If You Can Keep Your Head

I have always been fascinated by the flying genius deftly displayed by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger at New York’s Hudson River on January 15, 2009. You can imagine my delight when I learned that his heroic act as celebrated in his  memoir entitled Highest Duty – My Search for What Really Matters would be turned into a movie. More so when I read that no less than Clint Eastwood would direct the film that would topbill Tom Hanks as Capt. Sully. For months, I looked forward to finding out how these two world-class talents would transform a 315-paged autobiography into a 120-minute film.  And so when we read about Sully opening in our city, we wasted no time catching it on Imax.

Here are 5 takeaways that made us even bigger fans of Sully, and, by implication, Eastwood and Hanks.

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Sense of Purpose

Both in the book and in the film adaptation of the latter, Sully consistently refused to refer to himself as a hero, choosing instead to share the credit with his co-pilot and crew.  As far as Sully was concerned, he was simply a professional aviator who got the job done out of a strong sense of purpose.  To be sure, this strong sense of purpose did not grow in a vacuum.  In the film, Eastwood points us to three compelling elements in Sully’s life that proved pivotal in this regard –  his love of flying during his growing up years, his military aviation training and his wife and kids.  The book though takes us even farther, specifically, to how he was formed and raised by his dad who served in the military and his mom who was a grade school teacher. Both did a fine  job of forming his strong sense of purpose  in words and deeds.  “When we’re not around, we’re counting on you” my mom would tell me. My dad would say, “You’re in charge.” (p. 63.) Being a military man, Sully’s father “impressed upon me that a commander’s job is full of challenges, and his responsibilities are almost a sacred duty. I kept my father’s words with me during my own military career, and, after that, when I became an airline pilot, with hundreds of passengers in my care.” (p. 57.)    And so it was that despite the fact that Sully lived in an age when being a  commercial pilot is no longer as glamorous and as high-paying as it used to be in the old days,  his sense of purpose – to care for both his passengers and crew come rain or come shine – was as undiminished in 2009 as it was when he first flew with his instructor Mr. Cook in 1967.  That the movie was screened during the week celebrating Good Shepherd Sunday all the more amplifies his characteristic  insistence to always  be the first to lead and the last to leave, always choosing to put his passengers ahead of himself every time, all the time.

Law of the Harvest

I like how Director Clint Eastwood uses Sully’s love of running to take us back to critical snippets from Sully’s past. There’s one scene in the movie where Sully catches sight of an F-4 Phantom on display towards the end of his run. It was one run that augured well with his attempt to center himself during a period of tremendous self-doubt. That’s because the F-4 was the same aircraft where he and his co-pilot got involved in his very first   near-miss when he was still  a military aviator. He describes this in vivid detail in the book: “perhaps the most harrowing flight of my military career came in an F-4 out of Nellis…We were at a very low altitude, and I felt the plane move by itself. Imagine being in your car, driving along, and all of a sudden,  without turning the steering wheel, you start veering to the left. It would be a bit shocking.” (p. 121.) Even then, Sully was the take-charge pilot that he was during the Hudson River incident.  Instead of being swallowed by fear, “I immediately pulled the F-4 skyward. I needed a rapid climb  to get away from the unforgiving ground. I had to buy myself time and give myself room. At a higher altitude, Loren (his co-pilot) and I might be able to make sense of the malfunction and deal with it more effectively. More important, if the situation worsened, we would have the time and altitude to be able to recover or successfully eject and survive.” (p. 122.)

In yet another scene in the film where the viewer learns that his career as a military aviator was largely influenced by his teenage years flying crop-dusters in Denison,Texas Eastwood once again turns to running to evoke Sully’s reminiscences of the same.  Lest the viewer think that everything started when he did his first solo as a teenage boy, his memoir reveals that Sully considers himself “lucky to find my life’s passion at a very young age. I have a clear recollection that at age five I already knew I was going to spend my life flying airplanes.” (p. 131.)  Yet another reiteration of how world renowned theater personality Lea Salonga frames her landing the role of Miss Saigon. To wit: a classic case of preparation meeting with opportunity. Make no mistake about it.  Capt. Sullenberger’s feat at the Hudson River was not a flash in the pan. Far from it. It was premised on flying for thousands of hours  with optimal aptitude and passionate attitude.

Critical Thinking

The scene in the film where Sully discusses the value of striking a balance between following flight protocols and exercising a judgment call  reminds me of a recent talk given by Rock Ed founder and advocate Gang Badoy.  In her talk, Badoy decried the dogmatic approach of some overzealoous  employees even in situations which clearly call for a certain degree of latitude. One involved a hotel staff who refused to lend a thermos for making coffee  to a hotel guest who wanted to use it to bathe as it’s against hotel policy. The other involved a nurse who refused to administer an extra dose of anesthesia to a pregnant woman who was clearly in dire need of it given government policy about  patient-anesthesia ratios. Good thing that in both cases, it was Badoy’s critical thinking that fortunately triumphed over dogmatic compliance.   At the time of the flight emergency of Flight 1549 in 2009, critical thinking could be said to have saved the day. Consider how Sully’s thought processes concluded that  there were two options available to him when the crisis set in. One was for the flight officer to fly the plane so that he, the captain would have the time to figure out options available. The other was for the captain to fly the plane himself while the first officer sorted out the applicable trouble-shooting solutions. Sullenberger reflects thus, “Even in those early seconds, I knew this was an emergency that called for thinking beyond what’s usually considered appropriate. As a rush of information came into my head, I had no doubts that it made the most sense for me to take the controls…For one, I had greater experience flying the A320. Jeff (his first officer) was much newer to this type of plane. Also, all the landmarks I needed to see in order to judge where we  might go were on my side of the airplane. I also knew that since Jeff had just trained on the A320, he had more recent experience practicing the emergency procedures. He could more quickly find the right checklist out of about 150 checklists in our Quick Reference Handbook (QRH.)” (p. 211) Can you imagine what would have happened had Capt. Sully blindly followed the first option?

15 Years After

The timing of the movie’s screening could not have come at a more apt day of the year, opening as it did to phenomenal reviews by both critics and moviegoers 3 days before the 15th anniversary of 9/11. As one character in the movie  puts it, “It’s been a while since we’ve heard some good news about New York especially about planes.” More than providing us with a piece of good news about the city that never sleeps though, this Eastwood opus is also a tribute both to the beauty of this awe-inspiring metropolis and the spontaneous compassion of New Yorkers who came to the rescue of US Airways Flight 1549 on that fateful day of January 2009.  From its famous skyscrapers which have adorned hundreds of Hollywood movies to its busy streets brimming with so much energy and diversity, New York City as it is presented in Sully  beckons the moviegoer to visit this great city at least once within one’s lifetime.  And of course no less than Capt. Sullenberger points to January 15, 2009 as yet another great day celebrating the best that New Yorkers have to offer. “In the stress of the moment, there was an efficient kind of order that I found absolutely impressive. I also saw examples of humanity and goodwill everywhere I looked.  I was so moved when deckhands on ferries took off the shirts, coats, and sweatshirts they were wearing to help warm the passengers…I was seeing dozens of bystanders acting with great compassion and bravery – and a sense of duty. It felt like all of New York and New Jersey was reaching out to warm us.” (p. 250-251.)

