Monthly Archives: November 2006

Reach for the starfish!

Office peeps here call it spider. Though it’s more like a starship on Star Trek or Babylon 5, it has always looked like a starfish to me, even with a few appendages missing. Probably because my mind’s been wired to our company’s founder and his battlecry, “restarfish.jpgach for the stars.” Well, it’s actually a teleconferencing equipment, populating boardrooms everywhere, you know, like starfish in tide pools and beaches. And like starfish, it’s stiff and prickly, specially when the person on the other end starts killing your ideas and talking nonsense. On those times, you’d want to throw the nasty creature back to the sea. Sometimes I dread seeing it (the equipment not the living thing) as it has become sort of like a symbol of long meetings and tedious discussions. Like a starfish sucking in its prey, this machine draws you in and devours your energy. Sigh. Tomorrow is another day with the starfish. Fortunately, the week is about to end and my mind is now reaching for a shot of tequila.


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My Top 11 Best Feel-Bad Movies

Throughout the day, I had these little conversations with friends about movies you shouldn’t be watching at home on a Sunday evening, when you’re trying to psyche yourself up for the grueling work week ahead.

As if being in the office at 9pm isn’t depressing enough, I’ve listed down the eleven most depressing films I ever saw. Movies that are really beautiful films but I’ll probably not watch as often as Love Actually, or ever again.

About the miserable life of a factory worker, Selma, who was going blind and has a son who’s got the same degenerative eye disease. A series of events lands her in jail, she gets sentenced to death and the only thing she escapes to is the musicals in her mind. Bjork as Selma is fantastic. (Yes, Bjork who wore the swan costume to the Oscars.) The direction is quirky, there are song and dance numbers in the most unusual circumstances. As a story, it scores high on the hopelessness meter.

DOGVILLE. Everyone who loves art films surely knows this. It’s another movie by the same guy who directed Dancer in the Dark, Lars von Trier. Clearly, this guy’s talent is beyond words and his storytelling technique is always refreshing. Dogville is like watching a play on an empty stage. But my God, the script is heavy. You end up feeling the same rage Nicole Kidman’s character felt and say it’s okay to get back at your oppressors in that brutal, bloody way as it was in the film.

CONTANT GARDENER. Husband loses wife and baby, uncovers conspiracy, loses life. And more than that, it’s about how the unsuspecting poor, sick and desperate become guinea pigs to drug trials. The sad part is that it’s really happening in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The film (and the book on which it was based) is fierce in exposing this issue involving the pharmaceutical industry today.

CIDADE DE DEUS. City of God, another film by Fernando Marseilles (same guy who did Constant Gardener), about the world’s most notorious slum, Rio de Janeiro’s Cidade de Deus. It’s a world of endless anarchy, where residents live and breathe crime and violence from the day they’re born. That it is a true story is probably the most shocking fact about the film.

CRASH. This won the Oscar over Constant Gardener. Its message is different but equally powerful, tackling the age-old issue of racism. It’s Black versus White versus Latino versus Middle Eastern, a vicious chain of fear and bigotry that continues to happen in everyday America.

THE MISSION. It’s got Robert de Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn, and a breath-taking musical score by Ennio Morricone. Simply put it’s about missionaries fighting for the rights of South American Indians against the Portuguese that ends in bloodshed. The storytelling is quite straightforward but it is stunning in a visual and spiritual way.

NO MAN’S LAND. This one happens in war torn Bosnia. Two soldiers from opposite sides are trapped in a trench in the middle of the battlefield. Things get even more complicated when a third soldier thought dead comes to but can’t move because he’s lying on a bouncing mine. Tragic ending, what do you expect? In a bloody war, nobody really wins.

FAIL SAFE. This was made at the height of the cold war and presents a nightmare nuclear situation. A technical malfunction in Pentagon plunges the two country leaders in a world crisis with no gentle solution. The climax is so sobering that it feels like cold water has been thrown at you.

MISSING. Based on a true story, the film is about the “desaparecidos” (disappeared), the people who just “disappeared” during the time of political turmoil in a South American country, particularly one American journalist in Argentina. Among the films in my list, this is probably one that hit so close to home and that’s why I’d avoid seeing it again, no matter how good it is.

SCHINDLER’S LIST. Who doesn’t know Schindler’s List? Watched it thrice, cried thrice. Read the book and saw every documentary about it.

IRREVERSIBLE. This film is not only depressing. It’s disturbing and extremely painful to watch especially if you’re a girl. The story is told in reverse order like Memento. And because of that, your emotions become the counterpoint to the unfolding drama. You’re diving into depression as the situation goes from the extremely violent end half to the happy beginning. Definitely not watching this again even with a hundred happy pills.

There. Eleven, that’s about it. Because that’s all the hopelessly sad movies I’ve allowed myself to watch. Give me the Sound of Music any time.

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Penguin? Puffin? Pato!

You’d think that with all the picture books and visits to the zoo, you’d know a bird when you see one.


A recent trip to the Singapore Zoo proved otherwise. Saturday, fresh from our round of the zoo, my friends and I passed by the souvenir shop and saw the stuffed black and white birds by the counter.

“Penguin! Penguin! Penguin!” chirped Paw, Joni and Rommel. Surely, those are penguins. We just saw a whole flock inside the zoo. The shop attendants must have turned their heads when they heard the words, their minds going through a mental inventory of their stocks. They did not have stuffed animals of the penguin variety. The black and white birds weren’t penguins, they were either puffins or ducklings.

“Ay. Pato!” Yep, Joni, that little birdie you’re holding is a baby duck.

We walked away hurriedly, giggling and wishing nobody else heard or saw us. Oh well, you have to excuse us, you see, we all grew up in a tropical environment and our closest encounter with wildlife is the neighbor’s fighting cock crowing at the crack of dawn.

pato1.JPG8d94re2.jpgThat incident will be forever remembered with a souvenir. Paw and Joni, who left a few days ago, gave Mike and I this stuffed toy.

Yes, I am very very sure it’s a penguin. But just for good measure, I named it PATO. Heehee.

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OK Go!

If you’re tired of your old treadmill routine, here’s something to try. Apparently it only took these guys 8 days to perfect the moves.

Love the choreography. It surely beats jogging or brisk walking. Might make me hit the gym again. Heehee.

Great music too.

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Crabs Steamed in Garlic & Sprite


Crabs are really easy to cook. The hardest part is waiting for them to take their last breath so you can clean them up. Experts advice to toss fresh crabs in the freezer and let them succumb to hypothermia or pour extremely hot water over them. Both seem cruel and would probably have the Society Against Cruelty to Crustaceans, if there were such, up in arms. But there is no easy way to let them go quietly into the night. So go pour that scalding water and just avoid their beady eyes staring at you. Freaky, yes, but very effective. Once their legs start falling off, you can scrub them clean without fearing their revenge.

Now that they’re all mud-free, you can either use Sprite, 7-Up or white wine to cook them in instead of water. This will make the meat even sweeter. If you can, try inserting a garlic clove into the shell so the meat is infused with the flavor. Or you could just add lots of garlic into the liquid and a generous sprinkle of ground pepper. This dish goes well with a lemon butter sauce you can dip into or pour over the crabs after you’ve cracked them open.

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The Scent of Simmering Adobo

On a slow Monday like this, my work mode is easily interrupted by thoughts of Adobo. What Pinoy kitchen caper will be complete without this delicious dish? In fact, my little kitchen here has seen many Adobo days in the last 18 months. Although I did stop cooking the stuff for about 2 months when my recipe started becoming too salty for Mike’s and my own taste. Must be taste bud fatigue. It was devastating! How can I not be able to cook it properly? Anyhow, I cannot go on living without the dish. So mustering enough courage, I vowed to conquer my salty Adobo demons and doused the flames of self-doubt with a cup of water. Yes. Apparently, that’s all it takes to dilute the saltiness whilst maintaining enough liquid to simmer without burning. Silly me.
Pork Adobo with Common Sense
adooobeedoo.jpg You’ll need

  •  1/2 kilo pork belly (liempo), inch-thick cuts
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 4tbsps. vinegar
  • loads of chopped garlic
  • bay leaves
  • ground pepper
  • a cup of water

Mix all ingredients (except water) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes. Add water, turn heat medium to low and then simmer for 30minutes or until meat is tender. Turn up the flame, add a little cooking oil to let the fat melt and make the meat slightly toasted. Serve with atchara (shredded papaya chutney).


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