Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ratatouille: c'est si bon

Pixar's latest gem, Ratatouille, does not match the brilliance of Finding Nemo, which remains the crown jewel, but it has all the ingredients of a great animated film: stunning graphics as only Pixar can create (the Eiffel Tower never looked so good), terrific voice talents (Peter O'Toole's sonorous baritone was perfect for unforgiving food critic Anton Ego), and cute furry creatures that talk (and in this case, cook). The story itself is a delicious mixed stew of classic themes: it's a buddy movie (although the buddies in this case are a kitchen garbage boy and a rat with remarkable culinary skills), with a dash of romance (it IS set in Paris, after all), plus a sprinkling of good old-fashioned family (or I should say "colony") values. And it finishes with the timeless but not trite message espoused by jolly, roly-poly chef Auguste Gusteau's motto, "Anyone can cook!" (or, as interpreted later in the movie: "Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.").

The only thing I thought was a little bland was the script, which didn't have as many zingers as Nemo, or even Monsters Inc.
With a whole menu of French and food jokes to choose from, the writers only threw out a few crumbs ("I hate to be rude, but we're French"), and relied more on physical/visual gags.

I never thought I'd ever find a rat adorable, but Remy (a.k.a. Little Chef) won me over, washing his tiny paws before throwing spices into the soup pot, making breakfast for himself and his pal Linguini (one tiny rat-sized omelette, and a regular human-sized one), and expertly plating the ultimate
piece de resistance-- what else, ratatouille. Of the human characters, however, my favorite was Anton Ego, a cross between Mr. Burns from the Simpsons and Lurch from the Addams Family. Without giving anything away, I can say that Ego's best moments come toward the end of the movie, and he also delivers my favorite line:
"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."
Ratatouille makes this critic's work easy, as it is by no means "an average piece of junk". As charming as a French bistro, as satisfying as a gourmet meal, it has revived my faith in the future of animated films, and it's this close to being a 5-star experience. Whatever Pixar serves up next, I hope it's just as magnifique.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A follow-up to my last post

So it turns out the ball WAS in play when Laterre and Long were fielded at the same time in the Ateneo-La Salle game, according to some sources (including my dad, the UAAP insider of our family). I'd still like to see some video footage proving this (which La Salle claims they have), and judge for myself whether those handful of seconds would have made a difference in the match. In any case, I will concede that Ateneo DID violate the UAAP rule stating that only 1 foreign player can be on court at any given time.

However, in my humble opinion, I think the rule itself is quite silly. If the UAAP allows teams to have 2 foreign players on their rosters, then why prohibit them from playing together? Why not just limit the number of foreigners to 1? Come to think of it, why should they limit the number of foreign players at all? If they're legitimate students (with un-falsified high school diplomas ha ha) of a university, don't they have a right to represent their school as an athlete? It's not as if they belong to a professional league where they get paid to play ball. If one argues that it's to prevent foreigners from overrunning the UAAP, to give more Filipino students a chance to play, then one might as well argue that local universities shouldn't accept foreign students at all, to give more Filipinos a chance to receive quality tertiary education. And where's the sense in that? Where would children of expats and other foreigners living in our country study?

I'm not making excuses for the Ateneo coaching staff. They really did slip up, so if they have to pay for their mistake with a forfeited victory, I won't complain.
I may not agree with the rule, but sadly it exists, and we must abide by whatever the UAAP board decides. However, it still doesn't make me feel any kindlier towards Pumaren and company, whom I still regard as sore losers. And it still doesn't change the fact that the Eagles beat the Archers. It may turn out to be a forfeited win, but the point is, we won. Let's see if we can do it again next round, without violating any rules, no matter how silly.

Real losers

I just found out from my friend Yang (see her Multiply entry) that La Salle has filed a protest against Ateneo's win over their precious Archers last Thursday. They are citing an incident that occurred in the 2nd quarter, when Ateneo inadvertently fielded 2 foreign players (Zion Laterre and Kirk Long) at the same time, which violates a UAAP rule. HOWEVER, the ball was never in play while they were on court together, and the Ateneo coaching staff, upon spotting the oversight, immediately sent in Jai Reyes as a substitute. For this, the Eagles were slapped a technical foul, and La Salle was given 2 free throws, which Archer Cholo Villanueva made, giving them 2 charity points. Despite the setback, Ateneo went on to defeat La Salle in overtime, 80-77.

