Last Dances and First Kisses

It’s that time of the year again: prom night.  It’s that time of the year for suits and corsages, for dresses and tiaras,  and when the music of David Pomeranz is the norm, not the exception.

Grade school prom nights were early evenings spent in awkward “uuuuy” moments, where you kind of fear the “sitting in the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G” moments.  When you’re in elementary school, even the faintest glimmer of a crush can be seen as a sign of weakness.  Cooties, so to speak.  The full brunt of that comes when you realize that the girl who you had your eyes on that night became an FHM cover girl.

High school prom night was even worse.  After making it abundantly clear that I will not dance, a lady friend literally dragged me into the dance floor.  It’s reminiscent of those old caveman cartoons, where the men dragged their women by the hair while their clubs were slung on their shoulders.  I tried explaining away to my lady friend that I don’t dance, and we ended up in about three minutes of awkwardness: while my lady friend was feeling the dance, I was allowing myself to be dragged along the dance floor in a strange mix of waltzes and beer barrel polka.

Prom is also that precious moment where you get your first kiss, but that didn’t happen for me either.  I get the obligatory mommy kisses every once in a while (Christmas, New Year).  Other than that, though, I’ve never been kissed.  Not even by my own ex four years ago.

Now this would be all well and good, if not for the fact that I’m 23 years old.  Never danced in prom, never been kissed.  No last dances, no first kisses.

Y’know, nobody invented an emoticon for that feeling yet.

I’m not in a rush when it comes to romance, and I’m not saying that I’m embittered about it at all.  Yet as much as I want to treat the absence of a love life as a non-issue, it is very much an issue to just about every one I know.  Just about every friend I have has gotten married or is in a stable romantic commitment, and here I am, bored as heck.  It’s definitely not an explanation for “Marocharim-angry,” as some commenters have already taken it upon themselves to call it that, but it does get you thinking.

To some people, it’s almost always a case of first dance, last kiss.  Not to me, though; not having had a first dance means that I don’t have a memory for one.  I’ll always be waiting for a last dance.  Not having a first kiss means that I don’t have to count how many last kisses I have had with someone.  I will always look forward to a first kiss.

Maybe I couldn’t share prom experiences, give away prom tips, or have interesting prom stories to tell.  If anything, though, the last dance and the first kiss in my mind will be something really special.  Not only for me, but that girl who’ll probably come around.

Eventually… for one really horribly late prom date that’s years in the making.

Rat in the Cage*

The world is a vampire… sent to drain
Secret destroyers… hold you up to the flames.
And what do I get for my pain?
Betrayed desires, and a piece of the game.

– Smashing Pumpkins, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness*

There’s some joke I heard that people have quit tightening their belts because there’s no more leather to poke holes into.  What makes the joke a bit on the sick side is that instead of tightening belts, some have tightened a noose around their necks.  The morbidity of it all comes with the fact that you just don’t know if anyone’s doing this… literally or figuratively.

I really do not know how to begin, to continue, and end my thoughts for the day.  It’s hard to articulate the thoughts of every person out there who, just in the past few weeks, probably got terminated.  There are many euphemisms for a layoff: “redundancies,” “re-engineering,” “termination en masse,” or measures like freezing salaries or cutting down on working days.  What stands between the worker and the road to ruin is that one lifeline that tethers people to have a sense of purpose in capitalist society: a job that pays a wage.

“The worst is yet to come,” says former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and gives us the numbers: a 4.0 to 4.5 percent growth rate in 2008, and a 1.9 percent increase in exports growth from January to October 2008.  I do not envy the almost-prophetic burden Professor Diokno has to carry in his presentation this afternoon at the University of the Philippines School of Economics; where he doesn’t warn of the impending storm, where he doesn’t bear news of a coming storm, but has to tell us all that the storm is here.

On Tuesday, the Department of Labor and Employment reports that 23, 485 Filipino workers, both here and abroad, have lost their jobs because of the economic crisis.  Jay Julian, spokesman for DOLE, says that 19,443 workers have lost their jobs here, and 4,042 have lost their jobs abroad; a grand total of 23,485 jobs lost in just under three months.  The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines – for all its failings – said that 2,933 of its members have been laid off, and 3,300 had their working hours cut or modified.

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Broken, Beat, and Scarred*

I do not have profound thoughts to share, other than the sickening metaphor of a friar tortured in the Middle Ages; one of the first men in history to raise his fist in the air in the land of hypocrisy.

The Italian martyr Savonarola was tortured in a machine called the “strappado.” It’s a very cruel instrument used against criminals to get them to confess. Perhaps it’s popular now in S&M circles, but history has it on good account that this object was an instrument of torture.

Savonarola was tied by his left hand by ropes and leather straps, suspended on the rack-like device. He was repeatedly and methodically raised and jerked down to get him to retract everything he said about the evils and corruption of the Papacy, as he did with his preaching. It may seem like an amusement park ride – the medieval form of Enchanted Kingdom, only disenchanted and without wizard mascots – yet the device was able to get him to sign the confession.

You could imagine the agony of Savonarola; raised by his hand and its fingers, the joints hyperextended and flexed beyond its limits. The locks are then released from the wheel, and he plummeted… with only his bound hand saving him. Just before he collapses into the marble walks of the city of Florence, the locks in the wheel were engaged again, and Savonarola is saved – and tortured – by his bound hand.

