Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kite-flying in Calatagan

I absolutely love flying kites. As a kid, I used to fly a dual-line delta stunt kite with my siblings on a sugarcane field right across our house. So, when I'm given the opportunity to fly a kite (even a single-line toy kite), I easily drop photography and can have fun for hours under the sun with the kite and the wind... and tangled strings (but untangling string is less fun, of course). There was even a time I chased my kite through the exhibit airplanes' parking lot in Clark Field, Pampanga because the kite's line snapped with the strong wind (and the kite reached the airport hangar)!

One Sunday, Matty took out his dual-line power kite because this was more of a relaxation and try-something-new day, rather than a wakeboarding day. The conditions were just right for kite-flying too: lots of wind, no trees or electric lines where the kite would get entangled on. 

I've never flown a power kite before, nor a kite with two lines attached to a control bar, so it was a welcome challenge. And his kite was definitely bigger than my stunt kite (the latter had two handles and no brake lines). This was fun! The kite was generating enough pull to drag me through sand; I tumbled a few times but was mostly stable flying it. 

I guess my secret hobby is out. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Birdman (2014)

Chaotic. That's how I describe the protagonist's mind. The music suggested a very active mind, coupled with that raspy voice egging him along. The ever narrowing and darkening corridors of the theatre were closing in on him just before he hit the stage. After all, the hero of the movie was a has-been. He was an actor who's claim to fame was his stint as the superhero character Birdman.

Of course there's some humour underneath the surface. Michael Keaton, in no way a has-been, used to play another winged superhero, Batman. I'm sure that the Bat's not haunting him straight to the theatre though. Other characters were portrayed by actors who were castmembers of other superhero movies too. 

What's blindingly obvious was the absence of the castmembers of The Avengers franchise; so, the Avengers themselves made a cameo. Hahaha!

The way the movie ended still has me baffled. Did he or did he not... Fly? To me, this ending is akin to Inception's spinning top. I'd say...

Nah. I need to watch Birdman again before I can claim that I've understood the ending. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Oh, I fractured my wrist. X(

Almost four weeks after my snowboarding misadventure, my left wrist was still swollen and bruised. I was really puzzled and concerned about this because my previous sprain was nothing like this: I was able to walk without crutches after a few days and was traveling to Bangkok within a week of the injury. Therefore, my hand must have sustained a more serious issue. I had talked with my orthopaedic doctor about this, which was why he had recommended MRI be done on my hand. This might be ligamentous injury, he had said.

The MRI machine must have been taken straight out of Avatar or Interstellar. As I was being conveyed into the machine, I had to remember that I wasn't allowed to move over the duration of the scan. I think I fell asleep at some point, thanks to the calming effect of the steady beeping sounds (which I could hear despite the ear plugs). I was told that the results would be sent directly to my doctor and off I went.

A few days later, during my check-up, the doctor was smiling at me when he had a look at my scans. No, the results weren't pretty: I had bone marrow oedema and multiple linear fractures on the distal radius (the long bone that's on the same side as the thumb). That explained the swelling but not why my doctor was smiling. He eventually explained that bones are not displaced (whew!) and that the radius heals faster than ligaments. He expected that I'd be recovered in a matter of weeks (bone fracture) rather than months (ligament injury).

This development has implications for me. One, with my hand is still in a wrist brace, I have limited mobility with it (i.e., I cannot grip pens, knives, or any other small object). Two, I need to continue writing with my right hand. Three, I'm benched this wakeboarding season, or until the doctor allows me to return to play. Four, no driving to the malls... or anywhere with challenging parking spaces. 

Oh well. It could always have been worse.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Kingsman (2014)

James Bond, Austin Powers, and Ethan Hunt, movie over. There's a new secret agent in town and he's also in a bespoke suit. He is code-named after one of the knights of Arthur's round table and he's a perfect gentleman. Kingsman, that's what he is, after all.

The Kingsmen are part of a top-secret organisation; so top-secret that even government intelligence agencies apparently didn't know of them. Their weapons include guns, lighters, and the gentleman's walking cane and oxfords. They communicate with each other remotely through their eyeglasses. They are masters of fighting skills.

When a Kingsman dies, the round table isn't complete and so training a replacement commences. And what a physically and mentally difficult and seemingly deadly training course it is. At the end of the course, only one becomes a new Kingsman but the second runner-up could take home his very own bespoke suit. What a consolation prize, right?

