Archive for May, 2009


@gypsypen

Yes, I am now tweeting.  There’s a Twitter widget on the sidebar.  It took a while for me to get the hang of it, but now, darn it, it’s starting to get addictive!  I forced myself to study and use Twitter because it’s part of my job (nice, huh? 😀 ).  My boss has been asking me forever what makes it tick, and for some time I was also as puzzled as he is – I couldn’t find enough motivation to log in and update regularly.  Well that stopped yesterday.

Most of my friends lead analog lives, with email and Facebook their only concessions to digital connectivity, so there goes that purpose for my Twitter account.  I use it primarily for stalking, haha!  Kidding…sort of.  I’m using it as sort of a feed reader to keep updated on all my favorites.  Of course it would be nicer if more of my favorite friends would tweet.

My boss still thinks it’s a fad, and some part of me agrees with him, but let’s see.

We won!  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has already lifted the tax on imported books, and Finance Secretary Gary Teves promised to comply with the order immediately.  All’s well that ends well.  I hope…

Now the booksellers can claim the books still held by Customs, tax-free.  I just hope that they don’t get astronomical storage fee bills.  That might be where Customs would try to release bile and  get the last say.  Also, we must keep our guards up to make sure that they don’t sneak in something to circumvent the lift order or as a revenge on us.

But right now, this is a good day for all of us, especially those who did their part in fighting the book blockade.  Big thanks to Robin Hemley, Manolo Quezon, Louie Aguinaldo and the Facebook group, and the major contributors to the fight.  The pen is still mightier than the sword (literally and figuratively) even – or should I say, especially – in this digital age.

Angel/Demon

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The main reason for watching Angels and Demons.  How could Ewan McGregor still look so yummy in a habit?  He looked every bit as yummy when he was playing the part of the angelic camerlengo as he was when his diabolical self was revealed.  I also liked him in the silent face-off scene with the conclave.  

I didn’t read the book, but found the movie quite entertaining, though some parts made me go, “Seriously?!”  All in all, good enough for weekend entertainment; and yes, the story’s a notch better than The Da Vinci Code.

Real men wear pink.

Army-specialist-Zachary-Boy

(From the New York Times)

Cute.  Wonder what’s his new army nickname now? 😀

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Thirty-three and happy.  That just about describes me today.  I got some sort of an early birthday present on the building driveway at sunset yesterday. 😉  And I just have to say this:  Real men are not afraid to wear a pink shirt.

Anyway, back to being happy.  I don’t have everything I want, but I love what is in my life right now.  As I’m writing this, I’m also chatting with Anna.  We’re talking about age, how 33 feels much older than 32.  But funnily enough, age matters less and less as I grow older.  It’s certainly not stopping me from doing the things that I want.  In fact, I’m more motivated and excited by the “you’re not getting any younger” voice inside my head, instead of being scared of it.  And age and maturity has given me a quiet confidence that I never had in my teens and twenties.

——

Ok, I just wrote that I’m happy, but the happiness level just went down a tiny bit.  I just got a text message from our tour guide saying that our Sagada trip tomorrow is postponed due to some broken roads and heavy rains forecast.  Safety is still the priority, so I’m fine with that.  We’re still free on the new dates, and I hope that the weather will finally cooperate. Now getting back to being happy… 😀

Finally!  Previously, only Sky Cable Platinum subscribers can see the show in the Philippines, since it’s Nat Geo Adventure channel that airs it.  Sky Cable Platinum is not available in our area, so I have to content myself with the preview channel on Sky Cable Gold.  They preview Nat Geo Adventure for 15 days every couple of months or so, and I accidentally came across Don’t Tell My Mother last January.  I already wrote about it here.

National Geographic Channel is showing the last 5 of the 10 episodes, but I’ve already seen 3 of the first 5 (Holy Land, Afghanistan, Colombia).  I’d still love to see the North Korea and Congo episodes though, specially the former. Here’s the NGC Asia schedule (Manila/Hong Kong time):

Pakistan – Saturday, May 16, 8pm

The Balkans – Monday, May 18, 10pm

Iran – Monday, May 25, 10pm

Iraq – Monday, June 1, 10pm

Venezuela – Monday, June 8, 10pm

Check the NGC Asia website for the complete schedule, including replays. Don’t Tell My Mother is a perfect cross between a serious documentary and a light-hearted travelogue.  Diego Bunuel’s hosting, injected with plenty of wit, charm and sometimes self-deprecating humor, is also a treat.  He’s not afraid to ask difficult or controversial questions and gamely participates in local activities, so the viewers get to see a different side of the notorious countries that he visits.

