Sunday, December 28, 2008

Haven't I told you yet?

My brother won a flat-screen TV.

Flat screen


Blood-curdling romance . . . unbelievable

This sounds silly, but, yes, I went out to see the blood-sucking vampires in Twilight.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not such a waste of money, especially when you consider the low, low price you pay to watch it in this part of the country—a whopping Php 30!

I watched it with friends from UP SOX after our regional quiz show—which was a huge success, by the way. Now I can understand why it’s causing a fever, especially among people who don’t usually read. It’s simple, cheesy, melodramatic, and downright predictable.

But, to its credit, it’s new. Vampire stories are usually violent, erotic, and complicated. Twilight, however, doesn’t fit in any of these descriptions. It’s tailored-fit for the young. Parents need not worry when their kids go and see this.

I have a couple of friends who’ve read all the books in this series by Stephanie Meyer. (They didn’t actually buy them; I’m told you can download a softcopy in some dubious sites.) As is often the case, they report that the book is better than the movie.

Stories like these are helpful because, in a sense, they encourage people to read. I guess the love of reading always begins with a bang—a book that moves you or an author that has a unique writing style you want to copy or a story that changes your perspective. Twilight probably offers this spark.

I could say the same for Harry Potter. I have friends who only started reading when that book series came out. Later on, they progressed to the classics and came to appreciate the really good books of our time.

But the danger is that these people might be limited to these kinds of books—the simple, popular ones—so much so that they’d find reading, say, Steinbeck or Shakespeare, daunting. But that deserves a separate entry.

So, back to Twilight—did I enjoy it? Oh, I did. Very much.


Friday, December 26, 2008

We sleep on Christmas Eve

Yesterday I've been with my father to do Christmas grocery shopping at KCC Mall. As in Manila, the mall was packed with people rushing to buy fruit cocktails, pastas, and hams, just in time for the noche buena that night.

Tatay and I were on my mother's strict instructions to buy the tried and tested ingredients she'd use for her salad. My mother doesn't cook (and seriously, you don't want her to), but her salad is something we anticipate annually.

In my family, I can only remember a few instances when we stayed up late and actually celebrated Christmas Eve. We'd usually sleep on it. My mother gets migraines when her sleep is disturbed. My father spontaneously dozes off. And because sleep is infectious, we kids curl up in bed, too. I mean, what do we do? All the lights are out, and everything's quiet, except for the dogs who squeal when the neighbors' fireworks explode.

But that's not to say we don't, uhm, celebrate. We just do it earlier, the noche buena. Saves us a lot of hassle. You should try it, too.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Orhan Pamuk's The Black Book is a must-read

The Black Book

Orhan Pamuk doesn't mince with words; he plays with them.

In what many people call "his masterpiece," The Black Book weaves the story of young lawyer, Galip Bey, and the mysterious life of one newspaper columnist who happens to be his cousin and his wife's ex-husband.

Pamuk, among the best of Turkey's writers and winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, employs rich imagery, unique story lines, and unheard-of plots. It's not an easy read, this book, because it is so overwhelming that many times I had to pause in between paragraphs to swallow what I had just read.

Galip Bey finds out that his wife, Ruya, had left him. Except for a short note written in green ink, Galip didn't see that coming. He searches for her, until he realizes Ruy a may have gone to Celal, her ex-husband.

The story is set in the backdrop of political chaos and financial instability, problems plaguing Turkey in the 1980's. Pamuk shows his ingenuity when he intersperses the novel with little stories from minor characters. Which is why my favorite is Chapter 15, Love Stories on a Snowy Evening, because this is where the people that Galip meets in a bar each tell their stories.

If only Pamuk's books were cheaper, I'd buy all of them.

Update Jan 13—It's Orhan, not Orham . . . and I needed Paul Balite to tell me that.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What I plan to do this Christmas

1. Rest. I resolve not to bring any academic-related materials at home. I wouldn't read them anyway.

2. Meditate. I have more to study and meditate on God.

3. Share the gospel to my classmates.

4. Party. The family is usually swamped with Christmas party invitations, so much so that at one point, we weren't eating dinner at home!

5. Read. In my reading list are The Black Book (Orhan Pamuk), Franny and Zooey (JD Salinger), The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (Rainer Maria Rilke), and Why I Am A Christian (John Stott).


Sunday, December 14, 2008

When studying gets hard

One last exam for the year. Studying is hard when you all you think of is the Christmas vacation.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Connected again!

For a moment, I actually contemplated going back to Windows.

