Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Capping the year with The Greatest Game Ever Played

Borrowed a book by Mark Frost (called The Greatest Game Ever Played) from my friend Ditas (who also lent me a VCD of the Disney movie of the same name [starring Shia Lebeouf, in the photo above] so I could compare, haha!)--and I must say: never before have I been excited about a golf game. The book is about the 1913 US Open held at the Country Club in Brookline Massachusetts, where British number 1 pro golfer Harry Vardon played a very very interesting golf game against newbie (and 20-year old) amateur golfer Francis Ouimet.

The book introduces us, not only to these two admirable people, but to a whole cast of personalities at the turn of the 20th century. Frost chronicles the history of the golf game, gives us the "who's who" of golf at the time, and adds the touch of background--specifically, United States in 1913.

Most importantly, Frost effectively introduces Vardon and Ouimet--from what background they hailed to what drove them to give their best play. And since this is golf, most of the drama happens internally--Frost never sounds like a World Series commentator. This, I believe, is very good creative nonfiction.

But before this becomes a critical analysis of sorts (which is not what I mean to do), I must say am glad to have picked this book up as my year-ender read. Though I would be a most unlikely golfer (must admit the game is costly!), there's much to be gleaned from the book, especially at a time like this.

For one, athletes inspire a different sort of discipline--you can't get any better at what you do unless you log some hours on it. I guess being a writer and artist (and geekaziod) in high school never let me appreciate what my batchmates who joined varsities were learning...but then again I can't expect myself to DO everything. In that sense, the windows books open for me are always precious glimpses of things I may otherwise remain ignorant of.

For another--and this, one gleans from the admirable character of Francis Ouimet (whom I greatly admire for his humility)--it's important to keep dreaming: it gives you something to smile about and something to work for--and what, in life, do we need more than that?

Happy new year everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Silent Night

It's Christmas Eve! And the perfect time to sing Silent Night, my favorite Christmas carol ever. If you don't know all the lyrics, time to brush up! The original version (in German) came from Austria (1818). I wonder if anyone ever tried adapting this song in Filipino.

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Friday, December 19, 2008

When pigs mean more than you and me

"In the dismal abacus of our day, when a pig is born in China, national wealth goes up; when a child is born, it goes down. Almost all fervor for population control traces back to this premise, which reflects a theological confusion as much as an economic one, and it derives from the historical tendency of Western experts to see Asian peoples as mouths and not minds."

William McGurn
"Population and the Wealth of Nations"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If there's only one Christmas decor at home... should be a Belen!

My Belen hunt was a success! Found this set in Papemelroti--made by hand, too! (I'm sure, because no two Marys look alike--and there are finger marks on them hehe!)

I live in a 2 room condo unit so there's really no space for a Christmas tree or Advent Wreath, hence the Belen hunt. We have a big Belen set, but they're put away in a storage box at a relative's house. We'll get it back when we find a real house to move into. So for this year, this dainty set will do just fine.

It only has three characters, though, and no animals. (I'd like to think the three kings haven't arrived yet--they're due on January 6!)

On a Belen-related note... why not pick up Enrique Monasterio's God Has Made a Bethlehem this Christmas season? It's a retelling of the Christmas story from the point of view of all the characters you see in the Belen: the star that lit the way of the three kings, the angel Gabriel, the inn keeper, the shepherd...even the souls of the babies who were killed by Herod's new law. This book sees the Nativity story in many ways--I guess it proves also the many ways we can encounter Christ this season.

Merry Christmas! :D

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'The True Gospel of Solidarity'

Here's a speech made some years ago by a CW student in UP, back when CW was under English Studies. I wonder where this guy is now. He authored a short but meaty speech, which I found in my friend Gabi's blog. Interesting insights here on differences, searching for the truth, and using one's talents to bring these truths to light.

And exposing the truth should help Filipinos find better solutions for our country's ills. [cough cough]

The True Gospel of Solidarity
by Joseph Nathan Cruz
Magna Cum Laude, BA English Studies - Creative Writing
CAL Recognition Rights, April 15, 2000.
(Forum, April 28, 2000)

My mother is a domestic helper. In other people's homes she cooks, does the laundry, cleans the bathroom, and takes care of the infants. She put me through school doing that kind of work because that was the only thing she could do. She never finished high school, never enjoyed bourgeois luxuries. And later tonight, we'll be going home to our hovel in a squatter area in Taytay, Rizal dubbed Coco village because most of the houses are made of cheap, coco lumber.

And yet, few of my classmates know that. Most are comfortable with their neat picture of the world. Comfortable with cute, little concerns in the University like projects and papers, reports, boyfriends and girlfriends, torn hymen, cheap thrills in the lagoon, concerts, cell phones, night lives. And in this age that flaunts globalization and the advance of technology, we are led to believe more and more that we have entered an age of solidarity and unity. An age where there is interconnection in a global village that continues to spawn genuine development for all mankind. Indirectly, it leads us to a complacency supported by the lie that the world is alright. After all, we feel alright. The pain and suffering exists somewhere out there to a few insignificant people.

