The Sunbaked King

Eagle Eye

BEHIND THE LINE

Eagle Eye

Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Billy Bob Thornton, Rosario Dawson

At first, I thought I was watching Wanted. There’s this guy, a few months’ behind his rent, working at a job that doesn’t satisfy, when suddenly he finds himself awash with money at the ATM, an alpha female is dictating orders left and right, and he’s in an endless chase involving cars, trains, guns, and one big massive conspiracy. Well, ARIA is no Angelina Jolie, which is a disappointment, but that electronic lady can sure bully anyone around. 

Few more minutes in, and this time I felt like Maximum Overdrive was on the screen. (Along with The Blob, Maximum Overdrive is one of the scariest films I’ve watched in my younger years.) Only this time, instead of machines becoming self-aware and bringing mechanical doom on everyone living, horror has gone electronic and specific. ARIA chooses only an unfortunate few (You have been activated”), and sends the entire digital crew to “service” them.

Finally, due to its strong political overtones, the film seemed like the more improbable cousin of Enemy of the State. More improbable, and definitely more intense. Removing the bugs from your shoes and your clothes, not using your credit cards, and basically becoming a hermit are not enough to guarantee safety, especially from someone who can read the English language through coffee cup vibrations. As ARIA herself says: “We know who you are. We are everywhere.” If the words weren’t enough to creep you out, her intonation surely would.

So watching Eagle Eye brought to mind an assassin thriller, a Stephen King horror, and a Big Brother nail-biter. In my world, that’s one heck of a fantastic combo. Critics might call this sort of movie “preposterous” and “fantastical,” and urge everyone to avoid it. I, on the other hand, would call the movie “preposterous” and “fantastical,” and, with a big smile on my face, urge everyone to watch it. Even if you had to sit in the 3rd row closest to the screen, if it came to that.

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Filed under: Cinema, The Couch Potato

Ang Sarap Maging Atenista

Photo courtesy of inboundpass.com

Win or lose, it’s the school we choose.

And this time, it’s win.

Congratulations, Ateneo Blue Eagles!

Filed under: Being Blue, Sunshine

Single Guy Misses a Good Catch

You stomp your right foot lightly on the dust-covered ground. Despite your care, the rust-colored earth envelopes your shoe. A thick layer settles. You give your shoe a glance, appear to have interest in it, then, like a lover scorned, ignore the thing. Meanwhile, the bubble gum you’ve been chewing has decided to lodge itself in a comfortable position near the back of your tongue. Your face contorts in puzzlement. If the guy in front of you were paying attention to your face rather than your hands, he will have seen the comic way your face gets distorted as your tongue struggles to swipe the stubborn gum from your throat. But the guy’s not here to see you; he’s here to see your hands.

Free of the gum at last, you spit it out on the ground, where another person’s probably going to step on it. That’s the nature of chewed bubble gum, right? It just begs to be stepped on. In the sneakiest way possible, at the moment of supreme inconvenience. The guy in front of you, however, has no concern for your bubble gum thoughts. In fact, it’s probably to his advantage that you’re inconvenienced.

In any case, enough of non-existent metaphors and cryptic descriptions. It’s time for the game to resume.

It’s the top of the eighth inning, and the game’s tied at 1-0. Your team has home field advantage, but the other team has one very important asset: they now have their star player at the bat. The only reason why you’ve managed to squeak in one good play is his absence for the first half of the game. You don’t know what issues the other team faces, but you have heard about certain rumors–run-ins with the law, pregnant girlfriend, hostile parents. Whatever. Victim or perpetrator, as soon as he walked in the diamond, the entire arena held its breath. It’s never too late when he’s around.

You toss the ball back and forth between your gloved and free hand before looking at the home plate once again. The batter’s ready; so is your catcher behind him, and the umpire behind the two. No one else is out on the field, so your attention’s all set on this single threat. With one final toss between hands, you take your position on the mound.

Your catcher sends one finger down. Fastball. What the heck? With the star player in the helm, a straightforward fastball will not cut it. He’ll probably send the goddamn thing to outer space. You shake your head vigorously, hoping that the catcher will realize it was a stupid suggestion in the first place. To his credit, the catcher immediately nods his head slightly, and sends two fingers down. Curveball. Great. Just the play you wanted. You nod your head, tug the front of your cap forward, and ease yourself into the pitcher’s stance.

