Sunday, October 21, 2007

bookylicious (three days of lust out of the library)

NOW I KNOW what a libertine would feel in a harem. It was a bibliomaniac's wet dream come true when the public library of Shawnee County and Topeka (capital city of Kansas) hauled out its slightly-used books--hardcover and paperback--to the sprawling space of the Kansas ExpoCentre for its annual three-day book sale last month. Whoopee, indeed, as the books were unbelievably cheap (from as low as 25 cents to three dollars!).

Though it was an eye-popping affair taking one's pick from such an orgy of authors, the library's staff and volunteers made the whole shebang in so orderly a manner worthy of a monastery by arranging the books on separate tables according to various genres and classifications. And so despite the throng of readers, it was a breeze to navigate from one book section to another. It was a thrill on the last day of the book sale when all items were for the taking--get all you can--for only three dollars per sack! My wife also had a blast picking up books for our two kids and some health/home therapy manuals.

All in all, I spent only $27 for a stash of magazines (Harper's, National Geographic, Audubon, and Scientific American) and an entire bookcase of a hoard listed below:


- Paradise (Toni Morrison)

- The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)

- Elective Affinities (Johann Wolfgang van Goethe)

- The Accidental Tourist (Anne Tyler)

- Breathing Lessons (Anne Tyler)

- Searching for Caleb (Anne Tyler)

- The Big Sky (A.B. Guthrie)

- A Sport of Nature (Nadine Gordimer)

- The Mission Song (John Le Carre)

- The Russia House (John Le Carre)

- The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (Oscar Hijuelos)

- The Story of Lucy Gault (William Trevor)

- Saturday (Ian McEwan)

- The Hours (Michael Cunningham)

- The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom)

Short Stories

- Cathedral (Raymond Carver)


- The Poet's World (Rita Dove)


- The Glorious Impossible: Illustrated with Frescoes by Giotto (Madeliene L' Engle)

- Finding God in the Garden: Backyard Reflections on Life, Love, and Compost (Rabbi Balfour Brickner)


- Boyhood: Scenes From a Provincial Life (J.M. Coetzee)

- In the Company of Writers: A Life in Publishing (Charles Scribner)

- Another Life: A Memoir of Other People (Michael Korda)

- Makers of the Modern World: The Lives of Writers, Artists, Scientists, Philosophers, Composers, and Other Creators Who Formed the Pattern of Our Century (Louis Untermeyer, editor)

- War Letters: Correspondence From the American Civil War, World War I and II, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Somalia and Bosnia (Andrew Carroll, editor)

- Great Biographies: Elizabeth I, Charles Darwin, Martin Luther, Mark Twain, Charles Lindbergh, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Edison, Hans Christian Andersen, P.T. Barnum, Pearl S. Buck, Adolf Hitler, John Quincy and Louisa Adams (Reader's Digest series)


- Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (Barry Lopez)

- A Stay Against Confucion: Essays on Faith and Fiction (Ron Hansen)

- A Circle of Quiet (Madeliene L'Engle)

- Face To Face: A Reader in the World (Lynne Sharon Schwartz)

- Enough's Enough... And Other Rules of Life (Calvin Trillin)

- At Large (Ellen Goodman)

- The Rising George: America's Master Humorist Takes on Everything from Monomania To Ernest Hemingway (S.J. Perelman)

References (Current Affairs, Religion, Nature, Food, Photography, etc.)

