Sunday, January 27, 2008

The New AIDS

Fools who, in their ignorance, bask
and, in their prejudice, never ask
for truth as painted by their prey,
hark! Your deathbed calls today!

In a rather unfortunate set of circumstances, I have woken up late most of the past week. Late enough to cause me self-inflicted grief at work but also late enough for me to catch the morning paper, which is reportedly delivered to our house around nine in the morning. Those moments were rather surreal as I relaxedly read the papers, sipped my morning coffee and enjoyed the sunshine while, in the office, the clock ticks down every second of my tardiness.

One of the articles I've read had a headline, "School links new strain of staph to gays, the clarifies." As a member of the homosexual population and rather concerned with my physiological well-being, I read the article.

A team of researchers led by doctors from the University of California at San Francisco announced that gay men were several times more likely than other people to acquire a new strain of staphylococus, a potentially lethal bacteria known as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) USA300. The study, published in online in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was quickly picked up by unscrupulous journalists, including a New York tabloid, which dubbed it as the new HIV. The following is a screen capture from Canada's CTV site:

Other anti-gay groups, like the Conservative Women for America, have seized this tidbit of misinformation and issues a release citing the "sexual deviancy" of gay men as leading to AIDS, syphilis and gonorrhea. As we all know, heterosexuality guarantees immunity to STD and anything that does not involve a penis and a vagina, like masturbation, for example, is "sexually deviant". Indeed, if you're gay, even if you're still a virgin, you're doomed to a life of AIDS, syphilis and gonorrhea. In the afterlife, you still won't get any respite and... well, you get the picture. Doomed, I say!

Fortunately though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which helped finance the study, issued an apology and a vital clarification: the bacteria spreads through any kind of skin-to-skin contact, sexual or nonsexual, regardless of sexuality.

Like any skin-contact transmitted disease, the MRSA USA300 can be transmitted during the intimate moments of intercourse, unless you and your partner(s) happened to be dressed for the occasion. There were no reports yet of the bacteria being transmitted by leather whips, handcuffs, chains or ropes but I guess it pays to be careful anyway. Thankfully, though, washing up with soap and water after close physical contact easily prevents the disease in most cases.

I'd like to repeat, for the sake of my hard-headed brethren out there (pardon the pun), condoms do not prevent the transmission of MRSA USA300; it is not your universal shield. It is, however, no valid excuse to do away with safer sexual practices. Anyway, what I'd like to say is that after every happy moment, remember to soap up. It's interestingly slippery, if you catch my drift *wink, wink*

Oh, what the heck. Just be sure to take a bath at least once a day.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

System Downgrade

It is revolting!
It is revolting indeed!
It is revolting!

Be forewarned; I am feeling rather talkative today. (Pay no mind to my poor attempt at writing haikus)

Just this morning, I woke up, at five in the morning, six in the morning, eight in the morning and ten in the morning. In any case, suffice to say that I caught today's paper, which is usually delivered around nine, so I'm told. The headline is rather big, bold-faced, strong and emphasized, as headlines are wont to be. The Government is hitting back.

New York based Freedom House has downgraded the Philippine's state of democracy from "partly free" due to a spate of political killings specifically targeting leftist political activists. Quite predictably but not as reasonably, the Government reacts, not like an educated writer serenely imbibing and digesting constructive criticism but rather a thoughtless child who single-mindedly insists to her playmates that she did not cheat at hopscotch.

"We don't know who fund foreign groups such as Freedom House, nor were we told about their research procedures," saith the Press Secretary, which is quite true. However, though we know not how such groups work, we do know they're wrong. "Let us be undaunted by outside forces that rely on propaganda rather than systematic and thorough research and consultations to underpin their statements." Yes sir, we don't know how you did it but we know you did it wrong.

What is the proper procedure then? The Press Secretary said Freedom House should have, at least, sought the government's side to "verify" information they have on the Philippines. This, ladies and gentlemen, is known as Command Control or, to put it more graphically, re-touching, if not completely modifying, the data. After all, we really cannot have a proper research unless we swallow the "information" to be provided by the government, right? Really, what part of "independent research" do people not understand?

Oh, never mind that we can expect the government to deny being behind the disappearances or killings of journalists and activists in our beloved nation. Never mind that there are more missing people on the "dark" side than there are on the Jedi forces; they have probably been missing due to any number of reasons from mass tribble attacks to Klingon terrorists. Hell, they could even be having tea in France, for all we care! Really, those people aren't dead, at least not until their corpses float on the Pasig River. Had they asked, really, they would realize we have a free press protected by the military, freedom of non-subversive speech and constitutional processes that uphold human rights for members of the middle-class or higher.

