Thursday, August 31, 2006

Billy Madison finally grows up

Click is an atypical Adam Sandler movie. Not atypical the way Spanglish was (where the normally madcap Sandler was almost unrecognizable in a story with flat humor and a forced romantic angle), but atypical in the way 50 First Dates was (a romantic comedy that exuded a very natural charm, as sweet as it was funny). Like the latter film, Click still shows telltale signs of the Sandler brand of crass comedy— fart jokes, juvenile hi-jinks, physical violence and animal humping— but it also reveals an uncharacteristic warmth and humanity that is strangely reminiscent of It’s a Wonderful Life (Adam Sandler as Jimmy Stewart, who woulda thunk?).

In Click, Sandler plays Michael Newman, an ambitious architect gunning for a promotion at work, in order to provide his family with a better standard of living. However, as is frequently the case in these feel-good Hollywood flicks, his dedication to work comes at the cost of sacrificing quality time with his family. Wanting to get some control over his stressful life, Michael finds deliverance in a “universal remote” given to him by a cuckoo employee of Bed, Bath and Beyond (…and Way Beyond), played by the ever mesmerizing Christopher Walken. The strange device allows him to go through his life as if it were a movie DVD: all the usual functions like rewind, fast forward, pause, slow-motion, chapter skip… even neat bonus features like audio commentary by James Earl Jones. :p

Naturally, using the gadget comes with major consequences, and ultimately the experience teaches Michael the true value of time, and how to prioritize what matters in life. It’s hilarious watching how the remote control screws up Michael’s world, and it’s heart-warming to see how he eventually learns that family always comes first. The surprisingly moving conclusion is perhaps the most sincere I have seen from Adam Sandler, and convinces me that apart from the screwball comedy he is known for, there is depth and heart in the artist formerly known as Happy Gilmore.

Aside from showcasing a different aspect of Sandler’s talent, Click featured a pretty good supporting cast. The 2 youngsters who played the Newman kids were quite delightful— and coming from me, that’s saying a lot. Kate Beckinsdale was sufficiently American and desperate-housewifesque as Michael’s better half, and his zany parents were wonderfully portrayed by Julie Kavner and Henry Winkler (Marge Simpson and the Fonz— casting coup right there!). David Hasselhoff was perfect as Michael’s sleazy boss (say what you will about him, but the Hoff can ooze slime with the best of them), and of course, Christopher Walken was a scene-stealer as always, playing cuckoo with combined composure and creepiness as only he can.

Perhaps Click will not go down in Hollywood history as the best Adam Sandler film ever made, nor the most memorable, but it made an impression on me. Besides, fart jokes tend to get old after a certain age. :p

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The best second date ever

I had the greatest time with Fara last Saturday. We caught a late-afternoon screening of Click (more on the movie in my next post) at Theater Mall, then had dinner and dessert at Bizu. Topics of conversation free-wheeled from Fara's family roots in Samar (from where no gwapo guys hail ;p), to the morality and relationship issues of Grey's Anatomy (Meredith shouldn't have... McDreamy should have... Izzy shouldn't have... the Chief should have...), to critiques of the remaining contenders on Rock Star Supernova (Fara hates Dilana and loves Toby, I love Dilana and hate Ryan, we both detest Lukas), to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (one of my favorite books of all time, which Fara just started reading), to a brief history of my super messy love life 4 years ago (and no, I shall not expound here). The hours just flew by, as we consumed unhealthy portions of pasta and baked goodies and chattered non-stop, until Kat joined us after having attended a student's debut in the Greenhills area.

It was the second time I've gone on a "date" with Fara (the first was our memorable Brokeback Mountain movie date), and I'm sure it won't be the last. When I was getting ready to leave the house that afternoon, Hanks asked me who I was going out with, and I said Fara, she said, "Just Fara?" I said, "Yup. Just Fara. There are just some things that you can only talk about with certain people, you know? And it's impossible to do so in a big group." Hanging out with Fara-- just Fara-- is always refreshing. Although I love AP-Annex to death, sometimes the only things we talk about are ICA and our students, and now that I no longer have any students still studying in ICA, I find it hard to relate to the other teachers' anecdotes about current ICA affairs. With Fara, though we did teach a batch together for a year, we never even have to mention our beloved Cyrenz (we did run into some of them that night though =D). And not only do we never run out of things to talk about, I know I can be completely frank and irrational and stupid and lazy and selfish and open with my yellow-hat friend, and she would never judge me for it. Indeed, she even seems to love me for it. :) I can't wait for our third date.

