Friday, December 30, 2005

What are you singing on New Year's Eve?

After agonizing over the PHP 11,800 cost of a Magic Sing, which we resolved by splitting the amount into the number of users, our household has been caught by the karaoke bug. My sisters and children have been belting out the the songs of their lives day in and day out. My average sleep per day fell way below the average of the entire year this Christmas Week, while beer consumption and fat intake jumped to its highest in the past two years. You might want to call this phenomenon the Magic Mic Effect. Well, that is not yet a problem, until we get a demand letter from the neighbors or a cease and desist order from the Pollution Adjudication Board (for noise pollution). Never mind, for as we approach New Year's Eve, yodelling on the Magic Mic while torturing people's ears is much better than lighting firecrakers and losing a few fingers in the process.

So, what am I singing on New Year's Eve? Here is my Top Ten:

1. La Vida Lawyer (ehr, Loca) by Ricky Martin

One day I would set this tune to lyrics I made up for my use alone

2. Save the Last Dance for Me by Michael Buble

Hurrah for the baritones! You can dance the cha-cha on the side.

3. The Impossible Dream

This one is to remind me that singing is also an art.

4. We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel

Tip: change the line "JFK blown away" to "GMA go away" and get charged with sedition.

5. Ang Huling El Bimbo by the Eraserheads

I've been trying to hard to beat Rico J. Puno and Ely Buendia, but the highest score the Magic Mic could give me is 65 on the amateur level. They should have another score for soul singing -- you score by sounding like a departed soul.

6. My Way by Paul Anka

To avoid the crowd walking out on you, sing the lyrics backwards -- as in, "Way My it did I!"

7. Copacabana by Barry Manilow

To remind me that I used to like mushy songs by mushy singers before I graduated to Gorillaz.

8. My Girl by the Temptations

For my daughter, Tressa, to keep from wanting another and save my wife the trouble of another pregnancy.

9. Each Day with You by Martin Nievera

For the wife whom I married on Valentine's day 1998. You should try it one day, and buy only one gift for Valentine's and wedding anniversaries forever.

10. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong

To remind me that there is hope in the world, bad presidents and all.

Happy New Year Everybody!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas Everybody!

"For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten son so that who ever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life..." Let's party, we're saved! from Hans, Marvin, Tressa, Ces, Justin and Juancho Aceron.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

La Vida Lawyer Mugs to Friends

Email me. Link to me. Post a comment. I have a few more left. It's free. Shipping not included.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My Reading Backlog

A couple of months ago, I made the rounds on the bookstores and stacked up my reading list. Titles on Philippine history dominated the list. These titles eventually helped me put up the series of posts on Andres Bonifacio and Gomburza. I was getting ready for Rizal's trial and got myself some Rizal biographies and Fr. Horacio de la Costa's translation of the Rizal Trial transcripts, but the material is gripping and I am outraged. I guess I will have to postpone that for later. Meanwhile, a pile of books has been left out. and I plan to indulge in them during the holidays and probably the next 365 days.

1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Suzana Clarke (Fiction)

Academically-inclined 19th Century magicians meet Mr. Norrell who wants to practice the profession. Then another talented practical magician, Jonathan Strange, shows up and starts a rivalry/alliance. I need complete free day to finish this. I hope I find one soon before they turn this into a movie.

2. I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (Fiction)

American university life as told by Tom Wolfe. I'm now on the chapter about college basketball, and I find a strong resemblance with Philippine universitites. Not to be read while waiting for your turn in the bank. You'd look stupid laughing alone. Guards might take you for a fool, or so I learned.

3. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond (Non-fiction)

UCLA professor Jared Diamond discusses why history unfolded differently on different continents. I've read a few chapters already and found it very amusing.

4. Collapse by Jared Diamond (Non-fiction)

Jared Diamond discusses how societies choose to collapse or fail. The book helps me in analyzing, which direction the Philippines would go.

6. Invented Eden by Jessica Hagedorn (Fiction)

The Tasaday tribe story as a novel.

7. Invented People by Robin Hemley (Non-fiction)

The Tasaday tribe story by a journalist.

8. Discipline and Punish/ The Birth of the Prison by Michel Foucault (non-fiction)

The history of corporal punishment in France as only Foucault could tell it. Boy, our prisoners are lucky. According to Foucault, in the old days in France, they'd tear up the flesh of prisoners and parade them in public.

9. Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantsakis (fiction)

Nikos Kazantsakis's novel on the divinity and humanity of Christ. I am hoping it would remove the bitter aftertaste that The Da Vinci Code left me.

10. The Poetry of Pablo Neruda (Poetry)

Hopefully, I could snatch a few lines to woo the wife. :-)

What's on your reading list? Free La Vida Lawyer mug if you drop me a few lines. Offer ends on Christmas day. Shipping not included.