Now this protest. This pathetic, pathetic protest.

Apparently, the Archers' egos can't stand being beaten twice in a row, especially with the second defeat coming at the hands of their favorite archrivals. Even if the incident in question had no bearing on the result of the game, they are seizing the opportunity to deprive Ateneo of their victory. A victory that the Eagles EARNED, not by dirty, underhanded tactics (which La Salle is very much familiar with), but by simply OUTPLAYING the Archers. But I guess La Salle will do whatever it takes, scramble to find the tiniest loopholes there may be, to redeem their honor... whatever their idea of honor is.

If the protest is upheld, I'm sure I'll be hopping mad, but I will do my best to take it like a (wo)man, which is more than what I can say for La Salle coach Franz Pumaren (he who so courageously "resigned" in the wake of the Benitez scandal last year, thereby dodging responsibility for the whole mess). After all, everyone would still know who REALLY won last Thursday's game. If the UAAP board decides to turn Ateneo's win into a loss, so be it-- but what a hollow victory it would be for La Salle, although I guess that means nothing to them as long as on the record, they did not lose to Ateneo. But in PRINCIPLE, (a concept probably alien to Pumaren and company), La Salle would win nothing over us.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


One of the few lessons I remember from 16 units worth of Ateneo Philosophy classes is Aristotle's discourse on friendship. According to the Nicomachean Ethics, a "perfect" friendship is between individuals of equal virtue who wish the best for each other's welfare, and is based on mutual pleasure (i.e. the pleasure they derive from each other) and mutual utility (i.e. the usefulness of one friend to the other, and v.v.).

The latter characteristic has always impressed me, due to its pragmatism. Friendships of convenience tend to be viewed negatively, wherein the friends in question are labeled "users" or "leeches". However, I believe this only applies when one friend takes advantage of the other, without being "useful" in return. If there is give-and-take, tit-for-tat, then there's nothing wrong with benefiting from something a friend is able to provide. Indeed, all friendships SHOULD be friendships of convenience. What's the point of being friends with someone who can't help you with anything or return favors? That's not a friend, that's a pet.

To illustrate, there's my friendship with Yang. Thanks to her being a lawyer and me being an ex-English teacher (and thanks to YM), whenever I need assistance with matters of the law (usually concerning contracts and labor issues), instant (and free!) legal advice is a mouse click away, and in turn, whenever she needs assistance with matters of vocabulary and grammar (for legal documents and lawyerly correspondence), linguistic and editorial services are readily available to her. I'm not saying Yang and I wouldn't be friends if she weren't knowledgeable in the Labor Code, or if I weren't a human shift+F7. But the fact that we are "useful" to each other strengthens and contributes to our "perfect" friendship, as opposed to if we couldn't help each other out at all.

I count myself fortunate that I share many similarly "perfect" friendships, and it makes me feel gratified, not only because I have people in my life who are "useful", "pleasing", and "virtuous", but also because I somehow also fulfill the other half of the utility, pleasure and virtue required. I've always prided myself on being a good friend, and if the quality of my friendships (and Aristotle) is any indication, then I'm doing more than a decent job. We deserve the kind of friends we keep, and mine are pretty darn amazing, legal know-how and all. :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bookworm's progress report #2

As I recently undertook the maniacal task of rereading Books 1 to 6 of the Harry Potter series in preparation for Book 7, I haven't been faithfully following my preset 2007 reading regimen for the past few weeks. Since my last progress report, I have only managed to cross off 2 more novels on my to-read list: Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and John Updike's Towards the End of Time, both of which I brought to Europe with me. The former I managed to finish, thanks to all those long bus rides between cities, but the latter took me another 2 weeks in Manila to slog through.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics was a great choice of traveling companion: intelligent, informative, quirky, funny and surprisingly deep. The setting (an elite private high school) and its protagonist (a terrifically precocious teenager reminiscent of Holden Caulfield) made me think the story would be similar to Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep. Compared to Calamity Physics though, Prep seems as substantial as cotton candy. Whereas Sittenfeld chose to dwell on teenage emotions and hormones (albeit handled not in the usual brainless, vapid way of chick lit and Hollywood), Pessl delved into adult thoughts and ideas, as sifted through the incredible brain of wise-beyond-her-years 16-year-old Blue Van Meer. Blue is one of the most memorable characters of contemporary literature I've encountered; not since Tyler Durden of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club has a 3-dimensional fictional character seemed to occupy my head and make it resound with a singularly strong voice. I have to give Pessl props (in spite of my extreme writer's envy) for a spectacular debut novel (and it has a super cool website too!).

