Thursday, January 28, 2010

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Dog and his person go for a walk

Sometime after the doormat debacle, Rako and Ludwig got into a couple of bloody battles. Rako went Mike Tyson on Ludwig's ass: the shepherd's ear was badly ripped and now droops at a defeated ninety-degree angle to his head. In those last fights, Rako had the upper hand, his youth and size finally coming into the fore. On the other hand, everyone at home has been worried about the older dog whose brown fur is still stained with blood. The violence has been upsetting, especially to the younger residents.

An uneasy truce (more like an enforced stalemate) currently exists between the warring factions. A gate has been installed at the entrance of the backyard, effectively barring the dogs from one another. Father and son on one side, the lab on the other.

Confined to the front yard, Rako has been getting loud and restless. His attitude towards the other two dogs has been confrontational, because he feels that ascension is nigh. Of course, Ludwig will have none of it and is equally fierce. Jamfong has been wise to sit out the major scuffles, but continues to engage in trash talk.

Rako and I hadn't gone for a walk since December and it was obvious he needed it. Legs of the weary and unaware have fallen to his manic humping. It can be terrifying to have a hulking mass of black fur getting the freaky on with your right leg.

So today, to take a break from all the fighting and humping, Rako and I went for a walk.

We walked up to Bayan Park in Aurora Hill and took photos of the trees and the grass and the backside of a concrete elephant.


It was early morning so there were joggers and kids still on their way to school. Other people were also out with their dogs; some of them carried their wards up and down the walkway.



I like to think some of Rako's pent-up energy is back in the Universe. He spent most of the day napping.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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If I shut my eyes really tight...

...I would end up here.

I could spend the rest of my days in this room. I love books. I love piles of books. And I love pillows. Beds are not so bad either. This could work.

Or you can use a banjo

"When using a blunt weapon, the goal is to crush the brain (remember, the only way to kill a zombie is by destroying its brain). This is not as easy as it sounds. The human skull is one of the hardest, most durable surfaces in nature. So, of course, is the zombie's. Extreme force is needed to fracture, let alone shatter it. However, this must be done, and done with a single, well-placed blow. Missing your target or failing to breach the bone will leave you with no second chance.

...A section of lead pipe will work for a single encounter but is too heavy for those on the move. A sledgehammer has the same drawback and also requires practice for its user to hit a moving target. Aluminum bats are light enough to work for one, maybe two fights, but are known to bend after prolonged use..."

(From pages 31-32 of The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks)

Friday, January 22, 2010

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Scarlett Sings

One of the sexiest things about Scarlett Johansson is her voice. And that's saying something, considering everything about the woman is scorching. Here she is with Pete Yorn, singing "Relator," a track off their new album Break Up.

Inspired by the duet style of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, "Yorn and Johansson reenact the tempestuous course of a love affair on the rocks in captivating detail." (From a description of the recordings.)

Also: Pete and Scarlett talk about their stirring record on New York Magazine.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

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A Very Rockstar Engagement

It's all good

Another birthday has come and gone, and I'm a little bit closer to being a quarter of a century old. I learned, rather painfully, to be more appreciative of the people who truly care for me. Keep your best friends close, your family closer. They will make everyday special for you.

I will also take this opportunity to show off the birthday loot. I sense it will be a good year in words:

I am so far loving A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. The man is hilarious, positively irreverent. You can read his entertaining blog here and his expositions on the Beta Male here. (This is his old blog URL.) The Beta Male Manifesto comes in three parts, and each is incredibly...accurate. Haha.

Here is T-rex taking a chunk out of Totoro's face. Gentle giant meets Jurassic carnivore. You will notice the hilt of a light saber in the background. This is life with a 10-year old boy:

Yesterday, in the jeep on my way home from taking Jake to school (wow, look at all those prepositions), I sat next to a girl reading The Hunger Games. I peeked discreetly over her shoulder and it was the night just before Katniss enters the arena. Oh this girl is in for a treat.

The Australian Open is in full swing. I watched my first match last Tuesday and it couldn't have come at a better time. The opening round match, which was between Roger Federer and Igor Andreev, had an inevitable end, but it was exciting nonetheless. Federer was working out the kinks in his form, poising himself for a long two-week challenge. Unforced errors flew off his racket, shanks left and right. Andreev won the first set and I panicked a little. If you are a Federer fan, I'm sure you understand. Come to think of it, every Federer fan I know has just a hint, if not an abundance, of neurosis. We dwell on the Past and try to predict the Future. And we certainly love greatness. Roger won the match 4-6 6-2 7-6 6-0. I like to think the last bagel was the Champion making a statement. (He played another match earlier this evening against Victor Hanescu. I'd fallen asleep, but it appears to have been a routine thrashing: Federer def. Hanescu 6-2 6-3 6-2. Schedule of Play here.)

