Friday, September 26, 2008

Bird's-eye view of a Blue Eagle championship

This was how it went down.

When a second foul was slapped on Rabeh Al-Hussaini in the first quarter, a "Get that ball!" died in my throat and tried to take me with it by constricting my windpipe. Not even midway through the first quarter, and our big guy had to be sent to the bench because of early foul trouble. It seemed a bad omen hinting at a Green Archer victory in Game 2, which could have been disastrous for Ateneo's bid for the championship. Sitting in Gen Ad with my overly optimistic friends (Angelo never had any doubt we'd finish it in Game 2), I tried to silence my fears by screaming "Fight!" even more loudly.

Thankfully, Chris Tiu seemed to have heard me all the way in Gen Ad. Forget his disappointing output in the Blue Eagles' last 2 matches; yesterday Chris proved why he deserved that PSBank Maasahan Player award AND why he has deserved to wear the mantle of King Eagle all this season. His poise, intelligence and leadership are intangible, invaluable assets to the team, and whenever his team needs him most, he delivers. And did he deliver. With Rabeh sitting out the rest of the 1st half, Chris took over scoring duties and helped give Ateneo a comfortable 15-point lead going into the 3rd quarter. I knew TIUperman would save the day (sorry, couldn't help it!).

Then things started to get ugly. And I'm not referring to La Salle's devastating 3-point blitz, nailing 6 treys in the 3rd quarter and cutting Ateneo's lead down to 3. With over a minute left in the quarter, Rico Maierhofer got thrown out of the game on a second technical foul, which La Salle vehemently contested. I'd later find out the referee who blew his whistle claimed he had seen Maierhofer give Rabeh the finger. Maierhofer insisted it was his index finger, and he had been pointing it (upwards?) towards teammate JV Casio. Based on the slow-mo replays on TV, I can't tell which finger it was. But the look of disgust on the faces of Maierhofer and Franz Pumaren were crystal clear when the referees called for the former's ejection. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy that. A lot. A whole lot.

It didn't get prettier in the 4th quarter. Ateneo wasn't hitting any field goals, relying on free throws for points as they tried to shake off the pesky Archers, who were actually doing better sans Maierhofer. Then JV Casio committed his 5th personal foul, and La Salle lost their other go-to guy, and the green gallery treated the referees to another resounding chorus of boos and chants of "luto, luto!" From where we were seated, the call looked legit, and a viewing of the game rerun would verify it. In fact, even my dad who's very particular about fouls and fair calls agreed all 5 fouls slapped on JV weren't figments of the refs' imagination.

With JV out of the game, La Salle lost their firepower, and even with our own string of missed shots, Ateneo surged ahead and never looked back, thanks primarily to the most hard-working, all-around guy we had on the court, Nonoy Baclao ("mah man!!" -Angelo). Chris may have piled on the points in the first half, but all throughout the game it was Nonoy who kept pulling down rebounds and making life miserable for the Archers with his tough defense and kickass blocks. Heck, he even jumpstarted our scoring for the game with yet another of his surprise 3-pointers. Baclao was just a bundle of basketball awesome, and he truly deserved to take home Finals MVP honors.

When play time elapsed and a JAIgantic roar (heehee) erupted from the Ateneo crowd, I felt a strange sensation in the pit of my stomach even as I screamed along in exultation and hugged Yang. I knew that we had just seen what was far from being the best Ateneo-La Salle match; neither team had been in top form, there were several controversial calls, and 2 key Archers had been ejected from the game. For sure La Salle was going to use that against us and claim that we hadn't beaten them fair and square.
Admittedly, it was not the ideal way to win a championship. The epic series everyone had been expecting and looking forward to (Ateneo-La Salle! fierce rivalry! intense games! nail-biting endings! spectacular sports entertainment!) did not really materialize. Ateneo never seemed to be in any real danger of losing at any point in the Finals. And before I caught the replay of the 2nd half on TV, I also thought the referees' calls were lopsided, in favor of Ateneo. Those niggling thoughts threw a wet bimpo (not big enough to be a blanket, but still a substantial dampener) over my celebratory mood.

