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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

When Should You Put Your Dog Down?
How to make a decision you never want to make.

By Jon Katz
Updated Tuesday, October 28, 2003, at 10:01 AM PT

Jack sells antiques in upstate New York; he's a pretty upbeat guy, but when a vet diagnosed his 12-year-old black Lab, Schuyler, with cancer of the jaw and told Jack the prognosis was grim, he burst into tears, so upset he had to call his girlfriend to come drive him and the dog home.

He called me later that night. Punctuated by sobs and silences, our conversation lasted nearly an hour. "I really don't know what to do," Jack said. "My friends say I should go to Penn or Cornell for chemo. My girlfriend says I should try alternative medicine, maybe something homeopathic. I can't bear to think of it. When do you put a dog down? How do you decide? I can't bear to lose him, but I don't want him to suffer."

We spoke three or four times over the next couple of weeks, Jack agonizing over the many options he was hearing about. The vet had urged him to euthanize the dog before Schuyler's condition worsened, but Jack had clearly decided against that. He was apparently going to put the dog down "when he was ready," and thought he wasn't ready yet. One evening, he said he'd talked to a friend and dog lover who'd told him that Schuyler would tell him when it was time to go, that Jack should watch and listen to the dog for cues. He asked if I thought this was the right course.

To be honest, I couldn't quite say what I was thinking. Each decision about the death of a dog is personal and different, dependent on context and circumstances. But if I had told him what I was thinking, it would have been this: Dogs are voiceless. They can't tell us when it's time to die, even if they were capable of such abstract thought. That's something we have to decide for them, wielding our love, compassion, and common sense as best we can.

I didn't look to my wonderful yellow Labs to tell me when it was time for them to go, one diagnosed with congestive heart failure, the other with colon cancer. The responsibility and decision, it seemed to me, was mine, not theirs. I put them down before they endured any prolonged suffering—my own choice, not a recommendation for others.

In the context of the most personal decision any dog owner ever makes, there are few universal truths. Jack ended up keeping Schuyler alive for two months, until the dog's jaw had swollen to grapefruit size. When he called me again, I told him it seemed time, and he put the dog to sleep. Later, he called this the most wrenching period of his life, so painful he'd decided never to get another dog. I told him that was a shame.

It is the nature of dogs to live much shorter lives than ours—just eight years, on average—and it has always been my belief that to love and own a dog is to understand and accept that along with loyalty, love, and devotion come the ever-present specters of grief and loss. This is as integral a part of the dog-loving experience as going for walks.

There's no Idiot's Guide for this question, no handbook. The many points of view are strongly held. One vet I know says a dog should be euthanized "when it can no longer live the life of a dog—and only the owner knows when that really is." A breeder says she puts her dogs down when "their suffering exceeds their ability to take pleasure in life." A trainer I respect believes her dog should live as long as it can eat.

Another friend and dog lover says she always knows when it's time: "when the soul goes out of their eyes."

I'm not among those who believe dogs have souls, but I know what she means. There is a certain visceral "dogness" about dogs, an interest in people, food, squirrels, passing trucks—whatever—that's part of their individual spirits. When that disappears, it does seem the "soul" of the dog is gone.

But I know other owners—a growing number, according to vets—who fight to keep their dogs alive as long as possible, at all costs.

Researching my last book, I visited an emergency-care clinic that had six dogs on respirators at a cost of nearly a $1,000 per week per dog.

Their owners, the vets said, simply could not bear to lose them. In the context of America's growing love affair with dogs—there are nearly 70 million owned dogs in the United States and nearly 10 million more in shelters—this seems to me a travesty, not only for the dogs but for the humans who've lost sight of the fact that these amazing creatures are animals.

Increasingly, we've come to see our dogs as human, childlike members of our families, companions that sometimes provide us with more emotional support than friends or spouses, more satisfaction than work, more support than we can find elsewhere. As a result, people are increasingly devastated by the loss of their dogs, more uncertain about how and when to put them down, more inclined to spend thousands of dollars on surgery, alternative cures, foods, and treatments that might prolong their lives.

As the owner of three dogs, I spend more than I can truly afford to keep them healthy and vigorous. But as my conversations with Jack reminded me, they are not people. Their lives and deaths ought not be conflated or confused with human losses.

