Saturday, June 25, 2005

This is Life as a Suit in a Third World Country.

I live in a place where my socks are almost always mismatched; where the stuff in your cabinet isn't yours because someone else higher up on the food chain has decided that you don't need the extra space; where two consenting adults can't live together without wearing the scarlet letter unless they grease enough palms-- money is apparently better than Tide at getting rid of dirt.

Down here-- the operative word is Purgatory-- equipment always breaks down because people think they can plug just one more appliance into a wall socket already groaning under the demands of an overloaded electrical system. They don't know the damage they're causing and they sure as hell don't give half a damn until said appliance breaks down or the fuses blow up. I'm the guy who has to fix the mess they made over my strenuous but stifled objections and they have the gall to ask me why I didn't give them a lesson in the care of electrical systems.

When anyone here shows a modicum of talent or initiative, he is run ragged by people who expect him to know everything and solve their problems NOW, never mind that he has his own problems to fix and his own life to lead. If he hasn't already lost half his native energy to entropy, he will the be forced to break the Third Law of Thermodynamics (a first in Physics!), as critics and vultures and social vampires will inevitably reduce him to a psychic state of Absolute Zero. After which he either expires or becomes another member of the soulless working dead who haunt the private workplace, the government office and pretty much every place where humanity gets a foothold.

In the place where I live, 1+1 is always 3 or any other number someone higher on the food chain wants it to be, damn the real number system, the laws of motion and damn the torpedoes... which, by the way, whoopsie, I will have to take for the team.

I don't want to live like this. I want a clean pair of matching socks.

Monday, June 20, 2005

ぼくはほんです!

The acid test of any language course is when the necessity for speaking it slaps you in the face like The Girlfriend You Forgot You Had after you stupidly decided to flirt with The (Younger) Girl from Ipanema. Or Tuscany. Or Sienna.

The foreign partners decided to stop by the office and there was no one on hand to greet them but me. It's pretty safe to say that most of my three-or-so months of language training flew out the window. There were awkward silences on the parts of all parties punctuated by a palpable desire (you could feel it in the air) to reach out and communicate.

Happily there was a modicum of cross-comprehension as one of them could speak some Tagalog and I could speak some Japanese.

I recalled an old college joke about the Japanese language student who could only (proudly) tell everyone else that he was a book. I'm very glad that guy wasn't me.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Tale of the Tape

Half the country feels it knows that Gloria rigged the elections so she could be president for an uncontested second term. That half of the country, though, is just too tired and too freaked out by the aftermath of "EDSA 3" to launch another People Power Revolt.

Comes now a very incriminating allegedly bugged conversation between the president and one of her underlings. If she was in deep doodoo at the time her husband was accused of signing for huge amounts of money under a fake name, this is deeper doggy doo.

Happy Independence Day.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

(Japanese) Words for the Week

omoshiroi -adj., interesting

muzukashii - adj., difficult

isogashii - adj., busy

furui -adj., old

All of which describe my life and the way I'm feeling right now.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Endings
(A delayed post)

CBS's The Amazing Race
Ian has since always taken upon himself to make his comments about the Amazing Race. Now that season 7 has just ended, allow me to get on the bandwagon and spout Race-relatied speeches from my soapbox.

You didn't win! Haaaaaaa! Serves ya right, Rob!!!!!

Seriously, I have to congratulate Survivor alumni "Boston" Rob and Amber Brkich (labelled by some in a fit of J-Fleck nostalgia as 'Romber') for making it as far as they did in the Race.

What upset me and probably many other Race fans about Rob was that he should have left his "Survivor" skillset back on the island. The way he played--brilliant, if evil, and disturbingly riveting-- set new precedents on just how far you can push the ethics envelope on the Race.

The good news is that the Race itself is still like Shroedinger's cat. Despite Rob's cutthroat playing and team Romber's celebrity status --people were actually going the extra mile to help them because of their Survivor recall-- Rob and Amber didn't make the finish line before Uchenna and Joyce, deserving of the million dollar pot by dint of hard work, perseverance, luck and heart.

Meantime, Rob and Amber have finally wed. I wish the Survivor stars all the best on this joint "immunity challenge"... keeping a marriage healthy, interesting and fruitful all the days of their lives.

Fox's American Idol
... is finally ending. Surprise, surprise: we lost quite a few good candidates along the way, but neither can I complain about who's left standing to duke it out for the grand prize.

Scott Savol should have lasted longer, on the strength of his voice and his "everyman-who-makes-it" image. He showed us great things about setting a wider (no pun intended), older age range for a contest like Idol.
Contrary to a certain animated cartoon's problematic propaganda, just because you're old, it doesn't mean you're out.

I was also rooting for Constantine Maroulis. He didn't ooze as much cool as Bo Bice did in the rocker department, but he did play up his looks --the infamous pout-- and his stage presence. He was in a rock band after all. I've a soft spot for rockers and ex-band members, as I've been either at different times of my life. If I close my eyes tonight, I'm almost sure I'll wake up a geriatric rocker, and that's usually not a good thing career-wise unless your band was really really big.

That said, it was most lovely seeing rocker Bo Bice survive the weeks of uncertainty to make it this far. My money's on him, but I've had my doubts about the soundness of the American vote since Bush got reelected. Too bad, I was right (sigh).

Okay, I have a bias against country singers because they're usually stuck singing in two genres I can barely relate to: country and gospel. But I'm willing to give Carrie Underwood some leeway. After all, she is good and there are country and gospel singers who can straddle multiple genres.

Update-- If you don't already know, Underwood's won. The last great hope of country music.

Let's Talk About Music

I don't like Gospel music. I dislike it so much that if I call you a Gospel singer, I'm either telling the truth or I'm holding you in deep derision. I have, until recently, found Gospel too limiting. One is almost always forced to keep reusing the same old lines lifted from the Bible, that --gasp!-- the songs get tired. This practice has long poisoned the whole Gospel experience for me.

True, it may be argued that Pop songs are limited because most advocates limit themselves to the same word combinations used for expressing sexual love, but there is more leeway in what else you put in the song and how else you're to arrange and sing it. And not every pop song is about sexual love. Gospel is about God, period.

For lack of any other way to depict him, or his love for humanity, you're stuck with the same Bible-derived code phrases like "washed me in his blood." It's great for audiences who already know the idiom (the congregation), but it's potentially a very bad listening experience for, say... an unsaved non-evangelical heathen like myself. Too, there is also an apparent Evangelical Christian canon limiting how fast the music should be played and which chord combinations to use-- because until the nineties, the Gospel music I kept hearing sounded the same. Weren't there more creative, Pastor-friendly ways to depict the love of God for his mortal creations?

Strike two is that Gospel is uniquely American, Evangelical and Triumphalist. Pick any order you like, they apply as a set of three, singly, or in any group of two.

Triumphalism-- the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
God always wins, hands down. Finis. You cannot evoke interest-arousing tension when you're stuck singing the propaganda line of the Absolute. Sure, it's valid; it's needed at the church; people who want to celebrate the Absolute need to sing about God in those terms and they should. But it's almost the same as singing about Chairman Mao's communist dream: set against the backdrop of a frail humanity, their songs lose their ability to touch base with the rest of the unsaved inhabitants of the planet.

Evangelical-- I'm primarily Catholic. I can't completely relate to going to Sunday School or spending two to four hours at church service, murmuring "Amen" whenever Pastor Bill says something to wake me up, or responding to the mandatory altar call while the church organist tries to get me in the mood for repentance with his noodling. I can't completely relate to a church without any renaissance-derived Christian imagery, confessionals or holy water. I happen to like my parish priest in a nonsexual way, and I like it when he listens to me confess and facilitates my absolution. Contrary to public perception, not all Catholic priests live in the Dark Ages. Some of them deserve to be burned at the stake and there are some current behaviors at Mass that Evangelicals are right to scoff at, I know, but those are other issues we'll haveta talk about later.

American. Yes, I owe the Yanqui a lot. I've acknowledged that time and again with the way I speak, with the way I have embraced his products, with the way I love his political satire, and when I cheered Bush Sr.'s move to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's Iraq. But there is something about the chord patterns, melodies and idioms that is so... American. I'll take your English, I'll take your education but puhleeeze leave your Gospel singing at home!

Happily for Christians everywhere, we have Don Moen and his ilk writing Christ-inspired music that actually talks about God and the human condition in terms most of us unsaved pagan or unsaved "Pope-worshipping" heathens can actually understand. We've had Gary V. singing that way about Jesus for quite some time now, and Barbie's Cradle (not just Barbie herself ...sigh) is refreshing as the band turns what should be Gospel by all rights into something else entirely that is Pastor-friendly, artistically sound and easy to digest.

By the by, can anyone tell me the difference between Gospel and Praise Music? I tend to equate them. Even if both tend to sear my flesh, I'd still like to know if there is any kind of line demarcating the two. I've been avidly avoiding most music that have the words "Gospel" and "Praise" stamped on their labels for so long that it's possible that my reasons for not liking these music forms may no longer be valid. Thanks.