Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ENCOUNTER ] Mr. Schnabel, is that you?

Click image to enlarge. Page design JR Agra

Three things I’ve always wanted to find out in case I ever meet Julian Schnabel in this lifetime: First, was he a difficult person to talk to, an egomaniac? Second, was he as big as a bear? Third, did he really always wear pajamas wherever he goes? So when I learned that he will be in Singapore for an exhibit, I did everything I could to secure a meet-and-greet: four days before the opening, I called the organizers to say that my Philippine Daily Inquirer editor was in town and would love to interview Schnabel.

We arrived at HT Contemporary Space an hour early--to look around, acclimatize, and familiarize ourselves with the artist's new works. The 57-year-old, considered a mythical figure in the international art scene, became famous in the 1980s for using broken plates as canvas. He is also known both for being prolific and constantly changing his style.

Schnabelissima! The exhibition at HT Contemporary Space, Singapore

The Space (the owners refuse to call it a gallery), located at a warehouse district in Singapore’s former port area, was stark white. Two galleries were alloted for Schnabel’s works. The main one featured his most recent efforts, relatively small canvasses (he usually paints the size of walls) being sold in the US$270,000 range.

The smaller gallery featured his print series for those with not-so-deep pockets, in the range of US$27,000. The prints were representative of his works over the past 20 years. His portrait paintings of his friends: Argentine artist Victor Hugo 'Grillo' Demo and actor Jose Luis Ferrer were easily the most stunning. The portraits are neither pretty nor flattering. They're almost as frightening as his broken plates paintings; but because the artist this time poured resin on the images, they appear glossy and sweet instead of scary and haunting.

Around this time, one of the organizers came by to say she was just there--in case we wanted to know anything about Schnabel's works. I asked about the portraits, their subjects and if they ever posed for him. Well, she said carefully, Victor Hugo is a famous writer and he's been dead for some time.

By five in the afternoon, a small crowd had begun to gather, the refreshment guys given the go-signal to serve drinks. Howard Rutkowski of Fortune Cookie Projects, which brought the show here, walked up to us hurriedly to say, “Julian’s here. You can talk to him now.” He made it clear there wasn’t going to be any sitdown interview; that’s not Julian’s style.

Just winners, no Olatz. The crowd during the opening last Saturday. Among them Julian's new girlfriend Rula Jebreal (bottom left).

When my editor Lito Zulueta and I walked to the main gallery, Schnabel was already surrounded by a coterie of Filipino admirers: artists Gerry Tan, Bernie Pacquing and Ronald Achacoso. "He was our idol when we were in UP," Ronald would excitedly tell me later on. “Kaya para niya kaming acolytes ngayon.”

What was Schnabel wearing to his opening night? Maroon sneakers, blue pants, and a black shirt, untucked, the sleeves rolled up and the buttons opened midway, revealing the famously unashamed chest hair. The hair--on his head--was both wavy and ruffled, and his moustache and beard made him look like a very affectionate Papa.

The greatest surprise was, at around 5’7”, he didn’t appear as tall as I always thought he was.

So this is what larger-than-life looks like in real life.

He was in the middle of answering a question about his 10 favorite movies (you can perhaps read it in Ronald Achacoso’s story for Rogue) when we walked in. We asked Schnabel if he would like to be known more as an artist or a filmmaker. He’s already been an artist for so long now, he said, he doesn’t mind doing something new. What’s he to do, he added almost irritatedly, there are things to be done and he has to do them. ("He's more of a filmmaker than he'd care to admit," Lito would say afterwards, to which the Filipino group concurred.)

He has written, and directed, critically acclaimed biopics: Basquiat, Before Night Falls, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. He has started on the production of Miral, which is based on the book written by his new girlfriend Rula Jebreal, the woman who has also his tenant at Palazzo Chupi, the New York apartment building he designed, built, and painted in pink. (The press had a field day writing about how he was cheating on his then-wife Olatz with someone who lived just below them). He has designed interiors of hotels and restaurants, and he is also a lifelong surfer. No wonder he's called a Renaissance Man.