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Kipling Revisited

Quite possibly, the most surprising revelation of this film even after having read Capt. Sully’s memoir was how unsympathetic and skeptical  the National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB) investigators were from the very beginning of their investigation.  That was not clearly explicitated in the book.  On several occasions in the movie, the NTSB sought to point out that Capt. Sully could have saved both the plane and the passengers had he decided to land in the nearest airport instead of gliding the plane and executing a water landing in the Hudson River.  While the whole world outside the investigation room was celebrating Capt. Sullenberger as a hero, the NTSB investigators were keen on proving he was the exact opposite for having done what he did.  That he was having the beginnings of a post-traumatic stress disorder during the investigation period only made the situation even more stressful.  As Capt. Sully notes:  “It took me a couple of month to process what had happened and to work through the post-traumatic stress…They told me I’ve be sleeping less, I’d have distracted thinking. I’d lose my appetite. I’d have flashbacks, and I’d do a lot of second-guessing and “what-iffing.”  (p. 273.) To the credit of Eastwood and his crew, Sully takes us on the backseat of what it means to go through such a harrowing experience as the movie offered various cinematic glimpses of how Flight 1549 could have ended tragically.  Thankfully, in the end, despite the self-doubts and the skepticism that came his way, Sully’s wife and partner, Lorrie observed that, “He is feeling better today. You know, he’s a pilot. He’s very controlled and very professional…I have said for a long time that he’s a pilot’s pilot, and he loves the art of the airplane.” (p. 276.) Reflecting on how Tom Hanks portrayed the steady demeanor of Capt. Sullenberger throughout the movie notwithstanding his self-doubts and the doubts that his heroic actions elicited in the NTSB, I can’t help but remember a poem by Rudyard Kipling. If, according to my  literature teacher, is an eloquent portrait of what it truly takes to be truly human. My classmates and I enthusiastically dissected this Kipling masterpiece line by line in search of wisdom to guide us during our high school years. We were amply rewarded with lessons that would last us a lifetime.  In Capt. Sully’s actions that fateful day in January 2009 as well as the many times he fulfilled his highest duty from the time he flew his first solo to his sorties as a military aviator, from his first commercial flight to his celebrated water landing onboard the A320, we have been blessed with a true to life contemporary reiteration of  Kipling’s admonition.

"If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

ABASPlaKNPLTo

Isang kabalintunaan na sa kabila ng  patuloy na pamamayagpag ng Spotify at Apple Music ay kaliwa’t kanan ang paglabas sa plaka ng mga “anniversary releases” ng mga sikat na album ngayong 2016 at nitong mga nakalipas na taon.   Ilan lamang sa mga ito ay ang “20th anniversary vinyl release” ng Crash ng Dave Matthews Band, ang “20th anniversary” ng No Code ng Pearl Jam at  ang “10th anniversary”  ng James Taylor at Christmas. Sa taon ding ito, ni-“reissue” ng Verve ang walo sa pinakabantog na album ni Diana Krall sa “vinyl format.” Samantala, ilalabas sa plaka ang lahat ng “studio albums” ni Sting bago matapos ang taong kasalukuyan. Bagama’t di maikakailang di kayang makipagsabayan ng mga lokal na “recording companies” sa kanilang mga kapilas  sa kanluran ay may ilang mga “vinyl releases” din ang OPM na sa wakas ay umiikot na sa ating mga “turntables.” Merong galing sa “CD master.”  Merong  galing  sa orihinal na “analog tapes.” Iba’t iba ang nibel ng kanilang pagkakasaplaka at  “album art”  pero lahat sila ay tumutunog sa pamamagitan ng “33 1/3 revolutions per minute.”    Narito ang sampu na nagpabulalas sa akin ng: ABASPlaKNPLTo!

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“Psst” ni  Bullet Dumas

Bumilib ako sa musika ni Bullet Dumas mula nang mapanood ko syang magkwento, tumugtog at umawit sa konsyertong “DAMA” na kinatampukan din nina Ebe Dancel at Johnoy Danao.   May pagka-Andy McKee sya kung tumugtog at humampas ng gitara. Mala-Dave Matthews naman minsan  ang istilo ng kanyang silabikasyon. Pero ang buod na sinasaad ng kanyang mga nilikha ay maliwanag na orihinal at purong  musikang Pilipino. Salamat sa Satchmi at Jam 88.3, naisaplaka ang “Psst” na syang nagsilbing pinaka-“signature composition” ni Dumas kasama ng labing apat pang pinakaastig na obra ng mga lokal na  “indie musicians.” Ang mga ito ay unang naitanghal  sa “Fresh Filter” ng Jam 88.3.  Nawa ay sumunod na ang isang “full-length album.”

“Tadhana” ng UpDharmaDown

Isang patotoo sa ganda ng awiting ito ang tatlong alternatibong bersyon na nasumpungan ko kamakailan. Ang una ay ang “acoustic version” ni  Johnoy Danao sa  YouTube. Ang ikalawa ay ang bersyon ni KZ Tandingan sa Wish FM. Ang dueto nina Aicelle Santos at Noel Cabangon sa konsyerto ng huling pinamagatang “Traffic Jam” ang ikatlo.  Wala akong itulak kabigin sa tatlong  alternatibong bersyon nito. Gayunpama’y  likas na mas malapit sa nakararami ang orihinal na bersyon nito na inawit ni Armi Millare, ang bokalista  ng UDD.  Hango sa ikatlong album ng UDD na Capacities ang awiting ito. Dahil sa kasikatan ng UDD at sa patakaran nila na maglako lamang sa mga “gigs” nila ay mahirap nang makatsamba ng album na ito sa plaka.

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“Minsan” nina Ely Buendia at Raymund Marasigan

Bago pa man muling pinasikat ito ng Smart ay may espesyal na puwang na ang awiting ito sa mga “fans” ng Eraserheads. Tumbok kasi nito ang saya ng pagkakaibigan at ang   alaala ng pagsasamahan. Kaya marahil nababagay ito sa tema ng pelikulang “Ang Nawawala” kung saan ang bersyong ito nina Ely Buendia at Raymund Marasigan ay naging bahagi ng “soundtrack.”   Isang biyaya na nagpaunlak ng isang panayam ang direktor nito na si Marie Jamora  bilang bahagi ng isang artikulong inilathala ng Inquirer noong 2014.  Doon ay naikwento ni Jamora na sya ang tumugtog ng tambol sa bersyong ito ng “Minsan.” Ito na muna ang pansamantalang pwedeng pagdamutan ng mga naghihintay sa paglabas ng mga “studio albums” ng Eraserheads sa plaka.

