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I swear I'm going to cry when this scene makes it to Avengers Endgame.

It's the end of an era. I'm already tearing up just thinking about it! I'm both excited and incredibly sad that the MCU as we know it is about to end (or change - tremendously.) But it's been an incredible ten-year ride thus far. The entire franchise has told us so many compelling stories, shown incredible skill in filmmaking, reignited people's love for comic books and science fiction, and brought to life a lot of our childhood dreams and aspirations. They say it's silly to look up to fictional characters, especially ones that are as unrealistic as these superheroes. But at the end of the day, they really are not that much different. If there is anything I learned in all the movies I've watched and comics I've read in the last decade or so (and trust me, they're a LOT - my hard drives can attest to that!) it's this: evil may exist in all forms and all kinds, but there is so much more kindness, and compassion, and goodness in the world. It's in us. In our friends, our families. In strangers. It's inside even the most unexpected of people. It's there. We just have to keep trying to look for it, and let that goodness lead the way.

Whatever it takes.

I can't wait! Aaaaaaah! *Avengers theme song intensifies*


Standout Songs: "Overkill" on Scrubs

In Episode 1 of the second season of Scrubs, JD tries to deal with the consequences of the night before, following confessions of feelings and admissions of guilt between his friends and co-workers. It's a tricky web of people sleeping with each other and/or secretly having feelings for each other. Basically, it's JD who has to bear the brunt of the fall out. (In particular, JD is gutted that his mentor [and reluctant "quasi-father figure" *insert signature growl*) Dr. Cox found out about him sleeping with Cox's ex-wife, Jordan. On top of that, he feels burdened by the knowledge that Elliot still has unresolved feelings for him. His personal drama gets in the way of his work, and leads him to "forget" about checking on Mr. Zerbo, one of the patients assigned to him.)

At this point in the series, the audience has gotten to know the characters well enough to become invested in their relationships with each other. But it is actually the first time that we see our Sacred Heart gang actually get hurt as a consequence of all their actions - and omissions. This is a comedy, first and foremost, but very early on in its run, Scrubs has realized that it does itself great favors when it takes giant strides at allowing their characters to not just be funny, but be real and emotional. When there is an acknowledgment of real hurt, even at the expense of a few seconds of comedy, consequent jokes land better as a result, because the audience understands that humor is actually used in context to heal, not some cheap device to earn some laughs.

Scrubs embraces its introspective narrative. For instance, take a look at its typical episode format: JD has voiceovers in the beginning and end to share his thoughts or wrap up a good lesson about life (and the medical practice). But it also acknowledges the importance of music to further emphasize these moments of rumination. Throughout its run, Scrubs gets better at selecting songs to imprint specific sentiments into the mind of the audience. The show is a definite favorite of mine because of its writing (great pacing, fully realized characters, brilliant sense of humor), but a good portion of my affection for it is also brought about by its soundtrack. From this show, I picked up some truly memorable tracks which, though not always within the genre I lean towards (i.e. not a lot of rock here), I have grown to truly appreciate.

Enter "Overkill" by Colin Hay. This is probably the most illustrative of Scrubs' ability to weave comedy and emotion into one quirky but still meaningful script. Here, we see JD and Turk walking on their way to work. The opening lyrics come in, and almost immediately we see singer Colin Hay by a bench, actually singing the song. It gets quirkier: JD sees him. In the beginning, it elicits from the audience a "WTF" reaction almost similar to JD when he thinks he's possibly imagining the guy. And then throughout the day, as the consequences of the fallout with his friends make themselves more apparent, Colin Hay (and the song) pops up in random places throughout the hospital, singing random verses on random occasions. As if on cue, the song will jump into the scene and mirror the confusion, despair, and anxiousness of JD. It starts off as funny and ends up being completely substantial to the episode to drive a point home, which is: it all gets better. "Ghosts appear and fade away." It will all be okay... eventually.

