Archive | June, 2014

FF Podcast (Audio) 42: Should Politicians Suffer in Jail?

FF Podcast (Audio) 42: Should Politicians Suffer in Jail?

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) 42 - Should Politicians Suffer in Jail?

This week, we talk about politicians charged with plunder and whether they deserve their special treatment.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Politics, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 42: Should Politicians Suffer in Jail?

FF Podcast 42: Should Politicians Suffer in Jail?

This week, we talk about politicians charged with plunder and whether they deserve their special treatment.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Society, Video1 Comment

Filipino Freethinkers Meetup, Saturday, June 28, 2014

Important: Register for (free) tickets.

Location: Samsung Hall, SM Aura Premier, McKinley Pkwy, Taguig, Philippines
Date: Saturday, June 28, 2014
Time: 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM

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Google Map

RSVP on Facebook

Join us in celebrating Social Media Day with TweetUpMNL and social media communities in the Philippines!
Gates open at 1 PM, but we will be having a special meetup during the festivities starting at 3 PM.

Topics

1) Trolls vs. Free Speech: Finding the Balance

2) The Worst Internet Service in South East Asia: What to Do?

3) The Internet Echo Chamber: Are You Only Friends with People You Agree With?

 

After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* Newbies are welcome, and admission is free.
* Early birds get to play board/video/party games with the group.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.

***

TweetUP Manila Press Release
Pinoy netizens, communities gear up for Social Media Day 2014

Internet users and diverse online communities take centerstage on Saturday June 28, as the Philippines holds its 3rd annual and grandest Social Media Day celebration at SM Aura Premier’s Samsung Hall in Taguig City.

A global initiative of US-based technology website Mashable, Social Media Day is celebrated across the world and, since 2012, in various cities in the Philippines, led by TweetUp Manila.

Event organizer TweetUp Manila expect over 1,000 participants on Saturday, led by a gregarious and dynamic pack of communities.

Delivering the keynote address is champion entrepreneur Jonathan Allan Yabut, Season 1 winner of the hit pan-Asian reality show The Apprentice Asia, who is expected to call on Filipinos to seize the opportunities opened by social media and the internet to achieve and spread broad-based, grassroots-based prosperity.

#BoomPH, the event theme, hopes to capture this, as well as capitalize on the country’s celebration this year of the 20th anniversary of the Philippines’ first internet connection.

Other major speakers in the conference portion of Social Media Day will tackle digital trends and what the Philippines could expect in social media, internet and digital professions.

According to Ros Juan, co-founder of TweetUp Manila, “communities play a vital role in the tremendous growth of social media in the Philippines. Social Media Day is our way of celebrating their countless contributions, for if not for them, the social media space across our islands would not be as relevant, dynamic and fun!” said Juan.

Among the participating communities are: IGers Manila, Tumblr Philippines, Mozilla Philippines, Windows Phone Users, Google Business Groups (GBG), Google Student Assistants (GSA), Google Education Group (GEG), Google Developers Group (GDG), Hootsuite Ambassadors, Soundcloud Philippines, istorya.net, iVolunteer.ph, Tradeschool Manila, Philippine Web Designers Organization, Filipino Freethinkers, Change.org PH, Youth Act Now and labor advocacy group EILER Inc.

Community representatives lead the Social Media Day 2014 battery of speakers to tell their stories of activities, services, and advocacies, and would have their booths and product demonstrations at a mini-trade show and fair, also at the venue.

The event is free and open to all. Tickets and more information about Social Media Day are now available at http://tweetupmnl.com.

Supporting Social Media Day are SM Cares, Globe Telecom, BPI, Asia Brewery, Nestle, ATI, Solid Mac, Picture City, Digit DM9, Smart, Google, Hootsuite, Beyond the Box, Thoughtbuzz, Team Manila, Oishi, Echostore, Commune, Bayani Brew, Puto Flan, Burger Company, Croque, Bronuts, Moon Leaf.

Media Partners are: Solar News, The Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, BlogWatch, PinoyExchange and Tomasian Cable TV.

Posted in Announcements, Meetup, Organization1 Comment

The Unicorn Dilemma: How Purity Myths Harm Women

In the research writing classes I teach in Asia Pacific College, I usually allow students to select whatever topic they are interested in. It’s quite amusing to find out what kids today are interested in. But the most rewarding moment for me is when a student experiences an epiphany, a realization or an understanding a student arrives at on his own.

I had a student who wanted to write about unicorns. She wanted to write about unicorns because she had a unicorn lampshade, a unicorn blanket, and unicorn stuffed toys. There was something about unicorns that truly fascinated her. By the end of the term, after 2 months of research, she no longer liked the unicorn as much.

