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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Legacy of Greed

Thankfully Iranian authorities acted just in time to put a stop to it, thus avoiding a repeat of the 1979 US embassy takeover in the same city.
Iranians don’t like westerners much, do they. 

One reason may be is that Westerners throughout history have this habit of exploiting countries around the world for their own gain. Not because their very survival hinges on the raping and pillaging of other countries (especially in Asia); they do this because of old-fashioned greed; or enterprise, as some westerners call it.

Oil in Iran (or Persia, as the country was then known) was discovered in 1908 by a British geologist named George Reynolds who was working for William D’Arcy. 
The enterprising D’Arcy had previously arranged an oil concession with Shah Mozzafar al-Din Shah Qajar in 1901. A few months after the discovery of oil, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) was formed, and the game was on.  AIOC became a virtual cash cow for the British; a “source of national pride.” The British believed that “Persian petroleum was actually and rightly British petroleum because it had been discovered by the British, developed by British capital, and exploited through British skill and British ingenuity."
As for the Iranians, well, one would think that the discovery of ginormous amounts of oil in their country would make them wealthy, but tragically it didn’t.
Iran did try a few years later to renegotiate the concession with the British; unfortunately, Iran did not have the services of Daniel Webster.
In 1951, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, who thought that the concession granted to AIOC was both “immoral and illegal,” became Prime Minister of Iran. Mossadegh then proceeded to nationalize AIOC, with the full backing of the Iranian Parliament. The move was enormously popular, as it was believed that income from oil could be used to eradicate Iran’s crippling poverty. 
Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh: also famous for pissing off the wrong people

In England, the move caused a great many teacups to rattle. The British went to their cousins across the Atlantic and together they hatched a plan to take back their “national pride,” and in the process remove the democratically-elected Mossadegh. 
Yes indeedy—the 50’s was a great era.

The coup was codenamed Operation Ajax. It was launched in 1953.

With MI6 and CIA in tandem, a pro-western monarchy was installed. An erstwhile constitutional monarchy was transformed into an authoritarian one. Mohammad-Rezā Pahlavi was now King (Shah), with all that title implies; albeit a king with an unholy alliance with the US and UK. 
I'd like to thank the MI6 and the CIA...

It was a successful coup for the British and the Americans. They took back the AIOC, and shares in the consortium were distributed among American and British firms and other countries who contributed to the success of Operation Ajax. 

Hey, to the victors belong the spoils, right?

Any person not blinded by greed (or “enterprise”) could have foreseen that this arrangement would not have lasted long without repercussions. 
In 1979, the inevitable happened. 
A revolution 25 years in the making exploded. The US Embassy in Tehran was occupied, with the embassy personnel held hostage for 444 days. The monarchy was deposed and Ayatollah Khomeini was installed. 
"America is the great Satan, the wounded snake."-Ayatollah Khomeini

As we can gather from the quote above, the Ayatollah was not exactly friendly towards the Americans and the British. 
The AIOC, and the subsequent coup, may have helped the British and the Americans control Iranian oil for a period of time, but they have also earned the eternal enmity of the Iranian people.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why Smile When You Can Scowl

Somebody once said that us Filipinos’ default setting is a smile. I agree.
I actually have several friends whose instinctive response to being surprised is to smile. I don’t really know how that would work, like for example if one is surprised in a dark alley by a mugger. Could one smile one’s way out of that? I don’t think so. 

But smile when surprised they do; I’ve seen them do that hundreds of times. I—whose settings range from inscrutable (like a Shaolin monk in a kung fu movie who's just a suit away from being Superman) to downright scowling at no one in particular—am always surprised and mystified every time I see them smile at a stranger who approaches them for any particular reason.  

Stranger: Excuse me sir [we are also polite; we call everybody sir— or ma’am, as the case may be], what time is it?
Friend: (Smiling as if Scarlett Johansson had offered to have sex with him) Six po.
Why would they do that, why would they smile at total strangers? Strangers can do a lot of nasty things to you, didn’t they know that? You’d think we live in a world where the characters are from Disney movies, and the bad guys were somehow left out. 

The world is an unfriendly place, people! 
Just look at these two!
Take those people who use commuter trains. They’d crowd the train doors so that those who are trying to get off would have to fight his or her way out of the train. You have to push and shove and make like a fullback charging the goal line.
I don’t think those people standing in front of train doors will part and make way for you if you smile at them. You’d just look stupid. 
And you’re lucky if you manage to get off the train with your wallet or your cell phone still in your possession. Commuter trains are haven for thieves. Also, ask the women who regularly ride these trains about their experiences here, and they’d most probably have very low opinions of their male co-passengers. 