- Fruitcakes & Couch Potatoes and Other Delicious Expressions (Christine Ammer)

- The Faith: A History of Christianity (Brian Moynahan)

- A World of Ideas: Conversations With Thoughtful Men and Women About Life Today and the Ideas Shaping Our Future (Bill Moyers, editor)

- A World of Ideas II: Public Opinions From Private Citizens (Bill Moyers, editor)

- Genesis: A Living Conversation (Bill Moyers, editor)

- Into the Unknown: The Story of Exploration (The National Geographic Society, editor)

- Weird and Wonderful Wildlife (Martin/May/Taylor, editors)


- Modern American Poets: Their Voices and Visions (Robert Diyanni, editor)

- This Is My Best: America's 85 Greatest Living Authors Choose Their Best Work, and Explain Why They Have Selected It (Whit Burnett, editor)

- Treasury of Great Humor: Wit, Whimsy, and Satire From the Remote Past to the Present (Louis Untermeyer, editor)

- The Heath Introduction To Fiction (4th edition, edited by John Clayton)

- The Harper and Row Reader: Liberal Education Through Reading and Writing (Booth/Gregory, editors)

- Literature: An Introduction To Reading and Writing (4th edition, edited by Roberts/Jacobs)

- Best Newspaper Writing: Winners of the American Society Editors' Competition (Christopher Scanlan, editor)

- The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories (with commentaries by William Bennett, editor)

- The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Writing, Thinking (5th edition, edited by Michael Meyer)

- The Conscious Reader (8th edition)

- The Norton Reader: An Anthology of Expository Prose (9th edition, edited by Linda Peterson)

why clowns ought to cry

IT'S A WAIL OF A TIME for the usual sob stories that have become the stuff of headlines, and that's enough to know why a clown's job is herculean more than ever. With the Glorietta blast recently reminding us, albeit rudely, of the forthcoming cemetery-centered holiday come November, it has gotten awkward to sustain one's self in a merry mood. But no matter if laughter nowadays is grimly in short supply, sigh, irrepressible remains the weakness to be jolly with a joke. Which reminds me of a sad attempt by a Cebuano congressman for a rib-tickling effect last week.

Hereunder is a reprint of my recent column in the op-ed page of
Sun.Star Cebu (October 16, 2007 issue) about an explosion in the face of a joker-wannabe:

Grin and grind your teeth

WORTHY enough for angels to blow theirs trumpets, those who can make people laugh. Ah, an honest-to-goodness humorist! Isn’t he more companionable than many a columnist, or someone who speaks like faith were something to bleed out of one’s wrist?

All right, here’s a confession: What gets me going to wear my Sunday best is the hope of hearing a priest who can drive the sermon home with the tongue-in-cheek grace of a stand-up comic.

Heaven, I believe, is when we feel the lightness of suspending disbelief.

Hang on, or so Rep. Tony Cuenco tried to pull off such a stunt until he winds up with his tongue now coiling tight around his neck. He went on air for a radio interview, only to somersault and spit out his words with a grin. “I was only cracking a joke,” he averred after admitting he received P200,000 —a “Christmas gift”— from the President. Nope, it was not for him to behave like an acolyte as soon as Congress beats hell’s bells for the President now in the heat of her foes’ allegations of bribery and haunted once more with the horror of impeachment. But, sorry, his avuncular vibe and baritone voice—perfect for beating his breast at the pulpit till holy water comes out of his nostrils—are just too solemn for side-splitting chortle.

How to tell a good joke?

Beats me, but I guess comedians are better hogging the limelight alone. So I think, if you dare to go on air, better to gag the interviewer and crank up canned laughter while you gnash the microphone with your dentures. And please be down to earth so you’re not far off and thus would hurt less when your face falls flat.

It will probably help not to kid one’s self that all it takes to be funny is to swallow and stick one’s tongue out. That’s what makes most politicians such a yawn, no doubt. Then again, the irony is how they become drop-dead laughable when they try utterly hard to be taken seriously. Honesty and its timing is of the essence, too. As when deaf people joke about not being able to hear.

In the end, nothing beats the coup de grace of the unexpected. Like the confession of Andy Kaufman, the self-styled “song-and-dance man” that Jim Carey played in the film Man on the Moon: “I’ve never told a joke in my life.” Doesn’t that beat Beelzebub saying he has never been on fire?

