Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Snapshots

Revisiting Dumaguete only every now and then can't compare with the joys and frustrations of living here -- one is reduced to tourist and spectator, instead of resident and participant.  On the one hand, you skip through the growing pains, but on the other, you miss out on actually being part of it (though the realization comes much, much later).  As a consolation, the distance and detachment allows you to see Dumaguete as through a series of time-lapse snapshots.  Such is how I feel in this recent long visit.

I last swung through the city six months ago, but that two-day visit proved much too brief to leave any lasting impressions.  But as a point of comparison between that time and now I can feel the changes; and so much more so between now and four years ago, at the tail end of living here in Dumaguete.

Six months ago, I came to a Dumaguete in the midst of a construction frenzy.  Familiar roads were closed off and became one-way choke points for traffic.  Dust, dust, dust everywhere, not to mention the rumble of backhoes and the rattle of jackhammers: the horror, the horror.

Six months later, oh, joy: smooth wide roads, a pleasure to drive on, and not just on the main arteries but even on the minor streets.  There are still a few more holdover construction work here and there, but at the stage they're at, they should be done soon.  Dumaguete looks...clean.

Six months ago, I felt pleasantly surprised by the small and cozy coffee shops and bistros that had popped up all over the city.  My cousin Youson and his wife Kathleen brought me to Edelweiss for dinner and onward to Gabby's Bistro for a visit.  "Wow," I thought back then, "things really are changing."

Six months after, the momentum carries on: going around the city, I see many more new places to visit, many more things to do (and no, I'm not just talking about Robinson's, but more on that next time.)  The city feels refreshed and reinvigorated: old buildings have been given facelifts to make for new homes for new businesses.  There seems to be a conscious attempt at Mediterranean architecture and colors, one that suits the spirit of the city just fine.

To be sure, there are still all the hallmarks of the old Dumaguete: the rickety roar of tricycles, zip-zooming scooters, and streets bustling pedestrians; but to me they've become reminders of the small-town charm.

The city seems as young as ever, but added to that youth, there seems to be more optimism and confidence.  In dress and in appearance, the baduy look is out, replaced by more cosmopolitan tastes.  On a summer, the traditional downtime of the city, there are as about as many people as I remember during the school season.

I don't know if it's because I caught Dumaguete at the right time of the summer, but the green of the trees and the grass seems more vibrant.  Even the overcast blue preluding the rain seems cooler.  Dumaguete feels new, reborn.

I've been away too long, and don't I know it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dumaguete on a rainy morning

At last the rains have come to Dumaguete.  Clouds rendered the sky gloomy, but otherwise still fine for biking on the boulevard.

Moo!

Found during one of my biking trips in Dumaguete.  I like how the colors came out on this one.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Characters & Viewpoint

Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


If you think you already know all about characters and viewpoints, think again. Most writing books will grant at most one chapter each, sometimes less; in Characters & Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card -- better known for Ender's Game -- devotes an entire book on the subjects.

Characters & Viewpoint, obviously, is a book geared towards writers. Depending on where you are in the craft, you'll find different parts of the book more useful than others. Even if you're just an avid reader, though, you'll still have something to take away in the appreciation of technique.

The first few chapters deal with character creation: no, not the usual stuff about names or physical descriptions, but more about motivations, backgrounds, habits, and how the character interacts with the story. Card points out four different types of stories: Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event; each type of story requires different handling of the characters. Towards the middle part of the book, Card discusses the development of characters and the classification of characters.

The last few chapters of the book I found the most useful, though, and simply because these were things I had never thought about before. Perhaps the most important idea (because this is where I'm weakest): the narrator of the book (regardless of whether it's first person or third person), must likewise be a character, a role that must also be written.

Card distinguishes between Representation and Presentation as a matter of technique and approach. These are concepts taken from Theater. In Representation, the characters (including the narrator) play to the audience through a Fourth Wall in order to maintain an illusion of reality. In Presentation, a character (the narrator) knowingly plays to the audience.

Finally, Card dissects the different approaches to viewpoint, identifying where each is most effective. First Person narratives, implicitly assume a distance in time, i.e., the story told is in the distant past, and is best used when attempting to show the internal psychology of the character. Third Person narratives are more immediate, but even then, there are so many varieties whose effectiveness varies with the story being told.

