My Brother Knows The Real Me

sarah-mclachlan-mirrorball

When we moved to Better Living in 1994, my brother and I made friends with the neighbourhood kids. We had to because our house was poorly furnished and the architectural lay out was ill conceived. Our bungalow was a box with two bedrooms – one small enough to fit two boys who haven’t been circumcised and one master’s bedroom which I didn’t see the masterliness of at all – and a bathroom that has drainage problems. Maybe it is a little early to be talking ill about a house that we still live in but someone has to document its history and right now I have time to do just such a thing.

Our mother, who was responsible for the house, was about to die and so it was a sad time for everyone, although I don’t remember any of us being very, very sad. We didn’t look forward to it maybe because we weren’t sure her death was imminent.

After she died, we moved on and made friends with the kids in our new neighbourhood. Kids in the village were nice, especially the girls who maybe found me and my brother intriguing. As children, we were very cute and we advertised ourselves as half-Chinese although the truth is that we are maybe only one-fourths Chinese. Being half-half is great because you get asked about your heritage by Filipino classmates and friends who are 100% Filipino and who have no other heritage to speak of except their Filipinoness which is something me and my ‘half-Chinese’ siblings wouldn’t ever be curious about. Being young and Chinese-looking is one of the best life stages ever. It makes you feel special, unique and attractive.

Mostly, the girls found my brother cute. I know this because they told me and also some of our boy friends. My brother truly is the cute one. Aside from being good-looking, he was also good in math, algebra, English, dancing, HEKASI and architecture. He was well-loved by high school teachers who made it a point always to emphasize that I am not like him at all in terms of interpersonal skills and smiling skills and maybe also dancing skills. He can wear Spice Girl drag in a cheerleading competition and still be adored, but if I had pulled a stunt like that in high school, my sexuality would have been questioned and that would have really hurt my feelings.

I used to like basketball because there used to be a basketball court in front of the house. Despite the presence of this mini-court I never really got better at it because my heart belonged to volleyball. Volleyball is such a beautiful, graceful sport and I loved it and I think I still love it now. But anyway, my brother and I used to play basket with the annex boys even though I knew in my heart that volleyball is my sport. My brother, my kuya, got better at it, although he looked really funny, like a flying hanger about to dunk.

One summer afternoon, I overheard my brother talking to some of the girls. The girls, apparently, found me a bit effeminate because maybe I played volleyball well or I played it with apparent glee and abandon, I can’t be sure. Maybe, they found me a little girly because I’m one of the two boys in the group who never got teased with a female. The other one is an obvious gay with quite a gay name so his effeminacy surely has never piqued anyone’s interest. It is very hard to imagine that gay’s gayness ever having disturbed anyone’s peace. Also, I got along well with the girls.

If you’re a second child, being the subject of discussion induces feelings of preciousness in you because it rarely happens. I didn’t exactly delight in being talked about but of course I wanted to know just how my brother would defend my honor. He didn’t defend my honor because maybe, to begin with, no one’s honor was being besmirched.

‘So, is he gay?’ was what I remember being asked of him. I don’t recall him disproving their suspicion. Instead, he described my character in a way that, even now, will be hard to refute. He told them that while I may not actually be totally gay, I do have a tendency to mimic the behavioural patterns of the group to which I attach myself the most, which during that particular era was the group of the volleyball-playing girls. It was classy of him. He knew that I could get very sore about being accused of homosexuality. He knew how much it would have wounded me. On our worst fights, I need only to be called ‘gay’ in order to lose my shit and lose.

I’ve always believed that my personality is special, magnetic and that in time, it will shine. Coupled with my exotic half-Chineseness, I used to believe that once I get out of school, I could dazzle people and employers with what I have to offer – my Catholic education and ability to describe people and things using big, Mariah Carey words. These didn’t happen very often. Instead, I became the dead of the party in most parties and my half-Chineseness has officially ceased fascinating people.

