Monday, August 02, 2010

the god who hates

i first heard of wafa sultan on youtube while she was a guest speaker on al jazeera. it was highly irregular for anyone let alone a woman to be debating with an imam on islamic terrorism, islam itself, and as what she describes as the clash of civilisations so that it was not difficult to recognize her face printed on a book on a shelf months later while i was passing by the bookstore. i just had to have trhe book for i was already curious about her. i watched satisfied by the way when the imam resorted instead to strawman arguments for lack of anything better to say.

in the book however, i am not a fan of her writing style. it seemed repeatitious, disconnected, personal, and she seemed to make hasty generalizations about people but who is better and has the authority to talk about islam and its ills, than her -- a moslem woman who had lived in it and had actually experienced its horrors firsthand.

i also did not much appreciate her orgre metaphor. although she spoke the truth about the nature of fear and how it relates to islam, i felt that there has to be a better way to present the idea other than a parable about an ogre.

apart from her personal experiences giving insight on the origin and nature of islam, its followers and how they relate with other people, its fruits, she also talks about the obvious disconnect with what "moderate" moslems claim islam to be and what is happening in reality. it mirrors the state of christian theocracies all over the world. christian zealots behave much like islamic terrorists. people would always argue that these particular type of moslems have misinterpreted the real meaning of islam. that the true moslem never engages in violence and that they respect women. the evidence in fact showing the contrary is overwelming.

the koran is written solely in arabic, how likely is it that moslems outside of the arab world would have a filtered understanding of its teachings. meaning islam as a political doctrine and religion needs to present itself as something benevolent and beneficial in order to be accepted but the truth in detail is quite the opposite. just like the judeo christian bible, the koran is filled with archaic ethics giving justification to these brutalities all the way up to today the 21st century. and now it is encroaching in on secular societies like a disease as some put it.

wafa provides us with specific verses from the koran. too few in my opinion. but there is no escaping from that. muhammad had been very explicit and his ideas about women, jews, christians, and islamic morality questionable by today's standards. i am inclined to think that whoever subscribes to it is either ignorant, brainwashed, or have nitpicked specific teachings that suit their tastes just as moderate christians are doing with the bible.

my favorite in particular about her book is her observation about moslems living in the west. those who are reaping its benefits but at the same time claiming it to be morally inferior to their countries of origin. hypocrites. id say.

if living in islamic states is such a paradise then why leave at all. why the influx of immigrants from islamic states towards the west unless there be a sinister plot behind it all, that is to convert these secular societies into islamic states. as is happening all over europe and now even in the united states. how likely is it that people are oppressed in islamic societies and that most of them immigrate because they want to be free of it.

wafa paints a vivid picture of islam and what kind of societies it has produced. societies which lack in civil liberties, societies which slow or sometimes halt progress, where its inhabitants are automatons programmed to obey never to think nor question authority. a striking resemblance to christian theocracies. don't you think?

if immigration out of islamic societies not evidence enough that it is failed at making lives better for people, i dont know what else is.

rating 4 out of 5
****

Saturday, July 10, 2010

the gnostic gospels

in 1945 a collection of early christian texts were discovered near the town of nag hammadi in upper egypt that came to be known as the nag hammadi library. elaine pagels, the author of this exquisite book, discusses in easy to understand terms, the contents of the collection.

The major theme is the rivalry between the gnostic and the orthodox christians. The doctrinal difference between the two groups over issues like martyrdom, participation of women, nature of the true church, nature of god and the trinity, and salvation, that is to say, only via the self serving bishops for the orthodox christians and thru gnosis for the gnostics.

the bishops threatened by the teachings of the gnostics labeled the latter as heretics. while the gnostics viewed the orthodox as immature believing in rituals and motions of traditional worship. the catholic church of today is notably the direct descendant of orthodox christianity which put much emphasis on the unquestioned authority and heirarchy of the bishops. had the gnostics won, christianity would have been very different.

it becomes obvious what sets the books of the nag hammadi library apart from the canonical books having gone as far as undermine the patriarchy and authority of the bishops.

it poses important questions especially to those who do follow and believe orthodox teachings. what makes one believe this set of books and not the other. because the priest/pastor says so and that's it? (kasi sabi ni pader?) héhé ..

another lucky find from booksale. i got it for only 150 PHP.

rating 5 out of 5
A must read.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

over the edge of the world

je viens de finir le livre qui je lisais ces derniers jours. il raconte le voyage de magellan où il a fait le tour du monde au début du XVIe siècle (1521-ish). au fait, j'ai acheté ce livre d'un booksale pour seulement 100 PHP.

we are all familiar with the story of the portuguese, under the flag of spain, who for the first time had successfully circumnavigated the world and as a consequence discovered a water route to the spice islands across the "ocean sea" west of the new world.

magellan's encounters with fascinating natives and their customs including our own cebuans (to which i descend from) and the proud mactanese, betray european bigoted and self serving attitudes. they also betray our own weaknesses providing brief insight of why we continue to be divided even to this day.

pigafetta is i think as important as magellan himself for it was him who chronicled the entire voyage reminiscent of captain picard doing his log aboard the enterprise. besides being a representative of the pope, he also served as the ship's linguist and anthropologist. he (attempted to) put into writing the local languages and their sexual practices. this to me was a kind of expected. he was a man of the cloth and like many others, there was a kind of obsession with sex (just as it does today) and he means to impose his beliefs on to the natives. sans respect to their own beliefs.

most of the native chieftains who converted did so, mostly because they feared the armada de moluccas. magellan was all to happy to demonstrate their superiority. their weapons admittedly surpassed the bamboo javelins, bows, and poisoned arrows of the natives. and local politics paved the way for some of the chieftains to ally themselves with magellan thinking it would give them advantage over rival kingdoms.

i am surprised why his story had not yet made it on hollywood. it had the familiar elements of drama, political intrique, adventure, vicious villains, and noble heroes. vital ingredients that make up an epic adventure non fictional story.

rating 4 out of 5
an interesting and easy read

Sunday, June 06, 2010

les bureaux de dieu

A social commentary that revolves around a family planning center, it's social workers, and the people mostly women, they take the time to listen and give advice to.

all the cases tackled by the social workers make the case for sexual education, women's rights, contraception, and abortion giving emphasis on having a personal and well informed choice on their respective matters as a crucial ingredient in making important decisions. we hear of cases where it is the total opposite when women don't have the choice at all.

this is in strike contrast to what we have today in the philippines where people are mostly ignorant and sans access to health services. it couldn't be more obvious why this is so when certain prominent religious institutions who have a hand on state policies (imposing their religious beliefs onto the rest of us) continue to halt progress on civil liberties and women's rights.

I find the movie socially relevant and mature especially on how the social workers sympathized with their (patients?). but not very entertaining for it lacked the hollywood formula much like a crutch or an addiction that we have grown accustomed to.

For french language lovers, it is a treat. but for the same reason, when a language is presented as english subtitles (and not entirely translated might i add) could fail to convey the actual emotion accross the language barrier, which could possibly lead non french speaking audiences unable to relate ..

