Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Friday, January 09, 2015

Freedom Fries

Ah, freedom of expression and free speech! It demands that we be allowed to offend for the purpose of satire (and our targets are free to offend us back, fight satire with satire). And because the purpose of satire is to offend, it doesn’t work if it’s not offensive. So the target has to be offended.

Only, it requires that our target be mature enough to take offense without resorting to physical violence as a means of retaliation. “I am offended! But you have the right to offend me, just as I have the right to offend you.” Keep it within reason; keep it on the level of a discussion, or at the very least an exchange of opposing ideas. But as we all know from experience, the moment opposing groups from across a picket line begin taunting each other with words, it doesn’t take long before an object is thrown, someone gets hit, and the whole thing dissolves into a free-for-all.

Now some may say that as a society, we’re not yet that mature or civilized to handle such offense, so let’s put a warning label: “He who excessively offends shall be responsible for any repercussions, including physical death.” But is it right to hold the offender responsible for his death, and not the offended that pulled the trigger on the gun that killed him? Or maybe we should espouse curtailing excessive offense. But how excessive is excessive? Who’s the arbiter of offense?

So we’re back to the right to offend, and the maturity to take offense. Or if you lack maturity, you are free to not subscribe, to switch channels, or to walk away. But can we? Can you? And what if you cannot walk away, or switch the offensive thing off? Can you tell someone preaching inside a crowded bus, “I am offended by your preaching, stop it”? Or are you expected to just stay offended?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Same-Sex Union Fabcast, Parts 1 & 2

In what has become an almost once-a-year event, The Fabcasters and their Peanut Gallery converged at CC’s mansion to discuss same-sex union.

One of our guests is looking for same-sex partners to be the “guinea pigs” to push our government to recognize same-sex union.

Here’s Part 1:

And here’s Part 2:

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Feel Of Songs

Songs, especially those you were quite fond of when growing up, go beyond an auditory experience. Sometimes they have “feel” to them, as if they burrowed deep into your ear and brain, and lodged themselves so that you can feel them in your head. And when they don’t “feel right,” you know something’s off.

My friends and I were on a 3+ hour drive from Chicago to Indianapolis. One of them,  Ben, had Spotify, and we chose an all-80s playlist (we’re friends since high school). While listening, we quickly realized that Spotify has cover versions or worse, “multiplex” versions, despite being labeled as the original version.

(Multiplex, for those too young to remember, were popular before videoke replaced karaoke. On a cassette tape, the vocals are placed on one track—often the left channel—while the instrumentations are on the other. This way, someone singing karaoke can have a guide vocal track with variable volume levels—you adjust using the balance control. Back then, producers of multiplex albums tried their best to replicate songs as close to the original as possible; in fact, some of them were near-perfect clones.)

A song on Spotify would start playing, we’d listen to it, and after a few bars someone will say, “Hey, wait a minute. This song doesn’t feel right.”

Yes, “feel”. Sometimes we’d say, “Hey, that doesn’t sound right,” but when the song is almost as close to the original, it’s not the sound that you trust. You check how the song feels as it’s hitting you. And it’s not just an purely auditory experience; in fact, you allow it to seep inside your ear, let it roll around your head, and allow it to course all over your body. Yes, I actually listen with my body. And I can tell if the vocals flow differently, or the banging of the drums is off.

And when we find the original song and play it, the three of us can instantly tell with our ears and (for me, at least) bodies that it’s the real deal. “That’s it!” “That feels right.”

The body has a way of remembering.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Experience In The Artisen Spa

D and I were invited by one of the owners of The Artisen Spa (who requested anonymity) to try their services. So we went one Saturday late afternoon for a scheduled session.

The Artisen Spa is very easy to find. Travel along Chino Roces, and after you see Shopwise on your right, you turn left on Davila Street. You immediately see SGC Building on your left. Going up the stairs, you immediately see the spa entrance when you reach the second floor.

