Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Don't bother non-readers

FILM critics and viewers alike roundly bashed the movie version of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code—‘twas a big letdown, mostly for those who didn’t bother to soak themselves between the book’s pages as a lover buries himself between a beloved’s thighs.

It was a lousy movie, hyped up by incomprehensible calls to ban both movie and the book it was based from. Admittedly, the book version is largely uninspired and proffers nothing much than so-so turns of phrase. Our very own Greg Brillantes, Nick Joaquin, Wilfrido Nolledo, and Juan Gatbonton can ply out much polished prose.

Hear out Mark Twain whose novels were among those banned by censors of the Vatican for reasons laymen won’t understand: “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”

Adds another pundit: “Quick, read the book before filmmakers ruin it into a movie.”

We can let out a sigh. To the Journal Online editor’s hush-hush offer to provide net-surfing readers with an HTML version of the Dan Brown bestseller plus other worthwhile reads—and save some P500 in acquisition cost—only a fetching lady from Cebu responded. She was given a free copy via electronic mail. She was thankful for it:” I greatly appreciate the time and effort you took just to email me Tolkien's The Silmarillion. Also, thank you so much for leading me to that web site.”

Writers and their ilk are an endangered species in these parts, taking in gunfire from ambuscades or taking in the arrant apathy of most folks whose idea of reading is through text messages that can eat up a few thousand pesos monthly.

Rizal’s El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere won’t foment a revolt if our populace in the here and now were sent back in time to the 1890s.

Reports the New York Times: “From the days of Sumerian clay tablets till now, humans have ‘published’ at least 32 million books, 750 million articles and essays, 25 million songs, 500 million images, 500,000 movies, 3 million videos, TV shows and short films and 100 billion public Web pages.

“With tomorrow's technology, it will all fit onto your iPod. When that happens, the library of all libraries will ride in your purse or wallet — if it doesn't plug directly into your brain with thin white cords.”

That could be information overload, a lot of know-how and skills and secrets waiting for eager learners who’ll read ‘em. Savor that word “read” and go back.

“In the beginning was the Word…”

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Stomachs in rebellion

MORE and more Filipinos are joining the ranks of rebels—but they’re not exactly up in arms. It’s their stomachs that are causing too much furor and clamor, growling in emptiness.

As of March 2006, it was reported that an unprecedented 2.8 million families confessed that they’ve gone hungry with nothing to eat.

No, they’re not angry which rhymes with hungry. They’re just hungry. That’s no cause for alarm, pumped up apprehensions and the usual Palace spin about massive destabilization in the works that could topple the Palace resident and her minions. Rest assured that growling hunger pangs ought to topple those who can’t afford foodstuffs.

Unlike MalacaƱang denizens, the hungry hordes may not likely survive through 2010—make no mistake about that.

Three possible reasons for the incessant wreckage of Filipino digestive systems: (1) food production can’t keep pace with the growing population, (2) by the time farm-produced foodstuffs get to the consumer, the retail price is way beyond the consumer’s means, and (3) too little income or whatever income is devoured by inflation.

National Statistics Office figures in 2000 point out that each person needed at least P21 worth of food daily to survive—that sum fetches four packs of instant noodles which has become the pambansang pagkain ng Pilipino. Such less than filling ballast to hush hunger pains may give the hungry hordes some ideas— death row inmates are allotted P30 daily for their meals. Say, all it takes is commission of heinous crimes like plunder, kidnap for ransom, mass murder or such as a ticket to free secure accommodation and quite ample food.

As of March 2006, the peso purchasing power has shrunk to 73 centavos, each peso chewed up by 7.6 percent inflation. That means the real value of the P325 daily minimum wage in Metro Manila is only P233.48—workers lose over 28 percent of their earnings to inflation.

Reports plied by the Social Weather Stations claim the hunger trend has been rising since late 2003,after dipping to 5.1 percent in September that year, and has remained at double-digit levels since the second quarter of 2004.

That means the rebellion is fully under way.

No problem here. Those rebellious stomachs can howl all they want until they croak dead.

Orgasm Day today

ESPERANTINA, a town in Brazil’s conservative northeastern section celebrates today (May 9) as Orgasm Day—not exactly a toss-up between gray and groin matters.

Esperantina’s mayor endorsed the holiday which is aimed at improving relationships between married couples: “We’re celebrating orgasm in all its senses. There’s even a panel discussion on premature ejaculation. But from what I’ve seen, women have more trouble achieving orgasm than men, especially in marriage.

