Sunday, April 26, 2015

Back from the Break: The Nepal Earthquake

It's been an eventful two weeks while I was out on vacation. There have been so many issues and events cropping up; however, the most pressing news would have to be that of the Nepal earthquake yesterday, which registered a whopping 7.9 magnitude, and has officially killed more than 2,000 people; that count, sad to say, is still bound to rise, as search and rescue teams frantically sift through the rubble for more survivors. An aftershock, measuring 6.7 magnitude, hit just today, which sent avalanches tumbling through the Himalayas, and endangering climbers on Mt. Everest. (Pictures of the avalanche and its aftermath by AFP's Roberto Schmidt)

Two of the mountaineers on Everest are Filipinos, and, fortunately, they are safe. According to Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose,"Jessica Ann Nicole Ramirez and Jose Francisco Oracion were in the base camp at Mt. Everest when the earthquake struck Nepal." However, both are now safe in Durbar Square in Kathmandu.

For Filipinos, the Nepal earthquake will evoke memories of the 1990 earthquake which struck Luzon; that natural disaster resulted in about 1,600 deaths.

Here's a news article from the U.K.'s The Telegraph which gives more information about the earthquake. 

One of the ways by which we can help those affected in Nepal is to course our donations through the Philippine Red Cross; below is an infographic for details:

Of course, prayer is a powerful tool, and we can continue to pray for those affected by the earthquake in Nepal, that they do not lose hope, and continue to fight on, and live.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Middle of a Two-Week Break

I was out for the past week since I couldn't get any wi-fi where I was in Baguio, although there will probably be two or three posts from my time there, if I can manage it.

I'll be out again this week, since I'll be joining my family on another out-of-town trip. I won't be bringing my laptop, and typing a post on the iPad Mini has always been a difficult procedure. So, there will probably be no posts for this week, either.

At the same time, I'll be looking forward to some time to myself and my family, so, to all readers out there, take care. I'll be back to my regular inconsistent posting in about a week and a half.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Requiem, Lauren Hill

How does one define determination? When one has an inoperable brain tumor, and persists in chasing one's dream to play college basketball? Then, Lauren Hill would be the answer to that question.

Hill, who died early yesterday, was diagnosed in 2013 with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a rare brain tumor located near the back of the brain. According to the DIPG Registry, the tumor causes "double vision, difficulty in controlling eye and eyelid movement and facial expression, and difficulty chewing and swallowing." Furthermore, the Registry notes, "pressure on other nerves may cause weakness in the arms and the legs and difficulty speaking and walking."

Made It: Lauren Hill, 19, made it through a full season with the Mount St. Joseph's women's basketball team while raising more than $1.5 million for research into the type of brain tumor that will likely end her life
Lauren Hill, in her Mount St.  Joseph's jersey. Image from Daily Mail UK
Despite these difficulties, Hill persisted in playing high school basketball, and was accepted into the basketball program in Mount St. Joseph's in Cincinnati. Because of her condition, the school requested the NCAA to move up their first scheduled game in order to give Lauren a chance to play. This was granted, and, on November 2, in the first game against Xavier University, Lauren, wearing #22, scored the first basket, an uncontested lay-up. According to an article in the NY Daily News, "She would play in four games for Mount St. Joseph’s and scored 10 points. She finished the year with the team as an honorary coach."

It was after the fourth game that her condition worsened, and she was forced to stop playing, but her spirit never wavered, never gave up. During a ceremony held Friday afternoon to honor her, an assistant coach read a quote from her,
"I encourage everyone to cherish every moment with no worry about the past or anxiety about the future. Because the next moment is never promised. Never leave anything unsaid. I have learned to see the blessings in every moment and through every struggle, no matter how tough it might be. Nothing holds me back from living my life and chasing my dreams. I always finish what I start and see it through to the end. Never give up on your dreams. Find something to fight for; I fight for others."
Lauren Hill's fight helped her raise more than $2 million for cancer research, and raised awareness about DIPG. 

Never give up: Lauren, picture on March 22, is vowing to never give up her battle with rare brain cancer 
Image from Daily Mail UK

Requiescat in pace, Lauren Hill. Though short, your life helped touch many. Be at peace.

Requiem, Leland McKenzie

"L.A Law" was probably the first "adult" TV series I followed when I was younger. When the show debuted in 1986, I was in high school, and I was enthralled by the show's crisp storytelling, and how the various characters interacted with one another. Each episode was filled with drama, humor, sex (of course), and the occasional reflective bit, wherein one is made to think about a particular issue. The show did not shy away from controversial topics, including the L.A. riots after the verdict on the Rodney King police trial.

Upon further reflection, it's very possible that "L.A. Law" was one of the reasons why I write about politics and law. The show focused on the drama inside and outside of the courtroom, helped glamorize the profession of law,  and presented how cases are tried, won, and lost. Of course, one has to keep in mind the show presents a glamorized version of the law, and law cases are rarely tried as neatly and quickly as those presented in the show. It's similar to how "C.S.I." made people believe that criminal forensics can quickly establish the guilt or innocence of a suspect. However, such shows helped raise awareness of how these professions work.

At the center of the fictitious law firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak, was founder Leland McKenzie, played by actor Richard Dysart. At the start of the series, McKenzie was a voice of reason and wisdom, as he counseled his younger colleagues about how they should comport themselves. Later, he was given more human foibles, as he was exposed to be not as wise or as infallible as he originally was portrayed. His being discovered in bed with a competitor apparently ranks as one of the greatest moments in TV history.

It was Dysart who brought McKenzie to life, and he played McKenzie for the entire 8-season run of the show; in fact, he is one of the few actors who has appeared on every episode. Because of Dysart, the audience was made to believe that McKenzie was human; at least, I believed so.

Leland McKenzie was to be one of the last characters Dysart brought to life, as he appeared only sporadically after "L.A. Law" ended. He would reprise his iconic role for the 2002 reunion show.

Before "L.A. Law," Dysart had a very versatile and colorful career in film and TV. According to a CNN article,
Dysart's range of authority -figure parts ran right to the top. He limned Harry Truman in the CBS telefilm "Day One" and in the ABC miniseries "War and Remembrance," both of which aired in 1989, and he was Henry L. Stimson, the 33rd U.S. president's Secretary of War, in the 1995 HBO telefilm "Truman," starring Gary Sinise.
Similarly, he played the Secretary of Defense in "Meteor" (1979).

