Monthly Archives: April 2011

The tongue of the times

Over the weekend, I watched three new films: Rio and Red Riding Hood in the theaters, and Season of the Witch on DVD. Rio I loved, and as evidenced by Lynda’s constant laughter even though it was her second time watching it, is proof that there are still films out there which will make you laugh every time, no matter how many times you watch them. When it was over, we decided the next movie we would like to watch was Red Riding Hood.

So on Sunday, Afham and I decided to catch Red Riding Hood (I figured I could watch it again when Farah, Lynda and Nana want to watch it) at The Gardens. The last time I saw Amanda Seyfried, it was in Mean Girls, and I wasn’t very impressed with her dumb-blond character then. But I had read positive reviews about her performance in Red Riding Hood, and I was drawn by the supernatural theme of the movie, so I was quite excited about watching it.

'Red Riding Hood'

The one thing I noticed right away was that the characters all spoke in American English. And that was when I realized that all my life — influenced by films like The Lord of the Rings and King Arthur as well as the years I spent studying Linguistics for my degree — I’ve equated period films, especially medieval ones, with British English (I am aware that, as much as I love it, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a stark exception, as clearly it didn’t cross anyone’s mind that Kevin Costner might sound very much like an immigrant with his all-American accent). I know this is a very strange thing as King Arthur was clearly set in Britain, but then I remembered that even Sleepy Hollow, which is set in the village of the same name in Westchester County, New York, had its characters speaking in British English. So, swallowing my disappointment as early on in the film as I could, I focused as hard as possible on the story.

Until I heard Amanda Seyfriend say, “Papa, just go into the house, OK?” and was stunned out of my silence. I clutched Afham’s arm and hissed, “I don’t think people back then said ‘OK’!” To me, it was a travesty: how could the filmmakers — or at least the scriptwriters — have overlooked the fact that in a place and time so obviously medieval, if not vaguely European, people just did not say “OK”? And if in fact they had remembered that, did they just decide not to waste extra time and film redoing that scene, when all it would have taken was a simple “Remember now, Mandy, don’t say ‘OK’!”?

Then later that night, before going to bed, Afham and I decided to watch the Season of the Witch DVD which we had bought a couple of weeks ago — another medieval film (can you tell I’m a sucker for these films yet?) I knew nothing about but thought it wouldn’t hurt to watch anyway. And as I looked at Nicolas Cage’s face taking up almost the entire DVD menu screen, I wondered aloud if he had learned anything from watching Kevin Costner.

'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves'

It turns out he had learned all the wrong things, and he wasn’t the only one. Ron Perlman was right there beside him. Hearing Nicolas Cage say, “Shit!” after watching Red Riding Hood merely resulted in me throwing up my hands in silent protest and Afham letting out a single guffaw, but what disappointed me even more about this film was that half the characters spoke semi-British or pseudo-Scottish English, whilst the other half spoke American English. And while one can maybe blame the language in Red Riding Hood on the vagueness of its setting, it is impossible to do the same for a film about two knights from an ancient German Teutonic order fighting in the Smyrniote Crusades.

And there, on the far right, were the two brave knights, for whom language skills were surely a plight

That said, I may very well be the only one picking the bones here. It’s true that my obsession with European history and love for languages and their structure and origins have raised my awareness of accents and made me a stickler for using them when they should be used, but my disappointment in these two films extend mostly to the filmmakers’ seeming lack of research and attention to detail. The stories themselves are not really half-bad, by today’s standards, but sometimes the little details can be the difference that a film needs.

The mightiest minds and the weakest hearts

One of the corporate world’s biggest faults is its constant need for publicity, whether the right or wrong kind. To many corporations, any publicity is good publicity, even if it started out bad. When someone from the mass public writes to the editor of a newspaper to snipe about the abysmal treatment they received at the hands of, say, a bank, the story is immediately put on a merry-go-round so that when it finally gets published, people will read it and say how the bank had been wronged and accused of something that had been blown far out of proportion. That way, the bad publicity becomes good publicity, and corporations will go to any lengths to get that kind of publicity. At the same time, one must ask just how far will they are willing to go.

Two years ago, a local corporation teamed up with a local newspaper to come up with a competition for schoolchildren all over the country, which the former deemed a Corporate Social Responsibility effort, and the latter called a spin on its educational section. There were high hopes for this, because previous efforts involving children had been deemed successful, and nobody saw why this one should fail — until the very end of its inaugural season, amidst all the gloating about wanting to help children.

I suppose to some extent, there was some genuine and altruistic desire to do this for the greater good of the young generation. But just like how people can never really change, corporations can never resist that lean, however slight, towards what they see to be for their own greater good.

It didn’t help either that this is a country known for its plummeting standards of English, which are curiously — and sometimes wrongfully — attributed to the respective standards in each individual state. So when it came time to determine from the scores the five state teams who would advance to the final stage of this competition, and the realization dawned that the one state which has been stereotyped as the benchmark for the standard of English in this country would actually make it into the finals for one of the two competition categories, the organizers began to question whether or not the state should even be in the finals. Many arguments were put forth: if the team from the capital city did not make it into the finals, the volume of spectators and supporters — and consequently the publicity for both companies — would be greatly diminished, and if the guest of honor saw for himself during the presentation session of the finals just how far the standard of English had fallen in that particular state, it would make them look bad.