Rating 3 out of 5 ***
women power!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Diosa

A local legend recounts the tale of a nature goddess who had an affinity with humans. Her name was Luciérnaga. One day, her father found out about her dealings with them, it made her father furious. He slapped her senseless breaking her crown of gems into pieces. Each piece transformed into a firefly. The entire mountain was swarmed by them to which the town was named after. Bayan ng Alitaptap (Firefly town).

Another legend spoke of her unearthly beauty wearing nothing but gem stones to cover herself up. During the spanish era, Luciérnaga fell in love with a spanish soldier. She made love to him but woke up with all her jewels gone. The soldier stole them and since then fireflies have disappeared from the town. And all male descendants of the spanish soldier had been plagued by a curse. Each of them die horrible deaths. This intruiging tale is the backdrop of the story.

teddy allegre is played by lloyd samartino
jaime allegre jr is played by alfie anido
luz is played by lorna tolentino
katrina is played lorna tolentino

Rating 4 out of 5 ****
Not bad for a pinoy fantasy

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

la papesse jeanne

joan (played by johanna wokalek) was born a genius. she had a talent for learning and a natural curiousity towards the world. she picked up things just by listening to them. she grew up with her father who was the village priest, a religious and ruthless man; her pagan mother and her two older brothers.

joan's father groomed her brothers to be servants of the church just as he was. the oldest brother, as soon as he discovers her extraordinary abilities, secretly took time to teach her how to read and write. while her mother taught johnna the ancient healing arts by way of herbs. she learned diligently. her father though thinks that she was an abomination (unnatural) and forbade her from learning anything at all. unfortunately, she lived at an age when there was a low opinion of women.

one day she was discovered by a visiting monk who recognized her gifts. he taught her alongside with her brothers, the classics, philosophy, greek etc. the monk, excited of his find, sent word to the bishop to have her immediately transfered to the school to be given proper education, even though education was traditionaly given only to christian boys, the monk thought that it would be a crime against god not to send her. her father grew exceedingly furious. he only agreed to it if one of her brothers would be sent with her.

when the bishop's emissary came for her back at the village later, and was instructed to bring just one child. her father insisted on sending her brother instead. it was the last draw, joan decided to run away and pursue her calling.

the story is about her remarkable journey to rome where she becomes the pope in a world where she was forced to hide behind a disguise -- that of a man. where only behind this mask that she could be free. she quickly made a name for herself going against tradition but not without adversaries and allies along the way.

she became a distuigished healer and an accompished philosopher infamously arguing for equality. she was a scribe translating into different languages knowledge of the classics. she knew the value of education and took the time to teach others who were willing how to read and write.

unfortunately we could never know if this is a true story or not for if there had been any record of her, it looks like it had long been (maybe intentionally) erased from antiquity. today her inspiring story survives as mere medieval legend.

the film gives us a realistic view of why sexism perpetuates to this day. that there must be a relationship between religious doctrine and how religious people view and treat women. we can see how the story bears comtemporary implications against modern day sexism, ignorance and superstition, against gender roles, of politics in the church heirarchy. and how equality remains to be, not only a religious but certainly a social and political question.

4 out of 5 ****
read more of st paul and st. aquinas views on women

Saturday, March 20, 2010

agora

agora is a historical non fiction film about hypatia, an atheist philosopher who taught at the library of alexandria, 4th century AD in roman egypt.

this was at the time when the roman empire was crumbling and the number of christians
have swelled enough to take over the city. at the behest of the pagans who worshipped their ancestral gods (serapis, mithra, horus and the others - all of which by the way had similar attributes with jesus - virgin birth, saviour of mankind, miracle workers, teller of parables etc)

christian zealots performed spectacles like walking on fire to lure the superstitious crowd. and made challenges to the gods for their seeming absence in the mortal realm. they failed to apply the same standard of scrutiny however, to their own god.

the situation worsened, provoked by public mockery of their god, the followers of serapis attacked the christians. against hypatia's pleading for the church leader of serapis to instead file their case with the prefect.

much to their surprise, they find themselves face to face with the christian mob which retaliated en force. by the time the roman prefect intervened, the pagans and other intellectuals were trapped in the library surrounded by the christian mob outside which appear to be composed of slaves, the uneducated, the impoverished, the marginalized, and lead by warmongering zealots. this is significant as it reflects the same demographic of christians today.

it was painful to watch the christians laid waste to the library, destroying all nowledge of antiquity save a few scrolls which the pagans brought with them on their way out.

much later, it became fashionable to be christian. the social elite had for the most part had been converted. most likely to avoid problems with the then now established christian religion and its leaders.

hypatia in the meantime, lived quietly and continued to philosophize about the movement of the heavens, juggling between the ptolemy system, which had the earth as the center of the universe and the other heavenly bodies revolving around it in perfect circles; and the aristacus? system which had the sun as its center and the other heavenly bodies
revovlving around it in perfect circles as well. but something did not match up with her observations and measurements. this goes against the established biblical teaching, that the world is flat.

after the pagans, the christians when after its other rivals, the jews otherwise known as the beginnings of anti semitism. and then the status of women.

when hypatia's former students (now a bishop and the other a prefect) implored her to convert to christianity or else. she said she couldn't because unlike the christian bishop who don't question his beliefs. she must hers. the essence of what it is to be freehinker.

rating: 5 out of 5
*****

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Les Fantomes de Goya

Francisco Goya was a court painter to the spanish crown. Ines Balbutia, daughter to a rich merchant, was one of his subjects. Another client of Francisco is Brother Lorenzo who is the one responsible for excacerbating the inquisition by re-establishing torture. Ines was accused of judaizing (practicing jewish traditions) and arrested because she refused to eat pork.

Such was the power of the Catholic church during those times. I watched horrified as they tortured the truth out of Ines. Although we are far from "those times", we could still witness this kind of barbarism in countries where religion/church reigns supreme. And this I believe is central to the message of the movie. It is a warning of what religion is capable of doing given sufficient power over the state.

There doesn't seem to be any justice for Ines even towards the end of the film where Brother Lorenzo was finally caught and executed because of something else (treachery) he has done.

Rating: 4 out of 5
I love history. See Peninsular War and French Revolution

Monday, October 05, 2009

the boy in the striped pajamas

bruno is a small kid whose father is a nazi officer. when his father was promoted to manage a concentration camp in the country, they all had to move out of the city with him.

later, bruno finds his way to the camp and makes friends with shmuel, a jewish kid despite everyone warning him about jews (not actually everyone). children do not have the same prejudices that adults have. we all learn it later from our parents, from school, from people around us.

my favorite scene is when bruno was forced to betray his best friend out of fear and the need to conform in order to survive. it tells us that all capable of treachery even at an age where we are supposedly pure and good.

rating 3 out of 5 ***

Saturday, August 08, 2009

two lovers

(photo is by john clifford)

this film portrays in contrast an insight on the type of romantic love that we used to talk about a lot back when we were younger. the question of who would you go for, given that you have the following choice. will you go for "the one" or "the only one".

"the one" is the person you love ultimately but he doesn't necessarily feel the same way or none at all. the kind of love that exists in literature. it is love where the stakes are high. even life itself.

"the only one (available)" is the person who loves you but you don't necessarily feel the same way or none at all. it's the one that you accept because either you are afraid to be alone, that you think there might be no one else, or you need the company. the kind of love that is mundane, tolerable, or that needs years to be nurtured.

leonard (played by joaquin phoenix) was setup by his parents to meet with sandra (played by vinessa ssaw). i am uncertain if this is a usual practice for american jews. it reminds me of how filipino chinese parents actively participate in arranging dates or introductions so to speak for their children. especially when it becomes although subtle as a sort of business merger of mutual benefit between families if it works out well. i can see why it persists. it is practical.

later leonards accidentally meets with michelle (played by gwyneth paltrow) whom he falls deeply in love for. is this not how love should be? is not love a complete accident, like magic, that consumes us.

naturally leonards explores both women. he dates sandra as a fallback, as a duty to his family. the safe route. where some might be quick to judge him. i do not. would you turn down love that is offered. he pursues michelle who considers him a close friend or worse like a brother among other setbacks.

in the story, i savored the honesty of how it ended as i suspect it to be so with many couples. many wouldn't admit it. of course. but i believe it to be the majority in this case. that people do not often end up with those they intended to be with. that couples born out of complacency, convenience, contentment with what is available, end up with "the only one" rather than "the one". though it does happen. not just often enough. or if it does happen. it does not linger long enough. passion dies.

rate 3 out of 5
***

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Bucket List

I accidentally ran into the film a couple of times while channel surfing. HBO had been playing "The Bucket List" on several occasions and I managed to complete the entire movie (like a jigsaw puzzle) after three days.

So what makes this movie interesting, aside from having Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman? I guess the film talks about mortality and how people would react if they knew they only had a year to live. Some people might just live in fear, withdraw from the world, or even focus their last remaining days fixing their earthly business. Other people might choose a different path.

Both protagonists are cancer patients who learn that they only have a few months to live. So they made a list of things they want to do before they die and try to do them one by one. Enter the cliche Hollywood formula -- the two fight while doing their list, make up in the end, gain some epiphany about life, love and friendship, die, live life to the fullest and die again.

I think the film would have made a bigger impact to me if it didn't remind me of a Hollywood television series called "My Name is Earl".



Here are some similarities in "Bucket List" and "Earl":

  • Both have a list of things that the protagonists are trying to cross out.
  • They both have one asshole protagonist who, thanks to Karma or Cancer (take your pick), gets redeemed and becomes a better person in the end.
  • Both have quirky supporting casts who help them cross out the things in their list.

I think the movie dwells too much on the positive, feel good aspect of life -- like friendship, love and family. It tends to downplay the actual reality of suffering and death. I doubt if all cancer patients view living and life with such gusto. I doubt if people can make instant life changing decisions just because they know the grim reaper is looking for them.

It all boils down to how a person accepts his death and how he chooses to live out the remaining days of his life.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Twilight the Movie

I just finished watching the movie over the weekend. All I can say is that the Twilight story reminds me of the Roswell TV series. Here is a list of common things I noticed between the two series:

1. Both female protagonists (Liz Parker and Bella Swan) are high school students who nearly lost their lives. They were in the wrong place and in the wrong time. Both girls who have died, except they were saved by their respective crush (Mr. Vampire and Mr. Alien).

2. Both female protagonist experience a strong attraction to their respective crush -- to the point of sacrificing everything they have just to be with their out-of-this-world boy friends. In the end, they became vampires/aliens themselves.

3. Both shows have sheriffs acting as distant father figures.

4. Both shows deal with a "family" or "group of related" aliens/vampires, who were forced to accept high school girl because of her strong/passionate connection with alien/vampire boy.

Watching Twilight made me think of Roswell and I couldn't help but feel that Stephenie Meyer borrowed/used some of Melinda Metz's ideas.

I would not suggest comparing the movie to other vampire flicks. Twilight was written to be a love story for young adult writers. It steers away from excess violence, bloody gore, and horror. The story focuses on Bella and Edward's relationship, mirroring your typical high school romance (mixing with some supernatural elements).

Overall, I had a good time watching the movie. The story was a bit predictable (even without reading the book) but the characters are interesting enough for you to want to watch the sequel.

(Review copied from My Seven Lives)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)

the german democractic republic (GDR) and the stasi (the secret police) reigned on east germany before the wall between east and west came down.

it was a drab, dreary, suppressive world were the state watches over its citizens in every aspect of their lives. you could easily observe this in the color tone used for the character's costumes and environment they moved around and lived in. it was kind of dead.

a stasi agent was tasked to hold a prominent playwright and effectively his wife who was also a prominent actress under tight surveillance because he became a suspect for being too clean.

the operation was to wait and listen, then record everything that transpires in the playwrite's house. any subversive word or action will be charged with treason or disloyalty to the state. imagine what kind of burden that is for merely saying things could potentially lead to imprisonment.

many artists like the playright before him were known subversives. some had escaped and embraced the west which stood for capitalism and freedom. for others who had been caught and blacklisted (though one of the heads of state in the film vehemently disputes it and that the state never blacklists) to perform their crafts had been silenced. and there were other artists who couldn't take it anymore, had taken their own lives which the state conveniently reclassifies as self murderers.

during the course of the surveillance, the stasi agent experiences a change introspective in him. from being ruled entirely by principle to beginning to feeling things. watch the elevator scene when the stasi agent rides it with a boy who rats on his father about saying anti-state things. normally the stasi agent would have the boy's dad arrested but maybe for this time, he let's it go.

the playwright had begun writing an article to be published in the west which exposes the social conditions and suicide rate specifically of artists in the GDR. this is obviously treason in principle but the stasi agent let's it go because he begins to appreciate the simple lives of his target.

i had always been a supporter of socialism but after watching what true socialism had been at least for east germany. i think that any extreme of the political spectrum could never be good and could only end up oppressing its citizens instead rather then uplift their lives.

maybe the central to the film was a message of striking a balance between the extremes living by principle vs feeling

Rate: 3 out of 5
No to extremes

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

shadow women

les femmes de l'ombre is a film dedicated to women who fought against nazi barbarity during world war 2. particularly this film is about 5 women who were hired by the french division of special operations created by winston churchill in britain a.k.a. the SOE.

it begins with the recruitement. a french sniper and her brother who were both formerly tortured in the camps, a prostitute convict who had no loyalty to britain nor france, an ex-wife of heindrich who is a nazi fficer hiding in britain in shame of her past connections, an explosives expert who was apparently catholic and very religious, and an italien/jew operative working as a secret agent disguised as a nurse in normandy. their mission was to deliver a geologist out of normandy france and back to england. unfortunately the sniper's brother was captured.

things get a lot more interesting after they were forced to make a side trip to occupied paris for what turns out to be the real mission - to assasinate heindrich who had knowledge of a big plan by the allies and he was trying to convince the third reich of the threat.

