Thursday, November 29, 2012

№ 103. Analog Vacations

Staycation is dead. The tea pack says it all in the marketing-savvy write-up:

"No Signal / Herbal

Cell phones, crackberries, laptops --- we thought digital technology was going to free us but instead we find ourselves shackled by wireless handcuffs.

Here's a thought: Turn off the cell phone. Shut down the computer, Get off the grid, Our soothing blend of rooibos, lemongrass and orange peel will help you disconnect from the world and reconnect with yourself. This tea is 100% analog."--- LA Mill Coffee

Ivan About Town

Friday, November 23, 2012

№ 102. Wisdom

"Wisdom wears an indigo jacket. She takes long walks in purple hills at twilight, pausing to meditate at an old temple near the crossroads. She was sick as a young child so she learned to be alone with herself at an early age.

Wisdom has a quiet mind. She likes to think about the edges where things spill into each other and become their opposites. She knows how to look at things inside and out. Sometimes her eyes go out to the thing she is looking at, and sometimes the thing she is looking at enters through her eyes. Questions of time depth, and balance interest her. She is not looking for answers." --- J. Ruth Gendler, from "The Book of Qualities"

Saturday, November 17, 2012

№ 101. "Really, can these puns go any Führer?"*

"Somebody said, grammar is already a pain so why should you be so, too?" (Source unknown)

"Well, it's good to be right and it's fun to be a schmuck about it, too." (Source withheld upon request for fear of cyber bullies)


"Q. I answer our company’s main phone line, and frequently get calls for myself. Today when someone asked for me saying, “Is Charlotte available?” I responded, “This is she.” The caller promptly corrected me, informing me that I should have said, “This is her.” Which is correct?

A. Your response was the correct one. “This is she” is grammatically correct. The verb “to be” acts as a linking verb, equating subject and object. So this is she and she is this; “she” and “this” are one and the same, interchangeable, and to be truly interchangeable they must both play the same grammatical role—that of the subject.

However, this rule gets broken all the time. I suspect that people expect an object (as is correct for constructions such as “you slay me” or “what’s wrong with me?” or “go talk to her”) so they choose an object, unaware of the nature of a linking verb. Now both forms have come to be accepted if not acceptable; it’s a matter of how formal you want to be. If you’re a 1950s-style Hollywood garage mechanic who grudgingly picks up the phone, with greasy hands, when nobody’s “manning” it, the conversation might go like this:

Hey, Charlie?
That’s me, Mac. Whaddya want?

You can try to avoid the issue by using your own name, rather than a pronoun: “this is Charlotte” is never wrong.

The who/whom question is similar. Though “whom” is correct when the objective form is called for, it can sound put on; it seems to draw attention to its own correctness. In any case, if we were all as proper as you are, proper grammar wouldn’t sound wrong to anyone." (Chicago Manual of Style)


Bento Box:

*The title is lifted from Frazel's YouTube comment.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

№ 99. First Trip to Bicolandia


The Division of Public Schools used to disburse funds only from imperial Sorsogon, decades before ATMs became available in our sleepy town, Masbate. This meant that, to get their salaries, public school teachers had to travel for three hours by sea to Bulan, Sorsogon and another hour by land to Sorsogon City. My two aunts were no exception and had to make one of their long penitential treks to Bicolandia that summer.

I tagged along happily, of course. To a kid, any excuse to get out of his store duties for two full days was a welcome escape.

This was circa April 1983.

It was still a few months before the August 21 assassination. The country was still under the dying spell of an old regime. Just on February 9 of the same year, almost a third of our town was razed to the ground because, according to most elders, it was a "benediction." The "benediction" was, in fact, an incendiary cocktail of politics, a very dry spell (no waterworks system, no firetrucks), arson, and our luck that our Patron Saint wasn't a water bender.

We received our news about Reaganomics, Thatcher and the Falklands War and the Grammy's from Voice of America (VOA) broadcast over amplitude modulation. Our format of choice to enjoy Taps, Friday the 13th, E.T. and Annie was the Betamax. Yes, it was still the Dark Ages up until the late 80s, when Maselco turned off electricity at midnight.

We left very early. By 4 AM, we were allowed to climb aboard M/V Matea, probably a boat of World War II vintage. It was docked quietly in the dark corner of the pier, until "fuera visita" which roused the engine and almost everyone else (barnacles encrusted on the buoys included), to a noisy wakefulness. In my mind, I can still smell the burning crude oil mingled with the sea. It was a heady, salty sniff of freedom.

Despite it's rusty state, I was left without a doubt that the iron ship was seaworthy. Or, at least, unlike the outriggers dotting the bay, it was made of sterner stuff to ferry us successfully across the big gulf.

I recall hearing the news, many years after that summer, that M/V Matea sank somewhere off Ticao Island (Matea 2 was another experience at another time). Yes, the owner towed in a replacement vessel. Life as we knew it in our small island would, otherwise, have limped to a halt.

As an added treat, I also saw Mayon for the first time as we were sailing out of the bay to Ticao. The sight of the cone made the descriptions in our grade school textbooks dull, somehow.

Ticao, the second of the triune of islands that form our province, lies just across an even sleepier town---Bulan.