Friday, April 25, 2014

Reading in Terminals

I've never been the most voracious reader I know; I used to be a fan of Stephen King and for a brief period spanning the late 80s to the mid 1990s I kept abreast of many, if not most of his latest novels. After that it was the odd John Irving or Umberto Eco novel. I've also read most of the Conan-Doyle-written Sherlock Holmes short stories and books, and a number of Neil Gaiman's novels, even the ones that don't come with pretty pictures.

In the last decade or so, however, I have found it increasingly harder to sit through books that are more than three hundred pages long and with small font. Maybe it's because my nearly forty-year old eyes struggle with the tiny letters, or because I just didn't feel I had enough time, but soon I felt I only had time to sit through comic books or compilations, and even then, not too many of those.

That changed, however, thanks to a series of marathon travels by airplane.

It used to be that some of the most mind-numbing time I would ever spend would be the time I would spend waiting for a flight. For several years now I have been flying from Manila to some far-flung province for work, and more than a few of those flights have been early morning trips, some of them even red-eyes. It was invariably hard to catch up on the sleep I'd lose having to get up at an odd hour of the morning; if I wasn't stymied by the fact that, in waking up I had shocked my system too much for it to settle back down into sleep again, I was dissuaded by the paranoia that someone could lift my things off me while I was in dreamland. During early morning flights I always caught up on lost sleep while on the plane, and not a moment before. Most of the time, I'd travel alone, with no one to talk to, and while I would sometimes surf  the internet or play a handheld video game, it just wasn't that engaging.

But soon I found that books were the perfect antidote to the dreary, half-awake downtime I would spend waiting for flights. I finished The Lovely Bones and The Life of Pi in between flights, the latter of which I actually bought more than a year ago but could never find the time to read. Because I am a slow reader, it becomes that much easier to eat up the two or three hours I spend waiting for the plane to arrive, get ready and accept passengers. Flight delays, of which I have experienced many both coming and going (but usually going), have become a welcome development because of the additional time I get to read.

Waiting for anything is a trying experience, especially when done without adequate sleep, but now that I've figured out how to combat the boredom it's no longer an issue.

The funny thing is, it's been a month since I've traveled anywhere by plane, and suddenly I find myself unable to sit down and read books again. Maybe I can only read in the spaces between travel.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Heck of a Day

This will be my first blog post in a while in which I just recount the events of the day past, and in a fairly sketchy manner as well.

Today I nearly missed a flight, but was able through a lot of cell phone calls and more than a few useful connections to catch it. It was a terrifying experience, sitting through traffic watching the clock tick right in front of me, wanting basically to drive through all of the people sitting still and the lights that were "inconsiderate" enough to stay red when I needed to go. I didn't even have time to park; I basically entrusted the car to someone I had never even met before. I dashed past the gates and didn't even get searched, and made a 100-yard dash to the airplane from the entrance, misjudging my speed and having to ram into the flipping fuselage to stop myself.

I boarded a plane literally five minute before it was scheduled to take off, and am pretty sure I pissed off everyone on the plane, from the passengers to the flight crew. I might have heard an American passenger make a crack about me, but I wasn't sure; I was too frazzled from the whole experience to really take anything in, and I slept through most of the flight thanks to my exhaustion. I did notice, however, that the staff did not serve me any complimentary snacks, and I cannot help but wonder if that was deliberate, though one flight attendant gave me a cup of water and a refill. 

I made it to my activity in Mindanao, and as fortunate enough both that the affair had started late and that one of my bosses who would be dropping by to "audit" me hadn't made the trip.

All's well that ends well, in short, but it could not have been cut any closer.

Here's hoping for a more relaxed day tomorrow.

