Just spent seven hours with Anj. We met up at Greenbelt for lunch, then I went with Anj to run an errand, then we spent about four hours shopping and window shopping (I did most of the shopping and Anj ever-so-patiently walked with me into every store and waited as I tried on probably four times more clothes than she did--thanks so much, Anj!!!!!! isa kang tunay na kaibigan!!!!) walking maybe the length of Makati as we did, finally ended up where we began, had a long dinner and slooooowly-sipped coffee over very good conversation about love, life, and dreams.
Ahhh ... good day. And if all that weren't enough, I actually managed to find a dress, a blazer-type thingy, and lingerie all on sale!!!
Thanks so much, Anj! Loveya girl!! Till next month!! :P
Before this birthday, the best gifts I had ever received were (1) my parents having me on my natal day, and (2) the bicycle I received for Christmas when I was 10.
This birthday, though, I received a gift that is right up there with those two .... One of the absolute best gifts that anyone could ever receive ....
Mike my love connived with my immediate family (in the U.S. and Hong Kong) to get me (for my birthday/anniversary/Christmas) ...
... an iBook!!!
Yes. I know. I couldn't believe it myself.
When I saw the box, I shrieked in shock. I couldn't believe it was the real thing so I even opened the box to be sure, half-expecting to see a smaller box within it containing the real gift.
It was really, really, really an iBook!!!
And I cried.
There's a longer story as to why the iBook means so much--no, it's not just a toy. I've been having a difficult time this past year working on my grad school papers. And the frustration that it has wrought has brought me to the point of tears on occasion.
And so Mike's spiel to me (before giving me the gift) went something like: "I wanted to give you a tangible sign of my and your other loved ones' support for you as you finish your master's degree, and something to make your work a little easier."
(And to think I asked for a Bun and Thigh Master. Hahahaha! :P )
It's sembreak, but not much of a "break" for me. This week alone will have me shuttling back and forth to a gazillion places.
Today, I have a lunch. I won't go into the details because it's supposed to be a secret (so I'll just update this entry later on).
This evening, M and I might have dinner with his best friend and his best friend's girlfriend.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, is my grandmother's second death anniversary and my aunt is hosting a dinner at her house. Novena at 6 p.m., then dinner and lots of kissing-uncles-and-aunts afterwards.
Thursday is my birthday. The only thing set in stone is dinner with my aunt and Mike. My best friend wants to meet up with me too, so she'll either be joining us for dinner, or we'll meet her for drinks or coffee (drinks more likely--heheh!) after dinner.
Somewhere amid all of that, I also am determined to meet up at least with Angie, who's in Manila for a week, and hopefully the rest of the gang as well. I'm guessing Friday?
I also have another pending invitation, dinner or coffee with an old friend of mine from college (who I rediscovered on, yes, you guessed it, Friendster). He was suggesting we meet up this week, but I already dropped hints that this week is a little full, so perhaps I'll just move that to next week.
This weekend is a long weekend, because it's one of the country's most important set of feasts: All Saints' Day on Saturday and All Souls' Day on Sunday, two feasts that this country takes very, very seriously. My own family has, in the past years, managed to avoid the crowd by altering the ritual a little bit, going to the cemetery on the 2nd rather than the 1st. So on November 2, I'll be spending most of the morning at the cemetery.
Now, note. All of the above are just social calls. While all of this is going on, I'm also supposed to working on my papers for my M.A., preparing to write a script that is due on Wednesday next week for a video project I'm helping out with, and making various preparations for second semester.
Argh. "Sembreak." It never is.
So the $56,000,000 question is: If I have so many tasks to accomplish, why am I spending my time blogging? Heheheh!
The Columbine massacre is, of course, a tragedy beyond words, and I imagine that the temptation for any writer of such a documentary would be to draw power from overt melodrama, usually the easy thing to do in any feature that deals with such tragedies. There is, in this movie, a tiny bit of that towards the end of the film, but for the most part, Michael Moore resists that lazy route, and instead pieces together an edgy and sarcastically funny commentary on the aspects of American history and culture that have created, in his view, a trigger-happy nation.
