Monday, October 23, 2006

If only we had been colonized after 1700...

An article on Slate describes the research done on several islands in the Pacific and Atlantic re: effects of colonization by European explorers (income growth, quality of life). What we may surmise from the research is that the Philippines got shafted. We were colonized by the Spaniards (who rank in the bottom rung of colonial masters, along with the Portugese), and were taken over before the Post-Enlightenment phase, when scientific discovery was more important than theocracy. However, one insight had me a bit amused: US colonies had a higher quality of life than most other establishments. So where the heck did they go wrong with us?

Stalking the mouse

Hong Kong Disneyland has an ad running on some of the cable channels. Girl goes to the park, does some of the rides (the lamest ones around - tea cup? carousel???), and is stalked by her friendly neighborhood boy, who finds a way to stay in the background and keeps tabs on her throughout the park. Eventually they end up on the MRT back to town, silently gazing at their picture. Saccharine sweet, and honestly, it doesn't lure me into wanting to go to HKD. If they used this ad during Valentine's I could see the connection.

During my short stint in HK, the issue of stalkers, molesters, and all sorts of deviants would show up on a regular basis in the weekly papers and magazines. Men who'd put cameras or mirrors on their shoes so they could stand behind a girl in a skirt and look at what color her panties were, groping on the subway, exposing themselves to kids in the parks. Personally, the only time I had to deal with weirdoes in HK was being accosted by drunken American sailors in the bus depot in Admiralty. And there was that lech who tried to pinch my bum in the library. But you could still ask me what the safest city I've ever wandered around, and it would be HK. Try walking from Central to Causeway Bay at 3 a.m. and see if anything untoward happens. Not unless you ask for it! And it's a free sight, smell and sound spectacular, unlike the outrageous prices at Disneyland.

Chinese Hamlet

I dragged my cousin out for a movie yesterday afternoon. While she may have planned on watching Demi's husband battling his way through coast guard training, I was more inclined to see the recent Chinese film, so we ended up at the Banquet. Freezing inside the cinema, the movie didn't warm us up much. Zhang Ziyi doesn't seem to be ready to play a role that is too "mature" for her, and with little opportunity to show off her martial arts/ballet kinetics. The Empress/Gertrude isn't meant to be an ingenue, and the essence of her passion with both Wu Luan/Hamlet contradicts her submission to the Uncle-cum usurper Emperor/Claudius role. I preferred her antipathy towards Qing/Ophelia as they battle their way into the young prince's affection.

At least the role of the prince, who is seen as an emotional, soulful sort who likes to have his hair washed more than he massacres his enemies, seems more akin to the pansy Hamlet of yore. He doesn't do a good job saving himself, but does a better job creating havoc in other people's lives, especially Qing. The perfect foil to him is the ultra-macho Governor Yin, brother of Qing, who saves Wu Luan from another assasination in the middle of the film. They all fall in the end, and the twist (although it's not completely clear what the end means) is that the Empress, too, falls to the sword. Who was it? Ghost of her late first husband? Or simply her going insane?

And what of all the tears? Does one really need to see every sniffle, red eye, stuffed up nose to know that the character is undergoing emotional distress? Are Asian actors' eyes too small that they must leak fluid?

I had thought this film was going to be another collaboration with Zhang and Chow Yun Fat, who might have given the role of Claudius some sex appeal. I just kept thinking how they vamped up the production value in one of the television mini-series and that it wasn't much fun to watch on the big screen. Ho hum, 2 out of 5 and not worth paying P160.00.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Don't use the excuse that Manila is a big city. Don't come to me and say that you can't attend something because it's not in your part of town. Don't say that it's impossible to find someplace because the street signs aren't in place. Don't give me that line about bad directions. You were born and raised here, you can find it. Your not incapable of finding something if you really want it. Don't call me and go hysterical because you're feeling stupid. You were smart enough to pass the bar exam, you can find an address.
How are you going to manage when you leave for the US? Are you going to need hand holding even then? It aggravates me when you play the homely housewife giving in to her husband's demands because you think it will make him love you more. Stop pretending to be a doormat, it's a horrible personality flaw. Because I know you are better than that, and I believe in you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Smells of leather

