Tuesday, August 31

It's my most favorite time of the year

My favorite time of the year is coming up. And it's also crunch time at school. The Cine Europa opens on Thursday, 2 September, and it falls on the same day as the deadline for dropping. If you check the sched for the UP Film Center, the Eiga Sai and Australian film festivals are also coming up.

I'm tempted to accept the invite to swing by The Podium for the Cine Europa cocktails and watch a movie. I've been checking papers for far too long, and The Dungeon is getting moldy, I need fresh airconditioned air.

The movie lineup for Cine Europa includes Young Adam, which I already got in my DVD run for W a couple of weeks back. There were a lot of interesting titles. I think I got more for myself than him: the Fay Wray Kingkong, Quentin Tarantino's True Romance, the Ethan Hawke Hamlet, The Bicycle Thief. We got the last one at this stall that practically has an inventory good enough to run a film school. They had Rene Clair, Truffaut and all those nice
French dadaists. But alas, my brother also pointed out that we do not have a dvd player. Oh well.

But we got the most important title of all--Ruffa Mae Quinto's Masikip sa Dibdib. I didn't get Imelda anymore because the copy was a bit, er, unstable. On the day I was supposed to leave, I had a panic attack: What if the immigration people stop me because of pirated dvds? I was slipping out a national treasure, i.e. Ruffa Mae's boobies. So I took out all the sleeves and just took the discs.

For the first time, I wouldn't be able to just park my rump for 3 straight screenings at Megamall all because I have to be in school. Feh.

Saturday, August 28

Don't You Dare Blink

wagkukurap.jpg taken from igma.tv website

Wag Kukurap, GMA 7's new scare show hosted by Dingdong Dantes, portrays the supernatural and horror stories based on people's real life experiences. The opening scene of each episode of the twinbill declares that it is "halaw sa karanasan ni x/y movie star."

Episode one was about Sex Bomb girl Jacque Esteves' hair raising vacation in her grandmother's house, the proverbial "bahay ni lola." Jacque's visit was punctuated by appearances of severed hands bound by chains under the dinner table. If it continued, she would have died from sheer hunger and maybe bulimia. So poor Jacque couldn't sleep and clamored for dear lola to look over her while she slept.

The lola was played by Lola Oba from Surf's Lumen ads, and she promptly abandoned the poor girl the moment she closed her eyes. Suddenly, heavy breathing could be heard from underneath the bed. It could have been (1) a stalled airconditioner, (2) baradong tubo, or (3) a ghost with asthma and very poor breathing skills. Jacque screams when she saw #3, ghost turns face to her, perhaps to ask for help so it could breathe, but no, she screams her lungs out. At least we know that Jacque Esteves has very healthy lungs. Lola Oba is roused from sleep, joins her apo in the screamfest, and she reaches for the rosary and they pray.

Now praying is the all purpose solution when haunted by asthmatic ghosts,when you're stuck in traffic, and when stupefied by the stupidity of airline people in another country. It might not work all the time, considering the sheer amount of prayers that must be received at any one moment. But it's well known that if you are clutching a rosary while uttering either Our Father or Hail Mary, it could work. The previously production designed dark room will light up, sky and smoke will clear up and clouds will disappear, there will be bright light and you are saved from evil forces.

The same thing happened to Jacque and her lola. Supposedly, the spirits are roused into activity whenever somebody new enters the scene. Lola Oba has attempted countless of times
to sell the house, but the prospects would be scared shitless and thus eventually purchase condo units in places where ghosts appear as elevator passengers. But that's another story.

The second half of the twinbill focuses on Wilma Doesnt's tiktik experience. Local lore says that pregnant women are especially vulnerable to beings who snack on unborn babies. Tiktiks can morph into black dogs, cats and can also turn into winged creatures. Tiktiks rarely give out interviews, but the tiktik featured on the show declared that provinces
are not the only places where they live, there are also urban tiktiks, as everyone knows that cities are dense and
have a lot of pregnant women.

But usually urban women cannot be bothered with tiktiks. Eight months pregnant, Wilma accepts an invitation to lounge in a far flung resort where it turns out she and her friend were the only guests. The second Wilma gets off the SUV she drove herself, two huge black dogs surround her, and they disappear when we are introduced to the resort manager who enquires about Wilma's husband. She doesn't have one, and then I was dreading that the manager would morph into a moralist and drives her away. But no, they are welcomed and proceed to lounge by the pool at noontime, when the sun's directly over their heads. The resort has a resident masseuse
named Aleli who caresses Wilma's arm with enough desire to fuel a mass railway transit.

The actress who played Aleli reminded me so much of Ana Capri, it could have been Ana Capri sleepwalking through the role. If you would recall, Ana Capri also played a tiktik in
local tv not too far ago. In ABS-CBN's Nginiig has her and Gardo Versoza as furrow browed tiktiks who can't help but eat their human neighbors. It is my belief that Ana Capri can tackle any role given her with class even if said role is tacky.

At any rate, the girl who played Aleli looked like a two bit bold starlet who thinks she's on a lesbian porn shoot. Later that night, Aleli presents herself to Wilma and friend and offers her "services" so that the pregnant woman could "relax." She leads Wilma away from her friend. Wilma relaxes on the bed while Aleli the masahista oils her up. Aleli tells her that pregnant women emit a strong, desirable scent that attracts a lot of, er, beings. Aleli touches Wilma's swollen belly, drooling at its pillowcase bumpiness. wilma starts to dose off and seeing Aleli then makes her move. The real horror is about to begin.

Aleli joins Wilma on the bed and mounts her. She lowers her face on Wilma's belly and a sturdy and long tongue starts to descend from her mouth. Argh! It looked like she was going to rape the pregnant woman. But her intentions are thwarted
when Wilma's best friend enters the room and finds them in that compromising position. Aleli and W'sBF face it off and Aleli gets stunned because W'sBF is wearing a necklace with a crucifix pendant. She runs out and we hear the batting of huge wings. Wilma snaps out of her reverie and W'sBF tells her about Aleli's evil plans. They hear the flutter of wings coming nearer and then the resort manager comes to the rescue.

They make a run for the SUV. He carries a torch and thrusts it at the camera. We assume it is Aleli flying but it's actually the camera man perched on a crane and shooting the entire scene. It was actually pretty cool.

At this point, they are beside the car and they cannot find the key. Now here's the thing, when you are escaping huge flying beings and you are pressed for time, please do remember to bring the key with you. Do not count on the pregnant woman to bring stuff with her all the time. Also remember that there will always be resort managers who will pop up when you need them.

In the end, Wilma Doesnt escapes the tiktik attack and goes on to have a healthy baby. We never hear whatever became of Aleli, but it helps to know that one shouldn't really be too friendly with resort masseuses anywhere.

Wag Kukurap ups its hair raising qualities by using real stories from real people. The interviews pop in and out of the scenes, sometimes used in voiceovers. Dingdong Dantes functions as a recapper, like all people who host a reality based drama. As to be expected, the production design is geared towards scaring people--thus, the dark sets, shadows falling over everything. There are fast cuts and extreme close ups of faces of the religious statue with tears down its face, or the raindrops outside the huge capiz windows. There are stingers, like the unnamed woman with a bad hair day standing by the window in Jacque's lola's house. All in all, the usual thing.

The show is also the first directorial job of Jun Lana, writer of Sa Pusod ng Dagat, Jose Rizal, and Sagad sa Init, among other things. He hasn't come up with a film for a couple of years now, and if memory serves me right, the last one was Ara Mina's Two Timer by Mel Chionglo.

Wag Kukurap* is GMA's latest contribution in the horror genre after the short lived Sa Dako Pa Roon hosted by Jaime Licauco, and after it cancelled the long running Kakabakaba which became Kakabakaba Adventures, which in turn is a cross between Goosebumps and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Pinoy pop media has a tradition of scary shows (Marina and Sing Galing are both scary, though not in that particular notion of horror) which can be traced to Gabi ng Lagim, a radio show from an earlier era which used coconut husks thumping on the floor to scare its listeners, and then there's Pinoy Thriller and Regal Shocker in the 80s. The fascination with horror extends to the movies, and the definitive Pinoy hair raiser is Shake, Rattle and Roll. Tales of manananggals and dwendes, witawits and possessions, and even hauntings caused by failed abortions were staples. But more on the Pinoy fascination with scary things later.

*Really, the title may be confused with the Master Showman tagline "Walang Tulugan," you might as well say "Walaaang Kurapaaan!" But then again, that's just me.

Note: The woman who played Aleli the tiktik in Wag Kukurap's pilot episode is a bold starlet named Hanni Miller. She doesn't really have that much recall, and the grand total of 2 films she was in were really sort of negligible. Except perhaps for Silang Mga Rampadora, which was outrageously bad it can be funny in a murderous sort of way.

Friday, August 27

Revenge of the Feathered Fiends

In Bangkok, you cannot walk five meters without running into a food vendor. The food is cheap too. They have freshly squeezed orange juice, some would claim 100% juice without salt added to counter the asim. All kinds of inihaw--pusit both fresh and dried, beef and pork barbecue, fish, huge blue shrimps I could never eat, kebabs with fruit, all the familiar balls we know--they go for 5 or 6 baht.

And then there's chicken everything. One would think that in Thailand, chicken grew in trees. You pluck them out, clucking and all, chuck all the feathers out and then grill.

chicken pic courtesy of Newsbreak

Imagine the chaos that ensued when the bird flu struck. Suddenly, people cannot eat anymore chickens. Chickens are evil. Chickens could kill you, as though the feathered fiends wielded daggers which slashed your intestines while you chewed on barbecue. Take that, they said, for frying and grilling us, for killing us softly and turning us into pinikpikan.

The revenge of the chickens is upon us. We can't eat them. So we turn to fruits. And squid. But oh, banana pancakes are nice.

Banana pancake guy along Khao San Road

Thursday, August 26

No blog, only pictures.

I still have my hands full of school stuff right now, so I can't really blog extensively about the recent Bangkok quest.

Meanwhile, here are some dos and don’ts of photography, for which I don’t really care right now. It's a veritable A to Z sort of thing, which encourages you to apply Vaseline on your lenses and say no to band shots. But then again, as should be obvious by now, I take really bad pictures.

Tenure, publishing and more Shakespeare please

Gideon Lewis-Kraus joins the herd of English professors in San Diego for the annual MLA conference and finds out that there are probably two things that elbow patch clad and preposition wielding are concerned about: tenure and publishing, that there are no problems, only crises at the MLA. And oh, tenure/publishing and crises in the academe. But basically, it’s all about tenure and publishing.

He went there expecting to ridicule “sitting ducks” and the pointlessness of the humanities in a world that needs an ever evolving sophisticated version of nanotech arms that can calculate carbs and identify a terrorist by the shiftiness of his eyebrows. But he also learns that much of the obscure titles produced by university presses (something like "Judith Butler Got Me Tenure (But I Owe My Job to k. d. lang): High Theory, Pop Culture, and Some Thoughts about the Role of Literature in Contemporary Queer Studies," or any meditation on Shakespeare) are borne out of the need to score brownie points for promotion and tenure. I.e., in order for you to join the ranks of the elbow patched and multi-hypenated existences in green campuses, you must publish at least one book. A book that everyone knows to be a beefed up journal article or a rewritten dissertation, or perhaps both. So now the guardians of the gate talk about a second book to assure promotion. It is a vicious circle, wherein you’d have steady nightmares of colons and semi-colons and multi-syllabic words which you can never use to pick up someone in a bar, unless it’s a bar populated by other jargon-spewing beings.

When you say you work as a “professor” in a university, never mind that you’re really only an instructor but people insist on that title, they look at you in awe, as though you’re the holder of some elite knowledge. Maybe they are, and maybe they got lost following the paths of Nathaniel Hawthorne and signifiers and other such things. They also think that what you do is utterly useless. Humanities people rarely have something to show for what they do, unlike the applied sciences dudes.

And so the eternal question is this: “What for is a university?" And consider the other variant as well, “What is a university for?” Consequently, you also try to answer what English professors are for, because they neither build bridges or clone seedless squash. It’s questioning their existence in a world that must have something to show in order for you to be legitimate, for you to be “contributing member of society.” It’s also part jealousy perhaps of the perceived independence. A scholar is only answerable to his fellow scholars, not to the sidewalk vendor, or to the pop song digester.

Existentialist blather, in inclement weather, it is, it is.

Marooned, without papers

Of course a student had to rouse me from sleep by miscalling my mobile like every 10 minutes to ask if they're still required to attend the ACLE and it's raining too hard. Another asked if there will be workshops when the ACLE's until 5pm. Then someone texted to inform me that classes were suspended and I should go back to sleep.

There you go: No classes, no ACLE, and no papers for me to check.

Damn, I should have seen it coming. If I had known that I will be stuck in the house for two whole days, I would have stuffed those midterm bluebooks and research papers in my bag last Tuesday. Like I'm so excited to check papers right now.

All I want to do is curl up under my blankets and sleep. I did that yesterday. Then I figured, must work and check leftover papers and found out that child abuse seems to be the norm in my CW classes. Serves me right for asking them to write about invisible monsters. Abandoned checking right there and proceeded to watch South Park. I like their tribute to the Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch.

Sunday, August 22

Nirvana Y(u)[i]pee

Just because my ears are sort of tired with Tina Arena wailing in the background. Oh, Madonna and Right Said Fred are okay, but I was raring for some Nirvana circa 1980s, before they were famous and before Kurt Cobain killed himself, obviously.

Via The Morning News

Wednesday, August 18

Rage against the rat race

Corinne Maier wants corporate drones to celebrate sloth. Her book, Bonjour Paresse, the loose translation of which means "Hello Laziness," has sort of become anthem for slacker types in France, where the typical workweek is 35 hours, way below the American standard of slavery to the rat race. While arguably, the French already have it easy compared to other American-influenced worker types, she still insists that we must rage against the compulsion to shun idleness.

Maier is typical of the intellectual types: over educated, underemployed, and wanting to stir the pot a bit. She wants to counter this institutionalized work ethic, and cites herself as an example who only works 20 hours a week and spends the rest of the time puttering around her apartment in the Left Bank. However, the company she works for took note of her pronouncements and has now called upon her and wants disciplinary action. But all that has to wait until after she comes back from her vacation in September. How droll, noh?

it's not the end of the world.

I got a note from my past self in my mailbox today. FutureMe.Org allows people to send their future selves a heads up, something to remind them that everything, this and that too shall pass.

My note partly reads this way:
i hope you are happy with the decisions you've made for yourself. there is a reason. hindi mo pa lang alam kung ano yun. someday, hopefully by now, that will be visible to you, and you will understand. yes, i know. maybe this is for the best.

i mean, come on. you're just going to be 25. it's not the end of the
world.

at least, go after the things that mean a lot to you.you 'll survive this. go out and get some good loving. ;)

you, me and everyone else in your crowded little head,

this monday, 6 oct 2003.
I know things are supposed to be more logical when viewed after the fact, but I still don't understand everything> But I am going out in the world, trying to take it all in. That's the only way I know.

I see Bangkok, I see overcast skies.

It's not yet 7 in the morning, but am up already. Walter just went out to work, but not before luring me out of bed with freshly brewed coffee and Scottish shortbread fingers for breakfast. We--or should I say just I, since he was still up reading Agatha Christie--fell asleep a little past 1am. But he was up by 6am, puttering around the flat. Boy's a four a night-er, what can I say? And this is the earliest I've woken up in centuries.

As it should be obvious with the breakfast fare, though he promises it'll be better tomorrow, this flat is a bulimic girl's wetdream. The fridge's door is strewn with pictures, there's wine and coffee, plenty of tea, we had Bailey's as a celebratory drink last night, and there's also cheese. He says camembert is good with the shortbread, but I just wouldn't dare.

He also has lots of plants. Last night he complained that the girl who's supposed to take care of his plants did nothing but kill them. He was away for 25 days looking for work in Europe, and when he came back his water plants were all yellow and leaves were on the floor. He wants to get new plants.

What else? He's not a big fan of blankets. Big bed, and a basketball team could cohabit together in there and not see each other until two weeks later. I'm bringing out the blankets later. He also seems to be like 2 storeys taller than me. He joked it's because he's wearing 1 inch heels. His boots are Thai Royal Police standards and he wears a suit. Last night at the airport, I almost didn't recognize him in that outfit. I guess I'm used to the little boy Wally with the shorts and sneakers.

Anyway, he's left me 250B, wrote down an itinerary for me. I'm off to the zoo, Jim Thompson's house and a temple and some parks. Then I'm meeting him in an Au Bon Pain because he claims the Starbucks here is littered with jologs--moneyed ones, but jologs just the same. So that's what my day will be like. More later. With pictures.

Tuesday, August 17

Bangkok Run

I'm on my way to school, dragging my bags and all because it's been decided that traffic would be too horrible in our place to the airport. My mother was insisting she go with me but I said no.

I still have to get the camera from BnC. I still don't have film to go along with it.

I'm still tired from Sunday's DVD run. I don't have Imelda or Christian Vasquez, but I've got Ruffa Mae Quinto and Madonna. That should be fine.

My socks are not all dry yet, so I'm abandoning the rest of the lot and just taking 3 pairs with me.

I checked the news and Thailand is going to be hot, but with rainshowers.

I learned that my phone won't be working when I get there. Damn dual band.

I checked the airline and flight 745 is on time. Gate to be announced later, but that should be fine. I'll get to Bangkok at 1040, just in time for Walter to get off work.

I only have to live through my two classes this afternoon and I'm on my way. They'll be writing their papers while I'm out.

When I come back, all I want is a bop bag. You know, for when I'm stressed in the office. That should be fine.

Is all good, man.

Monday, August 16

The Sheryl Cruz Fans Club and Single Serve Stardom

I told Team Angas that more than Kiko Matsing and Pong Pagong, what I most vividly remember about growing up was variety shows. If you were leading lady material in the late 80s to the early 90s, it's imperative that you have your own variety show. From Vilma to Loveliness, Tonight with Dick and Carmi and TSCS, I watched them all--a blur of women in tangas striking a pose and being thrown up and down the air.

Then there were the drama anthologies. Mother Studio Presents, The Maricel Soriano Drama Special, Spotlight. And Mikee, who could forget Mikee and her horse? One of the longest running shows of the sort was Connie Reyes on Camera, which bluekessa joined in its last days as a very young writer. Bluekessa rarely showed up for meetings but would submit scripts and would come by the office to collect her fee. They must have exhausted all possible storylines for that show.

I wouldn't call it definitive, but one show fulfilled leading lady material and variety show quotient, and that was Manilyn Reynes' Young Love, Sweet Love. Each week would feature "Mane" in a story of guess what? Young love. Manilyn Reynes was the archetypal probinsyana who made good. She was part of the Triplets, along with Tina Paner and Sheryl Cruz.

More importantly, she was accorded the title "Star of the New Decade," which Jol pointed out to be self-destructive. One, it gave the star a shelf life. The 90s are over, and so the star has also faded. That's why the star-makers have wisened up and did not award any "Star of the New Millenium." While a thousand years is a long time, it still contains the much dreaded expiration date.

These days, stars have an even shorter shelf life. In a recent issue, Newsbreak explores the shoot-up-immediately-and-die cycle of today's young idols. We have glitz machines like StarStruck and Star Circle Quest, which are a televised journeys of young hopefuls who want to make it big. Mark Herras survived his Star Struck dreams last March, and yet he was immediately by Hero Angeles who was declared the Ultimate Star Struck survivor last June. Figure in that these search shows are quite easy to fund, and it's really just one big money making scheme. People want their idols, and they serve them. They are stars for a season, and then the next batch will be served right up. Star Struck will launch another search come October. There goes the quest for longevity.

I just remember all this, because I read in a news item that one of the long lost triplets has been resurrected. Sheryl Cruz, she of Bihagin ang Dalagang Ito fame, is back in town, supposedly to take a part abandoned by Judy Ann Santos in the third installment of Mano Po. It's been a while since we've seen this girl, and she's coming into a movie franchise cold from years and years of working as a math teacher, wife and mother. I wonder if The Sheryl Cruz Fans Club knows about this already.

Around the world in 80 days, in a Volkswagen

And this has nothing to do with Jackie Chan's movie, although I was a bit tempted because one of the actresses in the Spanish Apartment was there.

The Lupo Team's Around the World in 80 days is "an event creation" by a Munich television network which aims to trace the route of Phileas Fogg, the British gentleman from Jules Verne's novel who wagered 20,000 sterlings that he could indeed travel round the globe in 80 days. But they wanted to have an ecological theme for it, so the point was to go around the world, by land, and limiting the amount of petrol. They got Volkswagen to sponsor the trip and this is their story.

If you think about it, that's the kind of adventure I would give up a limb for. But first, I have to learn how to drive.

Ticket Tales

My immediate concern is this: the agency gave me an "e-ticket," which is a glorified name for a computer printout with my itinerary, flight details, etc. They told me that that's what airlines do now. I still have to call the airline to verify, but I was kind of disappointed because it doesn't look like the airline ticket I'm used to. If that's really how they cut costs, then woe to the traveler. It's hardly scrapbook material. So can somebody please tell me whether Lufthansa really issues ugly e-tickets?

I originally booked a flight with Air France, because the travel agent said the war insurance tax was only $10 compared to Lufthansa’s $16. I didn’t know we had to pay to protect ourselves for a war that’s not our own doing. But anyway, not less than an hour after I talked with the agent, she texted to inform me that the tax was actually $17 and not the previous amount quoted.

Now $7 is still a huge amount if you convert it back to pesos. Air France leaves at 7.25pm as opposed to Lufthansa’s 8.40pm. If I took Air France, it means that I have to rush out of my last class and get in the car and dash to the airport. Lufthansa will save me a dollar, and afford me a few more minutes to settle whatever business I have with my students then get that graceful exit before I duck into the car and run a mad dash for the airport. So I told the agent to book me with Lufthansa.

That was Thursday. The deadline for the payment was at 10am Saturday morning. I planned to drop by the agency Friday evening to pay for my fare and buy a few things. Then somebody informed me there was a sale going on and it made the traffic in the area horrible. That made it easier for me to give in and just hang out with some people in Silungan. I ate tapang usa and had a few drinks while we all waited for the rain to clear up. I thought we’d been there all evening, but when we finally left it was just 8pm. But while in the train, I could see all the vehicles lined up, not moving, I decided to just go home.

I woke up early Saturday morning, which was quite unusual for me as I never was a cheerful morning person. I hauled my carcass in a G-Liner and sat on my hands while the bus plodded by Greenhills. Again, horrible traffic. (“Horrible” is one of my favorite adjectives. Horrible ex, horrible student, horrible traffic. You can describe anything with that word. Hehe.) I got off the mall, went to the agency, forked over my hard earned money and proceeded to get lost while waiting for my ticket due at around 2.30pm.

Now here’s the thing about getting stuck in a strange mall. I never hung out in Galleria all that much, so that every time I go there, I get a little lost. Last Saturday was no different. They had added a new wing, there was a sale going on, and it made me more confused. All in all, I must have spent 7 hours in that mall, most of it spent trying to figure out where the bookstore went. But I had a nice late lunch at this place called Sticks, a “Japanese bistro” in the new wing. It was a fake al fresco place. I ordered a bento box of grilled salmon with soup, vegetables and dessert. It didn’t come in a bento box as promised, but they get an A from me for presentation and attentiveness. I didn’t have to wave my hand furiously and the attendant knew when to serve the next course. I sat in one end and could hear this girl at the next table blab her heartaches to her patient friend. I could only see patient friend’s nape bob up and down, nodding in agreement to girl buddy’s complaints about a cheating boyfriend. At the far end of the restaurant sat this young couple, two girls who were also having a leisurely lunch. They couldn’t be out of high school just yet; one of them reminded me of a friend, only slightly slimmer but same hair and glasses, the other girl wore a shirt which declared that “GUYS SUCK.” The only other customer at that time was this grumpy looking man who just smoked his cigarettes, sipped coffee and looked at his watch every five minutes, as though something spectacular would happen between the few seconds he hadn’t looked at it. All in all, a good place to eat and watch people.

I got my ticket and flagged an FX to Megamall, where I was supposed to meet my brother. But the driver wouldn’t even stop at the supposed waiting shed and brought me all the way to the far end of Shangri-la. Then my brother called and said the fx driver also refused to stop by Megamall so he was on his way home as well. Which sucked because I was loaded with stuff and I was hoping he’d rid me off shopping bags. I still had to meet up with some people and it’s not really good form to go partying with shopping bags slung around me. So I raised my hands and just hauled everything into a very crowded train. I had a very busy Saturday, but I was able to do everything. Sunday was another story.

How do you say "plastic" in Thai?

Apparently, only foreigners call the city Bangkok. The denizens call it Krung Tep (pronounced “Grung Teyp,” more on Thai language later), a diminutive of its real name, which is this:

bangkokfullname.gif

I think it holds the world record for the longest place name possible. It means "Large City of Angels, Highest Sanctuary of Divine Jewels, Mighty Invincible Country, Mighty and Exceptional Realm, Magnificent Royal Capital, Adorned with Nine Heavenly Jewels, Supreme Royal Throne and Royal Palace, Shelter of the Gods and House of Reincarnated Souls." Astig noh? Hehe.

They also have a reputation for horrible traffic. But Magical Journeys claims that “Bangkok's bad reputation for long traffic jams and pollution is no longer justified. At the end of 2000, the new Sky Train has gone into service and new roads have been built. In comparison to other mega-cities, Bangkok is also a very safe city and has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.”

So if it’s relatively safe, then I suppose a single girl should do okay. Plus Wally is picking me up from the airport where he also works so at least I don’t have to get myself lost in a maze of signs I don’t understand just yet.

That's just one of the many things that I have to figure out when I venture into the city by Wednesday. This guy claims that one doesn't really need to learn Thai to go around, as the people speak English. However, understanding the pronunciation is another thing. Consider the word "central." Since there is no equivalent of the "l" sound in Thai, you would have to say it as "centran," with emphasis on the last syllable. It would sound like "Sentraan." Don't believe it? Listen to the wav file available right here.

Tuesday, August 10

Idle is good, but we need cash.

Both Metafilter and Boingboing points us to this excerpt Tom Hodgkinson's forthcoming book "How to be Idle."

The Guardian gives us a peek into the virtues of idleness, which our open 24 hrs, online all the time modern existence practically sneers at. To be idle is not good, a virtue that was most visible in the 80s, when every waking second must be dedicated to the pursuit of money and expanding your multinational corporation's coffers.

But this same attitude to a little downtime also has its downside: we rarely get enough shuteye. The Morning News reports that 37% of working adults claim to feeling so tired that it interferes with their work. Taking naps during midday, in the middle of a workweek is equal to professional suicide. So it leads to people falling asleep during meetings, or not being productive during office hours. At its worse you get nodding drivers, which leads to accidents.

Leslie Harpold advocates taking those midday naps, if only to freshen up both mind and body and thus making drones more productive. He (or is it she?) samples a new napping place at the Empire State Building, MetroNaps, which offers its customers a sleeping pod where you can doze for 20 minutes and waking up with an expanded feeling of restfulness. I say that if we live in a society that now requires us to pay for those few precious minutes of sleep, then it must not be good. Perhaps there might be virtue in downtimes after all. If philosophers like Descartes and even Sherlock Holmes needs the slow moments to function, then so do we ordinary mortals.


Katie vs Katie

Some days back, there’s been some legal tussle between Katie Jones, owner of the domain Katie.com, and an alleged lawyer from Plume Books, publisher of a book also called Katie.com. The book was a harrowing portrayal of a 13-year-old girl’s brush with a pedophile online, while the domain is something totally unrelated to the book. The supposed lawyer called domain owner Katie Jones in an attempt to get back repossess the domain in favor of Plume Books.

Boingboing.net points to some recent developments that has Plume Books and the book’s author Katie Tarbox disavowing that they had anything to do with Ms Jones’ harassment. To keep the peace, so to speak, and to prevent any more tussles about the ownership of the domain, the publisher has decided to retitle the book into “A Girl’s Life Online,” which is “an important book about predatory pedophiles on the Internet and how we can protect our children. [Plume] changed the title to keep focus on this issue. The newly titled book will be released next month. [We] have always taken this situation very seriously. And we hope that by making this title change, it will demonstrate just how dedicated Plume is to clarifying this matter.”

It’s an unbearably boring title if you ask me, but does well to serve what the book is all about. I’ve picked up a copy of this book last year in a Booksale bin, and the girl Katie lived in a very upscale neighborhood where the girls problematized what to wear during the school year, because you can never repeat the same outfit twice. You have to decide whether to go Gap or Ralph Lauren, and when Katie hooked up with a guy on the net and set up a meeting with him during an out of town field trip, I was going "Girl, that was really so stupid of you." But hey, girl was thirteen, and more than anything, it was more about how difficult it was to be that age and try to be accepted by your peers that you'll grab at any form of attention, no matter if it was some perv masquerading as your friend.

So if you see a copy of it lying around, you might want to pick it up and check it out before the retitled version comes out. But I’m warning you though that if you have very low tolerance for Elle Woods and Cher from Clueless type girls, stay away.

Monday, August 9

fatgirlblues

I think I might have to change the title of this blog to that one above.

I have 30-odd shirts that I cannot wear anymore. That's not counting the denim and other clothes most of which I got just last year and early this year. Now I can't even wear a shirt I got before The Diva's wedding. I'm left with a few pieces which might not even fit me in a few days if am not careful. This morning I called my mom into my room and showed her the shirts. It depresses me that she could wear them, and they fit her better.

Why, what did I ever do to deserve this? I eat the same food. I even walk around more. I climb five flights of stairs everyday. I walk to the train station to the UP Katipunan station. I walk around the oval when the weather permits. Every time I swing by the department, someone would note that I'm putting on weight. Like I didn't notice that myself. I just don't understand how this can happen.

I want to be able to wear my clothes again. I don't want to go out and shop anymore because it's very difficult to find clothes I like and which actually fit.

This is making me depressed when I shouldn't be. I need to be in top shape. I have obs classes this afternoon and I just couldn't help it because I do need nice clothes today. It just makes me sad that I can't wear that particular white shirt and that pair of nice pants.

Some of you might think this is not an emergency. The world has other problems much more important--hunger, war, drugs, obesity. But this is my problem, my war. And it pains me that my mother can actually wear this:

My mom is wearing a shirt that says I like boys? It's the end of the world, dude. Run for cover.

It's the end of my S and XS and 0 existence. I need a donut.

Sunday, August 8

Sex and Cash Theory

Gapingvoid’s Hugh Macleod posits that every creative person lives an inherently bipolar existence: “The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended."

He calls this his “Sex and Cash Theory,” wherein the sex part is the thing that you really really want to do, like draw comic books or make huge metal and cardboard sculptures, or perhaps compose another concerto in key whatever; and the cash part is the crappy job you have to do because it keeps a roof over your head or feeds your coffee addiction or your predilection to wear denim from West European brands or allows you your ten thousand text messages.

Of course we all dream of a job that’ll do both. But good sex and good cash doesn’t always mix. [I think I nearly had that once, but something will always pull you away. You begin to get guilty that you’re getting cash for something that’s beginning to sound crappy, but convince yourself that no, this is what you really want to do.] Some people will abandon their day jobs to die for their one art, and that’s when trouble begins. Because soon enough you will discover that you will really die—of hunger or hypothermia (thank goodness we live in a tropical country), choose your own poison.

There was this guy I knew you let go of a nice paying job to write full time, only to find out that the business isn’t exactly nurturing to beginning writers. Last I heard, he went back to his old job and he now drives a car and has all those burgis accessories. He learned it the hard way. and starving for your art, no matter how romantic it sounds, will tear whatever dignity you have left and gnaw at your little intestines. Only a handful of people get to live decently via freelance, and the rest of the world has to contend with the duality of doing something they want, off office hours.

I actually admire people who can do that, the ones who can strike the balance between making good money and maintaining creative sovereignity. The ones who can sit down on their desks and not squirm while waiting for the day to be over and they can bolt out the door and do that little project of theirs. My infernal worry is to get stuck in that job, to forever hold on to a dream of “Someday, someday I will write what I really want..” and then wake up and look into the mirror and see grey hair and you’re 40 years old and you still haven’t fulfilled that one dream. It can kill you, really. Little by little, piece by piece, line by excruciating line of dialogue.

Perhaps you might panic, and then jump into desperation mode. Quit, throw everything away, must do this, now. This can only work if you have the agility, the nerve to submit yourself to poverty for a few months, maybe a couple of years of agony. You have to say goodbye to your nice meals, your Western European clothes, your weekday afternoons spent reading by a roadside cafĂ©. All that will be gone, and you will have to scrounge around for your next meal, that next paycheck. Do this while you still can, when you’re young enough and your only responsibility is yourself. Otherwise, quit the drama and go back to work.

Now it’ll be a different scene if somebody supplies you the cash so you can live the sex part. It’s Vincent and Theo, Pepe and Paciano. Vincent Van Gogh would never have made those wilted flowers and those starry, starry nights if it weren’t for his brother’s support. Jose Rizal wouldn’t be able to write those novels and chart a hardy hero’s life (not to mention making ligaw all those European girls) if not for his kuya’s toiling in Pinas. The power of patronage still counts for something. How can the creative think about art when he has to figure out where to get his next meal? How can you brim with angst when you can barely make a decent living for yourself? The obrero doesn’t think about his plight. He just works. It’s the one with the idle hands and spare time who wrestles with notions about identity and nation. But I digress.

So there you go, sex and cash. It’ll be nice to have both. But I do think the faster we accept that we live several lives at once, the sooner we are at peace with the fact that we must toil to get cash to fund our sex lives, then the better it’ll be for everyone. If not, then perhaps you will be kind enough to refer me to Theo.

Get me a flight out--now.

This past week was really tight on the mind and on the body. It’s the hell known as obs week in school. I don’t know why, but it literally makes me sick. Last term, I would get feverish weeks and days before. I even had to check myself in a hospital, and doctors were confounded by lab results. They argued whether I had TB or dengue, then they later decided it was neither and blamed everything on stress.

I still got feverish, and by Friday I was a headless chicken. People milled around me, looking over my shoulder, dictating my own notes to me as I typed and scurried down hallways and got to the office just in time as they were boarding up windows.
Anyway, I think the first class went rather well. I’m really just worrying about the next one. All my toes and fingers are crossed.

So since a hell lot of time was spent preparing for obs hell, I didn’t really get to ask about airline tickets and other arrangements until yesterday. I called up the agency again and found out that—

Lufthansa flies out 8.40 pm, Wednesday. $228 + taxes.
I need either a Tuesday night flight out and come back Sunday night.

Air France costs the same = $228 + taxes. Leaves at 7.25pm.

PAL leaves at 10.30 am, everyday, but it costs $238 + taxes.
If I do this, I arrive there at noon. W wouldn’t be around to fetch me because he’ll be at work, and pretty much makes hell out of everyone’s life.

Kuwait Air is the cheapest thing there is at $195 + taxes.
Leaves at 11.15 pm Wednesday.
They don’t have flights on Tues and Sunday—which is just a bummer because that’s when I plan to ship myself out.
Also, Kuwait = Iraq. I’m not really too enthusiastic in case there’s a terrorist on board. I would rather spread my own brand of terror.

Which makes me think that why is airfare so expensive and those packages are quite cheap? I mean it costs a freaking $238 for airfare, 3 days and 2 nights in a hotel. Do they buy these things in bulk and get huge discounts?
The thing is, I can book a flight any day, and I suppose I can just go to the airline counter and say, hey I wanna go now. But coordinating what day and time I leave Manila so I arrive at Bangkok at a decent enough hour, and still not disturb my host, now that’s a bummer. Why don’t they have really early morning flights going there? And why don’t they fly on Tuesdays and Sundays?

If I take PAL, I leave Wednesday at 1030am and go back to Manila either Sunday or Monday morning at the most brazen. That’ll set me back $238 + taxes, which is the cost of airfare + hotel in some packages, except that this ticket will have an effectivity of 7-8 days. But that still means I only have 4 freaking days in the city. Ideally, I want to leave early Wednesday morning or Tuesday evening.

A friend texted me another option I’ll have to check out first. If there’s anyone out there who knows a better option, please let me know. I need to settle this a week before I fly out, which means that everything must be done by Wednesday, 11 August. Argh.

Saturday, August 7

CL-lite

The Morning News experts advise you on what to do if you have "no job, no prospects, and no experience. But! [you] do have a degree in comparative literature from a notable school." You know you're smart and you can prove it, if given the chance. What to do?

The experts say you should get an IQ test*, or perhaps recite every line of The Canterbury Tales backwards.

*The editors have determined that I have an IQ of 126, and "according to Lewis Terman, originator of the concept of the intelligence quotient, [my]score classifies [me] as exhibiting very superior intelligence." Translated, it simply means that I should be winning the lottery right now.

Do you IMDB?

The LA Weekly runs a piece on every movie geek's best kept secret. The International Movie Database started as a game all American college boys played while the Internet was still being tested in campuses. They'd go online and compare notes on cute actresses and which movies she's starred in. The list expanded and "actresses begat actors, which begat directors, which begat writers, which begat cinematographers, which begat plot summaries."

The database was up and running for 5 years before they had to face a crucial decision: Do they go commercial or fold up? Volunteer editors were buried by an avalanche of work when their little website started pulling in 18 million hits a month. Their backyard business turned truly commercial when in 1996, they got their first ad campaign for Independence Day. Then in 1998, IMDb was acquired by Amazon and now everyone knows all about it.

And it's pretty much amazing how this site compiles the bits of information on a lot of movies, tv shows, video games and soundtrack listings. It's a network of some 100 people scattered around the globe, people whose names we don't know, but whose knowledge turns up in entries in what would have been obscure movies: “We get our info from disparate sources, but these contributors are our lifeblood. It’s a large group of trusted users and submitters in whom we’ve gained a level of confidence, much like you begin to trust a movie reviewer,” Simanton says. “It could be a professor from UCLA, the screenwriters of the film themselves, the maiden aunt of someone who died years ago. But it’s the gleaning aspect and process that really makes the IMDB what it is.”

Read the rest of this fascinating article here.

Friday, August 6

Mrs Palahniuk is a man

"Mrs. Palahniuk" is actually a man!

Of course, this is a very very delayed reaction to something that happened September last year and I only discovered now.
All that macho guy prose, and then this.

The article is actually more about the journalist who so wanted to hang out with Chuck P, and would insist on cutting price tags out for him if it means seeing the writer's home and getting the bragging rights to having hung out with the man. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 4

Tamadita's UAAP blog

UP sucks at basketball. Every time I check out the sports pages, I wince whenever I see our team lounging at the very last spot along with the NU Bulldogs. We might as well call ourselves the UP Whipping Dogs--para naman may alternative na tayo sa UP Freaking Morons.

Now don't yell at me and say that I don't have school spirit. Because long walks, no guards and climbing windows and all, I think UP is still the best school in the country--but that wouldn't stay that way for long so we all better do something. So what if UP sucks big at basketball? Tamadita says we have to go beyond it. Tamadita also loves UP (and all its athletes? Hehehe) so much that she put up a blog to monitor UP's UAAP activities. She promises to post pictures, scores and other interesting tsismis that goes well beyond basketball so you might want to check it out. But then again, Tamadita being Tamadita, it might take a while for those photos to make an appearance. But it's worth checking out, you UAAP fans out there.

Sunday, August 1

Underwear Overload

Where I come from, people get the urge to bombard you with karaoke music early Sunday mornings. If they don’t sleep, you can’t sleep. To ensure that you won’t just be piling pillows over your ears and willing them to move to Australia, they start banging pails and dishes just outside your kitchen—where you are sure to hear. They have succeeded. With no other choice, you grumble and get up and glare at them as well.

You grumble as you survey what’s for breakfast. Spread orange marmalade on bread. Murder the banana, cut it up into little pieces and stir it in your add-hot-water oatmeal. Bang your coffee. Park everything in front of the television and wish that at least there’s something interesting to watch.

You tune out the anime and cheer up a little when the ad comes in: Tired of yellow teeth? Aghast over very visible panty lines? Ah, yes. At least even if they took away Shaider, Susan Enriquez never fails to amaze you during weekends. This is the woman who caused Charlene Gonzales’ downfall from sossy glossy to greasy woman on jeep. Where once, the former beauty queen got off on how to ward off bad karma with crystals and battle aging with yoga, now she takes random gay guys and give them boob jobs—and have it all televised. Some weeks back, a guy from a singing and muscle flexing group had butt augmentation. And they featured it all to make you feel at home.

kaysusantayo.jpg

This Sunday has Susan Enriquez visited by a tooth fairy who suspiciously looks like Katherine Luna, woman from the breakwaters. Tooth fairy might lose her job because of her yellowing teeth. An entire barangay in Cavite is plagued with rust colored teeth caused by too much fluoride in their water. Teenagers can’t flirt because bad teeth is a turn off. The population will dwindle and soon there will be no one left. All because of yellow teeth. Oh, Susan, save us please!

Then there’s the case of the monster panties. Since the thong became popular, there’s been an increase of not just visible panty lines, but very visible underwear. T-backs waving from the backside, granny panties bunched up over belt hoops, buttcracks observable even by the naked eye. Girls don’t seem to know which underwear to match with their clothes and thus always get their panties in a bunch. To rescue our eyes from these troubling images, Susan takes us to a Triumph depot, where models await to parade before us in near nakedness. The key to having nice fitting underwear is to know what your hip size is. Not the waist, darlings, the hips. Then we are given the rundown. When wearing low riders, use something also low riding. Want to show off your thong, wear one with diamonds on it. Want to eat your panties afterwards? Go to Kink Cakes and grab some edible underwear. (Which by the way, seemed like all loose garters like your lola’s been wearing them since the last World War. So not yummy.)

Fantastic weekend viewing, I tell you.

Itineraries are evil.

I can do this—

Airport
Hotel
Explore Khao San Road, get English breakfast and banana pancakes
Crash Jim Thompson’s house before the last tour at 430 pm
Make like Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene and have high tea at the Oriental
Market in Pratunam for clothes
Market in Pak Khlon Talaat to stare at produce and flowers
Ogle exotic male dancers at Icon: The Club (must bring W along for this one)
Eat at Bourbon Street. Bring allergy meds because creole food usually has shrimp in it.
Eat at Le Dalat for Vietnamese fare. It’s in Thamon Sukhumvit. Open from 1130-2pm, 5-10pm.
Eat at Cabbages and Condoms.
Vientianne Kitchen.
Whole Earth is mostly vegetarian.
Check out Dusit Zoo in Thanon Ratwithi. Although guidebook says it’s for kids, don’t mind staring at animals. It’s open daily, 10am-6pm, but don’t go on Sundays.

Or, I can reverse this to---

Hotel
Go drop bags at W’s place, wherever that is
Go to Grand Palace before 830 so I get to beat tourists
Eat at the nearest place there
Go to river area and explore
More eating
More walking
Go to zoo and annoy the animals
Move to hotel by Saturday and hit downtown with
Still more eating
More dancing
More walking
Feed self to animals
Go back to hotel
Have leisurely breakfast with banana pancakes at Khao San
Blog from Khao San
Hit the airport and hug W for being slave for 5 days
Back to Manila by Sunday night

There’s still one other alternative which will have me—

Hit airport
Drop bags at W’s
Go crazy around Bangkok
LoungeBingeWalkToDeath
Shop to death
Party in Sois 2 & 4
Dance
Go to beach Saturday if we still have energy
Move to hotel by Sunday
Leave Bangkok early Monday morning
Get to Manila by midmorning
Drop bags at home
Endure eternity in traffic
Run to university for classes Monday afternoon

Which is really going to be crazy, and I’ll probably brain dead by that time. Also, I still haven’t checked the location of everything, so this will mostly like change depending on whether I can manage this all in five days. All I know is that I have to avoid rush hour in both countries or else I will die from sheer annoyance and boredom.

Things to do in Bangkok while you're not there yet.

Yesterday, after spending most of the afternoon looking for appropriate teacher wear, I found myself in Powerbooks. Over this past week, I have kept constant contact with W, our boy in Bangkok. He has generously offered that I can stay in his flat. I have a choice between being marooned in his living room or sharing his huge bed. Other perks if I stay at his place:

(1) He’s got a Lonely Planet Thailand.

(2) I get to raid his kikay cabinet. The boy is vainer than me.

(3) He has really nice bedsheets—linen—whatever.

(4) I’ll have a tour guide once he gets off work.

I’ll be staying for five days, and I really don’t want to be much of a burden although he insists I’m not. (Well, let’s see him change his mind after I get there, mwahahaha!)

I had also told my mother that I’ll be leaving next month. And of course she wanted to know who’s going with me (nobody), and where I’ll be staying. Initially I told her I’ll be taking a package that includes airfare and the hotel, but since W already offered, I might take him up on that. Mother vaguely remembers W as the tall guy from high school who used to walk me home, and is naturally alarmed that her only daughter would be staying with this guy for several days, in a foreign country. I knew what she was getting at, but I just shushed her with screams like she just proposed incest: That is sooo *not* happening.

Anyway, I told W that I might still book myself in a hotel even for a day. Just to know what it’s like to be alone in a strange land. Now the thing is, I’m still not sure where helives in the city exactly, as my attempts to find Soi Changwattana 10, Tungsonghong, Laksi on the map were not successful. So I’m still waiting for a proper response. I’ve been warned that if the place turns out to be in the outskirts, I’ll just be tiring myself out with the commute going around the city. I don’t want to plague him in the middle of the work week, I want to be able to go around the city on my own on Wednesday and Thursday.

I figure that all this will make sense AFTER I find out where in freaking Krung Tep W really lives. But before that, I need to find out where I can book myself a flight going there via Lufthansa, because W insists that’s the cheapest fare going. I’ll try to check with the travel agencies. Need to do this within the coming week.

Also found out that I will have to modify wardrobe. Originally planned to bring mostly jog pants, shorts and shirts, and one pair of jeans. But recently found out that you won't be let into temples and other stuff if you show even a measly amount of skin. And you can't look at the monks in the eye. So I figured I'll bring along a sarong to cover me up just in case.

One of the things I want to do is take pictures. Now my camera is old and I think it might be dead, and it's one of those point and shoot things. I need to either have old camera fixed, but new camera, or borrow camera. I don't want to spend on a camera just for this trip, so I have to figure this all out.