Saturday, May 28, 2005

Badminton Tournament - Day 4 (Championship)

It was supposed to be a best-of-three championship match, but our opponents showed no mercy. JLo and I did quite well in the first game, even though we lost. By the second game, we started making mistakes. Bad serves, missed returns, net balls, etc., so we cracked. Didn't even get to see game #3. I'm just relieved it's over.

Like I said, first prize is a Yonex Muscle Power, while second prize is a Yonex racquet bag. Given that my Carbonex14 is old already, I really wanted that Muscle Power. Not to mention the bragging rights. Funny thing is, a lot of people said they'd rather have the bag. So would the first-placer rather have the Yonex bag than the Yonex racquet? Sure he does. So that's how I lost the match, but won a new racquet. But here's the catch. (Yes, Virginia, in life there's always a catch.) The supposed Muscle Power magically transformed itself to an Isometric. Could it be that my decades-old Carbonex is still better than the new Isometric? Possible, but what am I supposed to do with a big racquet bag if I have only one single racquet? Let's see what the Isometric has to say for itself in next week's practice session.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Albert Goes to Melbourne

Went down to Melbourne for a day trip. The return plane ticket via Qantas costs about A$600+. Considering the cheap airfares being advertised by Virgin Blue and JetStar, I'm shocked it's costing the company this much. If I changed my schedule a bit, the fare can go down as low as about A$300+, but that's about it. No wonder our company is losing money.

People say time flies when you're having fun. Others say time flies when you're not doing anything. I say time flies. Period. I settled comfortably in my seat. Picked up the inflight magazine and read the more interesting articles. I put on the headsets and listened to a couple of pieces and songs - flipping through the magazine, trying to identify which channel is classical, which is pop. Then thud, touchdown.

We could've easily taken a cab to Sunshine, but the Project Manager decided to rent a car. I thought he knew what he was doing, but apparently he didn't even know where we are going. It's a bad idea to sit in the front passenger side because that automatically made me the navigator. He handed me a map of Melbourne, and off we go.

They say Melbourne is Europe and Sydney is US. They could be right. I don't think the streets of Europe are also arranged in a neat grid formation, but there's enough old buildings and Old World charm to warrant the comment. My camera didn't see much action, because we were always stuck in a car (going to the customer site, looking for a good place to eat in the city, rushing back to the airport half an hour before it flies).

The project manager and our client were duly impressed with my map-reading skills that they actually commented on it. The PM reasoned that's because I'm a male. I told him he's being a (male) chauvinist, but I'm thinking he could be right, you know. My sister's map-reading could be further improved. (That's putting it nicely, as she might be reading this.) Now, this is the PM talking about his wife-navigator. "She has a hard time orienting the car with the map, so left becomes right and vice versa. She usually gives directions one or two streets late. Instead of giving the street name or counting off the intersecting streets, she would simply say, "Turn right NOW!"" They would argue in the car, which usually ends with the wife handing (putting it nicely) the map to the PM.

I know how you feel, mate.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Badminton Tournament - Day 3

Today's sort of the semi-finals because Team A has won 7 games so far, while teams B (me and JLo) and C are vying for second place, with 6 wins each.

We played first against Team C. Surprisingly we lost both games. Worse thing is, we got the upper hand (6-1 and 6-0), but the games eventually went to them. Our next match is with top-placer Team A. My partner reminded me that we have to achieve a 2-0 win just to be in the running. Even then, we'll still need a tiebreaker. Surprisingly, we won that set. By the time the smoke has cleared, Team C is at the top of the heap, with us and Team A tied. The organizers decided to count points to determine who goes into next week's finals. Third surprise of the night: with 147 vs. 138 points, JLo and I are going to the finals. Muscle Power, here I come!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Caution! Book Crossing

I came across my first BookCrossing book today. It's Foundation by Isaac Asimov. I don't know why I picked it up because I've finished the Foundation trilogy back in my college days. And it's not like I'm going to be reading Foundation again because I don't have Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation with me at the moment. Maybe it's because you can't put a good book down.

What's BookCrossing, you ask? According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, bookcrossing is "n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise." is basically an online book-lovers community. Members are asked to tag books with a BookCrossing label and register it with the site for a unique BCID. (The book I got is 368-2082096.) Release the book into the wild, and track it via the website. "You'll discover where I've been and who has read me, and can let them know I'm safe here in your hands. Then... READ and RELEASE me!" (That's the book talking.)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Badminton Tournament - Day 2

Things aren't looking so good. First, I got to the venue late. We usually do some warm-ups before the games, but this time I jumped straight to my umpire role. Worse, my partner JLo has a foot injury. She dropped a heavy vase on her foot yesterday. She didn't think much of it, so this afternoon she even played a few games as warm-up. When she checked her toes again, they're a bit bloodied and in much worse shape.

