Friday, July 30, 2004


I caught Santana's Smooth on the radio tonight and was reminded once again just how beautiful the song's bridge is:

And if you say this life ain't good enough
I would give my world to lift you up
I could change my life to better suit your mood
Cause you're so smooth

Web prowl

If you are feeling especially religiouse these days, you might consider faking your own stigmata. Here is a profile of one suspected faker, where you may take some hints in your quest to imitate Christ. Sudan President Omar al-Bashir is interviewed by the UPI on the Darfur crisis and the civil war that triggered the exodus of people. The Manila Times writes on where Jose Rizal got his name. And from the New York Times, why revenge is still the best dish served cold.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Brods at war

Via the Expectorants, Sassy Lawyer blogs about her ugly close encounter with fraternity boys from UP, in which her car's fender was pulled out. Sometimes, I find myself wondering exactly what causes frat rumbles. There were times I could have asked, but I was simply too polite to raise the question myself. So here I am now wondering.

When you come to really think about it, those who engage in frat wars hardly know each other, except perhaps for the fact that this particular pimply guy belongs to a rival frat.

I think it is quite a pity to hate people at such an early age, when there are many things waiting to be done, people to get to know and interests to share. Besides, when you are young ( and with an inflated opinion of your own abilities), declaring war against a rival frat just seems too puny an enterprise to put your mind into when you can freely declare war against social injustice, oppression and the evil US Empire instead.

What could be the grave diffrences that trigger murderous enmity among frats? I can understand why the Palestinians would want to club, or blow away, every Israeli they see, but frat squabbles elude me. I guess those frat wars are nothing more than a deadly mix of testosterone and bourgeois boredom, a case of completely vaccinated young men from middle-class families longing for a more Hobbesian world of strife. My friend though had another take on this. He said that warring frat men probably were not breast-fed as babies. His opinion is highly doubtful, of course, because it was widely known among us that no frat wanted him as a brod.

Indonesia's demokrasi

From Malaysiakini, an interview in three parts ( Part 1, part 2, part 3 ) of Professor Dewi Fortuna of the Habibie Center on the subject of Indonesia's democratic transition.

Monday, July 26, 2004

How 9/11 happened

The full report of the American 9/11 Commission can be read here.

Julien Sorel in China

A young undergraduate stabbed his classmates to death in China, after a couple of them teased him about his being too poor to afford to go home during the spring break. Another one, Xue Ronghua, went on a killing rampage, mortally knifing two students inside an internet cafe, after the school forced him to leave in a campus dorm.

Xue apparently was teased by his classmates for being an unsophisticated provincial person. It didn't help that Xue was sensitive, "like a woman," it was said. Xue didn't confide to his parents, but he did cryptically write them in March: "Being poor is not something that one should be afraid of," Xue wrote, "but if one loses their will, then that should be something to fear."

Xue was probably scared that he was losing control of his will. It must have been disturbing, nay devastating, for a young man with hopes of social mobility, to watch his only possession trampled by kids who would never know, in their insular charmed lives courtesy of Deng Xiaoping , the feeling of having to sleep on an empty stomach. And so before his will deserts him, he decides to use it in one last display of self-assertion and individuality, by murdering those who caused his distress, much like what Julien Sorel did in Stendhal's The Red and the Black when he resolved to kill Mme de Renal while hearing mass.

We will never know for sure the reasons behind the crimes (The Beijing Review attempts a psychological profiling of the students ), but the recent incidents in the campuses have thrust to the fore the massive economic inequality in China ( gini-index score was 46 last year ) , Newsweek reports. There is a nagging suspicion among the Chinese public that the socioeconomic background of those students, their having come from poor families in China's countryside, had something major to do with their adjustment problems in the city's campuses. What makes the story of these students doubly sad is the fact that China is supposedly a socialist haven, a redoubt for the downtrodden and the oppressed. How could some of its students be tortured by their lowly social class?

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Hear yuppies come

Robert JA Basilio Jr. worries about the upscaling of UP's outlying areas in today's Manila Times, noting that "if such growth continues, the beloved, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, unpretentious neighborhoods around UP may finally become transmogrified into Quezon City’s version of Greenbelt."

Some time ago Psychicpants also expressed the same sentiments with regard to Virra Mall in Greenhills, which has undergone a facelift aimed at more accurately reflecting the status of its upmarket customers. Even Cubao, the seemingly impregnable redoubt of urban decrepitude, has joined the fray: COD kicked out, Araneta Coliseum rebuffed, Fiesta Carnival excised and a mall looking suspiciously like Glorietta now under construction.

