Manila – OPM Against Drugs Festival Photos Part 1

January 14, 2017 – 100 bands, 5 stages for the OPM (Original Pilipino Music) Against Drugs Festival produced by Rakrakan. The 5 themed stages were Move, Indie, Groove, Mosh and Slam. (I won’t comment on the “Against Drugs” bit.)

My friends Tribo Subculture were one of the bands appearing on the Slam stage and they arranged an all-access pass for me.  The festival kicked off around noon but I didn’t get there until around 10 PM or so, which gave me time to shoot some of the bands, wander around the crowd a bit, get some food, gaze at the “merch”, and of course enjoy the music that I heard.

I’m told that last year they had 24,000 people there and this year it was up to 35,000. Well, advance ticket prices were just P500 (that’s around US$10) and draft Red Horse Beer was just P50, so why wouldn’t you go if you could? The crowd was remarkably peaceful and friendly and I thought it was a great event.

I’m still working my way through the photos I shot but here are some of my favorites so far:

Continue reading “Manila – OPM Against Drugs Festival Photos Part 1”

Albums You Loved as a Teenager

A few people are posting variations on this new meme on Facebook – list the ten albums you loved most as a teenager.

For me, there are many examples of albums that were released when I was a teenager that I didn’t love at the time, and this includes albums that perennially feature in other top ten lists I attempt to do. Albums like The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East, Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and the entire output from the Velvet Underground.

I chose to select albums that I remember loving as a teenager, even if I don’t especially love them now or play them that often any more. But these albums were huge to me between the ages of 13 and 19 (for me that was 1967 to 1973) and very influential in my development, for better or worse. Most but not all of them have stood the test of time for me and I still play them almost 50 (gulp!) years later.

Here they are, in random order:

  1. The Beatles – The Beatles (aka The White Album) – what I remember is that this is the first time I was reading about an album before it came out (I had just started reading Rolling Stone Magazine), anticipated like crazy, and then it lived up to all of my expectations. These days I’d probably choose Revolver or Abbey Road as my favorite Beatles album but I still love this one too.
  2. The Mothers of Invention – Freak Out (or Uncle Meat) – I found Freak Out in the New York Public Library, (Fordham Road branch in The Bronx) which had a record section, and even a rock record section. They had this! The music was so strange and really drew me in. The list of names on the rear cover (most of which I’d never heard of) intrigued me. There was no Wikipedia to research them on, but they stayed with me. I think Uncle Meat, which came out when I was around 15, was an even bigger influence on me, but Freak Out was the first.  Yeah, I know you can’t read the names on the cover in the image below, so click here to find out more.
  3. Cream – Wheels of Fire – This is the first album I can remember listening to and thinking to my young self, “Is it possible The Beatles are no longer my favorite band?” I consider this album my real introduction to the blues. Listening to this, reading interviews with them, directly led me to Robert Johnson and all of the great Chess artists.
  4. The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request – Yeah, this one. Maybe it’s their worst album (up until almost everything from the 80’s onwards) but it was the first Stones album I bought. It had the 3D cover (I still have it). I had no idea what was going on with the music here but I still think the songs themselves were pretty damned good.
  5. Big Brother and the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills – My introduction to Janis Joplin, her best album even though Big Brother was a pretty sub-standard backing band. I played this over and over and over. My dad asked me, “Why is that white girl trying to sound black?” Which completely stumped me. I had no idea how to answer that other than, “No, she’s not, she’s sounding like herself.” It was also my introduction to the art of R. Crumb! 
  6. Pink Floyd – Meddle – Of course it’s tempting to go for Dark Side. But this was the first Pink Floyd album I got. I lost track of how many times I got stoned and laughed hysterically at “One of These Days” or how many times I turned out the lights, put on the headphones, and really concentrated on “Echoes.”
  7. Grateful Dead – Live/Dead – I really wore this album out. I never played Side 4 but I couldn’t play the other 3 sides enough. Everyone else I knew hated the Dead back then and I probably drove them crazy playing this over and over and over again.
  8. Al Kooper – I Stand Alone – Most of you don’t know who Al Kooper is, which is a shame. Blues Project, Blood Sweat and Tears, Super Session; session work and producing Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Stones and many others. A huge personal favorite. There was a magazine called Eye. It came with a flexi-disc. The disc had one track from the upcoming Blood Sweat and Tears album (the first after Kooper left and was replaced by David Clayton-Thomas) and a weird collage of sounds from Kooper’s first solo album. I bought the Al Kooper album. I did not buy the BS&T album. (I also saw him live for the first time around this time, the “Al Kooper Big Band,” which included Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on drums.) 
  9. Lenny Bruce – The Berkeley Concert – I had no idea who Lenny Bruce was before I bought this. After this I became obsessed with him. This was released on Frank Zappa’s Bizarre label and I bought anything Zappa put out. This 2 LP set was a complete and unedited show from the last years of Bruce’s life. Not so much a collection of stand-up routines as much as it was him talking about his legal cases, free speech, religion, basic human rights. It’s possible that this album is more responsible for how I think and what I believe than anything else.
  10. Delaney & Bonnie – On Tour w/ Eric Clapton – I saw them at the Fillmore East. I still consider it one of the best live shows I ever attended.
  11. Jefferson Airplane – Volunteers – I don’t know why I loved this album so much back in the day. I recall playing the hell out of it. I don’t think it has aged well.
  12. The Who – Tommy – Because I saw them play it live at the Fillmore East twice. But I haven’t been able to listen to this in decades because it was everywhere and I just got sick of it. Maybe some day I can go back to it and appreciate it again. But not yet.
  13. Tim Buckley – Blue Afternoon – Again, I bought this because it was on Zappa’s Straight label. I had no idea who he was at the time but I became an instant fan. This was one of his more mainstream efforts (as opposed to the extreme weirdness of “Lorca” and “Starsailor”). His voice of course was unique and I still play his albums a lot, I can’t say that about Jeff Buckley.
  14. Bonzo Dog Band – Tadpoles. OMG, I almost omitted this from the list. I played this constantly. Probably these days I’d pick their second album (The Doughnut in Grannie’s Greenhouse, which in the U.S. was called Urban Spaceman) as my favorite of theirs, but at the time, this was huge for me. 

Yeah, that’s 14, not 10, because once I get started I can’t stop, and I could have kept going, believe me.

But what about you? What were some of your favorite albums when you were a teenager? Are they still your favorites now?




A Week In Hong Kong

I’ve just returned home after a week in Hong Kong.

The end of this month marks two years since I made the move to Manila. People always ask me if I miss Hong Kong and I do, to some extent, but in the past two years I’ve gotten back there at least once every 2 or 3 months, usually just for 3 or 4 days at a time, so it always feels a bit hectic, trying to fit in all the things I want to do.

This trip ended up being 8 days and spanning a weekend. I was there alone as my wife had several important things to take care of back home and, perhaps surprising to most of you, I did my best to stay out of trouble during the trip.

My company puts me into a small hotel on Lockhart Road smack in the middle of the bar area but also just a 2 minute walk to the office. The hotel is relatively new and the rooms are crazy small. How small? There’s a closet with four hangers but no other place to put your clothes other than living out of a suitcase or stacking them on the floor of the closet. There is one chair, an uncomfortable and unpadded wooden chair by the desk, though in some rooms the desk is so close to the bed that there’s no way to pull the chair out.

The entire hotel is non-smoking, which means every hour I’m standing in front of the hotel having a cigarette and watching what’s happening along Lockhart Road. Standing there I seem to be a magnet for all of the ladyboys and mainland Chinese streetwalkers – it’s not difficult to say no.

Continue reading “A Week In Hong Kong”

Donald Trump – New Shit Has Come to Light

I’m sure I’m not the only person who read this in the New York Times on Sunday:

President-elect Donald J. Trump, expressing lingering skepticism about intelligence assessments of Russian interference in the election, said on Saturday evening that he knew “things that other people don’t know” about the hacking, and that the information would be revealed “on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

And then thought immediately of The Big Lebowski:

And of course there is only one proper response to that:

Which reminds me of Donald Trump’s hair:

As for the source of the new shit that Donnie says has come to light, one presumes it was:



The End of Another Year, Good Fucking Riddance

I’m not superstitious but I think we like to hold onto superstitions, even if we don’t entirely believe in them, because they can provide some degree of hope or comfort.

So over the summer I decided that I must have done something terribly wrong in 2009 that led to 7 years of bad luck, because if I was indeed cursed for stepping on a crack or pissing off an ex-girlfriend then 2016 would be the end of those 7 years, wouldn’t it? I marked the start of 7 bad years from the time that I was included in Warner Bros’s global IT lay-off, which was then followed by a series of bad jobs and a few other incidents that I prefer not to relive.

So if true, that would be comforting, wouldn’t it? Because by my reckoning those 7 years were coming to an end.

But if I was having 7 years of bad luck, the 7th year came to a close and the bad luck seemed to continue – my mother died, Trump was elected and a few other things I won’t mention but a little bit of this and a whole lot of that.  Stress levels increased, hair on top of my head decreased.

But if I really want to dig into it, I can’t say that the past 7 years were all bad, can I? After all, I got married three years ago, our relationship grows stronger every year, we’re living in a house we love, the bills are all paid every month and we go to sleep in a bedroom the size of most Hong Kong apartments in a king size bed with full stomachs. We have our health, mostly. We have our friends and family – and my family, whom I’ve always kept at a literal and metaphorical distance, was so amazingly supportive when my mother died, so helpful to me when dealing with her funeral and all of the other things one has to do in that kind of situation.

We mark the beginning of a new year with optimism for the year ahead. I am not feeling very optimistic about the world in 2017. Not at all. And yet I retain some degree of optimism for myself.

I don’t believe in destiny or fate (I believe in karma but I don’t think there’s anything supernatural or spiritual to it) and I believe we make our own luck. If I have not been “lucky” in past years, the fault is nobody else’s but mine.

With that in mind, my resolution for 2017 is to think about those things that have impeded me in the past and what I need to change in myself in order to change my luck. My plan for 2017 is to lose these blues I found and go down to Lucky Town.

I had some victory that was just failure in deceit
Now the joke’s coming up through the soles of my feet
I been a long time walking on fortune’s cane
Tonight I’m stepping lightly and I’m feeling no pain

Well here’s to your good looks baby now here’s to my health
Here’s to the loaded places that we take ourselves
When it comes to luck you make your own
Tonight I have dirt on my hands but I’m building me a new home

Down in Lucky Town
Down in Lucky Town
I’m gonna lose these blues I’ve found
Down in Lucky Town

Used Stuff I’m Selling (Manila Only)

Several used items I’m selling off. Ads are on OLX and Facebook and thought I might post here as well, with the caveat being that I’m not really wanting to ship anything so this is for meet-ups in the Manila area. Prices are negotiable. Everything is in very good to excellent condition.

GoPro Camera and headphones being sold because they are not used, Kindle being sold because it was one of three that my mother had (long story), other items for what should be obvious reasons.

(Aside – people have a weird way of haggling here. This has happened to me often enough that I suppose it is the regular way of doing things in this country. Example: I say “asking price P20,000.” No one says “would you take 16,000”? Everyone says “what’s your last price”? If I respond, “It’s negotiable, make an offer,” that is almost always met with silence.)

Anyway, if you’re interested in any of this stuff, leave a comment with your contact details (I won’t publish the comment) or send an email to hongkietown at gmail dot com

Thanks for taking a look!

GoPro Hero4 Silver Edition with MicroSD card & other accessories

Asking P13,500. Includes 64 gig SanDisk Micro SD card, 2 extra Wasabi batteries and charger, GoPro floating handle, Polar Pro strap mount, black cover, and all original accessories.

Bowers & Wilkins P3 Headphones

Asking P5,000, includes carrying case, iPhone cable

Sennheiser Momentum Around-the-Ear Headphones, Brown

Asking P4,000. Includes carrying case, iPhone cable, regular cable

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b Noise-Cancelling Headphones


Asking P3,000. Includes carrying case, 2 plug adapters

Amazon Kindle 4 (WiFi) with leather cover

Asking P2,000

Deluxe Comfort Transport Wheelchair

Asking P13,000. Purchased new in March, used probably once a week for six months.

Commode Chair

Asking P2,000. Used for two months, thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, looks new.


Manila – The Insanity of the Pasig City TPMO

Here’s an example of one of the unexpected drawbacks of living in Manila, the kind of thing you might not anticipate before you move here but that can have a noticeable impact on your quality of life.

In this instance, one might think that if one buys a car and gets insurance for that car and has a proper drivers license, one can just get in that car and drive as one wishes. But in Manila? Not so much.

I live in what is called a “subdivision” – in this case a private community surrounded by a wall with entry/exit gates manned by private security guards. The one I live in is called Greenwoods Executive Village. This is one of the largest villages of its kind in Manila. There are thousands of houses here, spread across ten different phases. No one seems to know for certain how many houses are here or what the population is. (Some have joked that the population is 25,000 out of which 24,000 are construction workers. After 25 years there are still plenty of vacant plots here and new houses are going up daily.)

The village is so big that it spreads across three different cities – Pasig, Cainta and Taytay. (The latter two are not considered part of Metro Manila, they are in the province of Rizal.) The main entrance to the village is in Pasig but the bulk of the residents live in Cainta or Taytay – very few live in Pasig or pay taxes there or vote for Pasig officials – but most of the traffic coming to and from the village routes through Pasig.

Pasig traffic is controlled by the TPMO – Traffic and Parking Management Office. The head of the TPMO is an appointed, not an elected official, one Alberto Dulay Sr. The members of the TPMO are referred to as “traffic enforcers” or “blue boys.” Pasig City has had 4 mayors in the past 24 years and they all have the same last name – Eusebio.

Continue reading “Manila – The Insanity of the Pasig City TPMO”

Thanks Everyone

I’m back in Manila now after 10 days in New York. I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to leave messages of support here, on Facebook and on Twitter, in email, on the phone, in person.

I left New York on Saturday morning. I’d accomplished all I needed to do on the trip so at least I could leave feeling that it was productive. Aside from taking care of my mother’s affairs and settling her accounts and several family get-togethers, I had time for a mini high school reunion dinner and even a dinner with the guy who was my best friend back in elementary school. I had a chance to speak with many of my mother’s neighbors and friends and even many of her building’s maintenance crew stopped by to offer their condolences. She touched a lot of lives.

I had a really hard time closing the door on my mother’s apartment for the last time. I took one last walk from room to room, ostensibly to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind – although aside from various things I might have liked to bring with me (three suitcases and a backpack were already full), there’s the memories of all the time I spent there, but of course I carry those with me. I stood in the doorway, looked in, finally managed to get that door closed somehow.

Driving across the Whitestone Bridge to the airport, I glanced to the right. You get an amazing view of the NYC skyline from there. I wondered to myself if that would be the last time I would see that view. I don’t know the answer to that.

At the airport, checking email, I got the news that a friend of mine had died, just 61 years old, cancer – I’d probably known him for close to 30 years. 15 years ago he lived not that far from the World Trade Center and he had been classified a “residential victim” by the World Trade Center Health Program. He was a brilliant and funny guy who worked for Microsoft, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, AT&T and even LucasFilm – we all knew him as “Mr. Movie House” because he seemingly knew everything about every movie theater everywhere and he had gotten me into the LucasFilm Theater Alignment Program, which was a hell of a lot of fun. Not exactly the kind of news I was in the mood to read.

I managed one movie on the plane (the new version of The Magnificent Seven – meh) and one book (Robbie Robertson’s Testimony – highly recommended). My wife was waiting for me at the airport with a big smile and an even bigger hug (needed both of those). Got home, walked past my mom’s room, did not go in but silently said, “Hi mom, I’m back.”

Anyway, thanks again everyone. Your support has helped me a lot.


Eulogy for Mom


My mother died on November 23rd.It was peaceful and (I think) painless, but followed an agonizing ten weeks of illness. And even though she was 95, even though my wife and I had been telling each other not to expect her to make it to the end of the year, it still shocked me when it finally happened.

I’m in New York City right now. I’m here to honor my mother’s final wish – on Sunday her ashes were buried next to my father’s remains – as well as getting all of her affairs settled as best I can within a short period of time.

Continue reading “Eulogy for Mom”