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Location: Mandaluyong, Philippines

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Students bare their ‘peer pressure’ moments
By Angelica Y. Yang
Philippine Daily Inquirer

By choosing their friends wisely, they survive-amazingly
WHAT IS PEER pressure? “It’s the ever-present impulse to fit in with ‘popular’ people,” says 13-year-old E. Claire, an incoming high school freshman in an exclusive girls’ school in Metro Manila.

“[It’s] thinking that being one of them will make one be liked and accepted by their fellow students,” she adds.

For 15-year-old Aikikyle, an incoming junior in an all-boys school in Metro Manila, peer pressure is all about “students trying to protect their status so that they will remain ‘cool.’ They want to be accepted by the whole student body, so if you don’t do what the others do, you’re considered weird.”

Thirteen-year-old Andromeda Porter had her own rude awakening to peer pressure as she was graduating from grade school.

“All of us were invited to the farewell party, and we were supposed to meet a week after graduation at McDonald’s with no parents, just a maid. When I told my parents that, they refused to let me go. When I told my classmates about it, I was like, ‘This is so unfair!’”

Aquaprincess11121, also 13, says she felt peer pressure “when lots of people were sharing answers during a quiz, and another, when all the girls wore their hair in this certain style.”

For 17-year-old Prettywildnat, it “would mean friends encouraging you to abuse substances like alcohol and get stupid in parties.”

Worst experience

It gets most unbearable when the whole class gangs up on you—exactly what Boadicea, a 15-year-old high school student in Zamboanga, went through.

“I think that the worst experience I had with peer pressure was when I was shunned by everybody for doing something I thought was right, though everybody else thought it was not my business. I told a friend her boyfriend was cheating on her. Everyone was pressuring me to keep quiet or just take back what I said, but I wouldn’t, because I knew it was wrong. It was hard at first, because no one in class talked to me since they were all friends with the guy. But it gradually passed and they had to apologize.”

But Boadicea says living and studying in the province has its quirks. Peer pressure over smoking, drinking and sex is not the main issue of girls her age. Teenage “provincianas,” she says, are all about “needing to have a boy- or girlfriend.” The pressure is so great, she adds, that “it makes other people say ‘yes’ to suitors who they barely even know, or mistake infatuation for the real thing.”

City dweller Prettywildnat nearly gave in to alcohol and drugs, just to belong. “I admit there were times I was tempted to indulge in them,” she admits.

E. Claire, who finished valedictorian in grade school, was witness to friends who succumbed to peer pressure.

“I’ve seen people whose grades dropped and whose personalities took a turn for the worse because their supposed friends pressured them to conform to a warped version of ‘cool.’ It’s frightening how easily negative peer pressure can destroy your life, just so you could feel like you belonged, even for a fleeting moment.”

Group support

For Aikikyle, that feeling of belonging (and overcoming peer pressure) meant joining organizations.

“My organization helps me meet new people and help people in need, especially the youth at risk,” she says. Aikikyle is an active member of his school’s social action group. “As we contribute to society, we also form a family as well.”

Strong family ties helped Prettywildnat overcome peer pressure.

“I worked hard to be a good student and earn the trust of my parents. I didn’t want to throw that away all too easily. I’m very proud to say the friends I surround myself with are good influences and would always remind me of the consequences of my actions. Through all these, I am able to guard myself against unwanted peer pressure and unnecessary mistakes. Keep in mind that with confidence in oneself and faith in God, one will always succeed during difficult moments.”

Aquaprincess11121 says she turns to prayer when she’s confronted with peer pressure. “I pray to God to help me overcome peer pressure because it’s kind of the only thing that helps me, actually.”

Sense of assurance

Boadicea says: “If you’ve got self-confidence, self-reliance and responsibility, peer pressure will most likely not affect you as much as it affects others. Usually, the people who give in to peer pressure are those who are insecure, or those who lack friends or need a sense of assurance that they can be accepted.”

While self-acceptance may be tough to have at such a young age, E. Claire believes it becomes a doable goal when one gets a little push from friends who really care.

“Overcoming peer pressure is a matter of keeping a positive self-image and sticking with the kind of people who can help me maintain just that,” she says. “When I appreciate who I am and know what I’m capable of, there is no reason for me to be pressured into doing something only because ‘everyone else’ is doing it.”

Crazylittlegrasshopper01 gives this advice: “Choose friends carefully. Have a solid support system of family, friends, teachers and your faith. And know thyself.”

Give Aquino a break, says antismoking group
By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Give him a break.

The World Health Organization-attached Tobacco-Free Initiative (T-FI) said smokers, including presumptive president-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, have a “right to privacy in dealing with quitting [the habit] that needs to be respected.”

“This is true of Noynoy Aquino as it is of everyone else,” T-FI said Friday in a statement.

The senator “is a smoker like 17 million other Filipinos ... Like others who were born in the 1960s, he grew up in an environment where smoking was the norm—even among role models like priests, doctors, businessmen, scientists, scholars, actors, and athletes,” the group added.

However, “it seems that Mr. Aquino is aware that he is not only damaging his own health but is setting a poor example to his fellow countrymen although he has expressed a desire to quit,” T-FI said.

It cited the following recommendations from “Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence” published by the US Public Health Service:

Brief advice for smokers to quit the habit is more effective than constant reminders.

Counseling and medication are “effective but more effective in combination.”

Aside from counseling, social support is an important part of an antismoking treatment program.

Nicotine replacement therapy, which includes using patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers and sprays, as well as bupropion and varenicline are effective drugs of choice in treating nicotine addiction.

Tobacco dependence should be viewed as a chronic disease that requires multiple interventions.

The antitobacco group Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance said Aquino “should not shut his door from getting professional help to quit smoking because smoking cessation therapy programs are already available in both government and private hospitals here.”

Lead by example

“Quitting smoking will not add stress to Aquino’s life if only he would exercise his will to let the addiction go,” the group added.

Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has urged Aquino to quit smoking, saying it would be an “excellent demonstration of leadership by example.”

She said Aquino should make good on his preelection promise to kick his nicotine habit.

If Aquino quits smoking, “he will save not just himself but millions of our countrymen from the many harmful effects of tobacco on health,” said Cabral, adding that the DOH would continue its advocacy against smoking.


According to T-FI, “smokers have a right to the best information and the best available services to quit in order to protect their health and the health of their loved ones.”

“Scientific understanding of smoking and treatment of tobacco dependence have advanced in recent years,” the WHO agency pointed out.


T-FI also said “recent public statements made in the Philippines regarding the efficacy of acupuncture as a treatment needs to be scrutinized.”

US Public Health Service guidelines “state unequivocally that there is no evidence to show that acupuncture is effective in tobacco use treatment.”

T-FI pointed out that “few families in the Philippines have been spared the effects of tobacco use and smoke exposure.”

“Based on the 2009 Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 49 percent of respondents reported that smoking was allowed inside their homes ... More than 50 percent of youths aged 13-15 years reported that they were exposed to cigarette smoke at home daily ... Filipinos endure multiple daily exposures to tobacco smoke in public transportation, restaurants, shopping malls and even health facilities.”

Cheap and accessible

The WHO body believes “the reasons for the high burden and prevalence of smoking are straightforward.”

“Cigarettes are cheap and accessible. A cigarette pack costs less than 1$ (P46). Individual sticks are sold on the street to smokers, including children.”

T-FI called cigarette smoking “one of the risk factors” for one of the leading causes of death in the country—cardiovascular disease.

“It also causes immeasurable suffering among families afflicted with lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases,” the group said.

The Aquino family “was not spared from this. The late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. suffered a heart attack. His late wife, former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino had colorectal cancer. Both of these conditions have been linked to exposure to cigarette smoke,” T-FI added.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An open letter to Noynoy
By F Sionil Jose
(The Philippine Star)

Illustration by IGAN D’ BAYAN

Dear Noynoy,

You are now swamped with suggestions and advice, but just the same, I hope you’ll have time to read what this octogenarian has to say.

You were not my choice in the last election but since our people have spoken, we must now support you and pray that you prevail. But first, I must remind you of the stern reality that your drumbeaters ignore: you have no noble legacy from your forbears. It is now your arduous job to create one yourself in the six years that you will be the single most powerful Filipino. Six years is too short a time — the experience in our part of the world is that it takes at least one generation — 25 years — for a sick nation to recover and prosper. But you can begin that happy process of healing.

Bear in mind that the past weighs heavily on all of us because of the many contradictions in it that we have not resolved, whose resolutions would strengthen us as a nation. This past is now your burden, too. Let us start with the fact that your grandfather collaborated with the Japanese. Your father was deeply aware of this, its stigma, its possibilities. He did not leave any legacy because he did not become president. He was a brilliant and courageous politician. He was an enterprising journalist; he had friends in journalism who can attest to his effulgent vision, who did not profit from his friendship, among them Nestor Mata, Gregorio Brillantes — you may consult them. I cannot say I did not profit — he bought many books from my shop and when he was in Marcos’s prison, your mother brought books from my shop to him.

Forgive me for giving you this unsolicited advice. First, beware of hubris; you are surrounded by panderers who will tell you what is nice to hear. You need to be humble always and heed your conscience. When Caesar was paraded in ancient Rome before the cheering multitudes, there was always a man chanting behind him: “Remember, you are mortal.”

I say to you, remember, the poor — some of them in your own hacienda — will be your ultimate judge.

From your comfortable and privileged cocoon, you know so little of our country and people. Seek the help of the best — and the best do not normally want to work in government and neither will they approach you. You have to seek them.

Be the revolutionary your father wanted to be and don’t be scared or wary of the word “revolution.” It need not be always bloody. EDSA I was not. Your father wanted to destroy the most formidable obstacle to our progress — the Oligarchy to which you and your family belong. To succeed, you have to betray your class. If you cannot smash the oligarchy, at least strive to have their wealth develop this country, that they bring back the billions they stashed abroad. You cannot do this in six years, but you can begin.

Prosecute the crooks. It is difficult, thankless and even dangerous to do this. Your mother did not do it — she did not jail Imelda who was the partner in that conjugal dictatorship that plundered this nation. Watch her children — they were much too young to have participated in that looting but they are heirs to the billions which their parents stashed abroad. Now the Marcoses are on the high road to power, gloating, snickering at our credulity and despicable amnesia.

You know the biggest crooks in and out of government, those powerful smugglers, thieves, tax cheats — all you really need is guts to clobber them. Your father had lots of it — I hope he passed on to you most of it.

And most of all, now that you have the muscle to do it, go after your father’s killers. Blood and duty compel you to do so. Cory was only his wife — you are the anointed and only son. Your regime will be measured by how you resolve this most blatant crime that robbed us of a true leader.

And, finally, your mother. We loved her — she united us in ousting an abominable dictator. But she, too, did not leave a shining legacy for her presidency was a disaster. She announced a revolutionary government but did nothing revolutionary. She promised land reform but did not do it. And most grievous of all — she transformed the EDSA I revolution into a restoration of the oligarchy.

She became president only because her husband was murdered and you became president elect only because your mother died. Still, you are your father’s son and may you now — for the good of this country and people — scale the heights he and your mother never reached.

I am 85 and how I despair over how three generations of our leaders failed! Before I go, please let me see this unhappy country begin to be a much better place than the garbage dump our leaders and people have made it. You can be this long awaited messiah but only if you are brave enough and wise enough to redeem your father’s aborted promise.

Hopefully yours,

F. Sionil Jose

Confessions of a Disney Cast Member
Robert Niles spent five summers working on rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Tom Sawyer Island at Walt Disney World. He currently edits the site Theme Park Insider.
By Robert Niles

(© Disney)

Excuse me, young man, are you pregnant?

What's more terrifying than the 38-foot drop on Disney's Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? Having to ask women in line if they're pregnant. It's for their own safety, but forget a woman scorned — hell hath no fury like a woman who's been mistaken for being pregnant. Once, when I was in training, I watched a coworker approach a larger female park visitor and ask, "Excuse me, ma'am, but are you pregnant?" "Pregnant!?!" the woman screamed, her voice turning heads at the happiest place on earth. "No! What are you saying? Do I look fat to you?!" She turned to her friend and screamed some more: "They think I look fat. Let's get out of here!"

I was so traumatized by that incident I crafted a plan to avoid offending anyone. Whenever I spotted a "suspect," I asked everybody in the vicinity — including teenage boys and women in their 70s — if they were with child. If the woman I suspected was actually pregnant, she left the ride quickly. If she wasn't, she just thought I was working a gag.

I sure am Randy today

Disney made the "first name" name tag famous, but the tag doesn't always match the person wearing it. One day, as I was steering the raft to Tom Sawyer Island, my name tag dropped into the river, forcing me to get a new one. There wasn't a single "Robert" left, so until a replacement could be made, I pretended to be "Randy," a name that amused visitors from the U.K. to no end. Elderly English ladies lined up to have their picture taken with me. One screamed when she saw me, grabbed her friend, and yelled, "Is that really your name?" Being a good Disney cast member, I lied and said yes. The friend said, "You know, we love a good randy man back home." But lady, even I'm not that good a cast member.

To get onstage, dress the part

A few attractions choose audience volunteers to be part of the show, but the selection process is far from random. Typically, you need to be a certain gender, size, and age for each of the different roles. You might even need to be wearing a specific item of clothing. On my off days from work, I used to go over to Universal Studios, and I would get picked all the time to play "Mother" in the old Alfred Hitchcock show. They needed a guy my height and weight who happened to be wearing the same type of plain white tennis shoes I always wore. Also helpful for getting picked: cuteness and enthusiasm. Curious kids who ask nicely and look excited often get extra attention, along with thrilling perks like riding up front and introducing shows.

Stroller relocation program

Disney's a family place, but the people who work there come to loathe strollers. It's part of a cast member's job to keep strollers in nice, orderly lines and to make sure they're only left in designated areas. But park visitors keep their strollers in an appalling condition, loaded up with dirty diapers, rotting bottles of milk, and half-eaten PB&J sandwiches. Others see no problem with parking their strollers right in front of an attraction's exit or entrance. Sometimes thoughtless individuals like this incur the wrath of the stroller police, and their precious Bugaboos and Maclarens are intentionally relocated to a place "far, far away" — at the very back of the area cordoned off for strollers.

Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of (confiscated) rum

On special Grad Nites, when Disney hosts loads of freshly graduated high school kids, the park puts extra staffers inside Pirates of the Caribbean and other rides as lookouts to monitor less-than-legal activities. Our focus was mostly on what the kids were consuming. Booze, cigarettes — you name it, and a Disney cast member has confiscated it from a 17-year-old at one time or another. One clever kid, forced to hand over his bottle, noted the irony of getting busted in the middle of a ride that celebrates a drunken pirate orgy. "Hey, don't the pirates have enough?" he asked. "They need mine, too?"

Please keep your happiness to yourself

This attraction has been camera monitored for your safety. That's the spiel Disney broadcasts over its loudspeakers for many rides. But the cameras are also meant to protect you from yourself. One night, while most parkgoers were watching the fireworks display, a couple strolled over to Pirates of the Caribbean, where I was working. They not only had a boat to themselves, but empty boats all around them. The real fireworks display, it turned out, was visible on the security cameras to all of us working that night. Let's just say the show the couple put on wasn't exactly G-rated.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

An Unexplained Darkness Cast Upon The Colonies
By John Horrigan

We really don’t know what is was or how it happened. By reviewing newspapers and journals of the day, we do know that it came on quickly from the west and did not dissipate until the following day. We also know that it frightened the population of New England. And today, 228 years later, we can only speculate as to what it was not.

In the days leading up to May 19th, 1780, residents in the Northeast had noticed a strange copper-colored hue to sunsets and sunrises. There had been mild temperatures during a soft Spring that was welcomed after a long and hard winter, “the most hard difficult winter that was ever known by any person living”.1 There was deep snow and severe cold with widespread suffering from all points north to Maine, southeast to Georgia, west to Detroit and south to New Orleans. The harbors in Boston and New York had frozen over solid. Travel ceased, social interaction was non-existent and shipping was halted.2 When the thaw came on March 7th, many bridges were damaged by ice flows, but the people were happy to crossover into Spring.3

And later that Spring came the Dark Day of New England. But what caused it?

The Dark Day was not caused by a lunar or solar eclipse. This is a common misperception still perpetuated by Fred Espenak in his Catalog of Lunar Eclipses on the home page of the NASA Eclipse website.4 Espenak has inferred that the Dark Day was preceded by what he identifies as the largest partial lunar eclipse taking place on May 18th, 1780, the day before the Dark Day, beginning at 10:58 AM and concluding at 12:36 PM, with an umbra magnitude of 0.9677 (compared to the smallest umbra magnitude of 0.0331 attributed to the partial lunar eclipse of June 30th, 1849). But a lunar eclipse in daylight does not bring darkness to earth.

There was an annular solar eclipse on May 4th, 1780, but totality, i.e. complete coverage of the solar disk causing almost total darkness equivalent to the dark of night, happened southwest of Africa in the extreme southern Atlantic Ocean, and it only lasted for about a minute and a half.5 Moreover, the colonists from Virginia to Georgia were familiar with solar eclipses. For instance, the solar eclipse of August 5th, 1776 was glimpsed by the Reverend Joseph Willard, then president of Harvard College, from his home in Beverly, Massachusetts.6 Settlers had witnessed the annular eclipse of January 9th, 1777. They had also experienced a nearly total solar eclipse on June 24th, 1778 (totality was observed in Atlanta, Georgia). This eclipse had been predicted in Poor Richard’s Almanac and was relayed to the Continental Army by General George Washington prior to its apparition (and before the Battle of Monmouth a few days later) so as to pre-empt and alleviate the men’s apprehension.7 It was turned into an advantage by George Rogers Clark as he launched his Illinois Campaign. He soothed the fear of his men by telling them that it should be interpreted as a good omen for their impending military expedition.8 A few months later, a scientific expedition of four professors and six students funded by Harvard College, in association with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, foundered in the woods of Maine near Penobscot Bay as they had hoped to glimpse a total solar eclipse on October 27th, 1780. Unfortunately, they did not. Reverend Professor Williams had miscalculated the path of totality and lead the group to the wrong area. Consequently, they only viewed a partial solar eclipse. This was subsequently dubbed as the “Lost Eclipse” of 1780.9 The extraordinary nuance that makes this debacle worth mentioning is that British officers called a temporary cease to hostilities so as to allow this expedition to pass through British occupied territory. Science prevailed over warfare in this unprecedented and honorable truce. The point of mentioning this is that many colonists, aside from scientists of the day, were aware of and could easily identify - a solar eclipse.

