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Road to Justice

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18. “The way to get things done [is] to go ahead and do them. Don’t talk about going to Borneo. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens,” says Richard in the Alex Garland novel, The Beach. That bit didn’t need underlining; it was stuck in my head since. For the longest time I dreamed of traveling to Japan and of taking a proper vacation: something completely mine, well-planned but also aimless. I never thought that I had the resources nor the guts to fly to a land which language I don’t speak, until Justice announced a world tour, with appearances at Summer Sonic 2017.

19. Last April, Coachella streamed Justice’s full set, giving me a taste of Woman Worldwide. What I digested was theater, where each element — may it be aural, visual, lexical — meant something to another element to another element. Everyone talked and will talk about the lights: because they don’t just dazzle, they communicate.

20. Once you hear the live version of a Justice song, you’ll forget about t…

Dolphin love and limits — A companion sketch

From where I sit there's a garden. My eyes on greens and skyward. "Thank you for waiting," says the woman laying down my lunch.

"No, no. I enjoyed the wait."

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Inside I'm dancing. If it's any good, a dance song will make you move, and move you while you're sat on a chair, waiting.

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Except for flights, meetings and meet-ups, I always arrive late.

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Taking my meals this way is the only luxury I can afford. I see to it that I arrive early. To think, to read, to gaze out the window if I were lucky to have that seat. Sometimes I write. Sometimes nothing. If I were truly lucky, I was waiting for you.

Dinner isn’t food on plate, it’s the only real thing that’s also an escape.

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(Inspired by Connan Mockasin's Forever dolphin love and the sleeve art Connan made himself for the Erol Alkan rework of the song. Samurai gourmet has also greatly influenced the opening fragment.)

Dolphin love and limits

I never understood remixes. My literary background had me believing in ultimate, untouchable forms. Any rework or editing is a step toward that final draft. Not to say that I don't enjoy a good remix when I hear one. But now that I think about it, I am fascinated by this open and pliant nature of the song—something counter to literature, in particular the tyrannical art of poetry.

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Erol Alkan is making me think about it. Sometime in 2012, six years since its release, I don't feel like dancin' found its way to my player, looped for weeks. Five more years passed till I discovered Alkan's Carnival of light rework. What I heard was something subdued but exciting. How he stretched a pleasant moment, toyed with it, built on it. And when I thought it would simply go on for ever—which I didn't mind—he brought the best bit of lyrics out, leaving me with nostalgic aftertaste.

This month he shared a playlist containing songs in his "Reworks Volume 1" compilation. W…

Disjointed

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That was a long first act. When Berger (Michael Schulze) introduced himself—his version of a handshake: asking a kind lady to hold the trousers he just took off—I thought we were off to a good start. Schulze's frenetic ways were captivating, and his openness, infectious. There's a hippie, I said to myself.

Excitement, however, dissolved into dizzying confusion. Tribe leader, Claude (Markki Stroem) entered with faux—not to mention annoying but maybe that was the point—Manchester accent, and Sheila (Caisa Borromeo) convinced everyone that she believes in love. Tried to. More tribe members walked onto and away from center-stage, dropping a thought or two about life, sex, war, race, pills, grass, hair... They rambled on and on until the curtains closed for intermission.

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Repertory Philippines culminates its 50th anniversary celebrations with 1960's musical, Hair, directed by Chris Millado. For someone who hasn't seen any of the show's previous incarnations, Hair appe…

To hunt for Paula's poems

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My previous job at an online publication allowed me to interview, and that generally means discover fictionists from the US. One of them was Paula McLain. From the get-go (you know, her aura) I knew that I'd like her. The woman invited respect in me. At some point in our conversation I made a mental note to check out her books. It's her education. It showed. And I must've had this affinity with her because she started out as a poet.

I hadn't read YA in while, so I bought A ticket to ride, thinking here's a perfect chance to revisit the genre; plus, it's her debut novel. The story took forever to take off — and frankly it wasn't hinging on a good plot but rather on atmosphere and a sort of teenage mystique — but I hung on and enjoyed the ride anyway because of said mood and mystery. I finished it without that rewarding feeling, though I wasn't exactly disappointed as well. If anything it served as a charming sampler.

