Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Summer Movie Reviews

Everybody thought Fight Club was pretty down, right? Chuck Palahniuk has got to be one of the most irreverent contemporary writers I have encountered. He makes me laugh, albeit uncomfortably. You know, like when you find yourself laughing while his characters make a**es of themselves? You shouldn't laugh, but like an itch you can't scratch, everything is futile.

Choke is a funny book. Not as great as Fight Club, but y'know, amusing. The story is about Victor who pretends to choke as a part-time job. I think I made a review about the book already. Interestingly, it is now on film with Sam Rockwell in the lead role. I know I should be bored with most of it, but Sam Rockwell is good. He makes the unlikeable character actually like-able. Score that one point down for the anti-hero. I don't remember laughing out loud during the film, there were parts which were quite explicit and crude. But it was really more of the tongue-in-cheek humor variety. But Victor wasn't meant to be protrayed so sweet. The story lost some of its edginess because they toned Palahniuk down a bit. But well, it made it watch-able, at least in my opinion.

Watch if you want to find a life more miserable than yours.

Well, what do you know? Hollywood managed to make me watch a Nicolas Cage film voluntarily.

Obviously, I'm not a Cage-r. When people say he is one of the most intense actors around, I agree. But I also make clear that his is a type of intensity I don't care to watch. I know he can act, but his voice and his stare feels all so very wooden to me. He was okay in City of Angels because he is supposed to look and feel strange, but when he's playing real people, it just don't cut it.

But Knowing i did watch. I like the premise of the story. It asks one of the greater effing “What if?” I could ever imagine. So, what if, your son gets a kind of numerical listing of all the dates and locations of the world’s biggest tragedies for the last 50 years AND the very short future? Well, that’s what John got. An astrophysicist by profession, in effing MIT no less, and yet he keeps making stupid choices with the gift / curse that somehow made its way to him.

Cases in point:

  1. Somehow you knew an accident will happen in New York tomorrow, so you go and notify the police. Understandable. But you also have to consider that people might not understand how you got the information; some might even think you’re a terrorist. So why would you go to New York and start haranguing the police why the place you indicated still hasn’t been cordoned off? Of course they’ll want to get their hands on you.

  2. Somehow, you figured out that the world is about to end because it lies directly in the path of one huge solar flare. Astrophysicists may not be geologists, but even fifth graders know that hiding inside caves will not save you. So why would a professor in MIT even suggest it?

There was also another character in the story why just made my bristles stand up on end. She’s the daughter of the first psychic, and now she’s also got a daughter of her own to protect. She works with Cage to figure out how to save themselves but turns ballistic in the end. She couldn’t wait five effing minutes for Cage to finish what he is doing, and she makes off with the children in an effort to go to the caves. Stupid. Moronic. I’m glad she died in the film. Whoever wrote the script has a very mean view of our intelligence as humans. I felt like I was being patronized and led on at the same time.

So when they got to the out of this world ending, I just didn’t care anymore. I just wanted it to end so my brain cells may live again. They’ve stretched my suspension of disbelief to the breaking point and beyond.

So here’s my mixed review: Not disgusting, but not good. Worth renting the video, but probably not paying for the theater experience.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Flunking Students

I don't have any pretensions that I'm teaching an all-mighty subject; I have no disillusions about how important I am to be facilitating CWTS. I KNOW that most, if not all students who take the subject are just choosing it because they think it's marginally less evil than ROTC, though both are seen as unnecessary, a waste of time and effort. It's just a roadblock, a minor discomfort to ensure they will graduate on time.

I have been teaching for almost 5 years now, and I am so close to giving up on it because it seems every year, the students get worse. This year I had to flunk 3 kids. Oh, now, make it 2. One of them doubled efforts and was given another chance. But I really think it's the height of irresponsibility to flunk something like CWTS. It is not part of your calculated grade, but you will still be rendered an irregular student for flunking out. And what i can't figure out is, even if they are forced to take CWTS, why can't they just put their hearts into it once they're there? Might as well, diba? And it's not like we don't go out of the way to present the touchy-feely part and the scientific part. We give them reasonable freedom to exercise in the community, to imagine up things that they could come up with to help.

