Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Silver, Big Boy, and Ding -- survivors

Silver, British Shorthair, and Pogi with no hair

If you enter our bedroom, tiny Silver with her thin legs will stand up and emerge from her niche, then walk, lurch, stumble, stagger, fall on her belly with a small "plop," get up again, till she reaches your feet, friendly, trusting, undemanding, affectionate. And she will be perfectly happy if you offer her milk or boiled chicken if she is hungry. If you observe for a while, you will notice that this tiny but resolute survivor can easily fit into my palm, just a fragile pulse of life which I hope hope hope will grow strong, and play, and live beyond kittenhood.

Silver is too small for her age, three going on four weeks, born to Shorthair mom Ruby, a day after Persian Mau's new baby, still unnamed, arrived with three other siblings. The other day, Leena was trying on some appropriate name for the bigger Persian baby, talking to the newcomer: "Big boy ka 'no, di tulad ni Silver linggit." I interjected, "Why not call him Big Boy then." That should have settled it, but when I told Melay of the nomination, she exclaimed, "Ano?! Babae din siya." We are now thinking of giving Big Girl the name Oggy, after the blue cat of the Cartoon Channel. We will decide if the name is suitably androgynous to fit. 

"Big Boy"; Silver -- born just a day apart

To differentiate between Silver and the-one-who-must-still-be-named-correctly, Melay for the while calls the latter "Dams," short for Damulag, to emphasize the contrast in size between her wards. We don't know why Silver has not developed to full size, why her short tail is bent (Leena says Silver is "bobtailed"), and whether she can outgrow her frailty, but I'm definite she belongs with us. She is family.

Here's the family record: Starting about 7 p.m. of 2012 July 28, Persian Mau started giving birth. The first child died of birth defect, second to emerge was "Dams," the third was stillborn, and the fourth lived for two days and succumbed to another genetic abnormality. In cases like these we deflect the thoughts of so many deaths and focus on the blessing of the one who lived. Three for the Rainbow Bridge (located under our mango tree) and one for our hearts. So far.

Melay and baby "Dams" (Tintin)

The following day, at about 7 p.m., Shorthair Ruby gave birth to wee Silver in another room. The vet, Leena, and Melay kept vigil for the next arrivals, but it became obvious by early next morning that Silver is destined to be an only child. We did not know then that Silver, like the famous Steve Jobs, will be transferred for adoption a few hours after her birth.

However, it's not that the father and Ruby sent her off: Silver lacks a newborn's instinct that often can be fatal -- she cannot smell the life-giving milk in her mother's breast. When Leena saw that she could not find and feed on the milk and natural vitamins that nourish breastfed children to health and growth, she took the hungry kitten to Mau in our room. Mau, the loving mom even for kittens not her own,  licked the new arrival and added her to her diminished brood. Still, Silver cannot breastfeed from wetnurse and surrogate mother Mau, so Leena and Melay took turns feeding her by baby bottle every two hours for some sleep-deprived weeks. It takes a lot of love and patience.

So it has been to this day: late night up to noon, Leena answers to Silvers shrill quest for sustenance and companionship. When Leena goes to the office, Melay takes over until Leena returns. We noticed that when no one is in the room, Silver does not cry out even when hungry.

Feeding time for Silver

There's this stoic attitude among cats that I deeply admire; they do not gripe, they ignore their disabilities and adjust to what is left of their capability. So, Silver with her spindly hind leg -- her bent tail which lack the proper function to balance her movements -- still struggles through all the strenuous process to approach and greet anyone who enters her sanctuary.


Another survivor who has joined our family is Ding, a pusakal (pusang kalye) picked up two weeks ago by Neneng at the height of Habagat, the non-typhoon which was almost as destructive as Ondoy. Ding, then a thin, wet and hungry creature was shivering in the guardhouse at the entrance to our street. Neneng saw him and decided to bring him home, where he was dried off and fed. By the manner he devoured his food, Ding apparently was at the point of starvation, shown by the the ribs sticking out of his frail body. Today he seems to have filled out; at night he nestles on Neneng's neck for warmth and blissful sleep.

Ding, less than one-month old

I don't know if cats have a concept of courage, of fortitude, but their forbearance is admirable, even inspiring. The ancient Egyptians had the correct appreciation of cats, which were even deified in the times of the pharaohs. When I think of pets, my mind seeks out part of a poem in Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass":

I think I could turn and live with animals,
They are so placid and self -contained;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
Not one is dissatisfied -- not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth.

