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Showing posts from 2017

Sun-shower

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Not sadness for a loss of life but a pang of nostalgia. That's how I felt when I heard about Chris Cornell's death.

The afternoon weather was rather relaxed. Rain cooled the air. We welcome this given what seemed like summer baking in infernal heat. Late lunch was made, served, had. Logged on to Netflix. Watched the stupid but nevertheless entertaining Stephen King novel-inspired Secret Window.

Peeked at Twitter (or returned to Twitter after a quick dip into life?). There the news was.

Whatever sadness I felt, it was directed towards the fans awaiting the band's next gigs. I know I can put myself in their shoes. I do love Soundgarden, though I may not have followed them as intently. Cornell's voice will remain — I don't see it within the context of gender or genre, it just is magnificent.

Naturally went on a binge—

My favorite


Quintessence of badassery


Missing this brand of loud


—Reminded of how grand, how badass Soundgarden and Chris Cornell were.

Many say the 90s is…

Here for romance

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The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin is saying something important about man's proprietary interests. Printed in the back of my limited edition copy (bought it for the pretty cover design) is the quote, 'All you have is what you are, and what you give.' It reminds me of these words of wisdom (from the Disney cartoon, Committed), which has stuck with me ever since: 'What you have is not yours, what you give is yours.'


But I'm reading for the romance. By romance I mean this ideal relationship with a sexual component between two people.

I find the notion of ownership in romantic relationships barbaric. I confess, conquest is exhilarating — among all the women vying for his attention, he chooses me. I have made him mine. I, however, shiver with disgust whenever I think about myself or someone I love, like a friend or a relative, being 'owned' by someone else.

Whatever happens within the frame of this partnership must be set in motion, perpetuated and preser…

Disco perfection

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I have this playlist called 'Flavor of the now'. Title's self-explanatory, no? Songs there have a short shelf life. May, however, seems to be my new-music month. Two releases have blown my mind, a single by Ghastly and Matthew Koma and an LP from Ed Banger Records (on the 26th, Rita Ora is dropping Your song — but that's topic for later). My favorite artists are loving me back.

These tracks have been enjoying a longer run on FOTN. They're on repeat since Thursday (an advantage of living this side of the world is our Friday arrives earlier, so I got to sort of preview them); and are currently playing in the background as I type this.

1. We might fall – Ghastly, Matthew Koma



It's so simple and so direct. So clear in what it wants to say. I never really take lyrics seriously but this hits home. I knew it was good as I somewhat felt annoyed after a few listens.

Could you come a little closer but still keep your distance. I realize this is a cliché yet it's also n…

Weekend (sort of) double bill

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Over the weekend I saw two stage performances: one a preview, the other a premiere; one by a college drama guild, the other by a professional theater outfit. Both musicals, both tell familiar tales — one concerning politics, the other, religion.

The former, Lean; the latter, Godspell.
Lean: If all else fails, there’s music Will Gary Granada please write more musicals?

The composer injects a dose of rock with patriotic élan into UP Naming Mahal that any listener, regardless of alma mater, will find a connection to the anthem. Without neglecting its humor, he turns the pejorative catchphrase ‘Only in the Philippines’ into a full-on critique of the national elections in Dito lang sa Pilipinas. These, along with other rousing Granada-penned songs, I heard at the concert preview of Lean last Friday.


Lean is short for Leandro Alejandro, the name of prominent UP student and nationalist shot dead in 1987. The musical, which revolves around his activism, premiered in 1997 and featured OPM arti…

Welcome at any rate

(The first half of Joseph Brodsky's Song of welcome. I would love to recite this someday, somewhere to some or someone, maybe read it to my niece once she's grown up.)

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Song of Welcome
Joseph Brodsky

Here’s your mom, here’s your dad.
Welcome to being their flesh and blood.
Why do you look so sad?

Here’s your food, here’s your drink.
Also some thoughts, if you care to think.
Welcome to everything.

Here’s your practically clean slate.
Welcome to it, though it’s kind of late.
Welcome at any rate.



