Sunday, 27 April 2008

And..........Action!

Yep. That's what I heard as crews began taping a commercial at our pool the other week.

The administration here at the Columns closed our pool from 5pm until midnight for the cast and crew to make a commercial advertising another property also being developed by the people who run the Columns.

I didn't sit around and gawk the whole time. But I did look out in time to hear "action!" and watch as a man sitting in the pool is approached by a scantily-clad woman who playfully kicks water at him, sits down beside him, and begins cuddling, followed by "cut".

That was it.

And look at all this light equipment!

I tried to shoot as the actors were acting, but because it was so dark, all I got was a long blur for the woman. So here's her co-star enjoying the cool of the waters, waiting for everything to happen.

Did you notice he's a foreigner?

No?

Well, look a little closer.

There.

Now, what do you suppose they are trying to say here?

He's certainly not the stereotype white guy in a white/Filipina couple here. Most are older than him, overweight, losing their hair in the wrong places and growing it in the...er, unusual ones, slovenly, and a general mess. Accompanying them are tiny Filipinas half their age (if that) who they've plucked from the depths of poverty.

I don't think they'd sell the next development if they used a reality-based representation of the white guy/Filipina couple in the ad, as it tends to creep-out most Filipinos from what I hear.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Bright Lights on the Christmas Tree

I know what you're thinking.

Christmas Tree??? (Am I close?)

Well, I am reminded of Christmas each day. The trees in the median of Ayala Avenue in front of the Fire Department below our window do still have their strings of white holiday stars on them! (Not that I'm at all hinting that they should be removed. No rush. Christmas was only eighteen weeks ago.)

Anyway, I often say he/she "isn't the brightest light on the Christmas tree" to refer to someone who isn't "the sharpest tool in the shed" or the most intelligent because of some act(s)/history of complete stupidity.

This is about the brighter lights on the tree, or the sharper tools in the shed, the more intelligent.

The Fulbright scholars.

Edson and I attended the 60th Anniversary of the Fulbright program in the Philippines last week. Fulbright recipients from as far back as the late 50s were in attendance, as were officials from the US Embassy and Washington, D.C.

An exhibit at the event showcased the works of many of the writers, artists, illustrators, designers, sculptors, historians, and scientists who have been part of the program.

Some of the speakers included those you see below: Dr. Isagani Cruz, President of the Philippine Fulbright Scholars Association, Franklin Ebdalin, Undersecretary for Administration, Department of Foreign Affairs, (all the way from Washington, D.C.) Thomas Farrell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Academic Affairs with the US State Department, and Lee McClenny, Public Affairs Officer with the American Embassy in Manila.

The day went much as you'd guess: speeches, break for lunch, more speeches followed by a Q&A session for the speakers. Rarely were the speakers asked a question. Instead, the "questioners" would ramble on about some experience they had trying to survive the cold winters in whatever location in the US they studied; all trying to one-up the former. You know, you'd hear: in '85 for two months it was 17-below...or less! followed by the next commenter's oh yeah, well in '96 I survived much worse right through Spring! If it wasn't past winters in the US they complained about it was that they had to travel all the way from Mindanao to Manila; and why couldn't everyone travel from Manila to Mindanao instead. (Do note the Fulbright / Philippine-American Education Foundation office is eight blocks from the event venue, plus the presence of a US Embassy official, and a State Department official, and that Mindanao is not safe for Americans, with all the kidnappings, etc. down there.)

This went on for hours.

Cocktails followed a few hours after the program ended. There were hors' dourves, drinks, and games.

Games?

Games at a cocktail party?

Games for Fulbright scholars?

And what kind of games do the best and brightest minds of a nation play?

Well, since you asked:

Everyone was handed a scrap of paper with a line of a song written upon it. Three other people in the room held papers with the other lines to each song. So each had to run about the room singing their line until all four lines were found. Once the group had been assembled they were to sing their verse on stage.

I was ready to hear a huge groan from a hundred or more in attendance.

In an instant this game turned the scholarly minds of the finest academics and most talented artists into those of eight-year-old children as they giddily ran about in search of those who held the paper scraps containing the song lines to match to theirs.

That's what these people are doing:

Yep, those are Fulbright scholars. They're scholars, not choreographers!

Where's Edson?, you ask? Isn't he a Fulbright scholar? Why didn't you picture him singing?

Well, as luck would have it there were more people in attendance than party organizers had prepared song lines for; so Edson didn't get to participate.

What about me?

I was the official photographer for the event. I wasn't there to participate in games.

