Monday, December 28, 2015

A Belated Merry Christmas from your Favorite Fat Man

Merry Christmas, everybody. I know I missed my en punto Christmas post this year, but it couldn’t be helped; when life gets in the way of living your routine, you start forgetting things.

Like regular blog posts.

Or, you know. Blogging in general.

Ho ho ho, pendejos!

But there you go. I expect that most of you guys are a few pounds heavier, thanks to the tsunami of food that’s sure to grace all of your reunions throughout the season. Don’t forget that a thirty-minute walk not only is good for your heart, it’s great in freeing up more space for that next jamon and queso de bola bocadilla. We’ve got five days to the end of the year, so don’t go and wreck your appetite for the New Year celebration feast (which will probably be filled with fruits and leftovers anyway, so it shouldn’t matter).

And for what it’s worth, I hope you guys greet the new year with your best foot forward, because like it or not, 2015 was one hell of a year, and I for one, am looking forward to what the next one will bring.

To your health!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Lowering the Boom on Pop Culture

Not unlike millions of hipsters, lifers, hippies and intellectual elitists in the world, I find pop culture to be quite the tiresome affair. The fact that one cannot live in this day and age without dealing with pop in any form makes today's standards of living very poor indeed. But like everybody else, I muddle along somehow.

One of the current manifestations of the nebulous tumor of pop culture, at least in the Philippines, is the horrific #Aldub phenomenon. For the uninitiated, Aldub is apparently this new soap opera format employed by long-running noontime variety show Eat Bulaga. Beyond that, I know very little else about it as I choose to avoid Eat Bulaga, despite being a fan of TVJ movies as a child.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Meditations on Drinking Beer in Manila

Man drinks alcohol. Man is happy. That's like one of the most zen realities there is. This is the reason why we flock to watering holes at the end of every week - every day, if you're an alcoholic - for a pint or two of the golden brew.

Living in Manila, however, means that you're either a San Miguel Pale Pilsen fan, or a Red Horse Beer fan. Colt 45 is also there for the truly courageous, and Manila Beer - a fantastic product while it lasted - just didn't make it.

The lackluster selection of alcoholic beverages in the metro has led to a proliferation of high-end "speakeasies", a hipster term for the truly expensive drinking spots mostly found in Makati. Do not confuse these places with prohibition-era speakeasies; you won't find the neighborhood drunkard here, on his way to see a man about a dog. These places have achieved exclusivity by virtue of being expensive, and I spit at the idea of calling them speakeasies.

There is nothing "easy" about a hefty price tag on a simple bottle of beer.

There's much to be said, however, about the microbrewing community in this same city. These guys spend a lot of time and money in creating new blends that can help the Pinoy palate experience a different kind of brew. Now I'll be honest and say that some of these brews are just plain shit, but there are those that deserve a hearty tip of the hat.

One of the factors that truly define a good alcohol, however, isn't always the taste. The company you keep where you drink your beer can improve the way you experience your drinking session. For example: I prefer the cozy confines ofthe old  Freedom Bar in QC to the hoity-toity atmosphere of Cafe SaGuijo, but mostly because I knew the owners of the former. And then closer to home, there's the choice between the Tap Station and The Other Office, which is really determined by whether you'd like to spend your time in a cozy hangout bar or an equally cozy 1960s bar.

But at the end of the day, as the Wyld Stallions have been known to say: "the best place to [drink] is here; the best time to [drink] is now." So I leave you with the following quotes from Bill and Ted, and from Jon Kabay-Zinn: be excellent to each other; and wherever you [drink], there you are.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Secret to Unplugging and Recharging

One of the best things you can choose to do for your social life - both on and offline - is to disconnect. 

Oh sure, you say, people do that all the time. Disconnecting is one of the things we do on an almost cyclical basis. We do it when we're fed up with the banal everydayness of all the posts we see in Facebook, or when we're overstimulated with all the media we've absorbed for months on end. When we disconnect, we go on a cleanse, we think. We purge our system of all the bad vibes we've built up in the weeks and months of being connected.

And after some time - when we can't stand being so far away from the buzzing world of social media - we reconnect with a vengeance, feeding on the silent electrical impulses we receive from the world of the Internet. 