When I was in college, I bought a lot of CDs. Random albums that I thought I might enjoy. I bought Coldplay’s X&Y, Tiesto’s Just Be, and Sarah McLachlan’s Mirrorball and many, many, many others. I read somewhere that Mirrorball was Patty Laurel’s leave-me-alone CD. But who cares about Patty Laurel’s favorite album? Thanks to my mother’s fortune, I was able to buy all the albums I desired. Mirrorball was the album I played the most because it was gorgeous and her voice, indescribable. My brother said something about how Sarah McLachlan was one of those artists who sound as gorgeous in concert as they do in the CD. I agreed and that was when I became a super Sarah McLachlan fan. Even though I haven’t found the time to care about Shine On, hew new, I hope she comes to Bangkok very soon.

Augusten Burroughs kind of Christmas

You Better

Freak is what Augusten Burroughs will make you feel like in his Chistmas book, You Better Not Cry. Freak for not having memories of childhood filled with Christmas craziness anticipation. Freak. Especially if you happen to be a gay adult who can’t remember a childhood marked by tinsel fascination or any of the other Christmas fascinators. My Christmas childhood was spent fearing the day when Christmas ceases to mean dicking around the extended family compound in Pasay for gifts and cash, but mostly cash, because, if you must know, I’m ‘economically-challenged as hell’, allegedly, and at an early age I must have been made aware of the greatness of the sensation brought about by having so much cash. Mostly I remember just really wanting to have as much Archies and Jugheads. You would understand if you remember that in the 90s, a Double Digest has 256 pages and Filbars sells 3 for only PhP 200.

It’s easy to see why Augusten Burroughs’s brother accuses him of retardation. In fact it would be retarded not to accuse him of that; it would have been charitable of his brother not to see little Augusten as anything but a retard. Augusten is a freak. So freakish it often seems like he’s making stuff up, but who cares? We always need a laugh and it’s generous to produce hilarity at one’s own expense for the greater good of those in need. This act of generosity surely must make baby Jesus proud.

It’s become an Augusten Burroughs tradition to make mountains out of molehills, to milk every single life event of its story-telling worth as something worth telling and killing millions of trees for. Getting into his Christmas reminiscences, I expected to read about  minor accidents that happened to happen during Christmastime. Maybe in his childhood his mom got drunk and his dad sort of got upset on one of his Christmases is what I thought I should set myself up for. A Wolf at the Table really scarred me, if you must know. It scarred me deeply. But no. Augusten shocked me with genuine sadness, Christmas-style.

I know I set you up for AB’s Christmas memories but I feel like talking about myself instead because I know me better than I could ever know Augusten. You must know, though, that You Better Not Cry involves Santa Sex.

Persons not of the naturally sunny, happy kind are or should be aware of the lameness of expressing unpleasant thoughts about Christmas because if they are not, there’s forever the risk of being perceived as eternally trying to be unique and contrarian which is just so the wrong way to be. When expressing dissatisfaction over Christmas and its hassles, family hang-up horseshits-reminding tendencies, it is best to be firm and clear about exactly why and just how is Christmas and it’s  Mariah Carey ambience is making you not delirious with joy. Persons of this type, maybe they can try to aim for Christmas Fever okayness and be out of sunshine persons’s sight. Grinchies, to save themselves from judgments, could immerse themselves in the true spirits of Christmas, preferrably those that are 40% proof. Just like our guy Augusten.

Greatest Hits and Misses

I want to have all of Mariah Carey’s Greatest Hits albums because I fear the total shut down of CD-selling is nigh. CDs are always going to be a part of me, they’re a part of me indefinitely, although I’ve been reassessing the importance of CDs in my life since it seems like such a huge waste of money to buy several greatest hits album of an artist whose individual albums I already own. Besides, how greedy should a record label be to release not one, not two, but five Greatest Hitses for a single artist to sell me, the unwise consumer? More importantly, how greedy am I for wanting to have everything of hers? Very greedy, it would appear, and I don’t mind. I never knew how much greedier I could get with an iPod since owning one only caused me to want even more albums. I therefore conclude that greed recognizes no format.

I only ever felt this need for Mariah whose Greatest Hits I got recently. It is a sloppily packaged CD and there are no thank yous to be found, not so much as a Hi, not even the type of hasty i-love-you-fans type of message that artists feel the need to say to fans for their contribution to their already insanely vast riches via album purchases and general acts of worship. As a practicer of such worship, I don’t feel sorry for contributing to certain singers’ riches as it is their due for being so aspirational and generally just fabulous in every way and for being so great at making people feel this blinded but ultimately satisfactory sense of satiation, and for being so skilled at promising lifelong fanaticism to them that creates within a fan/lonely-consumer-who-finds-meaning-in-material-things a true sense of fulfillment and joy that’s quite hard to explain although easy to be repetitive and be such a bore about. Greatest Hits is quite the obligatory Sony release and its fuss-free booklet is such a shameful act of obligation fulfillment since this is the least suspicious greatest hits of hers and couldn’t they have at least got a nice, crazy quote from her. In a perfect world this would have remixes, b-sides, live performances, rock versions and remakes which we will never tire of.

This collection claims to be ‘the ultimate Mariah Carey album. From the infectious Dreamlover through to Fantasy and Underneath the Stars all the songs on this album are certified Mariah classics‘ which may or may not be right depending on which particular consumer is consuming this product. This is simply something that can be said of any of her compilation albums including The Remixes and #1s. The sequence doesn’t do the randomness of the songs any favor. This compilation is for the very casual Mariah Carey consumer and the album is happy just to be sold.

The inclusion of Fantasy ODB Remix in The Remixes, although already included in two previous compilation albums, is not this album’s only sin. Here is finally a remix album with which the geniuses at Sony can finally shelter the remixes of her great remixes [I Still Believe (Damizza Remix), Breakdown (Mo Thugs), Honey (Bad Boy Remix), to name a few ] and what do the geniuses do? They not only exclude the remixed version of the songs, they include the previously released album versions, probably with the mindset that consumers who have yet to discover the very obscure Mariah Carey discography will learn that a song called Breakdown exists in its chaste form, that is, non-remixed, even though it is in a REMIX ALBUM, and it will be so much better to leave it untouched and stack said songs with actual remixes. Concept schmoncept, sales is king. Also a sin? Uglifying Charmbracelet’s Yours featuring a guest verse from BIG sound alike Bone Crusher. Another sin is editing I Know What You Want right to the part where Busta Rhymes says J Records. This album needs to confess.

And because the world needs another Mariah Carey love songs compilation (and maybe it seriously does), Sony, the milkingest record label of all time, releases The Ballads. Mariah is pure cash cow at this point. She’s been milked so thoroughly, you have to wonder if there’s any left for her babies. I’m sorry, that was sinister. But Sony is sinisterer. This is actually not a completely worthless product if you ask the laziest playlist maker in the world. This proves useful when you don’t feel like making your own Mariah ballads playlist, except the playlist is still quite limited and repetitive. If I were to make my own ballads playlist, I’d include unreleased and rare stuff such as Slipping Away and There for Me because I’m not from Sony music. Record Label Geniuses think differently. What is another Hero, Vision of Love, My All in yet another Mariah Carey greatest hits of sorts collection? Cash and time spared from a well thought-out playlist, is what.

The greatest greatest hits in my humble opinion is the modestly titled, #1s. In its liner notes, Mariah screams, No! This is not yet the Greatest Hits! Too early for that! although it may as well have been. This is a remarkable collection that reminds of the time when Mariah albums are both product and art, however meaningless being either entailed. And it’s just what we needed: a fairly sized number 1 hits collection that begins with a foreboding of things to come, image and soundwise. It begins with the sexy Sweetheart with Jermaine Dupri, followed by prestige duets When You Believe with Whitney Houston and Whenever You Call with Brian McKnight, which if songs were representations of our diva, is exactly how I like my Mariah: sexy and prestigious. It begins with the recent hits and winds down to the earliest, offering a trip down memory lane, tracing the progression/regression from the skimpy outfitting, helicopter ho posturing-Mariah to the Boyz II Men dueting, tights-loving Mariah of the Sony Mottola years. It was a lovely era of great, almost minimalistic album covers (#1s, Butterfly, Daydream) and rap guest verse-heavy R&B which is really what made me go crazy about her. Not long after this gorgeous era, she got a little crazy herself. But the hits that resulted from the insane era, also great. And with bated breath, I/we await the 00s Mariah’s greatest hits., Glitter things very much included.

This is a Recording

If I were to make an album consisting of only covers, these are songs I would pick to sing:

1. Wishful Thinking by Duncan Sheik – because it’s well within my range. Plus I really like the Great Expectations soundtrack. From that soundtrack, I’d also pick Sunshower by Chris Cornell because it’s so sweet and I’m a sometime admirer of Chris Cornell’s jawbones.

2. Wait by Sarah McLachlan – because it sounds so dark and deep, and Sarah McLachlan is one of my favorite singers of quietly angry songs.

3. Borrowing Time by Aimee Mann – because if you’re a guy and you sing her songs, it doesn’t matter what your vocal chords are made of, because as long as you know how to interpret any song of hers, the vocal chords will not matter very much and your true feelings, your soul will lend itself to the song, the music and all will be forgiven. Hahahahaha. But I kinda mean this.

4. That’s Just What You Are by Aimee Mann – because I truly love her candidness.

5. Morning Theft by Jeff Buckley

6. All the Lovers by Kylie Minogue – which I would have to render in acoustic or maybe not.

7. Cosmic Love by Florence + the Machines – because this song is just too damned gorgeous not to be in my album god damn it.

8. Rootless Tree by Damien Rice – because I want to be able to say fuck you in a song in a meaningful and melodic way repeatedly.

9. Train on a Track by Kelly Rowland – because If I were a pop diva, I’d definitely be Kelly Rowland: low key yet gorgeous. But more than that, this song is so heartwarming and it has a cuteness to it that doesn’t feel forced or something.

10. Siren by Tori Amos – because once upon a time I really idolized her and this is the song that introduced me to the wonderful world of Tori Amos.

11. HATE U by Mariah Carey (Bonus Track) – because even though she’s crazy, I love her and if the song proves to be too tough for my limited vocal performing, I could always switch it up with The-Dream version.

Please buy my albums.

Ceremonials in my life

  • Emma Forest used to cry herself to sleep because she didn’t write the The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. She’s saying this as someone who probably used to be nuts over Edgar Allan Poe, and I instantly recognize the sentiment because it’s similar to my own failure to come up with the idea of superstarmarian, not that I’ve ever had the foresight to come up with something revolutionary or meaningful. But me and Emma along with other fellow Florence nuts should just forgive ourselves for not birthing Florence Welch, for not being responsible for Ceremonials. We should just be happy to have it in our lives.
  • People who joke about wanting to end their lives because there’s nothing in it for them anymore should cancel the suicide and listen to this first.
  • Strangeness and Charm is even more explosive in the studio version. In it Florence sounds like Karen O but thousand times better.
  • You would want to dance to Heartlines, cry to Only if for a Night and Shake it Out, and have sex to Seven Devils. It’s the kind of album you’d want to do activities to, including but not restricted to doing drugs, getting drunk, jumping off the 33rd floor of a building, expressing love.
  • Many times before I almost swore off Mariah because she keeps making decisions I do not approve of, the latest of which is allowing Justin Bieber to shit on All I Want for Christmas is You the result of which is highly despicable. But I probably won’t let her go, the crazy one. In case I do, dahling, Miss Welch will take your place and it is not a place you would want to relinquish.
  • Regarding Christmas, maybe this Christmas I’ll give really nice people in my life Ceremonials so people in this country responsible for accounting for album sales will see sales of it skyrocket and then sound the alarm up in the UK where Florence presumably mostly stays or wherever and have her informed and her people, ‘hey, that tiny Asian country that is not Singapore is buying your album. Go there.’
  • When I go nuts over a musical artist I want everyone in my life to believe and succumb to the fascination like I did to Robyn. The Robyn campaign wasn’t very successful on account of her CDs aren’t being sold here. This time it will be different…
  • I used to think of Florence as an indieish, panderous-to-the-hipster-crowd type of performer that I had to have someone pull strings to obtain Lungs from somewhere over at some First World in the belief that the album simply would not be available here. It’s with an enormous surprise that I discovered Between Two Lungs wedged between Faithless (whatever that is!) and Foo Fighters at an AstroVision. This country’s music distribution people have taste after all and it is a taste I highly approve of. Deluxe Edition at that! Bravo, people in the Philippine music distribution industry. I’m sorry for doubting your faith in the absolute gorgeousness that is Ceremonials. Never had I been so pleased to have a notion of mine be disabused.
  • Adele’s 21 is highly and widely regarded as one of the modern time’s most recognizable greatest pop album and in fairness to the fattie, 21 is indeed very good but it’s also so thoroughly depressing. Ceremonials is also mostly sad but it’s also pretty, hopeful, powerful, otherworldly, vibrant, alive, mesmerizing, danceable and joyful.
  • The Grammy will regret the day it did not choose Florence + the Machines as Best New Artist. They will not recover from that folly.
  • ‘And I did cartwheels in your honor, dancing on tiptoes My own secret ceremonials before the service began, In the graveyard, doing handstands.’  I do, if it’s physically possible, want to perform cartwheels in her honor, dancing on tiptoes, my own secret ceremonials before the album mania began.
  • When I had my first break up with my first male girlfriend, I remember repeatedly playing Aimee Mann’s The Forgotten Arm and I have never stopped associating it since then to heartbreak although it was really more like a loss of a prized gadget than human. Nothing truly remarkable is happening right now except the remarkable things that are happening that I’m not aware of. I won’t remember any of these recent times’ remarkable things but I’ll always remember it as the time that this stunning piece of art was born.

