Saturday, February 20, 2010

that Coen moment.

When I think about it now, I'm scared to think of it as ominous --- me staring at the blank switched-off screen of our puny TV set. I can see myself reflected in the tube but I can't see my face. It's like that scene from the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men. After taking a gulp of a cold milk bottle, the character of Tommy Lee Jones, a sheriff out on a tricky pursuit of a deranged killer, sits down in the sofa and stares at a blank TV screen. It plays out perfectly now in my mind. It evokes dread. There it is. Dread is more like it. I feel dreadful today. I turned off the TV long enough after an AI rerun on a local channel, but I just sat there in a monobloc chair that could be falling off any minute nonplussed at the many minutes that passed. I was kind of in a blank state. Before AI, Glee was on a rampage. I put it on the cheap bootlegged DVD player hoping to bring a jovial spirit to an already ruined day. I had a fight with father, perhaps one of the nastiest fight, because I spewed forth English words that would make our neighbors squirm with disgust, in case they heard it. Oh it wasn’t at all expletives, but they were sure to hurt. Well I was hurt. So it would make sense that the words that would come out of my mouth would be hurtful. It’s inappropriate not just because the familial norm requires that no parent gets a verbal lashing from his offspring, but also because it’s inappropriate for me to speak in a different language when our socio-economic status does not require us to do so. It’s just not right. Even if I went to college, graduated and have work which gave me a language advantage and that I find myself able to express my disgust and hurt in words I deemed fit, it’s not right. It would put people off. Cutting the drift off that may probably lead to morbid thoughts of pulling out an Anton Chigurh magnum and blowing my brains off, I looked up and saw a cross-stitched image of Jesus. Below it was a prayer frame that like me, like our fragmented familial relationships, withstood the many movings-on and stayed; it managed to stay, like a reminder. I knew it was the wisdom prayer, in which you ask God to grant you wisdom, discernment and serenity upon things you cannot change or control. I should know; I always seem to catch myself muttering the prayer nowadays. I knew that prayer frame, though I can’t see the words as clearly as when I had 20/20 vision. But no amount or delusional fits of musical fantasy from a gayish TV show I find to be wholesomely and amusingly escapist would abate the feeling of dread. I regretted it of course; and everything has been said. But I’m a good son. And they just don’t find it in their hearts to know it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Field of dreams

A day before the birthday, I dropped by Powerbooks-Robinson’s Place hoping to finally find Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland—a long wait. With the hassles (as always) of having to be in Manila for work, it was in itself a big treat. I voraciously read through my idle time at night, at the airport and inside the plane. I haven’t written an entry about a book I’ve read for so long a time, I can’t even remember what it was, but I just have to now.

It is understandable why O’Neill’s ingenuous and unique ode to New York “echoes” the great F. Scott Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby: it’s a modern retelling of the American Dream; here shared and narrated exquisitely in the lives of non-Americans Dutch Hans van den Broeck and Trinidadian Chuck Ramkissoon, their convergence revolving on the non-American sport of cricket. Yet, Americans would very much find their own places here in the not-so familiar nooks of New York. It is beautifully written, as evidenced by Hans’s retrospections and introspections full of imaginative vividness, nuanced by a great sense of longing and melancholy, yet also brimming with so much life. O’Neill writes beautiful passages that mirror layers of meanings-the wearing down of geo-cultural barriers, the empty field of dreams which we all are eager to fill with our own grandiose ones, the perpetual restiveness of man, and also, ultimately, love.

"I felt above all, tired. Tiredness: if there ws a constant symptom of the disease in our lives at this time, it was tiredness....A banal state of affairs, yes-but our problems were banal, the stuff of women's magazines. All lives, I remember thinking, eventually funnel into the advice columns of women's magazines."

"But surely everyone can also testify to another, less reckonable kind of homesickness, one having to do with unsettlements that cannot be located in spaces of geography or history; and accordingly it's my belief that the communal, contractual phenomenon of New York cricket is underwritten, there where the print is finest, by the same agglomeration of unspeakable individual longings that underwrites cricket played anywhere--longings concerned with horizons and potentials sighted or hallucinated and in any event lost long ago, tantalisms that touch on the undoing of losses too private and reprehensible to be acknowledged to oneself, let alone to others. I cannot be the first to wonder if what we see, when we see men in white take to a cricket field, is men imagining an environment of justice. "

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Just like the Oscars (which has just announced its nominees today), the Grammy’s list is always an attempt to balance artistry and entertainment, though for the Oscars’ sake, it has been towards the latter in recent years. People tend to get bored of course if they don’t know the faces—the music, the films—that are appearing on screen. (The last year reminiscent of a semblance of true artistic independence in Oscar I think in my opinion was the year of The English Patient and Fargo.)

This year’s Grammy featured high-wire pop stars like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas and Taylor Swift, all performed and were big winners, (except I think for the Peas?). Beyonce excerpted Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know and did some head-banging herself. I did not see Gaga perform but the headdress was defining—I would’ve wanted her to win Album of the Year. The choices anyway were uninteresting (so with the other categories, except maybe for New Artist with MGMT and Zac Brown Band appearing) and that headdress flapping around while she receives the award would be a sight. There was a tribute to MJ ala 3D (done by Usher, Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson), the artists look silly enough as the camera glide through them wearing these 3D glasses. What made my night though was Kings of Leon’s win over the supposed pop giants. The best speech of the night, too. “We’re drunk, but we’re happy drunks.” But who stole the show? Pink. You need to see it to believe the hype.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Film: 2008

Due to consistent 'public' demand, here is my 2008 favorite films list. I added in honorable mentions because I can't help it.

Revolutionary Road dir. by Sam Mendes
Entre Les Murs (The Class) dir. by Laurent Cantet
Rachel Getting Married dir. by Jonathan Demme
The Dark Knight dir by. Christopher Nolan
Encounters at the End of the World dir. by Werner Herzog
Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In) dir. by Thomas Alfredson
Happy-go-lucky dir. by Mike Leigh
The Visitor dir. by Tom McCarthy
The Wrestler dir. Darren Aronofsky
In Bruges dir. by Martin McDonagh

Honorable mentions: Hunger dir. by Steven McQueen, Frozen River dir. by Courtney Hunt, Wendy and Lucy dir. Kelly Reichardt, Funny Games dir. Michael Haneke, Che dir. by Steven Soderbergh, Synecdoche New York dir. by Charlie Kaufman, Valkyrie dir. by Brian Singer, and Stop-Loss dir. by Kimberly Pierce. This is my 2007 list.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Dusk of another (b)day.

This plane should have taken you to Paris, dimwit. Or Amsterdam, or Munich, or Vienna. No, make it Bruges. Instead, as usual, this took you to hell and back. Where's the beer, loser?

::: A day before my birthday, I was still in polluted Manila but on the way to the airport going back to Davao. As usual, I can’t wait to go home, though when I learned of this official trip a week and some days ago, I contemplated on staying there for the birthday and probably watch The Killers’ concert. The Killers, gosh! Even if I was able to save up, nobody would really accompany me. Besides it’s just plain weird, and stupid to go alone. Imagine a stampede; nobody would really give a shit about my sorry ass.

Finishing the inevitable airport niceties, which I absolutely loathe, I scoured a not-so-comfy seat, picked out Netherland, and read away, occasionally pausing, and looking around. It’s funny how we hate the airport; its clinical methodology and bland faces of strangers, but then the lulls provide enough impetus to drift us into reveries and introspection (I always have this funny story to tell though). It’s probably just me, I don’t know. Some people don’t really give a shit about these sissy things. They go about the perfunctory procedure; they sit, probably buy a food or reading material, and wait for the booming voice announcing the boarding. They enter the tube and sleep, lucid dreams filling up idle time, towards their destinations.

It doesn’t matter if I travel with my colleagues or traveling alone, being at airports give me the same feeling of inexplicable wretchedness, detachment and sometimes, foreboding—which is associated with this paranoia of being up in the air. (During my first flight ever, I clung to the seat like hell, heart pounding, as the plane took off, and silently freaked out whenever the plane shook.) I know my judgment is somewhat unqualified given that I’ve only gone to five or so airports, and perhaps a more comprehensive assessment is that coming from someone whose business requires a great amount of flying (which immediate calls to mind Ryan Bingham, the protagonist of Walter Kirn’s Up in the Air, now adapted by Jason Reitman). On second thought, I don’t really absolutely loathe airports, just the feeling in being one. The architecture can be a thing to marvel, but perhaps only until I see these pieces of architectural prowess.

Going through the first baggage check, I noticed someone familiar who was ahead of me. His balding head, which turned a little bit sideway, confirmed his identity. I knew he took notice of me first while I was towing my trolley on the side. I intend to call him out after the check but I realized he was with a bunch of people, one I recognized. They got their boarding passes in one lane, and mine one lane apart. I held back and try to justify what may appear my reluctant snootiness. I saw him again lugging out in Davao already. While finding my seat at the far back, I noticed a professor of accounting whom I knew when I was working as a student assistant in college. I immediately recalled the name; I realized the last time I met him was also at the airport. Throughout the flight, his named escaped me surprisingly, only to surface again after he politely asked if he can borrow the newspaper. I’m not sure if he remembered my name, but I’m sure I looked familiar to him. I managed a quick glance, but regained my reluctance again. I didn’t see him at the claim area.

This “detachment” perhaps is more related to the “procedures”, the obligatory feel to it renders us like products being manufactured and determined fit for “sending out”. It sucks the life out of us. It sends us into this mechanical state of indifference.

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family, Choose a f—king big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose a three piece suit on hire purchased in a range of f—king fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f—k you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f—king junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f—ked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose a future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

Renton, Trainspotting