It's no wonder that the 'net's gone from a luxury to a basic necessity. It's being treated like a lifeline to the world at large, where the time spent away from it comes rushing back in, consuming our daily lives with a vengeance, eating up more man hours up until our kinesthetic system has reached a euphoric state of equilibrium - only then do we settle back into a regular pattern of connecting to the lifetap of the Internet for our daily dose of society.

Human beings weren't made to evolve this way, however. The human body developed a circadian rhythm of sleep and daily activity for many reasons, one of them being that the subconscious could only stand so much society at a time. Your mileage may vary, with extroverts having a bigger tank than most   people, and introverts having a much smaller capacity. But the point is that at the end of the day, people shut themselves in their homes for a reason - to escape from society. To recharge. And, ironically, to disconnect.

The life cycle of an average battery is determined at the simplest level by two things: how long it has been kept charging, and how many times it has been recharged. Power cycles, they're called. The more a battery is charged, the shorter its lifespan gets, and the longer it is kept charging, the more damaged it gets. There's an art to figuring out how long to keep a battery connected to the power supply, an unspoken code of how many hours it should be kept charging. 20 to 90%, the experts will say. Keep your battery within those figures at all times, and you will keep your battery long-lived and prosperous.

The same can be said of people. Disconnecting to recharge might be an interesting prospect once in a while, but "recharging" for long periods of time will do little to keeping your need for social media in check. 

A better solution would be quick, regular disconnections. Keeping your social life at 20 - 90% means disconnecting at regular intervals, giving yourself time to regroup on a regular basis. The secret to this is to keep them short - don't look at your phone thirty minutes before going to bed, or read a physical book for an hour every day. These short recharging cycles will help your mind balance the need for society agains the natural need of a human being to be alone. And since the cycles are short, you don't miss much - you can plug right back in without developing a gnawing hunger for the connection, keeping it easier to control your impulses.

The key here, ultimately, is finding your balance. Again, your mileage may vary. But once you recognize that you've struck a golden balance between plugged in and unlugged, the very first thing you will notice is that you will have stopped calling social media a chore.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Not Asking For It (But You Can't Always Get What You Want)

The other week, I read about the whole #CropTopDay brouhaha on Twitter. Apparently, a young girl was sanctioned in her school for wearing revealing clothing. Instead of taking her punishment as a life lesson, she took to the web and started an extension of the movement to promote awareness, and started a debate that students should be allowed to wear whatever they felt was comfortable in school.

For the record, I am feminist-compassionate. I don’t understand all of their social demands, but I’m sympathetic, and try to understand why they think the way they do.

I do, however, draw the line at women parading around the streets wearing whatever they want, and saying that even if they’re doing that, they’re not asking to be raped. This is really where the whole issue of Crop Top Day stems from: the objectification of women that prevents them from being able to dress comfortably in fear of sexual assault, whether be it verbal or otherwise.

See, I get it. I know women shouldn’t be objectified. I don’t believe in male dominance at all, and am a staunch opponent of rights for rapists (a completely separate matter altogether). I know that women have a right to promote awareness that their bodies should not be viewed sexually by the average man on the street. And I completely agree! It is the responsibility of men to keep their thoughts away from the gutter at all times, and to keep their dicks in their pants.

But see, responsibility flows both ways. In the same manner that men have the responsibility to make sure they don’t objectify women, women also have the responsibility to be aware that not everybody is going to think like that. You have the responsibility to protect yourself as much as you can, and dressing appropriately is one way of doing that.

Think about it this way: when somebody buys a nice car, and parks it in a gnarly area of town, their side mirrors are getting stolen, at the very least. Or if you flaunt a lot of cash while you’re out in public, then you’re exposing yourself to criminal elements that won’t think twice of stealing your cash.

If your side mirrors get stolen, does this mean you were asking for it? Or if you were mugged in a dark alley, does this mean you were asking for it? I mean, you were flaunting your money around, but you sure as hell didn’t want to get mugged! And dude, that was a really, nice car! Are we going to educate each and every person in the world that stealing is bad, too?

That’s absurd. You are responsible for everything you do, no matter where you go. If you dress provocatively, and you end up getting raped, the rapist needs to go to jail and suffer for what he did, but you’re not completely blameless yourself. That’s something you have to remember. No amount of feminist ideology will change that fact.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Terry Pratchett, and the High Cost of Living

Terry Pratchett passed away yesterday. I never read a lot of his books - The Light Fantastic, The Colour of Magic, Sourcery, and Good Omens are the only ones I've read - but I loved his work. The literary and fantasy worlds have lost a champion, and so soon after losing Spock, too.

