Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of 2009

After the very memorable 2008 I had, I was expecting 2009 to be relatively uneventful. And it started off pretty much that way: for the first time in years, I had a quiet birthday, overshadowed by Barack Obama's inauguration; after January, I didn't attend any weddings or big parties for several months; AND I was mercifully kaisiao-free for 4 months, which was quite a long dry spell for the undisputed champion of serial blind-dating.

Then in April, things started picking up: my family went on a terrific tour of Japan (with Auntie Nene, natch); my cousin Danny proposed to his girlfriend Lai (Sir Tirol and I had introduced them, making it my first truly successful matchmaking attempt); my college buddies and I bought promo-fare plane tickets for a trip to Shanghai in October; AND I got 4 kaisiao offers in a span of 2 weeks, which was a record even for me.

From there, 2009 took off, and I was taken for one of the most memorable rides of my life. My best friend Raqs took the Bar exams; Nikki gave birth to our third LM girl baby, Jacob; my cousin Joy got married; I spent 4 days in Shanghai with Angge, Yangelo, Inigo and Christine and had a blast; the Ateneo Blue Eagles won their second straight UAAP basketball championship; I went back to Japan, this time to attend my cousin Chie's wedding in Yokohama; and by the end of October, the unthinkable happened: the Kaisiao Queen finally abdicated her throne.

This year I stepped out of my comfort zone so often, there were times I wasn't sure I'd know how to get back there. I attended a belly-dancing class with some former co-teachers for Shirley's birthday (I sucked at it, but it was fun); I squeezed myself into a slinky serpentina bridesmaid dress for Joy's wedding (it was green, I might add); I started driving more (albeit still confined to the Greenhills area); I stopped wearing black as often as I used to (became enamored with purple and red); and I entered the heretofore uncharted territory of being in a committed relationship.

On a wider scale, 2009 was a year of tragedy. There was the accident that happened in the Ateneo Grade School parking lot; the AH1N1 virus and the accompanying paranoia over it spread throughout the globe; Metro Manila was laid to waste by Typhoon Ondoy; a horrifying number of lives were lost in the brutal Maguindanao Massacre; and now Mayon Volcano is on the verge of a massive eruption. 2009 also saw the deaths of so many beloved icons: Francis Magalona, Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, John Hughes, Cory Aquino. But there were also many moments of redemption and hope: the spirit of patriotism and national unity rekindled while mourning Tita Cory's passing; Mar Roxas' decision to step aside and let Noynoy Aquino become the Liberal Party's presidential bet; the extensive public response to the Ondoy relief operations; and Efren Penaflorida being named CNN Hero of the Year. To sum up the year that was, the oft-used line from Dickens comes to mind: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

On a more personal level though, I will remember 2009 as the year I faced down my fears, and not only did I succeed, but I was rewarded for it with one of the best things that's ever happened to me in my life. Perhaps my only rueful thought as I look back on the past 12 months is that I let my monthly blog post count dip deplorably in the latter half of the year, but I beg my bloghounds' pardon and indulgence, for reasons given under item #6 here. Suffice it to say, my miserable output is inversely proportional to how miserable I was feeling throughout the year, so yeah, I was really, really, really happy. :)

And now, to close, my annual "Best of" list:

Best day: May 16
Best life-altering decision: saying yes
Best family vacation: tour of Japan in April
Best non-family vacation: Shanghai in October
Best traveling companion: Auntie Nene
Best wedding date: Angge
Best first date: Jon :)
Best surprise: Sheraton Saturday (double surprise =D)
Best gift given: a copy of The View From Saturday
Best gift received: 21st Century Mixed Tape
Best party: Chie's wedding reception
Best luxury item purchased: Coach multicolor Op Art Audrey, for Hanks
Best new TV show: Mad Men
Best sitcom to share with shobe: The Big Bang Theory
Best movie: Up
Best actor: Zachary Quinto
Best actress: Zooey Deschanel
Best sports hero: Roger Federer
Best book: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Leviathan
Best author: Zadie Smith
Best CD: U2's No Line on the Horizon
Best song: "Moment of Surrender", U2
Best LSS (last song syndrome): "I've Got a Feeling", The Black-eyed Peas
Best live performance: Atlantis' production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Best object of lust: Roger Federer
Best fictional object of lust: Don Draper
Best inspirational figure: Cory Aquino
Best miracle moment: scoring Lower Box tickets to the Ateneo-UE championship game
Best fashion trend: leggings/tights
Best fashion staple: short shorts
Best beauty aid: C.O. Bigelow Mentha Lip Tint
Best caffeine fix: milk tea from Serenitea
Best sweet tooth treat: Red Mango
Best meal: 10-course tofu dinner at Mei Hua in Yokohama
Best 15 minutes of fame: my review of Serenitea was framed and posted on their wall
Best achievement: overcoming fear (in more ways than one!)
Best healthy/unhealthy pasttime: phone marathons 'til past 1:00AM
Best new online preoccupation: Twitter
Best blog post: my own pick is "Much ado about nothing", about the Hayden Kho scandal, but if any of my readers wish to share a different opinion, go right ahead :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Get your geek on

Everyone who knows me knows I'm a geek, and have a thing for geeks, so how could I not love The Big Bang Theory? A sitcom for geeks, about geeks (and presumably by geeks), TBBT is right up my alley. I always appreciate a TV show with intelligent writing, but this one takes intelligent writing to a whole new level. Punchlines are peppered with factoids and formulas from physics and other branches of science, as well as references to Star Wars, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, and various comic book superheroes and video games. During my marathon viewing sessions (I finished season 1 in 3 or 4 sittings), I lost track of how many times an episode had me laughing out loud, so loudly I had to clamp my hand over my mouth because my sister was already shushing me.

I got my sister hooked on TBBT as well, and she observed that it's similar to another sitcom we love, How I Met Your Mother, in that the central character is overshadowed by more lovable supporting players. In this case, the central figure is Leonard (Johnny Galecki), an amiable, mild-mannered physicist (think short, unmacho Clark Kent in a hoodie and jeans). His roommate is the incredibly brilliant, insufferably arrogant, socially stunted Sheldon (the incredibly brilliant Jim Parsons), whose deadpan demeanor and delivery of intellectual putdowns encapsulate the spirit of this show, both celebrating and satirizing cerebral superiority. Leonard and Sheldon's cohorts are Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Howard (Simon Helberg), fellow brainiacs with deficient social skills (Raj literally can't talk to women and Howard can't stop talking to/about them). Into the lives of these four friends enters Penny (Kaley Cuoco), a blond, beautiful, waitress/wannabe actress who moves across the hall from Leonard and Sheldon. Leonard develops a mad crush on Penny, who of course regards him with platonic fondness only, but the unrequited romantic feelings tend to take a backseat to the comic chaos that ensues from the dynamic between the beauty and the geeks.

That said, I do like Leonard more than Ted Mosby of HIMYM because the former is more sympathetic and endearingly sweet. But I must say Sheldon gives Barney Stinson a run for his money in terms of hilarity and personality. Where Barney is oddly charming in spite/because of his unapologetic sleaziness and narcissism, Sheldon is oddly charming in spite/because of his unapologetic snootiness and egotism. They both get the best lines and the most memorable scenes, and both Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons stand out as the most polished actors with the most natural comic timing among their respective casts. The thing about Sheldon though, his appeal doesn't seem to be as universal as Barney's. As my best friend (a geek herself) said, most people she knows find Sheldon obnoxious, but the truly smart people she knows all adore him.

And I suppose that also applies to the show as a whole. TBBT might be too smart for its own good, and may not appeal to a mainstream audience as much as a musical comedy about a high school glee club or a drama series about sexy vampires. But I for one think TBBT's one of the best things to hit television in a long while, and I'm not just saying that to prove my IQ's up to par. I really am just a geek, and happy to have a TV show that gets geeks... and where the geeks occasionally get the girl.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Bee happy

Several of my friends who watched earlier runs of Atlantis Productions' staging of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee had nothing but good things to say about it, so despite my disappointment over the last Atlantis show I saw (Spring Awakening), I still decided to go see the Bee. And as luck would have it, the tickets we got were for "Adult Night", which added a naughty element of fun to what turned out to be a very funny and thoroughly entertaining musical.

A smart, poignant yet light-hearted story about growing pains, the Bee revolves around 6 overachieving kids competing in, well, the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Each aspires to win the spelling bee for his/her own personal reasons (and some, not for their own), but the usual (and some not so usual) circumstances that make puberty a trial make winning far more complicated than spelling difficult words correctly. In this bee, the kids learn that "life is pandemonium", but there's much more to it, and much more to themselves, than winning and losing.

The Bee is staged in an interactive way that makes the audience part of the play, as the audience of the spelling bee. Also, 2 people from the audience plus 2 celebrity guests are called onstage to actually participate in the spelling bee as contestants, which offers opportunities for the cast to poke fun at these outsiders and provide more laughs. For this performance, we got Ana Capri and Toffee Calma, who weren't really all that dynamic or spontaneous (and I wished we could have gotten some A-listers instead-- Mommy Dionisia perhaps?).

But no matter, for the real stars of the show were the fabulous cast. Whatever the cast of Spring Awakening lacked in talent, the cast of the Bee made up for in spades. All the actors who played the 6 kids shone in each of their roles: Felix Rivera was adorable as boy scout and defending champion Chip, whose solo "My Unfortunate Erection" was one of the more memorable songs of the show; Pheona Baranda made political activist Logainne's lisp seem natural, not cartoonish; Johan dela Fuente showed remarkable versatility playing the playful Leaf (AND doubling as one of Logainne's gay dads); Sheila Valderrama-Martinez was perfect as Little Miss Perfect Marcy (well, almost perfect-- girl's gotta work on her cartwheels); Carla Guevara-La Forteza transformed into a shy, little girl as sweet Olive; and Lorenz Martin was delightfully snide and slobby as William Barfee (that's pronounced BarFAY, mind you).

The actors who played the adults were excellent as well: Cathy Azanza was brilliant as the effusive Mrs. Peretti, the emcee of the bee; Joel Trinidad was hilarious as Vice Principal Panch, the "pronouncer"; and Noel Rayos was outstanding as Mitch, the "Comfort Counselor" (AND the other gay dad). I can't remember the last time I couldn't find fault with a single person in a play's cast, and for a nitpicker like me, that's saying something. This ensemble was pretty special, displaying tremendous talent in both acting and singing (their dancing was quite good too!), and I really enjoyed all their performances.

To cap everything off, as a holiday treat, after curtain call the entire cast rendered a medley of Christmas carols, showcasing their superb vocal skills (props especially to Noel Rayon!). This was certainly a nice way to end what was overall a wonderfully charming show. I highly recommend anyone who hasn't watched the Bee to catch it during this December run-- even if there won't be another "Adult Night", the Christmas medley is a neat bonus to an already fantastic production. Bravo, Atlantis.