April 26, 2011

The Rock Radio Paradox

I can't go through this again.

I'm live-streaming UR Faceradio right now (yeah, I know, another audience share in Zuckerberg's pocket) just because I'm getting tired of rock 'n' roll suffering yet another slow and agonizing death at the hands of the short-sightedness of Pinoy radio executives. Yeah, my conscience is still nursing soul pains from not having tuned in to NU 107 enough.

Random story: I was actually old (young?) enough to remember back when 97.1 FM was still a semi-respectable student-oriented pop station that gave the odd bits of music trivia every now and then. There should be some sort of law dictating the increasing probability of a local FM station turning into the same sort of homogeneous masses-pandering behemoth that would play Celine Dion and lifeless reskinnings of the Papaya Song at the most inopportune times of day.

April 22, 2011

An Odd Musical Tradition

Despite the origin of my longtime Internet handle, I was never much of a religious person. That being said, in "observance" of every Good Friday I now have this odd tradition where I always play the same album.

More Than You Think You Are, Matchbox Twenty
First acquired in the summer of 2003, believe it or not I fondly regard this CD as one of my very first "real" rock albums. I was a pretty stupid teenager back then.

Besides the fact that a disturbing number of Rob Thomas's lyrics all seem to address how desperately he needs some sort of savior figure in his life, probably the most remotely Christian element in this whole album is the kickass gospel choir in "Downfall" (not to be confused with the meme-tastic German WWII film Der Untergang).

Matchbox Twenty is as faux-retro as you can get, a big-name artifact of a mildly regrettable era that emerged to try and fill the vast vacuum Kurt Cobain's Grunge left behind (without having to resort to bubblegum boy/girl pop groups, anyway). That whole era of just-passable rock bands was defined by this embarrassing mix of lyrical earnestness and overly self-conscious bids for musical credibility. One need only look back to the likes of Creed or Live to get a feel for how cheesy yet angst-ridden those post-grunge years were.

Incidentally Matchbox Twenty was also one of the biggest presences in my adolescent life for a while, the requisite totem I assumed in a volatile period in which almost every teenager needed some (often music-related) hero-slash-idol to project all their hormone-addled frustrations into.

By some accident of geography, I now often associate Good Friday with More Than You Think You Are. Catch me on a certain day and I may relive whole chunks of that decade to this band's music -- nay, even persist in my unironic adoration of them.

Hey, everyone's allowed to have at least one musical guilty pleasure, right?

April 19, 2011

Music For A Movie

Educational factoid of the day: The song "Never Let Me Go" (for the novel Never Let Me Go, later the movie Never Let Me Go) is not a real song.

Or at least it wasn't. Until now.



To crib shamelessly from the YouTube video description film critic Peter Howell's article in The Star about the song's conception:
... Judy Bridgewater isn’t real. The album is also fake, although it looks genuine, right down to the track listings: “Wanted,” “Dance With Me,” “Never Let Me Go,” “Moonlight Drive,” “Light Over The Hill” and “Crying Over You.”

The album cover shows an elegant woman lounging on a settee, a cigarette with holder in her hand, as she stares a come hither (or get lost) look.

Bridgewater and Songs After Dark are part of the elaborate fiction of Never Let Me Go, a 2005 sci-fi novel by British author Kazuo Ishiguro that is the basis of Mark Romanek’s affecting new film by the same name.

The singer and the album become the fascination of Kathy H., the story’s central character, played by Carey Mulligan.
Holy carp! World-building in action!

Then again (SPOILER ALERT), I did already hear somewhere that the plot of Never Let Me Go sounds like an artsier, less crappy take on The Island anyway. Factor in the novel's mild alternate history angle, and I guess some fictionalized filigree was inevitable.

Going back to the song, it really does sound like something my grandparents might have played on their old record player, possibly even danced to on their first date back in the Fifties. (Or do I mean their Fifties? Fifties the decade, I mean, not Fifties the age. And their Fifties, erm, the actual Fifties, not the Fifties as depicted in the book. Ow, my head.)

My point is that the song is genuinely lovely. I was never really much of an Old Standards kind of girl (though that might be bound to change once I reach my Spinster phase of existence), but this really does feel like a song I could enjoy playing constantly alongside my Asin or Johnny Cash albums. To confuse things even further, it appears the song mentioned in the book is a separate entity from the song that actually gets played in the movie-- You know what? The song is lovely. Can we just leave it at that and move on?!

Today in Flickr groups: Eraser Heads

First off, did you know that collecting Japanese stuff-shaped erasers is a thing now?

I didn't.

Receptacle for erasers shaped like desserts
The way I see it, a telltale sign that your twee, eccentric recreational sideline has blossomed into a full-blown hobby is when you have whole Flickr groups devoted to taking artistic photographs of it. Yes, the same holds true for erasers.

Erasers shaped like desserts
Don't get me wrong, colorful erasers cut out in random weird shapes had been around even back when I was a kid. But even I don't recall this much loving detail devoted to them, back then the things were still designed with rubbing out penciled errors in mind. I might have even *gasp!* taken a fancy fruit-shaped eraser or two to some of my more disastrous art attempts.

Grade School-Era Disastrous Art Attempt
But these? These feel less like erasers and more like a distinct new miniature art wave rooted in the depiction of Chibi-fied objects in the Rubber medium.

This also adds fuel to my budding theory that deep down, humans have a bizarre fixation with things smaller than they should be. From fake dimsum platters to real bottles of hard liquor just like you'd get when you're flying First Class, if it exists then it may have also been adapted to a more diminutive form at some point. Even movies.

Erasers also happen to be a tad more affordable than real high-end miniatures (for now), which means that maybe it won't be as difficult for me to find props for my tabletop disco parties sceneries now.

Disco is still cool.

April 18, 2011

The Evita stuff made me tingle.*

*Come on, I can't be the only living human being who's seen Connie and Carla.

The musical may have had its cringe-inducing lyrical moments, and it may have taken me 15 years to admit it, but my God, Evita sure had one fantastic soundtrack. I will say that even way back then I loved "Another Suitcase in Another Hall." (Which on the album is exactly 3 minutes and 33 seconds long. Huh.)

Evita: Music From The Motion Picture (this was what our album's cover looked like)
"Requiem For Evita" is sure to go down in history as one of the most epic opening numbers to a musical rock opera ever. Right next to "Overture" (Tommy), "In The Flesh?" (The Wall) and... yeah, I've just exhausted all of my rock opera opening song stock knowledge.

Surely a huge part of the Requiem's punch is the melodic foreshadowing to one of the show's biggest numbers, "Rainbow High." My God, how I love this song. Its sheer impact never quite clicked with me as a kid. You'd think the note-for-note Simpsons homage from eight years prior would have clued me in, but nooooooo. It took a much-belated proper playing of the movie soundtrack last November for me to finally "get it." Because I'm culturally dense and thick-headed that way.

The Simpsons has never done an Evita-inspired episode. *cough*
The brash gravitas and mile-a-minute wordplays of "Rainbow High" almost made me wonder if the more accessible film adaptation of the musical would have succeeded at all without Madonna in the title role. And when she mouths that final "star quality" (flourish and all), you can just visualize her standing in front of a mirror, dressed to the nines and beaming with smug, triumphant satisfaction.

On the bright side, "Buenos Aires" immediately took me back to my childhood and my parents' frequent Broadway benders on the family CD player. (Some cheesy lip-synching, ponyback rides, Frank Sinatra and pillow fights may have been involved.)

Another song I didn't expect to like instantly was "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You," which I gather depicts the hypothetical first meeting of Eva Duarte and Colonel Juan Peron. (I haven't seen the movie yet, I promise I will get around to it very soon, LET'S MOVE ON) Of course everybody by now knows that the song is dripping with the symbolic shrewd politicking that defined the Eva-Juan relationship and is thus not a seduction song in the conventional sense. That still doesn't diminish the song's hypnotic sexual tension though: If I had to choose between waltzing with Antonio Banderas Che and singing a plain hoighty-toighty duet to this song, I'd choose the duet.

