Life is wonderful

A chef once told me that food is a visceral experience; that it is living. I think the same words can be used to describe live music. Hip swaying, foot stomping, scream inducing, and simply talent stunning music that is.

For example, Mr. Jason Mraz and Toca Rivera.

I first fell in love with Jason in 2004-2005, when he made me relate to the relaxing track Sleep All Day. I didn’t religiously follow him after Waiting for my Rocket to Come, but his tracks always made me listen. This year, I got a complete discography collection that included his live stuff. I fell in love all over again. The universe reinforced our reunion with this year’s concert at the Araneta Coliseum.

The night was magical. Every track had the audience singing along, but when he and Toca rocked out on their instruments, we were stunned in silence and amazement. But his fun teases and quips in between tracks kept the audience alert and craving for more of his good-for-the-soul music.

My personal favorite teases he did with the audiences? Him singing ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and WONDER WALL in between tracks.

Then there was when he was just making conversation…with the audience.

Jason: I can see you blowing kisses.

Me: THAT WAS ME!!!!!!

Nina: EASY! EASY! Stepping in as heart monitor. =))

He also told us some beautiful messages.

How you do anything is how you do everything.

Peace starts with us helping one another.

Real men don’t buy girls.

Raw, real, and continuously improved talent is rare in today’s auto-tune, synthesizer era. Thank God for the simple, soulful, yet powerful acoustics and poetic words of Jason Mraz.

Till 2012 Mr. A-Z, sabi mo eh. ūüėČ

A few (lazy) updates

In the last few weeks…

Our 40th baby has been out, sold out in some stores. Saw two copies in SM Clark if anyone’s still looking. Teehee.

Another (and apparently “last”) Friday night with the girls and guys (not in picture). Contained my liquor and went home sleepy rather than sabaw hung over. But come Monday…

With my fellow two idiots (not in picture: Nina Marfa), after a few shots and card games. Never again will I spend a Monday night dri—oh wait, that’s the plan again tomorrow. Oh well.

Yesterday, after almost devouring an entire menu, spending the morning swimming, the previous night drinking (and watching weiiird dances), and watching my photographer buddy shoot the hotel. We almost lost someone in between; there were also honest discussions over beer and the people we met. An awesome weekend.

Tomorrow, it’s back to the office grind. ¬†Let’s hope it doesn’t begin with me panicking over deadlines.

THIS

Do you have that one song you ALWAYS sing along to when it comes on the radio? It’s that¬†song you know all the words too, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve last played it on your computer/car radio/iPod/stereo. If you’re old enough, you used to loop it on its album CD. And since I am old enough, only a select few of my friends actually know this song.

My song is Summer Romance¬†by Incubus. I was crossing my fingers during their concert, hoping they’d play it. But alas, it was a promotional concert. Nonetheless, I sort of got my wish seeing this live video of them playing MY SONG at Mountan View.

And just when I thought it was amazing enough to hear them play it again live, Mike Einziger surprises me with an incredible guitar solo. Guhhhh.

Great way to start my morning, along with my cup of ca phe! ūüôā

A borrowed idea fighting for the new

For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with good luck, he will succeed. -Ernest Hemingway, from his Nobel Prize Speech

Ideas. They are what move the world, shape its consequences, and change the face of an era. The power of an idea was best exemplified in Steve Jobs, who took an existing gadget, and redefined its purpose for a lifestyle. In writing, it all begins with a brand spanking-ly new idea–be it an edge-of-your-seat plot, a loveable (or exasperating) character, or a cover story that will leave your title sold out.

Unfortunately very few popular products of writing seem to exemplify the new beginning Ernest Hemingway emphasizes. Theatres will soon suffer the mind numbing “love story” (aka yet another vampire…wait can we even call him that?!) of Twilight with the first part of Breaking Dawn. Other lesser known books followed suit, as my rounds around bookstores have seen stuff like “How to Date a Vampire.” And seriously, another love story? Don’t even get me started on the rom-coms.

In other mediums, Jose Javier Reyes reveals–or rather, emphasizes–in Rogue’s October issue that Filipino TV lacks variety. Night time shows execute similar plots, and there’s no diversity in genre–just teleseryes, telanovelas, and a dubbed Asian-novela. The local movie world has recently seen more of the same with its yet another cheat-on-the-wife plot, care of the movie No Other Woman¬†(more on that in a future post). The print medium is no exception, with just about every magazine having dropped out beauty products features passing off as articles. Oh, and there’s the sexy/hot/beautiful/tacky-yet-scantily-glad girl covers that will surely have the guys buying a copy (yes, we are also guilty. Why? Because it sells.).

