Sunday, January 26, 2014

2014 Film #6: Frozen

Despite being set in the medieval age, Frozen is refreshingly very modern. It thumbs its nose at Disney conventions and does away with finding true love instantly after a long period of solitude or slumber.

Elsa, the Snow Queen, sets the tone of the animated feature after telling her sister Anna "You can't marry a man you just met." Clearly, Elsa is modern Disney royalty, and she bulldozes through this by being a queen instead of a princess, and not relying on a man to help her rule Arendelle. 

It is this message that makes Frozen a groundbreaking Disney film. After being saturated with classics where a princess is woken up by true love's kiss, often from a man who she hasn't met, or even seen, we see Frozen as a reflection of the time we live in. And it's nice that Disney is growing with the progress of equality and girl power. Here, we don't see damsels-in-distress. We see strong women capable of handling themselves, even the sweet and innocent Princess Anna has skills that would put Snow White to shame.

Frozen also revolutionizes Disney's concept of true love, by showing that true love can come in any form, and not necessarily in the form of a man. The film announces that women can run kingdoms on their own without Prince Charming and if he does arrive, it's going to take more than pretty eyelashes to make her sing A Whole New World.

It's obvious that Frozen is set to become a modern classic (there are already plans for a sing-along version and a Broadway musical), and to break every relationship rule it created. With this in mind, Let It Go has earned another meaning, another layer that is set to thaw our old beliefs.

Friday, January 24, 2014

2014 Book #2: Starck

We all know Philippe Starck as that guy who created the iconic Ghost chair. Its simple, transparent design was lauded as his attempt to democratize furniture and available for all, and for all I mean those who can afford to shell out $410 (or P17,000) for a single piece.

The iconic Ghost Chair

Beyond that, we have no idea what else Starck did. At least I didn't. I always thought he was simply a furniture designer, but this book by Taschen showed that he was so much more. Starck is a collection of his major projects in a career spanning three decades. The book reveals that beyond chairs, Starck designed houses, buildings, appliances, clothes, and even vehicles!

Starck began designing consumer goods when he realized that the items of his day had no "humor, love, or fancy." He identified the kind of things the people he would like to have as a friend to own and use. "Not necessarily beautiful objects, but good objects," he said. Good objects he called non-products for non-consumers, or people who are "alert and wary, but also open, creative, enthusiastic, and finally extremely upstream and modern."

A couch with a DVD player, projector, and speakers 

I wish I had a teddy bear like this!

Philippe Starck-designed office supplies would motivate me to go back to work 

Modern watches 

A partnership with Monnaie de Paris, the L'Ultimate Franc

What results is an amazing collection of items from French coins, Olympic torches, children's toys, and those beautiful, beautiful chairs.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2014 Films #4, #5: Carrie (1976), Carrie (2013)

When you have an adaptation as perfect as Brian De Palma's Carrie, it's hard to think of a reason why Hollywood needs to reboot it. But that's what Kimberly Peirce did last year, taking the iconic story of Stephen King's first novel Carrie and putting a modern spin to it. I'm sorry to say I did not like it.

Carrie was the first King book I read and sparked my love for the author. Seeing it on film for the first time was a great experience, made even greater by De Palma's masterful execution. Sissy Spacek as the titular character was so terrifying that it was as if the role was created just for her. Spacek's dedication to the role was so much that she insisted on actually being buried at the final scene, when Sue Snell paid her respects at the White house.

When news broke that a remake was set, I had my doubts. The first film was fantastic as it was, and there is little to improve. Still, I was excited because the book had a special place in my heart. I got around to watching it, and I was disappointed. First, it was casting Chloe Grace Moretz as Carrie. I like her, she's charming, but she doesn't quite capture Spacek's vulnerability, and later, anger. Her acting was controlled, unlike Spacek who was not afraid to get down, dirty, and ugly.

The Carrie remake was also not subtle, blatantly pointing out that Carrie is telekinetic. I guess it's the audience's lack of patience, but I appreciate how De Palma was understated, often implying to the lead's powers instead of shoving it in the viewer's faces. Those unfamiliar with the premise may wonder if she really is telekinetic.

