Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The King of Nothing to Do #4

But it is, nameless rent-a-cop! IT IS. Time for this month's second installment of my Manila Bulletin column, to be exact. Remember, kiddies, it's every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month, in the Bulletin's 'i' section. This time around, I wrote about the recently-concluded Fête de la Musique:
Those of you fortunate enough to have owned -- or in my case, borrowed -- a hardbound series of books collectively known as Childcraft while growing up may recall a reassuring demonstration involving vampires and mathematics in one of the volumes. (Other readers may wonder what business the words "reassuring" and "mathematics" have being in the same sentence with each other). It goes something like this: say that a vampire needs to feed once every week, and that every time it bites someone’s neck, that person becomes a vampire too. So in two weeks you have two vampires, in three weeks you have four, and so on and so forth in rapid geometric progression, until by the time you hit a little over half a year you would have about 8 billion vampires populating the Earth.

And so, the demonstration reassures us, vampires cannot exist, because if they did, you and everyone else you know would be a vampire right now. What the authors of Childcraft may not have realized is that the idea that everyone one knows, including oneself, is quite possibly a vampire -- and in fact, is likely to be, as proven by mathematics -- is far more terrifying a concept than the idea that some lone vampire, vulnerable to crucifixes and garlic pizza, might be wandering around somewhere.

Which brings us in typical roundabout fashion to the annual Fête de la Musique, which I had the pleasure of attending last Saturday night at El Pueblo. As always, over a hundred bands performed for free on various stages, grouped loosely according to genre: Rock, Blues, Jazz, Hip-hop, Electronica, etcetera. Okay -- you may well ask -- what do vampires have to do with the Fête? Aside from the fact that almost everyone who attends seems to be dressed in black, the main reason the Fête reminded me of the Childcraft horror story is that the number of people seems to double every time, as if every attendee in a given year seems to make it a point to come back in the next, dragging another music afficionado along.

As always, check out the print version for the full column. I have yet to discover why the MB's online archives seem to have swallowed the previous three installments in Sarlacc Pit fashion. Perhaps they will be regurgitated sometime soon.

In other news: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy opens in local theaters today! Go watch it! Unlike the last Star Wars movie, all the jokes are intentional. (And speaking of SW3, check out this abridged screenplay). And while waiting in line for your Hitchhiker's tickets, you can try writing an entire novel in six words. Funny how the John Updike example renders much of his actual written work superfluous.

Finally, if you're not in the mood for light, quirky spacefaring fare, you could watch this bit of cinematic anti-whimsy, as I did last night with my friends Kidlat, Ronnie and Tanya. We were originally supposed to watch Mr. and Mrs. Angelina Jolie, but we noticed the invitation-only Hotel Rwanda premiere being held in the theater right next to the ticket booth, and Kids used his manly charms to wangle us four free passes. I kid you not. Anyway, if you want to flinch and squirm as based-on-true-life hardships and atrocities are reenacted onscreen, Hotel Rwanda is the movie for you. It's sad, frightening, and, at times, all too close to home.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


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Happy birthday, dear blog. Happy birthday, dear blog. Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday dear blog!

Hard to believe that it's been exactly a year since we started this thing, Kristine. As I recall, it was originally supposed to be a lengthy article about our past and current listening habits, with a back-and-forth epistolary thing going -- kind of like a cross between At the Movies with David and Sarah and Nick Hornby's 31 Songs. (Incidentally, note how in that Observer article on 31 Songs, the ostensibly literate Alain de Botton completely disregards the instructions and lists an entire album instead of a single favorite song. Oh well, who can blame him: it's The Sundays, after all). Somehow that idea evolved into this ongoing, anything-goes, nonprofit thing. Which is fine, except for the nonprofit part.

Anyway, here's to our blog, and here's to music in all its forms, except the bad ones. As Fran Lebowitz wrote in Metropolitan Life, "There are two kinds of music -- good music and bad music. Good music is music that I want to hear. Bad music is music that I don't want to hear."

For more Lebowitz wit, by the way, there's a great interview here. Also, would like to wish a slightly belated happy birthday to Joelle and JB, music-lovers and excellent human beings both. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2005


So the other night I finally watched Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith, and just last night, Yvette and I caught Batman Begins on the first day of its run here. One of these films had atrocious dialogue, plenty of bad acting, some cool fights and a lot of mostly wasted potential. The other film was Batman Begins. (Not that SW3 wasn't entertaining in its own right: as we discovered, a great way to pass time on a rainy car ride is to quote lines from the movie to each other. Hilarity, inevitably, ensues).

