Monthly Archives: March 2008

Flickr loves me

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BusinessMirror pictures

OR to be more precise, Flickr Pro loves me.
As it should.
I just spent money on the company which runs its website, an amount more than my monthly allotments for beer and books, items which happen to be my top priorities, next to rent, cat food, and pulutan.
In a fit of sentimentality and perhaps, inebriation, I took out my credit card and used it to pay for a one-year upgrade of my account at Flickr.com, the online photo storage and photo sharing website.
Besides entitling me to upload as many photos as I want—free users are limited to only 100 megabytes a month—the upgrade also allows premium members such as myself to put notes on my photos, enabling me to make fun of my friends’ pictures.
It was a privilege I immediately indulged.
After all, it may take awhile before I saw my friends again and crack jokes at their expense.
Just this Thursday, after working at a business newspaper for nearly two and a half years, I closed what would most likely be the last few pages in my career as a newspaperman. (Although archaic, the term, I think, best suits my job description because not only have I closed pages for various sections for the past two years, I have also written and edited newspaper stories, including but not limited to editorials.)
In any case, the decision to leave the paper I worked for was not easy.
Despite the unusual hours, the unimpressive salaries, and the undisguised public contempt for journalists, working for a newspaper had always been—and will always be—my dream job.
Although the profession, like all jobs, came with perfectly legitimate privileges, perhaps the best fringe benefit that I enjoyed for the past two years was meeting, hanging out, and eventually drinking with this fantastic group of people, all employees of BusinessMirror.
Every time I stayed longer than usual at the office, I would get invited to and participate in the many drinking sessions led by a number of people—not identified here for obvious reasons—who welcomed me as if I was their long-lost best friend.
Although I’m moving onto a new media job, I will definitely miss the people at BusinessMirror, both rank and file and managers who have made my stay at the paper more enjoyable than I thought it would be.
Which now brings me to why I paid an arm and a leg—and a few appendages—for my Flickr account upgrade: I just want my friends to access photos of our last times together, inside a mid-end Makati bar, enjoying another night out. I want them to remember the times when we went out, grabbed a beer or two or more, and simply relished the times when we were all together, under one newspaper called BusinessMirror.
Thank you, Rey and Rita Abarquez, Sean Basilio Castro (hope we’re not related), Nonie Reyes, Claudio Basibas, Eric Losloso, Jimbo Albano, Ruben Cruz Jr., Norberto Rea, Angel Fuellas, Roy Domingo, Diosa Panganiban, Mary Louise Francisco, Jesse Edep, Dominic Menor, Maui Daton, Renie Salvador, Dexter Tiratira, Ed and Maricel Davad. Thank you for allowing me to have a good time for the past two years. I am not good at goodbyes but hear this—I am going to miss all of you (or in other words inuman na).

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More pictures of my BusinessMirror despedida can be found here.

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Holy Christ (A Good Friday essay or words to that effect)

Pope

THIS blog entry intends to find out why the death of Jesus Christ falls on a day called Good Friday when it should be called—at the very least—Bad Friday or Frigging Friday, as the case may be, especially since it’s the D-Day of the Big JC.
So why call it Good Friday for Christ’s sake?
No one is even sure whether Christ died on a Friday. Why not rearrange the event and make his crucifixion fall on a Tuesday so that the faithful can then call it Tragic Tuesday? (Wednesday can also work. Woeful Wednesday. Thursday can too—Terrible Thursday).
That way, Christians the world over, acting on their personal convictions, would take it seriously and refuse, unlike Filipino Catholics, to go to Boracay during Holy Week.
But as things stand, the date of Christ’s death and resurrection remain sadly, incomprehensible.
Let’s say—for the sake of argument—that the Son of God died on a Friday and came back to life three days hence. Three days after Friday is Monday, not Sunday.
But if we go by what the Church says, the Savior of the World experienced the Lazarus effect on a Sunday. So what does that make him? A zombie?
Indeed, leave it to organized religion to confuse their followers, something which any kind of faith-based organization is good at.
Being very well-versed in damage control and public relations, every other religious sect established by Peter, Paul, and Mary—no offense to the musical trio and their followers—have committed countless sins against humanity. And they have gotten away with it.
After all, they can always say God, Allah, Jehovah, or The Guy Upstairs put them up to it.
If everything fails to proceed according to plan, “religious leaders” can always threaten excommunication, which can always work nine times out of ten.
It didn’t work with Galileo but hey, not everyone can risk saying unpopular things, especially with threats of fire and brimstone in the afterlife.
This explains why the Roman Catholic Church remains relatively blameless for undertaking the Crusades, killing millions of Moors and allowing Muslim martyrs to enjoy seventy-seven virgins without the burden of a full-time relationship, let alone the risk of venereal disease.
Same goes for the Islamic fundamentalists.
Their suicide bombing attacks have done wonders to strengthen security—aviation and otherwise—especially in rich countries.
If it weren’t for their jihad, the United States—the world’s most powerful country and the world’s largest economy—wouldn’t have created the Homeland Security Department.
Without that agency, fat, white, patriotic Americans would have been rendered unemployable, unable to afford life’s basic necessities (i.e., beer, junk food, and financially-desperate female companions from Third World Asian countries).
Which is why the global Christian congregation should set the record straight regarding Christ’s death. Only then can the world take the Lenten Season seriously. In the meantime, it really wouldn’t hurt to visit to Boracay during the Holy Week. That is, if you can stand the crowds.

