The Facebook monster

While almost everyone, those individuals who wanted to be seen as erudite, passionate, un-apathetic, a rebel-with-a-definite-cause, or those who are genuinely involved and are wanting to voice their opinions out on this divisive debate, rants about the perceived lack of insight the Catholic Church in the Philippines is making rather too obvious as regards its stand on the RH Bill, although not a few are inundating the site with remarks that border from the harmlessly banausic to the noxiously annoying.

But all of us being, members of this free virtual site, are left with no option but to ignore the refuse some people mindlessly spew on the walls, or because we have relations with these people that is beyond the virtual, connections that bleed to the real, we obligate ourselves to click ‘like’ button even though we know in our greenest gut that this is an act as horrendous as devouring somebody’s puke.

While these social networking sites, facebook and its countless copies are giving us ‘choices’, these are as artificial as artificial can be, a consolation for our being subject to their surreptitious manipulation, artificial choices that they can easily take a way at a whim. And we, being too accustomed to their presence, would rather make do with what they provide than to wallow haplessly like heroin addicts deprived of its paradisaical kick.

First, it was television that I slowly, steadily, and successfully eliminated from my routine, but with some symptoms of difficult withdrawal syndrome. Now, this facebook thing, an entity that initially presented itself as a benign diversion, is now turning into a malevolent monster eating anyone it has lodged itself in from the inside out, including me.

Tell me, how do I get out of here?

Half-way done with my quarterlife crisis

http://www.stratejoy.com/

I turned 25 four days ago. I’m now exactly in my mid-20s; not a very consoling idea considering that I only intend to live until my 40s or 50s. That means I am already suffering from my mid-life crises, which is way grimmer.

I always believe that the 20s is the best time for somebody to commit as many mistakes as he can because when he is in his teens he’s not mature enough to reflect on and learn from his mistakes, and it’s already quite late and a bit shameful when he’s in his 30s and still keeps on committing major gaffes. The 20s gives one both a just-right level of maturity and an excuse for being a fool.

I still have five more years until I run out of reasons for being less of what I should be, for being profligate, for being too smart that I rejected so many opportunities to become somebody, for being carefree and irresponsible  about so many things, for loving very passionately and falling out of love just as quickly.

But until I reach my 30s, I would never stop living this life to its brim, until it overflows. I would cherish the daredevilry, the risque attitude I have cultivated after nine years of living by myself. For sure, I would remember this part of my life as the most exciting, the most colorful, and a major turning point in my going-to-be short life.

Writing a synopsis of one’s life this early a stage is a formidable task. I am smacked in the face with a blank page; I got nothing much to write because nothing much has happened to me. Except for some occasional minor storms, my life is dotted with negligible doldrums that fail to develop into full-fledged hurricanes; I would consider my life just a few notches above boring. I have lived a fairly comfortable, untested existence.

The supposed daredevilry and risque I was referring to above were nothing but an empty rhetorical device called hyperbole that a man in his 20s has a penchant of using and abusing; his grandiloquence unbridled. I have hopelessly projected, using this blog, divergent images of myself and the life I live from what is truly real.

I’ve been employed in not less than ten different jobs since I left the university, changed careers paths in not less than five times, and I am currently holding more or less four jobs. I spend most of my time working more than anything else. I work for plus-minus 16 hours every day, leaving me with a measly 8 hours for sleeping, eating, bathing, reading, writing, studying, traveling to work, but still being able to maintain a beautiful relationship with one of the most interesting and lovable persons I have met. I get exhausted at times, but I am far from being burned out.

I’ve been involved in more or less five serious relationships, had taken part in more than a hundred-and-one flings (more or less, as I already lost count), but in all these five serious relationships, I profess that I loved as passionately and burned red-hot I got singed from the inside. And from these mistakes, I learned a lot, in fact.

And gladly, I’ve begun quite recently to take everything, especially when it’s a matter concerning love, at a more even pace. This allows me and my partner to relish those simple moments of having simple dinners together, looking at each other’s faces while eating home-cooked Kare-kare, sitting by the beach, watching a movie about witches and the Devil, exchanging sweet-nothings, or simply cuddling at 5 in the morning (two hours before work starts, painfully reminding us that we’re adults ergo we have to work no matter how hard we dupe ourselves that we’re apathetic Frenchmen).