This passion, the need to keep creating, is what people find very sexy about Julian Schnabel. Standing in the middle of the Space, he talked about the script he wrote for the movie version of Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, where the ending would have seen Jean-Baptiste Grenouille on top of a tower smelling all the way to Egypt. Watching Schnabel re-tell this story, and seeing his chest heave as he takes a deep breath as Grenouille would have done in the movie, is like being transported into a creative world where everything is a heightened experience.

Like being embraced by genius.

Later in the night, as Schnabel weaved in and out of the crowd, I managed to corner him and ask for an autograph. It took three attempts. At the first one, he had something in both hands and said he’d come back. The second time, I bumped into him. “Oh you wanted me to sign something,” he said, and then he disappeared again. The third time, he came up with a pentel pen and asked what he should write. I said, "To James." He wrote, "To James -- Love, Julian" (Or at least it looked like that!).

A few minutes later, not content with a measly autograph, I asked for a photo-op. "Julian," I said, "do you think I could have a photo with you?" “Yes, of course,” he said, looking at me amusedly. So with one arm akimbo and the other wrapped around my shoulder, I got my perfect Julian Schnabel portrait. As a thank you, I told him he should really go to the Philippines and surf. “You got some good waves there?” he asked. Uh huh, I replied, barely able to say anything else. Touched by genius, I was already floating in mid-air.

Julian Schnabel: Recent Work is showing until 20 April at HT Contemporary Space in Singapore (#02-04 Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 39 Keppel Road; Phone: 8133 1760). It will be shown at Manila Contemporary art gallery in the Philippines (Phone: 844 7328) afterwards
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THE GUWAPO GUIDE ] J. Cu-unjieng on how to look dapper in a depression

Keeping it simple is the best way to stay dapper in tough times. And the thing is, most men already have the ingredients in their closet, they just need to make sure everything fits well. I can't say enough about fit.

(1) A clean, crisp white shirt with (2) well-worn, but not holey, blue jeans is always wonderful, and most men look good in that. Nothing too gimmicky, just straightforward good clothes will always work. I liked the Swank entry about the uniform, about purchasing polos that fit well. That's the idea. (3) Good shoes and a (4) belt in the same colour family. Stick to manly colors. Navy, grey, white, black, brown, tan, khaki, will always look riche. As far as an accessory, I still check out a (5) man's watch. If you can't afford the expensive one, then go with something really sporty, like a Timex. It will make everyone think you're just athletic, and the good watch is at home.

J'S GROOMING NOTE: I think if a man does not neglect his grooming, then he doesn't need a scent other than the clean smell of soap. When you think about it, wouldn't you want to sleep with a man fresh from a shower, with no trace of cologne? And besides, if you kiss a man on the neck and there are traces of cologne there, you wind up tasting it. So, my grooming note is never forget to bathe, even if you're going to be sweaty 10 minutes later. I shower before the gym or before a run, so I sweat clean.

J.Lee Cu-unjieng has been named several times as one of Manila's most stylish men. He used to be fashion editor at Metro hiM. He runs as fast--and as often--as he can.

A note on the collage: Christopher de Leon used to sport the look in the '80s when he was still THE leading man known for his talent, his gorgeousness and, as Imee Marcos once put it, his "tight butt." He would eventually sport daddy polos and pleated, roomy trousers (with that moustache) which probably led to his being a ham.

Collage by Neil Agonoy.
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Monday, March 30, 2009

THE HAS-BEEN ] Movie poster taglines

Like their washed up bold starlet contemporaries, their barely-noticed careers have gone the way of the "Whatever Happened To..." variety. Good thing the amazingly devoted archivist Simon Santos of the video store Video48 (West Avenue, QC) has uploaded a tremendous amount of old Filipino movie posters online. Swank rummaged through Steve's collection and picked 12 that tugged at the heartstrings.

Langis at Tubig
"If two marriages is bigamy...is one monotony?"

"She meets her man in some back street...during stolen hours."

Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara
"There’s something strange about this motion picture."

Broken Marriage
"When a marriage is on the rocks, the rocks are on the bed."

