Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Elizabeth (1998)

It's been almost a decade, and it was only just last Thursday I saw (and eventually bought) Elizabeth on DVD starring Cate Blanchett. Not that I haven't seen the movie yet; I saw it twice in the cinemas, one as an English requirement, and another time because I found the movie absolutely compelling.

My beloved Cate Blanchett here was fascinating - emanating not only glory, power and inner strength, but also wit, charm and well placed femininity. I will forever curse Gwyneth Paltrow for denying her an Oscar win. I was plenty surprised that this was an all star cast - apart from the keynote actors, there was Vincent Cassel, Fanny Ardant, Kelly MacDonald, Lily Allen, and even Daniel Craig.

Declared illegitimate aged 3. Tried for treason aged 21. Crowned Queen aged 25. Can't wait for the sequel, The Golden Age.
Sunday, May 27, 2007

Roland Garros 2007

Women's Singles
Defending Champion: Justine Henin

First Quarter
All eyes will be on Justine and Serena, as they share four trophies over the past five years; throw in a good scandal the last time they played here, and you've got a mouth-watering drama ready to unfold in Paris. That, aside from them displaying fantastic form this year. I honestly don't see much resistance for either of them not to make it to the second week.

QF Match: Justine vs Serena

Second Quarter
Last year, Jelena Jankovic was a no-namer; this year, she's seeded fourth, with already three titles for 2007. A looming rematch with Venus Williams is in the works, with Venus aiming a revenge for the tight one they played in Charleston. Still, the Serbian is tipped to hang tough and make it to the quarters.

Elena Dementieva is in the mix too, but since she reached the finals of Istanbul, she'd probably wilt against last year's quarterfinalist Anna Lena Groenefeld in the second round. Either way, winning three weeks in a row exhaust the 2004 finalist.

A tussle between last year's claycourt princess (until she crashed out of RG in the opening round) Nadia Petrova and semifinalist Nicole Vaidisova will determine one position in the final 8 of the draw. I'd pick the steadier Russian, unless she chokes though.

QF Match: Jelena vs Nadia

Third Quarter
This section welcomes back the 2004 champion Anastasia Myskina - tough draw though, as she meets compatriot Svetlana in 2R. Kuzzie has reached 3 finals already, and has a clear claycourt pedigree, so expect her to go deep in the draw, all the way to the finals even.

Winner in Berlin, Ana Ivanovic has been gifted a pretty good draw, as she can power past all her opponents, until getting to the 4R, where she's expected to face Daniela. This one could go either way, but Ana's results on clay have been much more stellar than the Slovak.

QF Match: Ana vs Svetlana

Fourth Quarter
It's actually ironic to see that the highest seeds in this draw might not live up to their seedings; Maria (seeded 2nd) and Amelie (seeded 5th) aren't known to play big matches on the clay. Maria faces a dangerous Emelie Loit in the opening round, and this smells like an upset. Should she get past that, a crafty Patty awaits her in 4R.

It's already hard for the French to count on Amelie to win her home Slam, still, the draw has not been kind to her. She'll meet Lucie, who knocked her out of Melbourne earlier this year, and upstart Anna Chakvetadze in the succeeding round. Cross fingers, experience will put her through, at least until the quarters.

QF Match: Amelie vs Patty


Men's Singles
Defending Champion: Rafael Nadal

First Quarter
There is just one question on everybody's mind: Can Federer finally triumph in Paris, and claim the title Greatest of All Time? Prior to his Hamburg victory, this bid has already been written off, labelling his string of losses as a slump. But after dismantling Nadal's 3-year clay streak, the answer is yes. All he needs is pretty good warmup from quality players, and he'll be well on his way. A 4th round clash with former champ Ferrero, seasoned claycourter Robredo or maybe Safin should prepare (but not deprive) Roger for his moment in history.

QF Match: Federer vs Robredo

Second Quarter
I'm giving one slot in the QF for the hardworking Davydenko, he'll be facing Nalbandian in the R16, but the Argentinean hasn't been playing well recently, so I'll stick to my pick. I just hope he's not too tired from playing in Austria.

It's been a couple of years already, and I still don't know what to make of Gasquet. Baby Fed, they called him, but that star fizzled out due to (very) inconsistent results. He's going to face Federer's recent nemesis, Canas in R32 and Gonzalez in R16, and getting past that seems pretty slim.

