Monday, April 30, 2007

Music Stuck in My Head

I woke up one day last year with my head filled with songs by Cliff Richard, Pat Boone, Johnny Mathis, and Andy Williams. What was even weirder was I know the lyrics of many of them. So I googled the lyrics I heard mentally and found out who sang them. These singers had their heyday in the 50s when I was a child.

I emailed Aunt Evelyn and found out from her that she and her sisters used to play these singers' 45s and LPs (that's Long Playing for you, young techies). I remember them singing along and dancing to these tunes with some male teen friends who came over their house.

Recent researches call the phenomenon earworm, literal translation from the German orhwurm. Consumer psychologist and marketing professor James Kellaris is credited for coining this word to mean a cognitive itch created by a catchy tune and the only way to scratch it is by repeating it over and over in our minds.

While earworms seem to characterize the annoying songs stuck in our heads, in my case it always is a pleasant experience, except for one time which I will dwell upon later. I usually sing along with the tunes I hear mentally. It felt like having an internal ipod. I do experience earworms from time to time but only for a few minutes or so. Like that time when unprovoked, Kylie Minogue's lalala-lalalalala-lalala-lalalalala I just can't get you out of my head. . . played on a loop in my mind for five minutes.

In 1990 however, I heard Jules Massenet's Meditation from Thais for three days straight. On the first day, after class, I went to the food center on the third floor of a local mall for snacks. As soon as I sat down with my order, I heard it. I was surprised that the public address/sound system would play it instead of a Top 40 hit song. On the second day, the same thing happened. But on the third day, I heard it again. So I went down to the second floor where the music bar was and asked if they were playing it. No, they were playing Madonna's song. I went to the ground floor where the customer relations desk and public address/sound system was and asked the lady there. She took out the cassette tape being played and showed it to me. Air Supply. Then it dawned on me that I was hearing the tune in my head!

A year later, while watching a popular weekend TV show's November feature, I finally got my answer. Lauro Vizconde, the father whose wife and two daughters were murdered in their house, recounted that it became his habit to go to their daughters' rooms to tell them good night before retiring and how he would find the youngest daughter's favorite stuffed on the floor. He would pick it up and replace it on a shelf over her bed. And the next night, the toy would be on the floor again. A guest psychic explained to Lauro the nature of haunting by departed family members. He said the dead who are dear to us would haunt us, not to scare us, but to remind us of their presence. That's why they would often use things that would associate them to us.

After the show, I checked the previous year's planner and discovered that the first day I heard the classic tune was the 40th day after the burial of our mother. Mama knew Meditation from Thais was a favorite of mine and for days since she died after a failed triple bypass, it was the only song I played on the Sony component. It must be her way of reassuring me that everything's fine with her.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Pencil Parable

Here's a short parable that inspires me as a writer and a person:

The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting him into the box.

"There are 5 things you need to know," he told the pencil, "before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be."

One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in Someone's hand.

Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you'll need it to become a better pencil.

Three: You will be able to correct mistakes you will make.

Four: The most important part of you will always be what's inside.

And Five: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.

The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in its heart.

And, if you haven't already, go back and reread this with God as the pencil maker and you as the pencil.

Author Unknown

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dear FutureMe

Dear Gilbert in the year 2011,

I know you are not surprised why I would write you in the year 2011 when you're 55. So wipe that smile off your face because I admit, it is no accident at all - the letter and the choice of year.

We were born on November 11, 1956: 11th day of the 11th month in the year of which the last digits add up to 11. That day was a Sunday and that makes us a Sunday's child (according to an old nursery rhyme: Sunday's child is full of grace). Parang tayong si Mama Mary. :-)

