My top five books for 2011

TWO thousand eleven is the same as 2010 and the year before that.

That’s as far as the number of books I’ve read is concerned.

For the past three years, I’ve read 28 books annually, failing to meet my goal of finishing 30 books a year. My record year still is 2008, when I read 30++ books, including comics, short novels, and a New Yorker issue cover to cover.

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The Zoom H1: A Review

The Zoom H1 in action.

The following review, to use the term loosely, is based on pseudo-real-world conditions; that is to say, conditions close to ideal.

The Zoom H1 was used during interviews pre-approved by the subjects in settings such as restaurants, pubs, a private office, and a jazz bar during a concert.

The most challenging field test ever confronted by my H1 involves secretly recording candid exchanges with taxi drivers. Continue reading

A New Year’s Congee Angst at the Red Palace Seafood Restaurant

Interior of the Red Palace Seafood Restaurant along Malakas Street, Quezon City

(Disclaimer: No consideration, financial or otherwise, was solicited, offered, nor accepted for this blog entry. Plain English: I paid for the food that I ate.)

It was a slow day.
The waiters could sense that more than anyone else.
The streets were deserted, the surroundings were quiet, and virtually everything stood still.
It was no different indoors.
The restaurant was empty and no amount of cool, processed air and loud, tacky music could ever hope to fill up the tables. It was as if it was already the wee hours of the morning except that the sun was up and its rays brought a patina of sadness, of desolation to the dining area.
But then again, all this was expected.
After all, it was New Year’s Day.
And on that late afternoon, it was assumed that corporate bigwigs and cubicle warriors alike were still taking it easy, spending additional hours in bed, reading, watching television, or hanging out with their families and friends.
However, employees at the Red Palace Seafood Restaurant along Malakas St. in Quezon City’s central district had no such privilege.

The only setback of this delicious-looking congee? It didn't use ground rice.

On that day, the restaurant was open and workers were expected to fill in their regular hours.
Good thing that their duties were light, thanks to the inactivity, the general ennui, and the lack of traffic — vehicular or otherwise — during the first day of 2011.
At the same time, this was no excuse for lower food and/or service standards.
Fortunately, I had none of that when I paid a visit at the establishment on the same day.
Which is not to say I didn’t have any misgivings about their offerings.
I did, as I usually do with many other things which, in turn, are best discussed in another blog entry.
I took issue with the restaurant’s Pork and Century Egg Congee (P135).
For its price, the ingredients — raw egg and slices of pork and century egg  — were just about standard, no better or no worse than those served elsewhere.
Except that the congee itself didn’t use ground rice — the not-so-secret ingredient behind the dish — making it no different from nor better than those offered by more inexpensive establishments.
That’s all — end of congee angst.

Red Palace's asado siopao looked so yummy the idiot picture taker was prompted to take a bite first before attending to his duties.

Meanwhile, the two-piece asado siopao (P80) that I ordered was great.
It was larger — and arguably even tastier — than those served by its rivals, including Kowloon House, which has a branch around the corner along Matalino Street, and Jade Valley in the Timog Ave. area.
But next time I drop by for a visit, I’ll try other rice dishes, hoping that the cook has come around to realizing that ground rice makes for excellent congee.
Until then, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The Ugly American

Waste of time, money, if you ask me. ( Pic from Wikipedia)

By no means is George Clooney ugly.
And I say that as a Filipino male who has an unblemished record of staunch heterosexuality (to quote my fictional idol also named George, Jerry Seinfeld’s best friend, Costanza). [See: More of George Costanza and his quote.]
However, Clooney’s latest film — The American directed by Anton Corbijn — is another matter altogether.
The movie sucks big time.
And no amount of interesting babes — the movie has two: an assassin and a call girl — can make up for the energy, patience, and expense moviegoers incurred to see it.
For the first fifteen or so minutes, the movie progresses along nicely, helping clarify character motivation, establish narrative action, and build cinematic tension.
Clooney, an American hitman, manages to eliminate a killer out to get him while in Sweden. After meeting his principal in Rome, he is told to cool his heels in an Italian town.
And that marks the time the movie jumps the shark, so to speak. [See: Jump the shark]
Posing as a photographer, the taciturn protagonist goes around the village, sharing drinks and meals with the parish priest and visiting a call girl in the next town.
No witty one-liners nor smart barbs are traded between the characters, further blunting whatever passes for narrative movement in this movie.
Moreover, as Clooney does his best to protect his cover, viewers are treated to the town’s rustic offerings, a river, a field, and an overview of an oddly-shaped highway.
As individual images, they’re fodder for Flickr.com.
But scenes on an image hosting website does not a movie make.
These arguably picturesque views do nothing but to exhaust the tolerance of the audience, many of whom have been tricked into expecting some kind of action.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t take place until the film’s last 10 minutes.
And by that time, the audience is already way too sleepy to care.
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From the Fine Print Dept. The title of this blog entry was taken from a 1958 novel of the same name, which later became a movie starring Marlon Brando.

