April 4, 2014

The Sudden Fall Of A Great Photojournalist

That moment of unwary silence leading to sinking shock when you visit one of your favorite sources of international news and see a familiar name in the headlines. A name belonging to someone you've never met, someone who never had a connection with you except for the fact that you are an avid admirer of her work. You know instantly that there's something amiss because it's a name you only saw in the past as mere additions to news articles. As a photojournalist, she gave faces to news reports. She wasn't supposed to be in the headlines.

Today, April 4th, Anja Niedringhaus, a German photojournalist working for the Associated Press was shot and killed in Afghanistan while traveling with a convoy of election workers. Another journalist named Kathy Gannon who was with her was also shot at and injured but managed to stay alive.

Here's an excerpt from a news report: "As they were sitting in the car waiting for the convoy to move, a unit commander named Naqibullah walked up to the car, yelled "Allahu Akbar" - God is Great - and opened fire on them in the back seat with his AK-47. He then surrendered to the other police and was arrested."

I was first acquainted with the work of Niedringhaus about three years ago. I've followed with awe her stints in war-torn nations like Iraq and Afghanistan. So it's with sadness that I digested the news of her untimely fall.

If you want to see samples of her work, you can check them out here or here.

Source: The Atlantic

March 25, 2014

A Review Of Ray Comfort's Movie 'Noah And The Last Days'

Noah And The Last Days makes use of the same template that Ray Comfort employed for his previous endeavor Evolution Vs. God. He finds people on the streets, sticks a microphone into their faces and asks a succession of questions like How many times have you lied in your life?, Do you watch adult-themed movies?, and Have you ever spoken the Lord's name in vain?.

Who hasn't done any of these things? Needless to say, most of the people questioned by Comfort would end up admitting that they are pathetic sinners in the eyes of God. Comfort would then gleefully inform them that they would all burn in hell if they don't repent now. So basically, Noah And The Last Days is a regurgitation of Evolution Vs. God.

It's very frustrating to watch. The biologist which Comfort bombarded with silly questions got it right when he commented that Comfort's understanding of the scientific idea that comets may have brought life to this earth is of fishes riding off the backs of comets.

If you have thirty minutes to spare, you can watch the full movie below:

March 20, 2014

I Would Rather Go Hungry Than Read Comments By Butthurt Filipinos

In case you aren't aware of it, a foreign tourist came to the Philippines, ate some of the country's food, didn't like the taste of most of them, then wrote a piece in her blog she titled I Would Rather Go Hungry Than Eat Filipino Street Food Again. In short, she came, she ate, she didn't like what she ate.

Filipinos came across her blog post and all hell broke lose. There are a lot of constructive comments but there's also a lot that would make you do a facepalm over and over again. Let's leave the reasonable comments alone because they are "reasonable" and they can explain themselves. But the unreasonable ones (even stupid ones) need to be addressed because being a butthurt Filipino for the wrong reason is unhealthy and an impedement to mental progress.

The tourist who wrote the blog post is right in that she wrote about what she saw and experienced. And as a Filipino, I (as well as many others) can confirm that she's right in almost all of her observations. To those bashing her write-up, I ask you this question: "Which part of the article do you not agree with? Are you saying she's lying? Are you implying she's not presenting the Filipino food culture in an honest view?"

Of course, this propensity by Filipinos to wield machetes when somebody doesn't like them or something connected to them isn't new news at all. We have been at it for so long and it's even more glaring with the arrival of the internet. Someone says something negative about us and Facebook and Twitter breaks apart with the response which most of the time consists of uncivilized and amateurish rants.

The tourist who didn't like Filipino food and wrote about it is now the target of such rants. Watching the thing unfold gives me headaches. Here's a good person who simply didn't like Filipino food. Yet, because of her dislike of said cuisine, she is being bashed as if she just spat on Ramon Magsaysay's grave.

