January 26, 2007

1/15 Last Semester Reflection

I got to SHU on Sunday night, my room was spotless. Edel and Weiss, the bamboo plants, were still alive (only a quarter of the jar was filled with water). I took down my 2006 calendar. I unpacked and got ready for Monday. I made a list. I watched "You're the One that I Want" on NBC and "The Apprentice LA"...

1/21/07 to 1/28/07

Monday- I bought my books, cashed a check, mailed letters, went to financial aid, added an Independent study, did laundry, cleared my shelf, arranged new books, fixed subject-binder, chit-chatted at lunch and dinner (tried to catch up), attended opening reception of Student Exhibit in Harlan Gallery (juried show- all my works from graphic design I class got accepted [surprised]- Abstract: Wave Over Pier, Seaweed Latte, Gone with the Wind, Legend of Maria Makiling), and watched "Heroes" at 9pm...

Tuesday- first class Senior Sem (discussed portfolio, future, happiness- have classes with people I haven't had classes with [different majors], and long-time-no-see-since-freshman friends), Jazz (defined terms, lots of people), Media Aesthetics (Comic history), went to library; took out biographies...

Wednesday- brunch with shadow #1 (for Eye Contact), Independent Study Meeting (Watercolors- no show), Senior Honors Presentation (time keeper, public speaking), Setonian Meeting 3-5pm (article- study abroad, photo assignments), dinner, Lit. for YA (fairytales- Cinderella from Around the World), finished reading first half of Understanding Comics...

Thursday- Missed 'brunch' had english muffin and cream cheese, cereal (Lucky Charms) with milk, and packed bagel with jelly, Senior Sem (talked a bit about issues- poverty, politics, environment, war and more, watched video "Inconvenient Truth"), finished typing, late for Jazz (legs and shoulders sore), waterless for Media Aesthetic, 3:30 meeting for Student Interest Committee (once per semester only), Writing Center meeting (4-5) [financial issues,hours, Write Aid, and more], DINNER finally, started Little Women, ER-less night but still watched tv with friends...

Friday- Voice at 10 am (Bare Necessities), lunch with Shadow #2 (collecting patron exercise), art supply shopping (got all on the list, donation for basket, UFO, bottles, light bulbs, comics, DV8- [Amoretto and Apple Crumbs and Caramel]) light flurries first then stopped, got a ride back up the hill, finalized basket, dinner with friends, blizzard bucks game show (didn't win)...

Tentative Weekend
Saturday- Reading, catching up with homework, on-line application, Saw III
Sunday- Poster-making day and brainstorming with shadows and helper, interviews...

Biggest Challenge: Catching up with friends and family, everybody have different schedules. Nonetheless, scheduled noon lunch time, 5 pm dinner time, and t.v. Thursdays, also seeing friends in workplace, same clubs/activities, hallways, random places helps. This semester I will do my bestest balancing the academics with the social. I need help; I need everyone's patience.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 9:53 PM | Comments (0)

Cafe (Caffeine) Timeline

You know in the Broadway song from Rent, "Season of Love," one of the characters crooned:

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee... How about love?

How about love of caffeine?

My winter break was measured in the times I drank mostly lattes, hanged out in various cafes, and chilaxed with friends and family...

-Green Tea latte* (dec. 15) good, homecoming, walking out of 30th station, waiting in bus stop

-Maple latte* (dec. 17) bland

-Eggnog latte* (dec. 18) too hot, but good, preparing for GRE

-Peppermint Hot Chocolate* (dec. 19) good

-White Chocolate Mocha* (dec. 20) good with tarragon chicken salad sandwich, GRE, south street

-Framboise (Bonte- dec. 20) good with belgian sugar waffle (next time chocolate and strawberry)

-Maple latte* (dec. 22) - bad/good, asks a question maybe mistaken Maple macchiato with Maple latte (three pumps of syrup), raining, city, eight and walnut

-Caramel Frappuccino* (dec. 24) good, Montgomery Ave. DRAMA, dunkin donut girl "Why Not", praying black man (bowed) 1:30 a.m.