In numerology 11 is equivalent to 2 (1+1) and in our life, we noticed the emerging pattern that we ran the gauntlet of our first experiences:
  • first grade had to be postponed for 2 years because we were too young at 5 to be enrolled (remember how Mama used to tease us about not being able to reach our left ear with our right hand because our arm was too short going over our head?)
  • being the firstborn son, nephew, and grandchild of our Mindanao-based clan (remember how we rebelled in sophomore college against the family simply because we got tired of being a role model for our siblings and cousins and wanted to lead our own life and assert our self and personality?)
  • first graduation from grade school (we cried our eyes out because our parents did not make good on their promise to give you the exclusive Tupperware blue bag with multiple compartments that would have made us the envy of the freshmen class in high school)
  • first love and heartbreak (our girlfriend Mae was not welcomed by the clan because our elders feared we might be forced - by shotgun - into early marriage. Remember how they would tease us about seeing her - which made our heart skip a beat - and then tell us how kinky her hair was, show short she was and how she waddled like a duck? If only they could hear our heart breaking into pieces. . .)
  • first career choice and frustration (all through grade and high school, we wanted to be a doctor or writer/journalist only to be frustrated to learn that these courses were offered only in Manila-based universities and our parents couldn't afford to send us to study there)
  • first college course (hunched over the astigmatism-causing accounting ledgers and worksheets in class while our teacher was busy taking furtive peeks down the blouses of our female classmates, we realized how b-o-r-i-n-g a day job as an accountant could be and promptly shifted to Management the following sem)
  • first job and tyrant boss (true, we were recruited a month before graduation to work for a multinational company only to find out that the payoff for the generous pay and prestige was a slave driver of a boss who acted like a brown American to the hilt)
  • first trip out of Mindanao to Manila (the Compania Maritima ship we boarded was in the eye of the typhoon lashing at Manila and tilted dangerously to the left when we approached Corregidor Island, and upon reaching Quiapo, we had to wade through waist-high floodwaters while trying to balance a large suitcase on our head and hold on to Papa's hand so we wouldn't get lost in the mad rush to ride a jeepney to Balic-balic)
  • first teaching job in a private college (we had to write features for Mod and Mr. & Ms. Magazines to augment our meager income and found ourselves being suffocated by the compartmentalized thinking of the administration which refused to acknowledge that we could be a good Management teacher and writer/journalist as the same time. Remember our disbelief when all the published articles we wrote got no credit in our ranking and promotion?)
Strangely enough, after those first experiences, the ones that followed were easier to deal with. Sure, we can laugh about these first experiences now. But be assured that I brought these up because they are a significant part of the first half-century of our life which I lived through and survived, with grace, if I may say so. :-). They were my badge of courage. And I have survived those growing up years.

At 55, you are now well on your way to enjoy the second half-century of our life, your growing old years. Your face and body now bear the marks of the passing of the years. Remember that each scar, line, ache and pain are well-earned and well-deserved.

Unlike me, you will be guided by the lessons accumulated from my first half of our life. I can not give you any assurance that your second half of it will be any better than mine. But I believe in you, in us.

Always remember our ultimate goal: way beyond being a good teacher, writer or journalist, we want to be remembered as a good person.

As you start the second leg of your trip through life, I leave with you the last few lines of Desiderata: And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

I love you, I love us!

A big bear hug from

Gilbert in the year 2007

A Prayer to Our Lady of Fair Elections

From Frank Cimatu's blog, I found this prayer to Our Lady of Fair Elections:

Our Lady, I place my feeble voice in your hands that mine might be counted
and we have a fair election in our country.

Insure that every chad* is completely removed
so my intention is absolutely clear without the aid of an electron microscope.

Protect me from partisan and incompetent vote counters
and give me the patience to endure as many recounts as I must
to know the actual results.

And with your great power
I ask you that the election be guided by the majority vote
and not the supreme "chosen few."


[*Chad - The confetti-like bits punched out of punched cards or paper tape]

Feel free to adapt this prayer according to your own situation and needs. :-)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Mad Scramble for Tabloids & Newspapers

On weekdays and Saturdays, I read the news online. But on Sundays, I buy the national papers, specifically the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) and the Philippine Star (PS) because of their weekly magazines. While the PDI goes on sale as early as 4 a.m. daily, the rest of the dailies and tabloids get to the newsstands by 10 a.m here in General Santos City.

One Sunday, after getting a haircut, I proceeded to the nearest newsstand. It was a few minutes after 9 and so I was surprised to see that aside from the usual faces of regular subscribers and newspaper renters (they rent the papers for a fraction of the newsstand price and get to read them for as long as they like), there were others milling around the stand. There were clamors as to when the tabloids and certain national dailies would arrive. Hmmm . . . This was strange as I knew for a fact that Filipinos are not into reading.