Now, if only Fara were male, 5'10" and looked anything like Patrick Dempsey...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Quotes of note

I collect quotes. I have 2 notebooks full of them, ranging from the profound to the silly, of varying lengths and from multifarious sources. Whenever I come across a striking passage in a book I'm reading, or hear a catchy line from a movie/TV show I'm watching, or get some memorable song lyrics stuck in my head, I scribble it down or save it in my cell phone for future reference. You never know when a good quote can come in handy; me, I insert them in SMS greetings for different occasions, use them in birthday cards and DWTL Palancas as "fillers", put them in my YM status message, sprinkle them in my blog posts, and dole them out as advice when I am unable to formulate original words of wisdom.

Most recently, I encountered these quotes that I find worth sharing:

For my fellow bookworms, a lovely slogan I got off a Fully Booked wall: "When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes." -Erasmus

For my fellow writers, a bit I read in the foreword to Kazantzakis' Modern Odyssey: "Write with your heart's blood, and you will see that the blood is spirit." -Zarathustra

For my fellow House junkies and anyone with a sense of humor, a zinger from my favorite M.D.: "When you talk to God, you're religious. God talks to you, you're psychotic." -Dr. Gregory House

* * *

Speaking of House, I am outraged Hugh Laurie wasn't nominated for an acting Emmy this year. In my opinion, he outdid his already outstanding performance from the previous season, and he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama Series, so it's ridiculous that he got snubbed for an Emmy nomination. As consolation, I hope House wins in the Best Drama Series category, although it's up against another favorite of mine, Grey's Anatomy. Oh well, maybe Grey's can settle for a Best Supporting Actress Emmy for either Sandra Oh or Chandra Wilson. I adore them both anyway.

And speaking of Grey's, like a maniac, I zipped through and finished the entire 2nd season over the long weekend. All I'll say is this: I laughed, I cried, I swooned, I cursed, and I screamed "BITIIIIIN!!" as the last episode ended. Thank goodness the 3rd season starts in September, and thank goodness we already have DSL. Limewire, I love you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The butterfly effect

We've all been there. One tiny, seemingly inconsequential action of ours snowballs into this huge, out-of-control catastrophe that comes back to bite us in the ass. We look back on what we did, the tiny, seemingly inconsequential action that triggered it all, and wish with all our might that we could turn back time and take it back, but of course that doesn't help one bit. I've never been a big believer in harboring regrets of any kind (what's done is done, no sense reliving the mistakes of yesterday), but there are inevitable times when I feel like banging my head against a brick wall just thinking about what could have been averted had I not done that one tiny, seemingly inconsequential action.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Grey and Greek fixations

The first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem.

I have a problem. I’m seriously addicted to Grey’s Anatomy. And I’ve also been carrying on a love affair with a guy called Odysseus.

As soon as I got the GA Season 2 discs from Fara, I knew I was in trouble. I had fallen madly in love with the show after Season 1, and starting Season 2 was like getting reacquainted with an old flame… and gradually realizing that the everything you loved about him has only gotten better, serving to intensify your feelings for him. I have only gotten as far as the 4th episode (I’m pacing myself, limiting my dosage to only 2 episodes a day), but already I have cried twice, laughed out loud several times, and swooned countless, countless times (ok, Fara, I now concede that Alex Karev has his appeal ;p). Never mind that some of the medical cases are suspiciously similar to those from House (I beg forgiveness for my treachery, Your Snarkiness)— who can concentrate on what’s wrong with the patients when the doctors themselves are so deliciously dysfunctional and delightfully McDreamy (sorry, couldn’t resist :p)?

And then there’s my man Odysseus. I first got to know him intimately in my 2 years of teaching The Odyssey to my 4th year students. He’s always been one of my favorite characters from Greek mythology, but in those 2 years, I got really attached to him. My type of guy, after all: a smart, arrogant, brash smooth-talker who was also a judicious, headstrong, bossy leader. A pain in the ass, but an admirable, loveable pain in the ass. Looking back on my short teaching career, I can declare The Odyssey as the lesson I enjoyed teaching the most. It showed, too, in my devoting painstaking hours to creating PowerPoint presentations so that my students could also appreciate Odysseus’ greatness; coming up with fun, albeit sometimes corny (oh all right, frequently corny), games to liven up class discussions; and— to my students’ misfortune— designing meticulously detailed exams that attempted to cover every aspect of Odysseus’ story.

