A Word on Word Travels

The entire time I was watching a National Geographic documentary, Word Travels, I couldn’t help but sense how sloppy it was. NatGeo is one of those channels which made the debate on tourist vs. traveler (Francis Bacon's essay here) a pressing issue. This production, though, changed everything: hosts Julia Dimon and Robin Esrock did a disservice to the art of documentaries and to the tragedy in Chernobyl as well. My rants in bullets:
  • It felt like a brush through Kiev. Did they really stay? They didn’t really probe around the question: why Ukraine being the center of all these nuclear missile silos? 
  • The soundtrack is a bad choice--it really feels stupid to hear American songs while watching a tour in Ukraine. Also, I'm not one with those who think Ukraine doesn't have anything other than death metal bands. 
  • Unwarranted emotions from the hosts; most of the time, it even feels fake. Julia Dimon feels something like a “tactile understanding” regarding the tragedy which befell the village of Pripyat and Chernobyl. In another scene, Robin Esrock had to shout “hello” (twice!) from a window of an abandoned school in Pripyat, as if to prove that it is a "sad" place or something they rendered in really mushy poetics. It shouldn't be so telling. Who cares if his voice echoed? Aren't those dismembered dolls enough? Do they really know what to do when confronted with such, other than shouting "hello" or writing something like "tactile understanding"?
  • The show has offered a look at the remnants of Chernobyl and Pripyat, yes, but let's see: Julia Dimon went partying in a Buddha Bar in Kiev, and thanked a restaurant for an English menu (right there, in Ukraine--you guys). Robin Esrock hasn't done anything new other than reiterating the Armageddon and The Red Button trope, which is so Cold War. What the two of them should do is answering relevant questions: how did this relate to something scientific, say, radioactivity in Japan, or the nuclear crisis in Iran? The documentary, though framed by their stay in Ukraine, should still be viewed in relation to today's issues. Diego Bunuel (as in Don't Tell My Mother I'm In...) does everything in an hour or less: the soundtrack, the editing, the relevant stuff. 
  • The ENTIRE commentary is just really poor and underdeveloped. Some scenes feature the two of them posing as models, doing some time lapse feature with the crowd, or some potraits of them typing in their Macbook Pro. Julia even said she feels like a “cultural anthropologist” while observing trends in Ukranian women wearing mini skirts and whatnot. Is cultural anthropology about fashion alone?
  • This brings to mind that question which has been bothering me for some time: Is a good camera the license to be a travel columnist?


There still are a million things unnamed in the same way that people have always argued about the various shades between green and blue, or what names really meant. I tried to draw a fusilli in hopes of capturing my amazement with its shape, but it needed much more than simple lines. It needed depth, that play in light and shadow.

For years I've tried drawing insects I found on the road and none of which I've captured even it its slightest. They turned out as if they were carved out of concrete: dull and lifeless. The epiphany comes when I've already forgotten about the entire project and happened to look at it--and it would look as if it was drawn by someone else with nimble fingers and an eye for detail. Maybe there's so much more in approximations.

What a beauty to send a letter to someone I wouldn't have the chance to know. I write this letter in hopes of finding sand on the spine of your neck, that it would be just as noteworthy in your time.

Japanese-style Bistek

"Bistek" is Tagalog for beef steak, and in our house we cook it usually with soy sauce and calamansi. Yesterday, I thawed our tenderloin steak from last Christmas and simmered it in hon mirin, Kikkoman soy sauce, three tablespoons of vinegar, lots of freshly ground pepper, and four thinly sliced, sauteed onions, for an hour. It was really good: very mild flavors, with a hint of sweetness, and the peppery feeling in the tongue I've always wanted in my grilled steak.

Tiny Furniture, Jobs

There are two good scenes in Lena Durham's Tiny Furniture: the sex-inside-a-pipeline-of-some-sort (an O-shaped thing) and the deflating mattress, ("It's defective. It's devastating," said the boy Aura--the protagonist--was dating) a pseudo-comic relief for Aura since everything in the film is falling apart (literally, with the deflating mattress).

The reason behind my watching the film is the plot: a recent college graduate from Ohio finds herself in her mother's loft in the oh-so-chic Tribeca, New York. (Or SoHo, or Chelsea.)