Dysart also performed extensively in the medical- (movie) field, performing enough doctor roles to, perhaps, qualify to practice. His two most memorable came in classic satires: in Paddy Chayevsky's scathing "The Hospital" (1971), starring George C. Scott (a good friend), and in "Being There" (1979), as Melvyn Douglas' doctor.
He also was a doctor who died a gruesome death in John Carpenter's "The Thing" (1982) and a physician in such films as "The Terminal Man" (1974), "The Falcon and the Snowman" (1985) and "Warning Sign" (1985).
Dysart portrayed J. Edgar Hoover in the 1993 USA telefilm "Marilyn & Bobby: Her Final Affair" and in Mario Van Peebles' "Panther" (1995).
Dysart also excelled as cranky coots and shifty sorts. He portrayed a motel receptionist in Richard Lester's "Petulia" (1968); was the bad guy who battled Clint Eastwood in "Pale Rider" (1985); stood out as a power player in Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" (1987); and sold barbwire in "Back to the Future III" (1990).
Dysart's credits include an eclectic array of movies, including "The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder" (1974), "The Day of the Locust" (1975), "The Hindenburg" (1975), "An Enemy of the People" (1978), "Prophecy" (1979), "Mask" (1985) and "Hard Rain" (1998).
On television, he was top-notch in the telefilms "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" (1974), "The People vs. Jean Harris" (1981), as Dwight D. Eisenhower in "The Last Days of Patton" (1986) and as studio chief Louis B. Mayer in "Malice in Wonderland" (1985).

Sadly, Dysart passed away due to a lingering illness last Sunday, at the age of 86.

Requiescat in pace, Richard Dysart. You will be missed.

Richard A Dysart
Image from Doblaje Wiki

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Remembering Bataan

Today is a holiday, Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor), which is also known as Bataan and Corregidor Day. More than seven decades ago, during World War II, thousands of American and Filipino soldiers surrendered after months of intense fighting against the Japanese; those who surrendered were then forced to march 97 km from Bataan to Pampanga in what is now known as the Bataan Death March.

It may seem strange that we celebrate a day wherein we technically lost, but the bravery and sheer determination of the Filipino and American soldiers who fought and lost their lives during the Battle of Bataan cannot simply be forgotten. The last stand of the Filipino-American forces, which lasted three months, delayed the Japanese forces enough that it prevented them from expanding further into the Pacific region, including Australia. As the radio broadcast by the Voice of Freedom from Malinta Tunnel in Corregidor so eloquently put it,
Bataan has fallen. The Philippine-American troops on this war-ravaged and bloodstained peninsula have laid down their arms. With heads bloody but unbowed, they have yielded to the superior force and numbers of the enemy.

The world will long remember the epic struggle that Filipino and American soldiers put up in the jungle fastness and along the rugged coast of Bataan. They have stood up uncomplaining under the constant and grueling fire of the enemy for more than three months. Besieged on land and blockaded by sea, cut off from all sources of help in the Philippines and in America, the intrepid fighters have done all that human endurance could bear.

For what sustained them through all these months of incessant battle was a force that was more than merely physical. It was the force of an unconquerable faith—something in the heart and soul that physical hardship and adversity could not destroy. It was the thought of native land and all that it holds most dear, the thought of freedom and dignity and pride in these most priceless of all our human prerogatives.

The adversary, in the pride of his power and triumph, will credit our troops with nothing less than the courage and fortitude that his own troops have shown in battle. Our men have fought a brave and bitterly contested struggle. All the world will testify to the most superhuman endurance with which they stood up until the last in the face of overwhelming odds.
But the decision had to come. Men fighting under the banner of unshakable faith are made of something more than flesh, but they are not made of impervious steel. The flesh must yield at last, endurance melts away, and the end of the battle must come.
Bataan has fallen, but the spirit that made it stand—a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world—cannot fall!
  On this particular Araw ng Kagitingan, it's likely that the so-called Fallen 44 of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (PNP-SAF) will be the ones who will be given focus once more, since they are the most recent of our soldiers and police who have died in the line of duty. However, we should not forget all of those who have fought and died to keep our country safe and free.

Sadly, though, it's likely that, thanks to the woefully short historical memory of the Filipino people, most will simply think of today as a regular holiday, and not give thought to the reasons why we celebrate today as a holiday. I guess that's why I'm writing this post: we should not forget. To forget will be a disservice to all of those who gave up their lives in the name of the Philippines. The very reason why we are able to go about our lives is because of people such as the Fallen 44 and the brave soldiers in Bataan. We must not forget.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Commencement Speech - Lisa Macuja-Elizalde's 8 Points

Having been a teacher for more than two decades, I've sat, or stood, through my share of commencement speeches: some good, some bad, some in-between.

One commencement speech that stood out, although I was not able to hear it live, was that of Prima Ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, one of the finest ballerinas the Philippines has ever known.  She delivered her speech to the graduating class of 2015 last March 28, 2015, so I'm certain that one of my friends, who was graduating with a master's degree, was on hand to listen to it, of which I'm envious.

I was a little late to the party, and was only able to read the speech a while ago. It was such an inspirational piece, rich in insight born out of the grueling hard work one must undergo to be of Macuja-Elizalde's caliber. As one of my friends observed, it must have been a bittersweet moment for her as well, since her brother Jerry never got to his high school graduation, having died in a car accident just months before he was supposed to graduate.

You can read the entire speech here, and I do encourage you to do so. It makes for entertaining and reflective reading.

In her, she lists down eight counts, a tribute to the classic eight counts that make up the choreography in a ballerina's repertoire. Each of the counts are worth remembering and repeating, which is what I'd like to to do here.

#1: Decide and commit to something that you are passionate about.

#2: No pain, no gain.

#3: Whatever your goal, get good at it!

#4: Honor your emotions and acknowledge your fears.

#5: For a performing artist, the performance is the product and thus, the most important part of your work.

#6: Do something crazy.

#7: One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.

#8: Offer yourself to a cause bigger than your own needs or ambition.

As a teacher, each of these counts resonate with me, and these counts are a good summary of how one should live his or her life. They may not be new or original; in fact, Macuja-Elizalde acknowledges social media for  #7. However, the counts help remind us about what we can do to make a concrete difference in our, as well as others', life.  

Once more, kudos to Lisa Macuja-Elizalde for sharing her wisdom.

More Musings on Garissa

As I mentioned in a previous post, the events at Garissa, wherein 150 students and university personnel were killed by militants, was a horrific event by any standards. When the grisly details of how the four al-Shabab gunmen taunted helpless students before executing them, the students' bodies lying face down in death, came out, the horror increased.

