Friday, April 30, 2004

Friday and the Weeks that Were

It's a Friday night, folks. And I'm home, doing dishes and biting my nails wondering where Honey might have secreted herself. Yes folks, I've become a housewife. At least I have the time to write, even if it's without profit. So what were the events of note that transpired while my five or so readers were wondering about the date of my next post? In brief:

Belabor Day
Is it just me, or can tomorrow be lumped together with the other useless holidays? Y'know, like St. Valentine's, St. Patrick's, Thanksgiving... useless because the Philippine government does not celebrate them by sending people home to rest?

You can't call off work as it falls on a Saturday, already a holiday for most of us who have a 40-hour work week. You can't celebrate it because someone or other is invariably striking, or mounting some form of very public and very inconvenient protest. You can't even pontificate with respect to labor as an unrespected, though vital, social force-- because if you're anything like me, you've probably got overworked, undereducated and underpaid maids to pick up after you. Middle class Pharisee.

Take this bit of trivia with you as you attempt to enjoy Labor Day: it's the anniversary of (brrr...) "Edsa" III.

The Neverending Battle with Vermin

Ants
I've been fighting a running battle with Kervin's ancient enemies, the ants. Red ants and black ants-- No sooner do I turn my back than they pounce on whatever finds its way into the sink and the dining table. I retaliate with soap --Perla is cheap and effective-- soaking the bugs in quick, poisonous sudsy death, diluting the nasty chemical trail that keeps them on the march in my territory. 'Course, they always manage to burrow a new tunnel, strike out a new trail, find a new route to the food. They chew their way through tiles, sealant and plastic bags, to get to food hidden in sealed trash bins and packaging. I can't turn my back for a few minutes without them swarming over the food wrappers and other detritus. The poor lizard that fell into my flypaper was covered in a layer of red death almost as soon as he got stuck there.

I shake the nebulizer, I spray, I wipe. Their Queen remains a bottomless abyss out of which pour scouts and warriors unending. And so the battle continues...

Mice
It's a relief to know that I do not have to deal with the likes of Master Splinter, the cat-sized rat my granddad used to keep as a foul-smelling, sewer-surfing pet. Sadly, Splinter has cousins here, sneaking into the living area through so many crawlspaces, insinuating themselves into our lives and foodstores. Until now, I had little knowledge of how porous a human dwelling can be.

They mainly come here out of curiosity, and perhaps hunger: human dwellings mean abundant food. Another reason is the absence of a natural predator: I am no cat person and Honey knows the messiness of pet felines. Then, there's warmth, and an easeful resting place when the dimwitted, lumbering humans are away. Even if I devoted all my energies to ridding the place of crumbs and leavings, they'd still find their way here: lured, as in Hamlin, by the constant high-pitched hum of active solid-state electronics.

The young ones are caught by the flypaper and are quickly dispatched to the communal dump, lest the smell of their corpses begins to overwhelm. The older ones, who translate themselves from one apartment to the next, avoid the flypaper. They've been toughened, no doubt, by the sight of their comrades stuck in nasty human-made goo. These fall prey to special anticoagulant-laced bait (I have visions of Blade yelling "Die, vampire mouse!!!"), and die of internal hemhorraging far from here: but they leave enough green poop to fill dustpans-- and raise a biohazard alert.

And so the battle continues...

Neighbors

No matter what I do, I cannot, for the life of me, play The Sims on this machine without it seizing up and hanging on me. While I believe it may have something to do with the fact that the CD I have is most likely defective, I am also leaning on my pet Compaq laptop bug/Direct X 9b-incompatibility hypotheses.

A well-run home where everything works makes for a happy Sim. As in The Sims, so in real life. The guy living a floor below us is not a happy Sim. Sadly, he has little power to effect a change in his plumbing without getting help from the building engineer and help from us. The hypothesis is that there is a leak in the plumbing under our sink, which allows water to seep into our neigbor's ceiling. While I would highly recommend to the poor man to use liberal applications of Vulcaseal, he may not be partial to the aesthetics of sealant and duct tape.