The unicorn is one of the most beloved mythological creatures. As it’s often portrayed in the cartoon “My Little Pony,” if there was a hierarchy of beloved horse-like creatures, the unicorn would be at the top. However, the unicorn myth, my student learns the hard way, is a myth that reinforces the notion that virgins are better than non-virgins. It’s also one of the myths that reinforce the double-standard between male and female promiscuity.

The unicorn is a creature is linked to ideas of purity & innocence. According to one legend, only a female virgin with a pure heart can ever see a unicorn. Another version of the legend, says that only a female virgin can “tame” a unicorn, and if a non-virgin attempts to tame one, the unicorn will disembowel her with his mythical horn.

Immediately, both versions of the legend sets a faulty premise:

The unicorn myth implies that virgins are entitled to something non-virgins are not; that virgins are better than non-virgins. But there is a double-standard: If you are a man, your virginity is irrelevant, because a man, virgin or non-virgin, would neither see a unicorn nor tame one.

Women are punished for sexuality, men are not. Attitudes such as those portrayed in old myths tend to demonize female sexuality as something “impure” or something worthy of death-by-horn. These attitudes persist even today.

While some would argue that a lot has changed regarding our perception of purity, most feminist would disagree. The fact is that a lot of men have a biased preference for a female virgin, a lot of people still hold the idea that the value of a female somehow correlates with her sexual purity, and a lot of boys and girls are indoctrinated into this belief.

Jezebel’s Lindy West discusses this matter in her article, “Female Purity is Bullshit.” West refers to a speech by kidnapping and rape survivor Elizabeth Smart, where Smart explains why she didn’t run from those who have taken her or even screamed for help, even when she was taken in public.

Smart explains that she had a religious upbringing where sex was compared to chewing gum. She says, “I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value.”

Lindy West adds that, “The myth of female purity—the idea that ‘good girls have become as extinct as unicorns’—could very easily have contributed to years more sexual slavery for Elizabeth Smart. Or her death.”

In her book, “The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women,” Jessica Valenti confronts the either/or, virgin/slut, purity binary society places upon women. She argues that society has a habit of equating sexual purity with morality.

She says that this emphasis on the hymen has dangerous implications, “For women especially, virginity has become the easy answer- the morality quick fix. You can be vapid, stupid, and unethical, but so long as you’ve never had sex, you’re a “good” (i.e. “moral) girl and therefore worthy of praise.”

Furthermore, she argues that this dichotomy that women are presented with is a false dilemma: either you are a slut or a non-slut. This exclusively female dilemma creates an imbalance though; it places male sexuality as permissible and blameless regardless of how it’s expressed.

She says, “When women’s sexuality is imagined to be passive or ‘dirty,’ it also means that men’s sexuality is automatically positioned as aggressive and right-no matter what form it takes.”

In other words, it implies that a woman should take a passive role in the sexual encounter, and if she doesn’t, she’s a slut. However, a man is allowed to take both the passive and active roles without being penalized. If a man wants a “virgin” he has to take the active role, because a “virgin” would never initiate the sexual pursuit. But if a man wants to be passive, it’s also okay because it’s the active “slut’s” fault that the sexual encounter was consummated.

unicorn

The myth of the unicorn exhibits female sexuality as a flaw – something that would rob a maiden of the privilege of seeing a unicorn, or in worse cases, something that is punishable by death. The narratives we encounter in myths have an effect on how we see the world. That is why I think it is important to actively dispel these myths.

In other words, what I’m really trying to say is, “The unicorn is not special, neither is a woman’s virginity. Get over it.”

Posted in Religion, Society3 Comments

From Social Rejection to Social Acceptance: The Adventures of My Little Brony

I don’t travel much, but I still consider myself a recreational tourist. I have the belief that the only thing you need to do to see new places is to look at old places with defamiliarized eyes. Borrowing a world-view, or attempting to understand a perspective, allows me to enjoy a variety of experiences from the comfort and safety of my own couch. One of the most interesting perspectives I have done a lot of reading on is the world of the Brony.

A brony, to simplify, is a dedicated fan of the show, “My Little Pony,” a show that was designed for young girls. A huge legion of male young adults have created an entire subculture around this show. I tried watching the show a few times. It didn’t appear to me as anything I would consider special. However, I do understand how it’s different from other shows – It’s so fucking friendly.

