Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eh-hum # 190


Why do I have the feeling that the Bush Administration's new Middle East policy is not such a good idea. I am trying to connect this to what happened in Afghanistan, wherein the US' CIA provided "secret" aid to the mujahideen and the opponents of the pro-USSR regime in Kabul during the Cold War (here's an interesting online article about this), and look what happened afterwards. Moreover, it might instigate an arms race in the region. Below is an excerpt from the International Herald Tribune, regarding the said policy.

U.S. arms plan for Mideast aims to counter Iranian power
By Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WASHINGTON: The Bush administration said Monday that its plan to provide billions of dollars in advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel over the next 10 years was intended in part to serve as a bulwark against Iran's growing influence in the Middle East.

The White House plan must overcome opposition from lawmakers who are skeptical that the weapons will have any effect in blunting Iran's nuclear ambitions, and who worry that a flood of new weapons could ignite a tinderbox in the region.

In closed briefings last week on Capitol Hill, participants in the sessions said, some lawmakers had asked pointed questions about why the White House was using the Iranian threat to justify the arms sales. They expressed doubt that the new weaponry, which includes satellite-guided bombs, missiles and new naval vessels, could deter Iran from proceeding with its nuclear program.

Read the rest of the article here.

Eh-hum # 189

To this I agree. I cannot imagine the pain, suffering and humilation experienced by these women. It is unfortunate that we cannot go back to the past and prevent these things from happening. The least the Japanese government can do is issue an official apology and give proper compensation to those who have not received any.

However, I find it ironic that the US feels it is in the position to demand the Japanese government to issue an apology to the comfort women in Japan's wartime military brothel program. I would like to point out that the US should also issue apologies, to the Japanese women who provided "services" to American servicemen during the military occupation of Japan.

I first learned about this issue through a friend (its her dissertation). Moreover, a detailed account of this can be read in John W. Dower's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. Mr Dower discussed the process in which destituted women were recruited to "participate in the great task of comforting the occupation force". The prostituted women who became part of the RAA (Recreation and Amusement Association) were considered martyrs, since they served as buffer protecting the chastity of the "good" Japanese women.

War, obviously, is not kind to anyone, especially to women and children. I was appalled that the Japanese government initially had a say in the funding of the RAA's facilities (they have to apologize to that too). On the other hand, I also understood that being under the control of the Allied forces, it was implied that they have to accomodate the needs of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers; and sex was one of those.

The plight of the comfort women is an important issue that must be resolved and that Japanese government should apologize, without a doubt. But its a pity that since Japan lost the war, they are on the spotlight and the atrocities committed by the Allied forces were never mentioned, as if it had never happened. Prostituting women, even for the sake of protecting others, is crap. The Japanese could've protected their women by NOT sacrificing others and the American officers could've said no to the whole thing altogether, but that's highly unlikely. Sex sells and someone is always willing to buy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Eh-hum # 188

This post was inspired by an article from Newsweek magazine (can also be found online) regarding Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign trail and racial politics in the US. After reading it, I found myself rooting for Obama and wanting him to succeed in the 2008 elections.

While its true he may not have the experience (and Bill) that Hillary Clinton boasts, he seems to be the genuine article. Plus, many have expressed admiration for Obama's ability to reconcile opposing sides, not neccessarily a sign of weakness on his part. According to Newsweek, "Many of Obama's supporters are enthralled by the content of his character—by his earnest desire to heal the nation's political divisions and to restore America's reputation in the world. Many also are excited by the color of his skin and the chance to turn the page on more than two centuries of painful racial history." However, it is interesting to note that Obama dismisses the idea that his campaign (and perhaps his eventual win) is considered as "post-racial" politics. Plus, he asserts that his campaign does not represent an easy shortcut to reconciliation. He is not running as a representative of the African-American people, but he is running as someone who is concern about the issues and challenges facing the country and the Americans today.

But the main question being raised to Obama (as per the Newsweek article) is that can he appeal both to black and white voters while being true to himself? For instance, being educated in Harvard, many fellow African-Americans questions whether he is black enough? Race in politics is tricky I think, because discussions can become very subjective. Obama can use it to gain leverage (to gain sympathy), but it could bring him down as well (labelled as being biased).

I think his wife, Michelle, gave a rather insightful answer to those people questioning his ability to lead due to his race: "Barack poses this interesting dilemma because we are still a country that puts people in boxes...Barack kind of shakes up those notions because his life has crossed so many different paths. He grew up in Hawaii but he was indeed a community organizer. He became very entrenched and rooted in the black community on the South Side. He is very much a black man, but he's very much the son of his mother, who was very much a white woman, and he grew up with white grandparents". I like about the bit about the boxes, its somewhat synonymous to labelling people.

