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Friday, July 31, 2009

Land of the Absurd

The King of Massacre Movies, Carlo J. Caparas, has been named National Artist by the President, before she went to the US to meet Obama.

The National Artist is conferred to a Filipino who:
- has made significant contributions to the cultural heritage of the country;
- has artistic accomplishments at the highest level;
- has dedicated his/her life in forging a new direction for future generations of "artists";

With this award, I guess you can now consider the following movies- complete with an alternate title- as integral to the country's cultural heritage:

- The Lilian Velez Story ('til Death Do Us Part)
- The Marita Gonzaga Rape-Slay (In God We Trust)
- Lipa Arandia Massacre (Lord Deliver Us From Evil)
- The Untold Vizconde Massacre (God Have Mercy On Us)

The past National Artists must be turning in their graves right now and are probably contemplating on how to return their trophies.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cuarto o Cuatro

When I met up with Jun and Jen last night (Doc couldn't make it), it was the first time they saw me wearing my eye-glasses.

They said I looked like a teacher or professor who likes to take "advantage" of his students.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Feisty

Gloria's last (hopefully) State of the Nation Address were full of jabs aimed at Mar Roxas and former President Joseph Estrada and the rest of her critics. Also, she never categorically stated that she's no longer planning on extending her term in office.

No mention at all about graft and corruption because, well, she's in the middle of it.

As for her report on the economy, she claimed direct foreign investments are on the upswing. That is not the case at all. We have the lowest FDI flows among the major economies in South East Asia.

As for the lower inflation, I should point out that this is due to external factors beyond her control, like slower consumption spending and lower oil prices due to a weak global economy.

Per capita GDP is at US$2,000, she reports. I'm not sure if that's something to cheer about.

As for GDP growth, debt reduction, employment generation in the midst of a global financial crisis, I agree and cheer her accomplishments.

She did not mention the burgeoning budget deficit, slowing exports, weak manufacturing output, falling tax collection efforts or any strategy in moving the economy forward.

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Opera FYI

From operabase.com, the most popular opera composer for the 2008-2011 period is...VERDI.

The ranking, in terms of number of performances, are as follows:
1. VERDI
2. MOZART
3. PUCCINI
4. ROSSINI
5. WAGNER
6. DONIZETTI
7. STRAUSS, R.
8. BIZET
9. TCHAIKOVSKY
10. BRITTEN

The most popular opera, despite the dominance of Italian titles, is...CARMEN

The ranking, in terms of number of performances, are as follows:

1. Carmen (Bizet)
2. The Magic Flute (Mozart)
3. La Boheme (Puccini)
4. La Traviata (Verdi)
5. Tosca (Puccini)
6. Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
7. Madama Butterfly (Puccini)
8. Barber of Seville (Rossini)
9. Rigoletto (Verdi)
10. Don Giovanni (Mozart)

Verdi remains undoubtedly the king of opera, followed by Mozart; Puccini remains the most popular in English-speaking countries, however and Wagner and Strauss are widely-performed in the German-speaking countries(Germany, Austria, Switzerland). French opera is represented by Bizet while Russia makes it to the list mostly due to Tchaikovsky's Onegin. Curiously, British opera makes it to the list this time, on the contribution of Britten's musically dull but dramatically adroit operas.

As for individual titles, the standard bearer for French opera, Carmen is the most wildly popular, probably for all time. Mozart's Magic Flute, which is in German comes in second. (Mozart is the only composer who wrote in Italian and German). The Italians lord it over from 3 to 10. It is interesting to note that despite being the 5th most popular composer in the list, none of Wagner's massive operas make it to the top 10 list.

Gounod was once the most popular opera composer, on the strength of Faust and Romeo et Juliette, but he seems to be less and less performed nowadays. I wonder if Gounod will suffer the same fate as Meyerbeer, whose operas once had the status of Verdi and Puccini today.

Clearly, the musical revolution pioneered by Wagner led to the demise of Meyerbeer in the repertory. Wagner was a strident critic of French opera epitomized by Meyerbeer. The ascendant composers now seem to be Janacek (his psychological drama Katya Kabanova is increasingly being performed, and rightly so) and Britten, both 20th century composers whose musical idiom differs so much from the standard repertory.

What is also apparent in the list is the increasing popularity of bel canto, with Rossini and Donizetti in 4th and 6th respectively. Bellini fell out of the top 10, at no. 11. From Verdi's time up until the 1950s, bel canto fell out of style with only Rossini's Barber and Donizetti's Lucia remaining in the repertory. It was Maria Callas, and later on Sutherland, Caballe, Horne and Kraus, among others who tirelessly fought for the reinstatement of bel canto.

That the bel canto recrudescence is in full swing is apparent with the recent revivals of La Fille du Regiment (infamous for the nine high C's in one aria), Don Pasquale and Donizetti's Tudor Queens, and the reexamination of Rossini's neglected works, famously by the Pesaro Festival in the composer's hometown. Next year, Renee Fleming will headline Armida while Juan Diego Florez will finally bring Le Comte Ory at the Met the following year. The rare Matilde di Shabran premiered at Covent Garden last year, also with Florez.

What is surprising is that works that defined verismo, namely Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci are not as frequently performed anymore.

Clearly, the standard repertory is firmly entrenched in mid-to-late 19th century Italian operas dominated by Verdi and Puccini. The Germans (Wagner and Strauss) and the French (Bizet) play second fiddle while the Russians (Tchaikovsky) and the Eastern Europeans (Dvorak and Janacek) seem relegated to the sidelines. The British (Britten) are playing catch up while the Americans remain non-existent.