Note:  It has been verified today, 2012 August 27, that "Big Boy" is a girl. So we gave her a name which we think will meet her approval -- Christine Grey, or Tintin. It's apt: she has 50 shades of lovable traits.

Silver is stronger now (January 2013) and will be six months old on the 29th. Here's a recent photo I posted in Facebook:

Silver reading Rushdie with me

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Shalala in the Morning

3:48 a.m.
My insomnia seems to be a bit off this morning, but then again I remember Leena remarking as she turned off the nightlight: "Wow! It's already 12:12." She watched to the end Mr. Popper's Penguins. I, too, like Jim Carrey films, my favorite being Liar, Liar.

I can't remember when exactly I became aware that someone is not telling me the truth, and the reason for the lie. For smarter persons, that moment is an early awakening to the realities of how this planet works, and they easily adapt and adjust their way of life and thinking. Smart people get rich early in life.

It took decades of being pummeled by lies and half-truths before I even wondered why most of us accommodates the inexact: the misinformation, the ignorance, the lack of fact. I almost said "the lack of faith," and I remember reading somewhere that "Just because someone is willing to die for his belief does not mean he is right."

My old and sleepless mind can't grasp who first expressed that observation, which shook me some from my dumbness. It might have been Voltaire, but the sentiment seems modern, more in the line of Oscar Wilde. Whatever.

Then I thought of Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black telling alien-scoffing Will Smith something about the progress, or, to be exact, the regression, of human learning: "People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."

That statement is a revelation, in this age of terabyte programming and smart TV. But I have already observed that our technology is light-years ahead of our morality or life-values. 

Back in 1998 Erap became  president. That would indirectly affect my position at People's Tonight. First, Joe Burgos, a veteran newsman I admired since the early 1980s, was persuaded to come out of retirement to become CEO of Philippine Journalists Incorporated, which owned People's Tonight,People's Journal, Taliba, Women's Journal, and the defunct and discredited money-losing broadsheet,Time Journal. When Burgos and his retinue of veterans arrived, he apportioned them to each publications, giving respect and precedence to the original personnel. At Tonight, associate editor Franklin Cabaluna was promoted to Executive Editor, a jump of two ranks and payscale. I was propelled from my supervisory post of copy editor to Managing Editor, ascending three ranks up with corresponding payscale, which enabled me to amass loads and loads of stamps and books.

After a few weeks, when Burgos and his appointees were settled in, I was summoned to his office. He asked me what task I performed when I was copy editor. I told him I edited and did the layouts for the two op-ed pages, including the editorial, written every day by the publisher. I also edited and did the layout for story I chose for the back page, and some minor stories for the other minor pages. That's a lot of work and responsibilities for a minor position; he saw that. It was my first conversation with a newsman I admired. I'm sure I could learn a lot from him, and I did, about fairness, integrity, and honesty -- which Erap did not possess.

"Can you," he said, "write a mock editorial about our anti-smut drive and submit it in our meeting tomorrow? Of course it will not be actually used." The test of ability has come, and my future role will be determined by the quality of my writing.

Next day before the 3 o'clock editors' meeting I gave him my assignment, my opinion about lurid films and tabloids that featured nude photos, thus outselling our publications by a huge margin.

My mock editorial about smut films and tabloids pointed out that Man has made giant leaps in technology since the time he discovered fire and made the wheel, leading to spacecraft that sent our species to the moon, and voyagers that went through and beyond our solar system, beaming back clear and colored images of giant Jupiter, a giant multi-layered orange marble with its huge stormy eye; of beautiful Saturn floating inside its rings; of big blue Neptune, its axis inexplicably tilted out of alignment, and hazy pluto which distance kept shrouded in mystery, exuding inexact information about its vague and lonely isolation.

The point is, for every step Man took forward, he took two steps back. For example, when printing was developed about 3000 BC, on cloth in Europe and India, on paper in China, tracts about religion were disseminated. That seems ok, but then sexual tales with erotic images followed. Same thing happened in painting, photography and sculpture; then, with new technologies like Betamax, VHS on to CDs and DVDs, our culture was inundated with X-rated movies. Every quality and mordant film was matched by thousands of lurid ones. Man is light-years ahead in technology, but in morals and ethics, he's just one step away from the cave. 

We are primordial creatures. I sincerely hope we are not the best species the universe can provide.

(To be continued next insomnia, if ever...)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lyrically yours

3:04 a.m.
In one or two biographies of the Beatles, John Lennon was quoted as saying that he wanted to be a millionaire by the time he became twenty-one. When I first read about that in Hunter Davies' paperback I was in high school, and I thought, "Why not? Me too. Should not be too hard to do." 

