January 31, 2011

Starbucks Is For Beautiful People

(Originally published in my Multiply blog last November 10, 2009, 8:36 pm Philippine time)

Even in the heart of Malate, one is not spared from the tyranny of the Law of Starbucks Hyperproximity. (Of course, the recession may have diminished this somewhat.)

The Starbucks Empire by way of M.C. Escher

Today Nads, Xiom and I were at it yet again. After the indispensable bite to eat at Nads' favoritest place (Migui's), we decided to take to a Starbucks since Xiom was craving a peppermint mocha... coffee... beverage... thing. (I'm not a coffee person.)

Sometime during the longish walk from the eatery across from school to the Starbucks across from that other school (you know, that major university with the huge white buildings along Taft Avenue?), I noticed that we could have just spared ourselves a whole load of trouble if instead of rounding an entire block, we could've just crossed the street to an even closer Starbucks branch.

Eh, exercise is exercise.

Starbucks by way of generic stock photo
The people who came before us left behind these discarded table napkins (and mind you, those Starbucks tissues could outdo even the Yellow Pages in overall classiness) plastered with oodles of doodles. These were either Fine Arts people or failed Fine Arts people now working in the Advertising field. (Low blow? Sorry.)

Funny coincidence: This was not the first time I've seen doodles on a Starbucks tissue. (Not-so-funny not-quite-a-coincidence: My sister and/or an unspecified number of her kabarkadas were implicated in my first sighting of such.)

Thus was born Dom's Theory Of Ostentation In Praxis In The Medium Of The Coffee Shop Table Napkin. The gist of it is that people in Starbucks are practically required to doodle on those things to actively demonstrate their presence in the coffee shop as being equivalent to the validation of their value as hip, paying customers in this branch of a world-renowned, comically overpriced edible-goods and services franchise paradoxically situated in the urban capital of some Third-World country on the edge of nowhere. However while the "haves" would gladly leave behind their bespoiled tissues to furthur flaunt their influence even while absent from the shop itself, the "have-nots" will take home their doodles as keepsakes of their brief albeit sossy sojourn in the Land of Milk and Imported Coffee.

I'm sure Nads and Xiom can come up with some on-the-fly hegemonic rationale for all of this in true Lit-student fashion.

Garden-variety Starbucks table napkin doodles

A comparison shot: Their doodles vs. Our doodles
Naturally of course, we had to get in on the doodling action as well. If there's one thing we scholars inevitably are, it's either victims of our own meandering, over-analytical hypotheses... or garden-variety damn dirty hypocrites.

Our silly posturing at that café was not a completely wasted affair though. In between bonding over jackets (both pretty and unwashed) and grotty glamour magazines and the usual female-type chatter, surprisingly I had a very productive moment for poetry in that couch. Maybe the classy atmosphere was more conducive for creative output. Or maybe it was the money and Barako fumes affecting my brain.

Anyway, here is the world debut of my hipster-induced, decaffeinated opus of post-modern proportions:

An Ode To Peppermint Mocha

I'm minty fresh
and wide awake.
"Christmas in a cup,"
as Andrew Paxton once said.

We all partook of
the peppermint brownie,
which turns to rock
candy in a matter of
days hours nanoseconds.

She craves peppermint sprinkles.

Miles away, in the next isle,
he craves her.

Christmas ending in a blink.
Next year, I'm ordering a
raspberry cappuccino.

Know Your Starbucks, blog advisory

Laser-Dancing a.k.a. Disco Inferno

(Originally published in my very first blog last April 14, 2007, 20:27 Philippine time)

A not-so-good photo of Dance Maniax in action
One night found me puttering about the house, darting restively from room to room, randomly checking cabinets or the fridge, eventually answering the phone then accidentally eavesdropping on my brother’s phone conversations with one of his friends. As usual. But then I hear Bro discussing with his buddy something he was apparently really into these days, something I haven’t heard of for what seemed like years.

Dance Maniax.

About three-plus years ago, Dance Maniax was the latest arcade-dancing craze. It was what the younger bracket of our extended family — from my sister to our lanky, video-game-loving male cousin — was absolutely nuts for… and (astonishingly) experts of. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that it’s one of the few video arcade games I’m actually moderately good at, besides air hockey and those ticket-winning games even teething children and their linguistically-uncoordinated nannies could excel in.

Not to be confused with the completely-foot-driven dancing structure of Dance Dance Revolution (which was already in every urban center in the Philippines years before Americans have even heard of it), Dance Maniax’ dancing structure is driven by four laser beams (two for the upper body area, two for the leg area), allowing for a more dynamic range of movement and, er, more creative freedom.

You could literally pull off WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANTED just to hit those lasers: hand-clapping; foot-shaking; head-banging; breakdancing; lightning-quick waving of the arms (for the experts); doing a frenzied cross of The Salsa, The Macarena and The Can-Can (in my case); or shimmying your ass (in my brother’s case) like the flaming diva you are.

Of course if you were good (read: hyper) enough, you instantly get free license to “showboat” before timid amateurs… even though in real life you’re about as physically fit as a dead rat.