-Soy Peppermint Mocha latte* (dec. 26) can't taste soy but felt it in my throat-itchy, laughing, doing 'stunts,' not so awkward- walking around taking pics, laughing about new jersey dude and situation, French crepes

-Maple Machiatto latte* (dec. 27) sweeter and better than the plain maple latte, stronger, received a gift, framed a lip stain, talked about life, future plans (keeping plans for self), ardmore

-Vanilla Italian Creme Soda (Milkboy- dec. 27) good, only $2.00 plus tax, scrible drawings

-Green Tea latte* (dec. 29) frothy, lots of green tea not diluted with enough milky type, Chinatown shopping, shiny stars, 42nd Street

-Cinnamon Dolce latte* (Jan. 5) okay, watched movies, Creative Writing- techno

-Maple Machiatto latte* (Jan. 9) with Whip Cream and drizzle of Maple sauce , not as sweet but still good, tarragon chicken salad sandwich, thrift store (children's books- to study and appreciate), gave form hs friend, talked about Grad school choices, and back up plans for no grad school, recap of trip to France- galit sa tito at tita, got magnets, forgot to ask about favorite, enlightening moments, briefly talked about high school- ranks, called Utah to confirm

-Americano expresso (The Walnut Bridge Cafe- Jan. 10) with a shot of Amoretti [mix of almond and apricot] with whole milk, stronger than coffee, Chocolate chocolate croissant, good, fluffy,, the chocolate is in stick and they're in the bottom, it's not like a choclate filled croissant- not shape like a moon either, like eating air with flavor, passed by xpn world cafe, small room with two couches, cold be sitting next to a stranger, comfy chairs but backless, went ice skating U Penn Skating Rink, UPenn already has classes, wondering what it's like to go to big university, Chinese in their groups- I like learning basic principles, next on my list is 'cross over' and edge skating- walked from University park from 40th street, rink closer to 30th street (Benjamin Franklin station-take the 44)- I didn't fall, which is good because I wasn't wearing gloves, my hands pretty numb- only realized this after entering the cafe-, glass fogged a bit, when trying to get money, fingers not so flexible, trying to warm itself, short lady (didn't see over the counter at first) enthusiastic to serve, lady with dog working for NBC, will meet Trump and people from the Grease Broadway Reality show next week in Colorado, art abstract, girl reading Italian text, fat guy reading, girl in computer with ipod, two girls talking about other people going out, getting drunk and leaving a party

-Green Tea Frappuccino* (Jan. 12) Pan's Labyrinth, good

-Mango latte (Joe's Cafe- Jan. 12) superhot, drank it while walking in walnut street towards Rtiz 5, to watch Perfume (think Victoria Secret fragrance and horror), continued working on short tale, I like mangoes but some fruits are not meant to be turned to lattes

-Homemade Vanilla latte (Ron's house- Jan. 13) took pictures, kids running around, talked about self-educated, diploma versus self-business, holding baby by the leg, spinning around, going for rides to fall asleep, watching deer at night in Fairmount park, one jealous, one energetic, one still unknown, expressionistique pictures, talked about starting own business versus working for someone else, what do you want to do- be a writer- it's little pay but enough, specialized coffee grinder, coffee oversees, expensive per pound, all kinds....

-Nothing (Ardmore- Jan. 15) Good luck party for new semester Lansdowne, watched Dreamgirls, Bagel Factory (Egg with Strawberry Creme Cheese)...

-Raspberry White Mocha* (Jan. 17)- just right, not too fruity, good blend of the white chocolate and raspberry, chilaxed at 8th and Walnut tried to work on more stories, but having a difficult time, did some free writing, ate at Mixx- Mochi Ice Cream, dancing eels, philly roll and Gyoza (pork), bought paper for stars, stuff for basket, and dreamgirls soundtrack

-Caramel Frappuccino* (Jan. 20)- good, with Aunty Anne's Almond pretzel, sat in University City, watched people go by- guy controling robots, people tossing football, bikers, people from around the world, runners, prior to this, watched a dance- discordant music- tribute to Scott Joplin- better and cheery, last day to pack, off to SHU the next day...

*Starbucks

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 9:31 PM | Comments (2)

January 9, 2007

Movies at the Ritz

1. Curse of the Golden Flower
2. History Boys
3. The Painted Veil
4. Miss Potter
5. A Note on a Scandal

The Curse of the Golden Flower

I first saw the preview for this movie during Thanksgiving break. I wanted to see it because it's been a while since a good kung-fu/martial arts movie had been released in the U.S.. The preview was tantalizing too. The colors looked digital enhanced, it's really sharp, clear and bright. The icing on this preview was the costumes and the set, which made me reexamined my concept of China.

