A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A A!

(Thesis defense tomorrow. AAAAAAAAAAA!!!)


V for Vendetta

“Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is its vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished, as the once vital voice of the verisimilitude now venerates what they once vilified. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-à-vis an introduction, and so it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.”

Thus the terroristic protagonist (Hugo Weaving) of V for Vendetta introduces himself, to which Evey (Natalie Portman) replies, “Are you like a crazy person?”

V for Vendetta posterMy sister and I went to see this film last night due to its months of hype, fabulous poster artwork, and of course, Natalie Portman in a non-Star Wars film for the first time in years. Ü It was a fun cinematic romp (it really looked like a graphic novel come to life) that also offered some philosophical questions. For me the main questions were: Who decides what labels we place on people? What are the right methods to bring social problems to the public’s attention, if normal means like voting and voicing dissenting opinion are no longer options, a la George Orwell’s 1984? V uses bloody assassinations and an armed takeover of a television station to make people pay attention to what he has to say, and in the end he manage to rouse the people of Britain to overthrow their government. (This overthrow is successful because the Hydra’s head has already been lopped off, but I digress…) This comes amid a general outburst of lawbreaking, supposedly a reaction against the heavy-handed oppression.

Dominic: “We’re under siege here. The whole city’s gone mad!”
Finch: “This is exactly what he [V] wants.”
Dominic: “What?”
Finch: “Chaos.”

It is often assumed to be a messy business to determine what actions that may be labeled “terrorist,” as actions that could be classified under that label have indirectly contributed to liberty’s cause (the Boston Tea Party is one often-cited example). People’s sympathies can be won using actions that harm or kill people — by a charismatic, well-read and well-spoken leader such as V, and by a slick argument that presents violence as the only option left against a totally evil government.

But does the end justify the means? What determines right and wrong? Is it popular opinion, which can be swayed by demagogues? Is it the country’s law, which can be perverted by lawmakers with vested interests? Is it personal morality, which amounts to anarchy and chaos? Or is it a higher law that respects the sanctity of life and liberty?

Happy endings like that of V for Vendetta are what only celluloid can deliver. The fade-to-black tells us “And they all lived happily ever after,” but effectively avoids having to show us how.

(V for Vendetta quotes from

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Heat and Light

Summer is here and the sun (AKA the Yellow Face, according to Gollum) has turned its merciless glare upon the tropics. I find myself, like Gollum, hiding from it as often as possible. This probably explains my veal-like appearance these days, but I have a feeling my choices are either that or the crispy fried chicken look. Under this kind of sun there isn’t much of a middle ground.

Early mornings are my favorite part of a summer day. For some strange reason my body won’t stay asleep when the sun rises, so I find myself getting up at 7:30a.m. at the latest. (In December I can usually stay in bed until 9a.m.) At that time of the day the sun is up but the ambient temperature is still around the mid-20 degrees Celsius and it’s just perfect for stepping out of the house to do some running. Not that I have gone out to run at that time, but I’d like to. Ü

If this were as hot as it’s going to get the entire season, I don’t think I’d have a problem with staying in the shade during the midday. Unfortunately, it’s been said that Holy Week falls on the hottest week of the summer, and that isn’t for another three weeks. My mom has scheduled a beach holiday for the family the following week in sunny, hot Boracay, so it’s a safe bet that by the end of April I’m going to have the crispy fried chicken look. Damn you, Yellow Face! But I would rather my skin burn and crack in the Sahara instead of my digits freezing off (literally) in an Antarctic wasteland.

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Time Waits for No One

While I’ve been slaving away at school, my other batchmates and classmates from high school have taken divergent career paths. One is a local media personality and host, one works for a bigtime local film production company, one is a freelance photographer, some work in call centers, and a number have emigrated to first-world countries in search of a better life. Some of them I’ve completely lost track of, but most of them I can still talk to on Yahoo! Messenger or over cellphone text messages. Periodically we who are still living in the Philippines have parties where we talk about weight lost and gained (this is targeted specifically at the girls!), discuss what we’re currently up to, and catch up on news about the ones who couldn’t make the gathering.

Recently at one of these gatherings, I found out that one of my friends is getting married. (Actually, since it’s the 13th of March, she’s already married.) We all duly sent our greetings and wishes her way, but for me it was a major shock. “Has it been that long?” I found myself thinking that night.

Yes, it has. In a year it’ll be ten years since I graduated from high school. Hopefully I will have successfully defended my thesis, earned my master’s degree, found a job and a livelihood, and have made something of myself. I seriously haven’t known a different kind of life and it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for me.

Matrimony, though… The subject was seriously broached by Aunt T two weeks ago and I’ve been trying to dodge it ever since. I suppose a woman in her early to mid-twenties is considered marriageable in this society. I would hate to settle at this age, though; I feel as if I haven’t done anything yet, and I know that there’s more to life than setting up house and bearing children.

I keep thinking that I’ve been waiting for my life to start, not realizing that it’s already happening around me. This is my life right now: thesis, searching for a God-given purpose and goal, finding myself. I suppose I’ve been living a prolonged childhood and adolescence regardless of my academic work, and I feel like I haven’t come into my own yet. I’m going to have to make things happen, make the transition from professional student to — I haven’t even seriously considered what I’ll be doing after this.

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Picture of You

the disputed coverThe news all over the celebrity mags and shows is Jessica Alba‘s legal threat against Playboy magazine. The adult publication put a picture of her on the cover even after she refused to appear in the magazine. Alba’s argument is that the Playboy cover misleads readers to believe she allowed her image to appear in the magazine and that she appears nude inside the magazine; Playboy argues that many celebrities have appeared on the magazine without taking their clothes off. Personally I think it was a sleazy thing of Playboy to do — but then again what do you expect from a magazine that uses flesh to sell itself?

I do wonder, though, what Miss Alba’s reaction would be to her image appearing on the packaging for a pair of socks from China:

socks packaging

Hey, at least it doesn’t mislead people into thinking she appears deshabille on the socks. Ü

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Coping Mechanism

Perhaps you might know that I’ve been trying to complete my thesis over the past year or so. Borne out of my innate indolence it’s taken me much longer than it rightly should have and I’m afraid I think it’s not as thorough and as excellent as any graduate thesis should be. Now, it’s come down to the wire and I’m supposed to find out whether it’s at all defensible.

I’ve been dealing with the stress in various ways. I’ve alternately shirked thesis work and pulled all-nighters, and I’ve been consuming books like a college spring-breaker doing tequila shots: slamming them down one after another. I devoured C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength), Jane Austen’s novels (yes, all six of them), and now I’m working on a stack of Agatha Christie murder mystery novels that I paid P40 for each. I really wish I could put all this effort into thesis work instead of play, which is what reading fiction is to me.

Unfortunately I’m singing this lament too late. My adviser is supposed to get back to me on whether I can now go out and look for my firing squad — er, I mean, my thesis panel. I just want to curl up on my bed and cry. Oh, the suspense!

Walk the Campus

For this morning’s exercise, I ran laps around UP Diliman‘s Academic Oval. There’s really nothing better to calm your mind while working out like a empty avenue with trees curving overhead, sheltering you from the beating of the midmorning sun. The complete (well, nearly complete) absence of motorized vehicles going around the Oval also furthered my feelings of tranquility.

When I decided to dash the final 200 meters to my car (yes, I drive to UP just to jog), I was overwhelmed by a feeling of accomplishment. And then, I was accosted by two street kids. “Ate, pahingi naman ng barya (Please spare me some change, Big Sister),” one of them said in a low voice. I was still a little out of breath from the sprint, but I managed to say that I didn’t have any on me. This was true: I was only carrying car keys, and my running shorts had no pockets. I did a quad stretch, and then a hamstring stretch, but neither kid went away. One kid said to the other, “Bago pa ang kotse nya (Her car is still new).” I hadn’t opened any of the doors of my 1994 Lancer and was only leaning against it. I said to them, slightly irritated, “Paano kung ‘di ko kotse to? (What if this isn’t my car?)” And then I walked away.

I was planning to make a circuit around one building, then double back and see if the kids had left the car’s vicinity. That route took me past two enforcers of the University’s carless oval policy. Earlier during my run I had begun to wonder how long the University was planning to keep the Oval barricaded to cars. While the Oval has been closed to cars on Sundays for the past two or three years, the 24/7 closure had started during this year’s UP Fair, was extended through the university’s Fitness Week, and it had been maintained even after the coup scare and rallying from last week until early this week. I decided to approach the enforcers.

“Excuse me po. Gaano katagal po itong Carless Oval? (When will the Carless Oval policy end?)” I asked them. One of them replied, “‘Di po namin alam e. (We don’t know, miss.)” I thanked them and returned to my car, the kids no longer in sight.

Earlier this week I had to check UPCAT results on campus, and I couldn’t park anywhere near the place they were displayed because the Oval was barricaded. A main parking lot had been closed off to cars because of the barricades, and alternative parking spaces on the streets and on vacant lots were all occupied. I was forced to park across the Oval in one of the side streets and hoof it. Also, because the University’s main thoroughfare is the Oval, all the traffic that used to pass through it has been diverted to the much smaller side streets. During rush hour it’s hell to pass through the campus, which had only before been troubled by parking jams during the yearly UPCAT weekend in August.

I’m not sure if the indefinite Carless Oval is a good thing or a bad thing. For sure, though, it’s going to encourage a lot more walking.