Sam Javanrouh's photo blog Daily Dose Of Imagery featured a rather disturbing, albeit artistic, macro-shot picture today that seems to have been extracted from a Neil Gaiman's work of fiction:

It's a dried pomegranate, if you haven't figured it out yet.

But my Gestalt-of-an-impression of this is (however twisted it may read): a decaying snipped nipple.

In true Gaiman sense of imagination, I see spiders crawling out of a dried and wounded breast.

Amazing how a picture can be deconstructed in varied, often differing, sometimes twisted ways, yeah? Although, on the side, I think I may have read too much Gaiman novels and watched too many CSI episodes…

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Clogged and oily.

No, I’m not talking about car troubles. I’m talking about zits on my face. Not the big and sore kind where pus oozes out when you try in sheer desperation to eliminate any unsightful trace before a big weekend date; just small dots that resemble a constellation from afar.

What can I say? My adolescent years are catching up with my twenty-something life.

While either in front of the bathroom mirror or in bed in a pensive (worrying) state, I have tried to pinpoint the precise reason for this untimely skin outbreak: Stress, perhaps? Toxin build up? Weather change (summer isn’t exactly my favorite season, you know)? Probably.

Hmmmm, how about my frequent work outs in the gym of late? Maybe. You see, zits are considered as an abnormal response to men’s normal testosterone levels. So if I lift more weights and develop more muscles, does it follow I’d get more zits?

Ah, I give up. I need not fuss over zits as Freud did on narcissism.

Truth is, if it weren’t for the job interviews ahead, I would care less. As one career-related cliche goes, first impression lasts. And having zits doesn’t exactly bring about confidence to leave a more mature, less juvenile demeanor, does it? Think about it: If zits are related to acne, and acne is known in scientific jargons as acne vulgaris, then I’d be sitting opposite a company’s HR personel with a face that screams in vulgar proportions: Don’t Hire Me, I’m A Piece Of Zit!

Darn.

Well, I’m hoping this is just a phase. Something I’d forget about when my skin clears up.

Hopefully real soon, though.

I received an email from an acquiantance the other day about a concerted effort by an alliance of private companies here in the US to help victims of the recent earthquake in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. The effort is to provide long term relief support to displaced children and families with vitamins and medicines. The alliance is disseminating the email for additional contributions from individuals and companies willing to extend financial support to the cause.

Now this practice is one proof that people are not really indifferent to social issues; that there are individuals and organizations who feel making a contribution translates to making a difference in the lives of many in need.

That feeling could be made into an equation: making a contribution = making a difference.

The equation, unfortunately, is non sequitur or the inference or conclusion does not follow the premise or evidence.

Cases in point: Last year's Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina disasters.

CNN reported in drop-off locations for relief contribution that people donated goods displaced families and individuals found no benefit from. And these include:

(1) Cosmetic items such as lipstick and make-up; (2) Canned food with weeks left before expiration; (3) Winter jackets, tattered clothes, evening dresses ; (4) Stiletto shoes, soccer cleats, and high-heeled boots; (5) Embroidered drapes and table cloths (6) Shower curtains and caps, loofas, and bubble bath soaps; (7) Thong panties and underwear with worn-out garters, and; (8) Medicines such as Viagra and Lipitor.

However good the intentions people have to help others mired in times of crises, making a contribution requires not only a great deal of sensitivity but some common sense as well.

An aid official interviewed by a reporter emphasized the relief operations best by saying:

We don’t mean to be ungrateful, but it would be appreciated if people take a little more care before just unloading their basements and garages […] [the victims] are not beggars, [they] don't need hand-me-downs."

Perhaps, if one can't contribute through financial means, a prayer for the victims would suffice. That would amount to something significant than having victims receive contributions and feel more disappointed and nuisanced than relieved.

It took an aspiring underdog to defeat a hotshot bully.

The Dallas Mavericks eclipsed Phoenix Suns in Game 6 (102-93) yesterday to win the NBA Western Conference Finals, 4-2.

German import Dirk Nowitzki rallied the Mavericks offense (a 12-0 run at the start of 4th!) and instensified its defense against a Steve Nash-led second half threat-of-a-comeback and finally ensured the Texas franchise of its first NBA Finals appearance.

California perhaps finds this development as a sweet revenge of sorts after Phoenix Suns railroaded the sunny state's chances of a Finals berth with its early Playoffs wins against Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may have dropped his signature line 'Hasta La Vista, Baby!' to Phoenix Suns after Josh Howard sank a three that pushed the lead back to ten with less than two minutes remaining in the 4th. The game was thus sealed in favor of Dallas.