All in all, a great book to keep as reference for writers. I know I'll be keeping it handy.



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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Back in Dumaguete...

...from April 20 to 30. Daytime I'll be busy with the family business, but I plan to squeeze out the most of biking, jogging (sort of), and meeting old friends in the off-hours. If you want to meet up, drop me a note.

Book Review Blog

Village Idiot Savant: Books is my book review blog. Not a whole lot up yet, but I hope to fill it up pretty soon.

You might also want to check out Aicha's The Contemporary Reader.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tuko

A common house lizard I found at our store at closing time.

Jerry at Ateneo

Another Jerry pic in Ateneo.

An opinion on Gibo Teodoro

...found on the bulletin board of the faculty lounge of Ateneo de Davao.  The board isn't pro- any one candidate, okay?  There are opinions of every stripe.  It's just that this particular note was the most blunt and direct.

Portholes

Earlier this week I came across this strange cargo jeepney -- it had what looked like portholes on the side.  What purpose they served I don't know.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesPride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies may have made it to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list, which means that many people found it intriguing enough to buy it.   But I wonder how many people actually read it.

It's not that PPZ is a bad pastiche (as far as pastiches go); in fact, it's quite faithful to the plot and language of the original Pride and Prejudice.  And that, I think, is the root of the problem: it's too faithful.

If you found Pride and Prejudice tedious to read, then PPZ will be almost equally as tedious.  The swordfights, double-entendres and toilet humor come few and far between, as slow-moving as the pace of the original novel; they do little to relieve the defects of Austen's work.  (Yes, that was a pun).  

If, on the other hand,  you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, you'll find the intrusion of ninjas and the living dead rather distracting. Really, it's almost like reading Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of a bored freshman with a wandering mind flicking back to scenes from Kill Bill and Dawn of the Dead.

PPZ's merit, perhaps, is in its abridgment of the original work.  It's slimmer, but maintains the essence of the plot, the characters, and their relationships.  Furthermore, Seth Grahame-Smith is to be commended for his fidelity to the spirit of Austen's language.  I dare say it could even be used as a substitute for Pride and Prejudice  in the classroom, if it weren't so expensive.

What it all boils down to: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a novelty item, plain and simple. Buy it to show it off, but if the price tag turns you off, you're better reading the original and just letting your mind wander.



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Friday, April 16, 2010

Plagiarism

So this afternoon we had two presentors from Ateneo de Manila talk about research and scholarship programs.  They gave an overview of their current projects such as affective computing, business intellgence, health information systems, and...posets.

"What are posets?"

"Posets are partially-ordered sets."

"What are they good for?"

"Practical applications include gene similarity searching and plagiarism detection."

"Really, now? Plagiarism detection?"

"Yes."

A moment of uncomfortable silence followed, then snickers, then loud laughter.

Yeah, I know, I know: I'm bad.

(People named Manny seem to be making lots of trouble these days....)

Manny, Manny, Manny....

Manny Villar, thus far standoffish and media-shy, appeared in a one-on-one interview with Karen Davila this morning.  Is this break from his usual pattern a sign of desperation?  If he set out to clear the air and set any records straight, he achieved quite the opposite: this interview brought Villar even lower in my estimation.

I found Villar equivocal and inchoate, long on generalizations and promises, far too short on specifics, even lacking in charisma and political maturity.  The most incredible and self-serving claim: that he would give all his wealth to charity.  He may be sincere, but really no one has any way of knowing -- besides, in this season, can you really differentiate between "charity" and vote-buying?  In the end, he just comes across like a small-time candidate.

This early, Villar already shows a deep aversion to inquiry, uncomfortable with questions, evasive with answers.  These are not qualities desirable in a president: the president of a country is not just a manager but a public figure who must publicly confront difficult issues.  Villar's first instinct seems to be to turn his back and steamroll any opposition.

Given his personality, and all the billions he's already sunk into the campaign, how would Villar react if he fails to get the presidency?  I think that would be amusing.

So, please, don't vote for Villar: I want to see him lose for the lulz.

Top Ten New Wave Cities for 2010

Davao and Dumaguete have been listed in the Top Ten New Wave Cities for 2010, this according to an email from the Commission on Information and Communications Technology.  Davao is number one, Dumaguete is number ten.  While I was first gratified by the news, I'm mollified by the thought that this list covers, well, just about every metro city in the country.

Dear Top Ten Next Wave Cities,

Congratulations to the Top Ten NWCs for 2010! I've attached the Press Release that we gave out the Press earlier during the announcement ceremonies held earlier. Commissioner Mon will personally email you all to make it an official announcement from the CICT. Menawhile, we just wnated to share with you the good news so that you can catch the coverage of Channel 5 (in MM) of the announcement and perhaps see if the Cyber press have released any stories online. 

BTW, Metro Clark, you have been elevated to our "hall of fame" so to speak as a Center of Excellence in the likes of Metro Manila and Cebu. the announcement was formally made by both CICT and BPAP during the announcement.

So here it is our Top Ten NWCs for 2010:
 
(1) Davao
(2) Sta. Rosa
(3) Bacolod City
(4) Iloilo City
(5) Metro Cavite
(6) Lipa City
(7) Cagayan de Oro
(8) Malolos City
(9) Baguio City
(10) Dumaguete City

Again, congratulations all!!

Alma Mae A. Agne
Cyberservices Group
Office of the Commissioner

Death in the Andes

Death in the AndesDeath in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Death in the Andes mesmerizes in many different ways, and no wonder, because as a novel it gets all the elements right.   Everything just fits together: the setting, the characters, the plot, the language, the style.  Mario Vargas Llosa is a true master.

Because of the locale and the themes, first-time readers might be tempted to compare Death in the Andes with some of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's works.  Indeed, the parallels are there, but in Andes, the magic and mystery are firmly grounded in the real.  That makes it all the more horrifying.

Andes comprises of several interweaving plotlines.  Vargas Llosa shifts seamlessly from one to the other.  In the main plot, Corporal Lituma and his deputy Tomas, assigned to a highway construction project in the mountains, investigate the disappearance (and presumed murder) of three men.  At the same time, they live under constant threat of the Shining Path terrorists.  To ease the tension, Tomas relates to Lituma every night his love affair with Mercedes, a prostitute.

Of course, such a synopsis doesn't do justice to the novel.  It is simply too rich to be distilled.  I have purposely left out the main elements and several subplots so as not to detract from your enjoyment of the novel, should you decide to read it.

One necessary comment only: the style of Tomas' nightly narrations to Lituma of his adventures with Mercedes are a stroke of genius, weaving deftly from past to present without any obvious breaks of flashback.  Death in the Andes is worthwhile reading if only for this.



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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Whom the gods destroy...

...they first make mad, so the old saying goes.  I can't think of an aphorism more apt when I read the news about our Congressman and Speaker of the House Prospero "Boy" Nograles.

Oh, sure, I've always suspected him of some pathological disorder.  When someone has a mania for plastering his name and face on every street and building, something has got to be wrong in the noggin.  But matters seem to have come to a head in recent days.  Every day this week alone, Nograles has made the headlines, but for all the wrong reasons:

On Monday, Nograles announced he would leave the ruling party Lakas-Kampi-CMD of which he is a senior member, repeat, a senior member.

On Tuesday, presumably because his comrades prevailed on him, he said he would stay with the party after all.  However, he raises the caveat: Lakas presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro must "shape up."  Note: elections are less than a month away.

On Wednesday, Nograles berates Davao media men in front of their Manila colleagues, supposedly for "biased" reporting.

I wonder what news Nograles will bring tomorrow morning?

Despite the high position Nograles has attained, the past three days have shown his lack of loyalty, breeding, and class.  This is the man who wants to be the next mayor of Davao City?  Please! Spare me!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Before the Rally

The Aquino-Roxas tandem swung by Davao last April 9 for a campaign sortie. Mayor Duterte and some 10,000 supporters (as per estimates) rolled out the welcome mat.

I didn't attend the rally, but my mother and aunt did. The motorcade, they said, consisted of over a hundred cars (ours among them) and stretched for over a kilometer.

On my part, I was happy to take pictures of the preparations for the culminating activity along Ponciano.

The Goon

"I've been around a long time, since Marcos' time, actually," he said. "I help take care of the bad guys, if you know what I mean.  For peace and order, ba."

I nodded and smiled.  I wished he would just go away.

"Stick with me, chief," he said.  "No one will bother you as long as I'm around."

"Is that right?" I said. 

He chuckled.  The green tooter behind his fake moustache quivered in response.  For the first time, it seemed, he noticed the funny disguise he wore.  "Yeah, I just sell these on regular days, when I have nothing to do."

"Hey, friend," a young man called from out back.  "How much for the toy?" 

"P25 lang."  He scampered off to the prospective customer with his wares.  I sighed, relieved to be finally at peace.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ten Years of Metro Post

Last week I received a text message from Irma: "Inviting you for the tenth anniversary gathering of Metro Post this coming April 9.  I hope you can make it."  Being now stuck in Davao, I can't, but....

Has it been ten years already?  My jaw drops as I write this.  In today's parlance: O.M.G.  Ten years?

Credit Danah Fortunato for getting me started on this writing gig.  Back in 2000, I also had a weekly technology column for the online edition of Philippine Daily Inquirer.  Perhaps I should consider writing for a local paper, one "Dumaguete Metro Post?"  Oh, sure, why not?  I visited Irma in their office downtown, and dropped off a floppy disk (remember those?) with a few articles.  In keeping with my work then, I opted to write about technology issues, and thus "Rational Technology" came into being.

Campaign Season

Yet another reason why election season in the Philippines is so ugly.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

No water at the manor today...

...because some idiot thieves broke our water pipes to steal the water meters.  Can you believe it?  It's true, it's true!  Apparently, water meters, being cast iron, sell for P400 per kilo at junk shops.  We weren't the only victims, either: our neighbor also had theirs stolen, all three of them.  So all in all, the thieves must have made P3,200 (assuming 2 kg per meter) from their haul last night.

I don't know what the going rate for a brand new water meter is, but I can guess they'd be much more than the P800 that the thieves will sell it for.  Pathetic, really, how goons can take something of value and whittle it down to much less than what it's really worth.  All for what?  Food?  Alcohol?  Drugs?  Whoring?

Fortunately for us, the water district seems to have a protocol for incidents like this.  They instructed us to call 911, who would then send in the police to take the complaint.  Then they'd replace the water meters for free.  Isn't that nice?

Monday, April 05, 2010

I can reach my toes now...

...and it's thanks to the Wii-Fit program.  Two weeks of daily intensive use, at least 30 minutes per day, and I am starting to see results.

My favorite exercises so far:
  1. Single-Leg Extension + Standing Knee + Dance
  2. Rowing Squat + Chair
  3. Sideways Leg Lift + Half-Moon
  4. Lunge + Warrior
  5. Plank (deceptively tough, but I'm up to 60 seconds now) + Cobra
  6. Jackknife + Bridge + Spinal Twist
All told, that brings me up to half an hour per day.  So far, it's been a great motivator.

And yeah, I can do the Sun Salutation without bending my knees.  Whoopee!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Black Saturday at the Mall

Black Saturday at the Mall. The long lines are for "Clash of the Titans."

Visita Iglesia

Visita Iglesia is a Holy Week Filipino tradition. After Holy Thursday services, the Eucharist is laid in the Altar of Repose for a vigil till midnight. At this time, many Filipinos drop by the different churches, seven being the usual number.

Night market vendors

Hard at work on Holy Thursday evening. Shot along San Pedro Street, near the Cathedral.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Past Holy Week Posts

While sifting through past entries, I came upon these posts from the previous years.

Carpenter, wherein I look into the reasons why Jesus took His chosen profession.

Gethsemane, recounting the experience of a Holy Thursday vigil.

New Look

Around Holy Week this blog usually undergoes a transformation.  Blame it on the boredom, I guess.  Anyhow, I hope you like the new look.

As you can see, I've finally given up on crafting my own custom templates.  I've come to admit that I'm really no good as a graphic designer.  Instead, I've resorted to the Blogger Template Designer.  It really is quite nifty.  It's taken the headache out of many aspects of the design work.

Finally, I've decided to add links to my favorite posts from the past, now categorized according to points of interest.  Please do take a look, and feel free to suggest some more.