Monday, July 31, 2006


My paternal grandmother's currently in the ICU of Cardinal Santos. She's 95, and she's been bedridden for how many years, I can't even remember. She suffered a stroke about 30-odd years ago, before my parents were married, and her health has slowly deteriorated ever since. Yet she has outlived our grandfather, who in his nineties was still strong and robust, until Alzheimer's took over. I find it amazing that Amah has managed to hang on for this long; whatever internal fortitude she has must be what's kept her going all these years. Since she can't talk or move on her own, I can only hope she's not in much pain, and that she somehow knows that her family-- all 7 of her sons and daughters, their spouses and their children-- are with her (if not physically, then in spirit) during this critical time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


I vividly recall the first time I encountered that lovely word, ennui. It was used in a scene in the 1994 Steve Martin movie A Simple Twist of Fate (does anyone remember that movie? I found it quite charming). Ever the vocabulary nut, I automatically stored the word in my lexicon, and to this day it is one of my favorite “mood words”, something to whip out when plain old ‘boredom’ just does not suffice. ‘Ennui’ rolls off the tongue quite nicely, and is able to encompass the many nuances of world-weariness/discontent/melancholy/restlessness that its generic synonym ‘boredom’ barely begins to cover.

I am currently in such a condition. The past few days, I’ve been unsuccessfully battling a case of ennui that has been threatening to consume me. I don’t know if it’s stemming from a lack of social activity or physical exertion (I really need to revive our weekly AP-Annex badminton games soon), or too much stress from work, or the blasted gloomy weather. It takes Herculean effort just to drag my butt out of bed every morning and get my sorry ass to the office. I count the hours until the workday is done, multi-tasking like a maniac in the hopes of getting through the tedium faster. When I’m at home, I don’t have energy to do anything aside from scrounging around the kitchen cabinets for unhealthy snacks and popping disc after disc into our living room DVD player (went on a House/Frasier rampage last weekend). I look at the big stack of books on my bedside table, books that I had been raring to read just a week ago, and feel the urge to yawn. I’m already stretching my mental muscles to the limit just writing this blog entry (when I lose the will to blog, you know there’s something wrong with me). I don’t know what’s going to help me snap out of it, but I hope it happens soon (first wise-guy who says “find a boyfriend” gets a knuckle sandwich).

Ennui… I may love the word, but I sure don’t like the state of it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A fond farewell

Tomorrow, technically-never-my-student Jen leaves for Singapore, where she will be studying at NUS under a national scholarship. Last night, we had dinner with Maddy and Fred, our usual gang of four, as a send-off for our “baby” (the 3 of us in our mid-twenties are old farts compared to 18-year-old Jen). The conversation was pretty much dominated by talk of Singapore, due to Jen’s imminent departure, Fred’s upcoming teaching stint at NTU, and Maddy’s ongoing application for graduate studies at the same university. By this time next year, I may be the only one of our quartet left in Manila. Everyone seems to be leaving for Singapore, and I really don’t get its appeal… but I digress.

Anyway, after dessert, we called it a night and I hugged Jen goodbye. I didn’t start feeling sentimental until a late-night text exchange with her. It suddenly hit me that I would miss having quick access to the girl I call “Mini-Me”, whenever I buy a new book I think she’d also like, or when I bump into one of our common acquaintances, or if I want to dish about my latest blind date, or whenever I spot a horrible error in grammar or punctuation. :p I will also miss receiving texts carrying book recommendations, requests to borrow DVDs, questions about ethical dilemmas, and the usual array of angst-ridden gripes about life and that other four-letter word that starts with L. ;) Jen was never my student, so perhaps that accounts for the level of closeness we’ve reached. At the same time, I suspect it’s because we are so eerily alike in many ways (hence, Mini-me). In any case, she has become a really good friend, and maybe someday I’ll stop thinking of her as one of the Fyrinx, and she’ll be able to quit calling me “Ms. Lim” (but I don’t think “Dr. Evil” would be much of an improvement either).

Good luck and have fun in Singapore, Mini-me. I'm excited for you, and I hope you learn a lot, not just from your teachers and books (you nerd, you) but from all the experiences you'll have living in a foreign country. Beware of stalkers. ;p And remember, if you can’t be good, be safe (hey, I am Doc Evil, after all, hehe). See you around online.

