Saturday, December 31, 2005 A.D.
Making the Cut
Although not technically a holiday of obligation, my family always heard mass during New Year's Eve. Always a week after Christmas, the gospel reading had always consistently been about the circumcision of Christ. I've always been curious why this was so and whether the Church could have chosen another passage to coincide with the first day of the Gregorian calendar. I've since then realized that circumcision is a very symbolic rite of passage in the Jewish belief system (and in many others, in fact), but it's still not the most comfortable thing to think about, because honestly, I can't imagine being annually circumcised, even symbolically.

It could also be metaphorical, I think, in that we always symbolically lose something in the transition between years. We get to start a new year clean (and a few ounces lighter), still smarting from loss. The metaphor falls short on one thing though, because as far as I know, it's not very probable for foreskin to grow back. This is a good thing though, because I really can't imagine getting circumcised more than once in my life. It is with regret that I realize that I just spent the last few minutes of 2005 talking about penises.

Happy New Year!

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Friday, December 30, 2005 A.D.
The Bleargh 2005 Compilation CD
With 2005 already coming to a close, I decided to put down a list of songs that really stood out for me this year. I initially thought about doing an album listing, but I have significantly cut down on my CD purchases for the year (ergo less CDs). The following songs have mostly been culled from radio and some are from the few albums I did buy this year (I'll try my best to arrange them by release date). Here we are:

Where Do We Begin (Mishka Adams, God Bless the Child) - Although I believe that this song was technically released last year, Candid Records did release a 'Special Edition' that included an additional four songs and a VCD within 2005. This edition features five songs that Mishka wrote (with a little help from her friend, guitarist/arranger Sammy Asuncion), which are the least jazzy songs on the album (being partly a covers album of jazz standards). 'Where Do We Begin,' the first single, is an instant favorite of mine, a lilting pop song at heart with a lovely melody. The song also features an excellent guitar solo by Sammy Asuncion.

Ang Pagkalas (Juan dela Cruz Band, single) - Recorded purposely for last June's reunion gig, this song finds the revered Pinoy Rock trio in fine form. This driving blues rocker is every bit a JdC classic. Pepe Smith is no doubt responsible for the casually thrown-together but witty lyrics that he delivers with a persistent slur while Mike Hanopol adds timeless OPM flourish to the sing-along chorus with his recognizable raspy voice. Lastly, Wally Gonzalez ably handles the instrumentation with powerful rawk guitars, backed by a superb band (including bass virtuoso Dondi Ledesma), alternating between verses, charged choruses, a guitar solo, and a brilliant intro/outro figure that won't sound out of place on a Rush song. Unfortunately, this wasn't released to the general public.

Helena (My Chemical Romance, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge) - A song that helped make MCR one of the most successful breakthrough acts of this year (although the album was released in 2004). Despite not really being a fan of the genre, this song already caught my attention with its immediateness - machine gun verses versus a melodic chorus and a freak-out midsection. Singer Gerard Way wrote this song for his grandmother after she died. The song didn't exactly resonate with me until my own grandmother died, and I found it unfair that Gerard Way could write a song and I couldn't. I found it more unfair that this song made him rich and famous.

We are All on Drugs (Weezer, Make Believe) - How can you not love this song for the title alone? Although chiefly a tongue-in-cheek anti-drug song, this pop-rock gem inadvertently became something of an anthem for drug use because of the catchy chorus. MTV had to ask singer and chief songwriter Rivers Cuomo to change the lyrics... hence 'We are All on Love.' Funnily, this song is one of the weirder ones to have been done by Weezer since those on their second album, Pinkerton, which, being deemed too inaccessible, almost ended their career in 1997. I did love it though, and the fact that this song is a hit only underscores my belief that Pinkerton was wrongly appreciated.

The Ordertaker (Parokya ni Edgar, Halina sa Parokya) - They're back, and they have definitely redeemed themselves from that foul Rexona jingle with this one. Essentially a spoof of System of a Down's Toxicity and Chop Suey, the band find themselves in familiar territory by singing about food once again. They're not exceptionally gifted at playing their instruments or with songwriting, and you you can even call them formulaic, but nobody can deny their brilliance at reinventing themselves within the same formula. Admittedly though, it's a very good formula, one that appeals both to pop radio and to rock fans, but also one that lesser artists would have found very constricting.

