Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holiday Thoughts, Thanks To Entertainment Weekly

1. Big Love

In the magazine’s Dec. 21 issue, Fleetwood Mac member Stevie Nicks writes about the late Whitney Houston. She remembers watching an interview wherein Whitney said that even though she had numerous successes and had met so many famous people and had toured the whole world, when she fell in love with Bobby Brown, all she ever cared about was, in her words, “being in love. All I cared about was my husband. Nothing else mattered.”

Stevie then muses that if Whitney were alive today and was asked if she would change anything, she would say no. “I think she was very aware of where she was going,” Stevie writes. “And yeah, it’s a tragedy. But I also think sometimes when real big love gets in the way, there’s no turning back.”

Love, especially the passionate emotion, is a powerful force. Many stories and movies have romanticized such a love, and numerous songs have been sung of a love that moves mountains. It is an awesome and fearful sight to behold. It distorts reality, making it impossible for one to see the bigger picture. It makes one immune to reason. Big love consumes a person much like revenge.

It is awesome. It is tragic. And when real big love gets in the way, there’s no turning back.

Which is why the older I get, the more I prefer the ability of someone to keep his emotions in check. I find merit in keeping emotions, including (or perhaps especially) big love, in their proper perspective.

2. One Life

In the same issue, there’s a quote from the late Gore Vidal, talking about man’s place in the large cosmic scheme of things: “...all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here. Because there is nothing else. Nothing. This is it. And quite enough, all in all.”

I remember nihilists use the argument that “Death makes life meaningless; ergo, we need not behave ‘properly.’” So we do not need to concern ourselves with others.

But there is a flip side to the argument. Because of Death, life becomes a one-shot deal. Since you’re only on this journey once, make it worth your time. Furthermore, life’s meaning and worth isn’t something foisted on us by the gods; rather, we ourselves choose to put meaning and worth.

What would be worth living? Is it money and material acquisition? Or is it the pursuit of happiness? For the longest time it was enough for me to “be happy.” But one day when I told my friend Leigh that my goal in life was “to be happy,” she said something which made me think: “Happiness is a by-product. What do you want to do? And in doing that, it will also make you happy?”

I realized that happiness in and of itself as a goal can lead one to purely selfish pursuits. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, unless those selfish pursuits are to the detriment of others. One’s goals should take into consideration the balance of things on this Earth. After all, “this is it. And quite enough, all in all.”

Again, there is a need for perspective. We should always consider the larger picture.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Life Rules

Our life journey is all about learning how to adjust to the real world.

We use Hollywood romances, sitcoms, and viral wedding videos to help sugarcoat reality, to make us see things in a more palatable rose-colored glasses. And there is merit in donning those glasses. We need to be able to figure out a way to cope, or else we’d have a breakdown. But that’s really just to cushion the blows. It would be foolish to think that things get better in reality with a soft focus, swelling orchestral music, and a gentle fade to black. Sooner or later, we still have to face the fact that we have bruises and welts. And that the best thing to do is not to feel sorry for oneself or get mad at the world, but to take your lumps and learn from them.

And as much as we want to protect children from the “big, bad world,” I think it’s a mistake. Children should be given a healthy respect for the dangers--and the wonders--that the world has to offer. More and more I suspect that the world will be spared of even more mentally unstable shooters had their parents disciplined them more and instilled in them a fear for obedience. I’m afraid Americans’ penchant for sparing the rod and allowing kids to terrorize their parents give the children a warped sense of entitlement and a sad lack of self-discipline.

Of course this way makes possible the specter of parental abuse. There will always be bad apples, true. But I still prefer to give the responsibility to those who are of age.

Even as adults, we shouldn’t try to insulate ourselves from the bad that’s out there. Political correctness is an attempt to sugar-coat the world. We will never be able to please everybody. Let there be disagreements, let there be insults. Life isn’t fair, and sometimes the best course of action is to just smile and roll with the punches. There is also strength in losing, especially if you learn how to get back up (and not get even).

It’s okay to seek ways to soften the blows, but never forget that life is tough. Deal with it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What D & I Are Watching These Days

Screen RED

According to their website, Screen RED is an “Asian movie channel proudly brought to you by HBO Asia and Mei Ah. It features movies from China, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and beyond.” Sadly, that “beyond” simply means “and a few Thai movies.” I’ve not seen any Filipino, Malaysian, or Singaporean movies.

However, we’re enjoying a lot of Korean and Japanese films. Among our favorites are:

Go! Boys’ School Drama Club - A Japanese comedy set in an all-boys high school. Aoi Nakamura stars as the student who witnesses a performance of “Romeo and Juliet” and joins the drama club in the hopes of wooing the female lead. He’s shocked to find out that Juliet’s played by a guy!

