Wednesday, September 28

The Chichangs OST

My Grad Skul Prof says that the greatest comedy is one where there are tears just below the surface. I'm not quite sure if this qualifies, because more and more, the movie that is my life is starting to look like something straight out of the Asian Horror Movie film festival.

And it's not even Halloween yet. Afraid.

1. Too Much by The Spice Girls (Spice World, 1997)
2. Shiny Red Balloon by Barbie's Cradle (Music from the Buffet Table, 2001)
3. I Never Loved You Anyway by The Corrs (Talk on Corners, 1997)
4. Borderline by Madonna (Madonna, 1983)
5. Can We Still Be Friends by Mandy Moore (Coverage, 2003)
6. Oops!...I Did It Again by Britney Spears (Oops!...I Did It Again, 2000)
7. Stupid Girl by Garbage (Garbage, 1996)
8. Dry Your Eyes by The Streets (Single/A Grand Don't Come For Free, 2004)

Don't Think Of Me by Dido (No Angel, 1999)

So you're with her
Not with me
I know she spreads sweet honey
In fact your best friend I heard he spent
Last night with her
Now how do you feel, how do you feel?

When you see her sweet smile baby
Don't think of me
And when she lays in your warm arms
Don't think of me

Deleted Tracks:

You Oughta Know by Alanis Morisette (Jagged Little Pill, 1995)
Take It Easy (Love Nothing) by Bright Eyes (Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, 2004)
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by U2 (The Joshua Tree, 1987)

Wednesday, September 21

She's bananas*

The animal kingdom has been totally quiet recently, so I now bring you weird fruit news.

The new food pyramid by the USDA highlights the eating of fruits as central to having a healthy diet. New research also claims that the amino acid citruline found in watermelons increase the bloodflow to the pelvic area. Also, the antioxidant lycopene (which is also found in, among other things, uhm, canned tomato sauce) present in the fruit's pulp improves sperm concentration.

O di ba, ang galing? Mas maraming dahilan para ikaw ay kumain ng pakwan. Usually, maraming tinda nito sa ilalim ng flyover sa Katipunan, malapit sa pila ng UP jeeps. Ano pa ang hinihintay? Mag-pakwan na kayo!

Meanwhile, a June 2005 article for Popular Science reports that the banana might become extinct really really soon.

The banana is "yellow and sweet, uniformly sized, firmly textured, always seedless." While there are other varieties of banana--bananas meant to be eaten raw, or boiled like potatoes or sliced thinly as chips, it is the predictable sameness of the Cavendish that has been THE banana for most of North America, Canada and Europe for 50 years now.

The sameness is also the banana's downfall. According to Dan Koeppel, "after 15,000 years of human cultivation, the banana is too perfect, lacking the genetic diversity that is key to species health. What can ail one banana can ail all. A fungus or bacterial disease that infects one plantation could march around the globe and destroy millions of bunches, leaving supermarket shelves empty."

It's not quite unfounded that someday we will run out of those uniformly sized bananas. Early in the last century, it wasn't like that. The banana was something called Gros Michel--or Big Mike--which almost all accounts said was more tasty and sweet than the Cavendish. But Big Mike was wiped out by a fungus called the Panama disease. All the big banana plantations were wiped out within 5 years of the disease's appearance.

Now it's happening again. In 1992, a new strain of the disease, Panama disease Race 4, appeared in Asia. Experts all over the world are now hard at work to save the banana from extinction. There are two opposing views to this. Some banana growers are experimenting to create a new breed that looks and tastes almost the same as the original Cavendish and hope that it'll be introduced to the market without people really noticing the difference. On the other hand, there are scientists who are working with the plant's DNA and splicing the chromosomes with other species in the hopes of coming up with a tougher Cavendish that is resistant to Panama and other diseases.

This crisis is still not visible enough in the Philippines, as there are still other varieties of banana aside from those in our supermarket aisles. While I still cannot differentiate a lakatan from a latundan to save my life, I know a senorita and a saba whenever I see one. There used to be a banana that has a pale green peel, quite large, and I remember that if you eat it, it's quite cold in the stomach. They're also cheaper than your regular yellow bananas. I don't remember what it's called now, but I haven't seen it in markets in a long long time.