Baka nga community service isn't for everyone. All I know is that, when my friends and I were in college, we would've ... we won't... we just will do it. Comparing UP to DLSU may be unwise, but responsibilities are responsibilities. Wherever you might be studying.

I like being with young people, it keeps my perspective fresh. But sometimes, it can also be the most frustrating thing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Say Herbalife One More Time...

I swear, if I hear the word Herbalife one more time I will scream and start cutting people’s heads off.

Okay, maybe… more realistically, I’ll just change the topic.

But I am friggin’ fed up with people who talk non-stop about it. In the office, all I hear is, “diet ako eh” or “pahingi ako pills” or “shake lang ako ngayon eh.” What’s worse is, some people are so FIXATED about it that no matter what manner conversation you try to hold, it always somewhat veers towards dieting.

I’m all for other people’s healthy living, but not to the point of infringement on my own psychological health.

For once, I’d just like to have a healthy conversation inside the office, not necessarily about work, but something a little more substantial than the treacle-y stuff they drink to replace actual healthy eating. Everybody’s starting to sound like the therapists of the Bergdorf Blondes and Fabio.

It’s all fabulous, and all, but it’s really getting to be such a bore.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Inspiration Hits

From out of nowhere, I stumbled upon Luivico (yes, not Ludovico) and Alissa and Pater Silvestri. Who are they? All I know is Lui is a boy who cannot see beauty, Alissa is a child feared to be fae-touched, and Pater Silvestri is the Superiore of the Monasterio of San Fabrizo.

Don't you get it yet?

It's a story! While trying to amuse myself by typing whatever, I stumbled on a tale (all puns intended!).

I hope I get to the end. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Alternate Teenage Universes

I know the world is a much harsher place than my cosseted upbringing allowed me to understand. But I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t mollycoddled, would I have been led to walk thornier paths as a teenager?

Point in case, the 3 teenage girls who I encountered during a jeepney ride to the supermarket this morning. The first one looked about 15 years old and she was wearing an ensemble that Madonna during her younger years would have envied. A green spaghetti strap mini-dress which flutters dangerously close to revealing what color undies she was wearing with the steady whipping air that was buffeting the interior of the jeep. The dress also had rhinestones set around the neckline so low, barely covering her generous breasts out of place with her reed thin body. The full bust would have disconcerted me if it wasn’t painfully obvious that the girl was also around 6 months pregnant. A few yards from where she hailed the jeep, another 2 teenagers of the same age (one was wearing ridiculously large white plastic earrings, while the other carried a gold link bag that doesn’t match her green pants) joined us and turned out to be her acquaintances. I think it would be easier for me to just chronicle their discussion rather than explain it in my own words, so here goes:

Earrings Girl (EG): Oi! Puta! Tagal mong nawala ah!
Madonna Girl (MG): Ah, oo. (looks ashamed, surreptitiously glances at her stomach)
Bag Girl (BG): Sino ba may kagagawan nyan? Sino dyowa mo?
MG: Si Winston.
EG: Puta! Kaya pala di na rin pumapasok yung gago na yun. San kayo nakatira, dyan pa rin?
MG: Sa lola ko, sa __________.
BG: San ka papunta?
MG: Dyan sa SM.
BG: Manglalandi ka noh? (giggles from all 3)
MG: Tang ina, may papatol pa ba, tingnan mo nga, para kong lumunok ng basketbol.
EG: Marami naming sporty na mga gago dyan eh. (giggles again)
MG: Kayo ba? San lakad nyo?
BG: Sa libing nung klasmeyt namin.
MG: Sino?
BG: Si Edwin, yung nagigitara?
MG: Ay oo, bakit, ano nangyari?
EG: Nasaksak dyan sa may ________. Kabilang kosa.
MG: Puta! Nahuli yung sumaksak?
BG: Hindi pa, pero ang alam ko reresbakan nina Gerald yun. Humanda sila.

At this point, everyone inside the vehicle were already listening to the conversation. They regaled us with their assumptions how their Gerald will undertake the revenge plot, each one growing more violent than the other. Some of the more memorable ones were:

“Baka tulad nung dati, susunugin yung bahay.”
“Salpukan lang yan, sasabog na lang yan bigla sa kalye.”
“Mas okay nga kung ipa-capture tapos putulan ng b*yag. Tapos patayin.”