Tennis royalty hobnobbing with, er, royalty royalty.

Good TV has also returned to me. Chuck, finally, is back on air. When the second season ended, a third was believed to be non-existent. Because fans clamored for its return, NBC caved and brought it back. Even better news is that the show has been renewed for a full 19-episode season.Woohoo! Episode 4 just aired last Monday. It's been a sweet return thus far.

How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory have also re-entered my entertainment circuit. And Nicole has just informed me that Leverage has a new episode out. So really, I haven't been particularly busy. Just well-entertained.

Let's take stock. I have a bunch of new books and wonderful people who love me (and whom I love back). My tennis life is resurrected with a grand slam and Roger Federer in good form. And there is riveting TV to numb my optic nerves. I have to admit, this is not a bad way to start my year.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

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Portrait of an artist as a child

Roger Federer (right) as a young boy. (Photo source. Thanks!)

The Australian Open starts 18 January 2010. So it begins again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

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In my previous post, I accidentally wrote "Edna" instead of "Betty" in the sentence, "...Councilor Betty Tabanda asks the enraged public to be reasonable." I've already edited and replaced the post, but the error still appears on some feeds. Kindly take note of the correction. I apologize to Ms. Edna Tabanda for the oversight.

Save Baguio Athletic Bowl 2 (Also, #100)

UPDATE: The Facebook group previously known as "save baguio athletic bowl from the koreans" has been re-named "save the burnham park movement." Its new mission here. Now for some very good news: Resolution 515, which allowed the mayor to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Korean investors, has just been re-called. Kudos.

Today, concerned Baguio citizens came together at the Baguio Athletic Bowl to show their support against its privatization.



Just a couple of updates:

Councilor Pinky Rondez made a privilege speech at the City Council yesterday, expressing her own protests against the lease and proposed development plan. When the council met to sign the MOA on 21 December 2009, she was absent. She is currently at the helm of the Burnham Park Development.

An outpouring of indignation from the online community has shaken the MOA's undersigned. Many of the councilors who previously supported the deal are now withdrawing their signatures. Like rats deserting a sinking ship. On the other hand, Mr. Peter Rey Bautista continues to stand by his actions, deliberately dismissing the online protests. In the SunStar today, Councilor Betty Tabanda asks the enraged public to be reasonable. Well, where was reason when the council by-passed transparency and excluded the public to rush the MOA?

Another Facebook group, Petition Against Baguio Athletic Bowl MOA, has been put up. It's true, Koreans are looking to develop a historic piece of public land, but the anger towards them is a little misplaced. The first group, which implored us to "save baguio athletic bowl from the koreans," was the initial emotional outburst from people who love this City. It has been instrumental in getting the issue out online, as well as bringing people together for a demonstration of support. Now, we must set our sights on the real offenders. Current and previous administrations have made it easy for the Koreans to take Baguio piece by piece. The local government let these people have their way, with no thought to consequence. There simply was no sense of duty, or interest, to protect the City and its residents. These so-called leaders would have us feel like strangers in our own home. They sold us out.



Sunday, January 10, 2010

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Sherlock Holmes and the Na'vi go to a party

Great weekend in movies. Lem and I saw Sherlock Holmes on Friday, and followed it up with Avatar on Saturday.


When one hears that Robert Downey Jr is playing Sherlock Holmes, you don't ask questions. As soon as it's showing, drop what you're doing and go see it. Downey has the charm and humor to bring this brilliant eccentric to life. When the movie opens, Holmes is being chased down the dark streets of London. Backed into a corner, he calculates the series of blows necessary to incapacitate his pursuer. Later, he is in a boxing ring and his adversary spits on the back of his head. Again, his mind estimates the required combination to win. These computations take only a moment. On both occasions, the enemy hits the floor, shattered bones and all. Holmes has already determined the damage sustained by his opponent's body...and pride. Ass-kicking has become an intellectual exercise.