The adolescent narrator is also a pro…

Lullaby singer

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Anna Nalick is one of those women whose talents inspire both admiration and jealousy in me. That she's insanely beautiful makes matters worse: do I hate or want to be her?

I've been rediscovering artists I first met in my youth through social media. Recently, I stumbled upon Nalick's Instagram, learning that the 2 AM crooner was about to release a new record. Here and there she'd post clips of her singing what would make up "At now". Then I'd remember how I used to love girls with guitars.

But Nalick has a distinct kind of magnetism, marked by something sexy and poetic and messy at the same time. Her voice is pained but never vulnerable, powerful when quiet yet cracks open an entire world when climbing high notes. She is one of the few lyricists whose words make me pay attention.

When Aura hit Soundcloud earlier, I got excited right away. I just knew that the album would be good. I trusted in the artist, and that time and age would do the trick.


Maybe list…

Gestes magnifiques

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Alain Passard talks obsessively about gestures in Chef's table – France. It's the first time I've heard someone bring that up as a crucial element — if an element at all — in any discipline.

When I was a child, I would mimic adults in unglamorous professions: the cashier swiping a product under a scanner, then hitting a few keys from the till before punching the big one that opens a drawer of cash; or the bus conductor thumbing through a bundle of tickets (the working thumb covered in rubber), after-which reaching for his pouch for loose change.

I didn't know exactly what they were doing back then — how the tickets were counted or what the other buttons on the cash register were for; but seeing them so confident in their actions drew me in. It was their expert gestures that compelled me to imitate them.

"Slicing a shallot can be done 25 different ways. However there is that one gesture to which we can add that elegance, that love," says Passard. Apparently, h…

Suffered plenty

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This slim book is a huge test of endurance for me. At a hundred and twenty seven pages, and what seems to be font size 13, double space, Ernest Hemingway's The old man and the sea has the promise of a breezy, melancholy Sunday afternoon read.

It's so boring. If anything I can relate to the old man in the middle of an endless sea, waiting and fighting for his life and pride. I'm the type who'd deliberately abandon a novel if it doesn't excite. But I choose to stick it out with Hem, thinking I can't be beaten by a novella, and at least I'd know for sure if I hated it or not.

At that point when I feel like completely giving up — page 80 or so — it picks up. I want to know, Okay, will old man Santiago catch his fish or will he die? What will he learn about life? What will I realize for myself? Because it's that kind of book that screams, There's a moral in here somewhere, find it. (Would love to hear the vegans' opinion on the story.)

What I like a…

To give way to new books and do good to mankind

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I've long given up any pretenses of reading all the books I wanted to read in my lifetime, so I'm not sure why I hold on to books I have fallen out of love with, or have the slightest interest in.

Actually I know why: laziness, selfishness, and my choice of decoration. If I had a huge home, I'd keep every decaying tome, every awful novel until I die. Staring at shelves crammed with things I no longer recognize, however, pushed me to finally clean up.

What I thought would only take an hour took an entire afternoon. Reorganizing and decluttering my humble library gave me a massive headache. But here's the fruit of the labor. I'm giving away these books for free.







When the messages start pouring in (and there are a lot), my heart floats. People are excited. And hearing them talk about how much they love a specific book or author — seeing their value through another's eyes — kind of makes me not want to let go of them anymore. That's how selfish I can be!

Some a…

An erring lace

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One night in 2015 maybe, I was walking with a friend towards a club. I couldn't remember how the conversation went there, but I declared, "I look my best now."

As I write this I think, No. I look my best now;

And think of perfection. My every day has been a deliberate (though not always successful) step towards that. In 2014 I got my own space. When friends would invite themselves in, I'd quip, I want it to be Instagrammable first, give me time. I want my home to reflect who I am, therefore I want it to be perfect.

Although I know there's no such thing and if I ever reached it, What else?

Then I came across this Robert Herrick poem published in Love poems, a collection of poetry read on BBC Radio 4's Poetry please:

Delight in disorder
Robert Herrick

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness.
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction;
An erring lace, which here and there
Enthralls the crimson stomacher;
A cuff neglectful, and …

Techno bliss

Earworms this month are courtesy of a young duo and the widely acknowledged godfathers of electronic music.

The new: At night by Oliver

I haven't heard of Oliver until last week. On August 24, the LA-based DJs released Full Circle, a solid debut album.