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Photo above shows the Pope after Pope John Paul II, whatever his name is. The late Pope John Paul at least apologized for excommunicating Galileo. While I would have put Boracay babes in bikinis, it would have infringed on their respective rights to privacy. And I would rather incur the ire of the Pope than a Boracay babe.

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Good books and groceries

books

GOOD books and groceries—like beer and tequila, socialites and squakings—rarely go well together. (I should know—I’ve sworn off tequila more than ten years ago—after having barfed bits of my brain out on a Bacolod to Manila flight minutes prior to touchdown, thanks to copious Cuervo Gold shots chased by beer the night before. Meanwhile, to this day, I remain confused which social category best deserves my working-class rage: uppity Makati coño kids with trust funds or unsophisticated squakings in Quezon City who can’t even ride the train right. But enough of this self-indulgent commentary lest it deteriorate into pure drivel, if it hasn’t already).
As I was saying, good books and groceries don’t go well together.
No one visits a bookstore to get a discount on Kobe beef nor does anyone make a trip to the grocery to try and stumble upon Adrian Cristobal’s Occasional Prose, which remains sadly out of print.
But stranger things have happened.
For more than two years, my wife and I have frequented this grocery, the name and location of which will not be disclosed for reasons that will become self-evident later.
Just last year, the establishment suddenly decided to put up two stalls filed with used, cheap books, many of which I would have been proud to call my own.
Acting on this impulse, I have, in various trips to the said grocery store, I have amassed a number of excellent titles.
Take my recent trip last week.
While my wife was busy figuring out what needed to be restocked in our household—not exactly rocket science for a two-member, one feline family—I trooped to the used-book stands and immediately scanned titles for possible finds. It was, by far, the best decision I have ever made regarding anything faintly related to groceries.
Besides acquiring the 29th issue of Granta, a UK-based literary quarterly, I also got myself a copy of the Granta Book on the Family, a special anthology featuring memoirs of American short story writer Raymond Carver, among others. The last, but not the least, of my literary haul was Best Music Writing of 2004, published by Da Capo press, which I am reading right now.
All three books—expensive-looking trade paperback editions in good condition—set me back by approximately P300, far cheaper than the latest issue of Granta, occassionally sold at Fully Booked for P700 or so.
On another occasion, I have bought Sleeping with Extra Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety by Atlantic Monthly columnist Wendy Kaminer, Bad Elements by journalist Ian Buruma, The Tale of the Scale: An Odyssey of an Invention by Solly Angel, a housing expert.
Which now explains why I will not disclose the name and location of the said grocery store for fear that readers of this blog, however few, may stake out the establishment, hiking competition for good but cheap books.
But since I believe in a level playing field, I will nevertheless give one clue regarding the whereabouts of the said grocery: it’s in Metro Manila. Hardy har har. Why would I take the fun out of grocery shopping?

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From the Six Degrees of Separation Dept.
Raymond Carver’s best friend is Chuck Kinder. Besides being a writer himself, Kinder, who also teaches fiction at the University of Pittsburgh, is supposedly the basis of one of the characters in Michael Chabon’s novel, Wonder Boys, which was later turned into a movie. When we were in the US, my wife and I occasionally joined the movie nights that he hosted at his house. I remember seeing the original Carrie movie and Short Cuts, a movie on which a number of Carver’s short stories are based. Short Cuts features, among others, jazz singer Annie Ross who plays, not surprisingly, a jazz singer. Ross is famous for being one-third of what I believe is the greatest jazz vocalist group of the twentieth century, LHR, also known as Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross. LHR has influenced similar groups such as The Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices.
Picture shows covers of Wendy Kaminer’s Sleeping with Extra Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety and Best Music Writing 2004.

