Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thankless and Shameless

I am blogging this as I wait for my 830pm flight to Bangkok via Thai Air—finally, an airline that actually serves "hot meal" onboard, and not packaged biscuits and commercial nuts. It's now 721pm, and I still have some time to kill amidst endless PA announcements for some Pinoy-packed Gulf Air flight being delayed.

After waiting for thirty stressful minutes at Pasong Tamo for a dratted cab ride to the airport, I finally saw an approaching empty cab. As I hailed it and started hauling my luggage, the driver rolled down his window and asked where I was headed to. An ominous feeling of eventual rejection started to sink in. When I told him I'm bound for the airport, he casually—and mind you, quite cocksure of himself—said that I'd HAVE to pay him 300bucks! I was like, WTF??! In my semi-desperation (it was almost 6pm and check-in starts in 5mins...and I was still 40mins away), I despairingly said, "No. 200 lang." To my consternation and disgust, he said no and started rolling away...but not without mumbling something like, "Para isandaan lang e..." I had to stifle the urge to pick up the rock on the sidewalk and fling it to his windshield. Bastard.

After finally getting a cab with a courteous and maabilidad with traffic driver—and paying just P150 (P30 tip included)—It was finally time for checking-in. Check-in and customs clearing were uneventful. But as I was going through screening, a renewed surge of kabwisitan caught me.

I knew the drill...I've gone through hundreds of security checks in several international airports by now. I took a plastic basket, and dumped into it all my coins, my phone, iPod, belt and—after getting into my trusty old flipflops so I don't get to walk barefoot on the filthy carpeted floor—my sneakers. As soon as I placed my toad bag on the conveyor belt, the person manning the metal detector blurted out with a smirk, "Wow, Prada...wala bang pa-ambon dyan?" I was still in a state of disbelief as I gathered my things. I had to stifle a remark such as, "Dun ka sa labas, umuulan...nang mamatay ka sa pulmunya.", and just forced-grinned at him and said, "Are you even sure it's genuine Prada?". I didn't bother waiting for a reply lest I’d need to show the authenticity card in the inside pocket if he answered otherwise...and I walked away, shaking my head.

Not even fully recovered from what just happened, I approached the guard at Gate 10 and showed my boarding pass. He didn't even look at my documents, and out of the blue, casually said, "Wala ba Sir maski pa-kape lang dyan?"—with the same ngiting aso as the metal detector guy. I had to make sure I heard him correctly, and said incredulously, "Anoo?!" Believe you me, he repeated exactly what he said some three seconds ago, this time with matching Charades action: gesturing a drinking in a cup motion, as if I was stupid and did not understand plain words. I lost it. I glared at him wide-eyed and “Mukha ba ako dispenser ng Nescafe? Umayos ka Manong ha!”, and then marched away with an even more vigorous shaking of my head.

What is wrong with our people? Have our concepts of industry, dignity, service, genuine concern, and helpfulness gone AWOL and their absence completely messed up our humanity? Why can’t we do our jobs or at the very least, an extra amount or degree of service and kindness without expecting anything in return? Have we become too uncaring and thick-skinned to even exert an iota of (moral) excellence and be, for once, selfless? In the greater scheme of things, when exactly did this what’s-in-it-for-me mentality start devouring our philanthropic faculties?

Which brings me to this other concept: tips. In the United States, if you do not give a (15%) tip to a server, you get a rap and may even be forced to shell moolah out. And back home, everything from salon service to mail delivery/courier service to cab fare to restaurant service…all have an unspoken “required” tip. It’s some established practice which everybody seems to have been complying with since I don’t know when. Looking it up on Dictionary.com, I’ve found that a TIP is defined as a “gratuity; something given without claim or demand.” Now, why is it that tipping has become such a sine qua non in our daily transactions? Tipping should only be an act of appreciation for exactly this: an exceptional service that created a delightful experience…not a requisite charge. No great service, no tip.

Here are some experiences I’ve had involving tips:

§ The restaurant that I ate in made me wait for my salad for about thirty minutes, gave the wrong dressing and took forever to give me my change. Their service charge was incredulous, so I did not leave even a single penny;

§ A cab driver in Cebu gave me exact change for a 42.50 peso fare and did not even hint for a tip;

§ A Sky Cop at the Houston Airport did nothing for us except give us a pushcart for our luggage, but as I felt compelled to give him a tip, I gave two dollars, to which he quipped “Just this???!”…so I irritably replied, “Gramps, you didn’t do shit for me, you should be grateful I even gave you that!”

§ In one of my provincial tours, I had a cheap-ass haircut for 40 bucks. He did an excellent job; I gave him 50 bucks tip—higher than the haircut itself.

In my discernment, I think we are all responsible for brainwashing service people to expect tips or other forms of reward for any—that is, not even extraordinary—service they provide. This should not be how things are. Rewards—assuming there should even be some form of it—are to be a pure luxury, something out of the kindness of the recipients’ heart, and nothing mandatory. Again, (extra) service—in any of its form or dimensions—should be given with nothing expected in return…that is the true essence of admirable customer service.

Nakakahiya. Do these people that I encountered today do the same exact thing to fellow Pinoys…or worse, foreign tourists? Geesh.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You Wicked Little Thing

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. It's the prequel to L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It focuses on the life of Elphaba, that poor misunderstood green-skinned girl who eventually turned out to become the Wicked Witch of the West that Dorothy and her crew ended up killing.

No. This is NOT a children's book. It is dark, sad, and is drizzled with adult profanity here and there. So, why would you want to read it? Because it is quite interesting and a wee bit captivating...especially if you're the vicarious reader type.