What a day.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

In The Courtroom

Whatever my or anyone else's opinion of the relative merits of the work of American filmmaker Woody Allen and Filipino comedian Vhong Navarro may be, however, the fact remains that both men have recently been accused of sexual assault. Navarro has been accused by a woman with whom he apparently had a romantic tryst, one which ended with him getting beaten to within an inch of his life by the woman's apparent lover and his friends, and Allen has been accused by a woman who, at the time of the incident, actually recognized him as her father.

The similarity between the two ends there.

Allen's case, if historical reports are to be believed, is a regrettable example of the American justice system failing a victim of child sexual abuse. When the alleged sexual abuse occurred in the 1990s, the victim, then-seven-year-old Dylan Farrow immediately confided in her mother and Allen's lover at the time, Mia Farrow, who went to the extent of capturing her statement on video and attempting to file charges.   Nothing came of those charges, however, because the prosecutor assisting them apparently decided not to push through with the case.  To put it differently, Dylan Farrow never got her day in court, and neither, for that matter, did Allen.  With the statute of limitations long having lapsed on any possible criminal case against Allen, Farrow has no other recourse but to discuss her supposed ordeal, which she did in an open letter which was recently published.

In contrast, the controversy involving Navarro has already been brought to the appropriate venue, with Navarro suing the alleged victim, Deniece Cornejo and the men who beat him up, and Cornejo having sued him for rape. Since then, both parties have been widely exposed in the media, conspicuously trying to sell to the public the merits of their claims and quite shamelessly attempting to have this case tried in the court of public opinion. I was particularly irked by Cornejo's appearance on a talk show, tears on display, discussing her grievance instead of letting her lawyer handle everything by taking the matter where it firmly belongs: the justice system. Navarro's camp has been a bit more proactive on the legal front, having filed criminal complaints on his behalf against his supposed aggressors, but the attempts to influence public opinion on this case in his favor are still patent, judging by the grossly disproportionate airtime and bandwidth that have been devoted by his home network (and other networks, as a result) to this story. These efforts appear to be at least partially successful as one online survey has most respondents believing Navarro's version of the events, as if the parties' guilt or innocence is decided on the internet.

Dylan Farrow was unable to obtain relief from her country's justice system, and so she did the only thing she could. Conversely, Allen, who has not been and is not being tried in a court of law, can only respond in the same way in which he is being accused, through media and attempts to influence public perception.

Cornejo and Navarro have the benefit of a trial system now working for them, not to mention an assemblage of lawyers ready to do their bidding. Why they would choose the tri-media and social media as their battleground, considering that neither of these can put anyone in jail or adjudge anyone liable to pay financial compensation? I would hazard a guess that it is because in a court of law they would have to face the whole ugly truth, not all of which may be to either party's liking.   And so they give their own airbrushed accounts of what happened to the public.

 The problem with attempting to try a criminal case outside a courtroom is that it can result in utter disaster for the actual court case. One need only refer to the infamous Vizconde massacre, which resulted in the incarceration of Hubert Webb and several of his friends for over a decade and a half, their eventual acquittal, and an ultimately unsolved multiple murder. That case, which involved a truly grisly crime and not some sordid he-said-she-said affair, was one of the most highly publicized in the last twenty five years or so, but one thing I distinctly remember about the reports that circulated in the media in the 1990s was the general sentiment they pushed and eventually generated that Hubert Webb was as guilty as sin. Apparently, the prosecutors and investigators handling the case believed in Webb's guilt beyond reasonable doubt as well, so much so that they didn't bother to build an airtight case against him, instead relying almost solely on the testimony of a "star witness" who turned out to be a drug-addled dud.  The worst part of it was that nobody won that case, least of all lady justice. If Webb and his cohorts had, indeed, committed the crime with which they were charged, they should still be in jail right now. If they had not, they should not have spent a moment in jail, let alone fifteen years, which they will never get back. Either way, the perpetrators of the massacre, are free as birds even after the mass media had conditioned most people's minds that the perpetrators had been caught, tried and convicted. 

If the people involved in this case really want justice, they should keep whatever it is they have to say where it belongs: in court.