What I do like about the remake is the compelling acting of Julianne Moore as Margaret White, Carrie's mother. Piper Laurie was scary but Moore gave a fresh take to the role of overzealous mother, and she clearly outshone Moretz. Sadly, this does not save the movie.

On its own, I think Peirce's version of Carrie is your typical blockbuster movie. But they did a great job for trying.

2014 Film #3: Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine is the latest opus of Woody Allen, and it does not disappoint. It stars the luminescent Cate Blanchett as Jasmine French (originally Jeanette Francis), a wealthy socialite who falls on hard times when her husband (played by Alec Baldwin) is discovered to have run a multi-million scam. Jasmine is forced to live with her sister and deal with life as an average human being.

Blue Jasmine is a beautiful portrayal of emotional breakdown and status-seeking. You want to get annoyed at Jasmine because she refuses to let go of her pride, but you also feel sorry for her and wish that she would succeed again. Like most Allen films, an existential thread runs throughout the film, and this time the question is: do we settle?

The writing is clever, but Blanchett brings Jasmine to life. Her acting is beautiful and subtle that I wish I could look like her when I break down. I loved the movie so much. I wish I could say the same for the movie poster.

Film #1: Kick-Ass
Film #2: Man of Steel

2014 Book #1: Flowers for Algernon

This book was given to me by my sister for Christmas, along with a copy of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho. Flowers for Algernon is a science fiction novel by Daniel Keyes, about Charlie, a mentally retarded man who participates in a groundbreaking experiment to make him intelligent. As he reaches genius levels, he is confronted with life's complexities such as morals, ethics, and the power of love.

What struck me the most about the book was its accurate portrayal of intelligence. Of course, Flowers for Algernon stresses that intelligence is not what one learns, but one's capacity to learn, and we see Charlie develop a hunger for knowledge, whether it is about language, economics, and architecture. However, we also see him develop a superior attitude, finding professors and teachers around him to be somewhat beneath him. Unfortunately, the rapid increase of his IQ left his EQ the same level before the experiment.

This quote from Alice Kinnian, Charlie's teacher at the special education classes he takes is one of my favorites: "Being with you has undermined my self-confidence. These days I can’t talk to you. All I can do is listen and nod my head and pretend I understand all about cultural variants, and neo-Boulean mathematics, and post-symbolic logic, and I feel more and more stupid, and when you leave the apartment, I have to stare in the mirror and scream at myself: ‘Not, you’re not growing duller every day! You’re not losing your intelligence! You’re not getting senile and dull-witted!"

Of course, Charlie acts the way he does because he is discovering the world for the first time. He is learning about life, the unwritten rules of society, and more importantly, himself. And when he discovers what truly matters, it is one of the most beautiful and poignant passages of the book.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bates Motel.

My addiction to American Horror Story has got me hooked on TV shows. Sure, I've seen my fair share of like Community and Sex and the City, but it was AHS that made me appreciate how TV has evolved into a sophisticated form of entertainment. Stories are well-developed, characters are nicely fleshed out, and producers are sparing no expense in special effects to make the small screen larger than life. Hello, Game of Thrones?

It took me a few weeks to watch all episodes of AHS, and now I'm branching out to other shows. I finally got around to watching the pilot episode of Bates Motel, the "modern prequel" to the classic film Psycho. It examines Norman Bates' life pre-Marion Crane, and takes a look at the events that made Norman who he is.

I've only seen the first episode but it is clear that his relationship with his mother is, from the start, quite disturbing.

It is this mother-son dynamic between Norman and Norma that I find most fascinating about Bates Motel. There's something disconcerting, almost incestuous, about a 17 year old boy telling his mother "you're everything to me, and I don't ever want to live in a world without you. You are my whole life, my whole self. It's like there's a cord between our hearts." I find this much creepier than the famous Norman Bates line "a boy's best friend is his mother."