On the other hand, Towards the End of Time was not the ideal book to bring on a long trip. The synopsis was promising enough: a sci-fi story centering on a retired investment banker and his life after the war between the US and China. Despite the intriguing premise, I nodded off in the middle of a paragraph more than once, and there was little interest to sustain my efforts at turning each page. John Updike, like Philip Roth, is a writer with excellent command of the English language; however, like Roth, he fails to get me thinking, much less feeling any sort of empathy with their characters. I went through both authors mechanically, like a student required to read something for school. Hopefully, the other Updike and Roth selections on my reading list will be more engaging.

Now that I'm done with HP Book 7, it's time for this bookworm to get back on track. Next up, The Book Against God by James Wood. Until my next progress report.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: parting is such sweet sorrow

It's been a few hours since I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the 7th and final book in the Harry Potter series, and it still feels like several frisky Snitches are fluttering around my insides. I am happy, heartbroken, angry, awed, and frustrated... although the latter is mainly because I can't fully vent my feelings yet, seeing as how I don't know anyone else who's done reading the book (hurry up people!), and I don't want to risk giving away anything.

That being said, this review will not contain any spoilers, because I certainly wouldn't dream of ruining the reading experience for anyone. Book 7 is easily the most gripping of the series, not just because events spiral dizzyingly towards the inevitable final showdown between The Boy Who Lived and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but also because readers-- who already expect some key characters to kick the bucket-- are kept on the edge of their seats by the mortal peril present in almost each chapter. Mercifully, J.K. Rowling doesn't waste as many pages with seemingly irrelevant details as she did with Book 5 (still the most dismal of the lot), and she manages to pack plenty of action, drama, and pertinent dialogue in this ultimate installment. I'm still not a fan of her somewhat unrefined writing style (particularly her penchant for using annoying ALL CAPS), but that she succeeded in getting my heart racing and making me laugh AND cry more than once throughout the book is proof of how much I liked Deathly Hallows.

But I have to get this off my chest: I was upset (in the case of one, enraged) with Rowling's choice of characters who get killed, and the way their deaths are depicted. I felt more detail is called for, especially owing to how cruelly abrupt their fictional lives are snuffed out, and after the significant roles they played in the series. I can't recall getting this worked up over any literary character's demise before-- I suppose I'm just really emotionally attached to Rowling's lovable, larger-than-life creations... and I'm sure I'm not alone in my sentiments (to hell with critics who dismiss the HP phenomenon as cultural infantilization-- that it can turn even the most jaded adult into a wide-eyed kid is a joyous achievement, not something to be derided).

Unlike the disappointing 13th volume in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Deathly Hallows provides closure and brings the seven-year saga of Harry Potter to a graceful and satisfying conclusion. While it is hard to say goodbye to the wizarding world of Harry Potter, a world that has captured the imaginations and hearts of millions of Muggles across the globe, there is a sense of serenity with which I accept that this is the end. It's difficult to explain (especially with these Snitches playing pinball inside me), so allow me to borrow some words from fellow Potter fan Stephen King, who put it beautifully:

"...my guess is that large numbers of readers will not be satisfied even if Harry survives (I'm betting he will) and Lord Voldemort is vanquished (I'm betting on this, too, although evil is never vanquished for long).... There is that sadness, that inevitable parting from characters who have been loved deeply by many. The Internet blog sites will be full of this was bad and that was wrong, but it's going to boil down to something that many will feel and few will come right out and state: No ending can be right, because it shouldn't be over at all. The magic is not supposed to go away.

"But there's comfort. There are always more good stories, and now and then there are great stories. They come along if you wait for them. And here's something I believe in my heart: No story can be great without closure. There must be closure, because it's the human condition."

I will miss Hogwarts, I will miss the Burrow, I will miss Quidditch,
I will miss Harry and his friends, and I will miss the magic they brought into my life. But I'm glad their story got the closure it so greatly deserves.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The coming of age of Ron Weasley

Fresh from watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and not having had our fill of Weasleys, my sister and I decided to watch Driving Lessons on DVD. It's a British indie film starring Rupert Grint (he of Ron Weasley fame) and Julie Walters (who plays Mrs. Weasley in the HP movies), and it tells the story of an awkward teenage boy, Ben (Grint), who gets a summer job helping a retired theater actress, Evie (Walters). Evie's eccentric and erratic ways drive Ben out of his shell and encourage him to pursue his love for poetry, as well as help him deal with his domineering, hypocritical Bible-thumping mother (the underrated, always reliable Laura Linney).