1968 Paperback Edition

Looking back, I wonder about the refulgent optimism of youth. Lennon wanted a million pounds so he could drop out of school and not have to work for the rest of his life. He made it. I was about 16 when I bought and read the Davies book.

My goal was smaller in scale: I needed a million pesos to buy the entire stock of very early Batman comics a music record dealer kept in several crates in Angeles City. When I turned 21 I found myself in college, stretching my allowance to make ends meet. Not rich, no comics even.

I did not know the basic ingredients of success back then, in 1972. Neither did the professors, I noticed.

To be rich you must have (1) a tremendous amount of talent, and (2) a more tremendous will to use it to attain your goal. I did not have either.

John could sing and compose tunes, John was creative in his guitar play, John had the courage to drop out of school, which he felt was hampering his plan. He formed his band, met Paul and George and (3) worked liked hell to earn some money. It took some time before (4) they earned their luck that launched them to fame and history.

John has been dead at 40 since December 8, 1980, but his music still brings in big royalties. He's dead but still earning much more per annum than the majority of living stiffs who go to 9-to-5 jobs, like high school teachers.

George Harrison died of cancer in 2001. If you're a member of the bestselling rock band in history, death does not stop the income from pouring in.

Paul McCartney still lives. He sang Hey Jude at the London Olympics at the opening ceremony. He has been a millionaire since he was 21.

Lennon reminds me of the young Chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, who at 15 trounced old champions and became the youngest grandmaster then. He dropped out of school so he could spend all his time absorbing tons of books about anything concerning Chess. He had heaps of talents and he used all his time and energy on the game. In short, he had ingredients 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the recipe.

Some people still managed to snag ingredient 4 to escape the rat race of drudgery. Lotto did it for them, like the security guard who won the P163 million jackpot. Lucky people do not need talent, will to succeed, nor hard work. Luck, like death, is a great equalizer. 

I think billiards' Bata Reyes has #1, #3 and #4. Manny Pacquiao, too, but his ability is so great and the box office demand for his ability to pummel people down to the canvass is so huge that he became a billionaire in a few years. Now he is a congressman: on record his wealth surpasses the wealth of Senate President Enrile and other politicians who took decades to acquire theirs. Score one for the working man.


Back to my high school days. To give you a perspective of the value of a million pesos in the early 1970s, I will cite the microeconomics of a struggling high school student. At that time, board and lodging at the dorm of the exclusive Chiang Kai-shek College -- a bed and three meals a day -- cost only P90. That's right, less than the cost of a big Mac and fries at McDo or Jollibee, junk shops which did not exist back then. Jeepney fare was 25 centavos, fresh egg was 30 centavos, postage for regular mail 15 centavos, a Forecast bet for Jai Alai was P5, and Chess books were already expensive. I remember dreaming of the The Games of Robert J. Fischer, a hardbound edition which Popular Bookstore was selling at P90, exactly my dorm fee for a month. I can't remember how I eventually acquired that book: it's in 
P90 in 1972
my library now, one of the few books from my early days to have survived. 

Chess books cost more today. I remember asking my daughter in New York to buy me Series 5 of Kasparov's My Chess Predecessors. Cost me about $37, I think, and more for the shipping from there to here in QC.

Obviously, having no significant talent to exploit, I settled for less than a million to just having enough to buy the things I need in life, mostly books. After five years of a B.S. Mechanical Engineering course at UST, I went home to Angeles City. Jobless, I helped for a while at the family sari-sari store. It's a drudgery where you can find yourself just getting old and wasted in the vicious cycle of buying and selling canned goods and detergent bars. Earn money, spend your life. I shudder when I think of the epitaphs for businessmen.

"Here lies Sir Knight Juan Mercado. Sold 2,000,000 cans Ligo Sardines, 50,000 cases Ajax detergent bars. He got rich but forgot to live." Mourned by doddering Knights of Columbus and the jolly good fellows of the local Rotary and Chamber of Commerce.

Here's mine: "He was of no consequence, but he was pogi for life." c'',)

Is there a shortcut to wealth at all? Lotto, of course. And politics, drug dealing, jueteng operations, cornering the telecommunications, water and electricity monopoly and other big crimes.

But does it make you happy, all that wealth? I don't think so.

Since it will take another long insomnia to blog out the reasons why with great wealth comes great responsibility and misery, I'll just provide the simple one-way test to determine if you are happy at any time in your life.

Just ask yourself, "Am I happy now?" The only right answer is an immediate "Yes." Any other answer means "No." If you try to rationalize, you are in a state of denial.

Isn't life fun? Only if you know how to play.