Tuesday, March 29, 2005

An alternative 4j Casting Call

K, guys, I don't now if this has been done before, (and I'm too lazy to look at the archives) so consider this either new ground broken, or an update. I know there have been phone conversations about this, but here is my proposed cast list for select J-boys (the ones not included are those for whom I cannot think of any actors). These casting choices, as much as possible, are strictly character-based; I will be steering clear of obvious crap like casting the guy who plays Kumar as Philip Pichay.

So in no particular order, here they are...

Me (Jim)- either Paul Giamatti (yes! I so identified with him in "Sideways") or Jim Carrey as he appeared in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events", OR Nicolas Cage as he appeared in "Adaptation." Joey said "Topher Grace" but I honestly feel kind of flattered by that, especially considering he shags Scarlett Johansson in his newest movie.

Budoy - Phillip Seymour Hoffman ("Twister", "The Talented Mr. Ripley", "Scent of a Woman", "Almost Famous"). He just has that sardonic air about him... Jack Black is too wacky and cartoony for my taste.

R-Jay - Brendan Fraser as he appeared in "George of the Jungle?" or maybe "Dudley Do Right?" I don't know. I'm just thinking along the lines of eternal goofball with a heart of gold, I guess. Maybe Will Ferrell. I'm also going for casting which circumvents any possible gay jokes...

Miko - Thomas Haden Church ("Sideways") Jay actually had R-Jay in mind for this, but I was thinking more along the lines of a charming heel, which kind of personifies Miko, really...

TC - okay, for reasons I don't understand, I perceive similarities between TC's mannerisms and those of Guy Pearce (does Elena see it, I wonder?), but I think Chris Kattan "A Night at the Roxbury", "Corky Romano" or haha, Eddie Griffin "Undercover Brother" would get him down pretty well.

Rhochie - If the casting is to be character-based, I think David Spade would do a pretty good job. Or maybe Martin Lawrence.

Joel - Sean Hayes ("Will and Grace") on some kind of sedative. He's actually not a bad actor. It's just that "Will and Grace" has him playing such a cartoon character. Orlando Jones would be an okay choice too (see "The Time Machine.")

Joey - if Jim Carrey or Nicolas Cage plays me, then he gets Paul Giamatti. How about David Alan Grier?

Ryan - Hugh Grant. See every romantic comedy Hugh Grant has ever done, including "About a Boy." Say it again with me: Hugh Grant.

Carlo - Hmmm. Either Zach Braff or Jack Black. Is it coincidence that the actors I thought of have similar sounding names? I know not.

Philip - John Cusack. See "High Fidelity" and it will make sense.

Damn. Only ten of us. I would like to aggressively INVITE more casting, if this hasn't already been done, and like I said...be CREATIVE. As much as possible, try to steer away from casting that is racially-based, or even appearance based. Come on! Let's see how much you guys want us to be in the movies!

Have We Given Up the Dream?

For the last six months I have been on pins and needles waiting for the results of the 2004 Bar Exams. I poured my heart and soul into every one of the eight subjects involved, and so the gravity of my financial, intellectual, and emotional investment has weighed upon me every day. This week could well be the payoff; it could be this Friday that I find out that after six years of studying, a failed attempt at passing the bar, thousands of man hours spent studying and thousands of pesos, I finally get to become a lawyer.

The other day, though, I read something that got me thinking. A friend of mine posted a comment about me in our barkada's blog about how I was one of the few people who actually had the stones to express my problem with authority rather than resorting to the usual cliches like smoking or hiding my long bangs or rat-tails. I actually look back rather fondly on those days. I remember how my classmates (not a whole lot of them) restrained me as I made a sincere attempt to flag Fr. Cruz down for making an illegal u-turn in the Ateneo High parking lot. I remember flinging the cap I was wearing into the air and whooping with unmasked contempt at the end of one of Fr. Cruz's obnoxious speeches (not homilies, mind you) about afterburners. I remember sarcastically referring to Fr. Macayan, apparently the only man ever to experience menopause, as "your worship" or something like that and being punished for it. And now...here I am anxiously awaiting the day I become a lawyer, sworn to uphold the legal and judicial system which many swear are tools of oppression. There has got to be some kind of irony here.