The plot is simple enough, your typical adolescent-having-a-life-defining-summer thing crossed with boy-meets-crazy-but-caring-parent-substitute thing. It's nothing revolutionary, but what makes this charming little film unique is the adolescent boy himself, and his unusual circumstances. Ben is not your typical carefree, fun-loving teen, nor is he of the angry, angst-ridden variety; he's plain and gawky and shy, and is having a miserable summer thanks to his overbearing mom, who bullies him into contributing part of his summer wages to their bizarre boarder,
attending Bible class and participating in the play as a tree, and keeping secret her affair with the minister in charge of Bible class. Meanwhile Ben's meek, thoroughly whipped vicar dad immerses himself in books about birds, and Ben's crush from Bible class finds him and his poems "too weird". When Ben meets the slightly unhinged Evie, who drags him off camping and takes him on a road trip to Edinburgh without parental permission, it is then he discovers a freedom to be himself, away from his mother and her rigid rules.

Ben's gradual transformation from spineless to self-assured is measured and believable: there is no overnight switch from dorky chump to cool dude, and no drastic changes in behavior-- despite his newfound independence, Ben remains a good kid, but just not a pushover anymore. As Ben, Rupert Grint is a delightful revelation, displaying talent in a nuanced performance that makes Daniel Radcliffe look like an amateur. Unlike his more famous cohort, Grint conveys internal struggle with subtlety, and his outbursts of feeling are nicely controlled. He shines most when sharing scenes with the veteran Walters, who, like Evie does for Ben, seems to effectively draw out Grint's potential. When Evie swallows the car key to prevent Ben from returning home, the way he freaks out is both comic and melancholic, spitting out cuss words in disbelief and desperation. Grint makes Ben a laughable but lovable loser-- you pity him but at the same time you root for him.

Driving Lessons may seem insignificant compared to the giant blockbusters that are the Harry Potter movies, but as is always the case, a smaller film allows actors to flex their dramatic muscles more. And given what I've seen from Rupert Grint, I predict he'll be starring in more movies after the HP series, and showing the world that he's not just Harry Potter's red-headed sidekick anymore.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Just another week in July

July 18
What: store visits
Where: SM Bicutan, SM Sucat, SM Las Pinas, Festival Mall, Rustan's Alabang, RDS Metropolis, Market! Market!
With whom: some of our office staff
Why: meeting with a potential supplier in Bicutan, and inspecting store spaces being offered in Festival

July 19
What: despedida dinner for Maddy
Where: Cibo Promenade
With whom:
Maddy and Jen Ong
Why: one last night of nosebleed girl talk before Mads leaves for Singapore

July 20
BMH JTA class Operations Management defense
Where: John Gokongwei (*snicker* can't say it with a straight face) School of Management
With whom: Mr. Tanchoco, the QMIT Department chair, and Mr. Pilar, my number 1 fan in the SoM faculty
Why: the scourge of plagiarism has earned the privilege to play with the big boys

July 21, AM
What: the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the 7th and final book of the HP series
Where: Fully Booked Promenade
With whom: Hanks
Why: we reserved a copy, and we want to make sure we get it before stocks run out

July 21, PM
What: Tangsoc's post-wedding costume party
Where: Greenhills West clubhouse
With whom: AP-Annex, and a big bunch of Fyrinx who were Tangsoc's students
Why: Tangsoc couldn't invite all her kids to her wedding, so this will make up for it

Monday, July 16, 2007

Because I love Tangsoc...

...I got up at 9AM on a Saturday morning and dragged my lazy butt to the beauty parlor to get dolled up.
...I had my hair curled, and found out that unfortunately, curls make my already huge siopao face look even huger.
...I put on a pomelo pink gown, the 2nd I've worn in the past 8 months (the things I do for my friends, sigh).
...I sat beside 3 flower girls, 2 of whom were very fidgety and 1 of whom kept crying (admittedly, they looked cute in their pretty gowns).
...I helped put the cord over her and Harold, binding them in marriage.
...I relinquished my digicam to Maddy, who turned out to be the most horrible photographer on the planet (for proof, see blurry pix here).
...I didn't protest (too much) when the betraying bride gave me the bouquet, even after I implored her not to rope me into any bouquet games (well, she DID abide by that, technically-- she just handed me the bouquet, no games at all).
...I let some guy I've never met in my entire life pull the garter up my leg, AND kiss my hand, shoulder and cheek (thank you Harold, for not choosing more embarrassing body parts).
...I popped over to the Rizal ballroom to quickly greet another friend who got married that day (Kathy and her new hubby were just about to make their grand entrance when I arrived), then dashed back to the Quezon ballroom without missing anything in the program (perfect timing!).
...I did my best to be polite to some strange guy who sat down at our table and introduced himself as a friend of Harold's, and made it a point to excuse myself before going to the rest room with Elyse and Kat (leaving the rest of AP-Annex to deal with the weirdo and figure out which of us exactly he was trying to hit on).
...I would go through everything all over again just to make my "twin" happy... well, ok, maybe not the garter bit. She still owes me one for that. :p

Friday, July 13, 2007

Harry Potter 5 the movie: stinks like a Dungbomb

I could think of several analogies for my viewing experience of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: watching it was almost as excruciating as a Cruciatus curse... of all the film adaptations of the HP books, this one put the "ug" in Muggle... like a Dementor, it sucked all the joy out of me and left me cold.

But I exaggerate. There WERE some glimmers of joy to be found within the murky morass that was HP5: tender moments between Harry and godfather Sirius Black;
the charmingly guileless discussion in the Gryffindor common room about Harry and Cho Chang's kiss ("It was... wet."); a glimpse of a young Severus Snape during his student years at Hogwarts; the magnificent Helena Bonham-Carter at her Goth finest as the deranged and dangerous Death-Eater Bellatrix LeStrange; the Star Wars-y duel between Albus Dumbledore and Volde-- I mean, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named; and of course, every scene that had speaking lines for my darling Fred and George Weasley, the twin rays of sunshine who also brightened up the 4th HP movie for me (favorite scene in HP5 that wasn't even in the book: the twins comforting a small boy weeping from the painful punishment inflicted by Dolores Umbridge). Solid performances from the grossly underused cast of British acting greats (Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Bonham-Carter, Emma Thompson) also helped buoy this dead-weight of a movie (credit goes to Katie Leung for single-handedly dragging down the talent quotient-- they couldn't find another Asian girl in the whole United Kingdom to play Cho?).

Despite the occasional break in the clouds, overall, the film adaptation of HP5 played out like detention with Dolores Umbridge: seemingly interminable, unnecessarily cruel, and dishearteningly pointless. However, I don't blame director David Yates (or the screenplay writers my sister wants to send to Azkaban) for coming out with such a dreary disaster. It's really J.K. Rowling's fault for producing such an utterly unfilmable book. I remember how impatient and frustrated I felt reading HP5, which was overly long and written in a strangely stilted style, showing all the signs of the writer's block that allegedly plagued Rowling while working on the book. The awful result translated even worse on screen, with an almost incomprehensible storyline (good luck to anyone who hasn't read the HP series), omitted plot points crucial to character development, overlooked and unacknowledged characters (with Ginny Weasley getting the worst of it), and weak transitions from one scene to the next. Oddly, for a movie that had too much material to work with, HP5 had many pockets of "dead air", parts where nothing seemed to be happening except for characters gawking at each other, looking forlorn/miserable/furious/terrified. More than once, I wished I had bought popcorn to munch on (or throw at the screen), to occupy myself during the gaps.

My sister reports that David Yates is slated to direct the 6th HP movie. Hopefully he does a better job, given a better book to film, an even more mature cast of "child" actors (a post-Equus Daniel Radcliffe still has some improving to do), and no killjoy, kill-her-now Umbridge eating up screen time. I'll say this much for this latest addition to the HP movie franchise: at least it stayed true to the book by being the stinker of the series too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Advantage, Federer

