Friday, August 13, 2004

A Bridge

People usually use extremes to narrate an example. Take, for instance, the active man and the passive man. The former is claimed to challenge and defy fate, not content with waiting for opportunities but takes steps to ensure it happens. The latter, on the other hand, takes only what is given to him. He has no initiative and usually defers to the majority. If there are no opportunities, he does not act.

While the active and passive man works, I'd like to include my own model into the picture: that of the opportunist. Now when people usually mention opportunists, they usually say it with derision; the common idea we have of the opportunist is someone who takes advantage of the weak, someone who steals when no one is looking. While that does happen, there are also, I believe, opportunists who do have morals and do not necessarily act that way.

The opportunist for me is the bridge between the active and passive man. At first glance, he seems like the passive man; he doesn't look for opportunities but merely waits for them. However, once opportunity strikes, the opportunist does everything to attain that goal. He transforms himself from being passive to active; he exerts effort and competes with others, even if the road is difficult, in order to succeed. And should he fail, he does not give up and renews his conviction in attaining that which he has tasted but lost.

I'd like to compare the opportunist to a horse. At first, he seems without motivation, just grazing in the field. However, dangle a carrot in front of him, and he'll follow you wherever you go; even if you put several obstacles, the horse will continue to gallop and strain itself until it manages to acquire the carrot. Whereas the passive man would give up at the obstacle, the opportunist follows through. And while the active man would certainly look for the carrot from the start instead of grazing in the field, the opportunist is not without his own virtues.

A prime example is the mediocre student who manages to get an A out of sheer luck. Having tasted what it is to succeed, he exerts more effort in the future in order to retain such successes. His first conscious attempts might only garner him a B or B+, but that doesn't impede him from trying. Soon, after several losses and much effort, he finally attains the A that he once caught, and continues to retain it (he becomes an honor student).

I do think a number of people are opportunists such as that, not exactly possessing initiative at the outset, but given enough motivation and opportunity, will strive to attain something that's dangled in front of them.

It's much worse, after all, to have acquired something only to have lost it, rather than never to have gotten it in the first place (and lost love is painful exactly just because of that).

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There are some people who are blessed with talent and perseverance that they rarely experience failure in their life. These people unintentionally earn the ire of other people who often envy or become jealous of them.

Fortunately, I'm not one of them. I've had a wide spectrum of experiences during my life, from being popular and successful to sheer mediocrity and even one of the downtrodden and pitied.

Of course by now, failure it not something I'm afraid of. In fact, sometimes, I even welcome it. Why? It seems to me that there are two kinds of failures: those who learn from them, and those who don't. I'd like to think that I belong to the former.

A person I interviewed several years ago once told me that he'd hire someone who set up his own business and failed rather than someone who succeeded. Why? Because the former has experiences to draw upon and hopefully learned what worked and what didn't.

Of course the flaw in that argument is that it assumes the failure was paying attention and is the type that recovers from their errors. There are simply people who refuse to learn and keep on repeating the mistakes over and over again. And of course, there are also the people who instantly give up at the first sign of defeat...

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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Bookfair Blunders

The World Trade Center really is a difficult place to go to for the bookfair. Anyway, parking is P30.00 flat, in addition to the gas you're spending to get there.

Once you're done parking, entering the bookfair can be a bit of a hassle. You have to purchase your ticket and fill out a form, which you then give to the lady who then types the info on the computer and gives you a sticker tag which you wear (so I guess name tags are popular again) that includes the info you just filled out in the form.

Third, you realize not much is new from the previous bookfairs. Sure, there's the addition of a few like Summit Media, and some Asian companies (there's even a photocopier). It's great if you're interested in foreign cultures or languages, since that's basically the people who'll get the most out of the latest additions but aside from that, well...

Fourth, the rent must be taking its toll on the exhibitors. Powerbooks/National Bookstore, for example, only has a 10% discount, even if all their other regular shops are currently giving 20% discounts. And Fully Booked doesn't even give discounts. Their only promo is that you get a free magazine for purchases of P2000 or more. On a side note, it's nice to see that A Different Bookstore finally has a booth, and the sale is going for 15% for their regular stuff.

And of course, since this is the bookfair and the stalls are small, there's usually only one cashier, so the lines are long.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Book Fair Pimping

Tomorrow is the start of the book fair and unfortunately for me (and many other people), it's moved from the very-accessible Mega Mall to the semi-posh World Trade Center.

I honestly wonder if this entails a decrease in the amount of people attending the book fair.

Book Theft

Any serious reader has probably gone through the motions of book theft, whether it's not "returning" a book you borrowed (whether from a friend or the library), stealing a book from a bookstore, to reading and distributing ebooks from the Internet.

For the first one, while it's probably been done a few times to me, I was never tempted to do so to another person or institute. I mean doing so would deprive others of that book, and I've always kept in mind that I'm not the center of the universe. Not returning books you borrowed would not really help spread the love of reading. That and you might start losing friends, not to mention library privileges.

The second one is probably more tempting for other people. I mean the bookstore's not a person, after all. It's a big business owned by a rich person. Stealing one book won't matter, right? For me, stealing a book from a bookstore is actually doing a transgression on several people. First are the employees of the store. Eventually, they will get blamed. It's their responsibility, after all. Second, against the store. I mean they're already trying to provide us with books. If everyone stole a book from them, then the business stops being profitable. Unprofitable bookstores soon end up being nonexistent bookstores. Third crime is against the writer. If you want the writer to continue writer, make sure he/she gets income (please, as much as a writer wants to get his/her work distributed, the author also wants to get paid for his efforts... popularity doesn't pay the bills, nor does it put food on the table; authors aren't starving writers by preference). Fourth strike is against the publisher; they're the ones risking their money on the author. Most writers are usually associated with a popular publishing label. Publishers, while they aren't necessary in publishing a book, do make it accessible for the masses and usually find a way to make it affordable. Honestly, if you're just going to do book theft, tell me. I'll buy you the book. (And while larger bookstores like National Bookstore might not really feel the impact of book theft, it does hurt the smaller bookstores, such as A Different Bookstore, Booktopia, Aeon Books do get affected.)

