Dear batchmates, kabayan and friends :
When you have time clearing your inbox, looking sideways for online blinks on your contacts list, and scrounging around for supposedly life-changing books you’ve always wanted to read (but never went beyond Page 1), you know you have a lot of time on your hands.
It’s quite a ways from getting by on 5 hours beddy-bye time, changing work skeds in the wink of a bloodshot eye, and forever on standby for emergency shifts and freezing late-night overtime (the range this week : a goose-pimply 4-6 degrees Celsius), but as they say, when you journey on the sails of life, who knows where the four winds will bring you?
Forcibly or not, these days are ripe for rearranging furniture, cleaning out your moldy cupboards, and whisking away the cobwebs that clutter your dusty bookshelves and bureaus. For the OC cleaners and sorters out there, we know you are aghast at our wayward unhousebroken habits, but for us, it’s just a reminder that wherever you are, you are home sweet home by keeping it just the way it is : once a packrat, always a packrat.
Inevitably, the magnet that draws your attention, for the simple reason that it assaults the two major senses ( and indirectly another two ) is the most momentous invention of the 20th century, so central to human existence that we don’t even need to mention it here, you know what it is.
For those of us in the workforce who punch in a more-or-less crowded workweek, and for whom there are a very limited number of hours with which to do what we truly love, after the essentials, incidentals and eventuals, it is a fact of life that we still devote at least an hour or two daily to wallowing in front of the telly, such a way of life it is.
Like billions of others, we have our preferences and quirks when it comes to viewing the idiot box ( no offense meant ); we just wonder, voyeuristically, how it compares with others.
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We’ve heard somewhere that comedy is nothing more than irony delivered in either an elegant or shocking way. Nowhere is this more evident than in our two favorite comedy shows. We’ve lots of ha-ha-ha generators, but nothing gets us hysterical more than Two And A Half Men and Big Bang Theory, which are so popular they are aired on FreeTV twice weekly in our neck of the woods, albeit current season episodes are shown only once a week.
The bread-and-butter laughs from the first show seem to derive from its irony of men no longer straining to show a PC face of being monogamous, sexually conservative, anatomically restrained, etc. Because truly, despite (or because of) most men denying their true selves, we, most of us, are funniest when we are pared down into our honest core.
And the two main characters in this sibling sit-com are brazenly honest, but in different ways. If he would have his way, Charlie Sheen’s character (fittingly named Charlie) would bed a different girl every night, sleep all day, and drink himself to a stupor whenever he feels like it. (Amazingly, in a case of life imitating art, Sheen has been finding himself in all sorts of real-life jams that his 2 1/2 Men persona would have little difficulty getting into.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, his brother Alan (Jon Cryer) does all the right things, place women on a pedestal, denies himself carnal pleasures for all the wrong reasons, and still ends up the loser.
Amazing that we find all this funny, but we invariably watch at least one of the two shows week in, week out.
As mentioned, Big Bang is another variation on the irony theme : that nerds and scholarly, introverted types can actually be cool and emulative. Not that it’s that difficult, as the sit-com confines itself to the tiny world shared by a theoretical physicist, an applied physicist, an aeronautical engineer, and a particle astrophysicist where of course being an egghead is king, the obscure is commonplace, and the lamer the hobby, the better.
We’re not ashamed to admit it, we found kinship with the Trekkie, the StarWars Universe enthusiast, the action-figure connoisseur, the comic book collector, the sci-fi buff and memorabilia hunter, and all other underground and non-mainstream pursuits the main characters enjoyed. That the bespectacled sidekick of Sheldon (he’s the only guy whose name we remember) found a hot girlfriend was just a bonus for us : even wimps of the world, given enough time, can win the pretty girl.
Unsurprisingly, and for lack of memory we won’t mention him by name (changed our mind, Chuck Lorre), we found out that the creator/s of these two shows were one and the same person. Either it’s genius, or the characters are just different parts of the same personality. Unlikely, but not impossible. Go figure.
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It’s probably a simplistic observation, but one that we can’t avoid making : where in previous decades, TV crimefighting focused almost solely on the police and investigative branches, today the limelight is on everyone else on the good side : the forensics staff, the criminal psychologists, scientists, even profilers and psychic sleuths get in on the action. It’s almost as if there was a concerted effort to keep the cops and dick tracys out of the center of attention, after years of hogging the spotlight.
One only has to list the casual viewing choices we make on a random night we have disposable hours for the boob tube : CSI (original and all spinoffs), Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, Lie to Me, Medium, Psych, Numb3rs and Monk. Except for the second and the last on the list, none of the title characters on these shows have gone through regular police training or have entertained any thoughts of becoming a policeman. But just the same they are in the vanguard of the battle against crime.
If we had the chance to live life over, that would probably be part of our vocation. Fighting the baddies without actually getting our hands bloody, or getting involved in the wetworks. Sort of like being a cool superhero, without tripping on your cape or losing the anonymity of your bespectacled, phone booth – oriented alter ego.
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We have a confession to make, regarding the 2010 NBA Finals, which besides the few shows we’ve mentioned above, take up the lion’s share of our precious little viewing time.
The games the Celtics won against L.A., we watched every game live (or slightly delayed), and when we couldn’t, saw it on the rare reply at night, followed it up on nba.com, and read all related blogs.