The best parts of the film are the ones where Moore manages to juggle subtlety and power. He is wryly humorous about the topic, without at all being tasteless. He is intelligent and forceful without being preachy. And underlying all of that is Moore's passionate anger about the subject that, the viewer must surmise, comes from a genuine--and therefore self-critical--love for his country.
As M said, don't look for journalistic objectivity, or even journalistic balance in this film. That isn't Moore's point. Take the statistics he gives, for example, with a grain of salt, but at the same time, don't let his detract from his thought-provoking insight into the American psyche.
This excerpt, on Xavier+, just made me go, "Oh, wow."
Christ is the first 'exegesis' of the Father; he is his 'Word,' the one who manifests him. All other words on God and Christ are based on that prime revelation of the Father. The Word - Verbum - was manifested historically in the flesh, and consequently in the assumption of human language. His words, those of the first witnesses and servants of the word, whom the Spirit moved to give authentic expression to the mystery of his appearance among men, will therefore always remain the fundamental norm for everything that will be said about Christ down to the end of time. The incarnation of the Word, his lowering of himself by assuming a temporal form in a certain historical period and within a certain culture, is a fact which has repercussions for all subsequent cultures, and obliges them to turn continually and loyally to that privileged moment and let it work in them as the indispensable formative principle....
-- Pope Paul VI, Address 25 September 1970, in L'Osservatore Romano, 8 October 1970, quoted here.
Just a brief note. Before Vatican II, so I am told, every Catholic Mass ended with "the Last Gospel," a reading of the Prologue to John's Gospel ("In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ....").
I never heard that Gospel passage read publicly growing up, because I was born after Vatican II, when they removed that part of the Mass. But that passage always, always fascinated me with its poetry and power (that and the first story in Genesis 1, a passage I still remember my mother reading to my brother and me before going to bed). I finally heard it read publicly was one year when, after many years of attending Christmas Eve Mass, my brother, his wife and I decided to attend Christmas morning Mass instead. The Gospel passage on Christmas morning? You guessed it. The Prologue to John. Fascination.
And then, when I took philosophy, I learned that the Greek "logos"--the metaphysical idea of order in Ancient Greek philosophy--was the word that the writer of the Prologue had used in this passage. In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos with God, and the Logos was God. The author of the Prologue was transforming an ancient Greek idea right there and then: The order that the ancient Greeks had been looking for? It has been revealed! In Christ! God is that order! Again, I was fascinated.
And now, this ....
(See Xavier+ for a longer quote, and from an equally amazing quote from St. John of the Cross' Ascent of Mount Carmel, also referring to John 1.)
Brownpau linked to thesetwo articles--written for evangelical Christians, I'm guessing--which I found very interesting. A great many evangelical Christians would not consider me one of their kind, because I am unabashedly Roman Catholic. Nevertheless, I found those two particular articles resonating very much with my own thoughts and feelings that sometimes arise when confronted with (sometimes harsh) criticisms about the traditions and "medieval-ness" of the Church to which I belong.
The multiplicity (I haven't thought, yet, of a better word) of the Christian Church has been on my mind these past several weeks, since hearing at Mass the Gospel passage of the last Sunday of September, Mk 9:38-48. In it, Mark, lover of that literary sandwich method, juxtaposes two seemingly paradoxical messages. On the one hand, Christ instructs openness to anyone who speaks in His name, "for anyone is not against is for us." But then, in almost the same breath, he issues the sternest of warnings against misleading the flock: ""Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." In strong, vivid language, Christ continues by instructing us to chop off the hand or pluck out the eye that causes us to sin: "Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." If, while reading that, we recall Paul's description of the Church as Christ's Body, Christ's message in Mark's gospel is a very sobering one.
I wonder what Christ thinks about the "multiplicity" of His Body, a body whose parts often fight among themselves. All I do know for certain is that we are all but ministers, not messiahs. The work of the Church is ultimately His work, and when the brokenness of His Body becomes too confusing for us to understand, what we can do is hope and trust in His ineffable grace.
Meanwhile, regardless of where on the Christian spectrum you belong, you might wish to allow yourself to be inspired, for a moment, by the life of one of Christ's most humble, most giving servants in our lifetime, Mother Teresa.
I always get a little pensive in the weeks before my birthday. These become my weeks of reckoning, of taking account of where I am going and who I am becoming.
October is my interior retreat of sorts. Even though, externally, I may be scurrying from task to task, INside, every October, I feel myself becoming more and more still, still enough to hear my inward longings, my inward noise and joys and sadness.
I think October re-centers me. And reminds me of the loving Hands in which I am cradled.
Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home—
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene—one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor pray'd that Thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on,
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.
A colleague sent the humanities faculty a link to this article entitled "Colleges' war against cheats goes high-tech."
According to the article, some U.S. universities are now using anti-plagiarism software programs. One of them, Turnitin.com, scans student papers to see if material has been copied from the Internet or from the tens of millions of other papers in its database. Roughly 1,500 U.S. universities now use Turnitin.com.
I hope that our university buys this software soon. Because of my strong feelings against plagiarism, I actually go out of my way to scour the Internet for possible plagiarism sources everytime I assign a paper, and I actually go to the library to look for books that may have been copied from everytime I receive a paper that appears too sophisticated to be an undergraduate level paper. Other colleagues just cannot afford (or cannot be bothered) to go through that kind of trouble, and resort to merely crossing their fingers that most of their students are honest enough to pass a paper they actually wrote themselves.
The article says: "Cheating is an age-old issue on college campuses, of course. But while educators have long lamented the decline of student ethics, they have historically done little to root out wrongdoing, thinking it's not worth the trouble or how they want to spend their time. Clearly, that's now changing. " In our own university, cheating in recent years has been elevated to the status of a major offense regardless of the requirement in which the cheating was done. (Under the old discipline code, cheating in a major requirement was considered a major offense, but cheating in a quiz or another minor requirement was considered a minor offense.) Nevertheless, I think that greater efforts need to be made to find ways of catching cheaters, rather than merely scaring potential offenders off with harsher punishments.
Turnitin.com comes with a hefty price tag, though. An individual faculty member may subscribe to the service for $100 for 100 papers. An institution-wide subscription is 60 cents per student (around $4800 or about P260,000 for an undergraduate population the size of our school's).
Meanwhile, some universities are accompanying their high-tech anti-cheating methods with some old-fashioned solutions. According to the article, some professors in Texas A&M University are adding an honor-code-type affirmation which the student has to sign at the top of their exam sheets: "I pledge my sacred honor that I neither received nor gave any assistance."
The other day, I was trying to remember the corporal works of mercy we learned in grade school catechism classes. I could only remember six of the seven, so I looked them up. Here they are, rephrased according to the way I learned them in school:
Feed the hungry.
Give drink to the thirsty.
Clothe the naked.
Shelter the homeless (traditionally, "harbour the harbourless").
Visit the sick.
Visit those in prison (the traditional wording is "ransom the captive" but I guess our catechism teachers didn't want us helping in any jailbreaks).
Bury the dead.
Anyway, I was just thinking ... wouldn't this world be a better place if everybody made it a point to do each of those at least once in their lives? Or even better, commit themselves to doing one of those for the rest of their lives?
Anj is a friend of mine who personifies the life of the corporal works of mercy. Her passionate commitment to social development has always inspired me, and it continues to refresh my faith in people and my hope for this country. This weekend, she will be leaving for Davao to work with an NGO there.
Anj, I will miss you terribly but I know that that is where your heart is and I know that you will be happy there. Much love, and Godspeed!
A related thought. You've probably heard about that Jewish idea that for a person to live a full life, he must do three things: plant a tree, raise a child, and write a book. I've always liked that thought too.
I came upon an old (2001) article on the Atlantic Online about the "millenial generation," a topic that I've been very interested in of late (partly because my job demands at least a minimal understanding of it).