The rub: our drain is behind six inches of concrete and cement. Assuming Engineer-san is correct, he'll have to hire some goons to knock out the wall under the sink so he can work his magic and make everybody happy. If he's wrong, Honey and I will have major league headaches regarding the disintegrated concrete and accumulated mouse poop this exercise will have stirred up and spewed into the apartment; our neighbor will still have his leaky ceiling; all this noise and expense would have been for jack sh!t.

Birthdays

My friend, er... Antoinne turned ___. He works at a call center, and is the epitome of "undertiming and overpaid." I'm genuinely happy for him.

Tobie marked his birthday recently. I am taking this opportunity to wish him greater creativity, more profitable networking and more time for what he loves.

Monday, April 19, 2004


What religion should you belong to?

Buddhism

Learn to be one with the world.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.


Friday, April 16, 2004

God Bless the Mini-Stop

I'm writing this as I breakfast (at 3pm) on fried chicken and rice at the newly opened Mini-Stop a short hop away from where I currently live. Marco's mentioned this chain of convenience stores, and its presence has also been acknowledged by my good friend Tobie. That I'm singing its praises probably speaks of how entrenched Mini-Stop (and convenience store culture) is in these parts.

I can recall many years ago, a time when 7-11 was only known in the 'States. Marcos was still king and Imelda was still hobnobbing with Brooke Shields, the Reagans, George Hamilton and Van Cliburn. We had supermarkets back then, notably Queens in Cubao and Cherry Foodarama, whose radio ads were given extensive airtime. But long before we had any of those, we were already ahead of the convenience game with the local sari-sari store. (By the by, I'm not talking about the clothes store. Sari-sari in the local lingo means "variety/varied": think of a primitive 7-11.)

The sari-sari store was, and still is, a fixture of local neighborhoods, villages and towns. It was a center for commerce, gossip, and er, social drinking: big, burly, intimidating tattooed slobs could be found trading stories of valor and sexual prowess, if not the merits of different philosophies and religious affiliations over beer or a warm bottle of marca demonyo. Occasionally, it was a venue for romance as well.

tin-da-han ni Aa-ling Ne-ena... /
...mura na at sari-sari pa ang itinitinda/
pero ang tanging nais ko ay/
'di nabibili ng pera


lyrics from "Tindahan ni Aling Nena" by the Eraserheads

The trouble with these places was that, at that time, they shut down hours before midnight, even over the objections of the aforementioned tattooed burly philosopher-drunks. 'Course, it was smack dab towards the end of Martial Law: you can't really object to even burlier men threatening to haul your bum to the hoosegow for vagrancy.

While I still frequent the local sari-sari store, for its charm and easy access to gossip, romance and overpriced goods, I'm glad for the 7-11's and the Mini-Stops that have graced my life. For an insomniac zombie like myself, they're a boon: a stopover from where you can purchase what you need and get back to whatever it was you were doing in the dead of the night or in the full light of day.

The Filipino and the Wasted Vote

I'd be lying if I said that nothing galls me more than the logic behind voting on the basis of "winability." If you are passionate, principled or at least opinionated, a lot of stuff will be high on the list of things that gall you. But regardless of how high it is on my list of annoyances, the logic does gall nevertheless.

Simply stated, it's this: "in the end, my vote cancels out your vote." A statistical truism regardless of why the voter cast his ballot, or whether he voted with his conscience. In this line of reasoning, it is not profitable to vote for someone who represents the actual interests of the people if the public mood, public perception and "the surveys" say he will trail far behind his nearest rival. Your vote will likely be part of a minority of dissenting voices and will "inevitably" be crushed; you will be left with the rotten feeling that you did not back a winner. (Do people who vote like this really expect largesse to trickle down to them from the great god Patronage?)

This smacks of an unhealthy cynicism, misplaced priorities, and of all things, collective laziness and a willingness to be led by "Wag the Dog" scenarios. It doesn't speak well of us as a nation.

