Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dig that guitar solo

It was a little over 20 years ago today (it was July 21, 1987 to be exact), that Slash's timeless guitar solo of "Sweet Child Of Mine" -- one of Guitar World's 100 Greatest Solos -- finally shook me out of my appetite for New Wave and I grew our of my buzz cuts in favor of long hair (now if you can imagine me with long locks now go snicker in the corner coz it was a goofy look for me then).

I remember staying tuned to DZRJ-FM the only station that would play Guns N' Roses just to catch that classic blues-rock song.

I bought APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION when it came out and told myself that along with the Smiths' Hatful of Hollow and R.E.M.'s Murmur these were the albums that changed my young life.

Now if Chinese Democracy is more than an urban legend...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

J. Jonah Jameson watch out!

I met up with an old classmate of mine today, Vanni de Sequera, who in my humble opinion, is one of the best writers we have around today. Even back in school I always thought highly of his work including that of another batchmate, Junie Agcaoili (who currently works with Chikka if I am not mistaken). I'll be doing work for Vanni (who used to be the editor for Manual and Maxim) for a couple of mags that sound exciting. Both are a welcome change of pace from the sports stuff most people know me for.

So here is my writing odyssey in a nutshell...

While still in college, I began writing for News Today, a Filipino expat newspaper that was sold mostly abroad. There I did sports covering the PABL (as the PBL was known back then) and became friends with quite a few personalities. I think this was the time I suffered permanent brain damage. You see during those years, as a new-hoops junkie, I would watch the UAAP game day in its entirety. All eight teams played on every game day for a total of four matches. Even through the sucky NU games I persevered. As part of my job, there were also like three or four PABL matches every game day as well. And in my spare time, I would go watch the PBA games at the ULTRA. So all that basketball must have hurt my head and my test papers began to strangely resemble basketballs.

So I moved on to the Philippine Daily Inquirer where I contributed lifestyle stories that gave me a lot of flexibility. I did a lengthy piece on Rizal Underground (their song "Sabado Nights" was all the rage at the time) where I followed them around for a week from one practice to another to a gig in Quezon Ave. I wrote it in such as way that wasn't fit for the Lifestyle page. "Pang-SPIN magazine," was the comment I got so they had me do a rewrite. I did more music stuff, articles about comic books, and profiled some Filipinos who were doing well in their own industries.

I switched to an advertising job after that and it made writing kinda difficult. But I was able to do a few more pieces - mostly about bargain compact discs (for PDI) and a few album reviews (on Prefab Sprout, X, the Cure, and a few other bands)

It was while I was in the United States that people egged me on to write professionally. I was writing letters to home about my misadventures and travails and I guess I must have made quite a few people laugh and cry. I even stalked Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada at the Big Apple Convention, Midtown Comics, and outside Park Avenue in hopes of showing him a script for a "realistic" story about the X-Men, Captain America (hey, this was post 9-11), and Quasar - yes him of the Quantum bands. Well, I'm still holding out for that and maybe I can follow my friend, Gerry Alanguilan of Wasted fame into comic books and maybe get one of them on the big screen. On a note where I digress, I got Alex Ross to autograph Mythology and the over-sized JLA graphic novel Justice. Have a vid of him and me and pics with that other-worldly genius Mark Millar.

But I do have a series of short stories that Mai and I are developing. A couple are children's stories and there's one that's a modern-day Elvis Presley homage story. Hopefully we'll get them published and on the web soon.

It was while chipping in for that finally got the creative juices going (thanks in no small part to a special somebody). And from that I moved to,, Business Mirror, Men's Health, Tower Sports NBA, Transit, Blueblood, and now... well that's for another time.


I've always wondered if all those local magazines on the stands actually sell. Well, do they?

Not all of them do. Most don't.

But you have to admit that our locally produced mags are getting better in terms of production and content.

Here are some of my fave mags -- including a couple that have ceased publication:

1. Gear - This mag was way ahead of its time. Too bad it isn't around anymore. But it was definitely racy and edgy.

2. Spin - "Dare to be different" sounds so cliche-ish but this mag forced the next-on-my-list-mag to change and launch it's "perception vs. reality" advertising campaign.
3. Rolling Stone - Perhaps the most consistently enjoyable pop magazine read in the last quarter of a century.
4. Sports Illustrated - The Swimsuit issue initially fed my adolescent fantasies but that soon gave way to paying attention to great sportswriting.
5. Four Four Two - For the football fan in me.
6. Sunday Inquirer Magazine - I always thought that the best written newspaper back then was Today and the Manila Chronicle. The Inquirer began to get better in its style and the magazine was always a fantastic read.
7. Time - They've become hip in their style and layouts but the writing and reporting has always been relevant and top-notch.
8. Playboy - Yes, I do read it also for the articles.
9. SLAM - Ground-breaking magazine that brought a street feel to writing and layouts. But sometimes it comes across as a collection of feel-good tributes.
10. X-Ray - Indie culture lives!
11. The Village Voice -- The New York version not the crappy local edition. Best mag to go to if there are things you want to know about but have never heard of. Totally left of center and bohemian views.
12. ESPN the Magazine - If you love sportscenter then you'll love this.

Will post some old pieces from time to time. But watch out for PROTONS.

And hey, check out this mag. I love it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rant & Rave

We sat in the pre-electric fan Blue Eagle Gym with a game going on. Ateneo vs. Adamson. It was a stunning victory with Jun Reyes nailing a desperation trey from mid-court to beat the Falcons. But i'm getting ahead of the story.

I sat with an old friend talking about hoops when he landed a neutron bomb that temporarily took my mind off the game (that had all the makings of a loss by the Blue Eagles). "Michael Jordan is the worst thing ever to happen to basketball," my rotund friend pronounced. He went on to explain why but I'm not going into that over here. What I can say is that he endlessly extolled the positives of Xavier MacDaniel's transfer to the Boston Celtics. Nevertheless, his jab at MJ stayed with me.

Cut to another time, we were having dinner at the Crocodile Grill in Libis, a reunion of old school mates who liked nothing than to discuss Ateneo hoops and UAAP chismax. I asked if anyone had read the third Harry Potter book. Two of the guys looked at me with stunned horror and recoil and landed me another stinging jab, "You son of a pig of a ____! Harry Potter is full of (palce your own four-letter expletive here)."

Embarrassed, I took the bottle of Dom Perignon and smashed it over the head of one of my fiends, er friends. Well, I didn't but I thought about it.

I always thought that Alan Moore's and Brian Bolland's magnificent Batman: the Killing Joke is one of the greatest comic book stories ever. I gave it to my mom one day to read and she thought that it was "evil" and my dad questioned my choice of reading material. Maybe I should read more grown up stuff. I told my folks that I also bought the latest Playboy issue with Paulina Porizkova on the cover. Now that's as adult as one can get.

While talking to a female officemate (she graduated from DLSU last year) for a story, we drifted off to music tastes -- she looked like a deadringer for Natalie Portman's character of Sam in the most-awesome Garden State and she gushed that she was into new music. When she asked me what stuff I had on heavy rotation on my ipod, I said, "Interpol, the Decemberists, Updharma Down, the Silversun Pickups, and Badly Drawn Boy" she looked at me like I went on an hour-long dissertation of the chaos theory. Turns out she -- way too young to even know who Kurt Cobain was during his heyday -- had stopped growing with Pearl Jam and Sandwich. She should trade notes with John McClaine. Oh he was into Creedence Clearwater Revival?

Ayt! I get it. I'm a nerd stuck in the pages of Alternative Press. Who knew the CD racks of Virgin Records in Times Square like the back of my hand that when a customer was looking for something, I knew where to get it and what else to recommend. I read stuff by Bill Carter, Peter David, Marc Spitz, Bob Woodward, David Halberstam, Nick Hornby (many kids of today don't even know who he is), Time, Spin, the occasional soft-porn rag like Maxim or FHM, T3, National Geographic, Alan Moore comic books, and surfs alt-indie sites like and the war against silence.

It's Saturday morning, as I pen this. In a few hours, I'll be off to get my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, get the 300 DVD, watch the Blue Eagles go for win #3 against the NU Bulldogs, meet up with some Ateneo alumni about a book to write, finish my Monday column, and figure out what to do with my ipod. There's RAW tonight on Jack TV and disc of Mark Whalberg's Rockstar to finish.