The author of the article, David Brooks, visited Princeton to try to understand the psyche of the cream of America's youth crop. And what he found was a generation of happy, upbeat, prim, proper, very bright super-kids:
The world they live in seems fundamentally just. If you work hard, behave pleasantly, explore your interests, volunteer your time, obey the codes of political correctness, and take the right pills to balance your brain chemistry, you will be rewarded with a wonderful ascent in the social hierarchy. You will get into Princeton and have all sorts of genuinely interesting experiences open to you. You will make a lot of money—but more important, you will be able to improve yourself. You will be a good friend and parent. You will be caring and conscientious. You will learn to value the really important things in life. There is a fundamental order to the universe, and it works. If you play by its rules and defer to its requirements, you will lead a pretty fantastic life.
And of course, these are exactly the kind of kids that their parents raised them to be. So much so that Brooks labels them, "The Organization Kids":
Most of today's college students were born from 1979 to 1982. That means they were under ten years old when the Berlin Wall fell, and so have no real firsthand knowledge of global conflict or Cold War anxieties about nuclear war.... Moreover, they have never known anything but incredible prosperity: low unemployment and low inflation are the normal condition; crime rates are always falling; the stock market rises. If your experience consisted entirely of being privileged, pampered, and recurringly rewarded in the greatest period of wealth creation in human history, you'd be upbeat too. You'd defer to authority. You'd think that the universe is benign and human nature is fundamentally wonderful.
But the outlook of these young people can't be explained by economics and global events alone. It must also have something to do with the way they were raised. As the University of Michigan time-analysis data show, this is a group whose members have spent the bulk of their lives in structured, adult-organized activities. They are the most honed and supervised generation in human history. If they are group-oriented, deferential to authority, and achievement-obsessed, it is because we achievement-besotted adults have trained them to be. We have devoted our prodigious energies to imposing a sort of order and responsibility on our kids' lives that we never experienced ourselves. The kids have looked upon this order and have decided that it's good.
Brooks goes on to paint a picture of the typical life of an Organization Kid--from playing with brain-enhancement toys in his infancy, to a pumped up curriculum in school, to a slew of extra-curricular activities--all of which have created the cookie-cutter picture-perfect kids in America's elite universities today. But for all their intelligence and liveliness, there is one topic that, he senses, makes the best and the brightest of this generation a tad uneasy:
In talking to Princeton students about character, I noticed ... they're a little nervous about the subject. When I asked if Princeton builds character, they would inevitably mention the honor code against cheating, or policies to reduce drinking. When I asked about moral questions, they would often flee such talk and start discussing legislative questions. For example, at dinner one evening a young man proposed that if we could just purge the wrongs that people do to one another over the next few generations, the human race could live in perfect harmony ever after, without much need for government or laws or prisons. I asked the other eight or nine students at the table to reflect on this, but they quickly veered off toward how long it would take to bring about this perfect world....
Today's students are indeed interested in religion and good works. "In the past ten or twelve years students are no longer embarrassed about being interested in religion—or spirituality, as they call it," says Robert Wuthnow, the Princeton sociologist. "That's a huge change. People used to feel as if they had acne being raised in a religious home." I hadn't been on campus more than five minutes before I started hearing about all the students who do community service—tutoring at a charter school in Trenton, working at Habitat for Humanity-style building projects, serving food at soup kitchens. But religion tends to be more private than public with them, and the character of their faith tends to be unrelievedly upbeat. "It's an optimistic view," Wuthnow says. "You just never hear about sin and evil and judgment. It's about love and success and being happy."
And this lack of understanding of ideas like "character" and "virtue" appears to be the characteristic of the Organization Kid that disturbs Brooks the most.
One sometimes has the sense that all the frantic efforts to regulate safety, to encourage academic achievement, and to keep busy are ways to compensate for missing conceptions of character and virtue. Not having a vocabulary to discuss what is good and true, people can at least behave well. It's hard to know what eternal life means, but if you don't smoke you can have long life. It's hard to imagine what it would be like to be a saint, but it's easy to see what it is to be a success.