The clip I'm attaching here is actually one that already stitched together Colin Hay's scenes through out the episode, thereby completing the song. As posted, it encapsulates the essence of a typical Scrubs episode: starting out with JD concerned about the decisions he's made, personally or professionally, and ending with him realizing something valuable. Life is often difficult, funny, or both. But sometimes, all it takes is a little introspection, an acknowledgment of the struggle - and a really good song in the background - for things to fall back into place.


"My Overkill"
From Scrubs
Episode: 2 x 01
Writer: Bill Lawrence
Director: Adam Bernstein
Air date: September 26, 2002


(Just randomly had the idea of writing about my favorite music moments in TV and movies. Yeah, apparently, driving through rush hour traffic does that to you. You suddenly have so much time to think about your old to-write lists! I have a few more written down, so let's see if I can keep this one up. For TV, I have a couple of favorites from sitcoms [because comedies are the smartest thing on television, #fightme], and a few more from movies that are slightly more varied in genre.)


You'll be out of the dark, yeah you'll get your shot

Still a favorite after all these years. It never gets old; I never get tired of it. I can't count the times this song has pushed me out of bed, driven me to work, led me to ten thousand steps under the glow of business district lights, made me feel less alone and terrible, pushed me to my limits and embraced endings just as much as beginnings.

The chorus is a play on the words "son" and "sun." Quite literally, the singer tells the story of his wife giving birth while in the backseat of his car on the way to the hospital, hence "son's gonna rise." It's a pretty clear scenario. But the wordplay and the imagery that follows the homophonous similarity - that the "sun" is going to rise - is what echoes much more loudly for me. The sun, at any moment now, will crest on the horizon. Better things lie ahead, and the light cannot come soon enough.

I've been running, driving, reading for leisure - thing I haven't done in years - and it all feels new. But then, it all feels right too. Baby steps, small joys, silver linings - getting by one day at a time. Maybe this is just how it is to be a better version of myself. Still the same, but not quite.

Sun's gonna rise, Karla.

In a mile, you'll be feeling fine.


Music of the Night

Last night, Louie and I watched The Phantom of the Opera at the Theatre at Solaire. It was our way of capping off his birthday month, which was primarily spent on going to museums, eating, drinking, and me perpetually singing off-key in the passenger seat (what's new?!) This time, I have all the more reason to keep singing (much to his... dismay? delight? defeat?) because we finally got to watch one of my favorite musicals together.

Fun fact: I've seen Phantom on stage three times now. First, in 2009, at The Venetian in Las Vegas. with my family. It was such a spectacle because the theater itself was created for Phantom, which meant it felt like the spectators were actually inside the Paris Opera Garnier. The highlight of that show was the chandelier, which was gigantic and loomed above the audience like a haunting menace, as if an actual character itself to the show. Then, in 2012, we watched the Phantom tour in Manila, at the CCP. I remember being impressed by the touring singers and finding them much better suited to the Phantom and Christine of my expectations than the actors from the Las Vegas show. We had better seats in Vegas though (right under the chandelier!), which I think made the Manila experience less exciting for me.

So why watch again? My affinity for this musical is mostly due to my parents' influence. "All I Ask of You" was my mom and dad's wedding song. I grew up listening to the Broadway cast recording because my parents would play it occasionally on weekends. So even though I was only really allowed to find out about the plot when I saw the 2004 movie starring Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler as a teenager (my parents felt that the content was too mature for me), I can remember being familiar to the opening chords to "The Phantom of the Opera" back from childhood. I knew the songs even before I had an idea about the story.

But I think it's also because it's a spectacle where I can just sit back and enjoy everything as it unfolds. I feel like, for the most part, as a former student of literature, I'm wired to consume art with a lot of empathy, a lot of "looking at things from a certain perspective" to make it more three-dimensional. As we've been taught to do, my literary-criticism glasses automatically activate once I watch, listen, or read anything.

Sometimes though, it's just fun to watch things you don't have to analyze and can't relate to. I'm nowhere near a qualified singer, I have no mysterious "Angel of Music" obsessing over my voice and kidnapping me to make me his bride, no devoted Raoul promising his love while a phantom eavesdrops behind the gargoyles. It's such a ridiculously menacing but enthralling Gothic ride. I can relate to none of it - and that's what makes it so enjoyable. I can sit back and not feel any emotions for the characters, and it's fine.

