Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Vanity Fair- what's the problem?

I subscribed to Vanity Fair throught iTunes but still I couldn't sign in. For days, I've been trying to request for my subscription account number with which to access Vanity Fair online but to no avail. I wrote both Vanity Fair but I got no useful reply. Itunes has already acknowledged receipt of my payment and yet, I still couldn't access Vanity Fair. I'm giving them another week to act on my concern. If I couldn't yet access my subscription despite having paid, I will boycott Vanity Fair for the rest of my life.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

From globalization to something close to home

This blog is evolving. When I started blogging in 2005, it was to capture some of my thoughts regarding a journalism fellowship I was with. Was travelling with journalists from all over US and the Asia Pacific region to different cities (Hawaii, Shanghai, Beijing, Silicon Valley, to Bangalore and Chennai). Then the blog evolved into something that discussed globalization, politics and culture. Serious, boring stuff. In 2009, a new career track forced me to take a hiatus for four years.

Now, I thought I need to revive the blog. Some kind of a mental shadow boxing. This time around, it will a little bit more personal: reflections about life outside work, if there's any. Reading books, fiction and nonfiction, is a hobby so a friend suggested that I should regularly write book reviews. Good idea. So maybe I should focus not about the book itself, but about Filipino identity, or how we are portrayed in literature. Somehow, Filipino characters portrayed in these fictional works reveal just how other cultures perceive us, or even the way we perceive ourselves. Would that be fine? Would that be interesting?

Friday, May 17, 2013

A night in Shanghai

One night in Shanghai, we (journalist friends from India, US, Taiwan and the Philippines) stumbled upon a place called Xintiandi. There was a bar called Luna, where a rock band from Manila was playing. I scribbled these lines after that visit. That was probably five years ago?

In Shanghai’s nights
They found Xintiandi
Lurking in the shadows—
A walker in a dark alley?
Is she a Babylon
In the belly of the dragon
Or an oasis, in a desert
Worshipping mammon?
From the monsoon winds
We came through Luna’s lair
Where a priestess asserts her will
Through melodies from hell.
To the whining strings
She writhes and screams,
While the drunken throng cries
Like damned souls in flames.
To the thunder of the drums
They curse and dance;
Through the songs’ violence
Their purge their shame.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Vince Flynn needs to do some basic research on the Philippines

After the failure of US Navy Seals to rescue American hostages held by Abu Sayyaf, Mitch Rapp, CIA’s top counterterrorist agent-turned bureaucrat, has to come to the Philippines to do the job himself. He rooted out the traitors from within the US State Department and their accomplice in the Philippines, wiped out the band of kidnappers or terrorists, and foiled a larger global menace whose tentacles traces back to the corridors of money and power in the Middle East.

Classic Vince Flynn!

But my praises stop there. It’s obvious that Flynn has zero knowledge of Philippine geography.

Consider this: Abu Sayyaf snatched the hostages from Samar and brought them to their supposed lair in Dinagat Island. Seriously? Could you imagine the presence of Abu Sayyaf in Dinagat Island? Flyn’s Abu Sayyaf speaks “Filipino.” If he did simple research, he will know without much effort that Abu Sayyaf operates largely in Basilan and Sulu areas. They speak their own dialects (mostly Tausug or Yakan) and not Tagalog or Filipino.

They could never thrive in Dinagat due to ethnic, language or even religious differences, not to mention the constraints of physical terrain (unless you consider the island's natural bonsai forests as good shelter for guerillas). Dinagatnons are mostly Visayans (Surigaonons).
The supposed accomplice in the Philippines is named General “Moro.” Another character is named General “Rizal.” Both surnames are not used in the Philippines. Not anymore.

Of course, it's fiction. But fiction could use accurate background information to be credible.
Come on, Vince! You can do better than that.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Are combat sports (boxing and MMA) barbaric?

“Two people trying to beat the crap out of each other for a prize – isn’t that barbaric?”

Friends always ask these questions every time they learned I got a ticket for either a mixed martial arts (MMA) or boxing card.

If it’s true that our forefathers clubbed each other for pieces of meat or a handful of berries, prizefighting in today’s world may deserve that label.

In fairness to our cave-dwelling forefathers, they may have figured out early on that they can also get what they wanted, or at least some of it, by haggling and bargaining. Negotiations must have yielded results that were mutually beneficial. Out of this process evolved complex relationships of give-and-take that blossomed into what we now call “civilized behavior.” Nevertheless, one cannot deny that prizefighting could trace back to that early, nasty episode in human evolution.

Prizefighting actually thrives in advanced societies.

Greece had pankration (a combination of boxing and wrestling with few rules) in their Olympics and while Rome had gladiators. Where do we hold the biggest prizefights covered by media and beamed to millions of homes worldwide in modern times? America. Europe. Japan. These countries have advanced economies, produce cutting-edge technologies that are changing the world, and churn out culture (songs, media, dances, fashion, philosophy, etc.) that are constantly shaping the way we live. So it’s tempting to say that the huge and glamorous prize-fighting events in these societies, beamed to millions of homes worldwide through TV and the Internet, are probably socio-cultural indicators of "greatness."

I heard another “theory.” Maybe human nature hasn’t really changed since the days of the cave dwellers. We have all the accoutrements of modernity now (smart phones, internet, jets, better plumbing, glamorous clothes, table manners, air-conditioning, morning-after pill, etcetera) but we probably haven’t gone far beyond who we really are since humans first experienced the thrill of watching fights among fellow savages. (Watch those crime reports, read the newspapers today and you will realize that lots of places in the world remain in the Hobbesian state of nature “where life is nasty, brutish and short.”)
Over time, social expectations (mores, laws, regulations, treaties, agreements, ethics, religion, etc.) have tempered human impulses. Obeying these rules and expectations, usually buttressed by State violence (i.e. the courts, cops and the army), is part of the “social contract” to prevent humans from annihilating each other. This arrangement is getting more important by the day as the the effectiveness of the tools for killing and maiming (automatic rifles, machine guns, biological agents, nukes) is improving by the minute. But it seems like there’s this subconscious and persistent – nay primal – urge for either employing or watching violence. To use Sigmund Freud’s phraseology, is this primarily to “to work off the intolerable burdens of civilization”?

Hence, we have sports competitions which are essentially simulations of combat and from which audiences derive vicarious experience and pleasure. I suppose we have ‘action’ films for the same reason. (We no longer have gladiators around – passé – because we can now watch combat and bedlam either on LED TV or the movie screen).
And of course, there’s boxing and MMA.

Barbaric? Nah, just enjoy the show. Or switch the TV off.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Art and Science (or lack of it) of Parenting, haha!

It was Children’s Day at the Bank about two weeks ago and we were supposed to bring our kids to work for them to see what we do at the office. I was surprised to realize I no longer have a “kid” to bring. “Kids” is up to 14 and Ovid is already 19, going 20 in September. Besides, he was not eager to see where I work. He is busy.

Maybe it’s a typical attitude among parents to assume that kids stay as our “baby” forever. But each day we feel their efforts to assert themselves, to show us that they have started to live their own lives (except when they need money, haha!). I could sense Ovid doing that: he always has his own schedule, his own views about anything, his own perspective, his own preferences, his own things to do.We share the love for books and reading, for hanging out at bookstores, for discussions and debates, for chatting about everything.

We share the passion for history, especially military history. We spend time. We bond regularly. But in all of these, I could always feel his ways and views about things in the universe are getting away from my orbit, especially on things political. He seems to stand on the Right in contrast to my essentially centrist views. But I couldn’t really complain because he always has something from the mists of history to back his own conclusions. I mean, he knows the Greek and Roman civilization more than I do!

And boy does he hate boxing, mixed martial arts and contact sports—things that I really am crazy about!“But you always wanted me to be an independent person, to be my own man,” he stressed. “You always told me to think critically, to assess things and decide for myself. That’s what I’m doing and you should be happy about that.”

That’s so true. It’s not because I’m a liberal who wish my child to create his own destiny, to reach his potentials in his own way. Well, that too. But the other reason is that I got married so young and clueless how it is to be a parent the “right way.” So I didn’t really know how to “guide” Ovid except to tell him to consult with us all the time so we could figure out together the answers to life’s day-to-day questions. And it seems like the arrangement is working just fine. So far.

I mean, the boy is no rotten teenager. Like most teenagers, he is crazy about computer games, Japanese anime, and social networking. But overall, he is a nice fellow, sweet to his mom, unspoiled, sensitive, responsible, and sensible. No complaints really, except that he doesn’t have a girlfriend yet.“Well, if you have to wrestle with advanced calculus and physics, you may not want to complicate your life much further,” he said.

The boy has a point there, I must concede.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Brian Viloria's killer right from Hell (We have a new world boxing champion)

Brian Viloria has certainly found the fire back. He knocked Ulysses Solis in the 11th round. Those lunging overhand right after a stiff left jab was the killer. It was there all morning, complemented by a nice left uppercut.

Solis came well prepared, wit his stiff jabs, and a right uppercut counters as Viloria came that found their mark, most often below that belt. Solis also tried to end the brawl with body shots, in an effort to weaken and finish off Viloria especially in the 7th round.

But Brian’s right straight kept on landing on Solis chin, followed by an uppercut as Solis tries to clinch. Solis seems to have abandon defense, sensing he was the more powerful guy. It was only a matter of time before one of them falls.

By the 8th round, Solis was trying to press the action with body shots and right straights, while Viloria simply trying to counter with left cross and right straights, his bread and butter punch. Before the round ended, however, two left jabs hit, Solis mid-section, momentarily stunning him. Solis is weak at the midsection? Still it was a Solis round when he almost decked Brian down with a right to the head as the round came to an end.

By round nine, Brian’s straight right kept on connecting to Solis chin, followed by left cross to the head. Solis practically had no defense against it. One wonders why Solis was still standing. He tried to press the action but it was obvious he was on panic mode. He needed to score a KO before the other guy did. By round 10, Solis accelerated his aggression with most of his punches landing on the shoulders, sides, and gloves of Brian. He probably felt he needed a knock out to win.

By 11th round, Brian kept on throwing his right straights off a left jab and Solis caught them all on his chin. But Solis was the champion, a proud one, and the only thing he knew about winning was by coming forward. He lunged off a feint by Brian hoping to land his Sunday best, only to run smack into a killer right straight from Hell. He slumped like a sack of potatoes, his head hitting the canvas, staying there way beyond the count.

They don’t call Brian Villoria “Hawaiian Punch” for nothing.

We have a new boxing champion.