I've always maintained that the democracy we live in can be described as "young" or "false" (take your pick); that the Filipino is still an agrarian and a feudal animal, always preoccupied with jockeying for social, sexual and physical power and backing the people who dangle those prospects in front of him, costs to society be damned. The logic of "the wasted vote" only reinforces that view. It bespeaks of a people who are preoccupied with power for its own sake, being more concerned with backing winners than with standing up for their convictions (we do make a big deal of our posturing as if we were ready to die for such big words as "freedom" or "democracy" and "human rights" every time we gather in large numbers along EDSA).

This is not behavior you'd expect from a people steeped in modern civics.

Right now, I'm prepared to respect someone who votes for Poe if he truly believes that Poe is The Solution to our country's woes-- though that's a little hard to do, as I just saw a recent picture of him and Loren Legarda arm in arm with Imelda, Bong Bong and Imee from an Ilocos sortie-- than a man who backs Poe just because he'll be backing a winner.

There was a time when I didn't get it, but I understand now. This is a truth that transcends "wasted vote" statistics: a man who votes because of his convictions in the face of overwhelming odds stacked against his candidate is a man who can act on those convictions, in large ways and small, whether his candidate wins or loses. If I must make concessions to statistics, it is in that we need more of these men, now more than ever.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

I am 47% evil.

Are you evil? find out at Hilowitz.com



It seems I could go either way. I have sinned quite a bit but I still have a bit of room for error. My life is a tug of war between good and evil.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Anthem
The year was '97.

Waiting for That Day
(George Michael)

So every day I see you in some other face
They crack a smile, talk a while, try to take your place
My memory serves me far too well


I just sit here on this mountain thinking to myself: You're a fool boy
Why don't you go down, find somebody, find somebody else

My memory serves me far too well

It's not as though we just broke up. It's not as though it was yesterday.
But something I just can't explain, something in me needs this pain.
I know I'll never see your face again


C'mon now; I've got to be strong now

Now everybody's talking about this new decade, like you say the magic numbers
then just say goodbye to the stupid mistakes you made.
Oh my memory serves me far too well

Don't you know that the years will come and go
Some of us will change our lives; some of us still have nothing to show
Nothing baby, but memories

And as for these wounds, they are self-inflicted. I don't really know how my poor heart could have protected me
But if I have to carry this pain, if you will not share the blame, I deserve to see your face again


C'mon now; You don't have to be so strong now

Come back. Come back to me darling
I will make it worth your while

Come back to your baby: I miss your kiss, I miss your smile.
Seems to me the peace I search to find ain't going to be mine until you say you will--
Don't you keep me waiting for that day
I know, I know, I know you hear these words that I say

You can't always get what you want


Rediscovering George
I've pulled another page from my blogging friends by placing song lyrics, which i particularly resonate to, in this entry. It's not a practice I'd want to encourage, as I've always believed that one should write his own songs, compose his own poetry, speak in his own voice. But sometimes the words escape you, or maybe your own voice hasn't grown enough in expressive power. Or maybe somebody just beat you to the punch, writing about this human thing he and you have in common: this dilemma, this problem, this joy: this Kirk missing warm toast in mornings of dappled sunlight and clean cotton sheets he's never really seen.

Rediscovering Writing
I look around at the blogs of my friends, associates and compatriots and guess what I find: a steady improvement in the way they write. Friends of mine who struggle with written English write as if they have to struggle less. Grammatical and spelling mistakes still abound in some, but that's easily overlooked by someone who finds greater clarity and sophistication in how my blogger friends express themselves. Here and there, I see a borrowed phrase, an appropriated word: a healthy plagiarism, the marks of a growing writer.

One cannot help but find something pleasant in all of this. Blogging may not make us rich, but our lives are all the better for it. Kudos to all of you!

Jesus to a Child
I haven't been. I've had the experience of having begging hands shoved into my face, through car windows, on the street, in public places. And I've been avoiding them the way I do on-site credit-card and insurance salesmen: like the plague. This isn't a good way to score brownie points with the Lord. After all, He did confess an abiding love for children.

I am aware that a mindless, knee-jerk charity is not going to help these kids get off the street and launch themselves (like the Star People they should be) into their individual futures as productive members of society. And obviously, I cannot overextend myself to the point that I'll wind up in the same hole they're in. But their need is so great that it breaks my heart not to give immediate, if only topical, relief.