The compensation works, to an extent. These young people are wonderful to be around. If they are indeed running the country in a few decades, we'll be in fine shape. It will be a good country, though maybe not a great one. The Princeton of today is infinitely more pleasant than the old Princeton, infinitely more just, and certainly more intellectual and curious. But still there is a sense that something is missing. Somehow, in the world of moral combat that John Hibben described, the stakes were higher, the consequences of one's decisions were more serious, the goals were nobler. In this world hardworking students achieve self-control; in that one virtuous students achieved self-mastery.
I had lunch one day with Robert George, a professor in Princeton's politics department. Like a lot of elite colleges, Princeton has one or two faculty members who are known as the campus conservatives. They may be liked personally, and admired for their teaching and research skills, but they are regarded as a bit odd, and dismissible. I don't, however, see anything specifically conservative in the message George offered that day.... "We would do our best if we could make sure our students had a dose of the Augustinian sense that there is a tragic dimension to life," he said. "That there is a sense in which we live in a vale of tears. We could make them aware of the reality of sin, by which I mean chosen evil, which cannot be cured by therapy or by science. We don't do enough to call into question the therapeutic model of evil: 'He has a problem ... He's sick.'
"We could raise this awareness—through readings and discussions in history and philosophy and literature, by reading Plato's Gorgias, Othello, or a study of the Lincoln-Douglas debates—that the conquest of the self is part of what it means to lead a successful life. It's not enough to make a corporation succeed. It's not an external problem. It doesn't lend itself to a technical solution. Four hours spent studying in the library is not self-mastery."
Brooks' ideas are, of course, much more complex than I've presented here, so just read the rest of the article here. I'm not sure if I agree with all of his ideas, but the article does make interesting, thought-provoking reading.
I was looking at my slowly ballooning Friendster list, and I am suddenly wishing that I could sub-categorize them into "friends," "acquaintances" and "people I barely know." I've even thought of of a litmus test for each. First category: people I'd share a table with at a crowded restaurant. Second category: people I'd stop to say hi, how are you? to in the mall. Last category: people who don't know the name of at least--[a] one of my kabarkada's, [b] one of my brothers, [c] one of my drinking buddies or yosi-mates, or [d] my boyfriend.
It's apparent that there are some people out there who are just trying to hit the 300-friendster mark, and if that works for some people then good for them. But personally I think that at my age and stage in life, anonymity is more fun. (Okay, I admit, I was semi-guilty of friendster-collecting when I first logged on, adding everyone I shared a five-minute conversation with. Heheh!)
After Charles Schulz died in 2000, around a hundred comic artists in the U.S. chose one day to do a Peanuts tribute. Every single one of those comic strips paid homage in some way to either Charles Schulz, Snoopy, or the Peanuts characters.
As of two years ago, comics.com still had a complete collection of those comic strips. I know this for a fact because I remember browsing through them. But I was looking for the page, and it seems they've pulled it off the web. Now it seems that all they have now are a collection of about five or six of them here.
M and I attended two beautiful weddings this weekend.
M's friend Lora spent her first day as wife to Greg at two of the most gorgeous spots in Batangas: the Mass was in Calaruega, and the reception was at Punta Fuego. It was simple yet very elegant, and evidently prepared with a lot of love. (M has a few pictures here.)
My friend Jon married Tina right in the neighborhood he calls home: the Mass was in Sacred Heart, just minutes away from his parents' house, and the reception was in U.P.'s pretty, quaint international house, Bahay Kalinaw. Fr. Louie David gave a kick-ass homily, one of the best wedding homilies I've ever heard.
Well, the Ateneo team must've been really tired--this was their third game this week.
And, I honestly think FEU wanted it more. We wanted it, but I don't think we wanted it as much as they did. After all, this was going to be Koy Banal's first UAAP win (I think), and this was going to be the victory that would restore FEU to their glory days ....
Meanwhile ... the post-game interview that Koy Banal gave to the FEU courtside reporter was really touching. His voice cracked as he paid tribute to his kuya, Joel Banal, and said that although the win was sweet, it was painful to have to win it by beating his brother who had taught him so much about coaching (or something to that effect).
