VENICE, ITALY- I had no plans of visiting this city. The only images that I had seen so far of the place, aside from sticky lovers on gondolas, were secret agents and fiends blasting at each other on the city canals and rooftops, blowing up old buildings in the process. Venice seems to be both beautiful and sinister. The creepy “Don’t Look Now” with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie is still etched in my mind. This was also the locale where Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” led James Bond into an era of being real and human, thereby obliterating the need for arsenal gimmickries.
In addition, I have read about a famous Venetian named Marco Polo, explorer and writer, and from him I could adopt a stronger spirit of adventure. There is also the painter Tintoretto, with his portrayal of disrobed voluptuous women. And Antonio Vivaldi, composer of “Four Seasons” that has been overused for commercials and graduation walks. Then there are the famous Venetian glass and the theatrical masks, some inspired by the Bubonic plague that almost annihilated its populace centuries before. Those are just about what I know about Venice.
Tourist brochures indicate that Venice is a city in northeastern Italy with a total of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges, mostly pedestrian bridges. As movie productions suggest, Venice is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its art. The entire city is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon.
It took the wife and me some 24 grueling hours to reach Venice from Manila, with nine hours flight to Qatar, eight hours lay over at the Doha International Airport, and a seven hour flight to Italy. Thank God for lovely in-flight movies like “The Book Thief”, “The Invisible Woman” and “Iloilo”, flying time became easy to bear.
Getting Lost in Fun
For the first day, we were booked at the Carlton Hotel, an old but charming place but with front desk people having the brusko attitude of New Yorkers before 9/11. The hotel is along the busy Grand Canal and faces the hideous looking train station on the other side. The Olimpia, our second hotel, is more elegant, with beauteous, gracious and helpful front desk employees giving that expected Italian warmth. Our room was much more spacious, and it let some sunshine in.
Venice could be brutal for senior citizens with heavy luggage to move from their bus to the hotels. You have to cross up and down several bridges that are hostile to PWDs and geriatric folks. It becomes obvious why the city government has deployed porters along the routes. For a fee, of course.
On the first night, the wife and I went out of the hotel to look for a trattoria or a snack bar. I am not exactly a fan of Italian food, pasta, pizza, ‘paghetti, or whatever, but this trip is wife’s time so she gets to have first crack at everything. In stead, we got lured by the sights of rushing people, the dark winding streets, the shops, and the edifices, until we got lost in the maze of narrow passageways, archs, alleys, and piers.
I marveled at the textures and more textures, of centuries old layers of brick walls, some proud and some disintegrating with their plasters falling off with them; at the multi-faced buildings that seem to grow organically with tiny-leafed shrubs and vines, at the variety of window grill works; at the character of doors and the worn-out knobs oftentimes positioned at the center of the panels. The whole city it seems – with walls, the gates, and the roofs having distressed look -has been described as one elegant decay.
Glimpses of Day In A Life
My friend Chito Irigo says that the knobs carry the identity of families living within, and are supposed to distinguish them from the others. Even the mailboxes and the knockers could speak volumes. We saw lone men and families with prams going in and out of dimly lit doors and we wondered how life could be in this rich tourist town with a long history of heritage.
I learned that Venice was, one time or another, a major maritime power, the fulcrum of commerce and trade in the world, the fashion capital rivaling Paris, and the center of arts and literature. New York Times has called it “the most beautiful city built by man”. Give me a few days more, and I might agree.
The wife and I stopped by an unmarked small pizza and ice-cream shop where we halved a focaccia stuffed generously with prosciutto ham, mushrooms, and Mozzarella cheese. We finished this off with green tea while standing and so, for an equivalent of 350 pesos, we had our first fine dinner in Venice. We would have wanted some of the tempting gelato, but we were full.
We walked and walked, observing the surroundings, the steeples, the various faces of homes, and the people. I am wont to lug my camera whenever I go but, this time, I purposely left it to be able to take all the images in with my naked eyes. Then it suddenly rained; we had no umbrella. The temperature was probably 16 degrees Celsius, meaning cold, and we got wet. After probably six kilometers and three hours of being lost, without panicking, giggling like children even, we got back to our hotel like drenched cats.
The wife and her dozen or so high school buddies, most of whom have retired from their successful careers, have promised to themselves that, as a gang, they will see parts of the world in the next few years. And whenever they do, they promised that they will bring no husbands, no boyfriends, and no significant others. But this time, I am the designated photographer.
These dragon women have conceived of a calendar spread of golden ladies – them in white beach ensemble at Santorini and in little black dresses in another exotic location. They needed someone with Sports Illustrated or Vogue ambitions to do the camera works. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse. May the Santo Papa help me.