The brony culture emerged from 4chan. At first, the intent was to make fun of the show. But as the 4chan-ers watched episode after episode, they developed a liking for the show and started making memes about them to annoy members of the site who hated the show. Instead of being confrontational or defensive about their preference for the show, bronies often defaulted to responses like these:

1

The attitude assumed by many brony’s reflect the spirit of the show.

In his article, “Geek Love: On the Matter of Bronies,” Jacob Clifton attempts to explain the brony’s surprising tolerance for girly things. Clifton says that feminism paved the way for a generation of boys to be raised unconscious of the walls between what is traditionally accepted as male and what is traditionally accepted as female. This development allowed these men to see beyond the pink ponies and rainbows and appreciate the show for what it is, minus the “it’s kind-­of gay” gut reaction of an earlier generation.

“The protagonist is introduced to a cast of characters drawn from the most terrifying archetypes of our young lives,” says Clifton. And yet, the main task of the protagonist is, “to understand and accept others as being different from Self and acceptable anyway,” before she takes on her pre­ordained leadership role.

It’s a show about tolerance. It portrays a world where friendship is valued as something mystical and worth pursuing. It’s not a surprise then that it appeals to a lot of men who have grown tired of being rejected for not having traditional masculine attributes, for not liking popular things, or for not being cool enough.

Here’s a show, and an entire subculture that can collectively say, “You like Michael Learns to Rock? It’s okay, bro. We love and tolerate you anyway.” I mean, I liked Michael Learns to Rock when I was in high school (when Nirvana was “the thing to like”) and it would have been really awesome if someone said that to me.

The point is, “Friendship is magic.”

In his article, Clifton mentions a guy who said that, “he’d learned more about emotional and social life from one season of the show than from thirty years of living.”

Brony culture is reassuring. It’s okay to like things other people don’t think are cool. It’s okay to be honest about how we feel. It’s okay to express our appreciation for our friends. Suddenly, it’s okay to be yourself.

In other words, brony culture promotes values praised by what is known in not­hipster circles as neo-sincerity, which we will talk about in my next article, “Irony, Neo­-Sincerity, and Masculinity: My Little Brony Revisited.”

And, in the spirit of neo-­sincerity, I would just like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for you, dear reader. It’s really cool that you’re taking the time to read my articles. Thank you for tolerating the shit out of my sometimes difficult to tolerate ideas. Have a nice day. Let’s keep our friendships magical.

Posted in Entertainment, Society1 Comment

FF Podcast (Audio) 41: Alex Gonzaga and Anti-Atheist Bigotry

FF Podcast (Audio) 41: Alex Gonzaga and Anti-Atheist Bigotry

Alex-Gonzaga

This week, we talk about Alex Gonzaga and her prejudiced rant on Pinoy Big Brother about atheists.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Pop Culture, Religion, Secularism, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 41: Alex Gonzaga and Anti-Atheist Bigotry

Alex Gonzaga rants about atheists

This week, we talk about Alex Gonzaga and her prejudiced rant on Pinoy Big Brother about atheists.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Religion, Society, Video17 Comments

If You Want To Be A Thief

Photo Credit: *sax via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: *sax via Compfight cc

If you want to be a thief in our country, make sure it’s not some petty theft like pickpocketing, robbing a jewelry store or even robbing a bank. Those are quite risky and life-threatening crimes. The potential pay-off of those are in the magnitude of hundreds, thousands or at most, a few million pesos – but the consequences are dire as well – you spend years in one of our overcrowded prisons (like this, this or this), neglected and forgotten except to those very close to you, or if you are unlucky enough to be caught in the act, you may get shot and killed as well.

So if you want to be a thief, go big time. Get close to a politician (and not some two-bit politician either but make sure they are big names) or be one yourself. Do not think about stealing hundreds of thousands or a few million only. Expand your horizons. Think big. Think hundreds of millions, and even billions. The bigger your vision and the grander your scheme, the better it will be for you. Oh, and make sure to make regular and hefty donations to your church, and always maintain an image of outward piety – this will come in handy later, as you will see.

Consider now the consequences if you are caught.

One, you will become an instant celebrity. Your face will be all over the national papers, on television and on the internet. Your name will be on everyone’s lips. You will be the topic of many conversations, tweets and status updates. Never mind that people are cursing your name and damning you to the deepest hell. That is only for the moment. Think long term. Filipinos are a forgiving people. In a few years, their anger will mellow down but you will still be known and famous. Why, you can even run for public office. One only has to think of a certain former first lady with a penchant for shoes, forced to flee from the country three decades ago, only to come back to wield power and influence once more. Heck, one of the accused senators, who thought that a privilege speech is a chance to show off his latest MTV, is even declaring his intent to run for president.