i was perhaps quick to judge the ladies as they each were compelled to display rather some unadmirable qualities during the mission as each take turns at valor and cowardice. in the end they were all just being human. when one is faced with the same predicament (torture), i wonder too, what would i do.

one by one each of the ladies played their roles valiantly having to give up their very lives for the mission.

rating 4 out of 5
i love films which depict women of strength, intelligence, skill and guile.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

religulous

the word religulous is a play on the words religious and ridiculous. a satire comedy by bill maher. agnosticism for the common man. spoken in common words that can be understood and appreciated by everyone esp christian america as compared to but not much unlike the works of richard dawkins, hitchens, and others which are a bit more eloquent.

i managed to get a copy of the film here (RELIGULOUS). you have to download it asap for it might be asked to be removed. copyright issues tu sais. ^_^

the film talks of religion more than the existence of gods/dessess namely yahweh since bill was half catholic and half jewish. nevetheless, i enjoyed it thoroughly.

even though bill was posting the questions and i think the movie does not fall short of giving out the answers. at least to the thinking audience anyway (the questions are leading) and it almost always puts the theist to a defensive. it's what i believe in - end of discussion!

bill asks valid questions - on the subject of the virgin birth, is the earth 5000 years old, is islam a religion of peace, revelation and the self fulfilling prophecies, odd things but all makes sense from the average theist mind. other questions of interest. why politicians today (unlike the american forefathers who were secularists) pandering to churches. how some? church leaders profit from church coffers. homosexuality. the status of women in moslem society. how moslems think islamist terrorism has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with politics. hmm .. actually this maybe true to a degree ..

the funniest bit was when he played a joke on the guy who was clearly high on something and who believes in a religion that includes the use of hallucegenics. héhéhé.

Rate 4 out of 5 ****
bill. you are the man!

Friday, October 17, 2008

munich

munich is a historical fiction that begins with arab terrorists taking israeli athletes as hostages in the oylmpics in munich, germany. a few years after, the government of israel unofficially hires assassins to hunt down the people responsible. eric bana plays avner kauffman - the leader of the group of assassins.

immediately, i sympathized with israel. the group of assasins, each experts in their individual fields, were in fact very likable. it felt right, what they're doing, that it was justice. im glad the story became impartial turning around towards the end, mentioning the plight of the palestinian people. at the end, nothing seemed to matter except the question of when the killing of each other, is going to stop.

personally i believe it was a mistake for the western (european) powers to put up israel in the middle of the arab region. it does not seem smart to me anyway. there is whole lot of history about this. something i am no expert in. the palestinian people who are now refugees, practically robbed of their lands are understandably doing everything they can to fight back. i believe a futile attempt. there was an interesting political dialogue between avern and one of the arabs. and avern made one very important and objective point. the palestinians have nothing now to bargain with.

Rate ***** 5 out of 5
a powerful film.

Friday, September 26, 2008

notes on a scandal

english movie about two women. sheba hart (cate blanchette) and barbara covett (judey dench). i love the name sheba. it's exotic. sheba is the new art teacher. and i found her suited to the job. she is young and handsome, without restraint, new age type, good natured. she is married to an old guy who was her previous teacher. a young woman married to an old guy is already a story in itself.
then there is barbara, an aging collegue who takes sheba under her wing.

the interesting part begins when barbara catches sheba being intimate with one of the students. barbara threatens sheba unless she stops the affair. then it becomes really dark and wierd when barbara begins to ask for more and more. more than just sheba's friendship ..

i loved the language used. what must be like ordinary language for the english people, it comes out poetic to ears such as mine who is accustomed to the bastardized english of filipinoes (learned from americans).

i have often imagined many times that i'd grow old and alone and id be like barbara here .. dried up and wasted, banal, cynical, and desperate for love, .. hopefully it won't happen ..

Rate *** 3 out of 5
I enjoyed the language

Monday, September 22, 2008

Kate Chopin: The Awakening

i do not know if the woman at the front of the book is kate chopin. or is it the heroine edna pontellier. kate chopin is a writer who wrote short stories in the late 1800s. the same time as our national hero josé rizal.

the first short story is "the awakening", notably her best work. the awakening recounts the tale of madame edna pontellier who just liberates herself from society's traditions. a time when women were considered property, when it was necessary to depend on being married to someone to provide for them, when women were restricted to the home and the kitchen, when women were in all respects functions primarily to provide assurance for the next generations - a baby factory. i am tempted to point out that this is a time that could describe the present as well. how ironic and horrible isn't it? but no, i am referring to the late 1800s.

some points i gathered from the short story - le réveil:

1. french créole society has similarities to pinoy high society as it exists as a microcosm.
2. infidelity was accepted if it does not cause a scandal.
3. the key to freedom is financial independence.
4. people do not own people. we are only in as much as we want ourselves to be.
5. i do not like the ending. i do not see the necessity of commiting suicide at the advent of her liberation from social bonds. maybe i misunderstood it? edna strikes me as someone who is strong but unless kate chopin meant to potray love as something that weakens people, both men and women. then maybe it makes sense.

Rate 4 out of 5 ****
Progressive ideas

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Notebook

An overly sentimental rich girl (allie) / poor boy (noah) love story that works for me (Maybe just me) . I guess one needs to draw something from real life to be able to appreciate it. That sense of wanting to be with someone from another world so bad and things are not in your favor. Where despite the improbability, we pursue it anyway.

A reminder that we have but a short while in this life. And we will all have to deal with endings despite how much we think we deserve eternity. And in the end, we just have our memories.

I disagree with what I felt the movie was in a way saying - that having a full life equals having someone to love (and back). Having someone or not should not deprive anyone from having a full life. There are many pursuits in life. In fact, it is not uncommon to find people who are in relationships to be at the loosing end, having compromised many things just to stay in it.

Rate: 4 stars ****
Made me cry like a baby ^_^

Monday, May 26, 2008

the brave one

The Brave One

Jodie Foster plays Erica Bain. Jodie is the best! I adore the roles she plays because she almost always potray women of strength. Not the ones that remain victims to fate but indepedent individuals who are willing to take action despite insurmountable odds and at the same time be accountable for them. This film illustrates that Woman is as capable as any man.

It is a social commentary about how life could be like living in a big and populous city such as New York, with the immense bureaucracy, the apathetic government, and the crimes. Society becomes disensitized and the individual is left to fend for themselves.

It is rather a simple story about revenge for a love lost. Erica and her fiancé takes a walk around the park at night. They were attacked by local thugs. Her fiancé dies. Erica becomes a whole new person. She becomes a stranger as she often describes it in the movie. She recovers but not really. After seeing that noone, even the government, was going to make things right, she decides to buy a gun for protection. But ends up turning vigilante.

The following quotes from the film cracked me up ..

Pimp: What if I don't pay?
Erica: Then this will be the last super cunt you'll ever see.

Rate 3 out of 5
Woman rules!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mr. Vampire

mr vampire

mr vampire upholds that certain tradition of favorite kungfu movies we have grown to love over the years. i felt like a kid wanting desperately about knowing the kungfu. remembering jackie chan and his antics. the movie appears low budget but what it lacks in special effects, it fully compensates with good natured humor. i think anyone from any background would be able to appreciate it. come to think of it, the raw quality of it is part of its charm.

the story is filled with chinese folklore, about the nature of the dead. how it continues to "live" after life. my favorite part was when the taoist? monk discovers the rogue vampire and tries to (and fails) to capture it using his own stock of undead. the fight scenes were not martial arts intensive. but like i mentioned earlier. it compensates with humor.

3 stars ***
made me laugh ..

Death Note 1 and 2 (The Movie)

death note 1 and 2 (the movie)

it was only after did i watch and liked the movies did i learn that they (supposedly) pale compared to its manga roots. i have also heard that there was an animé which also surpassed the real live movies. then i suppose it was for the best that i was ignorant when i came to watch them because i enjoyed the anime-like characters and the the mind games they played against each other.

death note is about a magical book granted by shinigamis (death gods) to certain mortals. the book basically kills people. the chosen mortal writes down the name of his/her enemies. and possibly, but not necessarily, the nature and circumstance of their deaths. and those people who have their names written down on the death note helplessly die, written circumstance fulfilled. at the very least, having your name written down on it grants you death by heart attack.

i am not going to read in too much about how the japanese psyche deals with death. certainly, in the story, the seriousness of mortality as it affects all of humanity is caricatured. so i felt unattached to the idea of mortality. to me, the story is an intriguing question. what would you do if you have to power to kill.

3 stars * * *

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

August Rush (Movie Review: 3 out of 5)

You don't have to be a music lover to enjoy this movie. However, you must be prepared to accept all the freaky coincidences and odd circumstances that play around the main protagonist of the film.

The hero (August Rush, aka Evan Taylor) is an orphan who is driven to find his birth parents. He's a music prodigy who has the "gift of listening to the world". Thanks to this gift, he is reunited with his family at the end.

It's a modern day fairy tale of sorts -- we have a young boy who gets thrown into a cruel/nasty world (aka New York City). But thanks to his musical talent, he meets people (like a character named "Wizard") who either helped or exploited him along the way. But August stays true to himself and his dream does come true.

Jen loved the film while I found it just okay. It's a feel good movie with a nice soundtrack, but there are better "feel good" movies out there. The only point that I found interesting were the movie's attempt to portray the "underground society" of New York through the eyes of children. We see the flaws and the issues of the child welfare system and how many runaway kids get used and exploited off the streets. August was lucky that he had the magical talent to get himself out of the gutter. I pity the other kids who got left behind.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pan's Labyrinth

I've been wanting to do a review of this movie ever since I watched it last October 2007. I'd personally give the movie a six star rating for its imagery, story, and suspense.

Pan's Labyrinth (or "El Laberinto del Fauno" in Spanish) is the work of Guillermo del Toro, the same guy who directed the Hellboy movie. At first I was skeptical of the movie's English title, it sounded like a B horror movie. But then after hearing nice reviews, I decided to watch it and see for myself.

The movie is basically an adult faerie tale. By adult, I'm talking about the intense and gruesome violence depicted in the story. I wouldn't recommend having kids watch the movie because of the gory head bashing, torture, and the bloody gun fights.

Pan's Labyrinth is set in the wilderness of Spain, during the country's civil war. The military, led by a maniacal war freak captain, is hunting down rebels - killing them left and right. Amidst all the death and violence, a young girl becomes enamored in the world of faerie. She encounters a satyr and learns of a fantastic faerie world. With the help of the satyr and some pixies, the girl undergoes a series of quests to help improve the lives of her family.

Slowly the girl's secret fantasy world and the realities of war begin to overlap. The rebels waged their final war against the military and the girl is forced to make a choice - to save her dreams or her family.

While the movie revolves around the girl and her struggle to save her family from hardship and suffering. I think that her innocence and belief in faerie kept her protected from the brutalities of war. Since she is the only one who interacts with the Satyr and pixies, I was left thinking whether the faeries were real or if she made it all up.

Despite all the death and violence, the story redeems itself in the end. In the young girl's mind, she has succeeded in her quest and she has brought happiness and prosperity for her family and the land.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Kekexili: Mountain Patrol

I stumbled on this movie accidentally at AXN last Saturday and I was glued to the screen. At first I thought it was one of those mainland films depicting life under communist rule, but as I continued watching, I realized this was a story about life in the wilderness of Tibet.

The film acts like a travel documentary, revolving around a Beijing Photojournalist on assignment in Tibet. He gets first hand experience with the rugged and harsh life in the mountains.

During his trip, the journalist encounters a group of Tibetan vigilantes who roam the land to protect endangered antelopes from poachers. They track down illegal hunters across the mountains, arresting violators and burying the carcasses of dead antelopes they encountered.

The film portrays the harshness of the Tibetan mountains -- from its cold numbing frost, to its vast stretched of wasteland. It shows how people survive under poverty. Abandoned or simply ignored by the government, these people resort to illegal poaching, skinning of antelope skins (which are prized in the black market), and stealing.

One of the scenes that struck me was when the patrol arrested a group of poachers. The journalist interviewed one of the criminals, an old man who claimed to be the fastest antelope skinner in the region. The old man proudly showed his three sons who were along with him. He said that he was once a shepherd but because of the changes in the weather, his livestock died. Shortly after that, he became a poacher.

I liked the way the film portrayed the region as a "savage frontier", where everyday is a fight for survival. It also shows how the land affects its inhabitants, and how it affects ones moral judgment and view of good/evil.

Children of Men

Watched the movie on HBO last night. I 'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies and this was one of the best. The movie paints a realistic and terrifying vision of the near future, a future that seems all the more probable with all the problems that the world is facing right now.

The movie is set in the United Kingdom of 2027. Mankind has less than a century to survive, since all women have lost the ability to conceive and bear children. Accompanying this crisis is a worldwide societal collapse, rampant terrorism, discrimination, and environmental destruction. Britain becomes the last functioning government, persecuting illegal immigrants and refugees.

Watching the movie gave me a picture of the world, if the present problems of global warming, political/financial instabilities, and terrorism would continue to worsen. Unlike other apocalyptic movies where mankind is quickly eradicated by some kind of holocaust, Children of Men shows a slow and more gruesome collapse of humanity and civilization. Coupled with the mysterious dilemma of infertility, people have lost all sense of decency and morality. Many of them have simply surrendered to their inevitable doom and destruction.

Despite all the death and suffering, the movie offers hope and redemption for humanity. It might not be that uplifting (at least not for me), but it still shows that there is something positive and good about people, and there is a chance for mankind to survive.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Best Songs of 2007

Here's my top ten list of best songs of 2007. Last year was a great time for music, and if the pattern continues, it looks like 2008 will also be good for music fans.

Here's some interesting observations from the song list. Nine out of the ten songs had lead female vocals (Hugh Grant being the exception, and he's not even a genuine recording artist). There was only one American song in the top ten (the one by Rihanna). And four out of the ten were either remakes or heavily influenced by an older song.

You can also check out my previous 2006 and 2005 lists. Happy listening!

10. Pop! Goes My Heart - Hugh Grant

When the movie 'Music and Lyrics' opened with Hugh Grant in full 80's look performing the music video to this song, I knew I would like the rest of the film. It's a song that is made to match the look and feel of that era. And parodies a lot of the old 80's music video style.

9. Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne

Surprisingly catchy and infectious. Angst-ridden, yet at the same time having a lot of positive self-affirmations. My favorite part is the short rap solo and the line where she sings "Hell yeah, I'm the motherf___ princess".

8. Don't Save Me - Marit Larsen

I have endured my fair share of ridicule and mockery from friends after admitting that I was a big M2M fan. And Marit, the blonde girl, was always my favorite of the two. So when I heard that she had released her first solo album, I was eager to check out the new songs. This is the first single from the album and was a huge hit in her native Norway. It has a lot of the M2M qualities we like, but in Marit's personal style. You can interpret the lyrics as being about the split with her M2M partner and best friend Marion Raven.

7. Shut Up and Drive - Rihanna

This is a guilty pleasure of mine. Rihanna samples New Order's Blue Monday bass and rhythm parts to create a hit song. I love it when new artists take sequences from 80's songs and adapt it to today's pop music. Most of the time, they end up ruining the old songs, but Rihanna actually does it well, duplicating the successful formula she used previously in SOS (which sampled Soft Cell's Tainted Love). Shut Up and Drive is a fast paced, energy-driven song. Rihanna's attractive physical assets displayed in the music video certainly helps enhance the appeal of the music.

6. Only a Fool - Marit Larsen

I really like Marit's voice in this one. And she does a lot of unconventional things in this song, such as the use of an instrument/sound effect that sounds like a whistle, as well as adding a banjo and harmonica to the list of instruments. This sounds very much like a children's song combined with many bluegrass and country elements. Cute and good song.

5. Everything's Just Wonderful - Lily Allen

This is a song that speaks to the thirty-something batch with which I belong to. We are faced with enormous pressure to be more responsible, get a good paying job, pay for the mortgage, stay thin, be a good taxpaying citizen, stay within the norms of society and play the same game that everyone plays. Then when asked by our friends and relatives "How's everything going?", we reply "Oh, everything's just wonderful" with only a hint of sarcasm and bitterness. And that's what this song is all about.

4. Selfish - Sunset Daze

The original 'Selfish' by The Other Two was my top song back in 1994, when I used to share yearender lists with fellow dangerousreviewer Roehl and other friends. So I was very excited to discover this remake. I only found it by accident from one of the mix collection CDs I bought early this year in my goal of updating myself with the popular songs I had missed from the Philippines the past three years.

The added background vocal blending is a great enhancement to the original. It's also good to know that some of the younger people hearing this song for the first time will also rediscover the original version by The Other Two. It's a tribute to good 90's music. It also symbolizes to me my own reconnection to family and friends I haven't seen in several years.

3. I Didn't Know I was Looking for Love - Sitti

sitti_cafebossa You're probably familiar with the EBTG (Everything But the Girl) version of this song, which is one of my favorites. But after hearing Sitti's bossa nova version, I think I'm starting to like it more than the original! I was with my brother and mother at Rockwell Mall when I first heard this playing in the background. I immediately asked my brother if he knew who the singer was. He didn't know, but he mentioned that bossa nova music was getting really popular in the Philippines and that it probably came from one of those new artists specializing in that genre, in this case, Sitti.

Of all the songs in the list, I feel this is the one with the most staying power and could easily have been my #1 pick as I'm still not tired of listening to it. The music and vocals have a relaxed yet playful style to it. This is how you remake a song, you take its essential qualities, and add your unique spin on it. Looking forward to more Sitti releases.

2. Oh My God - Mark Ronson/Lily Allen

lilyallen_ohmygod Get ready for a real treat if you haven't listened to this yet. This is an overpowering, high energy song featuring Lily Allen's singing and Mark Ronson's musical arrangement. I was amazed when I first heard this, it has almost everything I want in a song. It builds up to a point where you almost feel that it's going out of control, then recomposes itself before the dramatic trumpet solo. I listened to it repeatedly last summer while working out and taking long walks in the hot sun.

It's a remake (and improvement) of the original Kaiser Chief song of the same name. Definitely check out the other tracks in the Mark Ronson album if you're a fan of song remixes.

1. Single - Natasha Bedingfield

natashabedingfield_single This is hands-down the best song of the year. 'Single' has powerful vocals, one of the best bass lines produced in a song, fantastic lyrics, and an extremely addictive quality. The song is about proclaiming your independence, not only in terms of relationships, but also with regards to your individual liberation from the norms of society. Without question, 'Single' is the top single of 2007.


Friday, January 04, 2008

dragons of the dwarven depths

it is recommended that before you read the lost chronicles trilogy. you must finish reading the chronicles trilogy first. why? because the lost chronicles is about the adventures that happened during the chronicles trilogy but were intentionally left out (i heard as to make more money) but perhaps its a good thing that our favorite companions continue to have "new" adventures way after their lifetimes. ::sob:: ils me manquent bien ... ::sob:: tome 1 dragons of the dwarven depths is about how the companions obtained the hammer of kharas. a gift from the gods of light by which the inhabitants krynn will able to forge the mythical dragonlances. also it showcases the kingdom of the mountain dwarves thorbadin and the different clans of dwarved who dwell in it. my favorite part is when caramon drew a heart on the tunnel wall with tika's name inside. cute cute ^_^ (sigh) the highseekers who continues to be a burden to the companions and the refugees remind me very much of baptists or filipino politicians who charms their way in to the hearts of the mob whispering sweet words but with little or no substance.

rating 2 out of 5 .. for a book that has the word depth on the title, i find it lacked depth .. however i did want to make special mention of the artwork on the cover. its nice!

Friday, December 28, 2007

City of God

imdb page

I heard lots of good things about this movie, mainly for its realistic depiction of crime in the 'City of God', the name of a slum area in Rio de Janeiro.

I was a bit apprehensive, as I was afraid it would be too violent and disturbing to watch. But it didn't turn out as violent as I thought it was. Yes, lots of gang killings and violence takes place, but it doesn't revel in them unlike many of today's unimaginative and horrible torture movies that masquerade themselves under the horror category. City of God does its best to hide the graphic nature of the violence and only uses them to illustrate how dangerous and desperate the area is.

It is filled with many fascinating characters, each with his own storyline. I found myself believing that these were real people and not merely roles played in a movie. The main character is a gang druglord named Li'l Ze. We are introduced to him starting from when he was a little kid hanging out with a bunch of local thugs. At first, it is amusing to see how eager he is to try to fit in with the older guys and show that he will make a good gangster in the future. Then the film fast forwards to the point where he is all grown up and now quite a scary character capable of much violence filled with his desire to control the City of God.

The other main character is a young boy named Rocket, who somehow manages to avoid getting himself involved with the rampant crime and violence. He grows up to be a struggling newspaper errand boy, with a passion for photography. These two characters - Li'l Ze and Rocket frequently bump into each other at critical junctions, and their paths finally cross in the climactic final scene.

The sequencing of scenes are very nicely done and serves to advance the story in a captivating way. Through this method of storytelling, we are introduced to the secondary characters of the City of God - Benny, the popular gang leader and best friend and partner of Li'l Ze. Knockout Ned, the humble unassuming slum resident who is unwillingly drawn into the gang violence. We also get to know Rocket's love interest, Angelica, and Carrot, the rival drug lord to Li'l Ze's empire.

An interesting side note is how big the class differences are in Brazil. You've got the poorest of the poor living in the City of God slums, and we get a small glimpse of the other side in the newspaper scenes, where it seems like a very different country. The income gap between rich and poor is as wide as the differences between first and third world countries.

This was an entertaining and fascinating film to watch which I highly recommend.

Rating: 4/5 * * * *
Great characters and realistic story.

I Am Legend

imdb page

I Am Legend is a movie adaptation of Richard Matheson's novelette of the same name. A mysterious virus outbreak has turned all the inhabitants of New York City into degenerate beast-like creatures. Apparently, there are only two survivors: Will Smith's character, who appears to be immune to the virus, and his pet dog who serves as his loyal companion and best friend.

The start of the movie is pretty good. A scientist/doctor played by Emma Thompson appears on a TV news interview with what appears to be a cure for Cancer. The scene then shifts to several years later. New York is deserted and in ruins. An unforeseen disaster of apocalyptic proportions has occurred.

As a fan of the post-apocalyptic movie genre, I was looking forward to this film. But at the same time, very apprehensive as it had all the makings of another disappointing Will Smith sci-fi film in the mold of I, Robot.

While not as bad as I, Robot, this unfortunately didn't turn out well. The human/beast infected creatures didn't look real. They were very CGI-ish. I also got very impatient with the pacing, it felt like everything was moving so slowly and I wanted them to hurry it up.

I also found myself in disbelief at some of the decisions that Will Smith's character made in the movie. I found myself questioning many of his actions, especially in the later parts and the ending. This is one of the movies where I felt many of the situations were contrived.

The only saving grace here is Will Smith's relationship with his dog. It was both very touching and real. These were the only good parts of the movie.

I haven't read the original novelette, but based on what I gathered from those who are familiar with it, this film deviated from much of the original story. And I think it missed on a lot of the main points that the story wanted to impart, replacing it with more action sequences (just like I, Robot).

The sad thing is that I Am Legend hit it big in the box office, which only encourages Hollywood to follow the same formula, which will result in more bad movies like this to be made in the future.

Rating: 2/5 * *
Another Will Smith sci-fi fiasco.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Best Songs of 2006

Here are my picks for best songs of last year, 2006. I've only got five that are memorable, because it was kind of a sparse year for good music. This is a year late, but I wanted to post this before I finalize my top song picks for this year. You can also check out my 2005 song list.

5. Wind It Up - Barenaked Ladies

While I was underwhelmed with their latest CD 'Barenaked Ladies are Me', I did enjoy the last song in the album 'Wind It Up'. The video is good too - a funny and oddly inspiring story about a rock star making a comeback in the national air guitar tournament.

4. Fidelity - Regina Spektor

Here's a nice feel-good song with catchy vocals and melody. It's memorable because I first saw the video in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep, and thought it was fantastic. A couple of weeks later, I heard it again while browsing in a bookstore and it just had a good mood to it.

3. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield

One of the most played songs on radio for the year. This is a great motivational song - especially with the excellent lyrics combined with Natasha Bedingfield's powerful voice. My favorite part is when the gospel choir sings along in the chorus. It's about deciding and writing your own future and enjoying the present moment.

2. SOS - Rihanna

When I first heard this on the radio, I immediately noticed the Soft Cell 'Tainted Love' background loop, but on a new song. Who is this Rihanna and why is she stealing from Soft Cell? I was determined not to like this new song, but after repeated listens I had to admit that it was growing on me and I was starting to like Rihanna's new spin on an 80's new wave sampling track. After a couple of months, I was hooked. It's also good workout music.

1. O Valencia - The Decemberists

It was on a dark and cold November night that I saw The Decemberists play this song on Letterman. The music and singing struck me as something very unique, and the lyrics were romantic and tragic in an epic sort of way. It transported me momentarily to a different time and place - where true love exists and lingering feuds are settled the old fashioned way. O Valencia had that magical, innocent aspect to it, which you don't see much of these days. And this is why it's my top song of the year.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Best Books of 2006

Yes I know, I'm a year late for this. Here' s my top 10 list of best books for the year 2006 (last year).

Stay tuned for my 2007 book list which I will post very soon. You can also check out my 2005 and 2004 book lists.



10. Salt: A World History - Mark Kurlansky

This book brought me back to my high school days, when I used to enjoy reading about history. The author describes how salt is cultivated and traded, and how it played a huge role in the development of civilization. In the past, salt was a scarce and heavily valued resource, much like oil is today. Salt is now easily manufactured and readily available everywhere. Kind of makes you think what would happen if oil were to follow the same fate, how would it affect the balance of power in the world?

9. Programming Interviews Exposed - John Mongan

I added this to my list as it helped me in preparing for a couple of job interviews when I was applying to different teams early in the year. This book helped me get into good programming shape and provided me the tools necessary to exercise my skills and develop my confidence which helped me get the much needed job transfer.

8. Effective C# - Bill Wagner

I needed this book to prepare me for the C# Programming Trivia part of the job interviews. It was essential in getting to know the ins and outs of writing code in the C# language. Though I wasn’t able to use much of the material in the actual job interviews, I found that it actually helped me a lot in my work, as it had some new coding idioms and tricks I wasn’t aware of in the past.

7. The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life - Ray Kurzweil

I bought this book after my father suffered a stroke late in the year. So I was determined to learn more about good health habits and how to prevent heart attacks. It also helped that it was written by Ray Kurzweil, who I respect a lot based on his past work and ideas. Kurzweil approaches health topics like any science or computer problem. He researches the topic exhaustively and puts forth a solution for himself that other people can follow. The gist of his program is to reduce fat and salt in the diet as much as possible. It is quite difficult to follow his recommended solution, and looking back at it now, I must say that I don’t fully agree with his findings. But still, this is a very educational book and highly recommended if you want to learn more about good health.

6. To Be or Not to Be Intimidated - Robert Ringer

This is the rewritten and revised version of Robert Ringer’s original classic ‘Winning Through Intimidation’. The original editions of Ringer’s books tend to have misleading titles, which is one of the reasons why he changed the title for this one. This is a nice book that, through a series of personal anecdotes and stories, teaches you how to accept and acknowledge reality for what it is, and how to deal with different kinds of people. Ringer describes the different people who will try to take advantage of you in business, and gives very practical advice on how to handle them. This is a great business and life book and has helped me a lot.

