I’ve always been fascinated by penguins-those tuxedo-wearing,flightless birds who live in the coldest places on earth. My favorite penguin is named Opus - he’s the neurotic but good-natured, naive and paranoid Emperor penguin who has been immortalized in Berke Breathed’s comic strip "Bloom County."
Opus has at least twice ran for president, and considering who has had to run against (the likes of George Bush Sr), it’s a shock that he always lost. Opus’ platform included planting daffodils in deactivated minefields, a ban on animal poaching, murdering the government’s foreign policy on territorial defense and military operations, and free herring for all.
Penguins. Aren’t they the coolest (forgive the pun) animals?
I’ve already seen the latest penguin documentary by the people of National Geographic –"The March of the Penguins." Its narration is plainly written, straightforward but beautifully compelling as told by Morgan Freeman.
The narrative thread is wound around the mating and breeding habits of Emperors, and how the specie survives through the harshest of environmental conditions. Penguins mate, give birth, and raise their young in 9-month cycles.Can you imagine living in minus 40 degree-weather? And trying to build a family right then and there? The mother and the father take turns taking care of the egg, and after it hatches, the chick.
It’s nothing short of a miracle how they do this. They do a sort of synchronized dance to make sure that the egg is passed from between the stubby legs and from under the thickly-feathered belly of the mother to those of the father’s.
Two seconds that the egg is exposed to the brutal cold and it freezes solid, and there’s no hope for the embryo inside. There are only two colors in the antarctic , and they’re even considered non-colors: black and white. The seemingly endless blank expanse is broken by the black and white of the penguins, and the deliberate and calculated movements they make to keep warm,but at the same time make sure that the eggs are never dislodged.
The father foregoes eating for four months months as he protects the egg, and the mother leaves to feed and fill herself with fish and krill. It’s at least a seven days’ walk to where the ice breaks and the ocean is exposed from where the penguins nest, and there is only cold, darkness and silence.The walk back, in the meantime, is often longer as the topography changes and shifts (glaciers form, cracks in the ice, small avalanches that put barriers in the path).
I’ve always thought that animals and their rights should be respected and protected. This world is as much theirs as it is ours; but humanity continues to ravage and plunder the planet, destroying even the very habitat and source of food for thousands of species.(Of course when I say ‘humanity’ I am mostly referring to the actually inhuman and inhumane multinational and transnational companies and their operations: waste-dumping, mining, logging,chemical testing,etc).
Watching the documentary, I was filled with such awe and respect for animals in general and penguins in particular. Call me cuckoo, but I believe there is genuine emotion, genuine love between animals and their families. In March of the Penguins, the birds would stand close to each other and appear like their hugging and kissing.
Penguins are such…sentient creatures.One sees and feels their grief when an egg freezes, or when a chick is similarly lost to the biting cold. The anguish is palpable, unmistakable in the body language, the gentle movement of the father prodding the chick’s lifeless body.
Happiness and relief –heaven in such a godforsaken place! - resound when the mother, father and chick reunite. The chirping and calling noises are such heartfelt sounds, the communication between parent and offspring. The mother gently teaches and prods the chick to take its first steps, to play and to mingle with other chicks. It’s a scene that pinches the heart, tweaks it something joyfully painful.
All this has, as usual, gotten me to thinking about my own specie, my own tribe.
Majority of the Filipino people build their families, raise their children under economic and political circumstances that are every bit as harsh as those environmental factors penguins have to contend with.
Instead of the killing cold, there are the killer prices of basic commodities and medicine; the high electricity and housing rates. In the far-flung regions, the provinces and way up in the mountain areas, farmers and their families are always under threat from the military and their massacre operations. If penguins struggle to keep their chicks warm, the Filipino masses fight to keep their families alive and together despite hunger, disease and high levels of criminality which is the inevitable moster-child of a depraved, decadent ruling culture and a profit-oriented society.
The biggest enemy of penguins and their families (aside from lion seals and killer whales which are their natural predators) is the cold; and they flock closely together to generate collective heat. The Filipino poor also should huddle together and unite to build the strongest front against their collective enemies- the destroyer of families, killer of dreams, the blood-sucking System and the government it currently represents in the Philippines.
If animals like penguins can survive the brutality of endless winter (even in the summer, the South Pole is a landscape carved and painted in ice), mate and raise their chicks and defend themselves from predators, then shouldn’t people — the exploited and oppressed — be able to defend themselves as well and fight back?
Penguins only have their fur-like feathers, their sharp beaks. They waddle through the Antartic or they belly-flop through it (their tummies are like tobaggons, and they heave and push themselves along when their legs get tired). Sure they swim very well, but sometimes not fast enough for the ocassional sea lion.
People — the Filipino masses and the Kilusan that represents them- what do we have?
We have everything the ruling classes have except for the stolen wealth, the insatiable greed, the dead conscience, and the ruthless desire for more endless control and power over the nation’s resources.
Their only superiority lies in the physical weapons they have. Outside of that, patas na ang labanan (in fact we’re even superior. Who runs the factories and cultivates the land? Even without the ruling elite, the working classes can run this country. Of course, this with the help of patriotic economists, scientists, teachers, doctors, artists, engineers, writers, chemists etc etc. Professionals and creative souls whose loyalties lie with the poor majority and the country and are not enslaved by love for personal gain and individual achievement).
There is always strength in numbers. This is something we should always remember. This is something the exploited should take advantage of, and wield both as shield and spear. This is why the exploiters always try to divide the people — make them think that there are other ways by which they can achieve their goals and overcome the viciousness of poverty, want, inequality.
Other ways than through collective struggle, through the righteous dictatorship of the working classes and the Kilusan that represents them.
Penguins protect each other and their chicks against the cutting wind and the storms by forming one huge mass of bodies, and they put the weaker ones in the middle. There is always a sense of collective unity — the instinct that they can only survive if they help each other. This lessens the casualty rate, and increases the chances that the majority will survive and a next generation of stronger, hardier penguins will follow.
Let us shield ourselves from the relentless storm and fight for the next generation of Filipinos. The predators cannot maim or kill all of us — even with their ripping claws and poisonous fangs, they cannot destroy an entire people determined not only to survive, but to overcome.
If penguins can do it, so can we.#
I admit it, I’m a Tom Cruise fan. Well, maybe not a fan-FAN, but I do think that he’s more than just a pretty face. I really do think he can act, and it’s just so sad that the various award-giving bodies in the US do not think much of his acting ability– at least not enough to give him a trophy or at least a citation. Sure, he’s not of the same calibre as, say, John Malcovich, but he’s better than Nicholas Cage and on par with Val Kilmer.
I haven’t read a single movie review about any of Mr. Cruise’s movies, none that have given proper notice or comment regarding his ability to project his character’s contradictions and internal difficulties on screen. Maybe most reviewers can’t see beyond the drop-dead gorgeous facade…
Actually, it was only the other night that I’ve acknowledged that the man can actually act. I watched Jerry Maguire, and it was not of the typical brainless Hollywood formula that makes one want to throw rocks against the screen and rip the cushy theater seats to shreds. It was a good film, straightforward and a little predictable, but good all the same (yeah, yeah, I’m like a decade late; but what the heck, better late than never),. O appreciate the film’s attempts at delivering a specific message of keeping one’s humanity intact amidst a materialistic, power-driven and money-oriented world, one’s priorities in life in a straight line.
Mr. Cruise was not annoying, his portrayal of a man trying to redeem himself was not cloying, and his physical beauty was not distracting at all (maybe a little). He should, I think, be given better roles — roles where he doesn’t have to be beautiful or well-dressed and predictably cute; but I guess most producers think his best selling point is his face. Sheesh. Just because he’s cuter than Sean Penn or Benicio del Torro doesn’t mean he can’t act as well as they.
(Nicole Kidman won an an Oscar for playing Virginia Woolfe complete with prosthetic nose. She wasn’t exactly beautiful there, but her portrayal had the elements of vintage Kidman –luminous. Did she win because the bodies think she was great, or because she was wilingly to ‘uglify’ herself? Go figure. )
Just a random idea here — good looking people are often though off to be not as smart as their less physically gifted peers. Strange. It’s like to be both beautiful and gifted is a rare occurence in nature. I guess it all depends on one’s idea of what’s physically beautiful.
Contrary to some of the reviews I’ve heard and read, Transformers 2 Revenge of the Fallen was great! I had a terrific time watching the giant sentient robots race, crash against and crush each other. I didn’t really mind that I couldn’t really see it clearly when they transformed (everything was much too fast, and the Transformers looked damn bulky) because I left all my expectations at the theatre’s entrance. The dialogue was hilarious though, gad! I laughed and laughed and there was one time when I choked on my Coke when the character played by the amazing Mr. John Turturro relayed his whereabouts as being “directly under the enemy’s scrotum.” You have to watch to movie to understand what the heck that’s all about.
Honestly, it’s not like I went to watch Transformers 2 hoping to achieve some major epiphany afterwards. I didn’t watch so I could learn something worth dying for. I went because I wanted to see Optimus Prime kick butt. I wanted to hear Shia Lebouef’s Sam Witwicky’s wisecracks and I wanted to forget that I was pissed off.
This movie amused me no end last night. If you don’t have anything better to do or watch, see this film starring Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti (mercurial, amazing actor) and Monica Belluci. It’s hilarious! Sure it’s bloody and violent, but the scenes where Owen wields a carrot for a weapon are precious.
I’ve always had a liking for Tim Burton and his movies. From Beetlejuice to Edward Scissorhands to Big Fish and Sweeney Todd, Burton has kept me amazed and grateful: here, I thought, was a man who was fully capable of giving full shape to his imagination, from the realm of the mind to the realm of the real. Or at least, as real as the cinema can be. Imagine being able to depict so clearly the light and dark one imagines and dreams up! It’s not everyone who can truly and so starkly bring out into the open the contents of his brain, monsters, creepy crawlies, blossoming flowers and exercises in fragility and silence.
But Alice in Wonderland — yes! This is the movie that really made me love Tim Burton.
To me there has always been something grim and dark about Lewis’ two books; as a child reading them, I would end up both highly entertained and not a little scared at all the sights and sounds described: the Jabberwocky, the Mock Turtle, the Cheshire cat and his grin that was always the last to disappear. The Duchess who violently rocked a baby in her arms and the babe slowly transformed into a pig and wandered off. Twiddledee and TwiddleDum who fought like fat gladiators clad in foam over a rattle; the battle between the Lion and the Unicorn.
Lewis Carroll would’ve loved Tim Burton’s work on his beloved little girl. Burton’s ‘Alice’ is humorous, intelligent, funny and frightening; but he added his own understanding of the characters: he made them more real (as real as imaginary characters can be, if that makes any sense?) and more sympathetic.
The White Queen in the original books was always sleepy and lazy; in the movie she’s more active, despite being a pacifist: she was a bit of an apothecary, and she believed in justice.
Burton’s Red Queen was the same as Lewis’ — strident, aggressive, violent. The reasons behind the anger, however, were more than hinted at: she needed love (despite being the Queen of Hearts), and she resented not being her parents’ favorite. She reminded me of Macapagal-Arroyo: big-headed (arrogant), temperamental and human (and animal) rights violator that she was. When the Mad Hatter was thinking about words ‘M’, he looked at the Red Queen and said ‘monster’ and ‘murderer.’ Tim Burton could very well have added ‘Macapagal-Arroyo.’
I never particularly liked the Mad Hatter; after all, he was mad. But he was always amusing, as Lewis Carrol made him clever even in his lunacy. Tim Burton made the Mad Hatter into a hero — whatever craziness he possessed was directed towards the goal of restoring Wonderland (or Underland) and giving back the White Queen her crown her sibling stole. Johnny Depp made the Hatter a compassionate character, unselfish in his lucid moments, poetic in his crazy ones. He spoke American, British, Scottish and Irish in turns, and I thought it made his Hatter more interesting. He was a good friend to the 19-year old Alice in contrast to his conduct in the original books when he was an adult annoyed with the six year old she was before.
There were a few scenes there when it seemed that a romance of some sort could bloom between the Mad Hatter and Alice. Thank goodness nothing of the sort happened, nevermind that the Mad Hatter looked like Johnny Depp.
The plot was, to me, about defiance: defying roles that are foisted upon us; defying rules that serve no purpose but to keep some meek and obedient, while others strong and powerful. It was about taking back what’s been taken; and reclaiming selves lost because of years losing contact with our childhood and its illimitable power: there are no boundaries to a child, we are only taught to recognize them, respect or fear them as we grow up. Some lines are meant to be crossed, especially if it means keeping our braver, brighter selves intact. If we mean to grow up, Burton’s ‘Alice’ teaches us, then it means learning to defend what we truly are and what we really want for ourselves to be. It does not mean forgetting the world of fantasy; growing up means learning to appreciate the gift of imagination and learning from it. Imagination is something that can help strengthen us because in it there is freedom.
Burton’s ‘Alice’ made me realize how not very far off one’s childhood is — it’s always there, and it’s the defining moments that helped give shape and shadow to one’s character even as a child are easily summoned at the smallest visual reminder. I remember believing in fairies and aswang, in talking to animals and flowers and having them talk back (and what interesting conversations we had!). I believed in wanting to be taken seriously by the adults around me, yet at the same time not caring what they think. As a child I liked playing alone, and even then I knew the difference between solitude and aloneness.
I also hated being doubted when I told the truth; and there were days when I wanted to run away because I couldn’t stand other people ( I did run away once, but that’s another story) and what they wanted of and from me.
Burton reminded me of how I was as a child, and I now feel a little bit bewildered despite the gladness at being reunited with the forgotten memory. I don’t have to act all grown up (hahaha!, yes!) because who sets the standards for grown-up behavior anyway? So-called adults all over the world are killing millions of people with their policies of government and warfare. What is necessary, however, is to be responsible and to believe that justice should always be for the greater number even as we assert our own individuality. Alice took advice from the Blue Caterpillar who smoked a hookah and found her strength; in real life there is no such catterpillar blue, hookah-smoking or otherwise. We must, all the same, find ourselves, what we’re meant to do, and do our best to be of purpose, even if it doesn’t have to be slaying Jubjub birds or Jabberwockies.