Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

For another hour and a half, at least, as I write this. Thanks to alla youse who texted or called with greetings! Special thanks of course to Yvette my love, who I was talking to as midnight came and went, and I turned a year older.

Couldn't sleep last night -- had a lot on my mind; too many changes going on it seems, what with the new job and the possibility of moving out of the house I've lived in for almost a decade -- and at around 4 AM I decided I wanted to listen to some music, to start the day off. But I was just tired enough to not want to have to choose it myself, so I set my Winamp player on random, loaded all my mp3s, and pressed Play.

Many of us like to read significance into the random, try to divine some meaning or guidance from a throw of dice, a spread of cards, or a book flipped open, a set of words jabbed at blindly. I thought: this will be my musical version of "Book Magic," as we used to call it back in high school. Somehow the first five songs Winamp chooses will contain some sort of message for me. So here they are, unchanged, uncensored: the First Five Random Songs Winamp Played On My Birthday, 2005, at 4:14 AM:

Nick Drake - Pink Moon
The Strokes - I Can't Win
Ciudad - How Did You Know?
PJ Harvey - This Mess We're In
R.E.M. - At My Most Beautiful

Since I silently promised myself that I would blog honestly about my Birthday Five, you don't know how relieved I am that nothing really embarrassing popped up out of my music files... Um, not that I own anything really embarrassing, having impeccable musical taste and all that. Yeah.

The fact that song titles like "I Can't Win" and "This Mess We're In" came out of the shuffle is kind of alarming, though I take comfort in the fact that I actually like those songs a lot. I've only recently started listening to Nick Drake, thanks to a CD from Indira, but "Pink Moon" sounds pretty good. Ciudad, of course, is always a hoot. And "At My Most Beautiful" is just beautiful; funny, as I celebrated another orbit (as Kidlat would put it) last year, I was listening to R.E.M. too, as I recall. I like to think that the five songs taken together can be said to possess an overall mood of guarded optimism, with the notes of dark anxiety being balanced by notes of happy romanticism. It's not a perfect or even a particularly bright world, these five songs seems to say, but what the hell, there's fun and even love to be had. (No Bowie or XTC in my Birthday Five, but still, not a bad way to start the day).

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Imaginary Indie Awards

The imaginary crowd gathers for the Imaginary Indie Awards! (Actually, a photo from the MTV Hits Cebu event)

First of all, welcome back, Kristine. :) Yay!

Last Saturday I was at La Salle, having been suckered -- I mean, persuaded -- by my sister to deliver a lecture on writing scripts for events and AVPs, to an org called the Green Media Group. They were a smart, fun bunch, and I'm not just saying that because they're young and net-savvy and will probably stumble across this blog someday while running searches on their own org name.

I was reluctant at first to lecture on scriptwriting because I always feel that the only subject I can talk about with any semblance of authority is fiction, but then I realized that in the past year alone I've written full scripts for at least three major live events (MTV Hits Cebu, Pilipinas '04, and the VJ Hunt), lots of bar tour and campus tour thingies, countless plugs and numerous AVPs, so what the hell. I like to think that I'm not the kind of teacher that can actually cause an audience to become more ignorant, as their brain cells commit mass suicide to escape the boredom -- so at the very least, I wasn't going to be doing any harm.

I kicked off with some footage from this year's MTV VJ Hunt, that being the only event I've written of which I actually have footage. While that was playing, I wrote down an outline of the usual stages an event script goes through: from the conceptualization to the working out of such details as hosts, performers, sponsors and presentors, to the writing of the sequence, and of course the researching and writing of the actual script. I also warned them about the many many things that can and do go wrong on the night of the actual event, such as absent performers or presentors, tantrums and tirades and last-minute changes backstage, and, um, wardrobe malfunctions. One event I wrote required a quick reassignment of lines because one of our lovely hosts couldn't go onstage for fear of suddenly flashing an audience of thousands.

Since the lecture was almost a whole-day affair, I had to do something interesting to fill up the hours, and so I proposed that they conceptualize and write an event of their very own -- I said, let's do an awards show, since it incorporates a lot of elements: performances, presentations, host banter, etcetera. So, I asked them, what are you guys interested in? Music, was the answer. I was pleasantly surprised by the Green Media Group's passion for local music acts, and their avowed support for independent efforts: and thus the imaginary GMG Indie Music Awards show was born.

