Monday, July 17, 2017

Doctor Who: A Fond Farewell

*photo from internet

Now that the BBC and Chris Chibnall has unveiled the new Doctor to be very female and gorgeous in the person of Jodi Whitaker, comes the question for true blue Whovians as to whether a female Doctor (as in Doctor Who, for those not cognizant with the brevity) is going to sink in at all.

We get the clamor for female-power taking precedence but I have always seen the female-equality crisis as a male problem. By this I mean, there is a rise in feminism because there are not enough men in the world that rightfully respect women for who they are; however this dilemma cannot be solved by replacing men with women in positions where males ought to be and that includes the Doctor in Doctor Who.

I have remained an avid fan since 2007 and have appreciated The Doctor for who he was, an affable, adventurous and capable friend every time I either binge watch or see him every Sunday evening. He was this dependable male role model whom I could count on to take me through the dregs or the apogee of space and time travel battling all sorts of malevolence in various interplanetary species and celebrating the good ones as well. He was fatherly when older, avuncular when middle-aged and a dish to crush on when young and agile. The Doctor respected and hailed women as his equal, as his good friend, granddaughter, daughter, wife, companion, queen, prime minister, love interest, co-warrior and inspiration and at times nemesis, so why replace the man? His persona was not emblematic of misogyny in the pop-culture world at all, in fact it was one that actually made an ideal example on how gratifying a male and female relationship can be. This move by the new team behind Doctor Who saw a problem and elected to solve it where there was none to deal with. The backlash for this decision in turn has created a discord instead of a statement and a disconnect instead of bridge.

Moreover, the TV show in my eyes was a place where distressing religious wars, grimy geopolitical personages or conflicts or PC dictatorships could not permeate through, exactly because of its otherworldly theme. It was truly the last frontier of escapism where the exploits in the episodes did not require logic or responsibility as what imagination should be in this world where realities are more rancorous by the day. With the announcement of a female as the new doctor, we close this book of a dream world unmolested by propaganda. No disrespect to Jodi Whitaker, a fine specimen of an actress indeed but this a misplacement for her. We are not afraid of her gender, The Doctor quite simply is male that's all there is to it. Just like a “Wonder Man” is not necessary in lieu of Wonder Woman herself.

The new show runner Chris Chibnall of the “Broadchurch” fame does not understand the Who universe or the fans clearly. A questionable trail follows him as a creator who has bled “Broadchurch” (which had the prospect of becoming a true cult classic the likes of “Twin Peaks,”) bone dry, replacing value with bankroll as was the case of Broadchurch's US version, the disgraceful “Gracepoint.” This man clearly does not have the heart, just the bottom line, the very thing that robs devotees of that which is unique and endearing about something they love like Doctor Who. For certain it is an end of the Doctor Who world as we know it and that sincerely has nothing to do with female-phobia or male chauvinism or any other sort of “phobia” or “ism” that will be pegged on to those who will find this move disagreeable. I won't even hypothesize about the future, an iconoclastic deed has been done which is irreparable to a steadfast icon. There is no rectifying that.

Suffice it to say, it's end of the line for many of us, the ones that will take over as fans will embrace something that is not even remotely connected to the prototypal, beloved character that has provided a fantastic diversion from our real lives. As for me, perhaps it's time I grow up anyway, holding on to an ideal doesn't pay. Allegorically speaking, the eleventh hour has rung and this is what's left for me to do. I will hijack the TARDIS, set it up to travel to Transelore, the place where we all know our time lord dies and where The Doctor embodied by Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker (Tom), Davison, Baker (Colin), McCoy, McGann, Ecclestone, Tennant, Smith and Capaldi, sits to face his demise, I will hold the hand of this beautiful mad man with a blue box, I will thank him for the fun ride all these years and I will see him to his end and now is that time. RIP Doctor. 

*not my photo

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Line of Duty: The Most Important Police Drama in Years.

*not my photo

Admittedly, I haven’t been enthralled with a copper series since… well, since I can remember, except for that Scandi “Wallander” though that one is more protagonist-centered rather than procedural. The show I am referring to is BBC’s "Line of Duty” which began in 2012 and is now getting the much deserved traction because of the story arc's resiliency and its ability to hoodwink the most seasoned of cop show enthusiasts with every episode.

