Archive for July, 2009


Duplicity Part Four: Shades of Gray

I like the color gray. Partly black, partly white. In between. No, not in between white and black, but somewhere in the middle of an ocean of seamless shades of gray.

Ah, shades of gray. I have said before that some people never seem to agree with one another because of how they view life, among other things: for some, it is like a painter’s pallet with seamless shades of gray; for others it’s like a chessboard, black and white – and perhaps for a certain few, not only black and white but identically-sized rows and columns of black and white squares, alternating across and lengthwise and lined up side-by-side diagonally with only their pointed tips touching, forming a bigger square made of exactly 64 smaller squares. Wow, such order and symmetry.

A blot on a painter’s pallet, on the other hand, has no definite size, shape or color, and if you place two different shades of gray side by side, they tend to blend at the edges, melting away their boundaries and bleeding into one another so you don’t really know where one shade ends and another begins. And then you add some more shades of gray with varying levels of darkness and brightness, and I guess that’s more like it. Life, I mean. It’s definitely more like a pallet than a chessboard.

I remember another analogy on how differently people view and act toward life: for some, they are on a speedboat, going where their wills take them and going there on a straight line – or at least being able to turn exactly where they wish to turn; for others, they are on a sailboat, eventually arriving at their destination but constantly adjusting their sails to the wind, and oftentimes one has to sail on a zigzag route because that is the only way to keep moving forward when going against the wind.

Ah, the wind. Often used as a figure of speech for the certain things in life beyond our control. And many songs have been written about it. Dust In The Wind. Blowin’ In The Wind. Candle In The Wind. Winds Of Change. Some people are lucky to be on speedboats, almost in total control of their lives, going head-on with the wind and cutting through the waves with ease. But I guess sooner or later it gets boring, without a sense of randomness and surprise. And pretty soon one would long to be on a sailboat, where challenges inspire planning and creativity, and the resulting product of hard work and imagination brings about deep satisfaction.

Besides, it would be easier to paint while sitting on a sailboat than while cruising at 50 knots on a speedboat. Or to play chess. On a light, steady wind, that is.


Indian Part Two: Hypocrisy?

In my article Indian, I talked about some of man’s cruelty to animals that perhaps most of us are not even aware of. One of the examples I used was the farmed chicken (another was about the tethering or chaining of dogs):

The farmed chicken is one of the most unfortunate creatures on the planet. Imagine being born and raised all of your 45-day life in cramped captivity, fed and injected with chemicals to artificially speed up growth, not once being able to experience sex, and enduring rough transport in a steel cage with little or no protection from the hot sun, wing-to-wing with your brothers and sisters who are just as thirsty and stressed as you, to the slaughterhouse where they cut your throat and let you bleed to death. They don’t even shock you into unconsciousness first.

Ironically, the fighting cock is infinitely luckier. Well fed, well cared for, petted and sheltered, they are not made to fight until they are about a year old. If they die in a fight they often die quickly and painlessly through a blade to the heart, and the last moments of their lives are pure adrenaline. And if they never lose after so many fights, they will retire as studs, chasing and mating with the hens all around.

Although not as lucky as the fighting cock, the native chicken still enjoys better treatment than its farmed cousins. Even though their throats will still be cut to make them bleed to death, at least they get to enjoy life running around and chasing the hens. And when they die, they die being hunted for food like a wild animal, as how Nature intended all animals should die. (from Indian)

Then I had a little predicament. Presently I am trying to raise catfish (hito) in drums, with as many as two hundred per barrel. At first I felt some guilt and even judged myself to be a hypocrite because I was advocating animal rights but violating them at the same time. But then after some pondering, I figured that perhaps the chicken and the catfish are very much different when it comes to being raised in an overcrowded environment.

First, I think chickens are way smarter than catfish because they have social structures and protective instincts towards their young. The catfish’s only social structure, on the other hand, is simply that no catfish smaller than the biggest catfish’s mouth can keep on swimming for long.