Could a planetary transit been the root of the darkness? No. The Dark Day was not caused by a planetary transit, that is, a planet crossing in front of the sun and inducing an eclipse. Anyone familiar with basic astronomy would know that this is a preposterous notion. Mercury would obviate less than 1 percent of the solar surface and the only transits of Mercury relative to the Dark Day occurred on November 2nd, 1776 and November 12th, 1782.10 The only transit of Venus near that time period took place on June 3rd, 1769.11

Was the Dark Day enabled by a dust storm? Hardly. Although the Chinese, and evidently the rest of the earth for that matter, suffer from continual dust storms as the grains of the Gobi are lifted and moved about, the young United States could not have been blanketed by a low-altitude dust cover during 1780. Northern Africa suffers from Saharan sand storms, born in the Bodélé Depression. The Middle East and Australia are regularly inundated with sandstorms. In the past 37 years, the United States has only endured two major dust storms: near Tucson, Arizona on July 16, 1971 and last February near Amarillo, Texas. 12 The “mother” of all American dust storms was a series of destructive dust clouds that took place during the infamous “Dust Bowl” that scoured the North American prairie in the 1930’s. Drought and the accompanying erosion compounded the Great Depression with famine as sterile farms that lost their topsoil, stopped producing agriculture and forced a migration westward by families who had lost their homesteads and went on a nomadic search for employment. Major dust storms during the Dust Bowl include the South Dakota clouds of November 11th, 1933 and on May 11th, 1934, where a massive two-day blow rained dirt on Chicago, Buffalo, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. The winter of 1934 and 1935 even yielded a red snow in New England. The king of dust storms during the Dust Bowl was definitely, “Black Sunday”, taking place on April 14th, 1935. It was one of a few dozen “Black Blizzards” that took place in the American heartland during the 1930’s. Residents east of the blow, aside from suffering the misery of grinding their teeth on sand grains, could not see even five feet in front of themselves.13 The Dark Day was not caused by a dust storm as there is no corroborating record from trappers, explorers and Native Americans roaming the interior plains in 1780.

Was the Dark Day caused by a volcanic eruption? It is very unlikely. One of the most destructive volcanic eruptions in terms of voluminous ash emitted over a very short time period, happened, oddly, only 3 years after the Dark Day and lasted for a period of 8 months. On June 8th, 1783, in Laki, Iceland, a volcano began coughing up a basalt lava tephra filled with noxious sulfur dioxide. The resulting devastation was compounded by the fact that it stayed in the very low reaches of the earth’s atmosphere. It raked Iceland, where inhabitants could not see through close-range dark ash clouds. They lost their livestock to asphyxiation and farmland to an ashen blanket. This “Laki Haze” caused many deaths across Western Europe and altered the earth’s climate over the next few years. Great Britain suffered through the “Sand Summer of 1783” after the poisonous cloud drifted across Scandinavia, Prussia and France. This volcanic “dry fog” kept ships at port as they were unable to navigate, choked many residents to death, severely inhibited crop growth and inferred a “blood red” sun and sky. During the years immediately following the Laki spew, the weather fluctuated wildly. Extreme weather birthed incredible hail fusillades, severe winters and ironically, sweltering heat and longer growing seasons that saw European harvests realize surpluses. As was the case during the Dark Day, this deadly haze and bizarre meteorology was attributed to “Divine Retribution” upon a sinful population and sparked cries of “the end is nigh”.14 Even Benjamin Franklin recorded his observations of the bizarre weather and consequent atmospheric hue. He properly attributed the weather anomalies to a volcanic eruption in Iceland.15 The only American volcanic eruptions that took place near the year 1780 were in the late 18th century at Mt. St. Helens and at the lava dome of Mt. Hood. Again, Native Americans and pioneers have not come forward with any records or accounts that would indicate a blanketing ash plume that blew eastward from the Cascades or the Rockies toward New England.16 In fact, in New England, it is known that the Dark Day was first detected in Eastern New York.17

Was the Dark Day instantiated by a large forest fire? Perhaps it was. In fact, it is the most likely scenario and we’ll review that shortly. In the west, major fires forced Native American tribes from the forest to the prairie or vice versa. The mid-19th century saw four major forest fires in Oregon alone.18 It is unlikely though, that a western wildfire would have yielded a thick black, lingering smoke pall that maintained its composition as it drifted eastward, but rather, like the Milford Flat Utah Fire of July, 2007 or the Northern Quebec wildfires of July, 2002 it would have brought wisps of smoke over parts of New England and might have simply produced a noticeable haze and glorious sunsets.

If New England’s Dark Day of May 19th, 1780 was not precipitated by a lunar or solar eclipse, a planetary transit, dust storm, volcanic eruption or western wildfire, then what caused it? In the preceding days leading up to the Dark Day, residents in many parts of New England had noticed that the sky was cloudy and murky at dawn, the sun had a pinkish hue to it at midday, and offered up spectacular copper sunsets in defiance of the color spectrum at dusk. In Weston, Massachusetts Samuel Phillips Savage remarked that there was “a remarkable thick air” and that “the sun rises and sets very red.” The evening’s waning gibbous moon also gave off a pink reflection.19 Just a little past nine on the morning of May 19th, Reverend Thomas Savage noticed that there “came on an appearance over the whole visible heavens…a light brassy hue, nearly the color of pale Cyder” and soon the sky was “attended with a gloom nearly resembling that of an Eclipse of the Sun”.20 It’s interesting to note that this aside is frequently interpreted by some as absolute proof that the darkness was induced by an eclipse. But if taken literally, one can deduce that Savage is indicating that he is familiar with solar eclipses (having glimpsed an eclipse previously) and that the darkness was not brought on by one.

By 10 AM the sky went dark and Savage noted that “Fowles retired to their Roosts, or collected in clusters”.21 Crickets began chirping and cows returned to their stalls. The preternatural night had fallen. All over New England, every farmer, schoolboy, fisherman, maiden, cordwainer, blacksmith, clergyman and laborer gawked upward for the missing sun and gasped at the remarkable and sudden elimination of light. A deep shadow had fallen and “every thing bore the appearance and gloom of night.”22 The noonday meal was served by candlelight and a single candle “cast a shade so well defined…that profiles were taken with as much ease as they could have been in the night.”23 The newspaper known as the Massachusetts Spy reported that one “could scarcely see to read common print, [and] it was the judgment of many that at about 12 o’clock…the day light was not greater, if so great, as that of bright moon-light” and “no object was discernable but by the help of some artificial light.”24 Samuel Savage of Weston could not even read his watch, even as he stood by his window.25 His neighbor was forced to quit spreading manure in his field as he was longer “able to discern the difference between the ground and the Dung.”26 Savage noted that “the birds of the Night were abroad and by their melancholy notes added to the Solemnity of the Scene.”27

At Sudbury, Massachusetts, Experience Richardson remarked that “it was so terrible dark …that we could not see our hand before us.”

In Connecticut, the legislature adjourned after looking out of the chamber windows and then hurried home to their families. The members of the Council of Safety lobbied Senator Abraham Davenport to do the same, as the Day of Judgment may very well be at hand, but he reportedly said “The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”28

Lawyer William Pynchon of Salem, Massachusetts recorded that most people scurried about with “melancholy and fear”, everyone that is, except for the sailors who “went hallooing and frolicking throughout the streets”, were “reproved in vain” and shouted lewd remarks at women as they drunkenly tried to entice them to remove their clothing.29

Residents were well read in regard to the Holy Bible and most could recite verses effortlessly. There were several passages in both the New and Old Testament (Book of Exodus 10:21, Isaiah 13:9-10, Ezekiel 32:7, Joel 2:31, Zephaniah 1:15, Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:24, Acts 2:20, etc.) that referred to sudden darkness and attributed it to Divine Retribution and the Lord’s Day of Judgment. Most then, thought that the Second Coming was at hand and that surely “the end was nigh”. This is why many rushed to their churches to repent. Some attributed this Day of Reckoning as punishment for the raging American Revolutionary War and the suffering that was being inflicted upon both the Loyalists and the Separatists.30 Many clergymen noticed that their pews were full and one reverend even retorted to a question posed to him about the gloom’s origin that he “was in the dark about the matter just as you are”.31 Several sermons given on the Dark Day were later printed in one publication of verses that became a “best seller” of the time period.

