Monday, January 30, 2006

4 reviews

Son of a Witch, Gregory Maguire's sequel to his superb first novel Wicked, does not quite live up to its powerful predecessor, but it has its own merits as both a sequel and an individual novel. While Maguire's writing and language remain flawless constants, he doesn't give his supporting characters as much depth as he did in Wicked. However, his protagonist Liir, Elphaba's son (or is he? no plot spoilers here! :p), comes of age and comes to life in a wonderfully woven tale that morphs seamlessly from the present to flashback to dream state and back to the present again. The reader bears witness to how Liir struggles to find his own identity, apart from and in relation to the Wicked Witch of the West, who may or may not be his mother, ultimately to discover that his destiny is inextricably bound to Elphaba's, both by fate and by choice.

Aside from tracing Liir's personal odyssey, Son of a Witch, like Wicked, also has a political vein running through it, as it unravels the turbulent travails of the government of Oz. The underlying sociopolitical themes are not as emphasized as they were in Wicked, but sharp jabs are still taken at the hypocrisy and corruption of religious rulers, puppet leaders, and military officials. What I like so much about Maguire is how he places such contemporary, adult issues in seemingly innocuous, timeless settings (as all his books are alternative takes on classic fairy tales), thus achieving 2 things: giving readers a better understanding of complex topics through deceptively simple stories, and showing readers that human (and indeed, Animal) foibles are essentially the same in any world. I can't wait to sink my teeth into the next meaty Maguire masterpiece waiting on my bedside table.

* * *

I've finally seen one of the many under-the-radar Oscar contenders this year (King Kong does not count). Transamerica is a troubling and moving eye-opener to the world of transsexuals and the world's treatment of them. Felicity Huffman is amazing as Stanley/Bree, a man about to undergo gender-change surgery when he discovers he fathered a son 17 years ago. Huffman plays the tortured Stanley/Bree with a dignified, refined control reminiscent of Meryl Streep's quietly forceful screen presence. It is easy to forget that you are watching a woman acting as a man becoming a woman, and even easier to forget that this same actress stars on an ultra-feminine TV show. By itself, taking on this role took courage and a great capacity for empathy, and for Huffman it translates into the courage and heart-breaking humanity of Stanley/Bree as he battles society's prejudice, his family's rejection, and his son's rebellion. I can already see Huffman hoisting the Best Actress Oscar... but I have yet to see Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line, so I'm reserving judgment until then.

* * *

We had dinner at the Hyatt's Lili Chinese restaurant on Chinese New Year's Day, and I regretted having suggested that we eat there. First of all, just getting to the damn hotel is a headache, as it is inconveniently located on Pedro Gil, one of the most crowded and traffic-jammed streets in Malate. Second, the food is overpriced, even by hotel standards, and not worth the astronomical amounts. The servings are tiny (this is Chinese cuisine, people!! those clay pots are supposed to be filled to overflowing!), and the food lacks the MSG-packed punch you expect from good Chinese cooking. The Peking duck and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves were satisfying enough, but the seafood soup we ordered was as flavorful as dishwater. The only real treat of the meal was dessert, homemade red bean and black sesame ice cream.

Third, while the interior design of the restaurant is pleasant, the dishes they use are an eyesore. Whoever heard of a Chinese restaurant using plates designed with fruits and vegetables? My dad was using his chopsticks to pick at a piece of what he thought was wansoy on his plate only to realize that it was actually part of his plate. Fourth, the bathroom is an interior design disaster. There are no hooks inside the cubicles (I hate bathrooms without hooks or even a small ledge... where do they expect me to place my bag, huh?!), and the toilet paper is hard to reach. Plus when you wash your hands, water splashes out of the sink, runs down the counter, and drips all over the floor. Fifth, the hotel charges P50 for valet parking, even if you get your parking ticket validated. @#^%$*!

The final straw was when we saw a poor man in a wheelchair being precariously carried down 3 steps of stairs in the lobby because there were no provisions for a ramp. My dad was so pissed off he went to the front desk to comment about the glaring oversight. No way in hell is the Hyatt a 5-star establishment in my book.

* * *

The hype about Conti's is true: the food is pretty damn good. Not sensory-overload spectacular, but appetizing, filling, and reasonably priced. I had dinner at their Connecticut branch a week ago with some of my college 'kada, and I ended up footing the bill as a post-birthday treat. Highly recommended are the Chicken Roulade (I forgot to order the risotto with it, but the garlic rice was ok) and the Baked Salmon (I'm not a fan of salmon but my friends who have had it all sing its praises). The Chicken Fingers are good as an appetizer, and from the looks of Mike's clean plate, the popular Lengua is a great entree. The service is efficient and attentive; we had our bottomless drinks refilled so many times I had to use the bathroom 3 times throughout dinner. My only beef with Conti's is that they close early (9PM), so we had to transfer to UCC for dessert and post-dinner chatting. But that might have been our loss, since I hear Conti's famed cakes are especially yummy. I'm definitely due for a return visit soon.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A week at the UP Job Fair

In college, I actually enjoyed the deathly dull task of manning booths for our org. Others would avoid getting assigned to a shift like they would going to the dentist or attending Theo class, but I never minded taking on an extra shift or 2. I don't know how sitting behind a table waiting for people to come up to you can be fun, but I liked it, from interviewing member applicants to selling movie premiere tickets.

So when our company joined the UP Job Fair this year, I didn't complain when my bosses (i.e. my folks) appointed me to man our booth during the week-long event. Of course since I was needed at the office also, I couldn't afford to take on whole-day shifts for the entire week, so Hanks subbed for me when needed. By the middle of the first day of the job fair, I was relieved that I wouldn't be sticking around all 5 days because I was booooored out of my miiiiind. Foot traffic was disappointing, especially since UP is such a huge campus with a huge population. Company talks given by the major sponsors were annoying at best, inane at worst. And there were absolutely no cute guys around to ogle. It was a good thing I had the foresight to bring a book (Gregory Maguire's Son of a Witch, sequel to Wicked) and my Palm (nothing like a game of Bejeweled to help me zone out).

I also drew up a mental list of advice to graduating students applying for their first jobs:
  • Kids, if you're attending a job fair, it's common practice to be armed with many, many copies of your resume for distribution. And please, paste your photos beforehand. It shows poor preparation when you're smearing glue on the back of a 2x2 right before you hand it to a prospective employer.
  • Ask questions about the company, fer cryin' out loud! The HR people manning the booths aren't automatons sent to collect your resumes. They're supposed to be answering any questions you have about the job openings, the nature of the work required and the company itself. If you get called for an interview and know diddly-squat about the company you're applying for, then you're not going to impress anyone.
  • Don't listen to speakers from big companies who make it sound like they know everything there is to finding a job. Chances are those same big companies will be the ones turning you down and flushing your career hopes down the corporate toilet. There just aren't enough skyscrapers in Makati to accommodate all of you, my dears.
  • When the company representative speaks to you in straight English and you go "huh? ano ulit?", you lose major pogi points.
  • Sure, you just came from a 3-hour exam, you walked from Palma Hall to the Bahay ng Alumni, and it's raining cats and dogs. But you're not going to have time to explain your disheveled appearance to the person taking your resume and giving your sorry ass a once-over. (P.S. If you're applying for a garments/fashion company and you show up in a ratty t-shirt and ill-fitting jeans, don't get your hopes up that they'll be calling anytime soon.)
  • You are in no position to ask about a managerial level job opening when you have zero work experience, and your diploma hasn't even been printed yet.
  • Beggars can't be choosers. You're on that side of the booth, you don't get to dictate jack.
One last thought prompted by my week at the job fair: I am very, very appreciative of Ateneo's Placement Office for guiding us through the whole harrowing fresh-grad job-hunting experience. They taught us how to write sensible resumes, how to attend job fairs (bringing stacks of resumes with pre-pasted ID photos), and how to talk to company HR officers. They really helped us land good jobs with major companies, edging out competition from other schools. Sometimes, being spoiled has its benefits.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Spare me the hoopla

Reporters have been having a field day with the 2 hottest sports stories of the moment: Manny Pacquiao knocking out Erik Morales in the 10th round of their rematch, and Kobe Bryant scoring a whopping 81 points in the Lakers-Raptors game.

Forgive me if I don't stand up and cheer.

