Thursday, December 31, 2009

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The year is 2010

Update: This post was originally entitled #100, because I thought that I'd hit 100 blog entries. I did, but discovered that my dashboard includes drafts in the count. I went through the list and weeded out six draft posts. I had hoped to complete 100 published posts before 2010, but oh well. False alarm. Haha. I guess the milestone will just have to be pushed back several more days.



2009 went by quickly for me. It was an emotional year, challenging in many ways; heartbreaking in a particular turn. But I had my family, Lem, and my friends to carry me through to the beginning of another new year. I love you all.

In a Nazi-occupied France

In Kill Bill, Uma Thurman's Black Mamba scalps Lucy Liu's O-ren Ishii with a samurai. In the new film Inglourious Basterds, Lt. Aldo Raine's men must each collect 100 Nazi scalps. Quentin Tarantino directs another delightful, bloody ride.

Inglourious Basterds does not disappoint. I'm still recovering from the shock of watching the Bear Jew, one of the Basterds, beat a Nazi officer to death with a baseball bat. In another memorable scene, Brad Pitt's Aldo the Apache questions Diane Kruger's Bridget von Hammersmarck about a rendezvous gone awry. To obtain more accurate information, he pushes his index finger into a bullet wound on her leg. Squish, squelch.

Christoph Waltz delivers as the dangerously intelligent, but comically vain, villain. Colonel Hans Landa of the SS is a man of fine tastes, versed in several languages. His reputation as The Jew Hunter is well-deserved, infamous for his hawk-like cunning and dogged pursuit of prey. Deadly and silently efficient, the man missed nothing. Eating apple strudel has never looked so sinister.

Deep Impact in the news

The asteroid Apophis, named for the Greek variant of the god of chaos, is a near-Earth heavenly body first discovered in 2004. It was initially believed to have a 1-in-37 chance of colliding with Earth in 2029, but recent studies have shown that an impact is unlikely for that year. However, it was also reported that the asteroid will pass very close to the Earth's surface on April 13, 2029. Scientists estimate that it will be about 29, 450 kilometers from our atmosphere. On the other hand, these new calculations still cannot rule out encounters in 2036 and 2068. While the scientists at NASA perceive the asteroid to be more of a great opportunity for space research, the Russians feel that it is necessary to take active steps in preventing a collision.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

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Murakami gets me

From Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami, page 196
I turned face-up on the slab of stone, gazed at the sky, and thought about all the man-made satellites spinning around the Earth. The horizon was still etched in a faint glow, and stars began to blink on in the deep, wine-coloured sky. I gazed among them for the light of a satellite, but it was still too bright out to spot one with the naked eye. The sprinkling of stars looked nailed to the spot, unmoving. I closed my eyes and listened carefully for the descendants of Sputnik, even now circling the Earth, gravity their only tie to the planet. Lonely metal souls in the unimpeded darkness of space, they meet, pass each other, and part, never to meet again. No words passing between them. No promises to keep.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

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Three canines currently take up residence at our house. One is Rako, one of my brothers the black Labrador-shepherd mix I feature often on this blog. Another is Ludwig, the German shepherd mix whose stunted social skills are the result of being weaned too early from his mother. The third is Jamfong, a German shepherd-dacshund mix who ingested rat poison and survived. He is also Ludwig's pup.

Rako is large compared to the two other dogs, but he is still a puppy. His youth and relatively mild manner have made him the object of bullying. Father and son take turns snapping at his hind legs and marking their territory. Rako stays within the front of the house while the other two lord it over in the backyard. Fights often end with Ludwig standing over an acquiescent lab. The bullying is exhausting to Rako and stressful to my family. Sometimes, late at night, I hear growling evolve into a full-out brawl. It's difficult having to watch my dog subjected to that kind of misery.

Tonight, when I went out to feed Rako, I found him worrying a woolly, grey doormat. It looked suspiciously like the one on the stoop to my Lola's house, the very same one Ludwig usually sleeps on. Somehow, Rako had managed to infiltrate enemy territory and swipe the goods off the top step. He had captured his oppressor's property, and was mangling the life out of it. Brave soul. Pa and I were beaming: our puppy had made us proud. Amidst the tyranny, Rako had committed a brazen act of rebellion.


Registered Voter

In one of his columns, Conrado de Quiros expressed that if you stopped caring about politics, you stopped caring about democracy.

