November 15, 2005

Five X'mas Gifts for Your Stepdad

1. Prime Real Estate
Nothing is good for your stepdad but the most expensive piece of real estate there is. Such love for him means that what you'll get is far more upscale than a lot in Forbes Park or Alabang. Think of rolling hills with crisp morning air, lots of cypress trees, bermuda grass all around and a church nearby. There is no loud music, no noxious traffic fumes, but there is a 24hour security for your safety. What better place to give your leech of a step dad but a nice niche inside Rolling Hills memorial park.

2. An Exotic Beach Vacation
Your stepfather deserves all the rest and recreation he can muster after ingratiating his slimy tentacles in your family tree. He needs the sun, white sand beaches and turquoise waters of a tropical island, where the natives massage his back with coconut oil. Why don't you give him a one-way ticket to one of the world's most pristine tropical isle in the South Pacific: Bikini Atoll. Site of the US's first testing of its atomic bombs in a tropical atoll, Bikini Atoll offers your stepdad unlimited supply of UV and gamma rays for quick and easy tanning, friendly islanders who love the taste of fresh meat and ownership of undiscovered aquatic species like the three-eyed barracuda. He will have the sole privilege of reliving the life of Alexander Selkirk (the real Robinson Crusoe) sans Friday or the Internet. Or die trying.

3. Full Treatment Massage
For all the stress your spineless stepfather has wrought upon himself and your family, surely, he needs one hell of a good massage to soothen his nerves when he finds out that he is persona non grata with you, your family's servants, your relatives and everyone of consequence. Wouldn't it be Christian for you to offer him one day full body massage at a local spa? He would be indebted for your mercy when he realizes that his masseur is a 300 lbs. on-parole gay wrestler named Igor.

4. Trip to Enchanted Kingdom
It would be great quality time for you and your new stepdad to bond with each other with new fun activities like going to theme parks such as Enchanted Kingdom. It will be just like your old dad. You can go on the Viking Ship or the Ferris wheel or the Tunnel of Love. Better yet, have your new dad test their scariest rollercoaster ride first before joining him. Just make sure to pay extra to the controller to have the ride go on for at least a hundred times. Or you can go with him at the Splash mountain ride whereupon at the point of no return, snap free his seatbelt so he can enjoy the fun of going overboard midair at 100 feet above ground.

5. Bottle of Johnny Walker Whiskey.
One way of showing how much you have accepted your new daddy, buy him a 750cl. bottle of Johnny Walker whiskey or even Remy Martin cognac. Before doing so, get a syringe and fill it with cyanide, and mix it with his drink as you are to serve him in a symbolic gesture of acknowleging his authority over you. That is, for an hour or two, whereupon his lifeless body has slumped on the floor to which you attribute it to too much drink. Taking into account the beautiful state of forensic science in the provinces, it would probably take ten lifetimes to know the real cause of death of your new love one. Pity.

November 07, 2005

Posters for Sale

I hope I can entreat you guys to visit my other site where from time to time I shall post items for sale.

Jules' Garage Sale:

Present sale items: Hollywood Movie Posters

November 02, 2005

Amazing Thailand 2


When you're in Thailand, make sure you reserve one weekend for the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It's on Saturdays and Sundays only that this great shopping trip transpires.

The market itself is an overcrowded, overwrought open-air emporium similar to a Turkish bazaar where the heat and humdity eats you whole, where the people speak in a language way far stranger than Malay, where the aromas of spiced meats, curried stews, grilled satays, basil, chilies, lemon grass, ginger, and cardamom mix in with sweat, teakwood, sandalwood, dust, paper and mildew.

The multinational crowds who descend on Chatuchak are immense- foreigners haggling in pidgin English for bronze buddhas while Thai merchants calculate the price on their calculators, young Thais eating hot meat curries, Tom Yum Goong, or noodles al fresco amid the chaos, Asian tourists sampling the different Thai snacks being sold along alleyways, or families looking harrassed with all the plastic bags they're carrying.

It's a place that has something for everyone. And the pleasure is in the hunt. There are lots of hard dealing and bargaining since what you see in one stall, you will also find in the next. So haggling is a must. My sister, whose haggling acumen is excellent, managed to buy bronze Buddha heads for a B100. I bought good after-sports shoes there for B350. But most of the artifacts scattered are reproductions especially made for the tourist trade or for cheap home furnishings. The real antiques in Chatuchak have also "antique" prices. Thais know the real McCoy. It's the tourists who are in a bind which is real or not.