At this point, I’d say I am a happy man, though I know happiness is on a never-ending flux. Being a ‘happy man’ is as dynamic a phrase as the images inside the kaleidoscope you’ll find in the header of this blog. If there’s one thing experience has imparted on me that I will never outgrow, it’s being able to remain hopeful and eternally starry-eyed about what many surprises tomorrow will shower me with. Though this does not figure in my generally cynical posts and jaded thoughts, I am a believer of beautiful tomorrows. Probably this is the reason why I remain a happy man despite the hurts, frustrations, disappointments, heavy traffic, oily fast food, fake people, skyrocketing rent, demanding graduate school, and sleepless nights.

I am happy to celebrate this phase of my life and look forward to many more years of writing, working, yes loving, and living.

Framed: the Fox News Journalism

The early years of the 21st century is marked with a sense of insecurity both by the individual and the state. No one feels safe because of the threat of terrorism that is perpetrated by groups who fight for reasons of ideology, religion, or for plain criminal intent. The state, however, also made use of terrorism to maintain its own interest which it cloaks surreptitiously using legitimate justification such as the utilization of war to preserve national security and protection of its citizens but by putting in peril lives of people in places where it conducts operations to fight the supposed terrorists.

A discussion on terrorism and how it influences the consciousness of the people who live in this period in history is incomplete without the inclusion of the media in the formula. Terrorism should then be discussed on a broader discourse platform. This can only be done if the role of media in depicting real-time news scenes and the constant replaying of these scenes before billions of media consumers all over the world is thoroughly considered and rigorously peered into.

In the Philippines, the people’s conception and opinion of terrorism is shaped mostly by the far-reaching and intensely democratized television. It is interesting to note that Filipinos, at least in general, empathize with the United States and are supportive of the actions made by the US against Iraq, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups in the Middle East. These international terrorist groups turned out to have strong connection with other terrorist organizations in the country, specifically the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah.  Despite the unpopularity of American intervention in Iraq among Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines remains a loyal ally of the US in this fight. Opinion polls conducted during the height of the war against terror declared by the Bush administration also indicates that most Filipinos are supportive of the deployment of American troop in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This popular opinion during the time came about, although direct causality is difficult to establish, when local media started using film clips syndicated from their media partners in the United States, specifically Fox News Channel, which provided local TV networks with videos that were taken directly from the war zone. In fact, the country’s biggest network, ABS-CBN, got most of its video from the Channel.

Because media outfits in the Philippines syndicated film clips gathered by the American news channel, these clips which replayed infinitely quenched the thirst of the people for information about the place where their loved ones are employed as contract workers. But this did not come without a price—the Filipino nation became an avid supporter of the Bush administration’s rabid war against terror. The nation accepted without question the prevailing idea at the time: “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorist.” No one question the assumption and the possibility of the existence of other perspectives.  And the people, at least the public in general, swallowed the agenda that the rightist Fox Channel advocated—that is, the perpetuation of the war waged in Iraq.

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, a documentary film by the director Robert Greenwald, criticizes the type of journalism espoused by the Fox News Channel headed by the media mogul who owns the network, Rupert Murdoch. The documentary asserts that Fox is biased toward extreme right lines in Washington that strongly support the war waged in Iraq. This predisposed leaning of the network conspicuously runs in opposition to the channel’s claim of fairness and balance.

The one-hour-and-a-half film, which was unfortunately not released in cinemas, examines the expansion of Murdoch clout in the American and global media industry, and how this strong presence eventually led to a concentration of media ownership in his hands thereby leading to the infringement of press freedom and curtailment of objectivity—values people in the industry hold with utmost value.

It will be helpful to use a framework in understanding the role of Fox News Channel in creating the shared consciousness of the audience and how the use of these clips that were syndicated by different media outfits all over the world, the Philippines including, also affected the prevailing popular opinion about the war in those countries.

The idea of ‘news frames’ refers to the interpretive structures that journalist use to set particular events within their broader context (Norris et al 10). The essence of framing is selection that will give priority to some facts, images, or development over others, thereby promoting one particular interpretation of events (11).

Through frames, apparently scattered and diverse events are understood within regular patterns. Without knowing much, if anything, about the particular people, groups, issues, or even places involved, the terrorist and anti-terrorist frame allows us to quickly sort out, interpret, categorize, and evaluate these conflicts. In international affairs, framing serves several functions by highlighting certain events as international problems that affect American interests, identifying and explaining the source of any security threat, and offering recommendations for particular policy solutions designed to overcome these problems.

The use of terrorism frame serves several functions by linking together disparate, almost unrelated facts, events and leaders and also by naming perpetrators, identifying victims, and attributing blame. On the other hand, it can also function to forward an agenda that serve the interest of the people who control the media organization.

Outfoxed fully captured, although in a rather prejudiced fashion, this blatant use of framing by the Fox News Channel through Greenwald’s careful utilization of the different ‘news frames’ that have been a result of careful documentation resulting in a film that is as telling as it is harrowing and that would pin the channel firmly to the ground for its lack of independence and obvious bias.