Development is all well and good, sure, but why do we feel pangs of loss when the lift trucks come and begin the transformation from decrepitude to world-class? One, of course, is that not all can afford things world-class. When a place goes upscale, people who used to frequent it do not necessarily enjoy concomitant upward social mobility. They are, so to speak, left behind while yuppies--and Koreans, Basilio pointed out-- swarm all over the place. Also, after some time, one gets tired of the same American antiseptic architecture in malls, business centers etc. and begins longing for a more idyllic and simpler past. This feeling is probably akin to what the hobbits might have felt when Saruman employed all labor force to develop the Fanghorn forest.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Human development report

The United Nations Human Development Report for 2004, which focuses on the relationship between development and cultural diversity, is now available here. The Economist also has some comments on the report.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The virtue of vice

Manolo Quezon, some of us may have almost missed reading, wrote on wickedness and the attraction of immorality in his latest column in the Inquirer. Quezon writes a pseudo-paean to vice, in effect saying that in order to fully appreciate goodness, some wickedness must be present, if only to provide contrast.

It was Oscar Wilde who wrote (was it in Salome?) that morality is nothing more but the standard we apply for people we do not know. A character from Brecht's Good Person of Setzuan also lamented the loss of joie de vivre when she quipped: It was when I was bad that I felt so alive. Michael Jackson in his red leather jacket also let the whole world know in the 1980s that he was Bad.

Related reading on the same vein can be found in the latest issue of the New Humanist, Rob Colson's Why I strive for an amoral existence.

The right decision?

Just about everybody now is glad that Angelo de la Cruz has finally been freed. President Arroyo was ecstatic talking with De la Cruz on her mobile phone. The prevailing opinion seems to be that the caving in by the president to the demands of the kidnappers was the right and moral thing to do. The logic behind this position is often put this way: 1) The war in Iraq is wrong. 2) The kidnapping of De la Cruz was a consequence of our particiaption in the war. 3) Therefore, giving in to the demands of the terrorists was but setting things right because we should never have been in Iraq in the first place. Bishop Bacani, for example, says:

One had very good reasons to believe that President Arroyo supported the war because of her reelection bid. Whatever her reason then, her decision was wrong, and many of us told that to her loudly, though she did not heed it. Now, with the seizure of Angelo de la Cruz, she was confronted with one consequence of her wrong decision, and now she has undoubtedly found out that it is also to her political advantage to stop supporting the war with our troops no matter how small. It is still a good thing to make the right decision even if pressured to do so. It certainly is better than prolonging support for an unjust war.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it wrongfully supposes that our hasty withdrawal in Iraq, a record setter according to funny man Jay Leno, is a mea culpa for our complicity in the invasion of Iraq. It certainly is not; President Arroyo has no plans to issue an apology for supporting the invasion of Iraq last year. The withdrawal therefore basically amounts to this: We as a nation have no guts to commit our troops and follow through on the principles enunciated by our own president.

The premature pullout of our troops is symptomatic of our sorry character as an international player. We make international commitments and we don't honor them. We, for example, have a penchant for signing every human rights convention that goes our way and yet we do nothing to seriously enforce them. Our word to our international partners is as wobbly as a nipa hut in a storm. How can we expect other countries and people to hold us in high esteem?

Alex Magno is right:

We put individuals ahead of the nation. We put short-term comfort ahead of long-term considerations. We are constantly unable to subordinate the particular to the general, the peculiar to the universal. When the going gets tough, we are prone to seeking out quick fixes that bring momentary relief at the price of further complications down the road.

Felipe Miranda is also sorry about President Arroyo's "pragmatism" in this case, one that he says sacrificed the national interest and "historically...beggared the nation and pushed it ever deeper into debt."

So what should have been done?

Thw president should have withdrawn the troops and issued an apology for supporting the invasion. And what about our prior commitments? The president can then testily declare that it is the United States, after all, that has not been following its international commitments as it is actively flouting the Geneva Conventions both at Guantanamo Bay and in the Abu Ghraib prison (as Anthony Lewis succinctly points out here.)