5. Hyperspace - Michio Kaku

The author, Michio Kaku has a knack for describing complicated physics topics in a highly entertaining and educational manner. He starts with the basics, then progresses to more current theories – Newton’s Law, Einstein, Quantum Theory, and String Theory. He also mixes the technical stuff with plenty of musings and digressions on the nature of the universe, reality, and time. This was a very enjoyable book to read and greatly expanded my imagination.

4. Your Money or Your Life - Joe Dominguez, Vicki Robin

This is one of those subversive books that is so radically different from everything else I have been led to believe in the past. To me it is the personal finance counterpart to ‘The Joy of Laziness’ (another book I loved, which also drastically changed the way I think). If you have been struggling with your finances or find that you're not enjoying your work and your life, this book might be the most important one you’ll ever read.

It’s not so much a money book, but more of a ‘life’ book. It shows you how to value your time and how to put your life energy to things that are most meaningful to you. It also emphasizes how frugality can lead to a much more enjoyable life, by using every item to the fullest extent. The later chapters eventually get to the ultimate destination, what the authors call the ‘crossover point’ wherein your investment income equals your expenses. At this point you are free to pursue what fulfills you the most in life, which can give you greatest happiness and satisfaction.

3. Build Your Own Computer - Kyle MacRae

This is your standard ‘how to’ book which shows you step by step, with lots of diagrams and illustrations, how to build your own computer from parts you choose and buy separately. Now you’re probably wondering how a simple book like this can be #3 in my list. It’s because I’ve always wanted to assemble a PC myself, and have asked a lot of people how to do it. I’d always get a smug, unhelpful reply such as “it’s easy, don’t you know how to do it?” or something like that, which doesn't me much good. But this book showed me how to do it step by step, and also addressed a lot of the gotchas such as hardware compatibility issues and all those pesky details. It just works, which is why I love this book.

2. Looking Out for #1 - Robert Ringer

I have benefited so much from reading Robert Ringer's ‘Million Dollar Habits’ (my top book for 2005), and have gained a lot from this book that he wrote earlier. He describes his overarching philosophy on life – looking at the big picture, seeing things in perspective, always seeing things for what it is in reality. He gives a lot of advice based on his personal experience, which he narrates in a humorous, self-deprecating manner, through his plodding Tortoise character, which I instantly related to.

I saw this book many times in the past, usually in National Bookstore or book sales. I would always pick it up, read a few pages, debate whether to buy it or not, eventually put it back on the shelf. I regret not buying and reading this a decade ago when I first saw it, as it would probably have had a profound affect on my life much earlier, and I would have avoided a lot of my earlier mistakes.

The book is extremely rich in content, covering all sorts of topics on human behavior, personal neuroses that hold us back, reality-based thinking, among other stuff. What I really need to do is reread the book again and post an outline of all the major points. But if you want to get a good insight on life and personal development, I highly encourage you take your time in reading this book, and digest all the ideas slowly.

1. Naked Economics - Charles Wheelan

Simply put, this is the best economics book out there. Lately, there has been an increase in popularity of popular econ books such as Freakonomics, The Undercover Economist, Armchair Economist, and many others. While they are all a source of good ideas and fascinating reading, they are usually geared towards the more entertaining and sensationalist facets of economics. ‘Naked Economics’ is less geared towards pop economics, and is structured more to cover the basic concepts of how the free market economy works, yet is written in a way such that it is also very educational and entertaining to the casual reader.

This was the book I should have read in high school, when I used to fall asleep in economics social studies class. It covers how free markets work, why the government is useful, how the flow and availability of information affects you more than you think, the power of incentives in everyday life, productivity, and how the Federal Reserve works to our benefit. It’s 236 pages of condensed information. The author, Charles Wheelan, describes each topic with plenty of historical events, side stories, and metaphors to illustrate a new lesson, all in a succinct way.

After I finished the book, I felt a deep glow inside of me - that feeling when I knew that I gained a deep understanding of how the modern world works. It also challenged a lot of my assumptions as to how I thought things were and how different it was in reality. I knew that I would never see things in the same way I used to think of them in the past. Which is why Naked Economics tops my list for 2006.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

the golden compass (book and film)

[BOOK]

the golden compass is tome 1 of the trilogy entitled His Dark Materials. its a fantasy world which has similarities to our own.

i enjoyed the different factions. the separation of powers. there is oxford college which traditionally stood for social and scientific progress. the government, puppets of the magisterium which stands for totalitarian rule. one cant help but make the connection between the magisterium mentioned in the book and the catholic church with it's history of oppression of outsiders and suppression of freedom. the gyptians (similar to the fate of gypsies in europe). the free-spirited nomads who are subjects of prejudice, from which our main hero lyra belacqua will get most aid from. i was inspired by the magnificence of the armored bears and the alluring witches.

on page 239. there is, for the first time nearly the end of tome 1, a brief mention of the vatican. the power behind the magisterium and the clever precedent, refering to the practice of castration in catholic europe, to the awful cruelty that is happening in lyra's world.

my favorite part is the confrontation between the armored bears. i thought it a precise metaphor to how weak and dangerous pretentions can become.

[FILM]

have finally watched the movie golden compass. i was very disappointed with the movie. although it was faithful to the general plot, it failed to convey the same level of excitement and dread that it had in the book. to put it mildly .. it lacked soul. if the story had been human, the movie would have been someone who had lost its daemon. by this time i believe most people would have heard about it. or have watched it themselves. so it would be okey if i mention the parts which went missing in it.

1. first, the magisterium was heavily watered down into a regular bad guy. for those who havent read the books. the magisterium is controled by the vatican. even if it did maintain its primary intent, that is to control mankind (his thoughts. his dreams. his life). the change of face made it less of a threat and therefore it was less intriguing. i felt that this was very unfortunate that prof. richard dawkins is once again right in his thesis. why is religion immune to scrutiny. but that is that another story. (another forum for that matter)

2. in the book i felt scared and utterly shocked at the discovery of the ghostly kid who lost his daemon. it was downplayed in the film. i couldn't feel any dread. but instead it felt like a walk in the park on a sunday afternoon where you ignore everything around you. in the book, the boy died. in the movie, they hinted on getting the daemon back. again this couldn't work. the enemy and what it was doing became an inconvenience rather than something to be afraid of. it took away the intensity of the scene. loosing your soul is suppose to be a very big deal. and yet the people just stood there as if the kid just lost a pet.

3.
what better way to invade a kingdom but by invading its culture (its spirit). this is exactly what happened during the age of colonization where christian europe settled in the americas and colonized many parts of africa and asia. this story is written all over church history. it starts by converting the ruling class, then the nobles and then finally, the peasants. it then demonizes/ridicules local traditions until eventually everything about their identity had been stamped out completely. much like the king of svalbard who was enticed to convert along with his confused subjects. it must have started that way too for the filipino natives when their datus (chieftains) converted (under the banner of the sword) to catholicism. it must have been awkward and confusing for their subjects. their way of life changed. their spirit gone. they've become slaves to the imported culture. although not portrayed very well in the film, the metaphor was perfectly obvious in the book.

rating - book 3 out of 5 ***
rating - film 1 out of 5 *