Monday, March 31, 2008

A $10,000 bet on climate change

Preceding the now-global initiative Earth Hour was a relatively small issue regarding a wager on climate change, which I found in the Foreign Policy blog. Albeit small in a plethora of issues in the sphere international politics (perhaps because of its too-academic and “scientific” nature), its impact on the remaining fight that could ultimately save mankind cannot be downplayed.

The wager is put up by forecasting expert J. Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School of Business and challenges Al Gore’s climate change forecasts which he presented in the 2007 Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Armstrong, in his paper, "Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists Versus Scientific Forecasts" also challenged the results of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) saying it as “unscientific” saying his predictions were far more accurate than the previous two mentioned. (See article and related links here)

Citing The New York Times article, the UN-IPCC recently presented grim forecasts if governments fail to respond to the lingering risk on global warming: “melting ice sheets that could lead to a rapid rise in sea levels and the extinction of large numbers of species brought about by even moderate amounts of warming, on the order of 1 to 3 degrees”.

The bet would require Gore and Armstrong to deposit $10,000 into an escrow account and the prize would go to the one who has closest to the accurate predictions of temperature, over a ten-year period, in 10 different weather stations around the world. The renewed deadline was supposed to be March 26. Gore has reportedly dismissed the challenge.

Gore would have only aggravated the forecast squabbling if he accepted the wager. And it would only do the world no good. I admire the efforts of Armstrong and his colleagues, but I reserve doubts on what point they want to prove. I suck at this stuff, forecasting and statistical analysis, because I suck at math. But we face such ominous times. I know that global carbon emissions are already way more than the world can take, polar ice caps are melting at such a rapid level, a sizable portion of Antarctica has been obliterated, and God knows if the hole in the ozone layer is still the size of Australia or much bigger now.

Surely, the devastation brought about by the Hurricane Katrina and its disastrous precedents couldn’t be any more than a retributive display of nature’s wrath than it is a big and horrific danger sign that no battle for accuracy can anymore abate.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gimme spaghetti

Spaghetti is one of the best things invented by the Italians aside from fashion. Thinking about it now, I seem to forget the last palatable taste I had of it. It must have been ages. Aside from tortang talong and instant noodles, I would never grow tired of it. If I want to, I can eat spaghetti only even in a party full of just about everything you can grasp. I would first look for spaghetti in a table full of the humongous lechon, caldereta, barbeques or hotdogs with mallows pierced in watermelons. I love the spaghetti with tuna and tomatoes and I’m looking forward with the one with Spanish sardines on it. I need to eat spaghetti now.

Haruki Murakami must love spaghetti too. He equates it with melancholy in his short story, The Year of Spaghetti, in his collection, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. In the last portion, he writes:
Durum semolina, golden wheat wafting in the Italian fields. Can you imagine
how astonished the Italians would be if they knew that what they were exporting
in 1971 was really loneliness?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Sacrifice

Sounds like a crappy horror film, doesn't it? Well, it's not even close.

They say God works in mysterious ways (not love... but then God is love... so...), but I guess he works more mysteriously during the Holy days?

I played Anton Chigurh's game a while ago because I can't make up my mind on a decision. I can't remember the last time I had fussed all over decision-making, that is not entirely work-related. In No Country for Old Men, Anton is a vile creature who is not aware of the word mercy. When a hapless human being crosses paths with him, his/her life is totally reduced to dirt, at the stake of a toss-coin. No, I was not about to kill anybody, but since I can't make up my mind, I tossed a 1-peso coin. Jose's head showed up which meant I should go.

But something came up, thus the blog entry title.

In a very remote way, I'd like to think I'm like Chris McCandless. (Though he died because he was not hesitant, I will probly die because of hesitation.) He made a big sacrifice as big as life itself and made more little ones along the way. But I guess we both have resilient spirits (and Chris also has problems with the Catholic church), and though it may not show, like him, I have "no problem recognizing a supreme being and calling it God", like in the words of Ron, the last friendship he formed along the way. (Read/watch Into the Wild.)

I have unholy deeds and unorthodox words oftentimes come out of my mouth. I try not to despise people despite the despicable characters of a lot of them. I curb my misanthropic other half and oftentimes allow much room for Mr. Bright-side. The past 6 years of my life is made up of big and small sacrifices. When I think of it, it's a hell of a lot even. So why is this recently-added "sac" (oh so I have my own word for it now) even much of a big deal. God knows I have been a truly good soon. A goddamn rare find.

