Saturday, 30 June 2007

Barnyard Cats





Spent last Sunday (June 24) in Bulacan with Edson, his mom, and his brothers. Just a short (40 minute) drive north of metro Manila. We got to breathe the fresh air of the countryside. So, instead of breathing smog, we breathed the late afternoon scent of pig pens being cleaned. MMMmmmMMMmmm.....I'll take the smog, thanks!

Anyway, we found these cats in a corner of the barn. For a while they were photo-cooperative. So I share with you their 'good sides'!

And, just so you all don't think I spent the whole time with the kitties, here's some to prove otherwise:




We had 5 electric fans going it was so hot that day. Fortunately, none of that heat seems evident in our faces.

Oh, we passed a brand new mall on the way. I know, just what they need--another mall! And a very upscale one at that! It is my assumption that one day you'll be able to go throughout metro Manila and never leave a mall. The only time you may spend outside is on the walkways connecting them. Otherwise, all of the area will be a giant, air-conditioned, never-ending repetition of the same stores and fast-food establishments only 20% of the population can afford. But we wouldn't need 5 fans.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Being a Barbie Girl



OK, remember that annoying (yet catchy) Euro-pop song that came out several years back, "Barbie Girl"? No? Well, here's the lyrics:

Hi Barbie
Hi Ken!
Do you wanna go for a ride?
Sure Ken!
Jump In...

I'm a barbie girl, in the barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic!
you can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation
Come on Barbie, let's go party!

I'm a barbie girl, in the barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic!
you can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation

I'm a blond bimbo girl, in the fantasy world
Dress me up, make it tight, I'm your dolly
You're my doll, rock'n'roll, feel the glamour in pink,
kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky...
You can touch, you can play, if you say: "I'm always yours"

(uu-oooh-u)

I'm a barbie girl, in the barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic!
you can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation

Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(Ah-ah-ah-yeah)
Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(uu-oooh-u)
Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(Ah-ah-ah-yeah)
Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(uu-oooh-u)

Make me walk, make me talk, do whatever you please
I can act like a star, I can beg on my knees
Come jump in, bimbo friend, let us do it again,
hit the town, fool around, let's go party
You can touch, you can play, if you say: "I'm always yours"
You can touch, you can play, if you say: "I'm always yours"

Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(Ah-ah-ah-yeah)
Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(uu-oooh-u)
Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(Ah-ah-ah-yeah)
Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(uu-oooh-u)

I'm a barbie girl, in the barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic!
you can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation

I'm a barbie girl, in the barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic!
you can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation

Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(Ah-ah-ah-yeah)
Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(uu-oooh-u)
Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(Ah-ah-ah-yeah)
Come on Barbie, let's go party!
(uu-oooh-u)

Oh, I'm having so much fun!
Well Barbie, we're just getting started
Oh, I love you Ken!

No, I haven't taken to Barbie dolls! I do know some people who have collected them or are collecting them, I, myself do not. Nor do I want to BE one. Lets just clear that up now for all those readers out there who were already creating ugly mental images of what a future blog photo here might look like.

Well, we know Barbie's been getting pounded by the sales of Bratz dolls, but apparently the doll's still popular enough to warrant a song and a store so you can dress like her. Yes, this is not a store where one goes to outfit their collection of Barbie, Ken, and Skipper dolls. It may be difficult to find women, girls, or those who want to be girls, who can meet her real-world measurements of 39-18-33, though! (In response to criticism that these measurements might create unrealistic expections for young girls to live up to, Mattel has since adjusted the chest measurement down and the waist measurement up.) Those proportions seem somewhat, uh.....topheavy...and out-of-balance to me.

So, if you want to be Barbie, come to Mall of Asia and buy all the outfits you want.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Average Saturday Crowd


Nobody who has spent their life in the US seems to believe me when I tell them that an average 150,000 people each day shop in the malls around here. Sure, Manila is a big city (population-wise: around 11 million; geographically: no),, but that that many go to the malls each day is astounding. There are also LOTS of malls! Glorietta, Greenbelt, Green Hills, Gateway, SM Fairview, SM MegaMall, SM Mall of Asia, SM Ayala, SM Pasig, Market! Market!, Star Mall, EDSA Central, Shangri-La, and the list goes on....

There's never really a moment when these places don't look pretty much like the pictures you see here. Some are certainly nicer than others. Glorietta, in its star-formation is one of the best (albeit most confusing to navigate). Just try to find a store there. Is it in Glorietta 1, Glorietta 2, Glorietta 3, or Glorietta 4? And which floor? And is it in a main hall or an offshoot?



SM MegaMall is not for those who are incontinent. Signs that seem to lead you to a restroom (comfort room, or CR) lead you with an arrow that points like so: "^". Does that mean "straight ahead" or "look up"? Good question. If you think it means straight ahead, you may walk the entire 3-block length of the mall and NEVER see a restroom! You will be led in circles, see signs overhead where both sides are seeming to point you in the opposite direction! None of the signs ever point downward...they just want you to keep walking.

Here's my recommendation for any of you, locals or visitors, whether from the Philippines or abroad visiting MegaMall: if you see a restroom/comfort room, USE IT! Do it now. Do it before it is gone! You may never see it again! It will move to another location somewhere in the mall by the time you want to go back and use it! Remember: labor is inexpensive here. The people are resourceful. They CAN and WILL do it! Why do you think it is when you finally locate one there's always a toilet that won't work, a faucet that won't work, or a hand dryer that isn't operating? And what's with the constant mopping? That's right! They took apart and rebuilt that restroom/comfort room and haven't yet been able to completely re-plumb and re-wire! The mopping is to clean up any debris. These people are GOOD!

Oh, Happy Shopping!

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Typical Day

It was a pretty typical day for me the other day. People, whether they are here in the Philippines or not, seem to be interested to know what it is I do from day to day. They are even more interested because I'm not "working" and I can lay claims to actually being busy. They hear this and wonder how can a person with no work (ie: nothing to do) be "busy".

Well, let me start out by reminding everyone out there that dishes, plates, glasses, floors, bathrooms, and clothes do not clean themselves here any more than they do anywhere else in the world. Just because it's the Philippines and domestic help can be quite affordable does not mean that we can afford it or that our schedules allow it. One of us has to be here while the help is here and that doesn't allow much for spontaneous schedule changes.

My typical day begins around 9:00-9:30am and, because the computer sits strategically, I start by checking email. Other morning rituals follow and end with breakfast. Although not necessarily...I'm usually at the computer working on images I've shot. Cropping, resizing, deleting, etc. For an upcoming exhibit, I have been poring over a group of about 50 images I selected from a total field of over 300, in an effort to reduce that number to just 12. Every day or so I go through them looking for those that "just don't fit", those that I can find some flaw in that I hadn't seen before, and those that just "must go in". If you're an artist and have been exhibited, you know what I mean. If you've never done this sort of thing and know no one who has, try this: go to your closet (or dresser, laundry hamper, pile of clothes on floor....) and choose only 2 shirts/blouses, 2 pairs of pants, 1 pair shoes, 2 pairs undergarments, and socks. Got them? Put one of those outfits on. OK, now go through the rest of your home and pick one (1) other item that you will place into a small backpack along with the change of clothes you've already chosen. Now leave the country for the next 3 weeks. You're going somewhere where you can't buy clothes, so the option to get some there doesn't exist. If this all sounds a little like "Survivor", it is. It's a tough choice, isn't it? Especially picking that one other item before you knew you were going somewhere, where that place was, or what item it might be that you'd need. Hope you chose wisely! This is what someone preparing for an exhibit goes through.

So, that takes time...and may cause me to miss breakfast, as breakfast has now become lunch.

Lunch is usually taken somewhere in the surrounding few blocks. We don't have a "working kitchen" yet. (That's OK, I'm not much for cooking, anyway. And, it would just mean more dishes to clean, as well as stoves, microwaves, counters, etc...) I have a lot to choose from in the neighborhood: Just downstairs there's Earle's Deli and an Indian restaurant. Across the street in the PeopleSupport call center building (where your Expedia calls, among others, are taken) are McDonald's, KFC, Starbucks, Tokyo!Tokyo!, and Yellow Cab Pizza--all open 24 hours. In the Convergys call center building are Brothers Burger, Tempura Grill, North Park (Chinese), Max's Fried Chicken, and Jollibee (hamburgers and Filipino dishes). Also nearby is Tropical Hut hamburgers and the entire food court of RCBC Plaza, a 30-40-story tower full of call centers (you've probably reserved a hotel with someone there), a museum, and RCBC bank. Oh, there's another McDonald's behind RCBC. Places like Tropical Hut can sell me a meal faster and cheaper than I can make it myself, so why bother cooking?

With several friends working in the surrounding buildings, I can often find myself with a lunch date.

