Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pop quiz!

1. Why hasn't Ailee been blogging as regularly the past couple of months?
a) no material: she's running out of things to write about
b) no time:
she's too much of a social butterfly
c) no inclination: she'd rather be doing something else
d) all of the above

2. Since she has been neglecting her blog, what has Ailee been up to online instead?
a) uploading photos to Multiply
b) getting hooked on Twitter
c) chatting on Yahoo Messenger
d) all of the above

3. Aside from her blogging, what else has suffered?
a) her reading
b) her DVD watching
c) her sleeping
d) all of the above

4. Which of the following books did Ailee start reading, only to stop after a few pages?
a) Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk
b) The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
c) Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
d) all of the above

5. Which of the following has Ailee managed to watch in the meantime?
a) the Broadway musical Spring Awakening
b) the grossly overrated rom-com The Proposal
c) some episodes of Project Runway Philippines, Season 2
d) all of the above

6. What is the reason for Ailee's uncharacteristic blog silence?
a) self-improvement: she's curbing her overly opinionated tendencies
b) privacy: she's gradually retreating from her prolific online persona
laziness: she's sinking into a comfortable rut of mental inactivity
d) all of the above

7. Inquiring minds may want to know: how has Ailee's general disposition been during this period of blog silence?
a) stressed and fatigued
b) confused but content
c) hopeful and happy
d) all of the above

8. After this post, what will Ailee most probably blog about next?
a) politics
b) photography
c) pancakes
d) none of the above

Monday, October 19, 2009

So much for security

Every time I enter a mall or hotel or theater and am stopped by a security guard for a bag check, I feel a twinge of exasperated annoyance. I find this so-called security measure of peeking into people's bags laughably pointless. Some guards don't even bother looking, they just poke a finger or stick into the bag and let that suffice as "checking". Others just wave a metal detector thingy in front of the bag, and even when the device emits a shrill shriek or beep, the guard allows the person through anyway. Also, most guards only check bags, but not the other packages/shopping bags the person is carrying. And there's the occasional body frisk, but really, does that result in anything other than the awkward feeling of getting groped by a total stranger?

It's all so cursory, so superficial, and so careless, if someone really wanted to smuggle firearms or what not into the premises, it would be too ridiculously easy to do so. Same thing goes for carpark security checks, when the guards open the trunks of vehicles to look for God knows what (a big box labeled "BOMB", or sticks of dynamite with a ticking clock attached?), usually not even accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs, or armed only with that stupid long-handled mirror they run underneath the vehicle (because you know, all smart terrorists still tape their explosives to the underside of their cars).

Yesterday's daring daytime armed robbery of a pricey watch store at Greenbelt 5 only proved how insufficient and impotent these security measures are. While the guards glanced into every ominous-looking Gucci purse or Prada handbag that passed by them, they let a bunch of armed men walk right into the mall unquestioned and uncontested. Because they were wearing bomb squad uniforms. Seriously. Seriously!?! That's like the oldest trick in the Hollywood heist movie handbook! Don't they teach that in security guard school or something?? When guys with big guns ask to enter, stop and consider for a moment that THEY'RE GUYS WITH BIG GUNS. Duh.

Maybe instead of wasting time and inconveniencing innocent civilians with bag checks and car trunk inspections, security groups should focus on training their guards to identify potential security threats and spot the real dangerous individuals, not to mention know how to neutralize them. If Taguig Mayor Freddie Tinga's bodyguards (who happened to be in the vicinity because Tinga was lunching nearby) hadn't engaged the robbers in a shootout, all the crooks would have gotten away free and clear. Security guards around the city need to do more than stand at mall entrances pressing clickers to keep track of daily foot traffic. They should dispense with the silly procedure of searching for lethal weapons in tiny purses and concentrate on REALLY securing the area they're supposed to be guarding against, oh say, the people toting huge-ass guns.

The ironic thing is, because of what happened at Greenbelt, now all malls and other commercial establishments are going to be even more paranoid and go on heightened alert for fear of becoming the next target of armed robbers. So over the next few weeks, we're probably going to see stricter "security measures", like 2-second bag peeks instead of the 1-second standard, metal-detector gadgets that shriek more loudly, and bigger mirrors with longer handles to scan car underbellies with. Hell, maybe they'll start doing random cavity searches. I feel safer already.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Making the grade

Last week, my favorite unabashedly Ateneanly biased blog Nonoy For President published a blind item of sorts about one of our Blue Eagles having been informed by one of his professors that he had flunked her class... before Game 3 of the Finals against UE. A few days later, I heard the same bit of campus chismis from another reliable source, so I assumed it must be for real. I had mixed reactions to the news. On the one hand, the true Blue fangirl in me was appalled by the apparent callousness of the prof-- "How can the bitch be so heartless?? Cut the kid some slack!" On the other hand, the exasperatingly ethical former teacher in me shrugged it off as, "If he failed, he failed. A basketball championship doesn't and shouldn't change that."