The picture that is making the rounds in social media just adds to the world outrage:

While the horror is great, what I find puzzling is the comparison of the Garissa killings to that of the Charlie Hebdo murders, wherein 12 members of the magazine's staff, including the editor-in-chief, were gunned down inside their office. The above picture is accompanied in Facebook by the hashtag "#AfricanLivesMatter," and suggests that the world, particularly the Western world, seems to be less concerned about this tragedy, as compared to the Charlie Hebdo murders, which prompted world leaders to march together in Paris. A number of netizens have also expressed their frustration about the apparent lack of world concern over Garissa.

It should be noted, however, that the world was not silent on what happened in Garissa. U.S. President Obama, in particular, has issued a statement of condolence and support, and stressed that the U.S. "will stand hand-in-hand with the Kenyan Government and people against the scourge of terrorism." He also assured Kenyans that he will push through with his visit to the country in July, which should send a clear message about his support for Kenya, although I can imagine the Secret Service must be tearing their collective hair out at the security nightmare that undoubtedly awaits them.

Aside from President Obama, other world leaders, such as Indian Prime Minister Nerandera Modi and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, have also condemned the Garissa massacre. I don't know if they feel enough to march as others did for Charlie Hebdo, but it's clear that the world is aware of Garissa now, and that African lives do matter.

What I would like to hear from are the moderate Muslim leaders, and their thoughts on these attacks by militant, extremist Muslims on non-Muslims. It would be interesting to see how the leadership of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and other rebel Muslim groups in the Philippines will respond to the Garissa attack. For these groups to come out and condemn what happened in Garissa, as well as other attacks by extremist Muslims, would go a long way in assuring their countrymen that peace is the ultimate goal.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Germanwings Crash

Last week, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed into the French Alps, killing all 152 passengers and crew. It was later discovered that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had locked out the pilot from the cockpit, and deliberately crashed the plane into the mountains; in the continuing news about the tragedy, it was discovered that Lubitz had managed to hide whatever psychological problems he had from the airline. Today, it was reported that, based on the flight recorder details, Lubitz had actually accelerated the plane into the mountains. Each new detail adds a new level of horror to an already horrific tragedy.

What I find troubling are reports that Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, was apparently aware of Lubitz's battle with depression. Even though it has been stressed that it has not been established that Lubitz's depression caused the crash, it was still noted that Lubitz had seen several doctors a few months before the tragic crash; this is still being investigated as one of the possible causes of Lubitz's insane actions. However, forensic psychologist Brian Russell notes,
"Psychology can explain why somebody would turn rage inward on themselves about the fact that maybe they weren't going to keep doing their job and they're upset about that and so they're suicidal," he said. "But there is no mental illness that explains why somebody then feels entitled to also take that rage and turn it outward on 149 other people who had nothing to do with the person's problems."
At this point, nothing has been concretely established, and it'll still be a while before a clearer picture of what happened to flight 9525 emerges.

With the recent airline tragedies, airline safety becomes even more paramount. Here's hoping our airline officials are on the ball in ensuring that traveling Filipinos, at least within the Philippines, are safe. 

Garissa and Mamasapano: A Massacre and a Battle

Back in September of 2013, I wrote about the al-Shabab attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi. Back then, I quoted a commentator, Robert Rotberg, who made the observation that al-Shabab was weak and desperate in making the attack on the mall, which resulted in at least 67 deaths.

I wonder at what his assessment of yesterday's tragic events will be.

Al-Shabab struck again yesterday, this time attacking Garissa University College, in the town of Garissa, resulting in at least 147 deaths and leaving around 79 wounded. Four gunmen belonging to the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group held a day-long siege, before killing themselves via suicide vests.

The details coming out of CNN and Aljazeera are horrific. Many of the dead were found lying facedown, shot in the back of the head. According to the Aljazeera report, the gunmen even "taunted their victims before killing them, including forcing them to call their parents to urge them to call for Kenyan troops to leave Somalia." Furthermore, "some students smeared blood from their dead friends over their bodies to pretend they too had been shot."

The bloody attack is part of a continuing operation by al-Shabab to force Kenya out of Somalia, which is part of an international African Union force supporting the current Somalian government. Apparently, al-Shabab has made two other grisly attacks between Garissa and Westgate; these attacks resulted in at least 54 deaths.

The fact that al-Shabab managed to pull off this deadly attack after Westgate puts Kenya's security measures in question, and whether the beleaguered country can actually put an end to these depredations.

My next thought centers on whether our politicians, who are most likely enjoying their Holy Week break, are aware of this situation. As I recall, a number of them claimed that the Mamasapano incident, wherein 44 SAF commandos, 18 MILF rebels, and about 5 civilians were killed, was also a massacre.

Garissa, Westgate, and Shariff Aguak (Maguindanao, 2009) were massacres. Mamasapano was a battle.

Philippine Star columnist Elfren Cruz made the very correct assessment that what happened at Mamasapano was not a massacre, since it would only have been a massacre had the SAF troopers been lined up and shot. Cruz notes,
The PNP SAF forces in Mamasapano were not defenceless or helpless. They fought against forces with superior firearms and numbers. But they fought almost to the last man. We dishonor them by calling it a massacre. But neither do I feel that we should just call it a misencounter or even a firefight.

They were outgunned and outnumbered, but they fought back as best as they could, and, for our politicians to claim that they were murdered or massacred is indeed a disservice to their bravery. 

At the very least, the SAF troopers probably gave a better account of themselves than the helpless students and university personnel at Garissa.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Holy Week Hiatus

Just to let my readers know that, unless I have a brilliant insight, or even time to write, I'll be resuming my regularly intermittent posting after Holy Week. Until then, everyone take care, stay safe, and have a peaceful Holy Week.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Follow-Up to "Going Co-Ed": A Look at College Co-Education

Two years ago, the Ateneo celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first women students (co-eds) to enter the college. In 1973, the first batch of full-time women students, 127 freshmen and 35 upper batch students, entered the college. In 1975, six women, who had started out as exchange students, graduated from the college.

I can't imagine what it must have been like for those six women who were the very first pioneers in the Ateneo. To be such a minute minority and to have to deal with whatever discrimination back then must have been a great challenge to these women, but, despite this, they persevered.

In an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer by Dr. Queena Lee-Chua about the anniversary,  she notes that co-education could have started in the Ateneo much earlier, in 1966, had the student body and government approved it. But they didn't, and a rather discriminatory question in an article in the school's official publication Guidon asked, "“What about the sons of alumni who may have the same amount of brains [as girls] but less inclination to work themselves to the bone studying the way many girls do?”

However, thanks in part to then-Guidon managing editor Antonio Carpio, now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, who pointed out that female undergraduates of Yale University were "assets," the school eventually relented, and, in 1973, the first batch of co-eds enrolled in the university.

