Monday, November 29, 2004

Invitation to a lecture
Shrinking the Government and Expanding the Economy

Mr. Bienvenido "Nonoy" Oplas, Jr.
Chairman, Minimal Government
December 3, 2004 (Friday), 3:30 PM
UP School of Economics Rm. 103
The sin of Corazon Aquino
The Manila Times reports that during the press conference of Happy Together, Kris Aquino rose to the defense of former President Corazon Aquino:

Other than being a Cojuangco, my mom really has nothing to do with Hacienda Luisita. She is not a member of the board and doesn’t occupy any position in the management of the agricultural estate. That’s why it is not right to say anything against her, in relation to whatever is going on there

Kris Aquino is not exactly being truthful here. One, her mom has something to do with Hacienda Luisita if only for the fact that the former president is a part-owner. (Six Cojuangco siblings equally own Hacienda Luisita, although the former President owns only now a half of one-sixth because of divestment during the martial-law years.) Two, President Aquino failed to deliver her 1986 campaign promise to make "Land-to-the-tiller...a reality, instead of an empty slogan." During her political campaign in the 1986 snap elections, President Aquino was also explicit that land reform would apply to her own family's Hacienda Luisita.

After the euphoric EDSA People Power of 1986, President Aquino had revolutionary powers. With one big stroke of her pen, she could have assumed the role Gen. McArthur played in Japan, the Kuomintang in Taiwan, and Mao Zedong in China: dissolve the landowning families once and for all. But what the former president did was to simply sit on her revolutionary powers. If not for the disastrous Mendiola Massacre, Corazon Aquino, perhaps in between recitations of the holy mysteries, would have conveniently forgotten the plight of the farmers in this country.

Before her revolutionary decree-making powers expired in 1987, Aquino proclaimed an agrarian reform program. But the important details of timing, priorities, and minimum legal holdings were left to be determined by the new Congress of landowners, who promptly circumvented the historical intent of land reform through the provision that allowed large landowners to transfer a portion of the respective corporation's total assets equivalent in value to that of its land assets, in lieu of the land being subdivided and distributed to tenants and farm laborers.

A land reform program without a division of the land is a joke. And Corazon Aquino was partially culpable for that joke.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Web prowl
The Economist makes its list of 2004's best books. From the Eurozine, a historian's perspective of the political crisis in ukraine.
Currently reading:

Love, Sex, and the Filipino Communist by Patricio N. Abinales

Friday, November 26, 2004

the first major concert of Noel Cabangon

The concert is inspired by his two latest albums which are pioneering works for him -- MEDJAS which is his first attempt at singing jazz songs, and NOEL which is Cabangon's first Christmas album. His concert lineup will include Tinamaan M (featured in his Medjas album), which won best jazz recording in the recent AWIT awards. The concert will feature guest artists Aiza Seguerra and Cooky Chua and will be held on Saturday, 27 November 2004, 7:30 pm, at Teatro Aguinaldo.

Make it a different and special Christmas season! Watch Medjas ni Noel and let your ears fill with Noel Cabangon's sockful of musical delights.

Tickets are priced at P150, P300, and P500, and may be bought at JesCom (Sonolux Building, Seminary Drive, Ateneo de Manila University campus, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City), the Tanging Yaman store in the Loyola House of Studies (Ateneo de Manila University campus, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City), and all Tanging Yaman/JesCom kiosks in SM Megamall (5th Level, Bridgeway), SM North Edsa (Lower Ground), Robinsons Manila (2nd Level) and Robinsons Galleria (2nd Level).

For inquiries, please call 426-5971/72 or email
Emily Dickinson:
This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me, --
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Historically deferred value
The London Review of Books has an excellent review essay on Trotsky, entitled Victory in Defeat:

An average British history graduate today will have been taught to evaluate revolutions on a simple humanitarian scale. Did they kill a lot of people? Then they were bad. Showing that some of those killed were even more bloodthirsty than their killers is no extenuation. Neither is the plea that violence and privation, the sacrifice of the present, may be the price of breaking through to a better future. George Kline dismissed this in The Trotsky Reappraisal (1992) as ‘the fallacy of historically deferred value . . . a moral monstrosity’. Monstrous or not, it’s a bargain with the future which, as anyone over 60 will remember, Europeans of all political outlooks were once accustomed to strike. But today ‘presentism’ rules, and the young read the ‘short 20th century’ as the final demonstration that evil means are never justified by high ends.