But a review of Game 2's tape will reveal that most of the refs' calls were spot-on (Gen Ad does not exactly give one the clearest look at what's happening on the court). Perhaps the only matter left in serious doubt was the 2nd T on Maierhofer, which sent him dabog-ing to the locker rooms. And that was a judgment call by the ref who blew the whistle; he also
PRABEHbly (heehee) didn't realize in time that Maierhofer had already been slapped a technical foul earlier. If Maierhofer really had been falsely accused of flipping the bird, he had all the right to shake his head in disgust at the end of the game, as seen on camera.

But it certainly did NOT give La Salle the right to refuse to come out from their dugout when it was time to receive their runner-up trophy and medals. And here I thought Pumaren had already sunk to an all-time low with his abandonment of the RP Youth Team a few weeks ago. When commentator Boom Gonzales called on the Archers, there was a long, awkward wait, and when it became apparent La Salle was not showing up, poor Boom had to cover it up with "We will accept this in their behalf." Up in Gen Ad, it was my turn to shake my head in disgust. Bastos!! Not only did the Green Gripers totally diss the UAAP officials waiting to hand them their trophy and medals, they spit in the face of the entire UAAP by turning their backs on their title as 1st runner-up. Moreover, Pumaren managed to set another fine example of sportsmanship with this utterly unclassy act of defiance. Good show, Bigote. You really are a piece of work.

Officiating has always been spotty in the UAAP. In 15 years of watching UAAP games I have come to accept it as part of the breaks of the game. Referees will always make bad calls, whether deliberately or due to honest human error. Those who cannot accept this harsh reality are either idealistic fools in denial or sore losers looking for something to blame. In the heat of battle, rational thought is often overriden by flaring tempers and raging passions. Coaches, players and spectators blindly cry foul (pun not intended) when a referee slaps someone from their team with a personal or technical, and I plead guilty to being among those who direct their frustration and ire (and hurl the occasional death threat) toward the men with whistles. But cooler heads should prevail, especially when the dust has settled post-battle. And if the whole war has been lost, whining about it is not going to change anything. All it does is make the losers look and sound pathetic, even if they actually put up a good fight.

I really don't know what kind of "La Salle Christian values" Pumaren believes he's imparting to his players and the DLSU community, and maybe in his warped mind he's doing the right thing by snubbing the runner-up trophy and medals. Maybe he feels he's being a man of principle. Whatever his reasons, he just succeeded in further tarnishing the reputation of La Salle. And if he thinks their little pouty protest is going to diminish the joy and satisfaction Ateneo is taking in their victory, I've got news for Bigote: Ateneans are too self-absorbed to care about the Archers acting like a bunch of big drama queens. Hah.

The Blue Eagles have landed the championship. And it's time to make the rest of the non-Atenean population nauseous with our protracted celebration (I'm going to miss the bonfire, dammit), endless news articles and TV features,
countless blog posts, and any other medium we can exploit to herald the superiority of Blue Eagle the King. Yes, we will overdo it. Yes, we will not let everyone hear the end of it. Yes, we will build a shrine to Chris Tiu on campus. But love us or hate us, everyone has to acknowledge the solid performance of our boys in blue this season. I've already rhapsodized about them in a previous blog post. I end this one with a simple note of thanks to our team-- Chris, Rabeh, Nonoy, Jai, Eric, Ryan, Yuri, Mike, Jobe, (sige na nga) Bacon, Kirk, Oping, Nico, Tonino, Justin, and Vince-- and our coaching staff led by Norman Black. Well done, sirs. You made us believe, and you rewarded our faith with the best that you could give. We who bleed blue salute you.

For pride of place. For love of school. For brotherhood and family. And for the greater glory of God. This is how we roll. This is who we are. This is the Ateneo way.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On basketball, brotherhood, and the Blue Eagles

In my last blog post, I quoted from Travis' blog where he wrote about Game 1 of the Finals series between our alma mater and our arch(er)rivals from Taft. He has since replied to the comment I posted with something that got me thinking (and blogging):

I think the old and new squads are distinctly different. It depends what you like.