A correspondent to Independent Chronicle by the pen name of “Viator” made several postulations based upon his observations made at his home in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He noticed that morning that just as “the sun was quite shut in, and it began to shower. It looked as though a powerful storm was approaching from the southwest; and while the sky churned and boiled at higher altitudes, nary a blade of grass stirred at ground level. From the thickness of the clouds, and the confusion that attended their motions, we expected a violent gust of wind and rain; the wind, however, near the earth, continued small, and it rained but little.”32 With this uncanny observation made by Viator, we can eliminate a line of severe thunderstorms from our list of suspected culprits. The lack of wind that accompanies most severe thunderstorms indicates in this case that these clouds were not thunderheads in the purest sense. Viator and his companions noted that by one o’clock in the afternoon the last bit of light was gone. By 2 PM things got weird as an odd luminescence shone in the west and became brighter with time. The clouds in the west were now “more quick, their colour higher and more brassy than at any time before” and there appeared to be “quick flashes, or coruscations, not unlike the aurora borealis.”33 It sounds as if the sunbeams were bleeding out of small vents in the thick clouds. When Viator and his pals finally ventured outdoors at 3 o’clock, they “perceived a strong sooty smell” and “others conjectured the smell was more like that of burnt leaves.”34 When Viator headed down to the tavern, he found agitated punters. They lead him out back to examine the tubs where they had collected of the strange rain water. “Upon examining the water, I found a light scum over it, which rubbing between my thumb and finger, I found to be nothing but black ashes and burnt leaves. The water gave the same strong sooty smell we had observed in the air, and confirmed me in my opinion, that the smell…was occasioned by the smoke, or very small particles of burnt leaves, which had obscured the hemisphere for several days past, were now brought down by the rain. The vast body of smoke from the woods which had been burning for many days, mixing with the common exhalations from the earth and water, and condensed by the action of winds from opposite points, may perhaps be sufficient causes to produce the surprising darkness.”35 Others, like a correspondent dubbed “Nubes” claimed that there was an accompanying sulphurous odor.36 Many other accounts poured in from all over New England that indicated a whiff of burnt leaves and smoke. Many birds were found dead on the ground, having blindly flown into structures or possibly asphyxiated by the thick smoke pall. By the next morning, things got back to normal and the sun returned as its effervescent self and occupied its right place in the sky, for New England’s Dark Day was indeed, over.

So with these clues, we can begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together and draw our own conclusions as to what caused New England’s Dark Day. In Sidney Perley’s Historic Storms of New England we learn that early in May of 1780, there were major forest fires along the shores of Lake Champlain, most likely triggered intentionally, only to rage out of control by accident. New settlements were being made in northern New Hampshire and the artificial deforestation had commenced.37 As settlers did every year in Autumn, trees were intentionally blazed so as to clear land for farming. In the late 18th century, New England was predominantly covered in deciduous and pine forests. Fields for farming were the creations of the settlers and for all intents and purposes not native to the New England landscape. The land clearing method was basic. These trees were deliberately cut halfway through at breast high in late Autumn. During the ensuing Winter all of the trees on the preferred lot to be cleared were prepared in the same fashion. The brisk March winds would then blow down only some of the half-cut trees. To topple the remaining trees, the woodsmen would cut a tree down on the perimeter of the lot and allow it to topple against another to create a “domino effect” with the momentum of one falling timber continuing onto the next falling tree until a whole lot would be piled high (in some cases over 20 feet deep). When the snow melted and the lumber dried, it was then torched in late April or early May. This methodology had a dual purpose as it cleared the lot and the residual ash served as an effective fertilizer for crops. In the Spring of 1780, these slash-and-burn fires raged out of control in a major conflagration.

Other clues emerge as to the fire’s origin. In Weare, New Hampshire, the aforementioned soot was 6 inches deep in places, indicating that it was close to the source.38 In Boston, on the afternoon of May 18th, the day prior to the Dark Day, a breeze sprang up and blew the gathering smoke pall to the south. The following day, the wind changed direction several times before blowing from the east in an onshore breeze that caused a heavy fog. That fog then collided with a front composed of this “timber smog” and rain clouds swept up from the southwest. Could this have been a rare occlusion of a major warm front that was woven with thick smoke moving from the southwest, and then saturated and stalled by cooler moist salt air moving from the east? Could it have caused a thick cloud layer to stall over New England for several hours and consequently blot out the sun? On the Dark Day, considerable rain fell in Maine as thunderstorms with vivid lightning moved across southern New Hampshire. Only a little rain fell on Massachusetts. Indeed this was quite a peculiar meteorological anomaly. Perhaps the center of the low pressure system deteriorated and its strength decreased and therefore its prowess was protracted as the breadth of the cell increased, which is a common attribute of extra-tropical cyclones and some Nor’easters. Perhaps the thicker smoke pall served as a stalling barrier to the winds that blew in from the east. This is pure non-scientific conjecture and from-the-hip speculation on this author’s part and I leave it to the reader to surmise as to what caused the Dark Day of New England. But in the annals of American meteorology, this was a peculiar anomaly that was never repeated.

1.- Ludlum, David M., “Early American Winters, 1604-1820, The History of American Weather”, American Meteorological Society, 1966, Boston, Mass.

2.- Ludlum, David M., “Early American Winters, 1604-1820, The History of American Weather”, American Meteorological Society, 1966, Boston, Mass.

3.- Ludlum, David M., “Early American Winters, 1604-1820, The History of American Weather”, American Meteorological Society, 1966, Boston, Mass.

4.- Catalog of Lunar Eclipses, 1701 – 1800, NASA Eclipse Home Page

5.- NASA – Annular Solar Eclipse of May 04, 1780

6.– Winsor, Justin; “The Memorial History of Boston, 1630 – 1880”, James R. Osgood and Company, Boston, 1881, page 497

7.– Stryker, William S.; “The Battle of Monmouth”; Kessinger Publishing, 2006; Pages 74 -78

8.– English, William Hayden; Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio, 1778-1783; Bowen-Merrill company, Kansas City, MO, 1895, page 163.

9.– Corliss, William R.; “Science Frontiers Online”; No. 22, July-August, 1982

10.– Winsor, Justin; “The Memorial History of Boston Including Suffolk County”; J.R. Osgood and Company, Boston, page 497

11.– Phillips, Tony, Dr.; “James Cook and the Transit of Venus”; NASA

12.– Wikipedia; “Dust Storms”

13.– Wikipedia; “Dust Bowl”

14.– Wikipedia; “Laki”

15.– The Economist; “18th Century Climate Change, The Summer of Acid Rain”; December 19th, 2007

16.– USGS; Historical Volcanic Eruptions in the United States

17.– Wikipedia; “New England’s Dark Day”

18.– Wikipedia; “List of forest fires

19.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

20.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

21.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

22.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

23.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

24.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

25.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

26.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

27.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

28.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

29.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

30.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

31.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

32.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

33.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

34.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

35.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

36.- Campanella, Thomas, “Mark Well The Gloom: Shedding Light on the Great Dark Day of 1780” Environmental History, January, 2007

37.– Perley, Sidney; “Historic Storms of New England”; Salem Press Publishing and Printing company; Salem, Mass., 1891

38.– Perley, Sidney; “Historic Storms of New England”; Salem Press Publishing and Printing company; Salem, Mass., 1891

Surfer gets ride of a lifetime, on shark's back
Kauai man tells of his close encounter in Hanalei Bay
By Paul C. Curtis
Garden Island

Jim Rawlinson, right, was intact after the shark attack; his board wasn't. During the attack, Rawlinson says he wound up on the shark's back — and rode it like a horse for 10 seconds.
Save our Seas

LĪHU'E, Kaua'i — Jim Rawlinson, 68, a carpenter from Anahola, was back in the Hanalei Bay waves Tuesday and expecting to rip again later in the week, even after a shark took a bite out of his board there Monday afternoon.

In fact, he continued to surf for at least an hour after the attack, which had him ending up on the back of the shark that bit his board, he said Tuesday morning.

When the shark hit his board, the board went up in the air, Rawlinson went into the water and ended up smack on the back of the tiger shark, riding the shark like a cowboy rides a horse for around 10 seconds, he said.

And while others in his situation might have considered those the longest 10 seconds of their lives, he was relatively unshaken by the occurrence, he said.

While on the shark's back, he decided it would probably be a good idea to detach himself from the board, which was still in the shark's mouth, he said.

"It was relatively calm at that point," he said.

So he casually took off his board leash from around his ankle and put some distance between himself and the shark, estimated to be around 14 feet long.

Rawlinson swam to a reef area nearer to shore, recalling that deep-water sharks don't routinely patrol shallower waters, he said.

He turned around, saw his board floating in the water, swam to retrieve it and never saw the shark again, he said.

Rather than counting his blessings and making a beeline to shore, he stayed out in the water for around another hour, buoyed by other surfers around him, he said.

"It was quite an experience," but nothing that should have interrupted what was otherwise a relaxing, late-afternoon surf session, he said.

After experiencing feelings he described as being in "survival mode," "deja vu" and time seeming to move in slow motion, he felt the brotherhood of fellow surfers and people in boats who came by to take pictures of his board, he said.

"Everybody was totally cool about it. I was in this mode," he said.

Rawlinson has been surfing Hanalei Bay for around 15 years, and in his 50 years of surfing nothing like the attack had ever happened to him before, he said.

When he finally made it to shore, he was met with even more aloha, he said.