Apart from antiques, home furnishings cram many aisles in Chatuchak. From oriental umbrellas, to teakwood stools and trays, to incense paraphernalia, to silk pillowcases with elephantine designs, to cheap trinkets, and to lamps, the place is the ultimate homeowner's paradise. One can get lost among the goods and one's wallet can ultimately become thin before the day is over. Even though the heat is stifling, the urge is there to scour the entire complex for bargains galore. It's surprising that no one gets heat stroke there.

Also, there are souvenir shirts, leather sandals, stylish dresses, and knock-off pants. They have brands that are uniquely Chatuchak. It's like a factory outlet crossed with Ukay-ukay. Besides the garments, there are toys, used books, Thai magazines, and other what-nots. Chatuchak is their version of Divisoria. The nice thing though, Chatuchak is very well organized, the people polite, the smells exotic and there's just so much to discover- unlike the monochromatic and Somalia-like stalls we have in Divisoria. While they have ample room to brisk through their wares, we have to struggle with shoulders and vendors that eat up the alleys. Oh well.

And if you're a Filipino shopping in Chatuchak, the salesladies usually speak to you in Thai thinking you're a native. Flattering but not an advantage for us because we surely can't understand what they're ululating about. But it's only when you tell them to speak in English that they shake their heads and apologize quickly. They then turn to that touristy pidgin English hoping to lure your for another buy. Of course, the only language they undestand is the language of my fingers tapping the calculator and shoving it in their faces. But thankfully, almost all understand a smattering of English, so we were able to bargain well.

Chatuchak.... shopper's paradise. When in Bangkok, don't miss it.

The Kite Runner

The novel, The Kite Runner (2003) by Khaled Hosseini is perhaps one of the best fiction novels to come out of the US in the last five years. It's amazing to think that this is the debut novel of a Bay Area doctor. It's haunting and the memory of the heart-wrenching story remains with the reader even after the last page has been put down. To quote a fellow blogger who reviewed it, the Kite Runner "sucks you in, chews your insides, and spits you out after." Highly, highly recommended!

I hate dishing out synopsis for the fact that many others have been writing them and regurgitating them again and again. So here's the jist from written by Gisele Toueg:

The Kite Runner follows the story of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, and Hassan, the son of Amir's father's servant. As children in the relatively stable Afghanistan of the early 1970s, the boys are inseparable. They spend idyllic days running kites and telling stories of mystical places and powerful warriors until an unspeakable event changes the nature of their relationship forever, and eventually cements their bond in ways neither boy could have ever predicted. Even after Amir and his father flee to America, Amir remains haunted by his cowardly actions and disloyalty. In part, it is these demons and the sometimes impossible quest for forgiveness that bring him back to his war-torn native land after it comes under Taliban rule. ("...I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.")

The novel is both educational (in the sense that it brings to light in clear and simple terms the nuances of Afghani life, honor, prejudices and customs), and emotional that you will be sucked into the story forgetting that this is fiction and not a memoir. I have learned more about Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora here than in CNN or BBC. You will learn that Pashtuns look down on Hazaras, that lineage and honor is more valued than money, or the countless food Afghanis eat which is altogether similar to Indian food (kabobs, samosas, tandoori-baked naan bread, etc.)

And this is the first novel that made me cry- most probably because of the parallelism of the fate of Baba's dad with my own. But anyone who reads this will probably cry too. You will feel too the emotional turmoil of Amir, the reserved love of Baba, the braveness of Hassan and the wickedness of Affez. All the characters have been well fleshed out with lots of multilayering and character change. From the insecure yet concerned Amir to his strict yet noble father, Baba, to Amir's friend Hassan whose unwavering loyalty and friendship is unbelievable, and to Farid who at first detests Amir but became his friend in the process. For that alone, you will enjoy the book immensely.

The book rarely used high falluting words or swathes of philosophical reveries just to fill out the pages. Rather, the author created daily experiences and anecdotes so vivid and fresh that one will forget that this is not autobiographical (although Hosseini admitted that many of the experiences are in one way or another was adapted from his own and from his relatives' stories). And Hosseini's description of the Afghanistan of yesteryears is so vivid that one can smell the lamb kebobs wafting along cramped bazaar alleyways or the sweet taste of pomegranates from the sun-drenched hill where Amir and Hassan once played. This is the first book that made me appreciate the richness and gentleness of pre-Taliban Afghanistan.

Now, The Kite Runner has become one of my all-time favorite novels. I hope it will be yours too.

Language 4*/5*
Writing Skill 5*/5*
Flow 5*/5*

Story 3.5*/5*