about the talking fish

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Writer. Wheelman. Occasional DIY mechanic. Walking collection of hang-ups. Hopeless romantic. Old-school. Analog soul in a digital world. I am all of these things and more.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A truncated record of my clash with typhoon "Milenyo"

Thursday morning, 6:30am: Took the Skyway going to work (color-coding ako). It was terrifying just maintaining a steady 90 km/h. Visibility was a bitch and my wipers couldn't keep up with the torrential rain.

Thursday afternoon, 12:30pm: A used car lot just below my office is reduced to a pile of GI sheets flying in the wind. Sayang yung mga kotse.

Thursday evening, 5:45pm: Left the office. A fallen tree blocked almost all of Pioneer St.

Thursday evening, 6:10pm: Driving along C5 southbound. The road is cleaner than I thought, but there were 5 fallen lampposts and a few large fallen tree branches.

Friday morning, 9:00am: Left the house.

Friday morning, 9:45am: Stuck in Magallanes interchange. I see a bus that got entangled within a fallen billboard.

Friday morning, 10:30am: Still stuck in EDSA. Rude drivers are everywhere. I can't count the number of times I almost trade paint with buses or other cars.

Friday morning, 11:10am: Turns out all the traffic from Magallanes northward was due to ONE fallen billboard at the Kalayaan flyover/MMDA Orense area. The billboard fell such a way that it blocked everything but 2 lanes of northward EDSA asphalt. After navigating the fallen billboard there is suddenly a very free piece of road where it would usually be filled with buses (Guadalupe area).

I arrive for work 1.5 hours late.

The day before all that, I had the misfortune to rear-end another car for the first time ever. I had fallen victim to wrong maneuvers done in the dark.

My car was hardly scratched...at least hardly any more than it already was. The dark red Sentra I bumped into had a shallow dent within its fender area. I’m sure it won’t be too hard to fix as the damage was localized into one body panel only.

Crikey. This is turning out to be such an expensive way to meet new people. Oh well.

Monday, September 18, 2006

What I want for Christmas...

It just occurred to me that it’s already the middle of September. By itself that’s not much of a reason to notice, unless you’re into celebrating bad things happening—Martial Law 1972 and the 2001 World Trade Center massacre being the most notable examples.

No, what I’m talking about is the start of the countdown to this year’s Christmas (which the Philippines has arguably the longest celebration of any country). And this would be the perfect time to buy stuff for the people you’re planning on giving gifts to. There aren’t too many people who’ve realized this fact, I guess, so you won’t have too many people to fend off in the malls and department stores.

Wait a tick. Holy cow.

Just when I was trying to convince myself to stop shopping and start saving, I concoct the perfect reason for my own financial undoing. My only consolation is traditionally I’ve never had to buy too many presents, and it seems things will continue that way.

They have to. My wallet can’t take it any other way.

Anyway, while we’re on the subject, this early I might as well ask our favorite fictional fat father (I’m not so good with alliteration, do bear with it) to bring me a little list of the stuff I want. It’d be nice to have them, but I can live without these things.
  • A nice little MP3 player of my own with a decent capacity—maybe at least 4GB. 128MB just isn’t cutting it for me anymore. Throw in a nice comfy pair of headphones too, the hefty kind that look and feel like what DJs use.

  • A micro hi-fi sound system for my room with DVD and MP3/WMA compatibility. Presently my arrangement for playing CDs at home is via my old VCD player and my TV’s speakers...obviously not the most energy-efficient method, as the TV screen is on all the time. I’m not a fussy guy, as long as it’s made by Pioneer or Sony I’ll be happy.

  • I’m still looking for a nice pair of flexible loafers or moccasins that I can use as secondary shoes at work. Please, let them be anything but black. Blue Sperry Top-siders would be great, but they cost some serious coin. I am not willing to spend more than PhP4,000 on just one pair of shoes. So should you.

  • A Perfect Grade Strike Gundam model. Wait, scratch that. I think I have too many models and my room’s real estate is now at a premium.

  • A portable CD player with 2500mAh AA-sized NiMH rechargeable batteries.

  • An MP3/WMA-capable CD audio head unit for my car. I’ve been the staunchest supporter of cassette tapes, but as my CD collection now outnumbers my cassette library, I really have to move up.

  • Computer stuff: a DVD burner, more RAM and a decent graphics card. A problem-free DSL connection would be nice too. Also, a decent game library of classics. I don’t mind playing “relics” such as Diablo II and FreeSpace 2 on weekends because they’re just fun games that stand the test of time well.

  • And now I’m really being cheeky: A Jazz 1.5 VTEC with the manual gearbox. Second-hand in good condition, please?

Sigh. I think I’m asking for too much.

Santa, stop me. Hit me on the head or something.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The happenstance music critic, part 2

My CD-shopping phase continues for a second week. Like an itch that hasn’t been sufficiently scratched, apparently I wasn’t satisfied with just last week’s purchase. I figure this might be the last couple of albums I buy for a few months as I still need to chip into my savings for this month.

Let’s get the first album out of the way. I already have some Hangad MP3s from Tantan back in my thesis days, so I haven’t really given “Hangad A Capella” a listen yet. However I already have a good idea of what it has and I’m sure I’ll be impressed when I do pop the CD into my player.

The more significant album is the second one I bought. I haven’t bought any Itchyworms stuff ever since they started making the airwaves around three years ago, but their melancholy song “Beer” stuck to my head like bubble gum. I was convinced I had to buy their album, “Noon Time Show (Commercial Break edition).”

After the disappointment of Mayonnaise and the lack of variety from Urbandub, “Noon Time Show” is a brilliantly written and produced CD. Taken as a whole, this “theme album” criticizes the inanity, negative influence and irrelevance of that staple of Filipino existence, the noontime variety show, in its various guises. Even breaking it apart, many of the songs can stand by themselves as they run the gamut of themes of love, heartbreak, showbiz, obsession and waiting.

What truly sets Itchyworms’ album apart is how well they’ve translated the concept into great songs, and here’s where the variety card plays in. “Noon Time Show” is sufficiently varied in musical styles to keep interest/curiosity levels high. They’ve invited quite a few musicians from other bands for some of the tracks, notably the 12-minute variety show spoof “Production Number.”

The “Commercial Break” CD throws in four of their music videos (which are all very well executed, especially the one for “Beer”). Playing up to the title, a few extra tracks make it in there which are collaborations with advertisements and other shows, such as “Kabataang Pinoy” (“Pinoy Big Brother - Teen Edition” theme) and “Happy Happy Song,” the jingle for Enervon multivitamins. The remainder of the tracks are remixes and tracks that didn’t fit into the original release, such as “Jackson.”

“Noon Time Show” might easily be the album of the year in my CD collection. These talented guys have nowhere to go but up.
Speaking of CD collections, I had bought a number of other items from my Alabang jaunt yesterday afternoon. One of them was a 36CD wallet for just PhP88. It’s not a high-quality item compared to the spiffier ones from Case Logic, but for my purposes it’s a great bargain.

I also bought replacement brake-light bulbs for my car. The last time I went to Honda to buy them, they were ridiculously expensive—and they had given me the wrong type! Imagine my delight when I strolled into True Value and not only found the correct type for my car’s sockets, but paid only 1/5 the price. Rounding out my purchases were a spare “keycard” for my car and some credits for my Timezone card, for a few rounds of Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2.

I’ll have to take a bit of a rest from shopping for now. The next time I’ll shop it’ll be for Christmas presents.

God knows I’ve sung this song so many times, and I never get tired of it.

Nais kong magpakalasing dahil wala ka na
Nakatingin sa salamin at nag-iisa
Nakatanim pa rin ang gumamelang binalik mo sa’kin
Nang tayo’y mag-hiwalay
Ito’y katulad ng damdamin kong
Kahit buhusan mo ng beer, ayaw pang mamatay

Giliw, h’wag mo sanang limutin
Ang mga araw na ‘di sana maglaho
Ang mga anak at bahay nating pinaplano
Lahat ng ito’y nawala n’ung iniwan mo ‘ko
Kaya ngayon

Ibuhos na ang beer sa aking lalamunan
Upang malunod na ang puso kong nahihirapan
Bawat patak, ano’ng sarap,
Ano ba talaga’ng mas gusto ko?
Ang beer na ito o ang pag-ibig mo...

