Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

Reel time

I've been spending a couple of hours a week with some college students lately, and it's fun to chat with them. Well, I also got to talk with a few girls in their early 20s in a seminar I attended in September, and listening to them reminded me of just how fast I used to talk and how much I jumped from one topic to another when I was around their age. Conversing with dudes who have lived for half a century or more does have its striking moments, primarily because the wisdom they've acquired over the course of decades is evident. There's much to learn from them; the perspective they present, even from brief remarks they make about seemingly superficial topics, can make one reconsider previously held opinions.

Hanging out with fellows who are at the stage of pursuing formal education in their chosen field, on the other hand, has been delightful as well. We spent a good deal of time talking about movies and what we thought of them. I found it amusing that many of the titles they mentioned were unheard of as far as I was concerned, and I listened fondly as they gushed over what was a superb flick and why it was so, or lamented over some disappointing film that was a mistake to give the time of day.

Who's your favorite actor? What are your top movies? Such questions came up when we first delved into
the subject of the celluloid world, and just like when I'm asked what restaurant I'd like to go to, I was at a loss. It's funny, because movies are something I consider essential in life -- in a manner of speaking, of course, and not to be mistaken as being placed on the same level as food, clothing and shelter in the hierarchy of needs -- and there I was, drawing a blank when asked for my favorites. Why is that?

Well, at the risk of sounding like a page from those old slum books where you're asked about favorite food, favorite song, favorite singer, favorite everything... there really are too many to mention when it comes to movies. Of course, there are the critically acclaimed blockbusters such as Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, unforgettable ones that somewhat "define" your decade (Back to the Future, among several), and the much-loved or funny but not really awards-material (for me that would be You've Got Mail, and some films that I wouldn't broadcast being a fan of due to the absolute lack of substance). And, though I don't think I've met any other fan of movies about hijacking, I thoroughly enjoy watching the likes of Air Force One, Executive Decision and, more recently, Non-Stop.

In one of our conversations, though, I remembered Argo and told my young companions how I found it to be immensely engaging (I even blogged about it here, if you'd care to read what I wrote).

Lest this becomes an enumeration of favorite movies, let me go to the point that got me started on this whole post: when I mentioned what a great team-up Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were in a lot of their movies, the girl I was chatting with was unfamiliar with Meg Ryan. I was positively amused by this and realized how old the movies I had in mind were! Well, Meg Ryan is not among your multi-awarded actors, and comical though she is in her rom-com films, she doesn't have the same caliber and/or high-profile blockbuster resume as, say, Meryl Streep, Robert de Niro or Tom Cruise. So, come to think of it, it should hardly be surprising that today's teens and twentysomethings have never heard of her.

Okay, that was the first thing that stunned me about our celluloid tete-a-tete. The other one was when I mentioned The Karate Kid, and the girl said something about Jackie Chan, so I realized she had the post-2000 version in mind. Danny LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi are it for me, and though I'm sure the movie's newer version has its merits if considered more closely, the original will always be the only one for me.

Here's a scene from the1984 movie.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cheetos, chili, and a man's courage

Richard Montanez, the man with the brilliant idea

I love Mexican food. I love Cheetos. And I certainly love stories of people who, by dint of hard work or indefatigable faith or both, beat the odds and come out successful while keeping their humility and sense of service to continue helping others.

So I love the story of how Flamin' Hot Cheetos came about!

Photo from A Grateful Man


Friday, October 09, 2015

On forgiveness, reconciling, and the view from the tabletop

Two of my sisters and I were sitting around one day, talking about movies we had seen, and Dead Poets Society came up.

"Do you remember that scene where the students in Robin Williams' class get up and stand on the table?" one of them asked.

"Yeah...." my other sister replied.

"I don't like that," said the first one, grimacing.

I couldn't believe my ears!

"Me neither!" my other sister chimed in agreement with such vehemence that I was even more flabbergasted. At the same time, it was kind of amusing that something I found almost movingly refreshing had the opposite effect on my two sisters. Of course they were a year apart in age, and I was a full decade younger, which probably accounted for the difference in perspective and preference. While they abhorred the scene in question from the critically acclaimed movie from the late 1980s (which I guessed did not impress them one bit), I found it delightfully striking.

