Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday The Good

"I like things to be story-shaped.

Reality, however, is not story-shaped, and the eruptions of the odd into our lives are not story-shaped, either. They do not end in entirely satisfactory ways. Recounting the strange is like telling one's dreams; one can communicate the events of a dream but not the emotional content, the way that a dream can color one's entire day."

- Neil Gaiman, The Flints of Memory Lane, from Fragile Things

As I spend what's left of Good Friday - a hellish day fraught with sundry miseries, personal fears, and feelings of anger and abandonment - the door to my bedroom has creaked and slowly swung open once again. And yet again, despite my anticipations, there is no head peeking from behind it. No one behind the door in the darkness.


No one human, anyway.

It doesn't help that I've been re-reading Gaiman of late, and am clutching his book Fragile Things to my chest astride the laptop I'm now writing this entry on. Not that Gaiman spooks me. I find his stories entertaining and intriguing, more than macabre, although they are most certainly that, as well.

Which is why I wonder why I was just a wee bit...perturbed at this latest trick of the door. There is no draft in the anteroom leading to my bedroom - especially not on this still, sultry night. All the windows are shuttered, and the door to the balcony there is always kept closed. My bedroom door itself tends to get stubbornly stuck when shut, which makes its regular surprise openings even more...quizzical.

And the creaking footsteps I hear upstairs while I am working downstairs in the study have fairly recently evolved into heavy, pounding footsteps just outside my bedroom door. I can actually feel my bed and my floor vibrating to these steps. 

And still, when I look - nothing but darkness.

Oh, yeah. And if my religious aunts are to be believed, God is dead and demons walk the earth freely tonight till He wakes up on Sunday.

Or was that Halloween?

At any rate...just thought it was a curious coincidence to have been reading the following passages from a Gaiman poem, from the same collection of short fictions, shortly before the portal to my personal chambers gingerly opened once again. 

Verses which eerily echo the goings-on in this big empty place, and my usual reactions to them.

The poem's title, fittingly enough, is The Hidden Chambers :

Do not fear the ghosts in this house; they are the least of your worries.
Personally I find the noises they make reassuring,
The creaks and footsteps in the night,
their little tricks of hiding things,
or moving them, I find
endearing, not upsettling.*

It makes the place
feel so much more like home.

While you are here, of course,
you will hear the ghosts, always a room away,
and you may wake beside me in the night,
knowing that there's a space without a door
knowing that there's a place that's locked
but isn't there.

Hearing them scuffle, echo, thump, and pound.



*As per Gaiman, in his introduction:"Upsettling is what Humpty Dumpty called "a portmanteau word," occupying the territory between upsetting and unsettling."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Home Alone

Like the ancient Israelites abandoning Egypt, pretty much everyone's skipped - or will be skipping town for the annual Semana Santa exodus.

D left for Zambales this morning with three of our friends, to rendezvous at Christiane's parents' beach house for three days of sun, sea, sand, and Mojitos.

My boy is leaving for Laguna tomorrow with his high-school chums, coming back Easter.

Andy is, as per his last FB update, smiling in front of mosques in Brunei, after hopscotching around temples in Vientiane, ruins in Phnom Penh, and yet again the Petronas towers in KL.

One of my music arrangers updates us with his London holiday, and the guy who fixes my laptop has been in Singapore since Monday for his birthday/Holy Week escape.

A fellow producer is currently in Bangkok on post-production, which will then be parlayed into a vacation till Easter. Something I did two years back with no small amount of pleasure.

Even Miguel, my redoubtable whipping boy, has hopped on the last bus to Batangas to return to the peace and quiet of the province.

But since Nena has also headed there on a separate journey, luck will dictate if they'll cross paths and Nena will give Miguel our traditional Holy Week flaying.

I, on the other hand, will be home.




Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Celeste Aida

The Triumphal March aka The Graduation March from Verdi's Aida.
This of all tunes should sound familiar to anyone who's ever graduated high school.

We spent the night at the opera last night.

Well, not exactly, but close enough. 

Quite by chance, I managed to stumble across a one-night only listing for an HD screening of Verdi's Aida at the CCP's Bulwagang Gantimpala. Starved by the summer hiatus (the next big event at CCP will be the stage version of Dirty Dancing, which won't happen until July), I was eager to see Verdi's classic, my interest piqued by the novelty of watching it in HD and curious to see how lavishly the Met - that apotheosis of New York arts & culture - would stage it.

And so it was that my young date and I found ourselves amid a chi chi - if modest -gathering of predominantly old people last night, who looked at him with a mixture of pleasant delight and bemusement. The clear demographics of the crowd seemed to confirm the stereotypes that opera is 1.) only for the rich, and 2.) only for the old.