I suppose it's a common enough thing to have the so-called badboys and miscreants of high school do 180-degree turns-around (say that over in your heads, and you'll realize I'm right) from rebels without a cause to obscenely paid slaves of the system. After all, or many of us rebelliousness is a natural phase of childhood. It's part of the whole hormonal thing.

But I wonder if any of us have really lost it completely? I'm not inviting people to pour out into the streets and topple the government, but I sincerely believe that the deep seated contempt for authority that many of us had in high school can translate into something a little more constructive as we move on into the best years of our adulthood, like the refusal to take things at face value and to try to act as our conscience dictates us, assuming we still have them.

No, I won't spend much longer on my soapbox, but I would like to give a tip of the hat to the lawyers who joined NGOs when they could have joined law firms, to the doctors (and nurses) who've stayed here in the country when they could have gone elsewhere. You know how it goes. I just hope that I can remember to keep alive in me the spirit that's obviously guiding your paths in life. I hope to strike the balance between being able to look after and provide for my wife and kids and doing the right thing.

I wish that we all feel this kind of motivation, or at least something like it...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Distortions of Faith

This October, it will have been six years since I took a two-week (give or take) trip to Mindanao in order to research on indigenous food for the late Professor Doreen Fernandez. In the future, I may well be sent to other provinces or even countries on official business, but for my money nothing will compare to being PAID to travel to the idyllic beauty of Mindanao in order to study...FOOD!!! It's not as if I had to eat bugs or anything like that.

During my stay in Zamboanga City, which was actaully most of my trip, I found myself living with a family of four, with my liaison (and lifesaver) being the mother, Mucha Aquiling-Arquiza. Their generosity was boundless, and I haven't forgotten it since, nor do I imagine that I ever will. Nor will I forget the generosity of my host in Marawi City, a woman who found time to make sure I was settled into my accommodations in spite of the fact that she was looking after a five year old kid, and only has one leg. All of these people were Muslims.

I say this because I take exception to the way Muslims are depicted in the media these days. To say that the brigands who died in the attempted Camp Bagong Diwa jailbreak weeks ago were the scum of the earth is a fair and accurate comment, but to say that majority of Filipino Muslims are likely to revere them as martyrs rather disturbs me.

There has been no shortage of Muslims who have declared that the Abu Sayyaf have grossly distorted the teachings of Islam, which, incidentally, means "surrender to God" in order to justify their depravity. Another person I know, who has spent what appears to be the better part of his life studying the Mindanao conflict, says that the problems with Muslims do not really spin out of differences in religion but are born instead out of poverty. It's all about not having enough resources. The Abu Sayyaf, who have made millions out of kidnapping and extortion, which I highly doubt is likely to by them any favors in the hereafter, are nothing but common crooks, who use religion as a justification. To say that Muslims happily and willingly identify with these people is a sweeping generalization and a distortion of the truth.

If Muslims, the majority of whom live in abject poverty, just like their millions of Catholic brethren, identify with separatist groups or terrorists, it is because their have spent their lives in misery, the same way that many a poor Filipino has been coaxed into joining the NPA. It's not about religion, in short, and never really has been.

I am grateful that I don't actually know anyone who has bought any of this irrespoonsible reporting to the point of not trusting anyone solely on the basis of their Islamic faith, but I do feel that there is really something wrong with the slant our media have adopted regarding this particular topic.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Why Put a Marketing Angle on a Sure Thing?

Make no mistake: I fully intend to watch Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I was hooked as early as the teaser trailer, which showed Darth Vader in full armor as well as a whole bunch of wookies, and the trailer proper has really raised my enthusiasm to a level I haven't felt since just before I saw Episode I. This says a lot, considering I was (one of the many) burned by the first two Star Wars prequels.

I have a very good feeling about this last prequel, which will allegedly be the last movie. I predict that it will succeed where the first two failed to connect with audiences and critics alike, because it has the one thing they did not: Darth Vader in full armor. In my opinion, this is the first Star Wars prequel which everyone will appreciate with the fervor that they gave to the original series because the character most widely identified with those films will finally appear in the incarnation for which he is best known, not as some irritating kid or some whiny post-adolescent.