“Magkabilaan” ni Joey Ayala

Ang awiting “Magkabilaan” ay isang  mabisang  patunay sa lawak at talas ng kaisipan ni Joey Ayala bilang makata at mang-aawit. Sa katunayan ay ginamit kong panimula ang ilang titik ng awiting ito sa aking “thesis” tungkol sa pagbabangayan ng kaisipan ni Jurgen Habermas at ng mga “neoconservatives” sa kainitan ng tinatawag na “Historikerstreit.” Laking gulat ko nang matagpuan ko sa Wired State ang larawan ng  “vinyl version” ng album kung saan matatagpuan ang awiting ito. Malayo ang pabalat nito sa bersyong ni-record ni Ayala sa Universal Records. Ito ay dahil sa   isang NGO na base sa Canada ang naglakas loob na ilabas ito sa plaka bilang pagsaludo sa alternatibong musika ni Ayala.   Ang orihinal na may-ari ng kopya ko sa plaka ay sa  eBay pa ito diumano  nabili.

“Cuida” ni Ebe Dancel

Ang awiting ito na unang lumabas sa album na Dramachine ng Sugarfree ay nagmistulang isang “bulagang heto ako” sa akin.  Di ko kasi gaanong kilala ang musika ng Sugarfree.  Aksidenteng namalayan ko lamang ang awiting ito habang nakikinig sa  soundtrack ng pelikulang “Ang Nawawala.” At kung di ko pa napakinggan ang awiting “Bawat Daan” ay di ko mapapansin na ang kumanta ng “Cuida” at ng “Bawat Daan” ay iisa. Ang huli ay sya  ring pamagat ng ikalawang album ni Ebe Dancel.  Matatandaang naging “theme song” din ang “Bawat Daan” ng pelikulang “#WalangForever” na kinatampukan nina Jericho Rosales at Jennilyn Mercado.

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“Kanlungan” nina Noel Cabangon at Aia Deleon

Di pa man lumalabas sa plaka ito, sa loob at labas ng Wired State ay  marami nang mga tagahanga ang awiting ito. Gayon din ang matagal na naging estado ng album na pinamagatang  Byahe kung saan hango ang “Kanlungan.” Kaya nang kinumpirma ng Universal Records  na ilalabas ito sa plaka ay maraming nag-abang sa paglabas nito.  Salamat sa tulong ng  dating lead singer ng Imago na si Aia Deleon, sa dueto nila ni  Cabangon ay mas lalo pang nasapol ng awiting ito  ang katotohanang “panapanahon ang pagkakataon, maibabalik ba ang kahapon?” 

“Take Me Out of the Dark”  ni Gary V.

Naaalala ko pa ang aking animo’y karanasang mistikal noong unang beses kong mapakinggan ang awiting ito ni Gary V. Hindi pa ito gasgas noon. Salamat sa aking ama na syang unang naging “vinyl collector” ng aming pamilya, pinalad akong magkaroon ng 1987 “version” ng plaka kung saan hango ang awiting ito.  Gawa na rin ng kalumaan ng unang kopya ng Moving Thoughts  parang  may prinipritong isda pagpinatugtog ko ito ngayon  sa turntable. Kaya’t laking pasasalamat ko   nang malaman kong muli itong ilalabas sa “vinyl”  kasama ng pitong awiting nagpasikat  kay at pinasikat ni Gary V.   Trenta anyos na ang awiting ito sa susunod na taon. Wala pa ring kupas sa birtud.

“Batang Bata Ka Pa” ng Apo  Hiking Society

Ito ang unang 45rpm o  “single” ng Apo na naalala kong hinalughog ko pa sa ibat ibang “record bars.” Laking tuwa ko nang nakakuha ako ng 45rpm na kopya nito. Sa husay ng melody line at counterpoint nito ay madalas ko itong  pinatutugtog sa aming Panasonic stereo. Quadrosonic o 4-channel stereo pa ang uso noon.  Naalala ko din ang orihinal na makulay na  disenyo ng “label” ng  WEA Records. Salamat sa Universal Records, kasama ng awiting ito ay sabay nilang nilabas ang labing apat na awiting bumubuo sa The Best of Apo Hiking Society.  Balita ko ay malapit nang isunod ang “volume” 2 nito na sa “cassette” ko lang unang napakinggan.

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“Sugod” ng Sandwich

Bagamat “Betamax” ang pinakapaborito kong awitin ng Sandwich ay “Sugod” ang unang nagpakilala sa bandang ito sa nakararami – kasama na ako doon.  Gaya ng “Betamax” ang “Sugod” ay isang nakaeengganyong   “call to action” na pakanta.  Sa katunayan ay parati kong ginagamit ang awiting ito para ipakilala ang natatanging istilo ng pamumuno ng isa sa  pinakatinitingala naming  pinuno sa aming kumpanya.  Sa pananalita at kilos ng lider na ito ay bakas  mo ang sidhi ng kanyang “passion and determination”  na animo’y “asong ulol”  na handang “mag-rakenrol” hanggang umaga. Kamakailan ay lalo akong napabilib sa ganda ng awiting ito nang bigyan ito ng isang “big band interpretation”  ni Ogie Alcacid sa konsyertong “Traffic Jam.”

“Panahon” ng Juan Dela Cruz Band

Ang pinakamahirap na marahil na matagpuang OPM album sa plaka ay ang mga album ng JDLC. Ayon sa Discogs, ang mga “used copies” ng  orihinal na pressing ng mga album ng bandang ito ay naglalaro sa Php 10,000 hanggang Php 23,000 kada kopya.  Isang matatawag na “coup” ng Polyeast Records na nabigyan sila ng pahintulot na muling ilabas sa “vinyl format” ang mga pinasikat na awitin ng JDLC sa album na pinamagatang Tatak. Ang “Panahon” ay isa sa ilang dosenang Pinoy “rock classics” ng bandang ito.   Gaya ng inaasahan, isa ito sa agad na naubos   mula nang ito ay ilako ng mga “record outlets.”

Sa isang maikling panayam na ipinagkaloob ni Ely Buendia kung saan tinanong sya kung nakikinikinita nya kung ang pagbabalik ng plaka ay isang “fad” lamang na lilipas din  ay tinuran nya na:  “I think people are starting to realize the value of music again. I hope OPM goes back to vinyl, too.” Salamat na rin marahil sa kanyang pagiging kolektor ng plaka at musikero, napili nyang ilabas din ang debut album ng kanyang bagong banda na Apartel sa plaka ngayong 2016.

