22 August 2019

And sometimes it's perfect

Thing I made

I've always cooked for myself since I moved to my flat. Bought a non-stick fry pan, a sauce pan, then, came Christmas Season of that year, asked my Office Secret Santa for a rice cooker. Pretty much every home-made meal were made with those plus an induction cooktop and toaster oven, which I took from our old house.

Anyone who knows me knows that I take my time at the table. A friend once remarked that in our group I eat the slowest but consume the most.

For more than three years, however, cooking has turned into another chore. But something's changed this year. Maybe it's discovering Judy Ann's Kitchen, seeing someone who makes a lot of mistakes in front of the stove — and who speaks my language; maybe it's finally getting to that one Gordon Ramsay dish, which ingredients are ridiculously easy to find and is unbelievably easy to do that you have no excuse not to try it; maybe it's having to replace your silicone turner after manhandling it and then figuring might as well get rid of your knackered cheap pan.

So I bought a new turner, skimmer, and fry pan — all stainless steel. And for some reason I'm inspired. For the first time since I started cooking, I actively search for recipes. And experiment.

They say the more you do something, the more you become confident. When it comes to playing the piano and learning a language, you get a high from understanding patterns and how they combine to make a meaningful whole. Like what goes on in a sentence structure or a musical phrase.

When it comes to cooking, the pleasure comes in knowing that you've made small good decisions along the way. Like when to put the protein at what temperature, which seasoning goes better with what, lid on or lid off.

This week I'm very happy because I made the perfect egg, sunny-side up. This is only the beginning.

21 August 2019

Notes on 'Mabining Mandirigma'

Mabining Mandirigma adopts the most superficial element of steampunk, that is Victorian-futurism aesthetic, as seen in the costumes, set design and props. I have to point this out, considering the show is billed as "a steampunk musical".

It shouldn't be unreasonable then to expect science fiction onstage. Specifically, a speculative universe where Apolinario Mabini, Emilio Aguinaldo, the congress and their cohorts have access to new technology. How will they, for example, take advantage of social media to advance their causes, both collectively and as individuals? In a hilarious dinner party scene, Aguinaldo whips out a selfie stick for a souvenir snap, but that's about it. Overall, Mabining Mandirigma remains very much a faithful historical narrative — a crowd-pleasing history lesson at best.

And its hero, in my opinion, is composer Joed Balsamo, whose music is a mix of modern and traditional sounds, succeeding whether it intends to be playful or profound.

Mabini (Monique Wilson) and Aguinaldo (Arman Ferrer) have long, lyrical exchanges, where they tiptoe the line between singing and speaking. Lacking in any conspicuous rhythm or melodic pattern, their words are surprisingly clear and pleasurable to listen to. This is a testament to the score's complexity, not to mention ambition. Of course, credits are also due to librettist Nicanor Tiongson and the two leads (Ferrer's voice will probably soar the highest in any stage he'll grace).

Monique Wilson is Apolinario Mabini in Mabining Mandirigma: A Steampunk Musical. The show runs until 1st September at the CCP Little Theater. (Press photo)

One of the problems of our political discourse is an impatience to make oneself understood. There is a tendency to dismiss anyone who fails to grasp our message as mere (foolish) dissenters. The theater isn't any less guilty of this.

Putting the matter of genre aside, Mabining Mandirigma sings to an audience that already agrees with it. We hear the same platitudes all over again, especially towards the end, when we're repeatedly told, "Love your country". Yes, sure, but every plundering, mass-murdering leader professes a love for country. Is there a single way, a righter way to love?

So let me go back to that speculative universe. Before curtain call, the cast talks about what Mabini might think of present-day national issues. That's a story I would like to watch unfold. Under a climate of hopelessness, I would like to hear true revolutionary ideas.

Maybe it's not a question anymore of how we can drive people to the theater, but of how we can engage theatergoers — those who are ready to participate — in a meaningful, if uncomfortable dialogue. The theater cannot be just another echo chamber.

08 August 2019

Highlights from 'All That Is'

Salter, James. All That Is. Vintage International, 2014.

A personal background

There are novels I call atmospheric. Where instead of following a story from motivation to motivation, I am enwrapped in a feeling that grows in intensity, fluctuates, becomes unidentifiable. This definition may be different from how others use the word to describe their reading experience. And in my case, authors of such books are, more often than not, one-offs.

After reading Norwegian Wood, I haven't touched another Haruki Murakami. Same goes with Anne Michaels and her Fugitive Pieces, as well as John Knowles with the lovely A Separate Peace. I thoroughly enjoyed them, but finishing their last pages didn't cause any lingering excitement.

James Salter belongs in the pool of exceptions. All That Is, along with its resigned mood, has provided enough plot and intriguing characters for me to bite into, and therefore a craving for a bit more.

Some underlined bits
His mother so liked talking to him, she could have talked to him every day. It was only with difficulty she resisted the impulse to hug and kiss him. She had brought him up from the day he was born and now, when he was the most beautiful, she could only smooth his hair. Even that could be awkward. The love she had given he would pass on to someone else.
...the many nights that now seemed a single night... (p 30)

"What has your life been like?"
"What are the things that have mattered?" (p 176)

It fit his character, the daring lover, something he knew he was not. (p 217)

He was in the middle of life and just beginning.
His cock was hard, smooth as a scar. (p 225)

If you know how to dance you can be happy. (p 321)

Wells had married again sure of even less. He had seen a woman's leg and talked to her in the neighboring yard. They had run off together and his wife had formed her life around his. Perhaps it was a question of that, arranging a life. (p 346)

it's my blog's anniversary month and as coincidence would have it, here's a fitting epigraph from James Salter's All That Is:

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