"Too much, too soon. A child...a woman..a mother...at 14!"

Angkinin Mo Ako (Starring Stella Strada)
"Masakit ang may karanasan. Pero ayos lang ang kasunod."
We assume there was a mistake here: the "may" should have been "unang."

Puri (Starring Stella Strada)
"From man...to man...to man...to man."

"Suspended in time and space. Trapped between passion and loyalty. Eternal lovers in a bondage that demanded no release."

Private Show
"She is 17 and at the end of her line. Tonight this city becomes a witness to a--Private Show"

Kakaba-kaba ka ba?
"A dope syndicate hatches a devilish scheme. Bedlam explodes and drags everybody into the caboodle! Its witty! Its zany! Its just plain funny!"

City After Dark
"Pssst..have a good time with us in the city after dark."

Ito Ba Ang Ating Mga Anak
"You are about to watch a motion picture about a group of lost and confused youth. So powerful it hits you with a punch! This is your story. Pare, mabigat!"
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

THE WEEKEND IDEA ] Recommendations from the Swank commune

Photograph by MM Yu

First, turn your lights off at 8.30 tonight and leave it that way for an hour as the earth-conscious citizenry of the world does the same. What to do in your hour of darkness? 1 Revisit your childhood and make shadow animals with your hands. 2 Revisit Nick Joaquin’s May Day Eve by lighting a candle. Face full-length mirror. Wait for ghost to appear. 3 My friend Kathie Dee says go to town with this revisiting-your-youth idea by playing hide-and-seek outside. Or tumbang preso. If no one else will play with you, invite ghost from May Day Eve exercise. 4 Take a moment for your friends whose lives have been rendered tragic by the sudden change of the Facebook layout. Pray that they may have other things to worry about. 5 Take a moment for the lady who jumped on the LRT tracks in Tayuman station to commit suicide. Have our train tracks become unfriendly to suicidals? Am I seeing a discrimination issue? Would she have succeeded on the Marikina-Recto LRT? Or the Libertad station? Did you know that in Obama-era Africa they don’t call it “blackout” anymore? They now say “previously lit.”

If you’re planning to go out early, my friend Raymond Lee asks “why not break your routine and approach the sublime for a change” by seeing the ongoing exhibition of the Paulino Que collection of figurative contemporary art at the Finale Art Gallery (Pasong Tamo, Makati City). FROM RAYMOND: “The compulsion to create and to collect works of terrible beauty is on display, powerfully, lovingly, transformatively.” If that doesn't sell it, I don't know what will. All large works and mostly never-before-seen from some of the country’s most brilliant artists including Manuel Ocampo, Geraldine Javier, Alfredo Esquillo, Jose Legaspi and Yasmin Sison. You can see a slide show here but what good would that do you?

Carlo Tadiar, my editor at Metro Home says I should watch the Tony Award-winning musical Spelling Bee, or The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, "a hilarious tale," says the press release, "of overachievers’ angst as it chronicles the experience of six adolescent outsiders vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime." FROM CARLO: "Although ostensibly played out among kids, Spelling Bee is PG hilarious, wry and wise. The melodies are intricate yet fresh, and each performance a tour de force of vocal artistry and physical dexterity." Runs til next weekend at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in RCBC Plaza (For tickets, call 8927078, 8401187 or 8919999).

If you’re staying in, the filmmaker Coreen Jimenez, one of the brains behind the engagingly riotous Big Time, is raving about The Best American Short Stories 2007 edited by Stephen King who was apparently so blown away by the amazing collection. Mr. King asks: “I’m getting paid to read this?” Coreen recommends these three “mind-fuck” selections: "Toga Party" by John Barth, "DeBard and Aliette: A Love Story" by Lauren Groff (click here for excerpt) and "St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves" by Karen Russell.

Of course you have to get your ass out of the house to get a copy of the book, so if you’re sofa-bound today, Coreen's friend, the director Joel Ruiz, says there is this Pulitzer Prize-winning article about Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists, playing street musician at the Washington DC subway station for a social experiment on art and how we appreciate beauty in the midst of our harried lives. It's called "Pearls before breakfast." Reminds me of the time I stopped to listen to this brilliant voice from a blind girl at an MRT station who was singing “Rain.” It was the Donna Cruz “Rain,” not the Madonna.

