Archive for February, 2007


Fit to a tea

Not all kinds of tea taste bitter. And not all varieties of tea are dried leaves in form – attention Lipton enthusiasts. A visit at Tea and Therapy should set the facts straight and more.

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Air Force 25

Everyone likes to be like Michael Jordan, alright. Or Kobe Bryant or Dwayne Wade. But does anyone have love for Rasheed Wallace? Not too many, I suppose. Nobody in the NBA right now can be as old school as the Detroit’s modern-day Bad Boy – technical fouls and all. It starts with the shoes.

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Remember Lilith Fair? Founded by Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan, the music festival championed female musicians from the more popular ones like Lisa Loeb, Fiona Apple, Cristina Aguilera, Jewel, and Sheryl Crow to cult favorites like Juliana Hatfield, Cibo Matto and Aimee Mann. But as McLachlan’s popularity waned, Lilith Fair lasted only a rather short-lived three years.

About five years since then, a lot of outstanding female singers have cropped up, a lot of them garnering religious indie following, their music very well diverse. Here are five musicians that definitely deserve a spot in a modern-day Lilith Fair – should there be one. Some of them may just turn out to be as durable like PJ Harvey (artistically, too, like Bjork) or become pop darlings like Sheryl Crow. Or maybe, some might earn a short-lived turn at the spotlight. Remember Leona Naess?


Feist (real name: Leslie Feist). Her song Mushaboom made her more accessible thanks to that Lacoste commercial. While she sings some of her songs in French, she’s actually from Canada. But she’s now based in Paris, where she recorded her second album Let It Die (from which Mushaboom is taken). Apparently, she’s popular in France but she’s also lent her voice as a member of Canada’s indie supergroup Broken Social Scene. She’s done collaborations as well with US indie acts like Bright Eyes and Postal Service. Her music incorporates a bit of jazz, bossanova and indie-pop together with her sultry voice. She’s not bad-looking either.

Fez

Tucked amidst the sprawling Serendra restaurant strip at The Fort, Fez offers Mediterranean fusion cuisine “with a Moroccan twist”. The food itself melds the artistic and culinary passions of the restaurant’s chef.

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Found yourself lately browsing aimlessly for CDs to buy at your favorite record store? (Not that there’s too many of them, Tower Records is closing its doors already). If you find yourself in this situation, you can always head for the New Releases rack.

But be warned, you’ll be wading through albums upon albums of either emo-ish acts or uniformly-dressed hip-hop groups. Or you may chance upon countless bossanova compilations that could very well be tempting the Havaianas-loving crowd to shout in unison: “Viva Brasil!” (Trust me on this, I did a “see-through” minutes before writing this piece.)
If you’re the type to stray away from the proverbial maddening crowd, you might have been taking your cues from watching The OC on what’s cool to listen to these days. But much of the music in there is tailored for the show’s target audience (read: pubescent mopeheads. Think Death Cab for Cutie.).


If you’re still raving about Franz Ferdinand or The Killers, here are seven bands worth checking out. Afterwards, you can proceed asking any ID-toting person over at the record store, though I’m betting on eliciting an almost blank stare. If all else fails, start Googling.

The Arcade Fire. Canada’s lords of indie-experimental rock went bust after the release of their critically-acclaimed debut album Funeral sometime in 2004 to 2005. The band is known for incorporating a large number of instruments including the viola, French horn, accordion and harp, among others. After garnering raves from established music icons like David Bowie and touring with U2, The Arcade Fire are now the unofficial ambassadors of Canadian indie music. The group is set to release its follow-up early this year, titled Neon Bible.
Genre: Indie
Country: Canada
Must-have album: Funeral

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When Nike says it supports environmental awareness, it shows in its shoes.

Two years ago, in proving it does care for the environment, the shoemaker crafted an entire design philosophy out of it, in the process creating the Nike Considered line of footwear. The goal: make shoes that use recyclable materials with as little chemicals as possible. Which translates to the less waste and tender loving care for the Earth’s ozone layer.

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This is the must-see documentary from 2006 that you probably haven’t seen yet. And it’s not Sacha Baron Cohen’s awfully distasteful Borat.

An Inconvenient Truth could have been more suitably titled The Truth About Global Warming. Or for the sake of becoming a bit cryptic, The Truth About Al Gore. But as Gore agonizingly postulates in the film, it’s not that easy to sell the truth especially when the most important target audience – in this case, the government – is itself suspected of manipulating it.

“An inconvenient truth,” Gore describes, is one we hold “at arm’s length because if we acknowledge it, then the moral imperative to make big changes is inescapable.”

America’s former vice-president gives out a rather simple analogy that makes today’s generation of humans no different from another four-legged creature: when a frog is submerged in lukewarm water, it could die a slow death as the water heats up. But dropped instantly in boiling water, Kermit leaps out in an instant. Gore’s point? People conveniently ignore the truth until jolted by a catastrophe.

This documentary encapsulates years of Gore’s efforts at “jolting” the American people about the perils of global warming. In recent years, he has even become a by-product globalization, wielding his now-famous slideshow (by all means, not your typical Powerpoint presentation) to audiences around the world.

