Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On footwear and foliage

2 pieces caught my attention and interest in yesterday's issue of the Philippine Star. The first was a news article on the dress code for Mass to be implemented by the Archdiocese of Manila. Churchgoers are now discouraged from wearing shorts, skimpy tops, and apparel deemed inappropriate for the solemnity of Mass (I can hear my mom going "Finally!", though she doesn't even go to Mass :p). Apparently the Church has received numerous complaints from more "conservative" Catholics regarding the increasingly casual attire of other people sitting in the pews.

For once I find myself agreeing with Church policy (cue the rolls of thunder and lightning bolts). However, I noticed that the dress code did not prescribe anything for footwear, which I think should have been addressed, given that we have backslid to a tsinelas culture in the past couple of years. Just recently my brother blogged about how Filipinos are taking the whole Havaianas/Crocs craze too far. I share his opinion that no matter how expensive or sosyal or trendy, flipflops are still basically nothing more than rubber slippers, fit for the beach and bathroom, but not the ballroom or boardroom. Sure, I own some pairs of flipflops myself, but I would never wear them to formal occasions or venues, including upscale restaurants, business or academic functions, and religious ceremonies/places of worship (the rare times I do go to those). I suppose the
Archdiocese of Manila's Ministry of Liturgical Affairs didn't include a footwear provision in their dress code because the less fortunate members of their flock cannot afford shoes, but what's the excuse of parishioners of Santuario de San Antonio or Mary the Queen? Churches in more affluent neighborhoods should seriously consider adding footwear guidelines to the dress code; after all, what's the point of asking them to dress properly if they're not going to complete the look with a decent pair of shoes?

The second Star article that made me sit up and take notice was Alfred Yuson's column Kripotkin. The title was "Caballeros" (another name for the fire/flame tree, I learned), and there was a photo of the gorgeous fire tree outside Ateneo's Gonzaga Hall. I smiled at the coincidence, because earlier in the day I had suggested to a budding photographer friend that he visit Ateneo while the fire trees are in bloom, for he's sure to get some great nature shots there. I stand by my belief that the campus is one of the loveliest places in the city (and in my biased-by-sentiment opinion, the planet), and ironically, it's the greenery that makes it so. I loved how Yuson, who teaches poetry in Ateneo, took some Taft jabs while rhapsodizing over his beloved trees ("...
the beauty of Loyola Heights depends so much on clear and green spaces, that at some point a cease-and-desist order must preempt any more construction, else Katipunan starts to look like Taft in Manila..."). But more importantly, I liked having someone show a genuine appreciation of the beauty of my beloved campus
in all its lush, efflorescent glory.

I suddenly have a yearning for an afternoon stroll under the fire trees. :)

Monday, June 25, 2007

2 kinds of funny: reviews of Stranger than Fiction and Top Gun

After finishing Season 1 of Heroes, Season 3 of Grey's Anatomy, and Season 3 of House, Hanks and I decided to take a break from TV series and watch some movies on DVD for a change. Over the weekend, we watched the indie film Stranger than Fiction, and the quintessential Tom Cruise action flick Top Gun.

Stranger than Fiction has a novel premise (pun not intended): Will Ferrell stars as average-Joe Harold Crick, an IRS auditor who leads the most mundane of existences until the day he starts hearing a woman's voice narrating his actions and thoughts. He discovers that he's the protagonist of a book being written by novelist Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), who's suffering from writer's block and is trying to decide how to kill Harold in her story. Made aware of his impending doom, Harold begins doing out-of-character things, including romancing feisty, funky bakery owner Ana Pascal (played by the marvelous Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Will Ferrell is delightful to behold in a serious role. He manages to still be funny, but in a poignant way, and not once does he remind the audience that he's the same guy from no-brainer jackass comedies like Anchorman and Talladega Nights. As Harold, Ferrell is sympathetic, and sweet in a dorky way. My favorite scene has him showing up at Ana's bakery holding a tray of brown bags, offering them as a peace offering. Ana asks him what they are, and he replies, "Flours." :) That witty and surprisingly kilig-inducing bit is representative of the movie's intelligent writing and quirky plot. Even the carpe diem, live-everyday-like-it's-your-last message, which always threatens to turn trite, is delivered in a remarkably non-preachy, non-cliched way.