And so the NBA Finals begin Thursday with the Dallas Mavericks playing against Miami Heat. Interesting match. Duo versus duo. Nowitzki-Howard versus O'Neal-Wade.

No underdogs or bullies this time around. The playing field is leveled.

No Raja Bell and his notorious clothesline fouls; No Steve Nash and his superstar to-a-fault-offense; No Suns, at last. Period.

I was an hour early.

The sun was out and I felt it was okay to wait. But I had to sit. My toes were sore in my new leathers. My armpits were working up a sweat under a starched long-sleeved polo shirt. My right arm was spastic from the tug between gravity and my Dell briefcase. I needed to sit.

The endless chatter from behind made me turn. Hmmm, American bourgeoisie having late morning coffee at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

I found two unoccupied alfresco seats around a table canopied by a large green awning. I took a seat, placed the briefcase on another, and relaxed my wearied legs. And as nature let a cool breeze slip like a manna of sorts for the tired soul, I thought I heard Bono singing 'Beautiful Day'.

And then there was the sign.

This table is reserved for Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf customers only. No loitering!

The exclamation point threatened my peace.

I checked my watch. Gee, I still had 50 minutes to kill. I needed to sit some more — a lot more. And I was at peace with my seat, my canopy, and my breeze.

I'd hate to spend for anything. I had a hearty breakfast a good two hours ago. Besides, if I wanted a caffeinated beverage, I'd have diet Pepsi instead, thank you.

Darn, need I find another spot without a stupid sign, I pondered.

Bah! Who cared? Everyone minded their own business: a housewife sipping a decaf while browsing her bills for a long errand later; a columnist typing his thoughts on his MacBook with a double latte on the side; a teenager drowning her misery (from a breakup, perhaps?) with a Vanilla Chai Tea blend on one hand and a mobile phone on the other. Who would have suspected I was loitering around the premises? Who would have suspected I wasn't patronizing a coffee product? Not even this middle-aged guy, who stood nearby and looked around like one of those usual Hollywood stalkers, would have had the slightest clue whatsoever. Or so I thought.

His mobile rang. He flipped it open and spoke.

Hello, this is David, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Coastal Village Manager speaking, how may I help you?…"

What the f*@#!?! Was he on the lookout for loiters? Was he looking at me with a suspicious mind?

And so, begrudgingly, I reached out my wallet, headed towards the counter, paid six bucks for a tall mocha ice blend and sulked and sipped the next 40 minutes away. On my way out, David, the manager, retreated inside the shop and let out a faux cough that sounded like 'Cheapskate!'

Poor Mother Nature. It's not enough that she gets pillaged and abused in real time, she gets caught in a maelstrom of opposing media blitz about climate change on TV and film, too! On one end, there's Al Gore and his documentary-movie 'An Inconvenient Truth' and on the other, there's the public policy organization Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and its recent 'We Call It Life' ad campaign. Now, from a former Public Relations practitioner's point of view, I find this media war of sorts, well, pure entertainment that might end up, at least, in a Kanye West rap lyrics sheet.

Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' opened last week with critical praise in his attempt to enlighten the indifferent American public about the effects of carbon dioxide emissions and harmful pollutants to climate change causing severe storms, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels unprecedented in modern human history. I haven't seen the movie yet but I can pretty much surmise the images and flow of narration are proximal to Michael Crichton's fictional literary piece 'State Of Fear' (complete with graphs, maps, and figures!). Of course, Al Gore is backed up by scientific studies (including today's report in the New York Times about the Arctic region being a tropical area 50 million years ago brought about by 'a gigantic fart of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere'), and the lessons ingrained in each individual from elementary science (remember the full-page 'greenhouse effect' illustrations on textbooks?), which make the movie all the more reputably credible.

Well, apparently not credible enough to the people behind CEI.

According to CEI, Al Gore is one of a growing number of 'alarmists' who spins the truth that carbon dioxide is a harmful pollutant when it actually is 'essential to life' because it is 'part of a harmless natural process' that also makes life better for people .

The fuels that produce CO2 (carbon dioxide) have freed us from a world of back-breaking labor, lighting up our lives, allowing us to create and move the things we need, the people we love […] Now some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant. Imagine if they succeed — what would our lives be like then?"

