Thursday, August 30, 2007

Explain before you complain

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

King of Pop

Kaninang umaga, sa taxi papuntang trabaho, narinig ko sa radyo na birthday ngayon ni Michael Jackson. Kahit hindi ako kasing-laking fan ni Michael Jackson katulad ng iba kong kaibigan (meron akong kabarkada na nagsuot ng MJ-style jacket with the gold trimmings nung junior prom), naalala ko na 'Thriller', sa kanyang dance beat at nakakatakot na voice-over sa huli, ang unang kantang naging paborito ko bilang bata. Well, yun at yung theme song ng Eat Bulaga.

Pero marami nga akong kaibigan na fan ni Michael Jackson. Naalala ko pa nga, isang gabi sa freshman dorm sa Pisay dati, nagkaroon ng malaking crowd sa harap ng TV nang ipalabas ang isang concert special ni Michael Jackson.

Nakakalungkot isipin na ang impression na ngayon ng mga tao kay Michael Jackson ay bilang isang weirdo. Parang halos walang interes sa kanya, hindi tulad ng ibang mga pop culture icons ng nakaraan, na halos na-de-deify na pag pinag-uusapan ngayon, mga tao hindi naging kasing-sikat o influencial ni Michael Jackson sa kasikatan niya. Sayang, 'di ba, isipin mo, lalaki ang mga bagong henerasyon na hindi man lang malalaman kung gaano ka-astig si Michael Jackson.

Matanong ko nga, ikaw ba, ano ang paborito mong kanta ni Michael Jackson?

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Just had the most amazing two-weekend stretches. Spent the long weekend in Baguio. Not really in the mood to write about it, but I just wanted to mark it down on the blog. JAm's got pictures.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

When all words fail she speaks, her mixtape's a masterpiece

In so many ways, the Ben Folds Five is a victim of the success of "Brick." Richelle, a big fan of piano pop/rock and the person who (for some reason) made great pains to turn me on to the group, always rued the fact that no one ever listened to the rest of their songs. I only stayed away because, for the longest time, I thought that all of their songs were weepy ballads, and who wanted to listen to an album full of that?

But Whatever and Ever Amen, from which "Brick" and "Smoke" came from, was a masterpiece that straddled earnestness and irony (the sentimental "Brick" is followed by the rocking "Song for the Dumped," which Folds sings with tongue firmly in-cheek). You get the feeling that the records were made by, and (perhaps more importantly) for, people who embrace both sarcasm and empathy.

The fusion of these two qualities is most apparent in the love song "Kate," where Folds sings about his dream girl who makes mixtape masterpieces, who's got daisies in her footsteps, who might be smoking pot, and who brings a rainbow everytime she smiles.

Fortunately, a digitally-remastered edition of the album came out recently, which makes it easier to find it on Multiply.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Saving Private Lohan

It seems so long ago, when you think about it, but it was only a couple of years ago when Lindsay Lohan was the hottest woman in the world. Then she hooked up with Paris and Nicole and now her career's in the toilet. The Sports Guy's latest mailbag deals with the issue:

Q: After Lindsay Lohan's second DUI with a charge of coke possession, it appears her career has spiraled down the toilet. So what's her best option? To sign the largest contract ever with Vivid Entertainment. This would be like the David Beckham effect on Americans watching soccer … except it would actually work. Porn would be mainstream, she would still be making tons of money and it would be cool for her to be going to the wild parties. This idea is too perfect to not work.
--Drew, Columbus, Ohio

SG: Hmmmm … you might be right about this. Porn actresses show up late to sets; they drink and do drugs; they dress like hookers; and they have sex with random shady people. Lohan already might be doing all those things. From a financial standpoint, she couldn't make more than a $1-2 million for a mainstream movie because she's box office poison at this point; when you think about it, Jenna Jameson makes that much money in a month. So, yeah, Lindsay might be better off emulating Jenna than Gwyneth Paltrow at this point. On the other hand, it wasn't that long ago that Angelina Jolie was making out with her brother, wearing Billy Bob Thornton's blood around her neck and dressing goth. … Now she's a respected actress who's allowed to adopt babies in various countries and even managed to steal Jennifer Aniston's husband. So you can't give up on Lindsay yet.