At first, Jude Law as Dr. John Watson seemed like a far stretch. But it worked. The chemistry between the two old friends was endearing. (Watch: Holmes and Watson sitting side by side on a rickety bed, post-explosion, and trying very hard not to hug.) Kelly Reilly's turn as Mary Morstan, Watson's fiancé, was a pleasant surprise. She barely got any face time in the stories, so it was great to see her portrayed as a strong woman, unimpressed by Holmes's guile. Rachel McAdams is wonderful as the criminally sexy (ha-ha) Irene Adler.

The plot itself lacked cleverness, failing to evoke the why-didn't-I think-of-that knock on the forehead. On the other hand, Holmes's appraisal of people did demonstrate those brilliant deductive skills. The film was obviously a prelude to a greater story, one where we will eventually encounter the arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. We will wait for that one with bated breath. The game is afoot.


Lem and I finally saw Avatar. We caught the late afternoon show, a schedule apparently favored by the general public. Lem sipped sullenly from a vanilla frostee, glaring at the long queue in front of him. Despite all those people, we managed to get good seats. Wearing over-sized 3D glasses, we braced ourselves for a movie that has been hyped to the high heavens. For once, the hype did not exaggerate.

The story is set in 2154, a time when humans have plundered so much of the earth that no green remains. Having completely exhausted the natural resources on their own planet, the humans launch an off-world mining project on the moon Pandora. RDA, the corporation responsible for operations, treads carefully because Pandora is inhabited by sentient humanoid beings called the Na'vi. Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, is a young marine who joins the company's Avatar division. Human researchers neurally link to genetically-engineered Na'vi bodies to gather information about the world and its people. Their ulterior task is to forge diplomatic relations with the indigenous community. The group is led by a no-shit, ball-breaking scientist Grace Augustine (portrayed to a T by the great Sigourney Weaver). She often clashes with corporate head slug Parker Selfridge whose depravity was crafted so perfectly by Giovanni Ribisi.

The plot is, by no means, anything new. In fact, it is a story not unusual in the Philippines. Indigenous peoples displaced by outsiders exploiting their land for commercial gain? Sound vaguely familiar? Ma, who knows a little something about natural resource management, remarked about the movie's parallels with ancestral land issues in the Cordillera. (She saw the movie in the Netherlands, and had to manage with Dutch subtitles for the Na'vi translations.) Avatar may have fallen into step with previous movies of the same theme, but it is a theme that hits close to home. A lack of empathy can be deadly.

In a very Tolkien-esque move, James Cameron creates a strange, untamed world where its inhabitants can literally commune with Nature. The plants glow in the dark and the animals are fierce and lethal. (Lem has declared that we must procure him a Banshee.) Cameron was thorough. The Na'vi, an entirely imagined race, have their own language and culture. They are a people who have preserved an intense connection with their environment, a quality steadily disappearing among human beings.

In one pivotal scene, the music turns ominous and Lem comments, "This is where the Titanic sinks." It's true: Cameron is dangerously becoming formulaic, and therefore predictable. But he makes up for it with stunning visuals and heavy action sequences. Images overwhelm the senses. With revolutionary film-making technology burning at his fingertips, Cameron meant to ASTONISH. He certainly did.

In a nutshell: Avatar was fucken awesome.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

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Save Baguio Athletic Bowl

When I was young, my father took me to Baguio Athletic Bowl to go jogging. I would make my way around the huge ring, vowing to complete at least two and a half laps. My ten-year old legs would not fail. A few years later, I would sit in the bleachers, cheering with 200 of my City High batch mates. Dressed and painted in bright colors seen even from the far end of the field, we shouted battle cries. The silent drill, in particular, required intense concentration. We clapped our hands and stomped our feet in perfect unison, forming elaborate patterns that would have looked impressive had anyone been watching from the sky.

Over at Baguio Insider, Lisa writes that the mayor and city council have approved a 25-year lease of the Athletic Bowl to a Korean company. The Koreans will pay P100,000 a month for twenty-five (25) years with a 10% increase after five (5) years. The deal was brokered within a short period of ten days, the city council neglecting to call a public hearing for such a bogus major proposal. Mayor Peter Rey Bautista signed the Memorandum of Agreement on December 11, 2009 and the council confirmed it on December 21. Easy money.

As part of their development plan, the shady Koreans propose to build a hotel and driving range (god, more golf) in the area they've supposedly leased. The mayor and a majority of the city council have allowed a group of people who do not know or love Baguio to ruin an outdoor recreation area that has been around for nearly a hundred years. Once again, they have betrayed Baguio and its people for a fat sum. They pimped out a landmark for campaign money, or whatever it is they got.

