Friday, November 30, 2007

All the news that isn't fit to print

Today is a national holiday in the Philippines. Banks, offices, schools are closed. Families are together (or apart) travelling, sleeping in late, preparing for the xmas holidays, shopping, going to the carnival, or just taking time to breathe. The holiday celebrates a national hero, one Andres Bonifacio. The only image I have of AB is of him rousing his troops against the Spanish, decked in a white shirt, red pants, and wearing the red bandana tied around his neck. His arm is raised, his face distorted by his call to arms. I am sadly deficient in AB lore, which I will attempt to change by reading up on him today.

Mr. Bonifacio may have been watching the Philippines from wherever soulful state he is in, wondering what the heck was happening. Most people will probably need this three day weekend to recover from all the minor and major shocks to their system. Some more than others.

In the week of November 26, 2007, we experienced a series of environmental and political shocks. Some have died due to them, and others merely damaged. Let's start with the weather.

A week before this, typhoon Lando hit the central Visayas, causing damage in Cebu. A friend said it was as bad as the effect of typhoon Milenyo last year to Manila. No lights, no water, the city was hit hard. Lando moved west, heading out towards the South China Sea.

In came Mina. She was already a big one, a supertyphoon, and so strong in her advance that up to a million people in the province of Bicol were evacuated. She blew in, and guess who came back to join her? Lando. Yup, he couldn't resist her charms, so he turned around and surged back around the southern islands of Luzon while Mina tore through the eastern part of the island. While those two were getting cosy with one another, a third low pressure system called Nonoy was giving these two a lookieloo, maybe checking Mina out, deciding if Lando was worth taking on. He hovered around the southeast of the country, but was expected to come on board soon. With these three dancing about, the country was sort of like a sponge for rain and wind. Most parts were under some dark cloud, nights were chilly, and generally everyone's mood was the opposite of blithe.

In times like these, the national weather bureau, whom we pinoys know as Pagasa (in tagalog pagasa means hope. Calling the weather bureau by that name perhaps ammeliorates the annoyance of their miscast weather warnings. I'm guessing.), begins posting typhoon signals. Most of the Visayas had been under signal 2 or 3 with Lando, and then Mina was definitely a sure shot for a 3 if not higher. Manila and the rest of the capital region expected to be under 1 or 2 if things got really crazy, but we stayed hovered under no signal even though the outside weather was looking grey and mean.

By Tuesday night, Mina was tearing up the eastern seaboard, Lando was in Mindoro, and we were all battening down the hatches. That afternoon at 5 pm, an announcement went out that elementary levels would be suspended on Wednesday. Which was sort of strange. Because Pagasa had only hoisted signal number 1, which as the lowest signal warning meant that only pre-school classes were down for the count. All these announcements were sent out by the media, which gets their news about such stuff from the Department of Education. So happy kids cheered at the thought of no school for a day. I'm sure those with tests danced a jig of joy.

Watching the news around 8 pm, I hear the announcer state that they were retracting the news about all elementary levels were cancelled, and emphasized that only pre-school kids get the day off. ARGH. I start contacting our school's officials to check if they saw the same news, and find myself dealing with confused information and people unhappy with the thought of retracting the news. Eventually, we all agree that we have to wait for the 11 pm and 4 am Pagasa and Dept of Education announcement, and that commences a night of uneasy sleep. I check the news online at least every two hours, and keep a watch on my cell. The final word comes down from on high and it's final, there will be classes on Wed. Throughout the day, it feels like everyone is sluggish, the kids and parents drag themselves in, cursing (with camel fleas) the ineptitude of the govt and weather bureau, and on a remarkably sunny day (wither Mina and Lando?), we all just dig in to what work has in store.

I realize at this point that there is a missing piece to the story. We were hit by another natural force, on Tuesday afternoon, a 6.0+ earthquake hit the city. We were all shaken and stirred, but luckily the epicenter was far enough not to cause major damage. For the moment it struck, I wondered why I was slipping down my chair, but realized that it was not due to the need to reach for chocolate in my bag.

So as we reach Thursday morning, the count is 3 typhoons, 1 earthquake. The final stage is set.

It starts pouring buckets Wednesday night. Pounding on the galvanized rooftops, and definitely keeping many bleary eyed folks awake. Thursday arrives all grey and rainy. No winds though, but traffic soon congeals into a bigger mess; one of my staff gets stuck for 4 hours, so I share my appreciation for her guts in staying the course and coming in anyway. Poor kid.