Michael Jordan's the greatest NBA player ever while the X-Man is a coulda-been story in Seattle Supersonics history. Batman: the Killing Joke will f---ing mind away and Harry Potter -- while the series will probably never knock down the Lord of the Rings trilogy as my fave fantasy series it will always appeal to the kid inside me just as the Hardy Boys Mystery Series still do.

Now let's roll. Have a great weekend.

Recommended reading: get Bill Carter's Fools Rush In and Marc Spitz' How Soon Is Never (if you like Nick Hornby you'll love this book on how a stumbling bumbling fellow tries to reunite the Smiths and win his true love's heart).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fishball Logic

I love fishballs. In spite of the hepatitis scare back when I was in school In spite of the danger of “dirty food.”

I even remember on occasion gobbling up the lot when a piece cost .10c each.

I won’t go into the nerd stuff of its whys and wherefores, but sometimes, it isn’t soley the fishballs I enjoy when I pluck them out with barbecue sticks from the kawali. Sometimes listening in to the conversations – hey, how can you not hear what people talk about – around the cart, are every bit .50c nuggets of wisdom and insight.

My first stick – I usually get two pieces at a time then make sawsaw in the jar with the most onions.
Barber: “Erap. Not guilty.” (alluding to a tabloid headline from a paper that a driver was reading) “Pare-pareho lang mga yan nasa gobyerno… guilty at puro magnanakaw…” (man’s dripping with venom)
Man who works at neighboring meat shop: “O, masyado kang galit. Kumain ka muna. Isawsaw mo na lang galit mo sa maanghang.” (everyone laughs)

Third stick
Female student: “OMG! Nalagyan ng soows (sauce) my N95!”
Male friend (possibly boyfriend): “Careful. Mahal yung sarsa ng fishball.”
Female student: “Hindi nakakatawa yan, ha?”
Fishball Cart vendor: “Cellphone. Hindi na pwede na mabuhay na walang cellphone.”
Man who works at neighboring meat shop: “O, Manny (the barber). Palitan mo na yang cellphone mo. Lumang luma na yan (Nokia 3310).”
Barber: “Okey naman ‘to. Pang text lang naman.”
Fishball Cart Vendor: “Sino naman tine-text mo? Customer? Chicks?”
Man who works at neighboring meat shop: “Si Manny pa! Chicks. Selos si boss niyan (turns out the owner of the barber shop is a closet gay).

Sixth stick (six pesos total now and I can feel the onions begin to alter my breath)
Guy: “O, Gelo. Nakita kita sa FHM -- na interview ka.”
Gelo (locking the doors to his Beemer): “Wala yun. Pero bola lang yun. Kailangan lang ng interview so tinawagan sister ko. Pinasa sa akin yun pero puro bola lang yun.”
Guy: “Wala naman nagbabasa ng articles. Yung mga babes lang tinitignan sa FHM.”
Gelo: “Of course, sex sells.”
Guy: “Eh, bakit hindi ka naghubad?” (laughter)

Seventh stick (had to wait kasi naubos yung fishballs sa dami ng tao)
Guard from nearby church walks over
Guard: “Pa-utang ha? Apat na piraso lang.”
Fishball Cart Vendor: “Sige lang. Sa koleksyon ng misa mo naman kukunin ang pambayad, di ba?” (laughter)
Guard: “Masama ‘yan sinasabi mo.” (jokingly)
Fishball Cart Vendor: “Iba sinasamba ng tao ngayon… pera.”
Guard: “At fishballs.”


Under the masthead, there's a header that reads: Good News: Inspiring news and views that make you proud to be a Filipino.
Then directly under that is this headline: 14 Marines killed. 10 were beheaded.

Great news. I'm inspired.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Stories for Boys: From a long-time U2 Fan

It’s become boring and even fashionable to say, I’m a fan of U2. The digital age has brought new and exciting acts to the forefront where previously they would have languished in an A&R Manager’s cabinet never to be heard. But yes, I’ve been a fan of U2 since 1980 when their first album, Boy, was released. Although, in the Irish band’s pantheon of great recordings, Boy will never carry the same weight as War, the Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby or even All You Can Leave Behind, it remains a sentimental favorite.