My quest to become a registered voter began at the crack of dawn. At 5:30 in the morning, I dragged myself out of bed and took a cab to Comelec. When I got there, I waited in line to groggily write my name next to the number 119. One hundred-eighteen other people had gotten up earlier than me. These days, Comelec meets a quota of 200 applicants per day. We were told to return before one o'clock to pick up our numbers. So at 11:30, I did. I was greeted by a grumpy gate guard who informed me that he had not eaten because "inaasikaso namin kayo." A cigarette held lightly between his lips was the only thing keeping him going.

Because my number ensured me a spot in the afternoon, I squeezed in a few errands and went back at one. I found the same gate guard shoveling rice and pork afritada into his mouth. He seemed more glad to see me then.

The process was more or less what I expected from a government office with only one validation machine. I turned on my patience switch before stepping across the threshold. I knew I was going to be in for some major waiting.

I filled out my registration form next to two girls I assume were in college. Through no intention of mine, I discovered that one of them was about to be marooned in Germany. Ipapatapon daw siya ng nanay niya doon. I also found out that the other girl's parents were separated. She was wondering aloud at what she should write down as her mother's last name. This girl also lives in Quezon Hill (or was it City Camp?), in a barangay whose name contains more letters than the little boxes provided. Turning to her friend, she joked: "Pa-kyopa na nga ng sayo!"

I spent the rest of the afternoon in line, in front of a lady who kept up a running commentary of observed injustices. I listened to her respectfully at first, but when she started campaigning, my brain effectively turned off. She believes that her candidate will clean up Burnham Park and replace the water in the lake. She suspected people of cutting in line, that they exploited their connections on the inside. She alternated between praising the registration process and condemning the government for making us wait in the sun.

The lady ahead of me has a one-year old son, who likes to eat carrots while watching cartoons.

Murakami and his notes on human emotion kept me company in the quiet moments. A half-consumed bag of Cheetos kept me from going hungry. I didn't have water, so cheese stung my throat.

The guy at the validation machine let me have my picture taken twice. I blinked the first time.

In that article by de Quiros, he went on to say that not caring about democracy meant not caring about freedom. So even if I hate it and plow through it almost uncomprehendingly, I must keep caring about politics. I must listen to countless candidates smooth-talk their way into office. I must pick the least evil out of a pack of rabid hyenas. I must choose a group of individuals to govern my City and my Country and hope that they have the People's best interests in mind. I must entrust these fellow human beings with superhuman responsibilities. On May 2010, I will cast my vote.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

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Wild Thing!

On Christmas eve, I saw Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze's adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book.

Max is a young boy dealing with the loss of his father. His teenage sister, busy with her friends, is unable to relate to him. And Catherine Keener plays the loving, but constantly preoccupied mother. Sadness has lodged itself in his heart, and he lashes out at the world. One night, unable to contain the Wild Thing snapping against his insides, he bites his mother and runs away without any supper. He dashes through the street and into the woods, roaring his terrible roar and gnashing his terrible teeth. He finds a boat and sails it through a great sea to where the wild things are. He tames them with his awesome power and becomes their king.

Each of the wild things has a name and is distinct in some way. They are an embodiment of feelings we cannot name, of emotions we hide deep inside ourselves. Max makes an instant connection with Carol, a wild thing who is also dealing with loss through rage. The dialogue was wise and searing, made so by its earnest delivery. In one scene, Carol talks to Max about loneliness and my breath caught. Max Records as Max was amazing.

The island is an untamed paradise. Max and his wild things play among giant trees and sleep in a fort made of tunnels and twigs. Carol and his friend KW build a miniature city in a cave in the middle of a sand desert. This island is our the Secret Place, quiet and primeval. If an adult were stranded here, they would freak out.

Elements of Sendak's wonderful story are visible and serve as the movie's foundation. But Jonze's extrapolations are inspired. He took a children's picture book and transformed it into an exploration of the human condition. The cinematography will make your eyes go wide with child-like wonder; the material will make your chest tighten with beautiful, inexplicable pain. Karen O and the Kids provide a brilliant soundtrack for the film.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

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The day in random thoughts

I can't sleep.

Finished Christmas shopping today. The press of people in SM is suffocating. Informed my friends that I have contemplated genocide. Will avoid said mall except to watch Avatar.

I need to do something about the mess in my room. It's been a good week in books and piles are growing. Must move them soon or risk getting buried alive under an avalanche of fiction.