Ebooks are sometimes too easy a temptation. The illegal ones are free, after all. But in the end, while you're not exactly hurting the bookstore or its employees, you do hurt the author and the publisher (of course out of print books are an exception... no one's serializing them after all, although it would be nice if you could compensate the author in some way). Of course ebooks are still a long way (although it is probably the inevitable destination of literature) from being marketable (because aside from a computer and an Internet connection, you need a credit card, and for someone like me, I don't have that), although the benefits are there (such as purchasing a chapter rather than the whole book for cheaper value). Some people use it for "educational purposes", but to me, it's still probably best if you were able to borrow the book from someone or the library. It's kind of difficult to bring an ebook during exam day.

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The Lens of the Past

As a kid, I was baffled at the reaction many people had when it came to Imelda Marcos. They claimed that she was beautiful. All I saw was a fat, pimply lady with too much make-up in formal gowns. It was like a scene from The Emperor's New Clothes. Except I kept my opinions to myself.

A decade and a half down the line, I never seemed to question why people had those impressions. Sure, I heard that she was a former beauty pageant winner, but that was in the past. Age finally caught up to her, but when Filipinos look at her, why is it that they look as if she was still sixteen?

Personally, my mental image of myself is not the youth that I was or the man that I will be but my present state. Then again, I'm not exactly vain. Although certainly, my perception of other people vary; certain friends, for example, either look better or I just ignore their physical failings. Of course this perception is biased, mainly because the more you get to know someone you like, the more you look forward to seeing and meeting them. Or more importantly, it's the person's character that interests me more than their physical appearance.

Of course Imelda Marcos is not without her fans. In fact, I've heard lots of stories that even her critics are charmed the moment they meet her. Is it simply because of that, because of her charm? Or the fact that she's a celebrity? That she was once First Lady? Or of all the good (because as much as they did some horrible things, they also did perform acts that were beneficial to the country) that she did in the past? Or were people merely staring at the shoes and complementing them instead of her?


My current philosophy in life is about balance. Not too bad, but not too good either. A certain amount of law, and a certain amount of chaos. I mean the human person is a dichotomy of a lot of things; that's why we categorize most things in opposites. But I recognize that opposites are part of who we are. Submitting to the extremes of one is not our way, but finding the right amount of balance between the two is.

Of course my balance is not a universal balance. Each one must discover his/her own equilibrum. My proportions of a certain something is different from yours. It could be as mundane as finding the right proportions of sugar and concentrate in ice tea, to something as complex as finding the right characteristics in your life-long partner (if any).

Simlarly, my balance is not necessarily "balance" all the time but could be a constant state of flux. Good times will follow the bad, for example, and vice versa; tranquility before confusion, confusion after tranquility. To live in a state that is constant would be terribly boring, and would deaden certain senses. I mean relief is only possible because of pain. Joy could also placed in the light that it exists because of the absence of pain. Too little pain and what would be bliss to another person would be "normal" to you.

Change is also taken into account. The balance that I have now is not neccessarily the balance I'll need tomorrow. The search for this harmonious state is also in flux, and finding it is not the key to eternal happiness (since that's more of leaning towards one philosphy rather than a balance), but the key to living out true to the human experience (the good along with the bad).

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Monday, August 09, 2004

Two Blackeyes

No, I don't actually have two blackeyes, although it feels like it, considering I'm having my regular kuliti (the equivalent of pimples on your eyelids) and they happen to be on both eyelids.

When doctors start mentioning "hormonal imbalance", they might as well say cancer. It's essentially the same thing after all (in the sense that doctors don't exactly know what causes it, nor do they have a "cure" for it). Of course cancer's the more lethal of the two, which is why scientists concentrate on solving that problem rather than the other one (it gets them more fame and glory).

Of course I can't help but ask that despite all our advances in medicine and the like, we still haven't discovered the cure for more mundane stuff, such as colds, and yes, hormonal imbalances. Sure, they're not as important as say, AIDS or cancer, but they're more rampant than the two combined. And of course, nearly everyone can benefit from such a cure, unlike AIDS and cancer which seems to affect, for the most part, the wealthy people (or at least those living in moderate luxury).

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Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Convenience of Modern Technology

It's 2004 and for all our technological advances, I think the one thing that makes living in this century quite comfortable is one simple thing: the modern bathroom.

The toilet to be exact. I mean shitting is already uncomfortable as it is. Depriving us of this modern convenience would make life difficult. I mean imagine yourself living several centuries back. Your outhouse is a shack in the woods. Not only is it publicly humiliating (even though there's no one watching), your environment is out to get you: the flies, the insects, probably even the worms. And if people already have problems flushing the toilet, what more of digging up dirt to cover your own wastes?

Toilet paper is also good. I mean what did people back then use to wipe their ass? Or are they stuck with the smell afterwards? And never underestimate the value of light via electricity. Sure, when it's morning, everything's okay. But once darkness hits and you have to go, wandering out in the middle of the night is no easy task (not to mention that you might be squatting in what could possibly be a serpent's den). And let's not forget bathroom reading.

The modern incarnation of the toilet is probably one of the smarter things man has made. I mean I can live without a bed, live without TV, and probably even live without the telephone. But never underestimate the value of the toilet; when the call of nature calls and you got to go, be grateful that it's there.

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