At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I was actually hoping Pacquiao would lose. Yeah, yeah, it warms my heart to see the entire nation rooting for one of their home-grown own, and I know it's supposed to be inspiring that a Flipino is excelling in the international arena. But it's hard for me to feel warm and inspired when the guy's head just keeps ballooning (and I'm not referring to the swollen head injuries he proudly displayed for the news cameras). You can practically see his ego inflating exponentially with each victory claimed and each new accolade heaped upon him by the adoring masses (and opportunistic politicians). A day or 2 before his fight with Morales, I saw him being interviewed on TV Patrol, and he had iPod earphones in his ears. Mr. Bigshot Boxer couldn't even be bothered to take out his precious earphones for a few minutes (busy listening to Audioslave... or Sarah Geronimo?). Oo na, may iPod ka na, we're so-ooo impressed.

Plus, I just learned that Senator Bong Revilla (the same moron who claimed that the special effects of his movie Exodus were better than those of The Lord of the Rings trilogy…but I digress) has proposed making this Friday a holiday to honor Pacquiao on the day of his homecoming. If we really do celebrate “Pacquiao Day” this Friday and every year thereafter, I’m going to take it as the signal that our rapid decline as a society and as a culture is now on a steep downhill slide. I mean, I’m sorry, did I miss something? Did this guy cure cancer, feed Africa or save the rainforests?? Why should we call off work and classes just because some shmuck beat the shit out of some other poor shmuck?

As I was telling Maddy the other day, it's sad that we Filipinos can't seem to find any heroes to worship aside from athletes. There's nothing bad about idolizing athletes-- indeed I myself admire many a fine sportsman. But there's so much more to life than gold medals and glory and product endorsements, but we seem to think they can solve our country's perennial problems of poverty, crime and corruption. Who cares if we go hungry, as long as Pacquiao won this one bout? He's the man! He's the hope of the nation! He's our messiah! Our
pride and honor as a people rest in the gloves of Pacquiao. It's no wonder he's so full of himself: we have put him on a pedestal and elevated him from triumphant gladiator to pampered celebrity. And in that twisted way, we cheapen his athletic achievement by glamorizing, sensationalizing, and overhyping it.

Speaking of spoiled sports celebs, let's now move on to Kobe, whom I consider one of the most spoiled, self-absorbed jocks today. Sure, he scored 81 points in a single game, a feat second only to ball legend Wilt Chamberlain's astonishing 100-point performance in 1962. But it's hard not to raise a cynical eyebrow and dismiss it as a natural result of Kobe's infamous ball-hogging (he made only 2 assists that night, no big surprise). Besides, it's impossible to be happy for someone who is already overdoing it by himself (one look at his smug mug in the sports section today made me lose my appetite for breakfast). All this accomplishment will serve is to fuel his arrogance and encourage his grandstanding. I will give him credit for the skill it took to reach 81, but given the choice, I'd rather witness a single basket by Michael Jordan than any number of Kobe's. Even on his worst day, MJ could sink a basket with grace and class... and class is something Kobe just does not have. Class is wearing your crown lightly. Class is staying humble despite praise. Class is recognizing your limitations even when you're in the limelight. Class is passing the ball to your teammates more than twice.

And class is removing your iPod earphones during an interview.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Jake Gyllenhaal in a g-string!

Now that I have your attention...

Mr. Gyllenhaal actually wasn't the best thing about the movie Jarhead, which I saw with Abi (who loved it) and Hanks (who said it's the least boring war movie she's seen). Granted, the dude got really buff for his role as a Marine, and he can really shake his booty in a g-string, but I was more impressed by supporting actor Peter Sarsgaard. Yeah, yeah, I know you're all going, "Peter WHO?" That was my reaction when my sister told me who the guy playing the serious sniper scout was. Apparently he was also in Flight Plan, Garden State and The Skeleton Key, all of which I have not seen, and now want to see just for him. If Sarsgaard's performance in Jarhead is any indication, then he probably stood out in those films as well. The part where he finally snaps after their attempt to snipe an Iraqi officer was foiled was raw, honest and powerful. Watching that marvelous meltdown, you forget that Jake Gyllenhaal is in the same scene.
Sarsgaard looks like a cross between Keifer Sutherland and Ewan McGregor, and with polishing, his acting skills might someday be as good as those actors too.