I miss my mother. I see mothers and their daughters caught in the rush of last-minute shopping and I think of Alice in the market, buying ingredients for her Bicol Express.

I think there are more carolers this year. For the last couple of weeks, I have listened to renditions of Jingle Bells and Silent Night punctuated by wild barking. Peals of terror inevitably follow. Rako and the boys do not appreciate Good Cheer around spaces they have claimed with their urine.


Monday, December 21, 2009

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It is ON

Thursday, December 17, 2009

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An afternoon with Chuck Lorre

I spent most of the afternoon watching The Big Bang Theory. I lay in the Green Couch, tucked my blanket around me to preserve warmth, and never got up.

The relationship between Penny and Sheldon is endearing. For Christmas, in the second season, Penny gives Sheldon a table napkin used and autographed by Leonard Nimoy. Because no present could possibly reciprocate the value of Spock's DNA, Sheldon sheds his usual social restraints and gives Penny a hug. It was adorable.

One half of the show's duo of gifted creators is Chuck Lorre, who has spawned such series as Two and a Half Men, Dharma and Greg, and Cybill. The writer/producer has been very generous with his genius, providing viewers with nuggets of brilliance through what are referred to as Vanity Cards. These posts flash for about two seconds after each episode Lorre has ever worked on. They contain his astute thoughts on censorship, his work, race, relationships, Life, and other random things he chooses to write about. He is currently  petitioning for immediate change in the conditions of Existence. The man is a visionary. The entire Vanity Cards list here.

In the mail

This morning, I dropped by the post office to pick up a package. The parcel section is in the building annex on the side nearest Cathedral, right next to the turo-turo. It is a small room filled with packages of every imaginable size, organized in an arcane filing system understood only by a few. The lady in charge of the division is pleasant and easy to talk to. She remembers me from an earlier encounter, where I had to take home two boxes that had made a round trip to the Netherlands. A long-ish table conveniently obstructs the entrance, preventing over-eager callers from disturbing the stacks.

The package I received was from a family friend who lives in India. The contents were bound in a durable piece of cloth, its edges sewn and sealed with red wax:

Inside was a Christmas card and a bag of wonderful Assam tea:

In an era when nearly every correspondence is digital, it's refreshing to literally get something in the mail. I think, because e-mails and instant messages can be transferred so easily, the value of sending and receiving an actual letter is overlooked. Many must think snail mail is a dated practice and it probably is, but there is a rush from holding an object that traveled through considerable space and time to get to your corner of the world. This is where the idea "Someone far away is thinking of you" is most tangible. It's also exciting to find something in the mailbox addressed specifically to you. I do love surprises.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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The One True Thing

One day, not too long ago, I moped into McDonald's Katipunan, wishing the earth would crack open and swallow me whole. My phone beeped, so I peered morosely into the screen and read the message. Immediately, the dark clouds cleared. The black hole in my chest closed up completely and all thoughts of plunging into a deep chasm vanished. The message was from Lem. He had sent, "Smile. You're so pretty when you smile."

Fifteen seconds later, I received another message: "Uuuuy...nakangiti na :)" I was.

Because Lem lets me be in his life, I have never wanted for smiles or laughter.

Happy birthday, sweetheart. I love you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

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Today on KubiTV

Being back home, I've reverted to the role of glorified Bill-Payer. The money doesn't necessarily come from me (ha-ha), but I do literally pay the bills. I spend lots of time in lines and run into all kinds of situations, not all of them pleasant.

This morning, I went to the bills payment center on the third floor of SM Department Store (wasn't I just talking about this place?) and discovered that it does provide the intended convenience. They accept payments for insurance, utilities, most communication and internet service providers, and major credit card companies. The water bill still needs to be settled at the Baguio Water District in Utilities Road, about half a kilometer from the mall. But as I understand it, negotiations are underway for SM to begin receiving water payments. Imagine if that happened. I could accomplish bill-paying duties in one fell swoop. This is great news on the domestic front.

Slim pickings at the movies. Lem and I saw Ninja Assassin and are thankful our tickets were free. The action scenes were probably wicked...if we could see them. We admit, the ninjas vanishing into the shadows was pretty cool. On the other hand, every other action scene fizzled in bad light and ended too soon. Yes, we know that ninjas move with preternatural speed and should make discreet kills, but what is a ninja movie without properly visible fights?

