Thursday, May 27, 2010

Interesting reads in the latest ish of Time

Interesting reads in the latest issue of Time magazine:

- Facebook and how it is redefining privacy.

- Resumed Innocent by Nathan Thornburgh about using DNA to free the falsely accused.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reel around the old house

Before heading over to the San Juan Arena for the Fil Oil Invitational, I dropped by this old house along M. Paterno that I've oft gazed at and wondered about. It's the old Araneta residence that was build back in late 1940s and obviously is in a state of disrepair (an understatement). I finally mustered the courage to ask permission to take pictures and I was quite happy with what I took. I posted the shots in my Facebook.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy to be depressed: Club 8 in Manila

Happy to be depressed

Club 8 yearns for the summer and finds life in Brazil, Manila, and hopefully the beaches of Boracay. Rick Olivares commiserates in their misery.

The question was probing and deep that Johan Angergard and Karolina Komstedt – the duo who make up Swedish indie pop band Club 8 – paused for a few seconds to measure their response during a press conference last Friday, May 14 at the SMX of the Mall of Asia.

“You see in Sweden summer is only two months of the year and so there is a yearning; a yearning for something more.” softly explained Komstedt that she seemed almost apologetic. Angergard didn’t mince his words about his morbid outlook on death and melancholia that oft are in the lyrics to his songs. “Everybody dies.”

Knowing that, it’s a wonder that they are not a death metal band that seems to flourish in the Scandinavian states. “You wouldn’t think that the songs are about sadness because the melody is upbeat, happy.” smiled Komstedt.

Then she admitted that she was broke. If the two indie pop stars were unhappy then they did a great job of not showing it. But it was undeniable that they were charmed with the reception they got from Filipinos. “Smiles. Cheerful people. Is this how it’s going to be later?” asked Karolina, the tall, lean and pretty vocalist with inquisitive eyes that took note of everything that was going on as if she was soaking up the new experience.

It was only three years ago when Club 8 began performing live albeit not in a regular manner. “That way our performances are special,” underscored Komstedt who admitted to being unsure of her singing live.

Going on tour augurs well for Club 8 as they have literally begun to expand their horizons. They previously had this snobbish reputation for not granting interviews or even playing live. Their tours have taken them to the United States, Singapore, Japan, and now to the Philippines.

The band was formed in 1995 yet it took seven albums and 15 years before they reached our shores. “It’s simple,” chuckled Komstedt. “We’ve never been invited to go here. But we know that the first two countries in Asia to release our albums were Japan and the Philippines. So now we’re here and soon… Boracay.”

Her voice, soft and like brush strokes of quicksilver was intriguing if not teasing.

And when the band performed that same night at the SMX at the Mall of Asia, someone couldn’t help it. “I love you, Karolina!” yelled a voice that rose above the applause. She heard it for sure but all dressed up and shy, she didn’t look. Instead, guitarist, Mathias Naslund – borrowed from fellow Swedish band the Sweet Serenades for the tour -- cast an amused eye to the love bestowed upon the band. “Unbelievable!” he exclaimed.

It’s cheeky. But so is Twee as the genre has been labeled on the band. The jingle jangle of chiming guitars is upbeat despite the coy lyrics that dripped with melancholia. The tag was first pejorative when it was first tagged on Brit pop bands of the early 90’s but it found a home in the United States and in all places Scandinavia. It wasn’t only the textured and sonic landscapes of Sigur Ros or the evil machinations of Borknagar that put the music of Abba out of the region’s misery. Somewhere the Smiths, the Pale Fountains, Paddy McAloon, the Care, the Sundays, Altered Images, and Burt Bacharach lived in twee hearts everywhere.

The band was in town and to make the event even more special, their new album – The People’s Record -- was launched. No surprise there considering they first got their start abroad with Spain’s Siesta Records since there was no indie music scene to speak of back in Sweden during the mid-90s.