* * *

After watching Jarhead (and consuming 4 buckets of popcorn among the 3 of us), Hanks went off to Greenbelt to meet her friends and Abi and I headed for the Podium to meet one of ours, Julie. I haven't seen Julie since graduating from Ateneo (that's almost 6 years! gawd, that's ages!), and it was wonderful to see her again and catch up on what we've been doing since coming down from the Hill. We had dinner at Yaku, but talked more than we ate (I could still feel the popcorn resting in my tummy anyway). Reconnecting with an old friend is such a refreshing experience, and I was sorry that we had to cut our evening short because Abi had to go and I was hitching a ride home with her. We promised Julie that we would plan another girls' night out very soon, and I definitely am not going to wait another 6 years. You can't-- shouldn't-- stay away from a good friend that long.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Surprise, surprise

My birthday got off to a crazy/ wonderful start when a bunch of my Openness babies (Tarin, Rach, Alaine, Irizze, Kyla, Pamy, Ange Ong, B.Li, Anne-- all in regulation CAT attire) showed up on my doorstep (quite literally) at 7AM, bearing a chocolate cake loaded with 25 candles. There I was, still in my nightshirt, on top of our driveway, in plain sight of dozens of cars passing by on their way to ICA and Xavier. But heck, I was way too happy and touched to be embarrassed. To the 9 who ambushed me, thank you guys so very much, and I'm sorry I made you late for school (I hope I don't get in trouble with Ms. Tan, haha). Love and hugs! (Thanks go out to their accomplice Ms. Tria too, who was my wake-up call and pestered me into hauling my ass out of bed :p).

Then on my way to work I received an unexpected phone call and some unexpected text messages from friends I haven't heard from in quite a while. It's always nice when people remember, but somehow even nicer when people you didn't think would remember do. Thanks to everyone for all your thoughtful, sweet, funny greetings. I am reminded of how blessed I am to have made so many good friends in all my 25 years.

Upon arrival at the office, I found that our staff had bought me a cake and made a present, a mosaic picture of me (Hanks helped by sending them photos of me they could use). Plus they were all wearing pink instead of their regular uniforms (on my parents' birthdays they all wear red). I really appreciated all their preparations, and I was particularly impressed that they did it all right under my nose, yet I was completely clueless. :)

In the evening we had dinner at Heat with Auntie Nene (who gave me the complete first season DVDs of House!!! =D) and two other family friends, Uncle Steve and Atsi Sandy (who keeps on telling me to quit calling her Atsi but I just can't seem to drop it :p). My family planned the usual freebie-cake-and-singing-waiters routine, but it wasn't exactly without my knowledge. The hushed conversation between one of the waiters (asking which of us was the celebrant) and my sister was so painfully obvious that I just raised my hand and went, "Me! I'm the birthday celebrant!" :p My sister wanted to stab the indiscreet waiter with her fork, haha.

The only unpleasant surprise I encountered was when I saw an acquaintance from college by the buffet tables, someone I could have lived without ever seeing again for the rest of my natural life. I quickly turned around and avoided her, and thankfully we didn't meet face-to-face. The word I always use to describe her is "maldita", but I think that's insulting other terrific malditas I know (you know who you are, mwehehe).

I opened my other presents when we got home: 2 books from my siblings (Big Fish and The Blank Book... ok, so maybe that's 1 book and a notebook :p), and a new Sony Cybershot 6-megapixel digicam from my parents. Sweet! =D I had an inkling that they'd be giving me digicam (overheard them whispering about it a few weeks ago), but it was still a treat ripping open the wrapping paper and seeing what was inside. Now my trusty cell phone is the only low-tech gadget I own, haha.

