Sunday, December 10, 2006

Go Ahead. Impress Me.

I once had the glorious opportunity/terrible misfortune to watch a copy of the movie Happy Feet. Really, there was nothing much about penguins that really strongly interest me. The plot was altogether cliché, the musical scenes were not to my taste and, probably, the only thing that really moved me so much was the twisted face of a penguin as he gasped for dear air while he was continuously being choked by the plastic rings of a 6-pack. Even then, I was hoping they'd just kill the guy and hope he has moved on to a happier place. I did like the superstitious approach to winter; all throughout that dark and frosty winter, the penguins were singing to bring back the sun.

Mumble Happy Feet, as an egg, was accidentally dropped by his father during a very cold and dark winter: a deed so severely disapproved by anyone who finds out. As it is, Mumble turned out to be slightly extra-normal; he was born feet first into the world, he danced instead of sung when he was happy and, in general, had happy feet. In his community of penguins on Emperor Island, everyone was expected to find his or her own heartsong: the special something deep within their souls that will find them their mate. Mumble, however, was not gifted the least bit with the harmony of voice; every time he is seized by a happy thought, an important fuel to the penguins' heartsongs, he breaks into dance.

Allow me to leave Antarctica for a while and bring you closer to heaven. Sir Richard Bach, an aviator, writer and fan of Antoine de-Saint Exupery, once wrote a book called The Gift of Flying. Well, that was one of his books I do not mean to discuss right now, instead, let me call your attention to another of his works: Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Yes, the main character is named Jonathan Livingston and yes, he is a seagull.

Jonathan spent most of his life in breathtaking isolation. Unlike all the other gulls, he didn't bother much to fight for breadcrumbs, screech with fellow gulls or be content with the rudiments of flying. Instead, he perfected flying, as an art; he is able to pull off maneuvers like rolls, tumbles, stalls, glides and other discombobulating terminologies an actual aviator might be able to better detail to you. For his efforts, he gained a better life; a high-speed dive brought him fish that schooled ten feet below the ocean while, riding the high winds inland, he was brought to new places and feasted on crickets there. He rode the evening wind when every other gull dared not fly in the dark and he rose above the fog, into clearer skies, when all his fellows just sat miserably in the beach, expecting nothing but rain.

His discoveries, however, were not without a price. For what the elders deemed reckless impudence, he was outcasted by the seagull society.

A lot of us people are special. There are those of us capable of "breathing" fire, running through shards of glass or capable of eating raw chickens that may or may not look ill and may or may not have come from Eastern Asia. There are those of our fellows who are stars of their own freak shows, wrestling arenas (Curse you, King Booker), concerts, movies and TV shows. Indeed, it would seem that we, as humans, thrive not only on food and water but also on attention.

When I was young, I was not particularly gifted with stage talents. I could answer a Math or Science exam good enough, bring my daydreams to life or weave stories that, strangely enough, no one but me seemed to understand. When I grew up into who I was now, I could sketch some objects fairly well, program a database application in Java or even write blogs, prose, fiction and other written compositions. However, I could not, for the life of me, sing or dance in a manner acceptable to our society.

I could dance some ballroom dances, yeah, but I bet it is not exactly the type people would like to see on impromptu performances in their pathetic Christmas or birthday parties. I could sing comfortable well in the safety of my own bedroom or under the comfortable blanket of anonymity in a sea of strangers but I doubt it is how people would like to know me better.

Sometimes, it's not always about the people who do something exceptional in public. A lot of us are not gifted with the penchant for histrionic arts, sleight-of-hand magic tricks, a soulful heartsong or a pair of happy feet. It is sad, though, that at social gatherings, people would point at other people asking, "Isn't that guy the fashion model you've been telling me?" but the moment you hear someone ask, "Isn't that the Internet's nth Blogger of the Year?" a lot of uneducated peasants would simply murmur, "Geek."

A past teacher of mine once said that programming is not a spectator sport. Commentators simply cannot tell their audiences, "Whoa! Mavi from Team Philippines has ditched recursion for an iterative approach!" or "Team Green Three, from UP Diliman, has unsealed what they called the Forbidden Quiwa Algorithm!" Even a momentary suspension of belief, like that employed by the cooking contest Iron Chef, does not, methinks, remotely allow for a programming contest a crowd could cheer on.

I am not bewailing my lack of stage talents; I would very much rather be writing this blog entry well into a carpal-tunnel syndrome rather than bend and contort my body into breathtaking postures in front of a crowd of screaming fanboys (fangirls too, but I have a lot more fanboys) I am probably just commenting with an indifference how some parents, including mine, coerce their untalented children to sing a pathetic cheesy song or dance a pitiful seizure during social gatherings. The poor children are often under pain of death, should they dare disobey, which, thankfully enough, they never do. The unwilling spectators, on the other hand, would simply say, "Oh, nice," or ejaculate, "Sugoi! Amazing!" more to the benefit of the poor child than that of the ridiculously ambitious mother.

To be sure, I am quite against robbing children of the joys of their childhood. Many are the times I have seen hopelessly misguided mothers cajole an unwilling (and untalented) child to sing. Many are the crappy performances I have seen during social gatherings. Also, many are the stifled laughter I have observed among audiences at the sheer lack of skill being flaunted. I mean, if we are not meant to sing or dance, then just leave us be; if someone believes in our talent only because they're our mother or blood-relatives, then forget it. Sure, we may not be able to brag anything during the Christmas party but you could usually call us anytime you need a graphic artist, an accountant, a doctor, a cook or even just a friend.

For instance, a friend can usually find me more than willing to help him/her build his/her own web site. I may not have the blessing of a heartsong or a pair of happy feet but I do happen to have, geeky as it may sound, a heartblog, a heartprogram, ten happy clickers and happy typers, fleet feet (you never know when you need me to run for something extremely urgent) and a single, hyperactive happymagination.

I can program for you a CMS
but not advise you on PMS.
I can shampoo, but for the life of me,
I cannot braid thy hair for thee.

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