So which are my favorites?

(1) Semiramide (Rossini)
(2) Tosca (Puccini)
(3) Carmen (Bizet)
(4) I Puritani (Bellini)
(5) Aida (Verdi)
(6) Falstaff (Verdi)
(7) La Boheme (Puccini)
(8) L'Elisir d'Amore (Donizetti)
(9) Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni)
(10) Madama Butterfly (Puccini)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Contrapuntal Conversation

J.S.Bach's Toccata in C Minor BWV 911 (final part), performed splendidly by the legendary Martha Argerich.



The fugue is incredibly played and the interpretation- controlled dynamics (with Bach, you can't overdo the dynamics as he wrote for the harpsichord and early versions of the piano that do not have the sonorous quality of the modern pianoforte)- is marvelous. Here the left hand does not only support the melody on the right, it assumes an equal part. What you get is a conversation between two voices that aims for harmony at the same time.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Better Facilities

Because I couldn't jog in the afternoons or early evening with the almost daily rains, I decided to check out the swimming pool at the Marikina Sports Park. I haven't been there in like, ages. That's where my Vietnamese friend, Hiep, taught me how to swim.

What caught my attention was the brand, spanking new building- albeit it looks very skeletal, the municipio probably ran out of funds to complete it- attached to the old complex that features surprisingly spacious locker rooms, clean rest rooms equipped with sensor-sensitive latrines and private shower- thank goodness- not the open, communal type that encourages annoying guys to pretend they're showering for a very long time hoping for a hook-up. There's a sauna to boot, although predictably it isn't operational yet, maybe it is meant for display purposes.

The water is a lot cleaner and clearer, too. Also, those swimming seriously with their trainers were not yet there. I just hate it when I couldn't do my laps because these swimmers monopolize and occupy a considerable part of the pool.

We usually see sudden improvements in infrastructure and other public facilities prior to the elections. But I was still a bit surprised that a public sports complex managed by the local government could outdo ULTRA and Rizal, which are both run by the Philippine Sports Commission.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

To My Landlady's Cat Next Door


Hi Kuribs,

How are you? First of all, I know my place. I am just a tenant, and you happen to be my landlady's pet. Ergo, you own the place and can barge in anytime you want.

I don't even mind that you do your hygiene rituals in front of me, like licking your balls while I'm munching on Piattos. But can you please

(1)Announce by meowing loudly that you are about to rub your body against my leg? I was close to a heart attack when, trying to open my door, I felt something move against my leg while fumbling to locate my keys;

(2)Not treat my door as your scratching post? I know you need to sharpen those claws and arm yourself against feral cats intruding in your territory, but every time you scratch it, it sounds like someone's scrubbing the cement floor with coke bottle caps; I don't even mind that you've already ripped my rubber floor mat into an unrecognizable mess;

(3) Not force and squeeze yourself through my bedroom window so that you can simply satisfy your curiosity of what's inside. Are you not aware of the phrase, "Curiosity killed the cat"? Seriously dude, I don't keep kitty porn lying around the house;

(4) Can you tell that ginger cat friend of yours, to please NOT leave carcasses of dead birds on my front door? I admire his hunting skills, but how about cleaning up after?

(5) And finally, a small favor. Are you friends with that dog across the street? (Maybe not, but what the hell). Can you please tell him to NOT schedule his daily vocal exercises between midnight and 4 a.m., when people are fast asleep? I know his services will come in handy when there's a fire or a thief in the neighborhood, but how about doing it in the daytime, when there are people knocking on gates for surveys, bible studies, handicap donations and barangay solicitations;

I hope you will be considerate enough to grant my requests so that we may co-exist peacefully.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fishy Elections

I always thought something fishy was going on when the poll automation bidding started a few months ago. One by one, the bidders were disqualified for a variety of reasons, leaving only one bidder as the default winner.

I suspected some people would do anything, go to great lengths to jeopardize the poll automation so we can maintain the status quo and conduct the elections manually. Manual counting of votes, as has been demonstrated in the past, is great for cheating.

Well what do you know, the Pinoy partner of the winning bidder backed out of the partnership after they've been awarded the contract. Something's really not right here. I mean the parties involved in Smartmatic should've ironed out their differences long before they forged their partnership. The Pinoy partner suddenly demanded amendments to their agreement after the Comelec gave them the deal. tsk tsk tsk

Your guess is as good as mine. The deal is worth billions. For the Pinoy partner to jeopardize the whole elections after they've been awarded the contract, he must have been offered a juicier deal. Who do you think has the resources to scare the guy and pay him off? It's all speculation, I know. But who do you think is the main beneficiary of manual elections?

This is embarrassing. I still can't understand why it is so difficult to implement poll automation in the age of high-speed computers and digital technology. We still can't get our acts together.

Gloria shouldn't rejoice just yet. If her administration wins in next year elections, the results will never be credible because people will think that she and her administration rigged the elections. In fact, it's quite possible that she will do anything to stay in power, from the Con-ass and changing the Constitution, to running for Congress so she could be Prime Minister, the possibilities for the power-hungry incumbent are endless.

She has done it before, there's absolutely no reason why she wouldn't do it again. She has developed a Marcos syndrome. She obviously has this illusion that it is her and her family's duty to rule the Philippines.

The road for cheating in next year's elections has now been paved.

UPDATE: The two parties have reportedly come to an agreement and the poll automation is expected to push through, hopefully.

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