There won’t be much local people involved in the feast of the senses—the remote town 1,300 miles north of Rio de Janeiro has 38,000 people, most are poor. They’re known not exactly for achieving multiple orgasms—from the shallow clitoral climax to the more satisfying vaginal whoop-it-up-- or fits of priapism among menfolk. Esperantina throbs with religious zeal but the townsfolk have been unofficially celebrating Orgasm Day for years.

Across Brazil, Orgasm Day celebrations include panel discussions by sexologists plus a mounting of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.

Claims Esperantina Mayor Felipe Santolia: “I’ve seen scientific studies that show when a women is loved, when her husband can bring to orgasm, it affects all aspects of her life, her relationships with her children, at home, with the city and at work.”

Yes, copious amounts of endorphin—the so-called “happy hormone”-- released in the body systems during orgasm bring a sense of peace and well-being.

It’s unlikely that we can bring this enlightened holiday to this neck of the woods. We have hordes of religious zealots that delight in infecting people with a mistrust of their bodies’ natural urges. As we have written time and again: “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa lunggang pinanggalingan, tiyak na may sexual dysfunction.”

On the other hand, the advertising and entertainment industries are ramming down our throats absurd notions about the glamor of being in a constant state of titillation sans satisfaction.

Yes, orgasm is more than a physical sensation of release and freedom. It’s much more than physical union—the intercourse takes on a panoply of dimensions from the carnal to the spiritual.

Tongue-tied as we are with the import of this day, today we’re wishing couples a blissful and meaningful celebration of Orgasm Day.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Life sucks

PSYCHIATRISTS suggest that smoking is a childish habit.

To make a clean breast of it: a grown-up hasn’t eased off the warmth of bonding with mom as she allows the milk of human kindness to be suckled, providing nourishment and a steady rhythm of her heartbeat thrumming like a gentle lullaby that hushes her beloved child to sleep. Simply divine.

Maybe that can explain why the world’s top-selling brand of smokes is tipped with the color of a woman’s teats. That evokes the sheer sensuality of mom-and-child bonding. Hear out U2’s Bono: “Time won’t leave me as I am but time can’t take away the boy in this man!”

So easy a return to the carefree time of childhood via a smoke. That may explain why history professor Thomas W. Laqeur averred for an aversion: “Smoking is a ritual, and it has all the numinous force of a ritual.”

Local health authorities say that only 16 percent of Filipino mothers breast-feed their children for the first six months of their lives despite the numerous benefits from breastfeeding.

Studies show that breast-fed babies are more resistant to disease and infection than formula-fed children. Too, they are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15.

Too, recent studies have shown that children who were breast-fed are significantly less likely to become obese later in childhood. Formula feeding is linked to about a 20 to 30 percent greater likelihood that the child will become obese.

People who were breast-fed as infants have lower blood pressure on average than those who were formula-fed, it was added. Not surprising that other studies have shown that heart disease is less likely to develop in adults who were breast-fed in infancy.

Breast-feeding is a cheap mode of birth control. When a woman gives birth, nurses her baby, she protects herself from becoming pregnant again too soon—the mode is found to be 98 percent effective.

A total of 3,738 nursing mothers recently took part in a mass breast-feeding in Manila to make it to the record books, maybe wean mothers away from using formula feed.

As our old folks used to say: “Ang gatas ng tao para sa tao, gatas ng hayup para sa hayup.”

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Murderous to your health

LIKE a pack of our favorite menthol smokes—Philip Morris 100s-- the Filipino journalist’s profession comes now with a label. Government warning: Writing is murderous for your health.

Journalists can live with that advice. Or die, which isn’t exactly an acquired habit writers have to adapt to.

Ekeing a decent living as a writer isn’t easy hereabouts. Easier is dying with one’s boots on or preferably a hard-on. The daily grub and strain to churn out news isn’t exactly safe as one Voltaire would have it—“To write is to be at war.”

So our writers trudge through a battleground. Maybe a combat zone in the world’s deadliest patch of earth—next to war-torn Iraq—for pen slingers on a usual tour of duty. We’re here to break the news, bad or worse. And not unlike that runner in the first-ever marathon, we can fall dead peppered with bullets as we deliver.

Local writers celebrated World Press Freedom Day on May 3 with a grim punctuation: Nicolas Cervantes, 65 year-old doting lolo, insurance code author and business writer was felled by four hitmen as he was waiting for a cab outside his apartment in Mandaluyong. Deadball at 1:30 p.m. after moaning “Uuwi na ako… ‘yung apo ko.”

The slain journalist’s family are now deathly afraid it’s their turn in the line of fire.

Family members claim the killers may be after files of classified information that Cervantes had gathered on alleged anomalies involving Bureau of Internal Revenue personnel and tax evaders.