I can think of a thousand reasons for us Pinoys to be angry about, to be scared of, to worry, and other concerns where smiling is not appropriate.  Yet we still manage to always smile, even after a devastating typhoon; heck, we don’t need a reason to smile.
Fuck you, reason to smile! We don’t need you. 
We really don't, do you hear me, huh? HUH?
That, or our reason to smile is different from the rest of the world’s.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Yes, I have a beef with November; then again, this November is a great month for PC gamers. Just look at this month’s releases: Modern Warfare 3, from the franchise that has left many wives and girlfriends doubting the wisdom of having a relationship with a gamer; and Skyrim. I needn’t go beyond Skyrim.
The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim (to give the game its full name) is as immersive as any video game can get. It has a vast, complex game world, numerous quests, and in-game details that can turn a gamer into an obsessive-compulsive asshole.  Yes, pretty standard for an RPG, but this game compels you to actually finish it.

I’ve played Bethesda’s Morrowind and Oblivion (both in the Elder Scrolls universe), but those games quickly turn into a bore-fest, at least for me. The time I played Morrowind, I followed the storyline for awhile, did a few side quests, and when I realized that I am not getting paid to do this mind-numbing chore (I already have my job for that), I quit the game faster than Kim Kardashian quit her "marriage."  The same pattern happened when I played Oblivion.
I usually avoid games that are described as open ended, a game description that reminds me of all those hours I will never get back playing those Bethesda games. But when it comes to games, I am a forgiving sort; and this flaw in my character led me to play Bethesda’s Fallout: New Vegas last year.
I stopped playing it when I began to question what my priorities were in life. You’d think that too when you find yourself wandering around yet another vault/cave for hours, with nothing happening, because you got lost (again!)  and can’t find the exit. 
Although to be fair to the Fallout franchise, I’ve played and finished Fallout 3, some years ago.
But Skyrim has a game world that practically begs to be explored, and with an engaging storyline to boot. Plus, I didn’t get lost! At least not for very long. This makes me optimistic that I might actually finish an Elder Scrolls game. 
And talk to more dragons!
The game is not without bugs and glitches, of course. For example, in a quest (A Cornered Rat) where you have to find Esbern to talk to him to advance the storyline, the player will find himself standing in front of a room with a door that refuses to open, preventing the player from completing the quest. An annoying bug, but a workaround is available here.
Also, if you are the sort of gamer who has no qualms about using cheats, the good folks at Bethesda have thoughtfully provided cheat codes.  
You don’t have to use Cheat Engine, like a certain gamer I know who used it to increase money and ability points in games like Rage, NBA 2k12 and many others. Cheating bastard.
Skyrim plays at a steady 60 frames per second, whether you turn off V-Sync or not, with settings at Ultra High--I play on a rig with a Core i5 750 processor, 4GB Ripjaw RAM, Nvidia GTX 460 (1GB), Asus P7 P55D mobo, and powered by Corsair 650 watts; my monitor has a 1600x900 resolution. Pretty average, for a weekend gamer like me. 

And with Skyrim, I will be dead to the world again this coming weekend.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Having a Phantasmagorical Day

I read about one Tommy Beard, aka Tommy the Leprechaun through Neil Gaiman’s blog. It’s kind of fitting that I should learn about him from Neil Gaiman, as Tommy sounds like a character from one of Neil Gaiman’s works of fiction.
An excerpt from the Tommy the Leprechaun article in

Sunday, June 14, 2003
Missoula fixture Tommy the Leprechaun dies
By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian

The man known as Tommy the Leprechaun died Friday at his home in Hillside Manor in Missoula.

Tommy, whose real name was Terry Beard, was 53.

For more than a decade, he was a regular fixture of Missoula's downtown streets. In a big green hat and black boots, he'd greet people with riddles, balloon animals and occasional magic tricks. When the sidewalks were sparse, he'd sit with a battered guitar and belt out "If I Had a Hammer" or other folk songs, strumming with a thumbless right hand. He'd hand out business cards good for one free wish, and command his surprised audiences to have a "phantasmagorical" day.

"I don't know if I can tell my bartender about it - she'll bust out crying," said Jane Bergman at the Oxford Bar in downtown Missoula "Tommy was pretty much a fixture here."

The Leprechaun said someone at the Oxford made him his green suit, which he last wore as grand marshal of the St. Patrick's Day Parade this March. Kirsten Holm at Hillside Manor said she was hoping the Oxford might like to have it and a memory box of Tommyabilia the staff had gathered.

The Leprechaun picked up odd jobs like window washing, street sweeping and other tasks to make money, and he typically refused donations in return for the balloon creations he made for people.

For the past year, he had been suffering from emphysema brought on by a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit. His mother, Bonnie Winkle, said he planned to donate his body to science.