Basketball as Art or Science? Offense or Defense? Individual creativity or Collective brilliance? :)

What follows is my response in turn:

I've always considered myself someone who puts more stock in Art than Science. But now that I think about it, I tend to admire athletes who are known for precision more than creativity (the sole exception perhaps being Michael Jordan, who is arguably the embodiment of both). It's like Roge versus Rafa, in some ways.

But in the case of our team this year, I guess the swing factor for me is the collective brilliance, emphasis on collective. I love how our boys work as a unit, how our passing is so fluid, how quick they are to spot an open teammate, how unselfish they are in their plays, how well they read each other. To even use the word "teamwork" sounds trite. In the closing seconds of the game against LaSalle, as Jai was taking his free throws, Chris, Rabeh, Eric and Nonoy huddled together near center court, either sharing a celebratory group hug, or already plotting their strategy for Game 2. They looked focused, but at the same time they looked relaxed, and I attribute that to the kind of faith they have in each other. And that goes beyond teamwork. That-- to rip off Adidas-- is brotherhood. :)

After sleeping on it, I woke up still contemplating the Art versus Science question. And it came to me that it's not even a matter of choosing between style and substance, for Art and Science can have both. It's a matter of spirit, what lies at the heart of Ateneo basketball: HOW, WHY and FOR WHOM they play. Granted, it's not always the right how, why and for whom; each batch of Blue Eagles has its own methods, motives and motivation, and I try not to be the kind of die-hard Atenean who justifies deplorable behavior from our team (it's "win or lose", not "right or wrong"). But this season's Eagles have a positive energy about them that I like and admire, a quiet self-assurance that comes from knowing, valuing, and staying true to their how, why and for whom.

I don't know if we're looking at a championship team, and I don't know if we're looking at the best line-up Ateneo has seen in recent memory (as Travis says, it depends on how you like your basketball). I do know this much: our boys don't only "win when it matters". Every game matters, because they give it everything they have... they give each other everything they have. Every game matters because they understand that they're part of something bigger-- a team, a fellowship, a community. Every game matters because they matter to each other. And there are just some things that matter more than winning.

One Big Fight. Emphasis on ONE.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gen Ad wasn't so bad...

...but it WAS pretty high up (at one point Yang and I couldn't recognize Jai Reyes warming up on the court far, far below), and it WAS pretty packed (ok, gross understatement), and we couldn't sit for the entire duration of the match. Then again, when you're watching Game 1 of the UAAP Finals between Ateneo and LaSalle, you don't sit down. Never mind that I barely had enough room to pump my fist in the air during cheers, or that my toes were in perpetual peril of being trodden on, or that the smell of about a dozen different colognes and deodorants were overwhelming me. I was just happy that I got into Araneta at all, that I was with my Upper Box-turned-Gen Ad posse, and most importantly, that Ateneo beat LaSalle. And being there to witness it firsthand was definitely worth getting sweaty, smooshed, and stepped on. It was a crazy experience, and I loved every squished-like-a-sardine second of it. Thanks to the angels who helped me get tickets (you know who you are!)-- my posse and I thank you from the bottom of our blue-blooded hearts!

* * *

Now although I'm not complaining (much) about Gen Ad, it peeved me a bit to see how roomy it was in Upper B. We could even spy some vacant seats in the LaSalle side! I don't understand why Araneta chose to sell Gen Ad SRO tickets instead of Upper Box SRO, when there is wayyy more standing room in Upper Box. It wouldn't have been so uncomfortable in Gen Ad if there hadn't been so many people-- that is, if Araneta hadn't oversold Gen Ad tix. Not only is it unethical, it's unsafe. If for some reason there had been a stampede, I'd imagine a lot of people getting hurt, especially the elderly and small kids.

* * *

Speaking of small kids, why is it that some parents insist on bringing them to UAAP games?? They're not exactly the most suitable venue for toddlers and kindergarteners. While waiting for the Ateneo-LaSalle game to start, Yang and I were being hit on the head and in the face with inflatable clappers and a foam finger, the culprit being a pesky 2-to-3-year-old girl behind us who kept running around. Finally Yang couldn't take it anymore and turned around to ask the kid to cut it out. A few minutes later, when the brat tried to push past our legs to return to her position behind us, Yang and I completely ignored her and didn't budge, standing our ground until she gave up and found another way around us. Oo na, pinatulan namin ang bata. So sue us.