Sir Terry also suffered from Alzheimer's. This frightens me, because my family has a history with the disease. But I digress. Terry battled his ever-worsening dive into the well of dementia with what Neil Gaiman called an unusual kind of fury. Which, somewhat paradoxically, translated to the kind of unabashed situational humor you'd find in his work. Death, for example, has been shown to be a bumbling parent unable to resist the charms of his teenaged daughter. The most efficient travelling suitcase in the world is one possessed of many legs and an uncanny sense of humor that, in my opinion, probably influenced the character of Alladin's magic carpet in the Disney iteration of that character.

But perhaps the most interesting character in the series is Rincewind, the inept wizard with a secret so insane that only the end of the world can make any sense out of it. I connected with the bungling ineptitude of Rincewind so much that I gained  a new perspective on what it means to be second-rate. That is, you can be the most inept human being in the world and still be a hero.

Sir Terry was undeniably more than just Discworld and Rincewind, but that's what I will always remember of him. And as the rest of us keep on swimming through the cosmic soup on our own personal great A'Tuins, I know that every once in a while, I will stare out into the horizon, and trick myself into thinking the world was flat - and thank the gods that we ever had a mind like Terry's.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Straying From The Straight Path

I have a lot of friends who don't understand how some folks can't agree with the current administration. Most of these friends work, in one way or the other, with the government. So I can understand why they feel so strongly about the admin as they do.

But I respectfully beg to differ with their views. There was a point in time where I agreed with what they had to say - I even supported the BBL for a time - but as the years went on, and the chinks in Noynoy's administrative armor began to show, I started souring of whatever respect I had of the man and his cabinet.

I imagine it all started, for me, with his lackluster response to typhoon Yolanda. People tell me that Yolanda was am isolated case that we weren't prepared for. I agree! The fact that we responded so terribly after the fact , though, does nothing to make things better. I appreciate how difficult it must have been for the people in charge to react positively to the disaster, but if they can't accept that the fact that they were insufficiently prepared to deal with its aftermath was a sign of administrative weakness, then they're not being very true to themselves for the sake of appearances.

The next turning point came when a friend who worked for Coloma's staff quit his job due to disagreements with the admin. If you can't keep people who disagree with your beliefs happy with their jobs despite their misgivings, then your policy probably isn't very friendly.

And then the whole DAP thing came about. A friend tried to rationalize the DAP as the admin testing the limits of our Constitution. Screw that. If testing the limits of the constitution were ok, then I should be able to test the limits of the law by stealing fruit because I was hungry. The thing is, if I get caught stealing, I pay the price because I broke the law. How differently should the admin be treated?

I don't think I'm oversimplifying things. Least of all because our good leader sees it fit to simplify the communication of the military during an emergency situation to texting somebody across town.

Speaking of which, let's talk about the Mamasapano incident, and the whole BBL.

I won't mince words here. Mamasapano was a breakdown of command. The administrative figures fucked up big time here. And the worst part is that the guy who's accountable for all the actioms of the military is washing his hands off the matter. I'm glad Napeñas is finally throwing PNoy under the bus. The guy needs to be humble enough to accept his mistakes without hiding behind his accomplishments. They don't cancel each other out. That's just irresponsible.

And then there's the BBL. I liked it when it started out. Peace is, after all, a worthy cause. But when Mamasapano happend I read up on Sharia law - because it sounded like what the government was giving the MILF was the ability to promote Sharia law. And let me tell you, what I learned wasn't pretty. If the local law of the Bangsamoro takes precedence in their region before the law of the land, then the BBL is virtually dooming non-Muslims as second-class citizens within Muslim Mindanao. Peace indeed.