I have walked among you. But lost in anonymity, I am assumed to be no different from anyone even by some of my friends. When I was a freshman, a close friend of mine enjoyed lambasting the squatters, the jologs, for their bad behavior, their bad smell, their propensity for breeding baby after baby they cannot support. My friend did not realize that I was from that background. He did not realize that I grew up watching my friends die of sickness, or get pregnant too early, or get injured or killed in petty street wars, or go to jail, or get assigned to the typical, monotonous lifestyle of the poor. And the assumption that everything is alright grows with the lie that we are more or less the same, that we are united, that the dawning of a new world order has started to bring the sought-after solidarity.

But the right approach to true solidarity and unity is not one that denies difference, denies the pain of the oppressed just because it is not beautiful, or, as our country's President says, "It is too depressing." The right approach is to expose the truth, highlight the difference and work for its remedy. For as long as there are poor people, Moros discriminated against, oppressed women, abused children, and multitudes of other categories consigned to the margins because they threaten the image of unity and stability that feeds the established status quo, there can be no true solidarity.

But the creativity of the artist, the magic of their potent images, the works of the men and women of letters --- these have the power to transform, power to wake our people from the stupor that gives them dreams that are lies. Power to destroy myths and create a world that is beautiful and true.

Of course, the arts and letters can be used the other way. The way that sells out, aids corruption, subverts the potentiality of what is good. But will you? As graduates we are in a phase that continues to taunt us with the question, "Who do you sell your brains to?"

It is easy to be complacent. To believe the lies. But we shouldn't. We owe it to our teachers who taught us patiently despite the low salary, to our parents who worked so hard for us, and to our people whose blood and sweat built this institution and continue to put us through school. We owe it to them to become the prophets of this age who will preach the true gospel of solidarity. Only then can we all be truly one in a world where it would make perfect sense to celebrate the fact --- squatter ako, katulong ang nanay ko --- and we are proud because, and not in spite of, the fact.

I'm sure, all of us have issues about which we keep silent because of the power of the lies.

This is the day to be free. I call on you --- fellow scholars and artists, unite!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Baby Christmas!

Doesn't baby Yasmine Catalo, with her very infectious smile, make you want to spread the cheer this Christmas? She's our jolly cover baby for Baby Magazine's December issue! The photo was taken by Melai Parcon-Lopez at that quaint collector's shop, Collect and Cherish, Shangri-La Mall.

Lots of very helpful tips this month for new parents, infanticipating moms and families! From celebrating the season with a third trimester bump to handling your infant's first Christmas, and from teaching the little ones about the reason for the season to turning the Christmas junk to fun play things--we'v got it covered. Features include what started the Belen collection of Gigi Abaya-Carlos (and where to visit it!) and how people around the world spend Christmas.

Also interesting are the articles on how to "recycle" your left over food (making a fine "new" meal!), how to teach manners to kids, and how to psyche your toddler to visit the doctor. EDIT: Oh, and there's a very interesting forum on responsibility and parenthood! :-)

Maliyagang Pasko mula sa Baby Magazine!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Yay for self-mastered teen vampires

Yes, I admit! I watched Twilight!

(I really wanted to see how they'd make it into a movie, so I forced a friend to watch it with me.)

And what do you know? The movie has its merits. I'm not going to focus on the weird points (dazzling vampires--that's new!), but on the good things the movie tries to say.

So okay, the premise is this: Bella, the protagonist, moves to Forks to give her mom (who just got remarried) some space. She meets a vampire family and falls in love with Edward, who is attracted to her because she is something like "his favorite flavor." Hm.

Anyway, vampires kill people, but these vampires are "vegetarian," meaning they'd rather kill animals than people even if they'd really rather eat people.

Rather dumb, the way I put it--so sorry for that. What I find really nice in this movie is the example of Edward--his efforts at loving Bella while not killing her. And I think this is a crucial trait for a character whom teens would like to model.

My friend says the movie is about abstinence--and yeah, it is, I agree. But abstinence sounds flat to me, and it turns some people off, even. Deeper than just abstaining, this movie is about self-mastery: understanding what it is you truly value, then doing everything you can to keep it alive. You know you're not perfect, but there's an effort given to be close to perfect, the way you should really be. And that, I think, is what makes a character like Edward interesting and worth a teen's while.

I guess you don't have to pick up the book to see this in the movie. (And you don't have to pick up the book to see the movie--they're alike to the letter.) If you can stand sappy lines and funny cartoon hair, go ahead and see it--like I said, it has its merits.