* * *

It's a good thing Ateneo prevailed, as my boss (i.e. my mom) told me she'd only let me take Thursday afternoon off to watch Game 2 if we win Game 1, her logic being, I can skip work only to see Ateneo win the championship. I'm actually really grateful to my mom for putting up with my Ateneo fanaticism, to the extent that she agreed to move a business trip of ours so as not to let it coincide with the Finals. I missed the 2002 championship; I sure as hell am not missing another... IF it happens. It's not that I have much doubt about it at this point, after our fairly convincing win in Game 1. The possibility of Ateneo bagging the title this season is so palpable everyone is already grabbing hold of it, but I'm also trying to rein in any urges to celebrate prematurely. Let's not count our roast calves before the bonfire, shall we?

* * *

My friend and fellow Atenean Travis writes in his blog that he prefers the batch of Blue Eagles from the 2002 championship team over the line-up we have this year. An excerpt from his blog post reads:

Although the current squad wins with precision plays ending with open layups (Al-Hussaini), open threes (Jai Reyes) and a defense that funnels slashers to a tremendous shot-blocker (Baclao), I like the old squad better. They had far more talent but less effective training, so you'd see a lot of entertaining free-lancing... a reverse layup and step back 3 here (Tenorio), a baseline dunk there (Alvarez), and lots of brute force post-up play (Villanueva).

I don't know if it's primarily because I wasn't around that season when Villanueva and company claimed the UAAP crown for the Blue and White, so I don't have any kind of sentimental attachment to them, but I personally prefer this current crop of Eagles. I wrote at the end of last season about the strange affection I felt towards our boys in blue then, pretty much the same squad we have now save for Ford Arao, Zion Laterre, Ken Barracoso and Emman Monfort. I still feel the same way about this season's team. In response to Travis' blog entry, I posted this comment:

I like this batch of Blue Eagles better, precisely for the reason that they aren't as talented as Villanueva, Alvarez, Tenorio, et al were. That means they have had to work harder and show more discipline. I admire the maturity and level-headedness I see in our boys. Heck, they're not even boys anymore, under the training of Norman Black these guys have grown into men. You see it in Chris' collected leadership, in Rabeh's incredible improvement, in Jai's renewed confidence, and even in the way Nonoy got in Maeirhofer's face after that monster block in the dying seconds of the game (after all, isn't angas a sign of manhood too? :p).

Seriously, though, I was gratified to see the normally mild-mannered Baclao show some uncharacteristic aggression. It tells me there is passion within, and that he wants this championship as badly as any of this teammates. Of course I don't want him trading in his aw-shucks modesty for the kind of blustery swagger Ateneans are notorious for, but it's reassuring to know even Nonoy is getting all fired up. Besides, anyone who mops the floor with Maierhofer can do no wrong in my book.

* * *

In about a few more hours, Fara's supermaids will be lining up at the Araneta Coliseum box office to try to buy tickets for Thursday's game. While I wouldn't really mind sitting in Gen Ad again, I think I would rather have a bit more elbow room this time. I have a hunch I'm going to need it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

If it's so lame then why can't I stop watching it?