Ma and I were in Cebu over the weekend for the opening of our Arrow and Ep Espada stores in Ayala Center. Last Saturday, when we got back to our hotel room after a long day, we caught the last set of the men's Wimbledon finals between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. I'm not an avid follower of tennis like my best friend Raqs, and certainly not a starstruck fan like my friend John, but I have a rudimentary knowledge of the sport and its stars. Recently, the much celebrated rivalry between Federer and Nadal has been of particular interest to me, not just because they're both brilliant players, not even because they're both easy on the eyes, but because (I think writer Jessica Zafra, another big tennis aficionado, also commented on this before) they seem to have such different personalities, which shows both on and off the court. On one side, there's cool, calm Federer, he of the long, deliberate strides, the lazy-looking but precision swings, and the killer serves. On the other end, there's fiery, fierce Nadal, who runs around with an almost manic energy, grunting every time he whacks the ball with the monster strength generated by what Zafra calls his "Popeye arms". It's control versus power, quiet intensity versus loud passion, Brando versus Pacino... it's a Swiss watchmaker versus a Spanish matador. Heck, look at how they're dressed when they emerge from the locker rooms: Federer in his impeccable, white 5-piece tennis outfit complete with monogrammed sports coat, Nadal in his trademark sleeveless shirt (to show off those Popeye arms) and baggy, wedgie-conducive shorts.

I admit I've never been overly fond of Nadal, who strikes me as being a bit of an arrogant brat. But there's no denying his skill, especially on clay, where he creams everyone, including Federer, whom he recently denied the French Open title, hence depriving the Swiss of his elusive grand slam once more. Aside from the momentum coming off Roland Garros, Nadal is steadily improving and maturing as a player, so in the days leading to the Wimbledon finals, when it became increasingly apparent that a Federer-Nadal showdown was in the making, I worried Federer would succumb to his younger, hungrier opponent. It also couldn't have helped that there was tremendous pressure on Federer to equal tennis legend Bjorn Borg's record 5 straight Wimbledon win

My fears were not allayed when we switched on our hotel room TV and saw that the match was tied 2 sets apiece, with Nadal taking the 4th, 6-2. It looked like Federer was having a hard time of it, although as usual you could hardly tell from his composed, almost impassive face. The final set was tied at 1 game each... then 2 gam
es... until finally, Federer broke Nadal's serve and took the 6th game with an amazing, line-grazing shot that had the normally self-contained defending champion pumping his fist and letting out a satisfied yell. Leading at 4-2, Federer then proceeded to make Nadal look foolish by serving 3 aces in the next game, and in the final game, drove the last nail in the coffin with a resounding overhead smash, the perfect way to punctuate the thrilling, hard-fought match, a convincing way to go down in the record books as one of the best who have played at Wimbledon, and a masterful way to show the world he's one of the best who's ever played the sport.

But for all the great tennis action I had just witnessed, the best part was watching a victorious Federer fall to his knees a la Borg, his stoic face crumpling with emotion as he started crying. This is why I root for the guy: though Nadal is the more obviously passionate one, Federer's cool exterior hides a fire within that fuels his game-- that he has such impressive control over his passion, that he uses that fire to drive him rather than consume him, is what sets him apart from the more temperamental Spaniard. Pundits may compare Federer and Nadal all they like-- who's the better player, on which surface, using the forehand or backhand, from the baseline or at the net, playing volley or defense-- and there is no way to say who loves the sport more. But Federer manages to pull it off with style and class, bearing his great talent and many triumphs with grace and humility. So even if Federer never wins the French Open and never gets that grand slam, even if Nadal manages to beat Federer at Wimbledon next year, even if by some stretch Nadal goes on to win more than 5 Wimbledon titles... point for point, Federer's the winner in my book.

Friday, July 06, 2007

More than meets the eye

I hadn't planned on watching the Transformers movie because the previews failed to capture even an iota of my interest. I couldn't detect a trace of the 80s cartoon I loved in the dark, menacing trailer, and it also misled me into thinking the Transformers couldn't/didn't talk in Michael Bay's film adaptation. However, a week after it started showing here in Manila, everyone who saw it was raving about it-- from my brother with the high aesthetic standards to my friend Fara who's not into cars and robots at all, to my student Dotz who's probably too young to even remember the cartoon. And when I found out the Transformers can talk after all, I was suddenly determined to go see it.

And it was a good thing I did, because like everyone else, I thought it was terrific. One can't expect much in the way of dialogue and plot from an action flick (especially one that involves alien robots blasting each other to smithereens), but Transformers more than made up for cliched one-liners and predictable storylines with amazing special effects and surprisingly earnest and effective acting from both the human and robot members of the cast. And for a child of the 80s such as myself, I think the nostalgia factor contributed to my liking the movie so much. The first time Optimus Prime rolled onto the scene and transformed into the imposing, gravelly-voiced Autobot leader, I got chills, and I didn't know whether to cheer or cry. As lame as this may sound, it was like seeing something from my childhood come to life before my very eyes.

