Friday, 29 February 2008

This May be the Only Chance I Get...

...to blog on February 29th!

I was going to post a cute little blog entry about interesting tidbits of information about this day. That changed when the news came out that there would be an interfaith prayer assembly in Makati.

So what, you're thinking.

Well, here's a small (very small) portion of the "assembly":

If it looks like the pictures I posted the other week about the anti-government rally, that's because it does look like that. But this was taken today, shortly after I had heard the Battle Hymn of the Republic for the forty-seventh time blare over the loud speakers. (Yes, those are the times even the most ardent gun-control advocates re-think their positions!)

As the Philippine Star predicted, the prayer assembly (which included former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada...no, not Ponch!

That's Erik Estrada! Though they are both actors...) turned into a rally calling for the resignation of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and accountability on corruption charges. Many Catholics were also expected to be in the ranks, unhappy that the powerful Catholic Bishops' Conference has been very hands-off on criticizing Mrs. Arroyo.

Of course, the Catholic Church supported the colonization of the Philippines under Spanish colonial rule for hundreds of years because it allowed them to come in and forcibly convert the nation to Catholicism. It isn't much of a surprise that they don't speak up about the corruption of the government since that very government is good to them.

So, for the second weekend in a row, I have had hundreds and thousands of people amassing at the base of the Columns to march down Ayala Avenue in their celebratory effort to bring down the corrupt government of Mrs. Arroyo. Yes, for those of you who were paying attention to my last post about these rallies, there were many vendors present, selling everything from ice cream to fruits. Hope they raked in some big bucks!

Anyway, I can't ignore my original intention for this post today! February 29th is such an odd day. Well, actually is is kind of even. Sure, 29 is an odd number, but this day only happens on leap years, which are once every four years (even) and those are in even numbered years as well. So it is more even than odd, which is odd in itself. And since we now have two odds and two evens in this line of thinking (If we're going to call this thinking.) I guess I should really call it a draw; being neither even nor odd.

If you had clicked on the link I provided you'll notice that nothing much of any global significance has happened on this date. But...

As far as the Philippines is concerned however, the Admiralty Islands were invaded in the American General Douglas MacArthur-led Operation Brewer; a step towards his returning to the Philippines after being defeated by the Japanese here in the onset of WWII.

And for all those who remember Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl: today is the day in 1936 that Baby Snooks, played by Fanny Brice, debuts on the radio program The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.

And today my mother gets to celebrate her friend Ruby's 22nd birthday! It is a bit odd when someone born in 1920 gets to have their 22nd birthday in 2008, but that's the way it is when your birthday only comes once every four years. Let's all hope she gets really good presents! C'mon, if you only have to buy someone presents once every four years, this is no time to cheap-out on them!

Happy Birthday!!!!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Trim and Trim

As I opened the curtains this morning I looked down upon Ayala Avenue to see, once again, as every morning, the strands of white stars still clinging to the tree trunks that line the divider in the street.

Holiday remains.

All the rest of the decorations along Ayala Avenue were taken down the week after New Years. The stars in the hedge line remained here until crews came through to trim those two weeks ago.

But the trees remain trimmed.

That got me to thinking (a "Carlin moment", if you will):

Why, when you trim a hedge, are you cutting away parts of it, but when you trim a tree you are adding stuff to it?

There are other ways we use trim, but I'm restricting this thought to how it pertains to plant life.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

We Interrupt This Blog for Shameless Self-Promotion

Well, for Edson's promotion, anyway.

Note: Don't go adjusting the controls on your monitor, these photos are all in glorious black and white, folks!

At the request of our dear friends Rachel Rillo and Isa Lorenzo,

Edson is giving a lecture in conjunction with Rachel's photography exhibit, Manila at Makati's Silverlens Gallery February 23rd.

The exhibit features Manila through its chaotic web of tangled telephone wires. This huge, heavy mess of wires, many long out of use, create unique patterns and a network not only for communication but also a highway for birds, rats (and maybe even cats) to walk over.

Edson's lecture, The Colonial Imaginings of Manila: Architectural Photographs of Dean C. Worcester, 1899-1913 ties in nicely as he will be speaking of how Manila was portrayed as chaotic and primitive through photography by an American colonial administrator to justify American presence in the Philippines during the early twentieth century.

Well, all that chaos has done nothing but grow exponentially as Manila has grown to become a metro Manila!

This will be Edson's third speaking engagement at Silverlens. He draws a large audience, so arrive early to avoid standing through it all. Don't miss it!!!!