I've just graduated. I might be "having a very, very hard time", but it's the kind of reasoning teenagers do when confronted with weight gain, sweat stains or with the first-world concept of excessive late-night popcorn--and it's not that impressive. It's even overrated.

In the film, the protagonist are haunted by issues on having a job, on meddling with people. Then that craving for silence and that indulgence with the lack of routine (which I can totally relate to). Of course we find Aura dealing with some first-world predicaments like the tug between teenage life and adulthood, sex, and a flat shared with a roommate. It's a good film for career orientations or job fairs, but it's not altogether a good film to watch. In my case, maybe it's just timely--as a recent graduate, as someone who's getting a lot of sleep and a lot of time to peruse some books every now and then.

The film seemed lackluster. I always roll my eyes with independent films lately, since they're having so many similarities, much of which are money shots in the indie sense of the word, if you get what I mean (watch Unmade BedsCashback and Control--you'll get what I mean). The two good scenes are ingenious, even inventive--but the rest is recycled farce from other independent films: the minimalist house (!!!), the obligatory reference to Nietzsche. Also, the characters themselves--the chef who reads books; the Youtube sensation with the life of a lounger; the pot-smoking British-accent childhood friend; the hamster named Gilda.

I'm in my friend's condo unit in Kamuning. We had Mojitos and a joint, so everything from No Other Woman to Sealab 2021 was funny. It's around 4AM when I started this post. I will be cleaning the apartment a la Chungking Express. Later, at the bus, I will have guessed that this time of my life isn't really about having a very, very hard time. This will have been shot with the flaring effect the morning sun does on a camera lens. (A favor: is using the future perfect tense here correct?)

I'll be on a flight to New York this coming April 23, two weeks from now, and I'm excited to live with my Mom and my sisters for the summer. Hopefully the idea of moving tiny furniture would stick to me as trying to regain some sort of consciousness, or an epiphany as to what career I will be taking. Like playing with a tangram, yes.

Holy Week

Yesterday I tried this recipe from the New York Times. I didn't know any burger which didn't involve meat in it. I mean, fine, there are veggie burgers in the market, but to make one is just absolutely not my kind of thing. Every once in a while I try exploring recipes, trying this and that--and it never fails. There really are endless combinations: apple, mustard and pork; kimchi, bratwurst, Indian pickled stuff and satay sauce; port wine and cheese; adobo and saging, among others.

I confess I've tried being a "vegan" for three days, backed by its hype and righteousness, and it's just really difficult. I guess it's frustrating to do when you're not in sync with their philosophy. (Is it just me putting vegans on a pedestal? Do they really have a philosophy of some sorts?) When I say "vegan", it's the idea of throwing up (or not really) with the sight of fastfood burgers and meat in general, having concluded that the entire meat industry is dirty and unjust.

The burger was promising, it's just that I'm not into following measurements so the burgers turned out to be soggy, to the point that the word "burger" is . I also didn't have an oven here in my apartment, but I promise to do this at home. The recipe involves mashed garbanzos (in English, chickpeas; all I thought this was just for halo-halo) and some parsley, fresh sage (which The Philippines don't have), mushrooms and brown rice. Relatively simple.

The coincidences: this week is holy week for devout and practicing Catholics. Do you still follow the abstain-from-meat and fasting customs during the holy week? I'm skeptical about the entire idea of a Church (a long, long story from High School) but it's nice to make this week as an excuse to eat vegetables. I found a handful of recipes to cook this week: Miso-curry Delicata SquashTuna Rolls, and Tofu, Greens and Cashew Stir-Fry!

Third-world wasteland

I badly want Robert Ginsberg's Aesthetics of Ruins for the genetic criticism regarding my thesis. (Not to be confused with Allen Ginsberg, the poet from the 1960s).

Sadly, it costs a fortune.

I understand that these kinds of books have to be expensive, but it impedes the growth of students from the third-world. I write this post with bitterness on the kind of system in which the world operates. It's tempting to say that with a price like that, it must have bordered on esotericism (but in my heart I know it isn't).

Even worse is the fact that the preview from Google Books deliberately omits two to three pages every now and then, the intervals of which I have no patience to know. How consistent is this attempt on copyright laws with the topic at hand. It makes me wonder what the concept of ruins has to do with the deliberate erasure or fragmentation of texts and information the first-world relays to the third-world.