As I'm preparing to leave at 11:30 for a trip, rumors of a manmade mess comes in. A recently elected senator who was involved in a military botched uprising 3 years ago at a hotel has walked out of his ongoing court case and manages to sway his peons to join him in another attempt to make himself heard. We hear he is amassing his supporters, and most, if not all, are in the military. Parents call in, asking to pull their kids out of class early, and we inform administration to prepare for the worst. I leave to catch my flight, and by the time I land on another shore, I find out that the putsch has failed again, with considerable damage to one of my favorite retreats in the city, the Peninsula hotel. Sorrowful tv shots of the damaged door and lobby, teargas streaming through the space and up to the second floor. The government troops have rounded up the rebels, the leaders caught once again. What may be the perfect subtitle to all this is the CNN announcers review of all that was happening on Breaking News, that he "wasn't quite sure what was going on" because that's exactly how many of us feel about the neverending dramas that occur in the Philippines. And I am relatively safe by being far away, out of reach, appreciating chilly weather.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Eye candy

A friend is going to Switzerland next year for Euro2008. She was quite disappointed recently hearing the results of elimination games, England lost to Croatia, and Ukraine is out of competition too. She had hopes of seeing some of her favorite male football players in play, plus one who she was ready to boo and heckle. But none of them will be around. At least she will have the boys of Italy and a few favorites in the Portugal team to look out for.

She mused that if she had the power to build a stable of studs, most of them would be football players. She grudgingly agreed to consider some of the manly attributes of the french rugby team, famous for their Dieux de Stade calendars.

As we ran through her list, I wondered who I'd have in this fantasy island? I have favorite football players too, but considering how large their egos are, I don't know if I'd appreciate their other attributes. Not unless they are muzzled. So I have a shortlist of possible droolishious men for that isle:

* Canavarro of the winning Italian Team at last year's World Cup. For his bod.
* Neil Gaiman, writer, for his hair.
* Viggo Mortensen, actor, for those gorgeous eyes, and yes, the bod too.
* J. Denk, classical pianist and blogger, for writing a comparison between a rice twinkie and Beethoven. Got to have some sort of artistic/intelligent conversation while enjoying the view. Don't know if he's cute, but he can write and tinkle the ivories in the dark corner if he's not.
* Mario Batali. He's not cute, unless you want wheezy red heads, but the man can cook!
* There's a guy on some DIY/Home renovation show, has the looks of a greek god (no, not that shrimpy designer on Oprah), but whose name I can't remember. Anyway him, so he can build the stable, plus keep the island in some order.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Not shopping

US clothing mega-franchise The Gap is open in Trinoma. Cheesy giveaways for buying an item included getting a Gap bumper sticker, EH????

Perusing the items on offer, why in all of tropical climates would stores sell wool jackets, and fur-lined gloves in the Philippines??? More than half the items are better suited towards those freezing their bitukas north of the border.

With the eventual opening of Banana Republic in Greenbelt 5, I think I had best wait till March before checking out warmer clime wear.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"What's that mountain goat doing at this altitude?"

Companies have tag lines. Famous ones like Nike ("just do it") are easy to remember. Some marketing genius (or lucky duck) found something, it stuck and people recall not just the name or brand, but also the motto. It's intrinsic to the brand in many cases, just as famous as their symbol.

Schools, likewise, have slogans or something to heighten the drama. Not many are memorable, I doubt many of us remember our high school's slogan if there was one. I can remember my old school's colors (green and yellow), or my college mascot (partly because it was so weird, like some blue gumby creature). But I can't rattle my grey cells for the slogans of either. A vague memory of "something et veritas" rises from the sludge when I try to focus on our old school seal. What was very clear was the noble profile of our Native American, when we were still known as the Indians. Unfortunately the Politically Correct factions got to it and now they have some weird animal instead. I think when the animal rights folks start demanding that animals shouldn't be used for mascots we'll end up back to human images again. Or maybe inanimate items. The Chicago Bulls might end up as the Chicago Great Lakes.