The killing could also have been touched off by the journalist’s claims of up to P100 million in “commission” or reward as BIR informer on big-time tax evaders.

So another writer bit the dust. Another blot of blood on this accursed battleground.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reports that since democracy was restored in the Philippines in 1986, at least 76 journalists have been murdered, including 39 during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's term, making her administration the deadliest for Filipino journalists.

"As if the toll in the lives of journalists has not been enough, the Arroyo administration has distinguished itself as the only one since the Marcos dictatorship to have attempted ... a wholesale clampdown on media," the NUJP lamented.

Indeed, to write is to be at war.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

La Mesa damned

IMAGINE 1,141 households of an average six family members each plunked upon a 58-hectare spread of land right inside the La Mesa Dam watershed area. There’ll be an initial 7,000 people generating trash and an array of refuse that may not exactly leach into the dam that supplies water for Metro Manila’s teeming population.

Give a decade or two and the initial numbers shall have trebled, quadrupled. Predictably, the once-unspoiled topography goes to seed—we’ve seen that deterioration happen again and again in low-cost housing projects and homesites for middle-class families. The tons of garbage, sewage, filth and all that trash generated by the community ought to be hitting less than tenable proportions. An erstwhile watershed area ought to be groaning if it only could.

Never mind the groans. Grin and bear it.

But Metro Manila won’t take offense at the contamination of its potable water source. Masasanay din tayo sa kababuyan, sa salaula.

Metro Manilans might cheer zillions of Escherichia coli-- the bacterium type that thrives in fecal matter-- swimming in every glass of tap water they’ll love to drink. A few zillion colonies of Clostridium botulinum – a spoiled type of microorganism that despoils food and is often used to decimate populations-- ought to add zap to the water supply. Did anyone mention Bacillus anthracis? Don’t breathe a word about this to anyone, huh?

C’mon. Metro Manila should get used to the pestilence generously wrought at the dam and piped into their homes, drop by lethal drop.

Why, we could use the La Mesa Dam as an outdoor type laboratory to do colossal experiments in microbiology, maybe some two-bit epidemiology with a view to cranking out effective biochemical weapons to thin out the ranks of the unemployed, the teeming riff-raff, and the excess populace.

With a lab like that, as the Beatles once howled: “You know we should be glad… Yeah, yeah, yeah!”

We ought to allow human nature to take its curse, ehek, we mean, of course.

What the hell do we care about the environment, hah!?!

Let’s break ground pronto at the La Mesa Damned.

Let the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride out.

We could use some pestilence. Honest.

How come this billionaire lives modestly?

ONE terse report datelined Beijing that saw print yesterday reads: “China’s richest man lives in a small apartment and shuns high life and expensive hobbies.”

That chap has reportedly amassed a fortune of about $2 billion.

That’s well over P100 billion equivalent in these parts. Having millions in the bank hereabouts is equated with (1) having a string of paramours and plush lovenests to exercise usual legal tenderness, (2) a fleet of flashy cars each worth a four- or five-year take-home pay of an average wage earner, (3) a retinue of uniformed maids at one’s beck and call, (4) memberships in exclusive clubs—usually golf, yacth, and night clubs, (5) yearly trips abroad, (6) extensive landholdings plus ritzy rest houses in Baguio, Tagaytay, Boracay or Davao, (7) a jeweltry collection worth millions, plus (8) a standing army of hired thugs as insurance against kidnap-for-ransom attempts or outright ambuscades.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it—that’s the mantra in this neck of the woods. Show money speaks too loud, gains respect hereabouts. Why, every mien in our money bills wear long, glum faces—each a sorry hero ruing how we put value over money. That speaks volumes about the Filipino’s cherished values in pesos and centavos.

We may be dead-wrong in judging character but that Chinese multi-billionaire must be a miser. How can he not wallow in the affluence he so deserves while a gentleman from our god-forsaken islands can muster the gall to whoop it up in a $20,000 a night hotel suite prior to watching a Manny Pacquiao fight?

Why, the report has it that Chinaman has raked up his billions since he arrived in Beijing 20 years ago as a dirt-broke 16-year old. But he was an enterprising young man, the report duly noted.

He took the same route every Chinaman does in Divisoria. He got his start peddling electronic appliances from a stall.

A senior analyst for a Beijing-based research group is stumped at the ways and wiles of such working rich folks: “We have so many mysterious rich people. Others admire their money but they question the morality of it.”

Adds he in chagrin: “You’ve got to be rich silently.”

How come that billionaire still follows the teaching of Kung Fu-tse, that 5th century Chinese thinker who advocated modesty as a virtue?