Several things that really bug me about the TV series Criminal Minds:
  1. The way they solve cases too quickly, almost abruptly. At least the guys on the CSI shows go through the motions of dusting for prints, testing for blood, and running lab tests. The BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) of the FBI makes it look all too simplistic: profiling serial killers and psychos easy as anything, then apprehending the nutjobs based on the astoundingly accurate profiles. Who needs a crime lab when you can get into the heads of murdering lunatics and predict their next move?
  2. The pathological need to explain everything in excruciating detail, and with illustrative examples to boot. This is a show that presumes its audience isn't as smart as it is, and thus feels obliged to break it all down into bite-sized pieces lest we ignoramuses fail to digest what we're being fed.
  3. How they throw around psychobabble and profiling terms to make them sound more credible (and cool), like "unsub" (unidentified subject), "stressor", "victimology", etc. It just ends up sounding phony.
  4. The lack of chemistry among the members of the BAU, save between resident ladies' man Agent Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) and tech geek Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness, who provides what little comic relief can be expected from a program about serial killers).
  5. Agent Jason Gideon's uncanny-- and unbelievable-- powers of perception. It's like the guy can read minds or something. I loved Mandy Patinkin in the long-defunct Chicago Hope and I adored him in the cult classic The Princess Bride, but this character of his just doesn't do it for me.
  6. The superfluity of Agent Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner (Thomas Gibson). Can anyone explain to me what he contributes to the team aside from giving them their assignments? He's like Bosley from Charlie's Angels, only Bosley didn't have the personality of a piece of cardboard.
  7. Elle's handbag. In one episode, Agent Elle Greenaway (Lola Glaudini) processes a crime scene carrying a small purse. One, what self-respecting FBI agent carries a purse on the job, and two, what self-respecting FBI agent uses a purse that small??
  8. Elle. I can't stand her. She tries too hard to be taken seriously, which makes me not take her seriously at all. She reminds me of the unlovable Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) from CSI.
  9. The vapid blonde who acts as BAU media liaison. Jennifer "JJ" Jareau (AJ Cook) looks more like a college cheerleader than an FBI agent. She doesn't really bring anything to the show either: she's not a profiler so she doesn't contribute input, she's not quirky like Garcia or chock-full of nuggets of helpful information like Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), she's not an alpha female and she's so blah she's not even hot enough to serve as eye candy.
  10. Dr. Spencer Reid's hair. Dude. I know you're supposed to be a dorky boy genius and all, but even dorks should have a decent barber.
But the thing that drives me up the wall the most are the goddamn quotes at the beginning and/or end of each episode, intoned by Gideon most of the time, or sometimes by Hotch or Reid. I actually love quotes, but Criminal Minds is progressively turning me off them (now I can't hear Nietzsche's name without snorting in derision because he's quoted by the show so often). The quotes are pretentious, and for lack of a more apt English adjective, pilit. They're a too transparent attempt to give the show a semblance of profundity or meaning... a profundity or meaning it doesn't really have.

Criminal Minds is like that annoying know-it-all classmate you had in high school, who kept throwing around big words to impress people but only got mocked by the other kids. As far as crime shows go, it's second-rate and can't hold a candle to the CSI or Law and Order franchises, or the underappreciated Without a Trace. But what's disturbing is that in spite of everything that irritates me about this series, after one season, I went and continued watching the second season. Is it shades of masochism, a regressing IQ, or the beginning of an unhealthy addiction? I'd need the BAU to psychoanalyze me and tell me I'm crazy.

"It is hard enough to remember my opinions, without also remembering my reasons for them." -Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fair-weather fans and foul Franz

Yesterday at the Araneta Coliseum, when it was becoming painfully obvious that the Red Warriors were going to lose to the Blue Eagles in the UAAP semifinals, some supporters in red started getting up to go home, even though there was still a lot of time left on the game clock.

Looking across to the gradually emptying UE gallery, in spite of my jubilation that my team was leading by more than 20 points, I felt sincerely sorry for the Warriors. Sure, they weren't playing well (veteran player Marcy Arellano was held scoreless for the entire game), and realistically they couldn't catch up to Ateneo anymore. But it was to be the Warriors' last game of the season, and the last UAAP game for some of their players, including Arellano. You'd think the UE crowd would have the decency to stick around and see their team through to the bitter end. All they did for 2 hours was yell and clap and wave Samsung foam fingers and Accenture banners. Those kids on the floor-- and make no mistake, a lot of UAAP players are still kids-- played 15 physically, mentally and emotionally grueling games this year, fighting for the pride and honor of their school. At the very least they deserved to be applauded after the alma mater hymn had been sung. Sure, losing is no fun, and hanging around seems pointless when the sad outcome is inevitable, but imagine how the Warriors felt at the end of that match. And imagine how they felt when they saw their supporters trickling towards the exits.

