Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ganesha, remover of all obstacles

Ganesha. Collage by Nick Bantock,
from The Venetian's Wife (1996).

"The one who moves towards knowledge of the timeless is never afraid." -- The Arthava Veda, Ganesha Upanishad

Monday, November 20, 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Luted Fields of Gold

Nicked for your listening pleasure, folks. Sting performing one of his most popular songs with the lute at Studio 60. There are a couple of actors from the show talking over the track though. (Filchers can't be choosers.):

Elizabethan-flavored Fields of Gold

So, did you giggle? get misty? sit aghast? Come on then, let it out!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Zen's beauty wrap

I recently got my Zen player a beauty wrap from GMask. Lookee, it's purty. *purrs* :

The GMask wrap is not only decorative but protective as well. You can choose from a variety of designs, or if you like, you can make your own. The wrap takes 45 minutes to an hour to do. The attendants are very helpful and accomodating. All sorts of electronic gadgets can be wrapped: cellular phones, personal music players, digital cameras, PDAs, even laptops and notebooks. Learn more about GMask from their website.

(And yeah, I'm a Creative user, not iPod. Creative's mp3 players are much more functional - you have an FM tuner, recorder, and data storage in addition. Plus, with the accompanying software (Creative MediaSource), you can record audio from the web or your computer. And oh, audio quality is excellent.)

* Friendly reminder to fellow PMP users: Listening to your PMPs constantly, for prolonged periods, and at high volumes can make you deaf sooner (like at 40!). Following the 60-60 rule is recommended. Read about it here: How music to the ears is deafening for the MP3 generation.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The problem with imagining Sting in tights

The first time I read about Sting taking on Elizabethan music, as in John Dowland songs arranged for the lute, I immediately thought it would tank (sorry Stingie). And then when I heard a 30-second clip of him singing

I sit, I sigh,
I weep, I faint,
I die, in deadly pain
and endless misery

I giggled and giggled. Yeah I know, shame on me. It somehow reminded me of Panchito and Dolphy singing “Hopiang di mabili, inaamag kasi” to the tune of La donna est mobile. Or maybe I was giggling because I was imagining Sting as a traveling bard in tights and ruffly poet’s shirt (opened to the abdomen, of course).

Since then Songs from the Labyrinth topped the UK’s classical charts, and more surprisingly, reached the #24 spot in the pop charts! So here I am listening to the Englishman’s distinctive tenor crooning in time with lutenist Edin Karamazov’s string-plucking, and oy, I must say it is rather pleasant. Particularly those songs where Sting harmonizes with himself. They sound very strange at first, all those rounded O’s and sonorous notes that almost sound like wails. But once you’re used to the style, the music can be quite relaxing (very good for sleeping in fact). Interspersed between the music tracks are readings from Dowland’s letters. How can anyone not find Sting’s lovely British speaking voice appealing?

Snooping around blogs I chanced upon an audio file of Sting’s guesting at Studio 60 where he sang Fields of Gold accompanied by the lute (which he played himself; he also plays on a few tracks in Labyrinth). Like the songs in his new album, the lutenized Fields of Gold is quite soothing once you get over the shock. I will upload it and post a linkie here soon.

`Abracadabra' is the operative word

* Note: I tried to make this as spoiler-free as possible.

The film is a sleight of hand, a series of misdirections, a skillful trick. Like Cutter (Michael Caine) says at the start, as in magic, you have to watch very closely. Who needs the Wachowski brothers? I’ll take the Nolan brothers over them anytime. They are so much subtler, not as in-your- face (I am not amused by the Wachowskis’ “look at how many allusions we’ve embedded in our movie aren’t we so very smart” references particularly in the indigestion-inducing Matrix Reloaded). I love The Prestige not so much for the mystery as for the writing. The film is structured in a non-linear fashion, with 3 timelines crisscrossing each other: in the present, a fatal accident occurs and Borden (Christian Bale) is on trial. He is given Angier’s (Hugh Jackman) journal, in which Angier recounts his search to unlock the secret of Borden’s Transported Man by decrypting the latter’s notebook, which in turn recounts how they started out as assistants and eventually became the most bitter of rivals.

It is a multi-layered story that is not only about magic in the Victorian age, but is also about rivalry and revenge, about what it costs to create a grand illusion, about the thin line between driving passion and all-consuming obsession.

Some were turned-off by the (Angier-related) twist at the end. (Waaha, it's a sci-fi fantasy film pala!) For me, that wasn’t actually the major twist that viewers were being led to. (If Tesla's science, or magic depending on whose POV -- I love how the setting was in the Victorian era, at a time when rationality and intuition were starting to collide -- was meant to be the climactic twist then they wouldn’t have shown us all those hats and cats in his backyard.) Borden’s secret was the greater twist. While I suspected it earlier on, I still couldn’t be sure till the very end, for, like a good magic trick, the filmmakers left room for doubt, much like Angier’s trapdoor in his final performances. You think you know but you really can’t be sure. (And then again, if you are a smart aleck and did know for sure, it’s still a dang well-written movie!)

What does it take to enjoy The Prestige? The very thing that witnessing magic requires: suspension of disbelief. If you fail at that, then the movie will probably suck.

End note. David Bowie is in the movie. What a surprise, I didn’t know that until I checked the cast list a day after seeing it. So that’s why Tesla looked vaguely familiar. I did recognize Andy Serkis (a.k.a. Gollum) instantly though. Huh, figure that out.

Songwriting that Stings

* Originally posted in LJ on November 1. *

At a pinoyexchange (a.k.a. Pex) thread I started a few days ago (we'll get to that in the next entry), dindi mentioned one of Sting's songs from his Brand New Day (1999) album. Back then, I confess that after a couple of listens, I declared the album a dud. I didn't like any other songs apart from After the Rain Has Fallen and A Thousand Years (which really, shame on you, Mr. Sumner, I thought of only as a cheap ploy to cash in and sell the millennium its theme song. But oh, wait, it should be two thousand years then, right, not only a thousand. Ah, I remember now, it was Brand New Day which I judged to be the sell-out song.). In any case, I had basically bought the cd for Desert Rose (which, needless to say, I lurve).

Anyway, chalk it up to ADD-ishness or the fact that I loved Ten Summoner's Tales too much or the possibility that I simply did not listen to it closely enough - Ghost Story passed right over my head. So then now, dindi mentions the song in the Pex forums, and I decide to go have a listen again. I must say, I appreciate it a whole lot more now, and I think I'm beginning to love it. Some of the most poignant, moving songs Sting has ever written are in fact, about his complicated relationship with his father (the senior Mr. Sumner passed on several years ago.).

With Ghost Story, the former English teacher's writing again demonstrates an elusive, poetical quality. You may know exactly what he's talking about, or you may only sense the emotions yet not fully grasp it. In my case, the song speaks. Underneath the lyrical monologues, the graceful, cadenced musings and introspection, Sting asks himself questions which echo my own. The second half of the song goes:

What is the force that binds the stars?
I wore this mask to hide my scars
What is the power that pulls the tide?
Never could find a place to hide

What moves the earth around the sun?
What could I do but run and run and run?
Afraid to love, afraid to fail
A mast without a sail

The moon's a fingernail
And slowly sinking
Another day begins
And now I'm thinking

That this indifference
Was my invention
When everything I did
Sought your attention

You were my compass star
You were my measure
You were a pirate's map
Of buried treasure

If this was all correct
The last thing I'd expect
The prosecution rests
It's time that I confessed
I must have loved you
I must have loved you

Listen to Ghost Story here.

As simple and compelling as all that, and still it does not top another song he wrote about his father, what I think to be one of his most beautiful songs ever: Why Should I Cry for You?. I will say nothing more, just read the lyrics for yourself, or listen to it here.

Why Should I Cry For You ?

Under the dog star sail
Over the reefs of moonshine
Under the skies of fall
North, north west, the Stones of Faroe

Under the Arctic fire
Over the seas of silence
Hauling on frozen ropes
For all my days remaining
But would north be true?

All colours bleed to red
Asleep on the ocean's bed
Drifting on empty seas
For all my days remaining

But would north be true?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
Dark angels follow me
Over a godless sea
Mountains of endless falling,
For all my days remaining,
What would be true?

Sometimes I see your face,
The stars seem to lose their place
Why must I think of you?
Why must I?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
Why would you want me to?
And what would it mean to say,
That, "I loved you in my fashion"?

What would be true?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?

Aaaaam back!

Finally I can publish! Egad, that was horrible. Blogger's been having problems and I've been locked out of here since I posted that entry below. I was forced to use LJ for a while. Thank goodness I got this back. Though I've lost all my customization (check out the sidebar). Oh well, at least everything else is intact.

Look, I got me a John Legend media player. Hah! (Never mind the ridiculous juxtaposition of nearly naked women and religious iconography (blasted MTV director), that's one fabulous church!) #3 on Billboard, baby! (Will write about the album soon.)

Will have to start rebuilding little by little. I kinda like this new set-up. Nice color, clean minimalist look.