Now, now...it's quite a read. And you don't have lots of time. Or maybe you just waste half of your day's time commuting and staring at either traffic or your MRT/FX seatmate's sorry excuse for legs. So, you need something to get you by and save your sanity.

Tada. Wicked Audiobook! As read by actor John McDonough (sinoraw???? Hinde sya sikat, so don't bother Googling him).

It's a good 20 hours of listening, divided into three segments. Let me just reiterate, however, that it is NOT for the weak of heart.

Download all three files/links here:

Link 1
Link 2
Link 3


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Big F*cking Waste...

...that's how the Earth was in the 22nd century--a planet overrun by unrecycled waste, it eventually became so polluted that it could no longer support life. In an attempt to keep humanity alive, the government's president sponsored a five-year exodus from Earth aboard a fleet of luxury starliners called The Axiom (with a fully-automated robot crew) that would support every need of the humans onboard. Hundreds of thousands of waste-disposal robots were left behind to clean up the planet by compacting the trash into cubes and stacking them into skyscraper-like towers for easy disposal. But by 2011, it was determined that the Earth was already way too toxic for the space-travellers to return...so everyone would have to stay in space and survive from within the space craft.

Or at least, that's how the movie Wall-E painted the picture of what Earth would be like.

It was a stretch, I know, considering the timelines and the feasibilities of space living/survival. But when you really think about it, at the rate things are going with global warming, greenhouse effect, la niña, widespread pollution, toxic levels, etc., it doesn't really take much to imagine it happening to Earth sooner or later.

The movie Wall-E is heartwarming, funny, novel, charming and light. Having watched the trailer and seeing posters and teasers some weeks ago, I had the initial assumption that this was going to be a "love story" between robots--if there ever was such a thing. (It stirred some form of nostalgia in me, calling upon high school memories of an 80s movie called "*Batteries Not Included", which likewise involved a "love story" between to supposedly inanimate objects.) But, having watched the movie in its entirety--twice, for that matter--I realize that the "love story" aspect of it just came as a bonus.

Wall-E, or Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class, is a dirty mechanical old-school tank-like prototype, and is one curious robot. He looks at certain garbage with inquisitive eyes and uses an approach akin to humans' sense of sentimental valuation. He is a hopeless romantic, left with nobody except for a friendly and obedient cockroach variety. He was the last WALL-E unit left roaming the Earth, and had been alone since the last waste allocator unit failed. That was until EVE came along. EVE, or Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator, is a state-of-the-art, iPod-like skinned, and "sexy" robot. She does what she was programmed to do--to probe the Earth for evidence of life...and that's what all she was going to do. Having met Wall-E, however, changed all that. A friendship ensued, albeit shortlived as she had to be plucked out of the Earth and brought back to The Axiom for testing of her discovery (i.e. the living plant).

The "love story" of the two robots proved to be very refreshing. There were no words involved--no "i love yous" or "i missed you" or "will you be mine" or the likes. It was just love in its unadulterated state. Aside from love, the movie likewise showed a myriad of positive emotions: selflessness, sense of duty, commitment to the people, friendship and standing by each other, innocence, appreciation of beauty, inquisitiveness, hope, and taking care of others. This is one movie you would definitely want to take your kids to watch with you, and not some violent movie disguised as an animated featurette.

More than the love story/friendship angle, the environmental awareness feature of the movie was totally laudable. It was compelling--particularly the first few portions of the movie where the utter barrenness and emptiness of Earth was highlighted. The music of Thomas Newman particularly pummeled the almost-reality of such toxic and desolate world with its ominous sound and almost melancholic melodies by the orchestra. Showing how the human species had been leading sedentary, careless lives and being almost literally taken over by machines/computers was almost prophetic for me--it seems almost real that as early as this century, we are already living this kind of life. And again, this is the kind of movie that you would want to take your kids to, and take some quality bonding time by processing the lessons from the movie with them. Trust me, this will be your contribution to Mother Earth.

And although the plot seemed a wee bit slow to climax, it was well-worth the wait. I can't seem to imagine anybody going out of the movie theaters feeling short-changed. I'd give it two thumbs up...or raise whatever finger(s) EVE/WALL-E's got. Trust me, it's one of the more imaginatively made and individual pieces of work that the Pixar has developed. Pixar has completely outdone itself. They just keep getting better and better. And you thought Finding Nemo was their best so far. Of course, in saying that, a bunch of people might disagree...but, heck, this is MY review...so make your own. ;p

I'd like to just close this mini-review with that one line the Captain said to Control, "I don't want to survive. I want to live". That line was particularly incisive, you wouldn't expect that coming from a fat animated man.

For those who want ringtones and message alert tones from the movie, I've compiled a few in a WinRAR file, all in WAV and MP3 format. Click here to download. Share the love and forward it to your buddies. :-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The New F Word

what F word? anobah. eh di fuck. asus. you've been on my Multiply page long enough for you to know that i ain't playing it tweetums.

so, anyway...

the new F word, according to urban lingo, is RAM. yes. like the animal. or the truck that represents the animal.

so, if you're in a club, or the gym, or a dark alley, or just casually walking and doing your window-shopping and suddenly this chick/dude gives you the eye...the dirty look--which you almost-certainly know what is about--go do the following step-by-step:

1. raise your eyebrow (to acknowledge her/him) or if you can't do that (what a loser), then wink

2. gently wet your lower lip and then crack a smile--this goes as a combo with number 1...but you gotta do it nicely lest be thought of as a retard

3. approach the target (or, if you're more conservative, wait for her/him to be the predator and you the prey)

4. and after an almost perfunctory HEY (easy on the H...make it smooth, tiger), say the magic word: Wanna ram?

There. Spread the legs...er....the word, and make this world a rammable place.