"She Is A Diamond" is the shortest number on the CD, but it is also its rare fragile, earnest moment. ("You Must Love Me" is the other one.) The character of Juan Peron is an infrequent presence here anyway, so it seems apt that this short number was still enough to humanize him and paint him as a burgeoning dictator who might actually deeply care about his wife. Say it with me: awwwww.

Perhaps the eerier listening experiences for me had been "A New Argentina" and "And The Money Kept Rolling In", but only because listening to them suddenly gave me this inexplicable urge to go out and buy Here Lies Love. In a perfect universe, Imelda Marcos would have her own polarizing quasi-biographical musical, wildly popular yet tongue-in-cheek enough to make her the next, well, Evita.

Imelda Marcos (Here Lies Love)
"Lament" is, to put it succinctly, a terrifying ending. It puts a sinister spin on the whole musical, and it gets even worse when you stop and consider that the real Eva Perón's body really did disappear from the face of the earth for a little while. Thus, that danged last song really did turn into a brick-pooping moment for me.

And may I just say, not even a proper playthrough could save me from getting plain sick and tired of "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." At least that Simpsons episode had the decency to ape other songs from the musical too.

April 15, 2011

How could you, Alex Proyas?!

I thought you were cool!

I liked The Crow. I actually enjoyed I, Robot on the big screen. I haven't seen Dark City yet but I've always wanted to! And now you retroactively pull this frakkery on me?!

Knowing
The end of the world? The wall of numbers? The creepy little girl who can see fifty years into the future? The grade school time capsule? The solar flare of doom? The little black rocks? "Everyone Else"? The man of science estranged from his religious father? The mom who goes crazy and dies? The Adam and Eve plot? The angels aliens? The flaming deer? THIS?

My hair is a bird. Your argument is invalid.
Granted, you didn't 'shop in the bird and you didn't slap on the caption.
This didn't even happen on the set of your movie.
YOU STILL COULD HAVE PREVENTED THIS, PROYAS!
 But you know what really adds insult to injury? Roger Ebert liked this movie. Not only that, My Dad liked this movie.

My Dad. Liked. This movie.

My Dad, the same man who without irony* would tell us all about the Third Secret of Fatima, the truth behind the Illuminati conspiracy, and how the President of the United States was 17th in line of succession for global command behind a secret cadre of super-gazillionaires, LIKED Knowing.

Okay, granted, you weren't the screenwriter. That might give you a pass.

Still, what the hell Alex Proyas? I thought you were cool! And now I'm going to be stuck thinking every other movie you've done was a fluke*.

_____
* I hope not.

For your sake, I pray that Garage Days turns out to be awesome.

Garage Days


P.S. They're planning a reboot of The Crow. Please do something about that.

April 13, 2011

After all, 132 pages is not a lot.

Scott Adams would like for you to know that he does indeed lead a life outside of Dilbert.

Any time a book claims that it can change your life, world view, fundamental belief system or whathaveyou, one naturally cannot help but feel dubious. If it also happens to be a short book you can legally download on the internet for free, well, it wouldn't hurt to put your principles to the test (for free!) every now and then.

God's Debris, book cover
God's Debris, Scott Adams' first published novella (and non-Dilbert book), openly markets itself as a "thought experiment," one that could possibly shake the walls of your own spiritual life if not bang on them incessantly with a big stick. If you're a young, impressionable high school ("People under the age of fourteen should not read it," says Scott in the Introduction) or college student possibly looking to expand your intellectual borders beyond angsty pop-rock and supernatural romance novels while trying to make yourself look smarter to your peers *coughmenineyearsagocough*, then sure, the moniker can work.

To be perfectly honest, the central concept Adams tries to highlight in the story would have made a shorter, less-muddled standalone nonfiction book on its own, and the framing device with the delivery man and the old man in the apartment feels unnecessary. Sure, it's a lovely jaunt through roughly fleshed-out narrative, rising action, falling action, organic dialogue, subtly-telegraphed ending and all that juicy quasi-literary stuff, but you can already tell the only thing anyone's going to remember of this whole book is the nifty, water-cooler-worthy "Levels of Consciousness" business.