I noticed this mess 'o wires while walking through Intramuros a few weeks ago. In homage to Rachel, I present it here, again in glorious black and white!

Protest to Improve the Economy!

Protest to Improve the Economy!

That's my new idea. It came to me yesterday as I watched what eventually swelled to a crowd of thousands assemble together to protest the rampant corruption in the government (no, not Bush...you're getting ahead of me!) of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


Anyway, as I watched the crowd swell, chanting, banners and flags fluttering, drums beating a beat far hipper than most marching bands usually do, and the bells of ice cream vendors vying to be heard through it all, it struck me.

No, I wasn't struck by a vendor's bell! The idea struck me, came to me, dawned upon me....whatever.

Since the US economy is stuck in recession, unemployment is up, people are losing their homes and cars and plasma screen televisions they overextended themselves to buy so they could show off to their neighbors, the government plans to borrow billions of dollars from China to give it a boost, the citizens should protest.

Encourage as many people as you can to protest.

It doesn't even matter what it is you protest. It could be the economy or corruption in Washington, but obviously nobody really cares about that. Protest that there aren't any TV shows in black and white anymore. Protest the absence of calamari on McDonald's menu. Or you could try a protest against the government (good luck!) like the Filipino people did Friday. It wouldn't be as big a protest as against the dominance of color television programming, but urge protests.

Once you have people organizing a protest, here's what is most important to my plan: You sell something to the protesters! That's right. Look, these people must have money! They're out protesting instead of working! People without a job or insurance have no time to protest. They need two or three jobs just to make ends meet. They can't be out protesting. They could get hurt, which means medical bills they can't afford and time away from work. They'd have to cut back on even more in life, like food. These people won't protest. You'll be selling to upper-middle class people and above at these protests.

Like in Makati yesterday, sell ice cream. There were six or seven guys there selling ice cream. Since it's a high-end crowd, you'll want to go with Häagen-Dazs. Or coffee...only Starbucks for those yuppie lemmings! These people will be hungry and thirsty! Croissants, Krispy Kreme, hot dogs....the list goes on, readers!

Just like at any self-respecting sporting event today, no one will be allowed in with an "outside" beverage or food item, so all that thirst and hunger will be yours to profit from.

Now all you have to do is get lazy, self-absorbed and ill-informed Americans out of their homes to do something besides shopping.

I know! Tell them someone from American Idol will be there! More Americans vote for their favorite Idol contestant than for the President of the United States, so if that won't get their asses in gear, nothing will!

Friday, 15 February 2008

In a Monty Python Skit.....


...this would be the Too Much Information Centre!

The Department of Insults is, of course, nearby. In the states we call that Congress. We also call it both the Democratic and Republican parties, the Supreme Court, the President, Vice President, and all access to the Too Much Information Centre is completely off-limits to everyone, especially those who dare ask a question of any of those listed above. Since they question each other, their access is denied as well.

Why do think the Centre is located in the Philippines?!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Happy _________ Day!

Valentine's Day is a capitalist, consumerist holiday (to quote Edson) so we never worry about the chocolates, roses, gifts, wrappings, cards, reservations, and preparations involved in its celebration.

Don't go thinking we don't celebrate anything!

It is a great holiday day, after all. You can share in it as well and not have to worry you are single or not. You can enjoy it with a friend or family member. You can do it at work or while you drive or jog.

What is it?, you ask?

Well, this year is the 114th anniversary of Jack Benny's birthday. Although we're sure he's still 39. We celebrate that instead.

To help you share in the fun I've gathered together a few choice clips from YouTube from Jack's television shows and his Dean Martin Celebrity Roast episode.

Being roasted by Dean and Co.:

Jack takes on Groucho:

With Marilyn Monroe in her first television appearance:


And here is the creme de la creme! A full-length radio broadcast (including those infamous Lucky Strike commercials!) from 1950, where Jack's Maxwell is stolen!

Here's the whole cast: Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Jack, Don Wilson, and Mel Blanc.

And why do we?

We need to laugh, and few do better at making us laugh than Jack. Jack's radio show invented the ensemble situation comedy format that led to shows like the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, and Friends. He took a lot of risks, allowing himself to be upstaged both by his guests and his regular cast, and hiring one of the first black entertainers in radio when all other major black characters in the medium were played by white actors.