Neither of which my date and I were.

  Sing it, girl.

It was a very telling overture to the gist of what CCP VP and Artistic DIrector Chris Millado would say in his opening remarks, just before the screening. Opera is an artistic endeavour that some consider the pinnacle of musical expression. As such, opera is also the Everest of expense when it comes to staging and production. As Millado jokingly pointed out, an opera ticket to the Met would cost you Euro 50.00 or $25.00 - while the tickets to that night's screening at the CCP set me back a paltry P500.00* each. And on a less hilarious note, Millado also pointed out the sad fact that ticket sales contribute less than 50% to a show's take, which is why the arts - the performing arts, in particular - are perennially in need of corporate sponsors and private benefactors, much more than public support.

The night's presentation of the The Metropolitan's Aida in HD was, in fact, the first in a series of opera screenings that the CCP has embarked upon. An effort, as Millado remarked, to bring opera to a new and different kind of audience. A younger audience, it went without saying. A new generation that will hopefully support, not just the CCP, but artistic productions and art in general.

"I'm sorry that you/Seem to be confused/
He belongs to me/The boy is mine."

Speaking of that new target audience, I was afraid my 25-year old would be catatonic throughout the 3.5-hour screening, but remembered that we weren't strapped into Wagner** and his epic 24-hour snorefests. And quelle, quelle surprise! The kid actually got into the story (admittedly, I had given him the Cliff's Notes beforehand that Aida was basically your standard bizarre love triangle - but with more singing.) Presently, he was enthusiastically clapping after the bravura performances of the stellar cast led by Ukrainian diva Liudmyla Monastyrska as the Ethiopian princess/slave Aida; Russian diva and Met regular Olga Borodina as the vengeful Egyptian princess Amneris; and Italian tenor Roberto Alagna as Radam├ęs, the Egyptian general who stole both women's hearts. 

"What can I say? Bitches love a man in uniform."

It did feel kind of weird to applaud a screening, especially when no one else in the theater seemed to. But it also felt weird not to, especially after witnessing such excellent, moving performances. So we settled for a little compromise and kept our applause to teensy-weensy claps at lap level.

There were some bonus backstage footage of the Met during the three intermissions, hosted by Met soprano Renee Fleming, which kept me in a dilemma: should I relieve my bladder or should I stay and watch the magic behind the scenes? Instead of a quick leak, I opted for the sneak peek at the workings of the magical Met machine, and was handsomely rewarded with trivia, interviews with the cast, and an insider look at the clockwork efficiency of the Met's stage management.

We left The Met's Aida in HD almost as satisfied as we might have been had we been elbow-to-elbow with New York's culturati

I wish CCP well regarding this new attempt to bring opera to a broader audience, and am looking forward to their next opera screening: Rigoletto in April.

Till then, let the fat ladies keep on singing.

Spoiler: the star-crossed lovers die, entombed alive beneath the temple.
What? Did you think it was gonna be a happy ending?


*P250.00 for students. So there.

**Aida was initially offered to Verdi's rival Wagner, who rejected it presumably because 3 hours was too short for him. Wagner doesn't get out of bed to write operas that run for less than 12 hours.

I kid, I kid.

Monday, March 18, 2013

United Nations of Porn

What are the top searches for porn per country?

If you've ever wondered, well, wonder no more.

PornMD has thoughtfully provided an interactive porn habits infographic that breaks down the Top 10 internet porn searchwords per country.

Naturally, you'd be wondering what the Philippines has been looking for online :

Click to embiggen.

What does it say about us that 5 out of 10 searches were gay-related?

But that doesn't make us win the Miss Gay Country crown, not by a long shot.

As usual, it's South America that takes the prize, with Chile as the first runner-up:

9 out of 10. Not bad. But not good enough.

And taking home the crown - Peru :

                                                                        A perfect gay 10!

And on that note, here's Trekkie Monster from Avenue Q, with that delightful ditty celebrating the wonders of the internet.

Which is for porn, porn, poooorrrrrnnnn!!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Omen

So, I woke up the other morning around 3 a.m. and was startled to discover a swarm of black flies clinging to the wall beside the stairwell like a hideous, living curtain of filth.

One doesn't need to be a horror movie fan to picture all sorts of ominous meanings into the scene.

As you know, flies, like politicians, equal evil.

Mysterious swarms of flies signaled the malevolent presence in The Amityville Horror. As well as in Constantine, The Ring, Poltergeist, Drag Me To Hell, and See No Evil, among countless others.

Moreover, Beelzebub was the original Lord of The Flies.

Seth Brundle was just an honourable mention.

There were no open screens on the windows or doors that could've let such a massive number of flies in. Nor were there any visible corpses about that they could be swarming around. Instead, they just clung there, a black mass contrasting with the beige wall, while some of them buzzed around tentatively.

I grabbed a canister of Baygon and began chemical warfare on the foul creatures, watching them fall one by one from the wall.

Then I texted Nena.

"Good morning. Tell me I'm a paranoid,
 superstitious idiot."

"Good morning hahaha. Why? Did you
 walk under a ladder or a black gay cat
 crossed your high-heeled path?"

"Mmm. Early kanina I discovered a
 biblical swarm of flies in the stairwell.
 They weren't there when I crawled home
 at 2 and there are no open screens or
 rotting carcasses. At least none that I
 know of. Or will admit to."

"Ah, may dead and probably decayed
 rat somewhere in the house. For some
 reason the rat didn't smell while rotting
 but now the maggots are now flies and
 have found a way out. Obviously there
 is a hole near your staircase. Thus 
the flies.Other than that,
Vince must be sending you 
his warmest regards."

Then I remembered.

Thanks to some rat poison, we had finally gotten the best of the very smart, very aged, and very disgusting rat that had long been bedeviling our kitchen. But as his final act of vengeance, he had refused to crawl toward the light as the packaging had promised, and instead steadfastly met his doom in between the walls where we could not extricate him.

Thanks, Dora!

The kitchen smelled of that distinct odor of dead rat for a day or so, and after that I had given the matter no more thought.

I love it when Reason trumps Superstition.

Although Vincent is still the devil.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hello, Young Lovers

For Desole Boy, and others who have not yet taken the leap of romantic love.

"It is also good to love; because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being; that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love; it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, is-: solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. 

Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent-?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves ("to hearken and to hammer day and night"), may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough.

But this is what young people are so often and so disastrously wrong in doing: they (who by their very nature are impatient) fling themselves at each other when love takes hold of them, they scatter themselves, just as they are, in all their messiness, disorder, bewilderment...: And what can happen then? What can life do with this heap of half-broken things that they call their communion and that they would like to call their happiness, if that were possible, and their future?

And so each of them loses himself for the sake of the other person, and loses the other, and many others who still wanted to come. And loses the vast distances and possibilities, gives up the approaching and fleeing of gentle, prescient Things in exchange for an unfruitful confusion, out of which nothing more can come; nothing but a bit of disgust, disappointment, and poverty, and the escape into one of the many conventions that have been put up in great numbers like public shelters on this most dangerous road. No area of human experience is so extensively provided with conventions as this one is: there are life-preservers of the most varied invention, boats and water wings; society has been able to create refuges of every sort, for since it preferred to take love-life as an amusement, it also had to give it an easy form, cheap, safe, and sure, as public amusements are.

It is true that many young people who love falsely, i.e., simply surrendering themselves and giving up their solitude (the average person will of course always go on doing that -), feel oppressed by their failure and want to make the situation they have landed in livable and fruitful in their own, personal way. For their nature tells them that the questions of love, even more than everything else that is important, cannot be resolved publicly and according to this or that agreement; that they are questions, intimate questions from one human being to another, which in any case require a new, special, wholly personal answer -.

But how can they, they who have already flung themselves together and can no longer tell whose outlines are whose, who thus no longer possess anything of their own, how can they find a way out of themselves, out of the depths of their already buried solitude?

They act out of mutual helplessness, and then if, with the best of intentions, they try to escape the convention that is approaching them (marriage, for example), they fall into the clutches of some less obvious but just as deadly conventional solution. For then everything around them is - convention. Whenever people act out of a prematurely fused, muddy communion, every action is conventional: every relation that such confusion leads to has its own convention, however unusual (i.e. in the ordinary sense immoral) it may be; even separating would be a conventional step, an impersonal, accidental decision without strength and without fruit."

- Rainier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Prayer For The Dying

On the last day of February, 19 people lost their lives in a hot-air balloon accident while floating high above Luxor, the burial grounds of Egypt's Pharaohs.

A tourist on another balloon managed to catch the doomed balloon's final moments, as it rose closer to the sun before bursting into flames and plummeting to the ground below.

This isn't an exercise in morbidity or gawking. If you care to watch the video, you can hear a woman in the other balloon weeping softly. More importantly, you can hear men calmly reciting prayers in Arabic.

A helpful translation I found online:

Bismillah : By the name of God
La Ilaha Illah Lah : There is no god but God
La hawla wa la qoata illa billah : There is no power nor ability except from God

What's the point of all this?

It's the strange and curious thing that I, an avowed agnostic, without understanding the words of the man's prayer for the dying, was nonetheless moved by it. That compassion for our fellow human beings, especially as we helplessly watch them meet their fates, transcends language, creed, and race.

As should all important things in life.