Monday, December 26, 2011

Battle Royale 2nd edition

As you may already know, I bought a first edition copy of this novel a few years back at National Bookstore Cubao (the one that's beside Gateway Mall and a few steps away from Breadtalk) and was taken aback by how affordable it was. English translated works by contemporary Japanese authors would normally be more expensive and hard to find, so to say that I was ecstatic to get my hands on this Japanese bestseller at the cost of a John Grisham or Nicholas Sparks novel would be a fairly accurate description of how I looked at the time as I made a beeline for the cash register.

Of course, given its price, the book was not without its faults. For one, it was printed using machine-finished paper, the kind that people would call an improved newsprint, while the cover had a matte finish instead of being glossy. As for the contents, it was edited in a way that can be quite confusing. Without even going into my issues regarding syntax, I remember certain chapters wherein some of the characters' names were inadvertently mixed up and if you're the type who's not used to reading and hearing oriental names, the inconsistent reference to a character's first name or last name to signify his/her relationship or familiarity with another character can slow a reader down. It's a hefty book which consists of over 600 pages, so keeping track of 42 students engaged in a military program where their lives are at stake can be quite a challenge especially if you read this over an extended period of time. 

Roughly a year after buying the said book, a new paperback edition surfaced at Fully Booked. Like most books that line this elite bookstore's shelves, this edition was far more eye-catching than the first. It had whiter pages and the publisher obviously bumped up the standard paper grade. It would also cost you a bit more at Php680 to get the new and improved version. 
Given my obsessive/compulsive need to see whether or not this edition was indeed better than the one already in my possession, I eventually bought a second copy, but not until the price spiked up to Php899 (oh wow, lucky me). Apparently, there was enough reason to jack up the price due to recent comparisons made between this Takami Koushun novel and crossover hit, The Hunger Games which would in turn explain that yellow, round sticker on the cover that advertised this novel as "the original survival game".

Fortunately though, all the positive buzz about this edition turned out to be true. It's still a hefty book but at least it is better edited and the overall presentation thereof, including the use of a larger font for the text, makes reading it an easy if not enjoyable experience. As an added bonus, the second edition includes translated interviews with not only the author, Takami Koushun, but also the director of the film adaptation, Fukasaku Kinji and a foreword from Road to Perdition writer, Max Allan Collins. The section on Fukasaku is relatively shorter than that of Takami's, being an old movie promo interview, but it still makes for an interesting read since the additional material touches on the creative process, the inspiration and the intent behind the written and cinematic versions of Battle Royale.

So is it worth to cough up the extra cash to get this edition?

I guess that all depends on how much you value reading a well-edited text. If you're unfazed by a few typographical errors and have a good mind to read and understand the words in the context that they're meant to be understood, then the first edition would do the same trick, especially if you're budget conscious.   
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Save Me, San Francisco : Train Live in Manila

We've had a lot of foreign artists over this year and though my sisters and I made a number of plans to catch some of them perform, we never really managed to watch anything because of our conflicting schedules. Most of the concerts were scheduled on a Sunday or a weekday---which meant braving traffic if you're coming from the other side of the metro and/or rearranging your work itinerary just to get to the venue in time for the concert, which in turn meant that you would really, really have to like the artist or group that's performing to go through all that trouble. I didn't think I'd get to watch Train on their second visit to Manila but luckily, one of  my friends decided to make a night out of it, so I ditched my students (scheduled a make-up class, actually) and made a beeline for the coliseum after a boring day at the office.

I half expected the place to be full, maybe not filled to the rafters like the Jason Mraz concert, but I at least hoped for a decent turnout so that concert promoters can get the band to come back and perform in the future. There was a sizable crowd at the Araneta coliseum, it wasn't empty but it wasn't full, but given that everyone's in a mad dash to keep their expenditures in check for the holiday season, I kind of understand  why the Filipino audience couldn't have given this band a better reception.

Anyway, I felt like I needed a break so what better way to reward myself than to watch one of my favorite adult-contemporary rock bands in concert?

If memory serves me right, I was a sophomore in college when Meet Virginia hit the airwaves but it wasn't until Drops of Jupiter came out in 2001 that I truly became a fan. To this day, my favorite Train album would still have to be My Private Nation, with Save Me, San Francisco coming in at a close second.

I find Train's music easy to listen to and sing along with, and while not being insanely popular as other artists before Hey, Soul Sister became a huge hit, songs like Calling All Angels and When I Look to the Sky tend to stay with you and resonate. I've been keeping my fingers crossed for a comeback ever since their single Ordinary was featured in the Spiderman 2 soundtrack, and though never in my wildest dreams did it occur to me that their ticket to mainstream success would come in the form of a sickeningly foppish jingle, I guess I should still count myself lucky that they're out and about.

The concert was supposed to start at 8 p.m. but front act, 6-cyclemind, came on stage about a half hour late and didn't finish their set until a few minutes before 9 p.m. After that, we heard a train whistle/horn and Train opened the show with Parachute, followed by If it's Love---a love song dedicated to their loyal fans. The band then proceeded to play hit songs from their previous albums such as Calling All Angels, Meet Virginia, Get to Me and She's On Fire before launching into a Journey song with one lucky girl, who's obviously no stranger to singing such a karaoke staple.

Being my first Train concert, I really had no idea what to expect, so it was a pleasant surprise for me to see Pat Monahan and the band go out of their way to interact with audience members. I had a lot of fun watching the second batch of Manila Trainettes compete for a signed guitar and pretty much turned green with envy when the frontman jumped into the crowd and mingled with those in VIP and patron seats while singing Marry Me. At this point, my friend looked really disappointed, being someone who loved to document every event with a video or picture, but there was no helping it, since we were stuck with Upper Box A seats.

I tried to console her with the fact that the band sounded great from where we were seated, for it's a fact that one of the many downsides to having front row seats is that you don't get to appreciate the full sound of the band. I'm compelled to sour-grape a little, sure, but usually when you're situated near the stage, one of the instruments end up sounding louder than the others or the lead singer's voice get drowned out by the accompanying sound.

Since this was the Manila leg of a tour to promote their fifth album, Train played a bevy of songs which included the title track, Save Me, San Francisco, the Coke jingle, Shake Up Christmas, as well as Hey Soul Sister, I Got You and as mentioned earlier, Marry Me (though not in that particular order). For their encore performance, Train treated the crowd to Words and of course, the now classic, Drops of Jupiter---and with that, the concert was over. It lasted a little over an hour, which is why my friend's sole complaint was that she wished they threw in a few more songs, made the concert last a little longer.

Overall, I must say that I had fun at this concert. So much fun that I came up with a couple of resolutions; the first being that I should endeavor to get better seats for their next concert and the second would be to get more people to see them perform.

We might not have been near enough to get a decent picture but the music alone was worth the price of admission.

P.S. Being the stingy, fickle person that I am, it goes without saying that the above resolutions are contingent upon whether or not I'll dig their 6th album. Hopefully by then, Pat would've gotten himself a haircut and/or had enough time to run a comb through his hair.

Concert pictures taken by Kris Rocha for Dayly Entertainment.
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