As far as I know, these are the reasons whenever there is a mad scramble to buy newspapers:
  1. results of bar/board exams are published in a series of issues (the papers are bought as incontrovertible proof of passing/failing the exams or for clipping to be added to their albums/scrapbooks or for lamination)
  2. grade and secondary school teachers require their students to compile an album of pictures and articles
  3. results of winning raffle numbers or entries to certain products are published
  4. names of casualties/survivors are listed after a fire, earthquake, war, etc.
None of the 4 reasons cited above could be the reason for this mad scramble for tabloids(!?#). So I asked around and got these answers: I'm waiting for the lotto/sweepstakes results (understandable since the TV channel that features the draws are not shown on free TV here but only on cable TV) and We need "tips" for Lotto and Last Two (Last Two is an illegal numbers game based on the last two digits of the drawn winning sweepstakes/lotto numbers).

While many Lotto and Last Two bettors maintain certain numbers, others rely on tips from cartoons published in tabloids and certain national dailies. A lot swear by these tips as reliable and that they have won using them. One need not be a Robert Langdon (the cryptologist from Dan Brown's Da Vince Code) to decode these tips. A pair of eyeglasses is 8, a hunchback is 9, etc.

It is not unusual to see people poring over frame by frame of the cartoons and taking down notes for hours on end (they call this analyzing the tips). I don't know if encoding numbers in their work is deliberately done by the cartoonists but the numbers are really there. Some enterprising Pinoys with modicum of drawing skills sell mimeographed copies of their cartoons to these small-time gamblers.

If any intelligence agents are reading this blogpost, now they know where to go and gather info about the illegal numbers game here.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Summer Playlist for Your MP3 Player

Imagine yourself swinging on a hammock, sipping from a tall glass of ice tea or getting a tan on the beach, listening to these songs:
  • Summer Breeze by Seals & Croft - Summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind
  • You've Got a Friend by Carole King & James Taylor - Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call and I'll be there, you've got a friend
  • 99 Red Balloons by Nena - Floating in the summer sky 99 red balloons go by
  • Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles - Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear; here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say it's all right, it's all right
  • The Things We did Last Summer by the Beach Boys - The boat rides we would take, the moonlight on the lake, the way we danced and hummed our fav’rite song, the things we did last summer I’ll remember all winter long
  • Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer by Nat King Cole - You'll wish that summer could always be here, roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, those days of soda and pretzels and beer, roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer
  • The Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra - The summer wind, came blowin’ in from across the sea, it lingered there, so warm and fair to walk with me, all summer long, we sang a song and strolled on golden sand, two sweethearts, and the summer wind
  • Indian Summer by the Doors - I love you the best, better than all the rest that I meet in the summer
  • Summer Holiday by Cliff Richard - We’re all going on a summer holiday, no more working for a week or two, fun and laughter on a summer holiday, no more worries for me and you for a week or two, we’re going where the sun shines brightly, we’re going where the sea is blue, we’ve seen it in the movies, now let’s see if it’s true
  • A Summer Song by Chad & Jeremy - Trees swayin' in the summer breeze, showin' off their silver leaves as we walked by, soft kisses on a summer's day, laughing all our cares away just you and I
  • Summer Me, Winter Me by Johnny Mathis - Summer me, winter me, and with your kisses morning me, evening me, and as the world slips far away, star away, forever me with love
  • San Francisco by Scott Mackenzie - If you're going to San Francisco be sure to wear some flowers in your hair, if you're goin' to San Francisco you're gonna meet some gentle people there, for those who come to San Francisco summer time will be a love-in there
  • Green Leaves of Summer by the Brothers Four - A time to be reaping, a time to be sowing, the green leaves of summer are calling me home, 'twas so good to be young then in the season of plenty when the catfish were jumping as high as the sky
  • On the Beach by Cliff Richard - I can think of nothin' better than dancin' on the beach, see a girl, you can go and get her, all your troubles will be out of reach on the beach, you can dance to a rock 'n' roll on the beach, here the Basanova played with soul on the beach, you can dance and twist and shout
  • Summertime by Billie Holiday - Summertime, and the livin' is easy, fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high, your daddy's rich and your mamma's good lookin', so hush little baby don't you cry, one of these mornings you're going to rise up singing then you'll spread your wings and you'll take to the sky
  • Theme from A Summer Place by the Lettermen - There's a summer place where it may rain or storm yet I'm safe and warm, for within that summer place your arms reach out to me and my heart is free from all care
  • Summer Nights by John Travolta & Olivia Newton John - Summer lovin' had me a blast, summer lovin', happened so fast, I met a girl crazy for me, I met a boy, cute as can be, summer days driftin' away, to uh-oh those summer nights

Simmering Summer

Our local weather station declared that General Santos City had the hottest day on April 17 at 39 degrees Celsius, disputing national news reports that it was felt in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija (37.6 degrees). Tuguegarao, Cagayan, however, holds the record at 42.2 degrees on May 11, 1969.

With that in mind, I have prepared for the sizzling summer here with the following measures:

  1. Stock the fridge with lots of liquid refreshments (water, ice tea, ice candies, softdrinks)
  2. Buy lots of juicy fruits (not the bubblegum!) like watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupes, chicos, lanzones, young coconuts (all right, it's no fruit). NO durians (they're carbo-loaded and heat you up)
  3. Set up the hammock under the trees in the front yard
  4. Buy more ice trays to make loads of ice cubes
  5. Buy native anahaw hand fans (handy during summer power blackouts)
  6. Turn up the electric fans (no air conditioning for me: higher electric bill, makes me sleepy and triggers sinusitis attacks)
  7. Watch An Inconvenient Truth, US Vice President Al Gore's documentary on the climate crisis
  8. For hot summer nights, feast on vodka-spiked watermelon slices which I learned to make at UP Diliman for our dorm's open house. To make: cut a small triangular hole on a whole watermelon, take out the triangular slice and prick the three sides of the hole with a fork, pour a shot or two of vodka, let the watermelon absorb the vodka and then replace the triangular slice, put the fruit in the fridge to chill. Later, slice chilled watermelon and serve. Variant: make a batch of watermelon shake and add a shot of vodka
  9. Make chilled veggie and fruit salads
  10. Enjoy summer reads in nearby spring water and beach resorts
  11. Wear sandos and shorts (with Boracay designs) bought 2 years ago from Aklan
  12. Take leisurely late-afternoon walks along the beach

Friday, April 20, 2007

Julia Campbell: A Kindred Spirit Moves On

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on:
nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

-- Omar Khayyam

I do not know Julia Campbell personally. I'd known a few Peace Corps Volunteers in the years immediately preceding 1972 before Martial Law was declared in the Philippines. One of them is Alvin Hower who taught at Notre Dame of Dadiangas College and eventually married a local girl I also know, Prima Guipo. I am familiar with the volunteer work being accomplished by the Peace Corps in third world countries such as the Philippines. But, sadly, I hardly knew Julia Campbell before she made the headlines.

But I feel a certain kindredship with her because she taught kids how to read, write and speak in English and teens the rudiments of campus journalism. She was a freelance writer/journalist for the New York Times and People and Star Magazines. She maintained a blog. She was a kindred spirit indeed.

Irony ruled over her life in the Philippines. At 38, after surviving the terrorist attacks in New York, she decided to "drop from the rat race" and joined the Peace Corps. Her last blogpost was titled, Buhay pa tayo (We are still alive) because she noticed that whenever she asked Filipinos in Sorsogon and Legaspi where she was assigned how they were, the usual answer would be: Eto, buhay pa. In it, she wondered if during the onslaught of Typhoon Reming in Legaspi last year, she would be drowned by the rising flood waters in her small apartment away from her family and friends.

She was reported missing April 8, Easter Sunday which traditionally marked the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ten days later, her body was found in a shallow grave in Banaue, known for its rice terraces. This Peace Corps volunteer who loved communing with nature met a violent death.

Her pictures flashed on TV screens worldwide showed a woman with a warm smile which must have won over a lot of Filipinos who love to smile at the slightest provocation. Her volunteer work at Donsol, Sorsogon and at Legaspi had certainly touched a lot of lives there. After her unwarranted death, her caring and endearing ways and generosity with her time and talents while assigned to this country must have surely touched a chord in the hearts of people like me who came to know her, albeit belatedly. To me, Julia embodied the essence of the Peace Corps - volunteers who genuinely care about the people they work and live with, see the need and rally every resource they can find to meet it, and put a lot of passion in everything they do.

Her family and friends may find consolation in the fact that Filipinos are now bombarding the heavens with prayers and saying decades of the Holy Rosary for the repose of soul of Julia.

Thank you for caring, Julia. Vaya con Dios (Go with God), my kindred spirit.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Words that Define the 70s for Me

  • Dadiangas
  • happening
  • bread
  • Martial Law
  • sounds
  • dyagan
  • bebot
  • pogi
  • generation gap
  • stay-in
  • stockade
  • Makibaka! Huwag matakot!
  • odams
  • tsiks
  • cats
  • Peace, man!
  • love
  • Deep Throat (x-rated film)
  • mary jane
  • miniskirt
  • bra-less
  • permapress
  • baduy
  • pillbox
  • ronda
  • KBL (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan or Kasal/Binyag/Libing)
  • bakya
  • makoy
  • disco (tech, music, lights and ball)
  • curfew
  • women's lib
  • Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan
  • New Society
  • Green Revolution
  • Voltes V
  • Mazinger Z
  • black light
  • Student Canteen
  • Stephen King's Carrie
  • Manila Sound
  • The Exorcist
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • basketball
  • Compania Maritima
  • Japanese straggler
  • psychedelic
  • komiks
  • pukka shells
  • legal landgabbing
  • Tarzan bubble gum
  • bivouac
  • brain drain
  • footjump
  • Kabataang Barangay
  • reveille
  • smiley
  • Have a nice day!
  • Crispa
  • Toyota
  • Tasaday
  • Kabataang Makabayan (KM)
  • NUSP
  • Kickapoo Joy Juice
  • Philippine Constabulary (PC)
  • Hare krishna
  • Ananda marga
  • Love means never having to say you're sorry
  • Ilaga
  • Blackshirt
  • Farrah Fawcett Majors hairdo
  • Tiketawey (JQ)
  • Apo Hiking Society
  • Bomba films
  • Octopus gang
  • double knit
  • Tboli
  • I'll Catch the Sun
  • PMT
  • CET
  • khaki pants
  • Chanel
  • Seasons in the Sun
  • fatigue uniform
  • Hey Jude
  • Sing Out!
  • Wrong stepping
  • El Bimbo
  • TSOP
  • King Kong
  • It's the Real Thing
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Sinta!
  • Royal Tru-orange
  • Lemolime
  • Camay girl
  • Magnolia ice cream
  • Jaws
  • afro
  • Go placidly amid the noise and haste . . .(Desiderata)
  • What is essential is invisible to the eye (The Little Prince)
  • hot pandesal
  • banana cue
  • X-7 perfume
  • 3 Flowers pomade
  • musk oil
  • Terminal (I've come back this morning to where I first came alive . . .)
Just some of the words that define the 70s for me. How about you?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Ten Commandments for the Middle-aged

I got this from an email sent by Chitoism, but it contained 9 only; the complete commandments can be found in this blog:

1. Face and accept the reality of getting old, its consequences and the limitations which growing old brings. Act and behave your age. Quit fooling yourself by trying to look like you were in your youth.

2. Focus on enjoying people, not on indulging in or accumulating material things.

3. Plan to spend whatever you have saved. You deserve to enjoy it and the few healthy years you have left. Travel if you can afford it. Don't leave anything for your children or loved ones to quarrel about. By leaving anything, you may even cause more trouble when you are gone.

4. Live in the here and now, not in the yesterdays and tomorrows. It is only today that you can handle. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may not even happen.

5. Enjoy your grandchildren (if you are blessed with any) but don't be their full time baby sitter. You have no moral obligation to take care of them. Don't have any guilt about refusing to baby sit anyone's kids, including your own grandkids. Your parental obligation is to your children. After you have raised them into responsible adults, your duties of child-rearing and babysitting are finished. Let your children raise their own off-springs.

6. Accept physical weakness, sickness and other physical pains. It is a part of the aging process. Enjoy whatever your health can allow.

7. Enjoy what you are and what you have right now. Stop working hard for what you do not have. If you do not have them, it's probably too late.

8. Just enjoy your life with your spouse, children, grandchildren and friends. People, who truly love you, love you for yourself, not for what you have. Anyone who loves you for what you have will just give you misery.

9. Forgive and accept forgiveness. Forgive yourself and others. Enjoy peace of mind and peace of soul.

10. Befriend death. It's a natural part of the life cycle. Don't be afraid of it. Death is the beginning of a new and better life. So, prepare yourself not for death but for a new life.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I'm Getting On with the Years and So are You . . .