We hammered out five categories, with five nominees each (we had to disqualify certain favorite acts like Pedicab and Sugarfree, as they couldn't be considered 'independent'), and came up with presentors for each category, as well as a set of four hosts, from their org's own 'hosting pool.' I separated the class into five groups of three (I had them count off by threes, until a sharp-witted student pointed out that they should be counting off by fives instead, to make five groups -- and me a former Math major!), assigned each group to write two segments, and at the end of it all, we had a run-through of the whole thing, with the hosts delivering the spiels and an announcer announcing the winners. The hosts were game and talented, and some of the spiels were quite well-written -- in short, it was a fun way to end the session. As I recall, the winners were:

Best Live Act : Brass Munkeys
Best Video: The Late Isabel
Best Student Act: The Bloomfields
Best Album: Imago
Best Act: Urbandub

Performances for the imaginary show included numbers by Narda, Bubble Band, and the Brass Munkeys. The SuperFoodBand -- composed of members of Sandwich, Mayonnaise, Cheese, and the Happy Meals -- started things off, and a world/hip-hop hybrid of SVC and Pinikpikan provided the finale. It was really great to see the students all excited about homegrown music: at one point, I overheard one of them reminding her enthusiastically-arguing groupmates that "Guys, it's not a real event." Be that as it may, it sounded like a show I would have very much liked to see.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

This is What the World Looks Like On Sugarcoated Ecstasy Pills

I'm so happy I could sing/ I love everyone and everything!

"Winners" by 7 Seconds of Love. Which features the lyrics, "Who's winning?/ We're all winning!!" Winners. 7 Seconds of Love. And a video that stars a kitten.

Goddamn, this is the happiest fucking thing ever. I am not sorry at all to announce my return to the blogosphere with this craptastic entry and a link to the video. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The King of Nothing to Do #5 / Gaiman Hangover

"I don't remember ever having felt so loved by so many people." -- from Neil Gaiman's blog

I talked to Neil Gaiman. I gave him a copy of my book. "It means so much to me that I can give you this," I told him. "If not for your work, I probably wouldn't have survived my college years." He looked me in the eye and solemnly shook my hand. Am still quietly overwhelmed.

Neil Gaiman has been and gone, and I've spent the whole morning jumping from blog to blog, reading about other people's Gaiman experiences, friends and strangers alike. There's Gerry Alanguilan, who lined up for ten hours just like everyone else, despite the fact that he's a major comics artist and internationally respected and everything. There's Waya and Lala, whose entries I love because they're so emotionally upfront (and yet still funny and well-written). Quark found himself "overcome by this feeling of happiness." Therese has Neil to thank for "the most gratifying and humiliating moment" of her life. Gabby recalls how she first came across his work, and explains why she's a fan -- among other reasons, "Neil Gaiman taught me to write something I wanted to read, and not something my teachers wanted to read, or my friends wanted to read."

Thor admits that, like many of us, "There was also a time when I felt too cool to like Neil. Everybody else was suddenly deconstructing the Endless, some columnist began painting her face like Death, and I didn't want to be mistaken for jumping onto the bandwagon. It's just the way it is. When someting underground becomes mainstream, the purists who don't even pee in the shower ;-) start searching for the next big thing." But of course, in the end, we all come around -- "And fuck it. Fuck the coolness. Fuck the cliques. Fuck the exes who memorized lines. (Well, not really.) Mr. Gaiman wrote and continues to write great stories." Something Thor wrote about the Writers' Forum being like a reunion made me smile. Yvette and I ran into so many friends, so many writers and artists and musicians, and I just thought, if this were an actual reunion, what an incredibly fun, horrifyingly insane school we must have all come from. The College of Gaiman. Hey, I'd enroll.

All of us gaimanerds (to steal a term from Lala) are indebted to Charles, who transcribed the entire Writers' Forum talk, and Astrid, who recorded the radio interview. And finally, more links and thoughts on the whole thing at Click Mo Mukha Mo.

There are, of course, many many more Neilstruck blog entries out there, but if I linked to them all, I wouldn't have time to tell alla youse to go out and buy the Manila Bulletin, because "The King of Nothing to Do," my twice-monthly column, has another installment out today. An excerpt:
My friend Kristine Fonacier once asked me who my favorite interview subject was -- at the time, I was working with her on the staff of a music magazine, and I had interviewed such people as Justin Hawkins (the lead singer of The Darkness), a pre-solo fame Kitchie Nadal, and great bands like Narda, Sandwich, Sound and Parokya ni Edgar. All of them made for good, fondly-remembered interviews, and any of them would have made for a decent answer to Kristine’s question. After today, however, I think I have a clear winner. Rock stars are all very well and good, but Gaiman’s stories of lost souls and lovers, of devils and dream kings, filled with dark humor and quiet tendernesses and epic adventure, and charged with something that no reader should be too embarrassed to call magic, changed -- if not in some way saved -- my life.

Yes: I got to interview him! That undoubtedly ranks as one of the most memorable lunches I've ever had. It was somehow mind-blowingly surreal and utterly, wonderfully ordinary at the same time. By "ordinary" I just mean that he was so casual and friendly and laid-back and all-around nice that one could almost forget that one was sitting next to, well, Neil Gaiman: Neil Gaiman, creator of the amazing stories that got me through some of my darkest days, and Neil Gaiman, trying out adobo flakes and longganisa, and not being upset at all when the dalandan juice he ordered never arrived.

My column today is only partially about Gaiman, though; am still transcribing (and processing) that amazing hour of my life. But anyway, my editor tells me that the "i" section is going to be a Neil Gaiman Special today, so there should be lots for gaimanerds to read.