It's no secret that Lucas, despite the unquestionably large grosses of the first two prequels, failed to captivate audiences the way he did with the first trilogy because it was widely perceived that he deviated from the storytelling style which had made those films part of cinema history. The first movie played largely like a video game with paste-board characters and a lame Vader substitute in the person of the sawed-off, virtually dialogue-free Darth Maul. The second movie was pushed as a love story, and as such fell flat on its face. While these two movies had unmistakable ties to Star Wars lore like light sabers, Yoda, R2-D2 and C-3PO, they just could not capture the magic once more. Sure, the effects were much prettier, but the heart just wasn't there. There weren't any gut-wrenching revelations akin to "Luke, I am your father" or any plucky, memorable characters like Han Solo.

The image of Darth Vader folding his arms and staring menacingly into space, as well as the unforgettable, tinny sound of his breathing, should be more than enough to close the emotional distance between the first and second trilogy.

And yet...

...George Lucas himself seems to demonstrate a lack of faith in his final Star Wars opus by choosing to describe it as "'Titanic' in space." This was the latest of a number of announcements in the newspapers concerning the last prequel. The first announcement was that the movie's violence and dark themes would likely earn it a PG-13 rating, a step in a more mature direction away from all five previous PG-rated films. Another said that the movie would be a "Faustian tragedy." And the latest was that this movie would be another "Titanic." Lucas, in what strikes me as a consummately presumptuous statement, has advised his Jediphiles to "leave their lightsabers at home" and to "bring their tissues." Although this could genuinely be how Lucas feels about his final film, it strikes me as a cheap, ridiculous marketing ploy.

For one thing, nobody really gives a damn about Anakin Skywalker. Lucas himself, with his rancid screenplay and direction for the first two prequels, has done very little to really make people connect with, much less care about this character to the extent that they would weep upon seeing him turn over to the dark side. As a matter of fact, Star Wars fans are eagerly counting down the days till they get to see Anakin transform into the black-armored one.

For another thing, Star Wars fans are, by and large, not likely to be "Titanic" fans. "Titanic" struck a chord with women who went to see it over and over again so that they could cry their eyes out over seeing Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have a one-night stand which ends when Leo freezes to death. It earned as much money as it did because the women dragged their boyfriends and husbands along every time. The Star Wars movies' core audience, as just about everyone knows, consists of little boys of all ages, whether they are five or fifty-five. These people DO NOT NEED comparisons to "Titanic" in order to want to see Episode III. They couldn't really give a crap about weepy love stories, and in fact many of them denounced Episode II because that's what they thought it was trying to be.

So what is Lucas trying to pull then? He appears to be doing crossover marketing, the way he (unsuccessfully) did with Episode II. In 2002, he was unable to sell audiences on the love story between Anakin and Padme, even though his leads were absolutely gorgeous. One would think he would have learned his lesson and focused instead on the most important aspect of Episode III, which is Anakin's journey to the dark side. Instead, he comes across as someone who is down on his knees begging another demographic to come and see his movie. It's as if he's saying to the women of the moviegoing world "I know my last attempt at a love story sucked, but you'll like this one. It's like 'Titanic.'" James Cameron, whose mastery of effects-laden storytelling undoubtedly owes a huge debt to Lucas' pioneering spirit (and to his effects company, ILM) should get a good laugh out of this.

To his credit, Lucas is making no predictions as to the movie's success. He never really has shown such hubris, and when confronted with the fact that not everyone was thrilled with his first two prequels, he did the right thing and said that all he could do was make the best movie he could and hope for the best.

Still, it speaks very poorly of his faith in his own creation when he feels he has to liken it to another movie.

I am going to go see this movie, but I cannot help but shake my head at all of this.

Friday, March 18, 2005

why I don't like the Ultimate Approach

At first I planned to write a "serious" post about Islam and how it's being distorted by the sickos who got killed trying to bust out of jail, but given the possible geo-political implications of the content of such a post, I'd rather hold off on a topic like that until I've arranged my thoughts a little better. Some of my posts may have betrayed the fact that I tend to write on the fly.

I've decided to stick to an old favorite: comic books. To anyone currently following mainstream comics, the title of the post should explain itself. To those not so informed, I can summarize the Ultimate universe briefly enough:

In 1999, Sony Pictures Entertainment finally broke the Macedonian Knot of legal problems that had kept Spider-Man off the big screen for close to 20 years.

In 2000, the powers-that-be at Marvel decided that to help usher in the web-slinger's long-awaited movie, it would be necessary to launch a new Spider-Man series unfettered by 40 years of continuity and all that this implied (like the fact that Spider-Man was married).

