Nothing in particular. Just feel like writing.
These days I don’t go out too often. Partly it’s a matter of budget and partly it’s a matter of the soul-crushing traffic in Manila.
On Friday I read that Anthony Bourdain is currently in Manila, more than likely taping an episode of his CNN series. He did one episode of No Reservations here, more than 5 years ago. I think with his CNN series he is moving away from “just food” to get more into socio-economic conditions. That’s both good and bad – he couldn’t keep doing “No Reservations” forever. He’s a good writer and good TV host but how qualified is he to dig into issues not related to food or to travel? He was spotted at Cafe Chosun, a Korean restaurant in Malate. Someone else posted a picture of him dining alone at Jollibee – I don’t think so.
(Please stop referring to Bourdain as a “celebrity chef.” He is not and never was famous as a chef. He is an author and TV host and entrepreneur. In more than 10 years of television shows I think only one or two episodes show him cooking, and only one of the dozen or more books he has written is a cookbook. He never had any substantial fame as executive chef at Les Halles in NYC and it was an article he wrote for New York Magazine that was his first step to where he is today.)
(Which is not to say that I’m not a fan. I’m a HUGE fan. I have probably watched and read almost everything he has put out there. Like many, I would also like to think that I am equally talented and that I could do what he does. This blog is clear proof that I am not.)
Anyway, food … Friday night, company Christmas dinner. It was held at the Vikings Buffet Restaurant at Mega Mall. Every other place I’ve been, buffets seem to be strictly the province of hotel restaurants. Here they are hugely popular and can be found all over town. I wonder what the incidence of obesity and diabetes is in the Philippines compared to the United States? I suspect it’s similar.
The places that are somewhat more expensive, like Vikings and Sambokojin, do a pretty good job of offering a large selection of dishes, decent enough quality I suppose, for a relatively low price. A carving station with roast beef, ham, lamb and turkey. Make your own bibimpap, sinigang or shabu shabu. Nice lechon. Pizza that barely qualified as pizza. Very light on salads.
Dinner at Vikings is P888 (about US$19) and includes all the beer you can drink, if that’s your thing – and it certainly was the thing for several of the people at my table. Let’s face it, you don’t go to a buffet for quality, you go for quantity. I noticed at another table (and wish I had gotten a photo) someone had brought two toy poodles, one of which was wearing a diaper.
Following three hours sitting there, a half hour walk back to my car (didn’t want to get anywhere near Mega Mall because of the pre-Xmas traffic), fight the traffic to get back home, only to be informed by my wife that I had to turn around and pick up her daughter from her high school’s Xmas party. That’s probably 2-3 kilometers away. And it took 45 minutes to get there. First because it was after 10 PM, so all of the trucks were coming out from the many warehouses in the area, and second because all of the parents were driving to the school to pick up their kids (the school was very strict, properly so, not allowing kids to leave without their parents).
Saturday morning I woke up to find that my computer was telling me my E: drive was failing. This is my work drive – my C: drive is an SSD so quite small and I only keep what’s absolutely necessary there. My E drive is a 1.5 TB drive, 2/3rds full. It had been acting weird for the past few months so this was not a huge surprise.
Fortunately, due to reorganizing storage, I had a currently unused RAID box with two 2 TB drives. I was able to successfully get everything off the bad E: drive before it failed. (I had everything backed up on the cloud at backblaze.com but didn’t relish the idea of having to download it with my erratic internet service.) That took up a good portion of the day.
Mid-day we went out to the Fort, aka BGC. We bought the kid’s Xmas present – she wanted a pair of Nikes.
While at the Nike store, I saw people lined up and getting the latest Air Jordans. Heavily tattooed teenagers who could afford P10,800 sneakers – though perhaps some will try to resell them at a profit. These had to be reserved in advance and were all sold out.
I asked one guy how he knew about this. He said you had to follow Nike Philippines’ Instagram account. I don’t pay much attention to Instagram. I think I remember to post about 5 pictures a year there. I did some digging around and saw that nine out of the current top ten most popular pictures on Instagram came from Taylor Swift or Kendall Jenner. This was not much incentive for me to dig deeper.
Walked around a bit and decided to try a slice of pizza at a place called Nolita. It’s named for a section of NYC – “North Of Little Italy” – and there aren’t many places doing pizza by the slice. I tried a slice with spicy Italian sausage and while it wasn’t exactly Ray’s Famous, it wasn’t bad. But 220 pesos for a slice – almost US$5? Well, they’re in the Fort, that’s the rent they’re paying. It’s almost like being back in Hong Kong!
Then we braved the crowds at S&R so we could get our fridge and freezer loaded up in advance of the coming typhoon. (Typhoon in December? What’s up with that?) I also loaded up on Drake’s stuff – Twinkies and Ring Dings and now they had the Drake’s Coffee Cakes too (but not the original, some cinnamon variation, but still, come on, Drake’s Coffee Cakes!).
Back home, having ascertained that when my wife said she doesn’t like Star Wars, she’s only seen 1, 2 and 3 and not the original trilogy, I yanked out the Blu-Ray and put on “Episode IV – A New Hope.” I haven’t watched it in a long time. It played slow and clunky. All the extra digital nonsense that Lucas added over the years was wasted. And my wife hated it. She said it was boring. Actually we started it on Saturday night and she fell asleep, we finished it on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday, up early, out to vote in our village’s elections for various village leaders. (Well my wife voted, I stood around and watched.) Hungry after that. The food places within the village are pretty crappy. The closest places outside the village are McDonald’s, Jollibee, some very local places that don’t look clean or appetizing. We didn’t want to go very far.
We ended up at a branch of a chain called Hap Chan. “The leading authentic Chinese food chain in the Philippines.” I thought it was going to be a fast food joint, order at the counter, but it turned out to be a sit-down place with a big menu. The shu mai (they call it shao mai here) was actually pretty okay. The char siu bao (they call it sio pao here) was very localized, too big and too sweet. The big surprise was the stir fried beef with hor fun noodles, which tasted almost exactly the same as it tastes in HK’s cha chaan tengs. So I was very happy indeed. Add a pot of a tea, a can of soda, some dessert, and the bill was under 500 pesos.
Back home, finished off Star Wars. I would have gone for The Empire Strikes back but my wife dug in her heels and absolutely refused. So I put on The Assassin, directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien. Hou won best director at Cannes for this film. It’s shown up on some top ten lists and it’s Taiwan’s official entry for the foreign language Oscar. It has a 6.5 out of 10 rating on IMDB and 83% over at Rotten Tomatoes. Only 3 of 21 “top critics” didn’t like it – one of the three being A.O. Scott at the NY Times, who wrote, “It is as gorgeous to behold as anything you are likely to encounter on a movie screen or a museum wall. The film is intriguing, but ultimately opaque, a lovely, inert object that offers, in the name of movie love, an escape from so much that is vital and interesting about movies.” I would have to agree with that.
It’s gorgeous to look at but it moves at a glacial pace and has a very convoluted way of trying to tell what should be a simple story. There are very long shots of people just sitting there staring off into space. One long shot was just a river and trees. Very Zen, I suppose. My wife fell asleep after 45 minutes. Later we turned it back on, she fell asleep again after 30 minutes.
Outside of that, a nice home cooked dinner. I’ve been back from the U.S. for two weeks now but I’m still not entirely unjetlagged I think. I’ve only had 8 hours sleep per night for the last two nights, and going to sleep uncharacteristically early for me (11 PM).
Some other random bits:
I changed my mobile service from pre-paid to post-paid (Globe) last month. I signed up at the Globe shop at Podium. I gave them my credit card and filled out all the forms for auto-pay. Then this month I got daily SMS’s telling me my payment is due. I asked them why I am getting all of these reminders when I am on auto-pay. They responded “sorry but registration for auto-pay is suspended at our stores, you can apply through your bank.” “So why did you make a copy of my credit card and have me spend time filling out all those extra forms?” “Sorry.”
Fun stuff on Twitter #1
Cher – As Judas Was 2 Jesus,So Is Ted Cruz 2America.Read What He’s Written&Watched What He’s Said,4 Yrs.He ALWAYS TERRIFIED ME?#30piecesofsilver
Ted Cruz – Cher, thanks for the kind sentiments. And I wish you a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.
Fun stuff on Twitter #2
Donald Trump – Amazing how the haters & losers keep tweeting the name “F**kface Von Clownstick” like they are so original & like no one else is doing it…
I don’t know that anyone doing that thinks they are so original. I think it’s the best name for Trump. I think his acknowledgement of it shows what a loser he is.