Before I turned Golden Boy last year, I prepared myself for it by buying and reading up on books dealing with the middle age (reckoned by various sources as between the ages of 35 - 65, so I'm right smack in the mean, or is it median? However, Chicken Soup for the Golden Soup is meant for those sexagenarians - 60 year olds for you). I sure need a roadmap to navigate that part of my life's journey. If, as they say, life begins at 40, then I will be 11 this November. :-)
Time Flies by Bill Cosby. Filled to the brim with wit and wisdom. A sampling:
  • I wear glasses, primarily so I can look for the things that I keep losing.
  • I am just like any typical nuclear physicist. My office may look messy, but I know where every atom is.
  • "Don't worry about senility," my grandfather used to say. "When it hits you, you won't know it."
  • I remember my wife's birthday because she announces it well in advance and momentously, the way astronomers announce Halley's Comet.
  • Instead of writing it (a message) down, I decide to keep it in my head, perhaps because of all the room for it there.
  • I am not a physicist, but I'm sure that the theory of the conservation of energy was discovered while watching an eight-year-old pretend to work.
  • In my old neighborhood, a boy stopped playing when he began to lose his pulse. And then he became the referee.
  • Never let the younger people know that you think a compact disc is a sturdy spine; and never say to them, "That was before your time," because the last full moon was before their time.
  • In spite of the profound love I have for my wife, sex at my age has become exhausting, which leaves me yearning for a younger body, or longing for a good nap.
  • If you put a boyish face on a man of seventy-three who can't bend over, you have a new kind of centaur - and the horse's ass is the man who had the surgery.
  • What I pray is that all the parts of me do not shut down all at once. What the man of fifty has to avoid is an orchestrated falling-apart.
  • Immortality is a long shot, I admit; but somebody has to be first.
  • There is a saying that goes: Youth is a gift of nature; Age is a work of art. Well, I hate to disagree with Confucius or Hallmark, but if age is a work of art, the artist is one who belongs in the subway and not in the Louvre.
  • Memory has a sugarcoater and we can never remember pain. (If women could remember pain, we would be a nation of single-child families)
  • You can teach an old dog new tricks. You just don't want to see the dog doing them.
When My Parents were My Age, They were Old (Or Who are You Calling Middle-aged?) by Cathy Crimmins. Very funny justapositions between our parents' middle age and our middle age like: while our parents start to go gray and dye their hair, we begin putting highlights in ours to enhance its natural shine.

Body checklist for the mature: you use tweezers in places you've never thought before, you notice that dim lighting makes you look at least three years younger, sucking in your guts starts to feel natural, when you play sports you care less about winning than about finishing the game without getting hurt.

The Big Five-Oh! - Facing, Fearing and Fighting Fifty by Bill Geist.
Bill Geist takes comfort in the statistics that everyday 11,000 hits the big five-oh (one every 7 1/2 seconds). He starts his book with 50 ways to tell you're 50; here's some :
takes three times to call own kids by correct names, can't read menu, plays air-guitar to unplugged songs, ear hair, can't see own dick, leaves turn signal on, says "eh" and "huh" a lot, falls asleep (rather than passes out) at parties.

Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went out into the Real World by Maria Shriver. Armed with her Kennedy toothy trademark, Maria Shriver gives us a mouthful to wish we'd known before it's too late for us: pinpoint your passion, no job is beneath you, who you work for and with is as important as what you do, your behavior has consequences, be willing to fail, superwoman is dead...and superman may be taking viagra, children do change your career, marriage is a hell of a lot of hard work, don't expect anyone else to support you financially, and have lots of laughter in your life.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr., 84 (A Literary Hero Dies)

One of my literary heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, just died (April 11) from irreversible brain injuries caused by a fall several weeks ago. Read the New York Times report here.

His books were my oasis on the way to self-discovery amidst the intellectual desert. His books were friends I would never tire of. Palm Sunday is Vonnegut's hodge-podge autobiography which i read in paperback. His writing style always enthralled me.

Vonnegut was a student paper editor, soldier, news reporter, teacher, and artist/designer. We share the same birthday, November 11.

He was celebrated for the Wear Sunscreen commencement speech he never wrote or delivered. In fact, it was written by Mary Schmich who wrote about the funny confusion here.