Imagine the pain that radiated from his fingertips to his knuckles. Every bone in his wrist was pulverized, the skin cut through by the straps, ropes, and chains. The tendons and ligaments of his elbows were ready to snap, if not that they already had. His one shoulder dislocated from its socket, shredded from bearing his full weight in the strappado. Mutilated, battered… broken, beat, and scarred.

The very man who hangs there like a piece of meat had a voice that echoed through the very souls of the laity that crowded the Church of San Marco, preaching against the excesses and the vanity of a corrupt Borgia masquerading as a Pope. The murals of the masters lay silent, mute witnesses for the man who scaled the pulpit on mornings of worship, and preached not from the parchment leaves of Bibles, or sermons not heard from the tired old homilies of aging men of the cloth, but from rage and anger… from the belief that there is right and wrong, and that his Church stands for the former, and that his Church stands because of the latter.

All the while, the friar hung like a pendelum of flesh and bone, passing out from the pain and yet awakened by it. Screaming… wailing… strapped to a machine of nothing more than a wooden wheel, rough ropes, chains, crude pulleys, and leather straps.

“I confess!” he wails. “I confess to the truth!”

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Showbiz Shootin': The Woman Who Was Hugotized From My Tadyangizer

I’m posting Marian Rivera’s picture here because I feel like it.

Anyway, – my source for fair and balanced reporting in local showbiz – reports that on February 2, 2009, GMA-7 will launch its newest primetime soap offering: Ang Babaeng Hinugot sa Aking Tadyang. It’s an adaptation of a Carlo J. Caparas graphic novel, which was first made into a film in 1988 starring Vivian Velez…

Wait a second; let’s run by that again: Ang Babaeng Hinugot sa Aking Tadyang. That’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it?  And in an online showbiz community that thrives on abbreviations (like, “MSKM” for Maging Sino Ka Man, “IPL” for Iisa Pa Lamang, among other things… sorry for using ABS-CBN examples), could the abbreviation “ABHSAT” work?

Before anything else, let me explain something about Pinoy television.  Here in the Philippines, there is no such thing as a soap opera – or a TV program, most especially a noontime game show – that fails.  There are only ratings that say one channel is better than the other.  Those ratings, in turn, are one of two things: unreliable, or rigged.  If you’re watching a locally-produced TV program that fails, that is not number one, or does not have high ratings, you’re not watching Filipino TV.  You’re probably getting aerial reception from our Taiwanese friends.

But yeah… ABHSAT?

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Cargo Cult Blogging

But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science.  That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school -we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation.  It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly.  It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty – a kind of leaning over backwards.

Richard Feynman, “Cargo Cult Science”

There’s a certain group of people in Vanuatu who worship an avatar called “John Frum.”  When the Americans occupied the islands during World War II, they bought with them unexplainable amounts of material wealth never before seen in the islands.  Some of the people surmised that the wealth is supposed to be theirs, and the cargo could be theirs if they followed the way of the Americans.

After shedding their colonial pasts and embracing their roots and customs, the tribespeople then equated the massive amounts of cargo with airstrips, towers, and US Army uniforms.  So they cleared jungles to make airstrips, made towers out of trees, and even went so far as to wear “headsets” made from vine and branches.

“We wait for you, John Frum,” they pray.  “We wait for you and the cargo you promised us!”

Yet no airplanes land on the “airstrips,” no responses are heard from the “headsets.”  There’s something wrong here: the cargo does not arrive.

I use this anthropological study – and Richard Feynman’s reading of it – to illustrate “what’s wrong” with the Filipino blogosphere today.  Borrowing from Feynman, let’s call it “cargo cult blogging.”

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Monsour = Obama

Now for my own personal amusement… hey, what can I do, I’m a sick retarded a-hole.  Yeah, I’m going there.

Last time, I wrote about how we’re mistaken in our search for a Philippine version of US President Barack Obama, and that a lot of our excitement here is out of context.  For the better part of a weekend getting extremely bored, I found my answer.  Well, sort of; at the very least, a hunch of mine is confirmed.

Ia Lucero and Shari Cruz Plurked a certain image that sort of got stuck in my head.  Let’s just call this the transformation of Bush to Obama… Bushama… Obamush… whatever.


Note the transformation of George W. Bush into Barack H. Obama… although yeah, I can’t help but make a reference to one of them “Jesus H. Christ” jokes.  Yet take a very close look at Transformation #4… doesn’t that guy…


Remind you of this guy?

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Everything Including the Squeal

This week, Congress has voted – for itself – P9.665 billion in pork funds.  That is almost a two billion peso increase from last year’s pork allocations, at around P7.9 billion.  Which makes for a lot of bollocks, really; today’s Inquirer editorial makes a rather poignant point about how “heartless and callous” this act is, especially at a time of global crisis.

If you say “pork” to someone in Congress, you’ll get a patriotic, impassioned tirade against graft and corruption that would have come from the throat of Raul Manglapus and the diaphragm of Camilo Osias.  Yet if you say “Priority Development Assistance Fund,” you’ll get a long-winded explanation of why it’s needed, why it’s necessary, and why the two billion peso increase is justified.

I am sure that a million-peso waiting shed is in order, or that a side street near the school must be renamed (heck, why not the entire school), a scholarship has to be named after one’s self to establish one’s place in history.  Everyone in Congress is mandated to give away overpriced relief goods to the “indigent,” as well as have a convenient source of money to perpetuate patronage and power.  Everyone in Congress has to have a “pro-poor” program.  Every member of the House is entitled to messages of progress in giant lengths of tarpaulin, or the long side-walls of pedestrian overpasses.

That is PDAF, that is the pork barrel.  Everything including the squeal.

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