Oh, and yes, the spell of the game did wear off as soon as it ended and all went back to being their previous scholarly selves.



More on the Fulbright Program here.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Car Show

OK, this post is really, really late.

Kinda.

I was reminded to make this post while going through pictures I shot at the Manila Car Show because today (April 23rd) is my sister's birthday and she likes cars. So does my brother, who just had his birthday a few weeks ago, but the car show took place after his birthday. He reads this blog anyway, so he'll enjoy it all the same.

So, happy birthday Shari Krems! (Now you can Google yourself and this post will be included in the results. I know. You're thrilled.)

Anyway, at the beginning of April my friend Allan (you remember, the bodybuilder?) texted me asking if I wanted to go to the Car Show in Manila on the fifth.

Sure, I replied. (Pretty wordy of me, huh?)

So on the afternoon of Saturday, April 5th I found myself with Allan at the World Trade Center (It's a convention center in Manila) checking out what an auto show is like in the Philippines. Edson stayed at home to get some work done on his dissertation.

I've been to my fair share of auto shows in the states. Sometimes just to wander around. Sometimes to acquaint myself with the new offerings in the event I would have to buy a car to replace mine. Sometimes to help a friend get a hands-on look at different car choices without having to drive all over to see them.

It is said first impressions are everything. My first impression was that the World Trade Center was awfully small for a convention center in a city of over twelve million people...the country's capital city at that! What greeted me upon entering the center was the enormous exhibit of Chery, the Chinese car manufacturer.

And their cars, like this very, very narrow and tall minivan with little structural support and a gas tank located below the driver's seat. Yikes!

Subaru had women in black outfits with high-cut skirts to grab everyone's attention.

Another company had this girl in an unfortunate-looking silver outfit, also with the skirt cut very high.

She was attempting to get people to notice her so she could sell them that forklift behind her. It didn't seem to be working. No matter how high the cut of the skirt is, you're either looking for a forklift or you aren't. Skirts really don't matter a whole lot in that industry. Kudos to her and the agency who put her there if she was what sold a forklift that weekend!

At the Ford exhibit they displayed lots of SUVs and the Focus. One Focus, as a rally car, was popular so people could have their picture taken as a rally car driver alongside. Allan, sporting his new look (a.k.a. shaved head) is the model here.

GM had a Chevy display that looked as if it had seen every auto show in Manila since the Marcos era. (If anyone from GM is reading this, YOU NEED A NEW DISPLAY!!!) I decided not to photograph it as I only took my compact camera and the lighting back in that corner of the hall was so dim it couldn't take a good picture, not that that would have been possible under any light.

Chrysler showed off their Jeeps and the ever-popular 300 series, likely popular here due to its bold styling and presence in Bree's driveway on Desperate Housewives, which is as popular here as in the states.

There were also a handful of manufacturers from Korea and China I'd never heard of before showing products I'd never seen, even here.

Mercedes, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda had pretty ho-hum exhibits consisting of little more than the cars themselves. Honda had a continuously-running video countdown of every innovation the company has ever made, played at a volume loud enough for you to hear it wherever you were on that side of the center.

Nearby was a single guy overseeing a trio of motorcycles situated around a giant sign advertising what I presume to be the Filipino equivalent of Discovery Channel'sAmerican Chopper.

What was most interesting at the show wasn't what was in the main room, though. It was what was in the temporary annex outside. (The annex, I must note, is about half the size of the main building. Although its tent-like construction makes it look quite temporary, I can only assume by its appearance that it has been, and will continue to be, around for quite some time.)

Real cars. Boy, was I surprised to see these here!

Cars made out of lots of things like metal, instead of "composite materials".

Cars from when you could feel and hear the horsepower (and there was lots of it!).

Cars from a time before seat belts (you know, like school bus or a jeepney).

Cars you wouldn't dare drive around in today's traffic-snarled streets of inconsiderate idiots.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Pay Attention!

In last week's post I wrote about how irritable it is to deal with some of those whom Edson and I text message with here. I questioned why it is that one can only insert a single item of information in each text for the other person to understand what information is being conveyed, thus wasting messages and money when several items of information must be relayed.

Last night during conversation over dinner we discovered what is the real problem.

Our conversation was about another conversation he was having earlier that day with someone from the College of Architecture at University of the Philippines. Apparently a couple of the people there felt he had been shunning them the past eleven months because he hadn't come to their office to visit. He had told them both last April/May he would be working in Makati, so he wouldn't be able to teach the twelve credit hours worth of courses they handed him last June three days before classes were to begin (remember: even after he had previously said to them he couldn't teach at all!). And three day notice...yeah, they really think ahead there!

Edson does do research work at U.P. And he also does teach one class a week. But he doesn't spend a lot of time on campus meandering about. The people who felt shunned also don't spend a lot of time on campus, so the likelihood these infrequent campus-goers would ever run into each other there is rather small. It is small enough that in eleven months their paths never once crossed.

Had they paid attention when Edson told them he was going to be working elsewhere, maybe they would have realized he was not shunning them!

So, that's it.

It all comes down to what our parents and teachers have been telling us (if not yelling at us) all these years:

PAY ATTENTION!


But I still don't know if not paying attention to the information contained within a text message is something uniquely Filipino or just related to the act of receiving text messages wherever the receiver may be.

When I was in the U.S. I never once sent a text message. I didn't even know how. Nobody ever did it. That seems to have changed from what we see when we watch Gossip Girl. The characters on that show are constantly texting. I text so much now I hardly know what to do if someone wants to actually speak to me on the phone! Of course, here in Manila, all I can hear is the traffic around me, so the idea of actually using the phone as a phone is pretty ridiculous.

Text me.

You know you love me,

XOXO

"Gossip Jay"

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Texting Hell

The Philippines is the text-message capital of the world.

I should probably capitalize and italicize that:

The Philippines is the Text-Message Capital of the World.

That looks better.

Filipinos spend more time texting than almost anything else. The proficiency with which they send messages is astounding. Their thumbs race about almost a blur as they compose messages while having a conversation and eating all at the same time...and they do it all while walking, too!

I am amazed.

I know people who have this skill, but can't type on a computer keyboard without searching around for each letter. Even Edson's father colorfully refers to his typing skills as being of Biblical Speed: Seek and Ye Shall Find.

I am also perplexed. I'll get to that later.

As in email, there are three types of text messages: original, forwards, and spam.

I get forwarded messages like this all the time:

Well, there's more to the message than that; but that's all that fit on the first screen!

Anyway, these forwarded messages usually consist of either jokes or inspirational messages. The one above was an inspirational message, by the way. Mostly I receive these so-called inspirational messages. They are usually either depressing or sweetly trite. Once in a great while, like all forwarded messages, they are really cute and I feel like keeping them or I at least smile or tell Edson about it. I don't really feel like forwarding them though.

I don't receive much spam. On those rare occasions I do, it is always from my provider, Globe.

It is the original text messages that have me stumped. I know I said perplexed, but I now feel more stumped. Actually a bit of both, they are fairly synonymous after all.

Anyway...

I'll text someone to confirm with them the date, time, and place of a photo shoot. For instance, I'll text: Let's meet at the Coffee Bean at Greenbelt 3, Saturday at 1pm. I put all that in one text.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Moments later I receive this response: Wer at?

Frustrated, I reply: Coffee Bean in Greenbelt 3.

Response: Wut tym?

Banging my head into a concrete wall, I reply: 1pm.

And it goes on and on, much like classic Abbott and Costello or Jack Benny and Mel Blanc's Si, Sy, Sue routine.

See, what I don't get is all the attention that must be paid to reading those two and three-screens worth of "inspirational" forwarded messages is completely lost in something simple like a short text detailing time, date, and place.

So now I have to use one text message each to convey those three things. That's a separate charge for each of those texts I send as well as those the person I am communicating with sends. In the end what should just be two texts:

1. Hi, what's going on with the shoot?
2. We'll meet at Coffee Bean, Greenbelt 3, Saturday at 1pm.
3. OK, thanks. See you then! (OK, maybe three, for politeness' sake)

...often ends up being six or seven between the two of us.

At what works out to be one peso per text message, the amount of waste is amazing. Now sure, one peso isn't very much (about U.S. two and a half cents at the time of this writing), but my point is that the Philippines is a poor country. If everybody read and comprehended the messages they received, they could save a little money that way.

Now it isn't just me that feels this way. Edson also gets just as exasperated as I do about this. And this comes from all levels as well: people earning or having earned masters degrees, professional people, call center agents, college drop outs, rich and poor.

So, what is it?

Is it the ability to comprehend what one reads?

Is this unique to text messaging? I wonder: is this the same in other places as well?

Is it shrinking attention spans?

Is it just laziness?

Is it global warming?

Can it be blamed on Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, George Bush, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, or the Dalai Lama (China would say him)?

All I know is this: There'd be a lot less texting going on if people could pay attention to what is sent to them the first time, and therefore a lot less money going to providers such as Globe and Smart.