The dialogue is a hint to Norman's dependence on his mother, but it's great to see how this was developed. Norma is domineering and he tries to break away, but she is a master at reverse psychology, using it to guilt Norman into doing what she wants. Naming Norman after her, after all, is a telling sign.

Freddie Highmore plays Norman, and his innocent nerd-boy appeal is a nice touch. There is no trace of the glint Anthony Perkins and Vince Vaughn had in the previous adaptations of the novel by Robert Bloch. As far as the pilot goes, he does not have any strange leanings, except for his unusual closeness to his mother. Vera Farmiga plays Norma (coincidentally, she is the older sister Taissa Farmiga, one of the leads of AHS), and she is able to subtly show Norma's idiosyncrasies.

I also liked how the producers remained faithful to the Bates Motel legend. The house and motel is exactly the same, and even the interiors of the house is a replica to the one in Alfred Hitchcock's film.

I'm ready to invest in Bates Motel. It's obvious that the writers, producers, and director put a lot of thought into it, dropping subtle hints as to what would happen in the future. The show is a great prequel to what scared millions of people through time.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

PETA closes 46th season with Rak of Aegis

Last night, I was at PETA for the press preview of Rak of Aegis, the theater company's closing production of its 46th season. The rock-comedy musical features the songs of Aegis, with original story by Liza Magtoto.

Aileen and Kenny (played here by Poppert Bernadas) talk about the YouTube video that would propel Aileen to stardom

Rak of Aegis is set in Villa Venizia (referencing Venice), a town recovering from a flood. The town is still submerged and local businesses are floundering, but the locals are getting by with the world-famous Filipino spirit. Aileen wants to change all that by uploading a video of herself singing, hoping Ellen would discover her and give her money. She instantly becomes a YouTube sensation, and the town capitalizes her singing prowess amidst the tragedy.

Isay Alvarez-Sena, Robert Sena, and Aicelle Santos give powerful powerful performances as Rak of Aegis' leads

The cast gave a 20 minute preview of the production and I was impressed. The three leads - Aicelle Santos as Aileen, Isay Alvarez-Sena as baranggay captain Mary Jane, and Robert Sena as Kiel, Aileen's father, gave strong performances that brought the house down. I particularly liked Robert Sena, whose powerful vocals almost overpowered the entire cast's. But his wife Isay Alvarez-Sena and Aicelle smoothly balanced that out, giving a fresh take to classic Aegis songs. Take note that Halik first came out in 1998!

 With choreography by Gio Gahol, who joined the press preview

Aicelle Santos performing Christmas Bonus, one of Aegis' greatest hits

Frankly, I am a new Aegis fan. Sure, I've heard of Halik, Ulan, and Luha, but I only got to appreciate the band last year when I realized their robust range and emotional lyrics that could cut through every cynic's heart. After the performance, Nikko and I agreed that the band deserves icon status because every Filipino knows at least one Aegis song, no matter their socioeconomic status. They may be masa, according to a Rappler writer who was there, but I think that the band has a universal appeal that makes them a guilty pleasure of everyone - bakya or sosyal. As proof, my brother knows Halik and Ulan even though he's part of the latter group. Leloi Arcete, who did the PR, also told me of a sosyal Scholastican friend who secretly asked how much tickets were, claiming she was a huge fan.

The cast of Rak of Aegis. Funny how the photo looks dramatic even if it was a candid shot 

 Class picture!

Myke Salomon (alternate to Kenny), director Maribel Legarda, playwright Liza Magtoto, and choreographer Gio Gahol entertain questions from the press

PETA was inspired to do Rak of Aegis after the company participated in post-Ondoy relief efforts through psycho-social debriefings in Binan, Laguna. Of course, the title is a twist on the Broadway musical Rock of Ages.

Rak of Aegis will premiere on January 31 and will run until March 9, with shows every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the PETA Theater (5, Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City). Tickets are now available at TicketWorld.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 goals.

The year 2013 has been a good one for me, and I'm eager to make 2014 even better. Now that I am resigning from my day job and pursuing life as a "freelance professional," I intend to make up for the missed opportunities that flew by the previous year.

To be frank, I'm scared of giving up the security of my day job. There's a certain peace in going to an office, bitching with officemates over overwhelming workloads, and getting paid twice a month. But this feeling of discontent is growing each day, and I feel that there are bigger things in store for me. I may be wrong, but I want to try and see what I can offer publishing.

Many people have resolutions, but I'd rather have goals. To me, resolutions are an after-thought, something people keep beside the lives they lead. It's not something people take seriously, which is probably why they fail. On the other hand, goals are something we consciously work for and try to achieve. And I want to work for it, I want to achieve it.

Lately, I've been getting the creative bug. Suddenly I want to create things. I've been restless in 2013, 2014 is about taking risks and doing what I want. It's a leap of faith, but a leap I have to take. I'm turning 25 this year and I don't want to wake up and be 50 - stuck in a day job and wondering... what if?

As days go by and doubts start creeping in, I just tell myself: just fucking do it.


1. Watch 100 movies. I've also been hit with the film bug, and I hope I could watch more this year. I want to expand my taste in film and discover more visionary filmmakers. One hundred this year seems reasonable, no?

2. Read 50 books. My attention span has severely diminished, and in effect, the number of books I read. I think my attention span has fizzled out because of the number of things I have to attend to every minute, but I hope the free time I'll have this year will keep me focused. Now it takes me days to finish a book; when I was a younger I could finish one novel a day (including the Harry Potter books). I think 50 this year is a safe bet. That would make it one book a week.

3. Write 10 stories. Many people do not know I write short stories. My stories deal with surrealist themes, and most have murder as a pivotal point. I stopped writing right around the time I started doing it for a living, but I hope I could still flex my creative muscles for a story or two. Ten stories a year means one per month, which sounds like enough time to flesh a simple fiction. I have something planned for these stories, which I will discuss below.

4. Control weight. Weight has always been an issue with me. I've struggled with eating disorders, failed attempts at the gym, and manic attempts to regulate what I eat. There was a point when I gave up and decided to enjoy life, thinking I'd rather be happy than a miserable stick-figure. End result: a bloat that developed through months of binge eating and "living the life."

I want to finally take control of my weight and put a stop to the endless cycle of fat-thin-fat, so I decided to enroll at a gym. This time, I have a more realistic view of my body and where I want it to go. I don't want to be stick-thin or be a musclehead, I just want to be healthy. In line with this, I'm taking a healthier route this year, with more fruits and vegetables, and less chips and desserts. This might be tough, cookies are my addiction!

5. Publish Voyeur. My friend Nikko and I have been building Voyeur for many months and while we're about to close our first issue, we can't finish it because of time constraints and unfortunate circumstances. But we're passionate about this project - a series of interviews with passionate people doing things their own way - and we want to make this last. We hope we could do this quarterly.

6. Publish two literary zines. My craziest ideas come to me when I am in the shower, and I have this suspicion it's because I'm Aquarian. My idea of publishing two literary zines came to me a few days ago. A few of my short stories get published in the occasional anthology (mostly student publications), but most never see the light of day. It has always been my dream to publish my own collection of short stories, but I'm realistic and lately, addicted to the DIY movement. So I plan to just collect it and self-publish it by June. I'm also planning to get someone to edit it and deflate my huge ego.

I'm also planning to self-publish another collection of short stories, this time with content from friends and writers I admire. It's a great way of creating a community of creatives with a shared goal of good literature. This one I'm pegging for December.

7. Write more. I spend a lot of time in the office writing, but what I mean is to write more for the spaces I contribute for. I want to write more for The Philippine Star and When In Manila, and contribute to magazines and websites. I want to write more short stories, reviews, content for Voyeur, and blog posts. It's sad that I have neglected so much of my blog, and I hope I could write more here. 

8. Surround myself with art. My growing interest in art began last year, and I want to expose myself more this 2014. I want to go out of my comfort zone and explore more artists and media, especially from the local scene. And by art I mean in a general sense: fashion, architecture, interior design, conceptual, and all its forms. Like my zines, I'm currently exploring the DIY movement through arts and crafts (which I'll hashtag #artsandcraps). I started with a little flowerpot - which is really just using this dainty teacup I got as a Christmas gift and stuffing it with flowers - and customized mini-jars for my officemates. I could make at least one project a month.