If pressed to take a side, I'd say evil means can sometimes be justified by high ends. But the question though is how far should we be willing to take the means of evil to get to a heavenly goal? How many corpses and atrocities before we say we have had enough and pack up our rifles? The Revolution will continue long after we have forgotten what it was all about in the first place.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Health nat sit
I'm currently attending a two-day conference on health issues convened by Akbayan and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Health issues are totally new to me so hearing NGO people talk about reproductive and sexual health, IPR regime with regard to medicines, treacherous pharmaceutical companies, community-based healh care was a heady experience.

If you think you are too perky or Panglossian for your own good, try attending this kind of meetings. In no time you'd be needing Prozac. Prof. Michael Tan, inter alia, discussed the National Demographic and Health Survey. I was particularly struck by the 25,000 Filipinos who needlessly die each year of tuberculosis, a preventable and supposedly manageable disease. Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan announced that the Generics Law is dead, that 9,000 doctors have become nurses, and that there are district hospitals in some areas where not a single doctor or nurse can be found. Atty. Susan Villanueva talked about how giant pharmaceutical companies and the US are conspiring to keep medicine prices in the Philippines higher than in all Southeast Asian countries.

It's depressing--hearing about all these problems and being powerless to do anything about it.
Gen. Carlos Garcia as a young man
No matter how hard I try to construct im ny mind its plausibility, I find it hard to imagine Second Lieutenant Rolly Joaquin, a PMA valedictorian no less, actually committing the stupid crime for which he will be facing court-martial soon. US authorities reported that Joaquin was caught by surveillance cameras removing a 50-cent discount tag from one CD and affixing it to another CD priced at $12, which he tried to buy. Exactly what was the CD he tried to buy? I wonder. Was it Usher, Beyonce, or Eminem?

I too have been tempted time and again to shoplift from the pricey classical section of Tower Records. But why shoplift when you can download? Joaquin may have never heard of online downloading, but as one music aficionado to another, I humbly offer him these links: Kazaa and Edonkey. Sir yes sir they're good.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Invitation to a forum on the challenges in the power industry
Confronting a Crisis: The Philippine Power Sector

The Philippine power industry is undergoing reforms triggered by the 2001 passage of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which sought to further enhance and promote industry competition. In spite of this, the country is faced with an impending power shortage by 2008 in Luzon and possibly earlier in Visayas and Mindanao.

In light of this scenario, the AIM Policy Center and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation are organizing the forum The State of the Philippine Power Industry: Challenges in Financing Privatization, to be held on November 30, 2004 from 8:30 am-12 noon at the AIM-World Bank’s Global Distance Learning Center located at the Asian Institute of Management, 123 Paseo de Roxas, Makati City.

The objectives of the forum are as follows:

1. To develop insights on effective power restructuring to install new generating capacity and efficient power privatization

2. To present the views of financial institutions on solutions to problems in financing privatization given the prevailing political and regulatory environment

3. To hear the reactions of government representatives on the solutions proposed by financial institutions

4. To get the insights of the international community (Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka) based on their countries’ experiences


Welcome Remarks
Dr. Roberto F. De Ocampo
President, Asian Institute of Management

Power Restructuring
Yongping Zhai
Senior Energy Specialist, Asian Development Bank

Solutions in Financing Privatization Problems
Richard Ondrik
Chief Country Officer, Asian Development Bank

Anil Kumar Yadav
Director-Project Export and Finance
HVB Corporates and Markets

Government Reactors
Hon. Vicente Perez, Jr.
Secretary, Department of Energy

Hon. Exequiel Javier
Senior Vice-Chairman, Committee on Energy
House of Representatives

Synthesis and Closing Remarks
Prof. Fernando Roxas
Asian Institute of Management

The conference is FREE OF CHARGE and seats are limited. For inquiries, please contact Mr. Jaime Singson at (632) 7501010 local 2018 or at
Cuentos Filipinos At Instituto Cervantes
The Department of Modern Languages' CUENTOS FILIPINOS by Jose Montero y Vidal will be presented at the Instituto Cervantes on Tuesday, 23 November 2004, 7pm, in its Salon de Actos.

Translated from the original Spanish by Renan Prado, Evelyn Soriano, Heide Aquino, and Shirley Torres and edited by Renan Prado and Lourdes Brillantes, these nine short stories by Jose Montero y Vidal portray the life and times in nineteenth-century Philippines. The colorful and graphic vignettes describing the customs and traditions of the country come alive as the characters weave in and out of a historically and culturally documented milieu. In this journey through time, the natural richness of the Philippines surfaces and the interior wealth of the mountains reveals an astounding diversity of ethnic groups.

This translation makes creative works in Spanish about the Philippines more accessible to everyone, lending greater knowledge and awareness of our past in order to make our understanding and appreciation of the present more profound.

