Monthly Archives: November, 2015

birthday gifts

Last November 22, I turned 37 years old. Yehey! Well, it was just an ordinary day where I still had to bath my dogs, Bea and Douglas, administer Frontline to them because of their fleas, and do household duties. I also found time to write a blog about a book I just finished reading. I was told by my father to visit the church, attend mass because it was Christ the King, and feeling disgusted, I decided not to. I no longer go to church (I observed that some mean people I know go to church) and since I was young, I’ve never been at home inside a church. I get sleepy and anxious inside it. I just like to pray alone.

My birthday feast was composed of a chocolate cake from Mary Grace (I love chocolate cakes, especially when it’s made with high grade ingredients), roasted chicken from Andoks (just love their sauce!), and spaghetti family pan from Jollibee (then I added lots of Eden cheese on top because I love lots of cheese in a spaghetti). And celebrating with me were just my father and brother and a nephew, a cousin’s son. There was nothing spectacular. It was just a moment of sharing my blessing with a few people in a simple way.

And my birthday wouldn’t be complete without buying myself a gift or gifts to add to my collection. I bought: Pearl Jam and Madonna’s latest albums, the 2015 Disnep-Pixar’s film Inside Out in VCD (it was shown in local theaters just a few months ago which many people liked very much which I haven’t seen), and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink (a book mentioned to me by a friend from long ago, I still remember his name, his name was Marc, when we were talking about first impressions inside a bookstore). Here are my rewards to myself!

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It’s my 37th birthday last November 22 and it was just an ordinary day but that day, I cried my heart out on a split second scene from the movie Inside Out. And it’s been a magical experience listening to Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt album and Madonna’s Rebel Heart album.  They are definitely worth it!  Oh, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that book “Blink.” I wonder what it’s really about.

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Stop the Bullying! (Andrew Matthews)

SDC12104 (2)In 2009, Julie—my wife and publisher—heard the stories of Allem Halkic and Richard Plotkin, and said, “Andrew, we have to do something. We need to write a book to help stop bullying.” From that moment Julie has been the driving force behind this project. She has done research, made phone calls, jumped on planes, and interviewed all the people to make this happen.

Julie is actually the co-author of Stop the Bullying! We wrote this book together, sentence by sentence. But Julie is too modest to take the credit she deserves and refuses to have her name on the cover.

Julie, once more, thank you my darling. You are an inspiration. You are my inspiration.

–Andrew Matthews

___________________

I didn’t experience bullying in school. It was only when I graduated and started working to earn an income, to work with people in an office setting did I experience bullying in different shapes and forms. So it was really a culture shock to learn that in an environment where people are expected to behave in a professional way is actually filled with all sorts of demons! (Mine included) So when I began reading Andrew’s book, I stopped and got disappointed upon learning that the book is about bullying among children and youth. I had mistakenly thought this also covers bullying in the workplace, like what was said at the back cover. I grabbed the wrong book!

Or so I thought.

I knew Andrew Matthews. He is the author of Follow Your Heart and Being Happy! which my sister has a copy. The said books were fun and relaxing to read, talking about, you know, life in general but because of those funny illustrations because they’re so true and texts that are well-researched and intriguing, the name Andrew Matthews became, to me, unforgettable.

I said I may have grabbed the wrong book but Stop the Bullying! still provided me helpful insights in understanding the psyche of bullies, how parents sometimes create bullies, and why bullied kids don’t tell their parents, some of them even committing suicide. Though I somehow understand why teenagers had taken the extremes in getting rid of their pain because of the bullying, I only learned now the scientific explanation behind it taken from the book:

Seventeen-year-old Kevin is intelligent, loving, and respectful—he is an A student with a bright future. One Saturday night he hit the town with his mates and they all got drunk.

The guys spotted their teacher’s car parked in an alley. One said, “Hey, just for a laugh, let’s steal his hubcaps!” At that moment, just by chance, a police car drove by. The boys sprinted into the bushes and Kevin was left holding the hubcaps. He was arrested and charged.

Isn’t it a typical story? Why do intelligent teenagers do stupid things?

Research since 2000 has surprised the medical community. Scientists now tell us that the brain of a teenager is only 80% developed. The frontal lobe of the cortex doesn’t fully connect to the rest of the brain until somewhere between ages 25-30.

You say, so what?

Here’s what: the frontal lobe of the cortex handles REASONING, PLANNING, and JUDGMENT. There’s a reason why teenagers do crazy things! There’s a reason why teenagers are impulsive, there’s a reason why they sometimes drive fast and take risks. There’s a reason why they care so much about what their friends think.

Teens aren’t wired to think of long-term consequences. Mary breaks up with Toby—she thinks it’s the end! Dave fails an exam and wants to quit school. We think that just because a fifteen-year-old is bigger than his dad, he should think like an adult. But he doesn’t—he can’t.

Teenagers have powerful brains but they are still learning to drive them.

After all those research and interviews, collecting stories (to help readers understand what goes on in the mind of a bully and what their targets are going through), consultations, and synthesis which now became a book (which I feel only became possible because of the sincerity and diligence by the authors, a husband-and-wife team, Andrew and Julie Matthews), I would like to share with you a short list of information about bullying that are important for us to know:

-Everyone Lives Life the Best Way They Know How

If you follow obese people into greasy hamburger joints and tell them, “You should eat bean sprouts,” will they quit eating junk? If you tell a heavy smoker, “You should quit smoking!”, will he quit? No!

Telling people how to live doesn’t work. When you tell heavy smokers or heavy eaters to do it less, they do it more! It is no different for people who bully. People do what they do for serious, deep-seated reasons. You telling them to stop makes no difference.

-So When Do They Stop?

Alcoholics quit drinking when they finally believe that life can be better without being drunk. The same principle applies for smokers—and bullies.

Some people believe that bullies will stop if you just tell them how the victim feels. “Usually not,” says Katherine Newman in her book Rampage: The Social Roots of Schools Shootings: “The desire to behave better is a weak motivator compared to the status that comes from teasing and harassment…”

Begging bullies to be nice doesn’t work. Punishing bullies usually doesn’t stop them.

-Bullies enjoy power.

Bullies don’t pick on people because they are upset with them, they pick on people they regard as inferior. They look for a weak target and then find excuses for why that person deserves to be attacked, “She’s ugly, she’s fat, he’s a cry-baby.”

Bullies believe: I’m better than you are. I can be as cruel as I want because you are worth nothing.

-It’s Not Your Fault

If you are being bullied, YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. You are not being bullied because there is something wrong with you. Often, bullies attack you because there is something right with you. For example, a bully may not like it that:

you are smart
you are a computer wizard
you come from a happy family
you study hard
you have more money than he has
you look happier than she is
you are a decent person!
you have the courage to be different

-Tips to Deal With Bullies (Strategies That Most Often Helped)

Tell one of your parents—or any adult at home. Even if they don’t do anything, you will probably feel better. Telling someone doesn’t mean you are weak. In life you often need to get help from other people. When you have a broken leg, you get help from a doctor—it doesn’t mean you are weak. If you are being bullied you need to ask for help.

Tell a friend. Bullies want you to keep quiet. When you speak up, you refuse to play the bully’s game. Telling others about the problem is a brave move. You don’t have to do it alone.

Make a joke about bullying. You might even agree with the bully. Bullies feel superior when you get upset or argue. Sometimes it helps to agree with them. Let’s say you have skinny legs. You know you have skinny legs—you wish you didn’t, but it’s a fact. So the bully says:

“Hey, your legs are like chopsticks.”
You, with a smile, “I know!”
“Man, they are really skinny!”
“I know.”

The bully is hoping that you will take the bait and argue, burst into tears.

Bully: “Hey four-eyes!”
You: “You don’t like my glasses?”
Bully: “Right!”
You: “I don’t like them either!”

Pretend it doesn’t bother you. Not easy, but some students, particularly older teenagers found it useful.

Leave the scene. Just because a bully starts an argument doesn’t mean you have to hang around and finish it.

Ignore the bully. Visualise all the insults just bouncing off.

-How Do You Create a Bully?

LACK OF WARMTH, LACK OF INVOLVEMENT from the parents, particularly the mother.

NO CLEAR LIMITS on aggressive behavior. If the child is allowed to hit and bully his brothers and neighbors, he will become more and more aggressive.

PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT. Children that are disciplined with violence learn violence.

THE TEMPERAMENT OF THE CHILD. Hot-headed children are more likely to become bullies.

-BULLIES ARE ACTUALLY COWARDS. They only pick on people who look weak or smaller than them.

-People who don’t like themselves are a pain in the neck!

Usually, people with poor self-image use one or two irritating strategies—they either:

a) Criticise you a lot—which is what bullies do, or

b) They criticise themselves a lot.

If you remember that they are actually hurting inside, you won’t get so upset by their behavior.

 

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life (Steve Martin)

born_standing_upI do not know if my act holds up these many years later. It is not for me to decide or even think about. Sometimes I hear or see a piece of the old show, and it sounds funny; sometimes I don’t get it and can’t figure out what all the fuss was about. I did, however, in the course of writing this memoir, come across routines and ad libs, long forgotten, that made me smile, like this description of a radio show in Austin, Texas, in the seventies, remembered by the host Sonny Melendrez:

“Steve Martin came directly from a recording session to debut his Let’s Get Small album on my show. Before he left, he got very serious, and I truly thought we were seeing another side of him. He launched into a monologue of what seemed like sincere words of friendship. It took me by surprise, given the hour of silliness that had just taken place. ‘Could this be the real Steve Martin?’ I thought.”

“Sonny, you know, I’ve listened to you for years, and I really feel like you’ve become my friend. I feel like I can ask you this question.”

“Sure, Steve, you can ask me anything.”

“What time is it?”

–Born Standing Up (Steve Martin), 2007 Copyright

_______________

Again, I was just going to the supermarket and seeing the sight of the old, pre-owned books stock up in shelves, I could not resist checking it out; wishing I could find a gold among the titles. I did. And found this book:

BORN STANDING UP a comic’s life STEVE MARTIN

I bought it for only P90. And this book is a gold mine.

Steve Martin clarifies that this book is not an autobiography but a biography, because “I am writing about someone I used to know. Yes, these events are true, yet sometimes they seemed to have happened to someone else, and I often felt like a curious onlooker or someone trying to remember a dream…”

This memoir is dedicated by the author to his parents and his sister, Melinda. So expecting that he would also be talking about his father, mother, and sister in this memoir, what I did not expect were the serious, unexpected revelations and later in the end a bittersweet story that Steve Martin shared regarding his family, particularly that of his father:

My father seemed to have a mysterious and growing anger toward me. He was increasingly volatile, and eventually, in my teen years, he fell into enraged silences. I knew that money issues plagued him and that we were always dependent on the next hypothetical real estate sale, and that as his show business dream slipped further into the sunset, he chose to blame his family who needed food, shelter, and attention. Though my sister seemed to escape his wrath, my mother grew more and more submissive to my father in order to avoid his temper. Timid and secretive, she whispered her thoughts to me with the caveat, “Now, don’t tell anyone I said that,” filling me with a belief, which took years to correct, that it was dangerous to express one’s true opinion. Melinda, four years older than I, always went to a different school, and a sibling bond never coalesced until decades later, when she phoned me and said, “I want to know my brother,” initiating a lasting communication between us.

