ironic

October 2, 2019

it was “surreal” last night.  on ABC last night, it featured MoJo (an iconic advertising consultancy and, eventually, a “full-blown” agency)that influenced and shaped Australia.  For those that don’t know, ABC  is a national TV channel that’s mainly funded by the government and disallows all forms of commercialism (including ads) – you can’t even discuss (much less promote) any brands on their shows.

it was so meta.  Admittedly, they have a programme called Gruen that “humorously” critiques ads but this somehow felt different as it impacted Australian culture.  It can be argued that it was simply a mirror and a true insight into the Australian zeitgeist.

While prior to them “proper” American or British accents were used to voice over commercials, authentic Australian enunciation and expressions were instead  used (although they were considered “vulgar” by the “establishment”). i think this “honesty” was greatly appreciated by the Australian public. i now believe that you should never be ashamed of your actual heritage despite what you were “taught” and the constant stream of messages to put you down. i’ve got a feeling that’s why they dislike the old country so much – it is said that POME was originally an acronym for Prisoner Of Mother England.

Hogs (Paul Hogan better known by some Americans as Mick “Crocodile” Dundee) was the human face of a former tourism campaign – i challenge anyone to say it wasn’t effective as Australia moved from the 78th preferred holiday destination by Americans to the 7th.  Prior to him, it was all wildlife (like koalas and kangaroos) and he was even recognised, arguably, as Australian of the Year for its success.  The catchphrase was even adapted to the Yanks: “put another shrimp on the barbie” – as no one Down Under referred to them as “shrimp” but as “prawns”.  They say a real measure of a tourism campaign isn’t just about the foreign visits but also abut how good the locals feel about their country.

it wasn’t an “ugly cry” but I even surprised myself with involuntary tears and noises despite being cold-hearted – my “excuse” is my age and my ABI.  Maybe it was a combination of my wife finally expressing her true feelings (as she was busy making arrangements ) and seeing my mother-in-law (for the first time and the stark realisation dawning on me).

it’s hard not to talk about somebody else and make it about you but everything’s relative and according to your personal viewpoint – this is an entry in my blog after all.  It’s often difficult to pay “tribute” without getting any reflected light upon yourself – I’ll try to cast as small a “footprint” as possible.

i’ve always subscribed to the concept that memorials are for the benefit of those left behind.  We grieve at our loss and how our lives are less now- and sometimes fail to celebrate that the person has moved on.  Understandably,  we are just human and it is natural to feel this way but it is sometimes subject to a tinge of “selfishness”.

i think it’s rather apt that this goes out on the feast day of  St. Augustine.  i do agree that the Bishop of Hippo’s life be celebrated but “most” overlook the importance of St. Monica, his mother. And how hidden figures can be “forgotten” by history.

My mother-in law was selfless, kind, patient, understanding, amongst other things.  She had her faults, don’t get me wrong but the positives vastly outweighed the negatives.   Her penchant for not complaining about pain or discomfort was, ironically, part of her undoing.

i ran across an article  (

) recently why we hold certain people in high regard.  i argue that selflessness is an extreme form of humility.  she might have not seem intellectually curious but I suspect she was simply a product of her generation when most women were relegated to domestic duties. Perhaps, it would have been more developed under different circumstances – she did, after all, “painstakingly” tutor my wife and niece, both of whom excelled academically, and, given the opportunity, would have liked to become a teacher.

As a sign of her uttermost empathy, although she was in extreme pain, she asked about our family’s laundry situation.  That was quintessentially her.  I, guess, that was one way of externalising her love aside from cooking.

She would have not liked me making a fuss because of her but I don’t know any other way but to share her name: Lucila Legaspi Reyes.

Words are just words.  Sometimes words are not enough – this is one such instance.

last night we relocated to another place for dessert.  As we were about to leave, i went to the toilet.  Unfortunately once i unlocked the door after using the facilities, the door wouldn’t open!  Not exactly ideal for one with claustrophobia.  i had enough composure to ring the mobiles of the people i was with. i called several times, several individuals but no one picked up.  It was not until my son looked for me after several minutes (but it felt like an eternity to me) that i told him i was stuck inside. i was so panicked that i considered climbing out the window without my walking frame but the blinds didn’t want to open (it was hard to know because i was already in a panicked state.  Between me pulling and my wife pushing we were able to open the door.  i’m not going to lie: it was a very harrowing experience for me – generally, i face my fears but that is one i have yet to overcome. i’ve been told that writing about is part of “processing” it.  While i’m generally “cerebral”, fears are by their very nature irrational – it is cold comfort to me despite statistical probabilities not to “catastrophise”.

btw, we informed the remaining staff member of the incident and need to look into the issue.

stranger in a strangeland (2)

November 17, 2018

i’m a sucker for good food.