Anyway, what about humans? We have names, but very few people can say they have a slogan. A few supermodels have been called The Body (Elle McPherson), and you might recall some sports figures for special moments (Diego Maradona, Hand of God). But if you're the average joe/jane, what slogan would you use? Something pithy? In Latin if you feel a bit snobby? It could be like avatars, which are so popular in this day of tech and animation. So here's your challenge, think of a slogan that might epitomize you. Post it in the comments. No rules, no restrictions. Crass, poetic, whatever.

By the way, the title of the post is something I've used as a "slogan" - rephrased from a Far Side cartoon.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The nose knows

Of the 5 senses (sight, taste, touch, smell, hearing), my sight is downright dismal, my taste is normal as far as I can tell, hearing is still decent so long as I don't overuse my earphones, touch still up to snuff, but smell, oh my. I can sniff out cigarette smoke that no one else notices, pick out a lack of natural perfume in a rose, and can remember someone by their smell.

I have memories revolving around aromas or stenches. Going to a multi-race school, we had our share of people from all over the world with their own cultural perspective on cleanliness. One day playing soccer, I accidentally rushed a classmate from the Middle East. I don't know if I hit him, but recall the horror realizing that my hand smelled of BO. I had to take a break and wash it with soap and water; could still sniff it out some hours later, that's how bad it was. It was on par with the intense, oily odor of my 2 day roommate during a conference in Philadelphia; she was from a small Western African country, and I had serious breathing problems after the first night we shared in the hotel. I also feared that the smell was settling into my own clothes, and was very grateful when at the next stop I had a single room to myself.

My sister's boyfriends soon learned that if they wanted to get on her family's good side, they would have to contend with a younger sister who was forced to chaperone them on certain events. Imagine being dragged out from doing what you want to do just because your mother/father said "go with your sister and that boy. Make sure nothing happens." ARRGGGH. The boys in question soon learned that I would put in a positive vote if they had nice smelling cars, didn't smoke (at least not around me), and brought roses that were naturally fragrant. Points removed for short stemmed wimpy flowers with not a note of perfume.

I once joked with friends about a date who had no smell. Which might be a good thing for the most part. But when someone smells more like, water? or air? it's a bit disconcerting. Makes me think he's something out of the book Perfume by Patrick Suskind. The main character is a murderer who has no smell and at the same time the most sophisticated sense of smell; the trait allows him to avoid detection, and his keen sense of what a perfume is made of makes him very rich. As for my date, you can't have any memories of a person without some sort of fleeting spectre of themselves attached via your nasal passages I think. Preferably a good smell, like chocolate!

There are cultural differences about cleanliness and body smells. On this interesting snippet from a book by Katherine Ashenburg, she writes about her research on the historical differences of washing, bathing, deodorants, hygiene, and ultimately smells. While she notes that modern day Americans are crazy about bathing and deodorant, former colleagues of mine would agree that we had our share of questionable American visitors, who we called "plucked from the gubat (forest)" for their insidious stink. The most notorious of recent years included one research fellow who wore the same pants every day for a month (we'd ask each other as we guided him from lecture to lecture when he'd ever change clothes). There was never a year that we didn't have at least one who we'd wish we could dunk in boiling hot water and a lot of soap.

Friday, November 16, 2007

No thanks, I MEAN IT!

Returned from an out of town conference full of well meaning people. But other than the interesting presentations, what may linger the longest was the rather annoying and intense pressure to join the group in their last night revelry. When someone says "I don't dance" or "No thank you, am not into dancing", wouldn't you just leave well enough alone? Why in all hell's bells would you continue to pester them? Was the person trying to pressure me deaf? Dumb? Insensitive? Or just plain stupid? Why continue and continue until I could barely hold myself from throwing my horrible glass of merlot at her face?

I will dance with friends, but last night was not a group of people I knew beyond a couple of hours acquantance. And being told to dance again and again is just not a nice way to spend an evening. If that woman ever ends up in Purgatory may she end up in the ring where no music reigns, and she's forced not to speak for the rest of her spiritual existence. Or persecuted by wasps saying "Dance! Dance!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Eavesdropping tidbits

Overheard at the theater (Music Museum, Into the Woods show):

"Act Two? There's an Act Two?" (methinks he was ready to head home)

"Couldn't understand the lyrics, it was like watching a British movie!" (Sorry, no subtitles)

"Did you hear about George Clooney and Fabio?" (Oy vey)

Distinct gasps when some onstage canoodling took place between two married characters. Yup, this is the Pinas.

"How tall was the Giant?" "Too tall to have on stage!" (Use your algebra/geometry lessons to figure it out.)