To love dogs is to know death and to accept that there's never a time we are more morally obliged to speak for them than when they face the end of their lives.

The comedy of Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker.

By Bryan Curtis
Updated Monday, October 27, 2003, at 4:20 PM PT

The truly puzzling thing about Scary Movie 3—other than its $50 million haul this weekend—is its distinct lack of Wayans brothers. What happened, exactly? We were led to believe the Wayanses had achieved the same permanence in Hollywood as the Sheens and the Fondas and that prying them loose could only be accomplished by thermonuclear event. The answer, I hope, has something to do with Scary Movie 3's director, David Zucker. A decade ago, Zucker, along with buddy Jim Abrahams and brother Jerry Zucker—the ZAZ boys, for short—practiced an art they dubbed "comedy without comedians." The trio issued Airplane! (1980) and The Naked Gun (1988), two of the finest parodies ever conceived, and Top Secret! (1984), which would pass a zippy evening on DVD. The ZAZ boys presided over the rebirth of the film spoof. So it's ironic that David Zucker now presides over its demise.

Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker had a strange notion about casting a comedy. If asked to prepare a funny movie, most directors would center their efforts on one or more funny actors. The ZAZ boys, on the other hand, preferred brutally unfunny men, like Robert Stack or Peter Graves, the kind of guys who found work in cop shows and TV movies of the week. The result was the opposite of a Mel Brooks free-for-all: a film full of straight men, each topping the other with his own drabness. Brooks gave his best lines to comedians, who added their own vinegar; the ZAZ boys gave theirs to stiffs, who added nothing—they just read the dialogue as dully and flatly as possible. When they approached Graves about appearing in Airplane!, he replied, "Why don't you get some funny people?"

Airplane! stands for many viewers as the best of the ZAZ pictures, a ripe parody of the "we have no landing lights!" thrillers that occurred regularly throughout the 1970s. The film owes much to Zero Hour! (1957), an airborne-disaster film the ZAZ boys discovered on late-night TV and plundered for lines, shots, and the titular exclamation point—they plundered so much, in fact, that Paramount had to buy the rights to the original. Then they cast Airplane! not with comedians but with the kind of B-list actors—Graves, Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen—who would have appeared in the straight version of such a film. They deadpanned lines like:

"This woman has to be gotten to a hospital."

"A hospital—what is it?"

"A big building with patients, but that's not important right now."

The ZAZ boys hired more stiffs for their second film, Top Secret!, a so-so parody of spy movies and the Elvis pictures, then still more for The Naked Gun, a police procedural that, joke for joke, is probably the funniest picture they ever made. (Jerry Zucker and Abrahams helped write it but left David Zucker to direct.) The Naked Gun players—none of them with comic gifts outpacing your typical U.S. senator—include Nielsen, Ricardo Montalban, and O.J. Simpson.

Why this odd devotion to straight men? Listening to the commentaries on their DVDs, you sense the ZAZ boys desperately wanted to take all the laugh-making credit for themselves. They honed their comedy skills at the Kentucky Fried Theater, an act they moved from their native Wisconsin to Los Angeles' Pico Boulevard in 1972. (Its sketches inspired Kentucky Fried Movie [1977], which they wrote for director John Landis. See a clip from the film at the left.) Without the benefit of comic stars, they learned to milk laughs from their own writing. They often seemed contemptuous of their actors. David Zucker once told an interviewer, "Everything guys like Leslie Nielsen say and do onscreen is put in from backstage. Everything's being controlled from Houston."

The straight men also tend to elicit a naughty double laugh—once for the funny line and a second time for the poor actor who has to say it. In the funniest scene in Top Secret!, two spies make common cause in East Berlin. The first laugh is that one of the men finds himself holding dog shit. The second laugh is that the man is Omar Sharif.

But there's a more important reason for casting stiffs. The best film parodists—from Mel Brooks to Chuck Jones—know that a good spoof must convince you, if only for a few moments, that you are watching an actual genre film. The ZAZ players, who had slummed in the kind of films they were now parodying, brought a blessed obliviousness to the stock roles. (A Mike Myers or Adam Sandler would smirk and ruin the whole effect.) Watch The Naked Gun clip at the left, in which Nielsen, playing a Los Angeles police lieutenant, swoons over the villain's secretary. His soliloquy—"her hair was the color of gold in old paintings"—could have been lifted straight from hard-boiled crime fiction, yet Nielsen would hardly seem to know it.

This dedication to genre is what's so sorely lacking from the spoofs of the post-ZAZ age. The trio split up after The Naked Gun, with Jerry Zucker drifting toward more saccharine projects like Ghost (1990) while Abrahams and David Zucker continued to direct comedies. Sadly, the latter pair has blended in with the faceless, uninspired parodists that now dominate Hollywood. Take Scary Movie 3. The film zeroes in on Signs, The Ring, and The Others—all worthy targets, perhaps. But you never believe for a second that you're watching a horror movie, and the jokes lose their pop. The rest of the picture bends to crude sensibilities: Children are run over and pummeled with baseball bats; rappers show up and start a gang war. There are only a few moments of ZAZ's deadpan charm. Standing over the rappers' corpses, Nielsen, playing the president, says, "These men died for their country. Send letters to their bitches and hos."

David Zucker is such a sharp, funny guy that it feels a bit unfair to blame the decline of the spoof on him, and I suspect it has more to do with the durability of the form itself. Spoofs flourished during the 1920s, back when Mack Sennett and Buster Keaton were tweaking Hollywood, and then all but disappeared from American theaters during World War II—the studios preferred the comfort of straight genre films. They reappeared a few decades later, with Mel Brooks and Woody Allen and the ZAZ boys, and since then, they've targeted the Western, the silent movie, the monster movie, the airport movie, the ghetto movie, the horror movie, the ironic horror movie, the mafia movie, the James Bond movie, and on and on and on. Perhaps it's time again to take a break for a decade or two and let the genre artists catch up to the parodists. David Zucker told an interviewer a few years back, "The whole idea of spoof, to me, is just so done and gone." So why, pray, does he insist on making more of them?

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Ritter's Widow Breaks Her Silence

John Ritter's passing came as a shock to Hollywood and the world. By his side when he died was the love of his life of nearly 10 years, Amy Yasbeck. Amy opened up to Diane Sawyer in an exclusive "Primetime Thursday" interview.

"I truly believe this was one of the most powerful interviews I've ever seen. There's something about her ability to tell you about her grief and tell you about this man," said Sawyer about the emotional interview.

"He talked to you as if that was the last time he was going to talk to you every time he saw you, you know," revealed Yasbeck. "He would give you a little summary of how wonderful you were and how proud he was of you, and you felt loved and supported and sent off with a bounce in your step out into the world. He did that every day."

Amy talked in depth to Diane about how she and daughter Stella are coping with their loss. Stella, the daughter he had with Amy, turned five on the day he died.

"Do you let her see you cry?" asked Sawyer.

"I can't help it, yeah. It's funny you should ask that. I let her see me cry occasionally because I want her to know that it's OK when she does. But at the times when she cries real hard and I am holding her I cry but I don't make any sound. Because that's too scary I think for her," said Yasbeck.

But while watching John's final episode of "8 Simple Rules," Amy admitted she was unable to hide her grief.

"The one time when we both just let loose was on the third episode of the shows that he had made. At the end of '8 Simple Rules' they did a little montage behind-the-scenes thing and he waves goodbye at the end," said Yasbeck.

"Who said the most consoling thing? Was there anything that you thought really helps?" asked Sawyer.

"I think the most consoling thing was said by John before he died. It's private, it's general lovey, dovey stuff, but the fact that I got to say it to him and with him... But it is so comforting to have said it to each other before he went," revealed Yasbeck.

Friday, October 24, 2003

10 technologies that deserve to die
By Bruce Sterling
Technology Review

A science fiction writer's irreverent take.


ONE CAN make some sound arguments for nuclear power-medical radioisotopes are quite handy, while far-traveling spacecraft can barely function on anything less-but there is no reason for us to go on pretending that we need to fry entire chunks of continents. Not only are nuclear weapons technically clumsy, but they betray a blatant death wish better suited to al-Qaeda than a civilization.

