Thursday, July 30, 2009

From Analog To Digital

My mom was sitting on the sofa reading the current issue of Newsweek. Inside were several letters to the editor from readers who felt that Michael Jackson was not treated with the respect that someone whose contribution to music was that significant. One letter-writer admitted that he was a fan until the sordidness of the child molestation charge severely tainted his admiration of the singer.

Nanay: What did Michael Jackson sing? I might know it?

This was tough, because she had no personal reference to any of the songs I knew.

Me: Er, it's hard to pick something you'd know, because you never really listened to the radio. I just realized now that you know absolutely nothing of rock and roll...

We try to explain to other people that my mom "was born in the 40s, lived twice through the '50s, totally skipped the 60s, and went straight to the 70s." It may sound inconceivable that rock and roll never even made a dent in my mother's life the way it knocked the breath out of ours, but it's true. She doesn't know any fast Beatles songs, only "Michelle". She knows that Elvis gyrated his hips into musical history, but the only thing that registered in her memory was "Love Me Tender". She can, however, sing songs from any Broadway musical you'd care to name, for as long as it was performed before or around the same time frame as "Fiddler On The Roof".

My mom's musical context is golden age Hollywood. She remembers "Lara's Theme" from "Dr. Zhivago". Henry Mancini's "A Time For Us" from "Romeo and Juliet". My dad courted my mom to the strains of "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing." Dance music meant very little to her then, she grew up bookish. She was very shy so even just my dad's big band sort-of-fast boogie made her nervous.

My mom knows ABBA's "Dancing Queen" because she hears it on her Thursdays senior citizen dance class at the clubhouse (which she attends sporadically), and because she watched Meryl Streep in "Mamma Mia". She was amazed that people knew all the songs and sang along to the movie, which she thought was a cheerful comedy remake. She couldn't wrap her head around why Pierce Brosnan and the other guys wore sparkly Spandex and platform boots towards the end credits. She knows disco as a place where one danced to fast music, but not the actual music itself, nor the lifestyle. She remembers songs she can sing along with rather than to dance to. I wonder what she'd make of the lyrics to "MacArthur Park", especially the part about "leaving the cake out in the rain". I don't know what to make of them either.

I tried to think of the most ubiquitous Michael Jackson song that my mom would have heard, and I came up with:

Me: Er, do you remember the Christmases when I was a kid? Almost all the holiday songs being played in the stores were sung by the Ray Conniff Singers? Well, Michael was the little boy who sang "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

Nanay: That was Michael Jackson??? How come I don't know what else he sang when he grew up?

Me: I don't think you would have known the words to anything he ever sang as an adult. They were songs we danced to in high school. There were some other good ones, but you never listened to the radio, so I don't see what difference it would make to you.

Nanay: I remember he used to be such a good-looking black boy. Didn't you ever buy a record?

Me: No, I wasn't a fan. I think I spent all my money on Duran Duran, U2 and The Police.

Nanay: If you weren't a fan, how come you know a lot of his songs?

Me: Well, he was so talented, he had such a long and successful career. They played his music everywhere. I didn't NEED to buy a record.

Nanay: But nobody listens to radio now...

Me: No. I think they'd rather watch on Youtube.

Nanay: (dreamily) Youtube... oh yes, I like Youtube...

My mother, who totally missed out on popular music on radio and tv the first time around, is now a bona fide Youtube music video surfer. She was last seen hunting down some Johnny Mathis. What can I say.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Post-It Love, by futureshorts

I first saw this on Dark Roasted Blend. It was so charming it made me smile :)

World eBooks Fair

If you want to download ebooks for free between now and August 4, go to the

World eBooks Fair.

Sci-fi fans please take note of the Baen Books page.


Because I'm Hungry

... I would like to share with you guys a snippet of Anthony Bourdain's street food tour of Binondo, Manila (Chinatown!), courtesy of TravelChannelTV.  Many other bloggers have blogged about it already, but I think there are still some people who were not able to watch the No Reservations episodes of Bourdain's visit aired early this year, so these are for you (especially Uncle Oca and TAO):

And here's a series of links of Tony with my favorite Pinoy foodblogger MarketMan, discovering what he now refers to as the best whole roast pig in the world!  Many thanks to pinoyapparel01 on Youtube.

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3
Part 4

You enjoy while I go have lunch now.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Prokofiev's "Peter & the Wolf", Animated

When I was a little girl, my mom played old tapes of one of her favorite classical compositions for me and my sister, over and over.  By tapes, I mean a huge reel as big as a dinner plate on an AKAI player.  (This was in the early 70s, before the days of the cassette tape.) We loved Sergei Prokofiev's 1936 work Peter and the Wolf - the main melody was as memorable as our other favorite, the Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite".  What made it stand apart from other works for us was that the recording had a narrator.  Now I am not sure, but I seem to remember that at the time it was the late British actor Sir Peter Ustinov.  (Listen to snippets for free here.)

