Friday, November 30
Thursday, November 29
“I think it is the responsibility of teachers, and other educators, to evaluate students based on intelligence and competency rather than on regurgitation of textbook mumbo-jumbo. Scientists have taught monkeys, and dolphins, to remember things like sounds, shapes, and words. I think humans, even young ones, should be held to a standard a tad higher.”True, there is a lot to be said for this country’s state of education as well. It’s not so much as a dumbing down, but perhaps a tendency to be more lax, to allow witticisms and the ability to bluff pass as I sign of intelligence. We only need to look at the kind of game show contestants crowding our television sets. You can be sure that each of those contestants had been in school at one point in their lives, and most of them with college degrees. But given questions that require, in the very least, knowledge of trivia and common sense, they all seem to be newly lobotomized.
It can be argued that game shows flourish for fun and the possibility of earning a quick buck, and I don’t think such questions as “discuss and differentiate the quantity theory of insanity as culled from the text of Will Self and Hedda Gabbler” would figure in prime time television. We may complain and wrinkle our noses at all the game shows, the extra sudsy soap operas, dubbed or otherwise, and proclaim all of these as unspeakably jologs. It is. They are made that way because the target market is specifically and undeniably masa.
Jologs is not an invention or a byword but a demographic: It is the product of research, the countless studies and focus group discussions involving that specific audience. No matter how baduy we may think those shows are, as long as a large number of people watch them with zest, and discuss the plot points on the jeepney or in the MRT, their existence will be assured. The advertisers will continue to sell their products to us in between the gaps, just when you’re on the edge of your seat waiting to see who gets voted out, slapped or raised from the dead.
Elsewhere in jologs land: Mark plays with his Jolina dolls and provides us a backstage view of a formerly leather clad Kris Aquino.
Haven’t these guys ever watched a prison movie?
I caught this evening's screening of Sana Pag-ibig Na (1998), directed by Jeffrey Jeturian from a script by Armando Lao. Sana Pag-ibig Na examines the emotional turbulence that rocks a university professor's family when his infidelity is discovered after his death. Whose loyalty should you choose? Who is the better woman -- your mother or your father's mistress? The professor's wife, their son, and the mistress shift allegiances and learn to live with the harsh situation thrust upon them.
Given that the situation is staple melodrama, the actors turn out very fine and understated performances. Nida Blanca's wronged wife is pitiful, angry, mean and then finally at peace with herself. Gerald Madrid manages to convey the confusion and anger he initially felt at his father's betrayal, and then later the guilt for having befriended his father's other woman. And Angel Aquino is surprisingly non-hysterical in a role that could have ended up in complete shout- and slapfests.
Sana Pag-ibig Na was produced on a shoestring budget as part of the pito-pito movie trend from the late 90s. Although critically acclaimed, the movie never really found its audience. It is therefore a bit sad that the theater was only half full, which could be expected since the university has only a handful of classes on Wednesdays.
Wednesday, November 28
Monday, November 26
I think I had that for breakfast somewhere and spit it out. But I'm not too sure. Let's not discuss this so early in the morning.
Sunday, November 25
It occured to me that perhaps I should take up French again. A foreign language allows you to see things from a different perspective. You will have to assume another frame of mind where a particular language and culture makes sense. Abandon all thought in English, and then it makes sense why "au fond de la salle" is "at the back of the room." Of course. An action continuing, yet to be completed requires a form of verb different from that action that's been long over.
But this presents a handicap: We live in a country with so many tongues that does not in a way resemble French or any of the Romance languages. It would be more pragmatic to take up Cebuano or Ilocano and actually understand what's being said around you. But I've long found out that I can never go beyond saying Para and Magkano ito in any of the regional languages. It's always the wrong curling of the vowels, the hard stump of consonants and nasal intonations. I tried to listen to the flow of the words, and attune myself to the rhythm of speech and syntax, and failed miserably in that pursuit. It makes me feel like a stranger, in my own land, with all the conversation going around me and I couldn't understand why everyone was laughing. There is no other choice but to watch the unfolding of arms, the occasional nod, the knotted brows, or the wide smiles.
This is the downside of being raised in Manila all my life, with no province to go to on summer vacations, of not being let out of the house to play tumbang preso with the neighborhood kids, and learning how to speak Tagalog in preschool. Somewhere here is an anomaly. While I can process both speech and thought in both English and Filipino, the end product is something of a hodgepodge. The thought conceives itself in one language and then comes out as speech in a fractured, two-pronged, broken eludition of words. The flaw manifests itself in the writing: while conversation can sustain the imperfection, seeing the lapse standing out from a page renders the imperfection real and subject to scrutiny. You seek to amend it, and take refuge in the idea that perhaps, the third language will solve the problem. But at the back of your mind, you are resigned to your fate that you will forever be burdened by the confusion of tongues.
Saturday, November 24
Friday, November 23
The natural rebuttal to this would be to trot out the old globalisation bit. We all live in one giant global village blah blah. But what does that mean? If you try to be a citizen of the world, disregarding all cultural, social and economic boundaries, what's left is a hodgepodge of people who don't know exactly who they are. In a time when everyone's being pushed to be a cultural sponge, it becomes necessary to retain a distinct national identity. Know their holidays, their language, their pop culture references, their excesses. But I draw the line at celebrating Thanksgiving. To do so would be to bow to cultural imperialism. Or as a guy friend pointed out: We're brown; and they ain't our forefathers. What I really want to say is: Why would I want to take part in a celebration that has no meaning for me? So they can sell me Hallmark cards?
[The snow explanation came from poet-critic Isagani Cruz in one of his columns somewhere. The "no snow and no raspberries" bit is from Butch Dalisay's Killing Time In A Warm Place.]
Thursday, November 22
Wednesday, November 21
Tuesday, November 20
Saturday, November 17
Of the films in the list, I've only managed to see Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love. It's a well made, well shot exploration of repressed urges in 1960s Hongkong. There are no flashy experimental quick cuts, no MTV craziness. But it breathes melancholy and lush visuals, and it might just be the best film I've seen this year. Also on the list is Memento, which I have not seen. From the reviews it sounds like Harold Pinter with amnesia.
What troubles me though is that It's nearly the end of the year, and I expect top ten lists of everything soon enough. I'm looking at my list right now and it seems that if things don't change, mine won't even reach ten. My list is a mixture of festival viewings and carryovers from last year's lineup. Requiem for a dream is still way up there in terms of mind blowing sadness and woe. Time and Tide with its frenetic visuals and violence seems like a Tarantino-Wong Kar Wai coproduction, and Booba threatens to be the most interesting Pinoy film seen this year. There were interesting experiments, like Radyo and Sa Huling Paghihintay which tried to use arthouse style visuals, editing and atmosphere, but they somehow forgot that for all of those to be useful, they must have a story. Narrative content still wins over style. Style is nothing without story, no matter what the cigarette ads tell you. I've seen nearly a hundred movies so far -- arthouse, festival circuit, commercial blends, everything -- and to echo Pauline Kael -- Why are movies so bad?
Friday, November 16
Tuesday, November 13
I half commit myself to some distant future date. I often talk to someone about it and suggest that in six months it will be done, so I set up a kind of deadline. But most of the intervening period disappears in a kind of anxious state of walking about. You cannot start until you know what you want to do, and you do not know what you want to do until you start. That is Catch-22. Panic breaks that circle. Finally a certain force in the accumulated material begins to form a pattern.When I grow up, I wanna be like Tom, or at least, David Mamet.
The crash was ruled out to be a purely technical accident, but of course, when the news got here the speculation was all about terrorists. I was on location shooting when it happened, and the first thing I did when I got home was turn on my pc and log on to the news sites. Then my bloody server was down, Blogger was down. What the freak is happening?
Monday, November 12
Saturday, November 10
If you have time, head for the Shangri-la Plaza mall and catch the Israeli film festival. Btw, the guy who plays Amnon is a cross between Edward Norton and David Duchovny. Yum. Gorgeous guy, good movies, free admission. It's a good bargain.
Friday, November 9
Director Eytan Fox's Song of the Siren is supposed to be a movie about love in the time of scud missiles. Tel Aviv in 1991 was about gas masks and rushing into bomb shelters sealed with plastic sheets and masking tape. They had advisories on how to decontaminate yourself from possible biological attacks. Talk show hosts were discussing the necessity of intimacy in a time of terror.
It sounded so eerily familiar. Does talcum powder work against anthrax? Can you still get away with big hair and big hips and not get stoned by girls with eating disorders? Is Talila a woman of the 90s who crossed over orange couches, fuzzy robes, buckets of popcorn and morphed in Bridget Jones? Ten years ago I would have dissed Talila and the whole wailing over singlehood thing. As with Ms. Jones, she seemed to be concerned only about getting attached, even if she was a rich and succesful ad girl. She had complete All-by-myself moments and appeased herself with buying a new couch. "At least even if I am alone I would be comfortable." If it weren't a sharp, funny movie, I would have said that this is an authentic nineties nightmare flashback. Maybe I *should* get myself a new couch.
Thursday, November 8
The Philippines consists of more than 7,000 islands, but the bulk of the population lives on just 11 of them. The terrain is mostly mountainous and subject to earthquakes and eruptions from around 20 active volcanoes.Talk about population density. 81 million Pinoys squeezed into 11 major islands. I suggest that we find creative uses for the other small, unoccupied islands. We can put deposed dictators and cronies in them, and surround that with sharks. Although I'm sure even the sharks would barf out their putrid flesh.
Two presidents of the Philippines have been forced from office by "people power" in the space of 15 years.
Tuesday, November 6
Measuring the creative entropy that afflicts TV series has become a popular form of do-it-yourself cultural analysis. Recently, the phrase ''jumping the shark'' has entered the lexicon, referring to that point in its run when a series, having exhausted its premise, resorts to desperate novelty to keep itself alive. At the Web site that popularized the concept -- named after a late episode of ''Happy Days'' in which the aging Fonzie undertakes a death-defying water-skiing stunt -- the various ways in which a show can go bad are cataloged by example: ''New Kid in Town,'' ''Special Guest Star,'' ''Singing,'' ''Birth,'' ''Death.'' The part of the site dedicated to shows that never jumped the shark is headed by a picture of the Simpson family squeezed together on their indestructible living-room couch.The freshness of the Springfield universe has a lot to do with the freedom that animation provides. The Simpsons can go everywhere and go through anything, but Bart will always be ten years old with no impending puberty. And then there is the writing. Each Simpsons episode is nine months in the making -- from conceptualization, first drafts, voicing, animation and lots of rewriting. ''A good 'Simpsons' script is when you change 75 percent and everyone goes, 'Good script,' '' says Matt Selman, who joined the staff, at the age of 25, in 1997. ''A bad script is when you change 85 percent and everybody goes, 'Bad script.' '' The show is also insulated from the outside force of impending doom that is network intervention. Matt Groening says it best: "Maybe the authorities do not have your best interests at heart."
Springfield has it going. In the regular TV world, you better get that script done in 3 days or there will be no show. You do the best that you can, and there's still no excuse for all the trash that's currently showing. Ours is a situation wherein the shark is not even jumping, nor can you jump it. The shark is dying.
Monday, November 5
The Fates dumped closure right on my lap when I least expected it. I am still shell shocked.
Sunday, November 4
I probably work in computers, or a history
deptartment at a college. I never really
fit in with the "normal" crowd. But I have
friends, and this is a good thing.
But then again, the test leans more on the techie sort of geekiness. I'm more from the old school of geek: the kind who read a lot of Edith Hamilton as a kid and considered mythology more lively than the soap opera currently showing on television, the kind who watched, read and nearly memorized everything Woody Allen, who charts a table of all the movies she's seen this year, and would be more than willing to hang out with the teacher.
Take the GEEK Test at Fuali.com! I am a geek, hear me roar. And btw, I don't sport a beard nor do I wear glasses. Hehe.
If we open our heads what will we find? Gilda Cordero Fernando bets that there will be "a quarter pounder hamburger, a beauty contest, a Hallmark card, an apple pie, a ticket to Disneyland, a surgically lifted nose, an English-speaking yaya." The Pinoy believes that the Western life is more superior than ours, and thus buys a first world lifestyle with a third world economy.
The pursuit of everything Western has brought us to every country on the map, and with the distinction of being the best atsay in the world. Sometimes we don't seem to mind, as long as it gets us our dollars, the chocolates and sneakers, never mind that those same sneakers etc are products of sweatshops of likewise indentured races like our own. Of course we are going to go down in debt, like the old mythical island of Lemuria, an ancient civilization that drowned in the ocean of its own abuse of power and spirituality.