19 May 2017


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 the best decade in music. We (didn't notice I typed 'we') had grunge, alternative, hip hop, the boybands and girl groups, and OPM going on; but I wasn't too conscious of it. Maybe because it wasn't that far from me yet, and because I am also genuinely enjoying the music today. Nineties Music hasn't 'been gone' to me. It's true, though. I listen to Sunshower, Like a stone, Spoonman, Blow up the outside world, Hunger Strike and how nice it is to hear those rough, heart-rending vocals, those drums and guitars again.


Update: Reports say Cornell's cause of death is suicide. Now I'm sad and mad.

18 May 2017

Here for romance

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.'

Ursula K Le Guind. The dispossessed.
New York: Harper Collins, 2015.

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 preserved by the partners, both.

Here's a passage better expressing the thought:
The language Shevek spoke, the only one he knew, lacked any proprietary idioms for the sexual act. In Pravic it made no sense for a man to say that he had "had" a woman... The usual verb, taking only a plural subject can be translated only by a neutral word like copulate. It meant something two people did, not something one person did, or had... Certainly he had felt that he owned Beshun, possessed her, on some of those starlit nights in the Dust. And she had thought she owned him. But they had both been wrong; and Beshun, despite her sentimentality, knew it; she had kissed him goodbye at last smiling, and let him go. She had not owned him. His own body had, in its first outburst of adult sexual passion, possessed him indeed—and her. But it was over with. It had happened. (p 53)
Le Guin's narration is at its most compelling during the characters' intimate encounters — whether sexual in nature or otherwise. My favorite has the protagonist Shevek arguing with one of his best friends, Bedap. They won't verbally reconcile in the scene, but the lateness of the hour pushes them to spend the night together. Melodramatic but well-executed.
They moved closer together. Shevek turned over onto his face and fell asleep within two minutes. Bedap struggled to hold on to consciousness, slipped into the warmth, deeper, into the defenselessness, the trustfulness of sleep, and slept. In the night one of them cried out aloud, dreaming. The other one reached his arm out sleepily, muttering reassurance, and the blind warm weight of his touch outweighed all fear. (pp 171 – 172)
This, from his wife, is a lesson on honoring a human being as a universe unto himself. It's a pleasure to recite and maybe what I will remember most from the book.
We came, Takver thought, from a great distance to each other. We have always done so. Over great distances, over years, over abysses of chance. It is because he comes from so far away that nothing can separate us. Nothing, no distances, no years, can be greater than the distance that's already between us, the distance of our sex, the difference of our being, our minds; that gap, that abyss which we bridge with the look, with a touch, with a word, the easiest thing in the world. Look how far away he is, asleep. Look how far away he is, he always is. But he comes back, he comes back, he comes back.... (p 321)

15 May 2017

Disco perfection

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 clich√© yet it's also not, because we don't say it out loud. The rest of the song is that — your fears of intimacy laid bare.

The structure is deceivingly thin and even, as well. Nothing much is going on until you're caught in layers and layers of sound. And feelings.

2. Mystery – Breakbot

Confession. Only reason I'm interested in 'Ed Rec 100' is Justice. Other than the duo, I only know Breakbot, Boys Noize, and very little of Sebastian, Busy P, and Mr Oizo.

So aside from the Randy remix, I checked out Breakbot's Mystery. Oh how he cheers me up with his groove. At first I was disapppointed to hear vocals, but as it progressed, I was smiling silly. It's disco perfection.

'Ed Rec 100', an album celebrating Ed Banger Records' 100th release.

Since the entire album was already available, I gave it a go. Now I understand why Ed Banger has such a loyal fanbase. The next couple of songs are from the same compilation celebrating the 100th release of the record label.

3. Genie – Busy P, Mayer Hawthorne

Am I listening to the chill, charming cousin of rock n' roll or what. I enjoy singing along with this one. Pop songs are overpowered by the pop star's voice (and personality); what I like about these electronic dance tracks is that the vocals complement every sonic element in the production.