I have all their CDs (I have their LP’s from Boy to the Joshua Tree) and three of their DVDs: Rattle and Hum, Zoo TV Live from Sydney, and Vertigo 05 Live from Chicago. Rattle and Hum I purchased in New York several years ago. It took awhile to actually buy the DVD since I had my beta max tape (oh yes!) of the concert that I purchased in Quiapo all those long years ago for the princely sum of PhP100. I even remember where I bought every single U2 title that I own.

When the new compilation U2 18 singles was released in November 2006, I didn’t pick it up right away. I’m sorry. I’m not terribly impressed with the local pressings of discs and their inlay sleeves. I had to wait until Singapore the other week. But it also had something to do with the track listing. Far too many songs were not included. The Best of 1980-1990 and 1990-2000 were far superior releases, but I guess either the band or their record company, Universal, were not going to wait another decade for the next compilation. Like many other U2 fans, I felt that this was a release for casual listeners so I put it on the back burner.

Despite the album having been out in the market for quite awhile now, the new U2 18 Singles the CD/DVD combo pack was given its own shelf to attract new buyers. Thank God I didn’t purchase it months ago so I picked it up in spite of the hefty S $38 tag.

When I arrived back home, during one sleepless night, I inserted the DVD into the slot of my MacBook. And the show at the 86-thousand seater Stadio San Siro was bleeping awesome! Although the show was edited down to 10 songs, they should have included faster songs than include the slow “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For” and “All I Want Is You.” But that’s nitpicking. Holding the concert and recording it at San Siro has a lot to do with it.

Home to two of the three most successful and popular football clubs in Italian football (Inter Milan and AC Milan), the stadium was designed to have the crowd close to the pitch and with the large 5-Star capacity sating, it creates a frenzied atmosphere.

And with arguably the most important rock act in the world for the last decade or so in the house, you bet it was going to be one heckuva show.

I’m glad that U2 has ditched the pop excess of their live shows circa Pop and Zooropa in favor of a simpler light show. It’s not the kind of psychedelic swirl and brooding that has defined the Cure’s live show (I saw them during their last Curiosa Tour in Randall’s Island in NYC) but it’s still awesome. I think Coldplay sort of experimented with the same during the X&Y Tour.

And the way the crowd got into the show with their singing and response to Bono’s exhortations, it gave me goose bumps. The show was certainly better than the one featured in their United Center DVD. I still can’t get over how aged the guys are with the exception of the Edge. Bono doesn’t hit those high notes as much as he used to. Maybe that’s a combination of age, smoking, the occasional drink, and endless singing and touring.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to catch their next world tour. The band is in Morocco now writing songs for their 12th album and 16th overall release (that includes the live Under A Blood Red Sky and the three collections).

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Transformed into A Kid Once More

Who didn’t love cartoons as a kid?

I did and still do. My earliest recollection is of those old Marvel Super-Heroes cartoons that way simple and cheesy by today’s standards. Then there were the Herculoids (I loved that show) and Gigantor that sort of softened me up for the anime stuff.

I liked watching Transformers (Optimus Prime was always my fave) but I felt that it was too much of a kiddie show. Too tame. Hmm. No wonder people talk about the effect of violence on television. When I got into my anime phase, it was all Mobile Suit Gundam, Akira, Ninja Scroll, and Battle Angel Alita among others.

It wasn’t until the late 1980’s that I discovered the 1986 Transformers animated film where I nearly wet myself. I was in a friend’s house -- Richie Ramos, the bassist for local rock band Cog, when I first saw the movie. Richie is actually the single biggest influence on me for Japanimation and manga. Take a bow, bud. I’ve spent a lot of moolah on this stuff over the years.

But I was like, “This is some serious shit! They killed off Optimus Prime and a bunch of Autobots!” That was almost as horrible as the death of Jean Grey in the X-Men comics (by the classic team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne)! They killed off the Generation One Transformers to make way for a new line of toys, but I guess people didn't expect kids to be real upset that Optimus Prime would die so it was an eventaulity they'd bring him back. So did anyway catch the Search for Optimus Prime? I saw it but the animation wasn't up to par with the original animated film. Hot Rod rocks, but Optimus rocks. No one quite says it the way he goes, "Autobots, transform and roll out."

Dude, Orson Welles as the voice of Unicron!

The better animation and darker storyline got me hooked and the makeover of Megatron into Galvatron was awesome! I have always been an Autobots fan but why do the Decepticons have cooler designs? I mean Starscream was a fighter plane for crying out loud. And the makeover he gets in the new movie – hoo hah! And howzabout Devastator (the modified M1 Abrams tank) and Blackout (the Pave Low chopper) – weren’t they way cool? And Bumblebee from a Beetle to a Camaro -- hokey smokes, Bullwinkle! The one car I always wanted to have was a Volkswagen Beetle whether the original or the new version and maybe that's why Bumblebee always appealed to me.

I loved the Transformers animated movie along with the GI Joe animated film as well (the one where Duke nearly buys it).

When I heard that Michael Bay was doing the Transformers movie it was like when I first saw the animated movie where I… you know what I did.

I’m really not a fan of his movies – Armageddon, the Rock, the Island, Bad Boys, and there’s this one… Pearl Harbor. But what I do like is his capacity for the grandiose and big action movies that assault the senses. If Michael Mann is the master of the firefight (witness Heat), Bay certainly has a mad on to destroy the world.

While Michael Bay rewrote the Transformers canon and answered many of the glaring inconsistencies of the cartoon series, I loved this movie as only a fan could. It was only natural to include the US military in the movie to make it look more credible. And it comes off as a great recruiting tool what with all the high tech hardware they showed here. The fact that Bay got the Pentagon to agree to use the Osprey helos (the one with the twin upright rotor blades when there are only three in service) speaks much of how the men in uniform think of him. I grew up a military buff and always thought I'd end in up in uniform so stuff like this always appeals to me.

I'd say that this is easily Michael Bay’s best film and the ironic thing there is it stars relativeunknowns in Shia Lebouf (am so looking forward to Disturbia) and Megan Fox. And to think that he didn’t want to do it at first coz he thought it was a “stupid robot movie.” I know it’s a set, but how the hell did they tear up downtown LA? ow many cars did they trash? King Kong can have NYC, but the Transformers will take LA... and Wilshire Boulevard along with it.

And with Starscream jetting off into space, you know this means... sequel! And I betcha Megatron will be back. And me want to see Grimlock. But they have to come up with a story on how they mimick dinosaurs.

This is going down as one of our favorite movies of the year. Mai, who wasn't weaned on this stuff really enjoyed it too. Can’t wait for the DVD that will surely be loaded with extras.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Here Among the Lions

One of the things we loved about Singapore is how much the people there speak better English. That's always a plus in our book. It makes for an easier way of getting around.

And speaking of getting around... here are some interesting shots that tell their own stories.

This apartment duplex is along Al Juneid Road close to the MRT stop where we usually start our touring. Kind of an unusual design. It reminded me of those small Israeli apartments that were featured in that old Golan-Globus movie that was shown when I was growing up... titled "Growing Up"... what else!

That's my impression of Rodan's The Thinker. My thoughts... When will I ever get rich? Hahahaha

One of Mai's favorite stops for chicken wings. Ah, well, she's my Hooters girl.

This is the fountain area at Clarke Quay. A noon and evening shot. Take note of the phallic symbol that props up the "stylish" roofing.

This is one of those new attractions at Clarke Quay... the Clinic! This bar-dance club has quite a different set-up from most bars and lounges. Run by Dutch expats, they say that when one goes to a clinic, they usually feel bad. But in the Clinic, they'll feel good! The 15,000 square meter bar-dance club named all the names of their rooms and lounges after medical terms. Their outside "tables" are like hospital beds. Interesting concept.

The ever popular Hed Kandi bar that's packed on weekends. Music by the famous Ministry of Sound.

This is by the door of all female bathrooms at Clarke Quay. Wonder what this implies? What goes on inside? Hmmm.

These guys putting on a show outside Ngee Ann City along Orchard Road. Hula hoops are out and huge Buddhist beads are in! You go guys.

Outside the Singapore Zoo was the Ben & Jerry's cow that looked sooooo out of place. Shouldn't Mr. Moo be in a farm? That's me sticking my tongue out at Mr. Moo. Who do you think has the Mad Cow disease here?

Our last meal in Singapore was the most simple aside from the stuff we bought at Bread Talk in Ang Mo Kio --- chicken pie and a bottle of Snapple at the airport. Yum!