However, the film also erred in one, major aspect. It failed to get the side of the Channel as well as that of Murdoch. It would have been more effective had it attempted to erase any feel of propaganda that enmeshed it all throughout. It is a victim of the very problematique it aimed to critique. This lack of balance in reporting diminishes it into a card-stacking propaganda material aimed at discrediting the already discreditable Fox News Channel.

__________

Framing Terrorism the News Media, the Government and the Public. Pipa Norris, Montague Kern, and Marion Just, eds. New York: Routledge 2003. 10-11

Hammond, Philip. Media, War, and Postmodernity. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2007. 46

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Robert Greenwald director. Film documentary. Brave New Films.

Media coverage of a hostage in Manila

If one does not have access to television, radio or any form of media, he would not know that something horrific has occurred several minutes ago. Of the fifteen, based on the estimate made by the media, that were hostaged by a certain Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza, six were killed. Aljazeera, CNN, BBC, and even a hardly known Russian English news channel called RT covered the breaking news live using videos either taken by their own cameramen or signals taken from ABS-CBN, the country’s biggest TV network.

The Philippines is back to world prominence again, this time because of the barbarism of its people, a slight deviation from the usual images of the Philippines in international media, where these barbaric people are being killed by typhoons, earthquakes, or any imaginable natural calamity except maybe an avalanche.

For a long time, I have not watched prime-time news programs on TV because news are predictably reeking with negativity, boring soap operatic narratives of the schmaltzy lives of local celebrities, or uncalled-for commentaries by newsreaders; and because I have other better things to do, of course. But this evening was different.

I came from an intensive one-hour work-out in the gym and several lapses in the pool, when a friend of a friend texted me that he’s staying in the house this evening. I accompanied him to our unit and not wanting to wade in ghostly silence, I switched the television on and we were greeted by this breaking news that seemed to have been inspired by Tagalog action movies in the 90s.

I saw on TV policemen, very hesitant and fearful for their own lives, approaching a chartered bus that contained fifteen Chinese tourists, the driver of the bus, and a policeman who sought to be reinstated through means of a violent nature after being fired a year ago.  After more than 10 hours of waiting, the policemen finally decided to take the matter in their hands and do what they should have done several hours ago. The hostage taker was brutally killed. In one of the least graphic descriptions made by a news reporter, he said without any remorse– “tumilapon ang ilang bahagi ng utak niya sa direksyon namin” (some portions of his brain flew toward our direction).

It’s a story that is not uncommon in a third world country like the Philippines. But it was a news story that  the news-starved media in the Philippines has been waiting for. Not that they are always deprived of it, in fact they have enough and consistent sources of materials for a high-rating story such as this story, only that they can’t get enough.  So they positioned their men/women around the scene, some of them even had the privilege of being with the policemen who attempted to forcibly (how else?) open the bus and pluck the victims one by one, most of them got in the way in the already sloppy operation done by the Philippine National Police.

The 12-hour hostage drama, a ‘drama’ as all the newsreaders of both stations lovingly call it, ended violently as it can end in no other way than violently because the media have determined it to be so. All the coverages, whichever channel one chooses, were closest to a farce because the media thought this is only some sort of a reality TV, by nature, farcical and spectacular.

But if there is one thing the media did impeccably well, it was showing without missing a single detail the ineptitude of our police and their obvious inutility. Bravo, Philippines!

On elegance



Seated in the end-most seat at the back part of the auditorium of Insituto Cervantes in Manila, I had a clearer, albeit the small cinema in the Instituto was unlighted as in all other self-respecting cinemas, glimpses of people who were seated in front of me. I went there earlier, catching a 5:30 pm LRT1 ride from Gil Puyat to United Nations amid a heavy afternoon downpour.

On Wednesday of last week, I got hold of an announcement, printed in the Business Mirror, on the Spanish Embassy’s annual El Dia Espanol (Day of the Spanish Language). Piqued by the activities lined up by the Instituto, I braved the impending rain which later fell into an itinerant early monsoon rainfall. I arrived at the Instituto soaked and a bit disorientated because of drippings from umbrellas of other less careful commuters and the usual slaughter house-like scene inside these crammed coaches.

The perceived very intellectual atmosphere in the Instituto, several meters away from the UN Avenue train station, gave me a warm welcoming.

Several groups of Filipinos, mostly students and young professionals and some tourist-looking Caucasians were conversing with each other in Spanish and English and occasional Tagalog in a small cafe a few steps from the metal-detecting machine. I do not speak Spanish neither do I understand the language, which is just too bad.

