Thursday, June 28, 2007

Oriental Negros bliss

Sometimes the Philippines can be better appreciated in pictures than in real life. There's something in the heat and humidity and heaviness of the air that breeds pessimism.

Take a look at this photo, for instance. I hardly paid any attention to the surroundings when passing through this area, but I like how the photo turned out.

This picture was taken earlier this month somewhere between Tanjay City and Bais City, Negros Oriental. It has a backdrop of gentle rolling mountains, a majestic cloud-draped sky, and vast fields of... what is that, sugarcane? Anyway, it's a pleasantly genuine and understated landscape. Like a less surreal, more easy-on-the-eyes version of the default Windows XP wallpaper, "Bliss".

Click here for a full-sized 1600x1200 pic.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Segway in Cebu

The future is here. A couple of days ago I saw a guy casually cruising down the street aboard his Segway, eliciting turned heads, dropped jaws, and other expressions of awe.

This is on Salinas Drive in Barangay Lahug, not far from JY Square mall.

Monday, June 25, 2007


The trouble with a movie based on a true story is that it's also a movie bound by a true story.

Zodiac kicks off with a sadistic murderer doing his thing, then taunting the police with mysterious letters and cryptograms. The movie's tagline ("There's more than one way to lose your life to a killer") promises another dark crime thriller like Se7en, also by director David Fincher. This is the interesting part, but it only lasts for the first 1/3 of the movie, and then the reality kicks in-- the reality of a long winded and confusing investigation that spanned decades and never conclusively ended.

The second half of the movie felt a lot like, of all things, All the President's Men. That's another movie that's mostly a lot of investigating and talking. They do their best at trying to add a sense of tension by having Jake Gyllenhaal scrambling through evidence, banging on the police station door in the middle of the night, and always talking like he's out of breath and nearly out of his mind. It does work to an extent, and you often forget that years have gone by with nothing happening. It's probably as well executed as it can be given the source material. But when it's all done I can't help but feel a bit let down.

But of course, you have to respect your source material. In real life the cryptograms didn't actually mean anything, but it would have been more interesting if they did. In the end, they didn't even catch the killer, and the movie can't totally even commit to the guy it wants you to believe is the killer, because the guy wasn't convicted in real life

It would have been cooler (or at least more entertaining) if they took the premise from real life, then threw the facts out the window and decided to just run free with the concept... give it an injection of sensational cinematic spectacle, topped off with a head-in-a-box ending. I guess you have to wait 2500 years before you can do that.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Maguindanao or something like it

As always, the latest report on the status of the election results in Maguindanao talks about it as if it's a distant planet rather than a province in Mindanao.

The province has a population of hundreds of thousands of people, but I have yet to hear a news article that reports from their point of view. It's all about inane accusations of cheating from politicians in Manila, calls for calm and sobriety from the government in Manila, and feeble attempts to paint a picture of competence from bureaucrats in Manila. And today, more than a month after election day, after fact-finding missions and investigations, the most palpable quote from the today's news article is an election lawyer saying "We do have proof now that elections did take place". Hurrah.

Forgive the geeky analogy, but it's like in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace when Queen Amidala goes to the Galactic Senate to seek help after Naboo is invaded by the Trade Federation's droid army, but all the Senate can do is squabble and debate among themselves on whether any invasion actually took place. In the end the best they can do is agree to send a delegation to investigate whether an invasion took place. Sheesh, can't they just make a phone call and ask?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Letter to the editor

In "The Real Problem With Pakistan" (June 25, 2007 issue of Newsweek), Fareed Zakaria claims that the United States "helped usher in democracy" for the Philippines in the 1980s. This is incorrect. The United States supported our dictator Ferdinand Marcos out of a mutual opposition to communism during the Cold War. This support contributed to the longevity of Marcos' 20-year reign, and prevailed nearly up to the last minute, when American helicopters evacuated Marcos to live out the rest of his days in Hawaii. As it was then and is now, the mission to spread freedom and democracy is only a facade. Like any other nation, America's foremost priority is to protect its own interests.

Michael Gonzalez
Negros Oriental, Philippines

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ocean's Thirteen

It was weird enough that they made a sequel to a remake of a 1960s movie, now they have gone ahead and made it into a trilogy. I liked this one more than Ocean's Twelve, which was a bit too clever and snappy for its own good, but not more than Ocean's Eleven, which was quite good though not exactly good enough to mandate a sequel, let alone two.

This time around the premise goes like this: Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould) has some kind of stroke after being cheated out of a Vegas casino partnership by bad guy Willie Bank (Al Pacino). To square things up, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his boys (Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Matt Damon, et al) scheme to infiltrate the casino, rig all the casino games, and take off with hundreds of millions of dollars in winnings.

This series is all about style. It has a very lighthearted breezy cool feeling to it, as if Steven Soderbergh got the inspiration to make the movie on a whim, rounded up his ensemble cast in an afternoon, and whipped together the entire movie in a week or so. But I mean that in the best possible way... some of my proudest work, of any form, is produced when I just let things go and allow nature to take its course. When too much thought goes into something it often turns out anticlimactic, clunky, unnatural.

Maybe the trouble is that since the series is defined by its lightheartedness, a lot of thought has surely been put into ensuring that the movie maintains that distinct style. The form seems to be all good, but there's that indefinable substance that seems to be somewhat off, and while the movie turned out to be good in all respects, I get the woeful feeling that it is distinctly forgettable.

By the way, to the three girls that were sitting in the corner of the theater, chatting and giggling loudly throughout the movie: There are a billion other places you can do that for free, with the added bonus of not pissing everybody off.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Somebody stole my trash can

I don't mean that in a lighthearted way with any sprinkling of humor and folly. It's not like "haha my trash can is gone now which one of you rascals did it". That was a perfectly good big trash can and it was stolen. I am a victim of a crime.

In fact that trash can was better than perfectly good, it was great. Got it at Ace Hardware for something like 300 pesos, hardly more than two months ago. I didn't even ask for anything in return from my housemates, it's the one thing I donated to the apartment out of the goodness of my own heart. And this is what I have to show for it.

It happened a week ago when the water system at the apartment was busted for some reason. A bunch of guys were doing some construction work outside to get it fixed, and somebody asked if they could borrow the big trash can as a container. Later on the water is fixed but the trash can is gone. We ask around to everybody that could possibly be involved, but not a single person has a clue about what happened to it.

Grrr. Assholes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Cebu Daily News" is a misnomer

Here is the start of the headline story of today's issue of Cebu Daily News:

By Chris Ligan, Jhunnex Napallacan
Cebu Daily News
Last updated 04:05pm (Mla time) 06/11/2007

Cebu City, Philippines - Fuente Osmeña rotunda should remain with Cebu City.
The capital letters and bold red text are not a stylistic decision on my part, that is actually how it appears on today's front page. I don't care what the news story is actually about, professional newspapers are not supposed to be taking sides like this. There is a line between news and propaganda. It is not a thin line, and Cebu Daily News is on the wrong side of it. It annoys me greatly that even the most apparently-respectable of news sources has to be dissected with a critical eye and taken with a grain of salt. Even more annoying is that hardly anyone seems to be as vexed about this as I am.

Blame Wikipedia for raising my standards to expect and demand a higher standard of neutrality from mainstream news sources. One of the five essential pillars of Wikipedia is that it has a neutral point of view-- and one obvious shortcoming of Wikipedia that people often point out is that, being editable by absolutely anyone, it is prone to abuse by drooling idiots and point-of-view warriors. This is a valid point... often when not enough people are watching, an article can start to look more like a fan page. The commonly percieved solution to this would be to limit editing to a much smaller establishment, a group of people that simply have to be trusted to provide balanced news (of course, this would never happen to Wikipedia as it contradicts its very foundation).

But, oh, what to do when the point-of-view warriors are in the establishment...