Of Movies and Memory Gaps

Over lunch the other day, movies came up during conversation. Anytime anyone brings up the subject, I light up like a bulb and get all excited, particularly when the other person shares the same taste as I do or at least familiar with a wide range of titles.

I was asked a very simple question, which to my surprise, I found hard to answer: “So what are your favorite movies?” I immediately replied, “It’s difficult to choose just one.” Understandably, the next question was, “What are some of your favorites then?” That didn’t make it any easier. I’ve been backed into a corner and left with no recourse but to rack my brains for answers. It took me a couple of minutes to jog my memory and pry a few.

A couple of days later, the question still simmered in my mind. It was really very surprising to me that I could not as easily name the films that I’ve adorned for years. Movies to me are a source of joy that keeps on giving. I love stories, and film is one of my favorite media. Countless days and nights I’ve spent on equally countless features. There were years when the rooster’s crowing (the family across the street likes to keep cocks) was the only thing that could make me turn off the computer and remind me that I have to be at work in a couple of hours. As a kid, I could memorise the dialogue after the first viewing. In short, it’s been a life-long affair.

I took a trip down memory lane last night to reacquaint myself with some old faves, and my, was it nice to see them again. Here are five loves of many:


I have not paid as much attention to movies in the past couple of years, which truthfully is why it took me only forever to recall my favorites. Maybe one of these days, I’d find the time to sit down and talk about each in detail. For now, I’ll end this by introducing a new favorite, The Handmaiden by Park Chan Wook. I’m glad I’ve stumbled upon this jewel of a flick. No, it’s not for everyone. But man, is it dizzyingly lovely.




Outbreak Manila 3: Enchanted Kingdom

I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead. It remains to be the one and only TV show that had me shrieking and jumping around the room in both fright and delight when I saw its first season. I cannot care less for vampire books/movies/tv series/fanfics/etc., but zombies have proven to be irresistible even in their limpy, wobbly, crawly ways. Unlike their pale-skinned, blood-thirsty fellow undead, zombies are admirable in their unequivocal quest to eat humans alive. They won’t try to befriend you, woo you, or win your heart (apart from wanting to devour it). They don’t talk and cannot and will not make piercing eye contact. Almost zero chances of sparks flying. It’s enough that they see us as lunch; there is no need for the added complication of inter-specie, star-crossed love affairs. I respect that. And no, please do not bring up Warm Bodies.

Deputy sheriff Rick Grimes getting chummy with unsmiling no-name zombie lady

You can imagine my excitement when I first heard about Outbreak Manila, the 5km run that dares people to run as though their lives actually depended on it. I would not pass up on the chance to live out the fantasy of becoming part of Rick Grimes’ zombie apocalypse survivor crew. I wasn’t able to join the earlier installments for various reasons, but I just had to do the Outbreak Manila 3: Enchanted Kingdom version. I thought the amusement park was the perfect venue for such an event, and I had another reason. When I was a kid, I read a horror children’s book that was set in a traveling carnival. It became one of those stories that stayed with me. As it turned out, I would be hitting two birds with one stone.

The event was held last October 31. It was the first time I “celebrated” Halloween, and I was thrilled. I was doing the run with Pau whom I consider to be one of my best pals. We go on all sorts of crazy “adventures” together, and this was yet another one for the list. Participants were encouraged to wear costumes, and I was game for it. The outfit would still have to be running appropriate though, and I didn’t really prepare. I somehow ended up with a purple wig that I really wanted to wear even if it did not make sense or looked good. But what the heck, right? It was Halloween, and life on earth as we know it has supposedly ended, so why should how I look matter? Because we were taking pictures, that’s why.



Aside: And we were running with Daniel Matsunaga. Spell distraction! We didn’t have photos taken with him though. I would not need a reminder of how hapless I looked with my disheveled wig beside such fine male specimen. Ha ha. Rovilson Fernandez was there with him. He noticed my purple hair, which I explained to be a mutation caused by whatever it was that brought about the zombie infection. I know, right? So smooth.

Each participant were given three flags that signified his/her three lives. The “zombies” were tasked to steal them without actually touching the runners. Some of them just stood there, probably exhausted from badgering the previous waves, but others remained to be effective and energetic tormentors. Nonetheless, they all deserved props for their impressive undead make-up and styling.

All in all, it was a highly successful event. Besides not being able to provide enough medals for all those who made it out “alive”, the organizers did a good job of making sure that it was safe and enjoyable for everyone, especially non-runners. I myself am not a runner, and I didn’t want to start training for the event even if Pau told me to. I thought I could get away with the workout I got from swimming and pole dancing. I should have listened to her though; my body would have thanked me for it. Good thing it wasn’t a race. There was no need to reach the finish line first; you only have to get to the end with at least one flag (life). Pau and I did complete the run with lots of flags to spare, and we both got a high from screaming our lungs out at every walking dead that popped out of dark corners and from successfully zigzagging our way past the hordes of zombies who took their roles rather seriously.

Now that’s done, I certainly will not want to trade places with any of Rick’s friends, even with Daryl around (ha!). I highly doubt it would be that much fun.

Find out more about Outbreak Manila here.


So sorry it took me this long to post about this. Currently working on my blogging backlog! 🙂


On Self-Respect

I called my brother one afternoon to discuss a personal concern that has been weighing on my mind at the time. He gave me advice on how to deal with it in that direct yet gentle manner of his, probably because he knows I don’t like being told what to do. I didn’t really agree with what he said and launched a feeble retaliation, to which he curtly replied, “Have some self-respect.” That shut me up for a moment. His remark seemed to come out of nowhere, so I asked him what he meant by that. He said, “You’re smart. You’ll figure it out.”

The subject has been on my mind since then, which is why excerpts from Joan Didion‘s essay, “On Self Respect”, as featured on Brain Pickings here, jumped out at me when I read them:

The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others — who are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without.

To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals with one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There’s the glass you broke in anger, there’s the hurt on X’s face; watch now, this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one. To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, the Phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commissions and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice, or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.


[C]haracter — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.

Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts.


[S]elf-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with one’s head in a Food Fair bag. There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves; imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal, in a cold shower.


To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out — since our self-image is untenable — their false notion of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. Of course I will play Francesca to your Paolo, Helen Keller to anyone’s Annie Sullivan; no expectation is too misplaced, no role too ludicrous. At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meting the next demand made upon us.

It is the phenomenon sometimes called ‘alienation from self.’ In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves — there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.

Thanks to the people behind Brain Pickings for introducing me to this thought-provoking piece. For a young woman who’s honestly still figuring things out, this riveting treatise provides substantial material to digest and ponder. “On Self Respect” is from Joan Didion’s collection of essays, Slouching Towards Bethlehem.


Empire State of Mind

Originally written November 25, 2012

When Harry Met Sally. Sleepless in Seattle. While You Were Sleeping. If I learned anything from watching romantic comedies, it’s that these fairytales are just that, tales — tales spun by dreamers who sprinkle them with pixie dust and cast them off with the wind, waiting to fall on the shoulder of a young woman, who then hears a faint but distinct whisper that tells her to polish off the dusty dream of her very own Happily Ever After.

Sally hated Harry. No love at first sight there. Sam lost his wife. Annie and Walter were two rights that make a wrong. And Lucy? Why, she fell in love with the wrong brother.

Funny that I am writing this as I sit inside a plane. I realized after my first full viewing of Sleepless and a little bit of An Affair to Remember too in a sense, that I have been to New York City, but I have never been to the top of the Empire State Building. Maybe there’s a reason I have not felt compelled to visit the well-known landmark. Maybe on the day that I finally make my way up to the top, there he will be, waiting. And we’ll look into each other’s eyes and really see each other for the first time. He’ll take my hand, and as we touch, there it is. Magic.

Or not. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks can keep their scene to themselves, thank you very much.

Far from illustrating ideals that women (and men) should aspire to, rom-coms tend to propagate unrealistic and fantastic archetypes and expectations. No one should have to compete with those adorably flawed and perfectly imperfect creatures. Real life has already given us more than enough stuff to deal with.