It’s all about absurdity, and anything else would be the sad spectacle of a clown seeking refuge in reckless slapstick, the grimness of the grotesque. And Nietzsche was not out to pick someone’s funnybone, certainly, when he muttered how “man alone suffer so deeply that he had to invent laughter.”

Inventions, however, ought to be original. How wonderfully out of the ordinary, for instance, if a politician would dare swear his armpits out and just admit for a change how badly he wants another pair of hands to clap at his dexterity to accept what power brings under the table. Really, won’t he need to grow more dirty fingers to poke through a crack a joke leaves on his bloody head?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

coming soon: a countdown of must-see movies

WITH THE FALL SEASON COMES the upsurge of big studios piping up their chances for the Oscar Awards next year. Taking the cue from the early buzz as well as the track record of its creators and sheer star wattage, here are 20 films--a forecast of contenders for the critics' nods--I crave to see before the year ends:

LUST, CAUTION. "An uncompromising and incredibly seductive piece of filmmaking," raves an early review of this Best Picture winner at the recently-concluded Venice Film Festival.

After scoring the Best Director trophy at the Academy Awards two years ago, Ang Lee returns with an espionage thriller set in WWII-era Shanghai.

Asian cinema icon Tony Leung (star of Happy Together, Hero, In the Mood for Love, etc. ) stars as a powerful political figure in Shanghai who gets embroiled in a passionate game of emotional intrigue with a young woman.

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA. Though screen versions of literary heavyweights often wind up a dud (consider the ill-fated filmizations of Toni Morrison's Beloved, Isabelle Allende's The House of the Spirits, Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, and Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, etc), who can resist a celluloid rendition of one of the masterpieces of Nobel Prize-winning Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

Directed by Mike Newell, this sprawling saga of obsession gathers three of Latin America's acting sensations among its stellar cast: Javier Bardem (Before the Night Falls, The Sea Inside, Mondays in the Sun), Fernanda Montenegro (Central Station), and Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace). Hopefully this time, Newell will weave a magical exception to the rule of literary-cinematic mismatch.

THE KITE RUNNER. Based on novelist Khaled Hosseini's bestselling phenomenon about redemption, this is an epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal againts a barbaric backdrop (the final days of Afghanistan's monarchy up to the atrocities of the Taliban reign).

Mark Foster (whose work in Finding Neverland is breathtaking) directs this story of a man who returns to his native Afghanistan to seek redress to a long-standing wrong and rescue the son of a childhood friend.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Yet another literary adaptation (from Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!), it has magnum opus written all over it. To begin with, it blazes with the presence of my favorite actor Daniel Day-Lewis under the helm of the great Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love)

A sprawling epic about family, greed, corruption, and the pursuit of the American dream, this film is set in the booming West Coast oil fields at the turn of the 20th century.

I'M NOT THERE. Described as an "utterly bizarre" biographical film celebrating the genius and the legend of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, this promises to be another cinematic gem from Todd Haynes after his critically acclaimed Far From Heaven.

So far the film has snagged a Special Jury Prize from this year's Venice Film Festival where the splendid Cate Blanchett also won the Best Actress for portraying a male role. Yes, Blanchett is one of the six different characters who embody Dylan's spirit (along with Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, among others), depicting different stages of the artist's life.

SWEENY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. Brace yourself for genre-bending delight only Tim Burton can whip up: a horror musical straight out of the a Tony Award-winning dazzler showcasing the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim.

Featuring the great Johnny Depp in the title role, the story of Sweeney Todd is of a wrongfully imprisoned barber in Victorian England who sets out to seek revenge on the judge who imprisoned him. The plot is foreshadowed in the first lines of the opening number: "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd./His skin was pale and his eye was odd./He shaved the faces of gentlemen/Who never thereafter were heard of again." Helena Bonham Carter also stars.

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE. For her phenomenal performance as Bob Dylan in Todd Hayne's I'm Not There, Cate Blanchett seems poised to compete against herself come award season with an encore of her star-making portrayal in Elizabeth.