Second, I do not inject my catfish with chemicals to speed up their growth. Imagine a 45-day­ old chicken (it’s still a chick actually), with a chick’s bones and internal structure, forced to carry almost one kilogram of its own weight. To us humans, it would be like a child with the body size and weight of an adult, trying to stand up and walk.

Lastly, while the farmed chicken is raised in a hot environment, I always keep my catfish cool by controlling the ambient factors to make their lives as comfortable and happy (catfish-happy) as possible. So when the time comes that someone eventually eats them, at least they lived a life as good as any catfish could hope for.


Add New Post

Earlier I was considering “Deep Rollers Part III” as the title for this piece but I learned just now that that was being too ambitious on my part. In my two previous deep roller articles, I tried to explore what Hannibal Lecter meant about Clarice Starling being like a roller pigeon, particularly a deep roller. Now for “Part III”, I googled “Thomas Harris interview deep roller”, hoping to find some explanation from the writer himself, but I found none. So I guess we’ll have to set aside part three for now. Maybe in the near future.

Unable to use Deep Rollers for the title, I looked up and saw “Add New Post” on top of this page and I guess we’ll use it for now. And now, now what do we talk about? How about…existentialism. Nah, too heavy, and I don’t know enough about it to write in such a way as not to bore you by sounding like Wikipedia. Let’s do something personal – not about me but something I can personally relate with. Hmmm…how about time.

For the past few years I’ve noticed how days turn into weeks and into months and into years faster now than before. Well I remember an article about our different perceptions of time where an example used was that of a five-year-old and a forty-year-old and how long a year feels for each of them. For a five-year-old, a year comprises twenty percent – one-fifths – of his entire life. So if you promise him a bicycle on his next birthday, he will be waiting for a relatively long, long time. But for a forty-year-old, a year is only 2.5% or one-fortieths of his life. And to him, the equivalent of a five-year-old’s one long year is about eight years. Now that would be a very long time to wait for a bicycle.

So maybe that’s why (or at least partly why) the years seem to go faster lately. A year diminishes daily as a fraction of our entire lives. Troubling, isn’t it. But I also read in a book that the years – our years – are like pages in a calendar. For a child, the calendar is thick, but day after day he tears off one page after another. However, these pages are also filled with his memories and so he neatly stacks them right beside his calendar. And while the calendar gets thinner as the years go by, the stack also grows thicker. While the young have countless possibilities, the old have actual memories.

And our past is one thing that can never be taken from us, unless of course if they erase our memory.


Something Nice

Perhaps one of the most overused (and abused) words in the English language is the word nice. To save you incurable googlists some time, the following are the definitions of nice from The Free Dictionary:

  1. Pleasing and agreeable in nature: had a nice time.
  2. Having a pleasant or attractive appearance: a nice dress; a nice face.
  3. Exhibiting courtesy and politeness: a nice gesture.
  4. Of good character and reputation; respectable.
  5. Overdelicate or fastidious; fussy.
  6. Showing or requiring great precision or sensitive discernment; subtle: a nice distinction; a nice sense of style.
  7. Done with delicacy and skill: a nice bit of craft.
  8. Used as an intensive with and: nice and warm.

I am sure you can think of more usage of the word. She’s a nice girl, for example. That particular phrase easily falls into several categories…let’s see…ah: number 1 (pleasing and agreeable in nature)…number 2 of course (having a pleasant or attractive appearance)…number 3 (exhibiting courtesy and politeness)…definitely number 4 (of good character and reputation; respectable)…I don’t know about number 5 (overdelicate or fastidious; fussy), but numbers 6 (showing or requiring great precision or sensitive discernment; subtle) and 7 (done with delicacy and skill) would also be nice to have…all in all leading to number 8 – nice and warm. Now that would definitely be a very nice girl.

But what intrigued me most about the word nice is its Indo-European root, skei (to cut, split), which also means in the Latin scire, “to know (< “to separate one thing from another,” “discern”): science, scire facias (to cause to be known), conscience, conscious”. Hmmm…this seems familiar…ah, I think it’s somehow related to item number 5 – fastidious and fussy, with a great attention to the smallest detail, and somewhat enjoys splitting hairs.