At first, I thought the place was reeking with heat coming from the usual European (specifically Parisian) coffee shop debates on semiotic, critique of post-structuralism or the discussion on metaphor and the primacy of irony over other devices in chapter 4 of Aristotle’s Poetics. Overhearing their small chit-chats, my impressions fell flat on their faces and mine, and the supposed intellectual atmosphere collapsed into heaps of commonplace subjects of small talks. The topics of their discussion were of unlofty kind, mostly mundane concerns about the heralding of a new brand of politics that comes with the election of Mr. Aquino to the highest seat in the land, the recovery of the national economy vis-a-vis the ‘rigged’ figures proudly claimed by the Arroyo administration, the sorry state of Philippine education system, and some students from, I gathered, St Benilde, who were exchanging banalities about the rigor and excitement of their college life.

I sipped my coffee fast and escaped immediately from the very heavy atmosphere in the lobby. I ran to the small auditorium and chose the most isolated location because I wanted to enjoy my movie, Galatasaray – Depor. I half suspected it was going to be in Spanish (of course!) and that subtitles, if there were any, would be in Spanish. I was right.

I trusted that motion picture is an art of universal value that transcends cultural boundaries. And that for somebody who studied and teaches communication, my education prepared me to tackle kinesics head on, understanding the story based on the actions, the varying tones of the characters’ voices in delivering their lines, and the subtleties of their interactions. Or so I thought.

Until a group of people, the same group I tried to escape from in the cafeteria came in and joined in communal experience of film-viewing. One of them, the most brazen, blurted “Ay, walang English subtitles.” I do not see why people in this country have the penchant of stating, and stating out loud, what is obvious.

But the fact that these people have the audacity to advertise their stupidity like a badge of honor is even more horrifying.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people, whom I assume to be impeccably conversant in Spanish, made it sure that people like me who understand no Spanish word except pronto, puerta, or puta knew where to locate ourselves in the greater scheme of things. These people who have studied Spanish, the younger, over-eager undergraduate, especially, who were part of that group in question, laughed twice as hard and as loudly as one would normally laugh when faced with a funny scene or line in the film.

Their stylized way of laughing signified the void that separates the Spanish literate and the non-literate, which was fine with me. They were more than willing to announce their extensive knowledge of the Spanish language, complete with understanding of the subtle idioms and irony.

But this is an act that leaves a bad aftertaste. It’s inelegant.

Academic B.S.

http://www.cartoonstock.com

I didn’t know it is this pervasive. But here’s a sampler (and I leave it to my readers to place these inside their mouths, masticate, and then digest these hard to swallow strings of ‘complex’ high order thinking):

  1. Expound on the exclusion/inclusion, private/public identity dichotomy faced by the protagonist. Frame her personal struggles vis-a-vis her communal values and their conflict with the personal.
  2. How does the imagery used by the author support the contradiction confronting the main character (i.e. her barrenness)? How does this strengthen/weaken the obvious paradoxes posited by the text?

Verbal gymnastics and ostentatious display of erudition cloud and slow down thought processes rather than enlighten and streamline what should be a smooth exchange and/or transfer of knowledge. Now, if an intellectual thinks that he strengthens his position in the academe through constant use of these fireworks, if the supposed scholar thinks that by utilizing these intellectual calisthenics he gains respect and prestige in the academic world, then either his values are problematic or he is a moron. A classic case of missing the point.

www.newyorker.com

To judge whether a particular thought is pedantic or otherwise rests heavily on context. Context dictates whether a situation calls for the use of terms such as leit motif, othering, subaltern, exclusion/inclusion principle or it is an obvious waste of one’s precious time trying to understand words like these that do not easily lend themselves to shallow reading, and when there is an easier and more accessible way of saying them.

Rather than an expression of knowledge, comprehension, and succinct ability to synthesize, pedantry, erudition, or however you call it, if grossly or moderately taken out of context, is a reflection of the very insecure state an intellectual over-determinedly and over-eagerly wants to place himself in.

Day of the Spanish language

Instituto Cervantes (855 T.M. Kalaw St., Ermita, Manila) will celebrate El Dia Del Espanol (Day of the Spanish Language) on June 19, starting 9:30 am. There will be an open house with exhibits, kite flying, a photo contest, and fun cultural activities. At 6 pm they will screen director Hannes Storh’s 2005 German-Spanish film Galatasaray – Depor (one day in Europe) about the finals of the Champion’s League. Free admission. For seat reservations, call 526-1445. For more info about El Dia Del Espanol, log on to http://manila.cervantes.es.