Perhaps, this is an opportunity for the Americans to look beyond race and see the candidate based on his or her credentials and platform. I would like to think that the next US president would look after the welfare of all American people, regardless of race. The impression I got from the article is that Obama doesn't intend to help only African-Americans, but the rest of the country as well. And I guess America in return should also help him to straigthen things out should he be successful in 2008.

Well, that's my opinion anyways. Eh-hum.

By the way, it is also interesting that YouTube is not only for homemade viral videos.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Eh-hum # 187

Being a (new and perhaps less rabid) Neil Gaiman fan, I am looking forward to watching his novels/works on the big screen. Though I want to read the novel first, I am pretty excited with Stardust, which will be released this August. But I am more excited with this one:

Gaiman, together with Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction), adapted the legend that is Beowulf to the screen. Using the same "performance capture technology" in the film Polar Express, this version is in CGI and features both the voice and acting talents of Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, and Angelina Jolie. Watch the trailer, and am sure you will be amazed how similar (looking) the actors are to their characters/movie counterparts. Well, that's because the movie is entirely motion capture and the said actors were doing the voice, acting and facial/body movements. The only exception is that they had blue/green screens as the set and were fitted with special suits and sensors. Gaiman described the "melding of the actors' work and the performance capture technology as digitally enhanced acting (this was during the Q and A portion at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con where 20 minutes of the movie was shown)."

This could be a new trend in producing major epic movies. You don't need expensive sets, elaborate costumes or an army of stunt people or larger than life pieces like dragons. Also, producers can hire actors regardless of age, since it does not matter in motion capture. For instance, Ray Winstone is already in his early 50s and his Beowulf has a physique (see above picture) that could match Gerard Butler's King Leonidas (by the way, Butler also played Beowulf in 2005's Beowulf and Grendel). And just because its animated, it doesn't mean its exclusively for children.

But I guess the downside is that you will be putting a lot of stunt and props people out of work. Also, some people would prefer to see real flesh and bone running around. Hmmmm...

Picture from http://www.beowulfmovie.com/. The site is up but some parts are still under construction. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Eh-hum # 186

Hmmm...a Taliban comeback in Afghanistan? Seems like it. Though I do not think they will be able to regain the influence they had pre-US invasion. Nonetheless, they are still a force to be reckoned with. Its so unfortunate that this had to happen to people who are doing medical and volunteer work in the country.

South Korean hostage killed by Taliban
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer 9 minutes ago

Afghan police found the bullet-riddled body of one of 23 South Koreans held hostage by Taliban kidnappers, and officials scrambled Thursday to save the others.

An Afghan police chief ruled out using force to free the remaining captives and said that Afghan negotiators were speaking with the Taliban over the phone, hoping to secure their release.

Because of a recent spike in kidnappings — including an attempt against a Danish citizen Wednesday — police barred foreigners from leaving the Afghan capital without their permission.

South Korea said Thursday it would not tolerate the killing of an innocent civilian and vowed the kidnappers would be held accountable. It demanded the immediate release of the remaining hostages.

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Eh-hum # 185

Something I got from my friend Jera via my Multiply account.

Each player of this game starts with 6 weird things about themselves. People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well and state the rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says you are tagged in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

1. I sometimes break into song or hum a tune for no apparent reason. This usually happens when I take long walks, like from school to the train station.

2. I actually find
this guy pretty hot (who according to one fan, looks like a cross between Mick Jagger and Benicio Del Toro...well as far as I'm concern, one cannot go wrong with Benicio Del Toro).

3. I eat banana with bagoong. 'Nuff said.

4. I spend more money on books/novels than on clothes. I rarely go shopping for clothes.

5. I am perhaps the only female who doesn't get excited over Sex and the City...well, for starters, I was only able to watch just three episodes. And yeah, there's this other show called Grey's Anatomy...

6. While everybody's sporting MP3 players and downloading songs, I still prefer to buy CDs. Yeah, I do it the HARD way. Feeling non-conformist...hehehehe.

I don't know if my answers are considered weird (though I am sure # 3 is)...but there it is. Now excuse me while I figure out who among my Multiply buddies will be tagged to answer this. Eh-hum.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Eh-hum # 184

And the plot thickens.

I've read about this before, and now its final: Leandro Aragoncillo, a Filipino FBI analyst and former marine/vice-presidential aide was sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage after he admitted supplying classified information/documents to PGMA's political rivals, which includes deposed president Josseph Estrada and opposition senator Panfilo Lacson. Aragoncillio is not alone, as Michael Ray Aquino, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) official likewise pleaded guilty for taking the said documents from Aragoncillo and passing them to PNP officials who are (or were, since they will be denying these charges) anti-GMA. Aquino, who gets six years, is said to be an associate of Panfilo Lacson.