Avatar SquaredI am the AVATAR! Watch as I assert my spiritual complexity over all of you sheeple!

What was my point again? Oh, yeah: admittedly the questions raised in the book are some very insightful ones. The "thought experiment" is a valid one if you have rarely ventured beyond the ethical dimensions of your own spirituality and dipped more into the metaphysical parts of it. It dwells less on the moral question of why we must do certain things and more on the "practical" question of why God -- assuming one exists -- does certain things.

The questions, however, lie fairly low (read: non-threatening) on the Sliding Scale of Earth-Shattering Revelations: innocent enough not to offend anybody -- or so Adams hoped in the book's Introduction -- but provocative enough to spark some spirited discussion. One wonders if maybe more of the book's metaphysical conflict would be explored in the novella's follow-up The Religion War because, come on, it's got the word "War" right there in the title.

God's Debris also consciously treads that very fine line that separates the devout and the logical-minded; a whole (brief) chapter, "Science," addresses the presumed dissonance between science and religion in a way that reads much like a watered-down Carl Sagan argument. An earnest attempt is made not to alienate any of the religious, though it's unlikely to cause any controversy anyway except maybe over the mention of string theory.

Plot-driving philosophical conundrums aside, as a proper novella I think I liked this book better the first time I read it.... when it was called Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Jonathan Livingston FREAKIN' Seagull
RECOMMENDED LISTENING: Since it's old hat to name-check R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" at a time like this, I shall instead break tradition (not to mention betray my post-grunge bias) by playing "Why I Don't Believe In God" by Everclear. Mostly because it's a legitimately nice song and Everclear needs every hit they can get.

April 10, 2011

... it wasn't a prequel.

OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS

IT WASN'T A PREQUEL


*ahem*

To explain, for several months now I had been made aware of a certain alternate reality game masterpiece known affectionately to its fans as the Beast. It ran for a magical three months in early 2001, but it had taken me just last month to actually sit through a walk-through explaining what the heck was going on in it.

I'm looking through my daily journals right now, trying to remember exactly which night I spent without sleep and devoted to that walk-through. It might have been the 28th, the 29th of March. It was an exhilarating night, and all over something that ended almost ten years ago. (Dang, I'm old. And I need to get out more.)

Of course, it is impossible for me to discuss the Beast without going into length about the film it was created solely to promote. A.I. Artificial Intelligence was originally a Stanley Kubrick project inspired by "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long," a sci-fi short story by Brian Aldiss. And going by the Wikipedia page, it also famously got stuck in development hell for several decades until Kubrick died and Steven Spielberg took the helm.

Considering that Development Hell is usually a place reserved for either the unluckiest or most passion-driven of projects, exactly what is so special about A.I. that Kubrick had spent years making sure he got it right?

Well... I'm not exactly ready to answer that question yet. Maybe one day I'll attempt a proper movie review, I'm still not sure. All I remember is that when my sister and I first watched that movie onpiratedVCDpleasedonotjudgeus we were both overcome by that same dazed, rotten but sobering feeling you get when a movie leaves behind an impression somewhere between "This movie is incredible" and "Oh my God I want to DIE." (The last movie to make such an impression on me was A Very Long Engagement. Thanks a lot, HBO.)

There's one more thing: Despite it leaving a fairly visible impact, I did not recall particularly falling head over heels in love with A.I. the way you normally would when you discover you have just seen your new favorite movie. In short I did not recall particularly liking A.I. despite its emotional punch.

I still don't. I still can't get over how stereotypical or under-developed some of the characters were, or how baffling the lead-up to that ending was, or how Jude Law as a sexbot seemed both eerily appropriate and utterly ridiculous.

But most of all I was just struck with how the plot itself seemed to do much of the movie's heavy lifting. Taken out of context many of the performances in this movie (like the jerkass big brother or the "ringleader" of the flesh fair) play out like lazy archetypes, but at the same time you get the feeling that their presence makes sense... or at least has to. All because of this loony roller coaster of a plot.