Production Number (Itchyworms, Noontime Show) - I have to admit that I wouldn't have picked up this album if I didn't know these guys personally, but Noontime Show is proof that pop doesn't have to be necessarily evil. It's certainly an ambitious project, being a concept album that stands as a critique, ironically, to popular culture and mass media. Who are they kidding though? They evidently love pop and noontime shows. They also definitely watch them, as Production Number will attest - a 10-minute-something song that parodies the ridiculous TV fare that the network variety shows churn out. As an album closer, it's difficult to top one that makes a medley not only of the album's better songs (sung by mock actions stars and off-key artistas) but of songs written specifically to lampoon phenomena as diverse as boy bands, showbands, April Boy, Lito Camo, and Asianovela themes, among others.

The Suffering (Coheed and Cambria, Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness) - Although considered prog and emo, all of CoCa's hits are short, sunny rock songs that sound almost like pop-punk sung by an alterna-chick. It's easy to confuse them with another superb band, The Mars Volta, since both have very prog leanings and feature singers with Latino names, high-pitched voices and big afros. Unlike The Mars Volta, who tend to be more psychedelic and mysterious, CoCa come off as very likable chaps who revel in their geekness (their songs tell a continuing story involving two characters, aptly named Coheed and Cambria, who figure in a sci-fi epic being told in a span of four albums). The Suffering is a cleverly crafted song, which, despite the title, does not at all describe listening to Coldplay. The lyrics, though, are something I have yet to make sense of.

One Way Ticket (The Darkness, One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back) - UK's The Darkness, purveyors of 'rock-based music of exceptional quality,' have come back with a second album that takes off from their excellent 2003 album. The difference this time is that they have a much bigger budget, and they clearly spared no cent in recording this one. The rock n' roll hooks are back, polished with everything we hate to love about 80s cock rock. This first single alone features a pan flute intro, a sitar solo, a continuous cowbell track and all the nuances that made their first album a hit, particularly the urgent AC/DC riffing and Justin Hawkins's undeniable falsetto. It also features what can be the biggest chorus of the year with the smartest dumb lyrics on the planet.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005 A.D.
A Lumpy Update
My post-holiday workout turned out to be something interesting enough to be writing about, apparently. I stepped into the free weights area and my eyes instantly wandered into a ginormous person who resembled a carabao that's been made to stand on its hind legs. He looked like the bastard child of an upended chocolate hill, a mutant ninja turtle and a bank vault (threesome!). That he was huge wasn't the most noticeable thing about him though, because I've seen my share of bodybuilders... it's that he was exceptionally large above the waist while his legs weren't that developed in proportion. I think his arms were heftier than his legs while his head seemed as if it was buried in a pile of inflated lumps. It was amusing but scary at the same time to realize that it's humanly possible to end up as a grotesque mass of muscle and have it considered as something like a peak achievement.

Speaking of inflated lumps, I found out today that Kiana Reeves also works out at the same gym as I do. She came in right about the time that the upright carabao left. She wore a spandex bodysuit and her presence was one that demanded immediate attention (she's a professional after all), but one that didn't really hold the attention it demanded that long once recognition sets in. Yes, she did have inflated lumps, as if Christmas hams have been strapped to her chest (albeit hams that ended up a couple of ribs lower than expected). It's another celebrity encounter that I can eventually tell my grandchildren about, no doubt. I left the free weights area to cool down and found that the movie that was playing on the large screen was - ironically enough - Constantine.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005 A.D.
Happy Birthday Crish
I revel in the fact that I get more birthday gifts than you do.

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Jesus wasn't Born 2,005 Years Ago Today
We have to consider human capacity for error for a moment and realize that ascertaining that exact date would be close to impossible. You wouldn't take note of a carpenter's son's birth, especially not when he was born during an emergency stopover. Besides, that took place long before accurate calendar systems were in place.