Two, you will get medical privileges. You can avoid going to those nasty prisons and instead opt for “hospital arrest.” All you need is a little skill in acting and a wheelchair. Just make sure to highlight a medical condition you already have and ask to be thoroughly examined. If you’re lucky, the government will even foot the bill for your stay. If not, well, there’s nothing to worry about. Since you had the foresight to steal huge sums of money, you can easily pay for your stay (you will even seem generous for not being a burden on the government). Do you get such benefits as a petty thief? Can you ask for an executive check-up at any of the top hospitals in the country? You should be so lucky if they let you out of your cell to go to the prison infirmary.

Three, your local priest or head of congregation will call for leniency and ask people not to condemn you. This is where your huge donations and friendliness to the clergy pay off. They will quote Jesus who confronted the crowd ready to stone the adulterous woman and say, “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone.” (Never mind that the story does not appear originally in the gospels but is generally thought by scholars to have been added on by scribes at a later point). “Do not condemn the scammers, for you could be just like them,” they will say. But do you hear them uttering those words if you are not a huge contributor or if you are a known critic? It was only a few years ago when a tour guide walked into the Manila Cathedral dressed as Jose Rizal, holding a sign that read “Damaso.” He was later convicted and jailed for “offending religious feelings.” Did you hear the clergy preaching non-condemnation and mercy then, as loudly as they do now? Perhaps he forgot to tithe his ten percent.

Four, you get exclusive accommodations especially built for you. After stealing billions from the government, it now feels obligated to spend a few more millions to ensure that your prison stay is safe and comfortable. Heaven forbid that they throw you into the same jam-packed facilities where they put all other thieves of lesser stature. Surely you deserve more because you stole a whole lot more. In fact, your custom-made “prison” is probably more luxurious than the homes of the “lesser” inmates. Yes, this is where the hard-earned taxes of your fellow citizens go. This is why the government has to work so hard to squeeze taxes from our professionals like doctors, actors, and even small earners like fishermen, sari-sari store owners, and even tricycle drivers. That is how privileged you will be for being a big-time crook.

Five, you will enjoy perks on your birthday, Christmas, New Year and probably other special holidays. Your relatives can come visit even beyond regular visiting hours, or you can take a trip to an outside facility and where you can spend the day with your relatives, as demonstrated by our previous president just last year. Now, try asking for those favors as a petty thief. “Excuse me, guard, it’s Christmas tomorrow. Can I go spend the day with my family instead of my 30 stinky cellmates?” Not likely to happen.

Six, if you’re lucky, you may even get a presidential pardon and be elected to public office again. Hopefully, you will be smarter about covering your tracks this time.

See? Thievery pays, but only if you are a man or woman of vision and lofty dreams, especially in the Philippines, where it’s more fun. Go big time!

Originally published in Sunstar Davao. Also published in Freethinking Me.

Send me your thoughts at [email protected]. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

Posted in Politics, Society0 Comments

Filipino Freethinkers Meetup, Sunday, June 22, 2014

meet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Location: Holy Trinity Church, 48 McKinley Road, Forbes Park, Makati

Date: Sunday, June 22, 2014

Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

Google Map: http://goo.gl/wCMAl

 

Topics:

1) When is it not OK to criticize PNoy?: The revolutionary rights of foreigners and hecklers

2 ) Should Tagalog education be removed: Do Tagalog haters stink like smelly fish?

3 ) Alex Gonzaga’s atheist rant: Those thieving terroristic atheists

4 ) Affirmative Consent: The solution to sexual assault?

5 ) Raunchy Topic of the Week: The PC way to proposition someone (for casual sex)

 

After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.

 

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* Newbies are welcome, and admission is free.
* Early birds get to play board/video/party games with the group.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.

Posted in Meetup1 Comment

Atomic Bombs, Cryogenics & Jorge Luis Borges: The Aesthetic Appeal of Science

I’ve been reading a lot of comic books recently. I’ve always been a fan of comic books, but there are a number of titles I’ve encountered recently that made me fall in love with the medium all over again. Vertigo’s “Transmetropolitan,” Image Comics’ “The Manhattan Projects” and “Nowhere Men.”

Science in Contemporary Comics

 

Nowhere Men” wonders what would have happened if there were scientists in the past that were as popular as The Beatles. They created a universe where scientific innovation is as culturally revered as popular music.

The Manhattan Projects” premise is based on a single question, “What if the Manhattan Project, the government initiative that resulted in the creation of the Atomic Bomb in 1945, actually went a lot further than that?” In this comic you’ll see Richard Feynman make weapons with Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, while contemplating the consequences of the weapons they’re creating.

 

Transmetropolitan” is about Spider Jerusalem (a futuristic Hunter S. Thompson), a gonzo journalist exploring the cultural paradigm of his milleau. He exists in a city where people from an earlier time (our time) is scheduled to wake from cryo-preservation, where citizens have the option to live in cultural reservations (brutal ancient civilizations) that are isolated from contemporary society, and where commercials can be uploaded into a person’s dreams (Inception style). He blogs and he wears a device similar to Google Glass. However, this comic book was written in the 90s, which means it sort-of predicted Google glass and online blogging.

Spider Jerusalaem
 

Every issue of the series tackles a different social concern, but does not provide conclusive answers. What it does is it invites the reader to think, to speculate, about the different social, ethical, spiritual, political, and economic implications of each scientific innovation introduced in each issue.

These works appeal to me precisely because they invite speculation. The point is not the story, but its premise – “What if?” – a style reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges’ “Labyrinths.”

Labyrinths

It’s hard to summarize what exactly it is about because, mostly, it’s not about anything specific. The protagonist, the hero, of Borges’ collection is information – ordinary, mundane facts.

This collection of works by Borges rarely even have a plot. One could, in fact, describe them as pseudo-essays. Often, the protagonist of the story encounters a document or a study that provides an alternative interpretation of reality. In Borges, ordinary scientific and historical facts exists as a possibilities that could be interpreted in many ways.

TIME
 

In the story “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” Borges provides the reader three alternative interpretations on time and the nature of its passing:

1. “One of the schools of Tlon goes so far as to negate time: it reasons that the present is indefinite, that the future has no reality other than as a present hope, that the past has no reality other than as a present memory (Borges, 34).”

2. “Another school declares that all time has already transpired and that our life is only the crepuscular and no doubt falsified and mutilated memory or reflection of an irrevocable process (Borges 34-35).”

3. “The history of the universe [events in time] – and in it our lives and the most tenuous detail of our lives – is the scripture produced by a subordinate god in order to communicate with a demon (Borges, 35).”

The point of the narrative is not necessarily what happens to the protagonist, but the reader’s recognition of these interpretations. These stories are about ideas; ordinary facts people overlook on a daily basis are placed under a microscope and investigated, speculated upon, until the reader himself asks, “Is the time in this story the same time I exist in?”

The appeal of his work is that the possibilities that exist in the fictional world of Borges can exist in our own world. The language itself is a formal attempt (an attempt in form) to create an almost academic (ordinary) atmosphere. Borges mixes quotes and ideas of people from “real life” (Shopenhauer, Bertrand Russel, Friedrich Nietzsche) with the fictional ideas of his fictional characters. Information, itself, generates the experience of the reader. The knowledge is not used to describe the protagonist’s experience. It is used to create “an experience” in the reader.

In Borges, common language itself can be viewed from multiple perspectives:

1. “For example, there is no word [in the southern hemisphere of Tlon] corresponding to the word ‘moon’, but there is a verb which in English would be ‘to moon’ or ‘to moonate’. ‘The moon rose above the river’ is hlor fang axaxaxas mlo, or literally: ‘upward behind onstreaming it mooned’ (Borges, 33).”

2. “[In the northern hemisphere] The prime unit is not the verb, but the monosyllabic adjective. The noun is formed by an accumulation of adjectives. They do not say ‘moon’ but rather ‘round airy-light on dark’ or pale-orange-of-the-sky’ or any other such combination.”

 

The fictional themes in Borges are broad. There are meditations on ordinary language and interpretations of time, but there are also perspectives on, and interpretations of, religious and historical concepts.

In the story “Theme of the Traitor and the Hero,” a publicly loved president is revealed to be a traitor. Once caught, he negotiates with his captors regarding the manner of his execution. To retain peace in the country, among the people who admire him, he takes part in the preparation of his own heroic assassination.

In “Three Versions of Judas” the reader is provided three different interpretations on what may have motivated Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. One version hypothesizes that Judas was God’s instrument of revelation. The betrayal was a way to reveal the divinity of Jesus. Another versions suggests that Judas’ betrayal was an act of love; that he was an ascetic to the highest degree, one that believed that no one, not even him, is worthy of God’s grace that he committed acts that would guarantee his damnation in hell. And there’s another version that suggests how God was actually revealed through Judas and not Jesus. God, in the form of Judas, sacrificed the innocent Jesus to teach the world compassion.

Science as Art

Borges’ “Labyrinths” show how fiction is not any more “magical” than real life. In fact, most of “the magic” (the philosophical perspectives, possibilities and ideas) in Borges’ fiction is found and is based on real life. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a person from real life having the same epiphanies and speculations Borges’ fictional characters have experienced. In fact, Borges himself admits that these stories are “autobiographical” and are, to an extent, non-fictional in nature.

In Borges reality, facts and ideas are aesthetic objects. Fiction exists only as a tool to highlight facts that generate wonder.

 

In his paper, “Games with Infinity. The Fiction of Jorge Luis Borges,” Martin Johnson suggests that Borges attitude towards the creation of fiction is best reflected in his description of the metaphysicians of Tlon from his story “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” – “The metaphysicians of Tlon are not looking for truth, nor even for an approximation of it; they are after a kind of amazement.” Facts and ideas, for Borges, function in the same manner. It is something that one should be amazed by.

I think such an attitude towards science should be encouraged, and the trends these comics have chosen to set (the exploration of scientific ideas and the ascension of the scientist/philosopher as a comic book superhero) reveals a promising cultural shift – mainstream interest in scientific and philosophical speculation. Science is not just a cold, precise tool human beings can use to measure universal forces, it is also a playground – a venue for mental play – as well as a source of constant awe.

Posted in Entertainment, Personal, Philosophy, Pop Culture, Reviews, Science, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast (Audio) 40: Should We Still Teach Tagalog?

FF Podcast (Audio) 40: Should We Still Teach Tagalog?

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) 40 - Should We Still Teach Tagalog?

This week we talk about the Commission on Higher Education’s decision to remove mandatory Filipino language classes in college.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Pop Culture, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 40: Should We Still Teach Tagalog?

FF Podcast 40: Should We Still Teach Tagalog?

This week we talk about the Commission on Higher Education’s decision to remove mandatory Filipino language classes in college.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Education, Media, Podcast, Society, Video2 Comments

My Body is Not Mine

We are in bed, spooning like lovers although we’re not. He is resting his cheek on my shoulder, creating some contrast with the statement he is about to make. Could you not wear clothes with plunging necklines?

My Body is Not Mine
 

I could have picked a fight but I didn’t. I said okay, thinking that would end a topic I didn’t really want to get into. I have been told that I am highly opinionated and as a woman, this often leads to feeling like my decision to care for cats is a savvy one. Domesticated felines are the only male companions that will never feel threatened by the thought that I might be, sometimes not always, smarter than they are.

But this man holding me felt compelled to explain his demands. just don’t want to get into a fight. That can be categorized as sweet. But then again, I can’t really blame guys for looking if you’re wearing [slutty clothes].

He didn’t use the term, but I’ll make the leap and assume that this is what he means. This is not new, and this is not exclusive to men. My mother can never decide whether to feel horrified when I am wearing a sleeveless shirt that reveals too much of my bra or tsk-tsk at me for wearing long skirts and frumpy tops that make me look about twenty years older than her.

It’s funny that this man felt like he was doing me a favor by essentially commanding me to dress “more appropriately” when I have had to fight every urge to snicker whenever I see him. Half of his wardrobe is composed of collared formal wear with a pattern that’s much more suited to curtains of cabins in the woods. Or picnic blankets. When I finally told him that I think that he wears clothes that, to me, look hideous, I could tell that he was somewhat insulted. He chose not to be a dick about it (points for him), took it in stride, and said that maybe I ought to take him shopping. But, he said, someone else should come along. You might pick clothes that will only make me attractive to you [and not anyone else]. That’s a joke. And, as women aren’t meant to be taken seriously, so am I.

Our relations didn’t get very far. Two months. It reached its end shortly after a fictitious zombie apocalypse in Tagaytay, conjured in jest on a trip with his friends. He wanted to be valiant and save me from the undead. I wanted to fight zombies. He wanted to impress his friends by saying he doesn’t need to call anyone because I was with him. I said I would call a friend of mine, which I didn’t realize made him look bad in front of his friends. He frequently reminded me that he wasn’t ready to be in a relationship and though I liked him, I kept my distance and tried not to do anything that would make me seem, que horror, clingy. He wanted to keep his options open. So did I.

There are times when I feel something close to sad that our interest in each other became just another hump on the road, but this thought saves me: do I really want to be with someone who thinks that I am asking for it (it = perverted thoughts concerning my body) because I choose to wear a top that makes this climate change more bearable? I mean, it’s really hot. Is it unreasonable to want to wear a bare minimum amount of fabric in public? It’s not like I have enormous tits. I fell asleep in commute the other day and the driver called me “brad.”