I don’t know about you, but that seems nice to me. To be able to cut through the BS and split the thick skull of pervading assumptions. To know. To discern one thing from another no matter how similar they appear, and perhaps even to relate and connect two very different things…I think that would be very nice indeed.

And since I am hoping that you will find this piece nice, I am ending it by wishing you a nice one. 🙂



A perfect harmony of wind and sound

As I sit back and start to fly

I close my eyes and become unbound

And words come out in great supply.

A drummer’s beat now fills the air

Followed by some strings and wind

The cymbals chant on this affair

Floating by as I lay pinned.

I put my hands on the keyboard now

And type away some random keys

Would I make sense and earn my chow,

Or would I only babble and tease?

Doesn’t really matter for as long as it’s real

As one thought ends, another has begun

And whatever may the mind reveal

What matters is it’s having fun.


Among Old Friends Part Three: Innermost Circle

A lawyer-friend of mine once told me about a significant difference between a corporate president and a state president. But before that, he told me about their similarity: both presidents somehow report to a board – the company directors in the former’s case; the congress and the senate in the latter’s (like in the State Of the Nation Address). For a corporate president, the board of directors’ decisions, even those on simple majority, often shape the fate of the company – even his own – and he can’t do anything about it. The state president, on the other hand, has a veto power that can only be overturned by a two-thirds vote. So in the case of the Philippines, the president’s influence is about equal to that of nine senators or 167 congressmen. Wow.

That was just one of our many discussions when we were regularly traveling to Gensan some years ago. There were times when we’d talk about adultery and concubinage and the parliamentary-federal form of government. We even used to fantasize about me being a state governor and he being an assemblyman and later on becoming the prime minister, and how we would act and interact. He was still a law student then, and the entire two hours of driving from Davao would be spent discussing non-stop the law and a little politics, but mostly political structures. I learned quite a lot, and it surely kept me awake and alert during the long drive.

In my previous piece, Among Old Friends, I mentioned how I missed the company of those within my innermost circle of friends, my old pals. Well, this person happens to be within my innermost circle.


Something Light This Time

It’s a Tuesday evening. The second day of work is barely over and the work week has just begun, so who would care for heavy talk about religion and atheism and murder, right? This time let us have something light and relaxing, something fun.

I have an ambient song playing in iTunes right now, and though its beat is a little slow, it reminds of the animated movie Madagascar – Escape 2 Africa where the animals party to a techno drum beat. One of the great blessings of our time is the advancement of animation technology. When I was a kid, the cartoons were mostly drawn at a landscape view – flat and sometimes even two-dimensional. Now, the “camera” can fly around a gigantic tree, spiral upwards and show branches at different angles, and then finally zoom in at the party mammals dancing at the top. Or in the case of Ratatouille, the camera chases a rat at an angle and distance much like that of another rat trailing behind, and as the lead rat climbs up the leg of a table, the viewer also looks up, climbs and follows.

Today’s filmmaking technology has given us new eyes to see exactly what only the filmmaker’s mind could see. And technology’s gift to art and artists isn’t limited to the movie industry. The musicians and visual artists have also benefited, boosting their creativity by making it more effective for them to express exactly what they hear and see inside their minds.

Lastly, technology has surely helped the literary artists as well. Instead of writing with pen and paper (good thing I never had to use a quill and dip it in ink after every few words), now we can just type away and edit – spell check and online dictionary and thesaurus right at our fingertips. So instead of having to open a heavy hard-bound Webster and manually scan the pages just to check the spelling and then write corrections on paper, now the screen automatically tells us if a word is spelled wrong, gives suggestions, and sometimes even autocorrects it.

Today’s writer wastes very little time editing and gets less distraction when writing, and that helps keep the delicate train of thought right on the rail of creativity. Net effect: the writer gets to write more, and better.

Ah, the blessings of modern technology. See, that is evidence that there is a God! 🙂

Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues

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