It's always the rhythm that wins me. Though largely a song-driven effort, the album's melodic lines (especially those with vocals) are never over-complicated or overpowering; while the sumptuous rhythms are given the extension they deserve — no rushing to the chorus or "the drop". These for me are the very things that make electronic music distinctly enjoyable, habitable.

The tracks also don't follow a single structure, so you'll be pleased with the diversity. Three songs I find extra special are Go with it, Heterotopia, and At night. Am excited for this band. They must be fun to see live.



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The old timeless: Music non stop – 2009 remastered version by Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk's "Computer World" has …

Dance is now

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Sometimes I think about dance. Not that thing we poor souls do at the club, but that which is conceived by a choreographer and realized by a dancer. How the art form seems to evade preservation and discovery.

Stumbling upon a great modern ballet piece is not as easy as stumbling upon, say, a great novel by an obscure author or great music from a band in the ‘70s. Sure there are licensed recordings of performances available in stores — limited as they may be — and there’s YouTube and other video-streaming services to scour (if you want something recorded by naughty, rule-bending audiences), but my impression is that dance doesn’t bother as much with reproduction and distribution the way other popular art forms do.


From where I am, there’s no better person to ask whether or not this is an actual problem of the industry than National Artist for Dance, Alice Reyes. “It’s not a problem, it’s a fact. It’s something we have to live with,” a fired up Reyes told me during an open rehearsal of …

Notes on ‘Blackbird’

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David Harrower’s Blackbird takes us right smack in the middle of harsh reality: the office pantry. Suspended fluorescent tubes illuminate a small room, which centerpiece is a long plastic table. Cardboard boxes everywhere. No porcelain, only paper cups. In one corner, trash has managed to spill from a tall bin. All these add up to a hyperreal set that is eerie yet captivating.

Enter a young woman and an older man, dressed like everybody else in the audience — in boring ready-to-wear, maybe soiled by earlier fits of clumsiness or by fresh transgressions. The difference is that our mess are hidden in theater dark, while theirs are exposed by light.

Una and Ray engaged in a sexual affair when the former was 12 and the latter was 40. The relationship lasted for three months and its end meant jail time for the gentleman. Fifteen years later, Una stumbles upon a photo of a smiling Ray on a magazine, compelling her to track him down. Now they meet again as Una finds Ray in his workplace, liv…

Why I still blog

The short, straightforward answer: Because I want to feel good about myself.

For an indulgent, self-patting and -absolving explanation:

You give me the pleasure of having an audience

My favorite anecdote about writing is this: A poet friend attended a national writers workshop and his poetry was lambasted. Imagine how painful it must be for him, hearing the critiques, pretending to be fine afterwards. To recover, he wrote a poem.

That’s how you know you’re meant to do something. It’s a reflex.

Among the activities that captured my imagination as child, writing was the easiest to do. I wanted to be a pianist, a carpenter, a teacher, a cashier, a swimmer. We had a piano at home, but I couldn’t make noises at night. Swimming lessons, plus the gears, were expensive. But writing, it's cheap. I can do it anywhere, whenever I want to. In my head, I can be as loud as I like.

Following the bait of Language has led me here. I studied Literature, I took jobs as a communications assistant, an …

Notes on Rep’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’

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An audience member asked on opening night why the iconic (her word) Beauty and the Beast theme was left out of the Repertory Philippines production of the musical. She was, of course, referring to the Alan Menken hit from the Walt Disney label. Rep could sigh in dismay, having categorically stated that their show adopts a different version of the fairy tale; but maybe, just maybe, no one would miss the popular movie tracks had the Michael Valenti score been equally enchanting.

The Laughter Song has got quite a hook (that’s still lodged in my head). As for the rest of the songs, they barely excite the ear, however pleasant-sounding. It doesn’t help that the cast — led by Alana Vicente (Beauty) and Jos Jalbuena (Beast) — seem to be in short supply of energy, unconvinced themselves of what they’re crooning about.