Di maitatatwang marami pa tayong hinihintay na “iconic” na OPM album na sana ay mas mapag-ibayo pa  ang pagsasaplaka habang pinananatili ang orihinal na album art nito.  Nariyan ang unang tatlong “studio albums” ng  Eraserheads,  ang Samba Song ni Bong Penera, ang Metro Pop series, ang One ni Ryan Cayabyab,  ang Himig Natin ng JDLC, ang unang album ng Asin, Rivermaya, Sugarfree,  Wolfgang at Razorback, ang Later Half of the Day ng The Dawn, at  ang Silver ng  Color It Red.   Habang hinihintay natin na muli tayong mapabulalas ng ABNSPlaKNPLTo ay makabubuting pagdamutan na  muna natin ang  payo ng bandang JDLC sa tanong na: “papaano nga bang mailalabas sa mas pinaigting na “vinyl format” ang mga “iconic albums” habang patuloy na nagbabago ng porma ang “business model” ng “music industry”?” Ang sagot nina Pepe, Wally at Mike ay simple at payak lamang:“malalaman mo kung papaano…pagdating ng panahon.”   

From Kenya to Manila

“A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference.  It can change the world.”

                                                                                                                           -Alan Rickman

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Property of Rain Dog Films and Entertainment One

I’ve always been a fan of the spy thriller genre. Thanks to the edge-of-your-seat bestsellers  of Tom Clancy, Jack Higgins,  Robert Ludlum, John LeCarre and Frederick Forsyth during my growing up years.     It is noteworthy that the best works of these authors are those which are able to deftly combine never-before-read action sequences with dilemmas that disturb and compel the reader to think.  Eye in the Sky (2015) could have been written by any of the preceding   authors.  It is a tribute then to both its scriptwriter Guy Hibbert and director Gavin Hood along with their fine cast of actors  that the movie created such a positive impression on this viewer and, more importantly,  based on the critical reviews as well as box office ticket sales, on quite a number of audiences worldwide.

The movie which stars two of the most critically-acclaimed character actors of our time (i.e., Helen Mirren and the late great Alan Rickman)  is about the question: does the end justify the means? Stating the thing more broadly, if you have the means to strike at an enemy whose main strategy is to sacrifice the innocent, would you do so even if it means sacrificing the innocent? If you put the context of these questions against the backdrop of the twin evils of our time, the stakes exponentially go higher.  At the global level is the ongoing war on terror being waged by the West and its allies against Islamic fundamentalism. At the local level is the ongoing war on drugs being led by the newly-elected president and his police chief.  There is no need to belabor that terrorism and drugs are evil and that all decent human beings everywhere should waste no time putting an end to both in the soonest possible time.  The historical evidence against both are simply overwhelming.  And there, as my favorite columnist Conrad de Quiros used to say, lies the rub.  Where would we stop to end the scourge of terrorism and the horrors of drug dependency?  Is the life of an innocent girl whose only crime is that of being a dutiful daughter worth sacrificing? Can morality be reduced to a numbers game?  One  life sacrificed for a thousand to be spared from slaughter?  Alas, when real lives are in the balance, the answers are not that easy to come by. And this is what this superb piece of film making succeeds in articulating even as it reels you in with a number of its fascinating cinematic elements.

eye in the sky 2

Property of Rain Dog Films and Entertainment One

There is the amazing interdependence of geographically-separate units whose singular objective is initially to locate and capture some of the most wanted terrorists operating in Nairobi, Kenya.  The so-called eye in the sky is actually the surveillance provided by the USAF team piloting the MQ-9 Reaper drone while  based in Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The more up-close and personal intel which completes the surveillance input is care of  the short-range ornithopter (i.e., unmanned surveillance miniature aircraft resembling a bird)  and insectothopter (i.e., unmanned surveillance miniature aircraft resembling a  bug) cameras controlled by two Kenyan undercover agents led by Jama Farah (i.e., Barkhad Abdi.) US military personnel stationed in Pearl Harbor provide facial recognition info.  Orchestrating the interface of all these critical elements is Colonel Katherine Powell (i.e., Helen Mirren) of the British Armed Forces who is conducting the mission in Northwood, UK. Supervising Powell is Lieutenant General  Frank Benson (i.e.,  Alan Rickman) along with the British Attorney General (i.e., Richard McCabe) and other civilian higher-ups all of whom are located in London. Together, these five geographically separate teams comprising the “kill chain” seek to complete Col. Powell’s  mission even as they argue amongst themselves about  the  letter and the spirit of jus in bello (i.e., the right conduct in war) through an elaborate mechanism of checks and balances in place. According to the International Committee of Red Cross,  jus in bello stipulates that  “the acts of war should be directed towards enemy combatants and not towards non-combatants caught in circumstances they did not create.”  It is precisely the implications of jus in bello relative to the mission led by Col. Powell  that makes the movie  intriguing and ultimately, nerve-racking.  Consider, for example, the contrast between how the British Foreign Secretary (i.e., Iain Glen) could not summon the courage to decide on whether or not to authorize a kill order and how the USAF pilot 2nd Lt. Steve Watts (i.e., Aaron Paul)  could firmly stand his ground in requesting for a revised CDE (i.e., collateral damage estimate) before rifling a Hellfire missile to assassinate the terrorists they have successfully located.  For that matter, consider how the  U.S. Secretary of State could easily make a call regarding a kill mission order in contrast to how Sgt Mushtaq Saddiq (i.e., Babou Ceesay)  found himself being co-opted by his commanding officer to ensure the execution of Powell’s mission is perceived as aboveboard based on his revised CDE.  These two well thought-out behavioral juxtapositions starkly  remind me of what the writer John Maxwell once noted. Leadership is truly not a position. In truth, anyone at any level of an organization can lead because leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.

Adding even greater  tension and excitement to the dilemma faced by the five geographically separate teams   is the  prominence  of cutting edge military technology throughout the movie.  The MQ-9 Reaper drone does exist as a matter of fact. This $ 16.9 million weapon of war  can indeed carry up to 4 Hellfire missiles. It can really see that far and that wide in real time. More to the point, it can cover a 100 km area using 368 cameras capable of capturing 5 million pixels each. The AGM-114 Hellfire missile does exist and has, in fact, been used in the targeted killings of high-profile terrorist personalities. Weighing  100 pounds, each Hellfire missile is currently priced at $ 110,000. The ornitopher and the insectothopter  both exist as technologies albeit not at the same fascinating level that they are portrayed in the film. But as Bill Gates once reminded us in his book The Road Ahead, we live in a time when anything you can imagine can eventually be converted to reality one way or the other. It’s just a matter of time.  Facial recognition technology, of course, is something that has been with us for a time now that even civilian institutions use it along with voice biometrics to protect client privacy.