So, while others are busy fretting over which kind of chocolates to buy, reading through an endless variety of greeting cards dripping with syrupy sentiment, realizing nobody carries enough cash in their wallet to buy a dozen roses (thus increasing the purchaser's credit card debt), and desperately seeking reservations to swanky restaurants (note: bring Visa or Mastercard...more debt), we'll be laughing!

No, not at them!!! At Jack & Co.

Monday, 11 February 2008

A Memo from the Columns

While cleaning up the piles of stuff that had accumulated all around my laptop today, I found this memo from our condominium administration department:

The Columns Ayala Avenue Commercial Units will hold their grand opening on Friday, February 8, 2008 from 10AM to 9PM. The event will happen a few days before Chinese New Year, thus planned activities aim to bring good luck and good fortune for the New Year.
In relation to this, the said activity will require a speaker system, which shall be heard, and may possibly generate noise.
In this regard they are seeking for your understanding for whatever inconvenience the event may bring to you.


First, Chinese New Year was the 7th of February; so the event actually occurred a day after Chinese New Year, not a few days before.

Second, what kind of speaker systems are there on the market that are not heard? Isn't that the whole point of a speaker system?

Their speaker system may possibly generate noise.

Again, isn't that the whole point?

Last time I knew, if there wasn't anything present to generate a noise, there wouldn't be anything for us to hear!

The administration certainly didn't place much faith in the system working either!

...may possibly!

That's like saying to a friend, "Hey Nimrod, let's take my car on that camping trip high up into the mountains. It may possibly get us there and back!

Are you going with that putz?

Saturday, 9 February 2008

A Day in Intramuros

Since it is virtually impossible to get a working visa in the Philippines I must journey to the Bureau of Immigration every 2 months to have my visa renewed. The journey there isn't so bad if traffic cooperates. It's the journey once inside that's the problem.

The visa renewal experience here is something akin to the famous Marx Brothers Stateroom scene from their classic A Night at the Opera.

The room has all the charm of a poorly maintained bus station. In fact, I think that's where they got their plastic, bucket-seat benches. It is crammed beyond capacity and all the anarchy inherent in the antics of Groucho, Harpo, and Chico seems to play itself out, albeit in slow motion drudgery. Yes, if you have to go to the Bureau of Immigration in Intramuros, you'll even have time to watch A Night at the Opera; so before you go, download it to your ipod so you can watch it while you wait.

I was chatting with a woman from New Zealand who had come to Immigration the previous day at eleven in the morning and waited in line for two hours just to get the form required for her extension. Having other things to do that day, she was back this day with her completed form. She had already been waiting in line an hour when we spoke. It was eleven in the morning once again.

She and I watched as several people ahead of us tucked five hundred peso bills into their passports. The money was then collected by the person working behind the counter so they'd be enticed to process the visas more quickly. I've been told this was a common practice before the bureau was cleaned up a few years ago. Well, government employees don't get paid much; so guess what! Income supplementation is baaaaack!

The crowd was big and bad enough that despite my arriving shortly after the stroke of ten, I still wasn't able to hand over my passport and paperwork (no five hundred peso bill within!) before the workers took lunch.

Yes, they all take lunch at the same time!

At one o'clock I was back in line after taking my own lunch. Since I was now just second in line, I didn't have to wait long for my paperwork to be received. A quick stop by the cashier to pay and hand my passport, paperwork, and receipt to the processor and I was out of there with three hours to kill before my visa extension was ready.

What did I do with three hours to kill?

I nudged my friend, and fellow photographer Darz, who had been waiting outside watching Desperate Housewives on his ipod since ten-thirty in the morning (save for the hour he spent with me at lunch). He had come with me so we could take pictures around Intramuros, the original walled city of Manila.

Street traffic. Note the wall which encloses all of Intramuros in the background.

The wall, with subtle, canon-like feature.

Narrow passage to a corner turret in the wall.



Statue in front of bombed-out church (remember WWII?) with stolen hands. The statue wasn't there during the war. It is much newer. There are still quite a few buildings still in their bombed-out state in Intramuros, which saw very heavy destruction during US bombing raids.

Boys playing basketball beside the ruins of the church.

We returned to Immigration promptly at four to retrieve my passport and headed back to Makati, where we met with Edson for dinner.

He had news. He was on the news, actually; being asked about the effects of the US recession on Filipino life. We received many text messages during our dinner as his man-on-the-street interview was being broadcast at that time.

After dinner, just outside our restaurant a concert was beginning. It featured The Company, a group currently popular due to their CD release Destination: Bossa.