If you're the Madonna-type, and "Pearls" seems too long for you, one of the guys here at Swank, JR Agra, who designs some of our pages, sent me this most amusing New Yorker story entitled "Intelligent Design" by Paul Rudnick (of that Tom Selleck-starrer In and Out), a designer version of The Story of Creation. I find it a little sacrilegious (and I assume the other page designer would agree), but if, like Madge, you don't mind that at all, it's an engaging, sassy burst of flamboyant imagination.

Click orange notes for links. MM Yu photograph, The Light at The end of the Tunnel Has Been Switched Off, installation by Mawen Ong, curated by Roberto Chabet, February 2009. Courtesy of Green Papaya Art Projects, 41 T. Gener Street corner Kamuning Road, Quezon City.
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Friday, March 27, 2009

THE PLAYLIST ] No cover charge, just covers*

Page design JR Agra

When The Rage Band quit playing their '80s gigs, I lost my occassional '80s live band fix. And then I found The Ronnies. While Rage was all grim and determined about it, Juan Miguel Salvador jumping to stand on his seat, Marissa Bunag singing "We Will Rock You" like her life depended on it (if you used to be a rock band and are relegated to singing revivals of songs that aren't yours, maybe it did), The Ronnies seemed a little more tongue-in-cheek, a little cooler, just a group of friends having a blast playing Sheena Easton's "Telephone" and Laura Branigan's "Self Control" on a slow Saturday night.

Which is close to how it all began, really. "We started out outside Big Sky Mind one evening, nag-iinuman, nagkakalokohan, natuluyan," says Ene, the vocalist. "As most things in life happen--at a bar, having drinks. Buti na lang naalala namin lahat in the morning."

On the eve of their 3rd anniversary show at Club Dredd, Ene gives Swank a little hitback, hitback, hitback! Ten '80s tracks and their accompanying memories:

Left of Center (Suzanne Vega) Science class. Sharing a table with four other people. I remember my hairstyle (which i will not reveal) and my classmate Diday veneracion singing this. Just an Illusion (Imagination) William Martinez. I think he was just a dancer when this song came out. I can see the dance steps and the white costume they used for this. Clouds Across The Moon (The Rah Band) Vicor Dancers Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics) Oddly enough I have two memories for this song: how I was awed by this man/woman with orange hair, and later on hearing a group of gay guys in college sing it in harmony. Needless to say those four and I became good good friends. When Doves Cry (Prince) When Prince was still just "Prince," my batchmate Sidney ventura submitted the lyrics to this song as a composition in English class and got a grade of 1.0. Two Rivers (The Adventures) If I'm not mistaken this was the "theme song" of Tina Panganiban and Michael Saenz (Swank has no idea who they are, The Adventures, Tina and Michael). Freeze Frame (The J. Geils Band) The cliquers (Rida, Tracy, Trixie, Mabeth, Marcia, Joy, Mireille) dancing to this song at the multi-purpose hall, shades and sinaunang layering (read:bagets). You To Me Are Everything (The Real Thing) Winnie Roque. The only one who could sing this song from beginning to end from memory. Break my Stride (Matthew Wilder) Okay, no real big memory attached to this shttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifong but i love how the lyrics relate his dream: "I sailed away to china/in a little old boat to find ya/and you said you had to get your laundry cleaned..." Video Killed The Radio Star (The Buggles) Credited as the first video aired on MTV.

The Ronnies are Ronnie Dizon, Ene Lagunzad, Andy Estalilla, Justin de Belen and Astrojon Padilla. Former members include Kessenth Cheng, Nix Puno, Abe Billano , Jason Caballa, Nelson Gonzales, Archie Simangan and Kenway Barcelona. "We like to remember everyone that was a Ronnie come anniversary time. Once a Ronnie, always a Ronnie."