I was punished for my worst transgressions by spankings with switches or a paddle, a holdover from any Texas childhood of that time, and when my mother warned, “Just wait till Glenn gets home,” I would be sick with fear, dreading nightfall, dreading the moment when he would walk through the door. His growing moodiness made each episode of punishment more unpredictable—and hence, more frightening—and once, when I was about nine years old, he went too far… This beating and his worsening tendency to rages directed at my mother—which I heard in fright through the thin walls of our home—made me resolve, with icy determination, that only the most formal relationship would exist between my father and me, and for perhaps thirty years, neither he nor I did anything to repair the rift…

I have heard it said that a complicated childhood can lead to a life in the arts. I tell you this story of my father and me to let you know that I am qualified to be a comedian.

Right after finishing this book, I can’t help but remember a colleague who expressed with disappointment how she failed to achieve what she really wanted after earning her masters degree just months ago. She had thought that a diploma in post-graduate studies would quickly earn her that supervisory position with a high salary. My colleague is in her late 20s. When I was in my 20s, I have that same attitude, impatient to get somewhere, to be recognized for my own achievements, to earn a high salary. Through this book I learned that to become “one of the greatest and most iconoclastic comedians of all time” did not happen just by graduating with a masters degree or by sheer hardwork. In this book, I learned that Steve Martin did stand-up comedy for 18 years. “Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success,” shares Steve.

And stand-up comedy is not what you think. Just like any job, it is not easy.  And it doesn’t rely on a diploma in higher education.  It’s more of attitude, not giving up despite the disappointments, the fighting spirit to stick it through, to study harder, and work harder, especially when your whole life depends on it.

Stand-up is seldom performed in ideal circumstances. Comedy’sFunny Steve enemy is distraction, and rarely do comedians get a pristine performing environment. I worried about the sound system, ambient noise, hecklers, drunks, lighting, sudden clangs, latecomers, and loud talkers, not to mention the nagging concern “Is this funny?” Yet the seedier the circumstances, the funnier one can be…

I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a by-product. The course was more plodding than heroic: I did not strive valiantly against doubters but took incremental steps studded with a few intuitive leaps. I was not naturally talented—I didn’t sing, dance, or act—though working around that minor detail made me inventive.

Needless to say, he shared about the irony of life, about his sad, long journey in doing stand-up comedy in front of 5 or ten distracted people in an obscure bar or a club and making it, performing to an audience composing of a hundreds, then thousands, to 45,000 people with media coverages after finally gaining fame for his antics and brand of comedy. But fame and fortune can also provide challenges:

The act was shifting into automatic. The choreography was in place, and all I had to do was to fulfill it. I was performing a litany of immediate old favorites, and the laughs, rather than being the result of spontaneous combustion, now seemed to roll in like waves created far out at sea. The nuances of stand-up still thrilled me, but nuance was difficult when you were a white dot in a basketball arena. This was no longer an experiment; I felt a huge responsibility not to let people down. Arenas of twenty thousand and three-day gigs of forty-five thousand were no place to try out new material. I dabbled with changes, introducing a small addition or mutation here and there, but they were swallowed up by the echoing, cavernous venues.

Though the audiences continued to grow, I experienced a concomitant depression caused by exhaustion, isolation, and creative ennui. As I was too famous to go outdoors without a discomforting hoopla, my romantic interludes ceased because I no longer had normal access to civilized life. The hour and a half I spent performing was still fun, but there were no band members, no others onstage, and after the show, I took a solitary ride back to the hotel, where I was speedily escorted by security across the lobby. A key went in the door, and boom: the blunt interior of a hotel room. Nowhere to look but inward. I’m sure there were a hundreds solutions. I could have invited friends to join me on the road, or asked a feel-good guru to shake my shoulders and say, “Perk up, you idiot,” but I was too exhausted to communicate, and it seemed like a near-coma was the best way to spend the day. This was, as the cliché goes, the loneliest period of my life.

So yup, Steve Martin looks back to his stand-up comedy which he did since the day he became aware that he’s alive. Here he talks about his early beginnings, his childhood interest of performing magic accompanied by funny antics to entertain his audience (and earn money) in a newly opened theme park when he was just 10 years old, his love for his craft which, to his surprise, made him one of the rich and famous, and that moment when he decided in his later years to turn his back on it. As Steve Martin felicitously put it, “… I ignored my stand-up career for twenty-five years, but now, having finished this memoir, I view this time with surprising warmth. One can have, it turns out, an affection for the war years.”

_______________

Steve Martin today

Steve Martin

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”

Panimula

Jason Fernandez with Sta. MariaJason-Fernandez_Panimula_album-cover-577x500
2013 Philippine Copyright
Distributor: Ivory Music & Video, Inc.

“Panimula” is the debut solo album of Jason Fernandez after leaving the famous band, Rivermaya, where he was the frontman for five years. Years later, with his solo career not taking off as planned, he would join The Voice Philippines, to the surprise of one of the judges, Bamboo, former original vocalist of Rivermaya.

I can’t help but think of Jason Fernandez with nostalgia. I saw him doing his audition and getting in as one of the grand finalists for this search of the new lead vocalist of Rivermaya, a position vacated by Bamboo, then by Rico Blanco who both pursued solo careers. Jason was 17 years old then and he was, and still is, so full of talent. He’s gifted as a musician, he can compose, play guitar, play drums, and he got this amazing stage presence and powerful, unique voice. So unique that he is best when he does his own songs than sing other people’s songs or cover songs.