And you knw how there are people saying that the SAF died as part of their jobs? Well, let's put this into perspective. The government improving the country is their iob. Why do we need to celebrate the government doing their jobs? I don't expect praise whenever I finish a milestone in a project. That's just inefficient and unprofessional. You entered the government, and working for the government means you will deal with criticism. Not all of it is valid, but the opinion of every person in a democracy counts - whether it is directed in the proper forum or not. So Mr. President and the current admin's staff - live with it. You chose that path. Man up, admit your shortcomings, and maybe, just maybe, we'll start respecting you a little bit more.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Train Man

I’ve recently found myself riding the train more often these past few weeks. No I’m not talking about the LRT or the MRT. I’m talking about the old Philippine National Railway, the rickety old trains that go through some of the major thoroughfares throughout Manila, Makati, Pasay, Parañaque, amd Muntinlupa. It’s been a lot of fun, mostly; you notice strange things on an at-grade train that you don’t notice above-grade, things like how the train tilts to one side on account of the natural slope of the land between San Andres and Paco stations, or how majority of the trains are repurposed Japanese commuter trains with maps of the (early) 1980s railway system of Japan.

Philippine_National_Railways_Manila_Tayuman2 (1)

I like riding the PNR commuter train, but it isn’t for everybody. The trains are old (and usually faulty one way or the other), and the crush of people during rush hour might turn other riders off the prospect. It isn’t as bad as the MRT has become today—I still think that line’s the worst of the lot—but it can get pretty rough, considering that the trains come in every thirty minutes, so if you miss one train, or if the trains are delayed, you’re losing quite a bit of time.

So far, I’ve been to several stations, including the Tutuban terminal station, the Sta. Mesa, Pandacan, and Paco stations, the Buendia station, and the Sucat and Muntinlupa stations. By far the nicest station is the one in Tutuban; riding the train there affords you a view of the vast expanse of property the PNR has, most of which have become graveyards for old train coaches. The land is overgrown with cogon grass, and some of the PNR staff have goats grazing here and there. It’s a very rural scene in the middle of the city.

One of the more puzzling aspects of the stations, though, is the fact that most of their platforms are shorter than the actual train. There’s virtually no way out from the last few cars than to jump, and I still can’t fathom how people manage to get inside. They still manage to get filled up anyway. Maybe there are some stations that have sufficiently long platforms, like the one in Tutuban. I have yet to see the Dapitan and Blumentritt stations, either.

Eventually, I’d like to ride this train all the way to Laguna. And once they reopen the tracks to Bicol, I’d like to take my girlfriend in one of the sleeper trains over to the south. That sounds like quite an excellent adventure.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The Fat Man’s Guide to New Year Resolutions

I’m not a huge fan of resolutions. Actively changing something isn’t something I enjoy doing, more so because it means that you’re acknowledging that something needs fixing. Which is never nice. But that’s the whole story of human nature; the only thing that’s permanent is change, so the Wolfgang song goes, and it’s up to us to adapt to it.

So maybe resolutions are one tool of adaptation. I just thought that up right now, as of this moment. I’m not going to list everything that’s on my resolution list—that’s like showing your underpants to your neighbors early in the morning. Instead, I’m going to write down the resolutions I made for making resolutions. So without further ado, here is the Fat Man’s guide to making New Year resolutions.

Be Realistic. It’s very easy to make resolutions that’re designed to help us improve ourselves, but just like this article that’s been going viral recently, you need to focus less on goals, and more on systems. Sit down when you’re making your resolutions list, and think: will this resolution be attainable? Do I have the mental stamina to work towards this goal? Or should building my resolve be a more important goal, for now? You can have as many resolutions as you want, but if you’re not going to work on them anyway, then you’re missing the point of having a resolution.

Keep it to a Minimum. Some folks think that having a long list of resolutions is a surefire way of keeping at least some of them. Sure, but that’s not how probability works; you’re basically gambling away your future. A person who’s got a plan for achieving every item in a short list of resolutions is more likely to achieve some of them, than a person with a long list without any plans. A good rule of thumb is to use 20% of your age. That way, you won’t hit the double digits up until you’re in your 50s, at which point you probably wouldn’t care too much about resolutions anyway.

Keep your List Ubiquitous. For most people, the saying “out of sight, out of mind” takes a reality all on its own. While I don’t approve of showing your stuff to everybody, it needs to be somewhere where you can always see it. That means you need to make the effort to ensure that your list can nag you no matter what you do.

Know your limits. This is related to the first item on this list. Can you actually stop smoking this year? Will you actually be able to save ten pesos a day, for a year? Donald Trump can make it his resolution to go on more vacations; a salaryman can’t easily make this decision without planning properly for the long term. If you don’t think you can do it, then don’t even work on it.

That said, I hope you guys have a prosperous New Year ahead of you. Don’t burn off a finger!