Into the Woods by New Voice Company

"There are giants in the sky, there are great big terrible giants in the sky..."
"Stay with me, the world is dark and wild..."
"Agony! That can cut like a knife..."

These are but some of the lyrics swirling in my head all through the weekend. Lyrics that come from the pen of Sondheim, from one of his most memorable musicals, Into the Woods. Over the weekend, the New Voice Company premiered their representation of the Sondheim/Lapine work, and here are a few highlights to look out for:

Great performances and voices:
- Menchu Lauchengco Yulo as the Baker's Wife. For a character who doesn't have her own name, she is the lynchpin in this cast. When another theater company showcased the play, Ms. Yulo portrayed the Witch, but she brings a wonderfully bright characterization to the BW. Her voice is pitch perfect, with the necessary frustration dealing with her husband, full of awe in her encounter with the Prince, and her no-nonsense approach towards getting the job done.

- Julia Abueva as Little Red Riding Hood. Blew me away from the first note. She might sound too perfect for a child, but no quibbling here. She's definitely one of the reasons to go see the show.

- Michael Williams as the Baker. I enjoyed him in this vehicle more than when I saw him in Cabaret two years ago. Maybe his role in the latter performance was too wimpy and whiny, but as the frustrated Baker, he seems exactly what was needed for the man on a quest. He sings several pieces, mainly with other cast members, but is never out of step. His voice is smooth and appealing. And when he sings with Cinderella, and the two younger cast members in perhaps my favorite of all ITW songs, "No one is alone", his longing and strength shine.

Here are my "awards" for the cast:

Hubba-hubba cast award goes to Joaquin Valdez as Jack. I see him reprising Westley in the Princess Bride; "milkboy, fetch me that pitcher!" "As you wish." (evil grin)

Best bod has to be Lynn Sherman as the renewed Witch. Ms. Sherman's got amazing arms and shoulders. And she didn't do too shabbily singing "Stay with me", although she seemed a bit breathless doing the prologue. I missed the shiver down my spine when she sings Last Midnight. Could have used more oomph given what's happening on stage.

Most in need of a lip sync is unfortunately shared by Tommy Abuel as the Mysterious Man and whoever was stuck performing Red Riding Hood's Granny. Mr. Abuel only had to sing one song with oh, 5? ok 10 lines. But he's not a singer. Or those slightly off notes were not what I remember in the score. Er... As for Granny, she's barely in the show, she gets eaten and spewed out. But something went amiss in one of her singing/speaking lines and whatever words of wisdom she meant to impart was lost; the acids in the Wolf's stomach interfering with the wires!

Benefit of the doubt awards towards the Narrator (whose braces may be causing the noticeable lisp), and the slightly unprincely demeanor of the two princes. Jamie Wilson was happily leery as the Wolf, simply oily as Cinderella's Prince; while the other Prince has a receding hairline and looks more like he'd be better cast as a librarian. Could have used more hunky princes to make us believe Cinderella and Rapunzel would swoon into their arms.

Overally, there are more reasons to enjoy the show than not. I'm looking forward at another chance to catch the show.

(addendum: I saw a review of the play in a manila daily and I don't think the writer knows bubbly musicals from adam. Did he even listen to the words? There's more angst and philosophy in this play than most overacted soaps on tv!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kiehl's, Greenbelt 5

The new extension to Greenbelt is fast approaching completion. A few restaurants are open, and some clothing stores are in place. I'm looking forward to the first Banana Republic in Manila (at last!), but what truly made me jump for joy was finding the Kiehl's store. Kiehl's has a great collection of body, face, and hair products, I particularly love the lip balm, the body lotion, and when I swim a lot, the shampoo that clarifies against chlorine build up. Prices are set against the dollar, so it wasn't unbelievably unreasonable. Sort of what you'd expect to pay for imported items.

And as I was the only customer and the saleslady was ready to make a sale, she knew to throw in a sample or two of some things she felt I might like. I know a few friends who will be happy to see the store open at last. No more requests to friends heading to HK or the US for a few items.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The music man - part 3, Into the Woods

The Story: 4 fairy tales are intertwined around the theme of wish fulfillment and a quest through the woods. Cinderella goes into the woods to commune with her mother's spirit and is found throughout the play stumbling through it escaping from the Prince; Rapunzel's tower is there, her prison and refuge from the world, where the witch keeps a close eye on her to protect her prize from life; Jack heads into the woods to sell his cow Milky White, urged by his mother not to trade less than 5 pounds for the cow; and Little Red Riding Hood sallies forth to pay a visit to her grandmother, and encounters her nemesis. The only undefined fairy tale is the story of the Baker and his wife, but it is the genesis for most of the play.

When the play begins, the audience is faced with three sets, each one pointing towards one of the stories. As the long prologue is sung, we learn that Cinderella is suffering from the abuse of her stepmother and stepsisters and wishes to attend the King's Festival; her stepmother torments her by promising to let her attend the festival if she manages to pick the lentils from the ashes. For those who only know the Cinderella story based on the Disney cartoon, I highly recommend reading the older versions of the fairy tale, the gorier version with eyeballs pecked out, toes and heels cut off. There are no magical speaking/singing mice involved in the play. The middle set is for Jack and his mother; she calls him a fool, and thinks he's touched in the head. He's a bumbling, but kind fellow who loves his cow. These days, he might be considered something of an artisan, but in those days, well, he's just a boy with no social interaction other than a bovine. She tells him to sell the cow as they have nothing left to eat. The last set is for the Baker and his wife, who sing of their inability to have a child. They are interrupted by two visitors, the first is Red Riding Hood buying bread and sweets for her ailing grandma who lives down a long path through the woods. The second visitor is the witch, who tells the Baker and Baker's Wife why they have remained barren.

The Baker turns out to be the never heard of brother of Rapunzel. A long time ago, their father went into the witch's garden to get vegetables for his pregnant wife. He ravishes the garden taking all sorts of greens, and not being very neighborly about it either according to the witch. He also takes beans, magical beans. In return for his actions, the witch takes the baby, Rapunzel, away from the man and his wife, and curses them with infertility for the stolen beans. The curse continues through with the Baker and his wife, but the witch offers them a reprieve. Find her four items by the stroke of midnight three days hence and the curse will be lifted: a cow as white as milk, hair as yellow as corn, a gold slipper, and a cloak as red as blood. She orders them on their quest.

Throughout Act One, the stories converge, mishaps occur, Princes run after maidens or entice them down from their towers, the cow is sold, is lost, refound, reborn. Jack gets beans for the cow, the beans grow into a redwood size-stalk and he steals three treasures from a giant, who dies in pursuit of Jack. Cinderella attends 3 nights of the King's Festival, loses her slipper to a wily Prince and is made into a princess after her sisters are handicapped. Red Riding Hood is eaten by the Wolf, but saved by the Baker. Rapunzel is nearly lost to the world, but finds her prince, all of them babes in arms. The Baker and his wife lift the curse and the witch gets her groove back. All ends happily ever after.

In Act Two, (yes, Virginia, there is an Act Two) we see the same cast of characters, but happily ever after doesn't consider all the after effects of obtaining one's heart's desires. The Witch may be young and beautiful again, but has no powers. Rapunzel may have regained her Prince, but she seems to be a neurotic mess who wants her mommy. Cinderella can't find her footing in the castle, plus her family's decided to move in with her, sort of a hypocritical greek chorus, pandering to her every whim, while her Prince isn't around much, he's got a roving eye that one. Red Riding Hood, the Baker and wife, and Jack plus his mom (and the cow) are the first to find out directly that a Giant is out and about. Soon, life as they know it is in shambles, and everyone can't find a decent hiding place against the marauding giant. Lives are lost, and family bonds break apart. Eventually, the act is completed and satisfaction is achieved, they wish.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The music man - part 2, songs

There are a few Sondheim songs that I love, have a few versions playing on my ipod, and when in need of a song to sooth the soul, turn to. Here are is a shortlist:

Not a Day Goes By - my favorite version of this is sung by B. Peters in the tribute to Sondheim concert. Her call to lost love and the longing for someone who lingers as a painful memory is guttural, piercing, and haunting.

Could I Leave You - From Follies, it has a hysterical chorus close to the end, with an emphatic YES at the punch. One of his twisted love songs!

Everyday a little death - originally in A Little Night Music, along with my not so favorite clown song, this one gets a new lift in the revue Putting it Together. Hear the 1993 version with Julie Andrews, she's no longer Maria or Mary Poppins. She's a wife who has suffered and shares it with the younger gals. "Every move and every breath and you hardly feel a thing, brings a perfect little death."

Losing My Mind - Just one more painful love song, but full of seemingly mundane activity ("I dim the lights") intertwined with the repetitive line "I think about you" makes for a heartbreak song.

Another Hundred People - from Company, sung by Marta, the hip, New York girlfriend of the protagonist. The city is full, crowded, dirty, but fantastic. Sang at a pace you wonder where she takes a breath.

Art and music come together in It's Hot up Here, from Sunday in the Park with George. Sondheim studies the technique of painter George Seurat, and even if you have never seen the painting (or the musical), you know there's something underpinning the composition. Staccato = pointillism.

Perhaps Sondheim was in the mood to show the other side of Madame Butterfly when he created Pacific Overtures. Set in Japan at the time American naval ships entered Yokohama, it's a dissonant, sometimes atonal musical (Chrysanthemum Tea), with a few lyrical pieces I enjoy (Someone in a Tree, and Pretty Lady). According to the online write up, PacOvertures had the shortest run for a Tony Award's Best Musical.

Tomorrow is the premiere of New Voice Company's Into the Woods; I might post one more chapter about the songs from that particular musical (I have a few favorites there too), and highlight some plot twists, of the many that take place throughout Acts 1 and 2.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Segue within the genre

A colleague popped in this afternoon to get some forms fixed and somehow the topic of watching Into the Woods came up. He then told me about the worst musical show he had to suffer through recently. A Filipino-chinese community event showcased a history of the chinoys (chinese-pinoy), had a few relatively famous names attached to it, but was the most amateur production this side of the Pasig river. I couldn't stop laughing as he told me about the miserable 2 hours he had to sit through: the 15 kids who couldn't sing a note; the can-can line of firefighters (real volunteer firefighters) who looked befuddled as they hichkicked through a song; the technical problems including audio that was too loud and a spotlight that couldn't catch up with the performers. He desperately wanted to leave after the first 30 minutes but the production didn't include an intermission - maybe they knew that if they had one, they'd only have less than half their audience left. He muffled his giggling through the schmaltzy song numbers, but a few of the older audience members would throw him dagger looks when they heard him snorting in the back. He couldn't help but feel in the minority when at the finale, the venerable chinoys gave the cast a standing ovation. He just felt that it wasn't worth the several hundred pesos for a ticket! Perhaps it was karmic retribution for something in his recent past! lol

The music man - part 1 of ... a few parts

Does it feel like we're in the middle of an upsurge of musical theater? Avenue Q, Fiddler, now Into the Woods. It's good to see the local talents showing off their singing/dancing/acting chops. I enjoyed Avenue Q, and am looking forward to the New Voice performance of Into the Woods. Am not sure I'll watch Fiddler, even if a friend told me that about the guy playing the part of the Fiddler (a christian minister playing the part of a russian jew.... hmmm).

A friend wondered what Into the Woods was all about. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the show, since some people think it's a fairy tale, some people only know of the short one act version (the kiddie edition). And most have never heard about it. I'm not fully immersed in musical theater and can't spout the entire history of one genre over another, but having been brought up watching my share of broadway shows/musicals, here's a short intro and background brief on Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist of Into the Woods. The next post will probably about my favorite Sondheim songs, followed by a review of the musical after I watch it this weekend.

How do I begin to encapsulate in a few paragraphs the genius of Sondheim? Let me start by saying this: I hated "Send in the Clowns" and didn't think much of the composer for a long time till the late 90's. I remember hearing the seemingly ubiquitous Judy Collins version of the song in the 70's and 80's and found it sappy. Her voice was never one I liked, sort of like a comfy velvet sound mixed with hokey folk timbres. Bored me to tears. Years later, I heard other versions of the song sung by other singers, both popular and cabaret artists and realized the song had merits. And through copies of Sondheim revues like Putting it Together and Side by Side, I realized I knew a lot of his music but never related it to him.

It's been said (on countless reviews, websites, etc. Go ahead, google it!) that Sondheim is an acquired taste. I wholeheartedly agree. See above. Definitely not one for younger tastes unless the person can take the dissonant tones, sung over dialogues, jarring verbal imagery, sexually driven story lines, and an attitude that might be construed as very New York. Even his more sappy songs are not straightforward love songs, the words will usually have a twist, send a shiver of humor or discomfort down your back. And for the most part, he writes without trying to date the music to a particular era. Many of his musicals are considered cult favorites; they may have been flops when they were premiered, but given the growing interest in his music by the cognoscenti, new audiences are delighted with exploring his oeuvre. He may have the most number of revivals over the last 20 years, and very popular touring shows.

Consider Sondheim's compositions - they are paeans to Mozart, Ravel, Schoenberg, rap, operetta, Bach, Hammerstein, Gershwin. His lyrics are ambiguous, witty, and never amateur. Many of his best songs allow his female stars (Strich, Massel, Peters, LuPone, Lansbury, etc) to shine with raw emotion. They are not songs for ingenues, they speak to those age old learning moments of heartbreak, destruction, torment, delusional love. Even if you've never had to suffer as much as they have on stage, you're let in on the pathos of it all.

Is there an intro to Sondheim? I think most people know his songs even if they don't know it's a song he wrote or composed. Start with Send in the Clowns (although that still gives me pause), but realize that he wrote the songs to West Side Story and Gypsy, plus the songs from the movie Dick Tracy. I think the revues, Putting it Together, Side by Side, or one of the tribute concerts lets new listeners pick up a song or two to love, if not the entire list. Then take one or two opportunities to listen to more of the songs sung by different performers, and if there's time and interest, buy a ticket to Into the Woods, presented by New Voice Theater Company at the Music Museum in Greenhills this November till the first week of December. Here are some details for interested parties:

09, 16, 23 & 30 Nov and 07 Dec 2007 Friday 8pm
10, 17 & 24 November and 01 & 08 Dec 2007 Saturday 8pm

Ticket prices:
*Balcony Php 700
**Orchestra Side Php 900
***Orchestra Center Php 1200
Tickets are available through Ticketworld or contact the New Voice Company. Lorna Lopez, the Bachelor Girl, is also promoting the show, so check out details on her site.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Not on the menu

The recent thread in magazines and blogs seem to be about last meals. As mentioned in a recent post, famous chefs were asked what they'd have for their last meal, and a book about their intentions was given a spotlight in Time magazine. According to another website, there is a fellow who has documented the last meals of prisoners. In both cases, the theme is comfort food, food that one enjoyed in childhood, what makes us happy and brings back happy memories. Only a few asked for a grand feast, and not many went out on a limb for the strange or unusual (maybe in 20 to 30 years, we'll see requests for a citrus foam on fish noodles).

Since I'm in a somewhat devil's advocate kind of mood, I ask myself, not what I would have for my last meal, but what I would not want. Maybe that is a weird thing to state. Why would you consider things that you wouldn't want to eat at the last day of your life? But I still have a few days of life left (I hope), so this is my chance to state the ff had better not be within 100 feet of my last meal:

fried liver - could never stomach the smell or the taste of fried chicken livers. I like pate, and enjoy a good foie, but will pick out every bit of fried liver in pancit or anything that incorporates it.

ampalaya/bitter gourd - I doubt my mother will be at my deathbed forcing me to eat ampalaya ("it's good for you!"), but I sure hope no one else will try. I'm not the only one with an aversion to this vegetable. It speaks to the worst childhood meal memories for many. I'll haunt anyone who thinks this is something to add to my last meal menu; bonk you on the head with a large adult gourd.

boiled vegetables - perhaps, I should be more specific. Overboiled, sock smelling, no flavor boiled vegetables. There are too many beautiful greens and interesting ways to prepare them. Why would you cook them till the color's bled out and anything interesting is lost?

Bounty or any chocolate candy bar with coconut. I love coconut water, gata, and on some things, dessicated coconut is a necessity (bibingka, palitaw), but I hate the combination of milk chocolate and dessicated coconut. Or whatever they call the white stuff in that bar. And now that I think about it, I'd prefer no drugstore chocolate bars, or Whitman samplers. The sugar content will kill my teeth. I want my full set at death.

No cherry flavored or any fruit flavored liquers. They taste like medicine.

Marshmallow icing on a dry cake. Dry cake, blech. I want moist! I want flavor! and buttercream frosting!

And should I order any sushi/sashimi for that penultimate meal, please make sure the seafood is fresh. Wouldn't it be the ultimate bummer to have freeze dried fish or shrimp that barely has any flavor?

So those are several things I can imagine not wanting at the end. I wonder if a blog is sufficient legal writ for a will? Hmmmm

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies