Friday, January 23, 2009

The P2,000 Lesson on Patience

I don’t think I’ll be heading back to Fully Booked anytime soon. See, I lost over two thousand bucks there.

Of course it isn’t really their fault. After all, Fully Booked dresses up their stores to look really nice and enticing. And that humongous wall of graphic novels in their Promenade branch has invisible letters that spell: GEEK HEAVEN. So yes, I was fucking hooked.

But unfortunately for impulsive old me, I spotted the “Absolute Sandman” series of big-ass hardbound books, and immediately got the entire set for a grand total of almost P17,000.

I had a set of “Absolute Sandman.” I was so the man!

But just last weekend, I spotted the same series at Powerbooks for only P4,175 each. I pretty much shit in my pants. Then I got pissed a wee bit more, when I remembered that Globe Platinum card holders, like yours truly were enjoying a 10% discount at Powerbooks. Which meant that the entire set would’ve cost me only below P15,000.

Lesson Number One: CANVASS FIRST! Do not impulse buy for unnecessities like graphic novels.
Lesson Number Two: Fully Booked is nice, cozy and “geek-complete,” but damn it’s fucking pricey there!
Lesson Number Three: Never underestimate Powerbooks!

‘Nuff said. Catch you later…

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The No-Cost Phone Upgrade

A couple of nights ago, while preparing to leave for the bus station for my ride to Baguio City, I transferred a nice photo of Marge happily shrieking at the camera last Christmas Eve.

And just like that, whenever I look into the screen of my crusty three year old Nokia, with the model number I can’t even remember, I’m looking at a million bucks.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Why Brad Pitt Must Die)

Movie Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Why Brad Pitt Must Die)

The family was back in Manila to catch the tail-end of the last Metro Manila Film Festival. I personally wanted to catch “Baler,” directed by my erstwhile Tae-Kwon-Do professor-and-now-camera-cafĂ©-master-award-winning-director Mark Meily. (catch an interview I did with him not-too-long-ago… )

Obviously, the wifey wanted to catch Bosing Vic in “Iskul Bukol: 20 Years After.” So did I at first. However, after catching so many online synopses of the movie, it was concluded that the movie had very little to do with the TV sitcom classic save for the cast and the characters’ names. And I really was (pardon the pun) curious about the Benjamin Button movie.

So I successfully convince the wifey that our time would be better spent on the critically acclaimed Pitt-Blanchett movie.

Now on to this very delayed review!

* * * * * * * *

My first encounter with the concept of a man that lived backwards was when my buddy Dick (that’s really his name) loaned me a copy of “Bearing an Hourglass” by Piers Anthony last 1984 (or was it ’85?), the installment of his “Incarnations of Immortality” series that featured the incarnation of time.

So I was only mildly amused at the premise of a man who lived in reverse. I was of course curious (there’s that word again…) as to how the relationships were handled. “Button” was a love story, after all, unlike “Hourglass” which was about some guy learning to be a rather lame god-like thingie…

Mr. Pitt (can I call you Brad, Brad?) stars as the eponymous Benjamin Button who was born a tiny old man near death, then left by his horrified father at the doorstep of a nursing home. There, as a young toddler/old man, he met the young version of Cate Blanchett and kicked off one of those “childhood sweetheart” thingies. Pretty soon, Mr. Pitt grew up (?) to become a strapping young man (to quote my wife: “…mukha na siyang Brad Pitt!”), who was apparently being stalked by the very same father who left him for dead. This is where we (conveniently) learn that Mr. Pitt’s Mr. Button character was named “Button,” because the man who sired him made a killing making buttons. And he wants Mr. Pitt a.k.a. Mr. Button Jr. to inherit his business, his real estate, and everything else.

One day, Mr. Pitt (really, can I call you Brad, Brad?) runs into Cate Blanchett, who is now a beautiful young lady working as an in-demand ballet dancer. Obviously, they hit off and we are treated to a few minutes of genuine mush, until they find Blanchett preggers. Brad then decides that he has to run off, because he doesn’t want to burden Blanchett with having to raise two children instead of one.

Blanchett eventually remarries, and Brad is found by the Police (or was it Social Welfare?) as a little toddler unable to identify anyone.

The story ends with Blanchett caring for what’s left of Brad until he has ultimately regressed into a tiny infant and dies.

The plot is actually very simple. What made the movie interesting was the wonderful chemistry between Pitt and Blanchett. Blanchett is regal, thoughtful and beautiful, while Pitt shows the world that he can take a character’s entire life in various stages and ages, and inject a full spectrum of subtle emotions and nuance. A lot of solid talent in there. So while the wifey was drooling over Mr. Pitt, I found myself astonished at the depth this pretty boy managed to show through the entire movie.

It isn’t fair for Brad to be so talented in a physical existence I used to only read about in comic books. Mousey heterosexual little Asian nerds like yours truly usually comfort ourselves in the face such talent by highlighting certain “negative” aspects (e.g. “Ricky Martin HAS to be gay, because he had to have children through a surrogate.” or “Brad Pitt is rumored to have a bad case of body odour…” and other similar quips.) Apparently, when they said God created all things equal, they forgot to count Mr. Pitt.

So after witnessing the wonderful movie that is “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” I hereby declare for the sake of fairness in heterosexual mankind that: Brad Pitt must die.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cheers, Bogs...

Over a couple of weeks ago, a very old friend of mine finally tied the knot. Actually, the knot seems to have been tied for quite some time now, they just made the whole thing sort of documented, since it was practically a done deal for a long time.

As our group’s resident blabbermouth, I was asked by Bogs, the groom-to-be-but-been-tied-for-too-long-anyway, to make the toast on behalf of our ragtag gang of misfits. I gave him a “maybe-maybe-not” sort of answer since my schedule was really screwed up. But in my head, I already wrote the pre-toast speech.

To make a long story drag a little less than it already has, I made it to the church ceremonies, but had to bail from the reception and hit the road to perform other responsibilities six hours away. Ergo, I missed giving the toast at the wedding of Irwin “Bogs” Cusing and his then bride-to-be Miss Lorie Cheng.

Bogs and Lorie, my apologies for missing the reception and not having had the honor of making the toast. But here it is anyways:

“Many people get married year after year, and many not for the right reasons. But when two people, like Bogs and Lorie, who have been together for as long as they have, choose to face the Almighty and declare to the world the love we already see, feel and ultimately know, then it has to be something special.

“Tonight, you two people aren’t telling us something we don’t already know, but tonight is still truly a special night… Cheers!”

It’s short and safe… and I’m saving the church jokes I made with Dick, Harry, Jep and Doms to myself.

Cheers, bro!

Monday, January 12, 2009

CD Review: Boyz II Men (Motown - A Journey Through Hitsville USA)

THIRD world, SECOND class citizens, FIRST to go...

A year’s worth of blogging later, I finally roll up my proverbial sleeves and bring myself to finishing this CD review of one of my favorite bands.

In this age of the all-access internet, where one can buy or download just about anything, particularly music, it truly means something to me to want to run off to a record bar and grab myself a physical “hot off the press” (at that time) copy of the latest effort by the “Boyz.”

When I finally get my hands on a copy, I saw the label “Special Edition, Philippine Release.” I didn’t know what to expect. Back in the day, a “special Philippine edition” usually meant an additional track to try and push a disc to sell more. So I eagerly peel off the cellophane and look forward to some great music in the form of wonderful new renditions of Motown classics by some of the best voices in the business, some insightful liner notes, and maybe an Easter egg or two.

Err… half of one out of three ain’t so bad, right?

The music sounds as smooth as the Boyz have always been. Given that we live in a packaged-popstar era, the glaring reality of the amount of musical talent in Boyz II Men makes one wish they sold more records just to reacquaint kids nowadays with what real music should sound like.

But since this is/was a new Boyz II Men record, I was expecting to pop the disc in and be blown away. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as blown away as I expected to be.

"...I’m always still left wondering who the heck’s doing the bass vocal overdubs on most of the songs..."

Okay, to be fair about it, Boyz II Men are still individually the finest collection of singing voices caught on tape (or in these days “audio file…”). After 2001’s relatively unsuccessful “Full Circle” CD, I remember mentioning to fellow Boyz worshipper and guest blogger, Carlo E. R. Balingit that the Boyz can just grab a bunch of old tunes, remake them in their distinctive Boyz II Men style and those would sell like hotcakes. (Anyone remember “II’s” “Yesterday?”)

Apparently, someone up there heard me. And they released 2003’s “Throwback.” The talent was evident in every track. But also showing was a certain level of fatigue. The song selection on that album wasn’t bad, but it lacked the single giant-sized remade hit to carry the album through the glass “has-been” ceiling.

So here comes the literally great Motown songbook, and what do Randy Jackson and the Boyz do? They go karaoke on the damn thing. Sure, nobody harmonizes like Shawn, Nate and Wanya (would’ve been better with Mike McCary). But given the fact that these great songs were already timeless as they were, the worst thing Boyz II Men could do with these things was practically copy them and just throw in a tiny of bit harmonized flourish.

Sure, there’s “Ribbon in the Sky,” (which got nominated for ‘Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals’ in the 2008 Grammies), their new arrangement of their very own “End of the Road,” and the damn cool-but-not-too-different second half of the Commodores’ “Easy.” But I was hoping to catch something more refreshingly new and different renditions like the way Az-Yet rearranged “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” or some new phrasing like Babyface’s “If” or Seal’s “popified” “Puff the Magic Dragon (both from the album “For Our Children, Too”), or even All-4-One’s “I Swear.”

As evidence of the almost miniscule rearrangements made by the Boyz on the songs, here’s a rough patch up of Hitsville’s “I’ll Be There” back to back with the Four Tops’ original version.

Okay, so the music was good but ultimately underwhelming, I’m always still left wondering who the heck’s doing the bass vocal overdubs on most of the songs. I mean, far as I know, Mike left the group due to scoliosis, not because he couldn’t sing. So does that mean Mike’s guesting on the sessions?

But one has to scour the net for info, since the “Special Philippines Edition” should actually be called the “Special Philippines Economy Edition” and has all the fan value of a pirated disc from Quiapo. There were no liner notes, no funky photos, no dedications and all those little things that made buying CD’s vs. buying cassettes more rewarding. Just a little slip of paper for the basic purpose of having a fucking cover.

Considering that I’ve already sort of begun the practice of purchasing music online either via iTunes or (I bought Jason Mraz’s entire third album online), I found it utterly pointless to have gotten a copy of the Boyz’s disc only to find that the only thing I brought were audio tracks.

But ultimately, I’m a fan. So I expect I will continue supporting them even after this less than tummy-filling release. I would only heartily recommend this release to a fellow die-hard fan. But for anyone else (from some other planet) who may find themselves just being introduced to the Boyz, please grab a copy of “CooleyHighHarmony,” “II,” “Evolution,” “Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya” (in that order) to catch the Boyz at the best of their sound.

Here’s to hoping the next album takes more risks.
(First draft dated 12/22/07, 12:26PM)