Saturday, January 25, 2014

№ 156. Manila Walks: Manila Central Post Office

I had lived in Manila for close to three decades. And I had never explored this heritage building, until I moved to another city.

Sometimes, despite the almost conceded urban decay, I can still see the vignettes of the capital's charm. True, there aren't many. It takes a lot of faith and purpose to find them. But these enclaves in the middle of chaos do exist.

One such enclave sits in Lawton Plaza.

It is near the equally-historic Manila City Hall. By the banks of Pasig River just across Escolta and Binondo, it is an aging relic of Manila's post-colonial past. Just about a ten-minute walk from either Jones Bridge or Sta. Cruz Bridge, the Manila Central Post Office in its neo-classical architecture, fortunately, still looks elegant despite the fiscal neglect over the years.

The building, viewed from outside, looks sturdy and well-kept. But the interiors really need some face lift.

I hope for the day when we have enough resources to fix the place and restore it to its post-colonial, pre-martial law glory. These resources would entail funds, cultural capital, bureaucratic will and time.

Soon, I hope.

№ 155. Mindfulness & Quiet

"In A History of Reading (public library), Steven Roger Fischertraces how we went from the dawn of symbols to electronic text, and in the process deconstructs what it actually means to read.

He offers a poetic frame in the introduction:

'What music is to the spirit, reading is to the mind. Reading challenges, empowers, bewitches, enriches. We perceive little black marks on white paper or a PC screen and they move us to tears, open up our lives to new insights and understandings, inspire us, organize our existences and connect us with all creation.

Surely there can be no greater wonder.'" Brain Pickings

Friday, January 24, 2014

№ 154. The Question Mark

What is the shape of a curious mind?

Does it follow the curves of riddles as they flow out of our thoughts? As we seek out the strings of answers, do we not enter labyrinths with minotaurs ready to engage us in mortal combats? True, ignorance dies a thousand deaths and we gain iotas of neural networks. We also arrive at gardens rife with serpents and seeds of doubts. Seeds that grow into blasphemy, unorthodoxy and many meta-institutional offsprings.

The apple from the tree which was forbidden may just really be a fig of infinite curiosity that doesn't end with a wealth of answers. Answers are just a foretaste of the wellsprings of creation that lay inexhaustible underneath. As the multiverses expand, the supply of energy and matter and the inter-relationships that enrich the whole soup deepen in plenitude.

Mortality which was the price of disobedience is really the death of innocent, blind obedience. To disobey means to take a bite, despite the fiat, and move on for other quests and grow in the process. To disobey is to wander off and wonder where the lay of the land is demarcated between the knowns and unknowns. Reason and faith are really aspects of single reality. To be religious is to be curious and to ask questions. To disobey means to search for meaning, to fall from grace---that flat landscape of medieval earth, and to realize unending horizons of a sphere. Augustine, that bishop who struggled with inner demons, celebrated our happy fault which gained for us redemption.

This article from Brain Pickings is a gem as we are on the cusp of the lunar new year. To know is to experience the burning bush and spark an epiphany:

"This wonder at existence is the condition for an authentic encounter with things and opens up the possibility of knowledge. . . . This is a wonder that does not stop at an aesthetic sentiment, is not reduced to a momentary curiosity, but is the beginning of a process, kindling the desire to enter into relationship with the world, to get to know it."

Friday, January 17, 2014

№ 153. Negative Echoes

Modern world is a noisy, polluted space. It is still inhabitable but we are approaching a threshold that is close to barely. I came across this BBC article, during the quiet sweet spot of 2 AM, which writes about the search for the noiseless places on earth.

There are none that exist.

Even inside the human-crafted anechoic chamber, we can hear our bodies hum--- breathing, et cetera! There is no escape.

Should this be the next portable invention: iQuiet? A wearable contraption that can cancel out and seal off the ambient and intrusive sounds that civilize our lives --- cellphone beeps, tech white noise, air conditioning hum, elevator music, chatter, ad infinitum. Yes, there are just too many species in these aural zoos we live in.

Or even more radical, how about a device to escape from it all, just long enough to let the insanity simmer down: iDisappear? iThink people from Silicon Valley should pay attention.

Andy Warhol Sleep 1963 from screen_tests on Vimeo.

№ 152. Edge of the Word

Little Sparrows

He quivers,
a pat of butter
on skillet.

She's ice cube.
All it takes is his
Warm patience.

More? He asks.
Yes! Yes. Oh God yes.
Lips bitten.

№ 151. Knowledge & Knife

All This and More
By Mary Karr 

The Devil’s tour of hell did not include
a factory line where molten lead
spilled into mouths held wide,

no electric drill spiraling screws
into hands and feet, nor giant pliers
to lower you into simmering vats.

Instead, a circle of light
opened on your stuffed armchair,
whose chintz orchids did not boil and change,

and the Devil adjusted
your new spiked antennae
almost delicately, with claws curled

and lacquered black, before he spread
his leather wings to leap
into the acid-green sky.