In the movie, the Kingsmen had a new antagonist to stop: a crazed telecommunication mogul who wanted to kill off the majority of the human race through inducing deadly brawls via cellphone mind control. He was utterly crazy. People who didn't agree to his terms on giving away his technology (he gave away SIM cards) were imprisoned in some cave...yes, even princesses were treated that way. Those who agreed to participate in his mad fantasy were gathered together to watch the world burn (borrowing Alfred's words in The Dark Knight). 

Of course the Kingsmen prevailed, but not without the help of second runner-up Eggsy, who used his streetsmarts as an advantage over the exclusive school-educated new Kings(wo)man. As a team, the Kingsmen disrupted telecommunications through computer hacking, flying to outer space to destroy a satellite, and good old martial arts. Hilarity ensued as heads, with microchips planted in them, exploded into colourful mushroom clouds to the beat of the music.

And yes, Eggsy got to save the princess too.

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I was expecting something else from the movie... Maybe a more serious take on spy movies? After all, Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Firth, Michael Caine, and Mark Strong topbilled the movie. But the comedic take, though unexpected, caught me in pleasant surprise. I was chuckling my way through the last part of the movie. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

road trip, the Korean edition!

The day after my bad fall, Jay (our tour guide from Ski Korea) kindly brought me to the hospital. Since Matty wanted to swap his snowboard with skis, we made a pit stop at the rental shop before dropping him off at Yongpyong Ski Resort and driving to the city.

I was taking lots of pictures using my mobile phone while Jay drove and he was puzzled because he didn't see anything worth the fuss. Everything's ordinary, he said. (But not to me... tropical country mouse landed in the wintry city, see?)

  

Hoenggye, where Matty and I stayed for the week, is a village in Pyeongchang. The hospital where Jay took me was in Gangneung, a city on the east coast of the Korean peninsula. For a probinsyana who's been to Korea for five days and has stayed only in a quiet village, I found my trip to the city quite a jar to my senses. 

On our way to the city, Jay initially drove on the scenic route, which is quite comparable to California's coast-hugging Pacific Highway (the sections I've been on, at least)... but the road we were on in Korea didn't have a coastal view. We saw, however, mountains, mountains, and mountains. On the left, mountains were brown and barren, almost as if they're ready for spring; on the right, the mountains were still covered in snow. It was just a sight to behold! Somehow, I remembered Ate Maddie's route when we went to Muir Woods, with all the bends on the road in this scenic Korean highway.

  



As we approached the city, I thought to myself: Rochie, you're not in the Philippines anymore... As if all that snow didn't convince me yet, right? In Gangneung, the buildings didn't scrape the sky, unlike in San Francisco, but they were definitely taller than buildings in Hoenggye! The bridges criss-crossing the freeway, on the other hand, were so high up in the sky! I've never seen those from a low angle before!



  


At the hospital, Jay explained that the doctor would see me after lunch, so we opted to eat by the East Sea (aka Sea of Japan). I was actually in winter attire (complete with boots, three layers of thermals, and a beanie) strolling on the beach! This was something I never imagined I'd be doing. The first time I was on a beach in winter was as a graduate student, ill-prepared and inappropriately dressed (I only had a jacket, I think... no layering at all) for the cold winds of Gold Coast in July 2009.



The set up along the beach was quite different from what's normal in the places I've seen in the Philippines. First, vehicles were not allowed on the sand in the beach. Along the beach were parking spots beside the road. Second, on the opposite side of the road were restaurants. In the beaches I've been to in the Philippines, hawkers and food vendors would be on the beach. There'd even be a sari-sari store on occasion. Therefore, there's a tendency for the beach to be rowdy and dirty (with left-over trash). Third, the restaurants on this beach had a lot of live fish in aquaria outside the establishments. In the Philippines, I've seen freshly caught fish (already dead) being sold... or live ones in buckets or basins. The aquaria? I've seen those in Manila seafood restaurants... and in some of these restaurants, the fish were pets for good luck, not being sold as food.



As the sun set, it was time to go back to Yongpyong to fetch Matty and to eat dinner back in Hoenggye. On the drive back, I thought that this field trip to Gangneung allowed me to get a glimpse of what Korea's east coast is like, although I didn't have the time to really experience what this fascinating part of the country has to offer.


I therefore conclude that I will definitely make a second visit to Korea... someday.