The publication of CUENTOS FILIPINOS was made possible through assistance from the Office of the President and a grant from the Program for Cultural Cooperation between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of Spain and Universities in the Philippines and the Pacific Islands.

Instituto Cervantes de Manila: 2515 Leon Guinto cor Estrada Sts., Malate, Manila
Tel 526-1482 to 85;

Monday, November 22, 2004

Currently reading:

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Invitation to a lecture
On Wednesday, November 24, 2004, the Ateneo de Manila School of Humanities, Office of Research and Publications, and the University Press will present scholar and literary critic Father Miguel A. Bernad S.J., at a public lecture, "Dante's Cosmic Journey," 10 to 11.30 am, at the Audio-Visual Room of the Social Sciences Bldg., Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City.

Dante's DIVINE COMEDY is one of the world's great literary works. But it is more than that. It is a compendium of humanistic knowledge of the Middle Ages. Philosophy, Theology, Astronomy,History, Mythology, international politics and much else are all woven together into one great literary epic, and expressed in the beautiful but strictly controlled rhyme-scheme of the terza rima. This stupendous work requires several months of study, but Father Bernad will attempt to give a brief outline, indicating some of the paradoxes in the poem, and mentioning briefly some of the theological issues raised in it. This poem describes a fictional trip through hell, purgatory, and heaven, without losing constant touch with things on earth.

On this occasion as well, Father Bernad's latest books will be presented to the public: THE GOLDEN WORLD AND THE DARKNESS: Shakespeare Plays and Their Performance (DLSU Press); THE NATIVE SKY: Studies in the Life and Writings of Jose Rizal (ORP); and THE GREAT ISLAND: Studies in the Exploration and Evangelization of Mindanao (Ateneo Press).

Father Bernad has taught at the Ateneo de Manila University and at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City for more than fifty years. He is a member of the Philippine Academy of the Spanish Language, and of the Manila Critics Circle. He is founding editor of Kinaadman, Journal of the Southern Philippines, and writes a weekly column for Philippine Star.

The books will be available during the lecture-launch at special prices. (DLSU Press: 4003752; ORP: 4266001 ext 5180; Ateneo Press: 02-4265984)

Tel 63-2-4265984; 4266001 ext 4613

Friday, November 19, 2004

On the so-called agents provocateurs at the Hacienda Luisita
The Manila Times, attempting editorial objectiveness, evenly distributed the blame for the Hacieda Luisita imbroglio, but at the same time couldn't help but quip that "A greater part of the blame...must be borne by those who 'politicized' the strike and turned the sugar estate workers into pawns in a game of dubious aims."

The above is exactly what the management of the hacienda had been stressing in every interview it granted, that the workers in strike had been infiltrated, supported and egged on by outsiders. Is this true? Most probably, but I don't see how this changes things. Just like in any other strike that happens here in the country, a significant percentage of the crowd that we see are supporters of the workers, showing their solidarity. This is precisely what alliances among labor unions are for: to lend mutual succor in times of feudal/industrial distress. When Karl Marx enjoined workers to unite and dump their chains, he didn't mean them to break into diverse discussion groups and talk among themselves intrahacienda. So it is but natural for outsiders to be present in the wildcat strike. What the Aquinos call infiltration, others would term class solidarity.
Alexander Martin Remollino writes:
(Kay Kris Aquino, matapos niyang ipagmalaking ang kanyang mga alahas ay "katas ng Hacienda Luisita")

Gaano maaaring kumapal ang mukha ng tao?
Higit pa sa kapal ng etera
ng buong kalawakan.

Kaya naman nasisikmurang magyabang ng tao
kung kanyang naipambibili ng pinakamahal na mga alahas
ang dugong piniga mula sa nag-uusliang ugat
ng mga manggagawa't sakada sa tubuhan.

Ngunit hanggang saan makalilipad ang kapalaluan?
Hindi sapat ang kislap ng mga alahas
upang pawiin ang pagdidilim ng karangalan.

ngayon pa lamang ay nalulusaw na ang inyong pangalan
sa naglalagablab na panduduro ng kasaysayan
na magsasalaysay ng inyong kaimpaktuhan.
Invitation to a lecture
On November 23, National Artist for Literature and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, F. Sionil Jose will deliver a public lecture at the University of the Philippines on "The University and the Revolution" at the Faculty Conference (FC) Hall, U.P. Diliman at 1:30P.M.

The world renowned novelist was personally invited to speak at UP by outgoing U.P. President Nemenzo, a long-time friend and reader of JOSE. The lecture will be the latest in a series of recent visits to U.P. by cultural icons including ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, fimmaker Marilou Diaz-Abaya and National Artist for Dance Leonor Orosa Goquingco.