"Everybody on the beach was so supportive and sweet," said Rawlinson, adding that he also appreciated the support of fellow surfer Leslie McTaggert.

Asked if he was going to go surfing at Hanalei Bay again, he quickly replied, "Oh, yeah. I'm going to jump back on the horse that bucked me," meaning his board, not the shark.

"I don't want fear to hold me back from doing what I'm doing," said Rawlinson, adding that he will continue surfing "as long as I live and can."

"It's a passion," he said.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ninjas rescue student from muggers
By staff writers

Silent but deadly effective: one look from a ninja is all it takes to scare off muggers / AP

A STUDENT has been saved from a vicious assault - not by the boys in blue but the men in black.

Ninjas scared off three thugs who had the misfortune to attack the 27-year-old medical student outside their warrior school.

The German exchange student had been targeted by the men while he was riding the late-night train home, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

They demanded he give them his wallet but when he refused and got off the train, they followed.

They pounced as he made his way through a dark alley in Sydney's west.

They grabbed his phone and iPod and kicked him while he lay on the ground.

However, the men were spotted by a member of a nearby dojo.

Nathan Smith told his sensei and the rest of the students at Ninja Senshi Ryu and they rushed out to confront the thugs - all dressed in traditional black ninja garb.

On seeing the ninjas, the men fled, only to be later arrested by police.

"You should have seen their faces when they saw us in ninja gear coming towards them," the school's sensei, Kaylan Soto, told the Herald.

They also failed to notice a ninja, Nathan Smith, standing in the shadows outside the dojo. Mr Smith immediately alerted his sensei, or teacher.

Another ninja, Steve Ashley, said: "It was probably the worst place in Sydney where they could have taken him."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Hood, the bad and the ugly
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott have their sights set on Sherwood Forest, says Will Lawrence.
Will Lawrence

Take a gander at Russell Crowe’s latest action hero from the days of yore, Robin Hood. He is clad in humble yeoman’s attire and he wields the archer’s longbow rather than the gladiator’s short sword, but there’s still a hint of Maximus about him. Just like that famous father of a murdered son, whose epic adventures in the Colosseum launched Crowe’s blockbusting career, Robin Hood (or Robin Longstride to employ the movie’s correct nomenclature) is terse and taciturn, a brave warrior and a leader of men. Robin might lack Maximus’s original rank in society (he’s an archer in the army of King Richard I, rather than a general in the army of Emperor Marcus Aurelius), but the duo seems to have a lot in common, right down to the hairdo.

“Ridley Scott very bravely at the beginning of the film said ‘Cut your hair exactly like it was at the beginning of Gladiator and let’s have your beard that way too,’” Crowe begins. It was a sensible suggestion; a soldier who’s trekked back from the failed Third Crusade, and fought a campaign in France along the way, would most likely favour a simple ’do. “But I was like ‘Ridley, people will just whinge and complain.’ Yet, he said, ‘Look if we’re going to steal from anybody, we might as well steal from ourselves!’”

It’s a moot point. After all, fans have been clamouring for Scott and Crowe to craft a film in a similar vein to Gladiator ever since it stormed the cinema back in 2000, ­earning its rugged leading man his Oscar. Along with their ancient Roman epic and now their medieval English epic, the pair have made three films together – A Good Year (2006), American Gangster (2007) and Body Of Lies (2008). “And even with something like A Good Year, the reviewers were drawing comparisons with Gladiator,” continues the 46-year-old actor on the subject of their contemporary romantic comedy. “People always want to compare everything we do with Gladiator. It’s ridiculous.”

If people’s penchant for comparison has proved vexing for Crowe, Scott is more sanguine. He is not burdened with the actor’s celebrity profile (something Crowe abhors, but is lumbered with), and therefore suffers fewer frustrating questions from film critics and gossip journalists. Hence, while Crowe is at pains to distance Robin’s character from that of Maximus – “Robin doesn’t have the same commanding presence; when he talks he touches people’s hearts rather than galvanises them like Maximus would” – his director enjoys the comparison.

“Robin has got a bit of Maximus in him, yes,” smiles the grizzled Scott. “Plus it’s like Gladiator in that we made stuff up in terms of the context around the actual hero, but we fed into that a real historical world that is based on fact.”

That historical world centres on events in late 12th-century England, rather than the hard facts of the Robin Hood story. In truth, there is no evidence that identifies an actual, historical Robin Hood. Ever since the 16th century, however, many antiquarians and writers have placed the legendary hero’s exploits around the end of the 1100s, with Richard the Lionheart gallivanting overseas and leaving his miserable brother, John, in charge back in England, where he fleeces the populace and allows his rum agents, like the Sheriff of Nottingham, to cause all sorts of havoc with their wily ways. “But what’s important,” continues the 72-year-old director, “is that ours is not the usual story, with all the Merry Men having a good old time in the lush green forests. This is a hard world, and living as an outlaw in the forest would not be great fun.”

As it happens, this Robin doesn’t actually enter the forest as an outlaw until the movie’s end, when, despite having done the kingdom a great service (helping to repel a French invasion during the film’s climactic final battle), he suffers the ignominy of outlawry. Only then does he gallop off into the Greenwood. “That’s when he earns the title ‘Hood’,” continues Scott. “Think of our movie as an origins tale.” Like Batman Begins? “Exactly. And our film takes people up to the point that he enters the forest. It’s then that he would have the adventures with which people are more familiar.”

Initially, Scott and Crowe’s movie carried the title Nottingham, and here Robin was the evil-doer, while the Sheriff was the real hero, a well-meaning public servant who does his best for the people. “But who gives a rat’s ass about that story,” says Crowe.

Scott, meanwhile, laughs when recalling the film’s original title. “Why on earth would you call it Nottingham?” he asks. “People the world over have heard of Robin Hood. I was in France the other day and I met two young lads and asked them whether they had heard of Robin Hood. They said that he robbed from the rich to give to the poor. People know about that character; but Nottingham? That’s f***ing crazy. You’d spend all your marketing budget trying to explain what the hell Nottingham is!”

Filming was scheduled to begin on Nottingham back in the summer of 2007. The film-makers even constructed their enormous sets, many of which, like the French castle that figures in the opening siege sequence, were built in Bourne Woods in Surrey (the same location used in the opening battle sequence in Gladiator). However, production was postponed until spring 2008, while the script was reworked.

The fresh version sees Robin restored to the hero’s nest while the Sheriff is a minor, if still malignant, character. Robin’s return from his 20 years of warfare, fighting alongside the Lionheart, sees him discover an England crippled by debt, the people suffering immense hardship, and the cream of the menfolk either dead, lost or maimed, courtesy of Richard’s perpetual passion for martial matters.

Events force Robin to Nottingham, where he meets a beleaguered Marian (played by another Antipodean Oscar-winner, Cate Blanchett), and is drawn into a wider picture of political unrest. “It is interesting when we meet Marian,” says Scott, “because in this England, like with the Second World War in many cases, it’s been left to the women to try and keep things running. The situation in England is not pretty.”

The film is gritty in places, although, given Scott’s fondness for an exquisite palette, it is summery too. As Scott notes, Robin has a part to play in England’s May Games, and more than one folklorist has linked him to the ancient cults of woodland spirits and gods, most notably the witch-lover Margaret Murray. Most scholars dismiss her theories (she even traces Hood to the god of the witches), but no one can deny the hero’s summertime connection.

“We wanted to revitalise the story,” offers Crowe. “I said I’d do the film if we could find a new take.” In keeping with the original Robin from literature (apart from a brief mention in Langland’s Piers Plowman, he doesn’t appear as a narrative character until the 15th century, in ballads like The Geste Of Robyn Hode), Crowe’s man does not rob from the rich to give to the poor; nor does he wear tights, coloured a natty Lincoln Green.

We can thank the likes of Ivanhoe author Sir Walter Scott and then the Victorians for the image of Robin and his green-tighted chums laughing it up in an Edenic forest, an image cultivated further by the outlaw’s many adventures on screen.

“I have had Robin Hood in the back of my mind since I was a little kid,” Crowe says. “I liked the 1950s BBC TV show with Richard Greene, or the Errol Flynn movie, or the later versions of it where you have ‘the son of Robin Hood, twice removed’ or whatever. The core of the story – robbing from the rich to give to the poor – is a universal connection that everyone makes to Robin Hood. The fact that there’s somebody out there that cares enough to try and redress the balance.

“I don’t covet roles,” he continues. “I’m not like that. I don’t sort of have that ‘Oh one day I’m going to do my Hamlet’ kind of bulls**t, but it was sitting in the back of my mind so when it came up, I was interested, of course, but not doing the ‘men in tights’ version.”

Indeed, Robin Hood has featured in over 30 notable film and TV productions, ranging from a silent 1913 Ivanhoe adaptation, through the black-and-white classic of Douglas Fairbanks (Robin Hood, 1922) and then on to Errol Flynn (The Adventures Of Robin Hood, 1938), Sean Connery (Robin And Marian, 1976) and Kevin Costner (Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, 1992). There’s also been a slew of popular TV serials, with the BBC alone proffering the Patrick Troughton series (1953), Robin Of Sherwood (1984), with its Michael Praed-for-Jason Connery swap midway through, and their more recent Robin Hood (2006) with Jonas Armstrong.

“When I think of all those films,” says Scott, “I’m not a big fan. I like Ivanhoe [1952] and I think best of all I actually like Robin Hood: Men In Tights, the Mel Brooks film. He did a good job because he looked like Errol Flynn, with a moustache and a goatee beard. He knew exactly what to do with it. I think that was really fun. But we wanted to be different, and wanted to treat Robin with respect. For us, as I said, with our story, we take Robin up until he enters the forest as an outlaw.”

Clearly that opens the door to a sequel? “It does,” continues Scott. “I simply thought, ‘Why not?’ In today’s world, sequels keep some studios alive, and I figured that two can play at that game, particularly if it is a genre that you absolutely love and has never been fully explored.

“So if there were a sequel to Robin Hood, you would have a constant enemy throughout with King John and you would follow King John’s reign of 17 years up until he is forced to sign the Magna Carta. That could be Robin’s final act: the signing of the Magna Carta.”

To ensure a sequel, Scott and Crowe will need to see their film perform well at the box office, and Crowe, for one, believes that they’ve covered all the bases. “It’s been an interesting set of experiments seeing what we might do in terms of the story, the characters, the action and, of course, the humour. No doubt a lot of people will actually assume that this is like the super-serious Robin Hood, but there’s more to it than that. When you look at Robin Hood, one of the key things is that it’s always been a form of entertainment.”

And much of that entertainment comes in the form of the action. Halfway through the shoot, the production relocated from Bourne Woods to Wales, setting up camp on Freshwater Beach in West Pembrokeshire to shoot the final battle sequence, capturing the French bid to invade English soil.

It was a vast logistical melee, marking the climax of the film, involving 1,500 cast and crew, and undertaking an epic series of shots filmed with no fewer than nine standard cameras, a steadicam and a helicopter. The crew dubbed Scott ‘The General’, so strong was his tactical and strategic thinking, dealing with enormous numbers and frenetic action.

“Of course, there were a lot of extras in Gladiator, but mainly they were sitting in the Coliseum occasionally shouting things out. But here, all those extras were involved in the scene, and it was quite an undertaking. I hope we’ve done the story justice.

“I think Robin has never really been crystallised properly, certainly not very well. I don’t care what people say, but those green tights and all the joyousness feasting in the forest do not fly.

“People always say, ‘But it is good fun,’” Scott concludes. “But it is not good fun. It is awful, and I hope that in some way our film helps to redress the balance.”

Robin Hood is in cinemas from Wednesday, May 12.

Russell Crowe: 'I'm not a hard man, I like poetry and wear make-up for a living'
Russell Crowe says his hard man image is a myth, claiming he is a poetry-loving pacifist who wears make-up for a living and disapproved of hellraiser Oliver Reed.
By Anita Singh,
Showbusiness Editor

Crowe in a scene from Robin Hood, which reunites him with Gladiator director Ridley Scott

The actor, star of the forthcoming Robin Hood remake, prefers to fell his opponents with "intellectual barbs" rather than his fists.

"I am always described as 'Hollywood Hard Man'. It's just ridiculous. I know some hard men, mate, and I am not a hard man. I'm a guy who likes poetry, who writes songs. I put on make-up for a living. Give me a break. If I was a hard man, I wouldn't be any good at my job," Crowe told GQ magazine.

"How many times have you read that I punch photographers? I have never punched a photographer. But I have thrown some of the sharpest intellectual barbs in my life at guys who are chasing me down the street with a camera. I cut them to the quick. They're lucky to get home with any blood in their system emotionally. And they hate me for it. I'm not sorry."

His love of verse was evident in 2002, when he threatened a TV producer who cut his poetry recital from a Bafta broadcast. Crowe conceded that he gave the producer "a good single poke in the chest" but said he was suffering from jetlag at the time.

Crowe was scathing about one of Hollywood's most notorious hellraisers, Oliver Reed, his co-star in Gladiator. Reed died mid-way through filming in Malta after a mammoth drinking session.

"I never got on with Ollie. He has visited me in dreams and asked me to talk kindly of him. So I should... but we never had a pleasant conversation," Crowe said.

"I have seen him walk down the street in Malta drunk as a lord and just hit anybody he got near to - even a man walking with his children. I just found that to be... not impressive. He drank himself to death. He sat on a bar stool until he fell off it and carried on drinking... Lying in his own ---- and vomit, he continued to drink 'til he passed out.

"What did the tabloids estimate he'd had on the day he died? Something like 30 beers, eight or ten dark rums and half a bottle of whisky? In the end, he created such a weird energy around him that no one drinking with him cared."

In the interview to promote Robin Hood, which opens the Cannes Film Festival next week and reunites him with Gladiator director Ridley Scott, Crowe talked about his music career.

The New Zealand-born actor said his music is popular in Canada. ""Billy Bragg, Sting, Elvis Costello - those guys say, 'You're a songwriter'. I got a song on a record in Canada that went gold. It might not be significant to somebody else but it works for me."

Russell Crowe as Robin Hood: Maximus goes to Nottingham
How will Ridley Scott’s epic new Robin Hood differ from the seemingly countless screen versions that have preceded it? In a bit of Surrey transformed into a medieval battleground, Sally Williams finds out
By Sally Williams

Cate Blanchett plays a feisty Marian to Russell Crowe's Robin Hood

There are many extraordinary things about being on the set of the new Ridley Scott film Robin Hood. We are in Bourne Wood, near Farnham in Surrey, a recreational area known for its pine trees and sandy footpaths, but today there is a colossal French castle on the crest of a hill. How did they do that, you find yourself asking. Had I come a week earlier, I would have found a medieval town here too, painstakingly recreated by thatching experts and wattle specialists, but then the crew set the whole town on fire as part of the action and now there is only scorched earth and blackened stumps.

Today they are shooting the film’s big opening scene where Richard the Lionheart storms a castle in France. There are 125 horses, 500 archers, a lot of shouting and a lot of mud. There is everything castle legends tell you to expect: flaming arrows; a battering ram; a flood of burning pitch. But perhaps the most extraordinary thing is that only on a Ridley Scott film could this vast throng of 1,000 people, trucks and equipment possibly be described as a 'medium-size set’.

'It’s kind of scary. We’re doing bigger things most days than many do in their entire films,’ Charlie Schlissel, the executive producer, says. 'But we’re taking one of the greatest British filmmakers and giving him one of the most classic British tales, so you expect him to bring some life to it.’

Written by the Oscar-winning screenwriter Brian Helgeland, and filmed in England and Wales, Robin Hood features a stellar cast: Russell Crowe as Robin; Cate Blanchett as Marian; Max von Sydow as her father, Sir Walter Loxley; William Hurt as Sir William Marshall; Danny Huston as Richard the Lionheart; Mark Strong as Sir Godfrey; and Matthew Macfadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham. With a budget of £130 million, it also has visual ambitions on a magnificent scale. Nottingham Village, for example, was created on the Hampton estate near Guildford, where the crew constructed 50 buildings (including a church, a tavern and a mill with a working water wheel), planted an orchard, created a river, and generally prepped 600 acres of meadowland. The battle scene on the beach at St David’s, Wales, involved hundreds of horses, 400 boats and 1,500 extras.

But then Ridley Scott is known for epic scale (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator). He likes big-landscape shots, scenes that are continually awesome and thrilling. And he likes Russell Crowe – as well as Gladiator they have worked together on A Good Year, American Gangster and Body of Lies. Gladiator won an Oscar for best picture in 2000. Robin Hood aims to be the same huge period spectacle: 'the Gladiator version of Robin Hood,’ according to its producer, Brian Grazer. It re-unites Ridley Scott not only with his strong hero from Gladiator – Crowe played Maximus, the Roman general who became a gladiator slave – but also with Arthur Max, the Bafta-winning production designer. Robin Hood even shares the same location as Gladiator: Bourne Wood. 'Ridley was looking for a forest he could burn and the only forest he could burn was near Bratislava,’ Schlissel says. 'Ridley didn’t want to go to Bratislava, so he came here and they [the Forestry Commission] said he could burn some trees.’

But there is one big difference, of course. Gladiator breathed life into a genre that had been absent from the big screen since films such as Ben-Hur, Spartacus and The Fall of the Roman Empire from the 1960s. Robin Hood, on the other hand, has featured in more than 30 film and television productions, ranging from Douglas Fairbanks (Robin Hood, 1922) to Errol Flynn (The Adven­tures of Robin Hood, 1952); Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn (Robin and Marian; 1976); and Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991); as well as the popular 1950s television series starring Richard Greene, and the more recent BBC series (2006).

'Robin Hood movies for the most part are underwhelming,’ observes Ridley Scott, who has claimed that his favourite version is Mel Brooks’s Men in Tights (1993). 'I don’t think this is going to be underwhelming in any shape or form. We’re trying to combine a little bit of seriousness with the real romance of what we think and dream Robin Hood movies to be.’

Robin Hood opens in 1199 with a siege and the death of a king. Richard the Lionheart is killed by an arrow in his neck while collecting a small debt from a French castle on his way home from his Third Crusade in the Holy Lands. (He needs the money because he is penniless after years of fighting.) This is where we first meet Robin Hood, or rather Robin Longstride, long-serving infantryman in King Richard’s army. Rendered leaderless, Robin heads home – the first time he has been back since he was five. And he doesn’t like what he finds: poverty, corruption, unchecked power. ('You were not allowed to pick up firewood in the forest, not allowed to take your pigs into the forest to eat acorns, not allowed to do anything without the permission of the king,’ Crowe will later instruct me; expertise gathered, he says, from reading more than 30 books about Robin Hood and the late-12th and 13th centuries.)

England is bankrupt thanks to Richard’s war­mongering, threatened by a civil war and by France, and in the hands of an inept successor, John, best known for introducing PAYE tax. The country is riven by inequality, and the air humming with revolution. Step forward Robin Hood, who becomes its champion.

Direct action, it transpires, is in his DNA: his father was Thomas Longstride, the principal author of what was to become the Forest Charter, a precedent to Magna Carta which provided rights and privileges for the common man against the aristocracy. Longstride was executed for his efforts, an event witnessed by his young son, aged five. This is the back-story to a film that is itself a back-story: 'Ridley wanted to tell the man-before-the-myth version of Robin Hood,’ explains Brian Helgeland, whose screenwriting Oscar was for LA Confidential. 'Everybody knows the myth, and obviously that is an exaggeration of the real events. This myth is rooted in the downtrodden and the idea that whenever the powers-that-be need to be checked, a man will rise up and look after the common people. Especially in English history, it’s been an outlaw that has filled that position. What Ridley wanted to do was to imagine what the real events might have been from which the Robin Hood legend sprang.’

Helgeland fleshes out the characters of the Sheriff of Nottingham, Marian and her father-in-law, and fixes Robin in a particular patch of history to expose the power of the barons and how England was controlled at the time. It takes audiences up close to the hardship and poverty, the sort of world where Robin Hood learnt his trade, and ends where most of the Robin Hood films begin: with an outlaw. Only this time Robin Hood is not a larky swashbuckler but a master of grave intent. It’s a tough, macho, muddy take: a far cry from the soft focus of Prince of Thieves ('Robin Hood-lite,’ Arthur Max scoffs). Here is a film working hard to prove to audiences that Robin Hood comprises more than Kevin Costner prancing around in tights. (In fact, Crowe wears leather breeches. 'They’re called braies,’ Janty Yates, the costume designer, explains. 'Like leather or suede stockings, not the knitted horrors we’ve seen in Robin Hood films since about 1923. They’re a bit more macho.’)

Not that Robin Hood had a straightforward journey to the screen. The film began in 2006 with Brian Grazer and a script called Nottingham. This was reworked into Robin Hood after Russell Crowe said he would play the lead. 'I don’t think there’s been a satisfying Robin Hood. That is one of the key reasons for wanting to make another one,’ Crowe says, adding that Richard Greene’s Robin Hood was part of his childhood. 'I’ve just always liked the idea that there is somebody out there who cares.’

Ridley Scott, on the other hand, favoured Rupert Bear, the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers as a child. 'I wasn’t sure about it, actually, when Russell came to me,’ he recalls. 'But he said, “Come on! We should do this. We’ll change things.” And that’s how it began.’ They recruited Helgeland, who came up with the drive to 'humanise the legend’. But the film had a halting start because of direct action of a different kind: the 2007 writers’ strike; and the threat of the Screen Actors Guild strike, in 2008. The 91-day shoot finally began in April 2009. 'Getting this thing moving forward was tough,’ Schlissel says. 'It [industrial action] added a year to the process.’

11pm, July 23: the crew are about to shoot an elaborately choreographed fight scene between Robin Hood and Little John (Kevin Durand) at King Richard’s camp in a valley in Bourne Wood. Robin Longstride (who has yet to return to England and discover his revolutionary alter ego) is running a casino on the camp for his fellow soldiers and a brawl breaks out over an unpaid bill. The atmosphere is rich with campfires, drunken soldiers, human voices against the night, breath that steams the air. Scott has spared no expense in furnishing the camp down to the last bunch of redcurrants in Richard’s exquisite Italian and French silk tent, the archers’ chainmail (plastic, by the way, and the product of two lengthy processes, first in China and then New Zealand).

'OK, let’s shoot this puppy,’ the assistant director shouts. Crowe takes off his fleece and suddenly here is Robin Hood: stocky, stubbled, and though shorter than most of the men around him, walking taller than any of them. But here too is Maximus: same low brow, quick eyes and cropped hair.

'I grew my hair long for ages,’ Crowe explains, 'and when we started filming, he [Scott] said let’s do that thing where you chop your hair right down and wear a beard. I said that’s Maximus, and he said look, if we’re going to steal from anybody, I think we’re OK to steal from ourselves.’

'Russell has massive strength, determination and a definitive heroic quality,’ Scott says. 'He’s a man’s man.’ And Crowe has found his match in Cate Blanchett’s Marian, who isn't a maid at all, but a feisty widow who mucks out stables, runs the estate and is spared the standard activities of courtly heroines: picking herbs for monks, hand-rearing forest fawns. 'The idea of a damsel in distress has been a constant irritation of all female actors,’ Scott says. 'I didn’t want Marian to be umbilical, the female interest – that awful description – so we avoided it like crazy; and you don’t do that [female interest] with Cate Blanchett.’

'Because Russell and Ridley have such a long history together of making films that go straight to the heart of the matter, it was a very exciting combination for me,’ Blanchett says. But this wasn’t the only reason she was drawn to the film. 'The power of the forest is at the heart of the Robin Hood myth. We’re so saturated with the power of the state, and the power of the church. As an antidote, the rule of nature is really enticing.’

One interesting aspect of Ridley Scott’s work is his cavalier attitude to the script. 'He’ll say, right, I want a little more spirituality or I want more iconographic Robin Hood moments,’ says Crowe, who also enjoys variations on the story; they seal their camaraderie by discussing options. 'Listen – this will be great. Robin goes hunting, see, and then…’

Matthew Macfadyen says he arrived on set with only four scenes as the Sheriff of Nottingham, but ended up with six and a wildly different outcome. The script was 'quite fluid’, he says. 'First I was going to be stabbed by Cate Blanchett, then I got new pages through and I was killed by Mark Strong [Sir Godfrey], then I was going to be murdered by a thug on horseback. So my deaths got worse and worse.’ In fact, Scott liked his performance so much that he kept him alive. 'The Sheriff is more of an idiot than an evil psycho,’ Macfadyen says.

There is another distinctive feature to Scott’s shooting style. 'He likes multiple cameras, which take a long time to set up but once you have them you’re covering a lot of angles at the same time,’ Schlissel says. 'So all the footage cuts together.’ Mark Strong, who worked with Scott on his Jordanian intelligence thriller Syriana, reveals that when Scott watches the monitors with the script supervisor, as the scene plays back he taps the screen at moments, editing as he goes along.

'He’s going, “I think I’ll use that moment and that moment and that moment.” He’s so in control of his game that you just feel safe in his hands.’

It is for his visual acumen that Scott, a former art director, is famed: 'the Titian of filmmaking,’ Crowe observes. Scott seems to provoke this sort of awed devotion in those who work with him: he shoots in the same way an artist paints, using backlight to create shadows behind the actors (Pieter Breugel and George de la Tour were aesthetic inspirations on Robin Hood); he does his own storyboards before shooting starts each day. 'I can really draw,’ he says, 'but it’s not about drawing, it’s actually about making you think.’ He has an acute visual memory and references specific imagery from an extraordinary variety of films: the river scene in The Lion in Winter (1968) when Katharine Hepburn comes up the river in a barge ('Ridley said that is the way the river should look,’ Arthur Max says); The Name of the Rose (1986, the bleakness of the abbey); The Return of Martin Guerre (1982, farming lifestyle); Pelle the Conqueror (1988, rusty armour); On the Waterfront (1954, Terry Malloy’s pigeon coop – 'A whole room rather than just a dovecote, so spatially interesting,’ Max says).

Scott owes much to Max, who furnished the world that took place in Scott’s mind. Look at any of the set detail in this 144-minute film, from portcullis to doorknobs, and you can be sure it has been pored over and hunted down by Max and his team. 'We’ve done a lot of big movies,’ he says, 'but this is the biggest we’ve ever done.’ The huge slab-slate roofs on the houses in Nottingham were taken from a village in the Iberian Peninsula (they took moulds of the slabs); the crude, raw look to 12th-century London, achieved by using reclaimed chestnut, oak and hickory from old barns in Bulgaria; the 11th/12th-century cog boat that floats into the Royal Dock at the Tower of London (really Virginia Water) is an exact replica, but with a draft of only 18in so it could navigate the shallow water. 'I’m very proud of that,’ Max says. And the bureaucracy was a nightmare: it took two weeks and 'a whole bunch of presentations’ to get permission to prune one branch from an oak tree – the downside of filming in the Queen’s personal riding wood in Windsor Great Park.

