Friday, July 29, 2005


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Happy birthday, schmuck.
We love you just the same.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Feel the Starbucks love.

There's no question that Starbucks has taken over the Philippines. In Makati, the birthplace of the yuppie, it's impossible for you not to spot Lady Liberty while walking along Ayala Avenue, Valero, Legaspi, Salcedo Village, Makati Avenue, Kalayaan Avenue, you name it.

Its overpriced coffee scared me at first. It still does, and I don't even like coffee. The only drink I regularly order is their Rhumba. And I think it's more of a dessert rather than a drink, which is why I love it.

The one time I deviated from their Rhumba was a couple of years back. I ordered a caramel macchiato, and thought it would be too bitter for my taste. To soothe my worry, I asked the barista, and she said it wasn't. After the first sip, I screwed up my face and looked back toward the counter with all the fury and loathing I could muster. I never felt so betrayed in my life.

When I went to Australia last year for a peace conference, I think the first thing that struck me was the relative lack of Starbucks there. I went around Sydney and couldn't spot anything remotely like Lady Liberty. I did see a lot of Gloria Jean's stores, though, plus various coffee kiosks like this:

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Djong gave me an interesting site that calls itself I Hate Starbucks. The owner is funny, smart, and capable of returning the insults to him with dry wit. Examples:


I get a lot of email of people calling me "looser". What am I looser than? How do you know? Have you been reading my diary? If you are going to call someone a loser, at least spell it right. It really helps with the credibility.

When I accidently came across this web site I was curious to learn why anyone would exert their energy to HATE STARBUCKS. After reading the first 20 messages I realized who these "haters" are. They are un-educated, un-informed and largely un-civilized cretons. Not one message of the 20 had perfect grammer or spelling. Most made no sense and all were simply bitter, lazy people who are jealous of the success of Starbucks.

This is a great one. Not content to call me a "looser" she called everyone who posts on the website "cretons". I think she meant "cretins", but I wasn't entirely certain. English, it has to be said, has a lot of words. So I looked it up. The closest thing I could find was:

Pronunciation: 'krE-"tän, kri-'
Function: noun
Etymology: French, from Creton, Normandy
: a strong cotton or linen cloth used especially for curtains and upholstery

This is another case of someone reaching just a bit too high intellectually to make an argument sound more sharp. In fact, D.S. you have proved who is the real cretin.

I won't go into the fact that you spelled grammar wrong.

Higher, faster and stronger has to do with the olympics, not your sad attempts to use biting rhetoric. Stick to mouth-breathing, T.V. watching and snack food eating.


To view the entries, go straight to the bulletin board. Some are downright hilarious. And they all seem to share a general hatred of those snobby yuppies and pa-cool teenagers who think that carrying around a cup of Starbucks gives them a sense of real belonging.

Or it just might be the coffee.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Why? For the love of...WHY?!

Veronica Mars wasn't even nominated for this year's Emmys. Not even Kristin Bell.

BOO! BOO! A thousand poxes on your house!

What is Veronica Mars about, pray? Simple.

In the monied town of Neptune, Veronica has the perfect life at 16 - her boyfriend is a dreamboat and the son of a local billionaire, she is popular (but not wealthy), and is generally loved by everyone.

Until her boyfriend breaks up with her and her best friend (the sister of dreamboat boyfriend) gets murdered. She is instantly ostracized from her uppity high school clique for choosing to side with her dad, the local sheriff who pinpoints local billionaire as the murderer of his own daughter. Dad then loses job and Mom splits, leaving her to deal with her issues alone.

Dad becomes a private investigator and chases bail jumpers for a living. She helps with the cases as much as she can, balancing math homework and catching late-night adulterers/adulteresses in the act.

Did I mention how brilliant the writing is for this series?

I tell you, watch this show. You're dead to me if you don't.

Local show times:
Wednesdays at 8.30 on ETC.
Sundays (reruns) at 4 pm on ETC. [thanks Phil!]

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Because I'm religion's biggest fan.

For the past couple of months, the US Supreme Court (SC) has been embroiled in a host of cases that run the gamut, from illegal filesharing to New York Times journalists refusing to divulge their sources to the separation between church and state.

The last one is what I'm interested in writing about (not to say that the other two are appallingly boring, just that they're ancillary to the current topic), the divide between the church and the state.

From what I remember reading of US history, most of the early settlers came over to escape religious persecution in Europe. The middle colonies of British North America - New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania - became a stage for the western world’s most complex experience with religious pluralism.
The mid-Atlantic region, unlike either New England or the South, drew many of its initial settlers from European states that had been deeply disrupted by the Protestant Reformation and the religious wars that followed in its wake. Small congregations of Dutch Mennonites, French Huguenots, German Baptists, and Portuguese Jews joined larger communions of Dutch Reformed, Lutherans, Quakers, and Anglicans to create a uniquely diverse religious society. African Americans and the indigenous Indians, with religious traditions of their own, added further variety to the Middle Colony mosaic. (make clicky with the link above; same article)
I may be mistaken in my reading, but I'm sure that the US constitution separated church and state so that other Americans could freely practice whatever religion they wanted. Say, if you have Baptists in government positions, they could be haranguing Catholics till kingdom come.

To be more specific, here are some actual laws that were passed in the years after the Revolutionary War:
  • Prohibited clergy from holding office
  • Required legislators to be Protestant Christians
  • Granted religious and other human rights only to Christians, or only to theists
  • Specified "The Protestant Religion" (whatever that meant) to be the established religion of the state (make clicky with the link)
Now, there have been two high-profile cases in Texas and Kentucky recently (plus the SC's decision on those) that are causing a lot of social backlash.

In a nutshell:

A six-foot granite monument of the Ten Commandments had been set up on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. In Kentucky, framed copies of the Ten Commandments had been hanging in two courthouses. Last June 29, the SC's decision allowed Texas to keep their commandments but forbade Kentucky from hanging theirs. Scratch your head all you want, because it doesn't seem to make any sense.

In the first ruling, the court ruled that the Kentucky displays violated the Establishment clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government from endorsing or supporting one religion above others. The court allowed Texas to keep its display, because it could be arguably held through 'historical context', a 'legitimate tribute' to the country's history.

"Simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment clause," Justice William H. Rehnquist said in the Texas decision.

So what does this mean then? Displays on religion inside and on government property will be decided on a case to case basis.

The SC justices struggled with the decision as evidenced by the 5-4 vote. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens wondered where the religious line should be drawn (they both dissented). The court ruled in 1983 that legislative prayer is allowable, citing its historical significance, but in 1992 disallowed it in public schools, as students might be pressured to join in.

"The touchstone for our analysis is the principle that the 'First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,'" Justice David H. Souter wrote in the majority opinion, citing previous court rulings.

And here comes the question of neutrality, as pointed out by Justice Antonin Scalia.

Listing the various ways in which higher beings are invoked in public life — from "so help me God" in inaugural oaths to the prayer that opens the Supreme Court's sessions — Scalia asked, "With all of this reality (and much more) staring it in the face, how can the court possibly assert that 'the First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality' [on religion]?"

The raging debate only continues on more heatedly with the SC decision. Is it duplicitous? It seems to be so. But it doesn't come down to simply being 'black and white'. As the justices have shown, there remains to be a difference of opinion even when legally backed by previous high court decisions. And that, in my opinion, is what makes discussions about the separation between church and state layered and nuanced.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

They're keeping a stiff upper lip.

Them Londoners, their fighting spirit is commendable.

From the Inquirer's World section:
London - Millions of defiant Londoners returned to work on Monday to hammer home the message: "It's business as usual" after last week's train and bus bombs killed at least 49 people...

Government worker Pam Bramidge said she had deliberately chosen to sit upstairs on a No. 30, on the same route as the bus which had its roof blown off last Thursday. She said she was not surprised by Londoners' defiance, which was also recalled at celebrations on Sunday to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

"It's what I would have expected really, particularly after the celebration yesterday," she said on the bus. "I think there's a spirit."
Keep defying, London.

Monday, July 11, 2005

'It's not your job to save the world...'

Looks like someone got their collective hand slapped with a scolding from the Papal Nuncio and backed by Papa Ratzi's Vatican.
Two bishops confirmed NEWSBREAK’s information that [Papal Nuncio] Franco scolded them Saturday (July 9) morning over what he described as excessive political meddling of some bishops. He gave his piece of mind in his traditional address at the opening of the CBCP’s annual plenary assembly in Pope Pius Center. (Newsbreak Online)
Thank heavens for small blessings. Finally someone from their own spiritual institution had the right idea and decided to, at the very least, set the score between the church and the state. What is the score between the church and the state, you may ask? That they are two separate institutions, hence, the separation of church and state. In years past, the country blithely has blithely ignored this constitutional truth. Now, though, it takes "excessive political meddling" to get a rise out of Franco (not that I don't mind).
In his July 9 address, Franco told the bishops he “cleared” his message with the Vatican, which is monitoring how the local Church is behaving in the current political crisis. Franco said the Vatican is displeased over too much political interference by the local Church and would no longer tolerate it. (bold mine)
If this is the direction that the new Vatican is taking, then thank God. In Sassy's similar posting, a reader asked a question: Were the bishops castigated because it was an ‘adverse’ decision? The Vatican had all the power and authority to stop them before, or during the said meeting? A good question, yes, although others might say that the Vatican was monitoring the Philippine situation and decided that now was a good time as any other to make a point.
Franco pointed out “that bishops are out of their place when they get into direct action, attending rallies on political issues, siding with one group or another, being used by parties with hidden agenda for purposes of grabbing power… I am convinced that this direct action is being exploited for partisan politics and it is wrong for the Church and for the country.”
Franco has underlined, in one simple statement, the behavior of the Catholic church in the last decade or so. Wouldn't you agree?

In another article about academics, Stanley Fish talks about the role of academia and why we built the ivory tower. I'll write about this more in another post, but his introduction in this article needs to be said.
After nearly five decades in academia, and five and a half years as a dean at a public university, I exit with a three-part piece of wisdom for those who work in higher education: do your job; don't try to do someone else's job, as you are unlikely to be qualified; and don't let anyone else do your job. In other words, don't confuse your academic obligations with the obligation to save the world; that's not your job as an academic...In short, don't cross the boundary between academic work and partisan advocacy, whether the advocacy is yours or someone else's. (bold mine)
Substitute the word "academic" with "spiritual" and maybe we've just hit the nail right on the head.

My 45 seconds.

There really wasn't anything original, unique, funny, or charming left to say to this man.

All I could say was this:

Hi Neil. I used some of your stories from 'Smoke and Mirrors' for my thesis.

Briefly looks up, surprised



Continues writing his name on 'Murder Mysteries'

What about?


Looks up once more, and ponders

Well, my stories are pretty subversive.

I laugh.

And there you have it.

Thank you so much, Mr. Gaiman.