So here's a toast to bananas, which I hope will be around for a long, long time.

*This is for Yummy, who is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Bananas!

Tuesday, September 13

Faux Pas

Our word for the day is faux pas.

Faux pas is when an unknown number sends you a message at 230pm, "We have class today." It's when you reply, "Nah. Classes were suspended at 1pm, bading. Pero ngarag ever pa rin ako kc wa pa submit ng paper ang mga lecturer. Afraid."

Faux pas is when a while later, you get the reply: "We can't afford to skip any more classes." And in your muddled little head, you assume this is from someone you just agreed to give cabfare to since there were no jeepneys at the height of a transport strike. So you reply in such uncouth gushing language, "Oo na bakla, bibigyan na nga kita ng cabfare, sige mag-kabey ka na papasok."

Faux pas is when you open your inbox and the message proclaims, "This is Your Grad Skul Professor." Clouds part, jaw falls to the ground, thumbs type in, "Yes, mam, papasok na po."

Faux pas is when you scuttle to your seat in that table at 3pm. The Professor proceeds to give you an update on what has happened in class thus far, and then smoothly narrates a little anecdote about that time when she was young and still quite new at playing her new role as the diplomat's wife, that time when she was still naive about which fork to use at a dinner with the genteel man she had mistaken to be somebody else, and she picked the wrong fork and that picked the same fork she did, and then later discreetly discarded it for the right one, and she followed suit. He never said a word about it, and she never said a word about it.

We never said a word about it. Although now, I don't think I can look her in the eye without thinking that I once offered her cabfare.

Sunday, September 4

Angel Adrift

Barbie: The Singles cover photo. It's one of the very rare things I appreciate in this album. Note the eyes gazing upward. Barbie assuming the classic xkg pose. Hehehe.

When Barbie Almalbis announced a couple of months back that she was leaving Barbie's Cradle, the buzz was that she was leaving behind the music business to devote more time to preaching--something that wasn't totally unfounded since the last BC outing, Playing in the Fields, featured songs whose lines proclaimed that "inside of [her] heart was an army of angels" and that "all [she] need[s] is God." It came as a surprise to a lot of people, who assumed that she was "in utter content with [her] two boys." One then thinks that the disbandment and her now solo pursuit was almost like an afterthought, a momentary flight of fancy by someone who "didn't mind if [she'd] still be six."

Later, it was clarified that the move was a career one: that Barbie wanted to pursue a solo career, hence the decision to change managers and that there was no ill will between her and bandmates Rommel de la Cruz and Wendell Garcia.
With that out of the way, one would think that her first move would be to come up with an album to showcase her original work as a solo artist. It'd be necessary to create an identity separate from the band and all other previous associations thereof. Thus, it is puzzling that her first project is a sort of "Best of" album that rehashes all of her previous work. A compilation album is usually done by a performer already past mid-career, a nod to the brilliance of things past but also with an eye out for the future.

Traditionally, a good best of album should have all the important singles, but with the additional attraction of a previously unreleased track. (Similar best of albums had to have a bonus track aside from the old reliables. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking along the lines of the the Eraserheads Anthology which had "Sa Toll Booth" and even Britney had to include (her) "My Prerogative.") But a quick look at the track listing of Barbie: The Singles reveals that the new Close-Up jingle "Just a Smile" is the only new song previously unconnected with previous Barbie Almalbis ventures. Some argued that Barbie: The Singles is a tribute to all her fans, who presumably have all her previous releases, as all decent fans should, and would not mind buying an album where some songs are already thrice recycled. Yes, there is a bonus VCD featuring music videos, but again, there's nothing there that we haven't seen before. Unless, of course, if the goal is to feed the mania for collecting everything Barbie-- Hungry Young Poet Barbie, Bumbera Barbie, Cradle Dweller Barbie, Gypsy Skirt Barbie, Prayer Warrior Barbie, Recently Single, er, Solo Artist Barbie--then you can totally forget about getting this.