Clem Castro, former guitarist for the late lamented band Orange and Lemons and now head honcho of indie label Lily Stars records on top of fronting his band the Camerawalls, worked with the Modern Rock Bureau in making the show in Manila possible. “From a fan’s standpoint, it’s cool,” said Castro who couldn’t contain his excitement as the band went through their sound check. “From the perspective of someone in the music scene, we hope that Club 8 coming to Manila will open the gates for more indie bands to go here.”

The show was something special from the start as three local indie bands – Gentle Isolation, Your Imaginary Friends, and the Camerawalls played fiery and inspiring sets that set the tone for Club 8 to conquer cold hearts. And some 400 paying fans came to watch the Swedish duo’s 16-song set that saw them perform songs from the Brazilian-influenced new album as well as classics from The Friend I Once Had, Spring Came, Rain Fell, and The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming. The fans applauded, cheered, and sang along intoxicated by the summer songs. By show’s end, it was strangely beautiful as both Komstedt and Angergard flashed smiles and grins and basked in a most appreciative applause. They only sang one song for an encore – “Love in December” but they made it worth everyone’s while when they signed autographs and posed for pictures even if it was way past midnight.

Not bad for a band that was once aloof.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

(Join the) Club 8 in Manila

I was still in advertising and to say that seems like a lifetime ago. I have always made it a point to pass by a CD store at least once a week and I remember that day well when I picked up Club 8's debut album Nouvelle on a whim. It was on the indie rack and as was my custom, I'd pick up an CD even without having heard them. Call it foolhardy because there were some misses as well but this was a winner from the start. I have always said that Nouvelle is one of those great after the break-up albums. It's in the vein of Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen and Pete Yorn's musicforthemorningafter. I became a fan of Club 8 and have picked up all their albums since so when I heard they were coming to Manila then I was going to watch. I guess my excitement and glee shows in the picture with Karolina Komstedt and Johan Agergard.
I came from work and didn't bring my CDs or even my SLR. At the presscon, they gave us a free CD of the new album that was launched internationally here in the Philippines! Cool ain't it?
The performance of Club 8 here will open the floodgates for more indie acts to come over. And the show beginning with front acts Gentle Persuasions, Your Imaginary Friends, and the Camerawalls right to Club 8 was fantastic. I told Clem Castro of the Camerawalls that his band's performance with a Rondalla group was alone worth the price of admission. But I didn't pay my way in. Thanks, Clem!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A hole in the wall eatery

Dondi Nolasco showed me this hole-in-the-wall eatery just outside the San Juan Arena sometime last year. If you're looking to up your cholesterol level with inexpensive food, then Yakitate Pork Chop House is right outside to serve you. One order with egg and rice costs PhP 45. When I asked what the name meant, the owner said, "Laging gutom."
One other thing you have to know about this place is since it is located outside -- the palce is freaking hot! But with nothing to eat inside the San Juan Arena, as the saying goes -- pangtawid gutom.
What I do is add kalamansi and toyo. But not too much. This is already a killer on the old ticker. Hahaha!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Yes, I know it's Mother's Day and not her birthday. But still... I was rummaging through an old closet looking for anything when I found an old notebook filled with poems, essays, jokes, and whatnot. Also tucked into this is a card I made for my mom a long time ago. I showed it to my mom who looked at it in amazement. Turns out that she has a folder filled with letters and stuff about us kids addressed to different people. We had a blast reading all of them. Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A not-so-lonely planet

A not-so-lonely planet.
Traveling is fun. More so when it’s with your kids who are wide-eyed and learning to expand their horizons. I took my two boys on a short vacation in the Lion City.

I’ve gone to Guadalajara, Mexico to watch luchadore wrestling all the while chugging down Tecate in an effort to show the locals I wasn’t some lost tourist. I’ve gone on a tour of haunted houses in San Diego that was half a dare and half plain silliness. I’ve paid several hundred dollars for a black market ticket to a Juventus-AC Milan game at the San Siro in an act that put a severe crimp on my spending power but was an act I will remember ‘til my dying day. Go, Juve!!!

I love traveling and experiencing new cultures and although I have yet to run with the Bulls in Pamplona, I feel I’m ready to be a host for the Lonely Planet.

While that isn’t a far-fetched dream, I got to be Ian Wright for a few days with my two sons in Singapore.

It isn’t their first time abroad. But the last time they went was nine years ago. The reason it took that long again was I felt that they lacked the maturity to fully appreciate the joys of traveling. Back then it was go to Toys ‘R Us then go back to the hotel room. Somehow, traveling with a pair of young tykes can put the killjoy in things. You simply aren’t able to maximize the experience.

Rick’s Rules in Traveling #3 – no fastfoods! I know they are money savers but puh-leeze! I’m going to barf the next time I deign to chomp on a McDonald’s burger. When in Rome, or more appropriately, when in Singapore – we go to Bugis and Geylang for Indian food, to Food Republic for chicken rice, we go to Lau Passat for sate and other hawkers’ street food, and we go to Clarke Quay for Balinese and Mediterranean cuisine.

But before we had a chance to sate our stomach’s desires, there was a reality check when my youngest son, Anthony, tugged at my arm and said, “Dad, it’s clean here. Unlike in Manila…”
And later still, “Dad, that’s the fifth Mercedes Benz taxi I’ve seen…”

I thought that was very observant and it justified my earlier reasons for waiting for them to be a little older. It reminded me in fact of my first time abroad (in Hong Kong) and I saw an Aston Martin in one of those mansions around Victoria Peak. “Dad, I just saw James Bond’s car!” I exclaimed with such fanboy abandon that it was almost as if I had seen Sean Connery.

And that leads to Rule #1: Know the lay of the land. I told my boys to pick up all those tourist brochures they were giving out at the airport. Once we got to my cousin’s place where we were staying for the trip, I had them pour through the map and look for MRT stops. Perhaps from one end to end, the total drive time through the Lion City will amount to 45 minutes. To go around will take a little longer. With those bearings in mind, it’s to look for Orchard Road as a point of reference in the same manner that 5th Avenue divides Manhattan into the East and West sides.

I taught them how to travel via MRT, read the map, refund tickets, and wait on the sides of the exits of the train in order to first let out the commuters before entering – something that my quite observant son quipped about: “Dad, they’re kind of disciplined here!”

You and me – it’s good to learn something new everyday.

And for my kids, it also meant a history lesson while walking around the Esplanade, Merlion Park, and riding the bump boat right through the heart of Singapore.

But perhaps the one realization about this city-state is that the island is one huge mall. Again it was something that wasn’t lost on my son who gave up counting the number of Mango stores after he finagled store number six. “How can there be so many Mango stores? Do they sell something everyday?”

Unable to answer that, we went up to the Tourist Information officer at SunTec City to just to satisfy our common interest. The tourism official seemed flabbergasted. “Ask me where Toys R Us is. Or ask me where to get the best sate. But I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that!”

At this point I figured he was ready to pull his hair out then he mumbled: “Maybe so. Maybe so.”

I saved my son from being a fashionista. We instead spent our hard-earned dollars at HMV, Kinokuniya, Borders, and all that merchandise from Universal Studios.

At times during the trip, I wondered who was more excited – my kids or I. When Woody Woodpecker came walking down the road in Universal Studios, I gawked and pulled my kids for a picture. And I guess, in that picture, you could very well surmise who was the kid here.

All throughout we interacted with people of different races. At the Night Safari, we sat beside this family from Arizona and had a great time chatting with them. At Universal Studios, we found ourselves going through the same rides and displays as this family from India. While pausing from our tour on a hot Wednesday afternoon, we sat by the banks of Clarke Quay and ate ice cream with some Dutch tourists.

We maximized those four days going around that I wondered after a while if they were going through a sensory overload. The thing is – never underestimate your kids. At the end of our stay, they didn’t even want to go home.

As we boarded our plane for our flight home, my youngest son once more tugged at my arm said thank you and asked, “Are we going abroad this Christmas?”