When I found out Nikos Kazantzakis— the brilliant author of The Last Temptation of Christ— had written an epic poem called The Modern Odyssey, a sort of sequel to Homer's masterpiece, I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, the book had gone out of print years ago, so I asked my cousin based in the UK to buy it on Amazon for me. I am currently reading said book, and lined up right after it is James Joyce’s immortal classic Ulysses, another story inspired by The Odyssey. I also recently discovered that one of my favorite Tennyson poems— lines I know by heart— is actually an excerpt from a longer piece of poetry, Ulysses (it’s fate, I tell you). I feel like a stalker shadowing the object of my affection, but I find “the man of many wiles” endlessly fascinating. This has got to be the weirdest crush I’ve ever had.

Told you I have a problem.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

This blog post is rated R

A female friend (I can't remember who) and I once talked about how we didn't understand the male fascination with girl-on-girl action. If I recall accurately, my friend said, "It's not as if we get all excited when two guys start making out." At the time of our conversation, I agreed with her statement. Now, I'm not so sure anymore.

I suppose the turning point for me was Brokeback Mountain. When Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal came together in one of the most dramatic liplocks in cinema history, I was surprised and impressed by the convincing intensity of their kiss... and really turned on. There was just so much... sizzle onscreen that I couldn't help but get caught up in it. The fact that it's two guys getting it on makes little difference... or perhaps it does make a difference, in that it's even sexier because it's twice as much eye candy, twice the amount of testosterone.

Two other notable guy-on-guy smooches that come to mind are Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal in Y Tu Mama Tambien (talk about Latino heat!), and the unlikely combination of Liam Neeson and Peter Sarsgaard in Kinsey (I really dig Peter Sarsgaard-- think cuter, younger John Malkovich; ever since Jarhead, he's been on my Hollywood hottie radar). But one pair I have yet to see-- and definitely want to see-- having at it are Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in Velvet Goldmine. When Obi-wan Kenobi and Elvis get it on, it's bound to generate some serious voltage. Anyone have the DVD? ;p

Monday, August 14, 2006

Lost in translation

My brother decided to download and rewatch the Zhang Yimou movie Hero last weekend, and I followed suit last night. I had first seen the film in China while I was studying in Beijing. To date, it is the only Chinese movie I have seen in a real Chinese movie theater with a real Chinese audience (they actually applaud during the movie, good grief). Since I did not have the aid of English subtitles or dubbing, it was quite a challenge deciphering the movie's plot and sifting through the heavy dialogue (some of the characters spoke in chengyu or Chinese idioms, which can be quite a puzzle even to one who has a decent grasp of the language). Since I felt I did not fully appreciate what seemed to be a truly magnificent film owing to my inadequate Mandarin comprehension skills, I went to see Hero again when it was released in Manila, with English subtitles. However, for some reason (perhaps it was the clapping, haha), my memories of viewing the film in Beijing are still stronger. In fact, I did not even remember having watched it in Manila until last night, towards the end of what was actually my 3rd viewing, when a blatant, albeit necessary, inconsistency between the spoken dialogue and the English subtitles jumped out at me.

That's one reason I both enjoy and dislike watching Chinese movies with English subtitles. Throughout the film, my brain is working double-time as my ears take in the Chinese dialogue while my eyes read the English text. At the same time I'm processing the content of the script and the events that make up the plot, I am also checking for inaccuracies in the translation. It's quite the mental exercise, both stimulating and exhausting... and sometimes annoying, especially when they get it all wrong ("Heyyy, that's not what he said!!"). I suppose that's one of the downsides of being multilingual. There are so many nuances one language has that another does not, that a completely faithful translation (of movies, music, literature, etc.) is impossible. Thus those of us who can understand both sides are given 2 slightly different viewing/listening/reading experiences... and/or a splitting headache.

I read a magazine article recently saying how someone has invented a gadget that can give instant translations of Chinese characters. You just point the thing at the written words and it gives you the English equivalent. The same article went on to say how people are coming up with cell phones that have built-in translators, and computer translators that transmit via radar and can be used for big international gatherings like the UN (each seat will receive the radar transmission in the native language of the occupant-- goodbye to those funny-looking headsets). Perhaps we will live to see a Star Trek-inspired universal translator yet. It would be cool if everyone in the world understood everyone else perfectly, without the awkwardness of misinterpretations or the difficulties of mastering a foreign language. But then again, it would take away the thrill of learning different tongues, and the process of coming to understand and appreciate another culture through its language.

