Thursday 21 May 2009

No to Philippine Book Blockade!

Pardonnez-moi if I am a bit late to hear this absurd news - not the Hayden gate scandal but this, in my own opinion more important and more worthy of senate furor, 2009 Philippine book blockade - the BOC (Bureau of Customs) plan to impose higher taxes on imported books that they deem not educational.

Now how this all started, why this angered many book lovers like me, read on some excerpts from Timothy McSweeney's article.

The importer of Twilight made a mistake and paid the duty requested. A mistake because such duty flies in the face of the Florence Agreement, a U.N. treaty that was signed by the Philippines in 1952, guaranteeing the free flow of "educational, scientific, and cultural materials" between countries and declaring that imported books should be duty-free. Mr. Agulan told the importer that because the books were not educational (i.e., textbooks) they were subject to duty. Perhaps they aren't educational, I might have argued, but aren't they "cultural"?

No matter. With this one success under their belt, customs curtailed all air shipments of books entering the country. Weeks went by as booksellers tried to get their books out of storage and started intense negotiations with various government officials.

What doubly frustrated booksellers and importers was that the explanations they received from various officials made no sense. It was clear that, for whatever reason—perhaps the 30-billion-peso ($625 million) shortfall in projected customs revenue—customs would go through the motions of having a reasonable argument while in fact having none at all.

Customs Undersecretary Espele Sales explained the government's position to a group of frustrated booksellers and importers in an Orwellian PowerPoint presentation, at which she reinterpreted the Florence Agreement as well as Philippine law RA 8047, providing for "the tax and duty-free importation of books or raw materials to be used in book publishing." For lack of a comma after the word "books," the undersecretary argued that only books "used in book publishing" (her underlining) were tax-exempt.

"What kind of book is that?" one publisher asked me afterward. "A book used in book publishing." And she laughed ruefully.

I thought about it. Maybe I should start writing a few. Harry the Cultural and Educational Potter and His Fondness for Baskerville Type.

Likewise, with the Florence Agreement, she argued that only educational books could be considered protected by the U.N. treaty. Customs would henceforth be the arbiter of what was and wasn't educational.

"For 50 years, everyone has misinterpreted the treaty and now you alone have interpreted it correctly?" she was asked.

"Yes," she told the stunned booksellers.

Please help put a stop to this nonsense. Sign the online petition.


Thursday 7 May 2009

Outerspace Wedding, anyone?

A beautiful friend of mine forwarded this unusual wedding that took place in Cebu. The bride and groom had to scale a wall to exchange their vows on top. Talk about making sure they get their guests’ attentions. Well not only that, they got the delightful bonus of the media's notice as well.

This idea is remarkably unique. Okay most probably they were not the first to have done this – as there are millions of wall climbing enthusiasts out there – but this is the first time I have heard of such in Cebu. Surely their non traditional wedding will never be forgotten by their guests.

Fancy having an unusual wedding? Well consider this, the most awesome wedding experience now available to mankind - an outerspace wedding all aboard the Virgin Galactic.

Now that is literally an out of this world wedding.

But how much would it cost? A space ticket is $200,000 per person. Times two that (unless you are just getting married to yourself), plus the officiant’s charge (maybe if Sir Richard Branson will perform it, it’s free. Or if you insist to bring your own priest, you’ve got to pay for his tickets too) and some additional fees to make sure the floral arrangements and the cake are securely tethered, well, the cost to aptly describe it, would be astronomical.

According to this article, Virgin Galactic has bookings involving a wedding this year, and another one, which is a honeymoon. How they will manage to do it - you know whatever couples normally do during honeymoon - floating around is beyond me.

Monday 4 May 2009

All That Jazz

There are a few theatre shows, especially the famous ones, which have movie versions. Like Oliver, Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Les Miserables, Hairspray and Mamma Mia, to name a few. Well what is the difference between the theatre version and the movie version, which one is better? Though I have only thus far seen Phantom, Chicago and Les Mis, but I daresay, the difference is huge. Theatre is way better. Even if the stage effects can never compete with the digital technology of movie effects nowadays, but the acting is of another level, hearing the powerful live singing, actually seeing the actor cry and even noticing occasional showers of saliva as they deliver their lines in oozing emotions – going to a theatre is an experience one can never forget. IMHO it is more difficult to act on a stage, to connect to a live audience. It is more challenging. There’s no take two in theatre, that’s why I greatly admire the enormous talent and skill that every theatre actor must possess.

I took my guests, Erskine and Jake, to watch Chicago at West End last Saturday. I had booked the tickets one week ahead through, where I got discounted best available seats. I was a bit worried at first that what if they would not fancy it, that paying a lot for one ticket would not be worth it. But the moment the show started and sexy ladies sang and danced and even performed splits in nothing but black fishnets, I knew I did not need to worry. During the break I still asked to confirm if they really were enjoying, though I was careful not to gloat. They were literally grinning when they answered that they (referring to the female actors in nothing but fishnets) did not have to sing. Oh well what can I say – boys will always be boys!

It was very enjoyable. Definitely better than the movie. One thing is still the same after having watched the theatre is that I still prefer the Velma Kelly character (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones in the movie) than Roxie Hart (played by Renee Zellweger in the movie). She has more kick and spunk.

So what’s next on my list? Mamma Mia, Phantom of the Opera again, Oliver!, Wicked, Les Miserables again and then, errm I am open to suggestions (anyone?). I will conquer the West End! God help my pocket...

List of West End theatres (from Wikipedia, scroll down)

  • If no show is currently running, the play listed is the next show planned (dates marked with an *).
  • If the next show planned is not announced, the applicable columns are left blank.
TheatreCurrent showCapacityOpening dateClosing date
Adelphi TheatreJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat15002007-07-06July 6 20072009-05-30May 30 2009
Aldwych TheatreDirty Dancing12002006-09-28September 28 2006Open-ended
Ambassadors TheatreStomp3302007-10-04October 4, 2007Open-ended
Apollo TheatreThree Days of Rain7962009-02-10February 10, 20092009-05-02 May 2, 2009
Apollo Victoria TheatreWicked22082006-09-27September 27 2006Open-ended
Cambridge TheatreChicago12312006-04-27April 27 2006Open-ended
Criterion TheatreThe 39 Steps5882006-09-20September 20 2006Open-ended
Dominion TheatreWe Will Rock You21632002-05-14May 14 2002Open-ended
Duchess TheatrePlague Over England4792009-02-16February 16, 20092009-05-16May 16, 2009
Fortune TheatreThe Woman in Black4321989-06-07June 7 1989Open-ended
Garrick TheatreA Little Night Music6562009-03-28March 28 20092009-07-25July 25 2009
Her Majesty's TheatreThe Phantom of the Opera12161986-10-09October 9 1986Open-ended
London PalladiumSister Act22862006-11-017 May 2009*2009-02-21Open-ended
Lyceum TheatreThe Lion King21001999-09-24September 24 1999Open-ended
New London TheatreWar Horse11002006-06-28April 3rd 20092009-03-28Open-ended
Noël Coward TheatreCalendar Girls8722006-06-28April 4 20092009-03-28Open-ended
Palace TheatrePriscilla Queen of The Desert14002007-07-24March 10 2009Open-ended
Piccadilly TheatreGrease12322007-07-24July 24 2007Open-ended
Phoenix TheatreBlood Brothers10121991-11-21November 21 1991Open-ended
Prince Edward TheatreJersey Boys16182008-03-18March 18 2008Open-ended
Prince of Wales TheatreMamma Mia!11602004-06-09June 9 2004Open-ended
Queen's TheatreLes Misérables9892004-04-03April 3 2004Open-ended
Shaftesbury TheatreHairspray14002007-10-11October 11 2007Open-ended
St Martin's TheatreThe Mousetrap5501974-03-25March 25 1974Open-ended
Theatre RoyalOliver!21962009-01-14January 14 2009Open-ended
Victoria Palace TheatreBilly Elliot15502005-05-11May 11 2005Open-ended