Good news for photography enthusiasts: Samsung finally launched the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom.
Along with its unusual camera lens, it offers a 10x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization that can go from a focal length of 24mm to 240mm in just a snap.
It is pretty versatile for those who love to capture selfies, food, landscapes, concerts and other events.
K Zoom runs with the latest 4.4.2 KitKat version of Android OS and TouchWiz interface. There are several new enhancements on this device,including GoogleNow,an application that actively listens to voice commands.
It is also power-driven by a hexa-core processor made up of two 1.7GHz ARM A15 cores paired with four 1.3 GHz ARM A7 cores.
That means this smartphone has improved performance and will use power more efficiently,while being easy on battery life.
Techies will probablyraise their expectationsfor smartphone technology done by other big-name manufacturers, because Samsung has raised the bar with this new product line. (Niks Aguila)
By Nicole Ann M. Aguila
A virus threat is something to be alarmed about, because it may not only occur in the Middle East, but also spread around the globe. Filipinos might think that we would not become susceptible to this kind of illness. But that is not true, because we are not superhuman. Infection by the said virus is always possible, especially because migration from country to country happens on a regular basis.
These past few weeks, the MERS-CoV-related news doesn’t fail to pop up on the news headlines. This deadly virus, first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012, has already taken 27 lives out of 49 infected individuals.
Last August 29, 2013, a Pinay nurse who suffered from pneumonia, which is one of the severe indications of MERS-CoV, has been confirmed positive for the said virus. A male overseas Filipino worker who only just got back in Manila was also tested positive for the MERS-CoV.
DOH Secretary Enrique Ona believed that the OFW, who is also a nurse, had interaction with the infected person in the UAE. The male health worker was put on confinement.
“He has no symptoms. He has the virus but he is not sick with it. But he still can infect others so we put him in isolation. We can say that he’s a carrier. It means he was exposed to the virus,” Ona said.
The OFW was observed for five days to see if he still has the virus. Secretary Ona also added that there is a probability that he might get sick or can infect others in two weeks.
After repeating the examination by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the OFW was declared cleared from MERS-CoV virus, according to Ona.
They will also be tracing the seatmates on the plane and other people that the person interacted with so that they would be assessed, observed and quarantined if needed. This is to make sure that these people are not infected and had no symptoms. These are all preventive procedures. Government will also take up the expenditures of those who will get ill with MERS-CoV or get quarantined.
Undersecretary Eric Tayag said on Twitter that the Philippines became the 12th country and the first in Asia with confirmed cases of MERS-CoV. But there were reports that a Malaysian was the first person in Asia to capitulate to the said virus.
“To contain MERS-CoV spread, quarantine those who had contact with known infection and isolate those who became sick after contact with a known case,” Secretary Ona also tweeted.
This deadly virus can easily spread throughout the country and even become the next ‘SARS’ if it is not given sufficient attention. To be protected from it, Filipinos need to be educated about this virus threat. After all, prevention is better than cure.
(Ms. Aguila is currently an intern for OpinYon. She is an incoming fourth year student in AB Communication Arts in Malayan College in Cabuyao, Laguna.)
The Internet can help fight climate change, says eco-group Greenpeace leader Kumi Naidoo. The current technology we are using have made high speed communication between continents possible. It has definitely made the delivery of breaking much faster than traditional media. It has helped advocacy groups pressure government to be more transparent. It has enabled countries like Egypt to facilitate social revolutions. Therefore, says Naidoo, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it can help solve the problem of climate change.
Each time someone posts a Facebook status, streams a favorite video on YouTube, and types a Twitter message, the information is contained in massive data centers which uses up a lot of electricity. Data centers are a major part of the online cloud system, and one can consume as much electricity as a medium-sized city.
If cloud computing were a country, according to Naidoo,who hails from South Africa and has been the group’s International Executive Director since 2009, it would rank sixth in the world on based on how much power it consumes.The amount of data going to and fro around the world is forecasted by experts to triple in the next few years, as more and more people use the Internet to connect with the rest of the world.
Naidoo, who is also known as a human rights activist, acknowledges that the internet has changed the world for the better. It has mobilized groups of people toask for more freedom, transparency & democracy from their governments. The Greenpeace director says it is only natural that it moves the world to a clean energy revolution that will last for generations to come.
Naidoo reminds people that the Internet that everyone finds useful, and the companies that run it, are at a crossroads in terms of where their energy comes from. Several online-based companies are nowaiming for a green Internet and a sustainable future. Companies like Facebook, Apple and Google have committed to 100 percent renewable energy.They did this in response to advocates around the world who have asked them for a greener Internet. Other fast-growing technology companies, like Salesforce, Rackspace and Box, have joined the rest in making the same commitment, proving that 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible for any company that has the will to implement it.