While Joy was googling for a video of an orchestral performance on Youtube, what came up was a 2006 stop-motion animated film directed by Suzie Templeton that apparently won a BAFTA in 2007 and an Academy Award in 2008! (And three other awards.)   I highly recommend it to all parents.  Here it is, in four parts, on Youtube:

This series was originally posted on Youtube by Actealcien.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Laughing Out Loud

Yes, it is a crummy, crummy Thursday.  My friend Bobby introduced me to Happy Slip (Christine Gambito) when her Youtube videos just started getting popular in 2007.  My favorite video then was the "More Processed Meat" video.  My favorite characters are her Dad ("DEE-SUSS-TER!") and her Auntie Baby, who is like several ladies I know and love despite their quirks because they're either family or family friends.  Just watch the full family parody playlist on the website, to know what I mean.

This particular sequence cracks me up:

KevJumba vs. Fred G Dance Battle

I'm not embedding them because I believe people should visit the Happy Slip site and discover other laughs on their own.  Yes, it's still a crummy Thursday but I laughed out loud today, and that's always a good thing :)

P.S.  It's all in English, with a smattering of Tagalog.  Christine's great with the accents.  Must! Watch!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

100 Years of Baguio City

A big thank you to mason28viz for posting this on Youtube. As a city, Baguio turned 100 years old this year.

My dad grew up in Baguio. In 2006 he and Baguio City High School Class of 1956 celebrated their 50th Golden Jubilee. He and his company were among the rescuers during the major earthquake that destroyed the historic Pines Hotel. We have a photo of him and his colleagues with then-President Fidel Ramos at Malacanang Palace.

I thought he might enjoy this video, as you all might :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Life Lessons Through Tinkering

Click on the image to view Gever Tulley's excellent talk on This amazing website was introduced to me by my Plurk friend, myepinoy.

I love the idea that at the Tinkering School children have opportunities to build things without fear. I wish the Philippines had something like this. A Tinkering camp, a mini Maker Faire.

Imagine what the future would be like!

Gay Filipino Wins Asylum

ABS-CBN reports on gender refugee Philip Belarmino's groundbreaking case.

I remember Philip from school, a kind and softspoken boy. His brother Nonong (aka Father Manuel, a Catholic priest) is from my graduating class at the UP Integrated School.

Discrimination against gays is still rife in the Philippines. Sometimes it's in your face, sometimes it's quite subtle. If you were not aware of it yet, Prof. Danton Remoto of the LGBT gay rights group Ladlad is currently preparing for the 2010 Elections. They will file for their party accreditation at the end of this month. In 2007 Ladlad was not accredited by the Comelec as a party-list group because gays were not considered "marginalized and under-represented". Those who do not understand gays and fear their influence try to limit their personal, social and professional opportunities. As a woman I can confirm that the less physical and social power one has, the more one is open to attempts at discrimination and abuse. It's easy to say this now because several generations of women around the world have fought for what rights women enjoy today, but for gays, the struggle is still ongoing.

I feel sad about Philip's journey as a gender refugee, but I am glad he has arrived at a place where his beingness has meaning and significance.

My Kind Of Good News

My friends may notice that I have been posting entries on a lot of Philippine-centric and sociological topics lately, particularly if they're forward-looking. Reading about economic recession levels, celebrity sex scandals, endless senate inquiries or political ambitions of various presidentiables gets old. It's really not the sort of thing you'd like to read with your morning cuppa on slow days when you need a sign that the day will turn out better than you expect.

It would be nicer to read, for example, about how the regular Pepe and Pilar achieve good things for others with their limited resources. Or how big business makes things work for our next door neighbors. Stuff like that make a good springboard for ideas. My kind of good news.

Here's a sampler of recent articles:

Wanggo Gallaga writes about how young entrepreneurs from Ateneo de Manila University win an international challenge, with their environment-friendly coco tableware. Team Philippines - Karl Santinitigan and Timothy Huelva - were commended for having a green approach (creating products from what was essentially waste material) , and a practical working business model. Their biodegradeable product, Areka! Leaf Tableware, is made from coconut palm leaves. The original product that inspired the modification was developed in India from the leaves of the Areca palm, and looks like this.

Tina Arceo-Dumlao writes about Text2Teach, a program developed to help teachers deliver information to students through familiar technology inexpensively: by connecting mobile phones (which function as media storage) to television monitors. School attendance increased! This program, supported by the Ayala Foundation and Globe Telecom, was a finalist at a recent Stockhom Challenge.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Online Filipiniana For All

While I was writing the earlier blog entry on what is worth saving, I remembered an announcement that Vibal Publishing made recently. Their excellent site,, indicates that they are in the process of digitizing as many primary sources - texts on the Philippines (its literature, culture, history, and related topics) - as they could, with the goal of providing FREE ACCESS to all researchers and interested individuals. This saves rare publications from the wear and tear of physical access.