Just for the hell of it, here's the Sports Gal's take: "Lindsay doesn't need porn. She needs to copy what Angelina did and play a role close to herself, that's how she can turn her career around. Nobody wants to see her in a romantic comedy because she's too messed up and nobody wants to see her in a horror movie because we'd just root for her to get killed. When Angelina was struggling, she did "Girl, Interrupted" and played a mental patient with drug problems who cut herself and acted crazy. It wasn't exactly a stretch. Lindsay needs to do that, something close to home, like a promiscuous alcoholic with low self-esteem and a drug problem who likes to drive drunk, chain-smoke and pretend that her breasts aren't fake -- then, her life is turned upside down when she gets sent to jail for her 14th DUI and she ends up feuding with a group of skinhead prisoners who resent her because of her beautiful red hair, which they end up shaving before she joins a rival Kabbalah group and finds the strength to kill the Skinheads to survive. I would go see this movie, and Bill would probably go too because there would definitely be a shower scene."

Just for shits and giggles, here's a clip from SNL a few years ago, right before the 'Mean Girls' premiere, of Lohan as Hermione Granger. While the sketch itself was hilarious, it's hard to look at the video and not be sad over what might have been.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Stop and smell the smoke

I don't think Nick Hornby's Songbook was meant to get people to like the songs that were the topics of his essays, nor was it, I feel, intended exclusively for people who are fans of the artists that he wrote about in the book. That was the point I had been trying to get across to my officemate whose copy I'd first read, who said that she didn't finish the book because she didn't know any of the songs in it. I had since bought my own copy, and for Christmas last year, gave another copy to another friend at the office who was into loads of music as well, with hope that, since she downloaded as much music as she did, she would enjoy the collection of essays as much as I did.

Rather than songs and artists, Songbook really is about experiences that would be common to music fans, from the casual to the passionate. When Hornby writes about how he can't get this pop song out of his head ("I'm Like a Bird" by Nelly Furtado), it's like that whole month when Corrine Bailey Rae's "Trouble Sleeping" was the only thing I had any desire to listen to. The obscure gig in a dingy pub featuring a singer named Marce LaCouture that turned into magic, lit up his evening and ended up on his novel High Fidelity, that was like when I took a friend to a Bayang Barrios show at Conspiracy on a whim and we enjoyed the evening so much that we ended up walking in the rain till the sun came up. Even his buddy Lee, who turned him onto new music such as Mark Mulcahy, reminded me of people like Ellen, who'd always turn me onto music that I liked that I wouldn't have discovered otherwise, or Jasper, who does the same thing for me but for books. Bruce Springsteen to him is the Eraserheads for me.

Despite all of that, however, my favorite essay in the book is one where he argues the merits of a song. In it, he relates how he has a friend who believes that all the music today is crap. He responds by picking one of his favorite songs, "Smoke" by the Ben Folds Five, and championing the hell out of it, in the process making it tough for the reader not to like the song.

"Smoke" is one of the cleverest, wisest songs about the slow death of a relationship that I know. Lots of people have assailed the thorny romantic topic of starting all over again (for example, off the top of my head, "Starting All Over Again," by Mel & Tim), and the conclusion they usually come to is that it's going to be tough, but both practicable and desirable; the heartbreaking thing about Folds's song is that it manages to simultaneously convey both the narrator's desperation and the impossibility of a happy outcome. He doesn't know about the latter, though--only Folds the songwriter, who has the benefit of music and a vantage point, can see that the relationship is doomed.

In "Smoke," the central conceit is that the relationship is a book, and so its unhappy recent history, the narrator wants to believe, can be destroyed by burning it page by page, until "all the things we've written in it never really happened." "Here's an evening dark with shame," he sings. "Throw it on the fire!" the backing vocalists tells him. "Here's the time I took the blame. (Throw it on the fire!) Here's the time we didn't speak, it seemed, for years and years..."

Wiping the slate clean is the fantasy of anyone who has ever got into a mess with a partner, and the metaphor is witty enough and rich enough to seduce us into thinking just for a moment that in this case it might be possible, but the music here, a mournful waltz, tells a different story. It doesn't sound as if the narrator's lover is terribly convinced, either. "You keep saying the past's not dead," he tells her, "Well, stop and smell the smoke." But the smoke, of course, contains precisely the opposite meaning: it's everywhere, choking them. "You keep saying... we're smoke," he concludes sadly, and we can tell that he's beginning to believe it finally; the smell of smoke, it turns out, does not symbolize hope but its opposite.

"Smoke", I think, lyrically perfect, clever and sad and neat, in a way that my friend would not credit; it's also one of the very few songs that is thoughtful about the process of love, rather than the object or the subject. And it was a constant companion during the end (the long drawn-out end) of my marriage, and it made sense then, and it still makes sense now. You can't ask much more of a song than that.

Now, after reading that, download the song and try not to like it.

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Pisay the T-shirt

Harold is again taking orders for those seriously cool Pisay Einstein shirts. Get yours while supplies last!



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