This is already an old album but it still deserves some special mention because of the nice musicality that “Panimula” has. And “nice musicality” is an understatement. And “Panimula” is FUN. And what struck me really was this musical precision of the band playing the music in the background for Jason, the band called Sta. Maria. Pucha, ang galing ng tugtog nila. They all looked young but they played like masters here in this album, complimenting Jason’s no holds-barred singing.

Langit. Luha.

langit-luhaSilent Sanctuary
2015 Philippine Copyright
Distributor: Ivory Music & Video, Inc.

When I went to the counter and was about to pay for this, one of the cashier staff who was doing the packing examined the cover. Then she blurted out how chaka (gay lingo for “ugly”) the guy in the middle was (who is Sarkie Sarangay, the lead vocalist). I was just NR (no reaction) when I heard that and I’d like to forgive the girl. Because long ago, when I discovered that the original vocalist Norman has left already and replaced by Sarkie, that was also my same spontaneous reaction, particularly when it is his beautiful and charming voice that I first heard before I saw his face.

So when I saw him for the first time on TV, I got surprised to discover how too ordinary and thin his appearance was. His face was oily and his hair seems like he forgot to comb it. Even though their songs are agreeable to my ears, his voice is soothing and out of this world, I could even declare that his singing gives me goosebumps, I still was not inspired to buy their album because I couldn’t put my faith in a guy who appeared on TV looking like he’s sad and miserable. But they went on to become one of the most popular bands these days because of their unforgettable love songs accompanied by a nice mix of guitars and violins.

My dislike disappeared when I saw Sarkie in Eat Bulaga a few weeks ago, singing their hit “Sa ‘yo.” I couldn’t help but noticed how his getup or looks have improved. And he’s gained weight, perhaps an effect of their financial blessing after getting recognition for their work.

“Langit. Luha.” is another album about love and relationships. It appears to me that they know what they want: just sing about love and relationships. So don’t expect to hear anything about patriotism, social issues, or a rap in the middle of their song. “Langit. Luha.” is like a dagger through the heart. It can make you bleed with sentimentality and instrospection but still leaving you with a wonderful feeling of tranquility. Because here, songs are sung in a sorrowful but beautiful melodies that you wouldn’t even notice if he’s already cursing over a separation.

My Pearl Jam history and collection

SDC12101Ten (1991)- Recorded to a blank tape after borrowing my brother’s cassette tape of “Ten.”

Vs. (1993)- Purchased on 29 June 1998, three months after buying No Code.

Vitalogy (1994)- You will notice that I have two Vitalogy cassette tapes. It took me almost a year to realize that the first one I bought (29 September 1998) did not have a lyrics booklet. So I bought another copy (24 August 1999) this time making sure that the lyrics booklet was there.

No Code (1996)- Purchased on 20 March 1998. Not just cassette tape, I also have a CD copy of this album.

Yield (1998)- Purchased on 10 March 1998 after seeing the music video of “Jeremy” for the first time. 1998 was the year I was converted from being passive listener to a big fan of Pearl Jam. Yield was the current album of Pearl Jam in 1998.

Pearl Jam Live on Two Legs (1998)- Purchased on 30 December 1998. I discovered just now that I bought five Pearl Jam albums in one year just to catch up with the band consisting of Eddie, Stone, Mike, Jeff et al (they have had five drummers through the years) whose music career as PJ began in 1990.

Binaural (2000)- Purchased on 17 June 2000. In the lyrics booklet, I saw my handwriting. It read: “Pearl Jam is the greatest band on earth.”

Riot act (2002)- I requested this from my Secret Santa during our office exchange gifts back in December 2003.

Pearl Jam Live at the Garden (2004)- Pearl Jam is not just good in recording, they’re also good in live performance that is why I bought this: a 3-discs album of their live concert at Madison Square Garden, New York City on 8 July 2003.

SDC12102

No Boundaries, A Benefit For the Kosovar Refugees (1999)- This is not a Pearl Jam album but Pearl Jam became part of this album which led me to discover another band that I came to like because of their song “Freak on a Leash (Freakin’ B Mix).” That band is called Korn.

But there came a point where I just stopped collecting.  Either unaware of other releases or preoccupied with a new hobby.  These are the Pearl Jam albums that I don’t have yet in my collection and on which I am planning of collecting soon before record bars become extinct!

Pearl Jam (2006)
Backspacer (2009)
Lightning Bolt (2013)

But I do hope remaining record bars would remain resilient despite the power and convenience of downloading.  As a music enthusiast, I still prefer playing a CD, holding its album cover, examining its contents, checking out the components behind each track, and turning the page of a lyrics sheet as I listen and groove to the music.  I don’t think this is old-fashioned.  I say this is classic.

A little bit of trivia:  I’ve always been a type of person who takes really good care of her things. But other cassette tapes of mine have deteriorated through time. And in the past 17 years since I bought my first Pearl Jam cassette tape, I consider it a miracle that all of them are still in good working condition.

Pearl Jam (A Tribute)

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I am a fan of Pearl Jam, even up to this day.

I was in high school, when I was around 15, when my older brother would return home in the afternoon from school then play his cassette tapes of Pearl Jam’s Ten and Vs in our turntable with a built-in cassette player.   I like what I was hearing but that time, since I was more into the local bands and the Beatles and The Carpenters and Paul Anka, and it was a different period of “growing up” for me, Pearl Jam was just there, in the background, whenever my older brother would play his cassette tapes of Pearl Jam and other American rock bands.