One particular primary source of note is the 1907 publication "The Philippine Islands: 1493-1898" by Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson, known to many simply as Blair and Robertson. Here's another interesting description of the books. There is one actual full set at the University of the Philippines Main Library, the rest are with other universities, local historians or collectors. Our family's copies are the Cacho Hermanos facsimile reprints from the early 1970s which compressed the original 55 volumes into 19. These are considered rare because apparently the Cacho warehouse burned down shortly after the reprints were made. My mother bought ours from writer Alberto Florentino prior to his move to the US., as mentioned above, is putting together a "fully indexed and full searchable" full text collection for free. Jeroen Hellingman, however, is also digitizing his personal copies and putting them on the Project Gutenberg Philippines site. So far he has uploaded 25 out of the 55 volumes. This undertaking is HUGE, I have to admire that kind of passion and dedication. Other institutions are offering the digitized books for as much as USD 49 the set (exclusive of shipping).

The number of online academic Filipiniana sources is growing, and that's a good thing. Citing Wikipedia alone in one's paper just DOESN'T make the grade.

What Is Worth Saving?

One of the harsh facts of life, reflected in history, is the loss of knowledge from one generation to another. Sometimes the advances of technology render ideas and things and practices obsolete, and we are quick to shed these things along with our memories. We live in a world where we record the meaningful, the mundane and the mysterious in an effort to see what shapes our thinking and our identities.

There are parts of the Philippines that feel that tug of war between tradition and modernity. When we lost The Last Bagobo Weaver (Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 12, 2009), the Philippines lost someone incredibly unique, and I feel sad that no one is left now who knows how to weave Bagobo tube skirts, from harvesting and preparing the fiber, to the weaving and construction of this indigenous garment. How relevant is this to us today? I believe costume is part of identity, and craftsmanship is part of a larger tribal value system (read about Salinta Monon's value as a bride). Monon was recognized internationally for her work, but not in her own home town. The present generation of Bagobos prefer to find jobs that put food on the table regularly - a goal we can't fault them for.

The world has changed so much that there are many things we take for granted. Sometimes, when we don't realize what is worth saving, we have the great luck that someone else does. During a visit to the Philippines early last year, Australians Maria Cameron and her husband Ed Wise lived for five months with a Kalinga indigenous community in Ichinanaw. They returned the following year, on a mission to "help the tribe preserve its oral customs and traditions in storybooks." Such fantastic luck - they were funded!

As I read this news article my heart felt light again. In many cultures spoken word art forms relied on memory for preservation. Yes, the world has changed, but technology gives us the tools to remember when our collective memory can no longer hold.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Eksenang Tahimik ("Silent Scene")

I came across this video from my friend Sandy Allan's post in Facebook. Originally posted by dqsantiago on Youtube, Eksenang Tahimik is "written, composed and performed by Jess Santiago. Direction and editing by JL Burgos. Musical Arrangement by Radio Active Sago Project. Acoustic guitar arrangement by Joey Ayala."

It's poetry and music for a cause - to get answers from this government regarding our desaparecidos. Jonas Burgos, who is still missing, is the brother of my classmate Peachy. Maybe some of you know University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, who have not yet been found. Or others whom we do not know but who also need our attention. There is no love lost for the military here, as they allegedly stonewall investigations urged by the families of the disappeared - particularly if the disappeared are/were activists. I use both tenses because the probability that they remain alive is thin. However if we think of issues like these we must proceed as though they are alive, as though they can still be saved, that there is hope. That there is information about lost loved ones, that families can have the truth, closure and justice. If it touches you, pass it on.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Geeky Conversations

My friend Benjie dela Pena turned me on to this interesting site that he posted on Facebook, the Sputnik Observatory for the Study of Contemporary Culture. (Link, and above screen capture, show theoretical physicist Michio Kaku discuss interplanetary life. There are other thinkers on the panel.) Yes, geeky, but SO interesting. It's nice to listen to people's ideas in a conversational manner, and to see how they relate things to real life.

Don't worry, it won't give you too much of a nosebleed. It just puts you into a certain perspective.

Benj recommended that I mouse over the site banner, and so I did - Hahaha! How VERY COOL! You go and do it yourself, and find out more.

Friday, July 3, 2009

New Torchwood from the BBC

BBC One is airing a new 5-part mini-series of the cult sci-fi show Torchwood this week in the UK, called Children of the Earth.  (The videos can't be played in our area, unless you have Hotspot Shield.) If this does well, then I suppose there will a next season for my favorite Cardiff sci-fi crew

Here's trailer 2 from Youtube:

Pete Dillon-Trenchard tells us what he'd like to see more of in this mini-series in the blog Den of the Geek.  I don't agree with the whole article, as I am a Gwen Cooper fan, and I think it's cool that the Torchwood 3 HQ is right next door to the Roald Dahl Center in Cardiff.  But I do agree that Captain Jack Harkness needs to bring out his inner Indiana Jones more.  They should also give Ianto Jones more to do than deliver pizza and be somebody's main boink.  And that they should occasionally foray into the Whoniverse (as in Dr. Who, to non-fans), if they're not doing Cardiff time-space crimebusting.  Just to show the bigger picture, if you will.

Pretty please let there be a next season and more production funding!  (Thanks to Paolo M's Facebook post today.)  For past Torchwood shows, check here.