I haven't seen a "smart" movie this year since The Queen, so Stranger than Fiction came as both a welcome relief and an enjoyable change of pace. Solid supporting performances (Dustin Hoffman is truly a living legend), startlingly sharp cinematography, a sprinkling of cool digital effects, and
a simple yet moving conclusion all contribute to make this movie both visually entertaining and emotionally engaging.

On the other hand, Top Gun made for a totally different viewing experience... then again, when you throw together fighter planes, Navy uniforms, and Tom Cruise, you don't expect much in the way of intellectual stimulation.

I read somewhere that Tom Cruise only plays one role, that of the Cocky Bastard. Apparently, Top Gun gave him his start. This 1986 macho movie lets him grin, smirk, swagger and strut to maximum effect in almost every scene. As hotshot pilot Maverick, Cruise oozes a natural arrogance and gives us a glimpse of the self-righteous pompous ass he would eventually become. Training to become a top naval pilot, Maverick breaks rules, defies authority, antagonizes his fellow pilots, competes with archrival Iceman (Val Kilmer), and sleeps with their blond and supposedly brainy instructor... but the audience forgives him because he has daddy issues and chiseled abs.

Given the high-octane and high-testosterone setting, the dialogue
is filled with cretinous lines ("Slider... you stink."), and action sequences take up the length of the movie. However, in case you have difficulty following the terribly complex plot, the soundtrack is designed to clue you in on what's happening: whenever an exciting action scene is about to take place, Kenny Loggins starts singing "Hiiighway to the danger zone...", and whenever a romantic scene is about to commence, Berlin starts crooning "Take my breath awayyy...".

Top Gun is an 80s classic, but definitely not the way Platoon or even Terms of Endearment is. However, as long as the viewer keeps her expectations low, there's fun to be found in watching a bunch of Navy officers belt out You've Lost That Loving Feeling, or a young, shirtless Tom Cruise and a young, shirtless Val Kilmer play beach volleyball. Just don't be surprised if you get LSS after the movie.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Super Mario

The morning before my high school reunion, I got out of bed, looked into our bathroom mirror and to my horror saw not one, but TWO, small but brazenly red pimples on my nose. Just my luck, the following evening I'd be facing classmates who hadn't seen me in 10 years, and I'd be looking like Rudolph the reindeer's long-lost twin sister.

I needed a quick fix, and like a message from the beauty gods on high, that day's newspaper featured a column recommending Mario Badescu's Special Healing Powder for oily, acne-prone skin. I recalled an acquaintance raving about the Mario Badescu skin care line, and wondered whether it had any products to help zap my zits, fast. As luck (or fate) would have it, I was going on a store visit to Rustan's Makati that very day, so I popped down to Essenses and searched for the Mario Badescu section. With the assistance of the very helpful, very gay salesperson, I picked up a tub of the Special Healing Powder, and a bottle of the Drying Lotion, an ingenious combination of salicylic acid and calamine lotion (in other words, Caladryl). That night I applied the lotion to the 2 offensive pimples on my nose, and the following morning the swelling and redness had subsided significantly enough for makeup to take care of the rest. Mario Badescu's a life-saver!

Granted, the miracle stuff doesn't come cheap (almost P600 for the Healing Powder and P1,000+ for the Drying Lotion), but since you only need to use them sparingly, the small containers will last a while and rescue you from many a dermatological emergency. I've been using the powder daily the past 2 weeks, and old, unsightly blemishes have already started to fade. Mario's magic works wonders, and as any woman would tell you, it's worth the pretty penny to look extra pretty. ;)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Weird tag

I seldom indulge in so-called "memes", "forwards", or "tags", but since in the past 2 weeks I've been too busy uploading vacation photos, organizing a high school reunion and fighting a bad cold to update my beloved blog, I figured I might as well get around to answering this. Besides, I believe it's only courteous and a show of proper Internet etiquette to acknowledge tags (especially the ones that come from insistent and incorrigible teenagers :p).

Each player of this game starts with 6 weird things about themselves. People who get tagged need to write a blog entry of their own 6 weird things. They should state the rule clearly as well. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to tell them they've been tagged and ask them to read your blog.