Monday, July 19, 2004

Web prowl
Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man (who, incidentally, never wakes up in the morning without a single profound idea on his head), will not vote for Bush come November. For list buffs, the 40 most influential Australiams are listed here.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Web prowl
On the eve of a new film starring Gael Garcia Bernal, the The Observer asks whether Che Guevara was just another pretty face in the history of failed revolutions. Ever wondered why the queen and not the king is the most powerful piece in chess? Here is an speculation that the reason was probably the rise of Isabella I of Castile, who married Ferdinand , prince of Aragon, and ruled jointly with him.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Dante Ang dares BF to piss in public
Dante Ang, in today's Manila Times, bemoans MMDA's pink urinals. He writes:

I can’t imagine Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York or any city—modern or otherwise—in the world putting up pink urinals in their streets. MMDA officials may not realize it, but those “pinkies” are sources of embarrassment. They denigrate the Filipinos. At the very least, the pink urinals exhibit our damaged culture as a people.

Ang goes on to dare BF:

Now, if Fernando and the other MMDA officials disagree with me, they should demonstrate their belief in their projects by peeing in their pink urinals in full view of the public once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

And while they are doing that, I wonder how they will feel peeing in full view of the public. True, they will be relieved, but will peeing in public give them self-respect or pride? Watching them peeing in the pink urinals, how do you think the people will look at them? With respect? Or with contempt?

I understand many people hate those unsightly urinals. Rather than training the men to properly relieve themselves in appropriate places, the MMDA's pink urinals seem to encourage pissing in public. One friend testily declared: If women can get by without urinals why can men not?

All true, but I have alwasy believed that the pink urinals are a compromise and pragmatic solution, a case of a Third World solution to a Third World problem. Directives like Bawal ang umihe (sic) dito multa 5000 plastered on walls are, I think, more embarrassing and degrading than the pink urinals, especially because no one seems to heed the prohibition. Anybody who drinks the minimum number of 8 glasses of water a day are bound to experience a disturbance in the loins. Male pedestrians find the urinals useful, becuase, let's face it, there is no public restroom system in Metro Manila. If you want to pee, you have to pay (and that's if you're lucky enough to find a pay CR), or march to a Jollibee nearby, use the restroom, discreetly leave the fast food without ordering a value meal and risk the inquisitorial gaze of the security guard.

Without the pink urinals, people would be peeing on walls, lampposts, tree trunks.... And come the rainy season, the urea from the urine and God knows what else will get washed out by the floods. The urinals may be unsightly, but they serve a hygienic purpose. They are an unideal solution to the problem, but they are effective. The pink urinals should stay until we as a people become properly toilet trained, which is the responsibilty of our parents, not of BF.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Job opening

UBE Media is looking for Researchers/PA for a tv show that it will be producing. if interested. pls email me (theresevillanuevaATyahooDOTcom) your resumes's and sample scripts (that you've done), also UBE is looking for writers with atleast 2 years experience and possible talents :) for inquiries pls call UBE Media at 8891900.

Made in America by Sam Walton

I have taken to reading business books lately, and looking for inspiration, I read Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton's Made in America. I didn't expect to like it --I have heard how Sam Walton fed the ugly appetite of American consumerism and killed small-town merchants in the process-- but I did.

Sam Walton is considered by some to be the towering genius in twentieth-century business (along with Henry Ford). He started his retail business in a small town in Arkansas with a population of 7,000, parlayed his capital and ended up with the world's largest retail business. I've heard that in some parts of the US, Wal-Mart stores are like gasoline stations; they are present every few kilometers. Four Waltons are now in the Forbes's list of Top Ten richest people in the world.

So what was Walton's secret to success? He enumerates some advice in the book, but what what strikes me was his fanaticism. The man breathed retail. His life was consumed by it. In the summing up chapter off the book Walton says that "If I wanted to reach the goals I set for myself, I had to get at it and stay at it every day. I had to think about it all the time."

Walton also commented on his reputation for parsimony. He still flew coach even after he became a billionaire, and he said he never bought anything brand new when he was starting the business. When they purchased merchandise in distant cities, they cramped as many people as possible in a room. Later on when Wal-Mart became a billion-dollar business, Walton would berate some executives for their ostentatious lifestyles. For Walton, lower overhead costs simply mean lower price tags for Wal-Mart customers.

Walton also retold some funny episodes in his life, like when he was spying in a competitor's chain store in California. The store's personnel caught him with his tape recorder while he was recording the prices and confiscated the tape. The son of the president of that chain store however was too kind and a few days later the tape was returned to Walton intact, with all the price quotations.

The book is a good read and I recommend it for anyone with time to spare.