Nowadays, a well-organized state can deftly obliterate any conceivable target with exquisite GPS accuracy. Conventional "daisy cutters" and cluster bombs can be scaled up to any size or potency that the military might need. This leaves nuclear bombs with only one ideal function: terrorism. They are excellent weapons for nongovernmental predators to deploy against centers of government. They are quite useless for governments to deploy against terrorists. So why are governments still manufacturing these expensive, dangerous, easily stolen objects?

If all nuclear weapons vanished tomorrow, the world's current military situation would not be affected one whit. The U.S.A. would still be military top boss. Yet we'd be much less likely to wake up one morning to find Paris or Washington missing.


COAL ISN'T so much a "technology" as a whole school of them, all of them bad or worse. Coal was the primeval fuel of the industrial revolution. Coal powered the first steam engines, whose killer app was pumping stagnant water out of coal mines. It powered the railroads, whose killer app was moving coal.

Unfortunately, we've been doing this coal trick for some two hundred years now, and coal is getting uglier by the day. If your accountants rival Enron's, you can claim that coal is a cheap fuel. Add in acid rain, climate damage, and medical costs, and it swiftly becomes dead obvious that coal is a menace. Coal spews more weather- wrecking pollutants into the air per unit of energy than any other fossil fuel. Extracting coal destroys vast tracts of land. Coal mining is one of the world's most dangerous jobs.

If coal vanished tomorrow, we'd miss it: the U.S. would lose a quarter of its energy supplies. But that shortfall, daunting though it is, cannot compare to the ghastly prospect of blackened skies over China and seas rising out of their beds. The sooner we rid ourselves of this destructive addiction, the less we will have to regret.


I HAVE to confess that, as a former denizen of the 20th century, I'll miss the loud, soul-stirring THRAAAAGH of a two-stroke motorcycle. And liter for liter, calorie for calorie, gasoline is truly the queen of liquid fuels. Nevertheless, if you stand inside a closed garage with any internal-combustion engine, it will kill you. That is bad. Even the best such engines emit an eye-watering stink.

Internal-combustion engines are big and clumsy. They are hard to tune, and they waste a lot of effort carrying their own weight. They've got a great incumbent fueling system built into place, but they need to be replaced by hydrogen and fuel cells, technologies that are simpler, safer, and cleaner. If you need really loud, macho engine noises, why not just record them and play them on your car stereo?


IN REALITY, these sad devices are "heat bulbs." Supposedly a lighting technology, they produce nine times more raw heat than they do illumination. The light they do give, admittedly, is still prettier than the eerie glow of compact fluorescents and light- emitting diodes. But it's still a far cry from the glories of natural daylight.

Plus there's the cost of light bulbs, their fragility, the replacement overhead, the vast waste of energy, glass, and tungsten, the goofy hassle of running air conditioners to do battle with the blazing heat of all these round little glass stoves...let's face it, these gizmos deserve to vanish.

They will be replaced by a superior technology, something cheap, cool, and precisely engineered, that emits visible wavelengths genuinely suited to a consumer's human eyeball. Our descendants will stare at those vacuum-shrouded wires as if they were whale-oil lanterns.


THE PLANET is already cluttered with well-meaning nongovernmental organizations protesting land mines. Their plaint makes perfect sense when you realize that land mines are ideally suited to blowing up peacemakers once a war is over.

During a war, few soldiers step on land mines, because mines are placed by enemies waiting with rifles. Once the armies demob, though, and armies always do, land mines don't kill combatants anymore. They kill livestock, the brighter and more exploratory kinds of children, and the men and women who wander around after soldiers, attempting to restore the planet to habitability.

There is something to be said for the practice of automating bombs so that people can get killed without any human intervention. After all, there's a long technical trend there, and it strongly favors advanced societies with engineers over those among us who merely pick up hoes and axes in fits of tribal rage. But it's stupid to manufacture and spread lethal devices that don't know when a war is over.


ONE HATES to see this dazzling technology go, but when one resolutely sets the romance aside, there's not a lot left. Thanks to decades of biological research, it's now quite clear that flying around the solar system is bad for one's health. Without the healthy stresses of gravity on one's skeleton, human bones decay just as they do during prolonged bed rest while muscles atrophy. Cosmic rays blast through spacecraft walls and human bodies, while solar flares will fry astronauts as diligently as any nuclear bomb. I won't mention the fact that spacecraft are inherently rickety and dangerous, because that's a major part of their attraction.