Imagine going from one place where you were one of 10, knew everyone's foibles, whimsies, stress points, and patterns. Then the next day, you were thrust into a place where you are in charge of 40 people, plus you need to know the names of 40 to 50 more people, and there are all sort of short folk dashing in and out of the area, with nary a care (since they have other older, bigger, people to do that for them). From your own small office where you can close the door for private conversations, you have a shared space, with a hole in the wall for the other people to poke their heads through when necessary. Where everything is new, smells new, even the chair doesn't conform to one's butt yet.

Culture shock in my own backyard is what it is. This calls for ice cream therapy!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Munich 2005

I went to Munich last year to attend a wedding and came back full of a new picture in my head of what Germany had to offer. What a wonderful city Munich is, how compact the city center, yet a sprawling metropolis dedicated to its residents, who live in a mixture of Edwardian townhouses turned apartments or modern block flats that don’t necessarily lose their charm. The neighborhoods are easily navigated on foot, even with the predominant presence of those German car brands. At first glance the subway may seem intimidating, yet after a long hard look, you get a sense of how the lines were built, expanding and stretching its reach all the way out to the towns, North, South, East and West.

Many days were spent absorbing the artistic beauty of the museums and artists who used the city as their canvass. I’d always had a fondness for Rubens, and found myself in front of one of the largest collections of his works in the “Old Museum” (Alte Pinakothek). His works had a robust, sensual nature lacking in modern art. Now I know why I am enamored with the earth mother form he captured; I can say that I’d fit in that period very well without feeling corporeally out of place.

The modern masters are also easily visible in Munich, the Neue Pinakothek and Moderne Pinakotheks are chock full of paintings, art forms, and technology (like cars) that represent their eras. The collection of Bleue Reiters at the L---- Museum taught me a great deal about the 20th century works of Kandinsky and Klee.

Picture perfect castles are strewn around the Bavarian region, especially Schloss Neuschwanstein, the tragic fairytale castle of King Ludwig the 2nd. The experience of visiting the castle reminded me of the throng at the Great Wall, particularly Badaling. All it needed was some guy dressed as Ludwig II, letting pictures be taken of him in his garb to set it off. Luckily the beautiful weather made up for a three kilometer parking nightmare heading towards the castle. We found an open field available for parking and hoofed it through country paths to the ticket area, before another 30-minute climb up to the castle. The world was milling around, eating, drinking, taking enough photographs of the castle and the Arcadian environment to fill hours of snooze-filled slide shows. Inside the castles and museums, tourists aren’t allowed to take flash photography as it may damage the artwork. I wonder why nature doesn’t take similar offence to all the photos taken of her in multitudes of forms? Many of us don’t take very good photos of Mother Nature at her best, yet here we are investing in high end cameras and mucking about with them adding to the detritus of photography.

The other architectural wonders around the city and all over Bavaria, it seems, were the lavish churches built to honor the Catholic saints and images of the Virgin. Since I was in Germany at the time of the World Youth Day Celebration (although the Pope was in Cologne and not in Munich), it seemed fitting that I take a tour of the churches. My favorites were the rococo gone amok Asam Kirche and the Weis Kirche. The latter took us several hours to find as there are a few Weis towns around, quite a Bavarian road trip it was. We managed to squeeze in before the doors closed and it was a worthwhile hunt and trek. The other churches were far more modest than these two in terms of internal d├ęcor, but were larger and statelier or housed more royal bodies (the Theatinerkirche has the bodies of King or Emperor Maximilian the 2nd and some of his family members. Ludwig the 2nd is ensconced in perpetua at the Church of St. Michaels.).

The wedding itself went off without a hitch inside a beautiful baroque chapel 30 minutes outside of the city. The solemnity was in sheer contrast to all the drinking that took place at the reception in a greenhouse altered for events like this. Perhaps the city didn't want to let go right away, as I missed my flight to Amsterdam the next day, and had to take a later flight back to Asia. I'll have reason to return one day, for more visual art and baroque splendor.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

123, 5, 3

Along with other bloggers, I got tagged by Christine of Ramblings from a Gypsy Soul. The meme requires one to:

1. Grab the book nearest to cheating!
2. Open to page 123.
3. Scroll down to the fifth sentence.
4. Post text of next 3 sentences on to your blog.

The first book I saw was a selection of writings and drawings by James Thurber. And the first thing I thought as I opened the book was "hope it's not the drawings," sure enough turning to page 123 is a set of two of his sketches! Ok, so adjusting the meme instructions a bit, I'm grabbing the next book on my work pile.

From "Why do I love these people?" by Po Bronson:

"She is back to being a daughter, contemplating her mother. I notice that when Jarralynne remembers with her family all around, there's a sort of safety in numbers, and she manages to laugh at all the old stories."

The book is the second of Bronson's I've read, the first remains my favorite "What should I do with my life?"

"Why do I love..." is another series of vignettes about people Mr. Bronson has interviewed, focusing on their families and relationships. I enjoyed his other book so much that I bought two signed copies of "why do I love..." from Powell's online store. I may give the other copy to my sister, as I had planned to do last year when I bought the book. Or if anyone is interested in a first edition signed copy, tell me what you would do with your life. The best response gets the book.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cleaning house part 1

I have 5 days left to get rid of 6 years of paperwork and assorted sundries. Shredding documents with student information on it that can't just be tossed in a dumpster, deciding what stays and what isn't important anymore, plus tidying up for the move to a new office.

Came across a few pictures from conferences and trips. And in one of the drawers a menu from a dinner I attended last year prepared by Chefs Carlo and Anton Miguel, now of Mezzaluna:

Canapes - Coriander and lime crab cakes
Seared foie gras and caramelized pear en croute
(wine: Conundrum 2002. I remember falling in love with this wine and buying a few bottles after the dinner)

Fish course - Crisp skin coral trout with braised celery and tomato saffron broth

Plum and gin granita

Main - Ilog maria virgin honey cured duck breast with beetroot custard, sauteed spinach and pickled orange (wine: reserve de la comtesse 2001 pauillac.)

Dessert - mascarpone semifreddo and balsamic macerated strawberry mille feuille

This dinner ended with sips of the most amazing rum from Barbados. Mindblowing memories.

Monday, October 02, 2006

3 strikes on a Monday

My lucky charm kept me safe through the storm, I was stuck in the office watching the city blow by, and even when we ventured out later that day, the floods had receded enough, no traffic hold up, and I saved two workmates from slogging it out with the thousands stranded on the street.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the days went by without too much trouble. Saw friends, heard their woes, one friend lost all of his books in a flashflood (I feel for him), another's sister seems to be battling dengue so she's been hospitalized, while another friend was attacked by hordes of mosquitoes on Thursday night so I passed on a tube of anti-itch creme, plus any support I could provide. My cousin texted me asking for help finding an apartment (I suspect her mom's giving her grief). Good samaritan all throughout.

This morning though, lady luck decided to leave me on my own. I have an early morning accident (nothing bad, but cleaning up at 3 a.m. is so unpleasant); my cellphone goes missing right as I'm about to leave for the gym (I suspect it's still in my room; leaving it on silent mode sometimes is a bummer); the living room curtain decides to collapse and my driver couldn't fix it in time; and the last straw was spending 15 frustrating minutes trying to refit the lens on my glasses which decides to pop out while I'm toweling off in the shower.

Monday, monday, this is my silent scream.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies