In which bye-bye is in order

Dear readers (yes, the two of you),

We are saddened to inform you that Mr. Karl Kaufman, the owner of this blog, has been reported missing and presumed dead by the PNP after seven full minutes of investigation. Needless to say, this blog has reached the proverbial end of the road.

Mr. Kaufman was last seen emerging from 71 Gramercy, a hip  trendy nightspot along Kalayaan Ave., with the Curtis-Smith sisters Anne and Jasmine on Saturday night, and being whisked into a waiting black SUV driven by what looked like a Russian lesbian in full dominatrix regalia. Witnesses said he was obviously plastered and mumbling incoherently with a “shit-eating” grin on his face.

His family said a memorial will be held once pigs learn how to play the piano.

Those who wish to send their condolences without smirking can do so here.

Sincerely yours (but not really),

The administrator

Guy named Richey

MSPListening to “A Design for Life” on YouTube. Manic Street Preachers keeping me company at 2 a.m.

Just finished reading Manic Street Preachers: Sweet Venom by Martin Clarke. Details of Richey Edwards’ harrowing battle with mental illness — the self-mutilation, the eating disorder, the dependency on drinks, and finally his disappearance — shook all the sleep out of my system. Like death, mental illness has always been a terrifying and yet fascinating topic for me.

Richey Edwards. Left his hotel room without checking out in 1995 and was never seen again.

I could follow up on his sad story by reading Rob Jovanovic’s A Version of Reason, but I’m afraid doing so would put me in a very dark place inside my head, and from there it would be a long hard crawl back to the light, and even then I doubt if I could come out of it whole.

So I picked The Hot Kid instead, by the late Elmore Leonard. Critics can accuse Leonard of a lot of things, but writing depressing stuff is not one of them.

“A Design for Life” has just ended. I think I’ll listen to it one or two more times, jump to bed with The Hot Kid (man, that sounds… weird),  read until sleep comes and the vision of a lonely boy with cuts on his arms fades away.

And tomorrow when I wake up, I’ll welcome the sunshine more than ever.

Sakai Diary: Knives, shrines and senior citizens

seven days

DAY ONE: The Arrival

There I was, 37,000 feet above ground on my first international flight, trying to concentrate on Stephen King’s “Full Dark, No Stars” but failing miserably, in fact getting antsier and antsier by the minute, all because I couldn’t get my mind off one thing: chopsticks.

I mean, the dude next to me could be a religious nut with a sinister plot, but all that worried me on that humdrum flight en route to Japan was: How am I going to eat?

So it has come to this, I brooded darkly as we began our nighttime descent to Kansai International Airport. The ghost of countless missed opportunities to learn the damn thing has come to haunt me.

But apprehensions like that tend to vanish in the face of pulchritude. Zooming on a freeway inside a rented bus that was taking us to Sakai City, I marveled at the newness of everything: a highway that was already deserted at 9 p.m., wide sidewalks empty of moving things, a vast carpet of lights that was probably the entire Osaka prefecture flickering under a moonless sky. And as if those were not enough, the crisp autumn air that greeted us when we alighted from the bus drove home the fact that, after 34 years, I am finally a tourist in another country.

At the Hotel Agora Regency, a quick late dinner showed me my in-flight gastronomic concern was unfounded: They have spoon and fork! I hit the sack on that first night thinking, problem solved!

seven days 1

Japan’s centuries-old, classical theater form, Noh.

DAY TWO: Everything Zen

The question: Why am I in Sakai?

It was actually more for work than play. Every year, the local government of Sakai, the second largest city in the Osaka prefecture (next to Osaka City), holds the Sakai-ASEAN Week.

Among the activities is inviting journalists from several ASEAN countries (Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines) for a week-long cultural tour of the sprawling port city. I was one of the four Filipino media representatives for this year’s event.

The first of five days’ worth of morning-to-afternoon activities was a visit to a Buddhist temple to witness a Noh play, Noh being a Japanese performance art that’s been around for over 600 years.

At the Takakuraji Buddhist Temple, Noh master Gozo Nagayama lectured us on the art form, complete with a performance and a presentation of masks that according to him were a hundred years old. There was also a black bamboo flute that was and could not be tuned do-re-mi style. When played, it made a shrill one-note sound that is more akin to a dying cry of something subhuman than anything that comes out of a wind instrument.

Equally fascinating was the chubby male performer – the youngest in the group of four, including Nagayama – who donned layers of garments and a mask to resemble a woman. Think Kabuki, only Noh is much older, we were told. In place of a samurai sword, a Noh performer uses a paper fan called ohi, folding and unfolding it in graceful, dramatic gestures.

It was already pushing late afternoon when we left the Takakuraji Temple. After a short briefing of succeeding activities at the hotel, we were back at our respective rooms, sucking in the opulence and abusing the wifi connection, which was thankfully decent.

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Sakai Diary: Young skinpounders seek global stage

wadaiko

SAKAI CITY, Japan — We heard it the moment we entered the building—a faraway rumbling like distant thunder. The sound—a rhythmic badum badum badum—grew louder as we walked through the snaking corridors of the Mihara Bunka Kaikan, a nondescript theater in the heart of this city in the Osaka prefecture. There was something urgent about the beat, like it was enjoining us to hurry on toward it.

So we did.

By the time we reached the source of the sound, some members of the Japanese drum ensemble Wadaiko Miyako were already deep into practice, furiously pounding away on taikos (drums) of various sizes, creating a seismic sonic assault so powerful and massive it shook us —visiting journalists from ASEAN countries—out of our Saturday morning lethargy.

“We don’t usually practice on Saturdays,” Gaku Yano, the group’s 61-year-old mentor, told the foreign guests through an interpreter. “We practice on Wednesdays and Sundays, but today you are our special audience.”

That group was also rehearsing for Sunday, when they were scheduled to headline the Sakai ASEAN Week Cultural Festival, a morning-to-afternoon show outside the Hotel Agora Regency Sakai that showcased cultural song and dance performances from participating ASEAN countries, including the Philippines.

But the 10 young members of the Wadaiko Miyako—including one who, at the time of the interview, was visibly pregnant—were looking beyond Sakai and Sunday.

“It would be an honor to perform overseas someday,” said the group’s 29-year-old leader Haze Shote, taking a break from the rehearsal to chat with the foreign visitors. Although the group is primarily based in Sakai, they have stirred enough buzz to land them out-of-the-city gigs.

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