Four words will serve to sum up the new Bat-flick: Best Batman movie ever. While the utter craposity of the last one will forever remain a low point in the annals -- huh huh, I said annals -- of comics fanhood (damn you, Schumacher!!), this new one reinvents the Batman story from the ground up, with the use of a good, solid script, a whole roster of A-list actors, and of course, the talents of director Christopher Nolan, of Memento and Insomnia fame. "A rousing, reverent, often brilliant re-creation of a seminal comics character, Batman Begins proves Batman is at home in the 21st century as he was in the 20th," says Keith Phipps. "The movie works dramatically in addition to being an entertainment," says Roger Ebert. "Batman Begins is so fresh and feels so definitive that there might as well not have been any such creature as Batman ever before," says MaryAnn Johanson. "Hey, Katie Holmes' nipples are showing through her blouse," observed Yvette.

The basic concept of Batman remains, of course, insane. But hey, as Jay Pinkerton writes in Why Batman Works: "That's the simple beauty of Batman's enduring legacy. We don't identify with him. We don't laugh at him. Mostly we just marvel at him, I think. In most movies, the villains get to have all the fun, and the heroes tend to be fairly bland. Batman's one of the few characters I can think of who's as monumentally fucked up as the criminals he's chasing."

Christian Bale brings life and complexity (and, according to Fran, major hotness) to the role of Bruce Wayne. Michael Caine brings humor and warmth to the role of stalwart butler Alfred. Liam Neeson plays the mentor role again, but kicks even more ass as Ducard than as Qui-gon Jinn. And amidst all the pseudo-ninja training techniques and cool gadgetry and fight scenes, through the interplay of characters and circumstances and viewpoints, we gain a new appreciation for the Bat-story. Yay! Good stuff. Go watch.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

More Adventurous

"Hey Jenny, weren't you in that crappy Fred Savage flick about video games?"
"Ha ha ha, yes I was! Go to hell."

Any asshole can open up a museum
Put all of the things he loves on display
so everyone could see them
The house, a car, a thoughtful wife
ordinary moments in his ordinary life

-- from "It's a Hit"

So I know this album came out almost a year ago, but hey, sometimes it takes me a while to get around to finding out about things, or appreciating things, or just plain doing things, as people who know me even in passing will attest. Anyway: Rilo Kiley. Really good stuff. Go to their official page and listen to "Portions For Foxes" ("I'm bad news, baby I'm bad news...") and "Does He Love You?" and be pleasantly diverted, perhaps even utterly smitten. Wonderfully catchy music, and great lyrics.

Get a real job
Keep the wind to your back
and the sun on your face
All the immediate unknowns are better
than knowing this tired and lonely fate.

-- from "Does He Love You?"

"Pure pop for grown-ups," as PopMatters describes it. Have downloaded a handful of songs from here and there, but would really like to get their albums. Here's hoping one or more of them were released locally.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The King of Nothing to Do #3

Yeah, it's that time of the month again, when I have to chain myself up in the basement before the Transformation overtakes me and I cannot be held responsible for the ensuing bloodshed. Either that, or it's time for my column to come out in the Manila Bulletin -- I get confused sometimes. On the stands now: The King of Nothing to Do, Episode 3! This time around, it's about geekhood. (No chickens were harmed in the writing of this column).
Discrimination goes both ways, though: music geeks, for example, usually hate it when obscure bands they love become popular, or even semi-popular. Tolkien fans will pull pained expressions and rethink their opinion of you as a human being if you tell them you only watched the movies and never read the books. God help you if you have the insane compulsion to pretend to be a geek about something you have only a passing interest in: real geeks can detect you a mile away. This is less a matter of geek snobbery than a matter of appreciation, though. In other words, if you’re a pretender, you won’t inspire real derision -- just pity.

Geekhood is not like a fraternity that requires an initiation, or a course that acts you to pass a test: in fact, if you’re making a special effort to learn facts and figures, you’re, well, faking it. The effort is barely noticed by the true geek, as are the expenses (because if a geek stopped to think about expenses, honestly, he or she would get a little depressed)—and the accumulated trivia is like a side-effect, a badge of that love Weiss wrote about: that "abiding, obsessive, self-effacing, even self-destroying love."

Saturday, June 04, 2005

1-2-3 Times Two to the Mix!

