Monday, June 30, 2014

Elsa Vedder? Maybe Not


Last week, during a show in Milan, Pearl Jam inserted a few snippets of the Oscar-award winning song Let it Go into a medley which included time-honored PJ numbers Daughter, It’s OK, and Jeremy. The effects on social media were immediate, the feedback divisive. I’m on the camp that thinks the “cover” stank like cat piss, mainly because of Eddie Vedder. You can watch the whole (12 minute) video here.

Elsa Vedder

Sorry, Eddie. Elsa is not amused. Taken from KSDK.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love Pearl Jam, and I love Eddie. And I understand that they sang it for fun since the chord progression for Let it Go and It’s OK were technically similar (listen to it!). I don’t think it was a terrible thing to do. But that doesn’t mean that I think it was a good cover. And here’s why.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Five Things You Learn With Having a Dog Inside the House


My niece got herself a little dog recently. I’m not really that fond of dogs; they’re high maintenance creatures and take quite a bit of patience to train. Unlike cats, who you don’t really train. You just adapt to them, and everybody’s happy.

zardos the cat

Cats Master Race. All Your Gigs are Belong to Me.

But this dog – a (currently) three-month old Jack Russell terrier – is something else. She’s a really friendly dog, and aside from all the pooping and the barking and the yapping and the peeing, she’s quite the charmer. Now if only we could find a way to get past the chewing.

But here are some of the things I’ve learned about having a cat and a dog in the same house:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cheap Coffee Hits: The Case for Dunkin Donuts


In a Manila full to the brim with artisinal coffee shops, both commercial and otherwise, it’s easy to forget that the pioneer commercial donut-maker in this country was none other than the humble Dunkin Donuts. This little donut shop has obviously seen better days, except in the United States, where it actively competes with coffee and donut giants Starbucks and Krispy Kreme donuts. Here in Manila, it has gone in the way of the bakya and the passe—which, in retrospect, probably did wonders for its yearly returns.

Dunkin Donuts Taft

The Dunkin Donuts in Taft. Photo from Raincheck.

Now I am generally not a fan of anything bakya. But I love Dunkin Donuts. I particularly like three of their branches: the small, cozy waystation across the street from the Philippine General Hospital; the large coffee shop pretender along Aurora Boulevard in San Juan; and the main Dunkin Donuts branch in Cagayan De Oro’s Divisoria district. I used to kill time in between classes and / or work in any one of these branches throughout the years 2000 – 2009, and I still drop by the Taft Avenue branch whenever I’m not in a tight schedule or budget.

The thing that keeps me coming back to Dunkin is their coffee. I’m hard-pressed to find a coffee variant from Starbucks that can rival the bold flavor of Dunkin’s coffee, and while CBTL has coffee that’s just as good, their prices don’t even match (Php35 for Dunkin coffee, upwards of Php90 for anything else). I’m guessing that their beans are dark-roasted robusta and exelsa beans, since the coffee is rich and dark, and to an extent, has that delicious earth-strong flavor I’ve come to expect from barako coffee.

I also appreciate how, due to its unpopularity as a coffee shop, most Dunkin Donuts are empty of patrons dining in, as opposed to the ever-full confines of Starbucks and other more upscale coffee places. I can step into a Dunkin cafe at any time of the day, and expect to find a comfortable seat for myself; the rare times that I’ve encountered a Dunkin store full to the brim usually ends with me leaving the store with a feeling of slight betrayal.

Their donuts aren’t the best you could buy; for my money, Mister Donut has the best donuts in the country (which is another story altogether), but they’re a great complement to the coffee. I know this does nothing to help them with their branding, but I don’t really mind; all of their franchises have generally good coffee, and don’t mind it when you stay there for hours on end.