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Property of Rain Dog Films and Entertainment One

But the one thing that really gets to the viewer  is how the perspective of the kill chain meshes  and eventually crashes with the perspective of the innocent civilian who is perennially caught in the crossfire  represented here by a sweet Kenyan girl named  Alia (i.e., Aisha Takow.) Alia’s  only crime is that she loves her parents so much that she dutifully helps them make both ends meet by selling bread in between her school work and her fascination for the hoolahoop. In her simplicity and naivete, she reminds me of the Syrian boy refugee whose dead body was washed ashore. There but for the grace of God go our own children. In Alia’s plight and the indescribable pain that her passing caused her parents, we truly get to appreciate what the character of Alan Rickman admonished the civilian leader (i.e., Monica Dolan) who expressed disgust over how the mission eventually ended: “never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war.” In point of fact,  one need not be a soldier to know the cost of war.  And this is where the global war on terror appears to completely part ways with the Philippine war on drugs. While no leading government official of any of the countries comprising NATO or its allies in the Asia Pacific  would dare to  explicitly  violate  jus in bello to advance the war on terror, the current head of state of this country has practically given the license to kill to the military and the police to put an end to the drug menace at any cost. Worse, those who dare to oppose his draconian stance are publicly  demonized.  Would that our president and his advisers could one day find the time to catch this movie.  Perhaps given his background  in law, it would somehow remind him as Major Webb (i.e., John Heffernan) reminded Col. Powell that “the law isn’t here to get in your way. It’s here to protect you.”  It is so in Kenya. It is so in Manila.

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Property of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

 

 

 

 

Rock Star

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Si Gary Granada ayon kay BenCab

Habang tayo ay abala sa ating kanya-kanyang mga buhay, apat na   antolohiya ng musika ni Gary Granada ang halos magkakasunod na tahimik na  lumabas sa kabila ng patuloy na paglaganap ng Spotify at Apple Music. Ang “3-CD set” na The Essential Gary Granada Collection ay inilabas noong 2011. Noong 2014 ay  lumabas ang Musika ni Gary Granada sa CD at maging sa plaka.  Pawang sa pamamagitan ng Polyeast Records at pahintulot ni Gary Granada nailabas  ang mga ito. Pero ang pinakakomprehensibo na marahil  ay ang 20-CD Essential Works of Gary Granada mula sa GaryGranadaMusicworks na lumabas ngayong 2016. Bagama’t masasabing kagilagilalas na makapaglabas ng 20 albums ang isang musikerong Pinoy sa siglong ito, importanteng isaalang-alang dito na noon pa mang 1994 ay may 22 albums nang  nailabas  si Granada ayon kay Eric Caruncho ng Philippine Daily Inquirer (Punks, Poets, Poseurs:Reportage on Pinoy Rock and Roll by Eric Caruncho, p. 143.)

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Mula sa Polyeast Records

Anupat sa halos apat na dekada ng pagiging kompositor at mang-aawit ni Gary Granada ay  nakalikha sya ng maramiraming mga  obra maestra  na pinasikat nya at pinasikat ng mga kapwa nya mang-aawit.

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Mula sa Polyeast Records

Ang “Dam,” “Bahay,”  “Mabuti Pa Sila,” “Pag Nananalo ang Ginebra,” “Kung Ayaw Mo Na Sa Kin,”  “Eroplanong Papel,” “Balon,” “Iisa,” “Kapag Sinabi Ko Sa Yo” at “Hanggang Kailan, Hanggang Saan” ay ilan lamang sa mga pinakasikat nyang awitin na unang narinig sa 70s Bistro at Conspiracy at unang nairekord sa “cassette tapes” bago isinalin sa CD.   Ang “Iisa” at “Kapag Sinabi Ko Sa Yo” ay lalo pang pinasikat kamakailan  ni  Johnoy Danao sa Soundscan. Binigyan din ng natatanging interpretasyon nina Ebe Dancel, Bullet Dumas at Johnoy Danao ang “Iisa” sa kanilang matagumpay na konsyerto sa Music Museum nitong Pebrero.

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Mula sa GaryGranadaMusicWorks

Sa mga di nakakaalam, si Gary Granada ang  kompositor sa likod ng “Kahit Konti” na unang inawit ni  Florante sa MetroPop,  “Pag Nananalo ang Ginebra” ni Bayang Barios, “Salamat Musika” ni Nanette Inventor,  “Tagumpay Nating Lahat” ni Lea Salonga, “Aawitin Ko Na Lang” ni Bong Gabriel,  “Paano Mahalin ang Katulad Mo” ni Cooky Chua, “Ang Kailangang Gawin” ni Dong Abay at “Itatawid, Ihahatid Kita” nina Noel Cabangon at Cooky Chua.

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Mula sa GaryGranadaMusicWorks

Gaya ng prutas ng granada na natatangi dahil sa dami ng butong nakapaloob dito, may mga ilang bubulagang sorpresa mula sa  “box set” na nabanggit pagdating  sa iba pang natatanging obra ni Granada.

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Mula sa GaryGranadaMusicWorks

Bukod sa apat na  CDs na “compilation” ng mga pinasikat nyang obra,  may tatlong  CDs na naglalaman ng mga awiting pansamba. May apat na CDs na katatagpuan ng  mga natatangi nyang areglo ng mga klasikong awiting kundiman sa Tagalog at Cebuano. Dalawa sa mga CDs  ay mga OPM “musicals.”  Ang Sino Ka Ba Jose Rizal? (1996) ay pinangunahan nina Noel Cabangon, Cooky Chua at Lani Misalucha habang ang Lean (1998)  ay kinatampukan nina Chikoy Pura, Cooky Chua, Bayang Barios at Noel Cabangon. Mayroon din syang mga CDs na  pangsilid-aralan  gaya ng suporta nya sa “creative approach” ng kanyang anak sa pagtuturo ng matematika at mga CDs na mainam na kasangkapan sa pagtuturo ng mapagpalayang Araling Panlipunan. Narito rin ang huling  “studio album” nya na pinamagatang  Basurero sa Luneta.