Thankfully, I had to go down and heard no more.

Inside my ivory tower, I felt… spared. But I also felt bothered and heavy-hearted. No wonder the world is so screwed up. Our children are growing in insipid and cruel neighborhoods, trying to find love from adolescent sex, and respect in ruthless gangs. More so, I feel very hypocritical worrying about it because haven’t done anything to arrest the devolution myself. I was horrified to realize that I almost don’t care about what I just heard, and if I didn’t write about it, I’ll even forget about it cum dinnertime.

Except maybe, some increasingly small part of me hasn’t been tainted by disillusionment yet and is fighting to remind me not to go the jaded way. I just needed to write this down because I need to remember this is not, at all, ideal. And if someday, after I have dealt with most of my personal muck, I can find a way to do something about it.

P.s. On a more confessional note:

I can’t help but feel a tiny part envious of them though. These girls, with the crap they’re dealing with so early in life, would be far much stronger than I ever would be. I was overprotected in youth, and what do I get now? An almost debilitating paralysis brought about by amazed disbelief that life can really suck in a world where princesses can lose their ivory towers, geniuses can be stumped for answers, heroes can lose to losers and people can feel alone even in the midst of a crowd.

Friday, March 20, 2009

F.D. (Friendship Downgraded)

Today, I caught myself laughing too hard and acting too silly. I know I laugh and am silly most of the time, but my recent actions feel too... incongruent with how I feel at the moment.

Laughter ought to come from deep in the belly, I remember the feeling. But the one this afternoon was just like coming from a tin can. So instead of jolly, it sounded closer to hilarity. And I tried and tried to dissect what the freck is wrong with me AGAIN, and I realized it was a survival instinct brought about by one comment from a supposed really good friend.

He told me he was avoiding me because he was avoiding drama, and he's got some of his own at that time. It really pissed me off good. And to think I was already tampo because he chose to share his problems with, it seems, everyone else but me. Well, at least now I know the adage "Sorrows divided" won't work with him. If he didn't think I could listen, and he thought I'd be a further damper, then what's the use of friendship right?

I think I'm still angry about it. And I think it's making me force down my true emotions and replace it with, well, whatever that was.

I speak cheerfully, in loud volumes, as if I'm pushing it out hard and I can't control the decibel. I pull practical jokes so I can laugh hard about it. I laugh.. loud... and to think true mirth to me before meant I can't even produce a sound cos Im laughing to hard. And everytime I think of saying something less than cheerful, I change my mind and replace it with inanities. Happy inanities.

Why? Because if one "friend" decided to move away because of the drama, I can't afford to lose all of them. So my idea of lightening up is to act frivolous.

But I'm not okay with that.

Here's the deal:

I will probably always will be melodramatic. I will always be melancholic. It's in my constitution. I am a positivist, but it doesn't mean I ignore the difficulties and the b-side of life. I have to embrace it because if I don't it will swallow me whole. I write a blog so I have an outlet for this. I talk to selected friends because I thought they can handle it. I can't always be happy all the time. I have changed. A few years ago, I was always happy-looking, regardless of how I feel. Somewhere along the way, I have decided not to be false to myself and I began to wear my heart on my sleeve. I don't regret it. And I am NOT going to start being false again.

But I can restrain showing it to people who cannot handle it.

I am not using my orphan-state as my card for pity. But I think it's a little too obvious that I have little too much on my plate. My life IS a fuckin' telenovela. And the motto is, if you don't like it, don't watch it. And if you can' t handle it, I won't show it to ya.

But it wouldn't be much of a friendship either. You're free now, you're not my crutch anymore. I'll figure out a way to do this without you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Usaping American Idol Season 8


Danny Gokey

No surprises here. Geeky-looking guy who can sing his soul out? I’ve always been a sucker for it. And given the fact that he’s probably operating on grief as he just lost his wife last month gives him an aww-shucks thing going for him. So sue me. I like this guy. He can sing. He had me when I heard him belting out “Kiss from a Rose” a capella style and really doing it well. My jaw literally fell. He probably won’t win (though I hope he does), but he’s good nonetheless.