Naidoo adds, “In contrast, some popular online companies, including social media sites that people use every day like Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, still power their platforms with fossil fuels and nuclear energy.” At the moment, the largest cloud-based company is Amazon Web Services, a division of Amazon.com. It is the data host for some of the most popular Internet brands in the world. Unlike major online brands like Google and Apple, Amazon’s main source of power for its servers comes frompollution-causing sources of energy that threaten nearby communities and the climate. “Of course, Amazon doesn’t have to remain stuck in the energy sources of the 1800s. Energy sources like wind and solar made up for more than half of all the new electricity in the United States in 2012,” says Naidoo.
The Greenpeace director assures the public, though, that digital pioneers are making moves toward eco-friendly measures, both online and offline. For one, Apple is now operating the largest privately-owned solar installation in the U.S. at one of its data centers. Facebook persuaded a U.S. power company to supply its data center with 100 percent wind energy. Google followed suit by pioneering the use of clean power purchases, buying wind energy to provide electricity for its services like Gmail and YouTube, as well as the rest of the power grid.
Naidoo further comments, “If Amazon and others want to stay innovative and relevant, it’s high time they made the switch to the abundant, sustainable, renewable energy of today.Simply put, we need a greener online to preserve a greener offline.”
Indeed, the Internet has helped influence world policies in the direction of freedom, transparency and democracy. Naidoo is optimistic that the world’s move to a clean energy revolution will last for generations to come. He advises, “These companies can make that happen, but only if they hear from you.” Naidoo is actively inviting the public to join him in convincing Internet companies to commit to 100 percent renewable energy for their data centers.
This is the talk I delivered at the 40th United Architects of the Philippines National Convention last Saturday, April 12, at the SMX, redacted to be read rather than be heard and seen as I had a lot of visual support.
On my 65th birthday in June this year, I plan to launch my own sensual photography book of women. I love taking pictures and I love women in a universal sense, so I thought I could combine the two loves by coming up with a third love, books. There are sixteen women featured in the book, from age 17 to 62. All of them are personal friends, including my wife. Except for one, none of them are professional models. These are strong, lovely independent-minded women who discovered more of their power through the exercise.
Why Nude Women?
Now, if your question to me is how did I convince women friends to shed their inhibition and show some skin, you are out. I think the most essential question at this point is why am I coming out with this book at all. And I say to you: why not? It is a dream. It is a fantasy. So why not go for it?
Less than ten years ago, I was telling people, I would be okay just to live up to 60 years old. But then, I thought, that would be a self-fulfilling prophecy, considering that when we visualize strongly enough, scenes do come true. So when I was about to reach 60, I said, Lord erase, erase, erase! I want to live up to 100.
Climb Your Mountain
I keep seeing and admiring photos of Mt. Pulag, the second highest mountain in the Philippines. They show clouds dancing with the orange burst of dawn. I told myself, I’d want to take such photos myself. Of course, the only way was to climb Mt. Pulag. So I did. It was February and very cold, the air rarified. I was the oldest person in that horde that ascended that day. I wasn’t easy. I have asthma classified as COPD. I almost died. But I got one item on the list, checked.
The questions that beg to be asked are: how safe or how risky are those things-to-do in our list? How far would we dare venture out of our comfort zone? How much pain are we willing to take in for a moment of joy? Having built our career, would we raze it down and rebuild it? Could we be like children? We may patiently construct a Lego castle only for them to kick it down soon after, with laughter. We are born free, curious and expansive. Those of you who have small children or apos in their house will remember how we ourselves acted.
One of my grandchildren, named Jaiichi, is deeply fascinated by keys. He observes how a key is inserted into a knob and a panel opens. He observes how a key is inserted into a slot, and a car starts. It is magic. So he demands for a key and tries them in holes. We had to buy plastic outlet covers to prevent further accident. Because he got jolted by electricity before that and he just gave a sheepish smile. Only for him to try inserting the key again!
That is how we are as children, we explore. We are full of wonderment.
To Be A Child
But as we grow up, we get clamped down by norms and conventions. We start to create our bubble – to protect ourselves from the pain, the embarrassment, the rejection, the disappointments in life. Sometimes we measure our worth by how people rate us, or by the number of likes on Facebook. Sus ginoo. Can’t we be carefree or stupid sometimes? In the creative industry, brainstorming is one of the most liberating exercises. Here, there is no such thing as a stupid idea. A stupid idea could lead to a brilliant concept.
I asked the guests not give any gift but to donate cash instead to an advocacy that I was starting. In the same year, I was gripped by a vision, a vision that obsesses me up to now. And this is: the creative content industry could be a substantial contributor to our economic growth as well as to a robust culture.
Together with some colleagues in the comics and animation sectors, we planned a festival. We had exhibits, drawing competitions, workshops, foreign guests, recognition rights, talks and lectures, the works. But these cost a lot of money and we were working against negative factors. One, we represented two moribund sectors. There used to be a Golden Age of comics and the Philippines was the choice of animation producers. But now these are neglected, exploited sectors. Who would support losers like those?
Walk the Talk
I had to put my foot where my mouth is. So, with the consent and support of my wife, I borrowed money against my insurances. Plus, we mortgaged our property and borrowed from individuals. For something that was non-profit and non-stock – if you are a banker or a finance officer – that was pure madness. What makes the position of creative people in the Philippines difficult is the establishment bias and stereotyping, and not just apathy, against the arts.
We have forgotten that it is innate for man to draw. The caveman not only wanted to record his world and the events that occurred herein, but he needed to comprehend and even beautify his world. So, while he hunted for food and sought protection from the elements, he drew his apprehension and aspiration on the wall. He probably invented primitive pencils first way before the wheel.
But what do we hear? Hoy, ano ba yang pa-art arts mo dyan, makakain ba yan? Early on we curtail the natural tendency of our children to express, which is what art is all about. We try to subdue his right brain and impose the preference for logic over intuition even when management schools teach that when all approaches fail, use your intuition. Blink!
Defining Who We Are
These grown-ups become heads of government and custodians of institutions. That is why we do not have a Department of Culture or a Department of Creative Content, unlike other countries in the world. Our adults think that art is some esoteric pursuit, meant only for street dancing and external beautification, when art is a continuous process of defining who we are as a people. When nurturing art feeds our own rationale for being.
It is a nagging thing. Today, I have called on a larger circle of friends, from television, film, animation, comics, fashion, graphic design, photography, the academe, and yes architecture, to form an organized, united constituency. The ASEAN Economic Integration remains a serious concern. More than the threat to livelihood, what to us is critical is the onslaught of cultural influences. For a nation with a rich reservoir of artists but uncaring supra structure, that is scary. We are in danger of losing our soul, because we have reduced our survival to just our stomach.
To me this is a battle worth waging. If we are given to have one last shot at life, what would be your choice? When said I almost died climbing Mount Pulag. I was not dramatizing. I think I was the first individual to head for the summit of Pulag that early morning. But the oxygen was so thin, My heart was pumping hard and my vision was getting dim. I was gasping for life, my lungs were not expanding, I defecated. It was sheer will that pushed me to reach the summit, the last guy to do so. I was thinking that if it was really time for me to go, it would be comforting that I went trying to realize one of my dreams.
Having sex is a physical activity that has many health risks associated with it, especially when had unprotected. Yet there are several benefits that can arise from sex as well. Apparently certain forms of sex can decrease your chances of developing cancer, more specifically breast cancer.
Some throwback health news courtesy of CNN reveals that performing oral sex, fellatio more specifically, and swallowing sperm can stop women from getting breast cancer.
A research team at North Carolina State University collected data from 15,000 women, all of whom were thought to have practiced fellatio frequently and swallowed semen as well within a ten year span. Dr. A.J. Kramer of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine said that positive results from this study should lessen the fears or reservations that women have about performing the sexual act:
“I think it removes the last shade of doubt that fellatio is actually a healthy act,”
Dr. Kramer was not involved in the research but was most ecstatic about what had been discovered:
“I am surprised by these findings, but am also excited that the researchers may have discovered a relatively easy way to lower the occurrence of breast cancer in women.”
Dr. Len Lictepeen hopes that after women gain knowledge about these findings that they will be more willing to engage in this form of oral sex because the health improvements are quite impressive:
“This will hopefully change women’s practice and patterns, resulting in a severe drop in the future number of cases,”
So what did the female researchers have to say about all this?
Dr. Helena Shifteer, a female researcher involved with the study, is all for it, as she said that women should make it a point to squeeze fellatio into their schedule each and every day:
“Only with regular occurrence will your chances be reduced, so I encourage all women out there to make fellatio an important part of their daily routine,”
Because she does it herself:
“Since the emergence of the research, I try to fellate at least once every other night to reduce my chances.”
Researchers and doctors associated with the study or who followed it closely urged, and are probably still urging women to abandon their fellatio fears and anti-swallowing ways for they may be adding some years to their lives by doing so.
Whoever knew performing fellatio on the regular and swallowing sperm could possibly be life saving. (Taren Vaughan/urbanbellemag.com)