Forty years hence, and we can see that, like the undergrads of Yale University, female graduates of the Ateneo have proven themselves as leaders in their respective fields. According to statistics cited by Dr. Lee-Chua, 18, 217 women have graduated from the university, 2, 421 of them with honors. Quoting from the same article, Dr. Lee-Chua lists down just a few of the many successful women who have graduated from the Ateneo:
Female Ateneans are public servants: Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P. A. Sereno; former Akbayan Party Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel; Dipolog City Mayor Evelyn Tang-Uy; Postmaster General Josie dela Cruz; and Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte-Alimurung.
Scholars and educators: University of Cebu chancellor Yvette Candice Gotianuy; University of Chicago astrophysicist Reinabelle Reyes; and Philippine Wildlife Conservation Society president Angela Nina Ann Ingle.
Executives and social entrepreneurs: Sunstar president Gina Garcia-Atienza; Rags2Riches founder Reese Fernandez-Ruiz; GotHeart founder Mel Yeung; and Human Nature founder Anna Meloto-Wilk.
Media movers: Summit Media president Liza Gokongwei-Cheng; investigative journalist Chay Florentino-Hofileña; ABS-CBN executive Cory Vidanes; host-actress Kris Aquino; GMA anchors Vicky Morales-Reyno, Pia Arcangel-Halili and Suzie Entrata-Abrera; and Solar News anchor Pia Hontiveros-Pagkalinawan.
Artists: School of Fashion and the Arts cofounder Amina Aranaz-Alunan; painters Elaine Roberto-Navas and Mia Herbosa; actress Ina Feleo; designer Mich Dulce; novelist Samantha Sotto; and poet Fatima Lim-Wilson.
Athletes, advocates and religious: equestriennes Toni Leviste and Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski; cancer warrior Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala; and Cenacle Sisters regional superior Sr. Nerissa Bandojo, RC.
 42 years after the first full batch of co-eds entered the college campus, the Ateneo is once more breaking new ground as it prepares to open its Senior High School to female students; the first batch is expected in school year 2016-17. Once more, there is opposition in the form of students and alumni who cannot bear to see the formerly all-boys high school breached by the opposite sex.

I've already responded to some of these concerns in my previous post about co-education in the high school. Perhaps we can take a page from the lessons learned by the college when it embraced co-education; perhaps we can invite some of these pioneers to the high school in order to give us an idea of what we should expect as a high school. Granted, the experience is going to be different, since high school students are generally younger than those entering college.

I'd also like to take this time to point out that, 42 years after the college embraced co-education, the University still standing, prouder than ever. School officials and teachers are working hard in their preparations for senior high school. There is no reason to believe that the senior high school will not acquit itself well as a co-educational school.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Requiem for Singapore's Father

One can only imagine the strength of character that was needed to be Lee Kwan Yew. To have to deal with one's province suddenly cast away by its parent country, and then taking the steps to transform it from a third world existence, to first world affluence and respectability. It meant curtailing some rights and freedoms, and banning dissent, but it also meant moving forward with a clear goal in mind.

Whatever one may say about Lee Kwan Yew, one cannot doubt that all of his actions, good or bad, were done with the good of his country in mind. With his goals in mind, Lee Kwan Yew led Singapore, and established it as a first world economic power. And, unlike some leaders who clung to power because of their own selfish needs, Lee Kwan Yew stepped down from power, although he continued to influence Singaporean politics from behind the scenes.

There is a lot that we Filipinos can learn from the man, who died early this morning at the age of 91, after a long, lingering illness. Our leaders, in particular, can learn a lot from him. Here's hoping that they can find the strength of will to be like Lee Kwan Yew, and truly work for the betterment of the country in mind. 

Requiescat in pace, Elder Minister Lee Kwan Yew. Your long journey is at an end.

Saying Goodbye to Steve Nash

When my co-teachers and I first formed our fantasy basketball league nine years ago, Steve Nash was one of the players I drafted to be part of my team. When we decided to make the league a keeper league, wherein we would keep three of the 12 players on our team for the next season, and I managed to snag the very first pick, I actually picked point guard Steve Nash over LeBron James. In retrospect, while it may not have been the most astute decision, Steve Nash was the centerpiece of my fantasy team for around five years.

Of course, I'd made it a point to get to know my star player. Six times a leader in assists. Two-time leader in free throw percentage, and career leader in free throw percentage (.904). Eight times an All-Star player. Two-time Most Valuable Player (MVP). In all likelihood, when the time comes, Steve Nash is heading for the Hall of Fame.

He played in three teams over the course of his career: the Phoenix Suns (two tours of duty), the Dallas Mavericks, and, his last stop, the Los Angeles Lakers. It was with the Suns and the Mavs that Nash had his best years, and, while he was unable to lead his team to the championship, he came pretty close.

It was with the Los Angeles Lakers wherein the end for Nash came quickly, as he broke a bone in his leg in just his second game with the Lakers. Back injuries, which had plagued him earlier, came to the fore, and limited him to just fifteen games last season.

This season, he wasn't able to make it out of the preseason, as he tweaked his back as he tried to lift his bags. While he hoped to make it back sometime this season, it wasn't meant to be.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Nash penned his retirement notice in the Players' Tribune, a website wherein he was the senior producer. In the article, he thanked the many persons who helped his career along the way. He also wrote about what drove him to be one of the best players ever:
The greatest gift has been to be completely immersed in my passion and striving for something I loved so much — visualizing a ladder, climbing up to my heroes. The obsession became my best friend. I talked to her, cherished her, fought with her and got knocked on my ass by her.

And that is what I’m most thankful for in my career. In my entire life, in some ways. Obviously, I value my kids and my family more than the game, but in some ways having this friend — this ever-present pursuit — has made me who I am, taught me and tested me, and given me a mission that feels irreplaceable. I am so thankful. I’ve learned so many invaluable lessons about myself and about life. And of course I still have so much to learn. Another incredible gift.
 While Nash contemplated the end of his basketball career with some pain, he also was upbeat:
I will likely never play basketball again. It’s bittersweet. I already miss the game deeply, but I’m also really excited to learn to do something else. This letter is for anyone who’s taken note of my career. At the heart of this letter, I’m speaking to kids everywhere who have no idea what the future holds or how to take charge of their place in it. When I think of my career, I can’t help but think of the kid with his ball, falling in love. That’s still what I identify with and did so throughout my entire story.
Lastly, he paid tribute to his three children, whom he considered to be the most important part of his life:
Lastly, Lola, Bella and Matteo, you’re the center of my universe. All my focus and energy is here for you guys and moving forward, I couldn’t think of anything more exciting or rewarding.
 I, for one, wish nothing for the best for Steve Nash as he moves on to the next big thing in his life.

Thanks for all the memories, Steve Nash. I, and a lot of other basketball fans, will miss you.
Steve Nash playing for the Suns. Image from Downtown Devil

Sunday, March 22, 2015

TRO Vs. Suspension: Which is Correct?

In my previous post, I commented on the sense of entitlement the Binays have demonstrated in defying the Ombudsman's suspension order on the Makati Mayor, the son of the Vice-President. This sense of entitlement is also demonstrated in the Mayor's securing of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the suspension. The Mayor's camp has insisted that the TRO takes precedence over the suspension order. The Ombudsman's side, which includes the Justice Secretary, has argued that, since the suspension order was served, and Vice-Mayor Romulo Peña has been sworn into office, the TRO has no effect, being moot and academic. Whose side is correct?

On the surface, and in the eyes of his supporters, it may appear that the Mayor may have the upper hand. A TRO, as it is understood by laymen, is supposed to stop an action from being carried out. Therefore, the TRO should have been followed, and the contempt charges the Mayor has filed against just about anybody should prosper.

However, since the suspension order was served (this, of course, is disputed by the Binay camp.) and  Peña sworn into office, what the Court of Appeals should have issued was a "status quo ante" order and not a TRO. A status quo ante returns the situation to the original condition, which is Binay Jr. as mayor; the TRO would be moot and academic, since, as Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales notes, the situation that was supposed to be stopped by the TRO (the suspension) no longer exists.

Furthermore, when one reads Republic Act (RA) 6770, otherwise known as the Ombudsman Act of 1989, Section 27 of RA 6770 clearly states,
In all administrative disciplinary cases, orders, directives, or decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman may be appealed to the Supreme Court by filing a petition for certiorari within ten (10) days from receipt of the written notice of the order, directive or decision or denial of the motion for reconsideration in accordance with Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
This was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2010, when it revisited its 2008 decision in the case of the Ombudman vs. Joel Samaniego, and was even expanded such that the suspension would be  "immediately executory pending appeal and may not be stayed by the filing of the appeal or the issuance of an injunctive writ." Unless there is a later decision which overturns this decision, this is the current ground rules for a suspension. Therefore, it is clear that the Court of Appeals (CA) erred when it issued the TRO; in fact, the CA Justice who issued the TRO may even face administrative charges for overstepping his/her boundaries.  

Of course, the Binay camp has ignored this point of information, which means that Binay Jr. is the one who should be found in contempt. He is already under suspension by the Ombudsman, and yet he continues to hole up in his office and sow confusion by signing all sorts of official forms. As Inquirer columnist John Nery noted last week:
He will be suspended for all of six months, and the immediately executory nature of the Ombudsman’s order is to protect City Hall, and by extension the people of Makati who own that seat of government, from any machinations that an incumbent official might do—clean the books, for instance—to dodge the charges. The mayor has all this time protested his innocence, saying he has nothing to hide. The Ombudsman now gives him the proper forum to rebut the charges against him—and what does he do? Petulantly lock himself up in his room, so to speak.
By continuing to act as the official mayor, Binay is the one who is putting his constituents and city employees at risk. His father, the Vice-President, is not yet even President, and already the son is acting as if he is above the law. What more if the elder Binay does win in 2016? What damage can the Binays should the patriarch gain the highest office next year?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Junjun Binay's Suspension: The Binay Sense of Entitlement

According to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), in 2006, then-Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, along with various Makati City officials, was ordered suspended by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) because he and the other officials were accused of "allegedly padding the city payroll with over a thousand 'ghost employees'."

Two things helped the elder Binay prevent the suspension from being served. One is that the late Cory Aquino rallied supporters to field themselves around Makati City Hall, making it impossible for any legal authority from serving the suspension order. The other is that former President Gloria Arroyo was considered to be even more corrupt than Binay, and it was easier to believe back then that Binay's case was politically motivated, although Binay has long been suspected of corruption even before the time of Arroyo.

Now, almost ten years after that incident, it is the younger Binay, now the Makati City Mayor, who is facing corruption charges over the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II. The Ombudsman, through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), has served the suspension order, although the Court of Appeals issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the suspension. This has created a tussle between the courts and the government. The government, through the Justice and Interior Secretaries and the Ombudsman, has insisted that the TRO is moot and academic, since the suspension order had already been served, albeit rather speedily. Mayor Binay and his allies have insisted that the rule of the courts is supreme.

The current situation, as well as other previous actions of the Binays, has demonstrated that how the family will probably act if the elder Binay is elected as president next year. They have avoided facing whatever charges have been leveled against them, opting instead to resort to court TROs and non-attendance, as well as making claims that such charges are politically motivated. To critics of Binay, it appears that the Binays are afraid to face the music, because it's very possible that the evidence against them is overwhelming, and the courts will likely find them to be guilty.

The manner by which the Binays have avoided being suspended or charged shows their contempt for the rule of law. By all means, let the law take its course when it is beneficial to the Binays, but, if the law goes against them, the Binays have shown a marked contempt for it, by almost always opting to crying political harassment.

It's not the first time the Binays have demonstrated this contempt. The much-publicized incident of the exclusive subdivision, wherein the Binays practically forced their way through a closed gate by way of intimidation, has been a prime example of their feeling of entitlement. One can only wonder what sort of behavior the Binays will show once their patriarch gains the presidency.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ateneo Athletics: Successes

In the old days of the Ateneo, it seemed that the only sport that really mattered was basketball. A holiday would be granted by the school only if the basketball team won the championship. As a result, other teams used to toil in obscurity because of this rather unhealthy focus. Happily, the Ateneo community has grown more aware of the various sports that populate the athletics field, and has shown its support of sports other than basketball in recent times. Today, the school recognizes all forms of achievements by the members of its community.

The support from alumni that once was reserved for basketball has also become more balanced, with all teams receiving some form of alumni support or the other. As a result, the quality of players entering the athletic field for the school has risen to the point that the Ateneo can now contemplate of contending not only for the basketball crown, although that's still the key jewel, but also for the overall UAAP championship.

This second semester has been particularly fruitful, as various teams managed to make it to their respective playoffs or finals. While not all teams managed to bring home the trophies, the effort that each has shown in their quest for the gold is in itself a reward, as the hard work and effort that each player brings to the game is character building.

A look at some of the winning teams in the second semester:

The volleyball teams, both men's and women's, managed to bring home their respective championships, and each was special. For the men's team, it was the very first time that Ateneo was able to win the championship, and, for the women's team, they managed to not only win the championship, but they also achieved a perfect record (16-0) as they soundly trounced the school's archrival, La Salle, for a back-to-back championship.

