Thursday, June 30, 2011

Deym. 1 + 1 cover by J Rome

Wow.

This guy scarred me for life: I don't think I'm singing Beyoncé in public ever again, lol! He's so good! (Kunwari hesitant pa, eh kabisado naman pala yung song! LOL!)




Wednesday, June 29, 2011

4 by Beyoncé

 What can I say about an album that dispenses kōan wisdom such as in the following?


"I don't know much about Algebra but I know that one plus equals two." 

"Hey! I don't know much about guns but I... I've been shot by you."

- 1+1

"Maybe we reached the mountain peak and there's no more left to climb. And maybe we lost the magic piece and we both too blind to find."

"Maybe you like it. Well, I don't."

- Start Over

"I'm not a preacher but we can pray if you wanna. Ain't a doctor but I can make you feel better."

- Schoolin' Life

"My persuasion can build a nation."

"Who run this mother?"

- Run the World

and the most debilitating of all:

"So when I think of the time that I almost loved you, you showed your ass and I saw the real you."

- Best Thing I Never Had

Whaaat? LOL!


Bey's latest single, Best Thing I Never Had
Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé's extremely liberated alter ego, is largely absent from this album, which means there's no other song in 4 for me to dance to (lol) except Run the World.

Hence, I couldn't help but scrutinize her lyrics and they're... cute. Sure, her voice has credence and grit, but those only make the album even more perplexing and camp—which means it's interesting and in an ironic twist, worth listening to. Falling under this category are 1+1, Start Over and Best Thing I Never Had, songs which highlight the power and emotion of Beyoncé's vocals. After all, it's hard to make fun of an artist that sounds like she's putting a tremendous amount of work and effort into her songs—and which sounds excellent—without being sarcastic.

This combination somehow works on all songs except for one: the Diane Warren-penned I Was Here. The moment it started with "I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time... When I leave this world, I leave no regrets," I knew it'll be a succession of Hallmark soundbites and I was right.

Party (featuring André 3000), which Kanye West helped write, was a disappointment, too. It was a misnomer and lacked the soul and inspiration that Lauryn Hill, or Kanye himself, would have in their ballads.

My favorite would be Love on Top, not necessarily  groundbreaking, but the type that's light and positive in a Trina Belamide kind of way (lol). The two tracks after that, Countdown and End of Time, are the most playfully produced of the bunch and which I have played incessantly in my player.

This review on the New Yorker perhaps explains Beyoncé's new album that's not quite Adele or Lady Gaga, but her own.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

*Edited for grammar and typos, 06/29/11

Jonathan Franzen's Freedom is Time's top choice for fictional books in 2010 and that was the reason I decided to pick up a copy. That it was selected for Oprah's Book Club at the second half of 2010 was a coincidence on my part, although it definitely added to the hype and to my expectations.

The author in an August 2010 cover story for Time
It's a novel that gives voice to a wide range of characters—college sweethearts-turned-married couple, their rock star best friend, and a son and daughter who are the polar opposite of each other. They are all varying degrees of twisted and dysfunctional and at some point, when they've assaulted me nonstop, page by page, of their corresponding neuroses, I had to shut the book, light a candle and close my eyes and breathe. (Freedom reviews I read never brought this up. Ah, Americans and their families. :-P)

College sweethearts Walter and Patty Berglund have just moved to the suburbs and they become the toast of the town. They are well-loved, until a strain in Patty's behavior gives way to full-on bitching—primarily directed at the mother of her son's girlfriend.

For a person who has always been dichotomous in his opinions and judgments *ehem*, it's easy to dismiss these characters as train wrecks waiting to happen. What should be an ordinary phone conversation between mother and son, or husband and wife, is layered with resentment and bitterness—the effect is more scathing than a dialogue laced with expletives—and I roll my eyes at how cynical and whiny these people are. (Look at me, I'm middle class and I'm such a victim! Life is so unfair :-() But maybe, I am too young or inexperienced to interpret the nuances of a richly lived, complexity-driven life.

The film Revolutionary Road explores the same theme: You have a middle-class couple who recently moved into a neighborhood and they were easily welcomed by families eager to be part of their circle. However, their issues, arguments and heartaches were not abrasive or hostile to me: they were clearly trapped, particularly April, the wife, who drowned in desperation as each day passed. Their issues had weight and I empathized.

The Berglunds, on the other hand, had itches that needed to be scratched and gain closure from. It will take them decades—hundreds of pages—to finally embark on experiences they put off in college.

There's freedom for you.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tree of Life

***

I have walked out of a movie once: it was the sequel to the Blair Witch Project and I felt that wasting the money I used to pay for the movie (by not finishing the film) was better than torturing myself with more screen time.

It was with this context that I observed, with amusement, how fellow moviegoers during the screening of Tree of Life stood up one by one, some in batches, and never returned to their seats: they clearly wouldn't tolerate the film, even that of a Cannes Best Picture. Mon and I stayed even though it was clear we too had trouble getting it, judging by the gush of giggles we'd have now and then. I rooted not only for ourselves, but also for the old and romantic couple in front of us who stayed up late for the 10:40pm screening at Power Plant Mall, but alas, about two hours into the film, they stood up and left too.

It is a difficult movie to watch (by the way, we did finish it), in the sense that poems may be more difficult to comprehend than a narrative. I'd like to think I did get it: for one, is there really a God? Is someone really listening? When one of the characters direct a question to him, "Lord, why? Where are you?" and all he hears is the rustle of the wind against sheer window curtains or grass-end bristles, is that God responding or meteorology at work?

The movie opens with a mother explaining the difference between living the way of nature and living the way of grace. 'Nature' is selfish and leads to survival and self-preservation. 'Grace' is accepting what iswhether that be grief or death. (This contrast is also exhibit by the parenting techniques of Mother and Father.) The film then paints beautiful imagery on the screen, explaining how the universe and earth came to be, with its explosions and osmosis and evolution. It was all 'Nature' until it showed a dinosaur having the grace, the conscience, to reflect on whether to make or not make a meal out of its prey. 

I refuse to accept that: a dinosaur is a dinosaur.

An asteroid hits the earth, wiping out dinosaurs and other animals, (no Great Floods here) and consequently, blankets the world in ice. Amid all these National Geography drama, we hear various voice overs from the mother and the rest of her family: their silent prayers to God, all delivered in hushed tones. With the universe as their backdrop, the prayers begin to feel minute and trivial. The wind blows, the sun shines: the world is as it wasindifferent. (I also have a problem with these hushed voice overs: if you're praying silently, then why do you have to whisper?) 

I loved the movie right until that point because that's how it is for us humans. We have our faith, of not knowing what really is out there and yet, we cling to God. We are free to accept nature's gifts as that from Him, or a demonstration of the Big Bang and Darwinian theories. All constitute free will.

But then Terrence Malick (writer and director) made the last 15 minutes and imposes his personal religion on the viewer, which would have been fine, if it were at least revolutionary and thought-provoking.





Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Heaven!"

Aside from the typhoon that wreaked havoc on Northern Luzon these past two days, another bagyo made itself felt, this one, centered in Pampanga:



For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV


Girl, anong katol hinihithit mo? Lakas ng tama mo ha, lol.

Girl claims the Aquino administration squandered the economic gains of her administration. (Gains that are easily rejected by NGO think-tank IBON Foundation.) While she was absent from her plunder case hearing at the DOJ, the rest of the world has acknowledged the fiscal policies of President Aquino. Last week, Moody's and Fitch have upgraded the credit ratings of the Philippines, to Ba2 from Ba3, and to BB+ from BB. In November 2010, Standard & Poor's also upgraded its outlook on the Philippines, the first time it did since 1997, to BB.

The ratings lower the country's cost of debt and are used as a gauge by foreign investors. From Bloomberg BusinessWeek:
The government has done a good job during the last year (so this is Aquino's and girl can't lay a hand and claim thisJwith a better-than-expected control on its budget deficit,” said Jetro Siekkinen, a fund manager in Helsinki at Aktia Asset Management, which owns both peso and dollar bonds sold by the Philippines among $10 billion of assets under management. “The economy is not highly dependent on China. The central bank is doing a good job keeping inflation in check. Things are definitely going in the right direction.”

President Benigno Aquino has gone after tax evaders and smugglers to convince investors he can boost revenue to narrow a record budget shortfall. Higher debt ratings reduce the cost of borrowing, making it cheaper for the Philippines to sell debt to fund spending on roads, bridges and schools.

The decision was driven by “the progress made in fiscal consolidation by the new Aquino administration; and the sustained nature of macroeconomic stability, coupled with continued strength in the external payments position, against a background of a significant pick-up in the momentum for economic growth,” Moody’s said.