Not that reiterating these ideas will make them any newer. Back in the (college) day, I wondered why such bland ideas persisted. Then I started working and the ‘ikot ng pera‘ concept of the economy became a reality I lived with. People need to make money, businesses need to grow, and when you earn, you want stuff. It’s empowering to have stuff. But to keep having the stuff to buy, you have to make sure that business grows. People want stuff, and that’s what is sold in magazines, billboard ads, and TV commercials (among other, ahem, body parts). There is nothing wrong with wanting stuff or the need to innovate basic necessities. To keep selling all this stuff, you have to present it with a story that’s familiar. A familiar story/genre/artista is what keeps people’s attention.

But familiarity breeds mediocrity, as Direk Joey observed in his Rogue self-interview. If people aren’t given something new to read about, when will we get our new beginning? Malcolm Gladwell’s article, The Ketchup Conondrum, takes note of Howard Moskowitz’s analysis: “But Moskowitz does not believe that consumers–even spaghetti lovers–know what they desire if what they desire does not exist. ‘The mind,’ as Moskowitz is fond of saying, ‘knows not what the tongue wants.'” The same could be applied to an audience that seeks familiarity–they want what they want now because they know it. And just like a new Facebook layout, give them something new, they will feel uncomfortable but eventually adapt because they use that medium in their lifestyle.

I remember my boss and I disagreeing over a magazine cover. He’s a businessman, so his priority is to sell what we produce. He complains that I think too much like an artist. I preferred cover X since it was local, and it was a pretty good photo. He preferred cover Y (which won, and can be now seen on stands, haha) because the subject was clear. I got his point that with cover X, “it’s risky, it’s either you love it or hate it.” But what if we did push through with cover X? It would definitely get people’s attention–and if you don’t like it, wouldn’t it at least pique your curiosity?

That’s the thing with new beginnings–they¬†grab¬†attention. They don’t need fancy graphics or strobe light presentations to mask a familiar, used up idea. New beginnings are game changers. They could be a success, like what Steve Jobs did with the tablet (iPad), smart phone (iPhone), and mp3 player (iPod), or a failure, as my boss predicted with cover X. But either way, it can grab a short attention span because it’s fresh or reborn. After all, does the consumer really know what he/she wants, until it’s actually there?

Making sense of things

Life is a tricky, funny, and difficult thing.

It’s never quite what we expect, no matter how many quotes we draw inspiration from or however how many ‘self-help’ books we read. We simply follow our gut, feel our way through the sticky situations or fall and then rise above the sh*t that happens.

I hate social media for setting up higher expectations. I hate it for making us put on a good show of how fabulous our lives are. I hate it for making it so easy to hide our fears, challenges, and problems. And I hate myself for having more of this to write about than the wonderful world I aspire for.

Then again, is it that world I really want? Will I really fit in? A friend did say, if at first you don’t succeed, redefine success. If the opportunities are null, then maybe it’s not meant to be.

Of course, there’s my fear. There are opportunities that pop up, but the timing sucks. I have other priorities–formal training, savings, bills, etc. I can’t just not work and wait for the “perfect, don’t settle as steve jobs puts it” job. I need to get by day by day. I need to find some semblance of happiness in such a decision as well.

Or maybe I just need patience. Patience for the better days; patience gives me time, which lets me get my act together for the bigger picture.

An apple a day

Much has been said about the passing of Steve Jobs. The gist? He was a great man–a legend who redefined how we go about our technological lifestyle. I say this with conviction despite not owning an iMac, Macbook Pro, or iPhone. I do, however, own an iPod. And it is in that invention we see alone how Jobs changed the game. We went from tapes, CDs, to buying mp3 tracks online in iTunes. We went from organizing CD covers in bookshelves or specialized cases to dragging, dropping, and naming our very own playlists. And yes, one day, I hope to type on the smooth keys of a Pro.

Photo from this article

His feelings for Flash aside, Jobs is a man to respect and look up to. It has been said he is the closest being we have to Tony Stark. He has been compared to Edison. He may have passed, but as a friend said, his magic is still at our fingertips.

This article tackles an interesting angle on his legacy: how he changed (but not necessarily) saved journalism. Print continues in its struggle for relevance, as the accessibility of news is more convenient online and from the TV (and the latter medium continues to prosper). There’s also the weakening economies, lack of jobs, and hence, the lack of disposable newspaper/magazine income. Then, there was Steve Jobs, who changed the face of journalism by transferring it from print to screen.

Having slaved over the school paper, and now, working professionally for magazines, I have mixed feelings regarding this shift. Although it’s not a complete 360 degree turn (more of a 180) to the screen, I know the value of seeing the colored pages and printed word in front of you. The vibrancy of a photo’s colors are something you can touch. The phrases that stir your creativity or give you that AHA!/OMGYES! moment you can easily highlight or make notes in on the side.

Oh and you can read for long hours on the printed word. No eye strain from the backlight.

Steve Jobs changed the face of journalism, but what the field needs is someone who can save it–continue and REMIND people of its relevance, as technology evolves and people’s attention spans get shorter. And maybe make sure that eyes don’t fail too early from reading off an iPad.

Nonetheless, Jobs brought attention to a field that is relevant, no matter how ignored it had become. He made sure the people’s attention was kept on the medium that informed.

A big thanks to the man, and for everything other game changer he brought about.

Reading on Writing

Creation is a bitch, so I refer to the experience for a little push and shove into the right direction. Thank God for adviceforwriters.com!

Here’s one piece of advice that I once attempted, but never quite fell through with consistently.

Sarah Waters:¬†On being disciplined…
Treat writing as a job. Be disciplined. Lots of writers get a bit OCD-ish about this. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words a day. Jean Plaidy managed 5,000 before lunch, then spent the afternoon answering fan mail. My minimum is 1,000 words a day ‚Äď which is sometimes easy to achieve, and is sometimes, frankly, like shitting a brick, but I will make myself stay at my desk until I’ve got there, because I know that by doing that I am inching the book forward. Those 1,000 words might well be rubbish ‚Äď they often are. But then, it is always easier to return to rubbish words at a later date and make them better.

Apart from this blog (and the other, which is two weeks lagging in shows), I need to utilize all the empty notebook space with some discipline. The answer to writing is writing, but what will keep it is discipline. And the best partner to writing with discipline?

Jennifer Egan:¬†On being willing to write badly…
[Be] willing to write really badly. It won’t hurt you to do that. I think there is this fear of writing badly, something primal about it, like: “This bad stuff is coming out of me‚Ķ” Forget it! Let it float away and the good stuff follows. For me, the bad beginning is just something to build on. It’s no big deal. You have to give yourself permission to do that because you can’t expect to write regularly and always write well. That’s when people get into the habit of waiting for the good moments, and that is where I think writer’s block comes from. Like: It’s not happening. Well, maybe good writing isn’t happening, but let some bad writing happen… When I was writing “The Keep,” my writing was so terrible. It was God-awful. My working title for that first draft was, A Short Bad Novel. I thought: “How can I disappoint?”

Fear has been said to be the mind killer. I think it’s also an article killer. I’m guilty of reading several magazines and/or their corresponding websites to get some stroke of inspiration to write like them, but I get otherwise. Procrastination may be 90 percent writing, but for me, it’s sometimes 70 percent hesitance.

Writing on writing 1.0

According to advicetowriters.com–which sometimes, is simply about the reality of writing:

Writing Is 90 Percent Procrastination

Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.

In my case, there is the procastination of a profile article. My distractions? Reading on Steve Jobs’ death, twitter.com, flaming hot Cheetos and Ruffles, and soon enough, a YouTube video.

My current self-study has taught me the answer to writing is writing, hence why I’m using this blog as a “legitimate” excuse of procastination.

When I do write, the editor (the paid aspect of my job) in me criticizes my own work like crazy, begging that each word and sentence be refined. This is what happens when you spend more time fixing words than creating them. The article is never quite finished and I’m always too damn scared to make mistakes. Then again, it’s better I am at odds with myself than assuming I am that good.

After all, I have told a few fellow writers I’ve read their work, commended them, and they replied with “shrinks.” Humility is necessary for getting better.

I should really vary my sentence structures. Enough with the modifier ending with a comma to start each sentence.

The Social Network

Facebook is a lot like life–it has undergone changes we don’t entirely agree with, but we find a way to adapt, appreciate, or tolerate the new situation.

A few weeks ago, Facebook continued to garner the world’s attention with its nth layout change. Some people adapted to the change nonetheless, finding ways to customize their page within their preferences. Others, like me, retained the old look by changing the language settings. I went from my original English UK to English Indian; recently, a friend discovered that Spanish also keeps the old layout.

But looks can only go so far, and I soon discovered that the privacy settings of Facebook have gone beyond my shy comfort zone. After tagging a friend in one of my photo albums, his friend was able to comment and other friends of his were able to like the photo, even if the album’s settings indicated only MY friends could see the photos. This never happened in my older albums, as the access was exclusive to the tagged friends, my friends, and myself. Since its most recent change, however, Facebook is now more “stalker friendly,” allowing tagged photos and statuses to be viewable to your friend’s friends–people who aren’t necessarily your friends.

Let me make that clearer…take the photo above. My status indicated: “Testing 1 2 3, Karla meet Anj.”

Karla and Anj are my friends. But Karla is not friends with Anj. However, since they are both tagged in the status, both their friends can see the status. They can even like the status (indicated by Marjo, Karla’s friend but not mine or Anj’s), even if I do not know Marjo personally.

That is just plain creepy! This new accessibility, however, truly defines Facebook as a social network.That’s the point of networking–to meet new people care of those you already know. But if you’re not that kind of person, you have to be one careful with the tagging function. Compared to before, we have access to how much of your life you’re willing to place in public. Before Friendster, Multiply, and Facebook, we communicated through long phone conversations, then text messages, then e-mails. Those messages (and until now) are sent to specific persons. We have ¬†a choice regarding how much we were willing to share–and how far it would go. The only information dissemination beyond your control was word of mouth (aka gossip/tsismis).

With Facebook and other social networking sites, the information directly comes from the source. No one else is held accountable since you’ve recorded a status from your keyboard–no misinterpretations and exaggerations in between. But if your friends want to get your attention with a tag, their friends’ will take notice as well. Just like gossip, the wrong impression can be made should a stranger tag you in the most random (or incriminating) posts/videos/photos. Let’s just hope no one gets too judgemental.

Otherwise, just like the non-social networking days, it’s best to control the information being posted–after all, if you know your friends personally, it shouldn’t be too difficult to talk to them about not tagging you, right?

Hello history

Two friends of mine from Philippine provinces (one from Pampanga, the other from Davao) asked me once, “Why stay in a flat in Manila?”

The city girl in me would have answered: it’s near numerous food establishments, eventful bars, shopping malls, and all kinds of coffee shops. But after a while, the food establishments were only worth visiting during dates or group get togethers. The bars played the same DJ mixes and songs every week. The malls were always crowded and/or draining my bank account. The coffee shops were only homey when I had to wait–plus, the coffee was never as good as Vietnam’s butter roasted beans.¬†And after having seen the beaches of Negros and Batangas, semi-climbing a mountain in Camarines Sur, and wading through a cool, clean river (then witnessing a waterfall) in Bukidnon, Manila’s man-made establishments just don’t quite compare to nature’s powerful and persistent formations. But immersing myself in such serenity can only last for so long–I will eventually crave for the bright lights and white noise excitement of the city.

I am a Southern (of Manila) girl; I am caught between the urban excitement of music, food, and fast cars and the serene, breathtaking majesty of mountains, beaches, and a clear blue/star-lit sky. I find solace in peace and fury. My motherland is home to both these distant worlds, but seems better at offering the natural than the man-made (at least, on the outset. Environmental protection and management is another story). It could, however, use some improvement on the urban experience side. Thus,¬†I don’t blame my friends for questioning me spending weekdays in what is now a crazy, polluted, and unsafe location. ¬†But last September 10, the said friends plus Neener, rediscovered our capital’s past secrets. We walked along the cobbled streets of Old Manila, aka Intramuros, tracing the ghosts of Spanish extravagance and American glamor.

Taking a page from Lonely Planet/Frommers/etc., Old Manila is “a city of contrasts.” One side retains the picturesque architecture of the Spanish era, along with part of the once fortified walls reconstructed and maintained. The other side, (or sometimes just right across a 300+ year old building) are makeshift shanties that earn a day’s expenses with a sari-sari store.¬†Old buildings that remind one of Europe are now private or government buildings. The Manila Cathedral, once exclusive to the Spaniards, is now a popular wedding venue; the entrance is crowded with Korean tourists. One would expect that the modern elements “coexisting” with a preserved past indicates Manila has maintained its history. In some ways it has, but it is not at par with Europe’s Greek and Roman ruins. Having been part of the Roman Empire’s conquests, the Philippines has been damaged by several wars.¬†¬†From the colonization of the Spanish, the short lived infiltration of the British, to the devastating destruction of World War II, what remains within the rebuilt walls almost seems like a ghost of such turbulent centuries. Our history is tainted with destruction and exploitation, yet these walls, buildings, and forts remain to remind us of sins that need not be repeated. And in some ways, they also tell us what/who/how we came to be what we are now: a country confused between modern development and historical preservation. For centuries, Manila was host to the attempts of the Spaniards and Americans in making the city their own, with their impressive architecture influencing buildings. Now, we are faced with concrete jungle developments that similar to old Spanish houses, may not exactly suit the current conditions.

It is important that the city retains history, for both aesthetic and historical reasons. I always hear adults missing Manila’s glory days, back when it’s grandeur was not troubled with make shift houses and pollution. We need to be reminded of how wonderful we can be, and at the same time, see these structures that attempted to remove an identity of Filipino culture. We need to decide who we want to be, with reminders of our roots (as colonized as they are), yet at the same time give the right room for jobs, trade, and modern movement. And once my city finds this balance, maybe those from live and let nature free parts will understand why my heart remains in the metro.