I only have 3 minor complaints about the movie: I wish they had made the robots look more like they did in the cartoons (more colors, less chrome); I wish they hadn't changed Bumblebee from a VW beetle to a Chevrolet Camaro (sure, he's still yellow, but being a cute little harmless-looking beetle was all part of Bumblebee's charm); and I wish they had included my favorite Decepticon, Soundwave, the really cool, bad-ass Transformer who ejects cassette tapes that transform into different robots (although one of those robots, Frenzy, did appear in the movie to hack into Air Force One's mainframe).

That said, I really, really enjoyed the movie (I laughed at and agreed with the swipe Michael Bay took at himself by having an extra exclaim, "This is 100 times better than Armageddon!"). It's no wonder Transformers is raking in big box office returns worldwide-- not only is it introducing a younger generation of viewers to an 80s pop culture phenomenon, it's providing an
opportunity for 80s babies to relive their childhood, in an awesome, awesome way.

Soundwave better be in the sequel.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Drama detox turns into comedy

Just now, Kathy Tan, a friend of mine from high school (and a family friend as well, since our moms went to high school together), dropped me a line through YM to let me know that she had read my blog, which she RARELY does, and today out of all days she decided to click on the link beside my name in her YM list. And when she read my last blog post, she burst out laughing because HER FAMILY OWNS THE BUD111 MERCEDES!!! How freaky is that?!?! Apparently her mom had parked in our village this morning and walked to someplace nearby (probably Xavier, where one of her son studies). When I texted Bud about it he immediately called me again, and we shared a good laugh over it. He also asked me to ask Kathy if her family's interested in selling the car, but I told him it would have to wait AFTER her wedding, because she's using it as her bridal car! Haha.

The cute coincidence just became a crazy one. :)

Drama detox

This morning as I was leaving the house, I saw an unfamiliar Mercedes parked outside the house across the street. When I glanced at the license plate, to my surprise, it read BUD111. I immediately whipped out my cell phone and texted my friend Bud, who owned one of the most (if not the most) easily recognizable cars on campus back during our college years in Ateneo: a vividly orange Honda Civic with BUD222 plates. This was the same car 9 of us (yes, NINE) managed to squeeze into, to get to Araneta for an Ateneo-La Salle game on a Saturday afternoon after Policy class (thanks to Yang for the details, hehe). It's also the car that transported laptops, CPUs, printers, the projector we always borrowed from Sir Aids, and other stuff we needed for OpMan and Policy sessions and presentations. To this day the sight of an orange Civic brings back fond memories.

Within seconds of sending out my text asking if the Benz was "related" to his car, I received a call from Bud, who found the coincidence just as amusing. He said BUD111 had actually been his first choice of plate number, but someone else already got it ahead of him (now we know who... sort of).

After my "heavy" thoughts yesterday, it was nice to have started the day with a cute coincidence, reminisces of more carefree times, and a short phone conversation with a friend. Plus, I'll be ending the day well too, since I will be (finally!) going to see Transformers tonight. If it's as good as everyone has been raving about, then a review might follow tomorrow. I've had enough of angst for now.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The pitfalls of being the C.O.O.

One of my earliest blog posts was called "The perks of being the C.O.O.", wherein I rhapsodized (fancy word substitute for "gloated") about the advantages of being the child of the owner/s. A little over 2 years later, I have now come to realize the down side to my seemingly cushy job. The lonely lunches don't even bother me anymore; I have come to accept that as long as I'm related to the people who sign the paychecks, I'm never going to be chummy with anyone on our staff, at least not in the way I was with the Philam MAPpers or AP-Annex. There are other more significant drawbacks which I failed to take into account, like added responsibility, higher degrees of accountability, and increased levels of stress (see my post titled "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown").

But I didn't start feeling the full impact of the biggest downside (which I haven't blogged about yet) until recently. See, the toughest thing about being the C.O.O. is that I live with my bosses. This means that the topic of conversation during family dinners invariably turns to work-related matters, even when we're dining out. It also means I'm on call 24/7, and I can be asked to draft a letter on a Sunday afternoon or encode our staff's salaries at 1 in the morning. When we're out malling, instead of shopping, we conduct store checks and scope out what the competition is up to.