Line of Duty’s format is seminal in a great sense of the word because the mainstay actors (Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar) in effect become supporting cast to the season’s main guest who generally are well-known actors. The current season’s person of interest is played by Thandie Newton (Beloved, Mission Impossible 2), 2nd season’s was played by Keeley Hawes (Upstairs, Downstairs) and the first, Lennie James (AMC’s Low and Winter Sun).

 The Gist:
AC 12 or Anti-Corruption Unit 12 is London Police’s internal affairs group that investigates possible corrupt police officers or “bent coppers", and they are relentless in their cause. What makes this show a cut above is the tangents from which the revelations arise. The initial issue to embark upon naturally, is to conjecture the guilt or innocence of the person under the light of the inquest, subsequently, the analytical reasoning by the viewers follows and whatever conclusion one comes up with as a spectator, many find themselves agape and wrangling with the “why?” “how” and the “what” during the finales.

Series One: The copper under scrutiny is Det. Tony Gates (Lennie James), a police officer
lauded by his peers whose weaknesses include a beautiful Jackie Laverty (Nottinghill's Gina McKee) and high-end provisions for his children. Lennie James plays Gates with great conflict that one can’t help but be both sympathetic and aggrieved with his flaws altogether. Is he bent? if so, how knee-deep is he with the criminal element of London?

Series Two: One will truly commiserate with Det. Insp. Lindsey Denton, a lonely, single, scorned woman, who has to provide the best for her ailing mother, is it incompetence or corruption that causes the death of another police officer under her watch? Or does her dark side really seal her as an all out baddie? Keeley Hawes is almost unrecognizable as the frumpy detective who plays the character with a passivity of a doormat one moment and a powder keg of raw emotions the next.

Series Three: Daniel Mays (Tivik in Rogue One) is Sgt. Daniel Waldron, the rigid SWAT team leader with axes to grind with many people both great and small in London town. Malevolent persons in position by which he plays the vigilante, even coming from within the police force. Series Three explores child abuse perpetrated by high profile people in London (lending from the Jimmy Saville case) and bullying and dissent among a police team that has to struggle between loyalty and honesty.

Series Four: Det. Chief Insp. Roz Huntley played by Thandie Newton is tough and perhaps even heartless. She implicates an innocent mentally-challenged young man and an immigrant in heavy crimes without apparent remorse. Is she corrupt for her own gain? or is she putting herself on the line to protect someone else?

Jed Mercurio:
“Line of Duty’s” creator (the aforementioned), is the ace in hand of this show. His materials borrow much from his medical career as a physician and a military man; with a writing CV that includes well-received novels like “Bodies” (also made into a TV series)and a sci-fi “Ascent,” fans of "Line of Duty" enjoy a cognizant and honest to goodness, edge-of-your-seat guessing game from the beginning to the end of each season. The arcs of the story lines have the staying power to keep audiences through and back again.

As series four concludes this Sunday, I see this one soar to the stratosphere even more and would venture to say that it’s only a matter of time before we hear one the the US’s alphabet networks adapt it there. The cat’s out of the bag, here’s a TV show that’s original and is a blueprint in the making. Give this one a tumble, I’d say, it’s quite intelligent, yes, a plot hole or two exists but the storytelling is genuine and it hits the spot.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

The 2016 Book Report:

Two thousand and sixteen has now vaporized itself into history and while I had set up to read 25 books within said year, I miscounted the darned number I've gone through and missed out on the 25th book. I did only have about 3 days left  of the year when I finished what turned out as the 24th - Sir A. C. Doyle's "The Study in Scarlet"; but supposing I read one that was only a pamphlet-thick in the remaining days, then I would have completed the bloomin' challenge, right? What a lamentable oversight... 

Be that as it may, like what Mr. Gibbs said about the supposed death of Commodore Norington in "Dead Man's Chest," "Best not wallow in our sorrows!" Another year is upon you and I and here's hoping I would be able to complete 25 indeed (though not a promise), but in the meantime, here's my recap. 