and most of what I ate was tasty.  It reminds me of Melbourne (where I studied for a year) in that on almost all street corners you could get a decent cup of coffee (kudos to the Italians!), it was like that with food.  Not that the food wasn’t good in Melbourne (like New York, it clearly was influenced by the plethora of immigrants) but the food in Tokyo was something else (they have the most Michelin restaurants in a city in the entire planet after all).  If possible i prefer “cheap” grub (but like my sister says:  “Nothing is cheap in Japan) but i’m known for saving so i can spend for an “expensive” meal – i just value experiences over things.  To paraphrase Antony Bourdain:  good food is often simple food.

over there they seem to like their KitKat ™ (apparently this translates to the Japanese kitto katsu, meaning good luck or surely win   which explain its popularity) .  They’ve got the most assortment of favours i’ve ever seen:  strawberry, apple, Tokyo banana (a lot of their snacks have a combination of this fruit with chocolate), ube (purple yam quite popular in the Philippines) , wasabi (a type of Japanese horseradish), maccha (two variants of green tea – a “sweeter” one for the kiddies and a more intense one for adults),  miso (fermented soybean), sake(there were two variants of the rice wine alcohol:  Masuizumi or plum), and soy sauce.   Those were the ones we saw.  Apparently, there are also cherry; lemon; kiwi; mango; pineapple; maple; cappuccino; blueberry cheesecake; cookies plus; apple vinegar; azuki bean (more commonly known as the adzuki bean); apricot seed; baked potato; chocolate and  grilled potato; white peach; white and yellow peach; chocobanana; banana minis; bitter chocolate; i-stick (frozen dark chocolate);  pumpkin; baby pumpkin; sports drink; strawberry fromage (French for cheese); blueberry fromage, strawberry milk, French Bretagne milk; French salt; salt watermelon; fruit parfait; college tater (which i assume is a form of potato); double berry (a combination of blueberries and strawberries);  anko (red ben paste) and maccha; red bean paste; sweet bean paste; Yubari melon (a type of Japanese cantaloupe); Nasu Kogen (geographic highlands in Japan) milk; soybean powder; strong soybean flour; Houji tea (Houjicha is a roasted, Japanese green tea); jasmine tea; maccha milk; Muscat of Alexandria (a white wine grape variety); and brandy & orange variants. I’m guessing not all were ‘successful’ or that some flavours were only available for a limited time.  My philosophy has always been to try food – if you don’t like something then fair enough, at least you tried it (that’s why it took me awhile to taste rabbit because growing up I had them as pets – forget that they’re technically rodents).  I found the Tokyo banana and “dark” maccha okay but found the ube, wasabi, and “light” maccha too sweet (i suspect they were blended with white chocolate).  i missed out on trying the soy sauce and sake variants because of “quantity” issues.

we tried McDonald’s there:  not because we craved the familiar but because they are prone to localisation.  In the Philippines, they’ve got Fried Chicken (with rice if you want) and Spaghetti prompted (i guess) by the local competitor Jollibee (and as far as i know, the only place in the world where they are ranked second as far as hamburger chains go).  My wife & i had the Ebi (Japanese for shrimp) Fillet and my son had the Chicken Teriyaki burger. For dessert, we tried the Choco Pie (not the “white” one, the other one tasted like the hazelnut spread) and the Cinnamon Melts(it was good and “deconstructed” but i’m a sucker for a decent Cinnamon Roll)).

we ate at two places that our niece recommended: a sushi and a ramen place.  Both were “cramped” and my wife had to feed me (as I needed both hands to hold onto the tables there).  The sushi restaurant was like a sushi train in that there were no servers.  Instead, you ordered your item from a touch screen and it was delivered on one of three “tracks” (i think they must have corresponded to the price).  It was “good” and my son had seven plates.  i had more but “stopped” myself as i’m trained to eat a lot.  It was a “cheap” meal and you could tell as the rice easily separated from the fish (but i prefer sashimi from sushi anyway, although the hallmark of great sushi is supposedly the quality of the rice and not the seafood).  On the other hand. you had to pre-order your food from the ramen place using a vending machine.  you could even order the house ramen to take away – we didn’t as we didn’t want the hassle of dealing with fairly strict Australian Customs.  Both were off the beaten path and hidden away,  prospective patrons were unlikely to just wander off the streets of Shinjuku and the restaurants probably relied on word-of-mouth for custom.

i first had my taste of Uni (Japanese for sea urchin) at the “cheap”sushi place.  i also tried it at an “expensive” place.  Frankly, i’m obsessed with the uni  they serve in Japan.  It tastes different and MUCH better than the ones in the US, OZ or the Philippines (regardless of the price-point).  My working theory is:  since a lot more people order it in Japan so any stock doesn’t have to be stored for a long time so it is much fresher and, therefore, tastier.

i gained some weight because as my wife puts it:  what i had in a day, i’d usually consumed in a week.  She noticed more as she had to push me around.  It was not until i got back to OZ that the difference was obvious to me:  i became heavier there but at least the kilos seemed “distributed”, here i get a “ponch” on my tummy first.

aside from seeing the sights, we try to “eat like locals” when we can – i think it opens your mind further.  As Andrew Zimmern puts it:  “Food is a passport to adventure”.  And to paraphrase the late, great Anthony Bourdain: Travel changes you.