The Ateneo junior basketball team managed to bring home the trophy that was last in the high school when current King Eagle Kiefer Ravena was still playing for the juniors. The current team, anchored by the Nieto brothers, Matt and Mike, and junior standout Jolo Mendoza, dethroned the defending champion NU.

The men's baseball team completed a grand slam with their third straight championship, sweeping archrival La Salle in the finals. 

What makes the various teams' successes even more amazing is that the Ateneo players are also academically competent, since the school give little leeway even for those who represent it, unlike in other schools. The players' successes on the field are duplicated in the classroom, forming well-rounded graduates.

Congratulations to all representatives of the Ateneo de Manila! Win or lose, they all bring glory and honor to the school.

Going Co-Ed in the AHS: A Teacher's Response to Former Students

Ateneo de Manila University President Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin's announcement about Senior High School  being co-ed this week was met by some Ateneo de Manila High School alumni with anger or dismay, as they railed against the end of what they see as the "Ateneo culture."

Before I go on, I'd like to share a few points of information that may help understand the context of the discussion.

The Ateneo de Manila Grade School and High School have been all-boy school ever since they were founded; the college, otherwise known as the Loyola School, opened its doors to women back in the 70s, if I'm not mistaken.

However, with the advent of the K-12 educational program, the university's Board of Trustees made the decision to allow female students into the Senior High School program. These first female students will come from the public schools, the parochial schools, and the provincial Ateneo schools. Personally, I'm hoping that the female children of faculty will be given a chance to vie for the 300 new student slots for Senior High School, since there are a number of us in the community, including myself, who have female children.

For me, the move makes sense, since the Senior High School system will be nothing like the traditional high school set-up. It will be more like a junior college program, wherein the students will be grouped according to their career preferences, to better prepare them for their future courses. Since the college has long been co-ed, it probably would help students to learn how to deal with the opposite sex as further preparation.

At the same time, since the Ateneo will be accepting students from other schools, it would be unfair to limit the incoming new students according to gender. What if the valedictorian and/or the salutatorian of a public school are female? Will they be denied the opportunity to study in the Ateneo because of their gender?

As for the Ateneo culture, Franz Santos, one of my co-teachers, an alumnus himself, posted some interesting food for thought. 
While we have different opinions on Ateneo's move to go co-ed in senior high, I am extremely disappointed that some former Ateneans reacted violently, going as far as saying things like going co-ed will ruin the Ateneo culture. I was under the impression that competence, compassion, commitment, conscience, Christ-centeredness, magis, being persons for others are some of the most important parts of the Ateneo tradition which we will now share with other students coming from other schools, both male and female. Please read the university memo. We are even trying to get as many scholars as we can from public schools.
Gustong-gusto nating magturo sa TD tapos ngayong may chance na for some of them to go to the same school as us, ayaw na?
 Well said.

 In the first place, the Ateneo culture is always changing, since the context of the students is likewise changing. There, of course, will always be parts of the culture which will be immutable, since we in the Ateneo de Manila are inculcating in our students specific attitudes and key values which will identify them as Ateneans; for the high school student, the 5 Cs (competence, compassion, commitment, conscience, and Christ-Centeredness), and the values of magis and being a person for others, as my co-teacher mentioned, will probably remain at the center of the Ateneo culture. Others, such as this move to the co-ed system, are parts of the continuing change that the school undergoes.

Case in point for some of my former students who are up in arms over the change: some venerable high school structures, such as the class nights and the "Days with the Lord," are no longer existing in the high school. The graduating batch this year, I think, has never experienced a class night; the "Days" ended a year or two before the class nights did. Will the lack of those experiences make them lesser Ateneans? I don't think so, since there are different, and maybe better, structures in place, structures which will be better aids to the student character formation.

It's also not going to be easy for the incoming female students, since they will be a distinct minority in the high school system. How will they be integrated into their senior high school batch? That will be a challenge for both the students and the school, which will have to structure the senior high school system to accommodate the new students, and help both new and old students adjust to the new system. Hopefully, by doing so, the Ateneo de Manila will demonstrate how it is responding to Pope Francis's call for the faithful to "go to the peripheries."

Friday, March 13, 2015

Requiem, Sir Terry Pratchett

To many readers, Sir Terry Pratchett is probably best known for "Good Omens," his collaboration with "Sandman" writer Neil Gaiman, but, to his more select fans, Pratchett is better known for his creation of the Discworld, his major setting for many of his novels.

My first foray into Terry Pratchett's Discworld was "Small Gods," a gift from a co-teacher almost two decades ago. In the book, Pratchett explores the notion that gods are powered by beliefs; those who lose their followers lose their power, and become small gods.

"Small Gods" was followed by "Feet of Clay," which introduced me to one of Pratchett's major staging grounds in the Discworld, the city of Ankh-Morpork, also known as the Big Wahoonie. Soon after, I found myself tracking down the various Discworld novels, and, believe you me, there are many of them. Each book opens up a new aspect of the Discworld: a new setting, a new character, or a new idea.

What I loved about Pratchett's work was the humor he infused into his writing: witty, satirical, and colorful. While the inhabitants of the Discworld went about their lives in a serious manner, Pratchett portrayed them in a humorous manner. At the same time, Pratchett would poke fun at everything he could think of, from computers ("Going Postal") to politics ("The Fifth Elephant") to film ("Moving Pictures").
While most of his books were geared towards older readers, Pratchett did find time to write books that targeted the young adult, including the Tiffany Aching series and "The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents," both of which were set in the Discworld, as well as the Nome Trilogy, which was an entirely different setting.

Whether he wrote for adults or younger readers, Pratchett rarely failed to entertain or educate his audience.

In his later years, Pratchett developed Alzheimer's, which caused him to change the manner by which he wrote his books. It also caused him to explore the possibility of assisted suicide; he even participated in a documentary about the issue.

The Alzheimer's did not deter him from his writing, as he continued to write, almost as if in defiance of the disease. The novels from this period, from "Unseen Academicals" to "Raising Steam" show an urgency in style, as if Pratchett was aware of his mortality, and wished to capture as much of his Discworld as possible.

His last Discworld novel, "Raising Steam," seemed to capture this urgency, as it was as if he tried to include as many of the inhabitants of the Discworld in it.

Sadly, Pratchett died yesterday at the age of 66, his battle with Alzheimer's over. Despite his support for assisted suicide, his publishers stressed that he did not die by this route.

One of the favorite Discworld characters is Death, who appears quite often in the novels, and is recognizable by his speech, which is always in capital letters.Whenever he appears, he doesn't make the reader that Death is something to be feared, just something that happens.