I know the president of a chain of photo stores (Photoline/PixelPoint) here and often have images printed at their location in Glorietta Mall, which is a good 10 blocks from here. Many days it is impossible to get a cab, so I find myself getting my exercise walking the Skywalk (which begins just 2 blocks from my building) to the mall. A lot of professionals do their work there and their print quality is the best I've ever experienced, anywhere.

Glorietta is just one of several shopping options all interconnected, so any other things we need I pick up while I'm there. SM Department Store/Hypermarket is there, as well as Landmark Department Store/Market, Rustan's Department Store/Supermarket, and Greenbelt (which is mostly food/entertainment). Shopping Malls in the Philippines see an enormous number of people each day, and in Manila it is even bigger. An average 150,000 people shop at Glorietta each day, not to mention the hundreds of thousands just passing through on their way to the MRT (light rail) station connected to SM.

By the time I've returned home from all this it is usually 4:00-4:30. Yes, it can take that long. Nothing moves fast in the Philippines. Traffic can, but only if you're out at 2am. Otherwise, it is pretty much a parking lot much of the day on the EDSA Expressway and other key roads. Waiting at the checkout line is a lesson in patience. Lines in the supermarkets run 3/4 the width of the stores on a weekend and can take 40 minutes. (Yes, all the lanes are open.) At SM, it took 2 hours for 6 items to be rung up and set for delivery when purchasing appliances/electronics, and that's with teams of 3 and 4 sales assistants working for you. Yes, they have that many. I had almost a half dozen sales clerks trying to sell me luggage 2 weeks ago. That was OK, there were 12 to 14 more working there to help the other customers. It is typical to find yourself outnumbered 4-to-1 when shopping in a department store here. They help you to your car/cab with your purchases....it's nice.

Once home I'll either collapse from exhaustion or relax in the pool.

Dinner comes later, and that is usually followed by watching clips from the Daily Show or the Colbert Report to supplement the news I get from "legitimate sources". Ironically enough, the legitimate sources don't seem to cover the news as well as the comedians! It's true. Wait a week or two, sometimes a month or two, and you'll find the real story with the real reasons for something somebody did in Washington, D.C. was reported first by Stewart or Colbert. It's frightening. It's true. They can expose Tony Snow's lies faster than 24-hour news networks! What's with that??

Well, that's my typical day around the house. Of course, I do get the time to chat with friends on the phone and on-line, etc. as well....and now I find I've just spent the better part of an hour typing this blog entry. Hope it's a good one. I don't feel much like proofreading it before I post it!

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Boracay at Night



Just another shot of the beautiful beach of Boracay....at night. No complaints here!!

If you ever do travel to Boracay, be sure to stay in either Station 1 or 3 for the best hotels and the least noise. Station 2 is party central, complete with a "mall", an abundance of eateries, restaurants on the beach, and clubs. Sleep is not possible here. Also, realize that here you are only about 25 feet from the sun. Really. It's that close. It's that hot. You'll go through sunblock faster than you ever thought possible! And it will have the consistency of water, even if it was a gel when you left your hotel room!

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Amazing View


Isn't it amazing what pollution can do? It's really quite pretty in a kind of sick sort of way. You don't get sunsets like this in the unspoiled eden of Boracay.

It'd be a shame if they ever *wheeze* cleaned up the air around *cough* here. From my 14th floor (it's only the 14th because there's no 13th) *pant* window I have this great view (when I can see through the water in my eyes) every night. It can be really spectacular; sometimes the sky is completely red. Other evenings I have a great view of the lightning storms, now that the rainy season is beginning.

Yes, I watch lightning storms. Yes, instead of TV. No, I'm not bored. I get all the TV I need from Comedy Central's Motherload.

A lot more of these shots from the window will be sure to follow, so I hope you enjoy the view.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Hello, World.


Just a brief introduction to what the heck this is. Yeah, besides a blog. I figured you already knew that. I mean why I'm doing this and what you'll find here.

Well, you'll find here the thoughts that come out of my mind (even if I'm out of mine at the time) as well as pictures from my daily life and travels all throughout Manila and the rest of the Philippines. If you don't know where these places are it means you either didn't pay any attention in high school geography class or your high school didn't have one. Shame on you if it is the former and good for you (you can sue!) if it's the latter.

Thoughts (musings---I had to alliterate the title somehow) and pictures. Yep. That's pretty much it.

Oh, this picture is not from Manila. Sorry. It's from Boracay. No, I'm not trying to be misleading. It's just the first picture that I found to post. Anyway, it's just us (Edson and Jay) on our way to or from the island of Boracay at the beginning of May.