Among the books I went through this year, I've proven why classics such as "War and Peace" and "Tale of Two Cities" are choice books for centuries and understand why it will remain so. These books have the staying power of mercurial objects with their universal themes, representations, characterization and even quite frankly their moral lessons. 

"The Picture of Dorian Gray" I thought was psychological with a touch of supernatural and one I imagine would play with someone's mind if one allows it. "Twenty Thousand Leagues" was venturesome and quite fun.  It was the year of my first Balzac with "Cousin Bette" which was rather lengthy but I can now surmise that Balzac is my French auteur du jour en cé moment. "Romola" I enjoyed too, not realizing it was set in Renaissance Florence with the likes of Niccolo Machiavelli making a cameo appearance, George Eliot is a true power house in English Lit; makes one curious about the authoress.

Among the contemporary ones I've read, "The Book Thief" was heart-rending and Diane Ackerman's was like an encyclopedia of the cuerpo mortal. "The Other Hand" or "Little Bee" had a questionable ending in my view, one that I would ask the author about if I ever did meet him for I could not see it as equitable at all. Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" was informative in terms of the culinary substratum, and "The Sisters Brothers" was funny apart from a few hiccups. "Blindness" was disturbing and thought-provoking, so much that "The Age of Innocence" became a breath of fresh air. 

In all, my reading choices weren't regrettable and here's looking forward to more books in 2017; one never knows whether I'll be able to finish 25 of those codices this time? 

Ciao my dearests! And as I always say, "Read! Even if it's just a dictionary." 


1. (January) The Elegance of a Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery  
2. (February, March) War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy  
3. (March) The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, Joel Dickson  
4. (March) Cooking with Fernet Branca, James Hamilton Paterson  
5. (April) Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez  
6. (April) The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt  
7. (May) The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak
8. (May) The Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman  
9. (May, June) Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne   10. (June) Blindness, José Saramago  
11. (July) Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton  
12. (July) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Annie Barrows, Mary Anne Shaffer  
13. (August) Balzac and the Little Seamstress, Dai Sijie  
14. (August, September) Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain  
15. (September) The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, Jonas Johansson  
16. (September) The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde  
17. (October) The Old Curiosity Shop, Charles Dickens  
18. (October) Cousin Bette, Honoré de Balzac   
19. (October, November) Persuasion, Jane Austen    
20. (November, December) Little Bee or The Other Hand (UK), Chris Cleave  
21. (December) Romola, George Eliot  
22. (December) A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens  
23. (December) Sign of the Four, Arthur Conan Doyle  
24. (December) A Study in Scarlet, Arthur Conon Doyle     

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

One Year, 25 Books Overture: Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Madame Olenska?

This might as well have been Edith Wharton's alternative title for "The Age Of Innocence" because the whole book revolves around the presence and affairs of the beautiful Countess Ellen Minggot Olenska.

Newland Archer is a man in full during New York’s Guilded Age (ca. 1870 - 1900), he works as a lawyer in a reputable firm and is engaged to May Welland, New York’s foremost debutante. Madame Olenska is May's first cousin and as custom has it in the upper class, when one marries, the person is really married to the entire clan and not merely the one vows are given to. Enter Madame Olenska who comes to New York with quite a baggage and they are: a topsy-turvy breakup with her philandering, aristocrat husband in Europe, an upbringing by a Bohemian aunt and worse, a great sense of independence and unconscious disregard for the proclivities of New York’s society. Newland Archer is the one compelled by the Welland and Minggot families to help Madame Olenska’s predicament and despite the reserve and stoicism of a polite gentleman in this era, Newland falls in love with Countess Olenska.

Upon reading the first chapter, one can already figure out how this pans out but you want to stay on reading for the nuances and how you believe the characters should deal with conflict such as these.

