Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Crime/mystery writers

The Telegraph lists their top 50 crime writers; scrolling through the list, I have read about 12 of the writers, mostly the oldies (but goodies). Which means more books to look forward to!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


In between the live Oscar show and repeating it later in the evening, the new cable channel, Velvet (ch53 for Skycable subscribers), presented a show called Iconoclasts. I hadn't seen this before and found it quite delightful. Yesterday's show, which I presume was a repeat, had two of Hollywood's icons in an entertaining dialogue - Paul Newman and Robert Redford. They had starred in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, both have won Oscar awards, both have weathered numerous difficulties over their careers, and both look darn good for their respective ages. Newman hosted Redford at his mansion, and toured him around a rebuilt Westport Playhouse which Newman's wife championed when it needed funds for reconstruction. At the beginning of the show, Redford is driven up to the house, and Newman and he play tag as they try to find one another on the expansive lot. "Redford! Where are you? I have laryngitis for god's sake!" "Newman! What's going on? Where are you?" heehee, even gods of the acting and directing world can get lost on their own property.

Next Monday, March 3, will be a new episode, unfortunately at 11 p.m. (I tend to droop around 10 pm these days). One of my favorite chefs, Mario Batali, will be paired with one of his idols, Michael Stipes of REM. There's a shot of Mario raving at a live REM concert. I sure hope they replay that show too! Otherwise if anyone knows where I can get copies of the series, I'd love to see the entire set. I'm sure they have lots of interesting pairings like the two above. Newman! Redford!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Rain on their parade

After two and a half days outside Manila, we (K, F, and I) drove back to Manila under a dark rainy cloud, ominous to say the least. We had heard of possible traffic problems with EDSA closed down, and a rally by Malacanang, and a mass over in Baclaran. Throughout the trip home we encountered check-points by police which meant intermittent delays.

To keep us from losing our cool, K played dj with the ipod, and I updated my travel companions with what was happening several thousands of miles away at the Oscars. Thanks to my cohort of Oscar watching friends, I was not kept in suspense over who was winning. The upsets on the female actor awards woke us up, and waiting with bated breath over the best actor win kept us from worrying about what was waiting for us in the city. I whooped with joy when DDL won, and that raised the question over which other actors have won multiple Oscars. With more help from friends who had access to computers and the internet, we learned that 7 actors have won two awards for best actor, but no one has won a third. On the women's side, Katherine Hepburn's won 4; 11 other actresses have won 2 each.

As the rain continued on and off in Manila, it was likewise overcast and wet over in LA. I'm just glad we have the warm weather on this side.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

March in Manila

What alliterative possibilities this coming month of March! Music is in the air, and the first one visiting our shores is Maroon Five, a favorite of many friends of mine (I have their current hit singing in my head). Another friend texted that Swingout Sister will also hold a concert here soon. Haven't heard a song of theirs in years, and will pass on that one too. And then Incubus, alternative rockers raising the noise level at Araneta Center in Cubao, but again, no song urges me to spend a few thousand pesos to see them.

Finally, the only concert that has caught my eye - the Harry Connick Jr. concert on March 15. With trepidation I called Ticket World and found out that the tickets range from P15,000++ to P1500++. Hmmm, I like the music, and there's a cool album of his I remember hearing once, but I'm not spending P15,000 for a ticket. With some discussion with friends who are of like minds, we plan to spend for the less expensive options. And to think I once kibbitzed at the prices for the Norah Jones concert....

Monday, February 18, 2008

In dreamland

The last week has been ripe for some way out there dreams. And even though I joked with a friend that it must have been something I ate, I wonder if there's not some other subconscious machination going on.

Dream 1: (this seriously told me I had to step away from work a bit) Board members go on a trip north, only to get stuck due to holidays. I'm trying to get them back down from their trip, and includes trying to figure out how to fit in bushels of acorns that one foodie in the group decided to buy. While I'm trying to figure out the logistics of getting them back safely, I also have to cook up pot loads of skinned rabbits which look more like chicken wings. The gore begins here as I am literally looking at all these bunny carcasses, tossing them in a vat of boiling oil. The board members return looking a bit hungry, having taken the fastest bus ever, and bringing with them more blood and guts. One takes out a calf's head, mourning the idea that the bus trip might have turned it a bit mushy; another one begins to dredge up some foie, only to eat it raw. I am still cooking the rabbit's so I don't seem fazed at all by the edibles. My dream course ends up with me tracking down another board member who is working on contracts with Joey Gosengfiao, director of Temptation Island. JG looks remarkably geeky.

Dream 2: apocalyptic, and thankfully short. A monster is on the loose and the world is facing doom. The name of the monster continues to change, morphing from something latin to "Gorgon" to something that sounded like "garmandess" to a mangle of syllables. In the meantime, while pressed by the sense of doom, my friends and I are trying to graft plants that only seem to grow in water, and they don't look like the hydroponic plants I've seen in photos. These were regular plants, but growing submerged in a liquid. We had to pinch a leaf and try to graft it to another. It was frustrating, and our hands were wrinkling.

Dream 3: a rehash of older dreams, one where the elevator in a hotel/hospital that we are staying at is constantly full and it takes forever to go up to the room. We are also burdened by more than our share of suitcases. I am, however, well dressed in a really cute suit and coat.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

One head

I've lived in my neighborhood for 2 years and 4 months. It's quiet, I've got a tree, and the neighbors have dogs that yap a lot. Around the corner, there is a pinoy diner which is my literal translation of a turo-turo. Low cost, basic foods available daily. The place caught my attention, however, for their tarp sign that advertised their specialty, a soup, a sour soup well known among all filipinos. Sinigang is probably our best known soup. Similar to the thai tom yum, it's base is either tamarind, or guava or any sour fruit puree cooked with fish or pork or shrimp. This soup is so quintessentially pinoy in my mind.

Variations abound, and being special or known as a specialty for a soup so ubiquitous is darn hard to do. So my neighborhood diner's banner must mean this a darn good soup. But even more interesting was its main ingredient. At night, the tarp would roll up a bit, and coming home, I'd see this:

"Sinigang na Ulo ng Norwegian"

Literal translation - Sour soup of Norwegian head. Eegad.

When the tarp is unrolled, you see the full details - sinigang na ulo ng norwegian salmon sa miso. Norwegian salmon! ah. Fish head soup with miso in a tamarind broth.

For 2 years, 4 months, I haven't stopped to check on my neighorhood head soup. Till this afternoon. I finally went in and took home a container of hot, sour soup. And I ladled some of the soup, some of the mustard leaves and a chunk of the jaw of the norwegian. Mmmmm, tart, a hint of garlic, the miso touching on meaty, the salmon tasted lean and sweet. Perhaps not the greatest of the sinigangs in this archipelago, but a good soup. Price - P140 for a large container good enough to feed 2 to 3 people.

Look for the sign on Hemady, near Aurora Boulevard, New Manila, Quezon City. They are now advertising rolled up lechon belly, another 2 years to try that?

Friday, February 15, 2008


Turning 18 is a big thing. It means adulthood, emancipation, legal voting age (not necessarily legal drinking age for all), and a general sense of having reached a state of maturity and responsibility.
28, 38, 48, 58, ... none of the 8s seem to be as big as 18. As for this year, I know I'm two years till the big Four O, and really, each day should be a celebration of what I still have (all my hair, all my teeth, hearing is still sound, aches and pains aren't insurmountable, and the general decent health report).
So to me on my 38th, thanks for staying intact and working ok. Keep smiling through the next 365 days.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

eh? tu cher?

Channel surfing this evening, and I catch a clip from a lifestyle show. The hostess (Angel Aquino I think) asks the restaurant owner why he created a jail motif for his kitchen (bars, the cooks are dressed in orange prison garb, etc), and his explanation is "Instead of wearing chef hats, all of the cooks have shaved heads, to prevent falling hairs." In tagalog. Hmmmm.... prisoners are bald? Talk about morale.

And earlier in the evening, I caught a clip of Cher who is promoting her new Las Vegas show (didn't she already do her 2nd or so retirement show about 3 years ago?). She was wearing a shaggy blonde wig which was poorly fit. Even her pink wig was way better looking on her face. This one just looked like she plonked it on her head and walked out to the interview. Like a bad toupee on a nightclub singer.

On Ephron

My bag, rather my tote, is a catch all. It has, in less than a month of ownership, caught my wallet, keys, phone, stray tissues, wet wipes, lip balms, camera, books, receipts that had fallen from my wallet, coins which had likewise fallen from the wallet, cold medicine, mints, flyers for cure-all bracelets from Japan, printouts from a menu, a short-leaf notebook, a planner, another notebook because you can't have enough paper to note down brilliant (ha!) ideas, dusty bits of cloth? paper? something that I don't want to examine, a button, pens, knitting needles and a ball of yarn, and magazine cutouts.

Ms. Ephron said it best, one's bag is a reflection of oneself. In this case, I am an earth-tone, woven tote bag large enough to stuff a good-sized beagle in. Hmmm. Add to that a prospective case of shoulder bursitis due to lugging the bag around.

Ms. Ephron also writes how avoiding looking at herself in a mirror allows her to keep from going crazy about the creep of age. I have to nod with her there, if she's right, I have 5 years left before hitting inevitable physical gravity (ergo, the droop). For the last two years, I haven't spent much time worrying about vanity though. Because I don't have many mirrors at home. One in the bathroom, a sorry looking circle of a glass that helps me check for spinach in my teeth, and another mirror near the front door to make sure I am wearing something remotely coordinated. It is angled from my shoulders to ankles, so there have been days when I don't realize my hair is freakier than Einstein's. My tendency to muss up my hair for mental stimulation doesn't help either.

Ms. Ephron got her break in the 60's writing for print journals like the New York Post. She wrote lifestyle stories, including food articles. It is written that many of her works are dotted by food references or passages (When Harry Met Sally's seminal scene, her autobiographical piece HEARTBURN). While reading her essay on food, it hit me - I was mentally exhausted reading about food. For the first few weeks of '08 I've read at least 4 books about food - Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, The United States of Arugula, The Tenth Muse, a bio of Jacques Pepin, and if it can be called a food book Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch. Too much. Like eating a goiter induced meal minus the calories settling on my hips. My mind is belching food references, writers, recipes, and anecdotes. I need a good prose enema, maybe the Jose Saramago book about death.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron, available in most major bookstores around Manila.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Salt or no salt?

It started out by a friend saying she wanted salted eggs for lunch. I told her I had seen them at a nearby mall, and she turned down the offer by saying those were balut, not salted eggs (the red itlog na maalat). Which made us begin debating what exactly goes into making balut. She said that her uncle who owns a balut/penoy/itlog na maalat farm in Pateros (the duck egg mecca of the Philippines) buries all the eggs in salt for 5 to 10 days, that all those eggs are called salted eggs because of the process. Which to me sounds wrong. If a duck egg on its way to being balut is buried at an early stage, it would 1. end up tasting like itlog na maalat what with the salt "cooking" the inside; and 2. any young embryo on its way towards getting cooked by the 17th or 19th day is never going to grow properly if it's salted.

So if there's anyone out there that can lead us towards proper balut light, do drop me a comment. I know you can buy a uncooked balut and cook it for a few minutes to get to your balut readiness stage, but how do they develop to the right stage? Are they simply kept warm? or is my friend right with the salting?

Monday, February 04, 2008

For Kiamee

My friend Myra's daughter is in the hospital with dengue. Turning 18 in May, and with a fabulous debut in the works, all of us who know and love the girl are praying that the fever breaks and she recovers soon.

I was watching an early morning news show yesterday and caught an interview with a doctor from the Dept of Health (DOH) about the prevalence of dengue. He made a few riveting comments:

1. Dengue cases have tripled since last year (same period of time, December and January)
2. Dengue mosquitoes are "nervous feeders" and feed during the day. They tend to be hard to kill since they bite and fly away fast.
3. They are distinguished by black and white stripes, the doctor reluctantly acknowledged they are one of the prettiest looking of the mosquito family.
4. It isn't brackish water that attracts the mosquitoes, but clean water, rain water that hasn't been eliminated from the streets or the plants or any hollow space. An article that went around by email said that the increased interest in bromeliads may have added to the spread of dengue, what with their concave petals providing perfect spaces for rain or water to settle, a home for the kiti-kiti, the mosquito larvae.
5. Dengue is now year-round. It used to be a rainy season disease, but no one is safe during the hot dry months.
6. The four strains of dengue seem to be spreading in conjunction with one another - the doctor said that they've had cases of two strains at a time.

I just killed two mozzies on my way to work this morning. They probably aren't dengue mosquitoes if I understand what the doctor said. But I also can't distinguish if they have black/white stripes. My mosquito killing abilities have improved since working at the school, am able to catch them with one hand now, which gives me a weird sense of being in a kung-fu movie ("one hand mosquito death trap").

Please look around your environment, reduce the standing water potential in your garden, your homes - check for leaky pipes, clogged drains. Read up about dengue online.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Mac Air

At a recent work meeting, a normally sober trustee made it known to the rest of us at the table that he planned to purchase the new Macbook Air, the uberthin laptop from Apple. His raves over the aesthestics and acknowledgement of its limitations (lack of dvd drive, the additional costs to buy accessories, and performance concerns) made the women on the board point out that he's going through a mid-life crisis with a high maintenance toy. Of course in the spectrum of things, at least he's only spending under $2000. And the carbon emissions of a laptop are middling compared to buying a sportscar.

Happy shopping Mr. B!

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies