Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Uses of Faith

The uses of faith: it keeps us hopeful in the face of adversity. it quiets the restless mind enough so that when solutions to problems present themselves, they can be seen and acted on; it is one of the practices that keep individuals bound in solidarity. A dream inspires, but it is faith that keeps the inspiration going. It is through faith, work and perseverance that great things get done.

Faith is also divisive; when coupled with insecurity, dogma and much bullheadedness, faith blinds and stops the ears; I've not seen any amount of faith directly violate physics. It failed its acid test, for me, when it did not bring back the woman I loved.

There is still a place for faith. Humanity could not have done much anything without it. Humanity needs faith. But people can't be blamed overmuch if they set it aside for a more reliable method of epistemology.

Personally, I still have faith in humanity. I still believe that we can guide ourselves out of the morass of its myriad problems-- whether that happens because of a God's guidance, our innate nobility or sheer dumb luck, I care not. I believe we can, because I must. Mankind, for all its faults, is too precious to allow itself to lay down and die.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Great Book Blockade Finally Really Ends... can I finally get myself a copy of Margaret Weis's and Tracy Hickman's Amber and Blood?

Here's the Recap

Remember just why you suddenly couldn't find the books you were looking for at the local bookstore in '09? Or that if you did find them, they were suddenly so freakishly expensive? It turns out that  Customs was holding said books hostage.  The huge quantities of the book Twilight had apparently attracted the attention of Customs officials who, wanting to increase revenue to meet some sort of quota, slapped taxes on the books. The shipment's importer made the mistake of paying them, emboldening  Customs enough to hold and tax all the other books coming through our ports.

I'd expect everything coming into the country would be subject to some kind of tariff, but it turns out that this country is still bound by the Florence Agreement, which it signed in 1952. Then there was also the matter of Republic Act 8047. In a nutshell, the Agreement keeps signatory countries from taxing, among other things, books. This is something which the RA 8047 supports by creating a National Book Development Plan whose Board is empowered to:

"...(l) import books or raw materials used in book publishing which are exempt from all taxes, customs duties and other charges in behalf of persons and enterprises engaged in book publishing and its related activities duly registered with the Board;..."

Not surprisingly the Department of Finance tried to read the law differently so that they could get away with taxing imported books. To this day I have a bad taste in my mouth when I think of how they tried to make it look like only books for or about book publishing were tax-exempt.

Hopefully all that's in the past, now that outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed Executive Order 885. No books are going to be taxed. For this, at least, she has my eternal thanks.

notes: While the McSweeny Dispatch article I linked to in the body of this entry pretty much covers just what happened during the Great Book Blockade, Manuel L. Quezon III provides a more in-depth timeline and associated readings  here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

So people from the old places of work have approached me about teaching again, with one of them sweetening the pot with sums of cash that I'd previously never quite seen. Apparently I'm not the only one they've been trying to woo back into working for them. If a sampling of anecdotal evidence and shop talk (when the bosses aren't around) are to be believed, something is killing the local on-line Engrish ranguage tlaining industry.

Gee, I wonder what it is.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Slow Days

What do editors, pundits and comedy writers do on slow days?

I've found myself asking that question of late. Not that these days have been slow (i.e. nothing happening in them), mind you, and not that the world has run out of things pundits traditionally react to: politics, pop culture phenomena and problems. One asks this question because despite this, the slow day can conceivably still happen.

Maybe the writer's off his game on that particular day. Maybe he's blocked-- as I've been for the last three years (breakups will do that to you)-- and his output just isn't up to par. Maybe there really is nothing to react to, on that one particular day. Maybe the day is slow in that what our opinion-maker wants to write about isn't what his audience expects. Some writers write for markets who have expectations with regard to the topics he writes about, his tone and the style that said markets have grown comfortable with. Simply being conscious of this disconnect is enough to sometimes sap the will to finish anything.

So just what do these people do on "slow days?"

I guess this is why some shows rely on a roomful of writers who may have varying "peak" and "off-game" days, or why Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros writes about music or basketball or the joy of reading-- topics outside the realms of his usual political commentary.    

I used to be able to write about things other than Engrish, the nature of love or life in a Lovecraftian universe or my personal phenomenology of loneliness or the futility of art or writing as a tool for self-validation in a world of consumer economies. This was in '03 when I could write about anything. I need to get back there if I'm to continue writing. The days have been slow (in that I've been blocked, or nobody really likes my content) for three years.

It's high time to find out just what all those other writers, commentators and pundits are doing on slow days. High time for me to do it too.  

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Going, Going...

Honestly, I never thought I'd be writing here again: I didn't think I had it in me anymore. Then Jessie May's Plurk pointed me to Lourd de Veyra's piece on Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. I read it and the accruing comments, and lo and behold, I was writing a post mortem on the woman's presidency. I didn't quite know what I was doing: I was just responding to comments best summed up as "Stop hating Gloria. She got something done." I only realized that I was writing a blog-sized entry when I'd finished.

Who'd have thought I'd be inspired by a better paid writer in his late thirties? I owe that man a beer.

I don't doubt Arroyo got something done: her competence was never in question. I don't question Johnny "Rambo" Enrile's ability to lead, or for that matter, Manny Villar's. The reasons why I wouldn't vote for any of them have nothing to do with their qualifications... just their ethics.

The cancer that ate away at Arroyo's presidency comprised issues of legitimacy and trustworthiness (or her seeming lack thereof). She wanted the presidency so badly that she went back on her word and ran in '04 despite having publicly declared that she wouldn’t. Regardless of your motives, especially in the political climate of the time, doing that just doesn’t look good.

We could have lived with it, but she compounded this by cheating. There’s nothing else to call “Hello Garci.” We mostly went along with it, likely because--

1) some of us were just relieved FPJ didn’t get to become president (better the devil we know than the devil we don’t); and
2) some of us were so exhausted from the disappointment of EDSA II and EDSA III. “We’ve got a president,” we rationalized, “Why rock the boat now?”

The effect was that she wound up focusing more on her image and her rightfully outraged critics than on her job. Her husband aka “Dreamboat/Shipwreck” didn’t help (Jose Velarde, Meet Jose Pidal).

She probably meant well, and the decisions she made leading up to her “reelection” were probably calculated risks. The problem remained though, and would haunt her popularity ratings until her term ended. Could anyone have really fully trusted Gloria with 6 more years of collecting his taxes and affecting his life? Especially when she’s proven that she will cheat, lie, ramrod unsavory deals in the name of “It’s for your own good, Pilipinas?” –when even that is questionable?

I’m done getting mad at her: it won’t bring my tax money or my ex girlfriend back. I’m just cautiously relieved she’ll finally go. There's time enough to rip new holes in Noynoy if and when he begins to screw up.

This is lifted and modified from my response to comments in Lourd De Veyra's blog entry "We Will Miss You, O Great Leader."