Lil Rounds

This girl ain’t Fantasia, but she has them big pipes to belt music out. I just hope she wouldn’t try to be Fantasia, because that’ll be her death toll ringing.

Adam Lambert

Judge Kara probably hit the nail right on the head when she said Adam’s performance is strange. He IS weird. But I think that’s what he has got going for him. Nobody can compare him to anybody else because he’s always raring to be original. And listen to his voice. When he reached the high notes on that Garth Brooks number, I was just d-u-m-b-f-o-u-n-d-e-d. Amazing. I hope he just doesn’t end up doing all, as Simon put it, indulgent song choices, because strange can be scary in no time at all.

Megan Corkrey

Corkrey is Quirk-ey. I like her a lot. She’s also very pretty. Her voice sounds like… well, the kinda voice I’d like to have. Fun, quirky, different. She entertains me. But unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll be enough to bring her an Idol win. Sayang. If she makes an album, I’ll buy it, swear.

Kris Allen

I am kinda underwhelmed by Kris. Muy guapo, si. But at first, I thought, kinda bland. Too cute, too pop-sy, and hello, married to a blonde. (What can be more dime a dozen?) But thing is, he grows on you. It’s hard to dislike him. And his voice, which can sound like any boy band lead singer when your eyes are closed, is radio-friendly. Not the best singer, but quite bankable because hundreds of good-looking pipers came before him and proved the formula works every friggin’ time.


Anoop Desai

I read a description somewhere who described Anoop as talented and humble. Aherm? Wha? Talented, maybe. Humble? Well, compared to Simon Cowell, yes, I suppose. But there’s something about this guy that gets on my nerves. His answers are real, not pandering to anyone, not solicitous. That’s good, true. But it grates my ears. Good thing his voice doesn’t. Have you heard his rendition of “You Were Always On My Mind?” It was out of here. Unfortunately, he took away any chances of my reconsidering him when one of his answers yet again made my ears explode. Ryan Seacrest asked him if he was surprised by the praises heaped on him, he answered “I’m gonna say No.” I appreciate his honesty, but there’s a better way of saying it without coming off as an a-hole. I’d like him better if he said something to the tune, “I hoped.” Or “Yes, because I wasn’t 100% sure I’ll get the thumbs up, and yet NO because I gave my best.” Longer, but more human and accessible, y’know?

Scott McIntyre

He’s an excellent pianist, but his voice is, well, plain serviceable. It will do, but it’s not fire and magic. And this is a singing competition. Some say he wouldn’t even get into the Top 13, if he weren’t handicapped, but I disagree. I think he deserves his spot in the Top 10; but talent-wise, he could only hope to reach The Top 5, and that’s it. But if the general discomfort for letting a blind guy lose grips America, it may take him as far as Top 3. I'm not trying to be mean here. Just truthful.

Alexis Grace

OMFG. This girl thinks she’s something wow, dun’t she? It would’ve been okay, if she was. But she isn’t. She’s a pretty face, channeling Christina Aguilera, using the word dirty as her coin for success. Sorry, no-can-do. You don’t know what sound-alike mean? Then you’re either pretending, or proving the stereotype that intelligent blondes everywhere have tried very hard to debase for centuries. Probably thought she was being precocious, but all it proves is that not all her dingdongs inside that pretty head are in working order.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Crying About Boys