For all intents and purposes, Christmas day is really symbolic, as most canon truths really are in whatever belief system, and that is a wonderful thing. It's also very human - we always revere those that we consider sacred in such a way that we often disregard the earthly aspects surrounding them. While it would certainly be infinitely better if we all understood the symbolic truths behind it, being ignorant about them shouldn't really stop us from enjoying the occasion. Christmas has practically evolved into a secular holiday that's celebrated by most of the civilized world. We all want to celebrate and be happy, and Christmas is a good time to be doing that. That's also human, and that's very appropriate in this regard because, most importantly, Jesus was.

Merry Christmas!

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Friday, December 23, 2005 A.D.
Christmas Conscience
Yes, it's the season where the street children have seemingly increased exponentially but it's not a good enough reason for anyone to suddenly develop a social conscience. Giving joy, in this case, would be like giving a yearly shot of morphine to a cancer patient - it's always welcome, but it wouldn't achieve anything significant in the long run, even if giving led to a somewhat good feeling after. You can make it matter more through other ways, and Christmas, despite being convenient, isn't really the only time to want to make someone else happy.

With this said, I am letting it be known that I am already accepting gifts.

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Happy Birthday Edgar
I know that you get disappointed when people give you just one gift for your birthday and for Christmas. Because I hate disappointing people, I didn't get you anything.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005 A.D.
Happy Birthday Em
I'll keep this short, simple and sweet: this is already your birthday gift.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005 A.D.
Rum Cake is the New Fruitcake
Three boxes so far. I really love them, but I could use a good slab of fruitcake this year (alcoholic cakes are the best). I haven't eaten fruitcake since the time I lost my five extra nipples and the suspicious lumps in my breasts (which have also gone).

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Thursday, December 15, 2005 A.D.
V for Vendetta
It seemed like such a good idea when I read the newspaper this morning. Apparently, Virra Mall has re-opened and Toy Kingdom is holding hourly raffles for the day. It's my one chance to do my last minute Christmas shopping and maybe win a couple of prizes in doing so, I thought. I especially wanted the raffle prizes for 11am and 12pm.

I got there a little before lunch, thanks to the holiday traffic, so I hurriedly went to Toy Kingdom where I was instantly refused entry by the guard. He told me that only VIPs were allowed to shop there and that I should instead come back three hours later. None too pleased with the plodding traffic I endured, I snapped at the guard (who I knew was only doing his job). I told him loudly (and within the hearing range of several VIPs with their children) that they shouldn't have placed the misleading ads in the newspapers to begin with.

Virra Mall is gone, by the way, because the structure that has replaced Virra Mall is now called VMall. The new name probably sounded hip and cool to the people who approved the name change (sadly, anyone who uses hip and cool as adjectives is probably not). The new name is hardly more interesting than the old one, I think: the V isn't exactly mysterious or exciting and VMall just sounds more impotent that Virra Mall.

I have to admit to having a severe bias regarding the renovation in the first place because I've always loved Virra Mall, even at its most dilapidated state prior to the renovation. I practically grew up with the shopping complex, a virtual witness to its evolution. Maybe it held a certain degree of nostalgia, but Virra Mall for me was one of the last shopping centers that hadn't yet been infected by the prevalent super-mall culture. It was definitely one of the last malls that exuded a more personal feel, similar to all my favorite shopping districts in the region (we evidently have more super-malls per person in the Philippines than elsewhere in Asia). Virra Mall, described by my philosophy teacher as a good example of post-modernism, was for me symbolic of a way of life that hadn't yet been gobbled up by modern macro-business practices.

To put it bluntly, I have reservations about VMall, name change and all, because Virra Mall has transformed into an SM Supermall (but without the department store), and we're pretty much overrun with SM Supermalls as it is.

Yes, I'm still pissed at the guard for not letting me finish my Christmas shopping today. I still needed to complete my Christmas list though, so I went ahead to the next logical place to shop - Toy Kingdom Megamall... case in point that I'm merely a sour-graping Scrooge with a grudge.

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Monday, December 12, 2005 A.D.
Coming Out of the Glove
I've always thought of myself as a lefty before I realized that I simply didn't care about hand orientations on the subconscious level. I've always written with my left for as long as I can remember, although I believe that I did so simply because I picked up my first writing instrument with my left hand and all my teachers after that simply assumed that I wrote with it naturally. Until high school, I wasn't even aware of the proper way of eating with a spoon and fork. Like my first writing instrument, I simply used them depending on which hand picked which utensil first (although I've always used my right for knives and chopsticks). I can use either hand with a mouse. I use scissors with my right hand, as with screwdrivers, even if I use practically all other tools with my left. I also forced myself to learn guitar with the standard right-hand orientation (losing all hope of ever playing like Paul McCartney). I wish I can call myself ambidextrous, but it's quite obvious that I'm far from being equally skilled with both hands. Ambidexterity entails the even dominance of both sides regarding motor skills while I simply have a lack of dominance between them. I'm not ambidextrous, I'm homodextrous. My brain hemispheres have unresolved issues and are clearly confused. Please don't tell my dad.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005 A.D.
Lost in the Supermarket
Although the only clues I get are the mall decorations, Christmas is indeed fast approaching. One good thing about having flexible work hours is that I get more time for Christmas shopping. The not-so-good thing, however, is that I still have bills to pay, and if you were actually expecting something from me on the 25th, then you have my permission to break off our friendship before then. Please be reminded that Christmas isn't all about giving each other gifts but about paying each other's bills. That's what the fat guy in red wanted, really.

Since I had very little to go on in terms of a budget, I decided to do my Christmas snooping not in fancy stores with unpronounceable names but in the supermarket nearest my house (I visit the place with my mom every two weeks or so anyway). Here are some of the stuff I found interesting:

Gummy Mega Foot - I seriously think that candymakers are a very troubled bunch. With endless possibilities where virtually anything can be represented in gummy form, we get a foot. Luckily, the Gummy Mega Foot is really just shaped like a two-dimensional footprint, sparing us the gritty anatomical details of an actual foot. It's still unsettling though, that the footprint is roughly life sized (female size 6-7, I'm guessing). You can taste natural and artificial fruity flavors while practicing your toe-sucking skills. It's tempting to deduce that candy manufacturers are actually teaching little children to develop fetishes and sexual deviancy, but that's simply unbelievable (cue next entry).

Gummy Handcuffs - Taste natural and artificial fruity flavors while honing your S&M skills. Whatever happened to the old practice of not playing with one's food? The nice thing about gummy handcuffs is that you can actually stretch the cuffs to wear around your wrists. It begs the question though: why would you want to do that? The manufacturers are probably working under the assumption that kids these days have somehow already developed basic sexual deviancy by licking enough Gummy Mega Feet and that an aptitude for S&M would come in handy next to their foot fetishes. I'm probably reading more to this, of course. Maybe the candymakers simply wanted to market a gummy policeman dress-up kit, except that guns are now considered unfit for children and batons can appear somewhat phallic in gummy form, leaving them only with the Gummy Handcuffs in the end.

Bulawin Action Figures - M is one letter away from B on the normal keyboard, but be assured that I didn't type the product name incorrectly. These are authentic Bulawin action figures, and like most of the world's little plastic men, these are made in China. There are five figures pictured on the card back, and believe it or not, these figures even have one variant each (for those untrained in the language of geek, variants are generally the versions that you can't ask your mom to get you). I got Phoenix and Andromeda (labeled Anoromeoa on the blister). I also found a Phoenix 'black cloth version,' but I decided to just get the regular version because I honestly don't think that the 'black cloth version' is going to be more valuable in the future. The package has a sticker that says 'TRY ME LIGHT UP' and a tab is cut into the cardback so you can actually stick your finger in and press a button to presumably light the character up (I did that and got nothing). The card art also has the following phrases written: 'SUPER COLLECTION All 10 Types!' 'NEW ARRIVAL' and 'Collect them all.' I didn't know if the Bulawin brand was knock-off of the more popular Mulawin GMA property so I googled it, finding nothing that implies the anime-ish characters on the card. I instead found out that Bulawin is, weirdly enough, a not so uncommon Filipino name. One of the very first results even led to Richard Merk's homepage (i.e. Richard Bulawin Merk, the Philippines' Prince of Jazz). The figures have a couple of accessories, mainly snap-on armor pieces. It's nothing that would excite children much, and I think they could have done a better job if they engineered these toys so that they can be put together to form a 12" Richard Merk. I know I'd buy that in a second.

(UPDATE: I have confimed that these figures are knock-offs of Saint Seiya, an anime series popular in Europe.)

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