News travels fast and I'd like to quote, the alchemist, Sir Isaac Newton's third law: For every reaction, there is an equivalent and opposite reaction. To put it as I see applicable right now, though, would be: For every opening, there is an equivalently painful opposition. Indeed, in the very same paper, I have read an advertisement denouncing the second Edsa revolution.

It's a rather clever whole-page ad, which invites the reader to learn what the world press wrote about the second Edsa revolution and weep for Philippine democracy. With a collection of quotes dexterously culled from different publications, we can see the illustrious names of Time, New York and Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Herald Tribune; a delightful read, really.

Yes, we know that the downgrade of the democracy status was due to a spate of political killings or disappearances but we all know that it is only Filipino for us to dig up old grievances, right? Why bother learning from past mistakes when you can just dirty your opponent with the muddy snowballs of his/her failings? We all know that progress can only be achieved by grappling at each other’s throats not quite unlike crabs in a basket pulling each other down.

Of course, any sane minded reader would know that such paid advertisement only remotely relevant is most definitely not propaganda. We know perfectly well that the 2001 Edsa II revolution is responsible for the 2008 downgrade of our democracy status. As our beloved Senate Minority Leader said, "Our democracy during the '50s is as tall as Ramon Magsaysay. Now, it's disheartening that the country has (been) dwarfed (in the fight against) corruption and in the implementation of law." Yes, we are aware, everything has dwindled and height really matters in presiding over a nation.

On a side note, which I am positive is irrelevant, the Philippine Airlines also received a downgrade from the US Federal Aviation Authority, effectively limiting the number of US flights it can make.

Anyway, back to the point, when the government is faltering like this, we really should take the chance to pull the rug from under their feet, y'know? Perhaps by the way of another people power, which a writer for Time has been quoted as claiming to be "an acceptable term for a troubling phenomenon... mob rule."

If you still do not sense sarcasm dripping at the edges of this page, please look to the part where your browser has its scrollbars. You will see a viscous yellow-green fluid... No, that's not sarcasm; it's mucus.

You know what I think? I think that we are over-populated and can afford to lose some people. An admin dies and people quietly pay homage to the dead. A member of the opposition dies and you'll have all the legions of hell on top of you screaming bloody murder. What's it got to do with anything? Oh, I dunno, say I was an unscrupulous member of the opposition who gets my kicks out of ripping out the spleen of other people. Do I ask for an admin's spleen? Hell no, I'd go for the opposition dudes, y'know, the helplessly pathetic uninformed ones. See, that solves the problem of overpopulation and racks up the score for the dark side. Two birds with one stone, y'know?

I think there are too many of us here, but that's not the problem. What I find troubling is the fact that we are sharing these shattered islands with idiots who, at the first pang of hunger, begins its war cry like a helplessly stupid infant. We have a lot of people who attribute the lack of paper in their wallet to moths, cockroaches, alligators or crocodiles, anything but themselves. Y'know, I see people go to church for their daily bread, spiritually speaking. How about the physical bread? No, they don't go to bakers, silly; they flock into the streets!

We are a democracy, rest assured. We can freely elect any porn star that happens to look just right with promises of alleviating, if not completely solving poverty. Bah, we cannot trust those elites! Rich people only care for themselves, but we're gonna vote for an equally rich guy simply because we love his moves on film. Dang, baby, if he can knock out those baddies, he can surely put food in our bellies, clothes on our skin and roofs over our heads. (My money's on Chuck Norris, if it comes to that)

Personally, I think killing is not so bad an idea in a country as perpetually discontent as ours. We can never find the contentment called heaven so death would only be the coup de grace, right? Okay, there was a redundancy in there somewhere... but I guess I'll also lie on my back and wait for the Government to proofread my posts for me. It's so much easier that way.

Oh yeah, one more thing, know what the motto of that particular newspaper is? "Ze truth shall prevail, yarr!"

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Meddling with Peddling

Let no poverty steal away a child's education.
Let no shame taint an innocent's reputation.
Let no cloud rain on a roofless head.
Let no quiet stand in their voice's stead.

Whenever I go to work, I always take the route that costs me the least time. In doing do, I ride a jeepney to an FX terminal, where I catch an FX to take me to the train station, where I await a train to take me to another train station, where I disembark and sprint my way across four roads and two dirt parking lots. This costs me a considerable amount of calories and double the fare when, in fact, I could ride only one bus from home and be there in, say two or three hours.