Ironically this quirk is also the reason why I cannot find it in me to outright dismiss A.I. as a work of fiction. It is a widely-held belief in literary circles how "literary fiction" (the kind you'd expect to win Pulitzers or other equally magnanimous awards) is known primarily for its character-driven stories while "genre fiction" (which includes works of horror, fantasy and science fiction among other things) is more known for its plot-driven stories, often derisively so. But as an aspiring writer with a preference for certain flavors of genre fiction (do you people read this blog?), I feel I need to bring up one of the surprise perks of plot-driven stories, and possibly one of the best parts of writing itself:

Worldbuilding.

While I may not care much for A.I. the movie, the Beast completely helped redeem A.I. the fictional universe in my eyes. That's because of exactly what the Beast is made of: it's knee-deep in the mythology of A.I. in ways the movie isn't. It clues us in on the nuances of the world that both created and doomed David the robot child, and it does so in tantalizing increments of company profiles, hacked e-mail, vandalized websites, stone-age blog posts and leaked coroner reports. And code-breaking. Piles and piles and piles of code-breaking. But I'll get to that later.

The enormity of the scale and depth of the Beast itself caused me to remember that for all its flaws, A.I. was still a remarkably complex feat of worldbuilding. The building of this universe from the ground up is as sound as you can get considering that this was all just for one single Hollywood movie. This is a universe where people can be kept in suspended animation, where companies are in cutthroat competition over the next groundbreaking piece of A.I. technology, where people attend university on the Moon, where rednecks have built campaigns and militias dedicated to the cause célèbre that is the snuffing out of the Mecha menace. Heck, the fact alone that the words "orga" and "mecha" are loaded epithets in this universe is just mind-blowing to this poor nerdichlorian heart of mine.

But most importantly at all, the Beast wasn't a prequel.

I mean that literally; after hearing so much about the Beast pretty much serving as the backstory of A.I., all this time I thought it was literally a direct prequel to the movie. It's not.

But I'm too much of a lady to spoil all the best bits, so I must insist you judge the Beast for yourself. Your sleepless night starts now. Now go, go, go, go, GO!

(Stay tuned for an eventual continuation to this post. I have not even begun to geek out over the Beast.)

April 6, 2011

You are waiting for a train...

Pardon me, I've got something in my eye.

YouTube surprises us yet again.

Damn, it's eerie how Harry Potter had become the thing that had pretty much completely pervaded this generation. My generation.

Ye gads. The antsy anticipation of the next book. The twee all-star Britishness of the movies. The aptly fantastical incredibility of a children's author richer than the Queen. The surprise alternate reality game tie-ins. The knitting. Heck, my very first email address (which one of my now-oldest friends first started up for me) was a Harry Potter reference.

Most of all, I keep feeling that J.K. Rowling should win a bloomin' Nobel Peace Prize just for being a writer lucky enough to be in a position to spawn more writers, to make writers dream big again. Dream that they could save literacy, spawn a subculture, out-moolah the Queen and all that. All thanks to a young boy-wizard dreamed up on a train ride.

Dang. How can you look back on something like this and not believe we live in surreal, interesting times?

April 2, 2011

Evicted

This depresses me just a bit.
No, I'm not being kicked out of the house yet.

There's no crime in exhibiting Filipino hospitality, though a case has to be made for when said hospitality comes at the expense of completely obliterating one's sense of personal space. I had only just managed to move most of my stuff back in the room (though the Bottomless Yarn Cooler is still sitting in the hallway), but recent events had informed me that I might have a lot more heavy lifting to do.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a toilet to unclog.

April 1, 2011

Looks like I have some plans for next weekend.

(via our favorite Filipino speculative fiction site, Rocket Kapre)

The FFP 24Hour Read-a-thon!
I just signed up. I've commuted by myself to Cubao before (thank you, WWE!) and a very good friend had already showed me around Cubao X...

How hard can it be?


Holy carp, I own ALL of these?!
Oh. Right.

*goes to rummage through her immense backlog for something she can bring to Cubao*