Here’s your paycheck, here’s your rent.
Money is nature’s fifth element.
Welcome to every cent.

Here’s your swarm and your huge beehive.
Welcome to the place with its roughly five
billion like you alive.

Welcome to the phone book that stars your name.
Digits are democracy’s secret aim.
Welcome to your claim to fame.



Here’s your marriage, and here’s divorce.
Now that’s the order you can’t reverse.
Welcome to it; up yours,

Here’s your blade, here’s your wrist.
Welcome to play…

The soul of Wit

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It will strike different chords with different folks. With someone who majored in Literature and whose reflexes include poetry, Margaret Edson’s Wit is a chaffing reminder that command of language is in the slightest degree command of life; and mastery of the highest form of literature does not save one from leading a corny life.

50-year-old Vivian Bearing, PhD is a professor of seventeenth-century poetry, specializing in the Holy Sonnets of John Donne. She’s ready to die. Resigned, at least, to a future contained in a ‘two-hour glass’. Enough time for her to muse about mortality in front of an obliging audience.

Professors (the better ones) are precisely that: performers. Dr Bearing makes the theater her lecture hall. The subject, we’re not sure. Stage-four metastatic ovarian cancer? Metaphysical wit? Punctuations turning worlds upside-down? Kindness, meaning? Until her very last minutes, she needs to parse everything:

I am not in isolation because I have cancer… I am in isolation b…

Not my life's background music

I'm not worthy of Jai Wolf's music.

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My EDM Northern Star and dear friend (LOL), Matthew Koma, announced that he's releasing a track with one Jai Wolf this April 21. So therefore I Spotified Jai.

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I fell asleep to this playlist — which has been on loop the entire day today — and will probably put me to sleep again tonight.



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Heavenly but also dark synths, flirtations with RnB, depth. That's it. There's depth to his music, and I'm not talking about lyrics, but the entire soundscape — the creative decision-making behind it. (Thank you for putting this note after that note...)

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My life is so banal to have him playing in the background.

His music feels like something you play in a pristine penthouse, on a cool night and your heart is cold. Something you play after a disaster you haven't recognized yet.

Electric shock

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I don’t have it in me to laugh at a woman who, for the first time in her life, learns how to pleasure herself. Nor at a woman who begs to be touched by a man, by her husband no less.

When I saw a preview of In the next room or the vibrator play, I was wary of cheap laughs drawn upon people’s ignorance over their bodies and objects being inserted where they can somehow fit. But the play is far from callow. The latter half of the title is a nasty trick, though, to incite curiosity; for the crux of the story is marital disconnection. Playwright Sarah Ruhl has written a clever drama, which humor is only incidental, never its driving force as what the adverts would have you believe.

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“That is how he fell in love with me, he said he was determined to keep up with me — he only saw the back of my head before we married because I was always one step ahead. He said he had to marry me to see my face,” Catherine Givings talks about her passion for walking and her husband Dr. Givings, a gyne…

Real / "real"

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Thoughts on Red Turnip Theater’s production of The Nether by Jennifer Haley. (Originally published on GIST)

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Say I have a perverted fantasy: dismember a child after intercourse. I rewind the scene each night in my head. Can you call me a criminal?

Say, elsewhere, another person has mutilation fantasies, and we discover a place where the imagined briefly comes to life. There we meet to satisfy, consentingly, our darkest desires. Are we committing a crime?

That imagination and reality share the same space in the mind is the most appealing theme in Jennifer Haley’s sci-fi drama, The Nether. Simply, The Nether is virtual realm. Somewhere in it, businessman Sims (Bernardo Bernardo) has built the Hideaway, a pedophile-slash-ax-murderer’s playground, which superior coding enables a life-like experience (think Black Mirror’s San Junipero).