On a night out with my girl friends, the topic ostensibly and quite unavoidably steered towards lost loves and almost fairytale stories. I was a little dense that day and I just regained my orientation right smack in the middle of M’s diatribe about how stupid it is to cry about boys. I really have no idea what the premise was; I was busy thinking if I should order the four cheese risotto at Marciano’s. But as it happened, she was looking at my side of the table, although I’m sure the question was aimed at the group. Maybe, I was just guilty and felt like she was asking Me.
Well, first, let’s define crying. Crying is a steady flow of tears as opposed to just Tearing Up where your eyes get watery but only a few tears actually fall. Crying though, is much sober than Weeping where you cry and you moan. Rant though is a whole new level of moaning and flailing and tearing hair and banging head against walls. I can safely say, I never ranted about boys and probably never will. But I’ve done more than got teary-eyed with frustration. I cried, okay? And maybe semi-wept out of self-pity. Blame the sobs. Who knew the more you swallow down the sobs, the harder it is to breathe? So you have to gasp, and the breeze aerates your vocal cords, and you can do the science. Huh.
So for a millisecond, I felt utterly pathetic. Eeeewww. Then some self-preservation instinct took over and it told me that I shouldn’t be ashamed because:
You learned from it.
You can now cry about bigger things.
Good thing A also can relate with me. So we ended up No-Commenting the question. Because really, how do you explain why? Crying about boys is something you have to find out for yourself, because it’s different every friggin’ time. It doesn’t happen often, I don’t cry for every Dick, Joe and Harry that strikes my fancy. I don’t think I’m a hopeless romantic, just a dreamer – always have been, always will be. And in some level, I don’t regret opening myself to a couple of persons to the point where they could hurt me, and they did (unwittingly, of course, I hope). That takes some kind of stupid courage. Bravado is after all just a couple of letters away from the real thing.
I’ll get to brave, don’t worry. And I might even have a motley collection of battle scars to show for it. Messy, true, but interesting nonetheless.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Great Debaters

You know what I hate most?

Getting all riled up. I hate competitive sports. I hate contests. Because I'm not good with losing. I don't join any contests I am not sure I have a good chance of winning. So I always win. My attitude takes the flavor away some though. But you'd never know that if you read my conquests on paper. It reads like win to yet another win. But its just really a cowards' conquest list because I just won things I already knew I'll win. But in fairness, if you look at it another way, it's like I choose my battles wisely. I do not enter anything I am not ready for. I do work for my achievements, but just not so much as I would if I was not so selective.

Yeah, its true, I appear jolly and nice, most of the time. I think its a self-preservation trick because it hides a temper that can mutilate and searing competition brings it out. Seriously.

That's why I had such a short career in debating. I got to be captain of our high school debate team, in its short career. But much as I was good at it, I hated it. It was just a lot of talk. And sometimes its angry talk, albeit logical. Only when debating can I feel a fire billowing inside my chest and I couldn't control it. So I quit. I don't want to play with fire. It made me feel awful. Like I wouldn't be satisfied until my opponent is decimated and hurting and bleeding, and I'll achieve it any way I can.
I have it in me to be wily and manipulative and mean. I so know this. But I don't want to be that person, so I live a half-life of sorts.

I avoid anger, and act silly and nonsensical because I found that its the easiest way to make people underestimate me. Mellow because I'm yellow. If they think I'm the sober counterpart of Bridget Jones, they wouldn't bother fighting me. And I wouldn't be forced to reduce them to ashes, even if I neutralize myself in the process.

While watching the movie Denzel Washington's The Great Debaters, I felt the heat in my chest again. You know how it is when you recognize something that should be yours, but isn't? That's how I felt. I keep thinking I can have that. But... I'm out of practice. Out of shape. I'm soft all over. I believe I even forgot to speak logically as well. Oh well. Back to the film. It's a good film. It's the story of a small all-black college in Texas which became a great debate team, great enough to beat the Harvard national all-champs. It is an underdog story, the type people usually like. And the debates within are good... I mean it. I would even recommend that people watch it, if they can stand it. All I know is that, it was torture for me, for all the right reasons.

I'm not saying debating is bad, and you should be mean and manipulative to excel at it. I'm saying this is what surfaces in ME when I debate. And I stopped before I can harness and control it. I quit. For myself. For my sanity, and perhaps, just maybe, world peace. :D

Ninoy Triggerman

Dearest Kris,

I know who killed your father. Just as commonly believed, they were soldiers, following the edict of a powerful general in cohorts with the Marcoses. But the actual triggerman was never jailed. He was in too deep with a high-ranking official, and those the president freed yesterday were just fall guys.

I don't know if it will help you any. But the triggerman, last I heard has died already. He lived a sad, violent life and had it worse than whatever jail had in store for him originally. God takes care of His own, and he has exacted vengeance for you and your family already.

I hope you try to be at peace.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Vicky Christina Barcelona


Watching the film felt like an ordeal. Its like going to the dentist and being shown the thousand and one apparatus one can use to inflict pain. I found myself thanking God I haven't fallen in love that bad yet, not enough to drive me insane or scar me for life.