As soon as breaking news overtook us, the Boston losses went abandoned and/or unwatched, we imposed a blog blackout on ourself on internet, and acted like we weren’t a fan.
In short, we are what you might call the sunshine fan. Shoulder-to-shoulder with our favorite team when it wins, and abandoning them as soon as they lose. Not something to be proud of, but that’s how we have evolved, a sad commentary on the fickleness, selective amnesia, and disloyalty of the sports fan on TV.
We sometimes rationalize it (our behavior) by saying that we can’t take the agony of watching our fave team lose, or that we don’t need the stress, but who are we fooling? No self-respecting fan can do that, celebrate with their team only during the victories (and conveniently disappearing during the defeats) and continue staring at the mirror without feeling hollow and demeaned.
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A last word. Nothing compels the casual viewer, in almost every Western or Westernized culture, like team sports. And team sports cannot help but ultimately be commercialized into league sports, which devolves into professional media-supported sports.
Someone better tell big-time and big-league sports, specifically the NBA, though, that it will get extinct and bought out by its bigger-than-life athletes, if the trend of teams dealing with one-player franchises (and in effect ceding control to the latter) is allowed to become a distinct possibility.
And while they’re at it, has everyone forgotten that in sports like basketball, there are 30 teams in the league, and every season produces only ONE champion and 29 also-rans? Everybody’s turning out to be sore losers more and more. If fans understand that only one team gets to shine at the expense of all others, why can’t the pros and the team owners?
Thanks for reading !
Dear batchmates, kabayan and friends :
While immigrant websites paint a rosy picture of laborers’ idylls, and present a come-hither invitation for audacious skilled professionals, the sobering reality puts off even the hardiest job-seekers, who spend as much as six months to a year seeking employment before returning home disillusioned.
And finally, while at times the easiest thing to do is to just give up the dream of sorting out your status abroad, abandoning vain pursuit of the almighty dollar for family and future, in exchange for the comforts and familiarity of Inang Bayan, what awaits you when you return? Nothingness, oblivion and probably worse.
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Pardon our random musings, but these are the inconsistencies and misplaced premises that continue to disturb our carefully-structured and admittedly naively-formed perspective from our little corner of the world, not unlike the frog at the bottom of the well who imagines that the sky is nothing more than a slice of sunlight visiting his little nook-and-cranny.
We have no idea of the forbidding forces that shape the industrial, economic and business landscape, how they affect faceless peons like us, and of the fallible decisions that will influence thousands of nomads and gypsies among the yellow, brown and extra brown races for generations to come.
Just peek under the microscope, please : for the longest time now, we’ve held a piece of paper that allows us to work for The Man Upstairs, an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. But each turn of the solar circle, the paper turns to dust ; we need to prove ourselves anew, specifically that (1) we weren’t frivolously engaged for work, meaning the employer looked long and hard for locals before settling for a foreigner, (2) that our skill exists as a shortage so acute that it necessitates a search among dayuhan, and (3) in our ridiculously short time here, we’ve accumulated enough training and logged enough hours to deserve being called skilled, albeit crudely, in our particular trade.
Miraculously, we’ve managed to hurdle these 3 challenges the last 24 months, picking up 2 work visas / permits along the way, which when you think about it in the grand scheme of things, should be enough reason for us to be thankful. But there’s nothing like the present, and if we want to continue staying here, the mantra seems to be, at least in the visa officer’s eyes : what have you done for me lately?
Or at least, what have you done to stay consistent to the policy of skills shortage, skills updating, and improbably, skill excellence in a land of trabaho lang, walang personalan? It’s not as if all these were within our sphere of control, but Asians being Asians, with a can-do, do-everything attitude, we do what we can.
The alternative being, of course, losing your right to stay in the land of redemption, the land of possibility, and the land of second chances.
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To belabor the point : Imagine an expat back home, performing work that theoretically Pinoys can do, but which can be done inimitably best by a foreigner, say, Cantonese cuisine expertise for a world-class HK-style resto in Ortigas Center.
After running through the gauntlet of vetting, qualifying and registering the gastronomic talents of the chef, the employer and / or immigration authorities can hardly be expected to redo the said procedures each time his work documents expire and need to be renewed. If anything, with regular use, his skills improve rather than deteriorate, just like muscles do. Use it or lose it, diba?
Well, it’s a tortured analogy, not very hand-in-glove, but we hope you get the picture. Quite a few work visa holders submit themselves to this exercise not only to satisfy over-rigorous standards of work, but also to appease the demands of political correctness, namely of making sure no locals are bypassed, no matter that the (foreign) incumbents are eminently more qualified in many cases.
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On a personal note, we will always be grateful for the chance to have earned our bread in a hospitable country that prides itself in its almost inexhaustible wellspring of tolerance, of the political, racial and economic kind.
We only wish that asterisks scattered here and there regarding the difficulty of balancing between labor needs and nationalistic philosophy will be picked up, sorted out, and spell-checked by the software of Common Sense.
Another cringe-worthy metaphor, but we hope you get our drift. Forgive us for being a bit preoccupied now by job uncertainty and the iffyness of what-comes-next.
With one eye closed and fingers crossed behind the back, we almost shudder as we stammer : Abangan po ang susunod na kabanata. Thanks for reading !