Friday, December 2, 2011

The Road

I bravely watched Yam Laranas’ newest flick - I say bravely since I was by myself - and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not a simple ghost story. It’s a mixture of different terrifying concepts: ghosts, serial killers, and dark unfamiliar places.

The movie is divided into 3 arcs, set in different periods: 2008, 1998, and 1988. These 3 stories are intricately connected.

2008 is about the disappearance of 3 teenagers along an old, deserted stretch of road. This arc embodies the tag line of the film, that nobody leaves the road which is haunted by vengeful and tortured ghosts. 1998 tells the story of the ghosts which haunts the road. By this arc, viewers are introduced to the human antagonist (Luis) of the film (and, if you’re watching closely, clues as to the identity of the killer are also given out). 1988 tells the story of Luis and the history of the haunted road.

Everything about this film was just downright creepy - from the music to the cinematography. One of the things I liked was how Yam Laranas didn’t rely on much special effects to scare the viewers. Sometimes masterful make-up can be scarier than the most advanced CGI effects.

However, it’s been said in our time, every story has already been told a thousand times. This movie is no exception. The theme of the vengeful ghost is reminiscent of The Grudge, and the twist in this movie is similar to that in Wag Kang Lilingon. That said, while the themes are not original, Yam Laranas was able to tell this tale in a way that will still scare the wits out of the audience.

Friday, July 29, 2011

If Not Now, When?

Last night, I was lucky enough to watch Incubus (for the third time!) at the Araneta Coliseum with my good friends M and P. I'm still recovering from the thrill of seeing them again.

Quick thoughts:

1. I love watching rock concerts, because the people who go there are true fans. Last night was especially poignant - everyone was singing along to almost all of the songs! It felt like Rockeoke night (complete with drunken crazed fans).

2. I love Kylie and all, but Incubus proved that with great music, you don't need any flashy gimmicks to entertain. All you need is pure great music.

3. Bands constantly evolve, but I've noticed that great bands retain a certain quality, a je ne sais quoi that will always identify and set them apart. Incubus may have mellowed down recently, but the sound is still undeniably them. Oh, and lest anyone doubt their ability to rock, they can still dish out mad tunes like Sick Sad Little World and make everyone in the venue jump up and down and rock out like silly teenagers. Hell yeah.

4. Oh and yeah, I love Brandon Boyd. Love love LOVE him. That is all.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Crumb of Light

Yesterday my good friend J shared with me this poem from It's a wonderful piece about the tenacity of hope.

Crumb of Light ~ Jim Culleny

Black holes are not completely black.
One physicist says they leak light
so even in deepest space
where nothing breathes
where you couldn’t be more alone
where stillness is not peace but ice
where distance between entities
makes the idea of neighborhood absurd
where utter is deepest and space is most profound
where moons can’t kiss and the closest thing to embrace
is to orbit which is not an encircling of arms
but a constant falling away,
where the inertia of origin commands
that all things separate, expand,
proceed apart day after day

—even from the black eye of a black hole
a crumb of light is tossed
and the chance of seeing you again
is not forever lost

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


It's been a week since I watched Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite concert, and the Kylie fever that ensued after has only now subsided. To say that it was amazing is an understatement. To quote Q, it's like Varekai, with Kylie.

What she had: amazing (hot) dancers, trapeze artists, videos of (hot) models, a giant golden horse, a chariot, and back up dancers with such outrageous costumes that it looked as if Lady Gaga could be one of them. And of course, Kylie's fierce costumes. (Q informed me that the costumes were designed by Dolce and Gabbana. Fierce.)

And of course, there was Kylie, resplendent and glowing and beautiful and absolutely talented. To critics who maintain that she can't sing, you probably haven't heard her live. Her voice was surprisingly steady and strong, and she can belt it out with the rest of them. While some may have been disappointed that she only danced a couple of times (as far as I can remember, only twice), it should be noted that she's (a) not exactly as young as Beyonce, and (b) she's a cancer survivor. That she was able to perform for 2 straight hours, interrupted only by costume changes, is a feat in itself.

Aphrodite was a audio-visual extravaganza. Yes, ticket prices were a bit steep, but as T put it, lugi pa si Kylie samin.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sweet Valley Confidential

I remember reading my first Sweet Valley book - I was in second grade, stuck at home with a flu and bored out of my wits. My friends were already reading the books, and when my mom asked me if I wanted anything, I asked her to get one for me. It was Jessica and the Jumbo Fish (from SV Kids), and from then on, I was hooked. I have fond memories of rushing to the bookstore every month to buy the new releases (Kids, Twins, High, SVU, and even the Unicorn Club), staying up late at night to read, and even of sneaking the books so I could read during classes. Great memories. But sometime during high school I lost interest. I moved on to Erich Segal, Sidney Sheldon, Neil Gaiman, and other more "serious" authors and never looked back.

That is, until my friend P gave me a copy of Sweet Valley Confidential. (Thanks for that again, dearie.)

It's trashy. It's high drama. It's not really written that well.

Still, I love it.

There's a comfort in returning to characters that you grew up with. It's like reuniting with childhood friends and hearing all their sordid stories. But what I liked the most is how the readers can still relate to the characters. It's amusing how we can get so emotionally caught up in what's happening to them, as if they were real people. Yes, some parts made me cry. Some parts made me so mad. And cliched as the ending may be, it made me happy. It's a throwback to old days when we didn't have to work, when school was the biggest worry, when there were no TV shows like Jersey Shore or Gossip Girl to captivate our imaginations.

It's escapism, pure and simple. And it's glorious.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Musings on OBL

(I will try to keep this post as non-legalistic as possible, and to abstain from delving too much into jurisprudence and legalese.)

My initial reaction to the news that Osama Bin Laden (“OBL”) died was joy. Who couldn’t help but feel happy that someone who embodied evil was finally gone? However, as the details of the circumstances surrounding his death surfaced, the lawyer in me started to doubt the legality of his, for lack of a better term, execution.

Of course, people would object. They would say that it is only right that he was killed. But the law is the law – it may not always be fair or just, but it is the law. This maxim is instilled in lawyers all over the world, and it’s a hard mindset to break free from.

My main issue concerns the disregard of Pakistan’s sovereignty. The sovereignty of a State within its own territory is not just a peremptory norm, but it is also enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Undeniably the operation that finally ended in OBL’s death was a state-sanctioned one which was performed in a foreign soil. Now there are standards under international law which govern the use of force in a foreign territory. There may be instances wherein this use of force may be sanctioned (i.e. defense of oneself and/or another State), but to condone the idea that a State may disregard another sovereign State’s sovereignty and claim that the latter consented to such action after the fact, as implied by the other’s actions, is just frightening. To use a rather crude analogy, this is tantamount to a bully saying that the bullied kid consented to the bullying since he allowed the bully to push him around, and the latter did not even say anything to his defense after the bullying.

Now, one argument for the legality of the action against OBL states that the United States was engaged in a non-international armed conflict with Al Qaeda. This would, however, mean that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions would apply. (Indeed I am reminded of an instance, a few years back, wherein the Bush administration admitted that Common Article 3 applied to terrorists.) Under Common Article 3, the combatants are still entitled to certain rights, i.e. those not actively taking part in the hostilities shall be treated humanely. Corollary to this is that murder and summary executions are prohibited. And, incidentally, there are reports that OBL was not armed when he died.

It's just a shame that OBL wasn't just captured instead and brought to trial. True, there's a chance that OBL on trial may be seen as martyrdom on his part, but this is better than having his followers perceive him as an assassinated hero for their cause.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

If I Do Not See You - Anna Akhmatova

I cannot get enough of Anna Akhmatova's poetry. For some reason, the poem below reminded me of Emmanuel Levinas. I beg your apologies for any errors or misconceptions about Levinas' philosophy (it's been at least 7 years since I read Levinas), but the imagery of the poem reminded me of how humans yearn for the Other - that One cannot Be without the Other. However, no matter how strong that desire for the Other, One cannot have him/her fully, on account of the radical difference of that Other.

In the poem below, the yearning for the Other led to nothing but pain and suffering. The humor lies in that, with or without the Other, the Speaker cannot Be.

If I Do Not See You

If I do not see you –
I feel: minutes, as centuries, are endless.
If I once had seen you –
Again suffers a heart’s wound, so merciless.
If I do not see you –
I am winded with frost and with darkness.
If I once had seen you –
Seared by something, with boiled pitch in likeness.

If I want to see you –
Angels’ hands will convey me to Heaven.
If I once had seen you –
To the tortures of Hell I am given.
And my peace is a loss:
Without you or with you – it’s in ruins:
I’m not got by the earth,
And repelled by the heavenly blueness.