Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Underdogging

So the Final Four of the NBA Playoffs are on and four intriguing storylines coming up:

- LeBron James and the Cavaliers, playing on a seemingly mystical higher plane, coming off two sweeps heading into the Eastern Conference finals with hardly a significant challenge;

- Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, myth of invincibility shattered after being taken to the limit by a scrappy and undermanned Houston Rockets team, troubled by not being able to focus consistently on winning;

- Dwight Howard and the Magic, finally validated by beating a battered Boston Celtics that was running on fumes, after struggling to turn in clutch performances in games they should have won outright;

- Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups on the Nuggets, surprising everyone with their moxie, athleticism, and team togetherness after being written off in the preseason and the Allen Iverson departure.

I'll go out on a limb and root for the Nuggets on this one, even though I traditionally don't support Western Conference teams. Since the Celts are out there's no way I will root for the Magic (who could have been embarrassed big-time had they lost to the Celtics) or feel good about LeBron. Yeah, the kid is phenomenal but give me some time to warm up to him. After all, it took me ten years to like Michael Jordan. (I was secretly rooting for Barkley and the Suns to knock the Bulls off in '93.)

Well, there's Kobe. As much respect I can give to the man, who at this stage of his career is the best basketball player in the NBA (counting team and individual achievements), I just never liked him. Anyhow, it's not really his fault, I would have supported any egotistical bastard like him if he played on my team. Since he plays for the Lakers, I can afford to hate him a little bit more.

So I pick the guys who were ruled out to make the postseason after dumping Marcus Camby and sticking with Iverson. Thank God they threw AI out of town, and probably couldn't wait to scrape his tire-tracks on that team. Chauncey Billups has been a blessing, but after watching this team several times it's obvious that the play of their underachievers Nene, Kenyon Martin, and J.R. Smith has been their meal ticket to success.

Their odds aren't so good, judging by stats and head-to-head match-ups, but with the Lakers showing some wobble in the Rockets series, they still have a puncher's chance to take the series. From there, who knows?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bawal Maging Emo...

...kapag natalo ang paborito mong team sa Game 7 ng napakaimportanteng series. Pasensya na, Boston, hindi natin taon ngayon. Maging masaya ka na lang na hindi naman nakakahiya ang ipinakita nilang fighting spirit, at umasa ka na lang babawi sila next year.

...kapag mistulang nireregla ang kasamahan mo sa opisina dahil ayaw
makatanggap ng kahit ano pa mang pagpuna. Banatan na lang nang banatan, trabaho lang naman, walang personalan. Kung mamersonal siya, manigas siya, siya ang talo.

...kapag hindi ka na naman napansin sa sipag na ipinapakita mo. Pakshet, magsikap sigruro magsikap ka na lang ng 70% ng 100% ng oras, mas masaya sila siguro kaysa naman sa 100% sa 70% ng oras, even though mas magaling ka doon sa pangalawa.

...kapag nangangatog ang kasu-kasuan mo at nahihirapang maglalakad. Mas buwakaw ka pa kasi sa buwaya kung kumain ng nakakatabang pagkain. Mas baboy ko pa sa baboy kung lumapang ka ng tsibog.

...kapag iniisip mo ang ating inang-bayan. Iniwan mo nga siya, magrereklamo ka pa. Magpasalamat ka na lang may tumanggap sa iyo sa labas at binibigyan ka ng mas malaking suweldo.

...kahit gusto mong maging emo, dahil OFW ka. Araw-araw, oras-oras, hindi mo alam kung kailan ka pauuwiin, hindi mo alam kung kailan ka uutangan dahil kinakailangan, hindi mo alam kung mapapalitan ang amo, o kung magbabago ang saloobin ng amo mo sa iyo.

Bawal maging emo dahil wala ka sa tunay mong tahanan, at kahit palarin kang kasama mo ang mag-anak mo sa ibang bayan, wala kang pinanghahawakan.