And, to rephrase a question that’s been asked a million times before and probably a million more times in the future, how is it fine that he can casually tell me that he doesn’t want me to dress him because he wants to remain attractive to other women, whereas I would diminish my chances of getting a regular partner in life if I said that I want to dress a certain way to retain some appeal? I might as well go back to the Middle East and keep wearing a shapeless black robe. My body, in any other fashion, must be seen only by my lover—otherwise known as my rightful owner.

I do not intend to rally on paper and do my “slut walk” with words. I don’t contest the idea that women should be able to wear what they want, but I already do that. It’s a debate that’s settled in my head. A man attempted to rape me when I was wearing a normal shirt and yes, a short skirt, but I was wearing thick tights. Not even that experience stopped me from wearing the “sluttiest” things in my wardrobe. Besides, have you seen what my sex was wearing during the Victorian era? Do you honestly think no woman was raped during that time because they were wearing a skirt that reached past the feet (not just knees) and sleeves that tapered off at the wrist?

What bothers me is not that I am told what to wear, but that they (think) they have the right to tell me what to wear. Is my body not mine?

People debate about whether or not I have the right to prevent a human being from forming inside of me. What happens in my uterus is a social concern. I need a legislation that will entitle me to abort a pregnancy, even if the sperm came from an inebriated man I have never met in my life who felt like it’s perfectly fine to stick his dick inside me without my consent. The vagina is public property. It’s sold. It’s bought. It’s a thing that can be possessed.

No amount of fabric can cover that idea—that belief.

It is romantic, in a way, to be owned. It’s marketed as belonging, a thought that even I find appealing. I do want to belong to someone. I’d wear an abaya until the day I die if the man I love wants me all to himself. But only if I too can possess him and make him feel shame should I find out that he has been giving what is mine to another woman (or man).

My body for his body, in the interest of fairness.

 

Posted in Freedom of Expression, Gender Rights, Personal, Philosophy, Society2 Comments

The Business of Particle Smashing: Collaboration and the Creation of New Technologies

*Reflections from CERN Philippines School

If you have read or watched Angels and Demons, you must have heard of the research facility called CERN. A lot of people think, especially science fans, that it is the coolest place on earth. Well, some part of it is. In fact that region where the magnets need to be cooled is maintained at a temperature of 1.9 K or -271.25 degrees Celsius, making it the coldest place in our galaxy. It is even colder than the average temperature of space, which is 2.7 K. The magnets are enclosed in a huge 27-km ring under some parts of France and Switzerland. This is where they accelerate protons close to the speed of light and then smash them and scour the rubble. Ultimately, they are trying to understand what we are made of by replicating the conditions of the early universe.

Collision

 

CERN has also made it to the headlines of news around the world when they announced the discovery of the (or a) Higgs Boson in 2012. Two independent research groups in the Large Hadron Collider, the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) and ATLAS Experiments, both found a signature of the Higgs with each experiment having a 5 sigma level of certainty. This means that there is a 1 in more than a million chance that even if there is really no Higgs, the data would look as if there is one. To further simplify it, the chances of getting a Higgs signal when there really is none, is very small. Scientists do this to make sure that the “positive” signal they got was not just a product of chance.

I am assuming that some of the public excitement surrounding this news was due largely to the fact that it was nicknamed the ‘God particle’. Some say that this nicknamed comes from the fact that the theoretical Higgs particle gives mass to other particles, although the true story behind the nickname is actually more interesting than this. It used to be called the ‘toilet particle’ and then the ‘god damned’ particle because it was very hard to find. Some editors just decided to drop the damned in ‘god damned’ to make the term more palatable to popular sensibilities. One of the big reasons why the Large Hadron Collider was built was to increase the energy scales so that they will have a bigger chance of finding it.

So how much does this huge search for such minute particles cost? It’s roughly $9B. Many people find this 9-billion price tag preposterous. I would never really shout that word myself since I have long been a fan of high energy physics. However, I, like other people, have also wondered if that money could have been used for something else more practical.

For us scientists and science fans, we cannot doubt the romance of satisfying one’s curiosity and learning more about nature, but we cannot help but ask if this investment is worth it at all. So what if the Higgs was discovered? Like what Dr. Joey Balmaceda, Dean of the College of Science of UP Diliman said in his closing address for the CERN School Philippines, “The Higgs boson will not eradicate poverty, solve our traffic problems, cure disease, or mitigate the effects of global warming.” It has no use. At least not yet, he added.