TBC

 

 

 

aspiration vs. inspiration

October 23, 2018

it might just me being pedantic but I prefer the latter term. Sure, there’s a need to be careful that it’s not presented as ‘inspiration porn’ (as it’s known in disability circles).  In my view, if it makes you want to become a better person and it’s not a short term thing then that’s fine with me. It’s the temporary fixes that I’ve got issues with (I know the rules of grammar state you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition but sometimes it just reads and sounds better).  It’s when people look at others in a worse situation to (effectively) feel better about themselves or their lives.  If you had empathy (in my mind at least), you’d feel sadder and not necessarily more thankful – I’m not a very positive person but that feels like the focus is more skewed towards the negative – like the schadenfreude people get from reality tv or the internet.

I consider (big surprise) Prof. Stephen Hawking to be inspirational but not aspirational.  I’m nowhere as smart as him (nor do I pretend to be anywhere close). It’s unrealistic reference points that seem to me the source of so much unhappiness and ‘malcontentment’.  Be your  best self, not what ‘others’ expect you to be (much easier said than done).  Measuring up to certain aspects of him (he’s only human after all and thus imperfect) is foolhardy.  To paraphrase from the book:  “The Spirituality of Imperfection”, it’s not about the outcomes wise men achieved but seeking what they sought – it’s more of the process of ‘enlightenment’.

There’s always a danger with role-models:  emulation is desirable but putting someone on a pedestal can easily morph into ‘blind’ (pardon the pun) idolatry or ‘paragonism’.

sing

November 6, 2017

 

last week a choir performed this song.  I haven’t heard it in awhile being in OZ but it’s one of my favourite hymns. It made sense that they sung the English version so that most people could understand.

Strangely, the original is by St. Ignatius of Loyola and for some reason my personality clashes with the Jesuits.  The point is (regardless of spirituality), we should always aspire to be more selfless.  I don’t claim to be so inclined but the reminder to be generous is always welcome.

The English lyrics can be found below but I find the Tagalog version more beautiful and expressive.  There are many versions (most of which you can find on YouTube)  but I still prefer the one by the Bukas-Loob Ministry.

To paraphrase St. Augustine:  “Those who sing pray twice.”  A certain person inadvertently was mistaken  when he claimed to originate the saying (having received an Augustinian education I’m reasonably certain).  I’ve grown to be an admirer, who doesn’t like a good redemption story (I think that requires a seperate blog entry).

I may no longer have the ability to do it outwardly but in my mind, I still sing.

PRAYER FOR GENEROSITY (with English lyrics)

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous
Teach me to serve You as I should
To give and not to count the cost
To fight and not to heed the wounds
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labor and ask not for reward
Save that of knowing that I do Your most holy will

 

PANALANGIN SA PAGIGING (PRAYER FOR GENEROSITY in Tagalog)

Panginoon, turuan Mo akong maging bukas palad
Turuan Mo akong maglingkod sa Iyo
Na magbigay ng ayon sa nararapat
Na walang hinihintay mula sa Iyo

Na makibakang ‘di inaalintana
Mga hirap na dinaranas
Sa tuwina’y magsumikap na hindi humahanap
Ng kapalit na kaginhawahan
Na ‘di naghihintay kundi ang aking mabatid
Na ang loob Mo’y siyang sinusundan

Panginoon, turuan Mo akong maging bukas palad
Turuan Mo akong maglingkod sa Iyo
Na magbigay ng ayon sa nararapat
Na walang hinihintay mula sa Iyo

worse for wear

October 10, 2017

i won’t lie – I’m bit upset.  Just came from my NeuroPhysio and although my Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA) test wasn’t too bad it was the first time I can recall it getting worse. This coupled with my recent falls (of which I rarely did), the return of what seems like the “shaking” of my hands, and my recent battles with anxiety is genuinely concerning to me.

She agrees that it would have been much worse if not for my exercising daily (and I have to do “quite a few”). Improvements have always been unrealistic – our goal was always keeping it from getting worse.  Because the doctors still can’t identify it, there is no timeline I can refer to – it may go downhill rather quickly at any time like it did at the onset before it “stabilsed”.  She gave me additional exercises to see if these help.

I’m naturally pessimistic but stubborn.  It’s not my nature and was raised not to wallow but have learned that I can’t keep everything bottled in like I usually do.  I think I’ve got the right to feel overwhelmed sometimes.  I felt afraid so I cried.  It was cathartic and necessary for me to move on.