Detective Morris (Jenny Jamora) is out to get Sims, believing that his Hideaway is dangerous and immoral. For her, when people spend entire days in that …

I'm a friend of Matthew's

I just admire Matthew Koma. I will always wish him well. The first time I interviewed him (for his first show at Chaos Manila), I was surprised by his wisdom and candor. He says the most practical and at the same profound things. He's witty and chill. My kind of guy.

Last week, March 11 to be exact, he came back for another show, and I did everything I could (which wasn't much, since the people at Chaos were super cool) to score another one-on-one with him for GIST. Matthew was in a better mood. He remembered me!

Told him it was my birthday the day before and that his show was my birthday gift to myself. After the interview, I asked for an updated selfie and told him, 'I want us to look like we're friends,' to which he quickly replied, 'We ARE friends'.

But the best thing that happened that night was he gave me a hug — an actual hug, you know, with pressure.


@matthewkoma accepted my real-life friend request. Happy birthday, indeed, to me. #MatthewKoma #Chaos…

The incandescent Jef

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(Had the pleasure of sitting down with theater actor, Jef Flores. We talked about his career as well his latest play, In the next room or the vibrator play. The interview originally appeared on GIST.)

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Don't call Jef Flores an award-winning actor“You have permission to slap me in the face if I turned into a douchebag,” actor Jef Flores asks us to mark his words, so here it is on record.

He has every reason to fear it: since making his debut in professional theater five years ago — without any training, save for doing improv and being a musician back in the States where he grew up — Jef has been cast in some of the most successful productions by a diverse set of theater outfits, and in 2015 snagged a Philstage Gawad Buhay Award for best male lead performance in a play.

His latest gig: artist Leo Irving in Repertory Philippines’ In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play. The title may well be a marketing ploy, as Sarah Ruhl’s tale, though billed as a comedy, reads like a domestic drama.…

'Care Divas' is an audacious mess

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Every now and then, you will come across a musical that demands attention even as you feel like looking away — one that skims across the repulsive nature of (earning a) living and the twisted wonders of falling in love. Care Divas is such a musical.

The premise is there in the title (mind the font). This is a story of friends who are caregivers by day, drag queens by night. Prepare for unapologetic flamboyance and vulgarity. Expect that the intensity of laughter is commensurate with the pain.

2.

Wiping a geriatric’s ass — a stranger’s at that — to make ends meet and send care in the form of money to people whom you’d rather be with is insane. Imagine being in a room that reeks of urine and other smells that, while not completely alien, aren’t altogether pleasant. This is not to bring down the elderly, but the point is it takes either desperation or genuine altruism to be at their service.

Care Divas outlines this kind of life (at least in the beginning). Each caregiver is shown dea…

See you in heaven, hell, or The Nether

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The Nether, written by Jennifer Haley, is a kind of play that is a pleasure to read and begs to be reread. It compels you to turn the page on certain occasions, while on other put it down and pace around the room to ruminate.

“We want someone to run with us to the dark side.” That is, satisfy a fundamental desire to have someone truly understand and accept us — flaws and perversions notwithstanding. The play revolves around this truism while touching on themes like playing God, imagination and reality as a shared space in the mind, and online privacy ethics.

A detective is set to track felonious affairs (one of which involves men and children) that might be happening somewhere in The Nether, a place which can be described as both a paradise and the darkest corner of the Internet. It may not sound ground-breaking — sex crimes and cyberspace, what’s new? — but Haley’s plot and philosophizing, how far she dares explore these aberrations without compromising artistic integrity, make it a…

A long tram ride

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The appointment reminds me of my daily commute when I was still working at an office in Manila. It’s long, repetitive. I didn't quite like where I was going. The difference between me and the first-person narrator of the novel is that she’s observant of her surroundings, while I’m busy inside my mind. And when she goes inside hers, she dissects memories, while I weave fantasies.

She’s far more eloquent, too. Not to mention her problems are bigger than mine. But those go without saying.

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I’ve had great experiences so far with Nobel Laureates. Well, that simply meant Jose Saramago and Mario Vargas Llosa. The next Nobel Prize-winning author I acquainted myself with was Herta Müller.