She reunites with Shekar Kapur in this period piece about the queen's crusade to defend her empire while dealing with conspiracies against her rule on top of her heart's vulnerability.

Geoffrey Rush also reprises his role while Samantha Morton joins the cast as the scheming Queen Mary of Scotts.

AMERICAN GANGSTER. Expect a masterpiece as the fusion of two of the finest actors in the industry whips a cinematic coup under the deft directorial hand of Scott Ridley.

This mob movie set amidst the tumult of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights era is a biopic of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington)
, a self-driven fugitive of the segregated South who became a drug kingpin in Harlem. He built his empire by smuggling cheap, high quality heroin in the coffins of soldiers who died in Vietnam. Probing the parallels between Lucas and the cop who ultimately nailed him down, Detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), this film tackles how these two disparate men stick to their own personal code of ethics amidst a culture of corruption.

ATONEMENT. Out of the haunting novel by Booker Prize winner Ian McEwan, this psychologically incisive adaptation explores the life-changing consequences of a lie.

A domestic crisis explodes in the wake of an imaginative 13-year-old girl's accusation of a sexual crime, altering the fates of two lovers and other people in an upper-middle-class country home at the onset of World War II.

Finetuning an epic theme on guilt, fear, hope, and redemption, Joe Wright (the director of Pride and Prejudice) orchestrates an ensemble lead by Keira Knightly and James MacAvoy.

EASTERN PROMISES. “A mesmerizing power punch,” declares a rave review from The Rolling Stone of this David Cronenberg thriller.

Voted as the Best Film at the recently-concluded Toronto Film Festival, it stars Viggo Mortensen as a charismatic and ambitious driver for one of London's Russian mob whose cool existence gets jarred after he got enmeshed with a midwife (Naomi Watts) in the wake of young teenager's death after giving birth. Anna resolves to try to trace the baby's lineage and relatives after she discovered the girl's personal diary whose revelations cast shadows in the two protagonists' lives.

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY. For this film, Julian Schnabel (director of the gorgeous After Night Falls) won the Best Director award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. More than enough reason, indeed, to watch out for this mind-over-matter tale about the indomitability of imagination.

It zooms in on the real-life plight of Jean-Dominique Bauby (editor of Elle France) who suffered a stroke that paralyzed his entire body at the age of 43. With only his left eye spared from the paralysis, he used his remaining faculty to write his memoir using a machine that records his blinks.

Based on Bauby's book, Schnabel has the epic task of mapping the interior world of a man in the purgatory of a psychological torment: being trapped inside his body while staking out pieces of heaven out of imagined stories from spectacular vistas visited only inside his head.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. A musical fantasia woven out of songs by the Beatles, the gritty world of the hippy counter-culture turns whimsical in the hands of director Julie Taymor (Frida, Titus, and the Broadway hit musical The Lion King).

Weaving a love story in the middle of the anti-war protest, mind exploration and rock 'n roll, Taymor's film moves from the dockyards of Liverpool to the creative psychedelia of Greenwich Village, from the riot-torn streets of Detroit to the killing fields of Vietnam. Tumultuous forces tear apart the young lovers Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) until they overcome the odds along with a bunch of friends and musicians all swept up in the maelstorm of a memorable era.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. The Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan) cast their cinematic nets wide and deep into the oceanic complexity of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem lend gravitas to this morality tale of hustling and drug-running in small town America.

When a film like this strips down the conventions of American crime drama and broadens its scope to encompass Biblical themes and the stuff of today's headlines, expect a powderkeg matched only by the Coen brothers' creative cool.

RENDITION. Indie sensation Gavin Hood (director of Tsotsi, winner of the Best Foreign Film in the 2005 Academy Awards) gets a royal mainstream treatment with an ivory-tower casting: Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, and Jake Gyllenhal, and Alan Arkin.