One. Your heartbeat, slow. Your vision, clear.

Two. Your senses heightened. Your right hand armed.

Three.

You feel your entire right arm stretch backward at an angle as it provides the perfect momentum, feel it move expertly forward as it prepares for the release, feel the tips of your fingers flex as they send the ball flying at a nasty curve. Surely, not even the star player is prepared for that.

Except that he is. With one swift stroke, the batter hits the ball.

One. Your heartbeat, pounding at a medically impossible speed. Your mouth, gaping. From the corner of your eye, you see the batter drop his bat, and run.

Two. The ball, in motion. Not hurtling towards the sky. Not going beyond the foul line. Instead, flying slightly parallel to the ground, forward. Zoning on what’s in front of it. Zoning on you.

With your clear vision, it’s going to be easy to see the ball’s path of travel. With your quick reflexes, it’s going to be easy to catch it. With your luck, it’s going to be easy to send this star player out by virtue of only the most important flyout ever. 

You raise your left arm to meet the ball and seal all your fates once and for all.

Three.

Filed under: Fiction, Yes?, Untamed

Corollary

During one of my not-so-busy-at-work days, I decided to plot my log-in times in the office. (Oh don’t be too shocked. You should try it yourself.) I just wanted to see how I was doing in terms of routine change. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Exhibit A, and a whole new level of geekery:

Exhibit A. Arrival Times from BOY 2008 until mid-September 2008.

Eherm. The x-axis represents the dates, from Beginning-Of-Year (BOY) 2008 until last week, during which time I made this nifty little graph. The y-axis represents the log-in times. I didn’t include afternoon log-ins, because I cease to be late then; I’m already half-a-day absent. In any case, notice the thick red line running through the 8:30 AM latitude? That’s the proper, HR-mandated, arrival time. Now, notice that aside from a few outliers, my arrival times (represented by crests and troughs) have fallen almost always beyond the thick red line. In other words, I’ve been late… almost all the freaking time.

I want you to turn your attention to the area bordered by the thick blue rectangle. Check out Mt. Everest. That particular peak is interesting, because it hovers just slightly below the 10:30 AM mark, 2 hours later than the arrival time proper for a decent employee. Now, let’s magnify that plot, and see what interesting observations we can derive:

Exhibit B. Arrival Times from Mid-August 2008 until Mid-September

The peak can now be seen in its entirety. It is, in fact, the highest point since BOY. But wait. Right after that monster of a mountain, the slope dips sharply to somewhere below the red line. And amazingly, this trend is sustained until the creation of the graph. Extrapolating for another week or so will yield the same trend. The arrival times have not gone beyond the red line.

So kiddies, what inferences can you surmise from this graph? What could possibly trigger the sudden (early) dive? A flash of guilt? A bout of shame? An epiphany of sorts? Or none of the above?

Write your answers on a 1/4 sheet of intermediate pad paper. No cheating.

Filed under: Geekery, Rat Race

Contented

A friend of mine and I were discussing contentment a few days back. We both agreed that contentment is not merely being in a state of steadiness, but is rather an active disposition. Contentment results when we willingly engage in activities that bring forth an enduring kind of happiness. The prospect of doing these activities actually drives us to change ourselves in order to do the work better. In other words, contentment is not equivalent to emotional ambivalence; “OK lang” does not give it justice, and in fact negates the concept.

Nowadays, I feel content.

It all began two weeks ago, when I realized that I was behind my readings, and that I still had tons of pages to cover. I panicked when I began to count the weeks before the exam. I wouldn’t be able to finish if I studied only during the weekends (and only on Sundays at that). Since failing this exam is not an option, I had to change my study habits. First crucial step: I had to study during weeknights.

As these things go, this resolution conflicted with reality. I go home late during weekdays. There are simply too many tasks to be done. Another moment of epiphany came at this point: I only go home late because I arrive at work late. Those who come in at 7:30 in the morning had the “luxury” of leaving at 4:30 in the afternoon. Even with a 5:30 or 6:00 PM departure, I would have ample time to study for at least 3 to 4 hours. Second crucial step: arrive at work early.

This, however, prompted me to rethink my sleeping routine. In order for my body and my mind to function, I require at least 7 hours of sleep. This is the reason why I’m always late for work in the first place. My philosophy was, I’d rather be late and productive rather than be early and sleepy. I then realized that I could still adopt this philosophy. The only difference? I had to sleep early. The third crucial step.

I made the conscious decision to sleep early one Sunday evening, and woke up early Monday morning. I finished a reasonable amount of work before the day ended, and got to leave the office before my usual time. I headed straight to Powerplant to study in Starbucks. I was able to browse through several problems, and finished a chapter by 10 PM. I slept by 11 PM. The day after, I was early again. For two weeks now, I’ve been mimicking the same schedule.

The effects of this new routine on me are just short of amazing. Not being late for work (for the first time in many, MANY months, I might add) significantly reduced the stress from commuting, diminished work-related “guilt,” and provided me the time I needed for some psychological debriefing. This, in turn, improved productivity, increased work quality, and enhanced certain professional relationships (haha). It’s wonderful how all these side effects converged just because I made the right decision to take my studies seriously once and for all. 

Now, I don’t feel guilty when I give myself a night’s off, because I know I earned it. Now, I don’t feel like I’m wasting money when I shell out P100+ on coffee because I know the time spent in the coffee shop is time not wasted. Now, I don’t feel agitated spending time in the Internet. Now, I don’t feel miserable.

Nowadays, I am content.

Filed under: Domesticated, Ra, Rat Race, Sunshine, Untamed

Morning Eavesdropping

Overheard in an office cubicle at around 9 in the morning, 18th of September:

 

“Hello? Happy birthday!”

       “Thank you. Bakit ngayon ka lang tumawag? Si Kenneth tumawag 12:04 AM.”

Ha? Tulog pa ako nun, eh.

       “Ikaw ang 100th na nag-greet sa akin ngayon.

Maaga pa kaya. And besides, hindi pa tapos ang araw. May mag-g-greet pa sa’yo mamaya.

       “May tumawag nga sa akin ng 2:03 AM–”

Anong klaseng tao ang gising pa ng oras na yan?

       “Basta ikaw ang 100th na nag-greet. Regalo ko?

Di ba binigyan na kita?

       Laughter. “Yun na pala yun? Di pa nga kasya yun. Di mo ako binigyan ng pam-budget.”

Ha? Budget? Sige, budget ko sa’yo, 100,000.”

       “Asus.

Sige, uutang na lang ako pambili ng gift ko for you.”

       “Kung uutang ka, huwag na.

Anong handa niyo diyan?

       Lilting, sing-song voice: “May lechon kami mamayaaa… Tapos barbeque, isdaaa…

Inggit ako! Padalhan mo ako dito, dali! Pa-cater yan?

       “Mahal pa-cater. Kami lang magluluto.

Sinong invited?

       “Couples. At mga ka-close ko sa office.”

Si Jean pupunta?

       “Hindi ko na in-invite. Di na siya dito sa office e.

Pag di na pala ka-office di na invited?”

       “Ganun talaga.

Anong gagawin niyo sa handaan mamaya?

       “May program kami dito. May projector from roof to floor.”

Seryoso yan? Sinong host?”

       “Ako siyempre. Ako’ng may birthday e.”

Hala.

       “Tapos sa program, tatawagan ka. Phone patch. Message from Manila.”

Giggling inside, but not letting the other end hear it. “Ak! Kailangan ko mag-prepare? May ganun talaga?”

       “Tapos may 50 golden balloons. Nakasulat: ‘Happy at 50.'” Childish snickers.

Ano ba yan.

       “Happy at 50… dot com.” From snickers to roaring guffaws.

Suppressed laughter from the other end. “Malandi ka talaga, Pa.” Laughter now unsuppressed. “Sige na. Happy birthday ulit. Pakisabi kay Mama, hello.”

       “Sige. Hehe. Thank youuu…”

Babay.

       “Babay.

 

Happy 50th birthday, Papa! Hope the rest of the year gets filled with your loud laughs and corny jokes. Obviously, may pinagmanahan ang kababawan ko. Let’s swim at the shallow end more during the next few years. Love you! 🙂

Filed under: Domesticated, Sunshine, Testimonial

Coffee Shops of Wisdom

Studying is an art. You have to find the perfect table (just about chest high so that you don’t need to crouch down to write, preferably one with a rectangular surface), the right chair (nothing too padded lest you’ll feel lazy and sleepy), the right spot (near the sockets if you’re typing on a laptop), the perfect drink (something hot if the place is freezing cold), the right type of music (Enya is not a good idea unless you plan on daydreaming; Metallica isn’t an option, either), the right clothes (a jacket is a must), and the perfect accessories (three pens, a whole sheet of yellow pad paper). Of course, all this won’t matter if you’re not located in the perfect place. And in my opinion, coffee shops are the perfect haven for all study-philes, a nexxus of inspiration, a temple for concentration.

Here’s a list of the coffee shops I frequent, popular (to me) because of their uncanny ability to provoke insight and provide the right frame of mind. With exams only a few months away, you’ll probably see me here more and more each week. 

[Note: The coffee shops are not written in any particular order of importance.]

1. Starbucks 6750. Located near Glorietta, this huge Starbucks branch is a study-phile’s blessing because of its wide space, myriad sockets, and yellow lights. Boasting two floors and a dedicated smokers’ area outside the establishment, there’s almost always a place for everyone. For those wanting to relax, the couches are distributed evenly between the floors, and the spines of the seats located along the back wall are padded for a more comfortable seating experience. 

Things/people to beware of: groups of kids loudly discussing games during the weekends; dealings with obnoxious but important-looking foreigners

2. Starbucks Powerplant. There are two Starbucks in Rockwell, each within spitting distance of the other. I study in both. The first one, the one inside Powerplant, is jampacked with people, particularly law students and graduate students in the nearby Ateneo Professional Schools. There’s a delicate balance between an academic and a posh mall atmosphere inside the cafe, and if you’re not careful, you might find yourself staring around rather than studying. People-watching is a game that is hard to resist in such an exposed location, but once you’re over it, this particular coffee shop is still a good place to study in.

Things/people to watch out for: the above-mentioned people-watching; the above-mentioned people

3. Starbucks Rockwell (Jungle). It’s called the Jungle because there’s a hedge of sorts separating the coffee shop from the road beside it. The place is more private as compared to the one inside the mall, but it’s also a rather busy one. Best to come early, preferably before all the law students storm in. They usually take long hours hoarding the tables, so hoard one before they’re all gone (Ahhh! My roommate’s a law student here once, I’m just kidding! Back off, law students!). 

Things/people to watch out for: law students; bar examination takers (My father’s a lawyer! My brother’s aspiring to be one! We’re friends!)

4. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Makati Avenue. A recent discovery, primarily because it’s a recently constructed place. The wonderful thing about this coffee shop is that it’s just a few minutes’ walk away from the house (just like the two before it), almost devoid of humans during weekends (unlike the other two before it), and close to the best restaurants this side of Makati Avenue (Foccacia and Fluke!, for example). 

Things/people to beware of: the eerie quietude may remind you of slasher films and ghost towns

5. Seattle’s Best Coffee, Katipunan. Probably because it’s located in front of the Ateneo, this coffee shop along Katipunan Avenue has a more academic feel to it (see number 2 and 3), as opposed to the corporate aura emanating from the coffee shops in Makati. This is a good thing. You’ll probably be flanked by students studying for their exams, and the discussions will probably be more mind-stimulating than irritating. Some of the other big pluses– rectangular tables (a big deal for someone who wants to have his entire study materials spread in front of him) and sockets per table (four per table, amazing)– are in abundance. 

Things/people to beware of: rapidly diminishing number of empty seats after lunch; conversations that are too mind-stimulating they distract

That ends the list. I’ve studied in other places, but these are the few that I really seek out whenever I study. Of course, more than the place, the conscious decision to study is the more important aspect of studying. Without it, you’ll probably be too lazy to stand up, prefer to blog near your bed, instead, and not even be attentive enough to realize that you used the word “study” five times in a single paragraph.

Filed under: Rat Race

Death Race

BEHIND THE LINE

Death Race

Jason Statham

On one sunny day in 1991, my father arrived home from his oath-taking in Manila, carrying with him a big box. I thought the box contained a pair of shoes; the size was just about right. When the plastic bag was placed aside and the package revealed, my eyes almost popped out from their sockets. It was a stunning, high-tech, top-of-the-line… Family Computer. 

Over the next few weeks, Mario became my best friend. I guided him across infinitely deep gorges, helped him avoid the fiery fury of King Koopa, prompted him to step on that turtle in Stage 3 a hundred times so that he can gain a hundred lives, and consoled him when he was met, not by the Princess, but by that annoying mushroom seven freaking times. When he jumped, my joystick jumped. When he tiptoed across narrow cliffs, my toes curled. When he died, I kicked the computer away. (Kidding.)

The fantastical thought has crossed my mind several times. How it would feel like to be inside Mario’s World? Would it be just as fun? Or would the prospect of an incoming bullet (with a maniacal smile, no less) be actually dangerous? Death Race tells us that no, it wouldn’t be fun at all, but it would be one hell of a successful marketing strategy.

Death Race presents a world where the US is no longer the superpower, criminals roam the land, and private corporations gain profit from managing prison establishments. One of the many ways by which they do this is through TV (or maybe TiVo) subscriptions from rabid fans of the Death Race. With this one sensational concept, the movie provides a commentary on the extremes of capitalism, the addiction of people to reality TV, and the regression of a nation to its dark, bloodthirsty ways, all without appearing preachy or boring.

Boring, in fact, is one word I will not use to describe the movie. Boring is not a term I will use to describe Mario Kart in Time Zone, boring is not a term I will use to describe Need for Speed, boring is not a term I will use to describe Gran Turismo. The Race, which is a cross between a reality TV show and a video game, is a vivid spectacle of gunfire, gore, and machinery. With a respectable action star at the wheel (Statham), the result is a fast-paced film that will make you reach for that invisible joystick pad in front of you.

For $99, Stage 1 of the Death Race is worth every penny. For P170, Death Race is worth every cent.

Filed under: Cinema, Gadgetry, The Couch Potato

Jacques and Kenneth

Brothers, I call them. The former my brother by friendship, the latter my brother by blood.

When Mama gave birth to Kenneth, I got displaced as the youngest son, and therefore lost the fascination of the people around me. All eyes were on Mama’s new baby. For a moment, I envied the creature that has made itself audibly present in our midst; for a moment, I felt sorry for the attention that I lost. But the moment passed. What replaced the green-eyed monster was a sense of kinship, a burst of feeling, a jolt of a remarkable connection. Yes, I was no longer the youngest son, but I transformed into someone better: I was now my brother’s guardian, I was now my brother’s guide.

Jack’s birth, on the other hand, was something I did not witness firsthand. After knowing the guy for almost 5 years now, I realize that his birth was probably a momentous and exciting event. An explorer at heart, Jack dares to be in different situations from that he is accustomed to. While at times this may lead to disappointments (and the occasional heartbreaks), he is not weakened; he is strong. It’s almost funny, the way I assigned myself the role of “brother” when Jack arrived in Manila for college; it’s even funnier how life reverses roles.

Two men in their teens, each as open to life as the other, both more courageous than I’ll ever be. While I continue to remain within the confines of my safe zones, these two have managed to step outside theirs, and explored life as it should be explored– with eyes full of wonder and with heart full of pride. I am likewise proud of and in awe at the persons these two have become. I am lucky to have them as brothers.

Jacques just turned 19. Kenneth just turned 17.

This is one week late, but happy birthday you guys. 🙂

Filed under: Sunshine, Testimonial

A Little Poem

I have a little poem:

Hear my plea, my silent tears
I have succumbed to a blogger’s fears
Although I’ve tried to write them down
These thoughts– so stubborn– won’t come around
Up ’til now, the page’s blank
Soon, I hope, my mind gets cranked.

Seriously. I have several ideas for entries all neatly lined up: 2 restaurant reviews, 1 movie review, 2 testimonials, 1 sorta “wala lang” list, and a sticky post for some much-needed Book Club and Boob Tube updates. Unfortunately, they remain as ideas, and, more unfortunate, I think they’re going to remain as ideas for a little bit longer. You see, I have become obsessed.

With studying, that is. I have finally found the discipline to arrive at work before my scheduled time, just so that I can go home early to study. I have finally found the motivation to complete all assigned work before the day ends, just so I’ll have the time to browse through my notes. And– this is the most important thing I’m denying myself– I have finally found the willpower not to succumb to the Internet’s powerful persuasion, just so that I’ll be able to pass this freaking exam.

Hope, I must– there’s still a way
If I get some extra time to play
As of date, I find no space
Time is such a tiring chase
Until the next time that we meet
Signing out, it’s been a treat.

Filed under: Helios