The only problem with every Dunkin Donut branch is that their shops rarely have a power outlet. I can’t, for the life of me, stay there for longer than three hours to work since my phone won’t last for much longer than that, and my laptop’s battery is busted. But this does very little to deter me. So the next time you’re in the PGH area, check out the Dunkin Donuts right across the street. There’s a good chance that you’ll find me there, at the very back, nursing a tall glass of coffee, with my face glued to a book, a notebook, or my mobile phone.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Fat Man’s Cardinal Rules for Frying Eggs


You know, I’ve never really liked eggs. When I was a kid, I avoided eggs whenever I could, which didn’t really fly very well with my grandmother, who would feed me raw eggs over hot white rice whenever she had the opportunity. I didn’t understand why she did it; all I know is that eventually, I got so used to the taste of raw eggs, I developed an even stronger dislike for the food in its other forms.

quickchow with egg
Quickchow Mami with Egg. Taken from my Twitter.

I think it had something to do with how my dad liked to eat his eggs, which is to say, as a salad, slathered on a sandwich. I couldn’t understand why the eggs were always so sour (it was due to the mayo of course), and the sandwiches were always these sad, soggy messes after spending a couple of hours in my bag.

There was also the whole problem with cholesterol casting a stigma over the whole thing, so it goes without saying that for most of my life, I avoided eating eggs.

But as an adult, I discovered that eating eggs wasn’t just a great way to start the day—cooking them was just as fun. I don’t remember how it started, but I discovered that eggs at the public market were really cheap, and that fried egg sandwiches (not the egg salad variants!) were surprisingly good.

So I bought myself an egg ring for cooking those perfect, circular eggs. Which was a mistake, unless you liked putting your eggs in a sandwich, because apparently, cooking an egg perfectly on any surface was one of the most basic cooking skills, which include the following rules (which I’ve made up for myself as I went along, of course):

Friday, June 20, 2014

Eating (Ta)Batchoy


Just the other week, I discovered something new about one of the places I frequently visit, thanks to an article on Spot.ph about the best-kept secrets of Manila. I speak of the La Paz Batchoy de Manila, a small restaurant along Escoda street in Ermita. Or what I now call batchoy heaven (at least, until after I taste Deco’s batchoy in Magallanes).

Manila City-20140617-00189
This photo I took does not do the batchoy justice. Trust me.

But first, a background on the area of Escoda: I am extremely familiar with this street because of the fact that it is the end point of the Pandacan-Ermita jeep, one of the few ways out of my hometown. Back when I was in college, I would spend a lot of time hanging out to read at the Dunkin Donuts in front of the Philippine General Hospital’s main gate, and when I was in nursery, I was schooled at the nursery in what is now the National Federation of Women’s Clubs of the Philippines, at the corner of San Marcelino street and Escoda.

You’ll probably have a hard time finding the La Paz Batchoy de Manila restaurant, since the place has no signage whatsoever, and is hidden from view by the fact that it is inside the lobby of a building that has, among other things, a flower shop, a bakery, a pawnshop, a dentist’s office, and a salon—all on just one side. The entrance to the lobby is a small gate secured by a lone guard who more often than not keeps the gate closed.

Once you enter this gate, however, you will be greeted by a short hallway, at the end of which is the small batchoy eatery. Make no mistake; the La Paz Batchoy restaurant is, in fact, a relatively clean turo-turo, manned by a couple of guys from Makati and Tondo. If you are the queasy type who can’t eat in a roadside canteen, then this place isn’t for you. You will be seated on a monoblock table, right next to the counter. The restaurant is, thankfully, air conditioned, but this does nothing to allay the simplicity of the place; you went here to get your batchoy, pay for your meal, and leave.

The people running the restaurant, however, were extremely nice and accommodating. I stepped into their premises close to their closing time of 8:00 PM, but they let go in and order a bowl of their super batchoy. They even let me use their landline—a mobile landline, really—to make a phone call I’d forgotten to complete earlier that day. And they kept on telling me to drop by earlier in the day, since they really couldn’t stay open very late, since the building management were very strict with their rules.