There is little point in stepping onto the moon, leaving flags and footprints, and then retreating once again. The staggering price of shipping a kilogram into orbit has not come down in decades. In the meantime, unmanned spacecraft grow smaller and more capable every year. Until we bioengineer ourselves to enjoy cosmic rays, or until we've got rockets that can lift a Winnebago made of solid lead, this technology belongs on the museum shelf.


IT'S RATHER out of style to suggest that people who transgress might be rehabilitated if treated decently. But even if criminals are to be relentlessly punished, removed from the sight of decent people, and kept in a giant, two-million-person ghetto, there are better, cheaper, and more efficient ways than the ones we have.

Newfangled electronic-parole monitors and ubiquitous computing offer plenty of opportunities. These certainly needn't be seen as sissified kinds of constraints; they could be just as cruel and unusual as anyone might like.

Lose your American internal visa (formerly known as a "driver's license") and you soon find that merchants won't take your credit, that aircraft won't transport you, that for all your sunny smiles and good behavior, you are under heavy constraints. American airports have become incarceration centers in all but name, plus you can get a drink there and listen to Muzak. So why do we go through these same ritual gestures with the iron bars, uniforms, and transport trucks? Technically, it's redundant.


THERE IS something scarily aberrant about puffing up living human flesh by implanting large amounts of an alien substance. Not that people will sacrifice vanity-of course that is out of the question- but any truly advanced medical technology would simply grow the flesh into the desired shape, using the human metabolism, as opposed to injections of window putty. Silicone's mimicry of flesh-and the same goes for gel, saline, and collagen-is too crude for genuinely cosmetic purposes.


THEY JUST plain don't work. They might have some vague use in increasing the psychological stress of a subject under interrogation, but galvanic skin response and heart rate have little to do with the process of lying. The use of lie detectors is basically a voodoo ritual that allows large institutions to lie to themselves about the trustworthiness of their employees.

Even if lie detectors did work-say, with newfangled nuclear magnetic-resonance brain scans-they would become an Orwellian intrusion. Furthermore, there would likely be a social revolution as major actors in society, from top to bottom, had to admit to fabricating their lives out of spin and wishful thinking. The official public version of our means, motives, and opportunities is severely divorced from the private world of our interior thoughts. If we were forced to confront and reveal our brain functions through technological means, most of us would soon discover that we led half- baked lives of quiet intellectual desperation, in which very little th\ought of any kind ever took place.

10. DVDs

THE DVD was the most eagerly adopted electronic consumer gizmo in history, but I'd feel bad if I failed to complain about the evil of these things. First and worst, DVDs are unbearably frail. Any benefit one gets from "clearer pictures"-on what HDTV superscreen, exactly?-is quickly removed by the catastrophic effects of a single thumbprint or scratch. Plus, just like CDs, DVDs as physical objects will prove to warp and delaminate.

Most loathsome of all is the fiendish spam hard-burned into DVDs, which forces one to suffer through the commercials gratefully evaded by videotape fast-forwards. The Content Scrambling System copy protection scheme doesn't work, and the payoff for pirating DVDs is massive, because unlike tapes, digital data don't degrade with reproduction. So DVDs have the downside of piracy and organized crime, without the upside of free, simple distribution. Someday they will stand starkly revealed for what they really are: collateral damage to consumers in the entertainment industry's miserable, endless war of attrition with digital media.

TECHNOLOGIES DIE rather routinely-seen a Conestoga covered wagon lately?-but it's rare for them to be singled out and righteously put to death. Some technologies, however, are so blatantly obnoxious that the human race would rejoice if they were obliterated. A wise society would honor its young technical innovators for services rendered in annihilating obsolete technologies that are the dangerous hangovers of previous, less advanced generations.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Methane Bubbles Could Sink Ships, Scientists Find
Tue Oct 21, 3:33 PM ET

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Methane bubbles from the sea floor could, in theory, sink ships and may explain the odd disappearances of some vessels, Australian researchers reported on Tuesday.

The huge bubbles can erupt from undersea deposits of solid methane, known as gas hydrates. An odorless gas found in swamps and mines, methane becomes solid under the enormous pressures found on deep sea floors.

The ice-like methane deposits can break off and become gaseous as they rise, creating bubbles at the surface.

David May and Joseph Monaghan of Monash University in Australia said they had demonstrated how a giant bubble from one of these deposits could swamp a ship.

"Sonar surveys of the ocean floor in the North Sea (between Britain and continental Europe) have revealed large quantities of methane hydrates and eruption sites," May and Monaghan wrote in their report, published in the American Journal of Physics.

"A recent survey revealed the presence of a sunken vessel within the center of one particularly large eruption site, now known as the Witches Hole."

"One proposed sinking mechanism attributes the vessel's loss of buoyancy to bubbles of methane gas released from an erupting underwater hydrate," they wrote." The known abundance of gas hydrates in the North Sea, coupled with the vessel's final resting position and its location in the Witches Hole, all support a gas bubble theory."

No one has ever seen such an eruption and no one knows how large the bubbles coming off a methane deposit would be.

May and Monaghan created a model of a single large bubble coming up under a ship. They trapped water between vertical glass plates, launched gas bubbles from the bottom and used a video camera to record what happened to an acrylic "hull" floating on the surface.

"Whether or not the ship will sink depends on its position relative to the bubble. If it is far enough from the bubble, it is safe," they wrote.

"If it is exactly above the bubble, it also is safe, because at a stagnation point of the flow the boat is not carried into the trough. The danger position is between the bubble's stagnation point and the edge of the mound where the trough formed," they concluded. ).

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Inspiration Behind James Bond Dies
Wed Oct 15, 9:04 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - A British war hero, said to have been the inspiration behind secret agent James Bond, has died aged 90, British newspapers reported Wednesday.

Former Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Patrick Dalzel-Job carried out a series of daring exploits behind enemy lines during the Second World War including some while serving under author Ian Fleming, who created the 007 character.

Although he never claimed to be the real James Bond, Fleming had told him he was the model for the heroic spy, the Guardian newspaper said.

Dalzel-Job's real life adventures certainly read like a James Bond novel. In one of most daring exploits in 1940, he disobeyed orders to rescue all the women, children and elderly residents from the Norwegian town of Narvik in local boats just before it was destroyed in a German bombing raid.

He only avoided a court martial after the King of Norway sent his personal thanks and awarded him the Knight's Cross of St Olav. Later in the war he commanded a team in one Fleming's undercover units which worked far ahead of allied lines in France and Germany.

He recounted tales of his wartime achievements in his memoir "From Arctic Snow to Dust of Normandy."

However unlike the woman-chasing 007, Dalzel-Job returned to Norway after the war to marry a schoolgirl he had met there as a child. He even shunned the Bond films.

"I prefer the quiet life now. When you have led such an exciting life you don't need to see a fictional account of it," the Guardian quoted him as saying.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Katrina Stuart Santiago

In what universe is Kris Aquino "api"? In what country can she be called hero?
Not in this one where she has the gall to talk about her jewelry as "katas ng
Hacienda Luisita"; where she has the audacity to talk about owning, and actually
encourages us all to buy, 13,000-peso jeans (because they fit really well!);
where she says of making commercials: "Wala lang, nagpapayaman lang"; and where,
unhappy with her body, she has her boobs enhanced and her waist trimmed, and brags
about it.

I understand the value of a woman of her stature coming out in the open about a
violent relationship. I understand that she may be speaking for the 6 out of 10
women who are battered every day. But let's be clear about something here: Kris
was NOT a meek woman in this relationship. She was a powerful woman, she was
hitting back. "Nagkakasakitan kami", not "Sinasaktan ako", an admission that she
herself could be violent.

Of course there is absolutely no excuse for any man to hurt a woman physically,
but this assumes that the women of this world have yet to turn violent on their
men, and this presupposes that women do not and cannot tell lies about domestic
violence. In the world beyond feminist and women's liberation theory, in the
real world where Kris Aquino and I live, not all women who cry wolf aren't
wolves themselves. Tell me how powerless Kris Aquino is when she has the sense
to burn their bed and grab Marquez's balls. Tell me why it isn't possible that a
woman of Aquino's standing could threaten to ruin another person's career and
thereby prove that people will believe her more than any other.