In 1998, through MTV Channel, I caught for the first time the music video of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy,” a cut from their album, Ten.  I was probably around 19 years old, and though I was already familiar with the song since long ago, the “Jeremy” music video totally captivated me.  Didn’t know they have a music video of one of their songs.

Perhaps because I was in another phase of my growing up years, an introvert, with a different set Jeremyof angst and longings, the “Jeremy” music video put me under some sort of a spell. And  I just loved how Eddie Vedder delivered the song, those facial expressions, those lethal screams and shouts as he tells a story of a boy that to my 19-year old self back then, it just felt so cathartic.  Never mind if I couldn’t relate with the lyrics of the song, totally.  But it’s just how Eddie Vedder opens his mouth and just speaks those words through a melodic tune that’s brutal.  And fierce. It’s the different emotions of Vedder’s singing, Ament, Gossard and McCready’s guitar playing, and Kruzen’s drumming that gave impact to the song which grabbed everyone’s attention.  And the effect was so subliminal.  It was magic.  It was life-changing. From being sad and pensive, I became a fan of Pearl Jam.  That even if my allowance in college was only P70, I would try to save money so I could collect Pearl Jam’s old and new albums, in cassette tapes then later on in CD format.  (My Pearl Jam cassette tapes, by the way, despite the decade that passed, still remain of good quality today.  Thank God.)

“Smile,” “Red Mosquito,” “Present Tense,” “Spin the Black Circle,” “Whipping,” “Daughter,” “In Hiding,” “Given to Fly,” “Faithful,” “Rats,” these are just some of my favorite Pearl Jam songs.

They say we should forget our past and just focus on the present.  But not all from your past should be forgotten.  Memories from our past oftentimes can help us to continue living in the present and remember how far we have gone in our journey, how brave we are to reach this far, this age despite the trials and tragedies. Whenever I would revisit my Pearl Jam cassette tapes and CDs, it would always bring me back to those yesteryears of my life, of who I was then, then I would reflect on the person that I turned out to be now.  Pearl Jam is one of those things from my past that deserves remembering and revisiting.  For it was–and still is–the music of Pearl Jam that has kept me alive and brought me to where I am now (different from who I used to be, more expressive I guess.  And more assertive I hope).  Pearl Jam has helped me walk forward to the beat of my own drums.

ament mccready
Thank you Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, and all their drummers who became or is still part of the band–Dave Krusen, Matt Chamberlain, Dave Abbruzzese, Jack Irons, Matt Cameron– and though so many years have passed and you’re looking older now, hehe, you are my personal heroes. Your gift of music has helped me in so many ways.

I just remembered Pearl Jam today, November 1, All Saints’ Day.  I’ve been really itching for a long time to write about them in my blog for special and sentimental reasons and I am glad I am able to do it now.

As a special tribute to Pearl Jam, I am posting here a very beautiful article written by Jessica Zafra, a newspaper columnist, after she attended the very first (and hopefully not the last), one-night only concert of Pearl Jam in the Philippines.  The year was 1995.  And I treasured this article, kept in my personal files folder for years, and now I am sharing it, especially to those Pearl Jam fans like me. I copied this from Zafra’s book 2 edition of Twisted which contains her collection of articles.

Ritual
By Jessica Zafra

I had thought of calling my Pearl Jam article “Stormy Vedder” or “Veni, Vidi, Vedder” or “Vedderman”—something catchy and cute. Two seconds into the concert I knew they were all wrong. This event had nothing to do with cuteness. It was ugly. If you really want to know—hot, sweaty, and reeking.

I was not prepared for the raw, primal emotion that was unleashed at the Folk Arts Theatre on Sunday Night. It roared into the packed arena like an animal bursting out of its cage, and we knew that the animal was us.

It was the voice that triggered it: the low, distinctive part-growl, part-howl, that seemed to have been wrenched from the deepest corners of Eddie Vedder’s soul. It rose and meshed with the guitars and the drums to touch something we had put away, something so ugly that we buried it and forgot that it was there.

What, after all, does Eddie sing about? Pain, confusion, loss. Children robbed of their innocence, children tormented by the people who are supposed to love them. Young people locked up in hospitals, women trapped in dead-end relationships. He sings about ugliness, and the audience response. Let it all out, he says. Be angry. Dredge up your misery, hatred, lust. Release them, and be free. There is the promise of redemption, the tinge of hope that eluded Kurt Cobain, who found peace at the end of a shotgun. “Saw things clearer once you were in my rearview mirror,” sings the former battered child, and the boy who discovers the cruel truth about his father can say, “I’m still alive.” Ironically “Rearviewmirror” is about suicide, and “Alive” is about a serial killer. Somewhere in the process of recording and performing, whether the band intended it or not, these songs became anthems to life.

Some critics wonder at the huge popularity of Pearl Jam, pointing out that this band has more artful arrangements and that band has more literate lyrics. And yet Pearl Jam has succeeded in connecting with its audience in a way few bands ever have. They seem to have plugged into the right frequency—the cable-TV channel, as it were, of the unconscious.

That is why a Pearl Jam concert cannot be an orderly affair with nicely dressed, well-groomed people in numbered seats clapping politely after every number. No, passion requires chaos: the crowd pushing and jostling to reach the front of the stage, the heat and sweat, the reek of bodies packed into the platform, the deafening screams. This is ritual, and Eddie Vedder is our shaman.

Notes from the Moshpit, 26 February 1995

9:00 a.m. To get into the spirit of things I contemplate not washing my hair. The de rigueur hairstyle at these grungefests is long, lank, and greasy, plastered to your head with sweat and city grime. However the mere thought of not washing my hair causes my scalp to itch, and I end up dashing to the bathroom for a shampoo.