On Pratchett's Twitter feed, Death makes his appearance:

Requiescat in pace, Sir Terry Pratchett. Thank you for all the wonderful memories.
Image courtesy of Books Alive

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pouring Gasoline to Put Out A Fire

The worst tactic one can use in putting out a fire is to pour gasoline all over it. In a way, that's essentially what President Noynoy Aquino did last Monday when he not only blamed former PNP-SAF chief Getulio Napenas for the tragic Mamasapano incident, but also claimed that Napenas had fooled him. The President also took aim at his detractors, and called them "KSP (kulang sa pansin)."

The outburst won the President no supporters, as even his own allies took the President to task for blaming Napenas for the failed operation, which, while attaining its objective, led to the deaths of 44 PNP-SAF members, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and five civilians.

In fact, one of the President's supporters in Congress, Akbayan party-list representative Walden Bello, has publicly cut his ties with the government, and may even step down as party-list representative, since his party-list group still supports the President. Stated Bello, "The President is engaging in a brazen cover-up of his responsibility and that of his trusted aide (resigned Philippine National Police Director General Alan) Purisima for the tragic SAF mission and placing all blame on the ground commander (Getulio) Napeñas."

While it may be possible that Napenas is responsible for the tragic operation, the manner by which the President castigated Napenas and called into question Napenas' competence was ill-timed and unwise.

Some may point out that the length of time that it took for the President to come out and place blame squarely on Napenas' shoulders may have been too long, and may be seen as a tactic to obfuscate and confuse the issue. It may also be seen as a way to absolve suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, who has been seen to be the brains behind the Mamasapano operation. It should be noted that, in his speech last Monday, the President avoided mentioning Purisima's role in the operation.

From the politic point of view, it was unwise to castigate Napenas at this point in time, considering that the PNP has yet to release the findings of its board of investigation (BOI) formed to study the Mamasapano incident. The President may have jumped the gun on the report, and may cause the report to be seen as skewed and biased. It probably would have been better for the President to wait for the BOI report before making any ill-advised comments. 

It will be difficult for the President and his communications team to spin any positive result from his speech last Monday. Worse, it may have given more momentum for the anti-Aquino crowd to step up their efforts in their attempt to remove the President from office. It definitely would have been better for the President to have kept quiet over the matter, but then, that's probably not in his nature to do so. As a result, he had better be ready to reap the whirlwind over the anger he has raised.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

All-Out War? Are You Kidding Me?

In the aftermath of the tragic Mamasapano incident, wherein 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and around seven civilians were killed (Note: I will keep on repeating these numbers, in reaction to those who only refer to the SAF 44, as if theirs is the only deaths that mattered. All of those who died in that encounter, except bombing expert Marwan, were Filipinos, and all of their deaths are important.), calls for retaliation against the MILF, including a call for a return to war, were loud and strident.

Former President, current Manila mayor, and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada, for one, reiterated that the "all-out war" formula that he employed during his presidency should be reestablished, as he claims that it was effective. He also questioned the sincerity of the MILF in its participation in the peace talks, saying, "They’ve been going on for 40 years, and it’s always ‘peace talks, ceasefire, peace talks, ceasefire.’ That’s still what they do now. Will you still trust them?"

While the MILF's participation is, indeed, questionable, given their rather belligerent stand in the aftermath of the Mamasapano incident, the other question, the one about all-out war, merits attention, since, because of the MILF's perceived lack of cooperation in investigating the incident, there are those who will argue that the all-out war is the way to go. To that, I will quote a co-teacher's favorite rejoinder: "Are you kidding me?!"

To basically take revenge for the SAF 44, those calling for an all-out war would wish to sacrifice more lives. An all-out war will create even more casualties, since the MILF will not willingly just lay down their arms. Instead of just 69 casualties, with an all-out war, we may be looking at an even higher casualty rate, perhaps in the hundreds.

It's not as if those calling for an all-out war will be one of those possible hundreds. It's their relative safety that emboldens them to glibly call for war. Perhaps if Estrada and the other hawks will be the ones to take up arms and lead the charge, it will give more credence to their call. At the very least, it will cull the gene pool of a number of idiots.

At the same time, the all-out war scenario will only be considered as effective by those thinking at the national level, and it will ignore the real-time cost of such an operation. An all-out war will displace thousands who will have to evacuate in the face of armed battle, and the government will have to figure out what to do with these evacuees. Furthermore, an all-out war will simply render useless the areas wherein the war will be fought; no seed may be sown, and no harvest may be gathered in such areas. Those at the national level will say that the nation is at peace, but, in Mindanao, there will be much unrest.

The all-out war scenario will not solve the Muslim Moro question, aside from the possible total obliteration of the Moros. It won't solve the decades-long struggle of the Moros to gain a greater say in their affairs. It will be as in the United States, wherein the Native Americans were subjugated and marginalized. As it is, the fact that the Moros perceive themselves to be marginalized is probably one of the factors for their revolutionary movement. An all-out war will simply enforce that marginalization.

While peace should not come at the cost of national sovereignty, as some think the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will do if it is passed, it cannot be argued that peace is a desirable goal of all. Instead of opting for belligerence and war, both sides in the Mindanao conflict must exhaust all peaceful means to settle the conflict. As retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno said in 2008, in an all-out war, "The losers are all of us."

Looking on the Positive Side

There's a tweet attributed to comedian Chris Rock which goes,

Admittedly, the shine has long fallen off U.S. President Barack Obama as he approaches the end of his second term in office, but, as Chris Rock observes, perhaps the tag of failure is undeserved. Despite some shortcomings, President Obama has achieved much in his almost eight years of office, and he should be lauded for that.

Similarly, President Benigno S. Aquino III has long been pilloried by his critics for his own shortcomings, but, when one tries to take an objective eye towards his achievements in office, he actually may come out as a winner.

A quick example would be the economic gains his government has made. The fact that foreign accreditation bodies have upgraded the country's investment rating can only be attributed to the government's fight against corruption that, while incomplete, has made inroads into minimizing corruption in the government. The President's image, unsullied so far by personal corruption on his part, has made it difficult for critics to attack him on that front, unlike two of his predecessors, who were complicit in corruption, and made it a foundation of their own presidencies.

Also, his stand against the depredations of China into our territory has gained much admiration, even if it may be a hollow stand because of our country's inability to put a stop to these depredations. The fact, though, that the case has been filed in the international court demonstrates the country's adherence to the rule of law, even if, once more, the Chinese government refuses to submit itself to the court's authority.

This is not to say that the critics are wrong about President Aquino's failings, and, believe you me, there are many. However, it is unfair for them to simply criticize the President without giving credit where credit is due. There is no perfect leader, since all of them are like us, humans with their own frailties and failings.