6 weird things about Ailee:
1. Her ears aren't pierced, and she doesn't intend to get them pierced, ever.
2. She keeps a lot of stuffed animals on her bed. A lot more than what is considered normal or healthy for a 26-year-old woman.
3. She does not like young corn. It bothers her, because it doesn't taste anything like adult corn, leading her to suspect that it's not really corn, but artificial foodstuff made to look like miniature corn.
4. After she finishes using oil control film, she ties it up in a knot for easier disposal. It works, try it yourself.
5. When entering a parking lot/garage, she likes pressing the button on the machine that spits out the parking ticket. She also likes inserting the parking ticket in the machine on the way out.
6. As a child, she had cartoon crushes, most notable examples of which were Gambit from The X-men, Colt from Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, and Mark from Voltes V (Steve was a whiny wuss).

6 people Ailee is tagging:
1. her friend Maddy, who is currently unemployed yet up to her ears in work and needs the occasional diversion
her friend Yang, who is currently employed, up to her ears in work, yet still manages to find time for the occasional diversion
3. her former student Cris Blardony, to get back at her for refusing to quit calling Ms. Lim a BBC anchor (and to punish her for not knowing the lyrics to Song for Mary)
4. her former student Karen Ramos, just to see what hilarious answers she'll come up with
5. her Mini-me Jen Ong, to compare weirdnesses
her brother Bens, one of the weirdest persons she knows

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ten and now (no, that's not a typo)

In movies and TV shows, people look forward to attending high school reunions with as much excitement as they would go see their dentist for root canal. The dread, fear and loathing can be for various reasons: some can't shake off bad memories of being teased, bullied, or ignored; others still nurse old wounds from heartbreak, grudges and feuds; some have changed so much (whether it's their physical appearance or personality or gender orientation) that they'd rather not revert to their former selves or subject their new selves to scrutiny, judgment or criticism; and then there are those who simply don't give a rat's ass.

I used to think I would grow up to become one of those people: reclusive, antagonistic, insecure, and haunted by my past as teenage nerd extraordinaire (no popular clique, no boyfriends, no social life, no fashion sense). I also thought I'd be pathetically single and overweight, with no professional or personal achievements to speak of. I never dreamed that ten years after I graduated from high school, I'd actually be one of the people helping to organize our reunion, with an enthusiasm that surprised my tends-to-indulge-in-antisocial-behavior self.

Ultimately, I'm glad I did get involved though. We had our 10th graduation anniversary reunion last Saturday night, and it was a hit, if I do say so myself (luckily, I was not alone in declaring this). Sufficient funds gathered from payment collections and sponsorship solicitations allowed us to rent a nice venue (the Hampton room at Astoria Plaza); hire a photographer, singer, mobile, DJ; produce souvenirs (mugs with the reunion logo and buttons with our individual grad pix); and even give out raffle prizes and game prizes and awards. Attendance exceeded our initial conservative expectations (about half the batch, hurray!), the food was palatable enough (enough to keep anyone from demanding their money back), the program was entertaining and kept everyone engaged (thanks mainly to the terrific emcees), and the awesome AV presentation provided the needed touch of nostalgia (props and kudos to the amazing Trisha Uy, who also designed the reunion logo, buttons, e-vites... suffice it to say she was the creative genius without whom we'd have had a very, very dull event).

The seven months of planning and preparations the organizing committee put in definitely paid off that evening. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and people were game and good sports. It was certainly a far cry from the painful experience I had imagined before. I mean sure, I AM overweight, inherently antagonistic, still a tad insecure, and single (but not pathetically so), and I can never erase my past as Aileesa the four-eyed nerd. But I've come a long way since high school, and so have my batchmates. And I'm proud of that, and proud to have played a part in orchestrating this milestone event.