So what exactly am I taking away from all these gooey, over-sentimental big screen romps? Why am I writing this with my heart still recovering from the meltdown wrought by that particularly stirring closing scene? (Really, I am not kidding! I am still entranced by its ending. It’s probably one of the cheesiest scenes I have ever seen in my life. And that ‘magic’ bit is so unbearably corny! But. I. Just. Can’t. Help. It… So sue me.) I am simply reminded of my belief that everyone is entitled to his or her own fairytale. It doesn’t have an expiry date, nor does it have to – how I hope not – adhere to Hollywood formula. Life is not like in the movies, and that is absolutely fine. We all think we know that, but a little reminding once in a while won’t hurt. I prefer mine to be written with my own hand anyway. A clumsy, somewhat naïve writer though I am.



I still have so many things from 2012 to tell you! This is my first step to conquering my blogging backlog. I will start gnawing away at it again soon!

The Week’s LOL Videos

You know how some people like to look at funny websites that contain silly comic strips and pics of cute kitties? That’s not really my thing, but should someone shove an image in my face (like my brother sometimes does), then I’ll sigh, roll my eyes, and take a peep (like I have a choice). To be fair, they are most often hilarious. I just won’t go seek them out myself.

This week however, I came across three videos that made quite an impact on me. They’re hilarious, uber cute, and somewhat weird and questionable. People are having varying reactions for sure. Whatever they are, be them good or ill, they’re causing viewers to hit the ‘share’ button, which is essentially what I’m doing now. And that my friends, I believe, is the entire point.

The first one is a PSA of the Melbourne Metro, which was sent to me by my brother (who else?). It’s terribly cute and twisted, and that blasted catchy tune has been stuck in my head the whole day.


The next one is just adorable. Minnie and Mickey in Paris! Minnie getting that gorgeous frock from Mickey! What girl in her right mind would not want to be in her pink pumps? I had a fun time recognizing the fashion faces she rubbed elbows with in her dizzying, dazzling turn as the toast of the town.


I am still on the fence on this last one. While the little dolls look absolutely disarming, something about having children mimic those personalities doesn’t sit quite well with me. I mean, at what age are kids old enough to have a “fashion shower”?



Transcription Challenge Accomplished!

I meant to share this with you about three months ago. I started the draft for this entry a couple of days after my 25th birthday (Yes, I already turned 25! More on my 25before25 project soon.). I forgot about it somehow, but here it is, the short story of how I completed my little transcription project. 🙂

About a week before my birthday, I was surfing the web and came upon the website of Ms. Jessica Zafra. I didn’t know that she had a dialogue with Mark Millar, so I was pleasantly surprised to read the first part of her amusing two-hour long interview. She called for volunteers to do the rest. Without thinking too much about it, I signed up for the job. I don’t recall having any transcribing experience, so I was kinda wishing she’d ignore my jab at volunteerism.

In about an hour, I received the email I was hoping/not hoping to get. I immediately played the attached audio file. Played it again. And again. Man, I could hardly understand anything. If you’re familiar with Millar’s Scottish accent, you’d get what I mean. I knew this was gonna be fun.

After some number of hours listening at maximum volume (to hell with my hearing), rewinding, and piecing words together ’til they formed coherent sentences, I was able to successfully transcribe my share of the pie. That was probably the looonnnggggest seven minutes ever!

Here below is the transcript I prepared as posted on Jessica Zafra’s website:

Trip to the Millar-verse, part 2: Kick-Ass was almost his autobiography

June 03, 2012 By: jessicazafra

The continuation of our interview with Mark Millar. Transcription by the valiant xiaoarma (That’s me! :)), the last volunteer standing.

This is the part where we note that his work on The Ultimates was a big influence on The Avengers movie.

Mark Millar (MM): It was very flattering, I mean, they used a lot of that stuff in the movie. But they do that all the time in comics, like the Spider-Man movie. The first Spiderman movie has lots of things from old Spider-Man comics, you know, and uhm, Tim Burton’s Batman had a lot of things from Alan Moore’s Killing Joke, you know. And so, The Avengers movie…

Jessica Zafra (JZ): It’s interesting that the collected Ultimates has an introduction by Joss Whedon.

MM: Totally coincidental, ye, at the time we obviously had no idea.

JZ: And also the casting of Samuel Jackson (as Nick Fury) was totally your idea.

MM: Yeah, that was 2001 when we came up with that, you know.

JZ: In your comics they’re actually sitting around talking about who should play them in the movie. Hilarious.

MM: Hilarious, I know. I couldn’t believe it, but it just kinda came true, you know? But I think when I do something, I tend to take a filmic approach to it. So I think movie producers look at it and they think, “Oh, that would be quite easy to do in a movie” ’cause I’ve done it like a movie in the comic, you know…I think when they read The Ultimates they thought, “Ye, we should lay it out like that.” It just happens that my style is quite filmic.

JZ: Do you prefer the term ‘comics’ or ‘graphic novels’?

MM: Comics. ‘Graphic novel’ sounds like it’s ashamed to be a comic book.

I always think it’s funny, but I sort of get why they made it up, because (the term) was invented in 1986-1987. And that was a time when there was amazing work coming out, you know, like Frank Miller was doing The Dark Knight, Alan Moore was doing Watchmen and they were trying to get them in the bookstores and the bookstores were saying, “We don’t want comics.”

So they said, “Oh no, these are not comics; these are special comics called graphic novels.” It’s a very clever way of selling comics to people who doesn’t like comics.

JZ: I think it’s really good excuse for parents to go and buy comics for themselves, because they’re graphic novels.

MM: Yeah.

JZ: Of the characters you’ve written, which one has the most amount of you in it?

MM: I would say the most is probably Kick-Ass, because it’s autobiographical. There’s loads of things from my real life in it, you know. I mean, like…

JZ: You once put on a costume and fought crime?

MM: I almost did, ye. When I was 15 I designed a costume. My best friend and I made costumes, and we were like, “Aren’t we too old?” You kinda think you’d do that when you’re 10 not 13. You’re almost a man by 15, you know?

And I designed a costume and we went to the gym for six months and we were doing karate and things like that. And it would’ve been so easy to find out who we were, because we were the only two guys who were into comics probably for a hundred miles around. So thank goodness we didn’t do it.

Kick-Ass is the story of what may have happened if we had tried it. That’s why I dedicated the book to my friend who I was gonna (be superheroes) with. If we had done it, I think we would’ve had our asses kicked—going on the streets, as soon as people saw our costumes, they would’ve beat us up. The costumes would’ve been enough—they were bright blue costumes, people would’ve chased us home. So thank goodness we didn’t do it, but Kick-Ass is a fantasy of what may have happened if we had done it.

JZ: Do you see yourself writing a novel that is all words?

MM: I’ve turned down offers in the past, but I’m gonna do one in January or February, I’m gonna start something like, I had an idea for something, and it’s actually kind of…I hope it won’t fall under Chick Lit! It’s not what I expected to write.

I had this idea last year…it’s the kind of thing that my wife would read or something, and I’m known for doing things where you can get shot in the face and things like that. I don’t know how my fans would react to it, you know. I had this idea for something very emotional, and I thought it would be a stretch. It wouldn’t work as a comic, but it would work very well as a prose thing, you know. It’s so definite that I think my fan base might be like, “What the hell is this?”

JZ: Or you can just publish it under another name, like Stephen King does all the time.

MM: I would like to bring my readers into it, I have a fair number of people guaranteed to buy it. I’ve done a children’s book coming out spring next year. It’s a superhero book aimed at 5-year-olds, it’s got pictures done in storybook style, with one picture per page. It’s a kindergarten-level book. That’s kinda fun to do as well, because I kinda quite like things that are like, you know, objectionable.

I quite like writing stuff that’s kinda violent or objectionable, full of swearing, things like that. I always find it quite fun to do that kind of stuff. So then to suddenly change gears in my head to do something for 5-year-olds is great fun. So I’m gonna do more of that.

To be continued

You may be wondering what I got in return – what else but yet another copy of Super Crooks #1! One can’t have enough, it seems. I didn’t do it for the comics though. I did enjoy the challenge even if I stayed up all night (more than once) to get it done. It just proved to me that you can make things that make you happy (however small) happen by simply saying yes.

Special thanks to Ms. Zafra!