There is no better time for Gore to resuscitate his public image as an environmental crusader than now. Mother Nature is on his side. Based on his account, global warming is to blame for every natural disaster that in the last few years – heat wave in California, drought in Darfur, Hurricane Katrina. Did you know that the ten “hottest” years recorded in human history have occurred in the last two decades, the hottest being 2005? Gore just provided doomsday sayers a lot to crow about. Come to think of it, global warming could literally translate hell on Earth. The Book of Revelations could be right after all.

Gore uses the power imagery – before and after pictures of melting glaciers, for example – to drive home a point. Even the cartoonish depiction of a polar bear swimming in the middle of what could be Waterworld, to show the dangers of the polar icecaps melting, is convincing enough rather than showing real-life bears drowning.

Hands down, Gore gives the best slideshows not merely relying on graphs, pie charts and comparative statistics and it is his presentation that the film focuses on. In between, the film capitalizes on Gore’s own imagery – it opens with him describing an idyllic landscape and throughout the film ruminates on his own nostalgia and how everything is lost for the future generation.

While this movie is about global warming, it gives a glimpse of Al Gore especially for those who do not know much about the guy other than the former number 2 guy to Clinton and the man who almost became US president. For some Americans, Bush winning as president is an ongoing inconvenient truth. The guy has his own documentary in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, only he cannot be proud about it. There are those who say An Inconvenient Truth is Oscar material. The film shows a man who becomes even more passionate in what he believes in as he goes on in his crusade. Indeed, there is no better actor than one playing his actual self.

The film is a must-see for anyone even remotely interested in global warming. Most people have an idea what it is but are probably clueless what causes it and how. After watching it, do your future descendents on this Earth a favor. Blog about it or pass on the message to your 10,000 Friendsters. Show Gore you can handle the truth.

Par Sallan waxes nostalgic about the good old days of radio, about how it has shaped his taste in music. Most people in their late twenties and beyond won’t have a hard time relating to his sentiments.

People don’t have as much faith in radio these days. Not since they began loading songs in their iPods. (In fact, FM radio is now only an option in so-called mp3 players.) Why would you listen to endless commercials or tedious banter from self-indulgent DJs when you can instantly tune in to your “Favorites” playlist?

Enter Pirate Satellite, a weekly two-hour show on NU 107 (in my book, STILL the only station that plays decent rock music) and once-rabid listeners (including myself) may find one good reason to have a little more faith in good old FM radio.

Par is the brains behind Pirate Satellite and he knows too well what has been ailing radio; it’s not just the incessant talking. A former A&R guy for local record labels and an underground DJ himself during the 80s, he is no stranger to the fact that radio stations would devote heavy rotation on current popular music being pushed by the record labels.

Thus, listeners don’t really have much of a choice other than listen to the usual radio fodder. Which isn’t all that bad really; it’s just that radio was once touted to be the barometer of good taste in music and that’s simply not the case anymore when all you need is a decent Internet connection and you can practically download any song you want.

“Through Pirate Satellite, we aim to bring back the days when kids would go out and buy CDs after listening to a song on the radio. And after they learn to appreciate the band’s music, they would go out and watch gigs. I hope something like that happens here,” Par tells me one Saturday night, in between cueing songs.

So what exactly can people expect to hear if they even bother to tune in to Pirate Satellite?

“The show caters to every genre of rock music as long as it’s revolutionary in sound,” Par says. Perhaps the best way to explain that is that the show consciously avoids playing music that’s already in NU’s rotation.

The show’s title is derived from a song by The Clash, by the way, so it’s not so surprising that Par pays a lot of attention to music tends from that era – Talking Heads, The Cure, and a lot of The Smiths, among other bands I saw scribbled in Par’s playlist.

But making the show a stronger case for music geeks to live by, even to the current generation weaned on anything indie, Pirate Satellite also plays contemporary bands that do not really get much airplay- The Unicorns, The Decemberists and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, among others.

“We do play occasional songs from the more popular mainstream bands around,” he adds. Yes, I did hear a Franz Ferdinand song. “But we make sure that the songs we play are exclusive only to Pirate Satellite.”

The show has a conspicuously foreign feel to it, thanks largely to the DJ’s Australian accent. Yes, the voice behind Pirate Satellite belongs to an Aussie and neither him nor Par would not reveal exactly who he is. Theirs is a simple story: bumped into each other in a party (ironically, a DJ Tiesto gig), discovered mutual tastes in music, came up with the idea of doing a radio show and the rest is Pirate Satellite history.

So where does Par get the music he plays on the show? The bulk of it is from his own personal collection (most of which he buys abroad or off the Internet) and that of his Australian host. He also gets “samplers” from record label people that are deemed “not commercially appealing” enough and sometimes he snucks in a song or two in the show.

He immediately dismisses misguided connotations given the show’s title. “All the stuff we play is original,” he says and continues with an intended pun, “This is original ‘pirate’ material!”

So would Pirate Satellite care to play hip-hop at all? I asked that question to which Par quickly replies that he’s been thinking of playing something by The Streets (the nom de guer of British rapper Mike Skinner). Maybe not THE kind of hip-hop most people would expect.

Pirate Satellite airs every Saturday night from 9PM to 11PM on NU107.