Monthly Archives: May 2007

Still a dangerous place

A day after three Filipinas successfully scaled Everest, the treacherous weather that surrounds the world’s highest peak claimed two lives.

the two climbers were part of a seven-member Korean team climbing from the southwest face of the world’s highest mountain.

The AP story suggests two things: the Filipinas actually chose the better (if more arduous) northern route (on the Tibetan side, or China, depending on whose history you subscribe to). And their descent on the southern (Nepalese) side is more perilous than previously reported. (See this IHT story too.) Note that one Everest climber dies for every 10 or so who summit.

Godspeed, Carina, Janet, and Noelle.

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Books, barako, Baguio

Off to Baguio, again, in the next few hours. I look forward to Palaganas raisin bread, Kape Umali barako coffee — and books, lots of them. The well-ventilated Booksale branch in SM should yield a couple of good finds. The last time I was up there, I bought V. S Pritchett’s Dead Man Leading, Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, and Kevin Philips’ Cousins’ Wars.

Memories, which I finished early this morning, almost in anticipation of another visit to the store it came from, is a candid look at the creative tension between the truths of memory and the nature of narrative; its “interchapters” force McCarthy, for my money one of the 20th century’s finest stylists, to ‘fess up, as it were, and reveal the truth behind the story. The real truth, mind you, is not necessarily plain, and the well-crafted story not necessarily embellished. Memories, it seems to me, is best read with Janet Malcolm’s chilling Trial of Shiela McGough.

The best place I know of for reading books about journalism and the mass media also happens to be in Baguio: our bureau chief Rolly Fernandez’s cozy office, with its hundreds of books and open-door policy. I will be (mostly) on vacation this time around; I look forward to spending time in the bureau’s library, without so much as a glance at the clock.

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That’s me and Rolly, sometime last month, enjoying a cup of hazelnut coffee. The journalism books are from his own personal collection.

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Oh, yeah

The three Filipina mountain climbers scaled Everest this morning. (Strangely enough, the ABS-CBN story is no longer on the main page of the website. Surely the story deserves bigger play than this?)

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“Overall confusion”

Malou Mangahas, who taught me everything I really needed to know in journalism, co-anchored the GMA election telecast in the wee hours of the morning today, together with Mareng Winnie and Jimmy “Ka Igme” Gil. Somewhat distracted by Winnie Monsod’s rather unexpected question, I had found myself floundering, giving an answer that woudn’t end. Good thing Malou ran in and threw me a lifeline. She asked me: What was today’s “defining moment?”

My reply: Abalos’s mid-morning interview, when the chairman of the Commission on Elections, the man in charge of the entire electoral system, said the elections (by then about three hours old) were marked by “overall confusion.” But not to worry, he said. Things will settle down in a couple of hours.

The culture of impunity meets the culture of mediocrity.

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Graveyard shift

I think Manolo will be on the GMA election telecast at 8:30 pm tonight, to help analyze the politics of the 2007 vote. Others from the Inquirer will take their turns after; I will be on at past 1 am. Will anyone still be awake at that time? (In the last election, I did my bit at 7 am on the morning after the vote, a decidedly more godly hour.)

It will still be too early, at 1 am,  to "call" the election; I think the Pulse Asia exit poll won’t be out for several more hours. But certain trends, or more accurately patterns-in-the-making, should make for a good conversation starter. I just wouldn’t place too much importance on the quick counts of both AMA (a coverage partner of GMA and the Inquirer) and STI: They are partial, unofficial … and irrelevant.

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“His name was Halberstam”

Like many other journalists, I’ve had a few words to say about the untimely death and lasting impact of David Halberstam, one of the 20th century’s greatest reporters, in Inquirer Current. But the Project for Excellence in Journalism has a round-up of Halberstam tributes and obituaries, and it deserves a close read.

Many of the tributes are in praise of Halberstam’s generous, giving nature, written by journalists on the receiving end of that generosity: Joe Strupp of Editor and Publisher, Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times, Bill Simmons of ESPN, among many others. Other appreciations seek to see Halberstam whole; there is the inevitable once-over of Halberstam’s notorious run-on sentences, but the context is overwhelmingly positive: Henry Allen in the Washington Post was the first I read, but George Packer in the New Yorker and Richard Reeves came in (or should I say came through?) in quick succession. For me, however, the most memorable of the tributes was Steve Sheppard’s in The Nantucket Independent, because it was suffused, despite (or because of) Halberstam’s peripatetic career, with a solid sense of place.

None of these tributes, however, raised the points my good friend Gej did, in his comment on the Current post. To my mind, this is the best summary of Halberstam’s appeal, whether as war reporter or sportswriter.

But the excerpt also gave another insight into the man- he seemed always to be fascinated by transitions, those moments before irreversible change.

He captured that period between the time America believed in, then realized the quagmire that was the Vietnam War.

He chronicled the time when Japan was emerging as a giant in automobile production.

He chose the Summer of 49′ , as if to liken the purity of American baseball during those times with the soon-to-be-lost innocence of pre-Vietnam war America

He wrote about a champion basketball team in Breaks of the Game, during their post-championship decline

Somehow he captured the excitement of an eagle about to take flight, as well as the tension of precious crystal about to fall off the edge of a table.

Ah, yes. A faithful reader’s perspective sees it all.

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