In this case, the sentencing is just (Aragoncillo is lucky, he was spared from facing the death penalty) and I am on the side of the federal prosecuters. Two important issues are invovled: the illegal transfer of classified information and using said information to destabilize another sovereign state. Information nowadays is as deadly as any weapon, and this whole mess would've (further?) endangered the national security situation of the countries invovled, as well as their diplomatic and defense relations. Perhaps like most Filipinos who have heard of this news, I am disappointed with Aragoncillo. Prior to his sentence, he had a respectable career in the US. Race has nothing to do with this; it was all about breaking the trust bestowed upon him by the FBI/US government because he decided to be involved in the grimy facet of Philippine politics by stealing information.

I would assume that the prosecutors in the Erap Estrada corruption case would use this to their advantage. And as of the news yesterday, DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzales has asked the US Attorney General's office for copies of "all pertinent legal and testimonial testimonies" which will be used in a case against Aragoncillo and Aquino's co-conspirators, whom Gonzales described as being "national figures" in the Philippine government. That would mean Lacson and former House Speaker Arnuflo Fuentebella, since Estrada is already under house arrest (yeah, right). We'll see how this goes...as I said, the plot thickens in the drama that is Philippine politics, starring pro-GMA and anti-GMA factions (with civil society miserably stuck in between. Haaayyyy).

I end this with questions and more questions. The answers may be obvious, but we won't really know, do we? Eh-hum. Who convinced Aragoncillo to do such a crime (risking his career)? Or is it possible that he was acting on his own accord (hmmm...)? What kind of information/documents did he passed to Estrada, Lacson and Fuentebella? Why would the US government would have such information on PGMA, who is an outspoken ally of the US? This is yet again another wake-up call for PGMA to shape-up. Fine, Aragoncillo ang Aquino will serve their time in jail. But, with the realization that the FBI has information on her that could proved to be damaging to her administration plus the connections her rivals have, PGMA should keep her friends close and her enemies closer (hmmm, this tag is from a movie...) and take all allegations against her seriously.

Hmph, wonder WHY people want to become presidents in the first place (don't answer that).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Eh-hum # 183

Some interesting quotes from TIME.

Update: Just placed said widget on my side bar (got promoted) --->

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Eh-hum # 182

I used to play (and eventually get addicted to) free online flash games, which pretty much distracts me from working. Nowadays, when I go online, its really more about blogging, reading articles/photoessays and watching viral videos. However, I stumbled upon this game that puts a twist on the first person shooter/zombie genre: Divine Intervention.

Well, the graphics aren't that big (its flash afterall), but I thought the plot/setting of the game was pretty cool. Demons have taken over the city by possessing the bodies and soul of its populace. You play the role of a bad*ss priest (who looks more like a Marine), the last pious person in the city. In the intro, we see the priest praying to the Almighty for a sign, a solution to the abomination the city has fallen into. The sign: an automatic pistol encased in a Bible. His/your mission becomes clear: blast away the demons back to hell and set the city to the path of righteousness.

If you're trigger happy (gamewise) and virtous (well, more or less), then this game is for you. That is, if you don't mind the rather simple graphics. Hehehehe.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Eh-hum # 181

Its raining...well, rain.

Its has been raining since last night, and that's because a powerful typhoon (named Man-yi) has struck Okinawa and will most likely to head north towards the main island over the weekend. Since coming from a tropical country, I'm pretty much used to typhoons, which comes on almost a weekly basis during the Philippines' rainy season. But since I am away from the comfort of my home, uh, back home, I'm quite worried. The news wasn't any help either, and I quote, "The storm, classified as a category 4 typhoon by British-based Web site Tropical Storm Risk (www.tropicalstormrisk.com), was expected to increase the activity of the annual rainy season front and pound much of Japan with heavy rain over an extended holiday weekend...It is currently predicted to come close to Kyushu on Saturday morning before turning eastward and weakening, brushing close to Tokyo on Monday."

Great...well, at least it will be cooler. Also, since Japan has an excellent sewerage system, I doubt we will be experiencing waist/knee-high floods. We'll just have to be extra careful then. Eh-hum.

(Picture from CNN.COM)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Eh-hum # 180

Just finished watching episode 4 of Flight of the Conchords (its currently available online, visit the FOTC's HBO site)! Happy happy, joy joy!

This is my favorite scene in the said episode; Bret asking Jemaine to comment on the song he wrote for his girlfriend, Coco. It killed me. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Eh-hum # 179


Amazing as it seems, I am not particularly impressed with China's fast economic development. The reason? Compromising quality and safety standards over inexpensive exports and high profits. The discovery of defected products (pet food, toothpaste, toy trains, seafood, and tires) from China over the last few months in the US market is indeed alarming. Now, the US (and perhaps soon, other trade partners as well) is breathing down China's neck, demanding the country to strengthen its regulatory system (or perhaps make one) and strictly enforce safety standards in products intended for US consumption. I think not only for US/international markets, but even goods used by its own citizens; I remembered watching a segment on CNN wherein a significant number of Chinese were admitted to hospitals after consuming local goods.

Perhaps it would be also too simplistic to blame the product scares entirely on China; US import companies should also be vigilant of their own regulations before distributing defective and potentially deadly in the market. However, if China wants to be considered as a major player in international economy (and to be truly deserving of the title "emerging economic power"), then it should shape up (stronger regulation and perhaps more legal accountability) and show the world that the "Made in China" sign is not something to cause for alarm.

Editorial cartoon from TIME.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Eh-hum # 178

This, I think anyway, is a pretty cool song:

Performed by the Japan-based band Monkey Majik. The band is fronted by two Canadian brothers, that's why its in English (although they have songs in Japanese as well). The tune is catchy, but what I like about it is that the track features the very cool shamisen-playing skills of the Yoshida Brothers.

Known in their native Japan as the Yoshida Kyoudai, the brothers are famous for their unique take on the traditional music style of Tsugaru-jamisen which originated in northern Japan. By combining the ancient three-chord shamisen with rock and other modern influences, the brothers produces amazing compositions that pays homage to the enduring elements of Japanese culture and the intensity of present-day music. Plus, whenever they perform, the brothers are (almost) always clad in traditional Japanese kimono and hakama pants.

Here's a music video of the brothers' "Rising". Enjoy!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Eh-hum # 177

Saw a rather annoying commercial on TV recently.

A woman, a housewife, was sitting on the couch and folding the laundry. Based on the smile on her face, she was quite happy how clean the clothes turned out. After she has finished, her preteen son comes in the living room and throws his jacket over her head. She protests and her face turns from serene to irritated. But her husband, who was lying on the floor and watching television, laughs at their son's antics and prevents her from scolding him. The woman stops and ponders on what just happened. What could have made her change her mood so easily? TADA! Its an ad for a medicine for menopausal women experiencing hot flashes and mood swings.

So, based on this commercial, it was not the son's bad behaviour or her husband's indifference that pissed her off, it was her hormones. Hmmmm...right...that made SO much sense.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Eh-hum # 176

This morning, I saw a clip that I would probably remember for the rest of my life.

A man was running, trying to dodge the bullets being fired in his direction, hitting the wall at the background instead. His right shoulder bloody, and he has wounds on his knees. Then, he falls to the ground. No, he's not dead, but he couldn't stand up. Not wanting to linger and wait for help, he uses every ounce of his energy left and starts to crawl. The clip ends there.

I cannot imagine the things going through the man's head as he was running. Fear? Terror? Anger? Yes, and perhaps more. My heart stopped when he fell, thinking that he was shot. But he sat up, and made the effort to escape. I prayed that the man is now home with his family, or at the hospital being treated. He deserves all the help he can get after what he has been through; no person deserves to be in such a situation. But as I say this, the reality is that people have died and are in constant struggle with the things happening around them.

This was a clip of the events now taking place in Isalamabad, Pakistan. As of today, 24 people have died due to the clashes between the Pakistani police/paramilitary forces and hundreds of radical students who took refuge at the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque. Recent news say that Pakistani forces have toppled the front walls of the mosque. While 1200 students have already surrendered, Pakistani President Musharraf implores the remaining students at the mosque to give up as well, in order to prevent anymore unnecessary bloodshed.

I truly believe nothing good comes out of violence. Unfortunately, it is used as a means to achieve a goal. In some cases it works, but the stakes are much too high. This doesn't happen only in Pakistan, but the rest of the world, even here in clean and polite Japan. The Pakistani man running for his life will remind me of how much the world has been greatly disturbed by fear and hate, how misunderstandings and disagreements have escalated into violent confrontations, and how human lives have become expendable.

Granted that we abhor the use of force in dealing with problems, but what are we to do? How can we stop it when it seems to be part of human nature? This issue has become so complex that any answer would not suffice.

At this moment, all I know is that when we start a fire, we should extinguish it before it goes out of control. When we make decisions, we should prepare ourselves for the consequences.