Mind you, I'm not complaining about the extra work, nor the lack of overtime pay (pay is never an issue with a former teacher). It's more of the lack of peace of mind. Even when we were on vacation in Europe, while the rest of our tour group were blithely burning money on designer bags and clothes and overpriced souvenirs, we were doing research on upcoming fashion trends,
checking what kinds of fabric, patterns and colors were in style. Granted, it's a small price to pay for the overall wonderful European experience, but it's a small price I pay every single day of my life now. There's no respite from the daily grind, even after work hours, even on holidays. Worse, when my bosses are in a bad mood because of work-related problems, they bring it home with them, and guess who bears the brunt of it? WORST, when my bosses are in a bad mood because of work-related problems CAUSED BY ME, then I don't get to hear the end of it. Other employees who get the 3rd degree at the office get to go home and bitch about their boss. I get the 3rd degree at the office, then go home and get yelled at some more... and more loudly too, since there's no one else in earshot except my siblings.

Fine, I readily admit I deserve to be lectured and scolded most of the time; I screw up a lot more than anyone can imagine. I don't even begrudge my parents the privilege of having a convenient whipping girl who's around at work and at home. But there are days when I just wish I could go back to being an ordinary employee whose only benefits are PhilHealth, SSS, and being able to go home to a quiet house, unhounded by work. I could live without the trips abroad and the flexible work hours and the other privileges of being the C.O.O. But I'm not sure if I can live under this constant strain for much longer.

Don't get me wrong, I'm usually very good at handling responsibility, accountability and stress. I can even take a lot of heat from my superiors, or stomach them when they're being unreasonable ("mitigating circumstances", anyone?). But when I don't have an outlet, when I can't relax in my own home, when I can't escape my employers' wrath, and when the line between family and business is perpetually blurred, then I have trouble dealing. A few more years of this and I might have a meltdown. In the meantime, I'm coping, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, pirated DVDs, stacks of books, and a whole lot of ice cream. Whatever gets me through the work day... and night.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Excuses, excuses

Looking over my blog archives for May and June of 2007, I was aghast to discover that I wrote only 6 blog posts for each month. I normally go into double digits every month, so this pathetic output demands some explaining. In my defense, I present the following alibis:
  • I spent 2 weeks of May traipsing around Europe.
  • I spent 3 weeks of June uploading photos from my 2 weeks in Europe.
  • There was my high school reunion, and the few days of last-minute preparations before it.
  • Then I uploaded all the official photos from the reunion to our batch Multiply site.
  • I got sick twice. The first time, I had to skip work and go get a blood test. The second time, I pushed through with store visits to Cavite despite having laryngitis (this should earn me some pity points).
  • I finished watching the last few episodes of Heroes, Season 1, and Grey's Anatomy, Season 3, plus Season 3 of House and Season 1 of Two and a Half Men.
  • I watched Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and Ocean's Thirteen.
  • I also watched Stranger than Fiction and Top Gun on DVD.
  • Then there was Father's Day.
  • I went out with Maddy and Jen Ong twice, once for dinner and another time for an afternoon of shopping.
  • I had dinner with Raqs, Angge and Dex one weekday night, and coffee with Bri one weekend afternoon.
  • I went for a second fitting of my gown for Tangsoc's wedding.
  • I have revived AP-Annex's weekly badminton games, so that I will still fit into the gown for Tangsoc's wedding come July 14.
  • I attended Charity's surprise despedida party for Maddy.
  • I finished (fueled mostly by will power and pride) John Updike's Towards the End of Time.
  • I am currently rereading Harry Potter Books 1 to 6, in preparation for the release of Book 7 on July 21.
I realize these may all come off as flimsy justification for not updating my blog, so I will plead guilty to just the tiniest bit of laziness as well. Admittedly, lately, I find myself uninspired to write, preferring to veg out in front of the TV or invent a reason to meet up with friends. Perhaps it's the lack of good material, or the lack of motivation. Whatever it is, I have been a very bad blogger the past 2 months, and I resolve to get my act together this July... even if I do have a business trip to Cebu, a wedding, a costume party, the Harry Potter 5 movie, and Season 2 of Two and a Half Men all waiting as more convenient excuses for blog neglect.