Thursday, June 01, 2006

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON A RANDOM DAY FROM THIS RANDOM GUY

Random observations:

- The Philippines is probably one of the few countries in the world where one can catch cock-fighting on television, complete with real-time colour commentary. If you want to see chickens kick the holy living shit out of each other, this be the place, friends and neighbours.

- After not watching David Letterman for years and years, I've noticed that his bandleader, Paul Schaffer, is much more vocal than in the past. He makes his presence felt. He tries out jokes, both good and bad, and Letterman doesn't seem to mind.

- All of the taxis in Baguio are named. They all seem to be the same type of cars, and most, if not all, of them are white, and if I were a car expert I would be able to identify the make of the cars, but I'm not, so I won't. The drivers plaster their personal moniker on the sides of the cars. Many of them range from 'Jesus Is Lord' to 'Salvation', par for the course in a Catholic country like this, but there's also a fair number of slightly more eccentric names, such as 'Forrest Gump' and 'Octopussy'.

- The fact that The Da VinCi Code film was rated R-18 made front page news here. That shows you how religious the country is, and how much of a debate a silly novel can create. I actually liked the movie more than the book; the plot is kind of hokey and not entirely probable, but I'm a sucker for mysteries that make no sense and are impossibly complex, so I bought this one hook, line and sinker. I thought Ron Howard, the director, and Tom Hanks, the star, brought a sense of gravity and solemnity to the proceedings at hand, making mostly kooky ideas and scenarios, if not probable, at least entertaining. The film is very long and very slow, but I like movies that are long and slow, so that didn't bother me. Wondering if Hanks has had botox was a distraction, but I find myself watching most movies these days wondering who's been injecting tiny little globs of age-freezing glop into their foreheads.

- I like reading books that I know absolutely jackshit about. I never, ever read the jacket blurbs on the inside of hardcovers or the backside of softbacks; they give too much shit away. I prefer to see if it's gotten good reviews from reputable sources, then dive in for the read. I just finished Ed McBain's 87th precint novel Fiddlers yesterday, which made me a little said, because McBain (aka Evan Hunter) passed away last year, and it's unlikely I'll ever read a brand-spanking new 87th precint novel again. Today I started an old novel by James Jones called The Merry Month of May, which seems to be about the student riots in Paris in the late sixties. It's subject was a myster to me before I cracked the spine, and that's the way I like it. I also recently picked up a used copy of a memoir written by Willie Morris about his friendship with James Jones, so I figured I'd better read more of Jones's novels before I tackle the memoir.

- I just picked up John Irving's latest in paperback, Until I Find You. It's a huge mother, and I'm waiting for the perfect time to savor it.

- I like reading books about baseball, and basketball, and hockey, where the author travels around for a year and notes down observations about the teams and the people and the fans. I don't watch hardly any televised sports, but I like reading about the inner machinations of the people and places that the professionals (and amateurs) immerse themselves in. (And recently I've been interested in learning more about what's actually going on in baseball and basketball, because I don't the rules too well, and I feel the need to keep learning shit, if only to keep life interesting.)

- Cancer is expensive. There are always more pills to buy and potions to trust, and assessing whether or not is effective is a daily exercise in hope and futility.

- Monsoon season has started here in the Philippines, which means it pisses it down for a good hour or two late in the afternoon, and sometimes again in the early evenings.

- I've come across my (stress on the 'my') perfect weight-loss method, which has served me well in recent months, allowing me to burn off twenty or so pounds. Here it is. Cut out all burgers and french fries. (My decades long albatross. Sayonara, my loves...) During the week, eat lots of apples and oranges and bananas, and lots of Kellog's Corn Flakes. (And little else. Sometimes toast. The occasional bit of chocolate.) Fruit for breakfast, fruit for lunch, fruit for dinner. With cereal. No sugar drinks, including juice. Drink only water. Treat yourself to pizza on the weekends. Run thirty minutes four days a week. Walk forty-five minutes to work, and forty-five minutes from work, up hilly Baguio streets, five days a week. Run hour once a week on the weekends. Repeat every week for three months. As LL Cool J recently told Conan O'Brien, when asked how he kept in such superior shape: "If it tastes good, you can't have it." Which is pretty close to the truth. All the good shit is not good for you, so it's gotta go. Add in lots of cardio every day, and your body will respond. Maybe slowly, maybe painfully, but it will respond. Everybody's different, but if you're burning more calories than you're consuming, something's going to work, eventually. It's a long and painful and not very fun process, but the end rewards, a healthy, vigorous body, are worth it. I don't know long I can keep it up, but for now, for me, it works.

