Monday, August 25, 2008

Duh Coverage

I had planned on watching the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics Sunday night live via satellite. But Solar Sports had a brilliant idea-- a light bulb moment-- to enhance the viewing pleasure of the viewers.

Solar delayed the supposedly Live Telecast so that it can cram as many commercials as possible and extend the coverage well beyond midnight. Worst part was when we had to sit through and listen to the commentaries of the hosts who seemed to have a contest as to who had the most trivia about Michael Phelps. The winner? I pick Bobby Yan. He probably prostates himself before a framed picture of Phelps he downloaded from the internet. Pathetic. Also, I bailed out and decided not to watch when I realized I couldn't sit through the long, long commercials.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

RAVEL: La Valse

Maurice Ravel's brilliant tribute to the Viennese Waltz: La Valse. The waltz gradually emerges from a haze, barely recognizable in the beginning, with snatches here and there of the melody, but slowly becoming coherent and finally revealing itself in all its grand glory. The music pays tribute to Vienna at the height of its power as the centre of the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Interpreted splendidly by the Russian pianist Pavel Nersessian. I have never heard of him, but most pianists who attempted this had massive difficulties with this finger-breaker, especially towards the end where the dissonance can be disconcerting.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lousy Night

What's up with Filipino programming nowadays? Why do the two giant networks rely on imported, or should we say, branded reality shows? Can't they come up with something more original?

Currently watching Philippine Idol. Or more likely, a third-world version of the US original. The Pinoy Dream Academy on the other channel isn't any better. Both are disappointing. What a waste!

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PC Crash

A trojan horse embedded inside a corrupt codec file almost wreaked havoc on my computer again.

I tried cleaning my files via Kaspersky, but my trial period already expired. I had to purchase the on-line version. Cost me US$40 which is good for one year. What the heck. 40 dollars is nothing compared to the aggravation caused by a virus-infected PC. The annoying worm and pop-ups have since disappeared. However, my OS seems a bit slower. I am only able to do a quick scan, my PC hangs when I do a full scan. And if left unattended, the PC crashes. But at least, I can now surf the net once again, watch videos and do stuff on MS Office.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Job

So how was my first week at my new job?

It was OK. I've held jobs far more stressful than this one, which of course, pays a lot,lot more than this one. My colleagues all seem very nice, though. I haven't detected any high-and-mighty types...yet.

By the way, this is the only job so far that requires me to report on a Saturday morning. *yawns*

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Beijing Olympics Opening

Currently watching the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics on TV. Wow! The presentation surpasses expectations: it appeared like 3-D animation. Bravo Beijing!

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Humble Pie

About a month ago, I started worrying about the state of my financial affairs. My foreign projects dried up and local clients weren't exactly knocking on my door, either. One big project went up in smokes. It is the third quarter of the year already and things haven't really improved a bit. This hasn't happened to me before. An ominous sign.

After so many years of self-employment, I have finally thrown in the towel and will start work on Monday. An 8-to-5 office job. I have been out-of-the-loop for quite a while, adjusting to corporate life once more will take some time.

Until the middle of this year I was earning in US dollars and way above the local rates. It was a fact I was so damn proud of because I was my own boss: no Monday morning blues, no boss to report to, no nosy officemates. Working from home and armed only with my laptop and phone I conducted projects that cut across timezones. You see, I used to thumb my nose down on local wages, I called it "slave wages." But things have changed. I have learned to swallow my pride and will be taking on a job that doesn't even pay half what I used to earn. How the Mighty has fallen. It is a humbling experience.

Although some of my colleagues went on to become senior officers or have gone abroad for greener pastures, I seem to be stuck here. And for the first time, I was unable to send something to my parents back home.

Anyhow, I guess I really have no reason to complain. I need to learn to count my blessings and to cease comparing myself to others.

By the way, today is an auspicious day: 08-08-08. (My cell number has triple 4's, I am starting to believe that my unlucky streak this year may be due to this triple combination- whatever). So I wish everybody the best of luck. Hopefully, in the coming months things will be better for me.

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War is again brewing in Mindanao, thanks to the government's stupidity. The MILF has started to seize some areas in Mindanao based on a proposed agreement with the government for an expanded autonomy in identified Muslim areas without any proper consultation whatsoever. Can you blame those people in Cotabato if they start arming themselves because the separatist MILF has started to flex its muscles and has begun to take over their areas? Yikes!

The hopelessly-titled Bangsa Moro Juridical Entity proposed to expand the current ARMM to include areas in Lanao and Cotabato that opted out of the ARMM during the plebiscite. The basis for identifying which areas are included in the entity, as I understand it, is "ancestral domain," meaning those areas historically governed by the Sultanate of Sulu in the 18th century. As such, no proper consultation with those living in the 21st century was necessary. Ugh!

In addition, the autonomy that will be granted is almost like one step away from statehood, as the new entity can maintain its own police and military forces and enter into bilateral agreements and economic cooperation with foreign countries.

Whoever came up with this proposal should be cited with treason: This is like handing a huge area of Mindanao to the MILF on a silver platter and helping it create a separate Islamic state, whether the people here like it or not.

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de FALLA: Danza Ritual del Fuego

My seatmate in Spanish, Isabel, gave me the piano score of Manuel de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance. My brother found the music eerily strange. It does sound like somebody's about to be sacrificed.

The excellent Spanish pianist Alicia de Laroccha interprets this piece, recorded at the Prado Museum in Madrid.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Running, Rowing, Cycling

I missed out on a couple of running events lately: La Salle, North Face, Milo, whatelse...the Manila Marathon. Last event I joined was the 15K Mizuno Run Part 2 and that was like a month ago. I couldn't really train for these events and jog in the evenings because of the rain.

Anyway, some events were so poorly-organized, like the 1st Mizuno and the Manila Marathon (I heard), I dread joining some of them if I'm not sure of the organizers' track records. Drinking from a balde (bucket) or from a garden hose just because you have no choice and you cannot risk dying on the road isn't worth all the trouble.

Should I return to competitive rowing? I don't know, waking up at the crack of dawn to paddle in the murky waters of Manila Bay didn't seem to bother me before, I got used to it. I might persuade John, Jun and Jen to row and swim afterwards one week-end. Raul's already up for it.

I've competed in China and Taiwan but I hope there's gonna be another overseas event but please, NOT in China, I've been there twice. Singapore perhaps? I've been to the city-state and watched dragon boat events held at the Bedok Reservoir, but my team hasn't competed there yet. If there's a plan to compete in Singapore, I might sign up for it. The team's going to Taiwan this October, but I haven't been training for more than a year now, so I guess I'll take a pass on this one.

I haven't fixed my bike yet, so biking in the countryside is still out of the picture. I still hate those hideously-designed cycling shirts and shorts filled with corporate logos. But I do want take cycling seriously and travel all the way to Laguna and Batangas with Doc. i miss those days in high school when Ambrose and I would bike all the way from Camp 14 in Del Monte to Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon, passing by wide pineapple plantations and navigating through treacherous, steep gravel roads snaking through the Agusan Canyon towards the other side. 'brose, do you bike around in Germany?

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 8 in C Minor

One of the most disturbing symphonies I have heard is Dmitri Shostakovich's Eight Symphony. I can't even begin to describe it. Shostakovich was hyped by the Soviets as the bard of communism. Listening to the third movement, it seems to me that the symphony was supposed to praise the achievements of Soviet Russia. Since the music was composed during the worst days of Stalinist oppression, it is hard to believe that Shostakovich remained unaffected by it all. In fact, the resulting music sounds really creepy, as if the Russian army were about to March into Eastern and Central Europe, subjugating its peoples and erecting the so-called Iron Curtain.

So did Shostakovich really endorse Soviet Communism through his music, or was he a musical dissident that presented disguised challenges to the oppressive system he was supposed to endorse? The debate still rages more than 30 years after his death.

The third movement marked Allegro non troppo has an obsessive, primal crotchet pattern that demands a high level of musicality, concentration and precision of ensemble. The viola starts out the ostinato, then the violins and incredibly the trombones and tuba all hurtle through the performance to create an atmosphere of triumph but redolent of fear and paranoia as well.

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