A distinguished panel of academics will repond to Jose's lecture composed of Professor Randy David, Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera and Dean Zosimo Lee.

The lecture is FREE and open to all.
Excellent free wares
Via Prem, I've learned that Gmail now has POP access, which means that through e-mail programs like Thunderbird or Outlook Express one can now download messages for offline viewing. I still have six Gmail invitations in my possession so if you want a Gmail account (it provides 1 GB of inbox) please post your e-mail in the comments section for me to send you an invitation. For those who are still using the Explorer browser, Firefox 1.0 (a much better browser) is now available.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Suckers for morsels of national pride
I never quite understood our national preoccupation with stacking up national pride points from relatively minor and personal achievements of our fellow citizens. Take the case of Faye, who allegedly won in a quiz in Australia despite receiving no support from the Philippines whatsoever. Extemporaneous speaker Patricia Evangelista, whose English was praised by the British stiff upper lips (and thereby confirming that we brown monkeys can also speak the Queen's language), brought Faye's case of lack of publicity to the fleeceable bourgeoisie of our sorry republic, who, it must be said, still yearn for the imprimatur of the superior WASPs more than half a century since national independence.

Yes, it's nice that some of our countrymen win in student competitions abroad from time to time, but they should not expect to end up front page everytime, that the whole country would go gaga over them--as in the case of Ms. Evangelista, who was asked everywhere she went to re-deliver her "extemporaneous" speech on cue like a pretty parrot. (The first time I heard Ms. Evangelista "extemporaneously" deliver her piece on tv about how she dreamed of blue eyes, the first thought I had in mind was how similar her opening lines were to the opening passages of Toni Morrison's Blue Eyes.)

I find these ephemeral celebrations of national pride obscene. Are we this devoid of sources of national pride that we must hitch our national wagon to every student star who has won an international prize, however minor or, in the case of Faye, illusory it may be?

Let's admit it: We are all like Faye's delusional mother. She wanted to get back at her husband so she invented the story of her daughter's achievement; we want to feel good about ourselves so we go ecstatic at the news of every international contest result. This episode should teach us all a lesson, to put things into proper perspective. All the student prizes in the world will not compel the world to treat us as equals when we have a president who kisses white ass.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Currently reading:

Raise the Red Lantern by Su Tong
From The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe:
O my friend! why is it that the torrent of genius so seldom bursts forth, so seldom rolls in full-flowing stream, overwhelming your astounded soul? Because, on either side of this stream, cold and respectable persons have taken up their abodes, and, forsooth, their summer-houses and tulip-beds would suffer from the torrent; wherefore they dig trenches, and raise embankments betimes, in order to avert the impending danger.

Napoleon Bonaparte must have loved this passage. The Sorrows of Young Werther is said to have been one of his favorite books (he carried the book in his pocket during his campaigns in Egypt and boasted of having read it seven times), and the passage surely has a Napoleonic ring to it.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Americans apologize to the world
Click here for heartwarming pics of Americans apologizing to the world for Bush's re-election.

Sorry about Bush
Prana Escalante, 21
Prana Escalante, a townmate of mine from Sorsogon, was found dead today. According to the Inquirer, she set off alone to climb Mt. Halcon in Mindoro Oriental at past midnight of Oct. 29. Her friends, who started climbing a day earlier, were waiting for her. The Inquirer reports that:

Members of a group belonging to the Pilipinas Sierra said they saw her resting at the second stream and subsequently tried to convince her to join them. But she refused and went on her way, saying that she knew the trail....

On Nov. 2, her friends came down from Halcon without her.

The GMA report showed one classmate, a certain Dennis Dy, telling the reporter that he was sure he and Prana would meet again in another lifetime. Her name, the report told us, means life-force in Hindi. And she probably was a life-force.

I didn't really know Prana, but somehow the image of her setting off to climb the mountain in the middle of the night to rendezvous with death (when she was expecting friends) has taken a grip on my mind. What is it that is so romantic about dying in a mountain trek? I am filled with such admiration for her indomitable spirit. What audacity! What youthfulness! To plunge into life and embrace all its dangers!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Currently reading:

My Invented Country by Isabel Allende
Call for student papers
The International Association of Political Science Students (IAPSS) is proud to announce that POLITIKON - The IAPSS Journal has reached its 9th issue. POLITIKON is an academic journal meant to offer a proper framework for students -under and postgraduate- who have a special interest in Political Science.

It is a unique opportunity for you to contribute to the political science community by having your paper reviewed and published in our journal!

Do you want your paper to be discovered by people from more than fifty countries?
Respond to our challenge: Is democracy working? You can follow these guidelines:

- Democracy - more than an electoral process
- The erosion of classic democracies
- Young democracies at work
- Democracy - a universal solution or not
- The democratic peace theory
- etc

The requirements for the papers are:

- English language
- A half page abstract
- A minimum of 15 pages and a maximum of 25 pages written in Times New Roman, size 12, 1.5 lines
- Bibliography (minimum 5 references, see the rules for references in the attached document)

The deadline for submitting the papers is the 20th of January 2005.

The articles should be sent at the following address:

For questions and suggestions, please feel free to write us at the e-mail address mentioned above.

International Association for Political Science Students
Kongresni trg 12
1000 Ljubljana - Slovenia
Tel +386 1 2443730
Fax +386 1 2443731

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Joke joke joke
The first time I heard about House Bill 2895 filed by Cavite Rep. Crispin Remulla, I thought the neophyte congressman was straining the legislative right to drollery.

The bill would require all private citizens to file a statement of assets, liabilities and net worth to check if they are paying the correct taxes. Under Remulla’s bill, every individual who earns an income of more than P200,000 and owns real and personal properties worth at least P500,000 shall file a statement with the Bureau of Internal Revenue at the end of every year.

My gulay, we can't even pin the tax cheats among our SAL-filing public officials! Now we want more SALs! Who will sift through all those documents? The PCIJ can only do so much.

The bill simply doesn't make sense, as the Manila Times points in its main editorial today. Before becoming an unwitting sponsor to another ludicrous piece of legislation, Rep. Remulla would probably do better to consult his brother Gilbert first. That's what ties that bind are for.
Web prowl
I know we have had an overdose of analysis of the US presidential elections, but Simon Schama is too good to pass up. Were the 2008 elections to be held today, who would be the front-runners? During the European Social Forum in London 2004, the Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B) - a pan-European network challenging the corporate driven agenda of global trade and investment liberalisation of Europe - launched its latest publication: From Cancun to Hong Kong: challenging corporate-led trade liberalisation (pdf). UCLA Prof. George Garrett explains in a Foreign Affairs essay how globalization is shortchanging middle-income countries. Papers for the workshop Political Theory and Cultural Pluralism: New Directions are availbale online. Newsweek interview Carlos Fuentes.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Musicians Unite for Freedom in Burma!
Twenty seven music stars including U2, R.E.M., Eric Clapton, Avril Lavigne, Peter Gabriel, Coldplay, and Pearl Jam have released "For the Lady," a brand-new double CD set dedicated to freeing the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi and the 50 million people of Burma.

"For The Lady" features unreleased material by R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Tom Morello's The Nightwatchman, Damien Rice, Lili Hadyn and Better Than Ezra.

The album also features a song in Burmese written by a jailed student democracy activist. Like the leaders of former communist states, Burma's military regime is fearful of the power of rock and roll, and singing a freedom song can result in a seven-year prison sentence.

Proceeds from the CD go to the U.S. Campaign for Burma.
Privatising the Welfarist State:
Neo-liberalism and the Health Care Sector


Dr. Chan Chee Khoon

12 November 2004, Wednesday, 4:00 p.m.
Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University
Social Development Complex, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

In its ceaseless search for opportunities for profitable deployment and redeployment, globally mobile capital has contributed to the undermining of the welfarist state through several modalities. In conjunction with neo-liberal trade policies, globally mobile capital has fostered a "race to the bottom" and has thereby reduced the fiscal capacity of states. At the same time, finance capital has exerted an overriding concern with inflation and balanced budgets in the countries where it circulates. Wary of activist Keynesianism, it imparts a deflationary bias to national economies, demanding fiscal discipline to reduce public spending and budget deficits through its threat of withdrawal and flight. One result has been the widening imbalance between accumulation and consumption, manifested as overcapacity and demand deficit.

Pressure has built up to extend the circuit of capital into new arenas for accumulation, encroaching into a hitherto non-commercial public sector domain, i.e. the privatization and dismembering the welfarist state, including health services. This presentation will describe and analyze the privatization (commodification) of Malaysian health care as an intersection of these broad global currents with local political and economic contingencies. It will attempt to draw generic lessons that may have relevance to the Philippines.

Dr. Chan is an Associate Professor of the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia. He is currently an Asian Public Intellectual Fellow and an affiliate of the Institute of Philippine Culture.