The report continued:

The Philippines reported a budget surplus of 26.3 billion pesos ($607 million) in April as revenue rose and spending fell. The surplus was 61 million pesos in the first four months, compared with a deficit of 131.80 billion pesos in the same period in 2010.

We have a budget surplus. It's not in the pockets of corrupt politicians and it wasn't used to buy houses in the US; it's right there.

Ito lang naman talaga gusto ko'ng marining kaya ko binoto si Aquino, yung maitama yung mga mali. Ayoko sa magnanakaw. (Kaya nga malaki din galit ko sa plagiarists.)

For further reading: ‘Aquinomics’: What difference has it made?


Friday, June 24, 2011

Agonizing envy

Ampatuan father and son were arraigned the same time in a court hearing yesterday. It broke my heart to hear one of the family members of the victims, Mrs Evardo, say this (0:37 in the video):




For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV


Syempre yung galit at inggit na silang dalawa nagkakasama samantalang ang aming mga, yung mga nabiktima naming mahal sa buhay di na namin makaksama pang-habangbuhay na.

The Maguindanao massacre will observe its second anniversary in November. That means two years of grindingly slow justice, which even when achieved, sadly and understandably won't be enough.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

This works: Sleep

Found this on my bed during my stay at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport:



I love the packaging and the font, and I found it considerate and charming of the hotel.











I don't have problems sleepingeven if I'm on a different bed as long as it's comfortable and I got there on my own accord (lol)so I can't tell if this really knocks the lights out of insomniacs; in my case, it has definitely created a serene and luxurious environment in my room (and bedroom since I gladly took this home). The box contains a pillow spray, which has lavender, vetivert and camomile essential oils; and a roll-on, which contains frankincense and eucalyptus, and which you apply on your pulse points. Hmm, let me see... it's really hard to describe smell so let me put it this way: you'd rather cuddle than do anything strenuous if you have this in your room, lol.

Together with my soy candlea blend of sea moss, citrus and tropical floralsI can't manage to read three pages of my bedside book without falling into deep slumber.


Even Rigoberto Tiglao's rants against Noynoy and his praise
of Gloria Arroyo in the current issue of Rogue were not enough to raise my blood pressure, lol.

You can order This Works: Sleep online but I'm sure we can all concoct our own calming mix of odors (hopefully pleasant too) in the bedroom to help us enjoy our sleep and dreams.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

LOL-addicted


LOL


Nope, I'm not directing my amusement toward an addicted person (and in that sentence basically lies the problem: I'm not even laughing out loud); rather, I overuse the acronym. I'm starting to annoy myself, although I have to admit that when I read other people's (particularly friends') sentence which has LOL in it, I get it. I know how you feel like. I can hear your voice as you breathlessly deliver your joke. I actually find the hirit funny.

I know you have a personality.

I've nothing against the, I guess, more technically correct "hahaha" but if we're going to be strict about these things, my laughter is nothing like hahaha. Nowadays, whenever I've used LOL a hundred times and I need to use hahaha just to switch it up, I am careful not to sound contrived like a chortling contravida. That's how I feel about hahaha.

Hahaha is like LOL with Botox.

Those who complain against LOL also have the same issue against :-P. They say, who actually sticks out their tongue at people except five-year-olds?

I may be a Miss Universe fan but I never actually smile like this: :-D


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crowne Plaza Hotel - Changi Airport

I recently had about two days' worth of stopover in Singapore and I was billeted at the Crowne Plaza Hotel - Changi Airport. Given my situation—the limited time that I had in the country, plus the early connecting flight—I have to say this was the best hotel for it. It was right beside Terminal 3 of Changi Airport (as in I never had to leave the airport premises); just take the elevator down to basement level and you can ride the MRT to the city (about 30 to 40 minutes away). When I had to off-load my baggage from the connecting flight, the airport official who assisted me in the Lost & Found department personally brought my bag to the hotel less than an hour later, instead of the two hours that they usually promise passengers.

According to the hotel website, you can also check-in for your flight at the lobby but I didn't find the need to do it, so I can't tell if it works without hassle. Nevertheless, flight details and schedules as seen from the airport are also displayed at the lobby. It was practically an extension of Changi Airport—and since their airport is world-class, you can hang out in the public areas and buy food, etc. anytime you want.