Desertion happens to be a hot topic of conversation amongst the UAAP faithful this season, what with La Salle head coach Franz Pumaren's abandonment of the RP Youth team in Tehran in favor of the Ateneo-La Salle match last Saturday. With the Philippine squad out of contention in the tournament, Pumaren decided it was more worth his while to be in Manila coaching the Green Archers who still had a shot at winning rather than fulfill his duty as coach of the national team whom he already considered a lost cause. Whatever flimsy and cheap excuses Bigote came up with (won't even open THAT can of worms), he had a professional, moral and not to mention patriotic obligation to stay with the Youth team. Just because their remaining games were non-bearing didn't give Bigote the right to bail on them. Besides, wasn't Pumaren the one who doggedly recruited these players and convinced them to give up opportunities to play in the NCAA and UAAP in order to represent our country? Doesn't he owe them something for their loyalty and trust? Moreover, what kind of values is he teaching his young players? Winning is not everything, it's the only thing?

Perhaps someone should tell Pumaren that when a ship is sinking, the captain is always the last man to leave, not the first to jump into a lifeboat and leave his crew for dead. When it came down to a choice between fighting and fleeing, he took the coward's way out. By leaving those kids in a lurch, he wounded their morale, betrayed their confidence, and set a terrible example for all sportsmen and sportswomen.

Maybe it's because I was once a teacher of teenagers, maybe it's because I'm the daughter of a former national athlete, but I truly feel for young players representing their school or country. The long hours of training they put in, the juggling act with their studies and social lives, the enormous pressure placed on them by their coaches, family and fans... it's often a thankless pursuit. If they don't perform up to par, they get criticized, cussed at, mocked, jeered, or accused of game-throwing. If they do deliver, very few receive the kind of fame and adulation Chris Tiu gets. So is it really too much to ask supporters to hang around another 10 minutes in order to show their respect and appreciation for their players' efforts, even if they come up short?

And is it really too much to ask the coach to hang around and finish his effing job?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Something I got from Atty. Te's blog

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own Multiply so we can try and track down these people who've read 6 and force books upon them. ;)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (I've read half, I'll finish it someday)
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte's Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

32 read out of 100. Is that even a respectable score? Some of those 32 titles are in italics too, which means I did not finish them. I suddenly realize
, to my chagrin, how many "great" books I have yet to read. And it doesn't help matters that I've made horrible progress on my reading list this year. I blame it on good TV, vacation photos that took forever to upload, and the UAAP. That, and my lazy ass and atrophying brain. I'm a disgrace to bookworms everywhere.

Monday, September 08, 2008

UAAP mysteries

After a weekend of UAAP excitement (the Ateneo-LaSalle game on Saturday and the cheerdance competition on Sunday), the following conundrums have been boggling my mind:
  • Why is Adamson's courtside reporter a LaSalle student?
  • Why don't more Ateneans watch the cheerdance competition, even when the Blue Babble has performed pretty darned well over the past 6 seasons (they're averaging 4th overall!)?
  • Why didn't LaSalle do their Samsung bit before their pep squad started their routine?
  • Why do all of UE's cheers sound suspiciously like cheers of other schools?
  • What was wrong with Jayvee Casio's shoes on the day of the ADMU-DLSU game?
  • Why does Rico Maierhofer talk to himself so often? And what does he say to himself?
  • Is "YMCA" easier to spell than "DLSU"?
  • Why do some members of the Atenean community call Baclao "Nownow"?
  • What will happen to all the unsold Ateneo #17 t-shirts next season?
  • Does the "Gang Green" realize they named themselves after the black, foul-smelling decay of body tissue?
And the biggest head-scratcher (and hair-puller) of them all:
  • Why, why, WHY does Norman Black persist in fielding Bacon Austria even when he continues to screw up monumentally during crucial points in the game???
Theories, wild guesses, sarcastic rejoinders and actual answers would be very much appreciated.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Why the Palin pregnancy does not deserve privacy

For once, I wish Barack Obama weren't so ethical.

It has been announced that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter Bristol (who names their daughter BRISTOL anyway?) is 5 months pregnant. This has ignited a media firestorm, but the Democrats have been extra careful not to use the issue as ammunition against their opponents. Obama has been quoted as saying, "I think people's families are off-limits, and people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president."