"But thanks again to you all. And yes, I do want to come back." -- from Neil Gaiman's blog, again

PS. Just got my copy of the Bulletin, now. The ENTIRE "i" section is devoted to Neil Gaiman! Interviews and columns and everythang. GET IT!

PPS. [Added July 14] I was going to post some crappy, fuzzy pix I took at NU on the morning of the radio interview, but you know what, these are much better. Thanks to Francis and Niña!

PPPS. [Added July 15] I love how Quark put it: no matter how everyone says "it's so hyped" and "my god there were so many posers yadda yadda yadda" it was just so exhilarating seeing people scream and cheer for someone whose contribution to the world is... words :)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Musik and Gaiman

Just caught the last half of this local music show on channel 5 called Islamusik. Not bad, not bad at all. Am not sure if they always focus on a particular genre*, but this episode was all about the hip-hop scene here: they interviewed a bunch of artists (DJ Arbie Won, SVC), showed some cool videos (Mista Blaze, Artstrong, DJ Arbie Won and the United Freestyles), featured one of the regular hip-hop venues (Club V), and basically did a pretty good job. It's scripted in a pleasant conversational Taglish that conveys info without being stilted or grating. Plus I have to admit that, even though her Penshoppe ads kind of irritate me, host Ala Paredes was very good: engaging without being annoying, casual without being pa-cool, and comfortable with the language.

Some bits, like their man-on-the-street interviews, could be improved (perhaps musicTrip could be done away with altogether, or at least revamped), and some of the cameos -- the Itchyworms? Random members of Sound? -- were puzzling, but admittedly amusing. And speaking of sound, the sound on some of the videos (particularly Artstrong's "Jazzy Monday") was muffled to the point of being unlistenable, but am not sure who's to blame for that. In any case, was happy with their choices of which videos to show; I've never even seen Mista Blaze or Arbie Won's stuff on MTV. They also exercised good judgment regarding which artists to interview (of course, I wish there had been a few more, but then again am sure they were constrained by time and budget). All in all, am looking forward to catching Islamusik again next Saturday at 6, should I happen to be home. Am wondering what they'll cover next (that's another thing: they should have a NEXT WEEK teaser). Channel 5 seems to promote its other Saturday shows more aggressively though, like the bizarrely titled Mr Fighting: Fight For Love, which seems to be a live-action showcase for fisticuffs, anime hair, and bad makeup, and some local music/variety show type of thing that has Tim Yap involved somehow -- tonight's episode features Kyla, Chynna Ortaleza and Mojofly; might check it out later out of curiousity.

Change of topic. So -- all you people who attended The Gathering at Rockwell today -- how did the Neil Gaiman lovefest go? :) Some people I've talked to about Gaiman's visit have found themselves less enthusiastic about it than they thought they would be, given their avowed fanhood, and the reason for that is that the thought of sharing him with hordes of other fans (as one wit put it, a "nerd frenzy") makes them go bleah. There's an element of interior cringing, of elitism, involved: "These people are Gaiman fans too? Jesus." I've felt this myself to some degree, but I'm not going to let it stop me from seeing one of my favorite authors in person, this Monday.

Aside from a distaste for the idea of an uncool local Gaiman horde, there's also the somewhat related trepidation of not wanting to disappoint him, as Waya and I talked about. We want him to be impressed, we want him to have a great stay, we want to read his blog entries afterwards about how great it was here. We want to ask really intelligent and insightful questions, even though we will all probably just devolve into gibbering hero-worship (or the equally annoying flipside: needless snotty impertinence). Anyway, will be checking fellow enthusiasts' blogs later for their accounts of the day.

*Just found their Multiply page: apparently they do.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Isha (and Mishka)

So I missed NINJA KISS 6, much to my regret. Blame a sleepless Friday night, and a hectic day shopping for my pamangkin Kaya's birthday, as well as attending, albeit briefly, said pamangkin's party. She is five, and will conquer the world (or at least the Philippines) in a decade or two, so it's best to be on her good side.

Anyway, check it out: ISHA's first solo gig at 70s Bistro is tonight, at 9:30 PM! Isha is, of course, the singing/songwriting, piano-playing, insanely talented (and, in many ways, just outright insane) former PULP Managing Editor, Peach Abubakar-Quebral. As she says:

"i'll be playing with the legendary simon tan on bass and the great jayvee torres on drums (the best ititch!). if you're into jazzed-up new wave, nina simone, bananarama, tori amos, joni mitchell and senti torch music you might enjoy the sets. plus i'll be debuting a few of my latest originals!"

Peach's special guest for the evening is MISHKA ADAMS -- caught the last part of Mishka's 2nd set at Mag:net Katipunan a couple of weekends ago, and despite talkative bastards, too many smokers, and too many people singing along (hey, wannabe vocalists -- we didn't squeeze our way in here to listen to you perform), it was well worth seeing.

70s Bistro is located along Anonas Road, Quezon City (tel # 4343597) -- just a trike ride away from where I live, yay.

Finally, listen to Wolfmann's remix of NIN's "Only." It's pretty cool, and in the running for this contest on myspace, so rate it and make W. happy.