Please. Let us not paint Kris Aquino as the victim here. It is she who made a
victim of Alma Moreno and her kids; she made a victim of Joshua, she made
victims of Cory Aquino and Noynoy Aquino. Most of all she made a victim of us
all - her public, who swallowed her truth-telling act, her
my-life-is-an-open-book dramatics, and who did not mind that she made a lot of
money out of it. She said she was beating Marquez's camp to the punch by talking
about the violent relationship, the emotional battering, the STD; she said
Marquez was out to ruin her credibility. I ask: what credibility? She herself ruined it.
She had made us believe all this time that she was okay sa alright! - never mind the
rules she was breaking. She had made us believe that she was THE woman of the
millennium, the woman of achievement that we should emulate, and hers the life
of the rich and famous that we should all aspire for. And now she hides behind
the idea na "Tao lang, nagkakasala"? She sold us lies about her life, and now
she's being allowed to hide behind the stereotype of a battered woman, meek and
silent, which she isn't?

Please. Let us not make Kris Aquino a woman's hero on the basis of an incident
that we haven't heard both sides of. She could be telling the truth this time,
but it shouldn't elevate her to some women's lib hall of fame. The number of
women reporting domestic abuse may rise, but it shouldn't mean that she is now
the epitome of what a strong woman should be. Let us not forget that this woman,
whom everyone from Atty.Katrina Legarda to Gabriela's Lisa Masa would like to call hero,
sells whitening soap to a land of morena women, encourages us all to get breast implants
and liposuction, and has already abused another woman - Alma Moreno, by ruining her
and her kids' chance at a family - just because Joey Marquez could be the man
for her. (A party-list organization has joined the fray and encouraged Kris to
file an official complaint against Marquez through their "Report-A-Mistress
Campaign" - e, sinong ire- report ni Kris, sarili niya?)

Utang na loob. Let us not be blind to what Kris Aquino already is and will
continue to be after all of these. She's a media person who rakes in millions of
pesos making commercials that raise women's material needs, who batters women's
confidence by telling them to get whiter, smell better, have more boobs, and who
parades her jewels, expensive clothes and shoes - flaunting her wealth,
literally and tastelessly - on nationwide television in this poor Third World
nation. This Kris is not and should not be seen as separate or distinct from
Kris Aquino "the battered live-in partner". Kris Aquino is one woman, and she makes
this whole nation live with and suffer her adolescent contradictions every time
she washes her dirty laundry in our faces.

In no universe should Kris Aquino be considered hero. In no universe is Kris
Aquino "api". And it is only in this mababaw ang kaligayahan Kris Aquino country
- where activists jump at any prospect of a tactical alliance and where advocacy
groups fish for spokespersons - that she will in time rise again and wrap us all
around her little finger yet again. That is, unless we keep her from doing so. Unless
we stop all these personalities - from Fidel Ramos talking about Marquez's political
career to the Fortun brothers rising from Jose Velarde's ashes - from gaining any
more media mileage out of the controversy. Unless we all - including the media - get
smarter and wiser about this unsolvable, and embarrassing, problem that is Kris.

Let's start by looking at the real heroes in all of these.

Let's look at the woman that Alma Moreno is. She who didn't badmouth
Kris when news broke about the latter's affair with her husband. She
who had the good sense to keep quiet for the sake of her and Marquez's
kids. She who has endured the violence wreaked on her family by Kris
Aquino, and who continues to endure it, having to explain to her kids
why they are being teased in school.

Let's look at Noynoy Aquino and how he has handled this situation with
well-chosen words for Kris but not against Joey. How he is being the big
brother that he has said he is so many times in the past, even when Kris
would talk about him on nationwide television as the bane of her
existence. How he has not sensationalized the issue and has kept it on
the level of a family crisis, letting women's advocates take it for what
they think it is.

We want anyone to gain from this? Let it be Noynoy. For if there's any
Aquino who deserves the limelight, who is intelligent and level-headed,
who can truly say that he can do something for this country, whom we
would like to see and hear more of - if there's one Aquino of whom
Ninoy can be proud, it is Noynoy.

Let Kris Aquino rest from the limelight. And give this poor nation a rest
from Kris Aquino. (Mga ten years.)

Katrina Stuart Santiago
U.P. Diliman, Philippine Studies Program