Update: It's Monday morning and Jude Turcuato is giving his post-championship analysis on PinoyExchange's basketball radio show In the Zone. Watch out for his annual post-UAAP season who's who list which will probably be in the Inquirer and will definitely be on PEx!
A friend of mine on Friendster (there's that word again--heheh!) posted an announcement about a forthcoming DWTL Grand Mass. Wow ... that brought back memories. I was really active with DWTL in high school and college--first at my old high school (where I had gone through my Days experience), then later, helping out at various DWTLs around the metropolis.
I left the, um, "Days Circuit" when I felt that I could no longer serve as well as I once did, and I went on to try other ministries instead.
But I'm glad to know that DWTL is still thriving and spreading to more communities around the country. :)
Today, by the way, was the feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. I think she interceded for me.
Had dinner with three of my best friends. Girl-talk, laughter, and updating one another on our lives ... for five whole hours (yung dalawa nga diyan, six and a half hours!). If we didn't have to sleep we'd probably still be babbling to one another right now.
All the way home, I was smiling to myself in the cab. :)
I'm not as much of a cinephile as some people I know, and I don't keep track of who's who in Hollywood, but for some reason, I thoroughly enjoyed this Salon article's comparison of today's Hollywood goddesses, with the female stars of the 80s.
The problem isn't only that today's silver screen starlets and grand dames are cookie-cutter, or that the endless parade of cuties who come and go is so boring. The problem is how average they are. They're pretty, in a Midwestern prom-queen kinda way, and they look fantastic on Maxim covers, but watching their mind-numbing performances is no better than flipping through a dog-eared copy of In Style magazine. Movie stars used to leave their corn-picking towns and go to the Big Apple, complete with a suitcase full of titillating emotional baggage, where they put names like Lee Strasberg on the back of their 8-by-10 glossies. Nowadays, girls go from student council meetings and most-popular yearbook photograph sittings straight to Hollywood casting couches....
Kids of the 1980s were the last to see the time when film actresses had as much character as the roles they played. Sure, there were as many helpless damsels, suppliant wives and dizzy sex symbols as there have always been. But the decade's most famous screen goddesses were natural-looking women with supernova personalities, or at the very least, a spark. Of course, some were glaringly beautiful -- Jessica Lange, Kathleen Turner -- but their good looks were shored up by their complexity.
Some of them weren't great beauties -- Sissy Spacek, Sally Field -- but their intense natures, and their talent, were necessary to an industry that told stories of genuine human struggle without the contrivances so rampant today. These women had skills and intelligence, and were backed by clever scripts and directors whose artistic vision wasn't blocked by a paycheck. Most important, they had sex appeal, an allure that didn't need an airbrush, dexterous camera angles, stripteases or cheesy, innuendo-ridden one-liners. Their sexuality was cerebral and physical, as mysterious as it was blatant. And even if their stories weren't about sexual love, they still had full erotic and intellectual lives, and so were like real women whose stories were fascinating to witness.
According to a BBC report, one-fifth of all Americans do NOT have health insurance. Half of all personal bankrupcies involve health care costs.
The United States, of course, still has one of the most developed health care systems in the world. (Just compare it to, say, the Philippines, where majority of the citizens don't even have access to BASIC health care.) But I was taken aback to find out that, given the exorbitant cost of hospitalization there, THAT many Americans didn't have health care plans.
After Iraq, he is no longer my favorite world leader, but despite everything, I still have enormous respect for Blair. His strength--that American politics and heck, Philippine politics as well, could learn from--is his earnestness and sincerity. He wins opinions not with rah-rah rhetoric or spun sentimentalisms, but with reason and the force of the argument. Not once have I seen him dodge an objection; he faces every single issue, and faces it squarely.
Tony Blair's speeches are one of the few things that maintain my hope in the vision of an international political life built upon reason and rationality (or, as a colleague of mine would say, multiple rationalities).
Now imagine how much better this world would be if the U.S. had a president like that ....