"He got such a big charge out of making balloons and telling kids they got a wish from a leprechaun," Winkle recalled in a phone interview from Sun City, Ariz. "He did entertainment. He was in the plays and everything. He was never stationary very long."

You can read the rest of the article here.
 What a character.

So he greets people with "Have a phantasmagorical day"?
I wonder what that's like, to have a day like that.
One of these days, I'm gonna try to have one.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It Always Rains In November

I don’t get that some bloggers (and I guess writers in general) can write about their innermost thoughts and intimate details about their personal lives (and knowing those would be read by faceless strangers) like it was the most natural thing in the world.  Somehow I find the idea too intrusive, and a little self-indulgent.  There are things about ourselves that we simply can’t share with others. In my case, a great many things.
For years, I can’t even talk about my son who died at just two months old. I kept my feelings bottled up. When somebody asks me about it, I just shrug and say, well that’s just the way it is, and promptly change the subject.  
Seven years after Jedidiah (that was his name) died, I woke up one morning sobbing and bawling; I was crying my goddamn eyes out for a son that died many years ago. It wasn’t as if I dreamed about him, or that his “spirit” visited me or any of that nonsense; I just opened my eyes this one morning and bam! Wept and cried like King David grieving for Absalom.  
It was cathartic.

Jed died in the hospital. He had been there for several days. The night he died, I was with him while his mother went out to buy medicine that the doctor had prescribed, but which was not available at the hospital. The doctor had told us that the child was in a serious condition, so we knew

I kept talking to Jed as he lay there, telling him stories I read when I was a kid, telling him that his grandma and grandpa would take him to Disneyland, talking to him about anything. He just kept staring at me, and I could have sworn that he understood. I knew somehow he understood: that I was so fucking scared I was shivering, scared that he would not get to see his first birthday, scared that he would not get to meet my father and mother. And his eyes seemed to be saying, Sorry Dad, but that’s just the way it is.
Goddamn it. 

I was talking to him for what must have been nearly an hour when I noticed that his eyes had lost focus. I stood up from the bed, and called for the doctors and nurses. They came promptly and tried to revive Jed. They did this for about thirty minutes. By this time I couldn’t see anything.
They finally gave up. There was this one female nurse however that didn’t stop and kept on trying until finally she too stopped. I went to my son’s side. They left me there for some time. Later they came back and told me sorry but they had to take him away.  
His mother arrived with the medicine. She came into the room. The doctor was there and I was signing some papers. I still remember the look on her face when she saw the empty bed.
We looked at each other. She sat beside me and I put my arms around her. She wept silently.

It was November 6.
Years later, on November 19, 2006, my father died.
I am tempted to say, go fuck yourself, November, but that wouldn’t make any sense.  All the same, I can’t wait for this month to be over.
It’s the rains; I hate the rains of November.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Body Politic

The Philippine political scene is a mess. 
Crazy, dirty, skanky, embarrassing, corrupt politicians lord it over a people who couldn’t care less, except those very few who have access to the internet—those very few who show their concern by assiduously posting their inane and idiotic observations about their inane and idiotic politicians on any website that has a comments section.
 And the politicians are actors/famous athletes/famous for whatever reasons--and their spouses and relatives and their spawns, legitimate or not. 
…and let’s not forget the political clans. No self-respecting village, town, city, province or entire island/region is without a clan to rule over them—the Philippines’ own version of royalty, plus their rival clans.
Yes, they have rival clans. They make every elections very exciting, especially in the provinces. 
(Note: image is from here)

The current President—who incidentally is from such a clan—is a former senator who got elected to the top position despite a career in Congress (both Houses!) that is as impressive as the dunking prowess of John Stockton.  
Pictured: John Stockton not dunking

He is busy going after his immediate predecessor, whom he blames for the current hellhole the country is in. His predecessor had also blamed her predecessor, and her predecessor, in turn, blamed his…well, you probably know where this is going.
Politicians in the Philippines have mastered the art of the blame game. 
Here, the buck never stops.

To be fair, politics in most countries is the same. (Oddly comforting in a "hey-its-not-just-us kind of way) Just look at US politics.

Donald Trump is accusing Jon Stewart of being racist, which is pretty ironic.

Meanwhile, Ann Coulter, whose political clout is as puzzling and unfathomable to me as Kim Kardashian’s fame, is saying that “Our blacks are so much better than their blacks.” (she was comparing blacks from the Republican Party with blacks from the Democratic Party)

This strikes me as incredibly condescending, and very, very wrong.  
A WTF?! moment, to be sure.
Add to that Michelle Bachmann, who famously defended carbon dioxide (''Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.'').
 And Sarah Palin’s Department of Law ("I think on a national level your Department of Law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we've been charged with and automatically throw them out.")
That just goes to show you, politics attracts the wrong kind of people.
Or maybe the right one.

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