Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Solitude Sometimes Is

Am listening to Lifeblood by the Manic Street Preachers and it feels very much like my heart is breaking. It's during moments like these that I think I'm only pretending to be a writer, that I won't really be a writer until I can set down in words how a song and a memory can fill one up with such bittersweetness, such intense yet imprecise longing. "1985" plays, and I feel transported to my pre-teenhood and at the same time rooted here: a muddle of innocent ignorance and cynical self-awareness, romantic and idiotic, clueless and knowing, neither now nor then, possibilities spinning in the air but mistakes already made, years already done and gone. Keyboard-conjured notes ring and echo as James Dean Bradfield sings about "Empty Souls," and I think of lost chances and lives in fast-forward. Listening to "I Live To Fall Asleep" almost makes me want to cry; instead, I raise a squiggle-smile of intermingled affection and regret. "Glasnost" fills me with a hope both irrational and fleeting, yet recurring, if that makes any sense. Understand that I'm not even really trying to make the lyrics out -- though I'm sure that they're good -- it's just the way these songs sound that affects me so. And I know they won't -- can't -- make everyone feel the same way, or even close to the same way. It helps to have grown up in the 80s. It helps to be a little over-sensitive and self-centered, to be prone to bouts of nostalgia and daydreaming. It helps to be me, I guess.

Strangers When We Meet

Last night, I was in the Greenhills branch of Book Sale, stalking through the shelves of secondhand tomes as usual, when I realized something.

Another book hunter was in the same store.

Call it arrogance or ignorance, but when I'm searching for bargain book finds at secondhand stores, I usually assume I'm the most serious, most dead-set, most well-informed and perceptive book buyer in the place. I have an idea of which volumes are worthwhile and hard-to-find, which authors are worth trying or following, and even which books are overpriced and will be marked down soon. I like to delude myself that everyone else is just there for a cheapo copy of, say, The DaVinci Code or some Judith Krantz novel or something, or maybe a computer reference manual, or the latest FHM. Yeah, we all like to feel superior in some way, right? No matter how stupid that way may be.

But last night, as I was methodically making my way through the piles of new deliveries, I noticed that there was one other person in the store who was spending quite a lot of time making sure that she was being thorough. I noticed as well that she was lugging around a slowly-growing stack of acquisitions. A sort of unhurried race was suddenly underway: I avoided the areas she had already scoured, and wended my way towards the unexplored shelves. I rapidly built a stack of my own: nonfiction by Neal Stephenson, a novel by Alain de Botton, a marked-down hardbound copy of The Corrections, Animal Land by Margaret Blount, a biography of The Chieftains for Yvette -- good stuff. At one point, I agonized over a huge hardcover collection of Annie Lebowitz's photographs, entitled American Music and featuring everyone from Delta blues singers to Beck, but at over P600 it seemed a little pricey for a Book Sale find.

My competition had been there before I arrived, and she wrapped up her business and ambled over to the counter first. She addressed the salespeople like they were old friends, and I gathered that she was a regular. I glanced at her collection. Excellent choices: books by solid, widely-acclaimed authors, but, luckily, nothing I really really would have wanted -- except for the Wodehouse. Very Good, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse to be exact. Thank God I have an old beat-up copy, inherited from my grandmother, I thought to myself. Whew.

I walked up to her and commented on her acquisition of the Jeeves book. "Good choice, that," I said. She seemed pleased, and started talking about how expensive the Wodehouse volumes were in the non-secondhand bookstores, and about how ol' P.G. was an influence on Terry Pratchett -- "You've read Terry Pratchett, right?" she said, not really as a question -- and how this was actually her first Jeeves book. I told her that in my opinion, the Jeeves stories were far and away the best things Wodehouse had written, and that she was in for a treat. It was a brief exchange, and though we parted with absolutely no idea who the other person was -- not even names were mentioned -- it was undeniably pleasant, in a manner that only conversations that are solely about things one has a passion for can be. No personal issues: just talk about books, and authors. "I miss strangers," Margie said when I told her about it, as she recalled the coffeeshop culture of London.

What does all this have to do with music, you may ask. Well, nothing much, except that of course music is one of those things one can instantly bond with strangers over. Remember meeting Emmily and her husband Dan in Malate last week and, quite early into the conversation, talking about which Smiths albums were our favorites? (I'm tempted to name Meat is Murder, by the way -- thank you Allan Tabilog, for lending me your copy all those years ago). That was a lovely night, with good company and good conversation, and food and (yay) drink aplenty. Dan opening for The Flaming Lips at a festival of music and literature -- I loved hearing about that.

Of course, he also disturbed us both with his pronouncement that he used to be so obsessed with music -- "But I find that as I grow older, I care about it less and less." *Insert blood-curdling scream of grief and denial here* Then again, I look at Tita Pep, who has yet to be disappointed by PJ Harvey and who thoroughly enjoyed the new Eminem, and my own mother, who -- thanks to my sister Marien -- is now a fan of The Shins, The Postal Service and, yes, The Flaming Lips, and I think: well, it's not inevitable. And if I ever do stop caring about music, or books, you may kick me, "so hard that your grandchildren will feel it," as you once so endearingly threatened.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Happy Birthday, Kristine! :)

Though you may be officially a year older today, take comfort in the fact that if you and I and all our friends were to stage a production of The Sound of Music, you would still be Gretl Von Trapp.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Waxy Seal of Judgment

Sassy B.'s birthday present--an initial mini-seal; "a individual and striking way to seal & decorate all your correspondence"--was put to good first use today, as I put what will hereafter be known as the Judgment Bunny Seal of Doom on the envelope with the NU 107 Rock Awards votes inside. I'm not going to divulge who I voted for, but suffice it to say that I'm sure not all the worthy musicians who got the JB stamp of approval (not to be confused with the S.O.D., by the way) are going to win. I did vote for the ones who I think deserved the award, but I think I underdogged some of the categories.

That said, here are the nominees for the NU Rock Awards, to be held at Le Pavilion on December 2. I'm taking bets.

Orange & Lemons
The Mongols

The funny thing about this category is that four of these so-called "new" bands are made up of guys from old bands, either moving on or working on a side project. My prediction is that Bamboo's going to take the award.


One of the most difficult categories to judge. A little too close to call at the moment, and I'm not saying who I picked.

"Noypi" by Bamboo
"Two Trick Pony" by Sandwich
"Biglaan" by 6 CycleMind
"Astro" by Radioactive Sago Project
"Just Like a Splendid Love Song" by Orange & Lemons
"Harapin and Liwanag" by The Dawn

I think Bamboo's going to take it again. And, for the record, the song I voted for isn't my favorite among the nominees, but I still think it deserves the award.

As the Music Plays by Bamboo
Influence by Urbandub
Thanks to the Moon's Gravitational Pull by Sandwich
Dramachine by Sugarfree
Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes and Dirty Ice Cream by Orange & Lemons
Derby Light by Cambio

Also a little too close to call. But, that said, I'm really a little bit upset that O&L are nominated. Augh.

"Astro" by Radioactive Sago Project, directed by RA Rivera
"Two Trick Pony" by Sandwich, directed by Diego Castillo
"Shallow Graves" by Chocosci, directed by Quark Henares
"Sinta" by Sugarfree, directed by Quark Henares
"DV" by Cambio, directed by Diego Castillo
"Doll's Head" by The Late Isabel, directed by Mark Jimenez
"Another Minute Until Ten" by Typecast, directed by Chuck Pose

I think it's a toss-up between "Astro" and "DV." I liked the "DV" video a lot. *looks down at ground, draws figure 8s in the ground with toe, pats hair self-consciously*

Slapshock, Novena by Slapshock (NOTE: Didn't Team Manila do the design for this one?)
Inksurge, Thanks to the Moon's Gravitational Pull by Sandwich
Typecast, The Infatuation is Always There by Typecast
Cairo Visual, Icarus by Chicosci
Marcus Nada, Derby Light by Cambio
Jay Tablante, Kjwan by Kjwan

I think Novena is going to win this, although of course the office would be really happy if Marcus took home the award.

Bamboo Mañalac of Bamboo
Marc Abaya of Sandwich
Karl Roy of Kapatid
Gabby Alipe of Urbandub
Ebe Dancel of Sugarfree

Ebe 4eber! Yay! I voted for Ebe! Heh heh. I'm kidding. No, wait, I'm not kidding. Or am I? I'll never tell.

Ira Cruz of Bamboo
Mong Alcaraz and Sonny Baquisal of Chicosci
Diego Castillo, Marc Abaya, and Raymund Marasigan of Sandwich
Mike Elgar and Kakoy Legaspi of Rivermaya
Gabby Alipe and John Dinopol of Urbandub
Steve Badiola of Typecast
Jerome Astro Velasco of the Mongols

Hm. Hard to call, too. I don't remember who I voted for, either.

Nathan Azarcon of Bamboo
Lalay Lim of Urbandub
Lee Nadela of Slapshock
Buddy Zabala of Cambio and Twisted Halo
Myrene Academia of Sandwich and Imago
Japs Sergio of Rivermaya

Now, wouldn't it be cool if a woman took home a Rock Awards trophy? It figures that it'll be for Bassist of the Year, if it happens, though. My complaint here is that bassists aren't given enough to do, and so it's hard to pick out someone in the background to give the award to.

Vic Mercado of Bamboo
J-Hoon Balbuena of Kjwan
Jerros de Lino of Urbandub
Mitch Singson of Sugarfree
Marc Escueta of Rivermaya
Mike Dizon of Sandwich

Luis guessed who I voted for. Which may have been easy, because this particular drummer had a lot to contribute to the band. He stood out, even on the CD.

Angee Rozul and Kjwan, for Kjwan
Angee Rozul and Bamboo, for As the Music Plays
Slapshock, for Novena
Sandwich, for Thanks to the Moon's Gravitational Pull
Rivermaya, for Between the Stars and Waves
Buddy Zabala and Raymund Marasigan, for Dramachine

Wouldn't it be something if Rivermaya won this, eh? It'd be something bad. But I predict that either Angee Rozul and Bamboo or Sandwich will win it.