I’m reminded of Saramago, because of the language. Hers is as readily distinct. She doesn’t use quotations and question marks. Her sentences don’t flow smoothly like a water stream, though the narrative — set at a tram ride going to said appointment and moves between the present and flashbacks concerning…

The music in 'Agnes of God'

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Becca Coates has the voice of an angel — fitting for the innocent, music-loving nun she plays; but it’s the veteran voices of Pinky Amador and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo that make Repertory Philippines’ Agnes of God sing and soar.

Psychiatrist Dr. Martha Livingston (Lauchgenco-Yulo) is appointed by the court to examine Agnes (Coates), a 21-year-old novice whose newborn — which she claims to have been fathered by God — is found dead in a wastebasket. At the convent, the doctor is greeted by Mother Superior Miriam Ruth (Amador), and what follows is a long argument on science, religion, and the best way to protect Agnes from manslaughter charges.

For a straight play, John Pielmeier’s Agnes of God has an amazing sense of rhythm. It moves from Dr. Livingston delivering a monologue, to a pair of characters in conversation (whether in quick-fire repartee, humorous banter, or calm give-and-take), to all three sharing a scene, then back to Dr. Livingston addressing the audience, restarting the cyc…

Rex Navarrete on offensive jokes

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Glad to have met Rex Navarrete. I've always wanted to catch him live since hearing SBC Packers and watching Hella Pinoy online (that Sto Niño joke!). Here's the short Q&A I had with him when he was promoting his last show in Manila, Extra Judicial Kidding. This was published on GIST.

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GIST: What makes a joke?

REX NAVARRETE: There’s got to be a story in there. Most of the time it helps that it’s based on reality. But what goes into a joke? It’s got to be funny. It can be deep and have so many levels to it, but it still has to be funny. You still need that laugh to let you off the hook, especially with political writers, people who write about touchy subjects. There always has to be an exit plan and it has to be funny to stick with you. And they have to have a purpose — why am I talking about this? Why is this important?

Is there such a thing as an offensive joke?

Yes. A lot.

Do you tell these kinds of jokes?

No — I mean, it depends on who you are. Some people can take (my cri…

An ideal female friendship

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Wicked has a great score going for it. That along with quirky-fantastical set designs and costumes should be enough to make theatergoers buy a ticket. But the musical adaptation of the Gregory Maguire novel refuses to be another song-and-dance extravaganza. At its core are characters ready to be remembered.

While the title suggests an origin story of L. Frank Baum’s green-skinned witch (from his children’s classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), the musical, whether deliberately or not, highlights the bond between Elphaba “The Wicked Witch of the West” and Galinda “The Good Witch of the South.” And it understands female friendships rather well — the insecurity, the jealousy, the preoccupation with appearance.

Galinda is just written to be adored — by her peers for her charm; by the audience for her antics. She’s a smart blonde (It’s not about aptitude, / It’s the way you’re viewed, / So it’s very shrewd to be / Very, very popular / Like me). But as immature as she may be, you cannot qu…

Wit conquers all

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Miguel Faustmann’s set is inspired. The stage is transformed into a living room straight out of a magazine. Wicker chairs, stone walls, wooden floor and ceiling. Plants, lamps, picture frames. But it’s the slant of light, a convincing sunshine passing through the window, that lends it life. It fools you into thinking that what you’re about to witness is a family drama.

Far from it. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang is hilarious, with gags leaning towards the downright silly. Imagine having a housekeeper-slash-soothsayer, a guy who hates wearing clothes, and an aspiring actress eager to take on the role of a molecule thrown into the mix of characters inhabiting present-day Pennsylvania.

The play, which has won a Tony Award in 2013 and is winning new audiences with Repertory Philippines’ production directed by Bart Guingona, tells the story of three siblings in their fifties: Vanya (Michael Williams) — gay and contented; Sonia (Rosalyn Perez) — spinster, lives a…

The secret to a good story

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The elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery was a gift I received in Christmas 2014. I couldn't be more thankful. Each page was gold and upon finishing I vowed to hunt for more Barbery in book stores. Turned out she had only written this other novel, Gourmet rhapsody—which I didn't buy at the time for some reason.

