I was laid low by a virus run amuck two weeks ago, making me miss six working days and wreaking havoc on my reading plans. I was hoping to finish a couple of books while lazing an afternoon away on a favorite beach in Bagac; no such luck. Even reading in sick bay gave me such a headache I would stop after a page or two.
When I went to the St. Luke’s ER one night (in the end I spent almost three hours there), I got the distinct impression I was witnessing what in the newsroom is called a slow day. There was one patient who came in at about the same time I did; he seemed to be suffering from appendicitis. I saw at least three doctors attend to him, each one asking him to do a makeshift physical test. Jump, one doctor said. Then: Does it hurt? (Yes.) Another poked him repeatedly on his right side. Does this hurt? How about this one? This one? It was some time before they did a blood test. A young lady came in with her mother; apparently, while playing with her dog, she had sustained an injury to her right eye. She looked decidedly in pain, but her mother, who must not have been around when the accident happened, asked her to tell (and retell) parts of the story, to one doctor after another. A boy, who may have suffered from an asthma attack, was preparing to leave the ER with his mom. But for some reason, the mom left him with an aunt for maybe 30, 45 minutes. He proved to be a handful, cluttering up the main hallway and making too much noise. I wanted to tell him to shut up, but a morbid thought immediately stopped me. What if I had heard wrong and he was suffering from something major? That would have made his annoying friskiness nothing less than a triumph of the spirit. I kept my peace.
I did get a chance to catch up on my James Bond. (I mean the movies, which StarWorld is airing two at a time every Saturday, with occasional replays.) They are of course very different from Ian Fleming’s novels (of which I think I’ve read only three: Moonraker, Thunderball, and Octopussy). I found it interesting to see that the basic formula (shaken, not stirred) was right there almost from the beginning: world domination conspiracies, impossible derring-do, technological toys for the big boys, and of course scantily clad women (lots of them). I must agree with the considered opinion of many Bond fans; Jill St. John in Diamonds are Forever must be one of the best Bond girls ever. At the end of that movie, Bond (still played by Sean Connery) figures out that the two waiters on the cruise ship serving him and St. John (bearing the appropriately Bond-girlish name of Tiffany Case) are fake (and thus hired assassins), because — get this — they don’t know their wine. I was reminded of what Alistair Cooke wrote about Humphrey Bogart: he played characters who knew their guns but did not look out of place in a tux. From Bond to Bogey.
Good friend Caloy Conde has started a new blog, Promdi, while resuming work on Pinoypress. I note a greater sense of personal freedom in the new blog; his influences and interests are not filtered through the lens of institutional journalism (for examples of his work, read his dispatches for the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune here.)
Spare a thought for Ken Galbraith. I happened to be rereading him about a month ago, because he had written something about what we can call monolothic thinking in his essay collection Economics, Peace and Laughter, and I wanted to use it for a piece I was writing. When news of his death filtered through, his book was still within easy reach. Like many others, I saw him in Manila in 1990, when he was a guest at the fourth One Asia Assembly. I looked up my notes, but sadly I did not write anything specific then; fool that I was, I was content to describe his statements as lucid and cogent. His absolute Keynesian belief in the power of the government to do good may be out of fashion, but I have always found his willingness to serve in office and to think things through (always in elegant prose) a bracing example. Many obituaries have been written; a late one by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. is disappointing, but the lengthy appreciation by the Boston Globe is worth rereading.