Let's address some of these comments below:
Comment 1: "You call yourself a food hunter and yet you use covers of styrofoam for eating? Where did you snatch those tissue rolls? Haha if you were so true with your story-you could've used your sony videocam to record your travels! Go home bitch! Take your tissue paper with you!"
Wow, you sir have balls. Just the wrong kind of balls. Calling a woman you never met a bitch because she didn't like the food in your country is something you would expect from a 10-year-old. However, you are a grown man.
Comment 2: "I guess you went to the wrong places while you were here in the Philippines. You should’ve visited famous Filipino restaurants like Barrio Fiesta and Cabalen instead of the small local food stalls in Banaue, because they really don’t live up to our expectations as well (I’m a Filipino, btw). "
Okay, so you are saying that to eat real Filipino food, you need to go to well-known restaurants like the ones you mentioned? So a turo-turo in Tondo is a wrong place and Barrio Fiesta in Makati is the right place? This is a screwed way of thinking. These well-known restaurants serve the same kinds of food. The only difference is that they sell them with MUCH higher price tags. And cleaner maybe. Still, they are REAL Filipino food, regardless of where they are served.
Comment 3: "To be honest you cant really have the real filipino cuisine if you are looking in cheap canteens/karinderia. You can see it in some expensive restaurants now a days. Also i belive the place you went also affect. Theres less nice foods in there. You should ask google first next time to avoid that kind of experience. There are much better foods somewhere south. Especially in PAMPANGA. Iam truly sorry from what you guys experience. I hope you’ll still come back because there are lot more places here in philippines that is worth to go, cheers!"
The same screwed reasoning. According to this commenter, you can only experience REAL Filipino cuisine from expensive restaurants.

To conclude this piece, I leave the good reader with these points:
1) A foreign tourist who visits this country has the right to dislike whatever she eats here. And she has the right to write on her experiences no matter how bad these experiences are.
2) There's no wrong place or right place when it comes to Filipino food. As long as the ingredients and the manner of cooking are there, it's Filipino food. Just because a bowl of adobo was served from a sidewalk eatery doesn't make it less Filipino when compared to a bowl served from a high-class restaurant.
3) The idea that you can only experience real Filipino food from well-known restaurants or from homes is an insult to the thousands of carinderias and eateries around the country. Anyone can make the argument that Aling Nena's Eatery serve's better kare-kare than Barrio Fiesta. No one holds a monopoly on REAL Filipino cuisine. It comes from everywhere.

Photo: Flickr/Subrock

March 18, 2014

'Some Of The Things That Molecules Do' Proves For The Nth Time That Science Is Sexy

The second episode in Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Cosmos which carries the title Some Of The Things That Molecules Do took the series to a whole new level with an all-out presentation on how the theory of evolution works. The pilot episode which aired more than a week ago was great but this one was a lot better. It's because Tyson took the first episode's sweeping space-based presentation to one that is more earth-centered. One that is more focused upon smaller details. One that addresses the biggest question of them all. Where did life on earth come from?

The first episode irked a lot of theists especially those who are bold enough to call themselves young earth creationists or YECs. Not surprisingly, their reaction to this recent episode is the same if not more dismissive. This is of course expected as evolution is a complete opposite of their beliefs. Their book says some intelligent designer spoke the universe to existence in just a span of six days. Evolution says the universe began billions of years ago.

There are mountains of evidence supporting the theory of evolution. Tyson states it simply in your face: "The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is a scientific fact." Such confidence is good for the science community. As one of the most recognizable faces of science, it's about time we get to see Tyson push the cause even further.

Science is unstoppable. To believe that someone up there just drew dust from the ground, blew air through its nostrils and life came out of it defies logic. Imagine if scientists believe in that and decide to stop right there and put an end to the pursuit of knowledge about the origins of life. All these burgeoning advances in medicine, technology, space exploration, etc. will cease. To put it simply, religion impedes progress.

This teeth-gritting and negativity coming from religious fronts is a sign Cosmos is doing its job. It's irking people, that's good. Hopefully, it serves as a catalyst to the opening of their minds. This is not to say that they will ultimately embrace the goodness that comes out of the scientific method. Beginning to question their beliefs which needless to say date back to times wherein people can be defined as uncivilized would be a good start.

Dan Arel, in his review of the latest episode of Cosmos for the Huffington Post says "Watching the Christian Right, and especially the creationist wing struggle to counter Cosmos each week is like watching a frightened, cornered animal that knows it is about to die. Grabbing at straws each and every week, blasting out social media links that are meant to reel their following back in as their eyes are opened to the greatness of the scientific method." Arel hits the nail hard here. If you are a freethinker, it's difficult to not agree with such a statement.

In conclusion, the two episodes (so far) of Cosmos are making this world a better place with the fact that it's opening the eyes of people to the wonders of science. There's a kid watching somewhere who is being inspired to become a scientist like Tyson. Who knows, he might soon become the founder of a cure for cancer. There's a religious fundamentalist somewhere in the U.S.A's bible belt who is forced to re-examine his beliefs of intelligent design. In a nutshell, Cosmos is reaching a lot of people. And it's opening their eyes, teaching them the scientific method, telling them that being wrong is okay as long as you exert efforts to find out why you were wrong in the first place.

Needless to say, we can't fu**ing wait for the third episode to drop. Neil DeGrasse Tyson may not have the poetry in his voice, the way Carl Sagan did when he hosted the original series which aired in the 1980's but he's putting his own spin into it which is nothing but a GREAT thing.

Just a few screen-grabs from the latest episode:

March 11, 2014

Malunggay To Become The National Vegetable Of The Philippines Courtesy Of Gina de Venecia?

So Gina de Venecia, the current congresswoman of the 4th district of Pangasinan has authored a bill that aims to declare malunggay as the National Vegetable of the Philippines. House Bill 2072 or the Act Declaring Malunggay (Moringa) as the National Vegetable of the Philippines and the Month of November of Every Year as the National Malunggay Month was approved a couple of months ago by the House Committee on Revision of Laws. It was again approved on its third and final reading last Monday.

Is this the kind of stuff the leaders of this land are wasting their time on? A national vegetable? One wouldn't blame anyone who asks the congresswoman if she is joking. What's with the obsession with this national thing anyway? Why do Filipino politicians have to make nationals out of everything? Last year, they tried to make waling-waling the National Flower when there's an already existing National Flower which is the sampaguita.

In her explanatory note for the bill, de Venecia has the following to say which are the reasons why she came up with the bill:
1) Known as a "miracle vegetable" or "nature's medicine cabinet" by scientists and health care workers from around the world, malunggay is loaded with vitamins and minerals that can be effective remedy against many kinds of ailments.
2) From the root trunk and branches to the leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds, all parts of the malunggay tree are usable for nutritional and medicinal purposes.
3) It is also considered as an effective cure for illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, inflammations, infections, cancer and aging issues.
4) Now, we can say that the malunggay can save lives, increase incomes, generate millions of jobs, utilize vast tracts of idle agricultural lands, make the Philippines globally competitive, impact local and international market, and help attain socioeconomic equity.

Did de Venecia just claim that the malunggay is an "effective cure" for cancer? Quick, somebody give the good congresswoman a Nobel prize or something because she has found an "effective cure" for one of the most dreaded diseases to befall mankind. You could say that this was just a lapse in the writing of the note but this just shows that she may haven't put too much attention to it. Read the bill you author, read them and make sure it's polished before you push it out there to be approved.

As to the numerous benefits that the malunggay provides, the same can be said about other vegetables. And does the congresswoman has the statistics or papers backing up her claims that the malunggay can "generate millions of jobs"? Where's her proof that this can positively be attained?

And this is not to mention the question that a lot of Filipinos are asking right now. And this is: "Don't congresswoman de Venecia have more important matters to attend to? Should she be spending her time (which is being paid for by taxpayers) on bills like this?"

Okay, so we have the malunggay as a National Vegetable, what does that give us? You can show people how nutritious and beneficial the malunggay is without having to build a bill around it. Just tell them to eat more malunggay, that's it.