- Random sporting achievements by a country's citizens are always great p.r. for a president. A few Filipinos recently reached the summit of Mount Everest, and they returned home to a lavish welcome and parade with the Philippines' President, Gloria Arroyo. The country is almost always on the verge of a military or people's revolt, but who can hate a president when he/she is side by side sporting heroes? It's like when the winning hockey or basketball or baseball teams visit the White House, inevitably presenting Clinton or Bush with a personalized jersey featuring his name and the number 1. (And Clinton, being the consummate politician he was, and is, would always grin and smile as if he'd never seen such a sight before in all of his life. He ain't called Slick Willie for nothing. Seemed so sincere he might, God forbid, actually have been sincere. It's possible.)

- I could watch the Back To The Future trilogy every day and twice on Sunday. Forever. I watched it for the first time in years and years about a year ago, and I have the urge to see them again. Popular entertainment that actually says a lot about who we are, and how we can control our own fate, and how the rhythms of the past extend into the future and fold back into themselves in the past. History repeats, and so do we. Love those films.

- I'm wondering how my school's 40th anniversary went the other weekend. Who went, who was a no-show, which teachers are alive, dead.

- I've been away from Canada for almost exactly seven years. (With more-or-less annual trips home.) That's a long time, considering I'm only thirty. What is that, twenty percent of my life or something?

- There are no good facilities or groups for cancer patients in Baguio. In the Philippines, nobody likes to talk about disease, so they don't. And yet when I go to the cancer ward of the Baguio Medical Centre with Helen, there's always a long line of anxious patients, new and old, waiting for their turn with the one of only two oncologists in town. And they look scared, and uncertain, and composed, and terrified. That's a list you don't want to be on, that list is. And yet there's not any official groups, no newsletters, little visible communal support.

- All the good doctors and nurses are hightailing it out of the Philippines for the States. Big problem here. There are Filipinos all over the world because there are no jobs here in this country. So families are broken up and left behind as the supporters go to Dubai and Cambodia and America and Canada and Finland to work and send back money. And in this religious country, where abortion is banned, sex-ed is non-existent and contraception a rarity, the population just keeps on getting bigger.

- I've already been here seven months, in my third Asian country. That's a long time.

- I've only been out of Baguio City once in the past seven months, and that was nearby, to a water park tucked between the mountains.

- I'm going to Manila for Helen's CAT-scan in a few weeks, to see how far the cancer has (or hasn't) spread. I'm scared and hopeful about what will be found.

- There needs to be more about ovarian cancer in the mass media. It's called the 'silent killer' for a reason. It's usually found late, in the later stages. If I ever run a marathon, I want to raise money for ovarian cancer research. I have to research myself to see how that's done, raising money by running.

- I haven't read Stephen King's two latest books. That scenario hasn't happened to me for awhile.

- Kids are nicer over here. Sounds strange, but I think it's true. More genuine. More open. Usually, the poorer the country, the more fundamentally kind the people seem to be.

- My students asked me what Canadians know about Korea. I had to admit that most Canadians don't know shit about Korea. Or Japan. Or China. Let alone motherfucking Cambodia. My students know about Isaac Newton, and Thomas Edison, and Helen Keller, and Alexander the Great, and the captials of Poland and Sweden. I think Asian students are better educated on world history and current events than their North American counterparts.

- I want to learn more Japanese.

- I want to read more science-fiction, because I like the way that it stretches your mind.

- I'm wondering when Thomas Harris's next Hannibal Lecter book is coming out. I thought the second one in the series, Hannibal, was close to fucking genius. The movie blew it, but the ending of the book was one of the bravest stunts in popular fiction in quite some time.

- I'm thinking more and more that Sam Harris's book The End of Faith is the bomb, yo. It's a full-throttle blast against organized religion in any form, and it takes no prisoners, essentially arguing that we're relying on stone-age texts in a modern world, selectively choosing the passages that we want to use for spiritual fulfillment, conveniently ignoring the less palatable parts, like in the Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament, when God instructs Abraham and us to hunt down and kill our brothers and sisters if they should go looking into other religions, or how the punishment for blasphemy against God is death, as is the punishment for cursing your mother and father. So why should we not believe this part, but believe all the other good, cuddly, touchy-feely love-your-neighbour stuff? Harris advocates a spirituality that arises from our own investigations into our own selves, instead of a culture that advises us to 'respect' other religions when those very same religions state quite clearly that only they and they alone will go the promised land -- everyone else, the non-believers, are fucked. In this world of nuclear weapons and handheld bombs, we can no longer rely on religions that gain their strength from individual readings of texts written by people who had yet to be introduced to the marvels of the wheel. It's strong and controversial stuff, but it's worth a look, whether you agree with his arguments or not.

- Having said all that, if you have cancer, belonging to a church helps.

- I'm really looking forward to the next installment of the Rocky franchise, due this Christmas. For me, the entire Rocky saga mirrors the necessary, familiar progression of a boxer's life: from unknown to champion to success to retirement to destitution to the inevitable comeback. If it works, writer-director-star Stallone will have crafted a touching look at the cycle of one man's life. Adrian's dead, apparently; Rocky hasn't boxed in years. He wants to challenge himself. If anything, what will be clear is that Rocky will once again be the underdog, which hasn't truly been the case since the first film. Let the jokes begin, but for the true Rocky fan, this film will be an event.

- I've got this anthology of Faulkner's writing in my room, but Faulkner still scares the shit out of me. His writing is so dense and local and complex, the opposite of his contemporary, Hemingway, that I can never seem to get into him. Soon, though, soon. One of his Japanese translators went insane, literally, trying to craft a Japanese counterpart to his particularly English idiom.

- I don't think translators get enough credit. At all. Taking two languages like Japanese and English, and translating works of fiction, is a massive, impossible task. Languages are different life-forms, so you're essentially asking somebody to create a whole other life that distinctly resembles another life. And the reason why a book is good is because of the other's use of language, of rhythm, of tone, all of it crafted based on how words collide with one another. So you're telling the translator: Do the same thing, but use a language and rhythm and tone that have nothing to do with English.

- I like the way that the sunlight is shining outside the door to this room. For now, for the moment, it seems almost inviting me to go somewhere I know not where.







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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scott,

Still reading here. Great writing, good stuff about everyday life and more.

best regards from brazil,

ig

Scott said...

Thanks! Much appreciated.

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Christine said...

in response to "I'm wondering how my school's 40th anniversary went the other weekend. Who went, who was a no-show, which teachers are alive, dead."

I can't exactly tell you who all from your class went, but one person I enlisted in writing a scrapbook entry for said that he was the only one from his grad year o_o.

Umm Mrs. DeSalis (deSalis?) was there around 10:30, Adria Clark, Mrs. Clark's daughter, was getting married that night so a bunch of teachers were at that..
I saw Mr. Umbrico, apparently he just had hip (replacement?) surgery and that's why he was in the wheelchair. Mr. Shulman was there, and also Mr. DiMartile (I don't know which teachers were there when you were, but I'll rattle off a list nonetheless). I think I saw Mr. deSalis as well. it would be logical.

As for the teachers that are still here who were present.. Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs. Goulet, Mrs. Forgeron of course (heading up the committee for it), Mrs. Davies, Ms. Copland (not sure if she was there, but she's still at Secord if that counts), Mr. Sisler...
A lot of people were in the gym/caf where the 'liscensed drinking' was and as I'm 17 I wasn't allowed to go in there -_-. So, yeah, there were probably more.

I don't really have any pictures of it because I thought it would be kind of weird to take some, but I can inform you of more if you'd like. (I've no idea if you'll notice this comment or if you get an email whenever you get a comment).