*"No cover charge, just covers" is the tagline of The Ronnies 3rd anniv gig I Don't Want To But I Does. Ene Lagunzad photograph by Rossy Yabut. The Ronnies photo by Ardie Lopez. Click on orange words for the videos.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

THE DOUBLE LIFE ] Christina Dy's split decisions

Page design Neil Agonoy

She used to paint images of naked men on fabric, and very intimate, very sexy, charcoal meditations on a man’s hair. Early last year, she gave up the canvas for a while and took to tights to join a group of pole dancers. Last year, CD travelled to Australia (to create a site-specific drawing in Beyond Frame: Philippine Photomedia at the University of Technology-Sydney Gallery) and was enthralled by the open spaces, parks and beaches possible within an urban sprawl, a huge departure from congested Manila, and the 20-square meter studio where she lives and works.

The day before your opening, you'll be pole-dancing at Capone's. Do you see a connection between your art and the pole-dancing?
Hmmmm. I think pole-dancing took the sex out of my art. I found a release for all my sexual energy! ‘Di ba I used to draw sexy or sex-related things, but now wala na!

The invite doesn't say much about the work apart from the inspiration.
Ok, this is a show of large scale drawings (the largest being 5x12 ft), still using my favorite medium, charcoal on paper. There are a total of eight drawings. I wanted to make more, but hindi na kasya sa walls!

What about Australia had the most impact on you?
I just have to say it again--I love Sydney! I loved everything! The people were all super friendly, especially the bus drivers who helped me manage my way around the city. I loved how people were really laid back--shops close at 5 or 6pm, and people just chill. And weekends were spent at the beach. And there were galleries everywhere that were accessible and free. There were parks and libraries. And enough time to go to all of them, with extra time for working out! I thought that was a pretty cool way of living one's life.

Why were you there and for how long?
I was there for a month upon the invitation of Gina Fairley, who curated a Philippine photography show at the University of Technology Sydney. I was there to draw on the walls of UTS' gallery! Most weekdays I'd draw from 10am to 4pm. The rest of the time is spent just eating!

What's a particular experience/encounter you couldn't forget from your stay?
It's a toss-up between A. watching a play called Yibiyung at the Belvoir. It's about the half-casts (half-white, half-aborigine children) and their journey to find their place in Australian society. I was crying the whole time! It affected me so much! B. riding a ferry from Manly Beach at sunset, and seeing the harbour and the Opera House all lit up at night. It was beautiful. Breathtaking.

What was it like working on this show? Agonizing? Therapeutic?
Oh I love working on shows! Drawing is very addictive, you know! Thank God, I pole-dance every night, or else I wouldn't step out of my studio. I'd probably go crazy from drawing. There's always that point near the end of a drawing when you think you can't draw anymore, but after that point, you feel really, really good and then you draw some more!

You cut hair, and you had a couple of exhibitions with hair as subject. What's with the fascination?
Oh hair is so SEXY! Have you ever tried shaving a man before? That sharp object against his neck. Yummy. Haha! And the way water drips off hair after a shower. As for cutting hair---all my friends wanted to save money so I started cutting their hair! But the hair phase is almost over. I don't cut anyone's hair anymore, including mine. The only hair-related thing that still fascinates me is the Brazilian.

Christina Dy, Between Sea and Sky opens tonight at SLab Gallery in Pasong Tamo Ext. and will run up to May 2, 2009 at SLab. Dy will be giving an artist talk on April 18at 3pm.

Photos on spread: Clockwise from leftmost: Sea 1, 5x10ft, charcoal on paper 2009; "all street corners say "Look right!"; Govinda's for the Ayurvedic buffet; the Belvoir, the stage for Yibiyung; Coogee beach; Bondi on a stormy day, "With marco morales and homeless dude, at this food stall where we ate vegetable pies and had the super yummy Bundaberg Ginger Beer!"
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

THIS WAY PLEASE ] Welcome to Swank


We're going for a little irony here. Okay, more like we just love the sound of it so much we're trying to redefine the word, reposition it, and with a dishrag strip the thing off its ostentatious affectation, and its porn association. Hey, its the last year before the first decade of the millennium is over, the world is changing before our eyes and nobody knows what the future holds--we can now do whatever we want. Which is mostly to pull back a little, take things slowly, not worry about next year and take advantage of these times when we can still blame the overall dark mood on the economic crisis. Hey, we didn't put ourselves in this position, America did. The guys in Congress did. The lady in Malacanang did.