If B:TS is meant to herald the arrival of Barbie as a solo artist, I still don't see the necessity to anchor this campaign on nostalgia. "Remember when" was never a good tactic to begin with, unless you're Cyndi Lauper who seems to be eternally stuck in the '80s, with hair and all. A good break and better packaging is more like it.

Which brings me to the now inevitable face off of The Dolls: Barbie Na Doll vs. Kitchie Nadal. (Yes, it has come to this. I know this sucks, but I can't help myself.) Kitchie Nadal took up the cudgels for Ricci Gurango after the HYP split that begat both Mojofly and Barbie's Cradle. Kitchie Nadal and Barbie Almalbis both sing in the great tradition of what I call the Society of Girls Against Tonsils, or SOGAT. Kitchie Nadal fronted Mojofly, quit the band to finish school, and then decided she didn't want early retirement from the music business. If you'd look at the cover art of her debut album, what we get is Kitchie Nadal with eyes wide open. She's beckoning us: Stare into these deep dark pools and drown. She then inflicted her newly repackaged self upon us. Her "Wag na Wag Mong Sasabihin" was the earworm of late 2004 to early 2005, thanks to its association with a popular Koreanovela, and we even see her hawking stuff on television. Kitchie Nadal has reinvented herself as a pop ingenue and it works.

On the other hand, the cover art for Barbie: The Singles has Barbie in a white, faux-fur jacket, a cascading beady necklace effacing the soldier tattoo behind it, and she is cross-sitting on the floor, her eyes gazing up to the sky, a great deluge of white feathers around her. This image--of white feathers drifting--is repeated in the CD art. Meanwhile, the inside photos have Barbie jumping up (or down?) and hair tossed in guitar-fuelled ecstasy, or else she's smiling, still cradling the guitar, but also floating or perhaps in limbo. There aren't really any liner notes to speak of, just a list of acknowlegements, track listings, and the back cover art taken from Playing in the Fields.

So what to make of it then? Is Barbie--note the change in appellation: is this how she differentiates herself now from her past?--an angel drifting in limbo? She keeps her affairs in a book, proclaimed that it's dark and she's lonely, and worries about not having enough money for food. She plays at being the ingenue, but hers is not a sharp sophistication but a wistfulness that treads the dangerously thin line between resonance and navel gazing.

In the BC video for "Limang Dipang Tao," Barbie twirls in a burst of color and a kind of manic energy and playfulness that somehow affects even her bandmates. Where Kitchie Nadal succeeds in entrancing everyone with lusciousness, Barbie garbs herself in pajamas and invites us to play in Barbieland. When she finally dishes the pjs and turns up in an orange short dress in the "Good Day" video, she cannot resist the urge to up and down and prance in that elevator party. But there are moments when the bouncing and throwing up her arms work as enticement, a sensuous invitation. One actually misses of having Barbie as your own personal bumbera, when she wanted "to put out your fire, drown your desire." Those moments are too few, and they're still injected with a kind of innocence that it won't quite work as seduction.

But more than anything, throughout all her incarnations, Barbie was never the
sensuous vixen. The wink may have been an invitation, but an invitation to play
in Barbieland has always been--and perhaps will always be--about mischief and mirth.

One thing is definite though, the ingenue present in B:TS has to grow up and make a stand that won't be her last. It'll interesting to see what Barbie will grow up to be. Unless Barbie: The Singles is but a lament for her former bandmates: "Independence day is not for me. When I'm bound to you, I feel so free."

Many thanks to Gwen for providing my latest ear candy.

Thursday, September 1

Podcast Envy

Purdue University, whose Online Writing Lab we are a big fan of, will start offering podcasts of some classes this fall. Boilercast is intended for students who miss a lecture or who want to review the lecture at a later time, and will also be available to the public for download.

Of course, this piece of news stirs in me a great university envy. I can think of other ways to use this sort of technology in class. Maybe even create some sort of lecture by proxy in case the teacher's throat conks out. But third world institution that we are, we have to make do with what's there.

Kaya thank God for salabat. Weh.