"Huh? I love that scene!" I said, letting my disbelief and amusement show. "I think it's a great way to show that we have to constantly look at things from another perspective..." I said something like that -- I don't remember exactly what I said but I do remember how funny I found the whole thing. They hated the scene, and I thought it was brilliant. We spent the next couple of minutes laughing at our obvious difference in tastes.

Well, isn't the ability to look at things from a different perspective a great way to expand one's horizons? To learn something new? To see something in a whole new light? You may not need to stand on a tabletop to acquire a fresh context as regards things you previously took for granted, but another vantage point sure can help bring out the finer details that previously went unnoticed.

That's what this video did for me as far as an invaluable friendship  is concerned:

 Think about it. And here's something else worth considering:

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Busy signals and party lines

Making calls on a rotary-dial telephone is one thing I would love to do again regularly; alas, I'm told that installing such a device today would not facilitate phone conversations but merely add a vintage touch to a home's aesthetic style. I heard "analogue," "digital" and other such phrases in the exchange about why a rotary dial-phone would not work anymore in these times, but I didn't really understand it. So, thinking back to the days of party lines and seemingly endless dialing (specifically when lots of zeroes are on the phone number) seems more nostalgic than ever!

Seeing the images above reminded me of this experience which would probably make no sense to anyone who grew up in the age of smartphones (or even just mobile phones) without the benefit of perspective provided by experiencing the use of rotary-dial. Well, in the grand scheme of things, it is merely a person-to-person communication device from a different stage in the history of technological advancement. But as in any change in society's lifestyles, the virtues that were acquired and developed in the course of using such devices are invaluable. You'll probably see a little of what I mean if you read about my experience of making song requests on the radio (that's the link provided above) over the course of decades -- and that means doing so using different gadgets, depending on what era you're talking about!

If you fancy a closer look at the telephone experience, check this out as well:

10 aspects of old telephones that might confuse young readers



A page from history --

Dec. 1958: Queen Elizabeth becomes the first person in Britain to make a long-distance call sans the help of an operator.

The first long-distance call made in Great Britain without the help of an operator was made by Queen Elizabeth in 1958. It was a big event!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Beyond the broomsticks and horcruxes

I caught the second half of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on TV recently. And just like what happened after I had watched Into the Storm not too long ago either on HBO ( I went link-hopping for materials on Richard Armitage and ended up watching The Hobbit clips and Thorin interviews), I spent a good deal of time watching old interviews with cast members and some other decade-old materials. I harkened back to the years when the Gryffindor kids were just that -- kids -- and the three lead actors were just giving their first interviews as mere 11- or 12-year-olds.

One of the videos I came across was a 2001 BBC Christmas special for which author J. K. Rowling was interviewed. This is particularly interesting to me because rather than being some kind of promotional material for the books and movies, it clarifies -- in Rowling's words, no less -- the truths and falsehoods reported in the media about her and about the process of coming up with the books. It sure is fascinating, too, to see the notebooks and tons of notes she has accumulated in the course of doing her work.

So, in the interest of accuracy, here it is:

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Leave the leaves alone... no more

Leaf art -- that's what I have come to call it.

In the last couple of months, the sight of heavily munched-on leaves became more common around our garden -- ubiquitous almost. Admiring the pretty lavender hibiscus blooms, I noticed quite a few leaves with jagged patterns; every morning while waiting patiently for signs of new yellow hibiscus buds to show up in the nearby pot, the number of chomped up greens seemed to increase. I was accustomed to seeing half-eaten leaves; for some time, Oleander Hawk-moth and Vine Hawk-moth caterpillars made the chichirica and a las cuatro plants their home and main source of sustenance. I even made a few of them my pets, keeping them in jars and regularly giving them a stash of greenery for their meals till it was time for them to cocoon. Eventually they transformed into marvelous winged beauties.

But this time it was different. It was like whatever was responsible for the uniquely fashioned foliage plodded on with gusto. The result was almost like art -- munching here and there, never staying on the same spot for long, hence the punctuated surfaces and interestingly irregular edges. It was partly amazing, partly exasperating. Though leaves naturally grew a certain way, who said they had to stay that way, especially when some tiny creatures were designed to feed on foliage?

Even the Dona Aurora wasn't spared from the "bullet-riddled look". At the same time I noticed that too many hairy caterpillars were showing up in our garden. There they were, crawling on the leaves of nearly each of the half dozen potted plants. A swipe of the coconut tree frond mid-rib broom (okay, let's just call it by its usual name -- walis tingting) yielded three or four higad at a time from the santan hedge. And, they weren't simply resting, snoozing, or anything unproductive like that -- most of the time they were eating away, jagged leaves and flower petals presenting the evidence! I therefore concluded that controlling the population of the "backpacker caterpillars" -- the name with which I've come to refer to them as they looked like they carried backpacks -- for the time being was called for.

"Higad lang po 'yan. Hindi nagiging paru-paro," chirped one of the street kids who stopped by our gate, hanging around me as I took snapshots of some plants and being jolted when a backpacker caterpillar reared its hairy body from the santan hedge, almost touching his fingers. "Namaga nga po itong kamay ko nung umakyat ako ng puno ng bayabas tapos nahawakan ko bigla," the little boy added, stretching out his hand to reveal the subsiding inflammation on his right palm.

So, potential skin allergy trigger, plant destroyer, imminent invasion, and non-winged future as a moth or butterfly -- could all these and a potential infestation not point to a need to eliminate the hairy crawlies? I don't know what technically constitutes an infestation but getting to observe several of these little backpackers everyday seems to come close! So, I set to work: I took pictures (I was still fascinated by their atypical physical features) then proceeded to (gulp!) kill each one that I spotted among our plants. This went on for about a week...

A little backpacker and an even tinier one (frankly, I'm not sure if it's an offspring, sibling, or a mere appendage/shed "fur") under a bougainvillea leaf)...

... another one that was making its way around the pots...

A bunch of them that I gingerly picked off with a stick from the foliage (lest one of them give me a taste of the venom from its backpack should my hand accidentally touch the prickly tufts on its back)... and that was it. Till now I haven't seen a single one of these backpackers in our midst.... which I have come to regret after making a discovery three days ago:

The "backpacker caterpillar," I learned, is called the Tussock caterpillar, which -- after cocooning -- becomes a Tussock moth.

Yellow tussock moth

After coming across the discovery online, I felt crestfallen. I've killed about a dozen of them already... I told myself. All those potential moths, gone. Well, I learned two things that day: first, those backpacker caterpillars don't remain caterpillars all their life but become moths; second, always verify your information. Maybe I should let that little boy who hurt his hand from a higad also learn two things like I did if I should ever run into him again.

Oh, there's a third thing I learned (or more accurately, was reminded of) that day: God made everything with a purpose in mind. I've yet to find out if Tussock moths are pollinators, but even if it turns out they're not, is that the gauge we ought to use in determining the importance of their existence?

At around this time, I was also reading a booklet that centered on Laudato Si, Pope Francis' latest encyclical.  And after the vital discovery concerning the backpacker caterpillars, the Pope's words as contained in the booklet "Laudato Si: An integral ecology for contemporary man" -- a Documentation Service publication -- resounded with me:

84. Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God's love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God (...) 

85. God has written a precious book, "whose letters are the multitude of created things present in the universe". The Canadian bishops rightly pointed out that no creature is excluded from this manifestation of God: "From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine" (...)

So, little backpacker caterpillars, you are again most welcome in our little garden. Now I am not about to allow our home to be infested with hairy, creeping creatures; for now, though, let's just say I appreciate leaf art enough to let those caterpillars live out their gustatory tendencies to leave artistic marks on our plants for more unconventional foliage.

The tiniest Tussock moth caterpillar I've seen so far

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