How does one refuse without having to reject? I've had to ponder this question when faced with proposals of a sexual nature. It turns out I have to do this too when considering giving in to the demands of a street child. This is someone who forces you to confront his need, presents you with only himself. It doesn't matter that he makes a lousy effort at shining your rubber shoes, washing your windshield, singing loudly, badly into your ears for his supper: at this moment, you are confronted with the prospect of abandoning a child.

The mind throws up its near-instinctual barriers:

It's not my responsibility! --dumbass rationalization, as it is only true in limited respect. If you believe that "whasoever you do to the least of your brethren, you do it unto Me," then you are obligated to directly give aid, or call someone who can.

I already give to charity! --maybe, but this is often said with the intent of dismissing the problem before you. The problem with the greasy hands holding the greasy rags being swabbed across your now greasy rubber shoes.

This will take too much time! --true, and just as dumbass.

Are you prepared to commit to this child and the others you will want to save for the rest of your life, Dex? 'Cause that may be what it's going to take...

Obviously, I can't do this, can't even think this through thoroughly, alone.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Lenten Sacrifices

From where I sit, the home I share with my girlfriend looks like a sty. There're CDs on every surface I can comfortably lie on. Empty bottles of Gatorade challenge me from where they lie on the wooden table. Dirty clothes mock from every surface I can hang them from. Juggling a job and chores plus the things you want to do for your sanity is never healthy. The mess in the house is proof positive of it. I have developed a great distaste for letting trash and junk pile up for a week and then dealing with it on a day that God and the Law set aside for rest. It's ludicrous to expect me to get up well before eight a.m., work for twelve or so hours, return home for sleep only, wake up after a coupla hours and come back to the salt mines with the levels of zip and gung ho appropriate for the newly born again.

If I had wanted this life I would have signed up for the clergy. At the very least, I know I'd be contributing something to the priesthood, even if it's just fuel to the debate reagarding the nature of spirituality and our place in the cosmos.

I swear, the late twentieth century model of work is the new celibacy, the new priesthood. Sadly, I find that the worship involved is displaced. I signed up to earn a little more but not at the expense of my ricketty self. I did not sign up to solely please the great god Sales. Call me selfish, call me childish, but I see no reason why I have to subject myself to this kind of torture because everybody else thinks he "has to."

That said, I could do well to rearrange my schedule and cut out some of the things I do to keep me sane, like make out with my girlfriend or watch Babylon 5 or write my blog. After all, I really don't have to hyperstimulate my brain --with a chain of repetitive activities that absolutely have to be done, an overdose of Lipovitan plus random sources of carbohydrates and constant sensory input-- to keep myself ready to get up by 4:00 am. This is, after all, a matter of setting priorities. Asking: "What's important to you, Dex?"

Three things will happen.

1. I will master this job.
2. This job will master me.
3. I will seek another, less stressful form of gainful employment.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Words for the Week

cop out (v.)
1. to choose not to do something, as out of fear of failing

exigency (n. -often used in the plural.)
1. the state or quality of requiring much effort or immediate action;
2. a pressing or urgent situation;
3. urgent requirements; pressing needs.


Copout

This is my last excuse regarding the much-delayed third part of my Words for the Week Special on English. The exigencies of my self-guided study of English and the nature of my Eternal Jobhunt have put English in the backburner, and rightly so: Dex cannot blog if he has no money.

The second part of English was sloppily done. There was so much more to say about the evolution of the language but the search for a "stable job" --in the days of PHILPOST and PAGCOR-- hamstrung my research and my writing. I wound up typing with semi-arthritic fingers (okay, they felt semi-arthritic at the time) from midnight to five in the morning. While I can say that the written piece is good enough for a personal blog, I can't say for certain it would have impressed any of my more trying teachers. I am not going to put out sloppily done stuff like that again. And so, the longer wait.

Well, now I finally have the time to get down and finish this. I want to be able to put in another installment of Words for the Week without feeling guilty. Check back with me after five or so posts...