Between Vicky and Christina, I relate better to Vicky (played by Rebecca Hall) because of her traditional, safe views. I think that's how I view how love's supposed to go as well. But the real characters to watch out for in the film would be Christina (Scarlett Johansson) and Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz). They go insane as insane can go. And the funny thing is, you don't think they're whacked out while they're doing it. Honestly, mas nairita ako with Vicky. Her delusions with Juan something (played by Javier Bardem) is just irrirtating. I mean, I commsierate with her, but, its clear the thing with Juan-what's-his-name isn't going anywhere. she's just too scared. I would know. I WOULD BE.

Watch it,if only because Barcelona is wonderful. And watch it if you want to stay off falling in love for the next few months. I find it as a fairly decent therapy. >:)

Mall Bench

A lot of people I know hate waiting. I hate waiting too, usually. I can get very impatient for the slow service behind the McDonald’s counter, or the fruit guy in the supermarket who takes forever to weigh your three pieces of mangoes.

But when forced to do it, I often do something to occupy my time. This morning is a good example. I did some grocery shopping and was waiting for my sister to finish her workout in the gym. I haven’t paid my membership yet so I dare not show my face there; I decided to buy an inexpensive second hand book and wait on one of the benches littering the mall.

Ikaw ba? What do you think of those people who actually sit around in mall benches? Ako, I always have had a serious mistrust of them. I am aware that they could be husbands waiting for their wives to finish their retail therapy (and a lot of them are), or aged people who needs to sit down every five steps or so. But my perception is that, they are often abused by holduppers and snatchers who sit there and prey on their next victims. And if they don’t look married, old, or dingy, then they must be people who do not have anything better to do with their time. Would you seriously plan to spend your day sitting at a mall bench and watch people pass by? No, I don’t think it’ the kind of thing you write down on your Blackberry or Filofax.

But there I was, with time to kill, with only a 20-peso-book by the faker James Frey for company. The book was painful to read (have you read it? Brrr… it makes my teeth hurt). After a while, I decided I am not masochistic enough to read it and put the book down. This simple relinquishing of pretension of doing something while sitting opened up a whole new world to me.

Watching people shop is kind of… Zen. You see the whole world abuzz, but you’re apart from it. You see people in different states of agitation, celebration, agony and bliss. And you perceive it because you took the time to stop and observe. And it both confuses (why is he just standing in front of that shop staring at the guitar? Why not go inside and check the price? Why would you bring your pet Spitz with you while shopping for clothes? Does it bark when it approves of the skirt? Is the man with the sunglasses seated across me nodding off? Or just nodding at me?) and amuses ( she did not just squeeze her boyfriends tits, did she? That man needs to be told that fly fishing hats with actual feathered baits in them are only fashionable while fly fishing! Oh, look at that old couple holding hands while walking, how many years have they been married, I wonder?)

At first, the thoughts are ridiculous and shallow. But after a while (mine took about 15 minutes), you start inferring about the stories behind their movements, way of dressing and talking and walking. I realized I was stuck in a rushing river of stories where the river is really never the same way twice. Amazing. Mall benching (for that’s what I decided to call it) is not as bad as I thought it was.

At about this time, the old married couple I saw earlier sat down at an adjacent bench. The old man started fumbling with the packages he was carrying and took out a small bibingka and offered it to his wife. The wife took it, and ate with him, in that slow, munching-with-dentures way that senior citizens tend to do. They did not speak, they savored their food. When they were done, the man turned to his wife, smiled and nodded. The wife nodded and smiled back. And they sat contented for a while.

All that time, I was observing them. Only of course, I wasn’t staring directly at them, or else I would’ve made people uncomfortable. I just fixed my gaze at the plant beside their bench and let my peripheral vision do the observing. (So for a while there, I must’ve looked like I just broke up with my boyfriend or maybe, possibly, high on something)

Then the old man took his wife’s hand and they gingerly stood up, and wobbled away. I finally recognized the source of my fixation. They look and acted like my parents would’ve. For all I know, if I had no face recognition abilities at all and could only identify through movement and other-sensing, they could’ve been my parents.

