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Archive for August, 2015

Oliver Sacks now investigating the afterlife if there is one.

August 31, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Science No Comments →

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Oliver Sacks. Photograph: Adam Scourfield/BBC/AP Photo/AP

Goodbye, Dr. Sacks. You were one of the best friends that nerds obsessed with thinking and consciousness ever had. Fortunately for us we can continue our conversation with you every time we read your books. (As many books as he wrote, there were other manuscripts that he never got around to publishing, as mentioned in his autobiography On The Move.)

Blast, too many obituaries this month.

Shakespeare’s Globe’s Hamlet: Depth takes a holiday

August 28, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Theatre No Comments →


A public service announcement from Benedict Cumberbatch, now playing Hamlet at the Barbican in London.

In truth, writing about Hamlet intimidates me. I’m afraid that Professor Wilhelmina Ramas, who taught Shakespeare at UP, will train her death stare on me and say, “No. No. Nonononono.” I had to armor myself by re-reading Shakespeare’s fan club president, Harold Bloom, who goes into such raptures over the play that I ended up even more daunted.

The Shakespeare’s Globe theatre touring production of Hamlet is designed to remove the intimidation factor and make the play audience-friendly and accessible. This it does, with great efficiency. The company composed of 12 actors and four stage managers is in the midst of a 150-country tour; the Philippines is its 125th stop. There is no set, just a curtain strung between two poles and several trunks that get moved around a lot—the stage design choreography would score high marks in a time-motion study. Actors in modified modern dress take on several roles and swap assignments for each presentation, probably to prevent them going mad from repeatedly performing a play about a guy who is either faking madness or really is mad.

Read our review of the Globe theatre’s touring production of Hamlet at BusinessWorld.

Vicious: Revered thespians behaving badly

August 27, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Television No Comments →

Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi are two of the most esteemed British actors of stage and screen. Theirs are the careers that young thespians aspire to. Between them they have played Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, Uncle Vanya, Cyrano, Alan Turing, Magneto, Claudius and Gandalf. They have played just about every great role we can think of, and now that they’re in their 70s, what is left for them to do? Well, they can play two flamboyant old queens who have carried on a love-hate relationship for 50 years.

It seems disrespectful to refer to these esteemed thespians and LGBT rights campaigners as queens, but that is exactly what makes Vicious entertaining. The audience is urged to disrespect these icons. Jacobi plays Stuart Bixby, who used to manage a bar, and McKellen plays Freddie Thornhill, an infrequently-employed actor, on the British sitcom Vicious. The ITV series created by Mark Ravenhill and Gary Janetti, and directed by Ed Bye, is unrepentantly retro—its theme song is the cover of “Never Can Say Goodbye” by The Communards (If you can remember The Communards, go slather on some moisturizer).

Read our review of Vicious in our TV column The Binge, tomorrow at BusinessWorld.

Good night, sweet Mat

August 25, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Movies, Music 22 Comments →

Keep chasing that laser pointer.

This morning I woke up at 6:30, which I almost never do, and saw that Mat had walked from the kitchen, where he was sleeping last night, to the foot of my bed. He had used his last burst of strength to cross those few meters.

The rest of the day he slept peacefully, and I even managed to make him eat and drink a little. Saffy and Drogon sat nearby, watching him. At 8pm Mat tried to stand up, but was too weak. He started gasping for breath.

Mat died tonight at 8:08 pm. He had a good last day, surrounded by his human, her books and papers, and his two feline companions. There’s no place to bury him here—the spot under the tree where Koosi is buried has been concreted over, and the nearest pet cemeteries are in QC and Cavite. Fortunately Tina offered to bury Mat in her garden in Paranaque, where she recently buried her askal Atis, 17.

This video was taken three years ago with our old phone. Mat was always an angel, and I am lucky to have been his human. Goodbye, Matthias Eomer Octavian Federer-Urban. You were thoroughly lovely.

Here’s Mat’s favorite song.

Think of adopting a stray cat.

Mat the Cat: A Life

August 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats 10 Comments →

mat

Mat, the big white cat with black ears, paws and tail who moved into my house 13 years ago, hasn’t eaten solid food in four days. He’s declined everything I put in front of him, including his favorite treats, and takes in only milk. Mat has always loved milk, and showed no ill effects despite all the warnings in cat care books about too much dairy. He still gets excited when he sees me opening the refrigerator to get the carton, but he’s very weak and wobbly. I’m afraid he is not long for this world. Each time I’ve left the house this past week, I expect that when I get back he’ll be dead, or up and about as if nothing had happened. Cats have powers beyond my comprehension. Meanwhile I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks looking for any food Mat might feel like eating. I have haunted pet food stores and specialty groceries and tried different brands of canned sardines. It’s a pain, but a pain I willingly bear because this is an exemplary cat.

You don’t live with a cat for 13 years without knowing his likes and dislikes, and I am certain he doesn’t want to go to the vet. He’s always hated going to the animal hospital—he hyperventilates, drools, and yowls in the car as if he’s being kidnapped. I don’t want him to spend what could be his last days alone in alien surroundings, feeling like he’s been abandoned. (Koosi, who died two years ago at age 14½, spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and had to fake being well so she could come home to die.) Mat doesn’t seem to be in pain. He’s been hanging out in the bathroom near the litter box—he’s always been the most polite, considerate cat.

Read Mat the Cat: A Life.

* * * * *

UPDATE: Yesterday morning Mat was too weak to even drink milk. I left the house in the afternoon and expected a wake by the time I got back. When I returned not only was Mat alive, but he had walked out of the bathroom and was crouched in the kitchen. The cat wants to live.

I took him to the nearest veterinary clinic, Animal House, where they gave him fluid intravenously, administered an immune system booster, and prescribed soft food that I can feed him with a syringe and a natural diuretic (sambong). I explained that I don’t want Mat to be confined in the hospital, and I will not have him euthanized, either. All I want is for him to be comfortable and free of pain.

Mat was perkier when we got home, and I managed to get some food in him (He actually put up a fight). He’s sleeping soundly, with Drogon hovering over him. I don’t know how much time Mat has, but we will count each extra day of life as a victory. Thank you for your kind thoughts.

Vote for Filipino scientist Giselle Yeo for the Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize

August 22, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Science No Comments →

Filipino scientist Giselle Yeo has a video submission to the Centenary Institute Lawrence Creative Prize and would very much appreciate your support. The Prize recognizes work by an early-career scientist who uses innovative methods for a medically relevant application.

As far as we can tell, Giselle’s research combines molecular biology and physics to study tropoelastin mutants which may be used for bone repair and regeneration. (Sounds X-Men/Wolverine-y.)

Click on this link to the video.

If you like the video, vote for Giselle! You need to log in to thinkable.org with either Facebook or Google+, or sign up with an email address. Click the “vote” button underneath my video and that’s it!

Please feel free to share it with people who might be interested in supporting early-career scientific research.