For one shining moment, when the ninjas massively kick Europol ass, I imagined the movie was a pointed jab at Western ignorance. I was wrong. The police eventually use heavy Western artillery to decimate the ninja clan's mountain hideaway. I am thinking too much.

I did like the scene where Rain's character, Raizo, practices stealth on a nightingale floor. One misstep and the woodwork sings like a bird, alerting the target to an intruder's presence. In Japanese history, paranoid leaders had these floors installed in their palaces as a security measure against assassinations. I remember Takeo from Lian Hearn's amazing novel Across the Nightingale Floor. I think I'll re-read it for a real ninja fix.

Now that I'm blogging again, I've begun narrating events of my life in my head. I find angles to write about and test out working sentences to myself. This is a useful mental exercise that draws away from my usual train of thought. The people closest to me are up to their eyeballs in my frequent random bursts of neurosis. Restarting the writing habit has been good for my brain, which is becoming addled from disuse.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

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Total Gleek

I'm about to sound like an incredible dork, but Glee makes me cry. There are songs I can't sing or listen to without getting a little emotional. And when the cast performed You Can't Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones for Sectionals in episode 13, I burst into tears.

Glee returns in April 2010. I will be waiting.


Pa, Jake, and I went to SM Department Store this morning to buy Jake's teacher a present. Working in the glassware section must be a harrowing profession. I don't think any other salesperson in the store is as mindful of their wares. Handling stock must be done with painstaking care. Bowls piled at precarious angles could be disastrous. Reaching for an object in the second row requires a particular attentiveness absent in the plastic section. Animated shoppers could gesticulate wildly and upset shelves heavy with breakables. Sudden movements are not welcome here.

I am not trustworthy around so much glass. When I was in college, my laboratory group mates were exasperated with me because I kept accidentally breaking beakers and test tubes. The rate and frequency at which I smashed things were legendary. In high school, I nearly burned down the chem lab. But that's a different story.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

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Going Green

I think Eva Green is wonderful. The woman is stunning; it's a challenge not to gape. Her large, blue eyes radiate a depth that is frightening. They can burn holes into your soul. Eva is strange and intelligent, deliciously complicated. She is indifferent to her celebrity and thinks all directors should go to drama school.

Eva has taken on a range of fearless roles, from a liberated young woman in The Dreamers to a beguiling desert princess in Kingdom of Heaven. As Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, she makes James Bond fall in love and ruins him. In her new film Cracks, she plays a beautiful but obsessive teacher at an English boarding school for girls. In this video interview, she talks about her fascination with unbalanced people and how "it was interesting to explore the darkness." My kind of woman.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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You've Got Mail was on HBO this afternoon. Nicole and I have seen this movie so many times, we can accurately recite lines from the script. We have actual, meaningful conversations using quotes.

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, masters of The Romantic Comedy, are in their element. Only Meg Ryan and her signature nose-wrinkling can pull off saying things like "Don't you think daisies are the friendliest flower?" without sounding ridiculous. And Tom Hanks as Joe Fox makes a lovable capitalist.

The comfort factor of this movie, to me, is extremely high. It is shot in a laid-back New York where people spend lots of time in parks and coffee shops. Many of the scenes take place during the day when the sun is out and the world is at its brightest. Also, no one seems to be working. The main characters own bookstores, places I consider fixed points when my world is spinning. I like how they smell.

Books close to my heart are also seen here. In one scene, Meg Ryan's Kathleen reads Roald Dahl's Boy to a group of children for Storybook Lady Hour.

Towards the end of the movie, when Joe and Kathleen talk about what their relationship would be like if they hadn't been at war, I think of Lem. We would never fight about what movie to rent on a Saturday night.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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"Clash" Remake

Sam Worthington is Perseus in the upcoming remake of the 1981 film Clash of the Titans. If Zeus wasn't such a player, there would be a serious dearth of Greek heroes. In Mallrats, Jason Lee's Brodie declares that only Wonder Woman's uterus is capable of carrying Superman's offspring. I wonder the same thing about Olympian sperm and mortal wombs. Zeus himself has managed conceptions across multiple species. Talk about robust.

Monsters look menacing by default. As a consequence, they are often misunderstood and/or maltreated. According to actual myth, Medusa was minding her own business on a secluded island until Perseus decapitates her and takes her head for a wedding gift. Where's the justice in that? Nonetheless, bring on the gore!