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Mula sa GaryGranadaMusicWorks

Kung maraming sorpresang naghihintay sa kanyang bago at lumang tagapakinig sa 2016 na “box set” ni Gary Granada ay mas marami pang sorpresang naghihintay sa mga papalaring mahuli syang umawit  sa entablado – isang bagay na di na nya gaanong ginagawa ngayon dahil sa pagpapahalaga nya sa kanyang  kasalukuyang  adbokasiya na  pagtuturo ng “Choir Ng Bayan” (i.e., ito rin ang  pamagat ng isang app na akda nya.)  Bagay ang kanyang middle name na Gamutan upang ilarawan si Gary Granada pag sya ay nasa entablado dahil kahit napakinggan mo na ang Gary Granada Live (i.e., na isa sa mga CDs ng “box set” nya)   pihadong magugulat ka pa din  sa “gamut” o lawak ng kakayahan nyang mag “edu-tain” o magturo habang nagbibigay-aliw. Gusto mo ba ng acoustic instrumental music na pwedeng makipagsabayan kina Noli Aurillo, Nitoy Adriano at Johnny Alegre?  Ganun kahusay si Gary Granada.   Gusto mo bang tumawa habang napapaisip tungkol sa lipunan, relihiyon, pulitika, ekonomiya, pilosopiya, teyolohiya, sosyolohiya, kasarian, kasaysayan at kapaligiran? Ganun ka-“versatile” si Gary Granada. Gusto mo bang masilayan ang mga kwento  sa likod ng mga awiting pinasikat nya? Ganun ka-kwela si Gary Granada. Gusto mo ba ang lahat ng nabanggit nang walang “costume change” o “choreography,” walang “smoke and mirrors,” walang “Powerpoint” at “lasers”? Ganon ka-astig si Gary Granada.

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Si Gary Granada sa Conspi

Anim na taon na ang nakararaan mula nang inilabas ni Gary Granada ang kanyang huling studio album na pinamagatang Basurero sa Luneta.  Sa liner notes nito ay may ganito syang mensahe sa kanyang mga tagahanga at tagapakinig. “50 years old na po ako, 33 years nang musikero, di pa rin naging rock star.”

Marahil ay tama si Gary Granada lalo na kung ikukumpara nya ang sarili nya kina Bono o Sting.

Ngunit mainam itanong kung ang pagiging “rock star” ba ang puno’t dulo o sukatan  ng  buhay ng isang musikero o ng kahit sinong namumuhay sa mundo?

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Mula sa GaryGranadaMusicWorks

Ayon sa bantog na manunulat na si John Maxwell ang puno’t dulo ng buhay ay ang pagyamanin ang binigay na talento sa atin at gamitin ito para pagyamanin ang buhay ng iba. “Ang magtagumpay ay ang matuklasan kung ano ang  misyon mo sa buhay,  lumago sa kaibuturan ng iyong buod at maghasik ng buto na makatutulong sa iba.” Hindi nga ba’t sa “hierarchy of needs” ni Abraham Maslow ay nasa pinakamatayog na antas ang tinatawag na “self-actualization” o ang pagsasakatuparan ng buod ng ating pagiging tao. At ano nga ba ang buod ng ating pagiging tao kundi ang isinasaad sa talinhaga ng talento? “At sa sinomang binigyan ng marami ay marami ang hihingin sa kanya.”  

Ito sa ganang akin ang tunay na panukat ng tagumpay at kung ito ang gagamitin ng mundo, di hamak na matagal nang  “rock star” si Gary Granada.

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Rock Star

All Good Things

“All good things got to come to an end

The thrills have to fade

Before they come ‘round again

The bills will be paid

And the pleasure will mend

All good things got to come to an end”

 Jackson Browne’s bitter-sweet big picture realization in the song “All Good Things” may not have been part of the soundtrack of the movie All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records. But it was  one song that kept playing in my mind right after watching this critically-acclaimed documentary helmed by first-time director Colin Hanks based on a script written by Steven Leckart.

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Tower Records was founded by Russ Solomon in 1960 after he earned his father’s blessing to put  up a stand-alone record store in Sacramento, California. The inspiration came to Solomon as he observed how his father’s customers at the latter’s  small town drug store called  Tower Mart positively responded to their inventory of 45rpm singles. Like the typical naysayers who are wont to put down budding entrepreneurs, most people who came across Solomon’s  novel idea dismissed his vision. They warned that he would be out of business in a few months.  To everyone’s surprise, fortune smiled at Solomon.  Director Colin Hanks deftly explains through a kaleidoscope of archival material how the rise of Tower Records coincided with two parallel pivotal points in the history of rock and roll. One was the evolution of the singles-oriented 45rpm to the album-oriented  33 1/3 rpm albums.  The other which complemented the preceding was the phenomenal success of bands like the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.  It was in such a setting that the youth of the 60s and  those that came in the next three decades repeatedly gravitated to the nearest Tower Records to hang out and compare notes about their rock heroes. It became the perfect “tambayan” where everyone was friends with strangers for 20 minutes because of the music they shared, the  proverbial  safe haven where  kids discovered who they were precisely through music, the irresistable payday destination for yuppies who can finally afford to  splurge on their ever-growing record wish list. If you’ve been to Bebop Records in Makati Square or at  Grey Market in White Plains you would know  what the feeling was like.  For that matter, if you’ve   grown with the now defunct CD Warehouse in the Greenbelt Mall of the 90s, you would appreciate how every visit at Tower Records was like discovering new frontiers and uncharted territories.   And so it was that from its first branch in Sacramento, Tower eventually put up 200 stores in 30 countries and 5 continents. One of those stores happened to be in the old Glorietta which occupied three floors if you count their basement, that is. I can still vividly remember the countless times I visited its branch in Makati. It was pure bliss to say the least. The albums that eluded me for decades were all there, to my surprise. The debut album of Jackson Browne. Check. The live EP by U2. Check. 90125 by Yes. Dad Loves His Work by James Taylor. Check. Suzanne Vega’s sophomore album. Check.  Heck,  I practically completed the discography of my favorite musicians  through Tower Records Manila.

Not surprisingly,  even some of our most iconic classic rock figures did not escape the impact of Tower Records on popular culture.  In fact, three of them are featured in this docu film.  Interestingly, each of them share a unique and distinct experience of how Tower Records became an integral part of their growth as persons and as  musicians. The Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl actually worked at Tower in his younger days  because, according to him, aside from providing him with  unrestricted access to  thousands of records, Tower was the only company that allowed him to grow his hair long. Bruce Springsteen made it a point to visit a Tower Records outlet everywhere he performed  from the time he was still starting out precisely because it was where musicians literally found raw and unqualified validation and feedback. Elton John was on  first name basis with numerous Tower Records personnel because he remembers spending more money on records than on any other human being.

My sister who has made America her home for over two decades now would often get amused by my fascination about New York City.  To me, it is the only city in the U.S. worth going to because of my love of live music, records and books. This, notwithstanding my sister’s insistence about how dirty and chaotic NYC really is.  You only see the glamorous parts of New York that Hollywood has been bombarding our senses for decades, she would lecture me. You don’t see its alleyways and side streets, its garbage and litter, its bums and  muggers. She might as well be talking of the other side of  Tower Records.  Behind the stacks of  thousands of records of your favorite artists and those you’ve never heard before is the lifestyle of excess of the people behind the bins and counters. Cocaine was reflected in their books as “Hand Truck Fuel.” You were allowed to consume as much alcohol as you can on a regular working day  but you were expected to show up for your shift on the dot and most of them did to their credit. None of them would fit the bill of the disillusioned yuppie that Jackson Browne sang about in “The Pretender” to be sure. That’s because most of the people  who worked at Tower  were not your usual corporate types. They were not there for the money. They were there for the love of music and the lifestyle that came with it.  Long before Google and Apple made it cool to come to work in casual clothing, Tower Records was already doing it.  In fact, the movie successfully captures how anti-corporate its founder was by way of his “traditional” practice of  literally cutting in half the ties of those who make the mistake of visiting Solomon’s office in formal wear.  The informal and casual wear was, of course,  just  one aspect to it. To be fair, Tower’s environment of informality bred a lot of creativity from their now legendary window displays to their official store publication. In addition, there was a lot of mentoring that took place between and among peers and seniors. Equally noteworthy is the fact that everybody at Tower Records  started out as clerk and worked their way up to management.   In the end, however,   while there is merit in flying by the seat of your pants when starting a business, there is equal merit in taking a critical stance every now and then so as not to lose sight of the big picture. Alas, the rock and roll lifestyle does not exactly inspire critical thinking all the time.  And that, rather than the internet, is what director Colin Hanks underlines as the root cause behind the fall of Tower Records. As its founder Russ Solomon notes with regret, they made the mistake of borrowing extensively to fund their expansion overseas expecting each new store to rival the impressive returns they racked from their  most profitable stores like the ones in Japan.  They were dead wrong. When the returns they were getting could not keep up with  the interest and amortizations they were paying to their creditors, Tower Records eventually went belly up.

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Having said that, 46 years is 46 years.  In 2006 real tears are shed by the front-liners and the senior management team members who were there since day 1  as they  said their goodbyes to the store that literally became their life-long passion project. Their individual and collective  experience might as well be akin to losing a loved one.  But ever consistent with his rebellious nature, Russ Solomon stuns even the interviewer towards the end of the docu film  when he asks: “What’s the matter? Did you run out of questions?” As the movie pans images of Going Out of Business signages, deserted counters and empty record bins,  the viewer finds himself drawn to that sinking feeling that all is lost. But  just as you start to realize that this must be where the movie finally albeit sadly justifies its title, Hanks trains his cameras on  the Far East.  It turns out that to this day,  Tower Records is very much alive and kicking. In fact, it continues to do well as a business  via its 85 store locations in Japan. Its biggest outlet which is found in Shibuya occupies 9 floors.  This chain, however, is distinct and separate from the California-based company that filed for bankruptcy in 2006.  It is owned and operated by an independent Japanese corporation called TRJ which bought the rights from Solomon in October 2002. Other than that, however, its facade and its interiors are 100% similar to  the Tower Records  stores that closed their doors in 2006.

And so just as Jackson Browne’s “All Good Things” comes full circle in his  post-breakup album entitled  I’m Alive  by way of  the album’s title track,  Hanks’ All Things Must Pass ends on a hopeful and optimistic note. Indeed, life goes on. Maybe not in the same way that you envisioned it to be, but life does go on. You can continue to roll on that canyon drive with that laughter in your head.  The dreams may be gone, but its tag line and what it represented live on in the minds and hearts of those who set foot in one of the 200 stores that used to be Tower Records: “No music, no life.” 

“Yeah now I’m rolling down this canyon drive

With your laughter in my head

I’m gonna have to block it out somehow to survive

Cause those dreams are dead

And I’m alive”

Crossroads

The late Dr. Ramon Reyes of the Ateneo Philosophy Department was said to have been in his early 20s when he agonized about which path he would take after college. Shall he say yes to a lucrative offer from a multinational corporation by way of a management trainee position? Or shall he embrace the calling to be a philosophy teacher?  To resolve his dilemma, he had the good sense to seek out the wisdom of one of his Jesuit teachers.  After listening to him, his teacher kept quiet for a moment  before posing a question along the following lines:  “When you grow old and are about to retire and you look back at your life, which would give you greater fulfillment and happiness – to be able to say that you have manufactured thousands of soap bars and amassed great fortune or to be able to say that you have formed the hearts and minds of  leaders and parents and missed out on that fat paycheck?”

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In Bob Buford’s Half-Time: Moving from Success to Significance, we find not a dichotomy between the options that faced my teacher but rather a continuum. According to Buford, the first half of one’s life is normally spent in the rat race where the goal is to earn and get ahead. One of two things happens as one enters the second half which he refers to as half-time. A crisis – which can take the form of a death in the family, a health scare, a  financial problem, a career meltdown, divorce, and the like –  comes along which forces you to stop and take stock of your life. Or the status quo is sustained and you continue on with amassing material wealth only to question its adequacy to fulfill you.  Half-Time is addressed to both those who go through crises and those who don’t as they reach midlife.  As Buford would put it: “During the first half of your life, if you are like me you probably did not have time to think about how you would spend the rest of your life. You probably rushed through college, fell in love, married, embarked on a career, climbed upward, and acquired a few things to help make the journey comfortable…But sooner or later you begin to wonder if this is really as good as it gets.” (p. 26)

In this sense, Half-Time offers a refreshing vantage point from which to appreciate Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. All human beings, we learned in Psychology 101, seek to satisfy their physiological needs before graduating to security needs and on to love and self-esteem and finally, self-actualization.  Jim Carrey is quoted to have once said: “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that’s not the answer.” In a way, Carrey was actually paraphrasing what the Bible tells us: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.”

Perhaps it may be asked, how exactly does one avoid losing one’s soul? Or to put it more positively, what must one do to gain one’s soul? Buford’s Half-Time eloquently shows the way through a seamless tapestry of personal stories, anecdotes and quotations from Vaclav Havel to George Bernard Shaw, from Blaise Pascal to Soren Kierkegaard, from Henry David Thoreau to Dag Hammarskjold.

Among the  numerous stories, anecdotes and quotations in the book, what stands out the most in driving home the central theme of Half-Time is his citing of  a pivotal scene in the movie City Slickers which starred Billy Crystal and Jack Palance.  Palance who plays the role of a cowpoke issues a wake-up call to the character portrayed by Crystal, a business executive out for a two-week vacation:  “…you all come out here about the same age. Same problems. Spend fifty weeks a year getting knots in your rope then…then you think two weeks up here will untie them for you. None of you get it. (Long pause) Do you want to know what the secret of life is?…One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean s____.” (p 80.)