Perhaps it would be better to try to see the President in an objective light, and try to be more understanding towards his failings. Being the leader of a country isn't easy, especially when people expect perfection from those in that position, but it's an unfair expectation, since no one of us can truly be perfect. When Pope Francis visited the Philippines earlier this year, his message centered on the values of mercy and compassion. Perhaps that mercy and compassion can be directed towards the President.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

What About the Fallen 7?

Sarah Pananggulon was only five years old when she died. She died in her father's arms, a victim of a stray bullet.

She is one of about seven civilian victims of the Mamasapano incident last January 25, wherein, aside from Sarah and six others, 44 commandos of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), as well as 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), were killed.

While much media attention has been given to the so-called Fallen 44 (of which a hashtag had been trending), there is scant news about the civilian casualties. While a Moro group, Suara Bangsamoro, has identified at least seven casualties, official news reports peg the civilian deaths at three. A recent MindaNews report has it at five.

At least the PNP-SAF forces had knowledge that they could possibly be killed in this operation, which was to arrest or neutralize international bombing expert Marwan. For civilians such as Sarah Pananggulon, they were simply caught in the crossfire between the PNP and MILF forces. Theirs is the true tragedy in this affair, being innocent victims of an incident not of their choosing.

While politicians such as Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquiao and Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu have extended financial aid to the civilian victims, perhaps more can be done by the government at large to help these people who were tragically affected by government affairs.

While politicians and netizens rage against the President and his officials over what they refer to as a "botched" police operation (never mind the fact that the PNP-SAF did achieve their objective), perhaps some thought and prayers could be made for the fallen seven.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Requiem for Mr. Spock

I first saw Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock in the first full-length feature of the old TV series, "Star Trek." While the movie itself was underwhelming, I enjoyed Nimoy's performance as the cold, emotionless half-Vulcan Mr. Spock. In the second movie, "Wrath of Khan," Spock has a moment to shine (SPOILER!) when he sacrificed himself to save the crew of the badly damaged U.S.S. Enterprise. As he lay dying in the engine room, after successfully repairing the warp drive, he tells a grieving Kirk, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." While Spock is resurrected in the third movie, "The Search for Spock," his death in "Wrath of Khan" remains one of the franchise's iconic scenes.

Nimoy would go on to portray Spock in four more movies involving the original cast of the TV series, and reprise his role both in the second TV series "The Next Generation," and in the rebooted "Star Trek" movies (2009 and 2013), wherein his Spock is now an alternate timeline character, who gives assistance in the form of advice to the new Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.

Nimoy's Mr. Spock is a character who transcended time, being relevant both in the past and in the present. His trademark Vulcan greeting, "Live long and prosper," accompanied by the "V" hand sign, has become part and parcel of popular culture. The fictitious Vulcan powers of mind probing and nerve pinching have also become touchstones of pop culture.

While "Star Trek" is indubitably Nimoy's bread and butter, he has made science fiction his own by providing the voice of both Galvatron ("Transformers; the Movie," 1986) and Sentinel Prime ("Transformers: Dark of the Moon," 2011), and by playing the character of William Bell in the sci-fi TV series, "Fringe."

Aside from being an actor, Nimoy was also a director and writer. He directed the third and fourth original cast movies, and wrote the story for the fourth and sixth movies.

Nimoy was not above making fun of himself, as he hams it up hilariously in the music video of Bruno Mars' "The Lazy Song." In the video, there's a lot of referencing to "Star Trek", and Nimoy sends it all up in a puff of smoke.

Unfortunately, it was smoking that eventually caused Nimoy's demise yesterday, as he had contracted chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), even though he had stopped smoking 30 years prior.

Below is a tweet Nimoy posted a few days before his death:

Even though Leonard Nimoy is no longer with us, he will continue to be with us through his work. Whenever we watch "Star Trek," we will always remember him.

Requiescat in pace, Leonard Nimoy. Live long, and prosper.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Look at the Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight

So, the fight that everyone has been clamoring for is finally pushing through. On May 2, 2015, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., puts his unbeaten record on the line to face Manny Pacquiao, in a match that pits the top two pound-for-pound fighters against each other.

It is a fight that is long in coming, thanks in a large part to Mayweather's perceived ducking of the fight. Over the past few years, Mayweather has done everything he could possibly conceive, from drug issues to promoter conflicts, to prevent the fight from happening. Mayweather has also been incredibly arrogant, engaging in taunt after taunt after taunt against Pacquiao; in doing so, Mayweather has earned the ire of many boxing fans, both for his arrogance, and for his perceived cowardice. One can only wonder why Mayweather has finally agreed to the fight.

Perhaps it's because he sees Pacquiao has having lost his killer instinct, as Pacquiao has won all of his last few fights via judges' decision. Even Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's expert trainer, has admitted that Pacquiao may have lost his desire to pummel an opponent into senselessness, saying, "He feels that to beat a person, you don't have to kill him or knock him out." If this is the case, it could be one reason why Mayweather consented to the fight, since he may no longer be in danger of being knocked out by Pacquiao. This may be to Mayweather's advantage, since he is known to be a skillful ring tactician.

Pacquiao's faith may also contribute to his more compassionate nature, although Pacquiao demonstrated some hubris when he declared that God was on his side, and that God would deliver Mayweather to him. It probably would have been better for Pacquiao to keep quiet about how his faith will come into play, for, if he should lose, his rash words may come back to haunt him.

At the same time, it's no secret that Pacquiao's priorities are not all with boxing at the moment. As it is, he's splitting time (if one can call it that) between his duties in Congress (almost non-existent, being one of the most absentee representatives), his ludicrous basketball career, and his role as an entertainer, aside from his boxing training. The divided attention may mean that Pacquiao's focus may not be as it used to be, and this will give an opening to Mayweather.

While the apparent lack of killer instinct and his divided priorities may be factors in Pacquiao's fight against Mayweather, it should also be noted that Pacquiao is coming off a number of impressive victories, albeit via judges' decision. Also, it's no secret that Pacquiao has had Mayweather in his sights for so long that the fight may trigger dormant feelings and skills that may come into play in the fight.

Pacquiao still also has Roach in his corner, and his trainer's expertise in the sport, and his ability to mold Pacquiao into the fighter Roach envisions, will be one of the key factors in the fight.

It is clear to many that, while this fight was much desired, this fight is less than what it should have been had Mayweather agreed to fight Pacquiao when both were at the height of their boxing prowess. This knowledge will not detract from the fact that this will probably be one of the richest, if not the richest, payoffs in boxing history. Here's hoping that, on May 2, Pacquiao will emerge victorious.