I can't end this blog post without sending shout-outs to the following people:
  • Angge, the mastermind, our fearless commander-in-chief, the wind beneath our wings-- thank you for your strength, wisdom and leadership. We would walk to the ends of the earth and back for you.
  • Trisha, the brilliant and tireless creative master-- thank you for your selfless commitment and passion for this project. We're not worthy. Really.
  • Diane, the database wizard-- thank you for bringing organization and order to all the information we had to keep track of. And for effortlessly recruiting your barkada to help at the registration table. :)
  • Mishy, the uncomplaining secretary-- thank you for letting us bully you into keeping the minutes of our meetings, and for your patience, tact, and perpetually sunny disposition. Mwah.
  • Gennet, the consummate pro hostess-- thank you for your great ideas for the program, for conceptualizing the flower arrangements, for assisting Trish with her multifarious tasks, and for being a fabulous emcee. Snaps to you!
  • Dennis, the boisterous banker-- thank you for helping us set up the batch bank account, for keeping tabs on our finances, and for bringing humor to our meetings. And for changing my opinion of you. ;p
  • JB, the voice of reason-- thank you for your decisiveness, honesty, and objectivity. Whenever we wavered, it was always reassuring to hear what you thought.
  • Argel, the other fantastic emcee-- thank you for being the life of the party, getting our batchmates revved up and responsive throughout the evening. It would have been a totally different (and dead) event without you.
  • The sponsors: Irwin, Reg, Kathy, Eug-- thank you for your generosity, and for putting up with my pesky follow-up text messages. I really, really appreciate your support.
  • And last, but not the least, my barkada, Raqs, Mishy, Jen, Ma, Vins, Jo, and Be, for showing their whole-hearted support despite personal reservations, busy schedules and foreign residency (Be, thanks for your video message!). Winning that award for best barkada attendance proved just how lucky I am to have you guys as friends. Who needs a popular clique when I have the Family? :) Love and hugs!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

What I learned during my 2 weeks in Europe

  • Any price multiplied by 65 = frickin' expensive.
  • All electrical sockets in Europe are round. An adaptor is a must for charging cell phones and digicams.
  • Hotel towels have a sour stink (except for the ones in our hotel in Rome).
  • Europeans drive around in small, cute hatchback cars...
  • ...except in Monaco, where Ferraris and Porsches rule the roads.
  • Tour guides have very little patience for camwhoring.
  • There is a Chinese restaurant in even the tiniest, most obscure town.
  • Tap water and dirty drinking glasses don't affect Filipino stomachs.
  • All public toilets have toilet paper.
  • Most elevators in Spain have no ">|<" button. So if an ax murderer is hot on your heels, best take the stairs.
  • There is something different to be bought in every Zara store. Even the ones located in the same city.
  • It's good to be king. Or queen.
  • English spoken with a French accent sounds better than a Spanish or Italian accent. Even when they're being condescending, the French sound good.
  • Evian tastes like plain old water.
  • Not everyone on the streets of Italy look like Armani models. In fact, very very few qualify.
  • Italian sales clerks don't like it when you touch store merchandise.
  • Forget about avoiding pigeon poop on the ground; be more concerned about a pigeon pooping on your head.
  • In relation to the previous point: always bring a hat.
  • Some places you have to see with someone; the Tuscan countryside is not one of those places. Best enjoyed alone, optimal for quiet moments of introspection and reflection. Frances Mayes had the right idea.
  • Gondolas are overrated, but Venice most certainly isn't. Ciao bella, indeed.
  • Real parmesan cheese doesn't stink.
  • Governing rule in a Prada outlet store: you snooze, you lose. Get in, grab everything that catches your eye, and don't let go until you're dead sure you don't want it.
  • Naples is a very shady place. Scratch from all future itineraries.
  • The Sistine Chapel is smaller than what I expected... yet it made me feel utterly, insignificantly puny. My brain cannot even begin to apprehend Michelangelo's genius.
  • Starbucks doesn't exist in Italy. It has no right to.
  • Grey's Anatomy in Spanish and CSI in Italian are just as compelling to watch, even if you haven't the foggiest what the hell they're saying. (Also, Meredith dubbed in Spanish doesn't sound half as annoying.)
  • Contrary to popular notion, the Italians' greatest contribution to mankind is not art, or fashion, or even pasta. It's GELATO, and it's evil.
  • Two 1Gig memory cards (AND one 256MB card for back-up) are not enough to store all the photos of a camwhore vacationing in Europe. [click for pix]