One of the advantages of taking Jake to school is that I get to enjoy Baguio in the morning. The sky is so clear, the moon has nowhere to hide. Clouds float lazily along, mindless of the vast expanse of icy blue. Except students with early classes, there aren't many people out on the streets. You can walk without being rushed, move without bumping into strangers. Vehicles make quick progress down the road because early morning traffic is barely traffic at all. The air is clean so that when you inhale, there is just a whiff of pine. The breeze makes itself known on your skin and in your hair, but never through your sweater. This is Baguio as it should be.

Monday, December 7, 2009

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The birth of cold

There is a characteristic chill in the air - the sort I normally expect to begin in October. Out in the sun, the heat is almost intolerable. In the shade, the cold burns the skin. I am home.

Objects appear more defined, as if the lower temperature has sharpened the edges of things. Nature is adventurous with her palette. During the day, the sky is impossibly blue. At dusk, the sunset is an opera of bold fuchsia tones. The hills are green carpets with bright yellow dots: the sunflowers are in bloom. We are lucky to even have them this year. They, like the soul of this City, are disappearing.

Yesterday, I made spaghetti for lunch. It was quiet, and the kitchen was glowing with the yellow light of the afternoon. If I spend enough time cooking, I stop thinking. All I feel is the heat of the stove and the knife handle as I chop garlic. The faint sizzling of sautéing onions is the most wonderful sound. I miss my mother.

Last night, I fell asleep under three blankets. I spun a cheetah 360 degrees in the air by its tail, threw it at a horde of zombies chasing me, and ran for all I was worth. Then I woke up. A cocoon of heat cultivates eventful REM.

Rako spent the morning under the sun so when I touched him his fur was warm. His nose was cold, though. My cheeks were duly informed.

Once I have established warmth, it is difficult to get up. This does not bode well for household chores. Or personal hygiene. I doubt that clean hair is more important than warm toes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

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You are like the word...Melancholy

It is one of those nights; some canyons are deeper than others.

Tonight, I borrow words from a Master.

By Pablo Neruda

I like for you to be still
It is as though you are absent
And you hear me from far away
And my voice does not touch you
It seems as though your eyes had flown away
And it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth
As all things are filled with my soul
You emerge from the things
Filled with my soul
You are like my soul
A butterfly of dream
And you are like the word: Melancholy

I like for you to be still
And you seem far away
It sounds as though you are lamenting
A butterfly cooing like a dove
And you hear me from far away
And my voice does not reach you
Let me come to be still in your silence
And let me talk to you with your silence
That is bright as a lamp
Simple, as a ring
You are like the night
With its stillness and constellations
Your silence is that of a star
As remote and candid

I like for you to be still
It is as though you are absent
Distant and full of sorrow
As though you had died
One word then, One smile is enough
And I'm happy;
Happy that it's not true

Thursday, December 3, 2009

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Norah Falls

Norah Jones returns this year with her new album The Fall. Here, she takes a detour and experiments with a new sound. The intro to Chasing Pirates, the first (and my favorite) track, is the fork in the road that leads to an unfamiliar neck of the woods.

Most of the tracks, collectively, feel like those home movies of beautiful women having a merry romp in a grassy field. Except the grassy field is growing on a roof in the middle of a city. We chase her, barefoot, across the green. Norah’s voice retains its grainy appeal, but the sound itself is fuller and crisper. She crackles.

It is a mischievous album, and it is apparent that this musician is truly enjoying her craft. In her last track, Man of the Hour, she teases, “And I chose you because you are sweet/ And you give me lots of loving/ And you eat meat.” Norah is light and unaffected in this record, a real joy to listen to.

Watch as she talks about making the new album. I like seeing her with short hair and a guitar.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

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Nolan keeps us coming back for more

Christopher Nolan writes and directs the science-fiction mind-thriller Inception.

The man likes to mess with our heads. In Memento, he takes us through what must be the most gripping mystery/thriller ever conceived. My brain has never recovered from that experience.

He also likes to surround himself with equally passionate actors. Obviously, his preference is for those whose intensity can match and fuel his own. He directed Christian Bale and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, a movie that leaves one literally exhausted from its sheer weight. And now, Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception. A brilliantly assembled supporting cast further reinforces his vision and effectively translates it onto the screen. Michael Caine and Cillian Murphy have made repeated appearances and are also in the current film.

I can't wait to see this movie. Here is the trailer, to tide us over until its release in July 2010.

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