There is beautiful language and cadence of storytelling in this book, it is urbane, sentimental and even though one feels as though they are listening to gossip as the words unravel, it is somehow classy. The reader would sympathize with the characters on all sides of the argument because Edith Wharton wrote this with clarity.  There is the very conventional and obedient May Welland, the free-spirited Madame Olenska who also wants to conform for the sake of her love and Newland Archer who is wrenched between duty and desire. There is too in the end, pity for all characters in the book despite their affluence because they are after all prisoners of the society which they built and the rules which they have not written but adhere to. 

It would do one a bit of good to read this classic. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

One Year, 25 Books: Blindness by: José Saramago

“Blindness" is one of the most intriguing books one will ever read as its premise will never leave you. Imagine a world with pandemic blindness, with that, imagine all the fear, widespread panic and then envision the degradation that would follow. This book is part science fiction, part parabolic and all original. Indeed very worthy of the Nobel prize it gained for Literature in 1995.


"White Blindness” (rather than “dark” blindness) is the illness that sweeps the city in this story. It begins with one man who is driving a car, then it afflicts the bloke that helps him, then on to the ophthalmologist who attempts to treat him, and on to other patients present in the clinic during the first blind man’s visit, and further still, on to people who come in contact with all the preceding characters then eventually to everyone in the city and perhaps the world.

Entropy. The first set of people to be afflicted are interned in an empty mental hospital and at the start, government, society, and the diseased try to keep the peace, order and reason, however, due to lack of information on the ailment, its mode of contamination, incubation period and other queries,  the ones afflicted are neglected, threatened and even abandoned. With the arrival of the succeeding packs of newly blinded people, disintegration takes residence in the wards and a “Lord of the Flies” scenario occurs. A group of thugs in one ward decides to go feudal on the food and supplies for everybody in the hospital until they get their retribution.

Meanwhile in the world outside, it appears that blindness has set upon all humans of all the social strata; pet animals are roaming about left to fend for themselves and have reverted back to their wild instincts. Chaos defines the place and groups grapple together in packs to find food and shelter day by day, night after night wherever possible with their world narrowing down to holding out for survival. If we pan out circumspectly, we can study the behavior of how our specie might be able to survive in such a drastic and horrifying scenario, yet our depravity will always get in the way with our hope and potentials as people.

One woman lives to see all of this and she is spared of the illness, the reason behind her immunity is as mysterious as how the blindness came about in the first place. Though the tale is not told in her perspective, we see her dilemma of being fortunate enough not to go blind but conversely she witnesses the erosion of the world she lives in and the people around her. Was her sight worth having?

The plot though begs the question as to why couldn’t people who were blind prior to the epidemic, having already mastered their surroundings without sight not step up to the plate to some degree? Couldn’t they have helped guide and teach the ones afflicted how to adapt to their new condition? However, to be finicky is to take the essence away from the story. Give this one a tumble, it’s quite thought-provoking and will leave you thinking about it days after you finish it.

Monday, June 20, 2016

One Year, 25 Books Overture: A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman

Reading “A Natural History of the Senses” is like diving into a Niagara Falls of information about our constitution as human beings. In the book, Diane Ackerman delivers an expository of each of our senses that is vastly interesting, outlining the macro and microcosm of it all.  The author divided the book into major chapters (Smell, Touch, Hearing, Vision, Taste Synesthesia) with subchapters for compartmentalization. Upon reading, it was as though Sir David Attenborough’s voice was narrating in the background like in a documentary as it had that feel to it.


The chapter on “smell” discussed about how the stimulation of the olfactory nerves affect our appetite for food, life, bodily drives and memories. Ackerman for example is reminded of her childhood as we would be when we smell something familiar. I for one am endeared to the smell of smoke coming from the fire of dried leaves, papers and kindling because it reminds me of the rubbish we burned from what was swept at our yard in the Philippines (sans plastic). The memory of my mother and I watching the smoke rise higher in the afternoons is invoked and I remember them with clarity every time I get a whiff of that brand of smoke.

The chapter also tells of a Russian perfumer responsible for many high fashion fragrances and how she is paid exorbitantly to be “The Nose” for a famous atelier of perfumes in New York. She is able to draw scents harmoniously from numerous elements around the globe i.e., trees, flowers, fruits and is able mix and match them so a chemist can put it all together and concoct a scent that you or I might already be wearing at this very moment. Take note as she casually exposes the formula for the celebrated eau de toilette Chanel No. 5 which contains Gardenia, ha! no wonder I never took to it, I have bad recollections with Gardenias. 

Newsflash. Remember in the last decade or so when pheromones in perfumes were the fad?  (even now really), well, our good author debunks the notion that if a bodily fluid were incorporated in a scent, it would be  efficacious in making one attractive to the opposite sex. In the case of a woman, Ackerman argues, males from all manner of species would be trailing after her with something crazy in mind if this were so and I concur. Astonished was I to find too that sometimes, minute amounts of excrement from the anal sac of choice animals are mixed in our perfumes or colognes for an optimum whiff of musk. Nice.

The discourse above is an example on how the rest of the book goes. The other chapters on sight, hearing, taste, touch and that hyperdrive sense “synesthesia” are infused with this kind of exposition also.  Science, anatomy, physiology, the cosmos, history and some mysticism and poetry are mixed in. Ackerman is a very palpable believer of evolution yet there are acknowledgements of a Creator and of creation, she flip-flops this way throughout perhaps because she attempts to be all-encompassing and is accepting. The Chicago Tribune  parallels this book primarily with amorousness; as a naturalist, Ackerman does foray into sensuality as it relates  with our senses but not as a rule. She can be just as effusive with savagery as she is with sensuality, take as an example the recipe for Roasted Goose from the Dark Ages found in the chapter for Taste. Egad!

Ironically, the person known in history that is a frequent point of reference here is one who has lost her sight, hearing and ability to speak, Helen Keller. Though unable to see she can describe what she “sees" eloquently and though unable to hear or speak, she can convey most effectively. I understand Helen Keller to be a woman of faith and I would venture to say that her optimism is a testament that even if physical senses are infirmed, imagination and intuition can make up for it, a case for the human being’s sense of hope

This is quite the requested book, it was a bestseller and it initially came out in 1990, it is both subjective and objective and is a veritable education bonanza.  


One Year, 25 Books Overture: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief is about a girl named Liesel Meminger in Nazi Germany after she was dispatched to her foster parents named Hans and Rosa Huberman who turn out to be cool. After witnessing her little brother die en route to the destination of her new life, the book follows
Liesel's journey from mistrust to becoming acclimated with her new environment. It would otherwise be rosy for Liesel except that she is in a time in history where an evil-fueled despot has risen in Germany who is bent on annihilating Jews and conquering the rest of Europe with this mindset. Since this is an unacceptable proposition for the rest of the world indeed (except Italy and Japan), Germany will just have to make do with the full assault of the allied countries against her and that is the backdrop of our book. 

Foster parents Hans and Rosa and now
Liesel live in Himmel St. (German for Heaven), Liesel makes friends with kids in the neighborhood, some adults, even the Mayor’s wife who lives at the villa on the hill, but not with the Nazi woman store owner. In my head her visage is like that of Frau's in the Austin Powers movies but without the humor. The Huberman household gives shelter to a Jew who they all protect and fall in love with and because of this, we surmise that not all Germans were willing SS members or Furor fanatics during WWII. It is this theme of hope and caritas that makes this book a gem. That, the writing and the viewpoint from whom the whole story is told. Death (himself) tells the story of the book thief and it would be apropos as this is one of the periods in history wherein he would be the busiest too, taking lives here and there and all over. Death here in this book is verbose and takes on a personality if you please.

Liesel stole books for a few reasons. At first it was by accident and complacency really, the second out of passive protest from the periodic book-burnings headed by the Nazis and the succeeding ones were because of repressed anger under the tedium of being subjugated in a hell created by a demented man and his cohorts. A moral question, since the owner of the books Liesel mostly steals from knew and accorded the act, is it still stealing? In the book, a justification for Liesel’s thefts is made with the explanation that she did not steal with greed, for example, she reads the stolen books repeatedly before she takes another one. This reminds me of that argument by a son stealing from her mother’s purse and declaring, he wasn’t stealing but merely borrowing without consent. Haha.

Not at bad read this, and it can be lighthearted even in its dark setting.