Bawal maging emo dahil baka makalimutan mo kung bakit ka naririto, at malululong ka sa bisyo, sa pakikipagrelasyon kahit ikaw o siya o kayo pareho ay may asawa, o pakikipagrelasyon sa kapwa mong lalaki (o babae). Ang kahinaan, kahit nauunawaan, ay hindi sapat na katuwirang gumawa ka ng pagkakamali o manatili sa iyong kinalalagyan.

Kung magiging emo ka, eh dapat sariwain mo ang simulain mo bilang isang tao, nang matupad ang pangarap mong isang araw, hindi ka na kailangang mang-ibang bayan, at nang sa ganoon ay ganahan ka sa hanapbuhay kahit marahil wala siyang kahihinatnan.

Ikaw lamang makakapagsabi kung magiging piitan ang apat na sulok ng buhay mo, o isa lamang itong pasubok para maiperpekto tayo ng ating Maykapal.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Getting into the Zone

I'm not really running up my blog posts, but it seems the past few days I've had the opportunity and the inclination to put down some of my random thoughts in this space. Obviously, I'm all over the place, not settling down on any particular one but trying to keep with my various interests.

I also noticed it has become rather "sport"-y here of late, because of the ongoing NBA Playoffs. I'm not into fantasy or other amusements others get into, but I do follow the game almost religiously. That's because basketball was one of the few things the men in our family all got to do and more or less agreed about. We watched the game not from a fan perspective of being entertained, but in terms of how each player displayed his character, and how well a certain coaching philosophy brings out the best from particular players. It was rather ironic (and unfortunate) that I didn't grow up to be athletic - I guess I hit the books more than I did the basketball court, but my jumper was solid and if I played "Base-ketball" (c/o Parker and Stone of "South Park") I would have done a lot of damage.

Anyhow, sports edifies life --- it captures the essence of the struggle of life, and through its duality of cooperation-competition we also get to understand what it means to be human. That sappy NBA TV commercial with the kids and basketball stars on the similarites of basketball and life rings true.

Watching sports, such as a tennis/football match or basketball game, breaks down life into simplicity. Naturally one wants to be a better person, but to get there one has to earn it, get the necessary repetitions, turn the habit first into a skill, then a mind-set. Of course it isn't that simple when one gets to implementation - while I believe in the value of coaching/mentoring, it's something that hasn't caught on with me. I haven't committed to it yet. Someday I will. (As to finding the right life coach...we-ell, good luck son!)

So far, sports has been the only bright spot --- the rest of life these days is a struggle to fight off monotony. As the groups with whom I am associated have no major production at this point (I don't know if I have the "fire" for this anymore) there is no variety in my life. As for romance, I'm not so sure. I am not as sanguine as I would have liked, which is hardly fair to the particular girl in question.

I don't want to make it another "it's not you, it's me" statement, because I like her a great deal - but I'm not doing enough to show it. Besides, no one gets away with that kind of cop-out without being savaged by recriminations (along the lines of "insensitive," "asshole," and worse, "gay!") or racked by guilt (also along the lines of "insensitive," "asshole," and "gay!") Let's say that however I want to change my personal life, I am not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to make it happen. In my defense, I have acknowledged this failing and am not making any excuses. However, it's rather late in the day and the proverbial window of opportunity won't stay open forever.

As with sports I have to hunker down on my life and build the habit. Do as many repetitions as possible. Watch the form and the release of my shot. Get into better conditioning. Prepare myself for mental and physical breakdowns. Roll with the groove. Get into the zone.

Living life beyond watching sports, or whatever form of entertainment, means seizing the challenge within one's life and not projecting one's life in the struggle of others. If we knock our athletes/celebrities for not doing their job well, why can't we take time to shape up on our own?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Help Me Slash the Music of the Night

Willing Exile: Phantasy

I'm sharing this video that amazingly captures the childish wonder of Sesame Street (with the puppets), the subject matter of the parody lyrics featuring "Psycho" by Alfred Hitchcock (and I really like those slasher flicks), and finally, the accompaniment of "Music of the Night" from "Phantom of the Opera" (see my previous post, link just above).

Special props to the writers of the song (one of whom also happens to have staged the puppet show) and vocal performers MooseButter, the real voices behind one of the most celebrated videos on YouTube (original lipsync version, by Corey Vidal / MooseButter response video).

Enjoy the show.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Extranjera

Opposition to foreign wives for Saudis mount

I'm not sure if I follow the slant of the article, but then again, modern journalism has really gone to the crapper these days. But I digress.

The main points of the article are:
1. It is apparent that more and more Saudi men choose to marry foreigners.
2. Things fall apart at home especially if the man already has a wife, since he is likely to neglect his first family in favor of the second.
3. No support can be found for the rising number of unmarried eligible Saudi women.
4. The proposed solution is to ban intermarriage of Saudis and foreigners.

Number 1 is natural since foreign women are likely to be more liberated and by virtue of the cultural barrier, present something more interesting for Saudi men. A no-brainer especially in this repressed society.

Number 2 is not a natural antecendent of number 1; after all, the practice of neglecting and abandoning families is not unique to Saudis. It just seems to be a universal disease among men of any stripe, color, location, or persuasion. And no, I'm not kidding.

Now, Number 3 wouldn't be so hard if this society were more open to employing Saudi women and with that emancipation create the necessary social infrastructure to prepare these young women to actually embark on their own careers and be self-sufficient. As of now? The expectations of the entire cultural mindset (never mind their religion) weigh heavily against women being able to independently provide for themselves. So it is either a woman's father or husband who will settle her place in society. And if you lost the former and have no means to secure the latter, there you have it --- a woman with no means to support herself.

There is of course, the matter of presenting a considerable amount of dowry to the girl's family, aside from the man's family or the man himself assuming the burden of the wedding expenses (as directly opposed to the bride's family sharing or even assming the expenses of the wedding in the West).  If this amount were less onerous, Saudi men would find it easier to look for wives.  

(Side note:  it is not altogether surprising why Saudi men seek foreign women - and men for those of that persuasion -for relationships especially to find an outlet for all those repressed sexual urges.  And yet I digress again.)

Fix Number 3 and Number 1 will be less true. Saudi women can meet cultural expectations and yet remain exciting and viable at the same time.

As for the proposed solution - even the most humble Muslim would say that neither the Holy Quran nor the Hadith outlaw a man's choice in spouse unless said spouse is heathen AND unwilling to accept the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Some people are just getting WAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY too ahead of themselves.   Haven't you read the news? --- the Kingdom is no a longer an island of isolation.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ouch!

Lakers' Odom has back contusion, is day to day

Posted using ShareThis

Or as they say in the old neighborhood, "Aray ko po!"

The so-called walk-over by the Lakers suddenly has become much, much more interesting.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hilarious Fare



An interesting commercial, and probably reflective of the characters' actual psyches, but the LeBron character is probably on speed at this point and (old man) Kobe is probably feeling his years.

Looking forward to a Cavs-Lakers final, but Celts-Lakers will top that, of course.

Extinction

GM bankruptcy is almost inevitable

With the bankruptcy of General Motors almost a done deal, it is time to close one of the chapters of modern history - the dominance of American manufacturing. The lack of competitiveness thoroughly exposed by the Japanese during the oil embargo and throughout the last 25 years has finally run its course - and as the old adage goes, the bigger you are, the harder you fall.

I'm not going to pretend I'm an expert here but it's pretty much evident that size and power can only go so far with cars. Of course, here in Saudi Arabia, upsizing is more the norm than the exception, but elsewhere, people don't want to spend all that much money on gas guzzlers. Especially if they drive badly and do not offer much value-added --- Japanese cars take the cake with reliability, while the Europeans have pretty much cornered the market on luxury.

American cars? They are neither here nor there --- too many brands, not enough exciting models, putting premium on muscle when finesse is needed, and on this I am certain --- not knowing enough of the paying consumer.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

And the Floodgates Begin to Open...


Bahrain ends sponsorship system

For good or for ill, this signals a lot of change.

I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid among the "rights" people that this is a great thing so that people working in Bahrain can move freely as regards their profession.

Since the whole concept of human capital is still in its infancy in the Middle East region, and that the paternalistic culture prevalent in the work environment still governs hiring and promotions, this ruling will basically guarantee that the subcontinental mafias (among the Indians and the Pakistanis) will have free rein.

It's not so much as the rights of people to work in Bahrain, but that they are qualified to do so. Or that the correct amount of opportunities are being created and given. Those are the more important questions.

Yes, this openness with the labor market is a great thing. But without the accompanying civil rights, the crowd that will come is a crowd that will be subject to oppression and remain huddled in fear. While Bahrain is a relatively open space compared to dinosaurs of tradition such as Saudi Arabia, it's no cakewalk either.

The lessons of Dubai should ring out clearly --- freedom is only so much of a commodity, but without proper fundamentals, the road from boom to bust is just another oil recession away.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Under the Knife

Quotes of Thomas Merton: “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. And if this love is unreal, the secret will not be found, the meaning will never reveal itself, the message will never be decoded. At best, we will receive a scrambled and partial message, one that will deceive and confuse us. We will never be fully real until we let ourselves fall in love – either with another human person or with God." - From Love and Living

It's official - my mother is having her hip replacement surgery sometime this morning Manila time. We (the family) had been expecting this for some time now, but it does not make it any easier for me.

I should have been there in Manila right now to support my family, but pride, stupidity and the difficulties of circumstance all conspired to keep me here. Objectively, of course, there is nothing I can do from here or there to aid in her healing process. BUT THAT'S MY MOTHER! You can exchange all the friends and the lovers in the world, but you will only have one beginning, and one mother.

If I could only be there to look into her eyes and reassure her that this is a standard operation, nothing critical, nothing to be really worried about. Of course half of that dollop I will say is more to reassure me than her.

Sure, it sounds lame that this bears down on me, but it's true. The best I can do, is to do what I always have done - live each day to the best. Well, I am not doing so good in that area, either, not yet 100%. But I'm getting there.

Hoping for the best and looking forward to her recovery.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Finishing the Bulls

Well, at least today my Internet connection has been A LOT more reliable than yesterday. Whereas I couldn't get reliable audio streaming yesterday, ESPN Radio was really smooth today.

Something to smile about instead of imagining the game from the game track. =)

The Celts walloped the Bulls in the second quarter but they just allowed the Bulls to keep on coming back. Rondo has his first bad game of the series (he was due). Thank God Eddie House's jumper came back to life, Davis and Perkins really played solid games, and some good effort from the bench. And finally, both Pierce and Ray Allen played well consistently the entire game, the likes of which we haven't seen since the Celts sliced up the Bulls in Game 3.

Intellectually, it feels as if the Bulls shouldn't have had made a series of it, but in reality, these guys are DANGEROUS. As is any NBA team that clicks at the right place at the right time. (Recent memory --- Exhibit A: 1994-95 Rockets. Exhibit B: 1999 Knicks. Exhibit C: 2006-07 Warriors).

Now if they can put it all together again next season, watch out rest of the NBA. Thanks Derrick Rose, thanks Ben Gordon and (belatedly) Kirk Hinrich, and yeah, big thank yous to John Salmons (man, isn't that a horrible goatee?), Brad Miller, and Joakim Noah. Tyrus Thomas, get your head screwed on straight, you're one more bonehead play from being a Josh Smith.

I'm both pumped up and drained at the same time. Been up since 3:00am. Now the matador has finished the bull. Looking forward to the series against Orlando, where the Celtics have to conjure up some magic of their own against the Magic.

Quandary: some of the fellows are already set to play hooky just to watch Pacquiao-Hatton. Hmmm...I don't think so.

Edit - and I don't have to do it. This time, the bull gored the matador. Pacquiao in a second-round KO that should have ended in the first round. Told you it'll be a demolition.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Banners

Just throwing out Green-and-White for the Celtics for Game 7 later today, and the red-and-blue (sorry, yellow would ruin the color combo) for kabayan Manny Pacquiao. Because of the time difference these sports events will occur sometime in the early morning tomorrow.

I expect a Pacquiao demolition of Hatton so that one I could watch via pirated DVD. No need to sweat this one. Dang I haven't seen a boxer this white in a long time (We've got a BLEEDER here!).

Game 7 of Bulls-Celtics? If I could transport myself to Boston to watch the game, shoot I would. But I would settle losing some sleep if our local provider televises the game. Otherwise, it would be business as usual on the Internet.

See, the small dramas of life lose their intensity when the raw fibers of humanity are on stunning display as they are in the Bulls-Celtics series. It hasn't been so ON for a long, long time, since the days when the Celts lorded over the East and Michael Jordan and his gang were still eating Pistons dust (and the Pistons were eating Celtics dust). The only time I felt some emotion in this match-up was when the Celts beat the Bulls at home during Antoine Walker's rookie year, and even if 'Toine happened to be on my favorite team, I never liked his play and his attitude much.

Fast forward to now and as other fans are rushing to see if either the Cavs or the Lakers will be hanging the banner of the 2008-09 champions, I'm not going anywhere. Bulls-Celtics it is, and even as I pray that they will live on to fight another day, I'm hanging a banner right here that celebrates their spirit and their determination to keep on going.

As for the Bulls, you'll get a small bandanna from me, win or lose. Thanks for being such worthy competitors.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Silver Lining, Somewhat

Sizzling Philippine treats

MMMMMMM.... Yum yum!!!

Certainly a winner!

Just getting homesick.

Bleeding Green

One of the sorry states of being here in Saudi Arabia is that there just isn't enough meaningful basketball coverage to go around. I mean, in the Philippines, coverage of basketball is even better than coverage of Sunday mass - you can choose which game to see, and you have choices of league --- the NBA, the PBA, college ball, or whatever bush league has managed to get some airtime.

I stayed up until about three in the morning to find out if there was coverage of the Boston-Chicago game (Game 6) on NBA TV. I got geeked up to watch the game (I was able to watch Games 1 and 4, at the least) since the series was really heated and Boston was gamely trying to fend off a younger, fresher, and (perhaps) more talented rival, what with injuries to their most important player, Kevin Garnett and to one of their substitutes, Leon Powe. To think their bench already had a downgrade from last year's team. The young players are doing fine, it's the veterans with whom I have a beef.

They showed the Houston-Portland series. Now, I know Portland is one of darlings of the Internet - among its fans and with a lot of bloggers, for having a system that works and young talent in action --- yup, there is much to like about Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Fernandez (Greg who?) --- and that Houston has a compelling storyline with a history of first-round disappointments and a new chip on its shoulder with its highest-profile player (Tracy McGrady) apparently quitting on the team. But dang, I just couldn't bear to watch the game knowing that the real tussle was ongoing.

So I logged on instead and tried to follow the game on ESPN. Of course, I missed all the visuals and the usual commnetary that made watching meaningful, but shoot, was I hanging on every blip on my darned display and even with my neurons half-fried (too much Krispy Kremes, not enough sleep coming from Thursday night)!

Injuries are only one half of this series. The other half is made up of so many great storylines --- from the transcendent play of the point guards (the much-ballyhooed - vindicated many times over - Derrick Rose, and the underrated Rajon Rondo), the feistiness of the veterans of both sides, the decline of Paul Pierce and the rejuventation of Ray Allen, spotty officiating, and mind-numbing coaching blunders.