But make no mistake, we're not saying quit your job and take to the couch and wait for your 200 friends to update their status on Facebook. We're saying take advantage of this post-careerist times to go back and do the things you've previously pushed aside because you wanted to spend the entire day in the office to impress the boss and get that promotion. We're saying write that song you wanted to write, learn to play the guitar, make your own chair. Clear your working desk and install those shelves already. We here at Swank, we're finally doing the magazine we've always wanted to make (and by we, I mean me and the undersigned. And probably the two guys who designed the pages here and figured out the blog html stuff). We don't know where this will take us but isn't that the beauty of it?

Hopefully, we'll be able to fill Swank with lots of cool people and ideas and things, without the usual hype and PR palabok. In this first issue, we won't ask you to buy a new pair of shoes or have a suit made. In fact, we're suggesting you wear the same thing you wore yesterday, the same pair of jeans you've been wearing since 501s were invented. And we're suggesting you be damn proud of it.

We're saying you might want to get that tattoo you've been dreaming about since high school--if you're ready for it and especially now that you're over your obsession with your yellow feathered friend Tweety. We're asking you to follow your passion and hopefully earn big bucks from it (like our cover man), to face your fear of that blank canvas (Bogie Ruiz has a few thoughts). And what's a cool magazine without Lourd de Veyra? Don't just stare at the ceiling, think about the little ironies he posed in our lessons from The Word of The Lourd, then maybe you could write something of essence the next time you update your facebook status.

We'll have a lot more in the coming days. And by 'we' I mean me and hopefully some friends and the two art directors who designed the pages, JR Agra (Metro Home) and Neil Agonoy (Metro and Metro Home). We'll try to give you new stuff everyday. If we don't, just think of it like we're doing both of us a favor: we're allowing you to read a chapter in that book you've never read, and you're allowing us to ponder the ceiling for a bit.

Have fun now. I'm guessing we'll be buddies for awhile.

Jerome Gomez

ON THE COVER: Mark Nicdao photographed by Devi Madrid, 11 March 2009 during set-up for his show at Greenbelt 5.


This is the Word of the Lourd. In which the poet plays modern day philosopher looking for the meaning of tarpauline, whitening potions and life itself in the gloriously rioutous streets of Manila in a capsule commentary aired regularly over ABC5’s The Evening News. Mixed with mostly original music and lyrics from the frontman and lyricist of Radioactive Sago Project himself (with an occasional collaboration with a guy named Raimund Marasigan), de Veyra’s wry humor, occassionally surprising perspective on issues, and often hilarious footages, this capsule commentary is probably the most intelligent and provocative three minutes you’ll spend on free TV these days. Here, a few bites for your brain to nibble on.

Makinig sa simbahan, makinig sa mga pari. Bakit hindi mo paniniwalaaan ang mga taong walang alam sa pagpapamilya? At ang mga taong hindi kinakailangang magbanat ng buto para mapakain at mapa-aral ang sampung anak-bata? Sa dami ng krimen at aksidente, hindi ba nababawasan ang dami natin? So ibig sabihin (dapat) gawa lang tayo nang gawa ng kapalit. Alam mo naman baka matulad tayo sa Europa. Baka magkaron tayo ng tinatawag nilang demographic winter. Ibig sabihin (magiging) puro na lang tayo mga tan-ders.—“Go forth and multiply”

Is your accent better than mine? Bakit nga ba kailangan natin baluktutin ang sarili nating mga dila? Para saan? Para kanino? Hindi ba maintindindihan ng mga tao ang English mo pag di ka nag-slang? What-eber. Iinom na lang ako ng ber. Chers!—“Slang”

