Sunday, January 30, 2011

Black Swan, 127 Hours and Love and Other Drugs

Black Swan

One word: wow. I will not even attempt to write a review because I can't give it justice. It's a depressing movie; it will suck out all that is beautiful in this world (ironic considering this is about, among others, ballet, an institutionalized form of beauty). Natalie Portman disappears as she was completely in character, a dual one at that. Her transformation at some point in the film was amazingshe frightened me.

Black Swan will be in Manila theaters on February 24.

* * * *

127 Hours

My problem with this movie is James Franco. You know how obnoxious it sounds when people say beauty can be a curse? Well, it is true after all and James has that problem. He looked too beautiful in this film, I couldn't read into anything from his performance except for his constant preening at the cameras.

What I did love was the Slumdog Millionaire team of Danny Boyle (direction) and A.R Rahman (music), who both provided texture to what could've been a boring material of  rocks and sand. (Now that I think about it, perhaps that was the reason why they cast James Franco; para nga naman may magandang tignan.) However, while their deft use of crazy camera angles, split screen and electronic and pop music was commendable, I thought Danny in particular went overboard with the hallucinations and cheese.

Watch out for that speech about the rock, how it waited for its moment to figure into someone's life; that was awesome screenplay at work.

127 Hours opens in Manila theaters on February 9.

* * * *

Love and Other Drugs

In this case, Jake's beauty and constant preening works because that was the rolehe could make any woman fall in love with him, except Anne Hathaway. Yes, the plot couldn't be any more redundant but there is depth to this movie. Don't let the trailer deceive you (which was awful by the way; the actors and the film itself didn't deserve that).

Are relationships fair? Do you give as much as you take? Do both of you contribute equally into your relationship? Should there be such measurements? Those are hard questions—should you even ask them?

Love and Other Drugs is now in theaters.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Queen's Speech :-P

Photo: Jill Lejano

I took the stage and I just had to veer away from my script. I was overcome with emotion.

"We are at your book launch, Pam," I said, which was really a statement more than an observation. We were really at her book launch. It was truly happening.

The place was packed, and later, during the book signing, the line snaked past its alloted space in National Bookstore. (Sorry, I'm not too good with distances.) Extra chairs had to be brought out. It took close to three hours before the last book was autographed.

I swelled with pride. I couldn't imagine what it must have felt for Pam to see how much people supported her.

* * * *

I've pretty much relaxed from the time I wrote the preceding post to the time I got to the venue. That was until I saw kids—as in children—in the audience. The speech I prepared wasn't exactly for the little ones.

I went out of the shop to go over my material again, mentally editing out lines, careful not to wreck punchlines. When I went back inside, I saw the grandmother and manang-looking types. I then snuck into a quieter area of National, where I internally debated what I should leave out of my story.

Thank gad my sister didn't arrive until after my speech; otherwise, her appearance would've entailed another round of editing altogether.

I never got to finalize my revisions when the host began introducing me. Thanks to Gary and Georgina who gave me encouragement as I made my way to the podium; that helped :-)

* * * *

The speech

When I was in college, I used to get extra allowance from my dad by pretending that I was dating Pam. I mean, I would have gone on an actual date with Pam, if Pam was Anderson Cooper.

When I told her this, she was more than okay with it; she laughed out loud, or what we nowadays refer to as LOL.

I love LOL. Pam loves LOLing. I’m happy to be friends with someone—an editor at that—who can get behind my use of LOL without judgment.

So yes, she was amused by it. That was the first of two periods of my life wherein I've pretended that Pam and I were more than just platonic friends. The second time was when we were in the dingiest of gay bars, somewhere in Manila, where Claire Danes would have certainly not been happy. It looked like the type that would get raided by the police every now and then, complete with TV Patrol cameras. The men wore Mickey Mouse bath towels. They showered on stage using a batya and tabo. It was that type.

We were sitting on a couch among friends, when, without warning, the lights dimmed and the men started coming onto us from different directions; the Mickey Mouse towels gone. It was terrifying, and in my panic, I began acting strange.

I began acting straight.

I wrapped my arm around Pam’s shoulder and tried to keep the men away by announcing: "Pare, walang ganyanan, bro."

Or Pards. Tsong. Tol. Ah, I can't remember. I'm sure Pam would; she has excellent memory.

That was a good time, no? That was pretty funny, no?

So why didn't you include that in your book?

I bought your book on the very week it was out in National Bookstore. I excitedly went home, flipped through the pages, and I didn’t find the story? That was not cool. There was no LOL in that, girl.

I would have felt bad about the snob, really, if I didn’t hear the Anvil publishers talk about releasing Part Two. Yep, I heard it over there. So you’ve a chance to redeem yourself.

But seriously, I think the reason why people loved Paper Cuts was one, the gay bar story wasn’t there; and two, there’s nothing condescending or self-righteous in Pam’s work. There's nothing irreverent—even if she discussed how her mother rubbed a vibrator on her face (by the way, that sentence is just so wrong; one shouldn’t string those words together ever)—she deftly wrote it in clean, good humor. There was no self-deprecation; too much of it and it appears as false humility.

Instead, we find a pleasant read, a refreshing read in that it has no hatred or spite, without being saccharine.  I think that combination is amiss in the generation of young writers today.

So thank you for helping us temporarily forget the chaos of real life—one with car nappings and bombings—by reminding us of the good life—wherein one loves her job, one loves her friends and one loves her family… with few exceptions. And that’s alright, because that only makes it real and attainable for all of us.

Congratulations on your latest achievement and I look forward to many others.

* * * *

The first few lines were rocky for me as I was still struggling with my nerves and the front rows were filled with strangers (Mon and friends were seated all the way at the back). While I appreciated the two ladies somewhere in the second, third row that would laugh every time I'd say something which I intended to be funny, I did see faces that were... deadma. They were hard to look at and they did distract me.

* Tip *
Establish eye contact with the audience. If there is a lack of friendly faces, look over their heads. It's easier if you are giving a tribute as you may also turn your attention to the honoree. I think I spent a good part of my talk personally addressing Pam. 

Eventually, more people reacted to my material and I think it was at that point when I didn't care much about how I'd be received; I just wanted to tell the room how awesome my best friend is :-)

I look so smitten here, lol!
Photo: Lianne Bacorro
(Thanks Chelle for sharing it!)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Permutations of a speech

Pam asked me to give a speech during her book launch. I consider it a huge honor so I said yes, even if the thought of public speaking gives me the jitters. Besides, I think this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; I don't imagine anyone else inviting me to speak at their book launch, lol.

The first thing I did was search "speech during book launch" on Google. LOL. I mean, I wanted an idea on what speakers are supposed to say aside from the congratulatory remarks. It didn't help that the top result included one given by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. It was very intimidating. I scared. (By the way, none of the results helped, so I'll be winging my way through it.)

As I write this post, it's four hours from the event and I'm on my third formal draft. The changes are mostly for brevity, as well as tweaks on my jokes—I'm seriously terrfied that they'd fall flat. I'm also scared that I might go blank—I don't plan to read from a cue card because I want it to be very spontaneous and light. I cannot appear nervous and my delivery should not sound memorized.

My stomach is churning and I'm trembling. And by the time this post is published, I'd be up on stage. Eeek!

Monday, January 17, 2011


"One lies down gladly for sleep or for love."

New years and birthdays take on a different context once you notice how your parents are beginning to prune and shrink moving into their twilight years. Morbid thoughts cripple my merriment on these occasions: it could be the last toast, the last cake, the last meal, the last photo. (I'm also aware that Death can strike at anyone at anytime but I prefer to think conservatively in terms of our hierarchy.)

There are useless and unnecessary fears, those that you can avoid—like complex math.  There are also useless and unnecessary fears, those that are inevitable.

The Exact Location of the Soul by Richard Selzer forced me to contemplate on mortality such that on most nights that I read the book, I'd get lost in my own thoughts and sink into muted sadness. (Hence, it took me two months to finish the whole thing.) Consider his following passages on what happens as soon as we die in a chapter so subtly titled, The Corpse:

A man stands by the table upon which you lie. He opens the faucet in the sink, steps forward, raises the trocar. It is a ritual spear, a gleaming emblem. Two inches to the left and two inches above your navel is the place of entry. (Feel it on yourself.) The technician raises this thing and aims for the spot. He must be strong, and his cheeks shake with the thrust. He grunts...

... The head of the trocar disappears beneath the skin. Deeper and deeper until the body wall is penetrated. Another thrust, and he turns the head north. First achieved is the stomach, whose stringy contents, food just eaten, are sucked into the holes. A three-inch glass connector interrupts the rubber tubing. Here is one spectator as the yield rushes by. Can you identify particular foods? Beets are easy, and licorice. The rest is merely... gray. 

He then writes about how the trocar sucks out your liver, lungs, heart and just about all your innards. They all turn to juice.

And how exactly does the mortician prepare your body for public viewing? For one, we sleep with our mouth ajar—so it has to be closed shut at death.

Our technician... takes a large flat needle. It is S-shaped, for ease of grasping. A length of white string hangs through the eye of this needle. He draws back the bottom lip with thumb and forefinger. He passes the needle into the lower gum. Needle and string are pulled through and out, and the lip allowed to rest. Next the upper lips is held away, and the needle is passed up into the groove at the crest of the upper gum, thence to the left nostril, through the nasal septum into the right nostril, finally plunging back into the groove and once again to the mouth. This stitchery will not be seen. Pledgets of cotton are inserted to fill out a sag here, a droop there, lest the absence of teeth or turgor be noticed. 

The book's other chapters are devoted to his surgical experiences. He is best at providing context and perspective, which I find to be almost as relevant as experience. There was the part wherein he mused about the grace of suffering:

The cancer had chewed through Joe's scalp, munched his skull, then opened the membranes underneath... until it had laid bare this short-order cook's brain, pink and gray, and pulsating so that each beat a little pool of cerebral fluid quivered...

... I would gaze then upon Joe Riker and marvel. How dignified he was, as though that tumor, gnawing him, denuding his very brain, had given him a grace that a lifetime of good health had not bestowed. 

And when he got cured (which Joe attributed to "holy water" from Lourdes): "How often it seems that the glory leaves as soon as the wound is healed."

I would personally prefer to look earthly than have the saintly glow of martyrdom, but when you think about it, how true is it that we are most beautiful at our humblest, and we are at our humblest when we are suffering. ("Anger turns to sweet compliance," he writes on page 69, in another chapter.)

On being kind to strangers, again, he offers perspective:

The man of letters did not know this woman before. Preoccupied with dying, he is scarcely aware of her presence now. But this nurse is his wife in his new life of dying. They are close, these two, intimate, depending upon the other, loving. It is a marriage, for although they own no shared past, they possess this awful, intense present, this matrimonial now, that binds them as strongly as any promise.

A man does not know whose hands will stroke from him the last bubbles of his life.

On how organ donation does not fit into religious faith:

There are those who believe that on the Day of Resurrection, one's flesh, this very flesh, ipso corpore, will rise intact and one will be once again. So it is told in more than one place in the New Testament. If that is so, who then, gets the heart on that Day? Donor or recipient?

That made me go LOL.

So where exactly is the location of the soul? His lengthiest chapter is devoted to his experience living in an Italian monastery, about which he writes the following nonchalantly, without the bravado of placing it in the concluding paragraphs:

To search for faith in a monastery is to deny its existence elsewhere. 
True morality is directed outward toward others. It has nothing to do with self-perfection.

However, it doesn't assuage my fear, which isn't so much about dying as it is dying and then there'd be nothing.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

It's that time

Here are my new resolutions to add to my life list:

  • To not sweat the small stuff
  • Write more handwritten notes: not just thank you notes and gift cards but also letters even if there's no special occasion (target: at least once monthly)
  • To actually read one new book each month, not 12 books a year as I did in 2010
  • I will not buy a trend but only classic pieces which I can imagine myself wearing until old age (weight permitting)
  • De-clutter periodically

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

My new toy

I love all the Christmas presents I received for 2010 but this one really made go LOL as soon as I tore out its wrapper. Thanks Rech for this "stress banana":

It feels gummy to touch and is quite springy, and therefore reactive, lol. I really don't find it necessary for me to have a stress ball as I de-stress in other ways, but this banana is quite addicting to squeeze and choke, and it leaves no mess! LOL!

Sunday, January 02, 2011


You hear fireworks and I hear money crackling in the fire, hehe.

It was in December 2009 when I forbid the family from buying fireworks. Prior to that, we were big on fountains and Roman candles, or basically fireworks that light up but do not explode. It was more than a year ago when, as the designated fireworks guy in the family (as in I'm the one who lights all our stuff up until midnight), I... just got tired of it: I hated having to go outside the house because I dread the death sentence of a stray bullet, as well as the myriad of casualty possibilities from fireworks that could go haywire; and I hated having powder on my hands and having to wash and scrub it to death before I could sit down for the family's New Year's Eve meal.

Last Friday, I expected our home to be the only one in the block that had no smoke coming out of its gates, except that it was already 10 minutes to midnight and our street was still no war zone. There were no explosions, not even karaoke (BEST NEW YEAR'S CELEBRATION EVER!!!), and all I could hear were the children and their toy horns. Then the clock stroke midnight and our street was still, indeed, no war zone; it was awesome.

Twenty minutes into the new year, while the family was having a nice meal, the electricity went out, lol. There was a collective howling of protest from the entire neighborhood but as for the family, we smiled in resignation (and laughed at the protesters; they were pretty funny, lol) and enjoyed what is now one of our most memorable dinners together.

Ma would've probably presented those cupcakes better if the brownout didn't kill her hosting buzz, lol.

I figured the pattern would've been the same for the rest of (I realized we live in the province, lol) Manila, but as the Inquirer reported, fireworks-related injuries are up 7 percent in 2010.

Were Filipinos only in recession in the past years?

Here's Inquirer's editorial on New Year's Eve. I hope it proves useful for when you plan your celebrations for 2012:
It is not true, for example, that the use of firecrackers and other explosives will be essentially harmless if care is taken and safety precautions are observed. The level of noise alone will be injurious, perhaps even traumatic, to those with sensitive hearing, such as human infants and pet animals.

It is not true, either, that abominably loud noise will drive out the bad spirits of the previous year and usher in an era of prosperity; we challenge any businessman to prove that the volume of gunpowder he ignited had a direct impact on his business’ bottom line. And we certainly indulged ourselves in the usual explosive merry-making at the beginning of 1984, and 1997, and 2008—but why did all that violence fail to protect us from economic distress?

It is not true, above all, that “these things” (meaning fireworks-related injuries) “happen only to other people.” That’s what we say too about ferry sinkings and bus collisions and other such all-too-common accidents—proof, if more proof were needed, that we Filipinos are still insufficiently safety-conscious. We ride motorcycles without wearing helmets, we board boats and ferries without a sufficient number of life vests, we let safety belts in cars go unused, as though risk were simply a matter of luck. Luck is involved too, of course (note the randomness of stray bullets), but risk is also a matter of prudent conduct.

Senseless, Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 31, 2010

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