And thus, the Ultimate Universe was born. Only Marvel decided to adopt the same policy with the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers.

Saleswise, the Ultimate line of books appears to have been one of Marvel's better ideas. With a few exceptions these books find themselves consistent top-sellers. Self-styled comic-book critics like them, and so do the folks at Wizard, so everybody's happy, right?

Well, not everybody.

A friend of mine once said that I loathe the Ultimate Universe due to my being a Marvel purist. Well, for one thing I still buy Ultimates, which, aside from brilliantly scripted and drawn, is like reading an editorial on Bush's America with pretty pictures, but for another thing I don't necessarily think it's that simple.

By rebooting the Marvel Universe, "Ultimate" style, the executives at Marvel appear to believe that there is no way to tell fresh, compelling stories with the Marvel characters as they are. Ironically enough, Marvel disproved this when they hired "Babylon 5" creator J. Michael Straczynski to write the Amazing Spider-Man less than a year later. The guy stirred up phenomenal interest in the book and churned out almost three years of solid storytelling... WITHOUT rebooting Spider-Man's origin.

As a matter of fact, I rather HATE how deliberately Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis tries so damned hard to make Peter Parker and his supporting cast sound "hip." I also hated Mark Bagley's redesign, which at first glance seems like a deliberate effort to make Peter Parker look like Harry Potter.

I think it's worth noting that Alvin Sargent, the 73-year-old writer of both Spider-Man movies did not saddle Peter Parker with such pretension. His Peter Parker has more in common with Stan Lee's scripts than those of any Spider-writer of the last twenty years or so, and yet people empathized with him utterly.

For me, Ultimate Spider-Man exemplifies what is wrong with the whole "Ultimate" concept. It feels like a total cop-out. Rather than worry about creating new characters or telling new stories, the editorial directive over at the Ultimate books seems to be "okay, which mainstream Marvel character can we ultimatize now?" USM is, with few exceptions, a virtual parade of "reimagined" characters, and Bendis' one attempt to create a new character in that series (some hippie-looking guy named Geldhoff) has left a bad taste in the mouths of fans and Marvel EIC Joe Quesada alike.

Depressingly enough, DC comics, whose books I don't really care for but who I respected nonetheless for attempting a different approach to selling their product (like getting top-grade creators to do their books), finally capitulated just recently and will soon offer "Ultimate" versions of flagship characters like Batman and Superman. One would think that the phenomenal success of "Identity Crisis" which did not involve reboots or Jim Lee but instead a compelling, if slightly controversial story, would have taught them that they still have what it takes to sell books without resorting to gimmickry. To justify this, they're attempting to clothe their books with the pretension that "this is not Ultimate DC, we're just telling stories in their purest form." The idea is the same: CONTINUITY FREE STORYTELLING.

I think the worst implication of the success of the "Ultimate approach" is that it seems to rather strongly imply that comic book writers and artists are at the end of their creative ropes. Have we really run out of powers, or characters, or situations to depict? God, I hope not.

Original continuity CAN rule, contrary to what some comic company executives seem to believe. One need only look at the aforementioned Identity Crisis, Astonishing X-Men, Brian Bendis' New Avengers, and Mark Millar's Spider-Man and Wolverine books. These work within the context of established continuity but still manage to capture the fans' imagination.

By the way, if anyone can tell me how the original Marvel continuity came to be referred to as "616" I'd be much obliged.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Creative comic book teams I'd like to see

On a much less serious note than priests on reproduction or even waiting for the bar, I'd like to take time out to talk once more about comic books. One of my pet peeves today about comics is never getting to see my favorite characters drawn by my favorite artists. Sometimes this is attributable to the exclusives wars between Marvel and DC, and sometimes it is simply due to editorial or managerial directives. Whatever the reason, it can get pretty irritating. It really gets on my nerves, for example, that every A-list artist of either Marvel OR DC has drawn that overexposed buffoon Wolverine for at least one issue, but only a fraction of that number has actually drawn a full issue of Spider-Man.

Here, therefore, is my wish list:

Steve McNiven (Marvel Knights' 4, Ultimate Secret) on ANY Spider-Man book. This guy has professed a love for the character and a desire to work on the flagship book Amazing. His work on Marvel Knights' 4 was some of the most polished stuff I'd seen in ages. He would be a welcome break from Mike Deodato. Having him work with current writer J. Michael Straczynzki would be perfect.

Jim Lee on Daredevil. What's painful about this is that Lee has practically sung ballads about how he grew up on Frank Miller's Daredevil, and how he loved The Man Without Fear, the origin miniseries crafted by Miller and John Romita Jr. I would also like for him to draw in a Spider-Man cameo. For some reason I don't think Lee's work suits the wall-crawler, but I would like to at least see his take on him. The last Spider-Man image he did was a Punisher cover, and that was when he hadn't yet evolved to his current status. Team him up with Kevin Smith, Brian Bendis or Frank Miller and I'd be a happy man. Something tells me that if Jim Lee got to team up with Miller on Daredevil, he'd be happy too.

John Romita Jr. on Batman. I know we saw him do Batman in the Punisher/Batman team-up, but given that JR Jr.'s worked at Marvel over half his life now I'd like to see him distanced somewhat from the company, let him get his feet wet in some new territory. Besides, Klaus Janson, his inker in Punisher/Batman, makes his work look horribly messy. He'd be better off with Scott Hanna or Al Williamson. Brian Bendis or Chuck Dixon could write some great scripts for him to draw.

J. Scott Campbell on Spider-Man. Anyone who's seen Campbell's Spider-Man posters and covers knows this guy is McFarlane refined. Even just a one-shot would make me happy, especially if Straczynski or Mark Millar wrote it.

Dale Keown on Hulk. He's actually already done Hulk, but his talent has since grown considerably. Actually, if I only had a copy of his "Hulk: The End" one-shot, I'd probably remove this request.

And that's all I can think of now. Please note that I didn't mention any artist for Wolverine or the X-men, because like I've said, I'm pretty sure every artist in the industry has drawn freaking Wolverine by now, even the guys that don't like him. Boy that sucks. Anyway, once upon a time I dreamed of seeing Arthur Adams draw Spider-Man for more than a few pages in an issue of freaking Longshot, and I got my wish with Fantastic Four #s 347-349. I once dreamed of Joe Quesada drawing non-mutant major Marvel characters, and he gave me the incomparable Daredevil revival, so one can always hope...

Thursday, March 10, 2005


I was actually going to move onto another topic with this post, like maybe how bar candidates waiting for the results have it harder than aspirants for every other profession on the planet, given that our six-month wait is longer than any other, but just today I read something in the newspaper that managed to piss me off even more than the ridiculous posturing of Michael Jackson’s defense lawyers.

It was three things, actually: the first one was a headline about how some bishop from Bohol said the wrath of God is the reason why almost 30 schoolchildren died of cyanide poisoning from eating cassava cakes. He presumed to declare that God is telling Filipinos to oppose House Bill No. 3773, better known as the population bill. That’s pretty sick, in my opinion; if the Church chooses to prey on the fears of ignorant people to push its own agenda, it could very well revert to the spirit of maximum intolerance it showed during the “Holy” Inquisition.

The second was an editorial piece by the Dean of the UP College of Law, Raul C. Pangalangan, which discussed to some extent the content of that Bill. In it he outlined what the expressed fears of the Catholic Church were. Predictably and even understandably, Church leaders are afraid that such a bill will encourage an atmosphere of free sex and promiscuity. What really floored me, however, was the bit about the Church being afraid that promotion of contraceptive devices could lead to “irresponsible sex between married couples.” Irresponsible WHAT now?

To these bishops I say, how the FUCK is it any of your business when and how I have sex with my wife? It’s enough, I think, that she and I are in the mood. What passage in the Bible or Catholic dogma says there are only certain ways in which a man and his wife can copulate? What is this, the middle ages? What married couples do in the privacy of their own home is something the Church should not even think about regulating. Married life is something between a husband, a wife, and God. Priests are nowhere in this equation.

The last thing I read that blew my mind was a piece by Julie Yap-Daza where she revealed the disturbing statistic that four million babies are born in this country every year. As if there weren’t enough of us running around already. There’s another figure she gave: 400,000 babies are aborted every year. I don’t know how such a figure could even have been compiled given that abortion, being illegal, is generally performed clandestinely, but it’s appalling just the same. It’s one of the principal reasons for being of HB No. 3773.

It is one of contemporary society’s most bitter ironies that the Church, with its hard-line stance against abortion, is moving heaven and earth to block the one concrete measure that can help prevent it. Instead, the clergy pushes the idea that married couples should get themselves used to the idea of having sexual intercourse about five or six days in a month. I once said that they were idiots for thinking that the Filipino people would, on their say-so, abstain from sexual intercourse for three-fourths of a month. Now I say they are brain-dead if they believe that Filipinos will suppress the urge to have sex for four-fifths or five-sixths of a month. They even have the temerity to say that restraint from sexual activity will be good for the soul. In this day and age, when clergymen are getting put away for molesting little boys, the Church is in hardly a position to take the moral high ground when it comes to self-control.

If this Bohol bishop is speaking for someone other than himself, then the Church’s high-handed approach to blocking HB No. 3773 has just gone from bad to heinous. Few things are more despicable than threatening people with the wrath of God. It’s one thing to say that God wants you to be elected president, but another entirely to threaten people that God will strike them down unless they do as you say.

I can’t help but wonder what these people are smoking given that they appear to sincerely believe that by pushing a program of abstinence and self-denial will solve the population problem. I think the mother-of-four-professional and tricycle driver illustrations I gave in my last post should enough indication of how depressingly futile the whole notion of pushing self-denial really is.

I’ve just thought of a perfect way to describe our friends in the clergy. All together now: CULTURALLY OBLIVIOUS.

Monday, March 07, 2005


I recently read an article about how Jinky, the lead singer of the band Freestyle, suffered a miscarriage at six months of pregnancy. It was one of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve ever read, especially when it mentioned how she cradled her stillborn infant in her arms for “the first and last time.” Although to no small extent Jinky blames herself for what happened, her doctors have said otherwise; saying that there was really no one to blame for it. To be philosophical about it, the simplest conclusion is simply that it was not meant to be.

Whenever a financially secure couple fails to conceive despite great effort and modern advances in technology, the explanation invariably relied upon is that these people are not meant to have children, some not yet, some not ever. The problem with adopting this logic is applying it to the hundreds of thousands of families below the poverty line who conceive children like it was going out of style. So, if someone does not get pregnant, she is not meant to have children, but if someone does, then she is meant to? How does this account for so many underage/teen pregnancies? How does this account for the fact that many, if not most children born to these poor families grow up malnourished? To sum it all up: how does this explain the population explosion among the poorest of the poor? Were all of these people meant to have children?

To my mind, when one applies the logic three-dimensionally, it is possible to understand what is being said whenever a family incapable of supporting children yields yet another one. It is not solely a question of whether or not the couple itself is ready to have children, but a matter of how much any given society understands about sexual intercourse and reproduction. To put it another way, when a rich couple cannot have children, it could be that God is telling them that they were not meant to have children, but when poor couples have child after child after child, it could be God telling the leaders of the Filipino nation, both spiritual and secular, that something needs to be done about the widespread ignorance regarding reproduction.

The Catholic Church’s opposition to contraceptive devices is notorious. Over the last several years it has blocked a number of proposed bills by Congress aimed at making the use of contraceptives a national policy. The Church’s proposed method is natural contraception, which essentially calls for self-denial by the couple concerned.

I know a woman who is in her mid-thirties, successful and upwardly mobile. She has, however, had four children in about five years. By her own admission, she and her husband tried natural family planning, only to falter whenever they felt certain urges. They finally turned to birth control pills. Clearly, even professionals, who have the diligence to finish formal schooling and practice rather difficult professions that demand the utmost discipline, cannot entirely be relied upon to exercise the restraint that natural family planning calls for. Realistically, there is no way to expect an entire nation to abstain from sexual intercourse for roughly three-fourths of a month. The sexual urge is not a switch that can be turned on and off. In the case of married couples, sexual congress is a God-given right. The Church seriously overestimates its own influence if it believes that the Filipino people will stop having coitus on a regular basis just because it tells them to. In this country, the vast majority cannot even wait out a twenty-minute traffic jam without the urge to counter-flow. How can one ask the average tricycle driver, who would rather break every traffic law in existence than wait a few extra minutes to get from point A to point B to deny one of his most basic urges when he is with his wife?