9. Make more friends, and maybe get a boyfriend. I want to meet more people and expand my network. Having more friends means I get exposed to ideas, philosophies, and points-of-view that are different from my own. It might also mean that I don't have to travel alone, but which I plan to do anyway. I also hope I could get a boyfriend, because 2014 would mark my fourth year being single, and I am finally ready to enter a serious relationship. I just don't want to be that person who makes every man a potential partner. Being ready is different from being pathetic.

10. Be a minimalist. I had discovered minimalist in the latter part of the year. It started with fashion; I had decided to go for a mostly-black wardrobe inspired by Berlin grunge and the personal style of Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. This is a departure from my previous style, a messy collection of prints, both animal and geometric. A few days later, I decided to go minimalist instead, incorporating more colors yet maintaining that quiet and subtle feel. 

Research on minimalist fashion led me to sites on a minimalist lifestyle, and I was intrigued with the thought of living more with less. As a self-proclaimed hoarder, it inspired me to get rid of all the unnecessary clutter in my life, be it items, thoughts, and feelings. I'm taking it one step at a time, and I hope I can achieve happiness with living with the basics.


I used the word 'hope' more than I should have. Hope is different from actually doing it. And I will do it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The year that was: 2013

Like clockwork, my family gathers every year at my aunt's house in Katipunan for our New Year's Eve party. It has become a yearly tradition for all of us to be together on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and it's always something I look forward to since I don't get to see my relatives that much.

This year, we gathered for a hearty dinner over drinks and conversation, a few rounds of karaoke, games with the kids, and the lighting of fireworks. I don't really appreciate the fireworks bit and would just peek outside for a few minutes and go back inside to have a few glasses of wine and dessert. This year was different, though. I was out the whole night, mesmerized by the colors, sounds, and smells of the street and the pyrotechnic display. There was something about the noise that comforted me. I had thought of fireworks as a way to drive evil spirits away, now I see it as a way of celebrating the year that was and welcoming the next year with a literal bang.

Recently, I have complained that my 2013 wasn't good. I practically gave up my social life the latter part of the year and focused on my career, spending my free time at home to sleep. I missed many opportunities, there were regrets, and there were other aspects of my life I couldn't focus on because work was taking so much of my time. But as I reminisced the year over the fireworks crackling in the dark and smoky sky, I realized that 2013 was a good year.

Below is my list of the year that was, a year that allowed me to experience new things, meet new people, travel, and find myself. It was a year of self-discovery and I believe I left 2013 with a better picture of who I am, what I can do, and who I could become.


1. I became a copywriter for a PR agency and my eight months there felt like a lifetime of experiences. It was overwhelming at first, having to do so many things at the same time, but I think I developed into a better writer and all-around human being.

Last year, I told a story of how PR found me. It was a series of missed connections and eventually, I heeded the call. I believe in the saying that opportunity knocks but it does not beg, so I finally joined the agency that would serve as my home for most of the year. A similar story is happening right now. Opportunities are rising, this time in publishing, and I feel like it is time to close a chapter in my life and start a new one.

Last month, I formally submitted my resignation in PR. It was hard, because I would be giving up a stable career working with some of the brightest minds. But things are leading to me finally doing what I want, and I want to make the most of what is being offered to me right now. And there are many.

I'm scared. I'm scared of going out of my comfort zone, which is the corporate world, and entering the world of freelance writing. It is a leap of faith, but I don't want to wake up at 50, wondering "what if?"

2. This year I was fortunate enough to have traveled to Hong Kong and Malaysia. My trip to Hong Kong was my first solo jaunt, a sort of reward for myself. I went in August and I could best describe my five-day stay as cathartic. I learned to be independent and live in a country where people had different laws, views, and language. Since it was my second time to visit Hong Kong, I had seen most of the tourist attractions, so I spent the time walking around, eating, and sleeping.