What Rep’s Beauty and the Beast has going for it is: everything else. Bonsai Cielo’s costumes are visual puzzles (Do you put on, slip or morph into a table dress? Is that actua…

Breaking into dance: Notes on ‘Newsies’ and ‘Your highness’

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My mistake was electing to sit at the front row despite knowing that Newsies — the stage adaptation of the Disney film of the same title — would be a visual spectacle. Rights to the award-winning Christopher Gattelli choreography weren’t granted to the show’s local production (as I later on learned); but PJ Rebullida, with a little help from Yek Barlongay, created a choreography that, based on audience reaction, was every bit of a winner.

Co-producers 9 Works Theatrical and Globe Live harped on this dance excellence — a clever decision as the musical’s paper-thin characters and storyline would hardly please the discerning theatergoer or keep the casual fan awake. The narrative was standard Disney: an all-too safe journey between plot points leading to a saccharine resolution. A happy ending lurked from the get-go, and conflicts that arose along the way failed to arouse any sense of danger.

Instead the danger was in the dance. I had seen some of these actors before though not in this f…

Serious talks

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My latest hobby is revisiting tried-and-tested literary titles. The classics. I think that I’m a better, though slower, reader today; and so, in a way, better able to give them the reading that they deserve. Besides, adulthood can be an amazing filter.

Raymond Carver makes so much sense to me now. Stories in What we talk about when we talk about love aren’t exactly slices of life, but more like pieces of jigsaw puzzles. Carver zooms in on an dull moment until he catches characters in a profound split-second. He barely gets into their psyche. The images he uncovers are real enough to cause a jolt of recognition.


What stood out for me in the collection is A serious talk. Burt visits his wife, Vera on Christmas day. The two have children but appear to be separated, at least not living together anymore. He came over to have a serious talk with her — which never happened.

Instead they spoke but skirted anything of importance. In the middle of their non-conversation, Burt lit a cigarette t…

Notes on Broadchurch

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1. Like any other teenager during my time (not sure what fills teenagers' heads nowadays), I fantasized about having a family.

2. The fantasy gave way to other things as I grew older, until it went on reverse: it became the last thing on my mind. Currently, unimaginable.

3. I'll admit. I jumped on the Broadchurch bandwagon because of Jodie Whittaker. BBC announced that she will be the next Doctor in Doctor Who. Not having heard of her before, I googled her works. Broadchurch happens to be available on Netflix, so I binge-watched the series and finished three seasons in two days.

4. I'm excited, by the way, to see a female Doctor. For the simple reason of novelty. I remember enjoying the David Tennant and Katherine Tate combo because the latter isn't the typical young, pretty companion. Am looking forward to this new dynamic between the leads. (Speaking of the show — a by the way within a by the way — Michelle Gomez's Missy is oh-so-fine!)

5. This is very strange. A…

(Not) just like the movie

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Early in the Second Act, three thugs discuss breaking into a convent, their entire strategy hinging on wooing the nuns to let them through without the slightest hesitation. In a rhythm and blues number called, Lady in the long black dress, the men take turns in telling the others how to really do it. “My name is Bones and I’m a Libra. I dig sunsets and strolling on the beach, and loving my neighbor as myself; and right now, baby, I’m standing next door to you,” goes Bones, adopting an ‘80s boy band suavity — husky voice, calculated smirk, and the gait of someone who might be having an upset stomach.

That scene pretty much defines the nature of Sister Act, the stage adaptation of the 1992 blockbuster film starring Whoopi Goldberg. Its intention is clear: to charm. Not exactly to wow. The storyline is straightforward, with no converging plots, twists or flashbacks; and the characters sit somewhere between stereotypes and caricatures. It’s only a question of, Will they pull it off? Will …

I’m your audience for ever

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The title of the play along with its entire story escape me now, but here's what I remember: onstage is a round wooden bath tub where two men are talking. Naturally they are naked, or at least the bare torsos and the show's daring mood suggest nudity all the way down there. One of them says, "Aalis na ako" as he gestures to leave. Behind me a male voice, hushed but panicked: "Huwag!" Then a snigger of relief — from him and his companion, I assume, when the scene ends with neither actor getting up.

That was in college, when watching stage productions was a course requirement. That was also my first experience of a pleasure unique to live performances. Whatever transpires in the audience section is, for better or worse, part of the entertainment. When I saw A little night music, people were singing A weekend in the country to themselves as they wait for Act 2 (Great, the song is stuck in their heads as well). In an attempt to acquaint myself with opera, I acc…