Out of 4 games, we won 3. First set is 1-1, then 2-0 for the second set. Not bad, not bad at all.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Too Young for the Casino

Today I went to Star City. No, not for the pokies, but for a drink (mocca coffee, that is). Security stopped me at the escalators and asked for some identification. Whoa! "Do you think I'm underage?" "You should be happy." I showed him my driver license. Still not convinced, he asked for my age. The nerve of the guy!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Five Movies in a Week (Part 2)

Another one of those unbelievable films. What I meant was, incredible. Actually, preposterous is the word I'm looking for.

So you've got this slick con called Jake and his team. He's been pulling scams, and one time he pulled one on the wrong guy. You don't take money from the King without paying for it dearly. To pay back the King, the plans one last big con together with his posse, plus a new sexy recruit and the King's enforcer. The scam involved a complex scheme involving corporate loans, creative accounting, wire transfers and off-shore accounts, but they were able to pull it off. Unfortunately for him, his long-time nemesis, a federal agent, caught up with him, and vows to bring him down if he makes any funny moves. Seeing no way out, he decides to walk away. His new girlfriend demands a cut (even before they actually got the money), and got told off. Jake later had a change of mind, and decides to continue with the plan. Meanwhile, the disgruntled girlfriend spilled the beans to their supposed mark. Aside from that, the federal agent managed to switch the bag containing all the money at the airport customs. Worse, the mark's assistant got Jake at the business end of a gun, demanding the money's location. Here's the clincher, in a fit of rage, the girlfriend pulls out a gun and shoots Jake twice in the chest. The end.

If you've watched Ocean's Eleven or Ocean's Twelve or Matchstick Men, you probably already know how the movie ended. SPOILER ALERT!!! The federal agent drives by and hands the bag of money to Jake, who has now risen from the dead. Jake and his crew rides away into the sunset with the King's AND the mark's money. Watch Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels if you're into cons and last-minute plot twists.

Down with Love
Feels more like a theater play than a movie. The sets, costumes, and production design are so colorful and retro-chic. The dialogue is smart and witty. Story is about this feminist author whose book "Down with Love" becomes a literary sensation. Women all over the world are becoming liberated. Dashing and debonaire man-about-town disguises himself as mild-mannered NASA scientist and manages to make manhater author fall in love with him, thus proving his theory that what all women want is love and marriage.

The movie would've ended like the other romcom movies of the 1960s era, but this one has a post-feminist twist. Our lady author is actually our most eligible bachelor's former secretary, and this is her way of making sure he notices her this time. He proposes marriage; she declines and goes on to start her own media empire. He applies as her personal secretary; she accepts and happy ending.

Highlight of the movie was Renee's 5-minute single-take monologue. I kept expecting a scene cut for her to rest and review her lines, but looks like she has the whole thing memorized. Impressive. And don't forget that split-screen telephone conversation.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Badminton Tournament - Day 1

After months and months of practice, it had come to this: the Filipino Badminton Club of Sydney (Filipino BCS) finally had its first day of tournament on May 7 at the Castle Hill High School gym. Members are grouped in Class A (good) and Class B (not-as-good). There were 7 Class A and 8 Class B teams. I was partnered with a lady everybody calls JLo. Not called such because of her singing prowess on the courts. Somebody else has first rights to her first name, and her last name happened to start with L-O. So JLo it is.

Each set is only 2 games, and it's 15 points to each game. Each team plays 2 sets every Saturday, until each team has played with every other team. The top two teams then plays the championship set. Winning team gets a new Yonex Muscle Power racquet each. Not sure what the runners-up get. I've got my sights trained on that ArmorTec as my Carbonex14 is already decades old and deserves to be retired.

Day 1 went quite well. I and my partner won 1st set against some pretty nimble opponents, and our 2nd set was a draw. Things can only get tougher.

Five Movies in a Week (Part 1)

This is some sort of a record, even for a movie buff like me. I'm more selective with the movies I watch in the theater, but when it's showing on TV, and there's nothing urgent for me to do, I'll just sit and watch.

Along Came a Spider
Morgan Freeman stars in this suspense-mystery as a washed-out detective who was called out to solve the kidnapping case of a Senator's daugher from a high-security private school. The movie started off well - the mood reminded me of Se7en, given the fact that Morgan is working with a less-experienced Secret Service agent. Just when they are about to solve the case, the plot twist. All the psychotic kidnapper wanted was media attention as he plans to kidnap the Russian President's son using the Senator's daughter as bait, but somebody has even bigger plans. There's a puppetmaster behind the scenes biding his/her time, taking advantage of the situation to get millions worth of diamonds as ransom money.

The coincidences and implausibilities are just ridiculuous. How can the criminal mastermind be sure that the demented kidnapper will stick to the script? How did the accomplice know Mr. Freeman's movement, timing, and location down to the platform and train, when he was out there on the tracks waiting to catch the bag of diamonds thrown out of the speeding train's window? And how did Freeman get to crack the mastermind's master plan? What else, by booting up her computer and typing in the security password, which happened to be a phrase she mentioned when they were chatting a long, long time ago. That's Hollywood for you. Read the James Patterson book instead.

Upside of Anger
I wouldn't have watched this if not for the free tickets. I don't know why but I tend to avoid movies by aging actors who still think they've got it, e.g. Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, and yes, Kevin Costner. I probably would've liked it more if Bruce Willis played the part. You've got this ex-baseballl star turned radio host forcing his way into the lives of a bitter and angry housewife and her four daughters. Funny how the teenage daughters act more mature than the adults. I mean sneaking into each other houses for a quickie, or stopping their cars in the middle of an intersection to argue, then kissing and making up while everyone waits for them to move their cars?

Some moral lessons from the movie:

  • Never tell your daughters what NOT to do because they'll do it anyway.
  • Never assume that your husband ran off with his Swedish secretary just because he suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth. He could simply be dead in the backyard.
  • When your drunkard of a neighbor starts hanging around your house after learning that your husband desserted you, you don't need to ask. All he wants is to have s3x with you.

Life Is Beautiful (La Vita รจ Bella)
I can't believe this film by Italy's national treasure Robert Benigni won so many awards, including the Cannes, Oscar, and BAFTA. I'm not saying it's bad, but it's not that good nor that funny. You get classic comedy during the first half and poignant tragedy in the second. I know the audience is supposed to let slide the many improbable events in the film, but how is possible for one father to hide an active, curious kid in a German concentration camp for years without being discovered?! All along, the father behaved as if the whole camp is his giant playground without being shot or punished for it. And the kid believed his story that it's all a game, and that by the time the gunshots died down and the smoke cleared, they're going to win a real tank as a prize.

The kid managed to get his tank all right (and reunited with his Mom) after the war, but I fear he'll be gullible for the rest of his life. If it's a Holocaust comedy you want, watch Train de Vie instead.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Lion King

The Lion King is leaving Sydney in a matter of weeks. It's a good thing we were able to get tickets for the May 5 showing. It's also fortunate I didn't have any scheduled work or emergency calls that night. We got to Capitol Theatre around 7:55pm, and the show started promptly at 8pm.

It was a spectacular show and better than I expected. The firstthing that got my attention was the actors' voices, esp. Rafiki. They were so loud and clear, I'm sure they're being magnified by microphones, but I can't spot anyone wearing one. (From where I was seated, I don't expect to see any mic. Hah!) The sets and the costumes are unbelievably inspired and creative. You've got people dressed up as lions, giraffes, leopards, birds, hyenas, antelopes, shrubs, meerkat, and warthog, etc. The costumes are so well-designed, you tend to forget about the actors and start seeing the characters as real animals. The live orchestra and the stage design and the props are very impressive, too. During some scenes, the stage would angle up to give more depth and space. Later, parts of the stage would open up and out comes plastic inflatable cactus plants. In another scene, a circular piece of reflective cloth simulating a pond was slowly pulled through a tiny hole to represent drought. Then, there were giant ostriches(?) and sliding staircases that circle and move around the stage. Not sure if there are people inside the structures pushing them, or maybe they're remote-controlled. There were some innovative use of shadow puppetry, too. The lighting was just amazing - cool blues, bright oranges, radiant greens - all colors of the rainbow (except yellow, I think).

Unfortunately, all forms of photography and video are prohibited. I was really itching to take some shots. I've actually got my camera out - LCD viewfinder turned off and volume set to silent, but there's just too many ushers around, and I don't want to risk being kicked out of the show. But it's all good. Hakuna matata.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Cure for Pokie Addiction

Heard about the latest treatment for compulsive pokie gambling? Patients are made to listen to pokie tunes and watch pokie video for days on end. Later, they are asked to sit in front of pokie machines without playing. Through sheer repetition, the patients get bored and they get over the urge to play whenever they catch sight of a poker machine.

Reminds me of the story about a father who cured his son of smoking by forcing him to smoke non-stop. I'm not even gonna mention Clockwork Orange because I'm not too sure if the "cure" worked or not.