On my first stay at the hotel, I got a room facing Changi's air control tower:




I thought that was pretty nice already until I was booked in a room facing the runway on my second stay:




That was pretty cool (the room was soundproofed too), although I kept wondering if people on the plane can see through my window and therefore, my bed and toilet activities (but still, that didn't make me shut the drapes, lol).

The hotel had a good layout; I was able to entertain two friends without the room getting cramped, thanks to the couch and coffee table. There are windows from which light can enter so if you're environment-conscious, you can turn off the lights and you'd still have a brightly lit room and toilet in the morning.




I had a minor incident with the telephone on my first stay since it won't ring, but they did get it fixed albeit 45 minutes later. The toiletries smelled good; the bathroom has separated tub and shower areas. Breakfast has a good selection of local Chinese cuisine. I now wish I got to try the pool instead of wasting an hour waiting for ION Orchard to open :-P


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy 150th birthday Jose Rizal!

www.us.penguingroup.com
The Penguin Classics edition of El Filibusterismo is now available locally. I got mine at National Bookstore Greenbelt for P595 P549, and only two copies are left in the stand.


In the spirit of The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Misérables, a major new translation—José Rizal's stunning continuation of Noli Me Tangere.

José Rizal was one of the leading champions of Filipino nationalism and independence. His masterpiece, Noli Me Tangere, is widely considered to be the foundational novel of the Philippines. In this riveting continuation, which picks up the story thirteen years later, Rizal departs from the Noli's themes of innocent love and martyrdom to present a gripping tale of obsession and revenge. Clearly demonstrating Rizal's growth as a writer, and influenced by his exposure to international events, El Filibusterismo is a thrilling and suspenseful account of Filipino resistance to colonial rule that still resonates today.


The book is translated by Harold Augenbraum, who also translated Penguin's Noli Me Tangere edition. (I wonder though, if selecting these editions over locally published El Fili and Noli makes me less patriotic.)

Thanks to Noli, I was moved to research about Rizal's life on my own. The book and Rizal's murderI admit an editorialized term but no less truealso sparked my then renewed outrage against the Catholic Church, a hangup of mine which I'm trying my best to control and be Zen about. (Hence, you haven't read me rile about the CBCP's stand against the Reproductive Health and Divorce bills.)


Friday, June 17, 2011

Discovery Shores, Boracay

I find that that there are two schools of thought when it comes to Boracay: one, those that resent its development, preferring its previously unspoilt shores that only had a handful of nipa huts and cottages; and two, those that enjoy the perks of its ever-increasing shops and establishments.

I'm leaning toward the latter although on my last visit to the island, I was aghast to find how the main road has become so narrow with all the hotels and buildings that have crept up on both sides. I have some misgivings too about Starbucks although, erm, I did buy a cup from them during one my previous stays there.

Discovery Shores is one of those complexes that have earned criticism from Boracay purists: its architecture does not blend with the environment, as opposed to say, nearby Fridays. It is imposing (though sleek), whereas it could have been more organic.



Personally, I like itthe edifices allow guests to have their own world, separate from the beach strip overrun by tourists. As a building, those in the upper floors also get to have their own, private view of the beach.

The view at night

The rooms are spacious. (The better ones have their own jacuzzi in the balcony.)







Guests are treated to a foot bath upon arrival:



and sweets with pandan juice for refreshment




The complimentary drinks weren't bad either with freshly ground coffee and a tray of Twinings tea.



I wasn't too impressed by the toiletries; as a luxury hotel, I thought they'd offer signature lines here:

The maintenance staff also left her bottle of room freshener, which you can see on the sink, lol.


The bath and toilet were too bare for my taste: (The sink is located outside this separated space, behind the mini bar counter, as you can see in the 7th photo from top.)




And I seriously don't get 4 minutes:


I find the giveaway tote cute:



Other amenities include an iPod dock, free WiFi (if you can get a signal; it's pretty strong at the lobby and pool area though). Breakfast buffet is disappointing (sorry I had to mention it) but overall, it had been a pleasant experience and I'd be happy to be back.

As a warning: practically all the guys here wear Vilebrequin. You don't need to wear something similarly expensive but do bring something presentable.

What I see through my window


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The week that was




















I've been offline for almost a week which meant no work, no Cityville, no Twitter (save for two updates), no Tumblr reading and no emails. That was pretty good actually, like being unplugged from the Matrix :-P

I'll blog about my  trip as soon as I get the story out in PDI.


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