QF Match: Davydenko vs Gonzalez

Third Quarter
The heir apparent of Federer has finally arrived. With consistent finishes in Indian Wells, Adelaide and Miami, Djokovic has proven that he's a step above his batchmates of young guns on tour. His section is gifted with lots of qualifiers, and his first big challenge will come in 4R against the experienced Ferrer. This is a tricky one to call, as Ferrer has turned in quite consistent results on the red clay.

The bottom half of the draw will be a total surprise, as there is nobody imposing enough to make an impression in Roland Garros. Baghdatis hasn't quite shown how good he is recently, and Andy Roddick has won 4 matches here in the last 6 years (that's a really bad statistic). It's a second round appearance at best. I hope Mathieu goes through the draw, he was the only one to give Nadal a run for his money in last year's tournament.

QF Match: Djokovic vs Mathieu

Fourth Quarter
It was an inspiring run in Hamburg for Moya, let's hope that this has boosted his confidence in being a threat on clay. With no real contenders in his section, he should rise above them and get to the quarters.

Hewitt may have had a good run on clay recently, but he snagged the rough end of the draw, landing in Nadal's R16 lineup. He almost figured out how to play the King Of Clay, but in a 5-setter environment, expect the defending champion to scramble and tug at every point.

QF Match: Moya vs Nadal
Monday, May 21, 2007

Why Am I Not Surprised?

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Science/Math Nerd

(Absolute Insane Laughter as you pour toxic chemicals into a foaming tub of death!)

Well, maybe you aren't this extreme, but you're in league with the crazy scientists/mathmeticians of today. Very few people have the talent of math and science is something takes a lot of brains as well. Thank whosever God you worship, or don't worship, so thank no deity whatsoever in your case, for you people! Most of us would have died off without your help.

Literature Nerd
Social Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Drama Nerd
Anime Nerd
Artistic Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Who would've thought that in my drunken stupor last weekend I would be taking home something that would immediately inspire me. No, not that, you pervert.

I've decided to change jobs, or at least apply for another one; and an overpriced quotable magnet probably must've pushed me to the edge to take a leap.

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.

It sticks quite well in my cubicle wall too.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sunflower Memories

Every summer, I look forward to passing by University Avenue in Diliman - the entrance to my alma mater, UP. April would be the perfect time when the sunflowers are ripe and in a blossoming flourish. The jolly yellow flowers would signal that another year has come, and graduates must march out of university, and on to the real world. These blooms would remind me of everything that was college: a time to grow up and be an adult, but still revel in your youth; a time to make sense of the things that go around you, but still be irreverent. Whenever I see University Ave aglow with the sunflowers, I can not help but feel awe of the fond, fond memories UP has given me.

Every summer, the portal of sunflowers transport me back in time, when everything was beautiful, and in full bloom.
Monday, May 14, 2007

Peering Down Craters

It took a lot of convincing, all of them internal, to put my heavy ass inside a plane. Don't get me wrong, but I like flying. I like it so much, that well, I have enough material to talk about in this blog about my travels. However, this was no ordinary plane - it was a small plane, so small that it can only seat 3 passengers and the pilot. Remember that old Daffy Duck cartoon that he'd stand on the propeller and yell "Contact!" ? Yeah, that's the one. Out pilot, Jimmy Boyd, consoled us that at least every one sat in first class.


So there I was sitting nervously in a little plane, waiting for our turn to take the runway. The takeoff was relatively smooth, but in a small plane you can feel all the little movements. Whenever the pressure changed due to a rise in altitude, Little Plane That Could jerked a little, causing my stomach to churn, my head to tilt, and my eyes to rapidly search for a parachute (there were none, but there life jackets, how comforting). Boysen, an aerospace engineer, who assured me that it was *probably* safe with a counter-argument "How you know your car is safe?", gets usually airsick. Just puke it out, and you'll be fine, he suggested. Ah, just like getting plastered after having a notorious night of drinking - vomit will set things right.

Nice view!
Back to the flight, we finally reached our desired altitude to properly view the crater of Mount Pinatubo. This sure beats a 2-day trek! From the meandering lahar flows that spark contrast with the lush green foliage of the mountains, to the crater lake that was semi-dark from all the sulfur, it was definitely a sight to behold. There are a lot more pictures, but I'd like to think that I'm considerate for non-DSL connections (us, mainly). I just did not feel awe at the sight, but also sadness; I offered a moment of silence to remember all the people who were displaced, killed, lost, from the events that were borne of the fury of Pinatubo.

Lahar flows... There's probably more pictures to upload in my Flickr account.
The modest Clark Museum in Angeles City is a 200 sqm room divided into chambers that relived the American Occupation of the area. I surely didn't know that it was called Fort Stotsenburg in the earlier days (now you do too!), and Clark, was...hmm... that one I forgot already. I'm sure he was famous though.

From the showcase of history in the museum, we raided the Angeles City Proper, or as Boysen would refer to it, Angeleth Thity. Allow me a moment to indulge here: my lisp is not that bad!

As I was saying, Filipino Ingenuity was on full display on the roads, with names that are suggestive, yet still playful littering the road encircling Clark. I'm sure there's a sign for a pub that will tickle your fancy (no pun intended!); my favorites were Thi Hi and T Time. You have to see the posters to have a more, errm, visual appreciation.

Last one before I go to the main event, we stopped by the plane relics in Air Force City. I got a chance to take photos, and this is one of my all time favorites. It's called Homage To Planes, and it's got something to do with my next trip, together with a very popular volcano.

Paying Homage To Planes
Showing my CouchSurfing guest Stijn what Manila looks like was as much a pleasure for me since I was fiddling with my brand new camera. After checking out San Agustin Church (there's an article about it below, before Spider-Man 3 made a splash in my blog), we headed for good old Fort Santiago. Silly me, it was just across the street from Manila Cathedral. Anyway, it was probably in Grade 3 when I went here last - it looks fairly familiar, yet enticingly new.

There were 18th century guards, ancient Spanish brick gates, and, (in)appropriately, a well-manicured golf course. Even the caretaker of the 3mx4m artillery room-cum-chapel scratched her head at the thought of the golf course. Well, at least the grass is definitely well taken care of.

The picture is a little too bright - since it was around 36C that day...

If you think the golf course was quite peculiar, then you should try the Rizal Museum. His old cell, all his writings, and photos of the women he loved; nothing was strange here, but the writings were presented in a very modern way. Etched glass, steel bars that draped from ceiling to the floor, and as an ending, the Mi Ultimo Adios written on the floor. Sure, it was a novel way of presenting his works, but for me, it was a little anachronistic. It was modern, too modern even.

The rest of the beauty of Fort Santiago seemed to have eluded me, as I was busy answering phone calls that morning. Drat. But, there was enough time to take a picture of Pasig River, and imagine the glory days of the fortress. Even one of the brazen guards spread across the grounds seemed to think so.

Contemplating the past days of the Pasig River
Thursday, May 10, 2007

Swim Away! Fanboy In The Midst!

The verdict is out - I like Spiderman 3 more than I enjoyed the last installment. Throw in a perfectly good song by Snow Patrol, and it's set the tone for a wonderful, exciting, summer season at the movies. And by "good", in a Snow Patrol kind of way, I mean "mopey, insightful, with a swelling crescendo". Perfect.

In the confusion and the aftermath,
You are my signal fire,
The only resolution and the only joy,
Is the faint spark of forgiveness in your eyes

This season's really intriguing movies: Ratatouille, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Disturbia, The Simpsons Movie (Go Chief Wiggum!).
In summary, I enjoyed the last Spider-Man movie. My gripe is that it was very pop, yet very MTV2 at the same time. Just to be consistent with the music references for this article, it would be best to write my complaints in a list:

1. Gwen Stacy, is well, too Gwen Stefani (No surprises there).
2. Harry Osborn, was less brood-y, more cheer-y. It's like Robbie Williams revering to his boyband roots. Eeek.
3. Peter Parker + alien symbiote = Panic! At The Disco groupie. That I found really strange.
4. I've seen Mary Jane Watson before. They're called divas, and we don't need more of them.
5. The ending was pretty strange; this felt like a contrived encore.
6. And like all other reviews, the movie has got too much going on; it's like watching the Live8 video stream where you get to see all of them perform at the same time.
7. Bryce Dallas Howard, James Cromwell, and Topher Grace were way underused.

However, there were good points as well:

Never been the fan of costumes, but this one is one cool tandem with the skateboard-glider.
1. Goblin's glider/skateboard and Harry's costume rocked.
2. Topher Grace was still very Topher Grace, even as Venom. Just how cool is that?
3. The tag teams idea was clever, why just now?
4. Less longful looks from Harry and Peter, and vice versa.
5. Less preaching, less self righteousness, more action. Yey!

Too much talking, less watching! Got to run back to the cinemas, lest only 9 of the 10 cinemas carry Spider-Man 3 in Gateway.
Monday, May 07, 2007

Summer Music Mix 2007

I'm lazy, yet I still want to rant. Just picked up a couple of CDs, and seen a movie. Here's an abridged guide:

1. Introducing Joss Stone by Joss Stone - Vinnie Jones, Raphael Saadiq, Common and Lauryn is definitely a good boost for her. There are no standout songs from the album, but the record in general shows off a more upbeat brand of soul this young singer is famous for.

2. A Fever You Can't Sweat Out by Panic! At The Disco - My major hesitation in picking up this album before (aside from long, cumbersome titles) was a uncanny resemblance to Fall Out Boy, which I already had. Surprise, surprise. There's a bit more dancehall rock and programming in the album that what I gave them credit for. I particularly like Camisado, Time To Dance ("when I say Shotgun, you say Wedding!"), and the hits. Special mention to Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes (Sound familiar? This was spoken by Natalie Portman, in Closer), complete with the odd goldfish video.

3. Out Of The Woods by Tracy Thorn - Glad she came out with an album, and fresh new songs, since EBTG came out with Temparamental in 2000. This collection of songs is, in a word, quirky. There are elements of 80s pop, streaks of great programming, and pepperings of folk. It's two steps back from Walking Wounded (less drumbeats, less synthesizing), but two steps forward from Amplified heart (more programming, more electronica). It's strange, and the least I would expect from her, and maybe that's why I loved it. Standouts are Easy, Grand Canyon, Raise The Roof, and By Piccadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept.

4. Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard - Why oh why did I take forever to buy this CD? I knew I loved the title track to bits (best song of 2004), and their contribution to the Spider-Man 2 OST Gifts and Curses was simply phenomenal - so why? Maybe the piyok turned me off. Haha. Great album, and not as noisy as I would've expected. Apart from the title track and Only One, the other good songs are Empty Apartment, Life Of A Salesman (perfect for Father's day, but probably Frank Sinatra or Perry Como would still be a better choice), One Year Six Months and Back Home. Yeah, so I really liked the album.

I did say I saw a movie, and mentioned Spiderman above, but this is getting to be a rather long entry, so I'll wait a couple of hours before I do that one. Drat, and I working up a pretty good segue back there.
I finally had a Couchsurfer land in my room, and my parents were equally thrilled to accommodate a foreigner. They started with the usual fussy bottled water issue, based on the premise that all foreigners can't handle the local tap; and ended with booting one of my brothers to another room.

Philippine nomenclature, well, at least my parents' style is baffling. At first, my parents thought that he was Dutch, but when I explained that our guest, Stijn, was from Belgium, they went "Aaah..." Boysen. (Both Dutch Boy and Boysen brands of paint - if he's not Dutch Boy, then, he's Boysen, duh).

Don't let its homely facade deceive you

Anyway, Stijn/Boysen looks like he did enjoy a tour of Manila, as much as I did myself. It was time to road test (so to speak) the spanking brand new Canon 400D I received for my birthday (The only gift I received, taken from my April paycheck, drat).

Its lenses landed first in Intramuros, and towards the UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Agustin Church. That's 3, out of 4 WH Churches in the Philippines I've already visited! The ivory display of carved dolls were impressive, as they were creepy. The actual church was definitely more ornate than what I had expected: its internal furnishings were very 16th century church-like, but the intricate pulpits were probably the first ones I have seen. Also of note would be the crypts, the ruins by the garden, and the choir loft in the second floor.

The lovely details etched out of the vaulted dome

After the churches, and trying (unsuccessfully) to covertly take pictures of guards garbed up in Katipunero costumes, Fort Santiago was the easiest place to take out in the the itinerary. There was a lady manning the artillery warehouse-turned-chapel; she griped about the strange 18-hole golf course embracing the Spanish enclaves (yes, that is pretty strange).

Unintentionally, San Agustin was the namesake of my guest, and how interesting that that was the highlight of our morning. Good thing Saint Augustine didn't have parents like mine did, otherwise, it would be a pretty odd sounding name for a church..