos are probably among the happiest in the world. It's obvious from our smiles and our cheerful disposition. Even as we're bewailing our fate, we do so with a shrug, make a joke of it, and blithely move along to the next grievance.

    So how do you figure that? Well, you can't. If you tried, you'd tear your hair out in the attempt. It's one of those inscrutable mysteries of the universe. This mad contradiction is embedded in our character. It just simply is.

    Chesterton once wrote: "The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite." How very appropriate for us! And Chesterton adds: "It is this silent swerving from accuracy by an inch that is the uncanny element in everything."

    And so too with us: just when we're on the verge of apparent suicide from the weight of our worries, we suddenly rear our heads in jolly laughter, and in so doing infecting the person beside us.

    This, too, is the underlying pattern of Easter. If we had followed the story to its logical conclusion, we would have had a would-be prophet dead and buried, his followers scattered in the hills and hiding from the Romans, and his radical teachings trampled and forgotten. But no, at the very last moment, the story swerves by an inch, a magnificent inch. And so the Hanged Man comes back to Life, his followers conquer the Romans (in an off-kilter fashion), and His words? Well, "The earth and the heavens will disappear, but my words will never disappear."

    We Filipinos are true inheritors of the Good News, not simply because we've heard the Word but because we live it in reality day by day. We're battered and broken, abused and scarred, in anguish and in grief, and when the moment is at its darkest, we rise up and dance.

    This is not to say that our problems aren't real; they are. This is not to say that we shouldn't try to solve our problems; we should. Most of all this is not to say that our problems will go away; they won't. This is to say, simply, that when we become a bit too intellectual and too logical and therefore too depressed, we should be a little less intellectual and a little less logical and less depressed. Because ultimately, we always bounce back.

    After all, we are the Easter people.

    Sunday, April 01, 2007

    'Mahal Kita, Pare Ko'

    Philippine King of Comedy Dolphy will essay the role of Armando "Jun" Ducat in the upcoming biopic to be entitled "Mahal Kita, Pare Ko (Hosteyds Bus Da Movie)." Star Cinema is set to produce the film, to be released in theaters on April 11, 2007.

    Senatorial candidate Cesar Montano will reprise his role as Ilocos Governor and fellow senatorial candidate Chavit Singson. (Montano previously starred in the Singson biopic.) Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr., TV anchor Julius Babao, and radio announcer Congressman Ted Failon will play themselves.

    Malou Santos, Star Cinema Managing Director, dismissed claims that the studio was taking advantage of the situation. "This is a very timely movie with a relevant message for everyone in the country. That's why we are rushing this for after the Holy Week break."

    She allayed fears that the movie would suffer from production values owing to its short release date. "We will simply reuse and edit existing footage from the crisis. We already have hours and hours of video, so you might say the principal filming has already been completed."

    Film and komiks legend Carlo J. Caparas has signed up to helm the movie. Composer Lito Camo will write three original songs for the big dance numbers in the movie.

    April Fools! Or is it....?

    Hostage-taker released

    Armando "Jun" Ducat returned to his community in Tondo today to a hero's welcome. Ducat was released from the Manila City jail after Department of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez determined no proper charges could be filed against Ducat.

    "His grenades were carved from wood and his bullets were made of plastic," a smiling Gonzalez said. "No harm, no foul."

    Palace officials acknowledged that they were moved in some part to the massive demonstrations of support held in the Tondo community. "Someone as well-loved as Jun Ducat must have done something right," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said. The press secretary was quick to quell any rumors that Ducat was being seriously considered to run for a senatorial slot in the 2010 election. Palace insiders, though, are already hinting that this is actually a strong possibility.

    Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and PNP Chief Oscar Calderon are calling for a revamp of hostage procedures following heavy criticism of the police handling of the "crisis" last Wednesday. Following Ducat's advice, rapid response teams all over the country will be heavily stocked with pizza, ice cream, and candles. "We have Ducat to thank for showing us a better way in handling these situations," Calderon said. "Ice cream at pizzanga lang pala ang kailangan, eh. (Ice cream and pizza are all that's needed.)"

    Over in Tondo, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo were surprise guests at the welcome party for Ducat. The full complement of the Team Unity slate was also present. Ilocos Governor and senatorial candidate Chavit Singson, who figured in the final dramatic moments of the crisis, was also on hand to distribute ice cream and pizza.

    Spokesman Ace Durano was quick to point out that this was not part of Team Unity's campaign strategy. "We just want to celebrate with the people of Tondo for their good fortune in having a man like Jun Ducat for a community leader. After all, Mr. Ducat stands for everything we stand for: free land, free housing, and free education for everyone."

    April Fools. Or is it?