So your head became a tv hull,
a gargoyle mirror. Your doppelganger
sloppy at the mouth

and swollen at the joints
enacted your days in sinuous
slow motion, your lines delivered

with a mocking sneer. Sometimes
the frame froze, reversed, began
again: the red eyes of a friend

you cursed, your girl child cowered
behind the drapes, parents alive again
and puzzled by this new form. That’s why

you clawed your way back to this life.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

№ 150. Joy

"Joy cometh in the evening."--- from The People's Pope, Time, 20 December 2013, Howard Chua-Eoan and Elizabeth Dias.

This quote paraphrases Psalm 30:5 of the King Jame Version, "For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

Doodlers Anonymous

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

№ 149. Eyes Fastened with Pins

Eyes Fastened with Pins
by Charles Simic 

How much death works,
No one knows what a long
Day he puts in.
The little
Wife always alone
Ironing death’s laundry.
The beautiful daughters
Setting death’s supper table.
The neighbors playing
Pinochle in the backyard
Or just sitting on the steps
Drinking beer. Death,
Meanwhile, in a strange
Part of town looking for
Someone with a bad cough,
But the address is somehow wrong,
Even death can’t figure it out
Among all the locked doors ...
And the rain beginning to fall.
Long windy night ahead.
Death with not even a newspaper
To cover his head, not even
A dime to call the one pining away,
Undressing slowly, sleepily,
And stretching naked
On death’s side of the bed.

№ 148. Forced Dialogues

The Conquering Hero is Tired
by Charles Simic

Often I sit at your window
For Hours on end watching you snooze.
You could be in medical school
Sawing a cadaver.
You could be leading men into battle,
Donning judicial robes,
Inventing a new potato peeler, and so forth.
My kind admonition, my well-meant
Remonstrances you receive
By turning your face to the wall.

Blue dusk and the night's gloom
Are your true cronies.
Streets time forgot where fire-sale leaflets
Fly about, the ten-year-old assassin
Twirls his gun, the cats shield themselves
Under rusted cars.

For Christ's sake, turn off the light you plead.
I'm afraid it can't be done.
The bright sunlight, the blue sky,
The little birds hopping and chirping on the sill
Are all perfectly legal.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

№ 146. Senses of the Analog Self

I was reading BBC's article about the tensions of our human contexts with our digital toys.

The roar of diced onions as they hit the greased pan. The smell of the skillet crowded with bacon crisps. The turning of the color from opaque to amber caramelization. The warmth of an omelet breakfast on lazy Sunday. The memories of many other rainy days wrapped with comfort food. Yeah, I wouldn't trade these tactile information for any digital replica.

I'm still partial to analog. For now.

But, I must grudgingly admit, augmentation with virtual footnotes is already the next logical step and is beginning to creep upon us. The digital tags are already imprinted on paper and ink newspapers, which show additional photographs and links. Still, still some realities are not meant to disappear with the inevitable progress of science.

Analog cobwebs still have a space to inhabit in this world. Humans, in fact, create sandboxes for all these cobwebs.

I still have our cassette tapes with personally recorded playlists--- side A for the uptempo and side B for the slower songs. Our LPs of Children's Folk Songs All Over the World is now about four decades old and counting. That's how we learned that Bahia is a real town in Brazil and not just that 70s place. Of course, our vinyl record for the Sound of Music, although scratchy with time, is still in its original album sleeve. As I write this, below my desk lay carcasses of old Betamax players, fax machines, telephones, VCD players and, yikes, an AT(?) clone.

Many of these things are just sepia colored niches and curiosities of a passing era. They sit like off-key vintage pieces of the thrift shops in Cubao X.

Here's another classic that should linger for those who, while rooted in the past, are not afraid to brave the critters and comforts of our digital future.

Happy New Year kid, so what's the best up ahead?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

№ 145. Toying with Ideas

"I am twenty years old. To a world-wise adult, I am little more than a child. To any child, however, I am old enough to be distrusted, to be excluded forever from the magical community of the short and beardless." ---Dean Koontz

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

№ 144. Minutiae

It was a comedy about, oh, nothing. You know, stuff that really don't matter much. But his nonsense packs a dense field of gravity, LMFAO. He is a demigod of details. Minute observations are the hypotheses that line his lab notes.

"Seinfeld talks about his comic routines as if they're discovered rather than created: observations that are out there, camouflaged against the patterns of everyday life, waiting for him to detect them. One example: the other day, his two sons were arguing, because one of them had farted. "They were accusing each other – 'he who smelt it dealt it!' – and I just thought, Jesus, these guys need some new material. That's the same thing I was saying when I was five. Fifty years ago! Kids! I can't believe they're still doing the same material!" (The Guardian)

And, like Kant, he has stuck to a clockwork method to his comedic madness. He keeps to a weekly routine like a regular zen meditation. And the guy lives in New York!--- the melting pot of neuroses and all that spices that give life a kick.

"All the way through, from first standup shows to stardom, he forced himself to work by marking a cross on a calendar for every day he wrote material; soon enough, he had a long chain of crosses, and kept going partly because he didn't want to break the chain." (The Guardian)

I miss that 90s show.  But yes, well, he has a series that sounds familiar but definitely reformatted for the cloud: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

2014 is off to a happy start.

Monday, January 6, 2014

№ 143. Happy New Year

Here's an old photo I took in Malasimbo Music Festival last year. I thought it's colorful enough to banner 2014.

So cheers to a bright one up ahead!