Athletic Bowl has seen better days, but its current state of disrepair is just another reflection of bad governance. Nevertheless, it is still a public park, which city officials cannot just rent out to the highest bidder. I hope May will be an opportunity to begin rectifying the damage from a string of poor administrations.

A Facebook page has been created to "save the baguio athletic bowl from the koreans."

For the dolphins

Director Louie Psihoyos and an intrepid team of environmental activists risk incarceration, and more, to expose the annual slaughter of 23,000 dolphins and porpoises in Taiji, Japan. The Cove is the most riveting film you will watch from 2009.

The small Japanese town, Taiji, is a major provider of captive dolphins in the world today. Small whales, particularly the bottlenose dolphin, are captured alive and sold to various ocean parks and aquariums. There is a heated, long-standing debate on keeping dolphins in captivity for science and recreation. One faction considers it a justified sacrifice for research, arguing that such close study will yield valuable scientific data. In contrast, the group on the other end of the argument believe that the practice is inhumane and deleterious to wild populations. To the fishermen of Taiji, the captive dolphin trade is a lucrative undertaking. A dolphin alive fetches a larger profit than when it is marketed as meat.

However, the exploitation does not end there - far from it. In a hidden cove, known now as the killing lagoon, fishermen proceed to slaughter the thousands of remaining dolphins. There is no distinction: calf and adult alike are stabbed with long spears and then hauled with hooks unto waiting boats. The dolphins do not die instantly. For several minutes, they thrash painfully in the water and bleed freely from their wounds. They futilely look for an escape, suffering until the very end. The water literally runs red with blood.

For more than a decade, Japan has been proposing to abolish the international ban on whaling.

The Cove has been hailed as a thriller; a chronicle of the fearless efforts of a group of conservation warriors. But more than that, it is a piece of powerful advocacy. It is informative, discussing essential issues in cetacean conservation. For instance, it corrects the misconception that dolphins are pests to be culled in order to preserve fish stocks. An excessively large human population, not the subsistence feeding of cetaceans, is responsible for the alarming decline in fisheries. The film also provides a new fold in Japan's rejection of international whaling policies. Apparently, it is a subversive act: a people refusing to be subjugated by Western culture. The preservation of a national identity is necessary, but I seriously doubt that driving another species to extinction is the way to do it.

The Philippines itself is a hotspot for whales and dolphins. Our waters are home to twenty-four confirmed species, including the beautiful humpback whale and the acrobatic spinner dolphin. Locally, the primary threat to small cetaceans is incidental mortality. They drown, entangled as by-catch, in long lines and fine mesh nets used for fishing. The impact of these deaths on wild populations is still vague, but it is obviously harmful to small populations such as that of the extremely endangered Irrawaddy dolphin in Malamapaya Sound. The few marine mammal experts in the country have their work cut out for them, but plunge tirelessly on anyway.

The Cove focuses on dolphin conservation issues in Japan, but it reminds us all that most of the time, change cannot be affected by large conventions, but by the actions of a few very passionate and committed individuals.

P.S. Remember that news story about an emotional Hayden Panettiere at a dolphin protest? It was in Taiji. She is seen for a few seconds in the film.

Smile Today

Attempting to describe the effects of music on one's emotional well-being would be impossible. (But you are welcome to try). Vampire Weekend is out with a new album, Contra. Its official release is on January 12th. Listening to its stream now. And just like that, all is well.

Monday, January 4, 2010

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Manic Monday

Gears are clicking into place; the wheels of the world are turning.

The cold is seeping away and already, I miss it. Even daylight is reclaiming the sky.

Talk of school seems to be in the air. Lem and I have been dipping into the subject of me resuming my studies. And all that it implies. Also, my adviser greeted me Happy New Year and promptly reminded me to complete certain, uh, pending requirements. My father has also thrown in the occasional monitoring. Delinquent academic habits must end soon. Once, I asked the girls back at the House of M if they would still love me if I didn't finish graduate school. They replied, rhetorically, "Bakit, 'yun ba ang basehan kung bakit ka namin mahal?" Bless them.

It sucks to be broke. When the clock struck midnight on New Year's Day, I jumped around with my little cousins, wishing for height. I'd forgotten to put coins in my pocket. I should not have been so careless. Now, I have a better chance of growing taller than making money this year.
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