And this line's cool: I know that you see me / You know that I see you, too. Yeah, I can relate. Coz I'm rock n' roll like that.

4. About it – Boston Bun, Steed

This one I want to hear, to experience in a nightclub — or a lounge?

To be super non-technical, the track is marked by yearning. The hook is all at once sexy, catchy, and emotional. Then there's this drop to make things interesting and extra dancy.


Sidenote: Speaking of favorite artists, Adam Anderson shared this letter on his birthday (May 14).

A post shared by Adam Anderson (@adamhurts) on

Seeing Hurts live is a dream. I wish him well.

12 May 2017

Weekend (sort of) double bill

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 √©lan 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.

Give 'Lean' a chance. Support these passionate students.

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 artists Chikoy Pura, Bayang Barrios, Cookie Chua, and Noel Cabangon. On May 12 and 13 at the Adamson University Theater, UP Manila Dramatista is staging Lean to commemorate Alejandro’s 30th death anniversary and, according to director Reachie de Leon, because the narrative bears repeating.

That last thought is saddening, if you were to ask Gary. ‘Walang nagbago. We fail as a generation to change things,’ he says. ‘I hope that my (political) songs no longer resonate. I hope that my corny love songs are the ones that last.’

Makes me think — maybe there’s a need to tell the same story in a different way. The less-than-an-hour sneak peek may not be a fair approximation of the entire production, but based on the few numbers UPMD presented, Lean appears like another cursory glance at Martial Law, at corruption and injustice.

What’s certain is: Gary’s songs will be worth the trip to Taft Avenue (UPMD was kind enough to provide a copy of the original cast recording). If the performers unleashed their vocal power and gave off an energy inherent in their youth (which were missing in the preview), then Lean could well be the entertaining, eye-opening musical it aims to be.

Godspell: Fun as it unfolds

Godspell is high school musical — first thing that popped in my head as soon as I stepped out of the theater. Onstage (and off, as they mingle with the crowd) are good-looking, multi-talented artists performing catchy tunes about something somewhat meaningful. I mean it’s JC and his parables told in succession, in a cool, silly, almost wild way.

Topper Fabregas didn’t hold back on the charm, effortlessly stealing scenes. Jef Flores as Jesus makes sense, but it’s his comedic chops that makes me a believer. Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo was being Menchu the whole time — brilliant. Myke Salomon (John the Baptist/Judas) and Lorenz Martinez were, to oversimplify, awesome. Caisa Borromeo seduced us. A ukulele-wielding Maronne Cruz rocked our world.

Really bad IG snap. 'Godspell' runs until May 21 at the Carlo P. Romulo Auditorium.

It was fun while it lasted. Once you cross the road, the spell — brought by the music, lights, set design, and the actors’ dynamism — is gone. Maybe a melody will linger, but the gags and (tired) lessons don’t invite revisiting. This is a show that preaches to the choir.

Which is not to say that non-Christians won’t enjoy the ride. They must prepare for minor discomforts, though. Hearing Jesus talk about God’s reward and punishment system, the verity of an afterlife might make them cringe, for example.

The best parts of the musical are those wherein the actors know that they are being funny. Because they let the audience in on the joke. The serious bits aren’t as effective — confusing to be precise. The drama towards the end, showing Jesus’ crucifixion, felt forced, like a jump in a plot that never existed to begin with. In a snap, Jesus was fine again and everyone’s back to singing in exaltation. I wanted to ask my seat mate what just happened but (believe it or not) he was dozing off! (I’m sure it wasn’t out of boredom, he probably had a long day.)

This star-studded cast (four of them earned Philstage Gawad Buhay citations the other night) is too bright for a dull material. But then I guess that’s what you’re paying for. To see the pros loosen up, exchange winks, and maybe high-five Judas during intermission.

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