Back when I was still teaching, whenever students came up to me after receiving their report cards to thank me for "giving" them a good grade, I would always reply, "Don't thank me, that grade came from you, not me." And while I have never been one to put much stock in grades as an accurate measure of real learning, to a certain extent they do reflect the effort, and sometimes the acumen, a student devoted to the class. Technically, we aren't supposed to regard grades as reward or punishment, for objectively they're really just an evaluation of performance, and nothing personal. But realistically, they ARE personal, because they are the product of both the person who earned them, and the person who decided what the other one deserved.

However, the personal nature of grades doesn't imply that they should be doled out based on emotions alone, such as pity. There still has to be some concrete basis for grades, some tangible evidence of achievement or progress. This is why the proposal to issue "calamity diplomas" to students affected by the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Ondoy was simply ludicrous. Thankfully, the idea was quickly dismissed by the DepEd, and just as quickly qualified by Senator Chiz Escudero, who explained that he had merely suggested relaxing requirements for the current semester in consideration of students victimized by Ondoy. This is pretty much what Ateneo did for its entire student population from grade school to university level, cancelling final exams across the board for this current grading period. That's cura personalis for you, and that's the right balance between sticking to the letter of the law, so to speak, and honoring its spirit.

So if the unnamed Blue Eagle hadn't put in the work, if he had slacked off and taken the class for granted the whole sem, possibly thinking no profs flunk varsity basketball players anyway, then he definitely had the F coming, and the teacher had every right to deal it to him. But if there had been some effort, if there had been some wiggle room, some leeway to be given, then perhaps the prof should have extended consideration to a kid who, let's face it, had been kinda too busy majoring in basketball to actually get any studying done. Or at the very least she could have waited until after Game 3 to break the news to him. No one should get a free pass, but everyone should bear in mind a grade is always more than a mere number or letter.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Alas, Atlantis, Spring fell short

I had high expectations for Atlantis Productions' staging of the Broadway musical Spring Awakening because 1) it had won 8 Tony Awards in 2007; 2) the music is written by Duncan Sheik, and I've always loved Duncan Sheik; and 3) Atlantis had impressed me with their production of Hairspray last year. And perhaps because of my high expectations, Spring Awakening, sadly, failed to wow me.

I suspect that, more than anything, it was the lackluster acting from the cast of relative unknowns that diminished my enjoyment of the show. The material was compelling enough: set in Germany in 1891, the story revolves around a group of teenagers discovering their burgeoning sexuality, and coming to terms with it within the repressive and oppressive society they're growing up in. However, the seething passions and roiling emotions weren't conveyed convincingly enough by the young (and not-so-young) actors, led by Joaquin Valdes playing the idealistic intellectual Melchior, and Kelly Lati in the role of sweet, innocent Wendla. The effort was there, to be sure, but the best acting should always come off as effortless, and throughout the play I just saw a lot of ... trying. The
singing was good, but not great, and only Valdes' voice showed any potential for power in terms of both range and feeling. Moreover, the execution of the choreography was disappointing, lacking fluidity and grace, and served to distract from rather than contribute to the overall performance.

Duncan Sheik's score was catchy, but I found Steven Sater's lyrics wanting for poetry, and not really very memorable (
to illustrate: two days later I still have the song "Totally Fucked" stuck in my head, but only the part that goes, "Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah"). I did like "The Word of Your Body" and "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind", but the latter was ruined for me by the poor enunciation of Nicco Manalo, who played Moritz. Throughout the play, I could hardly understand what he was saying/singing half the time. Pity, because Moritz was one of the most engaging characters, and pity too because Bea Garcia, who played Ilse, did an excellent job singing "Blue Wind". Garcia also held her own in "The Dark I Know Well" alongside bossa nova singer Sitti, who was surprisingly nondescript as Martha. Again, I had expected to be blown away by raw emotion during that particular number, as it is a song brimming with anger, fear, and self-loathing, but I was underwhelmed instead.

I now wonder if I would gain a better appreciation of Spring Awakening given a different production or at least a different cast. I get the sense that the musical itself is actually much better than what I had seen, so this time around I think Atlantis let me down. That said, I still give them credit for putting on an entertaining show, and for bringing quality Broadway musicals to local audiences. I look forward to the next one.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The will to win

Because I had the incredibly good fortune to score last-minute Lower Box tickets to yesterday's championship game between Ateneo and UE, my BBFF (Best Blue Fellow Fan) Yang and I had an amazing vantage view of all the action on the hardcourt. And thanks to that vantage view, we could clearly see the fire burning in the eyes of our boys in blue.