The “virtual” cycle

"Fundamental research can bring about new technologies that may be used in other fields. Further improvements may be made with the newly-developed technologies and that will again help the original research it was intended for," says Professor Emmanuel Tsesmelis in a lecture on the Application of Accelerators.

“Fundamental research can bring about new technologies that may be used in other fields. Further improvements may be made with the newly-developed technologies and that will again help the original research it was intended for,” says Professor Emmanuel Tsesmelis in a lecture on the Application of Accelerators.

 

The cost of the Large Hadron Collider would have given 100 new light rail vehicles (LRVs) for the MRT1. That would have helped alleviating our transportation woes in the metro. We just know is that hundreds of scientific publications on fundamental science have been made possible because of the energy scales it can reach. Yes, it does not give us anything practical yet. But perhaps we can look back in time and look at Einstein for example. When he made the General theory of relativity (GR) nobody thought, not even him, that it was for something useful. However, it is GR that currently allows us to have GPS devices and satellites, among other things. When the US first sent men to the moon, there was no practical incentive but they have sparked the imagination of many around the world, which lead to a generation of young kids wanting to become scientists and engineers. There are a lot of other examples in history, but even these examples are no guarantee that all fundamental research can give economical returns. We do not know until we are there and the discoveries have been made. One thing is for sure — something amazing can be taken out of all these discussions about the seeming senselessness of spending such a big amount of money in what others view as our frivolous attempt to understand nature. It is what Professor Tsesmelis calls in his lecture as the “Virtual Cycle”

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) cost billions of dollars that was paid in 20 years. The burden of the cost of the LHC was shared by 21 states with approximately 480 M taxpayers which effectively makes it just P30 per citizen per year .

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) cost billions of dollars that was paid in 20 years. The burden of the cost of the LHC was shared by 21 states with approximately 480 M taxpayers which effectively makes it just P30 per citizen per year .

 

To look for more fundamental particles, scientists needed to figure out how they can accelerate particles to extremely high energies. They needed new technologies. They needed stronger magnets to focus the beams of protons. They needed bigger memory to handle the data that they would get from collisions. They needed sensitive detectors in order to take “snapshots” of the collision. Those needs forced engineers, computer scientists, chemists, basically people from outside the world of physics, into new modes of thinking. The challenges then spurred new technologies whose applications are not confined in the field of particle physics.

Today, we see accelerators being applied in the creation of alternative energy sources, in studying the atmosphere, and even in medicine (such as in hadron therapy and medical imaging). Few people also know that the web was also invented in CERN to speed up information sharing among universities and institutes around the world (http://home.web.cern.ch/topics/birth-web).

We find here a synergy between basic research and innovation. Fundamental science requires new technology. The technologies developed are being used beyond what they were meant for. Modifications in other fields may further improve the technology and then assist basic research once more. That is the “virtual” cycle. The massive cost of the Large Hadron Collider and other similar research facilities in the world cannot be shouldered by a single country alone. CERN was founded in 1954 and back then there were only 12 member European states. Today, there are 21 member states with approximately 480 million taxpayers. Let’s put things in perspective. That $9B dollar investment made by the member states was paid gradually in 20 years and that amounts to just around P30 per citizen per year. It does not look like a bad investment for an institution that inspires wonder and amazement and at the same time generates new technologies. Would we still say that they wasted money in searching for “small stuff”? Most probably, people would not if they knew they gave us the world wide web for free.

There will be bigger projects of a similar nature that are ahead and there are big ones that are relatively unknown to the public. They will be expensive and they will seem useless but for those who are interested they will be very exciting projects that will probably help us know more about the universe and what we are made of. For the pragmatic, the Higgs and all the toys and experiments might just be useful someday. If not, at least we will learn something and that might lead us somewhere else.

There are other big and expensive science experiments in different parts of the globe that were set up in order to understand more about nature. (Clockwise) Super-Kamiokande (neutrino observatory in Japan), International Space Station, Very large Array (astronomical radio observatory in New Mexico), and IceCube (neutrino telescope in the South Pole).

There are other big and expensive science experiments in different parts of the globe that were set up in order to understand more about nature. (Clockwise) Super-Kamiokande (neutrino observatory in Japan), International Space Station, Very large Array (astronomical radio observatory in New Mexico), and IceCube (neutrino telescope in the South Pole).

 

SOURCES: [1] http://www.rappler.com/business/industries/208-infrastructure/51417-mrt-train-case-dismissed-dotc

Posted in Advocacy, Personal, Science0 Comments

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