“And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.” –Richard Bach

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tagged by a fellow bookworm

From Laureen, my source of memes (I still haven't the foggiest what "meme" means though).

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.
6. Tag three people.

I actually don't have any books here at the office, but today it just so happens I'm meeting Jen for dinner after work, and she asked to borrow The Philosopher at the End of the Universe by Mark Rowlands, so I have it with me here. Page 123 contains a summary of the movie Minority Report (which Rowlands used to tackle the concept of free will). The 6th-8th sentences on said page go:

"Built up around them is a new police department-- the Pre-Crime Unit-- led by John Anderton (Tom Cruise reprising his usual role of Cocky Bastard who later comes to understand the dignity and worth of human beings), and overseen by Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow who, since it's Max von Sydow, is obviously going to turn out to be an Evil Bastard).

"Anyway, to cut a long story short, the precogs predict a murder. It's going to take place in 72 hours, and, unfortunately for Tom, he's the perp."

I tag Raqs (to force her to update her blog, hehe), Jen (in exchange for lending her the book :p) and Abi (to check on what she's reading over there in Deutschland... if it's in German, please translate!).

Monday, July 17, 2006

The gospel of Superman

WARNING: This review contains plot spoilers and brazen opinions of the author, who is known for being both inconsiderate and full of herself.

The best thing about Superman Returns was not Brandon Routh’s uncanny resemblance to the late Christopher Reeve, nor Marlon Brando’s posthumous cameo as Super-daddy Jor-el, nor the usual deluge of special effects (made even more dazzling— or dizzying— when viewed in IMAX format, as we did 2 weekends ago). No, the best thing about the movie was Lex Luthor’s gorgeous wardrobe. Kevin Spacey looked resplendent in the tailored three-piece suits, elegant silk ties and dashing trench coats that clothed the form of the bald baddie. His exquisite ensembles were more GQ than DC; I’m sure even Carson Kressley would give the movie’s costume designers two thumbs up (or snaps, as he prefers to dole out accolades in). I don’t know if it’s because my trained eye knows how to spot quality clothing, or because I appreciate a well-dressed man, but Spacey’s outfits were the yummiest eye candy of the film. Sorry Brandon Routh, not even the spot-on cowlick did it for me.

Overall, the movie was better than I expected, after having heard a lot of negative reviews from acquaintances who saw the film before I did. It certainly wasn’t as remarkable as Batman Begins (which in my humble opinion is still the best comic-book superhero film adaptation ever, Katie Holmes notwithstanding), but Superman Returns didn’t disappoint in terms of cinematography (the zero-G bit in the plane was pretty cool), art direction (sets seamlessly merged modern and retro touches) and casting (bonus points for getting the fabulous and underappreciated Parker Posey to play Lex's token bimbo cohort). The references to cheesy, classic Superman lines (“It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s…” “Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?” “Great Caesar’s ghost!”) were funny and well-placed, and Kate Bosworth makes a much more attractive-- though less spunky-- Lois Lane than Margot Kidder. Yeah, sure, I took issue with how Superman still managed to hoist an entire land mass laced with kryptonite, but as my brother reasoned, "Well, he's Superman."

The only thing I found hard to shrug off was the pesky Messianic symbolisms that kept popping up throughout the movie (and you know how I just love films peppered with religious flavor). First there's Jor-el intoning, "I have given them you, my only son." (somehow there's something disturbing about God sounding like the Godfather). Then Supes goes on a saving spree across the globe, performing "miracles" left and right. Lex's goons beating up our kryptonite-weakened hero before Lex delivers the supposedly fatal blow evokes images of Roman centurions torturing a bloody Christ prior to his execution. Then there's the sacrificial "death" complete with the cruficix pose as Superman hurtles from space after disposing of aformentioned land mass. Martha Kent arrives outside the hospital where her son lies in a coma, but like Mary is prevented from attending to her dying child, albeit for different reasons. Next a nurse walks into Superman's hospital room to find his bed empty (Happy Easter!). And finally, the risen savior pays a visit to his son to give him his blessing and pass on his legacy (although "the Church of Kal-el" sounds like it would raise terrorist alerts in the US instead of inspiring worship, doesn't it?).

For all my aversion to the film's spiritual overtones, I must say it led me to some striking revelations, such as:
  • James Marsden seems to be making a career out of playing the jilted boyfriend in superhero movies. In X3, his Cyclops was dumped by Jean Grey (and quite harshly too, considering she vaporized him), and in Superman Returns, not only does he have to vie for Lois' affections with Superman (come on, what guy can compete with Superman??), the kid he thinks is his is actually the spawn of Supes. They should have cast Marsden in Spiderman 3 so he can lose Mary Jane to Spidey. The poor shmuck.
  • Pilots make you fasten your seatbelt for good reason. After seeing Lois get violently slammed around the cabin of a rapidly descending plane (amazingly, she seemed to have sustained no injuries whatsoever), I am now strapping myself in securely every time I take a flight.
  • Mixing parental responsibilities and work duties is not a wise idea. Especially if you're a pig-headed investigative journalist with a serious addiction to risk-taking, and you have a sickly, asthmatic child with at least ten kinds of allergies. Or if you insist on dragging the poor boy along while you snoop around a vessel of suspicious ownership, then the bloody least you can do is bring the kid's inhaler.

And last, but definitely not least:

  • When Superman takes the time to fly clear across the world to help the good people of Manila, then there's hope for our nation yet. Maybe we've just been praying to the wrong savior.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fall from grace

Before getting down to the nitty-gritty of this entry, let me heartily congratulate Germany for their spectacular win over Portugal to bag third place in the recently concluded World Cup. Young Bastian Schweinsteiger made 2 awesome goals that made Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose look like washed-out old men (not that I mean to disparage Prinz Poldi, who won—deservedly, in my opinion— the Gillette Best Young Player award, nor Salto-Klose, who nabbed the Adidas Golden Shoe this year). Moreover, Deutschland’s defense was almost impeccable that night, thanks primarily to grizzled veteran goalkeeper Oliver Kahn (by the way, I thought it was very classy of Jens Lehmann to give way that night, seeing as how it was the retiring Kahn’s final pro football match). And of course props to the great Jurgen Klinsmann for molding a young, determined team to become “Germany’s world champions” and celebrated darlings of the German media. No matter that they did not go all the way to Berlin to have a shot at the Cup— that evening in Stuttgart, against a more seasoned Portugal squad, Jurgen’s boys really gave it their all, almost as if they had been fighting for the championship and not third place. Securing third was a nice feather in Germany’s cap, as the host nation has also been lauded for its practically flawless organization in putting together this year’s World Cup. Way to go, Germany, and danke for the memories.

Now let’s get to the ugly stuff. And I do mean ugly. I was actually rooting for France in the finals, mainly because of Zinedine Zidane and his heroics in Les Bleus’ last two triumphant matches. You had to hand it to Zizou: dismissed as “aging” and passé, the French captain shut all his critics up by helping his team reach the finals. But then he went and flushed his up-‘til-then illustrious career down the toilet by head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi. WTF was he thinking?!?! Just like that, he was transformed from hero to zero in my eyes. Not only was it the very last game he would ever play as a professional football player, it was the World Cup championship game, for crying out loud! His ejection from the field might as well have been the turning point of the match’s momentum. What looked like an imminent French victory suddenly became a scandalous end to their WC quest and a downright shitty exit for their star player and team captain (it was one of the sorriest displays of leadership I have ever witnessed). As my brother said, it was as if Michael Jordan suddenly sucker-punched John Stockton in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, and the Bulls ended up losing. Completely inconceivable, and utterly “idiotic”, as the game commentator sputtered, he too at a loss for words to explain Zidane’s show of savagery. I was actually gratified when France eventually lost in a penalty shoot-out, 5-3. Italy didn’t exactly play a great game, but after the head-butt, France sure as hell didn’t deserve to win. I hope their dismal defeat haunts Zidane to his dying day. For shame, Zizou. For shame.

Update: A few hours after I wrote this blog post, I found out Zidane was awarded the Golden Ball, the World Cup's equivalent of an MVP trophy (based on media votes). I could only shake my head in disbelief. How can someone who behaved so brutishly be given any kind of honor, much less one that declares him the best of all the great footballers who participated in this year's World Cup? What a sham. Leave it to the press to reward a superstar for bad conduct. At least Zidane had the decency to look discomfited standing beside Pres. Chirac in the group photo taken during the French team's reception at the presidential palace. He has yet to explain what prompted the headbutt heard around the world, but surely no explanation could justify it, nor wipe away the huge blemish that has now punctuated his career. Golden Ball, my ass.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Refrigerator magnet material

As an English teacher, I derived great pleasure and pride from reading well-written essays of my students. Some of my kids were capable of writing the most amazing stuff despite the time constraints imposed by their stodgy old teacher (that would be me). Checking papers was a chore I detested, but the written gems I came across made the task not only bearable but even enjoyable at times. I honestly believe there were quite a few of my students whose writing skills were far superior to mine, or could potentially exceed my own limited talents. But then there were those who showed occasional-- and unexpected-- flashes of brilliance: the underachievers, the kids who flew below the radar, but surfaced from time to time to blow me away with their untapped genius.

Karen (Dorothy) Ramos was one of those diamonds-in-the-rough. She's now in her first year of university at my (and now her) beloved alma mater, the Ateneo (can't forget the "the", right Jen? :p). Recently she had an assignment for her English class, and she was stressing over her essay. I told her to just relax and let her natural writing "voice" come out. Presumably happy with the result, she emailed me a copy of what she had written. As I read it, laughter bubbled up in me, but pride swelled in my heart as well. I never wrote anything as refreshingly honest, as sharply funny in my freshman year-- heck, in all my years-- in college. I am posting the piece here as evidence of the student outdoing the master. :)

* * *

I Kissed Writing Goodbye
by Karen Dorothy (*snicker*) Ramos

The day I broke my pen was the day I kissed writing goodbye. Way back in fifth grade, I knew I was guilty, and writing was my crime.

You see, I didn’t write for myself. I did it because teachers thought I was bloody brilliant. I wrote to impress.

I wrote for all the wrong reasons. I wrote so I could legally cut class to represent my batch in some inter-school poetry writing competition. I wrote so my name could be published in some magazine, too. Never mind the fact that I detested poetry. Writing them got me attention… and that was all it was to me: Just words bunched up to form meaningless stanzas to get meaningless praises from meaningless people who think that faking appreciation will make them seem profound. It’s just like using the word melancholy to describe anything that resembles sadness. Oh, Melancholy! God, I hate that word…and I’m beginning to hate this essay.

I realized my writing was a lie. It was never my passion. I was good for my age, but it was not a form of expression. So I stopped writing. But I also stopped believing.

Now, I write pretty much the same as I did back then. I still write like a fifth grader. I write with a bit of humor, a bit of me… no longer to impress. I don’t use words I would not normally use in conversation. My writing has no pretenses, it is flawed and I like it.

Although, I can’t help but wonder what could have been had I not bid ‘writing’ adieu. I swear I could have conquered the world one discombobulating word at a time. I could have my minions. They could feed my ego as I write my crappy poetry for others to try to decipher. They won’t be able to, but they’ll spend their lives trying to put meaning in something that really isn’t worth anything. I’d make their lives a living hell. I’d…


The day I kissed writing goodbye was the day I saved humanity. After all, the pen is a powerful thing. It can be used to create new worlds, to manipulate minds or to vandalize school property. I’d bring mine out again once I know the time is right. College might be good training ground. You’re probably wondering if I’m ass-kissing.

The answer’s yes.

This paper deserves an F.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mortality and meaning

I've finished reading Mark Rowlands' The Philosopher at the End of the Universe, a pop philo book that uses science fiction films like Star Wars, The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings to explain Plato, Socrates, Hume, and all the other dead dudes who made my head hurt in college*. One of the chapters in the book uses Ridley Scott's movie Blade Runner to shed light on life and death, and how death actually gives life its meaning. According to the philosopher Martin Heidegger (and apparently Philip K. Dick, who wrote the novel Blade Runner was based on), we are all "being-toward-death", or we live in constant apprehension of death. And it is precisely because our lives must inevitably come to a close that makes our time on this mortal coil so precious. It is this limit, this "horizon" as Rowlands puts it, that makes our lives meaningful: because we will eventually be-- as Rutger Hauer eloquently declared in the movie's famous death soliloquy-- "lost in time, like tears in the rain". Each minute we spend in existence is valuable because we know death awaits us at the end of the line.

These thoughts on death and the meaning of life bring me to something that has been occupying my mind of late: things I want to do before I die, or put in a different way, things I, as being-towards-death, have to do in order to have lived a full, meaningful life. I've already done #1, teaching, so I'm actually better off than most about-to-kick-the-bucket octogenarians who have yet to realize their "Personal Legend", to borrow a Coelho term. Not bad for 25-year-old. #2 is to write a book, and if you've read the comments to my last post then you know that this is still a distant dream. When asked recently by Sam Ang's inquisitive brother what kind of book I'd like to write, I gave him the vague response of "something to do with Chinese-Filipino culture", probably something involving family. Must give this more serious thought.

#3 is to visit Europe, any country in Europe, but preferably Italy, England, Greece, or France, in that order. Choice of traveling companions, any or all of the following: Hanks, Raqs, Abi. #4 is to own a house: nothing overly huge, but spacious enough for entertaining guests (and with sufficient storage space for all my books and shoes, hehe), and situated in a convenient location like Greenhills or Pasig, near good shops, theaters, restaurants, hotels and hospitals. #5 is to watch an Olympic opening ceremony and at least one event live (ideally, it would be swimming, and before Ian Thorpe retires).

If you notice, marriage and childbirth are not among my top 5 (but I estimate them to be in the top 15). When one makes out a list like this, it brings into sharp relief a person's strongest values and deepest desires, because s/he is thinking of the very things that would make his/her life complete (maybe marriage and childbirth will creep up the list as I age). It is for this reason that I find the question an excellent way of getting to know a person. Tell me what you want to do before you die, and I'll tell you what kind of person you are, what and how much life means to you. Death doesn't always have to be a morbid topic of conversation. It can actually be quite... meaningful.

*For those intrigued by Rowlands' brilliant concept, also check out his Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Television, wherein he uses TV shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons to show us that philosophy can be easy-- and entertaining-- after all.

Monday, July 03, 2006

End it like Beckham

England is out of the World Cup. Boo.

After the unpleasant and completely unexpected quarterfinal exit of England's
most celebrated football squad in decades, the British press and general public are unfairly vilifying coach Sven Goran Eriksson, inexplicably defending pugilistic (and swell-headed) striker Wayne Rooney, and conveniently overlooking Frank Lampard’s lackluster performance throughout the WC finals (his horrendous stats: 0 goals out of 33 shots— I swear the guy is jinxed). To top it all off, team captain David Beckham has relinquished his armband, and at 31, may have just seen his last WC stint.

As a staunch England supporter, I was crushed when they lost in the penalty shootout against Portugal (whose scandalously dirty pre-quarterfinals match against the Netherlands was utterly distasteful and lost them my respect). To their credit, the Queen’s men actually held on for quite a long time after Rooney was (rightfully) ejected from the game, keeping Portugal at bay for most of the second half and 2 periods of extra time, despite a one-man disadvantage. Becks also had an early exit from the match, as he left the pitch with an injured Achilles tendon and was replaced by Aaron Lennon. My heart went out to him as he limped his way back to the bench, fighting back tears of physical and emotional pain. How helpless he must have felt seeing his team struggle to hang on ‘til the bitter end. Apparently, England has never won a shootout in all of WC history, and I guess they stayed true to their English roots by observing tradition and losing 3-1.

However, more than the sad outcome of the shootout, or Rooney’s red card, or Lampard’s nth sorry miss, the moment that stood out for me was Beckham’s valiant show of leadership and strength when the match was over. As his fallen comrades unabashedly wept or hung their heads in shame, he went around and approached each player, offering words and embraces of comfort. As he hugged a sobbing John Terry, I marveled at how Becks managed to keep from breaking down in tears himself. To me, more than any other time, the English skipper showed true greatness after their defeat, setting a heroic example of composure and grace for his squad and his nation. Granted, I have always had a soft spot for Becks because I believe he’s arguably the best passer and corner kicker in football today— and yes, yes, it helps that he’s gorgeous— but I now hold him in even higher esteem. England may have gone out with a whimper, but Becks bowed out in noble fashion. Posh Spice should be proud.