Wag ka na kumain. Para tipid. Imbes na bumili ka ng Xenical at kung ano-ano pang pampapapayat diyan. Pag di ka pa sumeksi, ewan ko na lang. At saka pag di ka kumain, di ka na magluluto, at siyempre di ka na bibili ng LPG.—“Krisis Tipid Tips”

Ano ang mas pagkakagastusan mo ng isandaan: isang digital film na pagkalungkot-lungot at pagkadilim- dilim? O isang pelikulang punong puno ng kantahan at sayaw at kilig moments? Marami nang tao sa planetang ito na nabuhay, lumigaya at namatay na wala namang kamuwang-muwang sa sining. Sino nga ba ang nagpapahalaga sa kultura? Sa isang bansang ang dami-daming kumakalam ang sikmura. Malamang ang sagot ay ‘wala.’—“Walang silbi ang art?”

Eh ano ba naman ang problema kung malaki ang tiyan? Eh bakit sila Alfred Hitchcock, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Mao, bakit sila para silang buntis lagi? Ano ba naman ang naiambag ng magandang abs sa kasaysayan ng mundo?—“Bitin sa kanin"

Word of the Lourd airs Mondays 11pm on Ten (The Evening News) on ABC5. It can also be seen on Youtube, just click on the orange quotes above.
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Monday, March 23, 2009

THE CHALLENGE ] The blank canvas

Jose “Bogie” Tence Ruiz is never terrified of the blank canvas. After more than three decades of being a visual artist, dabbling on graphic design, editorial cartooning and painting, the guy remains a full-time creative mind. It’s all about looking at the everyday things in a non-everyday way. He shows us, for example, during his lecture last Saturday at the Slab Gallery in Pasong Tamo Extension, a couple of images from a Western graphic artist: a tall concrete office building that looks like a multi-layered peanut butter sandwich, and then a church entrance that has rendered itself to be an elaborately designed sundae cone. “Isn’t this a way to look at these everyday things when you’re caught in the traffic and you’re just hungry and dying from the heat?”

Several months back, he found himself in such a situation, not so much as hungry, merely piqued, by an image he saw from the Quezon Avenue station of the MRT, of a golf course above a driving range. He saw a lady whose job is putting a golf ball on the spot for golfers to hit. From there was born the centrepiece painting in his most recent exhibit billed “Bukod Tanging Pag-ibig,” an homage to Fernando Amorsolo. The piece, called “Mga Dalagang Bukid,” juxtaposes the classic terno-wearing Amorsolo women in a golf course carrying not baskets of fruits but a pail of white balls. There are always things that strike us, he says, and we keep them in our memory banks, “pulling things from storage” in the opportune time.

He is also not afraid of deadlines. “The misery of the pressure cooker can be a good thing,” says this veteran of putting out several illustrations a day when he used to work as a cartoonist for the newspapers. He says the only way to deal with it is to simply do the job, one’s personal style will almost always show no matter how short the time in which the work was accomplished. What terrifies him is “how to run the machine,” to be able to make exhaustive use of the tools technology has made available for him now, “a machine that is complete” as opposed to the “incomplete” ones in his younger years. Still, he keeps at it, and is avoiding the temptation of “retirement depression.” He reminds his friends who have succumbed to it that it is a silly state, especially when, as he puts it, “You’re so much younger than the planet and it hasn’t retired yet.”
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STYLE SUGGESTION ] Wear a uniform

All my school life I’ve worn a uniform. And so when I got rejected at UP and had to go settle for uniform-wearing college, you could imagine the itch of those wool pants and the uneasy feel of the tetoron shirt badgering me almost daily. I hated wearing a uniform. I wanted to express myself through my clothes, no matter how limited my wardrobe was then (therefore my attempts at self-expression would be limited as well). I know of a number of people who hated the idea of a uniform too much, it was a major factor in deciding what career path they chose.

Recently, however, having worked in fashion for awhile, and edited a fashion magazine for men, I am slowly feeling the symptoms of fashion fatigue. Or maybe I am just numbed by all the photographs and the clothes and the following of trends, whether I’m just browsing through them on the Net, seeing the ads in Esquire, or incorporating them in my personal wardrobe. Right at this moment, fashion is not making sense to me—apart from being a source of entertainment: the McQueen mankini, the Prada dress shirt, the Fendi wedges! And slowly, the idea of the uniform is getting more and more attractive.

Of course this is not to mean I come to the office these days in a white tetoron polo and wool pants. But if Steve Jobs, easily one of the most famous geeks in the 21st century, can appropriate a uniform (black mock turtleneck, jeans and New Balance sneakers), I should be able to try coming up with my own.

In my 20s, I was wearing all those retro stuff in polyester from Bambang, alternating them with an outfit made up of slim pants in a techno fabric and a simple black tee (fuelled by the aesthetic of Helmut Lang). And then in most recent years, I began dressing in the office like a bakasyonista: tailored shorts, a lightweight polo shirt and loafers, with a bag that looks decidedly beach-bound. I still dress like this in the office once in awhile, and on weekends.

Just recently, however, I bought myself several cotton pique shirts from Bench: two whites, and three more in different colors, the bch leaf emblem quietly whispering in each shirt’s left breast. I pair it with two pairs of jeans: one that is soft and artificially faded, and one that has beautifully faded with age. All of a sudden, the thought of dressing up everyday has just become less tedious and complicated. Which is the only way to dress up in this heat. Grab the shirt, grab your pants, wear the shoes, get out of the house and slip into the airconditioned cab. You don’t even have to look in the mirror anymore because you know exactly that you look fine, and that everything matches.

I do not feel at all ordinary about it. Or lacking in style. While I have been one to wear trends before, I have never been attracted to men who overtly wear trends. Clean and simple, mukhang mabango, is and will always be, I believe, the best way to go if you’re a man looking to look your best and most attractive. I think the cotton-pique-shirt-and-jeans look fits right in this description. And the rules are almost too simple:

1)Get the right size of shirt and jeans. Not a size bigger or a size smaller.
2)Everything looks good when you’re fit, so exercise a little. Everybody needs to once in awhile. A cotton pique shirt and a pair of straight cut jeans are great definers of your efforts at the gym or at circling the UP oval.
3)If you can, tuck the shirt in and wear a leather belt which should be at least in the same color family as your shoes.
4)The shoes. A well-polished pair of leather shoes, whether its a brogue or a loafer, seals the deal for this look. The choice of shoe, and the way it’s shined, elevates the simplicity of this casual get-up to striking and even impeccable.

I wear the shirt and jeans with a braided leather belt and my old faux snakeskin slip-ons. I feel cool and easy and, yes, a little too pleased with myself, with the idea that it didn’t take me forever to put it together, and that I could focus on the more important things throughout the day instead of worrying if my colors match. The shirt says preppy and light and approachable, and the jeans hint, I think, at a little rock star cool. The whole look says you’ve made your decisions and are confident about them. And its easy to assume there are more interesting things about you than your clothes.
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THE HOT SHOT ] Mark Nicdao

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Mark held his first exhibit recently at the Greenbelt 5 Fashion Walk. To see the photographs from Mark's show "Alive!" and most of his editorial and commercial works, visit wildbunchphotography.multiply.com ...Read more

RITE OF PASSAGE ] Paulo gets inked

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WHO IS PAULO? Paulo Vinluan is a 28-year old artist based in New York. Son of contemporary art titan Nestor, Paulo made a name for himself with his stylishly riotous portraits of social situations, peppered with iconic images of Pinoy culture. He considers himself a satirist, and knows a thing or two about wolves in sheep’s clothing—or in his case Joey Samson suits, a favourite image in his works.
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THE CLASSIC ] Espadrilles

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The espadrilles in this story are from Juté ('Yu-tay'), a line of espadrilles for men and women from La Rioja, Spain. They are hand-made and are of organic materials such as jute—a natural fiber next to cotton—which means they are soft, comfortable and allow your feet to breathe. For information or orders, please visit juteespadrille.multiply.com or call 899-2021 or 0920-9614600
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