My second trip was in November, where I flew to Malaysia for a press event E! was hosting for KPOP superstar Jay Park's E! News Asia Special. There was a performance at the legendary Zouk, followed by a press conference and an intimate interview the following morning. It was an overnight trip but it was still an exhilarating experience because it was my first time there.

3. The latter part of the year was focused on work and sleep, but I managed to squeeze in a few parties, events, and shows. Some of my favorites were: the TEDxADMU talk I attended, the Heima design talk, the Manila International Book Fair, the Proudrace design talk at the Ayala Museum, UP's Live AIDS, the Extrapolation album launch at SaGuijo, Brixton Block Party, the Panty Monsters anniversary at TodayxFuture, and the 10A Alabama Fair. I also got a boyzilian, another first.

4. This year I had the crazy idea of starting a business. I thought of Nikko as my business partner because he gets me on so many levels. Our first venture was a shirt business, and we sourced samples in Divisoria, thought of designs, identify artists we could tap, and went as far as developing a marketing strategy. It eventually fell through, but we quickly cut our losses and moved on. It might have been a good idea not to push it since I have zero business acumen and I wasn't completely sold to the idea.

But the itch to create something grew stronger, and I felt that if I were to start a business, I would have to go back to my roots as a writer. And then it hit me: why don't I start a zine? And that's how Voyeur started. It's a series of interviews with people who break the rules and do things their own way, and each issue will have a specific theme.

For a brief time, I also ran a fiction blog called Hot Mess / Big City, something I wrote when I was at the lowest point of the year. I recovered after a few weeks, but at the expense of the blog. I'm working on another zine this year, though.

5. I took an interest in art in 2013, and I was lucky to have seen many exhibits. It was also a good year in art because of burgeoning art events like Art Fair Philippines, Art in the Park, ManilArt, the Ateneo Art Awards, and Bloom Arts Festival (and its extended show). I went to Art Fair, Art in the Park, and the Ateneo Art Awards and it was a great showcase of Philippine contemporary art.

The year was welcoming to artists seeking to mount their debut exhibits. I was able to see Tokwa Penaflorida's Hypnagogia, Soleil Ignacio's Exalted Souls, and Everywhere We Shoot's Foods. I also got to see Leeroy New's Monstrosities, the Soler Santos-curated exhibit The Mona Lisa Project, and the collected works of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, lent to the Ayala Museum by the Camachos.

6. I was able to attend my first wedding as a grown-up. This was between my ex-officemate Rhea and her boyfriend of 12 years, and it was a breathtaking experience being part of a freshly-made bond. It was made even more exciting by the fact that they have been together for over a decade. I also witnessed my first proposal, this time by an officemate in my PR job. I didn't know how tense a proposal would be. She said yes, and it was a beautiful moment.

7. A battalion of musicians came, but I only saw a few of them. It was quite the experience seeing Azealia Banks and Grimes perform live, and I wish the musicians I like would come next year. Am I reaching for the stars when I say I hope Madonna would come?

I was supposed to watch Tegan and Sara, and I had VIP tickets, but the concert coincided with my arrival from Malaysia, so I had to give that up. A shame, since I love their music and I heard they had a great concert.

8. I also saw a few plays. I saw Sa Wakas (brilliant) and Himala at the PETA Theater (it was okay), The Addams Family at the Meralco Theater (hilarious), and Mind's Eye (intelligent). I'm getting into the theater scene and I hope to catch more productions this year, starting with PETA's Rak of Aegis and Red Turnip's Cock.

9. My love life took a sudden nosedive. My normally colorful state of affairs dwindled into two guys in the entire year, one of which went only as far as a first date. I dated the other guy for a few months but it didn't work out and we agreed to be friends. I'm not sure what happened. I might have been busy with work and my many projects. I dread to think there was something wrong with me.

10. There was a point in 2013 when I felt really down. This was around the time I went out with first-date guy, and my self-esteem took a massive beating. I felt fat, ugly, and unwanted. I was sad, but I realized that there are things I can't change, and things that I can. So I decided to enroll at the gym. Since then I have never looked back.
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