Women who are better than Katy Perry and Teenage Dream

Not So Soft

I meant to transfer to the iPod the CD Kanlungan Mga Piling Kanta ng Buklod which Kiel got me two Christmases ago but I never got around to it because I am drowning in a sea of albums and there is no more iPod to transfer it too. Ani DiFranco’s Not so Soft reminds me of the pureness of Damien Rice’s music, the type that has the least amount of post-production tinkering that either polishes or ruins an album, which is not to say that I don’t like them overproduced, studio-manufactured pop sensations. For Christmas 2010, Kill gave me Not So Soft, which is of the Damien Rice, Gary Granada mold: unadorned, just guitars, studio intervention-proof, and melody-deficient album the likes of which I’m fortunate to have industrious, online-purchasing, eccentric friend who would think to give me such things, aside from the obvious that I like receiving things of the round and shiny kind. I may never catch the nuances of Ani’s beautiful poetry, I may take issues with its lack of soaring melodies, but I can see why certain people would take to her soaring emotions. I can imagine how at some point in someone’s life songs like On Every Corner and Not so Soft (in a forest of stone, underneath the corporate canopy, where the sun, rarely, filters, down, the ground, is not so soft, not so soft…), might have struck someone’s something, the way Damien Rice’s O lulled me to sleep and kept me company during certain Quiet Rage moments not too long ago.

Goddess

A striking opposite of the folky, guitar artistes is Kylie Minogue, a recent obsession of mine in this electropop-crazy music situation of late. I knew the moment I heard that Star World teaser commercial which used the Get Outta My Way intro that Aphrodite had to be mine. I rarely like first singles but All the Lovers and Get Outta My Way make me feel really happy and empowered and deaf. She makes the kind of disco, let’s dance, dance floor, love me with your disco balls, disco songs that are truly dance- and happy-making. It’s all crazy in the dance floor silliness that are organically gay and disco.

The Fantastic Florence plus the Fabulous Machines

There’s a drumming noise inside my head, it makes such an almighty sound. Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air. I know I can count on you. Gone are the days of begging the days of theft, no more gasping for a breath! (in terms of obtaining the album legally). These lyrics and the way she sings them, the kind of delirious, gleeful singing she does, approximate the experience of listening to Lungs. It’s the kind of album that puts you in listening phases. It starts, perfectly, with Dog Days are Over and progresses majestically to the middle, around Drumming Song through Cosmic Love, around which horrific sing-alongs at the top of my lungs ensues. The listening experience is the kind that makes you sit up in rapt attention (here comes Between Two Lungs! I must sing!). And ends with explosive sweetness with You’ve Got the Love (When food is gone, you’re all my daily need).

I’m so glad I watched TV the day I did, at that pivotal moment when the Dog Days are Over video happened to be playing on Channel [V], and I discovered this. This Florence fawning reminds me of my Tori Amos phase. I got to appreciate Tori around Scarlet’s Walk, which is to say very belatedly, and wondered how it must have felt to fall in love with her when Little Earthquakes was new. I could say the same for Mariah, Sarah McLachlan, etc., but I just feel like it’s more sensational when someone goes through a Tori Amos phase. I know it’s all so vague and so queer. I’m just glad to have paid attention to F+tM right on time. I haven’t seen a single foreign act concert because the effort it takes to go to one is just too much (lining up to buy the ticket, hailing a cab to get to the concert). If Florence Welch  (or Sarah McLachlan) comes over, I’ll be attending my first ever. Promise! The only sad thing about Lungs is that it ends. The music is sweeping, grand, operatic and spine-tingling.  None of which can be said of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. Yes, we really do need to bash others in order to effectively get some of our messages across.

Queen Robyn

Just when I thought her discography couldn’t get any better, it gets any betterer. After obsessing over Body Talk for a month and a half, I did some digging and discovered the oldish Robyn which also turned out to be an outstanding, impeccably made pop album. The Robyn slobfest is evidently far from over.  That the album be as listenable from start to finish is really all that you could ask for which is precisely what the Robyn albums are.

Sometimes I feel like my tastes are heavily influenced by consensus and by critics whose judgments and sensibilities I wish were mine, since I hardly listen to radio anymore, so that if some snobby music site says Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion album is so good, I ‘obtain’ it and convince myself that it is in fact good. I very randomly choose music to ‘obtain’ so the pride I felt for having discovered Robyn, out of sheer curiosity, is a moment of great pride and confusion. I’m very confused why her songs are not as famous as those stupid G6-airplane songs. I’m confused why this genuinely Europop artist FROM EUROPE is not as popular with the electronica pop-crazy music market of the moment. Lady Gaga is understandably famous since she’s quite the artiste, she sings and dresses insane, and The Fame Monster is all the work she ever needed to convince the heathens that she’s a bona fide musician whose talent far outweighs the antics. So she’s fine.  But with everyone else, WHY? Why is Robyn opening for acts like Katy Perry!? Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to work. Had Robyn been a chart-topping Billboard queen, I don’t think she would have been the sort of musician that I would go the ends of the earth to scour old albums for, and cry in frustration for its lack of popularity. Now that I’ve thought about it, in music, everything is very much right how they should be.

What 2010 gave me

I was going to join an essay writing contest with a whopping P3000 Sodexo (?) GC prize, with the theme, What is the most important thing 2010 gave you. Quickly, me and Romy White thought about the type of essays people are probably going to submit, stuff that would basically announce to the world that in their hollow, middle-class chests, a heart beats, and in their Carpal Tunneled limbs, a hand that gives.

My first thought was 3000 is a lot of CDs, around 6 or 7. So I set aside work to write my pretty stupid idea for an essay about how I’m grateful finally for MP3s and technology in general. I would have said that I’m grateful to 2010 for finally giving me the epiphany that technology is good, that it makes people lead better, convenient lives. But I thought the society of writing geniuses that run the contest might misinterpret the essay as incorrect or just plain stupid, and that I’m missing the point of it since it’s quite clear that one is supposed to write about a heartwarming, modesty or charity-driven Chicken Soup type of essay, which I just don’t have the persuasion powers to pull off.

I would have also said that I’m grateful to 2010 for giving us one of the best Kathy Griffin Specials, Whores on Crutches, her funniest since Strong Black Women. But it’s too much of a giveaway.

Finally, I thought too of saying that Robyn’s Body Talk albums is 2010’s most precious thing. I want to implore everyone to download it since it’s one of those albums they don’t make available in CDs in 3rd world nations, and I think it is really so good. You really, really should hear it. It’s the best. Do you remember 90s singer Robyn? Do You Really Want Me Am I Really Special and Show Me Love? It would have been so gratifiying to win P3000 GC at its expense by saying at 500 words or less, about how much I wanted to give 2010 a blow job for giving birth to Body Talk.

I probably would have gotten away with something about how 2010 gave me the realization that music hoarding is not good and then segue into how hoarding and owning many material things is not a good state of being but then it would have been just as bullshitty as the MP3/technology epiphany horseshit.

Actual human-filled events happened in 2010 including weddings, (two, one that is corked so hard and one that was such a spectacle in all sorts of fashions), illnesses, special gifts (as in Apple special), human kindnesses done to me, really annoying things done to me, death of a friend’s loved one, heart attacks, heart conditions of friends’ families, actual feelings felt for family, etc, etc. These were all important to me and I want to relish or pick life lessons off them but 2010, it also made me realize how incapable I am of assigning importance to what really makes life meaningful, illegal downloads or people. It’s a tough choice so maybe it’s best not to submit them for scrutiny, yes? Yes.