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Censored thoughts on the Makati prayer rally

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I WAS supposed to write something utterly serious and totally incendiary—a blog entry demanding that certain segments of the population, including the military, should already move to lessen—temporarily or otherwise—the Arroyo government’s hold on political power.
Except that I didn’t say it in those words.
And I am not about to clarify what I mean, citing various rights to protect myself, including my reputation as a person who, depending on circumstances, occasionally lacks the courage of his convictions.
According to a friend of mine—a left-leaning, human-rights lawyer-slash-advocate—had I expressed my anti-government sentiments clearly and publicly, the Arroyo regime may go through the trouble of filing criminal charges against me, especially with the renewed vigor of a Justice Secretary who got himself a new kidney.
But then again, I may be thinking too highly of myself.
After all, I can hardly be called a dissident.
I stop at red lights, I fall in line, and I shower twice a day, although I have occasionally forgotten to brush my teeth.
I am not about to disclose my true feelings about this whole state of affairs, at least not in this blog, which is still considered public, despite its few visitors.
So, instead of risking what may yet appear to be a serious lapse in my judgement, in so far as blogging is concerned, I decided to sublimate my so-called fiery passions and participate in last Friday’s Makati rally.
At the last moment, my wife later agreed to join me, since she considered it a good time as any to visit Makati, a city which she only gets to see less than six times a year, if at all (not necessarily a bad thing).
Suffice it to say that there are better ways of spending a Friday payday than attending a Makati prayer rally with a multitude of people.
Except that we both agreed to put up with the inconvenience and the extra expense of going to the Philippines’ premier financial hub, if only to show our solidarity with people who believe, as we do, that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should be removed from office.
During our short stay at the corner of Ayala and Paseo de Roxas, we even coughed up P100 for a whistle and a sticker calling for transparency and accountability in the whole fraud-tainted, overpriced national broadband agreement. Proceeds from the sticker sale would go to a sanctuary fund currently used for the day to day expenses of Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, a witness who claims that Comelec Commissioner Benjamin Abalos will earn some $130 million in return for services rendered.
We remain doubtful that our measly financial contribution and
our participation in the rally would, in any way, help convince Arroyo to step down.
But as Filipinos who intend to see a better country—a Philippines run by right-thinking, articulate, intelligent, professional men and women—we will continue to aid those struggling for good government, no matter how bleak nor desperate it has now become.

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Photo above shows my friends selling stickers and whistles for Lozada’s sanctuary fund during the Makati rally Friday.

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Felines and fungal infections

M on desk  M on desk 2

M by book stack  M by book stack 2

THERE are better ways of starting the New Year than getting a skin rash after giving your cat—who happens to be afflicted with ringworm—a much-needed medicated bath.
However, skin rashes and a host of other conditions, medical and otherwise, are simply the lot of humans who, for better or worse, choose to live their lives with felines.
Although cats may occasionally share what they have with their human companions (i. e. fungal skin infections), they are nevertheless one of the most well-behaved, low-maintenance animals ever to tolerate the existence of human beings.
Besides being capable of living on their own without any external assistance for a maximum of say, four days, indoor cats—if properly trained—can also take care of their own business with any available litterbox. (Just make sure that you leave enough food and water for the duration and that the litterbox is clean.)
But then again, I’m biased.
After all, my wife and I continue to share a two-room, two-bathroom Quezon City apartment with an indifferent, overfed, seven-year old, gray and white British shorthair cat.
As our sole domestic companion, Minggoy continues to enjoy privileges never before accorded to any of our friends, relatives, and house guests.
Since his needs, interests, and welfare are secondary to no one’s, not only is Minggoy allowed to lie down on my desk at any time—even if I am in the middle of a deadline—he is also permitted to visit any of our bathrooms, occupied or otherwise.
Despite these exclusive rights, Minggoy has been spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve all alone for the past five years.
Ever since we brought him home to Manila (in a previous life, he prowled the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Minggoy hasn’t exactly been welcome to stay at my in-law’s place, where we usually spend the holidays.
Self-serving as this may sound, his forced solitude during the season is for the benefit of both himself and his faithful companions.
If we insisted on bringing him with us during the holidays, my mother-in-law would have flown off the handle, especially since she has undergone serious allergic reactions to any and all forms of animal hair.
For his part, Minggoy would certainly have gone positively mental from the continuous physical harassment that can only come from our nephews and nieces, one of whom nearly suffocated him by pulling him by the neck and squeezing really hard.
Fed up with human expressions of fondness, Minggoy promptly hid under the bed, never leaving until he was absolutely sure that it was time to go home.
From that day onward, as soon as he was brought back to the apartment, he rarely ventured outside, preferring to curl up inside a square basin, take up generous space on the couch, or declare the bed his eminent domain.
Which to this day, makes us wonder where he got ringworm. Probably from me. But that’s another story.

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Written just days before Minggoy disappeared early this year, this blog entry was not posted until now, since my wife and I still suffer from pangs of guilt whenever we recount the episode of his temporary loss. Ever the spoiled cat, Minggoy came back two nights later and he was welcomed with love and affection, even though he had dirty paws.

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