Monday, March 10, 2008

10 things on Oscar's 80th

I know it's overdue, but what the heck.

I actually liked this year's Oscars (and I began watching it I guess since late 90s or 2000). Probably because of the following:

1. Jon Stewart was really a blast. Think his one-liners on how Oscar, now 80 years old, is eligible for Republican nomination. And that punchline on "so vote your favorite Democrat!" How about that! I couldn't help but just laugh out loud at Hal Holbrook's dumbfounded face when he heard his name.

2. In the spirit of fun, I think everybody wanted to catch up on the mania. I loved that Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill take on Judi Dench-Halle Berry vibe, Cameron Diaz's cimenatography (which she corrected emphatically)... and what's up with the slippery floor that almost made the Colin Farell and John Travolta slip one of the most memorable moments for the next 80 years?

3. Once's very own Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova singing "Falling Slowly" (despite the inaudible voices) and winning the Best Original Song. That almost made up for Once being snubbed in the main categories. But still!

4. Marketa Irglova's make-up speech (can you believe the sound engineers cut her off). Laura Linney must really love Once. Did you see her beaming when Mar spoke about how the song was really about hope and all that? I must see The Savages.

5. Sorry Julie, you were devastating in Away From Her, but I just can't help but push my hopes for a Cotillard win. I think Marion was one for the covers that night. She really was beautiful and that speech sounds like you heard it from a classic Capra movie.

6. I dunno if it's mere gimmicky but I liked when the Coen brothers received their Adapted screenplay and Directorial trophies. And Ethan's seeming lost for words is really funny. And that what they are doing now is not necessarily remote and different when they were 11-year-olds playing with their Handycams.

7. The eloquence of Daniel Day Lewis. He seems to be really in it. First it was the SAG and then he capped it with something for the fathers-and-sons. Did the Brits once again prove they're better off even with the agonizing speeches?

8. The supporting wins are most truly deserved I think. Bardem's win and speech was a moment. He actually starred in almost (?) a hundred Spanish films (he was once nominated lead actor in Before Night Falls losing to Russel Crowe). For donning the mop-hair ("which will probably go down as one of the worst haircuts in history") and being Anton Chigurh, let's give it up for Jarvier, este, Javier Bardem (Jennifer Hudson, please check the spelling and put some thrill). Applause for Tilda Swinton's surprise look. That woman is monstrously tall. I sensed Alan Arkin was surprised himself. Swinton compared the statuette to his agent who looks almost exactly alike. Yes, even the buttocks.

9. Two records are worth noting: first-time nominated directors (don't worry PTA, you'll get your hands on that darn golden statue soon) and non-American acting wins since 1954 or 64?

10. As one of the sites pointed out, the price of honoring the good films need to be paid even for massive ratings plunge. The risk needed to be taken and thanks, the Academy put on with the show.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Good reads 2007

I was watching Margot at the Wedding when I realized I failed to blog the good reads I had for the last half of 2007. In one scene in Margot, Nicole Kidman's character, a writer-novelist, is being cornered by fellow writer Ciaran Hinds (if you've seen HBO's Rome, he plays Caesar) in a Q&A forum about her book in a local library. At their backs, were shelves of books where I saw a familiar white-and-maroon colored spine that resembled closely that of Joyce Carol Oates' We Were the Mulvaneys. It was. And I remembered that I bought the book last year for 35 pesos and must have hidden it in the box inside my makeshift cabinet. I bought it along with Richard Russo's Pulitzer-winning Empire Falls. I haven't read both, just like a handful of others I bought at local booksale shops here. Which doesn't goes to show I lazed around gazing at their spines, it's just that there's lots of them I need to catch up with.

And so here they are –the ones that moved me and offered momentary escape from this world of inanities.