Monday, December 12, 2005

My Favorite Bad Movies

It just occured to me that I could name more favorite bad movies than favorite good movies. These are films I watched as a kid frequenting Ali Mall on weekends with PHP 20 pabaon from my Dad. Movies were cheap at PHP 5.50 for orchestra seats, and pop corn was just PHP 2. The Filipinos were then on the the Guinnes Book of World records for watching an average of 19 films a year. I can’t believe we feasted on this junk for years. But hey, I must say I enjoyed them. Here is my favorite bad movies list:

10. Tartan - A Vic Sotto starrer a la Tarzan, where they had villagers speaking in a strange language in which the syllables “sepe” were added to each word in the Tagalog sentence. Famous line “ Gasepego pasepela kasepeyo ehsepe!” Go figure.

9. Mong --A comics to movie flick, introducing six foot eight Bonnie de Jesus about a basketball player who can’t shoot. Famous scene: Mong’s dad rents a prostitute to get his son “baptized”. Dad gets tittilated listening to the moans of the girl in the room. But camera shows prostitute scratching Mong’s back wth a big wooden fork (the kind you get from Baguio City to hang on your wall) and begging to stop because she’s too tired to go on.

8. Tres Moskiteros at si Ako -- Tito Vic & Joey with the late Maria Teresa Carlson were on this film. The three comedians do not act as musketeers except for the last ten minutes of the movie, which was shot in an “old kingdom” set to justify the title. Famous scene: Tito Sotto making a shaking gesture with his right hand and obscene face contortions. Nova Villa comes in the room and asks what is he doing. He says “Nagbabate.” And then the camera zooms out to reveal Tito beating eggs for breakfast.

7. Six Million Centavo Man -- This is a Chiquito starrer ripping-off Lee Majors’s Six Million Dollar Man. Chiquitto gets bionic abilities after an operation that cost Six Million Centavos. They showed surgery being done on what was obviously a dead pig being passed off as Chiquito’s tummy.

6. Hot Dog - Another Tito, Vic, and Joey starrer about an enchanted dog with golden feces. Highlight of the film is when the dog demonstrates his golden abilities as Tito Vic and Joey cheer on the side “Echas! Echas! Echas pa!”

5. Starzan - Joey de Leon takes the lead here with Chitae (Rene Requiestas) and Zsa Zsa Padilla. In the film, Zsa Zsa gives birth to a baby while moaning “It’s coming! It’s coming!”, and Joey looks on and says “It’s showing! It’s showing!”

4. Zuma - Max Laurel plays the fabled snake man of Filipino comics donning green paint all over his body and two mechanical snakes hanging over his neck. He gets a woman pregnant, who then undergoes an operation to abort the fetus. But during the operation, the fetus jumps from one woman to another and finds another hostess, who eventually gives birth to Galema, Zuma’s daughter.

3. For Your Height Only -- Weng Weng plays Agent 00, a secret police agent barely three feet tall. The film is now internationally hailed as one of the best bad movies ever. Highlight of the film is Weng Weng, looking scared stiff, with two burning fire extinguishers hanging on his back flying supposedly to go after the bad guys.

2. Pete Matipid -- Another Chiquito movie based on his TV show where he plays Pete, the miser. Meal time with Pete is amazingly cheap as he takes out fried chicken hanging on a string from a closet. Tintoy, his perennial side kick, tries to get a slice of the chicken, but is stopped by Chiquito, saying to save the chicken, they will only smell it, and eat only the rice.

1. Working Boys -- Tito, Vic, and Joey star again in this all gags ending in sort of kidnapping movie. The trio play the role of utility men. One of them plays a barber. At the start of the film, a customer asks if he could get a haircut and was asked to wait outside. At various points of the movie, he asks if he could get his turn but is made to wait again until he is remembered at the end of the film with an overgrowth of hair and beard and looking like a monster. i still see the actor who played this character in Timog Avenue, Quezon City with his long hair.

Can you name me your favorite bad movie? I promise to give a limited edition La Vida Lawyer coffee mug (shipping not included) to the best replies to this post with your favorite bad movies. Drop me a few lines, with the title of the film, the actors and a short summary of what was it about. You can also link to posts on your own blogs. This contest is open to all. But if you're living abroad, you have to find a way to pick up the mugs from my office in Quezon City. Contest ends on Christmas day Philippine time. Cheers!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Pop Month in La Vida Lawyer: The Eraserheads Tribute

It’s the merry month of Christmas, traditionally a tough time for La Vida Lawyer (what with all his inaanaks knocking), but for this month I’ll tune out of politics past and present, and indulge in pop culture. Warning: even my wife disagrees, violently at times, with my taste.

As I post this blog, the Ultraelectromagnetic Jam album is playing on ITunes. This is a tribute to the Eraserheads, the phenomenal Philippine rock band who broke up four years ago. The new album has young bands and singers doing cover versions of staple Eraserheads songs. And I am proud to say that I am not disappointed with this project; in fact, I am well pleased. When I inserted the CD on the Mac, ITunes recognized it immediately and fetched the track names. It is curious that the songs have been classified as “World” music, which probably means that the album is going to be marketed abroad.

The album opens with “Alapaap” by 6 Cycle Mind. I have to confess that I have not heard of this band, but they do a pretty good rendition here. They added a new guitar track and some percussion in the opening dreamy sequences before the song flies off with the guitar loops on the first verse. In the bridge, where we used to hear Ely going pa pa ra pa pa, we hear a lead guitar doing the notes instead, before the vocals modulate. Geez, that sure works.

Paolo Santos does “Magasin” in the second track. He uses the guitar lead to introduce the song on the C, E, Am, F F minor chord progression, in place of the “Hoo Hoo” vocal track. Its amusing, even more so when he adds a few more notes when the song reaches the bridge. Ely and Paolo both have high octave male voices, so Paolo breezes thru this one with ease, but really the wonder of this version is the song itself, about seeing one’s ex-girlfriend becoming a pin up girl for a porno magazine. This is way off Paolo’s clean image as a singer-songwriter, but he manages to sing this song well with his image intact.

Imago does “Spoliarum” in the third track. The song originally appeared in the Sticker Happy album, which I think is the album where the Eraserheads managed to hit the perfect balance between artistic integrity and commercial viability. Imago does a good job here too with a lady vocal. Frankly, I’m still wondering what the song means, if it has any meaning to begin with.

Kitchie Nadal was fun to hear in Ligaya (track 7) as she breaks out in laughter while singing the line “ilang ahit pa ba ang aahitin”. Funny, the line still fits even if a woman is singing it. Francis M., does great work in “Superproxy” (track 9). He gives it enough energy probably more explosive than that of Ely’s.

Orange and Lemons, the band responsible for that “Pinoy Ako” hit song, sings “Huwag Kang Matakot” in Track 10. This song originally appeared in Natin 99 Album, just before the turn of the millennium, with the Eraserheads music going a little bit on the weird side with their experimentations on electronica. “Huwag Kang Matakot” was the most accessible in that Natin 99 album, and I believe it was there to make the album commercially viable. As a pop song, “Huwag Kang Matakot” had great possibilities and a real infectious hook. Orange and Lemons gives the song a little updating here. They cleaned up the sound by using acoustic string guitar for the riffs. In the bridge part, they inserted, some loops from Julie Tearjerky, another EHeads hit, and they clipped out some words from the chorus while inserting lyrics from “Tikman”, all in a playful manner. Great effort by Orange and Lemons, even better than the original.

The highlight of this album is track 15, where Rico J. Puno, the total entertainer, does his own version of “Ang Huling El Bimbo.” Rico J. Puno is an institution in the Philippine music industry with his signature raspy and soulful voice. And I’m pretty sure, the Eraserheads in their youth knew “Kapalaran”, Rico J.’s signature song, by heart. To have him sing what probably is the most popular Eraserheads song ever -- it even got an MTV Asia Music Video Award -- is the best proof that the Eraserheads and their music form a watershed of artistry in the Philippine pop music scene. When I learned that Rico Puno was signing “El Bimbo”, I imagined him breaking into his signature “baby baby" belting in the third verse of the song that goes “ sa panaginip na lang pala kita maisasayaw”. But instead, he restrains himself a bit and opts for a cool classic delivery. No problem with that. I guess Rico J. Puno has matured.

The album ends with “Para sa Masa” sang by most, if not all, of the artists appearing in the album a la “We are the World” The song is Ely’s lamentation and despair for the band’s effort and failure (?) to lift the masses and their musical taste. Rico J. Puno does the line “Pinilit kong ihaon ka. Ngunit ayaw mo namang sumama.” Great song, a fitting end to a great tribute to the most successful Pinoy Rock Band in history.

To conclude, new and upcoming singers should mine the Eraserheads back catalogue of songs that deserve fresh interpretation: Bogchi Hokbu, Kailan, Playground, Combo on the Run, Tindahan ni Aling Nena, even the Eraserheads’ Christmas Album Fruitcake, and many more. There is one Eraserheads song, Casa Fantastica, which appeared in the 1998 concept album about the Philippine Centennial which should also be unearthed. Those songs are real gems, a true affirmation of what NVM Gonzalez used to say that there is genius in the Filipino race.

Check out the review of the Tribute/Launching Concert of the album held in UP from Katie's site.