Sometimes I miss mixtapes. I had a brief but prolific career making mixtapes in college (if you can call anything that doesn't actually make you any money a "career"), sometimes on request and sometimes out of the sheer need to impose my listening habits on unwary friends, and I enjoyed piecing together appropriate playlists and making little cassette covers (yay for Microsoft Publisher, the limited but idiot-proof layout program). Perversely, I think I even enjoyed calculating how much time was left on my 60 or 90 minute tape, and trying to fit stuff in right to the very end. (As a rule of thumb, one side of a 60 minute tape can accomodate 8 pop songs, and 12 can fit on one side of a 90-minuter).
All these tapes, whether compilations of avant-punk or classic rock standards, have a common purpose: to communicate an emotion or idea -- to a new friend, a potential lover, or even to oneself. The mix tape, Moore says, is "sort of a safe-sex thing: It's sharing music instead of sharing germs." The romance comes not only from the emotion expressed by a series of songs, but also from the sheer effort that it takes to plan and execute a mix. "The time spent implies an emotional connection with the recipient," writes Dean Wareham of Luna. "It might be a desire to go to bed, or to share ideas. The message of the tape might be: I love you. I think about you all the time. Listen to how I feel about you. Or, maybe: I love me. I am a tasteful person who listens to tasty things. This tape tells you all about me."

I remember doing an 'upbeat' mix for Kidlat (Cardigans, Toasters, etc), a Cocteau Twins primer for Camille, a hodgepodge of a tape for Indira (Ruby, XTC, etc), a Cure + Smiths combo for Lala, Massive Attack for Waya, and "songs to listen to while riding the MRT," for JB (mostly electronicky stuff -- FSOL, BT). Of course, I still make mixes for friends to this very day -- but on CD, not cassette. Anyway, the quote above is from this article in Salon, on Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture, edited by Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore. (And by the way, I wanted to use that cassette-as-book-cover idea for my second collection of short stories -- dammit! That'll teach me to drag my feet). Here's Moore on CDs versus cassetes:
"Maybe it doesn't take the same amount of physical effort," he says, "but that's not the point. I think it takes the same amount of psychological effort, or romantic effort." Indeed, the true challenge of the mix tape -- selecting the right music and arranging it in a thoughtful manner -- is at least as tricky and probably even more difficult with a laptop and CD burner as it was with a boom box. In both cases, the mix is governed by the same compositional considerations: You need a narrative structure, an internal logic, a strong opening, an appropriate and preferably surprising ending.

Other music stuff: thanks to Fran for the link to Nerve's Music Issue! Some of the features are for Nerve Premium subscribers only, but anyone can read 29 Thoughts on the iPod, Great Sex Records You've Never Heard, and Sex Advice from Music Critics. Heh heh.

And finally, NINJA KISS 5: Ninja Ka Na Naman! is tonight: June 4, Saturday, at Saguijo Bar -- 10 PM, P100 entrance fee (with 1 free beer). Featuring IMAGO, MAKOPA, BAGETSAFONIK and the MILAGROS DANCEHALL COLLECTIVE! Yey!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I Saw the Signs

Yay! It's the Church Sign Generator! Yes, I am constantly finding new ways to squander time. Don't judge me. Of course, feel free to judge these guys.

Hours of pointless fun, for everyone. For those of a morbid turn of mind, there's also the Tombstone Generator. (Here's mine). In other news, I am apparently 26% gay. I think I would have scored higher if there had been any Pet Shop Boys or Queen questions.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Whose iPod Would You Steal?

So Indira and I were talking about Fascist Fridays at Cubao, when she admitted that "I'd love to steal Quark's iPod." (Watch out, Quark!) As I had previously been unaware of my friend's penchant for larceny, I asked why. "'Cause I'm sure it would have lots of great stuff on it," she replied. Ah, I thought... Makes sense! So who else would have an eminently steal-able personal mp3 player? "I'd steal Myrene's too," Indira said. "I'm not sure if she has one yet, though."

As for myself, I'd probably steal Toti Dalmacion's. Never met the guy, but whenever he's profiled in a magazine and he lists his current listening choices, I always notice shared obsessions: XTC, Prefab Sprout, and the like. And hey, his record label's roster includes Drip and Juan Pablo Dream!

I even have a copy of Mr. Dalmacion's 'wedding album'. When I was living in an apartment on Manigo Street next to my friend G (and below my friend Kidlat), I overheard her blasting song after great-sounding song one summer afternoon. I wandered over and asked her what she was playing, and it turned out to be a mix CD given away to guests at the Dalmacion-Alfonso nuptials. She got me a copy, for which I am grateful to this day. Lots of good, happy-romantic stuff on it: Prefab Sprout, Terry Hall, Lighting Seeds, even Spiral Staircase. I imagine his iPod would contain 40 gigs more of the same.

Other people whose iPods I would steal, off the top of my head: Robyn Lee, whose recommendations I always enjoy, and Marcus Nada, who was always listening to something cool (and usually obscure, and more often than not hip-hoppy) in the office.

Whose iPod would you steal? :)