Vineland by Thomas Pynchon. One more read and this will probably go down to my Top 3. Well, I actually love it already. Vineland is not the type you'd easily grasp. I'm tempted to compare reading it to watching a David Lynch film, not that I watched many Lynch films, but the quick and hallucinatory shifts in time, mood and character POVs reminds of such Lynchian aspect. One moment it feels like a love story, the next it feels like it's some old sci-fi episode. Vineland supposedly captures the 60's or whatever that's left of it in the minds of its generation. The 60s was a great period and it's also the decade that changed America in every aspect you could think of. What I love is how Pynchon melds various cultural references, even taking out bygone film titles. The denouement was kind of sudden and vague though it's just probably me. Oh, and it has one of the funniest, perhaps the funniest, joke I've ever read or heard. Dig this. What is the similarity between the Mafia and licking a pussy? Answer: One slip of the tongue and you're in deep shit.

Modern Baptists by James Wilcox. If it's anything comic or satiric and then you have The New York Times or The New Yorker saying how great it is, I'd probably pick it up. Modern Baptists is an easy read and a delight. It tells the story of Bobby Pickens who has just learned he doesn't have this funny cancer. Just when he thought he is given a whole new life and meaning, in comes his ex-convict brother FX who also happens to become an ex-actor and hell breaks loose every step of the way. It's a mad comedy all throughout and you'd laugh at the human foibles the characters seems to always get into because it kind of mirrors the way we are really as humans.

Atonement by Ian McEwan. Well, its one of the most talked about 2007 films and I'm sure glad I was able to read it first. But believe me, read the book. When I was deep into the introspections of Briony and the sensuality and deep longing in the letters of Robbie and Cecilia, and knowing that there is a looming adaptation, I knew it would be difficult. If I was Joe Wright and Christopher Hampton, I wouldn't have the guts. It's a profound novel about the lies that we tell- no matter how trivial or innocent it may seem- the enormous price that has to be be paid, even at the attempt of trying to take it all back.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. I don't normally read Harry Potter books unless there's the movie coming soon. Watching I think the first or second installment and having just a slightest idea what the friggin' socerer's stone is for or what the heck the basilisk is doing in chamber of secrets, I find it useful and perfunctory afterwards. My favorite HP book is still Prisoner of Azkaban, but this one is still a delight. Harry has to deal with issues of loss and I think book 5 is an appropriate milieu for the road to eventual maturity.

Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard. Like the drug on its title, Cocaine Nights is addictive and unstoppable. By Crash and Cocaine Nights alone, you'd get a glimpse of a different world -the way Ballard can only see it, though not entirely impossible, by showing us facets of depravity and deviancy. In Estrella de Mar, the seemingly out-of-touch world of too much comforts is the perfect place for disruption. Crime is the perfect tranquilizer. The story spins when Charles comes to the place to possibly absolve his brother Frank from a despicable crime he couldn't commit yet he so willingly surrender himself to. When you almost think it's a whodunnit, the explosive yet all-too abrupt finale sucks and grips in you in a state of shock.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. So much has to be learned about Afghanistan, or for any country pictured as the roots of Islamic fundamentalism, or which we conjure images of terrorism and extreme violence. Part of the satisfaction in reading The Kite Runner is the fact that the great story is resonated by the importance of its subject matter. It is a groundbreaking novel for the fact that it is written by a son of that nation whose rise to fame is courtesy of 9/11. Through the story of Amir, we see an entirely different landscape, we hear the voices of those whose old-age struggle is to break free from the chains of violence, and like him, we sense from that timid smile of Sohrab, a flicker of hope and the great amount courage to hold on to that.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. The cover alone should prepare you of what is to come. This is one of Jap's faves. He liked it so much probably, he wanted me to experience it myself. Illumination is not what you get especially if you don't get the hang of Foer's style. It's so unique and fresh that you wouldn't mind getting a headache reading the first three chapters. Told in different perspectives, it is about a young Jewish-American, who happens to be named JS Foer, who travels to Ukraine to find a woman who saved the life of his grandpa during the Holocaust. He is accompanied by Alex, a defective translator, Alex's grandpa who is also named Alex and a dog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. who farts a lot. The journey is punctuated with letters (in present time sent by Alex to Foer) deficient of punctuations. It is a great story about the Holocaust, both extremely funny and tragic, made rich by the passages from a supposed novel written also by Foer about the early life in the Jewish shtetls, which resonates tremendous loss and love.

(Wala na nako gi-post ang mga pics sa books kay gikapoy ko hehehe)

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family, Choose a f—king big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose a three piece suit on hire purchased in a range of f—king fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f—k you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f—king junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f—ked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose a future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

Renton, Trainspotting