That's very nice and considerate of the gentleman from Illinois, and I'm a fan of the idealism he inspires and all, but can we be realistic for a moment here? Yes, the families of high-profile politicians should be off-limits, but they never are, and it's kind of foolish to insist on it when their spouse/father/mother/sibling is running for office, and in this case, the second highest seat of government in the world's most powerful nation. Moreover, if they're involved in an issue that is relevant to the politician's career, as in the case of the Palins, then it's understandable and unavoidable that they will get dragged into it. Sarah Palin is a staunch advocate of family values and abstinence, and opposes making sex education a requisite in American schools. Now here she is with a pregnant teenage daughter. Obama says this has no relevance to Palin's potential performance as a vice president. I beg to disagree. If Palin can't even manage her children, what does that say about her capability to help manage an entire country? Moreover, Bristol's pregnancy makes a mockery out of her mother's support of abstinence-only programs, and casts a shadow of doubt over Palin's judgment. It's like Bill Gates' kids going out and buying a Mac; if your own children don't respect your operating system (so to speak), then why should anyone else?

And may I just say that I hate it when politicians and celebrities invoke their right to privacy? I'm sorry, but I think they forfeited that right when they chose to pursue a career that puts them squarely in the public eye. In exchange for power and fame and fortune, they have to put up with pesky members of the press who hound their every step and record their every move. And that goes for the people they're connected with, whether it's someone they're dating, someone they married, or someone they gave birth to. And I call that a fair deal.
Celebrity babies like TomKat's Suri or Brangelina's multi-racial brood get photographed by paparazzi all the time; it's the price to be paid for their parents' lifestyle. Princes William and Harry grew up in the media spotlight by virtue of their being born into the Royal Family, and borne by Britain's most famous Princess. The Bush twins' escapades were easy material for punchlines for Leno and Letterman. What makes Sarah Palin's offspring so special that they should be spared, especially when one of them gets pregnant by a self-professed "f***in' redneck" who doesn't want kids?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not chastising Bristol Palin for having poor taste in men or getting knocked up at 17. No one is attacking the daughter directly, she's just collateral damage. It's the mother who's under fire. And she put herself AND her family in the line of fire by deciding to run for vice president. I'm not just questioning the wisdom of running for vice president when she just gave birth to a baby with Down's syndrome (yes, women can hold down a job and be good mothers at the same time, but not all working moms have kids with special needs, and certainly not all of them are running for vice president of the United States of America). What I'm pointing out is that Palin implicitly agreed to subject her family to public scrutiny when she accepted John McCain's offer to be his running mate, so she has no right to ask people to respect her daughter's privacy when it was she who compromised it in the first place. She knew her daughter was pregnant going into this. She knew this would become a huge, blown-out-of-proportion deal. She knew the whole world would end up talking and forming harsh opinions about her daughter. She knew she'd be throwing Bristol to the wolves. I don't know about any of you, but I'm not about to nominate Palin for Mother of the Year. As the saying goes, charity begins at home. But apparently, not in the Palin home.

When it comes to selecting government officials, I believe that character is as important, if not more important, than competence. And family values and relationships reveal a lot about an individual's character. So why should that be off-limits? The public has a right to know, so the media is duty-bound to use it as fodder. Look at John Edwards. Look at Nicolas Sarkozy. Look at Bill Clinton.

Sarah Palin may be competent as a public servant, but with the revelation of her daughter's pregnancy, and the hypocrisy with which she's handling it, one has to have serious doubts about the strength of her character. And that, I believe, is very much relevant.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

House still rules

(WARNING: Don't read the following review if you haven't seen Seasons 1-3 of House.)

The end of House, Season 3 saw the adorably antagonistic diagnostician Gregory House losing all 3 of his "ducklings" (as fans of the show fondly refer to the trio). Foreman resigned, Chase was fired, Cameron also quit, and the latter 2 officially became an item. The season finale left viewers wondering what was to become of the show and its dynamics, with only the certainty that House would return as snide, sarcastic, and supremely brilliant as ever.