So this is the first new movie I saw so far. I was a wee bit disappointed because it wasn't an all out king-fu/martial arts Crouching Tiger type of movie. But nonetheless, the story was still good (I got the genre wrong). The movie did incorporate martial arts but this wasn't the driving force. It was the drama and decadence of a flamboyant Imperial family during the Tang Dynasty which steered the movie's direction.


History Boys

I didn't know what this movie was about, I just watched it because of key phrases that caught my attention: tony-award winning, hilarious, witty, dead poet's society [esque], preparation for entrance examination, question schooling (learning for knowledge or to have an "edge"). The descriptions were right on target.

Coming from an American schooling system, the British system in this movie seemed fantastical, and ideal for scholars (it's like an honor's program that's efficient and have results). I've actually have some classes that were run similar to the movie. The classes were designed very quirkily and liberally (well rounded) for example- lots of impromptu, singing and piano playing in the beginning of class, acting, recitation, foreign language, discussion, essays, poetry reading, lots of talking (sometimes rhetorical, hypothetical)- most of the students in this movie didn't care they just wanted to get the degree, they have the potential and capabilities, they took it seriously enough to attend and learn the 'strategies' BUT there was one student from this class who took everything and integrated with his education and his being, became part of his values and outlook on life, he took the lessons to his heart, he actually believed in them...


The Painted Veil

This movie is based on a book, I haven't read it. I wasn't going to watch this movie because I thought it was going to be another love story that have affairs.

It has affairs and all the who-haha por supuesto, but it is also a decade movie set in the 1920s (I think) flappers, women with a bob, Foreign land (China) and CHOLERA. If you haven't read the book, (and totally clueless about what's going to happen), the main intriguing question: is the protagonist couple going to make it? Will their love survive the CHOLERA?

the movie explored women's rights and issues- independence, marrying for convinience, taboo of being single etc.
Basically, Edward Norton's character marries a spoiled 'free'-thinking woman Naomi Watts. He falls for her, he's a geeky bacteriologist, she's a vixen whose younger sister got married before her. Watts wants to control her own destiny but she's still bound by society's morass. She has an affair, got caught by the husband- threaten to divorce her (taboo) if she doesn't accompany him to Cholera-infested China- out of sheer madness and broken heart and anger- he volunteered to contain and prevent the spreading of Cholera in the province country-side of China, Watts tried to use her woman'y charms by saying that Norton was cruel and that she should divorce him quietyly instead of him divorcing her- Norton fights back by saying that she has no reason to divorce him (she's the adulterous one).

Through hardship, they learn to love each other, and in the end the audience is reminded that in this romantic background, CHOLERA lurks around.

I like the way the movie was shot, the scenes were magnificent. (I think I saw a classmate from high school in the movie theater).


Miss Potter

This is a charming movie. When I saw the poster for this movie, I thought it was going to be another nanny movie. I changed my mind when I saw a trailer for it. This movie is about Beatrix Potter's ( children's author and illustrator) life- it explored her inspiration, how she first got published, her first love, personal tragedy and her legacy (giving land to the british people, preserving farm lands and other beautiful lands from developments and her literature and art)...

Miss Potter is a quirky character, she talks to her drawings and she calls them her friends. The movie has a bit of animation, once in a while the audience see from Potter's point of view- wiggling ducks and moving animals. The British landscape was awesome too. Beofre falling in love, Ms. Potter vowed not to get married for convenience/money/property etc.

She wasn't my hero before but now she is (she made the Diezmos Inspirational People list). Renee Zellwigger (wrong spelling) did an okay job as Miss Potter (she's cast a lot ot play British people). I notice that most of her projects tend to depict real people (I think this is the hollywood trend right now). She's the type of actress that's willing to gain pounds to play a fat character, to wear realistic make-up to take away the glamour. In this movie she's very sanguine.

Ewan McGregor played her love interest, and Emily Watts is also part of the cast. McGregor's character here reminded of his Moulin Rouge character- hopelessly romantic young man/poet.

Potter's courage is admirable- she stuck to her beliefs and her interest. Nature was her muse and she used this as the base for her work. She achieved her dreams and more because of her perseverance.

I'm can't wait to start taking water colors next semester and paint like Potter!


A Note on a Scandal

Scandal is the word that'll attract attention. This movie (starring Kate Blanch, Judi Dench) reminded me of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. It explored the themes of youth, old age, and obsession. The movie is not as lyrical and poignant as the book. The movie is a bit more twisted, specially the ending cycle repeats, never broken.

In this movie, there was a lot of laughter from the audience because of Dench's character's sarcasm and dry humor. I didn't catch most of it while watching the movie but reflecting back I realized that the audience laughed not in disrespect but because of the wit and also Dench's good acting and awesome timing and delivery.

The plot- Dench's character, Barbara "Covett", a teacher who's about to retire, obsessed about Sheba (Blanch), a middle age art teacher. Sheba in turn has an affair with her 15 year old male student. Sheba is facing a midlife crisis, her marriage to an older guy is stale. Covett finds out about Sheba, and uses this information to strenthen her 'friendship' with Sheba. So a lot of obsession.

The one scene that directly reminded me of Mann's story is when Sheba put on make-up that made her look like she was in the 80s. In Mann's novel, Aschenbach put make up to hide his wrinkles- the similarities are strinking especially in their ridiculousness- looking both like clowns and achronistic.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 6:39 PM | Comments (0)

January 8, 2007

2/3 of Graduate Application done!

I finally finished 2 out of 3 applications for Graduate schools. Indiana and Utah are due this January 15, and Oregon is due February 15. I'm going to work on the last one next week before I go back to SHU.

Tomorrow I'm going to mail Indiana and Utah. It's good to be done filling them and it's so relieving. I did everything I could possibly do, and I did them in a timely manner.

I'm glad I had a chance to do them over the break. I would be too distracted with research papers and other impending homework to focus on them during the semester.

Application form and fee- One is on its way, the other is done on-line, the last one is on Feb. 15.
Transcript- I've been consitent with my grades at SHU.
Letters of Recommendation- I handed these out before leaving SHU for the winter break.
Statement of Intent- I wrote a draft and revised it three times with the help of Dr. A. This helped me to focus and articulate my purpose for going to Grad school.
GRE- I've been preparing for this in tidbits since summer. I took it on the 20th of Dec. I met the minimum for the schools I'm applying for.
Letter of Interest for Graduate Instructorship- I wrote this and attached my resume.
Resume- Building it up with actual experience since forever.
Sample writings- Focused on what interested me, related to the Master Program I'm trying to get in.

Worst Case Scenario: Doesn't get in Grad school (wasted effort), then get a job with benefits, pay loans, save up, try again years from now (like many many years from now), still go for my goal (statement of intent) in a different way...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 4:19 PM | Comments (2)

January 6, 2007

Cebu: A Restaurant Review

Yesterday, after my friend and I watched "Miss Potter" at the Ritz Bourse in Center City Philadelphia, we walked two blocks to the Olde City district and ate dinner in this posh Filipino-Spanish restaurant called Cebu (named after one of the islands in the Philippines). We've been eating mostly sushi and other Asian and world cuisines lately and we wanted try something else. I have been exposed to Filipino food all my life, and I wanted to see how this restaurant presented Filipino cuisine.

Before entering, we checked the menu for the prices and what they served. They served mostly Filipino food with some Spanish cuisine. Their motto is Filipino cuisine with a Spanish flair. The appetizers started at $7 per entree (this was reasonable considering its location (prestigious Olde City= high rent, tax, license), service, public image etc.). The main meals started as low as $25. Good thing this was not the first time I've eaten in such a restaurant, I knew that the $25 meal was served in a large quantity. So I rationalized that several appetizers would probably suffice me and my friend (we get full easily).

We came in -it wasn't too busy, (maybe it was still early) and saw some people at the bar- and were seated. We were greeted with "Mabuhay" (which is similar to "Aloha"- multiple meanings- one such translation is "to live"). I think the woman who greeted us was Latina (I definitely sense a different accent when she said "Mabuhay"). I asked her if she was Filipina. She misinterpreted my question and replied that the owner and the chef are Filipinos.