Plus, it would make my being multilingual far less impressive. :p

P.S. Love, love, love Maggie Cheung. She can act circles around Zhang Ziyi, and I find her cold, imperious beauty far more striking than Zhang's fragile, cutesy looks. If I were to pick an actress to play me in a movie, Maggie Cheung would be among my top 3 choices.

Friday, August 11, 2006

It's fun to be Tyra Banks (or Janice Dickinson) for a day

I had the day off work today to attend the auditions for the ICA Fair fashion show. Ep Espada is sponsoring the show, providing all the outfits for the models, so I got to be part of the panel of judges who screened the girls who tried out. About 100 students strutted their stuff in front of me and some other ICA teachers, and it felt like a comical high school version of America's Next Top Model. Some kids were dolled up in really cool, classy outfits, some were wearing scandalously skanky short skirts, some were ridiculously overdressed; some walked like pros, some moved stiffly, some were over the top with their poses; some showed great stage presence, some refused to smile, some were awkward and lacked confidence. In the end though, we were more concerned with the character and personality of a girl rather than her appearance, sense of style, or catwalk coordination (although those were still factors, of course).

After an hour or so of deliberating, the panel eventually trimmed down the list of hopefuls to the 25 we needed. As a sponsor, I'm pretty satisfied with our final choices. They're all pretty, energetic youngsters with good academic records and wholesome personal qualities, and I think they will represent Ep Espada well. We're also giving each of them a P1,000 gift certificate, so I hope we really did pick the deserving girls.

I enjoyed the day I spent in ICA. Not only did I get to judge the fashion show auditions, I also got to visit the new faculty room and say hi to my former co-teachers, spend 2 hours chatting with Fara in her domain (the IT office), have coffee with Maddy and Kat, accompany them to the Days with the Lord welcoming rites for Kat's advisory class, and have dinner with Maddy, Kat and Joy Lo. It got me all sentimental and longing for the good ol' days when I was still a teacher. But at the same time, seeing the teachers checking PTs and reflection papers, I feel a sense of relief that I no longer have to deal with such pains in the neck, among other things. :p Besides, all my kids have graduated from ICA, and I barely know any of the students left, so the school felt a little... emptier.

However, I am still looking forward to my next visit, for one of the fashion show rehearsals. Then I'll get to see whether the 25 models we selected can work the runway decked out in Ep Espada. All in a day's work. ;)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How about them Eagles, eh?

Ateneo has swept the first round of both the seniors' and juniors' divisions in this year's UAAP basketball eliminations. I'm not used to us winning so many games, and in such convincing fashion (poor UST, they didn't know what hit them). It's freaky, like something out of a parallel universe. For years we were the underdogs living in the shadow of those goons from Taft. Now, with our beloved rivals out of the picture, we're actually playing some impressive basketball this season (yeah, Kramer, I'm talking to you). Apparently, green-and-white really is our kryptonite, because with LaSalle absent from the tournament, the Eagles are finally learning how to fly.

This winning streak is kinda scary though. We have a history of peaking too early (2004 immediately comes to mind), so to me at least, our sweep of the first round forebodes doom for the second round. Pessimistic, perhaps, but the battlecry of "We Believe" is old, and realistically, something's gotta give (let's just hope it's not Intal's knee again).

In the meantime, I'm enjoying basking in the triumph while it lasts. So this is what it feels to be LaSallian. Hah.

Monday, August 07, 2006

After the rain

Understandably, last week was a very messy week for me. I'm still feeling a little shellshocked, so I'm not in an ideal state of mind to blog. However, I also have this compelling need to write everything down to get it off my chest, so I hope my faithful readers will pardon my disorganized thoughts.

Amah's cremation took place last Saturday at the Funeraria Paz. There was a mass and a Buddhist ceremony in the morning. After the mass, there was a slideshow of photos compiled by us grandchildren, and the images of younger, happier days with Amah elicited tears and laughter from everyone. Afterwards, Sa-ko (a.k.a. Saks), Amah's youngest child, delivered the eulogy on behalf of the family. The part that really struck me was when Saks said that perhaps Amah "bore the cross" for us all, throughout all her illness and physical suffering. I thought of the gentle, frail woman who had been the matriarch of the Lim clan, and realized that she who was weakest among us had been the one who held us together for all these years.