1:00 p.m. I head for Mcdonald’s on Vito Cruz to meet two friends so we can proceed to Folk Arts Theater together. I was supposed to watch the concert with Ayee, but at the last minute she was assigned to babysit the Seattle band Mudhoney, the front act of the evening. (Sure she hung out backstage, but she saw everything from the rear. Though I love Eddie, I am not interested in the state of his glutes.) Then I find that my friend had the P600 bleacher tickets. I had bought the P700 ticket for the platform—the standing-room-only, fight-your-way-to-the-front type. I would have to watch Pearl Jam by myself.

2:00 p.m. I can’t believe I’m sitting on the concrete, baking in the sun, lining up for a show that starts at 7:30. I can’t believe I’m completely surrounded by noisy zit-faced hormonal adolescents in black T-shirts with different band logos on them.

I can’t believe I’m the oldest person in this line. I console myself with the thought that I am the same age as Eddie Vedder. For the record I wish to state that long before the grunge thing, I had been tying long-sleeved shirts around my waist. It is not a fashion statement, it’s just convenient, plus it covers my rear.

2:35 p.m. I consider leaving the line and popping over to the Westin Philippine Plaza for a Coke. I had brought a book to read, but the sun is too bright and I’m getting a headache. I am about to get up when the sound check begins, and Eddie Vedder’s familiar howl cuts through the crazy yellow sunlight. The hundred or so people in line start singing along to “Betterman” and “Deep.” I decide to stay put.

What the hell, I owe Pearl Jam one. Three. I’ve never met the guys, but I have filched some story plots from their songs, and they have pulled me out of the pit a few times. One time I was wandering around the supermarket, feeling like a giant scar, listening to Pearl Jam’s Ten on my Walkman. On my way out the guy at the package counter pointed at the tape I was holding and started singing “Jeremy.” I don’t know why, but that made me feel better.

3:43 p.m. After you’ve been sitting in the sun for a while your mind goes blank. It’s actually rather pleasant, not thinking. The teenage guys in front of me are having a discussion about kuto (head lice), viz, what causes them. One guy fears that prolonged exposure to sunshine will give him kuto. Another guy says sunlight will cause the kuto larvae on his scalp to hatch, and another ventures his expert opinion that light will activate bacteria on his head, spawning lice.

Mostly I’m worried about dandruff. That, and skin cancer.

4:00 p.m. A friend of mine, a lawyer, happens by. “I’m treating the UP debating team to the concert because we beat Ateneo,” he announces.

“Where are you sitting?” I ask.

“In the bleachers.”

“Weenie,” I mutter.

Then two friends come along. “Are you writing about the concert?” Paolo says.

“No, I’m just sitting here getting fried, then I’ll go in there and get squashed and scream my lungs out, but I’m not going to write a word about it.”

“Oh,” he says, scampering off.

4:30 p.m. A bunch of high-school girls from International School join the line. One of them produces a pair of scissors, and while her giggling friends watch, cuts off another girl’s jeans at the knees. While she’s still in them, I mean. “What jeans are those?” one girl asks. “Oh, they’re only Gap,” the owner replies.

God, when are they opening the gates?

4:45 p.m. “They’re opening the gates!” A roar goes through the crowd and the people sitting on the pavement shoot to their feet in a long wave that snakes around the theatre and winds towards the parking lots. Those in the shade squeeze back in line, and dozens of people manage to cut into the queue. This is for all those who made singit (no English equivalent): may your hair fall out, may you grow old and flatulent, and may you become exactly what you hate.

False alarm. We all sit down again. Wait a minute, didn’t the organizers announce they were opening the gates at four? Aaargh.

5:00 p.m. A guy walks up to me and asks for my autograph. I’m not kidding. “No,” I say. He laughs and repeats the question. “Go away,” I snarl. “Hey, you’re really funny,” he laughs. What can I do—I sign the back of his ticket and he goes away.

Hey, I’m almost famous. I’m not sure I like it. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it sucks. Magnify this incident ten million times and you begin to understand why Eddie Vedder sometimes goes around in a Halloween mask.

5:30 p.m. The gates are opened and the line starts to move. The guards at the entrance frisk everyone for weapons, drugs, alcohol, water bottles, anything that can be thrown at the stage. The word goes down the line: No belts allowed. The guys in front of me take off their belts and hand them to this one guy who dashes to their car. Pity the guys with low-slung jeans.

The guy next to me doesn’t have a car, so he puts his belt around his chest like a really weird bra. “You’re going to get caught,” his friend warns him. He shrugs. I wonder if he got in.

The line moves at a crawl—the guards seem very thorough, although they are of no use whatsoever in preventing singitan. The floodlights are turned on. The one on our side of the line starts smoking like a fog machine. “It’s Eddie!” some young louts screech.

“It’s Eddie! He’s coming out!” Ha ha ha.

The sun goes down and a cool breeze blows in from the bay. I think I’m catching a cold.

6:25 p.m. I’m a little worried about my Swiss Army knife—what if they consider it a weapon and deny me entrance? There will be bloodshed! Two guards inspect my bag—they’re looking for water bottles, so they miss my knife completely.

6:30 p.m. I’m inside!

Jeez, it’s hot. The humidity is awful—it’s like inhaling water. The platform is divided by a barrier—I make my way to the inner platform, which packed beyond relief. I’m about fifteen meters from the stage and there’s a solid wall of bodies in front of me—I can’t see a blasted thing. When the lights go down I’m going to have to fight my way to the stage.

Around me guys are taking off their shirts and standing around with testosteroney “Aaay, check out my bod” attitudes. Hey, I didn’t know you could be skinny and flabby at the same time. Incredible: these guys have no muscular definition to speak of. If this is a meat market I’m definitely turning vegetarian.

Occasionally some people near the stage squeeze towards the back. They’re wrecked—greenish, gasping for air, and drenched in sweat, as if someone had doused them with buckets of water. “My God!” the girl next to me exclaims. “There are gangs in front and they’re pushing everyone!”

The bleachers are too far to dive from, but that doesn’t stop guys from body-surfing: their friends hoist them up over their heads and they slide across people’s raised hands.

“This is so stupid,” the girl next to me says.

Stupid and contagious.

7:00 p.m. “The people in front are getting crushed,” someone announces. “Everybody please move back three steps. The band won’t come out until everybody steps back.”

We step back. How am I going to see anything?

7:40 p.m. Mudhoney opens the show with 45 minutes of unabated, grueling, seizure-inducing guitar noise.

A bit of grunge history: Mudhoney was spawned in the same Seattle scene which gave birth to Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam. Mark Arm and Steve Turner of Mudhoney were with Pearl Jam’s bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard in the punk band Green River. Then Green River broke up and Ament and Gossard joined up with Andrew Wood to form Mother Love Bone. Then Andy Wood died of a heroine overdose. Then Ament and Gossard started jamming with guitarist Mike McCready. Gossard put together a demo tape of his stuff, and a copy wound up with ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers (now Pearl Jam) drummer Jack Irons in Los Angeles. Irons passed on the tape to a surfer friend of his who worked in a petroleum company by day and stayed up all night writing and singing. One morning while surfing the guy thought up the words for an Ament-Gossard piece called “Dollar Short.” It went, “Son, she said, Have I got a little story for you. What you thought was your daddy was nothing but…” The guy went home, and in a flurry, wrote “Alive” and some other songs, including “Black.” He made a tape and sent it to Gossard et al in Seattle.

And that’s how Ament, Gossard, and McCready met Eddie Vedder. They enlisted drummer Dave Abbruzzese (who was fired last year) to form a band called Mookie Blaylock, after a basketball player. Afterwards they changed the name to Pearl Jam.

Here endeth the lesson.

I can’t see the band at all, goddamnit. Everyone is dancing—basically jumping in place, which is all there is space for—and headbanging hard enough to get whiplash. By jumping as high as I can I manage to catch glimpses of Mudhoney.

I know exactly two songs by Mudhoney: “Overblown” and “Touch me, I’m sick,” but that doesn’t stop me from screaming. Concerts are great for primal scream therapy, and they’re cheaper than shrinks.

8:30 p.m. The left side of my head just above my eyebrow is throbbing. I don’t know if it’s from the heat, the humidity, the lack of oxygen, hunger, or all of the above. I sit down on the wooden platform. My knee is on someone’s lap—I don’t care. The people next to me are discussing their diets. “Oatmeal for breakfast, oatmeal for lunch, oatmeal for dinner,” says the girl. The guy says, “Bananas.” I close my eyes, and right there in the middle of the swarm I fall asleep. Fortunately there is no space in which to keel over. A few minutes later I wake up with a jolt. “Are you all alone?” the girl asks me, which is really sweet of her. “Yes!” I reply. I feel a whole lot better.

8:45 p.m. That boy is making eyes at me, I swear to God, the intense-looking shirtless one with the cockroach tattooed on his hand. He is kind of cute, but about eighteen. He’s doing that thing—you know, the macho-but-vulnerable soulful stare—and I nearly burst into laughter. Sweetcakes, does your mother know you make goo-goo eyes at strange old women?

Communion
 
8:55 p.m. I am sitting in the sweltering pit amid a crush of bodies, my T-shirt and jeans soaked in sweat, my lungs screaming for oxygen. It’s like a sauna in here, one of those ritual hothouses where the members of the tribe dehydrate, smoke themselves into a stupor, and have mass hallucinations. It’s an Iron John bonding experience, very interesting, but I’m more interested in figuring out how to get in front. I suppose I could try squeezing in, except that there is no space to insert myself into. I could try body-surfing, but I’m clumsy.

There’s only one thing left to do: Teleportation! I close my eyes and concentrate on scattering my molecules and reassembling my physical body in front of the stage. Suddenly there is a roar like an oncoming train—I got to my feet, and the people behind me surge towards the stage. I am borne on a wave of bodies, and when the wave stops I am scrunched at the center of the mass perhaps ten meters from the stage, and Pearl Jam begins a slow, almost stately “Release.” Eddie Vedder grips the mike stand and looks out upon the churning sea of humans. He opens his mouth to intone the words—and the audience sings them to him.

Every word, every line, every “OOOOOh” in the refrain. The song builds in intensity until the theatre is filled with a long, low howl. I can barely hear the singer but I see his face, the sweet, almost cherubic features contorted into a grimace.

Then Stone Gossard kicks into “Last Exit” and the crowd hurls itself into a mad dance. The girl behind me climbs onto her boyfriend’s shoulders, and the boy on my right is flailing about so much I’m afraid his head will fly off his body. Then comes “Spin the Black Circle,” the band’s ode to vinyl records, and the dancing gets more furious—I’m drenched with sweat and it’s not all mine. Onstage there’s something odd about Eddie: he’s smiling. My God, what have we done—Eddie Vedder is happy.

The audience greets the opening chords of “Why Go” by chanting “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” Then they sing the whole song. On one hand I’m a little pissed because I didn’t pay to hear community singing, I paid to hear Pearl Jam. On the other hand I’m singing with Pearl Jam. We’re, like, one. Talk about a bonding experience.

9:30 p.m. A dork in front of the stage grabs Eddie’s leg and he falls down. Screams. He gets up—I supposed he’s used to this.

The guys in front beat up the dork.

“Mabuhay!” Eddie says. The band whips through the most of the songs in their new album Vitalogy: “Tremor Christ,” “Immortality,” “Whipping,” “Corduroy.” Interesting side note: no one onstage appears to be in corduroy, or grunge band-issue flannel, or Doc Martens. They’re all in T-shirts, cutoff jeans and sneakers. Eddie has a shirt on over his T-shirt; the sleeves rolled up, revealing his biceps—the man has been working out. He launches into “Evenflow,” and the audience goes berserk.

What I want to know is, how did these people figure out the lyrics to the songs? I’ve been listening to the band for years, and I still don’t get what he’s mumbling. Wait a minute. The guys standing in line behind me were carrying “songhits,” those little magazines which print the lyrics—often hilariously wrong—of popular songs. These people reviewed for the singalong.

The opening bars of “Daughter” ignite mass hysteria, and the voices of the audience completely drown out the singer. One of the strengths of Pearl Jam is its empathy with women—amazing when you consider the macho preening and swaggering that afflicts many bands. “Don’t call me daughter,” says the woman to the parents who hold her back. In “Betterman,” the story of a woman hanging on to an unhappy marriage, “She likes and says she’s in love with him/ Can’t find a better man.” And the deceptively quiet “Elderly Woman Behind A Counter In A Small Town” seethes with long-buried emotions. “I just want to scream, Hello!” says the old woman who accidentally meets a former lover. “My God, it’s been so long, never dreamed you’d return/ But now here you are, and here I am/ Hearts and thoughts, they fade away.”

Around me people are screaming for “Black.” It’s a little hard to scream “Elderly Woman Behind A Counter In A Small Town!”

“Daughter” leads into “W.M.A. (White Male American),” a song about abuse of police authority. The band delivers a funky “Glorified G,” and a scathing “Porch.” “Satan’s Bed” has the crowd yelling “Already… in love!” “Not for You” sums up the spirit of Vitalogy, an uncatchy album which seems to have been designed to alienate the “fans” who embraced Pearl Jam because it had become fashionable. “This is not for you!” Eddie screams at his audience—and they love it.

The teenage boy standing next to me bends down low and starts retching—I don’t know if it’s nausea or drunkenness. He’s crouched there for a long time; maybe he’s having a heart attack but has no room to topple over. “You okay?” I ask him. He nods. Jeez, you’re about sixteen. I’m nearly thirty, and I feel wonderful. I’ve lost around five pounds of water—unfortunately it got soaked up by my clothes, so I feel like I’m dancing underwater.

10:00 p.m. “There are people out there trying to come in, and they’re dispersed with water cannons,” Eddie says. “Let’s not hurt each other.”

He hurls himself into “Alive.”

First time I heard “Alive” I was washing the dishes. My friend’s copy of Ten was playing on the stereo. Something about the song—that great bridge, maybe, or the voice that seemed to bleed—made me drop the sponge and walk over to the stereo. I stood there until the song was finished. My eyes were wide open. My hair was standing on end. I wanted to light a candle.

I wonder how Eddie feels, hearing his words repeated on thousands of lips. I wonder what it’s like to be the screwy kid who suddenly becomes the idol of millions.

“Jeremy” is cathartic. It doesn’t take a literary genius to write a line like “Daddy didn’t give attention/ To the fact that Mommy didn’t care,” but when Eddie sings it you know that the words were ripped out of him. “Clearly I remember picking on the boy,” Eddie cries, “Seemed a harmless little fuck.” My parents love me, and I wasn’t picked on in grade school, but suddenly I am Jeremy. I’m the little twerp who gets sick of being pushed around and finally wigs out in the classroom. “Jeremy spoke in class today,” the audience roars, pumping their fists in the air. The song ends in a communal howl. I feel drained, like I’ve just been exorcised.

10:20 p.m. Eddie squints at a piece of paper and utters the classic Pinoy salutation: “Ayos ba tayo diyan?” The audience goes nuts. He takes a swig from a plastic bottle of mineral water, then he starts walking around the stage and sprinkling the people in the front rows. The gesture is not lost on the audience: some guys start chanting “John Paul Two, we love you!”

The band tears through “Deep,” “Betterman,” “Rearviewmirror.” Then they play “Black.” Despair, confusion, loss, bitterness, blind unanswered passion—everything burns in this song, and by the time Eddie sings “We… belong… together” my face is streaming with sweat, tears and snot. Funny how a complete stranger can speak to us and for us, and yet that’s what he is, a complete stranger. No matter how well he vivisects his soul for public listening, we can not really know him. We don’t have to. He could be a complete dickhead at home, but when he sings he becomes our voice.

“Thank you for coming to see us, it’s been our pleasure,” he says. “This has been the best gig ever on our Asian tour. Thank you. Be strong. Have good lives.”

They close their set with a rousing cover of “Let My Love Open The Door” by The Who. They leave the stage while the crowd sings “More!”

10:55 p.m. The audience has started trickling out. I want to see what it’s like in front of the stage, so I move forward. I’m maybe three meters from the stage when the band comes back. Eddie takes the mike and sings “Indifference.” “How much difference does it make?” he bellows—strange ending for a concert that has obviously affected so many. Then he says “Good night” and walks away.

I join the horde trudging towards the exit. My feet hurt. It’s 11:05, and suddenly I’m wide awake.

___________

Pearl Jam today

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