Christmastime 2016, I saw her name again on paperback. The life of elves. Sold.

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Didn't expect that a fantastical, dream-like tale would come from the same person who wrote a sharp, funny narrative concerning the everyday.


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Thought of giving up on this book on several occasions, but brilliant bits keep popping up.

Her caste had betrothed her to the role of bored heiress, but fate had made a daydreamer of her, gifted with otherworldly power, to such good effect that in her presence you felt as if a window onto infinity had been opened, and you understood that it was by delving into yourself that you escaped imprisonment.
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I find the narration difficult to fo…

The dearth of middle-aged heroines

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In a 1994 interview with Charlie Rose, author and actor Emma Thompson shared that her ambition is to write as she gets older, and to write about being older. “Women reach their most powerful and often their most interesting in their fifties and sixties, and I don’t see any movies about women of that age,” explained the thespian. Incidentally, I chanced upon the interview during the time I was reading Mario Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, which chapters alternate between the main story and installments of radio serials featuring “a man in the prime of his life, his fifties.”

The number is intriguing. Terrifying, depending on your mood. There is this expression I learned from childhood and I wonder if it’s still being used today: “Lampas ka na sa kalendaryo.” It implies — as how I understood it back then — that you have reached your thirties without having done anything meaningful yet, such as raise a family. The clock ticks faster.

It seemed worlds away when you were…

Why does it hurt?

Woke up feeling great. Energized. Made delicious brunch, caught an ep of How to get away with murder and my all-time fave, Desperate housewives on cable (would rewatch every rerun of this and Charmed whenever there's a chance). Watched tennis. Yes, Rafa! Played the piano. I read faster. I am better.

Last night I dressed, danced, conjured new moves thanks to Panic! At The Disco and a heartbreak.

Never mind how but I did find out. Did the math. They've been together three years.

Why does it hurt?

Because they weren't together when we met.

I failed.

I wasn't the one chosen.

I lost to someone whom I didn't think was competition.

"...the worst is the thought that they tried you out and, in the end, the whole sum of parts adds up to you got stamped REJECT by the one you love."

The other was better.

Or the night we bathed in laser lights

David Guetta takes a pause from his awe-inspiring, albeit mild seizure-inducing, concert to express his love for sports and music: “These are two of my favorite things because they bring people together,” says the French DJ, whose This one’s for you is the official UEFA Euro 2016 theme.

He’s not exactly right, though. Sports spark bitterness, if not among competitors, among loyal spectators from opposing sides; and music, especially pop music, is rife with rivalries, with fans ready to bite each other’s head off as they prove who’s better than whom, why this or that genre should cease to exist, and which era is superior of them all.

But we know what he means. And that kind of over-thinking and negativity displayed above disappears once you hit the dance floor and lose yourself among the crowd and to whatever song the DJ dishes out.

“I’m happy that we get to start the year together,” Guetta tells the ravers at the Araneta Coliseum last night. He’s quite chatty for a DJ, and you can hea…

(National) Artist and muse

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Reunion—that which excites and agitates me.

Things have changed since we last saw each other that there are stuff I (a) feel uneasy and (b) can't wait to share.


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It had probably been a decade since I went to this house, but as soon as I saw its facade, all the memories, its finer details, came back.

I thought he wouldn't remember me, but I learned he did when he called my name.

And when the pleasantries were over, we sat down at the table, had lunch, warmed up, eased our way to our usual conversations.


3.

I became Dr Cirilo Bautista's student during his mellowed-down phase. Mellow didn't mean kind, however. He was blunt and all the same had no patience for stupidity.

What I remember most about his classes are the poems on newsprint, and among those poets, Philip Larkin stayed with me until I grew up: 'They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.'

And, of course, those jokes that were too corny they're funny.

At his age now, he c…