For much of the flow of the game, it was apparent that the Bulls (and their crowd, from what I could imagine) brought it to the Celtics, proverbially swinging away. The Celtics rolled with the punches, and then swung into counterattack. From his shot chart, Ray Allen was UNBELIEVABLE - the stat line shows 51 points, but the man was in a groove - he was connecting from his various sweet spots, and I could guess most of his shots were under duress. As I was saying from Game 4, they're not feeding this man enough shots. Sure, he stunk up the joint in Game 1, but this guy is running on all cylinders.

Paul Pierce is going to cost Boston the series, if he hasn't already. He basically blew the game in both Games 1 and 4 with missed free throws. To be fair, the young Bulls' nerves need some settling down, but from last year's Finals MVP? Come on! We all know he is the emotional leader of the Celts, but he just hogs the ball way too often, overdribbling and stopping ball flow. He needs to make a lot of clutch shots (and he has made several nice ones) because at times he put himself in that hole.

Can't say enough of Rondo and Rose --- I like the rookie's game more because it is less forced, but shoot Rajon is clearly the engine of the Celtics' train, and their victory in this series hinges on him continuing his stellar play. Alas, he is not immune to mistakes (mainly his questionable shot selection during crucial times), but give him credit, he's only on his third season and much wasn't expected from him coming out of college. But Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose. I hate him being on the other team, but the kid is officially treading the path of other greats.

I finally found some use for my big imagination --- projecting how it could have appeared onscreen, how the players reacted to big plays, especially since this has been a very, very physical series with both coaches coming from hard-nosed traditions (Atlanta/Lenny Wilkens and New York/Pat Riley for Doc Rivers, and San Antonio for Del Negro).

My heart was pulsing (more from lack of sleep I surmise) when the score was tied at the end of the game and we had to go to overtime. I was wondering how the hell they frittered that lead as regulation ended and I found my answer later on - Glen Davis (the Celts' most reliable forward with Garnett out) sat and Tony Allen played. What were they thinking? If they wanted to go small, they could have played Marbury and made use of his speed and ball-handling. Tony Allen?!

The Bulls took the initiative in all the overtimes, and I could guess Pierce played hero in the first overtime. John Salmons (my "WHO IS THIS GUY" of the series) tied up the game and Pierce clanked his potential game winner. EXHALED a little and muttered an obscenity.

Salmons was big again in the second overtime as the Bulls took the lead. But Ray-Ray saves the day with an assist, a long two-pointer (feet on the line), and an ice-blooded three pointer to tie up the game!

On to the third overtime. By now I could visualize the players with their legs all rubbery and joints aching all over. Things went back and forth with the game tied until Pierce lost the ball to Joakim Noah (the Bulls' top agitator), Noah makes the basket, and Pierce FOULS HIM and one! (WTF!)

Well that was pretty much it. Rondo makes another basket off a tip, gets the ball stuffed in his face by Rose on a potential go-ahead basket, and it could have ended right there had Rose made his free throws on what would seem to be an intentional foul by Brian Scalabrine.

Seeing the final score hurt. Apparently they called the last play for Rondo, who took a three-pointer from nowhere (again, to be fair, they had only three seconds left on the game clock) when RAY frickin' ALLEN was frickin' UNCONSCIOUS for the latter part of the game. (AGAIN, A HOOOOOYUGGGGGE WTF!)

Now that I couldn't sleep I just had to write this.

I really wish they would cover Game 7 so I could see whether the Celtics would redeem themselves at home. I won't be able to stand following the game over the 'Net. Not again. I already did that last year on the Celts' win in the NBA Finals. I just want to be there to watch the end of this series, and while I would bleed green if they lose, I wouldn't really mind. Chicago was a worthy opponent, and if they had a better coach, they might have put this series to bed already.

It's not the result, but that I could share in it and be with the team in spirit until the end.

The sun is way, way up and I haven't slept more than 40 minutes in the past 10 hours. Guess I couldn't do myself wrong by grabbing breakfast.