For confirmation of your attendance, please call tel. nos. 426-6067/68, or 426-6001 loc. 4651. Please look for Faith Arce or Cecille Bartolome.
Ukay-ukay culture
In a poignant commentary, The Philippine Graphic asks: Is the Philippines a tabula rasa or a palimpsest? What triggered the question was the writer’s observations that real estate bosses in the country, who are presumed to know the preferences of the Philippine rich and upper-middle-class, name and design properties in ritzy, foreign fashion: Westgrove Heights, White Plains, Bellagio, Eastwood, Canyon Woods, Greenbelt, Tuscany Apartments, etc.

I personally don't have a problem with this kind of borrowing from foreign sources, although I admit there's something seriously amiss when we name something Canyon Woods when there's neither canyon nor woods. This practice of borrowing mostly American references is troubling only when you begin to juxtapose it with the interminable queus in the US Embassy. And you reach this conclusion: The middle classes and the rich who for the meantime opt to stay in the Philippines are, however superficially, transforming the country into the foreign place they would have lived in had they left--like souls trapped in purgatory waiting for the beacon of the stars and stripes of heaven.

Setting aside the American neo-colonial aspect to it, the question remains: Are we so devoid of native culture that we must perforce borrow? I don't know.

I suspect we are being too hard on ourselves. In a globalized and Americanized world, it is inevitable that we adopt American characteristics. Culture, after all, follows the direction of power. Even the Americans, when they were not a major world power yet, were heavy cultural borrowers. Some would be inclined to think of the columns in the White House as Greek kitsch.

If we must perforce borrow, might as well be eclectic about it. Because if the Philippines is going to look, sound, and feel Stateside, then what is to stop Filipinos from getting a visa and leaving for the real McCoy?

Monday, November 08, 2004

Currently reading:

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Review (sort of): Tabloid Dreams by Robert Olen Butler
By the standard set by his previous short-stories collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Butler's Tabloid Dreams is so-so, but still arguably very good. Butler reconstructs the stories behind the tabloid headlines. The book is so readable (with a generous use of the comma splice) I finished it in no time.

There's the story about the nine-year-old boy assassin whose fingers barely reach the trigger of his gun, but was efficient in taking down targets for a hundred dollars. The boy got pissed off when his boss refused to give him ten thousand dollars to buy his mama new fancy clothes (he had enough of seeing her walking in her slip in their house.) In Woman Loses Cookie Bake-off, Sets Self on Fire, a wife whose husband has recently died joined a baking contest and, suddenly struck by the thought that all her life she was baking those fancy cookies her husband loved, decided in a moment of rebellion, to dump her Peanut Butter Bouquets and bake simple CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (in bold letters) instead. She lost the contest, needless to say, and while her best friend was being announced the winner, she set herself on fire. In Doomsday Meteor is Coming, a guy, convinced that a meteor is fast approaching to kill all life on earth, decided to yield to the request of his girlfriend to have their nipples pierced.

The best story, I think, was the last: the story of a proud suffragette in the Titanic who chose to die reading Edith Wharton in her room rather than save herself from the sinking ship, but one man asked him to board a boat ("I told him I did not know why I should live and he said 'Because I ask you to.'")and she did, and she hated the thought that she was saved because of her sex.


Sunday, November 07, 2004

Currently reading:

Tabloid Dreams by Robert Olen Butler Posted by Hello
History reads
Via Pupu Platter, here are links to books available online:

True Version of the Philippine Revolution
by Don Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy

The Philippine Islands, 1493-1803 (Volume 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8)
edited by Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson

The Philippines: Past and Present, Volume 1
by Dean C. Worcester
Name the prize
The FILM ACADEMY OF THE PHILIPPINES is out with a new contest - NAME THE STATUETTE - with total prizes of 20,000 pesos plus free pass to the Academy Awards night in March, 2005. Full mechanics can be seen in Submission of entries is via the website only so please visit and submit your entry.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The race in retrospect
From The Economist:

Flip-flop of the campaign
“I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”

John Kerry tries to explain the Senate voting system. March 16th

Bumper-sticker of the campaign (1)
John Kerry—bringing complete sentences back to the White House

Bumper-sticker of the campaign (2)
Bush-Cheney—Four More Wars

Endorsement of the campaign
“I wouldn't kick President Bush out of my bed, although I do think he needs some sassy highlights.”

Carson Kressley of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch”, CNBC, February 4th

Heart-throb of the campaign
“He walked right up to me and gave me a hug and I almost fainted. His skin was so soft. He smelled so good. His cologne lingers on my jacket. I am never washing it.”

Barbara Pratte of Nashua, New Hampshire, on John Edwards. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 27th

Bushism of the campaign
“Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practise their love with women all across this country.”