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I’ve finally found my version of Luke’s Diner – minus Luke.  For those not familiar with it, Luke’s is the iconic diner in the TV series, Gilmore Girls.  It’s one of my all-time favorite TV shows, and I always wished that I had a Luke’s.

Mama Chit’s Coffee House is our neighborhood’s Luke’s Diner, though “Coffee House” is such a misnomer.  They don’t serve the usual coffee variants, and they don’t even have pastries.  It really is a diner.  The specialties are the grilled burgers and sandwiches.

Aside from the really yummy and tummy-filling cheeseburger, it is the decor that gives character to Mama Chit’s.  The interior is decorated in 60s vintage pop.  Music from the 60s (Beatles, yay!) also plays in just the right volume – not too loud to get in the way of conversations, but loud enough to really complement the ambiance.  

 

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One wall is decorated with large portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley surrounded by black and white photos of Old Manila.  The opposite wall and the rest of the diner contain posters and other 60s-70s pop culture relics.

 

 

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The counter:

 

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I miss the old black phone!  It was where I first learned numbers, but no one told me if I ever counted “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0”.  😀

The food scene in our neighboorhood is booming, with establishments that combine good food and perfect ambiance.  We have the Italian Bellini’s, Filipiniana Cafe Kapitan, and now the vintage 60s Mama Chit’s – all in the same street, within 3 blocks of one another.

I’m guessing that most book-lovers in the Philippines are already aware of (and mad about) this issue.  Robin Hemley, the director of the Non-Fiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa who is in the Philippines for a one-year Guggenheim Fellowship, brought the issue to light.  Excerpts from his dispatch:

Over coffee one afternoon, a book-industry professional (whom I can’t identify) told me that for the past two months virtually no imported books had entered the country, in part because of the success of one book,Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. The book, an international best seller, had apparently attracted the attention of customs officials. When an examiner named Rene Agulan opened a shipment of books, he demanded that duty be paid on it.

—–

The importer of Twilight made a mistake and paid the duty requested. A mistake because such duty flies in the face of the Florence Agreement, a U.N. treaty that was signed by the Philippines in 1952, guaranteeing the free flow of “educational, scientific, and cultural materials” between countries and declaring that imported books should be duty-free. Mr. Agulan told the importer that because the books were not educational (i.e., textbooks) they were subject to duty. Perhaps they aren’t educational, I might have argued, but aren’t they “cultural”?

Read the complete story here.  Philippine Genre Stories was able to get the government’s side and posted it on their Multiply site.  Scroll down to the May 5 comments.

Another example of government ineptitude.  Perfect timing, too – just when Customs is pressured to increased their revenue.  Why didn’t they think of reviewing and coming up with the “correct interpretation” of the Florence Agreement at the height of the Harry Potter fever?  Let’s see what will happen and how the book sellers will respond.  Will they raise prices or lessen inventory?  Either way, it’s not good.  Twilight, for all its faults, has at least led young people to read books again.  Even if only a small percentage of them go on to read other books, it would still be great thing.

Books are already quite expensive as they are right now, though still cheaper here in the Philippines when you convert and compare it to the cover price in US dollars. But when books become more expensive because of the new tax, then fewer people will buy books.  Hmm, perfect plan to dumb down the citizens so we don’t get exposed to all sorts of ideas that would lead us to see all the faults of and question our government.

It’s not really the tax that’s bothering me.  It’s the opportunism, the violation of a treaty and a law, and the equal measure of ignorance and arrogance being displayed by the concerned government officials.  Taxes are fine, provided they are imposed for the right reasons and most importantly, that citizens reap the benefits.  Ha, another utopian dream.

Let’s all just continue to make noise about this issue until this nonsense is scrapped.

******

Update:  May 12, 2009

Manolo Quezon has a detailed and well-research blog entry on the issue.  It includes a timeline dating back to 1945, plus references.

Our concerns are continuing to gain ground, so let’s not simply let this issue go.