There are, naturally, problems with indiscriminately handing out condoms and other artificial contraceptive devices. It is a simplistic solution to a deep-seated sociological problem. But nobody, except the Catholic Church and its adherents, is saying that education on family planning cannot be done hand-in-hand with making contraceptive devices readily available. The solution of the Church is admittedly an ideal one, where people all over the country are disciplined and concerned for the future of their children, both the existing ones and the ones they may yet conceive, but it miserably fails to address the reality. In this reality the only way to put the brakes on our runaway population growth is to stop the sperm cell from meeting the egg. Proper education on family planning is certainly going to take time, and unless we can halt this nonstop population growth, time is not likely to be on our side.

In short, the Church needs to be more flexible in its policies on family planning. Members of the clergy currently lament the erosion of the Church’s popularity among the people, more and more of whom find alternative denominations like Born Again Christianity more attractive. One of the reasons for this slow bleeding is the fact that the Church has grown out of touch with reality, and with what its flock really needs.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Vicarious Experts

This blog was named the Tantrum, so I feel entirely within my rights when I actually throw one within its cyber-confines.

I pride myself on the fact that in the last four years, I have managed to rid myself of most, if not all of the things I once considered my pet peeves. Among the very few remaining exceptions to this new rule are tricycle drivers, die hard Republicans, and vicarious experts. The last of these is the topic of this post.

A vicarious expert is someone who, as the term implies, purports to know everything there is to know on a given subject (e.g., relationships, practicing a profession), without having any first-hand experience of that subject to speak of. Imagine a lawyer telling an astrophysicist how to do his job in the most condescending tone of voice possible and you will have an admittedly extreme but otherwise accurate picture of how irritating a vicarious expert(VE) can be.

The first VE I encountered in my life presented herself as an expert on relationships, not because she ever actually said so, but because of the way she addressed me every time we talked about the subject (usually my infatuations with other girls). It was as if she wanted to be my big sister in that regard, whether or not I wanted one. We parted ways on very bad terms, in no small part due to her pretensions towards expertise on the matter of relationships. That is to say, she persisted with these pretensions long after I had exposed the fact that she had never had an actual relationship on which to base her endless pontification. It was a bitter experience, mainly because I never got the last word; I never got to tell her what a fraud she was. I eventually took a measure of comfort, however, from surrounding myself with people who didn't preach like that, or who were at the very least considerate enough to preach about things they had actually experienced.

Years later, I received an unpleasant surprise to find myself face to face with yet another self-proclaimed expert on the matter of my chosen profession. In deference to the wishes of someone close to me I will not disclose the details of exactly how much of a know-it-all this person can be on the matter of this profession, but I have taken some personal pride in being able to just grin and bear it. Some of the advice, albeit second-hand, is actually quite sensible to a degree, although it consists largely of some annoying misconceptions.

What broke the camel's back (and inspired this post) was when this second vicarious expert was joined by a third one on yet another topic on which, to the best of my knowledge, NEITHER of them has any first hand experience to speak of. As a matter of fact, in our circle it is a highly publicized and oft-lamented fact that these "experts" don't have any first-hand knowledge on this particular topic.

Why are some people the most sanctimonious when talking about things they know nothing about? It gets under my skin like nothing else can. I realize that stories from friends can be most informative, as can the perusal of self-help books or magazines concerning relationships, but what makes certain people think that they are experts on any given topic just because they know someone is personally knowledgeable, or because they read about it in Cosmopolitan?

I am told that deep down, these people are just being caring and want to be helpful. I concede this but offer by way of counter-argument: those people love to shoot their mouths off about these things because it makes them feel better about what they haven't been able to do with their lives. It's a form of overcompensation, and I really wish I didn't have to catch the brunt of it. To my mind it takes a particular kind of insecurity to act that way, and while part of me wants to pity people who feel are beholden to this personality quirk, that pity is quickly squelched by annoyance.

I honestly don't know how to deal with know-it-alls like that, because I'm really not the kind of guy who likes to say hurtful things even to someone who's patronizing him (having regretted the few times that I actually did), but to anyone out there who may also be bothered by this most unfortunate kind of person, I hope this will give you a glimmer of understanding as to why these people feel morally compelled to show you how intellectually or emotionally superior they are to you, and perhaps a degree or two more patience with them. If you have any advice on how to somehow get them to shut up (tactfully, of course), please know that I welcome it. Just don't be condescending when you give the advice, though...