Which isn't to say none of them are written convincingly. They are. But I just do not see myself relating to any of the groteseque or horror characters, and I'm perfectly happy with that. As it is, I can enjoy the music and the set design and the story, without having to worry about emotional or sociological repercussions about what the whole plot tries to achieve. True, the Phantom as a character can be considered problematic - but he's based on a GOTHIC CHARACTER. Every character in that era is almost always problematic or idiotic (haha). Moreover, it's a musical written in the 1980s. It's meant to be menacing but in histrionics. Andrew Lloyd Webber (and Gaston Leroux) cannot possibly be faulted here.

Say what you can about the score, but I absolutely love the entire soundtrack. Always have, always will. The electric guitar riffs peppered all throughout the theme song just takes the cake for me. I have no doubt that if a mysterious Phantom fetches me in my dreams and lets me sing all the layers of that song (melody, rhythm, etc), he'll crash a chandelier over my head in an instant. But he will not be able to fault me for not trying, because I know that song word for word, note for note! And I will never get tired of it. Same with "All I Ask of You" and "Think of Me" which I will gladly sing to anyone even if they don't ask for it (or specifically ask me not to, lol). The entire soundtrack is just such a joy to sing, even though they are extremely difficult. I think the actors from last night's production were great and a lot better than I was expecting. Though I did find Raoul a bit too antagonistic for my taste, and Phantom far more compelling than menacing. But I chalk that up to the director's interpretation and not the actors' failure.  I also love that the theater was small enough to make the staging intimate yet creepy at just the right instances. Although we were seated in the right side of the orchestra section, we didn't feel like we missed out on a lot considering our view.

And the chandelier! For me, nothing can compare to the Las Vegas production's three (or was it four??)-tier chandelier, but this one was much better staged than the first Manila run, because it kind of loomed over the audiences as well. Goosebumps-inducing once the score begins after the first scene at the auction. The way it rose from the stage pa lang, solb na ako eh!

Coming from a huge fan, it's really something worth going out of your way and seeing. It's dark and seductive and thrilling. I highly recommend it, because it's a great first foray into Broadway for the uninitiated and a classic one worth revisiting for musical fans. I hear it's been extended until April, so there's still a chance.

Only downside to this is that now Louie will be forced to hear me belting out a la Christine even though ABSOLUTELY NO ONE is saying "Sing for meeeee!" Fortunately, my voice can shatter a thousand chandeliers as well, so if anything, at least I'm just taking inspiration from the material. He can't really complain.


Marrakesh Treaty: More access to books for the visually-impaired

I almost never write about work, but here's a piece of news related to my practice which I believe merits a post in my blog. Especially since it concerns two things that I feel passionate about: reading, and our citizens' access to books.

Have you ever wondered about how the visually impaired in our country gain access to reading materials? How much of the books we consume get to be enjoyed by the blind? How many of them even get to consume books? The reality is, a lot of our visually impaired countrymen hardly ever get access to materials that able-bodied people like us do. A major hurdle is our country's lack of resources to convert books into Braille or audio formats. There are also hardly ever any organizations or institutions that import materials in these formats. Another obstacle is our legal framework (particularly laws on intellectual property), which protects authors' and publishers' copyrighted books by disallowing the reproduction and distribution of their work without their permission. As such, no initiative is made to ensure that our literature is transformed into a format that is consumable by the visually impaired.

The good news is that very recently, the Philippines deposited its instrument of accession to the Marrakesh Treaty to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency of the United Nations. This allows for greater public access to literature, media, and other copyrightable works for the benefit of the blind and visually impaired.

What is the Marrakesh Treaty?

The “Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled” is a treaty that aims to end the “book famine” faced by people who are blind and visually impaired. Through this document, it aims to give the visually impaired or visually disabled people in Contracting Parties greater access to literature, textbooks, and other printed materials. The treaty is administered by the WIPO.

Currently, of the millions of books published worldwide, only one to seven percent of them are made available to the 285 million persons in the world who are blind and visually impaired, 90% of whom live in low-income settings in developing countries. In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) reports that over two million people nationwide are blind or suffering from poor vision.

This is partly due to access barriers in copyright laws enacted in many jurisdictions, including the Philippines. The treaty helps remove these barriers in the Contracting Parties by providing mandatory limitations and exceptions that allow for reproduction and distribution of books designed to be accessible to the blind, visually impaired, and print disabled (VIPs). “Beneficiary persons” under the treaty are defined as people who are blind, visually impaired, reading disabled, or have physical disabilities that get in the way of effectively holding a book, turning its pages, or focusing on the page and its contents.

Conceived in line with the human rights principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the Marrakesh Treaty is the first copyright treaty to include a clear human rights perspective.

How does the Marrakesh Treaty allow for access to books and reading materials to the visually impaired?

First, the treaty requires ratifying countries to provide an exception to their domestic copyright law, allowing beneficiary persons and their organizations to make accessible format books without the need for permission from the copyright holder (i.e. author or publisher). “Accessible formats” in this case refer to large print for people with low vision, Braille for those with total loss of sight, and audio books for all types of VIPs.

Second, the treaty allows for importation, exportation, and distribution of accessible versions of books and other copyrighted works, again without copyright holder permission. This bodes well for Contracting Parties who have very few resources to transcribe works into accessible formats, as they can import from other countries with a vast collection of books, literature, and other works which are already VIP-friendly.

But how are copyright holders such as authors and publishers of converted work protected under the treaty?

The Marrakesh Treaty provides that only “authorized entities” in the Contracting Parties are allowed to reproduce and distribute works in accessible formats. These are organizations authorized or recognized by the government to provide education, instructional training, adaptive reading, or information access to beneficiary persons on a non-profit basis (e.g. schools and libraries). It also includes non-profit organizations that provide the same services to beneficiary persons as one of its primary activities or institutional obligations.

Under the treaty, only authorized entities shall be permitted to obtain from another authorized entity an accessible format copy of any work and supply those copies to beneficiary persons by any means. This way, the authors and publishers of work converted into accessible formats are assured that their creations are converted, reproduced, and distributed only for the benefit of the visually impaired. At the same time, the beneficiary persons are guaranteed that they receive accessible formats that are in compliance with the provisions of the Treaty, i.e. legally converted and imported.

The Intellectual Property (IP) Code of the Philippines, Republic Act No. 8293, as amended by Republic Act No. 10372, actually already contains a provision that allows for the reproduction or distribution of published articles or materials in a specialized format for the benefit of the blind and visually impaired. But with the Philippines’ accession to the Marrakesh Treaty, the country is now also given more access to other contracting countries’ collection of works already in accessible format through the treaty’s cross-border exchange provisions. To comply with the country’s obligations under the treaty, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) has assisted in the drafting of a bill submitted to Congress to further amend and widen the copyright limitation in the IP Code for the benefit of the VIPs.

Hopefully, if enacted, these amendments will greatly improve access to books for the two percent (2%) of our population who have visual impairments and physical disabilities that prevent them from reading. The Marrakesh Treaty’s clear humanitarian and social development dimension should have an impact in ending the “book famine” currently experienced by visually impaired Filipinos by positively increasing the quality of their lives through easier access to knowledge and information.

It's fantastic news isn't it? Of course, there needs to be government support for the book famine to really be addressed. Now that the legal framework is there, I hope more government institutions and organizations initiate the importation and exportation of works in accessible format, and allow for their wide commercial distribution all over the country. Imagine this: one day, it's not only us visually-abled people who get to enjoy Big Bad Wolf; it's not only us who get to participate in book trades; it's not only us who get to have a thrill out of random trips to the bookstore. I'm hopeful that soon, the blind can also have their own book hauls, as they gain more access to materials that are transformed especially for their use and enjoyment.