Vonnegut's son Mark (named after Mark Twain) wrote The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Summer Reads Part 3

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

At age 66, Frank McCourt published his memoirs, and Angela's Ashes (Pulitzer Prize winner) and 'Tis. Ten years later, his third memoir has come out. This book focuses on 30 years of teaching experience that shaped McCourt's writing career. Hmmm, let me see, I'll be on my 26th year in teaching. So there must be hope for me as a writer yet. :)

I've read his first two memoirs and they were really moving and poignant. Angela's Ashes reads like an Irish version of a poor Pinoy's life in the slums. Squalor, nerve- and gut-wrenching poverty, bigotry, sickness, death, you name it. 'Tis chronicles his life in the USA and the struggles he went through to carve his niche.

A Monk Swimming by Malachy McCourt

First, before you get turned off by the "sacred & profane" image evoked by the title, an explanation from Malachy McCourt, Frank's younger brother: the title is from the prayer Hail Mary: Blessed are you amongst women (the last two words misheard by him as a monk swimming).

Following in his brother's footsteps, Malachy carefully avoids treading the same biographical ground (their common childhood) by recounting his upbeat life in the USA as a raconteur, actor, bar owner.

Now this is a serio-comic tandem of books I plan to read back-to-back.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Summer Reads Part 2

Colored Lights (40 years of words and music, show biz, collaboration, and all that jazz) John Kander and Fred Ebb as told to Greg Lawrence

For this set of books, I plan to have an audio-visual experience: listen to their CDs on the mp3 player while reading their bios. Double the fun eh? I've done this before with the bios of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

Make that a triple treat for Kander & Ebb, the tandem who gave us Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, among others. When I reach the part of their bio referring to Cabaret & Chicago, I'll be going multi-media. While reading this book, I'll watch/listen to the film versions. I wonder if I'll have a sensory overload.

Angel on My Shoulder by Natalie Cole with Digby Diehl

I've read Nat "King" Cole's bio in the 80s and more than 20 years later, I'll be reading his daughter Natalie's bio.

Her CD Unforgettable featuring duets with her dad would make a perfect companion to this book.

It would be interesting to find out how she got out of the mess of a life she made for herself. A mess where a lot of singers before her got enmeshed in and never got out alive (e.g., Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, et. al.).

As Thousands Cheer (The Life of Irving Berlin) by Laurence Bergreen

I've browsed through this book in search of any reference to Imelda Marcos who claimed that her beauty inspired Irving Berlin (Israel Baline in real life) to compose a song (God Bless the Philippines daw) for her during the WW II. Result: Zilch, nada, nothing!

Berlin wrote a lot of memorable songs: God Bless America, White Christmas, Cheek to Cheek, There's no Business like Show Business, Always, Puttin' on the Ritz, Easter Parade, How Deep is the Ocean?, Let's Face the Music and Dance, You're Just in Love.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Lenten/Summer Reads Part 1

Powerful Prayers by Larry King

This is one book I never tire to read. Larry King distilled a heady bouquet of a book from his interviews with various personalities as to their encounters with the divine. I dip into this book when things don't go well in my life. It never fails to make me look up and thank the Lord. King's exchanges with Rabbi Irwin Katsof (who co-wrote the book) are at turns serious, funny, irate: evident of well-founded friendship between the two. King paints a very human picture of himself in search of God in his life punctuated by numerous divorces, operations and trials.

The Book of Virtues (A treasury of great moral stories) Edited with commentaries by William Bennett

One hefty book, this (832 pages!). I've started reading this since I bought a used copy last month. As with Powerful Prayers, I intend to dip into it from time to time. Bennett used very good writers like James Baldwin to retell the stories and featured stories from the Bible, poetry from masters like Robert Frost, Longfellow, et. al. The book is divided along the virtues Bennett spelled out: Self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty, and faith. Regardless of his republican politics, he presents a direction going back to the virtues that once made USA a great country. As a former Education Secretary, he should know where he speaks of.

Kokology 1 & 2 (The Game of Self-Discovery) by Tadahiko Nagao & Isamu Saito

An intriguing read for those who are attempting to know themselves more. Kokology (Kokoro Japanese for mind/spirit) is defined as a series of psychological games designed to uncover emotional and behavioral traits of the players. Here's how it works: You (and others) answer question(s) and based on your answer(s), an interpretation is given in the book. Example: It's your birthday and you're expectant of greetings and gifts. When you check your mail, you find out someone you'd never suspected has sent you a card. Who sent it? You also get lots of gifts. Who sent you the biggest package? The interpretations to your answer(s) are quite revealing and eye-opening.