Going back home, though, is another matter. Since I am not chasing anything, except probably for sleep, I usually ride the bus home. For one, it costs almost half the fare and, since it takes at least two hours, I can also sleep for around an hour and a half. Yes, I know, it's a talent.

On there bus rides, before dozing off, I hear several people peddling their wares. "O, mani, mani kayo d'yan, mainit, bagong-luto, mani kayo d'ayn," says the peanut vendor. "Ah, kasoy, kasoy, kasoy kayo d'yan," offers the cashew vendor. "O, Maxx, Mentos, V-Fresh, Doublemint, o, C2 kayo d'yan, malamig, C2, mineral, o" from the candy vendor who also peddles iced tea and cold mineral water. Why he's selling those in an airconditioned bus, at night, escapes me. "O, 'yung mga wala pang ticket d'yan, o." Ah, that would be the conductor.

Seriously, these people don't bother me for, I understand, we all are only doing our jobs. A person has to do what it takes to survive. However, there is a certain breed of peddlers that I cannot stand. They can strike you anywhere, in a bus, in a jeepney, hell, they even hawk their wares in restaurants while you are eating! Talk about a seriously messed up sense of timing! Or ethics, might I add.

Their sales pitch is either ultrasound or infrasound for you won't hear anything from them. What they do, instead, is offer you a card, or a piece of paper. The more unscrupulous ones, not finding a hand ready to receive their cards, would place it wherever handy: on your table, on your bag, on your knee, on the arm of your chair or on your lap. The more audacious ones would wake up a sleeping passenger to "offer" their cards. The cards read:

"Good day sir/ma'am. I am Jane Doe from the province of Batangas/Cavite/Palawan/Batanes/Tawi-tawi/. I'd like to knock on your generous hearts to buy my pastillas, macapuno, ube, polvoron, puto-seko, caviar, foie gras, ."

Good! At least, there is no doubt of what they're selling in those large plastic bags they're lugging with them. Some of them, though, add a more heart-rending detail regarding the beneficiary of their sales:

"I am studying in college and I'm paying for my tuition with the sales of my goods."

Those are the better cards. The other cards don't even give you a shit of a clue. However, I am sure, all cards will, regardless of author, have a quote or two for vague purposes:

"It is better to sell than to steal," or "It is better to work hard than to beg," or "It is better to than to ."

That is, for me, the most irritating part. If it is, indeed, better to sell than to steal or beg, then what, in heaven's name, are they giving these cards for? Why on earth can't they just peddle like everyone else? "O, pastillas, macapuno, kayo d'yan, pastillas, macapuno!" I once asked a girl (poor lady, to have met me on a bad day) "Why don't you just announce what you're selling, instead of giving people these cards?"

"E sir, nakakahiya po e," (Sir, it's embarassing) she replied softly.

"P*+@ng !n@," (You don't wanna know what I'm saying here ^_^) I blurted out, exasperatedly rolling my eyes, crumpling her card and throwing it at her feet. The poor girl hastily collected her cards and disembarked from the bus.

God, the gall of such people. Here they are, silently peddling as though wishing to keep their sales a secret, yet thick-faced enough to claim in their cards, "Ha! We're better than those beggars!" and, reading between the lines, "I don't like doing what those 'filthy'/'pathetic'/'embarassing' peddlers do but I have to, for my studies/son/daughter/children." If that is not hypocrisy, then I don't know shit.

Also, what educated person will place cards on other people's body parts? What kind of idiot disturbs your meal so you could read her heart-wrenching tale of poverty? Who would be audacious enough to wake up a person so he/she could knock on their "generous" hearts? Believe me, a person rudely awakened is anything but generous... well, lemme rephrase that. A person rudely awakened can only offer you generous amounts of anger and hatred.

Really, I am inclined to believe that those hollering peddlers are a lot better persons than these bashful girls shoving their cards or pieces of paper to everyone's faces. Those chanting vendors know what they're doing and they really do take pride in not doing anything criminal. Unlike some people, they don't yell out excuses like, "It's better to sell than to beg! Mani, mani, mainit, mani kayo d'yan. It's better to work hard than to steal!" (Well, even if they do, at least, they have the pride and self-esteem to match what they're saying)

One of these days, I'm gonna return one of those cards with the words, "It is better to holler your wares than to shove your cards in people's faces."