Nais kong magpakasabog dahil olats ako
Kahit ano hihithitin, kahit tambutso
Kukuha ako ng beer at ipapakulo
Sa kaldero’t lalanghapin ang usok nito
Lahat ay aking gagawin upang aking limutin
Na nag-iisa na ako

Ibuhos na ang beer sa aking lalamunan
Upang malunod na ang puso kong nahihirapan
Bawat patak, ano’ng sarap,
Ano ba talaga’ng mas gusto ko?
Ang beer na ito o ang pag-ibig mo...
Giliw, h’wag mo sanang limutin
Ang mga araw na ‘di sana maglaho
Ang mga anak at bahay nating pinaplano
Lahat ng ito’y nawala n’ung iniwan mo ‘ko
Kaya ngayon

Ibuhos na ang beer sa aking lalamunan
Upang malunod na ang puso kong nahihirapan
Bawat patak, ano’ng sarap,
Ano ba talaga’ng mas gusto ko?
Ang beer na ito o ang pag-ibig mo...

— Itchyworms, “Beer”

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The happenstance music critic

After perhaps more than a year of not bothering with it, I "rediscovered" Friendster. A lot has changed since the last time I logged on. This time I figured it would be cool to add my friends from work.

It's also worth the effort of going there to check up on old friends from high school. Yeah, I know I've publicly denounced my elementary and high school existence ad nauseam, but I can't deny that I made at least a handful of friends from the nouveau-riche circus that is Zobel. I just want to see how they're doing.

On the only real shopping trip I've been on since April, I managed to buy myself a memento of my high school existence.

Monty Macalino is perhaps better known as the band Mayonnaise's front man—and Mayonnaise is the band that won the Red Horse Muziklaban contest in 2004. Back in Zobel, though, he was one of the most gregarious and popular characters of Zobel batch 2000 and an active participant of the Search-In retreats. I bought Mayonnaise's second album "Pano Nangyari Yun?" out of curiosity.

While the riffs are cool, I'm not very stimulated by the lyrics. Not many of them make sense, unfortunately, and although Monty wrote all of them, I can't feel much of his spirit in the songs. Maybe I should have bought the first album instead?

Meanwhile, I remember how surprised I was with a certain band from Cebu whose sound could pass as a foreign act's. Now Urbandub has at least three albums and I bought the one called "Embrace," which seems like the newest one.

These guys are amazing, but they're not perfect. There’s just not enough variety to "Embrace." While I like their sound as demonstrated in "Alert the Armory" and "First of Summer," they have too many heavy tracks packed into this CD. This lends the impression that they can't break away from one routine. This level of seriousness and gloss is welcome, but they should give themselves a break to fool around.

The last album I bought was an old favorite. For me, you can never go wrong with the 1980s supergroup Swing Out Sister, and I bought the local version of their 2CD "Ultimate Collection" for a pretty good price. The foreign version has 3 CDs, but never mind that.

My only real complaint about "Ultimate Collection" is the second CD. 50% of CD2 is made up of remixes and live performances of tracks that are already on CD1, which is just too much. I would have appreciated having some of their more obscure songs on hand.

While I have mixed opinions over all these albums, I desperately needed new music to listen to, so the effort wasn't all that wasted.

I've returned to the driver’s seat with Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2. Using my black Mazda RX-8, I managed to fight my way to the end of the “Monster Machine” story arc. I do mean "fight" as the last two races in particular were very rough: my CPU opponents were constantly wanging into my car, forcing me into mistakes such as crashing into walls and traffic.

That means I've got just 10 races to go before I beat the game. And it can only get worse from here on in.

In somewhat related news, I hear Sega Rosso is beta-testing the next installment in the Initial D Arcade Stage games, Ver.4.

This time the game cards are credit-card-thick, and there will no longer be any data transfer from the old games (CRUD!). The cabinets will reportedly sport LCD monitors and the same old sequential shifter, now mounted at waist level—-I'm pretty sure these things will be expensive. Gameplay should be tuned less on "impossible" grip levels as the first 3 games and a little more toward realism, but not to the point of Battle Gear 3's realism. Four new courses have popped up for beta testing: Akina Lake, Shin-Myougi, Shin-Usui and the tough Ibaraki pass from the Fourth Stage anime.

Great. Come 2007 I'll have another way of wasting money.