That put an end to my impromptu social laboratory observations. It’s all and well if you’re seated at a bench watching non-specific people milling around. But it’s entirely something else to be following the slow progress of 2 elderly people out of the mall while tears are streaming down your eyes. No, I’m not ready for that kind of intimacy with the whole wide world yet. So I grabbed my book, opened it at a random page and stared as the paragraphs started to swim.

The words danced before me in their black and white glory, in movements that only grief can interpret.

Well. It was good while it lasted.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


It's high noon, I'm working at home and I just found I needed a break. I'm working on a draft of a would-be booklet for a program I have little... I want to say love, but it might be more accurate to say, i have little appreciation of instead. So I blog for a while, hoping I will find inspiration in movement of thought and fingers.

The momentary silence just makes me appreciate how silent my neighbourhood is. You can't expect to hear this sounds in the big city. Sabi nga nila, only in the suburbs.

This is what I hear:

The postman's motorbike just passed and stopped in front of our neighbour's house, two lots away. He's calling out "Tao Po, sulat!" and was answered by a loud, "Para kanino?" You see there are 2 families living in that sprawling lot, relatives but with different surnames.

A dog padded by. Seriously. You can hear the "tik, tik, tik" of its steps as it made its way down our street.

I hear roosters crowing for noon. I hear a mother and a daughter chatting while walking home from school. Their actual topic is indiscernible, of course. But it's quiet enough for me to hear the laughter in their voices. Oh, lunch. They're talking about lunch. The girl just asked "Anong ulam natin?"

I hear birds chirping. I almost didn't because you get used to it; they sing all the time around the house. They perch on our trees, and chatter amongst themselves. On more than one occassion, I've wondered what they're so busy talking about. I hope they're telling each other they love our trees. Or how pretty the flowers in the garden are.

A blue car passed by. Unusual for this time of day. Most of our neighbours work in the surrounding cities, and usually arrives late in the afternoon or way into the evening. Maybe he's a newlywed man who misses his pretty wife. Maybe it's a father who wants to surprise his daughters in the middle of their lunch of Maggi chicken noodles and rice. Well, that's how I would want to imagine it. That used to make me so happy.

The silence of our street makes me feel both full and empty, strange isn't it? There's enough silence for me to engage all of my senses and make me feel alive. But empty because, inside the house, I don't feel like I'm participating in the world. I should be at work right now. But that same knowledge of where I should be gives me a feeling of reprieve. Makes me think it is a wonderful gift to be able to have this silence, when I should be surrounded by chattering workmates right now, or humming computers. I search for silence in my work, and I can't, so you can often find me with earphones stuck in my ears. My theory is, if you're not gonna have silence, might as well have control over what soundtrack your day plays to.

Oh, empty. The house is so empty. And I miss my parents in this silence. Quiet always brings them back to me. If it's quiet enough, I can imagine the two of them talking in the dining room. I can almost hear Mummy cooking lunch. Daddy would climb the stairs soon enough, and ask me what I'm doing. He'd tell me what our lunch is. Probably fried fish and sinangag. I wish...

I wish I did this more often, back then. The last few months when they were both off work. I wish I stayed home more often as well. Why was I so busy? What was I so frenetic about? Why didn't I embrace this silence when I could still share it with them?

Then silence wouldn't be this empty. No, silence would be lovely.

And after lunch, they'll have a short nap inside the downstairs bedroom. They'll both be snoring. I would be smiling, watching them sleep. Until finally, I feel drowsy myself and I lie beside them, hearing their heartbeats, feeling their breaths on my cheek, smelling Vicks vaporub, and fried fish, and the smell of the afternoon sun on our pillows, the bedsheets. I would close my eyes, and be silent and still.

And sleep.

Amazing Things I Learned Today

Crayola is a French word which means "oily chalk."

Ants never sleep.

Before toilet paper was invented, French royals use fine linen to wipe their butts.

In 1998, Sony accidentally sold 700,000 camcorders that can see through people's clothes.

The word "byte" is a contraction of the word "by eight."

Two feel comfortable wearing really high heels, buy a pair half a shoe size higher and reinforce with Dr. Scholl's pad. In no time, you'd be looking and feeling like JLo.

The search engine Google, take its name from the word egoogooli which means a one followed by a hundred zeroes.

Donald Duck comic were banned in FInland because he doesn't wear pants.


Monday, March 02, 2009

The Reader

For a Best Actress win, my first impression was that Kate Winslet is underwhelming in The Reader.

Then I remember that when I read the book in college, I was also underwhelmed by the story. Not to say that I didn't like it though. The best that you could get from reading, and now, watching, The Reader is the niggling bothersome feeling which is very hard to shake off. At the very core of the story lies the question: What is immoral? What is evil?

Kate Winslet plays Hannah Schmidt, who had an affair with 15-year-old Michael at the onset of the Hitler years. At the end of the affair, she went on to become a guard at Auschwitz and was later imprisoned for 300 counts of murder (the Jews they were guarding). Michael became a lawyer, and at one point, had critical information that could lessen Hannah's term. He knew Hannah was illiterate, which explains why she is so keen on having Michael read to her before they make love. But Hannah's shame about her illiteracy is so deep that she'd rather rot in jail than admit she couldn't read or write. They both kept quiet, and the secret niggered at them until their advanced years.

It is actually a quiet story. One without too much vulgarity or blood in it. I think it is meant to lull you so that you would have a silent space to reflect at what line do YOU draw morality.

Case in point, while watching Hannah approach the bathing Michael, both of them nude as babes, Ella (my sister)made a disappointed screech, "Ay, pedophile!" And from there on, she kept commenting she feels bothered by the film.

Whereas her sister (moi), only felt sadness. Hannah was lonely. Michael also seemed like a ray of light to me. Would I have done what she did? Clarifying that I was living during a depressing time, alone in a house as big as a cupboard, without the solace of books because I couldn't read, ashamed and afraid that people will find out, then someone comes to read words that makes me feel alive, another person I can touch, a boy eager to learn and worships me, body and soul... Yes.


I would've.

I didn't tell my sister this. I don't think she'll understand.

I'm just happy I can murmur assent when she also commented she'd have killed herself or at the very least escaped my post if she was a guardian at Auschwitz, or in any of the godforsaken wars. Murder, we agree on.

I hope she never understands the kind of loneliness I am afraid I am also fated to live. Because once you are touched by it, you become privy to secrets such as that Hannah hid. And the world will always have tragedy in it, in your eyes.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Memoirs of Cleopatra


Just Wow.

I read the book and it's akin to being sucked into a time space warp which gently deposits you to Cleopatra's time. The author's imagery was so vivid that it felt as if you're walking Alexandria and Rome yourself. I finished the 937-page book in 2 days. I just had to get to the end, regardless of the fact that I already knew what happened.

Cleopatra has always awed me since my early adolescence. Here's a woman, not really traditionally beautiful, but powerful and desired by the world's most powerful men. The book just lent me a women's view of what could have transpired during those tremulous times. History has rendered Cleo a whore. History written by men, of course. But what if she wasn't a power-monger, what if she really loved, and what ifher mistakes were all calculated ones to protect her beloved Egypt?
You have to give this girl the credit. She did hold on to Egypt, and always had its interest at heart. She brings more ammunition to the overused "Girl Power" mantra, probably because she's the original Spice Girl, if you consider it. :) I wouldn't mind being a modern Cleopatra. Save for the snakebite at the end. I prefer old age, if you don't mind.

Reading Paul Theroux...

... is the best way to rediscover all the reasons why you love to travel.

Seriously, in a job which requires you to be on the move, travel can get downright mundane. The butt-aching land travel, stress inducing airport security, cramped bus or airplane restrooms, barfers, questionable food, even more questionable toilets on the road.... the list goes on. And at the end of it all, there is the general body malaise, where you ache in places you didn't think could ache. But... let's not forget the good things. Right after a long travel, my body may feel tired, but my brain is more active than ever. My mind feels excited by whatI've seen... in my head, I have been through something expanding, glorious...

And that's why Paul Theroux's travel writings excite me. He doesn't talk about hotels, and which restaurants to try out. He tells you of the quirky things that only travel will teach you. He teaches you about the drunken seatmate, the long qeues, the incomprehensible siestas in far-flung provinces, the rough road, the bugs... but in such a way that you'd look back and KNOW it made you more alive because of it.

I love travel because I love to be alive.