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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

entry arrow6:31 PM | Goodbye to Bad Juju

My brother Rey doesn't believe that numbers, or calendar years, have anything to do with anything.

I had told him one night that I was glad 2004 was almost over. "I would love to have the fresh start of 2005," I had said. "If anything, it is an escape from this horrible, horrible year."

"The year, 'ga," he replied with the precision of a knife, "has nothing to do with it. You have what you make of life."

Which is, of course, completely true. But, at that moment, how much too Jean-Paul Sartre of him! How completely, unforgivably Existentialist! That philosophy, if one remembers correctly, seduces everything to a single, deterministic maxim: that we mold or control what eventually happens to us, and that fate -- no matter how romantic the notion may sound -- is as truthful as a wayward horoscope from nowhere. We have wrought what is in the details.

On any ordinary day, I would have agreed with my brother, or with Sartre. Except that I knew, deep within my bones, that this has indeed been a horrible, horrible year. And the numbers 2-0-0-4, like the mark of the beast, had everything to do with it. Someone soon reminded me that this was also the Year of the Monkey, and I thought: "Appropriately so!" The year has indeed monkeyed with so many of us; 2004 has been a time when the irrational has suddenly become what is rational -- and worse, popular; when death, in all its manifestations, has learned to put on a grimly smiling face; when absolutely nothing made sense, like the brouhaha over Janet Jackson's breast, or the reelection of a nincompoop called George W. Bush, who now stares at me from the newsstand as Time Magazine's Man of the Year. (And so, for the rest of you who had sailed through the past twelve months with some fortune, a wink, and a smile, my envy is without limit. Learn to count your blessings.)

I do not, for one, remember being particularly productive this year. It was a year of complete existential sedation, a kind of time-off to become a zombie. Bad things seemed to crop up constantly, and without let-up. There was Yoyong and its other typhoon sisters wrecking havoc. There was the bird-flu, and the scare of SARS. There was the reelection of that imp from Pampanga last May. There were those blatant lies masquerading as election campaign promises, dissipating like thin air once the election was over.

And lives? Lives were dispensable. There were close friends who died needlessly. And now, before the year is even before, close to 21,900 people in Southeast Asia have perished, having glimpsed (perhaps hopefully) of 2005 reckoning only one week away, only to have that promise taken away by 10-meter tsunamis. Twenty-one thousand nine hundred people as of last count as this article goes to press. That's a lot of people dead in one sweep.

We have learned to mourn quite well.

Ask those who love Fernando Poe Jr., whose passing for many is still quite a shock. Ask those who mourn House Speaker Jose De Venecia's daughter, or Dolphy's grandson. Ask those who miss the visual stylings of artist Pacita Abad, who, even with a body ravaged by cancer, still took to her last commission -- painting a Singapore bridge -- like a trooper, and oversaw its completion to her last breath. Ask those who sing of composer George Canseco Jr. Ask those who still cannot believe the passing of seeming immortals like Nick Joaquin and Wilfrido Nolledo. Philippine literature has lost its grand masters.

Those who gave us the world as seen through their legendary lenses -- Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Helmut Newton -- have clicked away their last roll of film. Marlon Brando, our quintessential actor, has gone after our Superman, Christopher Reeve. And the Gipper, Ronald Reagan. And the soul keeper, Ray Charles. And the Reality TV queen who started it all, Mary Ellis Bunim. And the witty Spalding Gray. And scream queen Janet Leigh. And deconstruction guru Jacques Derrida. And food maven Julia Child. And Hong Kong pop tart Anita Mui. And boob king Russ Meyer. And make-up guru Estee Lauder. And everyone's controversial freedom fighter Yasser Arafat. Not even Francis Crick, who co-discovered the helix design of the human DNA, could thwart death's eventual designs. So many people dead.

What more can one say about dreadful 2004? CNN's Todd Leopold asks himself the same question in recalling a year that, for him, was a crazy collection of a "booby-trapped" 12 months. I quote some excerpts:

"What can you say about 2004? What can you say about a year that spent more time and indignation on a 38-year-old pop singer's accidentally exposed right breast than the vapidly violent dance routine, erection ads, capitalistic orgy (and football game) that surrounded it?

"What can you say about a year in which the two most talked-about movies of the year-and two of its biggest box office hits-were a violent film about a man of peace [The Passion of the Christ] and an effectively manipulative polemic about a president at war [Fahrenheit 9/11]? ... What can you say about a year that made a self-aggrandizing, strangely hair-styled tycoon with an edifice complex into a TV star [Donald Trump], and put the queen of domesticity behind bars [Martha Stewart]? ... What can you say about a year that featured Britney Spears getting married more times than Jennifer Lopez? ... What can you say about a year in which 'moral values' was revealed as some kind of bellwether, yet put How to Make Love Like a Porn Star on the best-seller list, made a cleverly soapy show about Desperate Housewives its breakout [TV] hit, and can't seem to get past a pop star's breast-revealing finale?

"I can't think of anything."

Neither can I. From so much bad juju in one freaky year.

Thus, I offer you this submission to an exorcism of sorts: a ritual to usher in a hopefully better year. Not a resolution, no. Just a checklist to summon some good metaphysical spring-cleaning of the soul.

Finish everything from this old, haggard year before the New Year even starts.

Clean the house, and make sure the laundry is out.

Turn off the TV.

Buy flowers.

Tell your mom you love her, and give dad a hug.

Apologize. To whom? To anybody you owe it to.

And try to stop buying all those pirated DVDs.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich