Border Security: inside the series

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While you were sleeping, ‘Thousands of men and women dedicate their lives to protecting Australia’s border.’ The immigration series airs at most once a week on the Seven network. I remember discussing the programme in one of my electives at … Continue reading

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60 Minutes Australia

‘Tonight on 60 Minutes…’

Thus begins the weekly broadcast of one of the most revered shows on Australian telly. The newsmagazine is almost forty years old, but has continued to supply viewers with intriguing stories and gripping reports. Since it’s inception in 1979, it has provided unique insights on an almost weeks basis. The programme has likewise featured the best Aussie reporters around, from Ray Martin and the late Peter Harvey, to Peter Overton and Liz Hayes. 

Issues for all Australians

Operating on the Siamese twins, tales of lost boys from India to the Philippines, and scandal in the Catholic Church are just some of their highly original stories. They shared the heartwarming tale of Saroo Brierley, which opened the doors for the latter to Hollywood scripts and beyond. Another time they interviewed people with photographic memories. Said savants could remember historic events, to the day, that transpired forty years ago. One look at a text and they could tell the entire story. I remember a young woman who memorised every word of the entire Harry Potter book series. They’ve talked with shark attack victims, stood up against big corporations, and on many occasions took a stand against injustice, deceit, and abuse. 

Their reportage is very Australian, which I sometimes admire but also dislike. In their segments, they are very blunt, as if they have carte blanche. They are rarely not in control of their interviews, and impress a no-holds-barred technique. They usually include three segments, each about 15 minutes long. One of these sections is typically a date with a famous person, including Bruce Springsteen, Tiger Woods, and Tom Hanks. 


Even outside of the studios, their staff are in the news. For instance, a veteran reporter and her crew were caught up in a child abduction scandal in Lebanon. They were jailed for their alleged involvement in the rescue of two Aussie children from their dad in Lebanon. While ultimately vindicated and returned home, the episode is a cautionary tale. Over the years, their newscasters have also garnered many awards, both here and abroad. This is a testament to their never ending quest to expose the truth and inform their viewers.

‘Still the one’

Lately, the show has consistently gone over its titular 60 Minutes. Counting Peter Overton’s mailbag, the programme could easily surpass 70 minutes. For a while, the show commenced at 7pm, but due to the popularity of other reality shows in its lineup, this has been moved to 8:30pm. However, it remains a staple in Aussie homes during Sunday evening. Thus, the show is clearly the runaway winner of its time slot. The closest challenger, Seven’s Sunday Night, has had to have an earlier start to avert a potential showdown that it cannot win. 

60 Minutes is one of the big reasons why Channel Nine dominates the free to air ratings. With Australia’s number one news broadcasting nightly, not to mention A Current Affair’s charm, the network’s news coverage remains unrivalled. While less and less people follow the nightly news, few would argue that Channel Nine would be their first choice if they do so. 

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IT (2017) Reviewed

‘You’ll float too’

Skimming through my previous posts, I haven’t written a movie review in a while. I’ve gone to the cinemas regularly, but I’ve also been branching out to other subjects. This time I’ll review the biggest blockbuster of the month, IT. Based on Stephen King’s tome, it’s hard to believe that this is the first big screen adaptation of the terrifying book. 

Shorter version

Before I could begin, pls note that I could give you a longer version of this review. Yet, from what I’ve seen, a short version would suffice. There has been a big buildup to the film. The trailers were catchy, and left a lot to be explored. People wondered whether the big screen adaptation would cleave closely to the novel. The local cinemas have even offered late night ‘fright sessions’. There were also at least a dozen showings of IT during the first week in some cineplexes. On another level, evil clowns have been sighted wrecking havoc in the U.S. since last year. Police are investigating whether said clown attacks are premeditated or part of the pre-release entertainment.

So how did it fare? It was okay; nothing out of this world. Yes horror movies can get ear splitting but there are some that let the creepiness do its magic. This was not one of those types. At some points, the bangs and screeches creeped me out more than the blood and gore. The plot was good, a coming of age turn straight out of the 80s. Friendship, love, school dynamics, and family relations are all covered here. There is incest, abuse, and bullying too. In one two-hour episode, the movie deals with more tough themes than a regular flick. 

Deepest fears

There is also Pennywise the dancing clown, the titular IT. He lives on their fears and returns after 27 year hibernations. The main troupe consists of all school outcasts, 8 students who grapple with their own troubles. From an asthmatic kid to a black teenager, from stutterer Bill to the ‘new kid’, each battles their own demons. Pennywise exploits these fears. For instance, in the opening sequence, Bill had a younger brother who got lost after playing with his paper boat in the rain. Bill would never believe that his brother was dead. Years later, he is confronted by his dead sibling. Who could forget the scene: ‘You’ll float too! You’ll float too!’ 

Did they became the masters of their own fears? Banding together, did they manage to outsmart and ultimately vanquish Pennywise? Will they all come out in one piece, after the scariest ride of their lives? Personally, I think all the hoopla around the movie was nothing but sound and fury. Yes, that’s my final verdict: given the amount of promotion, the movie per se was disappointing. Other critics may be of a different opinion, as evidenced by the picture’s overwhelming review scores. For me though this was merely adequate; an okay film. As we prepare for the second and final sequel, I’ll leave that for others to try…if they dare. 

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Chinese dating

It’s one of the more talked about Chinese shows around, with over 50 million viewers tuning in each week. Add to that a massive online following, and it’s no wonder this programme is being touted as a ‘cultural phenomenon’. In Oz, it’s known as ‘If You Are the One’, with new episodes airing each weekend. I am extremely grateful for the English captions, without which I would be LOST. 

Lights, camera, eviction

The show’s format is simple enough: 24 women square off to gain the affections of one male contestant. At the start, the guy picks his favourite girl and enters this onto the tablet. Only the contestant and the host know his selection. Occasionally, a guy would hand out gifts for a closer look at the potential dates before choosing. Throughout the face off, there is banter, humour, and a distinct look into Chinese culture and idiosyncrasies. The show has been a staple in many Chinese homes, its guests attaining celebrity status. As a result, a great many Chinese join in and there is always a huge backlog of participants. 

For each contestant, there are videos played showcasing his background, love experience and friends’ comments. If he manages to get as far as stage 3, his chances for a date are increased. Furthermore, a lad also has the chance to showcase his skills, which range from singing and dancing to nunchucks and kung fu, ventriloquy to shooting hoops. Each girl has an assigned light, which she could turn off at any time. When the last phase is reached, there might be a few lights left, one, or none. Prior eps have shown how the gentleman would reach stage 2 or 3 before all the lights are turned off. The info videos would then be stopped, and our guy would thank the hosts, walk the ramp, and do a final bow. He would then encourage viewers to contact him at his email, and would also analyse his onstage performance. 

Decision time

Sometimes the last video (friends’ comments) would play and one girl would keep her light on. Several times, this would be the guy’s favourite girl. In the past, I’ve seen a young cardiologist get turned down. Ergo, one could say that the show is full of drama and coincidence. Meanwhile, there is also a heartbeat girl, who punches a button to make sure the guy pays attention to her. The bloke could leave with her at any time, since she has declared her feelings for him. Said lady has a beating heart on her screen, and is assured a place to the very end.

Quick aside: a new setup has been added, which includes a lone female contestant and 24 vying men. The rules are essentially the same, except for the role reversal. The broadcasters will not rest in tinkering with their formats, always on the lookout for fresher, more intriguing entertainment.

A cultural juggernaut

In the best case scenario, a guy would play all videos and garner two or more lights at the conclusion. It would then be up to him to choose which lights to turn off. I’ve seen a Chinese American get 11 lights at that point. If two lights are still on, it would be the guy’s decision. The two remaining girls would walk the ramp together, following the heartbeat girl (if applicable), before the guy’s favourite girl is revealed. If not on stage already, she would do the catwalk alone. Generally, the guy would ask the girls one last question, before selecting from a set of topics. ‘Real life photos’ and ‘ability to housework’ are popular choices. He would then make his choice, almost always interrupted by ad breaks to heighten the suspense. 

In general, a bloke’s occupation, travel history, country of residence, and onstage communication, are heavy determinants of his success. For instance, you may be good looking but subpar Chinese speaking skills will hinder your cause. Usually, there would be endgame banter to reduce the amount of lights. Girls may ask lads if they’d be willing to relocate to their city or if they’d accept someone five years older. Mutual attraction and compatibility may better help in clinching a date. There are also specials, such as America, Australia, Spain, Japan, and others. Overseas Chinese from these nations would head to China and try to impress both their own and single, native Chinese women. The promise of love can bring expats to China, hoping that they, like so many others before them, could find ‘the one’.

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Note: For a change, I’ll write this post in Filipino (with just a hint of English)

Naging guro ko siya sa Accounting noong nasa Pinas pa ako. Mahirap siyang makalimutan. Mahilig siyang gumamit ng ‘Yudi pungal’. Minsan naalala ko na may tinanong ito sa klase. Agad namang humirit si Morgan, ang elder statesman ng kurso. Medyo long playing si brod, panay ang ‘Kung baga…Kung baga’. 

‘Nakuha Ko ba, Sir?’ 

‘PWEDE man,’ sagot ni Manong, sabay tawa.

Ako? Isang linya’t natumpak ko ang kanyang tanong.

‘Bat di ka kumuha ng Accounting?’ Nagtaka ang katabi ko. Maliit lang yung klase namin, mga isang dosena lang.

Hilig-hilig lang yan, sa isip ko. Di lahat ng may kakayahan ay nangangarap maging enhinyero o CPA. 

Accounting po

Nabalitaan ko na nag-absent yung isa sa mga kaklase ko, na-miss niya yung finals. Narinig ko rin na nagkaproblema siya kay sir. Kinausap niya na bigyan siya nang konsiderasyon. 

‘Accounting ini, ne’; napangiti na lang ako sa kanyang kwento.. 

‘Pogi,’ sabi ni William. Ganun siya kung tumawag. Minsan nga mali-mali pa. 

‘Mr Pangarap’, tinawag niya si Dante.

Diretsyohin niyo na lang

Isang araw binayaan niya kami sa silid-aralan. ‘Dito Lang kayo, babalik Lang ako maya-maya.’

Pag-alis ni Sir William, nagsilabasan na ang mga tao’t tumambay dun sa unaunahan. 

Nagpahangin naman kami ni Dante sa labas mismo ng silid aralan. Nakaihi ako at nag-jingle. Pagbalik ko, ala na si Dante; nakisabay siya dun sa iba. Aaminin ko na nagkamali ako; dapat nagpaalam ako sa kanya. 

Galit na galit si Sir nung nasilayan niyang bakante ang kwarto. ‘Bakit di ninyo dineretsyo?’

Halata na ako, na dapat mas nakakaalam, ang na target ng kanyang pagkabigo. Pinalipat niya ako ng upuan, bago palipatin uli. Sinabihan niya kami na pumunta sa kwarto ng mga Accounting major, upang malaman kung ano ang pagkakaiba ng thesis at feasibility study. Di pa nabasa yung mga paa namin nang magpatama ang Accounting dean. ‘Itong talk ay para lamang sa mga Accounting students’, sabay tingin sa akin. Nagkataon lang Kasi na di Accounting ang kurso namin. Natira kami ni Dante at nakinig sa mga speaker. Nang mag-recess, nagdesisyon kaming lumabas ng kwarto. Dun ko nalaman na wala na yung mga kaklase ko. Marahil ay nag mass exodus sila nang magpatama si dean. 

‘Isa pang chicken joy’

Isang beses tinanong ni William: ‘Nagpapart-taym ka sa Jollibee, di ba?’

‘Opo, Sir,’ sagot ni Chabelita.

‘Magkano na ba ang isang chickenjoy meal?’

‘69 pesos po, Sir.’

Biglang natawa si Sir. ‘Bakit ganyan ang figure nyo?’

Salamat, Will

Pustiso ang ngipin ni Will. Minsan napasobra ang tawa niya’t nahulog ang dentures nito. Buti nga’t nasalo niya bago lumanding sa sahig. 

Isa si Will sa mga paborito kong guro. Okay siya magturo at mahilig magpatawa. Lumisan na ang mga araw na nakikita ko siya sa mga corridor. Babatiin ko ito, bago niya ako tatapikin sa balikat. Kahit maikling oras ko lang siya nakasabay, malugod akong nagpapasalamat sa mga ‘bato sa parang’ lol

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Ooh, Harry!

Dumbledore’s Army

About ten years have passed since the release of the last Harry Potter book. The Deathly Hallows, the seventh instalment in the series, hit bookshelves on 21 July, 2007. Pottermania truly took over then, with Harry Potter 5 (the movie) released at about the same time. I remember my classmate saying then that the fifth film wasn’t as good as the others. Indeed Harry 5 was the start of the film adaptations growing darker. 

Easy reads

The reasons behind the Potter success story are easy to see. In spite of the length of the books, they are some of the lightest reads you’ll ever encounter. No wonder that the books received many awards, including children’s book prizes. Harry’s wizarding world was an escape from the monotony of everyday life. Tackling Harry’s growing pains, friendships, classwork, and extra curricular activities, made every volume a page turner. You’d be surprised about who reads Harry Potter. There’s no shortage of Potter enthusiasts, from an older white mother, to primary school kids, from Muslim youths to various economists. 

The author par excellence

I could keep going on about how great I think the Potter books are: the thick, eye catching plots; the captivating dialogue; the relatable characters; and the writing wizardry of the author. There have been a few imitators, but nobody would even come close to the magnitude and sales of this franchise. Nobody but J.K. Rowling deserved all the glory. She offered her manuscript to many publishers, meeting rejection at every step. I won’t be surprised if some of them didn’t bother to reply. You’ll always hear about publishers wanting something different and original. This kind of fiction has never been floated before, so it’s their loss.

We have to tip our hat off to Ms Rowling. She had two young kids, was a single parent, and was looking for work. Writing anything must have been very tough. She wrote parts of the first books in cafes, without the comforting thought of having a publisher. Yet she finished the manuscript, got a publisher, and sold a few books. The rest, as they say, is history. Now that corner is a tourist attraction, together with other elements in the book, such as King’s Cross station. 

Being Harry Potter

The relatable characters in the Potter world is another thing making the book special. Everyone wants to be as humble and friendly as Harry; we want to be as good a seeker, as deft a flyer, as him. Perhaps we yearn to be as lucky as him, or as gracious to others. We wish to be as courageous as Harry, or as loyal to our friends. Or maybe we desire the opposite: to be more practical than him; to be less adventurous.

Or mustn’t we want to be Ron? We long to be the golden boy’s loyal sidekick, less his fear of spiders. Or how about Albus? Who knows, some may even want to be Neville, that brave, brave man terrified of Professor Snape, his Potions Master. Devouring the books give us this unique power.

Rowling by the river

In this age, it’s very hard to believe that someone would pull off a Harry Potter. You have to be extremely talented, imaginative, and one of a kind to stretch a magical story for seven thick books. Writing a trilogy alone is hard work, so I’d like you to try writing seven tomes. We have to admit that Rowling is a different specimen, and appreciate her brilliance. 

I remember being in the audience for this multiple choice trivia quiz in college. One of the questions was: What is the best selling book of all time? The three groups answered ‘the Bible’, while the fourth one selected ‘Harry Potter’. Another time, I showed my cousin my first ever published article. Looks like we have the next Harry Potter here, she half-joked. To be mentioned in the same sentence as the boy who lived; what an honour. To paraphrase Dobby the house elf, by now, we have heard of Harry’s greatness and of his goodness, we always knew.

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The North Korean Conundrum

We watch with bated breath for the next episode. Whatever happens, we’re doomed. On the blue corner, a hulking US President with plummeting approval ratings. His mere temperament is being lampooned each week on SNL (Saturday Night Live). On the red corner, a gung-ho challenger with the baggiest pants, and a wacky hairdo to boot. He has nothing to lose.

No different

I remember back when the dude’s father passed away. I asked an acquaintance if he thought junior would be more…tolerable, especially since he studied in Europe. ‘I think he’s just the same,’ he answered. Another time, I asked my colleague about what he thought of Kim’s nuclear threats. ‘It never happens,’ he said. ‘Never happens,’ he added as if to validate himself.

But as the blows are traded, there’s a sense that this fight is not all empty talk. Like Pacquaio-Mayweather, it might just happen. In any case, we are the only losers. Korea might be a bit farther than the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, but every American should stock up their bomb shelters. If it’s closer to your backyard, as those Americans residing in Guam, you cannot ignore the crescendoing around you.

The war-less generation

Our generation cannot imagine another world war. Our parents weren’t even around when the last one was fought. We are not accustomed to endless famine, nightly bomb blasts, and living with crippling fear. The Cold War between the Soviets and the US never materialised as a direct confrontation, but the thought of one alone was enough to keep them awake at night.

While it’s time to be spooked, it’s also the time to enjoy the last laughs. Cherish every SNL episode as if it’s your last. Buy as much popcorn while tuning in. Spend hundreds copying Kim’s getup, wacky haircut and all. Heck, even pledge your spare change to building that darn wall. Remember this: the laughter comes before the fall.

If you think it’s all fun and games, then think again. Remember the guy? All he did was to rip posters of junior. All he did wrong was being an American. They made him suffer, torturing him; it’s all in the news. After they were through with him, he expired; couldn’t even last a week back home.

Alarming the neighbours

There’s also those missile tests, which should alarm the neighbours. Testing rockets in the middle of the night? Hoy! It’s time to sleep, junior! Don’t even mention those tacky parades. You know, the marching battalions, as seamless as robots, and people art work. This has been a staple of North Korean pride, and an eyesore for everybody else. My, what have we gotten ourselves into?

What one does, the other does better. When Pres. Trump and his UN allies made sanctions against the North, Kim let it slip that they will counter with ‘physical action’. We are witnessing one knockdown blow after another. The flurry of punches are electric. Neither is backing down. The crowd is going nuts, and it’s just the first round.

This is entertainment, ladies and gentlemen. Watch and learn.

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