Last night I couldn't connect to the internet. New fiber optics cords were being installed in the dorm's internet facility. As part of this change, the administrators decided to change our IP addresses, as well.

For 99% of the Link Yakal subscribers, that wouldn't have been a problem. But for me, the lone Linux user in the corridor, it was a nightmare. Previously I had deleted the "Network Manager" icon in the upper panel because, well, it just didn't look nice. I figured I could always put it back.

I spent the entire morning tweaking with the codes, which looked more like an incoherent display of letters and numbers that the aliens emailed from outer space.

Now I'm glad I have it working, thanks to the great guys at Ubuntu Forums.

The reason I'm sticking it out with Ubuntu is that there are so many good people willing to help out.

So yes, I'm not deleting any of these icons any time soon.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Encapsulating Christmas

Lenny Magalit, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, sang at the YCF Christmas party at Kuya Dave's this evening.

Her song? A musical version of John 3:16, one of the verses that best encapsulate the meaning of Christmas.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

I'm thankful for Christ-centered Christmas parties. Yes, they still exist, but it's sad that not everyone gets to experience them.

With the popular unbiblical notions of Santa Claus and his reindeers, the celebration has lost its meaning.

Instead of proclaiming Christ's message of redemption to sinners, people highlight “giving” as the central theme. But it is God giving His only begotten Son for us that must be given the most importance, not us giving material gifts to others.

Christmas is a celebration of Christ. Take Jesus out of the picture and all these lights, trees, and carols lose their meaning.

(Photo: jonmatthew photography)


A monk's life. And death.

Among the best suspense novels I've read thus far, The Name of the Rose isn't just an ordinary detective story.

Set in the 14th century, in a rich Franciscan abbey in Italy, the novel is told from a viewpoint of an old Benedictine monk, Adso, whose memories of the past events form the backbone of this literary masterpiece.

For seven days, heinous crimes are committed in the monastery. But just as notorious as the crimes are the underlying motives for them—greed for knowledge and power, pride, and lust.

Umberto Eco, the writer, weaves a powerful picture of these events. Instead of chapters, the book is divided into Days and Times: matins (2:30 – 3 am), lauds (5 – 6 am), prime (7:30), terce (9 am), sext (noon), nones (2 – 3 pm), vespers (4:30 pm, at sunset), and compline (6 pm, before the monks go to bed).

The book is a heavy read—it combines philosophy, logic, history, and language. Interspersed in Adso's narration is the conflict between the Emperor in Rome and the Pope in Avignon, sparked by the Franciscan debate against material wealth.

To fully grasp the story, one must have some knowledge of history (which I had very little of, so much so that I had to do some research of my own). I was often lost in many of the Latin phrases incorporated in the text, especially in the dialogue.

But overall, it was a fulfilling—more than a fun—experience.

I admit it—I read The Name of the Rose because I wanted to see if Umberto Eco is the writer people say he is.

They weren't exaggerating when they called him brilliant.

PS. There's a film adaptation of this book, starring Sean Connery and E. Murry Abraham, but I haven't seen it yet. Do lend me a copy if you have one.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Scientia - Second Issue

I'm the news editor of the college magazine, Scientia, and I write the column (Parenthetical). Here's the second issue just released last week, in case you don't have a copy.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

MBBS wins first prize in College of Science Carolfest 2008

We won!


We hardly mastered the dynamics, barely ran through the choreography—and here we are, bright and shining with our first place distinction.


For three years, I've been joining the CS Carolfest. I've been a part of the UP MBBS Star Activity (a fancy name we call our org choir). MBBS placed second in 2006, third in 2007—and my batchmates and I felt that, before we graduate, we should at least win a gold.


This year...


... was an answer to our wish.


We sang two songs: the standard piece, Ano'ng Gagawin Mo Ngayong Pasko (Ryan Cayabyab), and The Way You Look Tonight (Frank Sinatra), which we chose in line with the theme, romantic love this Christmas.


Minutes before the contest, Jana Mier, our graceful and gracious conductor, reminded us to sing for greater purposes—not just for ourselves. I'm thankful for that searing reminder to offer the song to the Lord who is the reason for Christmas, to begin with.


Our presentation probably went smoothly, but, on hindsight, we couldn't have pulled it off without Kristine Reyes who painstakingly taught us the right notes, timing, and dynamics when Jana was away.


And of course, I have my kapwa tenors to thank for. I had fun singing and learning with all of them.


This is my last Carolfest. I've learned that it's not just about winning—it is about singing, and singing for Someone infinitely greater than ourselves.

(Photos: Kino Aquino)