The Lady Shogun And Her Men - Set in 1716 Japan, where a mysterious plague has befallen Japanese men, a samurai enters the elite harem of beautiful men within the Palace. They are there to ensure that when the 7-year old Lady Shogun is of proper age, she will pick one of them to ensure the propagation of her lineage. In a place where no woman except the Lady Shogun herself can enter, handsome and capable men compete fiercely with one another for the attention of the Lady Shogun--and the affections of one another.

Beck - Based on a manga and anime of the same title, it’s a story of a rock and roll band’s rise to fame. Aoi Nakamura plays the drummer; he also has a small role in Lady Shogun, where he plays a man-servant trainee who develops a crush on the lead samurai. Yes, I have a crush on Aoi, hahaha!

School Days With A Pig - An engaging though a bit disturbing Japanese dramedy. It’s based on a true story about an elementary teacher who lets his class raise a piglet in school with the aim of eating it by the end of the school year. As the students get more attached to the pig, the class becomes divided over its eventual fate. Surprisingly moving performances by the kids, and the lead is also very cute.

There are also Korean and Japanese horror movies that we delight in watching. Going beyond movies, we also are fans of two Korean telenovellas:

Reply 1997

(Also known as Answer to 1997 / Answer Me 1997) This Korean drama that airs on  tvN (or Mnet or Channel M) centers on a group of high school friends from Busan. The drama goes back and forth from 2012 where they have a reunion, and 1997 back in their high school days. It shows the extreme fan culture of K-pop while at the same time showing the little relationship dramas between the friends.

D and I are actually hooked because of the male lead Seo In Gook (or Seo In Guk), a singer/actor who’s handsome precisely because of a slight imperfection (he’s somewhat banlag on his left eye), and another male co-star, Hoya, who’s a member of the Korean idol group Infinite. In Reply 1997 their friendship is complicated by the fact that Hoya’s character has a secret crush on Seo In Gook’s character, who in turn thinks that his friend is courting his female crush (played by female lead Jung Eun Ji).

I Love Lee Tae Ri

Another Korean comedy drama that aired (yes, tapos na) on tvN, this stars Super Junior member Kim Ki Bum. It’s about a 14-year old boy who makes a wish and is magically transformed into a 25-year old man. That he’s also a swimmer elevates this Koreanovella into a work of genius. After his transformation (while he was doing the breast-stroke in the pool!), he spends the rest of the series in a tuxedo. Okay, make that a work of semi-genius.

There is also a love story there somewhere involving the female titular character, but yeah well whatever.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What A Year Ender

Is it just me, or has it been that for the past few years that the jolliest of seasons has been marked by sadness as well? This year marked the wrath of Typhoon Pablo, last year it was Typhoon Sendong, the year before we had the sinking of MV Catalyn B off Cavite on Christmas Eve. And who can forget the Philippines’ own Titanic, MV Doña Paz in December 1987? One can say that, thanks to global warming, the more powerful weather disturbances now happen at the latter time of the year. As for the maritime disasters, it’s due to the yearly exodus of people going home to the provinces for Christmas.

But once in a while we get more inexplicable visits from the Grim Reaper. A 20-year old man opens fire on an elementary school in Connecticut, thus making it so far the most ghoulish Nightmare Before Christmas this year. It happened in local USA, but the horror is global.

As usual we react with much hand-wringing and prayers. I don’t know if this incident will be the tipping point for the US to reconsider their Second Amendment, but frankly I’m not so interested in the debate over the right to bear arms as I am fascinated why these mass murders have been repeated alarmingly in the US. What is it about the American culture and psyche that breeds such shooters? The US isn’t the only country where one can easily purchase firearms. How come they have the highest number of deaths by firearms?

D asked me if something similar has happened here in the Philippines. I replied that there may have been Filipinos who have opened fire on others, but I don’t recall any specific incident when the targets were helpless and innocent civilians. Usually when a Filipino runs amok (I remember the Philippine media using that term), his assault is directed towards particular persons, with an occasional unlucky uninvolved who just happened to be in the line of fire because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Compared to Americans, we Filipinos are more connected to the larger society. We have our extend families, our neighbors, and our village associations; fact is, our country is actually small enough so that we aren’t too far apart with our degrees of separation from other Filipinos.

But I’m sure things aren’t that simple. Then again, maybe I, like many others, are falling into the trap of thinking that such unspeakable atrocities must have several complex reasons behind them. Maybe the real horror is that the reasons are simpler.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

RH Bill In Da Haus!

And so it came to pass that on the early part of Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, sometime past one in the morning, I was in the bedroom reading the latest issue of my “bible,” Entertainment Weekly, when D yelled from the living room, “They passed the RH Bill!”

So I switched on the telly, and lo and behold. So they did! The House of Representatives had voted to pass the RH Bill on second reading. The margin was slim at 113 versus 104, but still it was a victory for those in favor of the Bill.

I watched as the senior female correspondent of the news channel interviewed a bishop who was with an anti-RH Bill group picketing outside the Batasan Pambansa. The bishop stated that he believed the RH Bill was passed because President Noynoy “enticed” his party members with political and financial perks if they vote in favor of the Bill. The correspondent countered that the Church also was not remiss in flexing their influence over the lawmakers, but the bishop quickly countered, “But we have no pork barrel, unlike the government.”

Ah, dear bishop.

Yes, you cannot entice lawmakers with material goods. But you did threaten all of us with spiritual blackmail. Don’t you remember, dear bishop? Didn’t the good ol’ Catholic Church threaten lawmakers and ordinary folks alike with excommunication for being pro-RH Bill? Excommunication is one of the harshest things you can inflict on a person’s spiritual well-being. And yet, there are Catholics in those 113 who voted “Aye.” Yes, dear bishop. We may be spirits living in a material world, but reality bites. Hard.

Chew on that, dear bishop.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pak! Man

Full disclosure: I work for a company that earns millions of pesos whenever Manny Pacquiao has a boxing match.

* * * * *

When the tweets came in that Manny was knocked down, I breathed a sigh of relief. Inwardly I feel that the Manny today isn’t as hungry and focused as he was before. I wish this is his wake up call. Yes, he can be a preacher, a senator, and a boxer. But he can’t be great in all three simultaneously.

I took that opportunity to make fun of the CBCP and other anti-RH folks who blame every bad news to the RH Bill. For me, Manny losing is bad news. You still feel for the guy, despite his anti-RH statements. After all, his accomplishments are still record breakers.

But I’m puzzled whenever I see people post, “Pinoy Pride!” or “Pinoy pa rin ako!” in reaction to Manny’s loss. Of course we are still Pinoy, regardless of whether Manny wins or loses. I just find it shallow if people hinge their nationalistic pride on a boxer’s performance.

What is nationalistic pride anyway? For me, it’s pride in our accomplishments as a people, in our culture and history. It is a collective pride. But more than that, we should be able to find it deep within ourselves; it is not dependent on the success of others. When Manny wins, we are collectively happy because “one of ours” won. But let us be clear: Manny’s win is his; it is not a triumph of the Filipino.

(An aside: some may say it’s the triumph of the Filipino spirit. But what is the difference of the “Filipino spirit” from the never-say-die spirit of the Japanese, or the Americans, or the French?)

In the age of the Internet and worldwide connectivity we need to take a second look at nationalistic pride. More and more I find that the sense of nationalism, while important, will eventually take a back-seat to the bigger sense of humanity. More and more the boundaries between nations are breaking down. What happens in one country affects others. There will be a time when an insular outlook will be passé. (Say goodbye to beauty pageants as we know them.)

So Manny lost. If we’re sad, let it be because we feel sad for an individual’s loss. And we can still be proud of him for giving a good fight; it’s just that Marquez did better. It is not our Filipino-ness that took a beating on the world stage. Relax.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The End

Thus ended another fairly tale. So far D and I have counted three break-ups among our friends. Apparently ‘tis not the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la la-la la-la.

Of the Fabcasters, D and I were the first couple to enter into an open relationship months after we got together. It’s not that the other Fabcasters are prudes; in fact, I think the others are also capable of being in one. It’s just that their partners aren’t interested in going open, and for an open relationship to work, it takes two to tango (with others too, hehehe).

Interestingly, D and I are also the only couple who are living together under one roof. We didn’t plan it that way. In fact, early into our relationship D said he didn’t want us to immediately live in together. He wanted to experience what it’s like having a place all to himself, taking care of the rent and the daily cleaning, maintenance and all. But that was before he had to move out of the dorm.

Living together brings the relationship to a different level. D and I have learned and are still learning how to adjust with one another on a day to day basis. Every day we continue to work on our relationship. Some days we encounter friction; some nights we end up giggling and laughing and being sweet with one another. Most days we go through a casual routine. We’re busy with making our marks in this world. We support one another mostly by just being there for each other and being witness to our individual growths.

Love may feel like a fairy tale, but staying in a loving relationship isn’t one. There is work involve. But if you both put in the work, there are perks along the way. Staying together under one roof presents new challenges too. But if both of you take on the challenges together, then you both enjoy the benefits also.

Whenever people find out that D and I are now on our second year and counting and they say something like, “Awww, that’s so sweet,” I always fight to keep my eyebrow from lifting up to the high heavens. The reason why most people go all emo when relationships end is because they still think that love is a fairy tale that magically just happens. Get real, fairies. Fairy tales require hard work too. And forever does not exist. If you want infinity, take up math; otherwise, everything else in this universe has an end.

Love yourself and appreciate the different loves you have now instead of hanging on to an unnatural and unrealistic idea of forever. And maybe then you will find out how to really be happy.