Season 4 kicks off with the beleaguered Dr. Cuddy, Dean of Medicine at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, and the long-suffering oncologist Wilson, House's BFF, urging House to hire new fellows. House decides to undertake the search for his disciples reality game show-style, starting with a big group of candidates and pitting them against each other, testing their skill and mettle as they help House solve the medical mysteries that come their way. House brutally fires candidates at the end of each episode a la Donald Trump, gradually narrowing the field to his favorites. The process is crazy but effective, as only House can pull off, and it is thoroughly entertaining, notwithstanding --indeed, perhaps because of-- Cuddy's consternation.

House eventually picks out 3 new ducklings (and I'm pleased with his choices), but thankfully we haven't seen the last of his original 3 acolytes. Foreman, Chase and Cameron are still around, with marked changes in their personalities that show how working with House the past 3 years has changed all of them, for better or worse. I especially like seeing how Chase is clearly enjoying no longer being House's whipping boy, and it gives him the masculinity he needed to be upgraded from cute to hot. I don't like Cameron as a blonde, but I like her better now that she's no longer mooning over House. Foreman is coming to terms with the internal struggle between his respect for and resentment towards House, and it is amusing to see how he resists becoming like House, yet thinks and acts like him more and more.

Of course some things still haven't changed: House's complete disregard for Cuddy's authority, his continued dependence on and abuse of Wilson's friendship, his horrible bedside manner, his Vicodin addiction, and his uncanny ability to get to the bottom of even the most complicated, puzzling medical cases. Season 4's House is a bit more of a loose cannon than he was in previous seasons, but as in Season 2, his softer side slips through the cracks in his armor of cynicism ever-so-occasionally. My favorite episodes are "Frozen", guest starring Mira Sorvino as a psychiatrist stationed in the South Pole who's having debilitating abdominal pains, and possibly the first patient House shows a genuine personal concern for, and the terrific 2-part season finale, which features a conflict that will put House and Wilson's friendship to the ultimate test. Next to the loony twosome of Boston Legal's Alan Shore and Denny Crane, House and Wilson have the most fascinating best-buddy dynamics on TV today: one's a self-centered, needy, abusive junkie, and the other's a patient pushover who thrives on neediness. Watching them's like watching an old married couple who banter and bicker and basically can't live without one another.

It's a relief that House is one of those rare TV series that don't lose their charm after 2 or 3 seasons. Just when I was afraid it would turn stale, it shook things up by throwing in drastic and dramatic plot twists, introducing new characters, and giving old ones new dimensions to keep them interesting.
Props to the writers of the show, who keep the teleplays engaging and the dialogues full of the ripostes, retorts, and ruminations we have come to expect from and love about House and company. Above all, though, the show is anchored by Hugh Laurie's prodigious acting talent: House is a product not only of the show's creators, but of the humor, intelligence, and depth Laurie lends to the character (not to mention his flawless American accent). I find it outrageous he has yet to win an Emmy for playing this role. Maybe, hopefully, this year?

And after the Emmys, Season 5! I really hope House and Wilson work things out, they make such a cute couple...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Anyone in Singapore coming home to Manila soon?

My barely 2-year-old digicam is on the brink of death, and because an incurable camwhore such as myself cannot survive without a fully functional camera for very long, I need to buy a replacement ASAP. I'm a Casio loyalist, and I swear by their Exilim line, so I headed over to the Exilim website to check out the latest models. After studying and comparing specs, I've decided on the EX-Z250:

It's a 9.1 megapixel camera with 4x optical zoom and an eye-popping 3-inch LCD, plus it has face detection technology and night scene shooting capabilities without the need for an inhumanly steady hand or a tripod. It also features "makeup mode", which is perfect for camwhores like me who love taking vanity shots. Most importantly, the size is purse-friendly and handy (96.7 x 57.3 x 19.9mm), so I can bring it with me to barkada dinners, formal parties, and trips abroad without it taking up too much space in my bag. My only dilemma is I don't know which color I want to get. All my previous digicams have been silver, so I'm bored with it. I'm thinking black suits my personality (and matches my soul), but damn, the red is calling to me...

Now that I've found the right camera, I now need to find someone in Singapore who can buy it for me AND bring it to Manila. Digicam prices in Lahlah Land are always lower, and I'm hoping to save a couple thousand bucks on this purchase. So if anyone out there can help me out, I'd be a very, very happy camwhore.