I've gotten so used to sitting (or standing) in Gen Ad and Upper Box that I had forgotten what it's like to see the players up close, and how evident the emotions on their faces can be. The set jaws, the steely stares, the animal yells, the pained grimaces, the rueful smiles, the smug smirks, the confident swaggers... in the heat of battle, there's no concealing what the combatants are feeling, and yesterday it was crystal clear the Eagles were flying high on passion. From start to finish, there was never any doubt that they came to win, that they wanted to win, and that desire to win was manifest in their aggressive offense, unyielding defense,
tireless rebounding, and unwavering focus. Coming from a humbling and even humiliating loss in Game 2, in Game 3 our boys dug deep, and proved it's all about PUSO. And as UST coach Pido Jarencio once said, "Never i-underestimate ang pusong Atenista".

It was actually the memory of Ateneo's 2006 finals defeat to UST that worried me going into our last match against UE. Back then we had similarly taken Game 1 by a close margin, then lost Game 2 in a blowout, and ultimately fell to the Tigers in Game 3. That was also the year of Milenyo, which had delayed the series, the same way this season's finals were delayed by Ondoy. With the uncanny similarities, I couldn't help but picture a scenario where UE coach Lawrence "Walang Buhaghag" Chongson would pull a Pido on us and snatch victory from our outstretched talons in his rookie season. Also, terrifying visions of Red Warriors Paul Lee, Elmer Espiritu, and Val Acuna sinking three-pointer after three-pointer danced through my head (as well as terrifying visions of Pari Llagas, period). I was fully expecting a close contest, and fully counting on the Eagles to defend their crown with everything they got, down to the last second.

As it turns out, they didn't have to, but they gave it all they got anyway. And it was a joy to see our boys play their hearts out. Kirk Long showed no traces of his usual hesitation, Nonoy Baclao was his usual made-of-basketball-awesome self, Ryan Buenafe regained his fighting form, Jai Reyes' shotgun was locked and loaded, Eric Salamat shot, stole, and saluted, and Rabeh Al-Hussaini kept his temper under control and his stats up to MVP standards. By no means was it the perfect game (they missed way too many free throws and fastbeak scoring opportunities), but by golly it was a damn good fight. The sizable difference in the final scores indicates a blowout, but I have to point out the Warriors were no slouches. And though a lot of their shots just didn't seem to want to sink in, they still kept fighting, and I didn't allow myself to relax or start celebrating until the dying minutes of the match.

By the way, I was glad to see the UE gallery didn't empty out early like during last year's semis match. The Warriors deserved to be cheered by their supporters even after a disappointing outcome. They were one of the most exciting teams to watch this season, and their players truly do have mad skills. And their coach has great hair.

But back to Blue. Or Black. Norman Black, that is. In the fallout of Game 2, there were snide whispers of "benta si Black", and since I didn't get to watch the game, I can't say whether or not there was basis for suspicion. In my previous post, I stated my stand on accusing players of game-throwing, and I extend the same benefit of the doubt to Coach Norman. Besides, just as I saw the intensity in the way the Eagles played yesterday, I also saw the respect they have for their coach, in how they carried out his plays, how they respond to his instructions and admonishments, and how they hoisted him onto their shoulders when the game was won. I have a hard time believing any mentor can repay such loyalty with treachery. I'm more inclined to think Game 2 was lost due to overconfidence more than anything.

Thankfully, there was none of that in Game 3, and even when they were leading by as much as 20 points the Blue Eagles didn't get complacent. When it comes to big sports victories, people tend to wax poetic with words like "destiny" and "believe", but yesterday's win didn't feel so much fated as earned, through grit and hustle and teamwork. And yesterday's win didn't feel so much destined as deserved.

To Jai, Nonoy and Rabeh, I'm glad I got to watch you play your last game for the Blue and White. Thanks for the blood, sweat and tears you poured into bringing glory and honor to our beloved alma mater. You were among the finest to wear Ateneo jerseys, and you will be sorely missed next season. We pray Mary keeps you constantly true, and always true Blue.

To the rest of our boys in blue, I'm proud of how far you've come and how you stepped up when called on. Though the team is losing 3 key guys next year, there is still a lot of talent among you; and though you may not dominate, though the goal of a "threepeat" seems far too lofty and ludicrous at this point, nevertheless we hold high hopes for you to fly high. Win or lose, we'll be rooting for you.

Here's to the champions. Here's to keeping the crown in Loyola. Here's to a great season, and here's to one more reason ang sarap maging Atenista.