Nobody appeared to consider for a moment that these kids, who had already been given that unfortunate language stereotype, had come this far precisely because they had been able to overcome some, if not all, of the difficulties that the stereotype so cruelly stated: that they could not speak English. Nobody seemed to think about how these kids had worked and slogged so hard to be among the five states out of fourteen that qualified for the finals, only to be shunned in the end for the sake of a good audience turnout. And if anyone had even briefly considered these matters at all, it was the need for publicity and the sting of pride that in the end dictated their actions.

So the scores were adjusted. Altered. Fudged. The team from the underdog state was unceremoniously, if secretly, pushed down to sixth place, and the team from the capital city made it into fourth place. The biggest irony was that immediately after the scores were fudged, the capital city’s team in the other category legitimately made it into the finals. The capital city was now officially in the finals for both the competition’s categories. Everyone outside of the scorekeepers’ room was never the wiser, and the underdog state went back to being just that: the underdog.

To some degree it doesn’t matter which organizer initiated the act of deceit, because both parties were equally and heartily agreeable to it. It doesn’t even matter that both companies got exactly the kind of publicity and the support in numbers that they had always wanted. What matters, and matters greatly, is that in the end, nobody who deserved a chance to change the way some things have always been, ever got that chance, in spite of all the public promises and dreams that had been driven into the minds of these young and impressionable people.

It is a secret that is all at once deeply shocking and totally unsurprising. Yes, what the organizers did was horrible, many people say, but what the organizers did is what any other company in their position would have done too. Which is a very disturbing fact because not only does it virtually condone what these companies are clearly not above doing, it has taken away every last shred of meaning of the term Corporate Social Responsibility, which corporations take so much pride in because it shows the world that they are more than just glass doors and cash cows, and it shows that ultimately all they want is public recognition, even if it is for the wrong things.

This competition still goes on today, organized by the same corporation and newspaper, and is in its third season. That corporation no longer means anything to me, and up until this moment I have never written about the day I sat and watched them carefully changing the numbers on the score sheet — knowing that everything I tried to say to discourage them from this despicable act would fall on deaf ears. But the memory of that day will haunt me for a very long time, because it means that no matter how against it I was, I had a part to play, however indirectly, in depriving those kids who just wanted to show their country that they could be better than everyone thought them to be.

Not from concentrate

I finally completed my 7-day juice fast, and although I don’t really remember very much of it, I have to say it was something I needed very badly. All the food, alcohol and coffee that I had been consuming lately definitely needed to be exterminated somehow, and while I was cranky and irritable from the lack of caffeine in my system, every cup of juice made me feel a little bit better.

How I did it:

Research. I read up on juice fasts and made sure to look at the fruits and vegetables that were considered safe to have during juice fasts. I’ve never been a fan of melon-type fruits like cantaloupe or watermelon, or acidic ones like pineapple, so I stuck with the ones that I’ve liked since childhood: apple, orange, guava, starfruit and grapes. I also listed cucumber and celery for my vegetable intake (although I later stopped eating celery because it tasted weird, and just stayed with the cucumber).

Preparation. My mother was very supportive of my decision to go on this fast (probably because she wanted to see for herself if it worked on me so that she could give it a try as well), so she actually made me list down everything that I needed so that she could get it for me, when I was just planning to get it myself the day before I started my fast. Listing it all down helped, because I was able to plan my regime for the day and I knew what I was going to have at specific times of the day. I decided that since I have a full-time job and couldn’t be blending my fruits at all hours of the day, I would have to settle for juice in the mornings and nights, and eating my vegetables during the day at work. So my regime turned out looking like this:

Morning: Apple + guava juice, apple slices
Mid-morning: Cucumber slices/sticks
Lunchtime: Cucumber slices/sticks
Mid-afternoon: Cucumber slices/sticks
Evening: Orange juice, starfruit slices
Night: Orange juice, grapes

Execution. Obviously, juice fasting is more difficult than it looks. I’ve always liked eating fruits and vegetables, but when they become all you can rely on to survive, it can be very trying. Not only have I been accustomed to having coffee everyday to fight the drowsiness and chocolate to calm my sweet tooth, but I was also on this juice fast during PMS so my hormones, and therefore my appetite and temper, were raging, thus making me the biggest bitch towards most people I came in contact with. So every time I felt the hunger pangs — or tears — coming, especially in the office, I dove for my stash of cucumbers (Yes, I brought these to work with me every single day, safely hidden in a bag so that my colleagues wouldn’t think I was insane), and when I got home from work, I would drink at least two glasses of juice so that the fluid would give me the feeling of being full. I also maintained my nightly routine of green tea, which I have been drinking religiously every single night for the past five years, and forced myself to take a wheatgrass shot from Juice Works whenever I could.



The most important thing, which my high-energy job proved,  is to not laze around when you’re on a juice fast, because keeping the energy levels up will help to burn the unnecessary fat and flush the toxins faster, not to mention take your mind off the need to eat regular food.

Results. My natural terror of weight scales since 2008 made me forget to weigh myself before I started the fast, so weighing myself now would not be of any help. However, as weight loss was secondary to the detoxification, I think I can actually feel myself being lighter from the lack — whether real or perceived — of toxins in my body, and less bloated from the lack of salt. It may have broken my caffeine addiction cycle, but it didn’t make me feel the need for coffee any less, which is one of the things that bothers me the most from this whole process because I am well aware of how bad too much coffee is for a person. Nevertheless, I’m fairly happy with the results, and I will definitely do this again when the time draws near for my next film or photoshoot.

Who says dieting from home has to be a torture?