The Late Isabel
Plane Divides the Sky

I think Plane Divides the Sky will finally get the award this year, after having been nominated for the same thing last year (thanks for the info, Luis!). Or will The Late Isabel actually goth their way into the hearts of the judges?


So there. Tickets, I understand, are going to be sold at P350 each. Expensive, but worth it if you want to go see your favorite bands play, accept awards, cry, laugh, stutter, thank their fans. There will also be the odd orc stampede or two. Punta tayo!

There and Back Again

What a great weekend! I miss the bracing chill air of Tagaytay already. (Not that early mornings on Maginhawa street aren't laced with chill air, but it's polluted, not-so-chill air punctuated by tricycle motor-sounds). Bread, cheese, mulled wine, and great friends = Yay! Somehow even just watching cable TV is so much more fun in such a setting. Also, our little out of town stay was educational, as I did not know that it was humanly possible to consume a jar of Nutella in one sitting -- raw, without the benefit of bread or crackers, kind of like looking directly at the sun without protection, except in a hazelnut spread sense. Nor had I ever really appreciated the full effect even a televised, fully clothed Richard Gere can have on female spectators. "How old is Richard Gere, anyway?" "Nummy."

Thoroughly enjoyed the trip there and back too. Road trip music: the Jack Daniels compilation CD (best bits: The Youth, Violent Playground, Girl in Park), the Pixies tribute album ("Gigantic" makes you wanna jump around; it's Rave Pixies, so wrong and so right), Liz Phair, Fiona Apple, Sting before he went bad, and the next day, Kristin Hersh, two CDs worth of Sugarfree, Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas and "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen, hee hee. I had sung along to the "I'm a sex machine/ready to reload" line in front of Sassy's mom before I realized what I was doing. Luckily I doubt that she noticed.

And now we're all back in the city. Am listening to "Buwan" by the Itchyworms, and working on that how-to article for PULP now. I doubt very much that I can fill three spreads with it; kind of the opposite of the problem I had last month, with the Kitchie article. Given the instant nature of the assignment, it's not going to be a classic, but I'm going to shoot for something that's at least passably witty and informative. ("The first thing to remember about getting gigs for your fledgling band is the first thing that you have to remember about everything in the Philippines, from plumbing to teaching astrophysics: it's all about who you know.")

Oh, hey, congratulations on your NU judging stint, btw! :) And RE: your shameful past, nothing at all wrong with "making phone calls to radio stations to request songs" -- hey, I did that in high school too, and furthermore I would ask the NU jocks to dedicate those songs: "This is "Gravity" by Translator, going out to Maricon, from you know who." In other words, I win the uncool contest.

Except for a minor personal glitch (not to mention the mini-riot that went on outside the Trade Center, tho I only found out about it later), I enjoyed last year's NU Awards quite a bit; hope they hired director Cocoy Jimenez again, as he knows how to keep his awards shows as tight and fast-paced as possible (as I witnessed first-hand behind the scenes at Pilipinas). Last year's highlights included an acoustic set by heavy band Subculture, an energetic Urbandub number, that E-heads tribute, and Narda's In the Raw triumph. I think I still have that large-format souvenir magazine they were giving away: kind of like MTV Ink, except without the color, the cool layouts and the fun writing.

Anyway, back to work. See you at the office! :)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Judgment Bunny Gets a Phone Call

I was just on my way into the elevator today when I got a call on my cellphone. It was a landline number that my phone didn't recognize, and I didn't pick it up because I wasn't in a hurry and couldn't wait for the next elevator car. It was an Ortigas number that looked vaguely familiar. I tried dialling the number when I got off the elevator, but I kept getting a busy signal. Oh, well, if it's important, they'll call back, I thought, and tucked the phone into my pocket.

It wasn't till I started the car when the sleeping neurons in my head awakened from their drooly slumber. "6346516? You know that number because...ah, you used to call it quite a bit when you were young, uncool, and secretly called radio stations to make requests. You never got through, though."

Well, my neurons might be lazy, but they were right. 6346516 called back, and it turned out to be from NU107. They wanted to know if I could maybe be one of the judges at the NU Rock Awards this year.

Yay! I mean, YAY! In the course of this job, I've been a judge at competitions big and small, from the barely tolerable acoustic competitions where (true story) the lyric "I'm constipated for your love" actually figured, to prestigious music awards like MTV Pilipinas and the Awit Awards. But I can't begin to tell you what being asked to judge the NU107 Rock Awards is like for me. I was, all throughout the critical years of high school, so uncool it wasn't even funny enough to be material for a future bitter autobiography. I was making phone calls to radio stations to request songs, ferchissakes. And I didn't even know how uncool it was, because I was just a whole black hole of uncoolness.

So now, here I am, almost 15 years away from being 15 years old and NU107 called me! To judge the Rock Awards! Oh my god. This is like...like being named Prom King or Queen years after the fact. Revenge of the nerds, baby! *evil laugh*

Next week: Judgment Bunny is invited to the Judges' Lunch, where she will find out which bands will be on the receiving end of her judgment oranges of doom.