The place looked awesome. It had high ceilings, which had trompe l'oiel drawings of clouds and something mechanical (like the insides of a clock). It had weird lamps that were sinuous and some looked like Dandelions/NY New Year's Eve Spikey ball. It was sort of dim and black lights highlighted parts of the wall creating dimensions and exciting diagonals in the air and on the walls.

Then comes the food. We ordered four appetizers, a sidedish of rice and I got water with lemon to drink (figuring that my money should go to the food instead), and they gave us a small basket with bread and butter. I started worrying about the size of the appetizers (different restaurants have their own concept of appetizers- to some, they are little snacks and to others they can be large enough to be an actual meal) Fearing that they might be as small as two slices of emaciated carrots on a large white plate drizzled with caramel and parsley and baby's breath on the side, I loaded up on my carbs and ate most of the delicious bread and butter.

I was half right. They served us two Shanghai Lumpia (Filipino eggrolls with meat and vegetables) with three sauces, Adobo Pork (Pork marinated in Garlic and soy sauce with vegetables), and Tokwa (Fried Tofu with Barbeque) and Tuna Kinilaw (Tuna with Vinegarette made of mangoes, coconut and other Filipino ingredients) for $33. The side of rice cost $2, and the waitress was surprised that it was just for me (she thought that the tiny bowl of rice was for me and my friend- she kept asking us earlier if we needed another one).

The Lumpia and Tuna were served in tiny amounts but the Adobo Pork and Tokwa were not. The two 2.5 inches Lumpia were overprice (my aunt in CA makes the same size and sells them for a dollar a piece), and there were only three slices of tuna. The Lumpias weren't golden browm instead a little pale even in the dim light. The Tokwa didn't have enough fried tofus. Nonetheless all the food were delicious and good quality.

Bonus points for their cooking and presentation. I was impress with the Pork Adobo and the vinegarette in the Tuna Kinilaw. The pork was tender and moist (wasn't dry or overcooked), and the adobo sauce was right (didn't have too much garlic or soy sauce). It was very flavorful, I tasted all the ingredients and nothing was overpowering- all in harmony with the tastebuds. The vinegarette opened my senses to possibilities I've never considered before. It was a good blend of the sweet and the pungent. They used top quality, fresh sweet soft Philippine mangoes (not hard unripe Indian mangoes), sugar palm candy and coconut to sweeten the vinegerette.

For presententaion, they cut the Lumpias in diagonal to make it look like there are many pieces. They used angular banana leaves as a matt on top of the plates and purple orchids (however unlike icing on cake they were too pretty too eat). They served the Tuna Kinilaw on a lopsided/asymetrical bowl.

We had turon (fried sweetened bananas wrapped in Shanghai wrappers) for $6. The bananas were too mushy like baby food, and there were more wrappers than banana. The turon was served with a perfect single-scoop of vanilla icecream on top of caramelized chocolate syrup with a sliced strawberry fanning out. The dessert was nicely presented, but wasn't as tasteful as the appetizers.

Cebu Restaurant lost points for courtesy. They were nice, but I felt that I was rushed (this might appear so because we were the only customer eating at the time- so they weren't busy with other diners). I don't know if this is a restaurant custom or not but everytime we finished a plate, the waiters removed it immediately. At times I felt that this was disruptive (I understand if we had extra food coming or if our table was really cluttered).

They lost points for downplaying the uniqueness of the Philippines. The only thing Filipino is the food. Instead of playing a mix of Tagalog and Spanish songs in the background, they played all Spanish songs. The decor was very trendy, modern, something one will find in New York (but not memorable). It looked like every hot shot restaurant out there. I sort of understand the logic behind this marketing scheme- exotic enough to attract attention at the same time with a familiar and upscale feeling. Filipinos (Fil-Am) who know how to cook this food already may be intrigued (like me) to check it out and support it. Others totally unfamiliar with Filipino culture may be lured by its Spanish charm and "flair" (or vice-versa). They downplayed in order to suit their constituents, which was very reasonable for this type of business (nonetheless they still lose points for it).

Overall, eating at Cebu was excellent. It was pricey (comes with the territory), the service was good, and the food was scrumptious!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 4:50 PM | Comments (3)