Rain had started to fall by the time the pallbearers arrived to take Amah's casket away. I did not get to witness the actual cremation, and did not even get to take part in the short funeral procession, because Monkeys were unlucky that day (times like these, I really hate being part of a traditional Chinese family). A fellow-Monkey cousin and I hid in the lounge at the back as Amah's coffin was borne out of the funeral parlor, and we stayed in the new wing of Paz as the cremation was ongoing in the old wing (my mom, also a Monkey, but of a more stubborn breed, joined the procession anyway). By the time I rejoined the clan, my uncles and my father were leaving to bring Amah's picture to the temple where her ashes would eventually be kept alongside Angkong's.

We all congregated at the temple to eat misua and wait for Amah's ashes. When it was decided that only the adults needed to wait, my cousins and I arranged carpools to return to Greenhills/Acropolis. There was talk of meeting up at Ah-pe's house to play mahjong in honor of Amah (she taught most of us to play), but everyone was tired, and some even sick, so it didn't push through. The 3 of us were dropped off at home, took hot showers, ordered KFC delivery (the misua wasn't exactly a filling lunch), and watched a couple of TNG episodes before I stole a short late-afternoon nap. That night we had dinner with the whole clan at Harbor City, which brought the celebration of Amah's life to a nice close.

It was a long, emotionally draining day. I did not think I would be moved by the funeral proceedings, but I was. I did not think I would cry, but I did. I did not think I would miss Amah that much, but I think I will after all. And I did not think I would derive much meaning from her death, but I look at the legacy of kindness and generosity and love she has left behind, and I now know that it was not her death, but her life that was full of meaning.

Goodbye, Amah. Thank you for everything.

"After the rain has fallen
After the tears have washed your eyes
You'll find that I've taken nothing that
Love can't replace in the blink of an eye
After the thunder's spoken, and
After the lightning bolt's been hurled
After the dream is broken, there’ll
Still be love in the world." -Sting

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Dealing with death

Amah passed away in the early morning hours of Tuesday, the 1st of August. Her remains lie in state at the new wing of the Funeraria Paz, Araneta. She is survived by her 7 children, 23 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren. We will all miss her, but at the same time we find comfort in knowing she is finally at rest.

* * *

It's already August 3, the 3rd day of Amah's wake, and I haven't even been to Paz yet (and I'm feeling pissed at myself and guilty besides). I was supposed to go on Tuesday after I came home from work, but I developed a fever and a bad head cold during the day. My mom told me to stay home and sleep it off. The following day I was fine, the fever was gone, and I had already put on my white shirt and pants when my dad came in and asked me where the hell do I think I'm going. Like an idiot, I answered, "I'm going with you to Paz." He frowned and told me, "No you're not, you stay at home and rest." And when I sputtered in protest, he snapped at me not to be pig-headed. So I spent the whole afternoon and evening sulking alone at home. I appreciated my dad's concern for my health, but I really was completely recovered, and I didn't want to miss another day of the wake, especially since the cremation's scheduled for this Saturday, leaving just 2 more days for me to be in attendance. My relatives have already flown in from Cebu, Zamboanga, Singapore, Saipan, even the US, and I was stuck in Greenhills getting unnecessary bed rest. Bah.

* * *

This is only the 2nd time we've had a death in the family. Angkong was the 1st, and like I mentioned in my previous post, he didn't pass away until he was in his mid-nineties, just like Amah. I'm fortunate to have grown up with a complete set of grandparents on both sides of the family, as well as 6 pairs of uncles and aunts on each side (well, 5 pairs and 1 single aunt on my dad's side anyway), and a great many number of cousins. In a way, it has made me take for granted that all of my family members will be around for as long as it takes (as improbable as it is that all of us will live as long as Angkong and Amah did). It has also left me ill-equipped to handle the death of a loved one, as I've had little experience in dealing with it. Besides, when both of your grandparents lived up to the ripe old age of 95, there's really almost no reason to mourn.

I suppose that's why I find it awkward receiving condolences from friends, as sincere as they are. Because I don't feel too broken up over Amah's passing, whenever my friends say "I'm sorry", I get this urge to tell them, "Don't be, I'm not." If I'm to be totally honest, what I feel more than anything is relief: I'm just glad that my grandmother's physical suffering is finally over. It may sound horrible, but that's really the prevailing emotion right now. Perhaps I'll feel differently on Saturday. Or perhaps I'm just not very good at grieving... and in any case, I don't want the practice.