To find out what your one thing is, Buford advocates that you start by asking yourself the question that his strategic planning consultant asked him: “What’s in the box?” That is to say, what is that one thing that you love to do and that you are good at which will truly make you happy and fulfilled? “What is your purpose? What makes you tick? What do you do so well that you would enjoy doing it without pay? What is your passion, the spark that needs only a little breeze to ignite into a raging fire?” (p. 82.) How can you leverage on such to serve others and serve God?  Half-Time offers a lot of real-life examples that will make it inevitable for the reader to pose the preceding questions to him/herself: There is the case of Michael Jordan who left the NBA for “a minor league spot on  a second-rate team in another sport.” There is Tom Tierney who left “a seven-figure job as CEO of world-class Bain &Companies to form Bridgespan, which focuses on midlevel nonprofit organizations.” (p. 83.)  There is Peter Lynch who at age 46 “decided to put boundaries on the time he was willing to spend at his job so that he could assume greater control over his life” (p. 124.)

Lest the reader think that finding significance must necessarily entail a 180-degree change, Buford points out that the journey from success to significance calls for a lot of reflection and discernment. Indeed, each chapter concludes with a set of questions meant to help the reader pause, reflect and discern.  By his estimate, it will take anywhere between 1 to 3 years to be able to resolve one’s search for significance.  The objective of half-time is not so much a change in career but rather a change in one’s perspective. “The key to a successful second half is not a change of jobs; it is a change of heart, a change in the way you view the world and order your life.” (p. 97-98.)  Aside from reflecting and praying about what will truly make you fulfilled and happy, Buford recommends what he calls “seismic testing” – assessing your talents and your strengths and seeking the wisdom of people you respect and trust. One must also take stock of the implications of putting a premium on significance even as you explore alternatives to how you are currently living your life. For most people, it is simply  not feasible to turn one’s back on your career and pursue what Steve Jobs calls “that which makes your heart sing” without a care in the world.  After all, most of Buford’s readers have mortagages to pay and children to send to college.  This in no way means you should postpone your search for significance to the time  when you finally get to retire.  The time to start is not someday but today – one step at a time, one question at a time.  Half-Time which has sold close to 1 million copies worldwide offers a well thought-out guide  and template for this protracted inward journey to significance.

The last time a book has had such a profound effect on me was when I accidentally came across Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey’s book came at time in my life when I was going through several crises. The book did not only equip me to navigate my way through dire straits, it eventually proved to be a very instructive guide in living a more meaningful personal and professional life in  my 20s.  Bob Buford’s Half-Time comes at a time in my life when most of the questions he poses in the book effortlessly  resonate with me even as they disturb and compel me to take action.  More importantly, Half-Time uncovers a hitherto undiscovered layer of meaning in St. Ignatius of Loyola’s admonishment: “Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam” (i.e., “For the Greater Glory of God.”“God” writes Buford, “has a wonderful plan for the second half of your life: to allow you to serve him by doing what you like to do and what you are good at.” (p. 89) Pretty radical, if you ask me. It puts to question the conventional separation that we assign to working for oneself and one’s family until retirement vs. serving God and others on weekends or during annual corporate social responsibility events or as one nears retirement.

In the poem entitled “Sangandaan” the poet Jose F. Lacaba reflects thus, “Bawat pusong naglalakbay dumarating sa sangandaan. Ngayong narito ka. Kailangang magpasya. Aling landas ang susundin ng puso. Saan ka liligaya? Saan mabibigo? Saan ka tutungo?” (i.e., “Each heart that travels comes across a crossroad. Now that you are here. You must decide. Which path will your heart take? Where will you be fulfilled? Where will you waste away? Where will you go?”)

 The road to significance beckons. What will you do about it?

Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Back in the day when I was struggling against the odds on various fronts, I stumbled onto a piece of poetry that surprisingly  resonated with me.  Indeed, I found the core of the poem  “Don’t Quit”  spot-on  so much so that  I literally committed it to memory. For years, I kept a copy of the poem on  my study table.  I would later learn from some of  my childhood friends who went on to become cadets at the Philippine Military Academy that it was one poem that all plebes took to heart  to survive the grueling life of a first-year cadet.

The positivity and energy of “Don’t Quit” came flooding back to me as I was reeling from my first-hand experience of  the power and the glory of a movie entitled  Interstellar (2014) Directed by the critically-acclaimed  Christopher Nolan, Interstellar, it will be recalled, was celebrated on the cover of Time Magazine. Having seen the movie, I now understand why. It deftly tugs at your heart even as it steadily challenges your mind. More importantly, the farther it takes you beyond what we know about the universe, the closer it takes you to what is at the core of being truly human.  Quite appropriately, Interstellar is about humanity’s struggle to rage against its impending doom by exploring alternative planets in the universe.

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Science fiction movies rarely leave  a mark in my heart and in my mind. This movie is one exception.  Thanks, in part, to yet another poem that figured prominently in the most pivotal moments of the movie. “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” is  a poem penned by Dylan Thomas in 1947 for his dying father. Some of his admirers, however,  point out that it may also be better  understood and  appreciated in the context of the difficult life that Thomas experienced as a struggling writer trying to make both ends meet for his family.

In the movie Interstellar, the moviegoer is effortlessly introduced to the various nuances of the themes  of faith, hope and love which ground Dylan Thomas’ poem. Through each of the vantage points of its lead characters, we are able to vicariously experience how grit and tenacity, once fueled by faith, hope and love,  could sustain the human spirit even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

There is the perspective of the  father (i.e., Matthew McConaughey as an astronaut named Cooper) who turned his back on his loved ones ironically to save his family.

There is the vantage point of the  daughter (i.e., Jessica Chastain as Murph) who chose to contribute her gifts as a scientist for the same cause that his father gave his life to despite the despair that forced her to disown the father she so loved.

There is the worldview of the fiancée (i.e., Anne Hathaway as Dr. Amelia Brand) who bowed down to the collective wisdom of her fellow astronauts in the name of their mission to save  humanity even if it meant sacrificing the love of her life.

There is the paradigm of yet another   scientist (i.e., Michael Caine as Professor John Brand) who wove a fictitious sense of hope to preserve sobriety thereby allowing  his team to forge ahead with  their quixotic  attempt to save humanity.

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Taken together, these various takes on “raging against the dying of the light” remind me of the answer volunteered by my favorite columnist Conrad De Quiros when he was asked why he tirelessly writes about what ails society instead of celebrating the so-called positive  things that promote hope and faith in humanity. De Quiros replied, thus: he writes precisely because he believes that there is hope. And his hope is premised on his faith in  his fellow human beings that given enough opportunities for reflection and sufficient challenges to take action,  they can and they will eventually  summon the  fortitude to fight the good fight and   “rage, rage  against the dying of the light.”

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”