Special mention: Another of my Openness babies surprised me a day early by dropping off 2 gifts at my house on Thursday, a teddy bear and a bag of frozen chicken nuggets. I think the nuggets must be the most unique present I've received in years. Thanks Ange! You really are sweet as honey. ;)

Friday, January 20, 2006

25 things I've learned in 25 years

1. I've learned that learning the hard way is sometimes the only way I really learn.
2. I've learned that nothing's more important than family. Nothing.
I've learned that kindness, generosity and acceptance are much more difficult to master than meanness, self-centeredness and pride, and I'm just starting to warm up to the challenge.
4. I've learned that I am responsible, forever, for what I have tamed.
5. I've learned that religion and faith are 2 different things, and only 1 is important to me.
6. I've learned that passion is both my best and worst quality.
7. I've learned that nothing hurts more than betrayal of trust. Ingratitude is a close second.
I've learned that being nice won't kill you, but being nasty could get you killed.
9. I've learned that false humility is worse than genuine arrogance, and adopting the latter is not always bad.
10. I've learned that the very best gift of all is to give up your gift.
11. I've learned that there is no such thing as pure objectivity, and that's actually a good thing.
12. I've learned that life is unfair, and when you accept it as such, it becomes easier to deal with.
I've learned that time heals most wounds, but some scars just never disappear.
14. I've learned that I shouldn't apologize for having high standards.

15. I've learned that age is a state of mind, and a quality of soul.
16. I've learned that where you study and what you study are not as important as how you learn and what you learn.

17. I've learned that all men are boys, and boys will be boys, and you can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.
18. I've learned that love is pain, and without a hurt, the heart is hollow.

19. I've learned that tilting at windmills is futile... but then again, most noble crusades are.
20. I've learned that what I dislike in others is often what I dislike in myself.
I've learned that death is the best reminder that we should truly live.

I've learned that when you have a why to live for, you can bear almost any how.
I've learned that it does matter what people think-- the people who matter, that is.
I've learned that the love you take is not always equal to the love you make... but it's still worth it.

25. I've learned that even after 25 years, I'm still learning.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Any takers?

Leave a comment here and...
1. I'll respond with something random about you.
2. I'll tell you what song/movie reminds me of you.
3. I'll pick a flavor of jello to wrestle with you in.
4. I'll say something that only makes sense to you and me.
5. I'll tell you my first/clearest memory of you.
6. I'll tell you what animal you remind me of.
7. I'll ask you something that I've always wondered about you.
8. If I do this for you, you must post this on your journal.

* * *

Paging all my iskolar-ng-bayan readers out there: our company will have a booth at the UP Diliman Job Fair next week, from January 23-25, Bahay ng Alumni Auditorium. Please tell all your graduating/job-seeking friends. The booth will be manned by yours truly, so feel free to drop by and say hi. :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

House rules!

Justice was served at the Golden Globes this year as Hugh Laurie bagged Best Actor in a Drama Series. I haven't seen an actor create such a memorable, lovable (hard to think of someone as crotchety as House as lovable, but I say yes, the cold-hearted bastard is!), larger-than-life character since Tony Shalhoub's Monk. The difference between Monk and House though is that the defective detective didn't have excellent writing to support his quirky character, while the demented doctor is thriving with teleplay after teleplay chock full of razor-sharp comebacks and wickedly acerbic Houseisms. It's great to see Laurie being acknowledged for his brilliantly understated yet forceful performance as the pill-popping, cane-wielding medical genius, and I hope it won't be the last time he wins an award for this role. I'm definitely a certified House junkie-- House is my Vicodin, right Laureen? ;p

In a cute twist, Geena Davis got the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama Series. Aww, Stuart Little's parents both won Golden Globes in counterpart categories, ain't that adorable?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Tom yuck

Whenever I come home from abroad, I get the usual "How was your trip?" questions from people who are either genuinely interested in how my trip went, or just being polite before launching into other topics more important to them. To those who fall under the latter category, I give the usual cursory "It was ok" and obligingly segue into what they really want to talk about. To those who belong to the former category, here is the detailed, honest answer to "How was your latest trip to Thailand?"

Simply and delicately put, I had a really shitty week in Bangkok. Quite literally. Remember the stomach flu I was battling before our departure? It reared its ugly head again while we were in Bangkok, and I had the runs for 3 out of the 5 days of our stay. The first night I was fine, so I indulged in a huge Thai seafood dinner (our Ep Espada hosts took us to a popular riverside restaurant). The mostly spicy dishes included a thick, hot-as-hell traditional Thai soup that must have singed the lining of my digestive tracts. Then the following day, our hosts took us to lunch, which consisted of an assortment of Thai fried noodles and rice and other greasy entrees. My stomach was in turmoil by the afternoon, but I thought I could still handle a heavy Italian dinner of prosciutto and melon, calamari, Caesar salad, pumpkin soup, 4-cheese pizza, scallop pasta, and two kinds of dessert. By that evening, my diarrhea was raging once more, and it didn't fully stop until we got back to Manila Saturday evening. It was one of the most agonizing times I've spent in a foreign country, because let me tell you, if you think having LBM at home is bad, having it in unfamiliar toilets in an unfamiliar city is far, far worse. At one point I was so weak, I couldn't walk without holding on to Hanks's arm. Abi said I was so pale they were afraid I was going to faint (and they-- all of them smaller than me-- would have to lift and carry me to the nearest medical facility). After all that gastro-intestinal torment, I think it will be quite some time before I can look at a bowl of tom yum soup or Thai curry without thinking of running to the nearest rest room. Ugh.

Toilet troubles aside, the trip was actually pretty fun, mostly because of all the female bonding that happened among me, Hanks, our cousin Abi and Ann and Dial, two of our office staff. Since we spent so much time with each other during the Ep Espada training sessions and store visits, we had a lot to talk about during lull moments in the car or in the hotel, and even more to laugh over. We dished about work, school, family, fashion, celebrities, and of course, boys, boys, boys. ;p Bedtime was gab-time for me, Hanks and Abi, with our discussions and story-swapping stretching until the wee hours of the morning (which, my mom pointed out, must have aggravated my already weakened health condition, but what the heck, I survived :p). One of the most memorable events of the trip was when Abi and I tag-teamed and haggled for 2 really really cute 2-piece swimsuits at the Suan Lum Night Market. We wheedled, cajoled, begged, and BSed the stall vendor until we got her down to a reasonable price (joint purchasing power, woohoo!). I had to throw in a pair of shorts into the bargain, but I'm not complaining, as they are really really cute shorts too. :) Hanks also bought a nice haul of fancy accessories I can borrow, and my mom got me a lovely brown-and-beige Elle bag at factory price. I like getting nifty new stuff, but it's even niftier when the stuff is cheap. Hehe.

Me, Hanks and Abi

So despite all my digestive woes, I have to say my trip to Thailand was, in a nutshell, more than ok. The curative powers of gossiping and shopping are truly amazing. I'd take them over Diatabs anytime.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Blogger bound for Bangkok

Tomorrow, I'm off to Thailand to attend a training seminar at the Ep Espada head offices in Bangkok. Joining me will be 2 of our office staff, my mom, my sister and my cousin Abi, who's considering joining our company (are you or aren't you? ;p) or starting her own business. I'm psyched about this trip, or at least I was until early this morning around 4 when I woke up feeling sick to my stomach-- literally. Even as I write this I am battling the queasiness and the urge to throw up (I think it was all the cheesecake I had at Atsi Fan's engagement party yesterday-- serves me right for being such a pig). I hope this passes within today so I'll be in tip-top travelling shape by tomorrow.

Quick round-up of the weekend (since I'm in a hurry to sneak in a quick lunch break nap on the couch in my dad's office):
  • My mom celebrated her Chinese birthday on Friday and her "real" birthday on Saturday. We gave her a pair of Natori PJs as a present. I think she was pleased, despite her admonishing me not to spend so much on gifts. More on my mom when we get back from Bangkok.
  • ACET results were released Saturday morning. Some of my best and brightest Fyrinx students got in, making me a very happy and proud former teacher and Ateneo alumna. 3 Halikinus and a One Big Fight to everyone who made it!
  • Hanks is going to study in Beijing's Peking University (where I was "exiled" 4 years ago ;p) for 5 months. She leaves in February. I can feel my sibling separation anxiety nibbling at my insides already (stomach virus aside).
  • My cousin Fanny got officially and traditionally engaged yesterday (Sunday). All my older female cousins and aunts, in the thick of packing candy and eggs and rice and veggies into the dowry baskets, were giving me this one word of advice: ELOPE.
  • My good friend Pia's lola passed away last Thursday. I couldn't go to the wake because of all the "happy" occasions that coincided with it, but my deepest condolences go to her and her family.
  • We saw The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe yesterday. Good enough for me not to rant about it, but not outstanding enough for me to rave about it. Maybe will be in a better review mood when I return home next week. Until then, toodles.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

In Wong Kar Wai's Mood

Last night, I had 2 hours to kill before CSI: Miami was on, so I went through the sizeable stack of pirated DVDs I had brought home from my half-year in China and came across Wong Kar Wai’s In The Mood for Love. I popped it into the player, tore open a bag of Classic Lays, and settled back on our living room couch expecting a steamy, if not torrid, story of forbidden romance and unbridled passion.

My expectations were a little off.

Yes, it is a love story. And yes, it has forbidden romance, and to some degree it is steamy. But the passion between the two lead characters is intense not because they act on it, but because they repress it so much. Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung play a married couple... who are not married to each other, but their respective spouses are carrying on an affair with each other, leaving our protagonists to find that misery really does love company (it helps that Cheung and Leung look pretty damn good being miserable). The two develop a friendship and eventually an attraction that simmers, seethes, and comes dangerously, exquisitely close to spilling over... but never does. Their feelings are kept contained by the fear of the social stigma that comes with adultery, and perhaps the unwillingness to duplicate the betrayal their spouses have inflicted on them, the very betrayal that threw them together in the first place.

This is the first Wong Kar Wai movie I've seen, and now I understand all the hype over this Hong Kong director. His style is natural and surreal at the same time, from capturing the actors' tiniest movements and gesticulations as unforgivingly as a home movie camera would, to transforming a cloud of ordinary cigarette smoke into the most mesmerizing thing you've seen. If I were to use only one word to describe the movie, it would have to be "languid". Indeed, I don’t think I knew the true meaning of languid until seeing In the Mood for Love. You know how some adjectives don’t come alive until you’ve seen them for real? Well languid was just oozing from our TV screen. There is not much meaningful dialogue in the film, and many scenes are shot in slow motion, with the same almost hypnotic background music playing over and over (my brother passed through our living room a couple of times as I was watching, and around the 5th time he finally stopped to say, "yan lang ba ang music sa buong movie?!"). The plot is actually quite simple and straightforward, and if you take out all the slow-mo sequences and other gratuitous shots, the movie could have been as short as 15 minutes. But Wong takes his time, deliberately, delicately, dreamily, and by the end of the movie you feel as if you have been pining along with the two barely-lovers for what seems like eons.

Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love leaves you feeling utterly frustrated, excruciatingly deprived, and agonizingly depressed, and in that way-- that teasing, tantalizing, tormenting way-- it really does put you in the mood for love.

Monday, January 02, 2006

It began in Baguio

My family spent the last 2 days of 2005 in Baguio, and welcomed 2006 at the New Year's Eve party at Camp John Hay's The Manor, where we were billeted. Auntie Nene, my mom's best friend from high school, was with us, and she made for great company on the long car ride to and from (it's a testament to how chatty she is that pathological sleeper that I am, I didn't fall asleep once in all those hours on the road). This trip to Baguio was much more memorable than when we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day there last year, probably because we got to do more normal touristy stuff like eating at Cafe by the Ruins, going to the Strawberry Farm, and buying brooms, veggies and choco flakes. But of course like the true Chinese entrepreneurs we are, we also visited our Arrow store in SM Baguio all 3 days we were there. :p

The 3-day, 2-night trip was a fitting punctuation mark to a year that saw us having our best times together as a family (but of course, not without the occasional tiffs and spats-- we're not that Brady :p), and hopefully this vacation is also a harbinger of more good times to come.

Dinner at The Manor's top-class restaurant
(the chef who runs the place used to be with Le Souffle)
My folks, who never seem to look older with each passing year
View of the golf greens from The Suites at Camp John Hay
The Lims at the Strawberry Farm
If you squint, you'll see the shy strawberry I'm presenting
New Year's Eve buffet dinner at The Manor
Everyone wants to pose with my favorite Baguio dessert:
strawberries and cream with hot fudge sauce (yum!)
Posted this pic at someone's special request ;pCheers to the new year!Auntie Nene making a racket, as usual ;p
Ma and Pa in party mode
Best buds
Fantastic fireworks that had the crowd oohing and aahing
Revelers in red (except Hanks)
Back in Manila, dinner with Guama at Shang Palace