The batchoy was, in a word, sulit. Spot.ph described the taste of the broth as somewhat sweet, and that’s exactly what it was. But it didn’t taste like it was sugar sweet, no; it tasted more like caramelized onion sweet, which is what I suspect it is. And they gave you a lot of the soup! I can’t tell if they used MSG, but there was a slight salty taste to the soup, so I’m not discounting the possibility. But that’s not such a bad thing, unless you’re like my mother who’s allergic to the stuff.

Then there’s the miki. If there’s something Pinoy artisans learned from the Chinese, it’s to keep the noodles separate from the soup up until you serve it, since this keeps the noodles fresh and al dente. La Paz Batchoy de Manila does this as well, and the noodles are nice enough. But I’m not really a big fan of miki, so this was not the highlight for me.

The highlight came in the form of the toppings. The bowl of batchoy—and it was a really big bowl—was full to the brim with all sorts of meat—pork liver, beef cutlets, and pork rinds. I was told that sometimes the pork rinds lacked the kind of crunch you’d expect from chicharon, but I didn’t have that problem during my visit. The toppings were well-cooked, and were a delight to chew on, and the spring onions added just a little bit of flavor to the whole thing.

The best part was the floating egg yolk. I always thought that the egg was fully cooked upon serving; it sure looked that way in the photo I took. I was pleasantly surprised that the egg was soft-boiled upon immersion, and was just kept intact by the viscosity of the broth. When I poked it with a spoon with the intention of gobbling the whole thing up, the yolk broke apart, thickening the soup instantly, and making the experience all the more special.

I can’t wait to try Deco’s batchoy in Magallanes—it’s been said that they have the best batchoy in the metro there—but the proximity of La Paz Batchoy de Manila to my house, and the surprisingly good flavor of the soup (for less than Php100!) will make this place hard to top, in my book.

 

La Paz Batchoy de Manila
G/F CLR Building
110 Escoda Street
Brg. 676, Ermita, Manila
Tel No.: (02) 524 8913

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Music Formation


Both my niece and girlfriend listen to a lot of pop music, current hits for the former, and more tasteful classic potentials for the latter. As an ardent hard rock / smooth jazz listener, I can only roll my eyes towards some (not all!) of their music; but having an eclectic taste demands that I can adjust my criticism to suit whatever music is available, which has been quite a valuable life skill, as I’ve discovered.

miley-cyrus-tongue-4

Because surviving Miley Cyrus is a life skill. Image from Digital Spy.

Of course, when a song that you particularly dislike gets stuck in your head—this tends to happen more often with my niece’s music—I have to fire up my laptop’s music player and blast something from Liquid Tension Experiment or Incognito to get the backwash, as it were, out of my head.

Thinking back, I would imagine that my musical tastes, perhaps, annoyed my parents just as much as my niece’s music often annoys me. But funnily enough, my taste evolved from the music that they used to play on the radio; my father was a huge Ventures / Shadows hound, and would play his cassettes in the car at every opportunity. During long drives into the country, he had a huge collection of The Brothers Four country music, which as a kid I found terribly boring, but I find myself missing now.

After an (admittedly long) stint of listening to The Simpsons’ Singing the Blues album, my cousins introduced me to the music of the Eraserheads. I remember watching River Maya and the Eheads perform at the Cuneta Astrodome back during the height of the Cutterpillow album, and for a teen-ager, it was glorious. My parents bought me my very first guitar after about a year of incessantly listening to Cutterpillow and Circus, and I’ve been plonking away at the strings ever since.

During high school, I made the acquaintance of Louie Ocampo, with whom I would eventually build a musical rapport with; he became the guitarist of Mahasa, whilst I was that band’s first bass player. Louie introduced me to River Maya and Wolfgang (up until that time, I preferred Eraserheads to River Maya), and subsequently widened my musical spectrum from the fun kanto rhythms of alternative rock, to the straight-edged seriousness of hard rock. I would also change my radio station allegiance, from Campus Radio 97.9 to NU 107.5, the Home of Nu Rock. This formed the basis of what eventually became my musical backbone. Of course, I didn’t know that the music I was listening to would form the core of the late 90s / early 2000s classics.

I forget how I was introduced to progressive rock; all I know is that I started listening to Dream Theater in college. This was at around the same time I started listening to local bands like Chicosci and Queso (Cheese, at the time), after my fascination with rap metal kings Slapshock during the latter part of high school. The biggest draw I saw in progressive rock was the similarities it bore with classical music; the structure and phrasing of each piece was precise. My grandmother was a classical piano teacher, and she taught the instrument well into her old age, so the influence she had on me throughout the years was enormous.

All this time, however, I was quietly listening to the music of Razorback. I was already a Wolfgang fan, so it was only fitting that I listened to their brother band as well; the problem was, while Wolfgang was pretty active in the late 90s / early 2000s, Razorback was more reticent, so I followed Wolfgang more than I did the ‘bex. But when their self-titled album was released (I forget what year it was), all that changed. I immediately shifted my loyalties, and set out to mapping the bassline for most of the songs in the album. And my ear hasn’t had the taste for normal music ever since.

That is, up until 2007. This year, I moved to the south for an almost year-long stay in Cagayan de Oro. There, I made the acquaintance of Blues (that’s his nickname) Marquez, and Dave Fuentes, two of the biggest jazz hounds I know. I’d been listening to jazz thanks to the influence of some of my friends, so I was pre-armed with info; I knew all about the Brand New Heavies, and was an ardent fan of Sound, a local Pinoy jazz band fronted by Sach Castillo. However, I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d enjoy playing random songs by Incognito and the APO Hiking Society. And it stuck.

Wow, I didn’t expect this post to get this long. I’ll wrap it up by saying that yes; music is continuously evolving, and what people are listening to now isn’t al that bad; Bruno Mars is fairly good, and Adelle is impressive (although I dislike the string of copycats that followed in her wake). But if you ask me to play the music I like, then you’ll likely see me listening to something from one of the bands I mentioned throughout this post.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dusting Off The Writing Machine


I AM ALIVE!

Yes ladies and gentlemen, or whatever form of creature out there reads my blog on a relatively regular basis, the fat man lives. The fat man is back, is still fat, and is surprisingly spending more of his time actually writing sensible work-related things.

me

Me, during a fit of work-induced insanity.

Which is why I haven’t been writing. I usually clock out at the end of the day with my mind so beat that the only form of creative writing I could take is playing something on the DS; I have recently just finished Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (a wonderful follow-up to the first two games on the GBA, complete with a despicable cliffhanger), and will be proceeding to replay Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2, which I threw away in disgust when my original save file vanished, more than two years ago.

This sounds terribly complicated, but the truth is that when I finish working, I pack my laptop into my bag, step out of my office in the first floor of the house, shove off for my room, and sit in front of my table and play.

But I’ve discovered that I spend more hours actually writing than just editing these days, which has been tough on the ol’ noggin, seeing that it hasn’t seen much writerly activity in the past few years. Sitting in front of a blank MS Word page and making word appear as if by magic for hours on end gives my brain the sensation of a waking limb; here, good sir, is a portion of your mind that hasn’t been used in ages. Let us, for now, dust it, oil the cogs, and we’ll see how things go. And, of course, hope for the best.

And the best, so far, has been happening. I’ve always said that one day, I would quit hiring two-penny half-penny writers and take on the writing duties all on my lonesome since that would probably end up saving me more time on cleaning up, and so far, I haven’t been disappointed. There hasn’t been any problem with work, except during the days wherein I can’t work for whatever reason, and my clients have been pretty pleased with the output. More so than when I was just editing, I might add. Which makes my heart swell just a little bit, enough to mitigate the risk of heart failure.