We were greeted by the two other co-owners of the spa, who explained their philosophy as stated in their tagline: “Experience the art of massage.” If massage is an art, then their masseurs are artists. In fact, they don’t call them masseurs; they’re artisans. (By the way, they have 8 male and 8 female artisans, so you can choose which gender you prefer to be rubbing your body.) And true to their philosophy, these artisans treat each client as distinct individuals, with their unique likes and needs. I liked it that they ask clients to fill up a sheet at the start, where clients can specify the kind of massage they want, which parts of the body they want the artisans to give added attention and pampering, what kind of oil they prefer, etc.

D and I eagerly filled up our forms, excited for our massage. Then we were introduced to our masse—erm, our artisans: Mark for D and Yves for me. Mark is the more mestizohin type, while Yves is the duskier and bulkier of the two. After our artisans washed our feet, D and I went to our separate cubicles.

I’m not a big fan of massages, and I told Yves that. That’s why I opted for medium instead of hard massage. Yves was very good; not only did he follow my instructions (both verbal and written), he also took time out to announce and explain what he was about to do. And since I’m the inquisitive type, he also patiently answered my queries. I especially had a lot of questions regarding the hot pads that he used on me, as well as the device he used to massage my feet.

Given that I was invited, I naturally put aside any thoughts of hanky-panky; plus, given the spa’s interiors, ambiance, and the fact that they have co-ed staff members, it felt like a place where no ES (“extra service”) was allowed. So when Yves took off his shirt at the start, I thought, “Oh, I guess he doesn’t want to get all sweaty in his work clothes.” As he was expertly moving his hands all over my body, I noticed that he didn’t hesitate to let his fingers move near sensitive areas (well, I did leave the portion “Area of the body you don’t want to be touched” in the form blank). But after a light brush here and a near miss there, I started to wonder, “Is he trying to get a rise out of me?” But I told myself, “Oh, behave, behaaaaaave!” Luckily at my age, my body can follow my instructions. So when Yves flipped me over onto my back, I was quite behaved and relaxed.

I took time to ask Yves some personal questions as well (he’s from Bacolod, he says he’s just 25 years old and single, he’s worked in two spas before). He was very friendly, and struck the right balance of sounding engaged in the conversation but still focused on his primary task. At least he didn’t seem like a disinterested worker—I guess he likes his job.

Afterwards, D & I met up again in the lobby. D was smiling, and whispered to me that the massage Mark gave him was excellent: “Tanggal yung sakit ng katawan ko!” Thanking the owners profusely, we left the spa smiling and happy.

In the car on our way to dinner, D and I exchanged notes. I told D about Yves’ sensual strokes. D said, “You know, Mark also did that to me! But I kept quiet because I didn’t have my wallet with me, hahaha!”

“Do you think if you asked for ES, he would have offered?”

D thought for a moment then said, “I really don’t know. Hindi ko talaga inisip yun, kasi wala naman akong dalang pambabayad! Mabibitin lang ako if ever, hahaha.”

So now, dear readers, if you are the more adventurous type who loves exploring new massage places in the metro, here’s a perfect opportunity for you. Try out The Artisen Spa, and find out what D and I may (or may not) have missed.

Friday, May 02, 2014

The Open Fabcast, Parts 1 to 4

This is the first time I am dropping all four parts of a Fabcast. It is because I am on an internal deadline. Or I just wanted to know how Beyonce feels when she drops a whole album online, LOL.

The Open Fabcast, Part 1

In which the Fabcasters discuss open relationships. For this first instalment, two couples open up about their relationships.

Music credits:
"Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It" by Stars
"The Game Is On" (from the soundtrack of BBC's Sherlock, season 1) by David Arnold & Michael Price
"Nobody's Perfect" by Madonna

Listen Now:

The Open Fabcast, Part 2

For part two, it's Londonboy and Londonboyfriend's turn to narrate their relationship status.

Music credits:
"Let It Go" (from the soundtrack of the movie "Frozen") by Edina Menzel
"On The Move" (from the soundtrack of BBC's "Sherlock", season 1) by David Arnold & Michael Price
"Hanky Panky" (from the soundtrack of the movie "Dick Tracy") by Madonna

Listen Now:

The Open Fabcast, Part 3

Now it’s the turn of two couples in exclusive—or are they?—relationships: [1] Lobster Tony and RJ; and [2] CC and C3.

Music credits:
“I Got A Boy” by Girls’ Generation
“Winter Rose/Love Awake” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“The Game Is On” (from the soundtrack of BBC's Sherlock, season 1) by David Arnold & Michael Price
“Take A Chance On Me” by Erasure

Listen Now:

The Open Fabcast, Part 4

Now it’s the turn of the two guys who are dating to react to all this talk of open relationships. But this is just a lead-in to the grand spirited wrap-up, wherein the Fabcasters and the peanut gallery reveal belated realisations as well as engage in highly animated and vigorous discussions about open relationships.

Music credits:
“Do It Again” by Robyn & Röyksopp
“The Game Is On” (from the soundtrack of BBC's Sherlock, season 1) by David Arnold & Michael Price
“Runaway” by Kanye West Feat. Pusha T
“Love Is A Bourgeois Concept” by the Pet Shop Boys

Listen Now:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sense And Senselessness

It’s useless to make sense of the senseless. Best if we can just graciously accept something that is beyond our control and comprehension. Yet we still try to, if only to trigger some kind of closure.

The bus fell off the cliff on a Friday. I was in a shoot outside the office when I got a call from my colleague and a close friend of Bam. There was worry and panic in his voice; earlier they had called Bam’s cellphone, and it was the police who answered. I remember telling him not to think of the worst yet, that so long as there’s no confirmation, there’s hope. But I knew better, and readied myself for the other shoe to drop. And it did, at first slowly as details trickled in via SMS, then with a thudding finality from my colleague: “sir wala na si bam.”

I’m no stranger to death. Even before we lost our friend and fellow Fabcaster AJ, I had buried relatives, friends, and colleagues. I said farewell to my 4-year old brother and my 69-year old dad. And yet over the weekend D noticed there was something wrong with me. I was masungit and tahimik. Initially I thought I was emotionally affected by this Korean drama that we were watching (yes, I’m actually quite hooked on it). But when I attended the wake on Sunday evening, I realised it was Bam’s loss that shook me deeply.

Of all people, why him? For me, he exemplified the phrase mabait na tao. I’m sure he had a mischievous side, even a naughty one. And I’m sure he has a pasaway side to him. But in the office, he was a gentle soul who didn’t put himself above his team. In fact he preferred to fade quietly in the background, and let his work speak for itself. He was friendly to everyone in his own quiet way. It was next to impossible to get mad at him, let alone hold a grudge against him. He was too much of a gentleman.

So why him? His wife had just given birth to his second child. He was getting ready to move her and the kids from Bicol to Cavite, where he had a house built. He had big, exciting plans for the channel. He was only 32 years old.

Senseless. Sometimes that’s the only thing that makes sense.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Storm After The Storm

Phrases like “lack of leadership,” “no evidence of organisation,” and “no government presence” are so easy to toss around, like galvanised steel flung by gale winds. But for every story of looting, desperation, and no sense of control, there are also other stories: of soldiers going hungry because they opened their military commissary to feed civilians, of local authorities who attempt to put order despite suffering losses themselves, of survivors helping one another.

It’s easy to overlook that the first line of response from the local government were also victims themselves. It’s easy to point fingers instead of lifting a hand to help. It’s easy to forget that just before Yolanda there was the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol, and the stand-off in Zamboanga. It’s easy to disregard the fact that despite pre-storm warnings, no one, not even storm experts, had any idea of the magnitude and severity of Yolanda’s fury.

There are more sides to a story, with each side unfolding and evolving. It’s tempting to report only what can be seen up front. Stating a fact is one thing, but understanding needs the bigger picture.

There are those who seek to storm Malacañang at this time, blaming the ineptitude of the president for the slow response. I just wish that our collective energies in the coming days have a more constructive agenda. Because that’s what we do after a storm—we rise up and rebuild.  But I guess solidarity and sobriety may be too much to ask from others.