Rendition is the CIA's antiseptic term for its practice of sending captured terrorist suspects to other countries for interrogation and torture.

Innocence and evil intertwine in this thriller set in the vortex of international terrorism and surveillance. Reality check, indeed, can be no less a spine-tingler in the ways of the reel.

THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Who's impervious to the honest-to-goodness spell of fantasy? After Tolkien and Peter Jackson loomed gigantic with their tales about hobbits, the film adaptation of first story of Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy (His Dark Materials) is set to find again the true north of epic entertainment.

Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig lend their larger-than-life presence in an alternative world full of witches where people’s souls manifest themselves as animals and talking bears fight wars. At the film's epicenter is Lyra (played by newcomer Dakota Blue Richards), a 12-year-old girl who starts out trying to rescue a friend who’s been kidnapped by a mysterious organization known as the Gobblers - and winds up on a lgendary journey to save the world. Chris Weitz directs.

INTO THE WILD. Here's one story Thoreau would have gone the distance for: An idealistic young man literally goes out on a limb in search of a place where untamed authencity exists far from the madding crowd: an American way of life ruled by hypocrisy and materialism.

Sean Penn also dares a tightrope act in his debut endeavor as screenwright and director to dramatize the bestselling book by Jon Krakauer about the true story of Christopher McCandless, an over-achieving college student and athlete Christopher McCandless. Turning his back to civilization, he abandoned his family and possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity, and hitchhiked to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a medley of characters who helped him find meaning in his life until his death.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH. From the hand who aced the Academy Award for writing and directing Best Picture materials (Million Dollar Baby and Crash), here's one poised for a high-five.

Paul Haggis explores the minefield of love and loyalty for family and country against the backdrop of intolerance and the Iraq war. It tells the story of a war veteran (Tommy Lee Jones) and his wife (Susan Sarandon) as they search for their son, a soldier who recently returned from Iraq but has mysteriously gone missing. A police detective (Charlize Theron) helps in the investigation that rears more smoke of inhumanity from the inferno far from the warfront.

RESERVATION ROAD. It's a bumpy ride down the crossroads of grief and guilt as this film paves the way for exploring moral choices no less hellish than the devil and the deep blue sea.

Out of John Burnham Schwartz's novel, Terry George (director of Hotel Rwanda) probes the purgatory of loss and revenge as the fate of two fathers collide in the wake of a fatal car accident.

Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo, two of the most gifted actors in American cinema today, unleash thespic fireworks with Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino.

LIONS FOR LAMBS. Talk about helluva casting, and this one looks like Rushmore carved out of Beverly Hills: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise.

Redford, who scooped an Oscar for his directorial debut in Ordinary People, returns to call the shot in this "powerful and gripping story that digs behind the news, the politics and a nation divided to explore the human consequences of a complicated war."

JUNO. Mythic is its meteoric appearance at this year's Toronto Film Festival. Better believe the rapt review from the critic Roger Ebert regarding this "fresh, quirky, unusually intelligent comedy" about a 16-year-old girl who deals with the madness of an unwanted pregnancy with an offbeat aplomb.

"Magical screenplay," Ebert raves of the first-time script by a former stripper who calls herself Diablo Cody.

From the Toronto fest where it ranked second to Cronenberg's Eastern Promises, Ebert reports with rapture: "I don’t know when I’ve heard a standing ovation so long, loud and warm as the one after Jason Reitman’s Juno, which I predict will become quickly beloved when it opens at Christmas time, and win a best actress nomination for its 20- year old star, Ellen Page

health and the muscle of mirth

Laughter, after all, is the best medicine.

surge of the slowpoke: take three

PROCRASTINATION IS A COUNTRY where I'm a constant inhabitant. That explains the laggardly pace of this blog lately, I concede. Allow me to cram and make up for the delay by posting the last three of my opinions columns in the op-ed pages of Sun.Star Cebu for last month. As they say, better late than...

No Hurry, No Worry

NO way, speed is not for snails.

Neither do they smash each other’s shell to smithereens down the road and turn turtle.

Of happiness and contentment, the secret may be for the snail to tell. But, come on, who’s not in a hurry to spare time enough to lend an ear?

Not the Mandaue City police official who might as well have heard thunder after his car collided with that of a TV news crew. Neither they who got more than deadline to beat, according to the allegation of the browbeaten officer.

Suffice it to say that the whole affair was too tawdry to stimulate the offbeat characters in David Cronenberg’s “Crash” who, by the way, are sexually excited with injury in the wake of highway wrecks — an awful metaphor for the mishap of human connection in the age of technology.

Last we heard, both parties were reportedly driving drunk. Did they deem it liberating to leave sobriety at full throttle, in the thrill of living in a whirl? So that there’ll be no more time left, perhaps, to fret about the drudge of catching up with criminals who are often faster at cutting corners with the law; which, by the way, always leave the TV news crew and the rest of the media breathless in the blur between the quick and the dead.

In a culture that covets what’s instant —from noodles and coffee to reality show on fame and luck in the way of lotto — there’s nothing faster than the flyblown irony of the essentials — justice, truth, progress, peace — moving with a worm’s poise.

But fast is not how bliss could be found, we know. In the same manner that satisfaction can hardly be reached in the dismal distance between premature ejaculation and orgasm.

In sex as in eating and the rest of human exertions, nothing’s more desired than deceleration.

That’s the favorite word of Carl Honoré, the best-selling author of In Praise of Slowness as he spreads the gospel against the tyranny of time in modern life. With its cocktail of reportage, statistic, anecdotes of personal testimony, history and intellectual inquiry, the book clarifies “how the world got so fast and why slowing down can pay dividends in every walk of life.”

Consider the advantage of deceleration as the book unravels what happens in “a Tantric sex workshop in London to a meditation room for executives in Tokyo, from a Chi Kung squash class in Edinburgh to a SuperSlow exercise studio in New York City, from a TV-free household in Toronto to Italy.”

Beyond the exigencies of a deadline, there’s a lifeline. So argues Honoré: “These days, many of us live in fast forward — and pay a heavy price for it. Our work, health and relationships suffer. Over-stimulated, over-scheduled and overwrought, we struggle to relax, to enjoy things properly, to spend time with family and friends.”

Lest he be misconstrued as a Luddite out to mock the convenience of all things modern, he avers: “You don’t have to shun technology, live in the wilderness or do everything at a snail’s pace.”

Just breathe for a change. Yes, after spitting and cursing. You, too, can burn slow.
(September 25, 2007)

On Our Feet

LET the others dream of flying. Long after the invention of rubber shoes, leave it to me to levitate horizontally with the repose of walking, to have a whistle of a time even if it means startling the birds away.

It’s good for the body, they say. Never mind if the obstinate inhabitants under the skin of my beer belly strains to disagree. It bodes well, too, for the business of footwear and all related products for preventing the spirit of a dead rat to emanate from the purgatory between our toes.

If I follow those who spread the gospel of a good hike, it’s also because it seems devoid of the breathless distress of joggers. Can’t hum or whistle, see, while they appear desperate not to bite the dust, or fall behind their inner slobs.

Against the motions of the overweight trotting around Central Park, consider the condescending soliloquy of Woody Allen’s character in Hannah and Her Sisters as he goes on walking, waxing morbid about our common ground. Death, he ruminates, will overtake us all, health buffs or not, just the same in the end.

Thus a sage once snorted: Why hurry if life is short?

Maybe we walk to steer clear from the awful possibility that we’re better off crawling or groveling in the growl of everything gone awry with the world.

See how the streets pave the march of placard-waving militants. Or the Zen-like rhythm of those rambling out of dire straits, like the jobless man kicking a can down the road.

Walking affords one ample space to keep apace with the voices in one’s head, as Allen’s character in Central Park proves. That may explain why the deranged would rather loiter out of asylum walls.

Here in America, where hikers’ trails under the shadows of trees would soon be carpeted with leaves falling colorful in autumn, nothing’s stranger than stray thoughts gravitating towards home.
Where, last I looked at the news, there was nothing more relentless than rain. Where dead rivers often roar back in fury to sweep houses away, swamp the streets, and sometimes suck a toddler down a manhole. Which, by the way, ought to stay yawning wide if this were all it would take to swallow cell-phone snatchers off their tracks.

That’s when homesickness becomes a watered-down version of happiness.

That sounds off-kilter, off course, and utterly cloying like Charlie Chaplin, declaring, “I love walking in rain, because nobody can see me crying.”

Last I heard, the Cebu City Council seemed like a bunch of rain-soaked chicks, squeaking while stumped about the city’s congested roads. Now here comes City Hall needing more money to construct mini-dikes in rivers often flaunting its habit of overflowing. Oh, as if their concerns are not up their necks, the City Council is also asking all barangay officials “to apprehend under-aged youth seen loitering in the streets beyond the 10 p.m. curfew to deter the prostitution of minors.”

That, of course, is no less ill-fated than our boys and girls falling in manholes or drowning in the flood.

Calamity funds are afoot, they promise. The city will stay above water, they say.

Wish they can walk their talk. (September 18, 2007)

In The Mood For Blood

SO it happened that criminals up for execution were privileged to have their fill of their request for a last meal. There’s even this joke about a death-row fellow who dreamed, before the executioner could say grace, of getting a big bowl of strawberries.

“Sorry, but strawberries are out of season,” the warden mumbled. “Ah, no problem,” the prisoner replied as if he got the luxury of time to relax until harvest. “I’ll wait.”

But gallows humor like that does hit home. Go ask those gnashing their teeth, grieving for the victims of “vigilante killings” in Cebu or thumbing down the daredevil stunts by serial murderers gung-ho against alleged criminals.

Confronted with such callous scorn of what he calls “the gift of life,” Cardinal Vidal reportedly muttered “with a laugh” regarding the recent slaying near the Archbishop’s Palace of an alleged robber who just got out on a bail: “It was very near my house pa naman. Is it coming my way?”

It would have been breezy for the bloodthirsty squad —believed to be responsible for summary executions in Cebu City that have claimed about 180 lives since December 2004 — to knock on the door of the good cardinal in case their knees would crumple down under the weight of a conscience. If that could happen, would the cardinal be sure they’re not kidding him?

Why can’t the police do anything about it, he whined in wonder. Now that’s enough to stir a stand-up comedian into rattling off a litany of rib-tickling reasons. Foremost of which, concur the cynics, could be that law enforcement has two faces enough for a clown’s masks handy for crying and chuckling his tonsils out at the same time.

Also funny how this cradle of Christianity, in a city where piety is often worn on its devotees’ foreheads, gangland gore loosens its hair down. All because the silence of public apathy resounds like a choric undertone of “amen” for the shadowy squad playing angels of an avenging god.

Most of the victims had been convicted or served time in jail, stressed the cardinal who believed they could have availed themselves of deliverance and the grace of second chance. Or, maybe the vigilantes are not vocal enough about humming along to the tune of “Let Me Try Again.”

Flaunting their sharp-shooting acumen, perhaps they’d be handy to win the war for American troops in Iraq. Or, considering their surgical precision at tracking down public enemies, why not push them to earn brownie points for Cebu by deploying them abroad and tracing the remnants of 9/11 terrorists or Osama Bin Laden?

A good career move, God knows, is long overdue for publicity-prone executioners who might be itching behind their bonnets for the chance to show their faces.
(September 11, 2009)

a penis mightier than the sword

Here comes a perfect match for the ballsy banana cutter! :)