Californication isn’t just Sex and The City for men

Straight and/or superficial men have something to new rave about. Again.
And its not the latest issue of FHM or Maxim.
Nor is it a stolen sex video of a starlet giving the waiter a generous tip.
It’s Californication, a television show that has given the words “boob tube” a more literal interpretation.
The series — featuring the life and times of novelist Hank Moody, played by David Duchovny — offers what appears to be campy soft porn on cable, a gratuitous T&A show that is just a few shots short of an X-rating.
Of course its not for everyone.
Not especially if your idea of entertainment involves a writer who dreams about receiving oral action from a nun, accidentally sleeping with a minor, or having his young daughter stumble upon a naked girlfriend in his bedroom.
All three incidentally take place during the pilot episode, introducing audiences the world over to Moody, who, from all appearances, is a lucky bastard.
He possesses everything any man from eighteen to eighty would presume to want — a lovely, loving wife (Natascha McElhone as Karen), a cute, quirky daughter (Madeleine Martin as Rebecca), and a successful, lucrative career in the arts.
And that’s just for starters, proving once more that television shows are a fantasy and that life is unfair.
But that’s another story.
The novelist, who drives a beat-up black Porsche, also happens to be charming and good-looking, making him popular among women, including those outside his status, age range, income, citizenship, and hell, even religion.
With just a wink and a smile — and sometimes a little less than that — every other hottie (or cougar, as the case may be) drops their panties faster than anyone can say vajayjay.
And that’s when the good parts, voyeuristically speaking, begin.
Moody, the babe magnet, hooks up with Jackie, a stripper and college student, played by Eva Amurri, who is unafraid to show off her upper body advantages.
Same goes for Madeleine Zima.
As Mia, Moody’s ex-wife’s stepdaughter, Zima refuses to be outdone, proving that she is as privileged as anyone else to offer her puppies up for public scrutiny.
In the meantime, Laura Niles, a generously-endowed model, refuses to hold anything back, displaying what may well be an unforgettable performance while in an unconventional three-way with Moody and his agent, Charlie Runkle, played by Evan Handler.
However tittilating, sex alone does not a good show make.


Laura Niles – CalifornicationThe funniest bloopers are right here

Although it deals with the complications of a man who appears to have everything, Californication also offers literary one-upmanship in generous amounts.
The wordplay and the witticisms come quick, fulfilling viewers’ literary expectations since the show, after all, is about a writer.

“At the end of the day, if you can do anything else telemarketing, pharmaceutical sales, or ditch-digging, major league umpire I would suggest you do that because being a writer blows: Its like having homework for the rest of your life,” Moody says, addressing a high school class of would-be writers.

Californication also gives a nod in the direction of Dorothy Parker, by way of recognizing the contributions of Kathleen Turner, who appears in the third season as Runkle’s boss, Sue Collini, who “always gets her wienie.”
After witnessing Runkle enduring Collini’s mocking yet funny tirade, Moody asks him: What fresh hell is this?
Besides being an original gem from writer Dorothy Parker, it is also the same line uttered by Turner more than two decades ago when she played Barbara Rose in War of the Roses.
Turner may have lost some of her looks, but as Collini, she is as spunky as ever, providing an exciting dimension to a show that has pushed the limits of television.
With quirky characters like Collini, partnered with an clever script, Californication is more than just Sex and the City for Men — it is entertainment, however risque, at its finest.
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From the Gratitude Dept. Some words of inspiration came from Karl Kaufman. Photo of Laura Niles astride David Duchovny from Seat42f.com, which says it was taken by Randy Tepper.