(an image of an African woman pounding wheat with traditional tools appears in the ad, perhaps threatening the urban lifestyle-oriented Americans that this is what society would turn into without carbon dioxide emitting industries)

The caveat about CEI and its media campaign, though, is this: CEI is composed of conservative and right-wing corporate bigwigs (ExxonMobil and other oil companies) and individuals who wield influence in and serve as front organization for Washington. One needs to be no scientist to figure that one out, judging from US President George W. Bush's remarks last week:

[L]et's quit the debate about whether greenhouse gases are caused by mankind or by natural causes; let's just focus on technologies that deal with the issue."

What his statement means is this: America under Dubya's watch won't be swayed by any media attempt to change public policy towards greenhouse gas emissions vis-a-vis climate change. It won't be buckling down and signing the Kyoto Protocol soon. And, it certainly won't be giving Al Gore and his silverscreen debut a Michael Moore moment of plucking the public's consciousness from apathy without a good PR fight.

Alas, with all the semantics and the trade of barbed allegations and visual display of opposing viewpoints on the matter in the media today, the public is perhaps burnt out to even think and care as it is in the war on Iraq. Just the same, the public warrants nothing less than the truth about the relation between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The fate of nature and human kind is at stake here, people! But then again, the question is: Between the two sides, who speaks the truth? Well, I have an idea and my guess is most people do. But why spoil the visual fun? For now, have a popcorn and enjoy the entertainment as they unfold, yeah?

Two TV ad spots caught my attention last night while watching (in agony, I must stress) the American Idol finale. Both are about that staple of a fridge drink (besides beer, o'course), Coca-cola.

Now, we all know how catchy Coke ads are; how easy they embed in the subconscious and coax us to reach for a can, like Pavlov's bell on his mutt. No need for a shrink to vouch this, just ask yourself: Why do we find Polar bears cute albeit dangerously big and carnivorous? Because they drink Coke on TV. Why do we sing on hilltops with friends eventhough it sounds ridiculously cheesy? Because thousands did, singing something like 'I'd buy the world a Coke' on TV. Ah, the impact of the corporate push on pop culture: public consumerism. I'll ditch the itch of writing a blog about the economics behind pop soda and stick with deconstructing the two Coke ads I mentioned catching on primetime TV last night.

First ad was about a pretty girl and a dorky guy sitting on opposite ends of a bench in some gentrified neighborhood (Brooklyn, perhaps). It starts with the guy mimicking a Nokia ringtone, much to the girl's chagrin. The guy, who passes off as a struggling performing artist, finally reaches for and twists open a Coke in lieu of a mobile phone from his duffel bag and says 'Hello?' The girl, who passes off as a snotty (but pretty) brat, finally slips an 'I-don't-believe-this' type of smile from the obnoxious antics of the guy. Then the mood shifts into a serious state with the guy handing over the Coke to the girl, dropping cooly the line: 'It's for you.' Aawww!(watch it here)

I bet if it were a real situation, the guy would earn points for creativity and probably the girl's phone number, too. Of course, by now, using the same pick up line would end up in a dud like using the all-too-worn-out 'Gee, I lost my number, can I have yours?'

The next ad was about the recently-launched Coca-Cola Blāk. Now this ad is definitely for a different, more mature (adult contemporary, perhaps) audience/market. But my curiousity was stirred, I must say. So I googled it up and found a Coca-cola company press release describing the product as follows:

Coca-Cola Blāk is an invigorating and stimulating blend that has a perfect balance of the effervescent taste sensation of Coca-Cola and natural flavors, with real coffee."

Now much has been said about the side-effects of drinking soda, particularly because of its caffeine content. Caffeine, of course, is a stimulant popularly found in coffee. As a stimulant, it makes the heart work overtime that may take effect up to six hours depending on amount of intake. For an average coffee, dig this: it takes about sixty cups a day to provide a fatal dose. So combining Coke and coffee would perhaps result to more than what an Energizer bunny could handle, yeah? An instant solution for an instant heart attack, maybe. I wouldn't know, I haven't tasted one. But I'd dare not. Which makes me think what the f**k those guys at Coca-cola were thinking?!?! They haven't even addressed the outstanding popular belief pertaining to Coke having corrosive properties — that if you drop a grimy coin into it, in two minutes the coin will be sparkling clean.

And what's up with the name 'Blāk'? They probably thought if chocolates have 'dark', and cervesa has 'negra', then they'd have 'black' for soda? C'mon! Let's hope, in the age of political correctness, the African-Americans wouldn't feel a pinch of slight.