George Bush suggests something inappropriate while campaigning in Missouri. September 6th

And looking forward
“Absolutely. I think, you know, because why not?”

Arnold Schwarzenegger favours amending the constitution to allow foreign-born Americans to run for president. “60 Minutes”, CBS, October 31st
Web prowl
With Yasser Arafat teetering on the brink of death in France, it's time to read on the Future of Palestine on the latest Foreign Affairs. Harvard professor Cary Coglianese argues in The Internet and Citizen Participation in Rulemaking (pdf) that existing efforts to apply information technology to rulemaking will not noticeably affect citizen participation. The New Yorker profiles Amos Oz, who, at 24, declared himself a writer, triggering an intense discussion among the leders of his kibbutz: “Who is declare himself a writer? What if everyone calls himself an artist? Who will milk the cows and plow the land?” Also from the same magazine, a story on Nancy Drew, who turns 75 next year. The Washington Post reconsiders J.D. Salingers A Catcher in the Rye.

Friday, November 05, 2004

From The Analects of Confucius:
When a country is well governed, poverty and a mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is ill governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of.
Through a glass darkly
She was ransacking the lipstick rack, looking for a color darker than the one she was holding on her hand. Showing me a color which I imagined what chololate would look like if it were mixed with laterite, she asked, "Do you think this would look good on me?"

Flustered, I tried to summon an opinion, but couldn't really tell. Ever since my grade school teacher thought I was stupid for coloring a tree's bole green, the color wheel has been one big blur in my head. So I stalled, muttering an idiotical, "Ahh...." Observing how she pursed her lips, signalling she was again irritated by my lack of opinion, I tried to salvage the situation with St. Exupery (knowing she loved The Little Prince): "Besides what is significant is invisible to the eyes."

She curtly said thanks to the saleslady, who seemed to have been expecting a sell. Turning toward me as we headed to buy a horse shampoo, she said: "Didn't you know that in a world of such ugliness the only remaining true protest is to be beautiful?"

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Multilateralism by any other name...
Henry Kissinger, writing for Newsweek on the contours of the emerging post-Westphalia security environment, argues for multilateralism both in Iraq and North Korea, albeit in not so many words, which is understandable since multilateralism (or internationalization in Kissinger's more euphemistic terms) has been associated with both girlie men and cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Here's what he has to say:

Meaningful internationalization requires a focus other than security and the participation of countries other than—or in addition to—NATO. After the January elections, an international contact group, under U.N. auspices, to advise on Iraq's political evolution is therefore desirable. Logical members would be countries that have experience with militant Islam and much to lose by the radicalization of Iraq—countries such as India, Turkey, Russia, Algeria, in addition to the United States and Britain. This is not an abdication to consensus. The United States, by virtue of its military presence and financial role, would retain the leading position. The issue of military contribution by other nations, including NATO, can be raised again at a later stage in a more favorable political environment as a means to protect the governmental process.

Also in the same essay, Kissinger says that the rise of China as a potential superpower eclipsing the United States is an event of greater historical significance than the unification of Germany a century ago since it shifts the center of gravity of world affairs from the Atlantic to the Pacific:

To be sure, China is unlikely to rely on military power as its principal instrument to achieve international status. For one thing, China's leaders are (or at least have been) more careful, more deliberate, more prone to accumulate advantages by nuance than the impetuous German leaders after Bismarck's retirement. More importantly, with modern technology war between major powers is an absolutely last resort, not a political option. America should maintain its traditional opposition to hegemonial aspirations over Asia. But the long-term relationship with China should not be driven by expectations of a strategic showdown. China will not conduct as imprudent a policy as the Soviet Union, which threatened all its neighbors simultaneously and challenged the United States to a contest of survival. The special case of Taiwan aside, it will seek influence commensurate with its growth by diplomatic and political means.

How can we be sure that China will be, in diplomatese, a status quo power, as Kissinger believes it willl be? How will the Chinese play the diplomacy game in the future? Kissinger says the Chinese are neiji players, not chess players like the West:

Chess has only two outcomes: draw and checkmate. The objective of the game is absolute advantage—that is to say, its outcome is total victory or defeat—and the battle is conducted head-on, in the center of the board. The aim of go is relative advantage; the game is played all over the board, and the objective is to increase one's options and reduce those of the adversary. The goal is less victory than persistent strategic progress.

I myself wouldn't bet on this board analogy. The crouching tiger may want to play go today, but the leaping tiger may aspire to play chess tomorrow. You never know.
Disaster in America
What's there left to say about the great disappointment that's Bush's re-election (read Economist account)? That John Kerry wasn't macho enough ? That provincials always trump cosmopolitans ? That Americans in their resoluteness don't care about what the rest of the world think?

Bush won in the electoral college and took the popular vote as well by a margin of up to 3 million. As if this weren't enough, the leader of the Democrats in the US Senate, Sen. Tom Daschle, also had to lose to a Bush-backed and telegenic younger Republican. Aargh.

In a way, Bush's victory makes sense. In dangerous and insecure times, people don't like polite and intellectual leaders; they feel safer under the fold of a tough-talking simple-minded bully. Oh well, let's just console ourselves with the thought that even Richard Nixon enjoyed a landslide victory in a Vietnam War election. As some Democrats opine, this election was a good one to lose. With a declining US economy and continuing attrition in Iraq, Americans, it is claimed, would end up blaming the Republican Party big-time.

The Democrats must find 2008 presidentiables fast. As the American Prospect points out, it would also greatly help if the candidate can plausibly say Grace without feeling sanctimonious.

BTW, did you notice that while every other network with international pretensions was hyperventilating about the American elections, China's CCTV was imperturbably in regular programming, as if haughtily saying that whatever happens, the Middle Kingdom would remain the Middle Kingdom, undisturbed by the electoral happenings of a global power that has begun its terminal decline.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Saw Zhang Ziyi in The House of Flying Daggers today. The opening dance scene where she taps the drums using the long elegant sleeves of her brocade robe was consummate. And Takeshi Kaneshiro shooting arrows from across the wheatfield to save her was as awe-inspiring as that other gifted archer Legolas shinnying up a back leg of an oliphaunt. The laws of aerodynamics are freely dispensed with in The House of Fling Daggers: arrows and daggers (thanks to CGI) zip through the air like guided missiles. Also, the expression in Zhang Ziyi's weary face--the steely vulnerability of a blind warrior in constant mortal fear that in the midst of battle her hearing might fail her--is priceless.

(Nevertheless, I'm still partial to that scene in Hero where Jet Li and Maggie Cheung fend off volleys of arrows from the Emperor's army to save a calligraphy school. As the New Yorker review of the movie memorably put it: the pen may be mightier than the sword, but neither is mightier than billowing chiffon.)

Go watch The House of Flying Daggers. It is overly melodramatic at the end, yes; but in order to watch excellent ass-kicking wuxia action, who's not willing to put up with a little syrupy drivel? Not me for sure.
While I was busy buffing this blog with links to my must-reads, my pc conked out. I'll probably be unable to post regular entries for a few days.
November 1 musing
If I were to have my way, I'd be cremated, my ashes dispersed in the nondescript air, thereby freeing my descendants from the tedious, superficial displays of filial piety required on November 1.
Call for Submissions: RATTLE
RATTLE is currently looking for poetry submissions from Filipino writers for a tribute section in issue #24, due out December 2005. All writers of Philippine origin are welcome to submit, but we're especially interested in works by authors living outside the U.S., and translations from various Philippine languages.

Anyone interested, please send 3-5 poems – previously unpublished in any North America journal – along with your name, address, cover letter, and SASE to:


12411 Ventura Blvd

Studio City, CA 91604

Alternately, you may paste your submission into the body of an email (sorry, we're unable to accept attachments), and send it to

We also print 5 or 6 reviews of 250 words per issue, welcome at any time, but please make a note if you'd like it to appear in the Philippines tribute issue.

The deadline for this feature is July 15th, 2005, but we encourage you to submit sooner. You will receive two copies as payment. All rights revert back to the author upon publication, and we post the poems online in our back issues section, unless you request removal.

RATTLE is a semi-annual print journal based in Los Angeles, California, in its tenth year. The page count for each issue is in the range of 200, with a print run of 4000 copies per issue, and is distributed by Ingram, DeBore, and Armadillo. Ingram supplies Borders and Barnes & Noble, but all three supply independent
bookstores throughout the USA. Each issue contains essays, reviews, and two conversations with people who are leaving their mark in today's literature, along with the work of poets from all walks of life, and this diversity is what we feel makes us special. For more information, please visit us at

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at 818-505-6777 or email

We plan on making this a very special issue. I hope that you will want to be part of it.

Best wishes,
Timothy Green
Goodbye to FEER
First it was Asiaweek. Now the Far Eastern Economic Review has also announced it is discontinuing publication, but will be relaunched as a monthly commentary magazine on issues and ideas. What is to happen to Asia news junkies who don't subscribe to (and would not be bothered with) the Asian Wall Street Journal? There's the Asia Times to satiate the craving from time to time, but I will sorely miss seeing the magazine--and surreptitiously reading it--in the bookstore.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Currently reading:

The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass Posted by Hello