2am, July 24: back on the set at Bourne Wood, Ridley Scott has finished shooting. (And Crowe has finished his movie-star turn for the crew and extras: an impromptu version of Bruce Springsteen’s Highway Patrolman.) 'This is the small bit, by the way,’ Scott reminds me as we survey the valley in the half-light: the trucks, cameramen, gaffers, script supervisors, generators, smoke machines, tents, cauldrons, fire extinguishers, campfires, stables, horses and 1,000 people packing up to go home. 'It’s massive, what we’ve been doing.’

Russell Crowe gives film crew worker £5k to buy car
Generous Robin Hood star helps damsel in distress after car catches fire
By Susannah Hills

He is playing a folk hero who famously robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.

And now multi-millionaire Russell Crowe has dipped into his own pocket to help out a real-life damsel in distress on the set of his new Robin Hood film.

Tough-guy Crowe, 45, gave movie worker Denise Yarde £5,000 so she could buy a new car after her old one went up in flames.

Denise, 38, was left devastated by the incident, which happened as she drove to work on the set of the movie set in Virginia Water, Surrey, from her home in London’s Notting Hill.

Denise – who operates the sound boom mike on the set – had to ring to tell the production team she would be late because of the frightening experience.

When she arrived she told colleagues about her ordeal, and added that she would now have to buy a new car. Gladiator star Crowe joined the conversation – and made a joke about the car at her expense.

Denise quipped: “Well I suppose it’s OK for you Russell. You’ve probably never had to worry about finding five grand for a new car.”

Feeling sorry for her, the star walked away. But he later returned and handed the wad of cash to delighted Denise, saying: “There you go. You can buy a £10,000 car now.”

Overjoyed Denise – now driving a top-of-the-range 2007 Saab – gave the actor a huge hug. A film insider said: “Denise’s job involves dressing like an extra and getting right in the middle of the action to pick up the dialogue, so without her there was no filming for a few hours.

“By the time she got to work everyone knew what had happened and she came in for a bit of mickey-taking for driving an old banger.

“Russell joined in with some of it and she took it in good heart. But at one point, after she said about him never having to worry about buying a new car, Russell went quiet and everyone thought that was the end of it.

“Then later in the afternoon he sought Denise out and gave her the five grand.

“It was a lovely gesture by Russell, who is known on the set for his generosity.”

Oscar-winner Crowe, said to earn £15million to £20million a film, has been spotted filming battle scenes on horseback on beaches in Pembrokeshire. He has also been working at Shepperton Studios, South-West London – where a massive castle has been built.

Last week he was pictured enjoying a typically British evening in a country pub with his wife, English-born Australian actress Danielle Spencer, 39, comedian Ben Elton and chatshow host Michael Parkinson.

Insiders say the film, directed by Sir Ridley Scott and starring Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian, is going to be next summer’s must-see movie.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kris in crisis: Bon voyage party online
By Bayani San Diego Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The signs, they’re written on the wall—a wall in Facebook.

It’s a crisis that only Kris Aquino could spark; an offhand remark she earlier made in a TV interview has snowballed into a vigorous online movement.

The newest virtual sensation at press time is the FB group named “Kris Aquino’s Despedida,” fast-growing with over 4,000 members at the end of 24 hours since going online post-May 10.

Members want Kris, youngest and highest-profile sister of leading presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino, to fulfill “a promise” made in the heat of an altercation with Ruffa Gutierrez and Annabelle Rama two months ago.

Only words?

Kris’ words: “If [Noynoy] does win and I’m a cause of stress for him and his presidency, I’ll gladly take my two boys and live anywhere there is TFC (ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel) overseas.”

And only because Rama had warned Kris was bound to become “more arrogant” with a brother in Malacañang.

The remark was snapped up on all media platforms, with relish. Now, Netizens are collecting on the IOU, demonstrating the many other ways they can say, “Pack your bags!”

One writes, wistfully: “My dearest Kris, it’s only six years anyway. Do as your mom Cory did: Make the ultimate sacrifice for the country.”

Another isn’t as gentle: “The next Edsa revolution will be to oust Aquino … Kris Aquino.”

Yet another theorizes: “Millions voted for Noynoy because they want to see Kris go.”

Laugh out loud

These are among the more sober posts; other comments are laced with vitriol or punctuated with “LOL” (“laugh out loud”) and “LMAO” (“laughing my a-- off”):

“She’s never leaving.”

“She’ll just turn around, toss her hair and say, ‘I lied.’”

“Don’t forget James!”

“May I suggest North Korea?”

So where’s the party? Wherever Kris wants, however she wants it.

“Choose the motif!”

“I’ll bring the cake.”

“Lechon Cebu from me!”

What’s a girl to do?

Gone, for now

The Inquirer couldn’t reach Kris for comment. Has she, in fact, gone? Yes, her friend and fellow TV host Boy Abunda said, but hold the champagne, “Despedida” members, she’s just somewhere out of town, “taking a post-election break.”

In Kris’ stead, the Inquirer found the next best things, two of her most famous clones—Jon Santos’ “Kreezie” and Frida Nepomuceno’s “Kris A.”

“Kreezie” stands by her word, convinced she can “still be of service to the Filipino people even if I am seen only on TFC.” And anyway, she said, it’s time she went international. “A lot of Hollywood stars supported my brother ‘Nyoy,’ like the entire cast of ‘Glee,’ who kept brandishing the L sign.” (Except that, on the popular US musical series, “L” stands for “loser.”)

Red carpet dreams

“Kreezie” is looking forward to walking the red carpets in Hollywood. “But only those shades of red that compliment my skin tone, like ‘Mano Po’ red. Or maybe they can start laying out yellow carpets.”

She also sees herself anchoring an entertainment show, a la Ryan Seacrest or Oprah Winfrey. “I could team up with Oprah in a show that might be titled ‘OK: Oprah and Kris.’ Or, better yet, ‘KO.’”

“Kris A” is certain her fans won’t allow her to leave, ever. “I know that people can’t get enough of me, so I’ve decided to stay and help my brother, the President.”

She could take a government position, she said: “I could be Noy’s Defense secretary since I’m the one who’s always defending him naman.”

Just jealous

Of course Kris A is upset about “Kris Aquino Despedida.” All those people are just jealous, she said.

But should TFC give her a show elsewhere, well, she’s absolutely ready for world domination. “It’s about time Oprah retired, and I can replace her,” she said. “I could call my global show ‘Kris Is.’”

Poll automation naysayers ‘thrilled to be wrong’
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—With the country’s first automated elections considered a success, some of the personalities who wanted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to scrap it following the big snafu with the precinct count optical machines last week, are now having to eat their words.

Lawyer Harry Roque Jr. said he was “absolutely thrilled to be wrong” while Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros said he was “eating humble pie.”

United States-based businesswoman Loida Nicolas-Lewis, chair of the board of trustees of the National Federation of Filipino-American Association, said she was “eating her words.”

Lewis had on May 8 called on US President Barack Obama to investigate the allegedly questionable activities in the US of Smartmatic, the technology supplier of the May 10 elections, and its implications for the Philippine elections.

“Sorry to all those people who were hurt by what I said,” Lewis said in a television interview Wednesday.

De Quiros apologized to Commission on Elections Chair Jose Melo, to the Comelec commissioners and to Smartmatic.

Mea culpa

“I was wrong about the automation, I was wrong about the Comelec commissioners, I was wrong about Jose Melo, I was wrong about Smartmatic. And, boy, am I absolutely ecstatic to be so. They did a fantastic job despite an un-fantastic past. I owe them my deepest apologies,” De Quiros said in his column published Wednesday.

Roque, lawyer for the Concerned Citizen’s Movement which had petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the Comelec from going ahead with the automatic balloting and direct it to revert back to the manual system, credited the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM for “a triumph of democracy.”

But some critics like Bobby Tuazon of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) continued to see problems with the automated election system.

“Speed is not the sole indicator or yardstick for success,” he said, citing the lack of public disclosure of the source code, the disabling of the verifiability feature of the PCOS machines, and the fact that passwords were pre-fed into the machines.

“Whatever results are generated will remain questionable,” Tuazon said, adding that the CenPEG would release a more thorough study of the automated election system.

Makati Business Club (MBC) executive director Alberto Lim congratulated the Comelec for the success of the elections while insisting that “our fears were justified.”

“It was not managed properly, but the outcome was all right. They just got lucky,” he said.

Philippine Bar Association president Simeon Marcelo gave the Comelec a “passing rate.”

“What happened during the elections was a miracle,” he said.

“Things would have been different if no groups were pressuring them to do their jobs,” he said.

Amid the euphoria over the success of the elections, lawyer Christian Monsod, a former Comelec chair, reminded officials Wednesday that the elections are far from over.

“Political normalcy is setting in and, for many people, the 2010 election is over. It is not,” he said in a statement.

Monsod pointed out that the process entailed four stages: voting and counting, transmission, canvassing and proclamation, and the post-election audit process.

While the voting and transmission are almost over, the canvassing and proclamation are “just beginning,” and the audit process “still has to be done,” he said.Reports from TJ Burgonio, Jerome Aning, Angelo Cabrera, Edson C. Tandoc Jr. and Eliza Victoria and Schatzi Quodala, Inquirer Research