Then there’s the actual music available for you to dance to, as carefully chosen by the connoisseurs of J-Pop, disco-fusion and alien possession. There’s the Big Band/ska-influenced “Get It All”, the horrifyingly frenetic “Happy Hopper”, the tribal-inspired “Afronova Primeval” and an absurd remix of that deep-country ditty “Doodah!” (formerly “Camptown Races”).

You also have “Mind Parasite” (disco-reverb), “Baila Baila” (latin-inspired), “Heaven is a ’57 Metallic Gray” (bebop), “Butterfly” (100% unforgiving J-Pop), a nonsensical heavy-metal piece whose title I forgot, and (when you get an ultra-high score) a bonus song starting with the feel-good, choir-backed “Jet World”, later devolving into the notorious arcadian acid-trip ‘Paranoia” (at which point the tempo automatically picks up, and you have to shimmy your ass faster than usual).

*Note: As with any other video game, if your expertise in Dance Maniax achieves that criminal level where you’ve mastered the cheat codes, memorized those ridiculous songs and found yourself karate-chopping in your sleep, NOW IS THE TIME TO STOP.

January 16, 2011

I'm ALREADY unprepared!

I really should not be excited to see Sucker Punch.

The man has already directed three of the most polarizing films in the past decade: Dawn of the Dead for zombie purists, Watchmen for comic book purists, and 300 for, um, comic book purists/Greek history buffs/hetero-normative apologists?

That and judging by its belief-buggering trailer, this movie seems designed to pander to audiences in every other calculated way possible: Snyder's signature gratuitous slow-mo and spectacular visuals, veiled anime and steampunk aesthetics, jailbait eye candy, riding on the coattails of Inception, promotional tie-ins with Hot Toys and Alex Pardee's art, et cetera...

We already have every sign imaginable pointing to Zack Snyder shaping himself to be the Michael Bay of the 21st century, barring the fact that Bay's still around and that Snyder's movies actually do look pretty. I've already conceded to calling his collective oeuvre one of my biggest personal guilty pleasures, and I'm not usually one to have a firm opinion on anything movie-related (more of this in a future post). I even watched Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole in 3-D, for crying out loud!

Geeks and critics from coast to coast are already calling Sucker Punch every teenage boy's wet dream translated to film. And yet I still want to see this clusterfrak of stylized escapism unfold on the big screen. Does that make me a teenage boy too?

Well, that certainly makes Zack Synder something. For one, he really knows how to add pizazz to his trailers with rockin' tunes. I'll betcha the downloads for Lords of Acid, Silversun Pickups and Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks" (because the band itself really needs no introduction) skyrocketed after these videos came out.

It's times like these when you really wish you can just call a spectacle a spectacle and resist the urge to over-analyze everything to dea--SHUT UP.

Sucker Punch, official movie poster

January 6, 2011

A surprise appraisal of Circus.

(Note: This review was "composed" during a spur-of-the-moment listening spree on my iTunes. I tend not to articulate stuff too clearly during spur-of-the-moment listening sprees.)

No, this album does not contain Ligaya or Pare Ko. (UltraElectroMagneticPop!) It does not have Spoliarium, Hard To Believe, Para Sa Masa, or Andalusian Dog. (Sticker Happy.) It doesn't have Maskara or the vastly underrated Ultrasound and Outside. (Carbon Stereoxide. P.S.: I honestly believe Wala is one of the best E-heads ballads people have never heard.) And no, it doesn't have the one-two punch of Fill Her and (the immortal) Ang Huling El Bimbo. (Cutterpillow. I'll get to that one eventually.) But God help me, Circus is catchy, funny, witty, and occasionally chocked with touches of gallows humor.

In other words, Circus is a good album, God damn it.

Punk Zappa is a hilarious character. The surprise endings of Kailan and Magasin have become my moments of Late To The Punchline Fridge Brilliance. (Apologies for the TV Tropes jargon.) And With A Smile is surprisingly intimate yet transcendent. Admittedly Wating is baffling as hell with the Pinoy cinema klasiks sound bytes, but you can definitely still sort of sense the weird brilliance of it. The Regine Velasquez-esque outtro is unintentionally (or is it?) funny as well.

And oh my god, I may have never gotten plastered out of my mind before, but Alkohol is freaking awesome. And hilarious.

I'm not sure if the bonus track showed up on older presses of the album, but the lounge version of Kailan makes for a surprisingly good easter egg that doesn't feel like a waste of CD space, which is more than I can say for most other "bonus tracks" you'd find on other albums. The sheer afterthought-ness of it even meshes well with the album's overall concept in its own Bizarro way.

Almost makes you overlook the fact that this was a young Eraserheads, a fresh new band just on the blush of fame. (Wait, did that make sense?) I'm having a time trying to imagine this album back when it first came out, picturing in my head the stoned teenagers and closet music snobs all concurring that Circus is in fact the omen of greater things to come for this then-young group.

(Stay tuned while I attempt to form a solid opinion on "Sembreak" and "Minsan"!)